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.