Thinning the herd

 

3282DB75-6D04-4D23-98BF-1E3DC6872D3CFriday morning we lost water.  Now this happens at least annually and he had just had some power blips so I figured the pump had just kicked off.  The controller resides in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house.  I called a few times and realized she was out of the house.  Around noon I called and she was home, she attempted to reset the pump without success.  I went down to try and see if I could get it started.  The pump controller is pretty complicated so I try not and mess with it too much.  Annmarie has to reprogram it when I do just randomly push buttons and that takes some effort on her part.  We could not find the instruction manual after I tried to turn it off and on (would not do it) then pulled the fuses and got the error code to change from “OC3” to “Er2”.  I then attempted to search the internet for the control manual without success.  I even called a pump distributor with no success.  The longer I stared at the case the more the weird melted plastic section stood out.  I could not ever remember that being there.  I touched the plastic case and discovered that not only was the case melted but that section was hotter than anywhere else on the case.  I called Pendleton Electric, as they do well pump controllers knowledge gained courtesy of Google.  I was able to say I thought the pump controller had burned up and to read the tag on the size with the power ratings.  They wanted the Hp of the well motor but we don’t know it.

We went out to the barn to start sorting sheep and got a call that the repair guys were here.  It was less than two hours from the time I called!  Annmarie went down to answer questions and oversee.  This left the Child and I to sort all of the sheep.  This sounds like a great combination unfortunately sorting out animals is rough on a good day.  If you want to know how well you can work with someone then just try and sort animals with them.  You will realize that everyone else are a bunch of idiots and if they would just do what you ask of them this entire process would go smoothly.  Now when everyone thinks the same thing it tends to cause some problems.  Now that we have more 6 foot panels I was able to create a sweep gate in the back of the barn.  So as we push more sheep down the chute we can keep moving the sweep gate and shrinking their waiting area.  This was Annmarie’s idea but we never had enough panels or lightweight panels to move making this possible.   It worked great and will now be something that happens every time.

They were able to put in a new controller and yes the old one had burned up after 15 years.  The new one has a pressure display in pounds and nothing else.  It’s just a grey box.  You turn off the pump now by pulling the fuses.  Finally, a sensible design.  Unfortunately, they could not get the pressure up to 60#.  They maxed out at 57# which means we most likely have a leak.  Annmarie walked the entire length of the pipe and could not find any water bubbling up. This does not mean we don’t have a leak as Annmarie reminded me there was an area down by Donna’s that was wetter than we thought it should be last year but it never bubbled but it was near the front spring.  So we are going to look at that area hard this spring after all the rain stops or when we lose water totally.

The Child and I had to make some executive decisions as some of the lambs were marked for cull and keep.  Their temperament in the chute decided their fate.  The child doesn’t like sheep with “crazy eyes” and wanted to cull all bad behavior out of the herd.  We saved around 6-8 female lambs to replace the old ewes.  We had to save all the old ewes as they have babies.  We have 6 no tag Barbados sheep.  We had a brand of tag that the sheep could pull out by reaching through the woven wire fences and lost a lot of tags.  We are probably going to have to retag them so we can track their babies.  They all look alike and we would like to track their productivity.  We are going to sort off the ten cull ewes before we put the ram back in with the main herd.  They will spend most of the summer in the orchard so we know they are not pregnant when we sell them.

We ran them through the chute system and had 22 to sell written down and 23 in the pen. We tried to recount several times and discover who I had not written down.  We finally gave up and ran them back through the chute backwards.  All the keep animals were on the inside of the barn so the far end was empty and isolated from the main herd.  Before we got halfway through them we found the one I had missed.   I had set it up so those sell animals would stay in the milking area of the barn and the corral area.  This way when our buyer shows up we can load them and be done in under 15 minutes.

 

E92E12EB-52BA-4CCA-A4FD-1BEA203864BFI had to feed the bull and his two charges and the ram next.  The bull had gotten tired of the four panels surrounding the large bale of alfalfa and had hooked and thrown it off with his horns.  This is one of his talents that he knows and performs on a regular basis.  I pulled a large bale of alfalfa out of the machine shed and pushed it down to Alcatraz.  I had to open the gate to push the bale inside but this let the bull, 2 steer and the ram out.  I thought, foolishly, that they would follow the bale of alfalfa back into their pen.  Nope!  The bull ran over to the far gate and started hollering for female cows.  I got the bale situated and the panels around the new bales.  Both horses were in Alcatraz happily munching on alfalfa when I went out with the tractor to chase the animals back.  No one wanted to back to isolation.  It took me about 30 minutes of tractor wrangling to get everyone back into the pen.  I considered going and getting the dogs but last time I lost my voice convincing them that I was boss.  The tractor worked eventually.   The dogs do best in wide open spaces.  I was unable to get either horse away from the all you can eat alfalfa buffet so I just locked them in with the cows and ram.  Annmarie got them by just walking over to the pen later that evening.  They just walked over to see her, I am not their favorite or their leader.

Removing 23 teenagers, age 6 months or older really opened up the space in the barn.  I was surprised.  It was enough of a difference that we might end up with a teenage herd running around in the barn lot next winter.  We can open up the old lamb shed for shelter and just feed them out of the back of the barn.  I will need to think up a feeder type for the outside of the building.  The real problem are the horses.  What do we do with them?  They need some shelter, they will share with the sheep but an all you can eat buffet is not healthy for them despite what they think of the idea.

2D6E1328-D5DD-4E23-92D8-60519A218ECB

Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.

Babies Cometh

It has been a week for random babies. I found the new calf last week while feeding. I came out on Wednesday early afternoon to get the new fence inspected and pictures taken for the water conservation grant. While we are walking toward the fence I spot a still wet calf out in the field. It happens to be green ear tag and she is the fiercest of them all when it comes to protecting a calf. So we gave her a wide berth. The pictures are all taken and I handed over all the hours spent on the fence and all the receipts. We will see how the check looks when it comes, I am hoping to cover supply costs. On Wednesday after spotting the newborn calf I saw brand new twins lambs up on the back hillside. About 15 sheep would not come off the hillside as they did not want to leave the new momma. I walked up there and pushed them down. She stayed with her lambs and I was able to swing panels in the barn and open up the momma area so she could be isolated in her movements. When I walked back up to the hillside she was so skittish that I ended up scooping a lamb under each arm and carrying them back to the barn. She followed me to the barn but then would not enter it. Every time I tried to push her in she would jump around me. I finally gave up and locked her in the barn lot. She ended up in the barn I just could not go up and shut the door.

We have been tossing baby chickens back into the coop after dark every night. They are too stupid to get the concept of going back into the coop before dark. On a plus side they are not afraid of snow. This is amazing as I have always had scaredy cat chickens that did not want to step in the white stuff. I tossed three chicks back into the coop.

Today we moved an old bookcase from our house to Sarah’s. This caused us to rearrange our entire master bedroom. We cleaned under and around things that had not been moved in ten years! We are having a new master bedroom set delivered in the next two weeks. We got a bed frame with drawers under each side. We are going to store linen under the bed in those drawers. This will let me store comforters and quilts in the bathroom closet. The linen always gets buried.

We got the bookcase out without too much trouble but on the way back we had to drop off a sewing machine and table at the Mother-in-law’s house and spotted another calf out in the field! Three born in the last week. Now if only the sheep would take off and start dropping babies.

The big orange barn cat did not run from me this morning. Usually it just hides when it sees me, Annmarie tells me she can touch it. So I fed it on the step and tried to pet it. I would just barely touch it and it would back up and away. We did this four times before it took a half hearted swat at my hand as I tried to pet it. I just stood close to it as it ate after that. I will keep trying to tame it down. The grey and white cat makes a random appearance also. I think there are four cats living out in the barn but they are incredibly elusive.

We bought new gate latch materials yesterday and I installed them today. They are working out very nicely except Zeke disappeared from the yard while I was doing this. He won’t stay in the yard 15 minutes now unsupervised before he is leaping over the fence at some spot. I started trying to cut off all the posts at 12″. Unfortunately, there are two shorter posts, a couple of inches shorter. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice, I am unclear how I thought this would elude her notice, it did not.

After much gnashing of teeth I will be recutting all the posts off to ten inches high and installing wires in the hopes that we can contain Zeke. I will also be cutting wooden extensions for the front gate so it matches the gate over by the outhouse building.

We got our first snow of Winter on Thanksgiving day. It made for a pretty day, we will see if it lasts.

We are going to start feeding the quail. They are living in the rose bushes in the driveway so we will be able to just toss out some feed as we drive to work or come home. We like the quail the best.

One more field fenced in sorta

On Friday Hoss and I went up to the swamp field and worked on getting the creek side fence installed. I was hoping to get it all done on Friday, but my back was bothering me so I took medications and kept working. We ran out of woven wire! I even called the metal scrap yard but they only had one roll. We happen to be using some 48″ woven Red Brand fencing so it did not require any smooth wire on top. We quit around 1400 and I ended up going into town and picked up a single roll of woven wire and two utility panels. I keep calling them cow panels but when I go to purchase them I have to remember to call them a utility panel or they cannot find it in the computer.

I was unable to get up and go out and work on Saturday due to my back pain. An ice pick and napalm had nothing on it. Hoss finished getting the fence up, hung two gates and blocked off a four foot section. He is done for the summer as I have run out of money! The fence still needs a couple of days of work as I need to install all of the T-post clips in it. He put enough in it to hold up the fence. The sheep are now roaming all three fields and can hopefully tear up the far field. I don’t think they can knock it all down but they can hopefully thin it out.

Last night we got a call from Annmarie’s mother that the raccoons were out enforce on her front porch. So Annmarie grabbed the 22 rifle and I grabbed the trusty Walther P22 pistol. I have not gotten a laser for the new Ruger Mark IV yet. I gimped around the house until I found second flashlight and we walked down to the house. There were five raccoons on the front porch! The real problem is you cannot shoot any so we had to go up to the side of the house so we could shoot sideways and not hit anything. I shot at a couple of the large ones as they darted off and sent Annmarie around the back of the house so see if she could finish them off. This is where the story gets fuzzy. She claims that I do not get to count the raccoons as dead unless there is a body. The raccoons did get hit, but they do not die easily. I ended up with one dead and hit at least 2 more maybe three. She keeps telling me that I need more practice and in that I agree. It is a lot harder to hit a moving target in the dark than it is in the day. So I am going to have to put about a 1000 rounds through my new Ruger pistol. It has a five inch barrel instead of a two inch barrel. Its time to let the Walther retire and move up in the accuracy department. I need a laser and a holster but Annmarie reminded me I can use my vest with built in holster until I get a new one. I also need at least one more clip as I almost ran out rounds last night. Five predators is a lot of moving targets to be trying to kill in the dark. I need more rounds. So according to Annmarie I only killed one raccoon as that is number of bodies I tossed onto the bone pile.

While I was digging around in the bushes for my victims (they ran away) the cows came running over to the fence and started to holler. They get fed apples almost every day so they think all humans should feed them. I spent 20 minutes picking up and tossing them apples from the yard. I noticed two calves that still need ear tags and one needs banding. We have a brand new calf but that cow was not getting any where near the fence. She had a brand new calf nursing on her. I could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl from that far away.

That hurts

This Saturday we decided to tag and band the lambs. There was much discussion (arguing) as to how many lambs we actually had and wether or not the coyotes had been picking them off. Annmarie shot one Friday night and I missed one later in the day Saturday, so we know they are close to the barn lot. We opted to not use the dogs to push the sheep from the barn lot into the barn. We wanted the sheep to remain calm and just mosey on into the barn. Well they were calm, way too calm. We finally had to get shaker sticks to encourage them the last little bit of the way into the barn. Once in the barn we put up three gates to shrink the available area for them to roam in and I grabbed the tag and band supplies. I sit down on the floor of the barn with the supply bin on my left and my coffee to the right. The coffee didn’t last five minutes before some random sheep knocked it over repeatedly. I finally had to give up on having coffee during this labor intensive endeavor (I spent the entire time on my backside while Annmarie did the lamb catching!). We ended tagging 25 lambs and 2/3 of those were boys. We still have had more girls than boys lambs born on the farm since we started over 10 years ago. We have just been increasing the ear tag numbers every year sequentially and we started with the number one.

After the sheep were done we decided to work the cows. This required closing gates and setting up the corral for the cows. I was in the barn getting fly spray for the cows when I heard this bone chilling scream coming from the corral area. Both Hoss and myself were in the barn and we took off for the corral. I thought Annmarie was being mauled and stomped by the bull or one of the three steer in the corral. Nope, the asshole of the bee verse, a yellow jacket, had stung her on the hand and she had responded by trying to verbally assault the offending party at the top of her lungs. She went inside to treat the fire in in her hand after I agreed to find and kill the offending party. I had placed an old sheep horn in the corral fencing and it made a great place to build a Yellow jacket nest. I gave Hoss the spray and told him to go kill all the offending parties. He did and then we sprayed the cows with fly spray, we had to let the four cows out of the chute after the bull and another started fighting. We ended up letting the bull go out to the other female cows. He has not been near the house since rejoining the female persuasions.

Hoss and I then went up to the Upper Prime Field and finished installing wood stays along the creek side of the new fence. We used 100 of the 200 I had just purchased the night before. On the way out of the field we stopped and patched the new cross fence in six places. The last little section of fence near the new T -brace and new gate needed to be reworked. Hoss had not stapled the fence to the T-brace, once we did that a wire needed moved down to just above the woven wire. A few more wooden stays got installed and the fence is now sheep proof! The new fence, a section of the old fence has 6 strands and no woven wire. It may need some more T-posts and wooden stays but for now it should keep the sheep inside.

Hoss will start in on the next pasture on Monday, I want him to start in on the wheat field side and we will work our way around the field counter clockwise. I figure it will take 2-3 weeks to get it done, no more than 4 weeks hopefully.

We need to use bull Alcatraz

Annmarie called me on Wednesday, while I was at work to let me know that the bull was out. When I went to answer her call I noticed that I had a text on my phone from a neighbor saying our bull was out. Her call was that he was out and she had managed to get him into a neighbor’s corral and needed me to bring the horse trailer.

So I drove home and got Hoss to back up to the horse trailer. We have not used the trailer since we bought it two years ago. We knew it would be needed. Hoss and I had to unload the wood out of the trailer before we could use it. It had a flat tire and the spare was flat. Luckily, I knew there was a tire pump in the pickup we just needed to get there to use it.

We were able to back right up to the corral and use two panels to make an alleyway and the bull just went right into the trailer. Usually the bull pushes through a creek crossing or gets through the wires. Hoss will look at the fence line after they get the bull put away. I convinced Annmarie that we should put the bull up with the steers in the upper prime pasture as we just fixed that fence. I went back to work as they unloaded the bull.

Annmarie called me again at work in the early afternoon to say that the bull was out again!! This time he had gone the other way and headed up the creek. Annmarie headed up with the pickup and dogs to push him our way. I headed home early. I should have stopped at the house and change shoes, but I knew that Annmarie wanted to get done as our company had just arrived and she had left them alone at the house.

As I was driving up the gravel road looking for Annmarie I called her and she hollered stop I see you as I drove down the road. She had been with the uncooperative bull and the two deaf dogs for over 45 minutes. One would not know that she was to be ordained this week as a priest!! Mouse thought that the only way to move the bull was to grab his tail or bite his heels. I ended up having to walk up to the bull and take over the dogs as they had gotten ahead of Annmarie. I got him down to the road and let him out onto it. He started ambling home and I went and got my car. I could see Annmarie coming off the hill but the bull was going out of sight. Once Annmarie saw the car moving a steady stream of yelled comments began and I ended up stopping, getting out and chasing the bull on foot while Annmarie drove the car. The dogs, I and the car pushed him back to top of our property and he turned down and started headed home. We got him into the corral and locked him in. He will be staying there until Sunday so we don’t have to chase him down again. It took us two hours this time to get him.

The next day the bull had a pretty bad limp. He has a bad left front foot and when he walks too much it bothers him. He was not getting any sympathy from either one of us its his own fault.

Supposed to get something done

It was a holiday weekend so I had an extra day off. I had all these plans on accomplishing tons of things, this did not happen. I did get some stuff done but not as much as I envisioned. I also ended up with a couple of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are not pleasant and this weekend was no exception to that rule. I spent Thursday and Friday finishing digging out the barn. Hoss went to play in the mountains for the holiday so I finished digging out the barn the first day and then spent the next day moving piles of straw and sheep manure onto our compost pile. We have two piles and the old pile is almost ready to be distributed as soil. It takes 2-3 years to break down the straw and manure into a usable substance.

Meathead came out and sheared the dogs. Annmarie asked her to use a longer blade and she did not want to shear their tails. She is opposed to them having rat tales. It is easier to keep the cheat grass out of their hides with a shorter coat.

We went out and covered one of the plum trees on Saturday. It is loaded and the bats are out at night and Annmarie is hoping this will keep the bird and bats away from the fruit. We looked at the other trees but they do not have very much fruit on them. I will need to shape the trees this winter and we are going to shorten the tree skirting. We are talking about putting the two bully alpacas out with the three sold eating cows. This way we only have to skirt the trees for the sheep and not alpacas or horses.

We have a lot of thistles in the orchard so I am going to push the entire sheep herd into the orchard for a few days to eat the entire field down, then I will work on killing thistles again.

I got the post hole auger installed on the tractor Saturday and had plans to dig all the post holes on Sunday. Unfortunately I decided that I needed to weed eat the front driveway as the cheat grass and weeds were getting out of control. I moved the pickup back out of the driveway as it was covering weeds. I left my car in place and Annmarie was at church. On one of my trips to the pickup for weed eater fuel I noticed that my car window was busted out! Now mind you I had goggles and hearing protection on but the rocks getting kicked up from the weed eater were pelting me and they hurt. It did not occur to me that I would blow out a window on my car while trying to make the driveway neater. This sucks and now I have to get it replaced.

I did finally get on the tractor and go out and start trying to drill holes in the ground. The first five holes I only managed to get about 2-4 inches down. I did not have a bucket but will bring one up and start filling the holes with water. I will need to do that for a few days to soften up the dirt. Once I got down into the bottom fields the soil was actually muddy once I got six inches below the surface. This would explain the weed jungle that I have in the upper field. It is so bad I cannot even mow it. I have the tractor bucket fully raised at 8 feet and the weeds are still taller. The plan is to get the fence up around this field and to push the sheep up in the morning and bring them in at night. Our hope is the sheep can tear it up and thin it out so I can get the mower through it. There is still a muddy area in the middle of the field that I cannot drive the tractor through. Our hope is the sheep will knock it down enough I can get the tractor in to see the wet areas and dig a few ditches to let it drain better. I got 9 holes completed and five started, only 12 more to go.

On the way back to the house I noticed our three feeder cows out of their fence. The gate had not been latched correctly and they got out. I had to move gates around and get them pushed back into their pasture. The gate is latched correctly now.

My hope is that Hoss and I can get some fencing done this week, time will tell.