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.

Is it really winter?

It is turning out to be a very weird winter. It was in the mid 40’s yesterday and it is the middle of January. We have only had snow on the ground once all winter. Our new weather station says we are getting lots of rain. We are pretty sure something is wrong with the rain gauge as it says we have gotten 4 inches of rain since we installed it. I tried to find an official source of rain on the internet and I found a lot of weather history but could not find anything current. Internet search engines are not always my friends. It is so warm I am secretly plotting my spring projects already. Annmarie is not so secretly planning my spring projects also. We had a conversation this morning where she lined out my summer projects:

1. Plant front hillside

2. Install above ground sprinkler system on front hillside

3. Install above ground sprinkler system in orchard using 3-300 foot long 1″ poly pipe sections with valves, moving small water pump to ditch and figuring out how to wire in a 110 plug and switch into the main irrigation control panel. Without electrocuting myself in the process hopefully.

4. This will also require me to pour some concrete to reinforce the bank and stop the leak currently running through the center of the retaining wall.

5. Redo the last section of yard fence. This should prevent Gizmo from sneaking out of the yard.

6. OHH and finish assembling the back porch wooden furniture and stain it or option 2 was to “burn it” as this will be the third year its been on my list. I should make this #1 but the other stuff can be done in marginal weather and this needs to be perfect.

Plus I need to plant 7 acres of Alfalfa, find or purchase a small seeder, hay 20 acres and fix barns so they will take the round bales without pushing the siding off the outside walls. Create a system of 4 foot racks on each end of my flatbed trailer that will stop the bales from rolling off. I need to weld a few hooks on my trailer for that to work. Which means I need a welder. I still need to purchase the hay equipment and get the financing worked out. I want to fix some fence and spend one week doing fencing on the bottom. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer. Yesterday I went out to the barn and played catch up again. I try to hit it hard on my first day off so I can plan out the next two days. I went out and fed the sheep, cleaned out the feeders. They are full of dirt that was in the hay and had to be dumped out. I threw down a bale of straw as the chute was very messy. It has been very wet so the sheep are making a mess. The straw helps create a clean layer and compacts down so it is not so muddy. We had twins born on Thursday and there was another set when I went out Friday morning. Both times the babies had just been born so we lock them up with momma and then give them selenium paste and move them into the main herd in the evening. This leaves eight ewes left to give birth. At this rate we are hoping to be done by the end of January, which would make our lambing season 38 days, or two estrus cycles for the ewes. We could get a second ram and maybe shorten it to 24 days but then we have to feed two freeloaders instead of one and its harder to control the genetics. So we are going to just stay under 50 ewes and keep one ram. I had to feed the cows also, and I finally spotted the second calf. We now have two calves to tag and band but one is pretty big. This is going to be a problem. I already have to have a nephew help as even the little ones at a month are more than I can hold down and work on alone. We have been talking about a calf tipping table but new they are $1300-1500. Nothing related to livestock is cheap. So I have been putting it off as the hay equipment takes priority. I used the last of the large hay bales and will now need to break out the trailer and attach it to the tractor. I will have to load the 100# bales of alfalfa into the trailer, drive down and break them open into the feeders for the cows at least twice a week. I only had to feed once a week with the large bales. I will only have small bales when we do our own hay.

Our ram is off in the bull/ram corral and we discovered that the horse trough is too high for the sheep. We have just been scooping out a bucket or two and breaking the ice when needed. It was so warm I managed to turn on the hose and fill the entire trough. This will be enough water for the rest of winter for the four sheep that are in this enclosure. So nice not to have to bucket it from the creek. I may need to install a gate down near the creek so we can have easy access. Now you have to go all the way around to get to the creek to bucket out water.

Since I used the last of the large hay bales I was able to take the last two panels of the horse round pen and install them into the round enclosure in the barn lot. I just need to get a premade corral gate and Annmarie will finally have a dedicated circle pen for the horses after many years.

I also spread out one of the compost piles from the barn. It was nice and rounded and tall. Moisture is only getting into the top six inches. I moved all the dirt to the right side and knocked the whole pile down to 3 feet tall and very rough on top so the maximum amount of water gets absorbed and none runs off the top of the pile. I want it to turn into dirt.

After the morning chores I went inside and groomed Gizmo. He does not appreciate being plucked. I was able to get the Mohawk hair do back to its dazzling do. He no longer smells like mud and sheep.

I went to the local custom wood cutter to pick up my lumber I had picked up at auction this fall for the boosters club. While I was there it dawned on me I had not been to the metal scrap yard across the street in quite a while. I used to go every few months. So i pulled in and spent 30 minutes wandering all over the place. They have a bunch of galvanized culvert (I don’t currently need but may in the future), I found some small cable I can use, they have some T posts, a single roll of woven wire and a calf table! The table is exactly what we have been looking for and it was right there! I went in and negotiated an amazing price and arranged to pick it up next week and left. Three hours later I came back for the table. You just never know if it will still be there next week and I could not pass it up. It needs some wire brush and paint but other than that I think it is good to go! All in all it was a very productive day. Today it is already raining and miserable outside. Annmarie did morning chores and there are no new babies. So I am doing my laundry (no under wear left). I had this discussion with Annmarie this morning there are only four reasons to do laundry

1. No clean socks.

2. No clean underwear.

3. No clean work uniforms.

4. No clean dress clothes.

She knows that running out of laundry hamper space is no deterrent due to my mad stacking/piling skills and strategic leaning techniques.

Catch up time inside

Winter should be here soon, even though the grass is still green. I have moved on to inside projects. It’s after Thanksgiving so it is time to give up outside things. I did sneak in an hour this morning adding a new hook above the sheep doors so I could run a bungee cord over it and stiffen the doors in the middle. I need to get a picture of it now and everyone will understand why we spend $35/year on bungee cords. The cords hold our feeders up to the walls and each other also.

Today I worked on our hall closet. We bought a special tool to drill holes into the walls so we could add movable shelves. I figured out how to make them work today and have spent two days sanding oak plywood for the shelves. I had two extra sheets of oak from the cabinets I made a few years ago. I am even going to face the front edge with some leftover edging from the air return. Tomorrow I will glue on the facing then stain it in the evening. The big problem is I took the door off when we laid new tile on the floor. I cannot seem to find the door. I have been searching for months. It may have ended up on a burn pile…

We had prime rib cut from our beef this year. We have always made it into steak in the past but decided to try our own. It was amazing!! I took a picture below before I started adding the dry rub. It is so much leaner than what you get at the store and we cook it in a salt coffin low and slow and it was the best prime rib we have had in a long time and it didn’t cost us $85. There is one more and I am thinking about cooking it on the table top Traeger grill we got this summer. I should probably practice with brisket first before I attempt the prime rib.

Annmarie had been talking to me about installing a half door going into her craft room. She has mentioned it several times but this week I had a free day so I just went out to the old house and dug around until I found an old door that was wide enough. The door was not perfectly proportioned and one panel was larger than the other. I decided that I did not want to have to move the door handle as this was going to be painful. So I measured the height I wanted and just sawed the door off at that height. This left two sticky up parts on each side. So I popped the leftover panel piece out with some pliers and a hammer. Then I beat on the scrap piece until I was able to pull it the top molded part of the door. I then glued the side of that piece and beat it in to the top opening back into the old grooves. Viola, a half door! I had to shave off 2.5 inches off of one side and then chisel in some spots for old hinges I found in a drawer. img_6565It took me another 2 hours to hang the door as no door, no matter how small is ever easy to hang. I had to remove the hinges twice and chisel them deeper into the wood. My tolerances were only 1/8″ and that was a little too tight. I thought I would just attach the latch part into the wall and I would be done! This is were you realize 5 hours into the job that you used the top part of the door and the latch is backward and you don’t want to change the swing side of the door. So now I will be buying a sliding latch to go on the front of the door to keep it closed. The best part of this is that I drilled a hole into the door casing 11 years ago when I was running new electrical wire. It was an accident and I have meant to fill it for years. I will now be using that hole as a receptacle for the new sliding lock I am putting on the half door! Maybe I was planning for this eventuality and did not even realize it myself.