Is it Winter yet?

Yesterday Tex came out and we did the cleanup and winterization stuff. There are still three hoses that need to be rolled up and put in the shed but the rest of the stuff is done. Tex got leaves washed off the low roof as they hold the moisture and can cause leaks. We got the front hillside planted with clover! I will be happy if only 50% of the seed takes off, anything to choke out the cheatgrass that is currently growing there. We had a talk and Tex agreed to help me with the lower fence.

I put gravel in the Alcatraz area so the butcher cows don’t make a mess down by the spring. We will see how it works in a few weeks when they get put in there for the all you can eat buffet of alfalfa.

This is the fence that I got the grant to install. I had been holding off on it but he may leave in January and not come back. I just needed to know that if we started this project he would see it through. He has been a little flakey. He agreed and got my point so Annmarie and I went to town and bought everything we needed for the first section of fence, $2000! This would be why I normally go to the junkyard and buy all my stuff used and beat up.

As soon as I took the tractor down to start drilling holes the cows came running. They thought I was going to feed them. They do not need food, I have confirmed this by putting out a protein block that they are half heartedly occasionally licking on. They are content to go around and eat the grass that is still growing. Once they realized I had nothing for them they wandered off.

I started to drill holes but was getting no where. I decided to look at the teeth on the auger and realized that the outer tooth was almost gone! I swapped the inner and outer teeth hoping that it would work better. It did! Before the day was over I had one long tooth on the outside and on the opposite side I put the long tooth in the inner spot and then flipped my short piece upside down so it would be point out. This worked the best but I also realized that my inner cone is almost worn down to a smooth piece of metal also. I definitely need to do some repair on the auger but for now I just have to use it! Who would guess that after six years I would wear the teeth off of it! Tex laid out and marked all the T post locations and started to clean out the holes I managed to get drilled. I have six holes to finish up tomorrow.

I was unpacking the trailer and a few railroad ties had shifted. I went to loosen the strap and ended up getting swatted to the ground by the gates crashing into me with a few hundred pounds of railroad ties on top of them. It rung my bell but I didn’t black out. I have to say that shifting loads have smacked me around twice and they are not any fun.

I will get the parts for the auger repair this week and my pump upgrade for the sprayer is in the mail. When it comes we will get it installed and the get the sprayer strapped down and ready to go. I want it all prepped and ready to go in the spring. We can feed using the tractor instead of the side by side. I may have to start the thing every couple of months just so it doesn’t forget how to do it.

Planting prep begins

To be fair, there was a reason I slept in this morning, I was up for several hours in the middle of the night volunteering with the Quick Response Unit, so Annmarie let me sleep in. She did not want to wake me to let me know the dogs had been fed so she left a note for me in the one spot she was sure I would find it, the hot water dispenser! I make French Press coffee every morning no matter what, it tends to be the first thing I do in the morning. Now she did call and wake me up as there was a screamer lamb out in the field and she thought it might have gotten trapped on the wrong side of the fence last night. I was having a hard time sleeping in anyways, so I made a cup of coffee and a large thermos of coffee to go and let the horses and sheep out and up into the upper pastures. We have been trying to lock them in every night due to the coyotes and there have been wolves spotted nearby also.

The one good thing about staying up half the night was that I found out how to get an agricultural burn permit and what I needed to do to burn the fields. I need to do it for the weed control. Anything over 2 acres needs a permit and a burn perimeter. So I started today working on a burn perimeter.

Before I could get going I needed to clean up the tractor. I should have fueled it as I only had half a tank but if I have a full tank I can run for 8 hours and this limited my time away from the house. So I blew out the air intakes on the tractor hood, the radiator screen and the radiator. As I was contemplating the ambient air temperature and my last tractor overheat I was trying to figure out what would make the tractor heat up? Working hard, but how, pulling lots of weight? Running PTO? What about forcing the engine to work harder with less oxygen? So I popped the air filter can open and took out the air filter, holy smokes! I was able to beat out about 3# of dirt out of the filter then blew out another pound with the air hose. I was covered in ultra fine dust before I even got started. Luckily, there are two filters and the inside filter was almost spotless. I cleaned it but there was not much dirt at all, just a little skiff. I put it all back together and headed out to get the arena rake.

I thought I might be able to use it, but after fighting for 15 minutes to get it attached to the tractor and taking it down the side of the fence line twice I could tell that it was not going to work. So I brought it back, took it off and found the disc setup. I practiced in the barn lot getting the disc to work properly.

I ended up drinking a lot of dust with my coffee throughout the day but it was still good!

I ended up going around the perimeter of three fields and now have a 30 foot fire break around each field. This was me after a couple of passes. I tried to go upwind as much as possible but it seems that 50% of the time that is just not possible, so not all the brown in my coffee was creamer. The middle pasture had a nice break already from us clearing it to install the new fence. I disced up the dry ground to be visible dirt so there will be no fire creep. Last pass for this field. I got three fields done and only have one tomorrow. I did have to come in and get more fuel but that was good as I blew out the tractor radiator and intakes again. I never had an overheating problem today and it got to 92 F. On the way back I stopped at a blackberry bush to eat my fill, I had skipped lunch. They were amazing but the yellow jackets thought the same thing. I finally had to start shaking the berries before tossing them in my mouth so I would not toss one in with a yellow jacket on it inside my GI tract! After drawing blood a couple of times on the thorns attempting to get away from nasty stinging things I gave up on the berries, I had already eaten a couple of cups anyways. As I was headed in I remembered that I promised Annmarie I would pick plums from the tree in field. We got a few pounds last year from it, the first time in 12 years but this year the tree was loaded. I guess it likes all the water it can have as the new spring runs right next to it.

I moved the ladder around to pick the fruit but its in a U-shaped depression and the fruit ladder does not want to function in that environment well. I got some off the top of the tree and then resorted to lifting the tractor bucket four feet off the ground and crawling it it to use it as a platform. That first plum was super sweet and literally burst with juices as I bit into it. You can see the juice near my foot in the tractor bed! I started to fill up the 2.5 gallon bucket and tossed the overripe or bug eaten ones to the cows. One cow was wiser than the rest and he realized that there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain by coming up close.

I have no idea what type of plum these are as the tree is probably over 60-70 years old. They are golden with a rose blush and yellow meat and very sweet. I started to throw the other cows fruit as they were missing out. Everyone felt like it was safe to come over as long as I was in the tractor bucket.

My stupid chickens are getting agitated. I am pretty sure the raccoons are coming down and harassing them at night. Now they cannot get into the coop, but the windows are open and the chickens can hear them. I have metal fencing stapled over the outside of the windows to prevent them from getting in through the screens. I only had one brown egg tonight. I cannot get only one egg from 11 chickens per day, the math does not add up.

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.

Three more projects

We got back from California last week and I proceeded to dig back into the farm on Sunday. Tex watched our animals while we were gone and everyone survived. I decided I needed to try and finish up the short stretch of fence we have been at for a month. I finished filling the rock crib on the left and topped off the other one that Tex had filled. I then went up and started to dig a hole for the middle support railroad tie. The ground is pretty much fist sized rocks the entire way down. I managed to get about 1.5 feet down and decided to call it a day as I had enough dealing with rocks. I swapped out the box blade on the tractor and hooked up the mower. I wanted to try and get the property out by the cars mowed down. I also figured I could mow a path for the new fence that needs to go in down by the creek. My grant is approved so now I just need to get cracking on the new fence. The first step is to use string and spray paint to mark out the fence. Once that is done we can start pounding T posts into the ground, after I buy them. The paint will give me an accurate count so i don’t over purchase.

While I was down by the school house I realized I needed to get the irrigation water back into the ditch. It had been flood irrigating the lower bottom but I need to get in there and cut for hay. To do this without sinking the tractor I need the bottoms to dry out some. So I dug out the ditch and got all the water flowing down the ditch again. I should be able to cut hay by the end of the week. Since I managed to forget my hat in California I had to be super careful of the sun. I ended up with a lobster skull for several days and didn’t want to make it worse. So I had lots of protective gear. If I wear all this getup I can spend all day out in the 100F beating down sun and not get burned.

“Star” our white tailed cow, had her baby on Sunday. I know this as the baby was still wet and sitting up when I went by her and mom on the tractor. They looked good. Most likely Star will hide the baby for the next couple of weeks and we won’t spot it. If we don’t see it in another week I will go down and look for it. At that point I will just be trying to confirm it died. Hopefully she is just hiding it from prying eyes.

The cows are no different than the sheep, one adult female becomes the babysitter and is responsible for corralling and entertaining all of the babies. I have yet to figure out how they choose whose turn it is today or this week to watch the babies but it is better to avoid this appointment. There are enough babies now that that appointee has to actually work.

The holiday afforded me the time to get all of my outside mowing completed. I will be haying by the end of the week.

More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.