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.

Lone Fencer

I have spent the last two days fencing by myself. My helper, Tex, has been a no show. This has caused me to have to adjust my timeline. Together we can do as much work as I can do in about 2.5=3 days. Alone, I am a lot slower, so I have started concentrating on the things that matter. Getting the posts in the ground before it freezes matters. So yesterday I staged all the supplies we had in the back of the pickup and started to clean out post holes by hand. The tractor auger can dig them but they still need to be finished off by hand. I needed the pickup empty so I could bring the railroad ties then a load of gravel into the lower field. The trailer will not go up the hill. I figured out how to load the railroad ties with the tractor today. I was just going to dump them over the side but if I slid the tie down I was able to catch the end of the tie under the top edge of the bucket and just lift it up longwise. This let me just slide it in the end of the pickup! It worked great and meant I only had to slide the tie by hand about three feet. Unfortunately, I had to unload the ties by hand on the other end but only having to lift it once instead of twice was an improvement. I put ties in all the corners and filled the first stretch of fencing. I want to get a section done then move onto the next section. I will leave the wire install as the second to last step, installing the gates is the last step. Wire can be installed when the ground is frozen, posts cannot be pounded into the ground by hand when the ground is frozen. I am learning to prioritize.

I set all the wooden posts in gravel. It just makes things easier and the posts stay tight. I put seven tractor bucket scoops in the back of the pickup. I only needed about 5.5 to set all the wooden posts but the leftovers went over the newly installed culvert. It is still a mud pit as it keeps raining every day. I am hoping the gravel mixing into the mud will make a nice hard surface eventually.

I got the first section all ready, T-posts are installed and this time I even managed to keep them in a straight line. This section goes to a six foot gate, I of course purchased a eight foot gate. Luckily, I have an extra six foot gate on the place already and will use the eight foot gate somewhere else in the future.

This picture below shows the first section of fence I am installing, it goes from one end of the picture to the other. Directly in the middle of the picture is a lone bush along the creek, that is where I am at with T-posts. So I am about half way on them, but tonight after finishing setting the wooden posts I started to pound in T-posts again but I just ran out of oomph! I hit that last T-post about 25 times and knew I was done for the day.

The baby chickens are growing! I had to raise the self waterer another 1/2 inch. They have to be able to reach up to peck at the nipples or it doesn’t work right. This week they are going to finish off the first 50# bag of crumble food. I will need to buy another 50# and then hopefully after that is out I can go to pellets. We are getting 3 eggs a day from 8 chickens now. The 23 chicks won’t start laying until spring but then we will have 30 laying hens! We are only selling about 3-4 dozen a month now.

We ordered the trickle charger for the side by side. The battery is dead and I cannot start it. I am told that this is a common problem for UTV. The trickle charger will stop it. This means I need to wire in a 110v outlet near the side by side parking spot, so I brought all the stuff to wire in lights and switches and once the fence is installed I will be wiring lights on the tractor and lights in the machine shop.

New or recycle?

The weather has been nasty the last two days. Yesterday I had to bundle up in 100% waterproof getup so I could go out and drill holes in the ground with the tractor. The longest stretch of fence is ready for posts and I have started on the two corner stretch already. The long stretch is about 2/3 of the fence-line. I was able to purchase new teeth for my auger. I took a picture so you can see that I should have replaced them sooner. The really worn down teeth were the ones on the outside. I am still waiting on the new center piece but the auger works much better now! I had to go away from my desire for an aggressive center piece as it would not stand up to the rocks that get thrown at it.

One of the things that Tex and I decided was that we really needed a piece of culvert placed in the irrigation ditch. Even though I cannot get the trailer down into the field we will be able to drive the tractor across and not get stuck when weighed down. We are going to use the pickup to move the supplies and it would not make it through the ditch. So I went to the local junk yard and found a piece the appropriate length and installed it. I have a few issues down by the school house. The ditch did not get dug out this year. It needed it down by the schoolhouse. It has jumped its channel and is flood irrigating. I ended up having to spend 30 minutes digging out the channel to get everything back in place. The only real problem was I used the mud to fill in around the culvert. Not my greatest idea but it is raining and there is no spare dirt pile. So yesterday I brought a bucket full of gravel to toss on it and I will do the same today. I may need a few loads but we just had another 10 yards delivered to my never ending gravel pile so there is plenty for this. I just go through the ditch backwards with the tractor. I am getting stuck about half the time but going backwards I just use the bucket to push myself out and off I go.

I have to say that fall is here, when the sun drops down it gets cold very quickly. Another good clue is when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines directly on you the work stops just so you can bask it its heat! Good clue that you might be getting chilled slowly. The ground has a solid layer of clay about 18″ down so the holes are still taking a while but they are going in and I am not digging them all by hand.

I lost my coffee cup yesterday! I was driving from the house, up the hill and down to the school house then across the ditch. I didn’t realize it was missing until I got to the fence-line so I am unsure where it leaped off. Luckily I had a thermos full and it will keep you warm, just take a small cup every hour or so. I have also decided that pepperoni sticks are the perfect tractor snack. They come in a container about the size of a thermos, its dust proof and waterproof. The container opening is large enough you can reach inside without having to remove your gloves. A little rain does not alter the taste or the consistency of said perfect snack. Plus you can store it on the tractor so it is always available! The perfect tractor snack.

I am trying to enter the modern age and last week I accidentally turned on my cell phone camera timer. It took me a while to figure out what I had done to turn it off. Its highly annoying to have to hold the phone up for 10 seconds while you wait for it to take a picture. I figured maybe I could use this function for selfies. The picture below is my first attempt at a selfie. The alpaca look good. I then turned the camera and shot into the building so there was no extra light and it worked. This is my working in the rain outfit. It worked, I did not get wet. It was still cold out in the rain and wind. It blew a 8″ branch out of one of our large trees it was blowing so hard.

On the way back to the house, after having filled all the tires full of mud digging out the ditch, I had to traverse down a steep hillside. It was slick and had a skim of mud on it. I realized this as I was speeding up going down the hill and had angled the front bucket down to use as an emergency brake just in case. As I was nearing the bottom and the gates I was just contemplating engaging the emergency bucket brake when the back end of the tractor slid sideways and I started sliding down the hill diagonally. I opted to immediately deploy my preplanned safety device and we stopped! Luckily, I do wear my seat belt. I had removed the tractor from four wheel drive and this was rectified after I opened the gates and crawled down and across the stream bed.

The nice thing about this entirely new fence is this is the first time I have done it since moving back to the farm. I have always reused materials from the scrap yard. The only thing I don’t reuse is barb wire, but all the T-posts and woven wire are from the junkyard. I did this thinking I was saving 50% in costs. Well now I am not so sure. I was able to build the first section of fence, about 750′ in six days. Now I put in 48 hours and Tex put in 24 hours but it was done. It looks good and it doesn’t really need the wooden stays. In materials alone I had $2000. I am now working on the next section of fence, 1100′ and its even cheaper, $1600. Now I am using some of my old cedar posts down by the school house for aesthetic reasons but it would have only needed five more railroad ties. So when you average that out the fence, in materials only cost around $1.89/foot. A new heavy duty T-post costs $4.29. I am buying them at the junkyard for $2. The trouble with this is I have to buy the T clips for the used posts at a cost of $1.20 per post, they come free with the new posts. The speed at which I can install the new woven wire is amazing! A new roll costs $160/330 feet. I pay about $65 for that used. But it’s a hassle to install, I have to mix and match sizes and then go back and patch holes and the wooden stays that cost $1.50 each are necessary. The new woven wire goes right up. I am going to try another fence brand new and keep track of the costs but I think I just need to plan on $2/foot and do it all new. Time is my enemy and something I am constantly fighting. New will save me time.

Beef or Turkey?

I went out to the old house to get some stew meat for dinner yesterday. I was going to be fencing all day and didn’t want to mess with something in the evening. I found beef soup bones and stew meat. I was going to just toss them in the slow cooker and remembered we had some frozen broth. I am trying to clean out the in house freezer. So I tossed in the frozen chunk of broth base and two packages of frozen beef, some spices and onions. I went outside and picked fresh carrots and dug up fresh potatoes. I cut up the carrots and washed up the potatoes. I set my phone alarm so I could come back to the house for lunch and toss it all into the slow cooker. When I came back at lunch time I realized that I had used turkey base! Annmarie and I had just had a discussion about me labeling frozen packages because I brought in two things from freezer and neither was labeled. I asked Annmarie and she didn’t know. She thinks one might be prime rib. I put it in the fridge to thaw out, I should be able to tell when it is no longer a solid lump. The stew was fantastic and no one noticed the discrepancy! Another win for mystery freezer food.

Our washing machine fabric softener dispenser stopped working last week. Annmarie wanted me to call the repairman but I figured I should dig into it first. I had to call the plumber to come fix our deep sink faucet. It runs continuously, he should be here some time this week to look at it. I tried tightening down the packing but it only worked for a little bit and now the handle moved 360 degrees and the leak is worse.

So I watched a You Tube video on how to clean out the fabric softener dispenser. WOW, it took me almost an hour to clean it out, I had to resort to using a tooth brush to get all the little nooks and crannies clean. It works now but I need to add that to my list, needs to happen more than every few years.

I went out and started putting woven wire up on the fence. I always forget how long it takes to put the clips on. They take forever and each T post gets 4 clips on the woven wire. I got 2/3 of the woven wire up and Tex came out in the late evening and got the last 1/3 up and top clipped to hold it in place. I will finish clipping it in place today and hopefully get the gates hung also. Then I can start marking out the next section of fencing tomorrow. I still have one more week of vacation.

I contacted the grant people and once the fence is finished they will come out and take pictures and get the supplies reimbursed.

Is it Winter yet?

Yesterday Tex came out and we did the cleanup and winterization stuff. There are still three hoses that need to be rolled up and put in the shed but the rest of the stuff is done. Tex got leaves washed off the low roof as they hold the moisture and can cause leaks. We got the front hillside planted with clover! I will be happy if only 50% of the seed takes off, anything to choke out the cheatgrass that is currently growing there. We had a talk and Tex agreed to help me with the lower fence.

I put gravel in the Alcatraz area so the butcher cows don’t make a mess down by the spring. We will see how it works in a few weeks when they get put in there for the all you can eat buffet of alfalfa.

This is the fence that I got the grant to install. I had been holding off on it but he may leave in January and not come back. I just needed to know that if we started this project he would see it through. He has been a little flakey. He agreed and got my point so Annmarie and I went to town and bought everything we needed for the first section of fence, $2000! This would be why I normally go to the junkyard and buy all my stuff used and beat up.

As soon as I took the tractor down to start drilling holes the cows came running. They thought I was going to feed them. They do not need food, I have confirmed this by putting out a protein block that they are half heartedly occasionally licking on. They are content to go around and eat the grass that is still growing. Once they realized I had nothing for them they wandered off.

I started to drill holes but was getting no where. I decided to look at the teeth on the auger and realized that the outer tooth was almost gone! I swapped the inner and outer teeth hoping that it would work better. It did! Before the day was over I had one long tooth on the outside and on the opposite side I put the long tooth in the inner spot and then flipped my short piece upside down so it would be point out. This worked the best but I also realized that my inner cone is almost worn down to a smooth piece of metal also. I definitely need to do some repair on the auger but for now I just have to use it! Who would guess that after six years I would wear the teeth off of it! Tex laid out and marked all the T post locations and started to clean out the holes I managed to get drilled. I have six holes to finish up tomorrow.

I was unpacking the trailer and a few railroad ties had shifted. I went to loosen the strap and ended up getting swatted to the ground by the gates crashing into me with a few hundred pounds of railroad ties on top of them. It rung my bell but I didn’t black out. I have to say that shifting loads have smacked me around twice and they are not any fun.

I will get the parts for the auger repair this week and my pump upgrade for the sprayer is in the mail. When it comes we will get it installed and the get the sprayer strapped down and ready to go. I want it all prepped and ready to go in the spring. We can feed using the tractor instead of the side by side. I may have to start the thing every couple of months just so it doesn’t forget how to do it.

Perfect tractor needs to have…

Since my recent rental of the next size up John Deere tractor I have decided to come up with some necessary items for the tractor I will be buying in 6 years. Some may say this is planning a little too far in advance but the blog is forever and these are good points.

1. I still need a small tractor. It has to be under 35 HP to operate the new hay equipment so 30 HP seems ideal as my current one is 25 HP.

2. It needs to have a comfortable seat. The new seat is not as comfortable as my old one. My old one is wearing out so I will need to research an aftermarket seat.

3. It needs to have a manual seatbelt. This is a must! The rental had an automatically retracting type and it does not stay tight enough. The manual one I can tighten down snug over my thighs and my butt stays in the tractor seat no matter how many bumps you hit!

4. Fuel efficiency is a must. In going up 5 HP my fuel consumption went up almost 50%. It was a dramatic change over my little tractor.

5. Some form of tool holder needs to be able to be mounted on the tractor. It is necessary.

6. The damn cup holder needs to be deep enough that the coffee cup cannot jump out of it when you hit a bump.

7. It needs to have 4 wheel drive.

8. Some form of secondary dust filtration system. Most tractors have a grate on front of tractor then there is a screen of some type over the radiator. I need a third line of defense. They also need to be easy to clean out. I work in lots of dust and dry weed debris. It clogs things up fast.

9. It needs to have chain hooks welded to the bucket. I can do this. This is such a lifesaver when it comes to lifting things with the bucket.

10. Rear hydraulic takeoffs. Need for hay equipment.

If I think up any more things I will be sure and write them down.

Saturday I had to go out into the rain to let the sheep into the barn. Once they figured out I was opening up a path to the barn they came running! I went in to check on my baby chicks and counted adult laying hens and there are only 8 left. They are slowly getting picked off! The predators are winning. I also had one dead chick. No apparent cause of death so now there are 24.

Tex was late this morning. I think he had forgotten we were working cows today. He was out by 0800. I had taken both border collies out to go get the cows pushed to the barn. I happened to find a deer shed almost buried in the ground. This is the second one in as many years that I know about. I have a buck tag but not sure it will get filled this year. I have only seen a few deer on the place. I will be doing some actual hunting at the end of the week.

Tex and I finally got the cows into the barn lot and managed to get the two 6 months cows sorted off as they will be going up with the steers for a while to get away from momma. Sorting off the three babies was not too bad as we were able to leave most of the cows in the main area. Once we had it down to three calves in the corral we were ready to start. I promptly dropped my castrating/tag bin off of the fence railing first thing. I definitely need to make a shelf for it so its not on the ground. Tex grabbed the first calf a little girl who is only a couple of weeks old. She bawled but he just picked her up so she could not fight. The other two calves were both boys. They also happened to weigh around 120-135#!! Luckily, I had grabbed two of the extra large bands for the bandarator as backup. Once Tex grabbed that first calf and threw it on the ground it was pretty obvious I was gonna have trouble. I tried but could only get one testicle in place. I switched to the large bandarator and it was smooth. For the last calf I placed the bandarator and tagging pliers in my back pocket loaded and ready to go. Tex tried multiple times to drop the calf and it kept getting back up. I finally intervened and ended up at the head of the calf on the ground with my left arm under the calf holding a front leg and the calf and I pinning my arm in place. I was over the calf’s shoulder and neck and Tex had the back two legs. I hollered for him to use the bandarator but it had fallen out of my pocket. He managed to get it and still hold onto the calf. After he banded it I worked my arm free and placed an ear tag. My back has been bothering me but had been improving. Wrestling a calf is not a good way to improve your back pain. The odd thing about the cows is we used tag #19 & 20 or the two boys and only #9 for the girl. Our sheep tag numbers are very similar but the cows not so much. This might explain why we band so many cows. Annmarie and I had been talking about moving the front porch stairs to over to in front of the actual door. The door used to be directly in front of the stairs but we moved it back to the original opening. To do this the evergreen shrubs needed to come out. The fire department guys had been warning me that they were a fire hazard anyways so I get to kill two birds with one stone. I was really afraid that the wood would be in worse shape than it was but it was okay. Amazing since no one has seen it in 30 years. We were able to use the tractor to pull the bushes out of the ground. I don’t think this would have been possible without all this recent rain.

Once we had cleaned up we popped the stepping stones out of the ground also and then hosed everything off to make the mud disappear.

I wanted to burn the scrap pile but it was not a burn day. So we are going to have to wait a little longer. I had Tex cut the bushes away from the house and the back tree was touching the house so it got trimmed back also. We found a huge 18″ bald faced hornet’s nest in the upper corner of the house. I had no idea it was there and its not visible from any of our doors or windows. Tex was knocking it down and as it started to fall I told him not to get any on him. He asked why and I said because the thing probably has hornets in it! He got a little panicked looked on his face but it was only 40 degrees outside so he had little to worry about. I went inside the house and unleashed an entire can of wasp/hornet spray on the ground and the overhead nest. They are no more.

Once all the leaves fall off the trees we will need to do some tree trimming. This upcoming weekend hopefully we can do more catch up.