Groundhog Day

Yesterday was supposed to be an easy day. We were going to sort off the two little bull calves from their mothers. The cows will have babies soon and we don’t want any competition. Now mind you, we tried this in the fall and one of the two crazy babies ran off and stayed away for a couple of days before coming back. We had to let it back in with its mother to get it into a fenced area. We fed on Friday and all of the lower area cows came in so we shut the upper gates so it would be easy to herd them on Saturday.

Saturday morning I went to pick up Mr Professional and I noticed that there were no cows in the correct pasture. That is because I failed to check on the lower pasture gate, it was wide open and the cows were down by the schoolhouse. As we came back from town we stopped at the schoolhouse and ran cows back into the area near the creek. We reinstalled the gate that the bull had removed. This is where one of the heavy duty Packy welded gates are going before we let the bull out of Alcatraz. Mr Professional followed the cows up into the designated field.

Annmarie opened the new yard gate and moved the corral gates around so we could herd the cows in. She also moved the horses to one side of the barn lot and the upper cows into the barn lot so we could sort them next. We opened the gate into the orchard pasture and Mr Professional got three cows in and stopped the rest. We only needed to sort off the little bull and he was one of the three. The new gate in the pasture blocking off the alleyway is not yet completed and once we had the dogs in the field the cows of course bum rushed the gap and got mixed in with the weaned lambs. We got them out and managed to let one cow back into the lower pasture. Now we just needed to move the little bull and his mother to one side of the pasture and into our upper yard hillside. Unfortunately, our youngest Border Collie, Mouse, was just not listening. After a couple of herding chases, Annmarie called him and put him on a lead and took him to other side of the fence. We got the pair onto the upper hillside, the alpaca were in the same field. They had seen the gate opened the day before and ran into the field, but only a few of them, the rest were outside the fence. So we are closing in on the necessary fence opening with the cows, the little bull is looking edgy and trying to bolt. I look up and two alpaca are both on their hind legs standing at full height and trying to fight over our wooden fence! Look squirrel! At this moment, as I am exclaiming my wonder out loud, the bull calf makes a break for it and jumps the ditch. We turn around and try to get him back when he does the same thing he did last time! He jams his head above the woven wire between two strands of wire and starts trying to jump through! Annmarie turns Mouse loose in hopes that he can push the calf back but the calf is faster and manages to leap through the fence. He runs for the long driveway with Mouse in pursuit. We finally get Mouse back and then Annmarie jumps in the pickup. The calf is at the end of the driveway near the cattle guard eyeing us from a quarter of a mile away. Annmarie takes the pickup down to the little seven acre field. If she drives along that field she will be on a diagonal from the calf and can then drive up the road and push the calf back from the cattle guard. Nope, as soon as she started to drive up the edge of the field I saw that calf make the decision, he jumped the cattle guard again and ran down the road.

I was not going to wait two more days just to do this again! The decision was made, it was time for some milk fed 9 month old beef. I headed to the house for my 243 rifle. Annmarie calls me to see if I was getting a gun, once informed I was already headed to the house she followed the little bull so we would be able to solve this problem. Since she had the pickup I loaded up a knife, plastic bags for heart and liver and a rifle. The little bull was kind enough to run into the upper CRP. Annmarie had trailed it on the road to keep it from coming back to the pavement and running into the neighbors field. I was already planning to talk to as many neighbors as it took to solve this problem. I gotta say that the Covid has been rough, that was enough physical activity to give me the shakes. I only wanted to head shoot the calf so we didn’t mess up any meat. I sat down and formed a tripod position and shot it. Nope, it started to trot off and I had to shoot it in the head at a run. It dropped on the second shot. This was not on the list for jobs to complete this day. But once the decision is made everything else has to be set aside so you can process the animal. When we cleaned up the carcass, I had shot it in the neck the first time behind the head but had missed the spine, second time was in the head.

Mr Professional went to get the tractor to make everything easier. We spent the rest of the day skinning and cleaning the carcass. Annmarie had a great idea to tan the hide so we were super careful when removing the hide. I didn’t have any game bags but luckily Mr Professional did. So we will be ordering game bags for when this happens again, because I am sure it will. We could not find any tanning solution locally and after reading the instructions on how to brain tan an animal, I did not think that cooking the brains then running them through the food processor then applying them to the hide seemed like a good use of our time. I am going to get a tanning solution also so we have that on hand. Once we had the carcass all cleaned and bagged up we moved it out to the machine shed. I have a couple of hanging spots for animals and it is away from the chickens and any animals. We moved it with the tractor and when we tried to hoist it up on the single pulley we could not do it! We had to use the tractor and with both of us pulling we managed to get the carcass to move slightly. So using our combined weight the carcass weighs around 330#. I will be adding a second pulley and rerouting the rope so we get a reduction when pulling! I did not expect the carcass to be that heavy. I figure we will get at least 200# of meat off of this animal. Now I just have to plan on cutting up the entire animal this upcoming Friday. It will be an all day affair. We did not get the upper cows sorted. That will happen in the near future.

The wild turkeys found us yesterday and cruised through the property. I don’t mind them passing through, but really don’t want them living anywhere near the houses or outbuildings. Annmarie got tomatoes in the ground and walls of water around them so they don’t freeze. It also keeps them warmer and they grow faster. We are probably going to revisit the driveway gate decision again after this last cow escapade. We had talked about putting two gates across the driveway entrance that are open at all times and we only close when we are working animals so they don’t go down the driveway. It’s hard to get them out of the long driveway. I will need to measure the opening so we have a better understanding of how far of a gap we are trying to block off.

Cows headed to new home

The sheep have gotten out of control! We keep having more lambs. All those sheep we sorted off last month because “they were not pregnant” have all had babies out in the main herd! Unfortunately, I think there are still 2-3 still left that need to have babies. I have lost track of how many we have had to date. Annmarie created a new spreadsheet and she has been keeping it up, I just need to review the data and post an update. Since we have had snow on the ground the sheep have really started going through the hay. I am pretty sure we are going to run out of hay in the barn. We only keep the small bales in the barn, the large bales are either sitting out or in the machine shed storage room. We have only used about 50% of our stored hay to date. I think we may end up storing 20 ton until next fall. This will cut down on how much we need to purchase next this year. It won’t cut it down by 50% but realistically by about 35% which is still better than nothing. I will probably end up pushing a big bale behind the barn for the sheep to tear into and eat what they want. They like to play king of the hill on them more than eat or get on top of the bale and while being king eat from the top of the bale. This will only be possible if the ground dries enough for me to move the bale with my little tractor. I have to make two 90 degree turns and the last turn is tight and if it’s muddy I won’t be able to make the last corner.

On Tuesday we found out that our butcher service was ready for two more cows and requested they be delivered on Friday morning at 0730. This means sorting the cows on Thursday evening, hooking up the trailer and locking them up in the corral so we can just chase them into the stock trailer first thing Friday morning. Honestly, the wife and I were both tired and we tried to push the cows alone and they would not go into the last enclosure. We just went and got the dogs and pushed them in. We usually try and just coax them in without the dogs first but it doesn’t always work. The dogs are more stressful on the animals than us just shooing them quietly toward the fence openings. Annmarie has convinced me that whooping and hollering usually doesn’t do much other than upset the animals, which it turns out is true. The dogs are far more effective than hollering and waving. Zeke still doesn’t like working the cows. He saw the sheep and wanted to go work them instead, I had to tell him we were working “cows”, he seemed a little deflated but went back to moving the cows out of the corner they had sequestered themselves in. Mouse loves the cows, he can stare them down, he can run at them, and if they still don’t move he gets to bite them on the heel or tail to move them, the sheep are boring. I always hook up the stock trailer and back it up to the chute the night before as this saves me from doing it first thing in the morning and it prevents the animals from exiting the corral via the chute. I had the trailer backed up to the chute, lined up perfectly on one try!! This is amazing after all the problems I had when we first got the trailer, it was brutal to try and back that thing up. I did have to pump up one tire, which is better than having to change one tire which is usually the case. The cows went right in and I drove them right to the secret location and unloaded them without a hitch. I thought about taking them for Dutch Brother’s coffee but decided we didn’t have time before their appointment.

I also managed to get the rest of our upstairs bathroom wired. I had a mild panic after I “misplaced” one of the outlet covers. I could not find it despite the 15 minute search. I used one of the other grey covers I had but it was metal not plastic and not quite the right color. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice. I was putting my tools away after job completion and the correct outlet cover magically appeared! It is now installed and they all match. I ordered simple metal shelf brackets last week and they came. If the weather permits we will cut 2” feather strips for the back of the wall and sides with room every three feet for a metal bracket. I want to get all the brackets installed without the shelves in place so I get the placement correct. This will make installing the shelves a simple matter of dropping them into place.

The last big news is we are having a full scale bug war at our house. The warming temperatures have caused the wax bugs and box elder bugs to come out of hiding. It’s crazy and we are killing about 30-50 bugs a day. I have finally resorted to using the Dyson portable vacuum 2-4 times a day to clear out the windows and occasional ceiling bug. I have sprayed the inside windows and it did not seem to do anything. It may be time to look at having new screens made for the windows. Ours have holes in them and are not all fitting tightly. When the weather gets slightly nicer I will start drenching the outside of the house in bug spray and see if I cannot knock down the amount around our house.

Annmarie and I have both been working on design ideas for the Craft Shack I want to build. I have been watching roofing videos on how to build gable roofs and dormers. She has been using CAD programs to draft out the size and inside layout. We think we have a final size. I want to use concrete columns with heavy duty floor jacks so I can level the building and make corrections in the future if necessary. Unfortunately that is 15 concrete piers with a $70 jack on top of every one. I do realize that the first layer is ultimately the most important to the long term viability of any building. We will start looking at prices of wood this summer. The cost of lumber is 2-3x higher than two years ago which is unfortunate for us. I am going to contact the two local wood mills and see if I can buy direct. The real kicker is what type of new and cool tool do I need to purchase to finish the job? I am thinking a rotary self leveling green laser with stand and a air powered framing nail gun. I have everything else we would need.

Fooled me

The old black alpaca fooled me into letting him in through the side gate so he could get back into the orchard. He had been wandering on the back hillside alone for days then came down and sat by the orchard gate. I was out feeding the song birds and he kept hooting and mewing at me until I went over and let him through, Annmarie reminded me that all the gates were open and all he needed to do was just go downstream and walk through them. He was on the back hillside all alone wandering around just like the day before in a matter of hours.

The cows got out of their enclosure on Friday, last week. I spotted them from the living room window. It was almost time to go out and do evening chores but I knew that was too much work for me so I snuck out of the house without telling anyone. I took the dogs and we headed up to get the cows. Annmarie had opened a gate to give them more space and a side gate was open allowing them to get on the back hillside. Zeke and Mouse got them back in the correct field. I only had to walk straight up the bottom field hollering nonstop at the dogs. Mouse works for AnnMarie way better than he does for me but we got it done. When I turned around to come back Annmarie was at the gate watching me and waiting to castigate me for not telling her the cows were out and allowing her to help. I told her the dogs and I were capable of getting the cows in. She still had to do the evening chores and get eggs.
The chewed up chicken croaked. It will now get a trip to the boneyard. I thought it was gonna make it, as they usually die within the first 24 hours.
Mr Professional came out and fed the cows the same day. He even moved the dog house that was still sitting on the trailer to down by my mother-in-law’s. The cats will appreciate is. He put it under the porch in the back yard. I will need to move it around to the side near the back door leading up the stairs, but it will have to wait until I have some energy.

Cows are not playing nice

On Thursday Annmarie called me at work to let me know that the cows and sheep had gotten out again. This is the third time the sheep had gotten out. They pushed over a gate in the barn lot I had not installed. I wired it shut that evening, eventually it needs to be installed correctly. Friday morning I was taking it easy and had just gotten up and was making coffee, the water had not boiled yet when Annmarie went out to feed the horses. She called me and told me I was needed out in the barn lot as the bull had gotten out of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz is impenetrable, he should not have been able to get out. So I put on my multiple layers of clothes and head out. Yep the bull, one nutter and the ram are not in Alcatraz. Not only are they not in Alcatraz but the horse pen door has been opened and the animals have had free access to the hay pile. Turns out the bull had unlatched the human gate and opened the horse pen gate. He is just too smart for his own good. I chained the gate shut and put screw together chain tighteners on it so he cannot work them loose. I shut the horse pen gate so we could run the bull back into Alcatraz. Annmarie ran them around and then between me on the tractor and her we got them into the barn lot. I had pushed a new bale of hay into Alcatraz and then Annmarie just waived her right hand slightly and tapped the bulls backside with her left and herded him right into Alcatraz, one nutter, the ram and an extra steer just followed them in. She shut the gate and now the cows are separated again.

The screwy part was we had a weanling to sell, Valentine, but had not moved him to his new home as we were going to have to run all the cows through the chute to sort him off. He was hiding on the backside of the hay pile in the horse pen so was stuck in the round pen! This meant I needed to hook up the horse trailer so I could just back up to the pen, load him in and drive the two miles to his new house. While driving to his new home about 1/2 mile from our house I spotted some deer up on the hillside and was wondering to myself if there were any bucks left in the area. All I keep seeing on our place are does. It appears that there are still some bucks, I spotted 3 in this group of 8 deer.

I pulled into the field and let the little steer out. He cam zipping out of the trailer as fast as he could and never slowed down. I watched for him over the hill and then one of the purchaser’s cows jumped the lower fence! I called him and left a message then headed home with the trailer. One cow will come back to the fence and not stray far. I was almost home when the purchaser’s spouse called to say he was at a doctor’s appt. which meant I needed to go back and get cows, she said they were all out now which is a totally different problem. I dropped the trailer off, found all of my fencing tools, spare wire and a fence stretcher. I grabbed both Border Collies and the lead rope for Mouse as he is still in remedial education. We headed for the purchaser’s neighbors house as that is where the cows were headed. I found them all together in a field eating off a large hay bale. Another neighbor came over to check on me and asked if I needed any help moving cows. Being fairly positive despite my lack of coffee I stated that I thought the dogs and I could do it. He headed out then stopped to watch us, I told Zeke to circle around to the left and push the cows away toward the creek. The large older angus cow turned, lowered her head and refused to move. Zeke jumped at her and then started dancing and barking and she would not move. I called him off then sent Mouse in, he made her circle but she still would not budge. I then loosed both dogs on her, Mouse likes the heels and Zeke likes the head, after about 30 seconds she decided that going back to the other cows and towards the creek was a good idea. They made it all the way over to the Purchaser’s fence and then walked away from the open gate they had broken. We pushed them back through the gate and then the Purchaser showed up! Great timing on his part. He brought some tools and wire and then I went and got the pickup with the rest of the fencing tools. We got the gate tight and I told him the fence needs to be taller. The cows did not even take a running jump at the fence, they just hopped over.

I finally got my first cup of coffee and breakfast at 1130. I stayed at the dining room table until I had inhaled two cups of coffee.

Veal anyone?

Saturday was the day we were supposed to sort the cows, tag & band the calf and create three groups of animals, the pregnant ones, the impregnators and future food. We thought this was going to be fairly simple and take a couple of hours. As always when working animals and having some basic expectations things did not go as planned.

Mr Professional came out to help, we started with the cows in the upper field. This let us sort off the new calf. Annmarie got the calf into the chute with no fuss. Mr Professional and I both attempted to get it banded while the calf was standing. It was old mean green tag bittie’s baby so of course it had one testicle that did not want to descend. This seems to be genetic and is one of the reasons we are getting rid of her next year. We sorted them and even left a pregnant cow in the back of the corral as bait for the cows on the other end of the property. When I looked up on the back hill side the cows were right behind the house. Annmarie and Mr Professional when out to push them in. I followed a few minutes later but noticed that the cows were not coming toward the house, they were walking away. I walked back to the house and got both border collies. The cows went all the way down to the schoolhouse before Annmarie got them turned around. The dogs and I waited about half way down the field and then worked on pushing them up toward the house. The cows of course went over into the other field by my mother-in-law’s house and had to be pushed out by Annmarie. This group of cows had the bull, one nutter and most of the six month calves that needed to be weaned. We sorted them and had all the pregnant cows, all six, in the back pen. The bull, the ram and one nutter all went into Alcatraz with virtually no fuss. We did discover that our ram, male sheep, is so comfortable around the cows because he is the boss. Our 1000lb bull was running away from him when we put both of them in the cow milking area.

We had all the calves sorted but the two left in the corral. Mr Professional and I started to push the pregnant group back behind the barn and across to the gates leading down stream. About half way across the ram pasture I heard this banshee yell. I of course cannot tell what is being said, just the banshee yell again. I hollered back and more banshee hollering occurred. At no point in this “communication” did it occur to me that there was a problem. All she had to do was push two calves over into the back lot with all the other calves. Should not have resulted in banshee screams. My cell phone started ringing, turns out the banshee hollers were a cry for help. Both calves decided to jump the fence, for no good reason, and one of them caught its back leg and was hanging nose on the ground from the top of the fence. I grabbed some fence cutters from the old house and went and cut on my barn lot fence to let the stupid animal loose. It tore off down by my mother-in-law’s house. I walked down with Mr Professional to just push them back into the lower field. They were crazy!! Before I knew it they had ran down the entire driveway and were seen leaping over our cattle guard and running out onto the road.

This required some planning so we got a lasso, fired up the side by side and went into the house to get the border collies. When we sort in the corral we have to put the collies in the house or they run alongside the corral or sit and stare at the animals and keep them out of pen simply by staring them down. Annmarie was going to drive the pickup but as we started loading up the vehicles I spotted both calves on the upper fence line behind the house. They had already ran down to four corners, up the road and into the upper CRP field and now were running along the fence line looking for momma. So Annmarie and I each took a dog and headed up to the CRP, I went up the bottom to open a couple of gates hoping we could just push the calves down off the hillside into the lower pasture. Mr Professional took the side by side around and onto the road and into the upper CRP field. By this time Annmarie and I had walkie talkies. We bought two $20 amazing radios and they work! Way better than a cell phone. The calves just kept running, I ended up at the far end of the place and Annmarie was all over the CRP field. We lost sight of one of the calves and I finally gave up and just walked to the house to get the pickup. I drove into the CRP field at the far end and picked up Annmarie. We drove over and tried to herd the single calf in through the open gate. Nope! It broke and tore off into the CRP again. I finally stopped the pickup and got out with both dogs and let Annmarie drive. About that time the calf bolted and she floored it and tore off in the pickup going 50 MPH in the CRP. I was fairly certain she did not realize there are some huge boulders hiding in the CRP, this was later confirmed that she did not realize this pickup breaking possibility was present. Mr Professional ended up diving off of the side by side and tackling the calf. Annmarie ran over and put the lasso over its head and held it down while he tied the rope off to the side by side. I was still walking over to them and they had gotten the calf hog tied by the time I got there. The neighbors drove up in their side by side letting us know that our other calf was over the hill and had already jumped through two more fences and disappeared into a wheat field. Since Annmarie had been hollering for a 30-06 cure to this debacle I opted to just call it quits and hope the calf came back, either way we were good with our decision. Her pedometer said we had walked 6.5 miles already for the day. The calf in the back of the pickup got untied about half way back to the house and Mr Professional had to just hold on until we could get into the correct pen.

The next morning after a wonderful pancake breakfast, Annmarie calls me as she heads out to church that the calf is in our wheat field and I should go open the gate. By the time I got my coat on and walked out to the front yard in my slippers the calf was already down by my mother-in-law’s house. I walked down, in my slippers, hoping to just open the same gate I tried the day before. Big surprise the stupid calf ran down the driveway and across the boards on the cattle guard. I had placed two sheets of plywood across the cattle guard the day before in the hopes the calf would find its way home. At this point I am ready for the 30-06 cure to cattle wrangling also.

I went and got the side by side and was going to drive down the edge of the wheat field and hope to cut the calf off at four corners when a young man drove in the driveway to tell me our calf was out on the road. We devised a plan where I drive down to four corners and open the gates and keep the calf from running by and he pushes it toward the open gates. It took about 20 minutes but it actually worked. It took me another 15 minutes to get it in the field with its mother, definitely a momma’s boy. We have decided to give it a couple of weeks before trying to sort it off again. This time we are going to sort it off in the chute, run it into the horse trailer and drive it the 50 yards to the correct pen and just let it out of the trailer.