Glamorous farm life

I spent most of the weekend working on the barn. It needs to have all of last year’s sheep excrement and straw dug out. I was unable to get a teenager to work for me for the summer. No one is real keen on lots of weed pulling, lawn mowing, weed eating, ditch digging, barn digging and chicken coop cleaning. It’s too bad, the wages are decent and a hard days labor is good for the soul. Since no one else did it, I needed to do it. I used the John Deere tractor as it is small enough to maneuver inside the barn. After the manure forks are attached to the bucket it is not too bad. I have most of the barn dug out after about 13 total hours. I have only hand digging left to do. I use the tractor bucket as the wheelbarrow and just fill it with a pitchfork and shovel. After a few hours on the tractor and smelling like ammonia it is time to do something else. I came in on Sunday and just wanted to lay down on the floor in the laundry room and take a nap after spending five hours in the barn. I tried to nap but the smell of ammonia was so overpowering from my clothes I finally had to strip and shower. I never did get that nap. I wired outlets in the old house, another 13 done. I have one wire to pull down from the ceiling and I will install the track lighting next. The goal is to get power to the building in the next six weeks so the heat pump can be installed.

We also spent about half a day over the weekend cleaning house. There is still a lot of paint dust laying around on every object in the kitchen. On Tuesday, the housekeeper came out and wiped down the entire kitchen so the dust is now gone.

The puppy, Chance, is painful. Yes she is very cute, I love the droopy ear on the right side but she thinks she can jump on you and the furniture nonstop. She does know she is not supposed to some of the time but takes constant reminders to maintain good behavior. If she gets out the front gate she does not want to come back to the house. Packing a 25# puppy over 300 yards is not fun.

Today Annmarie called me to tell me that one of the young alpaca was bleeding and his wound needed to be addressed today. No one had noticed anything amiss prior to this. Annmarie opened the front yard gate and pushed the alpaca toward it, like a curious cat, they all ran for the open gate to see what was on the other side. When I got home we went to get a halter for the alpaca and discovered the horse was panting and drooling. Her tongue was about twice its normal size. She has been in the barn lot for weeks so we are unsure what happened. She was able to eat food and she refused water so we will keep watching her. After we caught the baby white alpaca I proceeded to try and clean off the wound to see what type of injury there was. There were a lot of flies, a lot of maggots and a lot of caked on dirt all over the wound and in it. I cleaned it with a little bit of water to make sure there would not be a lot of bleeding if I opened up the wound. I turned on the hose and started to clean the surrounding tissue of dirt, maggots and dead tissue. It took about 15 minutes to get the wound all cleaned out. I finally had to use my pocket knife to dig out maggots in three places as they had tunneled enough I could not get them with my fingers. I cut away some dead tissue. The wound is about 1.5” wide and 5” long and about 3/4” deep in places. It has been there for a while but didn’t start to bleed until last couple of days due to maggots getting to a blood laden area. We doused it with betadine then used some antibiotic spray, nonabsorbent dressing and some Coban around the top of the leg where the wound was located. The injured alpaca and Snoop (buddy) will be living in the corral for a couple of weeks to allow us to treat the wound daily. If the wound starts to tunnel bad we will just put the alpaca down so it does not suffer. Otherwise, we will try and get the wound to heal. We will see what it looks like tomorrow.

The Tractor is Back!

I picked up the tractor on Christmas Eve!  It took them a week and one of the connectors has been pieced together from three different fittings.  It now has a rear hydraulic takeoff with its own lever.  I will now be able to control the angle of the sickle mower and raise the back hatch of the hay baler so it can drop off the completed bale.  I just need to get the lights fixed and working on the roll bar.  I have to move them and attach the new rear facing light as the first time I put them in the wrong spot and lowering the roll bar caused us to destroy one of the lights.  So now I am on the second light and a second wiring harness and the lights have not even worked yet!

While I was in the parking lot at Bimart I had a couple come up to me and ask my opinion about my tractor.  I gave a whole rundown, cost and time savings benefit and the do’s and dont’s.  I walked them around the tractor and spent 30 minutes espousing my love of this machine.  They were convinced they needed one and thanked me for being honest.  This beauty has been used and she shows some wear and tear but keeps on chugging along.  03A20B3A-4531-4178-A8A7-D7780660DE32

I came home with the tractor and had to feed cows in both spots so I pushed large bales around, moved the feeders over the new bales and even spent some time scraping the road clear of alpaca poop.  Annmarie finally called me to ask me what was going on as she thought I was playing with the tractor.  Adult men do not play with tractors, we work with tractors any man could tell you that.  It was nice to be back on it.  I could do 2 hours of tractor work every day and not think it was work.

We had two of the old maps framed and I hung them on our wall.  The maps are from 1886-1912.  We have about 15 left to frame, but it is going to take us a few years to get them all done.  They are of various cities and railroad yards of the surrounding area.

Annmarie and I went out this morning to tag and band the three lambs that are currently out in the barn.  The first one was out with the main herd.  We went into the barn and closed the door so no one could escape.  I slowly waded into the sheep and spotted the untagged baby.  I tried to grab it but it snuck by me.  Annmarie wanted to run all the sheep through the chute but it takes 15 minutes to set it up so then she suggested just squeezing them all at one end of the barn and then I could wade in after she shut the gate.  As she was moving one of the panels I spotted the lone lamb again, I crept up on it and got it isolated.  It started trying to dash side to side and squeeze by me, as it leaped up into the air to get past me, I dove reaching out with my left hand and snagged it out of the air in a flying tackle and ended up longwise on the barn floor in the straw, I had her!  The amazing part is by the time we were done with all three lambs I ended up with no sheep poop on my entire body despite rolling around in the straw with a lamb.  We had two girls and a boy and we moved the momma and babies in with the main herd.

On the way back from the barn, I told Annmarie about my plan to collect 300# rocks and put them on the hillside.  She accused me of wanting to spend time with the mistress (tractor) when there were other things to do.  So instead I worked on mounting the flood lights on the tractor.  I had to run to Pilot Rock for some large hose clamps but I managed to get the lights all installed.  I even mounted a separate on/off switch into a piece of grey plastic electrical conduit and clamped it to my roll bar.  So now to turn on the flood lights I turn on the head lights then turn on the flood lights if needed.  I wired in the flood lights through the tractor lighting circuit.  I need some pins for the quick connect and will have to order them in.  My next project is to order a conversion kit for the “buggy” to put in a large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat and a trickle charger.  This way we don’t have to worry about it starting whenever we want it to run.

I also need to get the machine shed wired so I can install lights and I need another metal cabinet for tractor parts.  Plus, I need to get the sprayer motor changed out to the new one with double the flow volume.  DC05D1FC-F261-4AC5-ADFF-6B3AE2351FA7

Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.

Lamb in hand

We have had the ram isolated and in with the steers for the last two weeks since we had a lamb born on the 9th. We figured it was the tip of the iceburg and the babies would start popping out everywhere. It has been two weeks and no more babies. The sheep come into estrus every 3 weeks so she must have been the only one in heat. So babies should start up in 1-2 weeks.

I had to kick the baby chickens out of the coop today. I just went out there and chased or threw them out one at a time. Only about 10 managed to get out on their own. I went out just before dark and after the automatic chicken door had closed and had to chase 24 back into the coop. Only six had made it inside before the auto door closed.

Annmarie and I had a discussion about what to call the side by side UTV. She did not like the name “side by side”. She did not really care for UTV either. So she opted for “buggy”. I tried to explain that a buggy in recreational vehicle terminology is something you use on the sand. We are calling the side by side a “buggy”.

I did go down and feed the cows another bale of hay and spotted a new calf! It looks good. How can it come out ready for winter?

I have started to wire the machine shed. It is going to be a slow process but hoping to have it down before the new year.

We killed two lambs today, it was our part of the trade two sheep for a pig deal we have been doing the last couple of years. It seems to be working out for both of us. Again we were able to salvage an amazing amount of items courtesy of an Indian friend. He took both heads, all 8 forelegs, lungs, kidneys, hearts, livers and some diaphragm meat and some scraps from the hide. I started a fire in the fire pit and burned off the hair for him. But I am not taking the blame if I overdid it. He said last year when I started the bonfire it was so hot he ended up over cooking the heads and legs. He blamed it on the heat, and his wife blamed him! So I did it at a lower heat and smaller fire. Hopefully, it will meet wife approval standards.

Annmarie is violating the Christmas rule by hanging out a Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving! I went out to let the dogs back in a mere few hours and discovered that the Christmas decoration had fallen apart. It would appear that the powers that be also agree with me on the Christmas rule.

Annmarie used the upstairs bathroom to stain some wood for the laser cutter. Its a great space as we can shut the door and turn on the ventilation fan. It may become a permanent craft location for this reason.

Fencing 2019 completed

I feel like it has been forever since I said I would be done with fencing this year but it has finally happened. I was able to finish up the new fence this weekend. It took some perseverance but I did it. While I was fencing I had an assist from the sheep in raking leaves in the yard. They also did the last mowing at the same time. The only real problem with this is they fertilize the lawn at the same time they trim it and eat leaves. This means that the three dogs have an all you can eat buffet of sheep poop and as an added bonus get to roll around in sheep urine and poop both! This makes for very odiferous pets. Its a side effect that has to be considered when weighing the benefits of not mowing.

I spent Friday stretching fence and Saturday afternoon I finished stretching fence. The only thing left was to install a gate and cover two gates and two openings with cow panels.

I opted to spend Sunday cleaning house. It was needed and I was simply done fencing. It has been a long year of fencing and despite the need to get done so I can have the fence inspected by the water conservation district for my grant, I needed a break.

On Monday, I had a new helper, code name “rain man”. We cleaned up and readied the small patch of land next to the front yard that we are going to plant Lavender in next spring. We pulled weeds and found most of the branches. I will burn them on the next burn day but we have been under an inversion so there have been a lot of no burn days.

I brought him out to help me finish the fence but our next project was lifting the back bridge over the creek. We used a handyman jack to lift up the one side then dug back into the bank to prop it up with rocks. The first time we did not have enough rocks so we went for this massive piece of old concrete that weighed 300+ pounds. It was brutal to get back up the hill then down into the hole and into position under the bridge. We did it but it was a close call to not happening.

After that we went into the barn and filled all the feeders and dug out a bale of straw. The straw was buried under bales of hay so we had to move about 25 bales. The Rain Man can sweat! He hung in there and we got the barn all ready for animals as we are going to start locking them in every night. Winter is officially here as we are now feeding them every day.

I ended up having to finish the fencing alone as the Rain Man got called into work. I did it and managed to get most of my trash picked up. Unfortunately, the tractor bucket was full so I will have to go back to get the rest of the scrap metal pieces.