Animals all tagged and banded

Saturday was the day to get all caught up with the animals. Daughter #2 needed time with the cows and this was going to be it. First we had to bring the calf table over to the end of the chute. This would have been easier were it not for all of the yellow jackets nesting in the pipe. Mr Tex got stung once before he bailed. I had to search everywhere to find one can of hornet killer and we were able to spray them and get the calf table moved into position. We then had to get the portable arena set up around the calf table so when we let the calf out it would stay close and allow us to open the gate and get it back into the corral. We were able to chain it all together except for one end by the table. Mr Tex then went to move the steel gates around in the corral and ended almost getting stung again from yellowjackets inside the metal gates. We had to wait for Annmarie to bring more hornet spray. While she was headed back from town, we went into the barn and started to set up all of the gates and a working table for our supplies. I only had enough dewormer for 20 sheep so we ended up dosing all of the old ewes that are super skinny.

By the time we were done with the sheep we had 41 lambs, 41 ewes, 12 market animals and 1 ram. We had to cut open abscesses on three of them. They were along their jaw, most likely from cheat grass. We are not feeding any cheat grass they are just getting it out in the fields. I had to make up a sterilizing solution so I used a mild bleach solution buffered with baking soda. We used that to irrigate the wounds after lancing them open and getting all of the gunk out. It smells but last time we did it they recovered so there is hope this batch will do it also. We now have the 12 market lambs down by the school house and the rest above the barn lot.

The first batch of cows were the momma’s and babies and the new bull. Annmarie and Tex walked down and pushed them up to the house. The cows came in the back way, not through the orchard and front yard like Annmarie wanted. Tex got the calves sorted off and we started to run them through the chute into the calf table. There is an art to using the calf table, this is where you do not let the calf run through the table and actually get its neck caught in the squeezer. We had five calves and I let two get through. One we caught and shoved back into the table, the second one pushed right through our corral panels, then ran along the fence several times refusing to go into the corral. It then took off across the property and ran down to the mother in law’s house. It took us 25 minutes to catch the calf. We did get it tagged and banded. Those cows and the bull all got treated with fly powder, we ended up with two steers and three heifer calves. Everyone got put back down to the school house area.

The real trouble started after that. We had been at this for almost five hours already and the five feeder cows up above needed to be treated for flies. Annmarie went up to get them on foot in 100 degree weather. She got them down about the same time I decided to let all of the sheep out of the barn lot. The sheep got right in the gate opening and stopped therefore blocking the cows from being herded to where they needed to go. This led to some frazzled comments and some typical cow working vernacular, most not suitable for small children. We did eventually get the cows into the barn lot but they were so wild we could not get them into the area behind the barn. I need to install a fence inside the barn lot to cut off access to the spring. I know this and honestly I think we could do it with the same panels we use for the calf table area, I just need to know to reset those to stop cow access. This would allow us to push the cows along the fence directly through the gate instead of them being able to run down a dead end spur that is just too big to block off with a human. We gave up. They have water, we fed them and I will set out a dust bag tomorrow and let them out.

Tex left for another job and we all went inside, took showers and much needed naps.

Cows sorted and back to office

Sunday was the most productive day of the weekend! It is always good to have one day where you feel like a lot was accomplished. Mr Flow came out and worked on the lavender garden and the berry patch. He got he grass cleaned out around all of the berries and all of the lavender. I was pretty surprised when I went over to check on him and could smell the lavender plants! There are not any blooms on the plants but the plants have a definite odor. We are super stoked about the lavender and the clover we have coming in on the front hillside. We are going to get a bee hive this year. We have been talking about it for years and have finally decided to do it. The hive components are here, I just need to assemble them now. Annmarie and I watched a video this weekend so I think I can do it now. We are hoping to get 40-50# of honey this year. If we can figure out how to get the honey out of the combs, one thing at a time.

Mr Tex and I worked the cows this morning. We needed to sort off the 6 month old calves and also sort off the bull. This means we have to use three pastures and the bull needs to be two fences away from any female cow. The cows came through the gate down at the lower end and went right up to the top of the hill but as we started to push them back toward the house they started running down the hill. I ran 1/4 mile in my rubber boots to keep them from turning downhill, by the time we got done sorting cows I needed some better fitting boots. Sorting the cows went pretty smoothly. We have seven cows to sell. Our old bull 13 years old, a young bull about 8 months old, 2 heifers and 3 steers. We are going to buy a new polled Dexter bull that is 2.5 years old. We need the genetic infusion and we found two cows today out of nine that appeared to not be pregnant. So I will be advertising him and the little bull soon. Due to the price of hay skyrocketing we will have to increase our beef price accordingly.

The weather app on our phone said it was going to storm but the weather was pretty good today until about 1630 and then it was horrible. 1/4” of rain in about 25 minutes with pea sized hail intermixed in it. I had gone out to the old house and just waited out there for the hail to pass. The new office area was fairly quite but the new freezer room was incredibly loud. I am hoping we have enough insulation to get all of the walls sealed up. My mother thinks she may have some insulation in the garage so I will need to take a look as we will still need to insulate the attic. We need to install a new roof top vent and I want to install an attic fan that automatically turns on when it gets above 105 degrees F in the attic, that temperature may even be lowered to 95 degrees. Since we have the vent we might as well use it. In the last two days we have had one inch of rain and the total for the month of May is 2.6” of rain to date.

Mr Professional got up on the roof and spent about three hours sealing the roof and putting in new screws that had pulled out or were missing their gaskets. The roof was installed over 30 years ago. We need to pull up the entire ridge cap and reinstall the vent foam to keep the insects out of the attic. Mr Tex vacuumed the ceiling floor and attic walls. I sealed up the attic cracks from inside the attic, it did not take long for the attic to heat way up. Once we finished in the attic Mr Tex and myself insulated two walls in the office and installed three California corners so we could install the wall boards. We also ran the wire for the heat pump. Now, all of the wire is run and I could even start to wire the electrical box and get the breakers in place. I am going to add that to my after work job opportunities. I will need a large flashlight and a board so I can sit in front of the panel and wire everything in place. Once the new breaker box is wired then I can decide when to move the power into the box. I am going to have to wait until the new freezer room is completed. Right before we left for the day we installed a handle on the pocket door! I dug around in the shop until I found an old handle from something that will work.

Office Project continues

Friday I had to go and buy more 2×4 boards. We ran out and more were needed for the California corners and the rough door frame that needs to be installed for the new outside door. They are running about $1/foot. The price is so high compared to a couple of years ago. I had to go in to town to pickup the three cut and wrapped cows. I delivered 2.5 of them and we got the last half. This took a few hours and finished off the day. Mr Flow and Mr Professional came out for a few hours. Mr Flow worked on the lavender patch weeding and the berry patch. They needed a lot of grass removed and some weeds. Mr Professional and I got started in on the production area wall. I had installed most of the insulation first thing in the morning. We thought we had enough four foot tongue and groove boards to get the walls done. The juniper for the ceiling is in the wood dryer and will hopefully be done this week.

The sheep are looking much better now that we have wormed them. They will need it again in a couple of weeks. We had let it go a little long and the sheep were kinda skinny. We have decided to start worming in the fall and early spring whether we think it is needed or not. The sheep have still not rubbed off all of their loose hair yet. They will look much better when they have their smooth coat. We have been moving the sheep around to let the pastures rest. We are going to let them back up onto the hillside to graze. The grass is very tall there.

The weather is so screwy, we had a thunderstorm roll in on Saturday while Mr Professional and I were working on the production area walls. It rained about 3/4” in under an hour. The rain just poured out of the sky. The back creek doubled in size in under thirty minutes and then three hours later was still muddy but back down to almost pre-storm level.

The hay is looking great! We went up to field 1 and it is six inches above my knee. We are going to need to start haying very soon, probably in under ten days. For the haying venture to be successful we need a few dry days on a regular basis. A couple of the lower fields have a lot of cheat grass and were not in the fields we replanted. We are going to bale them and sell them as weedy seconds for cheap. It will pay for themselves.

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.