I keep thinking I am not getting things done but the blog helps keep me on track, if nothing else I can see that things are actually getting done. First thing Thursday morning I hung the corner shelf I made earlier in the week. The brackets came with a cute little 4” level to make sure you hung the shelf correctly. That afternoon the new cables and cable protectors arrived and Sarah and I put the router up onto the shelf. The 90 degree data cable ends really helped the cable stay next to the wall. I had to put an extension cord up to the shelf and plug in the two things behind the router. I was afraid you could tell but it is fairly invisible. This also gives us a better wifi signal throughout the house as the transmitter is higher up on the wall. There was only a small amount of disagreement. We basically agreed to disagree as neither one of us was listening or communicating effectively. This summer when the child and foreign child are home I am going to be spending a lot of time outside. I believe this is the wife’s number one complaint! Our old foreign exchange student, Monica is going to spend the entire summer with us. She is out of college for the summer and will be getting some experience on our farm with various animals. She also wants to learn how to drive a stick shift car. I offered to teach her how to drive the tractors but she was not as impressed by that as she had spent last year driving a skidsteer in a dairy setting. She has been working out so I see a lot of rock wall work getting done this summer.
When I went out to let everyone out of the barn I spent an hour digging straw and making sure we could open various gates. I used our new lightweight panels and built a run that would funnel the sheep to the back of the barn, so we could then run them through the chute and sort them. It was nice to be able to just put the panels on top of the straw and not have to dig down 18” to make the panels fit. Sarah and I were going to come out and sort off the female lambs so the new ram could not get them pregnant. The problem with this is no one likes being separated from their mother and they throw a continuously loud fit for several days over it. But it needs to happen as the sheep can technically get pregnant at 3 months old. We have never had any under 6 months old get pregnant but after 6 months all bets are off. We needed to count lambs also so we know how many we can sell.
I had spaghetti sauce on the stovetop. I use the melting burner to keep a really low heat on the pot. The problem with this is the sauce was not cooking down very fast and since Sarah and I were headed out to sort sheep at 1500 I figured I could turn up the burner and when we were done in an hour it would be ready for the final adjustment before dinner at 1700. I should have known better. It took us 135 minutes to get the sheep sorted! Annmarie came home around 1700 and found out that the sauce had just started to burn on the bottom of the pan. She was able to transfer it to a new pot, add a cup of water and finish it off. It tasted very good.
Sarah and I counted 42 lambs. It was supposed to be 20 boys, 22 girls, instead we had 21/21. I had to look at the online birth record and we tagged one of the girls with a boy tag because we ran out of tags, two of the boy lambs had managed to rip out their ear tags. One of the calmer ewes had a big bubble on the left side of her face. Sarah had sent me a picture so I brought a scalpel out to the barn. It is most likely an abscess and will need to be lanced and cleaned. The baby girls were crazy and kept ramming into the sorting chute and almost managed to jump back into the pen with the herd several times. We had to put up a second wall to keep them away. We pinned the face bulging ewe into the chute and it was an abscess, I cut about a 1.5” long horizontal incision and then squeezed out all the pus. It was really thick and would not have been easy for her body to get rid of it. I then cleaned it out and put some blue skin treatment on it. Unfortunately the skin treatment stains everything it touches and the ewe had started to swing her head around by this time and get it all over Sarah and I. Sarah got it the worst. We went inside to crow about our success and the first thing Annmarie asks us is why we did not sort off the boy lambs also? This way the ewes would get a break from making milk and burning so many calories and could maybe put on some weight. As there was no logical reason for us not doing this Sarah and I were kind of dumbstruck. Annmarie and I will be sorting them again next week.
On Thursday I was given the contact information for some people in the Hermiston area that were trying to sell their three alpaca who are only one year old. So I called them Friday morning and after morning chores I hooked up the stock trailer and went to Hermiston. I got all three intact boys, brothers, for $280. We now have 12 alpaca and will not be buying any more for years! They live 20 years and we will lose several in the next 1-2 years as they are just old.
The custom wood mill called Friday afternoon and said they wanted to cut the black walnut we had dropped off. I hooked up to the flat bed trailer, picked up Mr Professional and went to the custom cut mill. We talked about the pieces and how wide to cut them. The mill can only cut 24” piece but by the time you clear the edges we ended up with a solid 20” piece. The wood has so many colors! I was surprised at the variety of colors in it. In two hours they were only able to cut 1/3 pieces. On Monday I will go and get the other two pieces cut. We came out to the farm, cleared a spot in the old chicken coop, cleaned off all the sawdust and then unloaded it. Those nine foot pieces 3” thick weigh almost 200#. Once it was stacked we banded it together. It took a while to get the hang of the bander. I had never used one before. I did find a way to use the OSB sheets we have stacked out in the machine shed. We are going to put up black plastic to keep out moisture and light and hold it pinned up against the chicken wire to keep the rain out of the building. The building is about 1/3 full of wood. The OSB was $5/sheet as it was scrap so its perfect. I will keep each end open so the wind can still move through for circulation.
Well it was a long weekend, the weather was too nice for January, we set a record high temperature. I had Mr Professional and Mr Tex over for Friday and Saturday. The time was spent getting yards cleaned up and trees trimmed at both my Mother’s house and Mother-in-law’s house. We spent a day at each to get the trees and bushes trimmed and all of the clippings picked up and removed. I am definitely feeling my age. I crawled up into a tree and used a chain saw to cut branches out. I had to work at getting around inside the tree and was very glad the chainsaw was electric. The chain saw was so great I am going to go buy myself one with a 16” bar. It was super quiet and incredibly lightweight. Just fill bar oil and change out the battery! We ended up burning the slash pile two days in a row, there was so much material on it. At my mother-in-laws we cleaned off the hillside and removed blue spruce needles, leaves, wild roses, blackberries and branches. She had multiple plants with thorns and I was working up a sweat so I took off my warm hat. I have around eight cuts/scratches on my head from various branches and multiple scratches on both arms. Those thorny bushes make you pay for moving them.
On Sunday I didn’t want to really do anything, but things have to get done. So we moved a culvert up to field 4b and set a bigger one up into field 3. It is almost too wet to work with the tractors. The little John Deere kept trying to get stuck. It just does not have enough mass to get around when the ground is wet. Mr Professional keeps wanting to get tractor tire chains. I won’t do it. Chains would merely allow myself to get really stuck! We have a little time and will try and back fill around the culverts as the weather permits.
I do morning chores on the weekends and Annmarie does it the rest of the week. I do the evening chores and if I have to feed the cows it takes me an hour after work to get everything done. The morning chores consist of feeding horse, cats, four boy sheep and letting everyone out of the barn, ten minutes tops. The real problem here is if there are new babies then you have to catch them and get them and their mothers in a jug (crèche). That can take over an hour or be even more painful. The evening chores are just guaranteed to be long. I like the predictability of evening chores. So in a nutshell, the morning chores are like playing the lottery, you are a winner occasionally but most of the time its a losing proposition.
We got lucky and were able to be the recipient of ten 10 month old chickens. We picked them up yesterday. I put a large dog kennel in the back of the pickup and had a tarp and some straps I could wrap around it to keep the wind off of the birds. The problem is it was cold and we had about a 50 minute drive to get home. While we were eating dinner in our vehicle I felt pity and managed to jam the large kennel into the back seat by moving the front seats up as far as they would go. This is not the most comfortable configuration but it does allow the chickens to stay warm. Annmarie met me in Pendleton and arrived with gloves and a Pendleton woolen blanket. The pickup has a few foibles. I call them character traits. There is a large crack in the windshield, the vehicle has not been washed for at least two years, the ABS (antilocking brake system) is armed all of the time now so the brakes are a little touchy, the heat/air conditioner don’t really work, the headliner is held in place with gorilla tape and headliner tacks, the aftermarket seat covers are constantly trying to come off, there seems to be an intermittent short and the turn signal/brake light fuse has been replaced twice in the last two weeks, but they do work. The passenger door panel is loose and not attached to the door frame. The passenger window can only be rolled up/down on the passenger side door switches and there are no keys for the doors so it can never be locked. This door problem can be overcome with smooth fencing wire and time, but its annoying so I now just leave the rear window slider latch open all of the time for emergencies. Basically, it is a farm vehicle! The chickens survived the trip just fine and today when I went out to collect eggs I was able to count all ten of the new chickens! It was nice moving the chickens in the dark.
Annmarie and I had been talking about my to do list for Saturday and I stated that the sheep really need to start going on the back hillside but with all the little lambs we thought there should be a bridge. I reminded her that the old bridge from the momma baby area had floated down into the orchard pasture and I could get it and drag it around with the tractor. We knew both the mommas and baby’s would use it as they did in the other enclosure. All I had to do was drive the tractor over, pick it up and drive it around and toss it over the water. I ended up digging out a place for our new gate in the front fence. I just need to bring in some gravel for it now and then dig one post. Once the post is in place I will support it back to the rock crib with 2×6 boards. We need a way to get the cows/sheep from the orchard into the corral easily and through the front yard hillside is a straight shot. We have fence and gates everywhere and I keep putting more in but it is finally to the point where we can start separating fields and animals pretty easily. Since the bull still managed to impregnate one of our cows through the bull enclosure fence the two fence rule is essential if we don’t want someone to get pregnant.
I did load the bridge onto the tractor and went around the barn lot. I made a stop to try and mess with a piece of culvert to use as a down spout so the water will quit digging a channel but the culvert was too heavy to hold up and then try and rearrange rocks under it. I tried a few times and then just gave up, I am going to have to have help to fix that problem. When I got to the old spring culvert crossing I dumped the bridge off of the tractor bucket and went down into the spring to move some rocks. I want the banks of the spring to dry out so I need to stop all backed up water. I removed about 12 rocks out of the stream flow to let it flow easier. Since I was there I started to dig out the footings for the Rastra with the tractor. I did that on both side of the 16’ gate. The culvert is 20’ long so I am going to set the Rastra 18’ apart and it is about 8” wide so the culvert will stick out a few inches on both ends. I used the extra dirt to build up the berm alongside the fence. I need to get that berm up about two feet so the back spring runoff cannot flood the barn lot again. Once that was done I did go put the bridge in place but it is only eight feet long and there was only a couple of places that it could bridge the gap. I placed it and hoped for the best.
Before I could let the sheep onto the back hillside I needed to make the rounds of the fence. I walked the entire length of the outer fence. I had to fix about six spots that were guaranteed to let the sheep out. Now just because I have fixed those spots it does not mean the sheep are contained. Honestly, they always seem to find a way out eventually. A couple of hours later I did spot the sheep on the back hillside.
The bridge location was less than ideal so I told Annmarie I should build another bridge. I have a lot of scrap lumber I purchased last year as a lot, it was made up of old discarded, broken or twisted lumber. I got a great price and they delivered it! I took a fairly twisted pressure treated 6×6 that was 20’ long and cut it in half and cut two foot sections of 2×6 lumber as decking, moved it all over to the creek with the tractor and found a crossing near where they normally cross. I could not install it on the angle they like because I would need about another 5’ to bridge the gap on a diagonal. I figured it was close enough. Annmarie fed me the pieces and since I am out of 3” screws I just did it the old fashioned way with long nails. I like to fence with a shingle axe. This tends to make people nervous when I am hammering in stuff with an axe and Annmarie was no exception when she had to stand on the boards. I did not hit her or me. It only took about an hour from start to finish and the bridge is absolutely solid!! I think if I lift it another ten inches on each end the spring runoff wont even touch it. I may have to make a little ramp for the lambs to get onto it. That can wait until later in the summer. Annmarie and I both appreciate it, much easier than climbing down into the stream bed and back out the other side. My twenty minutes outside project took me about four hours total!
I started out the Sunday by tagging and banding the last two little lambs we had in the barn, a little boy and girl. I then mixed all the sheep together so we don’t have to manage two separate herds. I came in and started working on the bathroom shelves and while outside cutting lumber heard some squawking. I looked around the edge of the house and there was our pretty rooster in the front yard desperately trying to get through the metal fence to get away from the dogs. Unfortunately for him, he is too big to fit between the gaps. I was able to call the Border Collies off but our little ankle biter Brussels Griffin, Gizmo, did not want to leave the chicken and had to be hollered at. I tried to open the gate but that just confused the chicken and ended up just having to reach down and grab him and toss him over the fence. He got lucky and only lost about 30 feathers. I have no idea what he was doing in the yard, the chickens know it is not safe.
I went out to pickup the carcasses and once I got into the barn lot I decided I had better do a couple of things before just getting the carcasses. Annmarie and I had noticed the culvert that did not get repaired was undercutting the bank and drive over path. She was afraid if the horses got out they would try and cross this and fall through potentially braking a leg. So I dug out the old culvert, it took a few tries to get it above ground. I finally had to go clear all the dirt off of the culvert before I could lift it out of the water. I moved that culvert over to the other culvert and will work on getting it set so it takes the water coming out of the crossing and allows it to run down through the culvert and not eat out the bank edges. I will mess with that after the water level goes down some or I won’t mind getting wet.
While I was messing with the culvert I spotted something in the back runoff creek. I wasn’t sure what it was but it looked like an animal carcass. My only thought was I hope it isn’t and if it is then please don’t let it be so decomposed that I cannot just drag it out of the water. I was able to just slide a chain around its neck and pull it out of the water. It had been dead for a few days only so it was still intact mostly. I took it up to the boneyard and then came back for the stillborn lambs, dead lamb and dead alpaca. It smelled bad but managed to stay in one piece while moving it with the tractor. I was eternally grateful that the carcass only smelled a little bit.
While I was dropping off the carcasses I noticed water running in an ancient ditch that has never been there before since we moved back in 2007. I will need to dig out the ditch again and make it a little deeper and give it some consistent shape. I will just have to add it to my list for the year. I am starting to feel better after my run in with Covid19. It has been eight weeks and this was the first weekend I did not notice any chest pain. My hope is that my aerobic ability will improve quickly now.
A lot has been happening on the farm. Not a lot by me, but stuff is getting done. As always, Annmarie is keeping us afloat and continues to do 85% of the chores, maybe 90%! I do go out to the barn once a week to “do my part”. Getting to the barn is the hardest part, once I am there I can do the feeding but the return trip to the house I can feel the shortness of breath and chest pain kicking in, I need to get past the Covid leftovers so I can be ready for spring. The sheep are really not doing their part on having babies. They are doing some serious lollygagging, I suspect the chief culprit is the ram. So we are still lambing, one here, one there, we have only had two born since the last blog update.
30 lambs born
20 ewes delivered
15 pregnant ewes (I counted Jan 2, 2021)
10 single lambs
10 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
145% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (26/26)
On Friday, I needed to go to the scrap metal yard and pickup a culvert and check on my gates. We have opted to no longer go with commercial gates as the bull has decided he can just bend and twist them to his whims. I had asked for three 12’ gates a few weeks ago, I now need five 12’ gates. Luckily, I knew there was needed lag time so I don’t need them for about another two months. I am now on the list for five gates. I picked up two loads of old metal rims for a new section of fence down by the machine shop and a 20’ four foot diameter culvert for the barn lot drive over crossing. This crossing will be about 16 feet of drivable wide crossing with the other four feet taken up by concrete rastra and rebar. I am going to put rastra on both ends of the culvert and some cable between the two ends so if the water runs over the top it won’t be able to push out the downstream side. This and two fencing projects are the big ticket items for this next summer. I ordered an attachment for the tractor bucket that should allow me to push in a T post into the ground instead of pounding it in. This won’t help where its super rocky but the fence I want to install is just long, not horrible tough ground. So I now have some more metal rims, but not enough to do the section of fence I want yet. I will need more trips to the junkyard for that. This expended a lot of energy, even though I did a lot of sitting.
I am not known for my Uber iPhone skills so my phone will randomly take pictures when I am trying to use the camera. I decided to keep the sleeve picture as its my father’s old denim coat from the late 1960’s. We use it as a barn coat and it has just gained more character the longer it is in use.
Saturday morning was the planned day to work on the barn and I just did not want to get out of bed. I was reminded that the day before was really a play day and I now needed to get to the planned job. Again, very correct and I drug myself out of bed and went and picked up Mr Professional so we could work on the bathroom. We managed to get the window cut using a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner to try and keep the dust to a minimum. This is never possible when cutting sheet rock with a sawzall. So it took another hour to vacuum, wipe up the mess and clean up the stairwell. I spent most of the day cleaning up the breeze porch. The window caulk came and I want to get it up so we can keep some of the bugs off of the porch. We removed lots of trash and tools and even ordered some new dog kennels in an attempt to neaten up the porch.