Spring winter

It is spring, mid April and yes we had several major snow storms! It is miserable outside so we have had to go out and feed everyone hay. Luckily, we have just enough feed left to get through one more week of any kind of weather. It did finally melt off but now we have a night and morning of snow which covers everything and the temperature hovers right at 32 degrees F. By 1400 every day the sun comes out and the snow melts off and all of the green grass pokes out allowing all of the animals to go out and feed on grass. It has been miserable to go outside, the wind is blowing and it is very cold. I have had to scrape my windows twice this week just to get to work at 0500. I even had to sweep off the walkway one morning as it had about three inches of snow on it.

The wheat looks amazing and our grass fields are really starting to come up now. If we could get a couple of weeks of warm spring weather everything would just take off and shoot up into the air. We are still considering downsizing the cows based on the price of hay. We may have to jump the price up dramatically to cover feed costs. We need about 7-8 ton of hay per month to feed all of the cows. Last year we paid around $265/ton for alfalfa in large bales. The real problem is if we have a dry desert like summer you have to start feeding by September. So you feed for about 7 months or six months if you are lucky. We will have gone through 45 ton. We did not cover feed expenses last year. So we are going to look at costs again and decide whether its worthwhile or not to have this many large animals.

The sheep are easier and cheaper to feed. We just need to raise the price on them this year also to reflect the new prices. It’s sticker shock when you go to buy something these days but meat in the grocery store is very expensive. We are hoping the snow and cold did not affect the fruit trees but if they were trying to bloom there is no way they survived the repeat 25 F we kept getting several nights in a row.

Staycation 100% done

Well all good things must come to an end and I am no longer on vacation and am back to work. It has been busy so I was unable to post this on Sunday night. Annmarie got me to actually leave the house on Friday night and we went and visited friends and stayed the night. It was nice and now we are planning on them coming over to visit us.

Saturday when we got back we went right into sorting sheep. Our buyer from Elgin was coming over and we had to sort off his 20 lambs. They helped us sort everyone and we got theirs into the trailer and out the door. We now have our small herd of lambs out in the orchard. For some reason this year everyone has wanted a lamb. We have sold 13 lambs to local customers and 20 lambs to our Elgin contact. We have been discussing the prospect of expanding our sheep herd and shrinking the cow herd, the price of hay is going to determine what we do as it may not be cost effective to carry a bunch of cows through the winter. We then had to move the cows down to the lower pasture as they had laid over the fence and were walking around outside the fence. They thought they were starving. I did a 30 minute fix on the fence so the sheep could not get out and vowed to come back and fix the fence on Sunday.

On Sunday I went out to fix the laid over fence. This really meant that I had to dig and set eight wooden posts by hand as the fence was too close to the water to back the John Deere tractor up to the spot needing a hole. Instead I did it all by hand and even ended up putting a scoop of gravel behind every T-post to fill in the gap created by straightening the post. I had to tamp it all down to make the post rigid. I got all of them in but still need to repair one H brace as it is made out of round posts and one of them turned. This is of course the one with the chain gate tightener on it. This means the chain is so tight you cannot get it off to open the gate. Luckily, I don’t need the gate to open right now so this repair is going on the back burner.

Annmarie has started to work on the back garden and is getting things planted. We are going to have strawberries in one tower and herbs in the other. Currently, she is working out water inside the towers, the connections keep exploding and making a mess. She thinks she has a working plan now to fix it.

Staycation started

Well it’s official, I am on vacation at home for the next 17 days. I had to take the first batch of cows in on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Annmarie and I had a dinner to attend Thursday evening. So I was outside in the dark trying to move animals. We have it set up now so you can push animals through the orchard then through our front yard into the corral. This is infinitely more preferable to just letting them out into the area surrounding our houses. They can run all over and with the buildings and piles of stuff all around it makes herding them very difficult.

The two new alpaca were still in the orchard so I ”let” them out. This sounds easy but they did not want to go out the gate and kept running past the open gate. I did this several times then went out the open gate and tried to drive two of our main herd alpacas into the orchard. This was another abysmal failure. I had a head lamp on and I had a bright flash light that I would shine on the gate opening. I went back into the orchard muttering to the alpaca that they needed to comply or else I was going to have to go get the border collie, Mouse. They have not been exposed to the dogs except through the fence and I did want the conditions to be better before relationships get established. Eventually, with running back and forth I managed to get them to go through the gate, then latched it. I went down to pasture #5a which borders the orchard, latched the gate that goes out into the main grazing area and opened the gate into the orchard. The cows usually come in at night and hang out near my mother-in-law’s house and they were so I did not have to go all the way down to the school house and try and run them back. Again, the cows did not want to go through the gate. The green tag cow kept breaking and running behind me. This reminded me of why we are getting rid of her, she is so painful to deal with on multiple levels. After much effort on my part I was able to get the cows into the orchard. There was no way I was going to get them through the four foot gate, into our front yard then into the corral alone. I opted to go get some help that is used to my working animals language. Mouse, came out with me! It is hard to see a black and white border collie in the dark so we have some collar hanging bobs that strobe white. We used to use them when letting the dogs out to potty at night. They would pretend they could not hear us because we could not see them. The lights stopped that nonsense. I found one that still worked and put it on Mouse. This way I could see where the dog was and only had to worry about finding the cows with the flashlight. It was rough going initially. Mouse still thinks a problem should be dealt with head on hence his propensity for straight lines. Eventually with enough yelling and trial and error we established an effective communication method that allowed us both to kinda get what we wanted. Once we had the cows into the corral area they ran back behind the barn. Unfortunately, all of our cows happened to be in the barn lot and everyone started raising a ruckus and I was afraid the four would go through the fence to join the herd. Mouse and I managed to dissuade this desire and got them locked into the corral area. Now when I came out in the morning and backed the trailer up to the corral the cows can just be encouraged to load up.

The plan worked! I had no trouble getting the cows loaded and taken in to the abbotoir. That was the first four, I will take the last three in for their final destination in a couple of weeks. This is good because yesterday morning I went to pull the pickup over to the flat bed trailer and the pickup would not start, totally dead! Even though I had all the spare parts and tools with me on our Salem trip in case we got stranded this would have been bad. The last time I was stranded with Annmarie in the vehicle we bought a new pickup. She doesn’t like hanging out on the roadside. The pickup just needs some TLC which it will get as soon as I drop off the last three. Mr Professional got the new battery connection installed, unfortunately the old one was glued on and it took some extra tools to get it off the battery terminal without injuring the battery. I drove right over and we hooked up the flatbed trailer. While he worked on the battery I worked to clean up the seeder/fertilizer thrower. I used wire brush grinder to remove and smooth out all of the rust. I had to clean and adjust the window doors and scrape off the old caked on grease. I ended up breaking off one of the grease zerks trying to tighten it and had to use an easy out tool to remove it. Mr Professional put it on the tractor and greased it all up while I was off buying farm supplies.

We had a long discussion about needed supplies and since the price of fuel, spray, fertilizer and seed has jumped dramatically this last three weeks we felt it was best to get it all now. I have to say that I had plans to hold off on some of these items as I was going to purchase them over the entire year. I went to Pendleton and bought railroad ties (entire bundle)- they should be out of them by the end of this week. I bought the very last roll of smooth wire in the store. I bought some woven wire, I only needed one roll but bought two more just in case. I bought enough T posts to redo the fence down by four corners. The gate price had jumped over 20% already so I bought that also. We looked at chemicals to spray on the farm and I picked up the rest I would need for the whole year. I got the tighteners needed for the new fence on four corners. Today I just gave up and bought the ballast box I need for the kubota when using the forks. I also bought another quick hitch category 1 hitch for the Kubota. I bought a chain holder for the tractor also and some bushings for the category one hitch that lets me get away from the pins. I got a speed handle for the Kubota also, they are super nice and the one on the Mistress has been amazing. I just ordered all the lights for the machine shed. Luckily, I already ordered the parts for the baler and now just need to install them.

Unfortunately, this dramatic rise in price of everything means we will be doing a bunch of maintenance on all the equipment. We are going to rewire the flat bed trailer and the horse trailer. I purchased those supplies this weekend also. The fuel tank has been emptied so now I can get it filled with diesel, if only I had done it three weeks ago…

Mr Professional went out and spread about 35# of grass seed onto a few thin spots on field #1. We had a nice light rain last night 8/100” so the seed should be wet and now we just need some warm weather. I need about 5-7 days with no rain and I can plant the last 2 acre field with grass seed and the planting will be done until fall.

I have all the stuff to strip and stain the upstairs doors. But I need to empty off the breeze porch first, tomorrow the child and I will be going through the entire house and removing the giveaway. We may even add to the giveaway pile! My goal is to thin everything pretty hard. I went through two kitchen cupboards today and removed a pile of stuff.

Annmarie found the plans for our future outdoor dining area. We just need to find a used grain bin for sale to tear down and use the components. We also looked at my retirement projects using a welder and a lot of horse shoes! Currently, I think I may be able to make the chicken.

Time to start getting ready for winter

It’s been a long week at work and sometimes the farm is just what you need for a reset. This week was definitely a reset week. On Monday one of the calves got out again. Now I had already tooted my horn about the fence repairs from last weekend and told the wife no one was getting out. It took almost 24 hours for one of the calves to prove me wrong. She got it back into the lower fields by opening the gate and herding it in. It wanted to go see its mama. This left the dang water crossing that the bull beat up all last year. Annmarie told me that what I really needed was a culvert in the spot. I could then secure the fence to the culvert and the water and dirt would hold it down and prevent the bull from getting through or for that matter, any of the cows. I actually like this idea a lot! I have a four foot diameter culvert that could be cut in two to make two ten foot sections and one could be used here. The other one is for another crossing I am having trouble with. Pulling the eight foot trailer across the ten foot culvert when it is loaded and there is an eight foot drop on one side makes some people nervous. I need to add about 3-4 feet to this to prevent any mishaps from sloppy drivers. It was hot, I was just getting off work and not dressed to do any type of complex fencing. There happened to be a rats nest of fencing from the spring work laying around and I “installed” it in the fence to prevent anyone else from leaving. We have not had a single animal escape since my repair.

Friday I cleaned out the old big bales from the machine shop. They are light enough with some maneuvering I can get them about eight inches off the ground and carry them with the pallet forks using my new Kubota tractor. We will need to set up the full horse arena out by the grain bins to keep the alpaca away from the large hay bales we will have to store outside. I get about half in the machine shed and the rest outside. We feed the outside bales first so by the time the weather really gets bad we are feeding nice bales from the shed.

Our plan for the day was to work the cows and sheep. The rams needed to be pulled off of the sheep herd. Our house calendar says we should start lambing at the end of the month. This means the herd needs to be closer to the house. I am not sure that we are but that is what our calendar says. We still had two cows to tag and one to band. The upper five cows needed to be swapped with the lower cows. There is more feed above the house, there is also most likely a cougar. We lost four lambs again during this summer. A cougar has been spotted by several people but we have not seen it. Moving the fewer cows down below the house means they can work on the less available forage easier. The real problem with moving cows into field 2-4 is that we have to bring them in every night so we don’t lose any to a big cat. This choice has really been taken away since there is no rain. I noticed tonight that the running water that was going through all of field 4 is drying up about half way through the pasture. The most cows have to go to the most feed.

Annmarie, the child and Mr Professional all worked on animals. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was weeding the back garden then going out into the berry patch and doing more weeding. I do not believe that he would choose weeding as a primary task if he had a choice, but the weeding does need to get done. The thistles are trying to take over the berry patch. They went to get the cows while I moved the calf table in place and put up part of the horse movable arena around the calf table. We set it up so that we could just leave an open gate back into the corral and the calves would not run all over heck and gone. I used the new Kubota tractor with my pallet fork attachment, so amazing. Something that would have taken me an hour got done in 20 minutes. I am loving the pallet fork attachment, even if I can only lift 1100 pounds.

We put the sheep into the back barn lot Friday night so they were ready for us when we needed them Saturday. We pushed the upper sheep down and sorted off the steer/bull undescended testicle guy, we are not quite sure about his testicle status. Yes, a neutered cow,steer can still push out his penis. My record keeping skills are not the best in this area. We gave everyone pour over fly medicine and sorted the bull off and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls. We then moved all 16 cows from below into the corral. We did pour over on everyone and then tagged and banded two calves, one boy (our youngest) and tagged the “squirter” that got away last time. I had her in the chute with a lot of other cows and she was at the end. I just pushed her into more cows until she was pinned then reached over and tagged her. The calve we used the calf table and it went very smoothly. We will be using the portable fencing whenever we do this in the future. I had plans to build a permanent calve chute but honestly it was going to take forever and this is so much easier. After we pushed them up into field 4 (they can just walk into 2-3), we tried to push the four cows from the upper pasture through the yard into the orchard. This did not go well. Not well at all,as there was much yelling and dogs not cooperating or cows complying. Mr I Need a Belt bad left the gate into the garden open. We ended up with a five hundred pound cow jumping onto our elevated beds and watering system. There was a lot of screaming at him to get out of the berry patch and go shut the gate after the cow ran out. He was headed for that gate when more screaming ensued to make sure he had just latched the gate he had used to get into the yard as three cows were headed his way. He had latched it, he hurried with some prompting and got the gate closed. Later at quitting time we discussed the gate rule on a farm. Leave it in the position you found it unless told otherwise. You don’t need to know why just do it, there is a reason. We did get them down below where they belong.

We set up the barn so we could run the sheep down the chute then sort them on their way out. We only needed four sorted off to go into the orchard, two rams and two whethers. The sheep would not go down the chute. They bunched up in front of the opening and refused to go further. As we discussed options Annmarie noted that the boys were right in front of us. We just caught all four and pushed them into a pen. Our old ram is a gentle giant passive resistance is his greatest skill. He had to be pushed into the pen, they are all now in the orchard. We plan on letting the momma sheep work on the front hillside for a few days to clean it up.

There were quite a few disparaging remarks about the ability of the corral gates to open and to latch. We had some we could hardly get open and a couple that would not latch or you had to stand on the end of the gate to latch it. So Mr Professional and I spent a couple of hours and installed chains across the top of the corral chute and we did the same over some gates. We rehung four gates also to lift them out of the dirt. Not surprisingly the gates and corral work a lot better now than they did when we actually used them for animals. It was triple digit hot so we called it quits at 1500.

I had to go up with the tractor after dinner and put the cows in. They were already in field four but I did not want to have to go to the end of field four every morning to open the gate. I just pushed them into the back barn lot and in the morning we just need to open the connecting gate. It can stay open until the cows come back in again at dark. I figure in a few days they should have it down and will put themselves in every night. At least that is my fervent hope.

One day of productivity

Yesterday was the official return to home date after our stint at Church camp, I was the camp nurse and Annmarie was the camp chaplain. It was very relaxing, nothing to do, very little nursing work for me and we both got to take naps every day! Mother Nature could have turned down the heat some but it was so much better than the two weeks prior that I was not going to complain. We brought home 25# of black cherries I picked from an orchard in Cove and we are going to work on trying to eat them all in a week. It’s going to be a challenge but after we gave some out to the various family members so we should be able to do it.

As we were driving down the driveway we had a discussion about me needing to give the cows some more food. I really need to finish tagging that last calf and banding the one that got away. This will allow us to swap cows and sheep. We need to move the four cows in the upper field down to the lower pasture and all the momma, bull and calves and all of the sheep to the upper fields. I can open up field four so that the animals have access to filed #2-4. This should give them enough food for at least 8 weeks if not longer. This no rain or moisture weather is rough on pasture. My Mother-in-law called me this morning while I was picking up Mr Professional to also request that the cows get food today. We went out to get bales but the bucket on the old tractor was acting up and I could only tip the tractor bucket not raise and lower it. So we stopped, cleaned out the linkage, tore it apart, tightened a few spots and then lubed it all up so it works very well again. This will help Mr Rainman finish cleaning out the barn this week. I was able to pull bales out and push them to the cows below and the two stuck in Alcatraz.

Once that was done we dug holes in the front yard and concreted in the two end posts for our new stair railings. We then finished getting most of the substructure completed. We just need to get the outside railing in and the stabilizer boards between the decking boards installed. I need to focus on getting the house cleaned, curtains installed down in the craft room, and toilet paper holder installed in the upstairs bathroom. We have company coming on Saturday so we will need to be ready. I am driving on Friday to go pickup our new ram.