Last weekend I was very productive! I am still in winterizing mode and there is still plenty left to do. On Friday last week, I cleaned out the machine shed to make room for both tractors. I need to be able to park them out of the weather. Annmarie, let me know we needed to get the lavender trimmed up, another winterizing chore. I broke out the new DeWalt battery hedge trimmer and started in on the task. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined. The lavender had shoots super low and I had to lift them up to cut them and the huge tree keeps dropping small branches into the lavender making it necessary to clean out the lavender bunch before trimming. I only got half the patch done before it got super cold and for sanity reasons I needed to go back into the house.
On Saturday it was cold, very cold. I put on neck warmer, wool shirt, carhart insulated bibs stocking cap and thick insulated gloves. I wanted something warm to drink, my go to drink is coffee. Coffee is the perfect drink and solves most of what ills a person. I was in a hurry and ended up just boiling some water and throwing a tea bag into the thermos. I wanted to get out and finish the ditch up in field #1. I keep trying to get it finished before we get a hard freeze. I was able to get another 200 feet dug up, reinforced. I found a 20 foot section of the embankment that had been washed out in the last flood. It took quite a while to get this section built back up. It was cold, so I broke out the hot tea. Yeah, it’s tea, simply not a substitute for coffee. I only tried it a couple more times out of thermoregulatory needs, it was cold! The oddest and best part of the day was that my coat smelled amazing. The lavender I had cleaned up and removed from the patch ended up rubbing some lavender oil on my coat and when the wind let off or I had to wipe my nose I could smell the lavender. It made for a nice surprise.
Sunday I decided to start feeding the cows out of our overflow hay in the corral. Each bale weighs around 40# and I fed 16 bales to the upper cows and 16 to the lower cows. I can get 8 on the tractor at a time. I have learned to cut off the net wrapping before I load them onto the tractor so I can just drive them out and dump them off. Its way faster this way and I can contain the wrap. This year I have started putting a bag of used wrap in the trash can weekly. I don’t want to have a huge pile by the spring. I went back to the lavender patch and got it all trimmed up. I pulled weeds and raked the entire patch. The only thing left in the garden to do is to trim the raspberries. I pulled out the prime rib from the freezer. We are going to have it for Thanksgiving
I seem to be doing one of these updates weekly now. As we go into winter things definitely slow down. Our kittens came back to the wood shed this week! We have been feeding them out in the wood shed but would like to get them to come over to the garden so we don’t have to cross the bridge. I will hopefully get to cut the bridge down in the next two weeks. I will need to make some 2×6 crossing for the kittens so they can get over the water to food once the back creek starts running. It doesn’t need to be much to allow the cats to cross.
Between Annmarie and Donna the alpaca are getting pretty tame. Annmarie keeps apple flavored treats in her car for them so they like seeing her come home. They are not all compliant with eating out of her hand. Our blind one is definitely blind and still a bully. I saw him today tearing up to another alpaca at full speed, chest checking it then start neck wrestling. I was hoping that injury would slow him down.
I asked Annmarie what she wanted for Christmas and she stated she wanted a little shed for the bee supplies and her drip system tools and spare parts. So we found one online and had it shipped. I did not want to assemble and install the shed in January. I realize this may be an early Christmas present but it is only realistic if we do it now so I can get it assembled. It came this week and I spent a day putting it all together and creating a gravel pad for it so that it would not rot out the bottom. I just need to bed the back fence toward the yard and I should be able to attach the shed to the fence to prevent it from blowing over. I found a metal cable and used it to temporarily hold it down. I just need to get the spare drip parts out of the wood shed. So they are all in one place.
Chance, the puppy, is getting bigger. She is not as focused as mouse when it comes to the animals but she does like to chase things. After her run in with the front gate last weekend she has been limping. We keep telling her to take it easy but a six month old puppy does not know how to do that. Yesterday, they got out of the yard when I was working on the shed. This was exhausting so diner time was spent laying down and eating. The puppy is now limping on the other leg. We are starting to take her out on a lead rope around the sheep. I will be taking her out to the barn in the evening to expose her to more animals. She is sitting well for us and holds until released for food.
This week I went and picked up six more adult chickens from someone on Facebook. I was down to only nine hens, the raccoons have been slowly picking them off. I am reluctant to use live traps as I get tired of catching the cats and chickens. But Friday night Annmarie woke me up and said something was trying to get a chicken. This was obviously a stupid chicken as it did not go into the coop at dark. I had to run outside in my underwear and boots in 23 F weather. It is not comfortable! I spotted a raccoon under the old house but failed to hit it after three attempts. It is much harder to hit something in the dark. The next morning I ordered new batteries for my pistol laser. Someone told me there are traps that are dog/cat proof and will only catch raccoons. I got three of them and set them out yesterday afternoon. Today at 1000 I heard the dogs throwing a shit fit over by the chicken coop. They just would not let up. So I went out with my pistol and there was a raccoon that was trying to get into the coop during the day! There is one less raccoon on the farm now.
I went up to the bone yard, dropped off the carcass and proceeded to go up to field one to work on the ditch. I was able to get about another 120’ of ditch dug. I am over 2/3 done with the ditch. I still need to cut the tree out of the dry creek bottom so it doesn’t push the water out of the banks. I am hopeful that I can get this all done before it does a hard freeze and stays frozen.
I finally had to cry uncle and take some time off of work to get stuff done around the farm. I had worked six weekends in a row and winter just keeps getting closer. I have several projects to get done. The first one I am attempting to complete is to get some flood control and water management ditches dug. It seems I always wait until it starts to rain then it is so muddy I cannot get any dirt moved. I have managed to dig ditches out in pasture #3 and #2, they are all ready to go. I have managed to get all of the roadside ditch done in field #1. This way when the flood comes from upstream over the road the ditch will catch it and let it flow back to the creek and not out through our pasture. I still need to finish the secondary ditch alongside the field so that if the creek bank gives (like it has the last two floods) there will be a secondary ditch and another dirt berm to keep the water from flooding out into the field. This has been a lot of tractor work. I have about 40 hours into just tractor work alone moving dirt. I am hoping to have the ditches finished in 1-2 more days then I am going to hook the mower up, mow weeds for a day then start dragging a disc around and then planting more grass and a couple of fields of triticale hay. I even have some fertilizer that I want to toss out this fall.
The ditch digging is really letting me get through the books on tape! I can get a whole book listened to every 1.5 days. At the current rate of diesel consumption I am going to have to get the diesel tank filled for a third time this year!
I also need to rearrange the machine shed and get all of the equipment under cover and out of the weather. I have nine days off so I am going to make the best of it and I may have to take some more time off to get everything done. I did let the sheep into the front yard and get in a good mow down on the yard. I think I will have to do it one more time this year before winter sets in. A few of the ewes are pretty skinny. We did not get all of the old ones culled and boy can you tell who is old and decrepit. The new ram is fitting right in. He did wait until I turned my back on him yesterday before hitting me in the leg with his head. He only did it once and it did not knock me down so when I swatted out at him and he dodged it I did not pursue smacking him. I just let it go.
I found another dead lamb in field #3 yesterday. We have been spotting a coyote up on the back hillside but have been unable to get a shot at it. I may have to actually get a coyote call and start taking some time to thin the coyotes. Time is the most precious commodity I have when it comes to chores on the farm.
We had to tag and band the last two calves that were born late. We ran them up to the corral today and separated off the two babies. The nephews were out working on their grandma’s deck so they took ten minutes and helped us. Calf number 35 yellow tag is really a girl not a boy. I had two boy tags and placed the ear tag before I checked the gender. We separated off the bull and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls and then pushed all of the cows into the upper fields as there is a lot of green grass after that last rain. Tomorrow I am going to push the three bulls down by the schoolhouse. There is not as much grass down there but for three cows there will be plenty. We can keep the two fence between rule going so we should not have any winter surprises. I keep seeing at least two large covey of quail when I go up to the far end of the property. We will see how many survived when they all band together this winter.
The back creek finally dried up a week ago. That is the latest it has ran since we have moved back to the farm.
I had big plans today. I had Mr Tex lined up to come out and we were going to install the fence between field #2 & #3. This is one that I did not get fixed last year after the 100 year flood. I have all of the supplies staged already and merely needed to put the auger on the little John Deere and I was ready to go. I was up and out the door by 0700. I had to put fuel in the John Deere but I needed to rotate the nozzle to the second tank, the first one was empty. I also discovered that the fuel gauge is totally done for now, it said 3/4 of a tank and there were mere fumes in the tank, I was not even sure I would make it the 30 feet to the fuel tank it was so low. After that was done I put the post hole auger on, except it had the 6” auger and I needed the 12”. So I changed that out, then I remembered I had new teeth for the 12” auger, so I removed the old and got the new teeth. Nope, they are for a bigger auger, thank you internet. So I rotated the old teeth and reinstalled them. Then I went and put the bucket on the Kubota and the box blade on it. I figured I could go and drag the new fence line and get ready. It was 0830 already and Mr Tex had not responded to my text messages. So I sent him another one.
I then opened the gate for the sheep and cows to run out and go eat on the green grass in field #3 & #2 as I am not going to do a second cutting. I simply do not have time to do it. I had to drive the Kubota through the ditch as my other culvert crossing has not been repaired. Wouldn’t you know that the ditch is too steep and narrow and I got the tractor and box blade wedged in. This caused me to break out the rear tail light cover. This was my first broken thing on the Kubota!! It was bound to happen and I had 465 hours on the tractor before it happened. I had to drop the box blade drive out, chain onto the box blade with the bucket and lift it out. Once I had the box blade reattached I headed up to the new fence area. I stopped at the steep slanted section of the road that caused us trouble last winter and caused us to dump hay off of the trailer due to the downhill slant. It looks much better now.
I got the area for the new fence all cleaned up and ready for holes. So that will be next on the agenda. I had time to kill so I started digging out the ditch as it was starting to get backed up. The last two floods have not been kind to my ditch. I am working on creating a berm on the back half of the ditch so the flood waters will be contained should they ever come again (they are coming). I was able to get about 2/3 of the ditch cleaned out in field #3. I will need to work in cleaning out the rest of the ditches this fall.
I was able to accidentally spot some baby quail today. I had stopped to take a picture of the road I had leveled out. If you look closely you will see a quail standing on a post. He was the lookout for a momma and her 5 babies! So I hope every pair has five! We will know this winter when they all bunch up just how many made it through the summer.
Since I could not cut more hay it was decided that I would spray weeds on Saturday. The plan was for me to get up early and do this. I did not get up early, I cooked and ate breakfast, learned from Annmarie that she heard the enemy, racoons, chittering through our bedroom window at 0400. I suspect they were eating cat food from our back porch. I have not seen them since our initial skirmish.
I had to call Mr Professional to get the side by side started. He had not plugged the trickle charger onto the battery so it was low. I used the external portable battery jumper and it fired right up. I managed to put about 50 gallons on the ground before the wind picked up and it was time to stop.
It was only about 1030 so I got back onto the tractor, dumped off the manure forks and went up to the pasture flooded out the worst this spring. I needed to finish the ditch I started last summer and since there is still running water and a mud pit in the middle I need to get the water diverted to my front ditch. So I spent a few hours creating a ditch and a berm. My hope is that if the back creek jumps the bank again it will hit the berm and get diverted toward the back ditch. I did this in both fields, even if they get flooded out it only floods 1/3 of each field instead of 1/2-2/3 of both fields. The water started to really flow once I dug down a foot. I will keep working on the berm for the next 2-3 years until I get it 3 feet high all the way across. I can then plant some grass on it to help hold it in place. My poor right wrist was getting tired from making the bucket dig, then shake the mud out then use the bucket to push me back out of the ditch. It was a very nice day. This field looks much better, last year at this time the entire field was covered in 7 foot tall thistles. I need to spray again.
On Sunday I did get up sorta early, I was out spraying weeds by 0600. I realize in farmer time this is late. I sprayed the barn lot, the ram pasture and all of the field I had just dug the ditch in yesterday. I really needed to get the hay put up so I can let the sheep and this years eating cows up into the green fields.
With that thought in mind I just decided to give making hay bales a try. I hooked up and started the baler up. It took me an hour to get the first three bales made. The first two bales I could not get packed tight enough and could not get the netting to wrap correctly. It kept going around a single roller. I forgot my pocket knife and luckily found one in the tool bag we made for the baler. It was so dull I am pretty sure it could almost pass as a safety knife. I also had to remove the packed hay from the pickup tines. After an hour I managed to get the netting to wrap the third bale. The key reason it was not working was I was going too slow. If I drove as fast as the tractor would go and got the hay feed jammed up the hay packed in well. We ended up with 50 bales of gorgeous grass hay. The best I have ever made, unfortunately it was only 50 bales. Annmarie, Mr Professional and I went out and picked up the 50 bales in 30 minutes then loaded them into the barn. We took the border collies with us and they killed four vole while we picked up hay. I would love to have them when I cut the hay but I am afraid they would get too close to the sickle bar. There are hundreds of voles running around when I cut.
Mr Professional has been working on getting our lavender garden planted. The ground cloth is in, grid laid out, drip line installed and then he takes out 5 gallons of soil and replaces it with premium soil and sets the plant. I managed to kill about half the plants from forgetting to water. So we have an order in for next year to replace them. The tire rubber bark is working out great! I am looking forward to seeing it all done and in about three years the lavender will be approaching full size.
I also cut out part of the flooded fence and then used the box blade to flatten the area and get it all prepped for new fencing. We will install another breakaway point in the field cross fence if the water should break through my new ditch and berm. I am hoping to get that fence done in the next two weeks. Their our two alpaca that need shearing this upcoming weekend.