Sheep sorting

Sunday afternoon we opted to sort lambs as our buyer had contacted Annmarie Sunday morning. We were unsure how many lambs we had and needed to give an accurate head count. We also needed to sort them off so they would be ready and could just be driven into the corral and out the chute, in and out in 15 minutes is the goal. We used the dogs to move them into the back barn lot. We had already set up the barn for sheep sorting. Annmarie got them into the barn and decided to invite the dogs into the barn while I moved gates around outside. Next thing I know I hear her yelling both dog’s names and some violent movement in the barn. By the time I made my way into the barn she had both dogs corralled and placed into the hay room. I thought that Mouse had been the bad boy and lunged for one of the new mommas with babies. Nope, Zeke’s arch nemesis ewe had a set of twins, she would not back down and Zeke went for her throat. He has hated this same ewe ever since he was a puppy, she used to stomp on him. He has not forgotten her, and the hatred is mutual and expressed by both parties. We then proceeded to push about 2/3 of the herd into the back sorting area and tried to get them to go down the chute. The chute run was not a popular event, no one wanted to start the festivities. There was some grumbling amongst the worker types as to who should do what and where should they stand and when should they lean near the chute. Once that was all worked out in terse undertones the sorting began. Let it be said that I now wear my “I herd you” border collie T-shirt and Annmarie wears her “I can’t keep calm it’s lambing season” shirt when we sort sheep. I also like to wear the “I am sorry for what I said when we were working sheep” shirt, as it is far more relevant. Honestly, until you have done it and then had to redo it and then had to do it again all in the same day you will not understand. Now throw in some random animal craziness, stuff breaking and a dog escaping and you have reality.

We sorted off the lambs, I was supposed to be counting them and marking them by gender in my phone. I got done and had managed to count a total of 43 sheep to sale. I had Annmarie come down and count with me in the far pen. We counted several times and I got anywhere from 38-43. We finally just ran them back through the chute and counted again. We have 44 sheep for sale. We kept 8 for us and the locals that want to buy directly from us. We have 5 sold so far and we may take at least one. We pushed the rest of the herd out onto the back hillside and orchard. We will keep the for sale lambs in the back barn lot and just feed them hay for a day. He will be here Monday afternoon to pickup the sheep.

Before the sheep sorting adventures, our progeny, sent me a link to an auction that was only 13 miles from the house. I went to said auction and picked up a very nice leather wrapped chest for $70 and an old hand water pump for $35. I found a bunch of semi precious stone jewelry and spent the other half of my money on it. Annmarie was very happy with my finds. I will need to get the outside of the chest clean as it is very dusty and the leather needs conditioning. I am looking forward to what it will look like when it is all cleaned up.

Hoss is working on getting the loaner hay equipment back on pallets so we can get it shipped back. Our hay equipment is supposed to arrive on a freight truck on Friday. I plan on cutting hay on Saturday. I am hoping to get another 5 ton baled.

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.

Population boom

It has started again, the sheep are lambing. Of course Annmarie is out of town, but luckily all of the sheep but one were in the orchard. When I let the dogs out this morning I was pretty sure I heard a newborn lamb. I say this because they make a very distinct sound that only lasts a few days, after that their voice changes. It is odd but honestly you can hear newborn babies. I looked up on the hillside at the lone sheep who had snuck out of the orchard and she had at least one lamb, turns out she had twins. Hoss and I pushed her back into the orchard with another loner who made it out. They are crawling through the ditch. When it flooded this spring it lifted it out of the water. I will need to fix it tomorrow but I am going to have to put on my waders as my normal knee high boots are not going to keep me dry. Hoss and I also turned on water in the orchard and started to water the grass. We have not watered it at all this year. We then went out to finish digging all the post holes.

Hoss has been working on getting T-posts pounded into the ground and trying to finish the holes I started. It is too late in the season to be attempting new post holes in our ground. He has been filling the holes with water and digging out 2-4 inches every day. Today we tore it up and got every hole drilled that we needed. Some just required time, some needed finesse and some we had to dig out by hand. The tractor auger will sit on top of the clay but if you dig it by hand it will be much faster. We had to dig out five by hand. We have 24 done and ready for posts now. On Sunday we will fill the pickup with gravel and set as many posts as we can. I set all wooden posts with gravel now. They stay in place better and it cuts down on the weeds growing around them. Which makes it less likely for me to burn up the wooden post.

Hoss stated that yesterday he got stung 4-5 times by the yellow jackets in one particular place. The blackberry bushes were right up next to the fence location. He gave up. Today I took the tractor in there and shoved the bushes back five feet and knocked down the weeds. I did not get stung a single time. I think he was exuding fear.

We came back to the house to look at the hay mower. It needs more than a couple of bolts. I need to tear apart the cylinder, find the correct bolts, remove the broken bolts from the welded in place nuts straighten the blade arms and put it all back together. This is going to take a couple of days. I will need more tools.

Once I realized it was going to take more than a couple of hours we moved onto the next project. I decided to finally move the panels in the bull enclosure so that any animal can take itself to water. We had a trough initially and it worked for the horses but the sheep we had to water separately in buckets. So we moved a panel out into the channel and added two more. They were very hard to get unpinned and moved. The fence is incredibly strong. I will need to add in a gravel pathway so the animals do not sink into mud when getting a drink. I had 20 more yards of gravel delivered last week. I knew we would need it for the fence posts and the skinning pole. I will need at least five yards just to fill in under the skinning pole. I am looking forward to not having to work in the mud when skinning an animal.

We moved the horse trough down to chicken coop. I want to level a spot under the eaves of the old house so that the rain helps keep it filled and then I want to get goldfish! I think they can survive the winter. They are cheap and I miss having fish.

Zeke, our herding border collie, keeps getting out of the front yard. I was certain that he was jumping over one of our gates. He got out again today and ran into the upper fields to harass the wildlife. So I added new slats to the gate to make it too tall for him to leap. I then ran to the store for a quick errand knowing he was secure. When I got home he was outside the fence again. I have no clue how he is doing it. I am going to have to install our game camera up onto the trash can to watch the front fence and see where he is getting out. I suspect he is going over it I am just not sure where. Take my advice, do not teach your herding dog to get over, under, through every fence when herding because you are just creating a containment nightmare for yourself. Until we figure it out he goes on the overhead run now whenever we are not home.

We also installed some metal equipment rims in the old oak tree spot down at my Mother-in-laws today. I am not sure how it will be received so I am holding off on pictures until later.

After a solid 8 hours it was time to call it a day. I sat out in the rocking chair, drank some water and ate Sorbet! It was very good and incredible after a hot day. It was 90 degrees today. Our back creek is still running which is amazing. I suspect it to end by August.

The sheep are popping babies out everywhere. We had three sets of twins and at least one single born today. I called Annmarie and she said it was time. I thought they were all due in August. This means next week we have to get the barn functional so we can sort off the market animals and the new babies. The babies will need to be tagged and banded. We also need to track their mother and birth date! Since I could not get close today I will take out the binoculars tomorrow and I should be able to get tag numbers and quantities born. I will even use our new tracking software!

Supposed to get something done

It was a holiday weekend so I had an extra day off. I had all these plans on accomplishing tons of things, this did not happen. I did get some stuff done but not as much as I envisioned. I also ended up with a couple of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are not pleasant and this weekend was no exception to that rule. I spent Thursday and Friday finishing digging out the barn. Hoss went to play in the mountains for the holiday so I finished digging out the barn the first day and then spent the next day moving piles of straw and sheep manure onto our compost pile. We have two piles and the old pile is almost ready to be distributed as soil. It takes 2-3 years to break down the straw and manure into a usable substance.

Meathead came out and sheared the dogs. Annmarie asked her to use a longer blade and she did not want to shear their tails. She is opposed to them having rat tales. It is easier to keep the cheat grass out of their hides with a shorter coat.

We went out and covered one of the plum trees on Saturday. It is loaded and the bats are out at night and Annmarie is hoping this will keep the bird and bats away from the fruit. We looked at the other trees but they do not have very much fruit on them. I will need to shape the trees this winter and we are going to shorten the tree skirting. We are talking about putting the two bully alpacas out with the three sold eating cows. This way we only have to skirt the trees for the sheep and not alpacas or horses.

We have a lot of thistles in the orchard so I am going to push the entire sheep herd into the orchard for a few days to eat the entire field down, then I will work on killing thistles again.

I got the post hole auger installed on the tractor Saturday and had plans to dig all the post holes on Sunday. Unfortunately I decided that I needed to weed eat the front driveway as the cheat grass and weeds were getting out of control. I moved the pickup back out of the driveway as it was covering weeds. I left my car in place and Annmarie was at church. On one of my trips to the pickup for weed eater fuel I noticed that my car window was busted out! Now mind you I had goggles and hearing protection on but the rocks getting kicked up from the weed eater were pelting me and they hurt. It did not occur to me that I would blow out a window on my car while trying to make the driveway neater. This sucks and now I have to get it replaced.

I did finally get on the tractor and go out and start trying to drill holes in the ground. The first five holes I only managed to get about 2-4 inches down. I did not have a bucket but will bring one up and start filling the holes with water. I will need to do that for a few days to soften up the dirt. Once I got down into the bottom fields the soil was actually muddy once I got six inches below the surface. This would explain the weed jungle that I have in the upper field. It is so bad I cannot even mow it. I have the tractor bucket fully raised at 8 feet and the weeds are still taller. The plan is to get the fence up around this field and to push the sheep up in the morning and bring them in at night. Our hope is the sheep can tear it up and thin it out so I can get the mower through it. There is still a muddy area in the middle of the field that I cannot drive the tractor through. Our hope is the sheep will knock it down enough I can get the tractor in to see the wet areas and dig a few ditches to let it drain better. I got 9 holes completed and five started, only 12 more to go.

On the way back to the house I noticed our three feeder cows out of their fence. The gate had not been latched correctly and they got out. I had to move gates around and get them pushed back into their pasture. The gate is latched correctly now.

My hope is that Hoss and I can get some fencing done this week, time will tell.

Three musketeers

I have the plague and this is hindering the hay pickup issue. I got Slim and Tex lined up to come out Tuesday morning at 0600 and start picking up hay. I was approached by a friend to see if I needed more help out on the farm on Monday and I decided Monday evening to call them and have them come out Tuesday also. This way I could have Slim drive the tractor and Tex and Hoss could load from each side. While they unloaded hay into the first bay I would have Slim clean out the milking area of the barn and the second hay room as I was sure they would fill the first hay room. I had a plan.

Everyone arrived at 0600 and we spent the first 20 minutes cleaning out the pickup! It was not horrible but it did require some effort and I found a coat and hat I had misplaced in the process. I also think I found a handful of tools that I had misplaced. We tossed out all the trash and even emptied out the bed of the pickup.

I then spent 7 minutes teaching Slim how to drive the tractor, the most important part being always wear your seat belt. I figured she had never pulled a trailer before but going slow and her brother, Tex could give her pointers. Tex and Hoss jumped on the trailer, I went to work and hopefully the hay gets put into the barn magically.

I had to come home early due to the plague, it had gotten hot so they had quit. The first hay room was full and Tex wanted to know how to stack it in the second one. I told him and he said he would come out and finish in the late evening as he was leaving for California tomorrow! I told Tex I would pay him when he finished. He was confident there was only a little over one load left.

Hoss was still here and I walked him around the farm and we discussed him digging out the barn and helping me with some fence for the next couple of months. He was agreeable to this. This was very fortuitous for us.

Tex came out that evening and unloaded two more loads into the barn and said there were at least another 2 loads in the field. He was a tad optimistic.

Micro Hay equipment, its a thing

Well Tex came out this morning and while we were eating breakfast “Slim” came out. She is Tex’s little sister and she has agreed to dig out the chicken coop and the barn and do a few odd chores this summer. I set her up with instructions on how to clean out coop, we found all the tools and I got her some bleach, a rag and a bucket for after it got cleaned out. Tex and I went out to the machine shed to attempt to get the micro baler hooked up. This proved difficult at best as the first PTO shaft was too long, so we added the quick connect to get three inches more away from the tractor. The PTO shaft just did not want to go on. We then had to change out the posts and adjust everything to get the dang thing lined up correctly. We also had to put in a quart of gear oil into the baler. I was a little surprised by this as the thing is brand new and has not been leaking at all. We managed to read the instructions a couple more times and drove up to the second field to try it out.

Tex went with me as we figured there would be a learning curve. This was a major misstatement as we managed to only make two bales in the first hour and could not get either one of them wrapped in twine. They were totally naked. We managed to shear off two shear bolts and discover that a pair of spring wire pliers are needed to correct this issue. I do not own a pair of said pliers so I did it by hand, which is never fun. I finally got three bales done correctly and Tex went off to work on the machine shed while I tried to figure it out.

Tex outsmarted himself as doubling the row widths caused a ton of problems. The rows are too wide and too much material is present. We would have been way better off had he not done it. It made baling it a lot harder. I spent 3 hours on the tractor and got 119 bales done. Two boxes of baling twine are not going to be enough. We are using a lot of twine. I managed to mess up two bales and had to lift the dump part manually twice. The second time I had to go get Tex, damn thing is just getting heavier and heavier.

Each bale is supposed to weigh around 50#, I went down to the machine shed to get Tex so I could show him how to bale and give him some tips to avoid issues. He was working with Slim and they had gotten 8 sheets of plywood up on the walls. I showed Slim a few more things I wanted done in the chicken coop and she set right to work. I had told her first thing this was only a one day job and she did it! She just dug in and did the job!! So nice and refreshing.

I ran back to town and got 10 gallons of diesel and 10 more rolls of twine so Tex will be able to hit it hard first thing at 0900 tomorrow. When I come home from work I will relieve him and go until dark. The race is on now to get it all done. It does not look like we already have almost 5 ton of hay baled. I think we are going to have over 1000 bales in just the first field only.

It must be even

It had rained the days before so we did not want to cut any new hay. Instead we planned on turning hay. I had a funeral to go to so we got Tex all set up with our new 5 foot power rake. He will turn all the hay this Saturday. This rake will let you pile it all up into a row. I had visions of Tex just following the rows that the mower created. he did one better! He went down one side of the row then at the end of the row he turned around 180 degrees and went the opposite direction allowing the row to double in size and cut the number of rows in half. This was very clever and not something I would have thought of had I done the turning.

Before I left in the morning Tex and I planned out our needed improvements to the machine shop. One of the rafters is broken, we need a bunch of plywood to line the hay room to keep the round bales in and the loose hay out of the new gravel area. We also need to install the bolt and screw organizers that were laying on the floor of the machine shed. I need to get all the bolts and screws organized and out of the multitude of drawers I currently have them in. I am also going to hang some bin organizers on one wall. I need to mount these to a sheet of plywood, so we will be hanging a few sheets up on the walls for future use. We also need to make legs for the new free countertops I managed to snag on the way home this week. Every once in a while those “Free” signs are a big win.

I went to my least favorite big box store and picked up plywood and lumber with a few Knick nacks. I had to wait 30 minutes for help loading plywood as there was only one guy who could do it. There are reasons I dread Home Depot, but I spend so much money there I get the zero interest for 6 months on my charge card and always pay it off in time. I love that deal!! Plus on Saturday at 1600 there is no other place in the area open to buy lumber.

I knew I needed some more baling twine, but with micro equipment I was unsure where I was going to get it. The salesman on the phone seemed to think I could get it anywhere. So I found it at a local store and bought two small, 5000 feet rounds. They did not have Jute cord like the free roll I got with the baler but they had lots of types of plastic cord to pick from. I was not sure if they would fit but its all they had and something is better than nothing.

When I got home and published the blog last night Annmarie spotted the uneven gates on the new stretch of fence. She mentioned that would need to be corrected tomorrow. I told her hay came first but I would think about how to fix it without spending 10 hours reworking two rock cribs.