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.
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.
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.
Well now that I am back to work I only have time to blog occasionally again. My goal is still 6-8 posts/month and I have done pretty good this year keeping to it. I was driving to work early Tuesday and spotted a coyote in our driveway. I knew we had one on the property as a friend had called and told me they had spotted it in the stubble field. A coyote hanging around the place is bad for the sheep. One of our nephews shot the coyote this week! So the sheep are safe and I don’t have to spend time hunting it down. Tonight, Annmarie spotted a porcupine on our back hillside. Luckily we dispatched it before the dogs discovered it or we would be going to the vet with three dogs. Annmarie is pretty sure the dogs tangled with a raccoon in the dark early one morning this week. Winter is coming, the predators are starting to come in to the buildings and head towards the chicken coop. The vet bill to sedate three dogs, remove quills and come in on an emergency basis, around $800-1000 for enquiring minds. Our oldest border collie has a torn up ear from wrestling with something in the yard this week. The dogs are valuable team members with a very specific job and they need to do that as we are going to have to start moving animals for selling and feeding in the barn.
We took our first two cows in to be butchered. Thursday evening Annmarie took both border collies into the upper fields and pushed the cows down into the corral. Mr Professional and I showed up after she had the cows in the corral. We sorted off two cows for slaughter. It helps that most of the bunch were on the menu but we just snagged a couple of the bigger ones and sorted them off into the third pen. We then pushed everyone else out and gave them water overnight. I backed the horse trailer up to the chute so I could just open the chute up and push the cows into the trailer first thing in the morning. We had to be there by 0730. The cows are all pretty skittish as they have not seen a human for about two months. Friday morning I just opened up some gates and pushed the cows into the trailer and off we went, took 10 minutes and we were on the road. We are going to have to drop off the cows two at a time and the sheep in batches of five. So we will be doing this every week. We were going to kill one of our original three cows but she is pregnant! She is so mean we had wanted to make her into hamburger. She is going to get another one year reprieve. Our bull only had access to her for about one week after she gave birth but it was enough to get her impregnated.
Today we started out the day with homemade cinnamon roles that raised overnight in the refrigerator along with some Kansas City bacon! It was so good we are having a repeat tomorrow morning. I am going to drown my cinnamon role in butter tomorrow though. It kept raining off and on throughout the morning so when I went outside I had my rain coat on. I had to run to town for diesel before getting a start. It was raining again after I got the disc hooked up to the tractor. If it gets too wet I cannot pull the disc. I remembered that a cheat for this is to weight the front of the tractor down, I found and put 350# of tractor weight into the front bucket to give the tractor more traction. I headed up to the upper pasture to disc with the rain coming down hard. I managed to get a few times around before going into field #2 and working out some of the water ruts in one area. I was cold as I only had a neck gator on and a long sleeve shirt under the thin raincoat. I need better clothes for this, I need to use my chest waders, a warm vest and some waterproof gloves! By the time I made it back to the house 3.5 hours later I was freezing cold and spent 45 minutes in the shower getting warm. We got 0.12” of rain by 1700 today and have gotten 15.49” of rain this year so far.
I like the rain as it softens up the ground but too much and I cannot work the fields. Such a gamble, I had no idea how much luck was involved in farming. Our Morris chair hinges came today. Some old geezer makes them, so now I will be buying a couple of pieces of oak so I can take apart the chair back, make a new rail and reglue the entire back.
Well it was time to get back at some outside work, the real problem is my timing is totally dependent on when I have time away from my paying job. So when the weather person predicts that it will be 107 F during the day I still plan on working as I have time. This is more of a needs based time decision and not a will it be convenient type of decision. Mr Professional and I were at it by 0630 and spent some time cleaning off vehicles, gathering all the needed tools and filling the tractor up with hydraulic fluid. Now that we use the hydraulic takeoffs there is some inherent amount of leaking with making the connections. The tractor moved and the bucket was amazing after we got the hydraulic levels corrected. We are still trying to organize things in the machine shed. It will take another month of moving things out from the old house to get everything settled into its new home in the machine shed.
Mr Professional and I went down to the feed field and tore out the spring fence crossing. The old cross fencing up by the apple tree had already been removed earlier in the week. That new section of fence parallels the ditch instead of crossing it twice. We hand dug three holes for reused railroad ties. I also want to add in a rock crib on the East side of the water. We made a triangle out of 2×8 and tossed all our loose metal pieces, wires and fencing wire into the center and will fill it all with rocks. We did not have time to get rocks today. We added an H brace and then used an upper and lower cable strung between the posts to create a breakaway crossing. When the water and garbage pile up on the up water side it will cause a dam. This creates pressure on the fence and the lower clips are breakaway clips and they will spread and break allowing the panel to be lifted off of the ground. The upper part of the panel is attached permanently to another cable locking the two posts together. It took us about four hours to get it all apart and back together. I had to use a scoop of precious gravel. I have a small pile left and have had no luck from two different suppliers to get gravel delivered out to the house.
When we pulled up I set my coffee and speaker up on the H brace and spent about 10 minutes feeding apples to the cows. No one could get to the apples that are falling on our side of the fence. I was choosing our music selection and the bull really wanted me to give him more apples. The long sleeve shirts are what I normally wear during the summer but it is essential when it is super hot outside. Music selection is important as I don’t want to listen to country music, I prefer girl singers or Disco.