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.

Getting ready for winter

Yesterday, I got up at 0408 and was out the door, after cooking myself breakfast by 0428. Now it was only a ham, egg and cheese hot sandwich but it was breakfast. I wanted to get out early while it was cool so I cold mow with the rental tractor and hopefully not have it overheat. It had headlights and I had already filled it with fuel the night before. It was only about 15 degrees cooler and I had to stop three times before it got light due to overheating. I even took an air tank down to blow out the radiator. This worked the first two times until I ran out of stored air.

Annmarie called me back up to the house to help her get dressed. She has had some horrible muscle spasms in her back. I did and she got a deep tissue massage and is on the mend now. She thinks she will now survive, yesterday she was not so sure.

After a few more hours I had to head to town to get money for the cow hay I was picking up today. I stopped at the bank, the bakery (a pastry of some kind was calling my name, it turned out to be a peach filled deliciousness), the coffee shop, the seed place (grain elevator) and then convenience store. The only place that did not bat an eye at my dust/soot covered countenance was the seed silo. He just wanted to know if I had an account, I don’t or had cash or check. I then mentioned that a pastry was going to save me as I had to get change to buy it and I needed $252 for the seed. I was saved by a pastry and a coffee!

While I was at the seed silo I enquired about winter beardless barley. Its what I really wanted to plant but they only had spring barley and I am not sure I can get into the mud pit this upcoming spring. I then asked about a grain based hay seed and the guy said “club wheat”. He said a lot of people are turning it into hay. It only cost $14/50#.
Annmarie and I had talked the night before and triticale had come up as we fed it one winter and all the animals liked it. So the triticale was only $18/50#. So I bought 800# of triticale seed for the upper 7 acre pasture. You are supposed to seed it at 80#/acre. Since there is no magical setting on the seeder and I have to guess and adjust on the fly I figured I better have a little extra.

I came home and planted 2 acres. The harrow had a hard time as the soil was hard, rock filled and there was a lot of plant matter. I had to adjust the seed rate several times and ended up planting the 2 acres and then opening up the seed grate and running over the entire two acres quickly with the harrow to get seed to drop out at the right rate.

Tex came first thing in the morning so we could tag and band the sheep before picking up the cow’s hay from a nearby seller. Tex used Daisy (his red heeler pup) to help move the sheep around. I had him keep her on a lead rope so she could not get away. At four months old she liked chasing the animals and was excited to work.

After we tagged and banded the left over sheep, I went to the post office to pick up our baby chicks! We ordered 25 pullets for $100 all inclusive cost. Since they have to be about 6 months old before they lay I like to start my chicks in the late fall so come spring time they are old enough to start laying and I feed them through the winter at their smallest. I usually brood them in the house for a couple of weeks but I just started them out in the coop this time. I had to send Tex to Pendleton as the rental tractor had a flat front tire. I took care of the chicks and setup while he got the tire fixed. Once he got back, I started driving the trailer back and forth to pick up our hay. Unfortunately, I can only carry 5 large bales at a time and I had to transport 36 bales, a total weight of 25 tons. In between trailer loads, Tex moved some old irrigation pipe, got the cow feeder panels into the bull Alcatraz and hooked up the seeder to my tractor.

My tractor came back from the shop today. Someone (had to be me, despite my lack of memory) put regular fuel into the diesel tractor. I didn’t really understand how bad this is. After the rental cost and tractor repair the wrong fuel mistake cost us around $1000, this was a very expensive lesson. I will now be buying a third yellow fuel can for diesel to prevent this in the future.

We got all the hay put away and ready. We were going to do cows today, but didn’t get done with hay until 1600. I was tired and did not want to go wrestle with cows so we will be doing cows on Monday!

My goal tomorrow is to disc the three acres I have mowed in the 7 acre field. I need to get the soil broken up and rocks picked so I can get in there with the power harrow and plant triticale. The goal is to get those three acres planted by tomorrow evening. That will leave me with two more acres still to mow and plant. The middle seven acre field needs burned and disced and mowed and some soil moved around. I am saving it for last.

After dinner, Annmarie asked me to go get the sheep. They were visible from the kitchen window. I put on my shoes and Annmarie asked me if I wanted the dogs, my reply “the sheep like me I won’t need them”. I called the sheep onto the back hillside but they did not want to come into the ram pasture. I ended up on the back hillside with the sheep spread out every where and no dogs. I tried to call Annmarie as I could see her through the kitchen window. NOPE, I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. I went old school and pulled out my white handkerchief and started waving it around. It only took her about 2 minutes to spot me through the window! When she came out the door I hollered for her to let the dogs out. Five minutes later the sheep were in the ram pasture. I was still on the hillside and had asked Mouse to guard the gate opening. Zeke and I were ambling down the hill when I looked up and spotted mouse chasing down two sheep that had broken from the herd. I started hollering and he reached up grabbed the ewe by the throat and tossed her to the ground. It took him about 1 second to roll her onto the ground. He didn’t hold onto her neck as she dropped to the ground and when she got back up she went right back to the herd. This is why Mouse loves to work the cows, he can be very aggressive. This is why Zeke loves to work the sheep, he just needs to run around them and stare them into submission. Unfortunately for them both, they have to learn to do both.

Vacation day 4

Big surprise it was raining again this morning! I am never going to get the upper field burnt. So instead I went over the machine shop and started working on installing my flood lights on the tractor. It seemed like a straightforward kind of thing. There are even power takeoffs under the seat that run through the light switch so I can hook up power there. It took me a while to gets the lights assembled and mounted to the roll bar using hose clamps. Getting the clamps adjusted so that I can retighten all four at any moment took a few tries when I added the second light. I plugged one light in and got it to work. I did not have the right connectors and was able to find them in Pilot Rock amazingly. I broke two of them and never could get the light to work again. I made a second trip to Pendleton for another cable harness and could still not get it to work. They are Blazer brand lights and I do not know why they won’t work. I even checked all the fuses on the tractor and they were all intact. I swapped parts from both wire harnesses and still no joy. I finally gave up and taped off the light plugs to keep out the dirt and I am going to have to do some research. I don’t understand why they don’t work. I spent another 45 minutes trying to get the power harrow/seeder hooked up to the tractor then I spent another hour practicing in the practice field. I killed the tractor once by hitting a buried old spring tooth that got wrapped up in the power harrow. When I crawled under the harrow to get it out I ended up cutting off about 6 hay bale strings from the tines of the harrow. I had to stop several times and make adjustments to the harrow and I had to pick up all the rocks and twine I found. I filled up about half the tractor bucket with detritus. I did not try and plant any seeds. I am saving that for tomorrow. I still think I need to adjust the seed wheel to touch the ground 100% of the time. It looks so much better. If it takes off in the spring I may do the lower portion of this same field next year.

I managed to finagle the tractor into the front yard upper hillside and I will use the harrow to tear up the hillside so I can plant clover. We want to see if the clover can choke out the cheatgrass. Hopefully, this plan works.

So if you know anyone that can fix my tractor lights, please send them my way. Hopefully, Google knows something…

Vacation prep

I am supposed to go on vacation this next week so I spent the weekend prepping for my vacation. It’s really a staycation as I am not going anywhere. Our front upper spring has quit running. It is amazing as it did it midSeptember. I need to harden this outlet by piling in a bunch of rocks. I am going to pickup rocks from the barn lot and dump them all here. I have been working the barn lot to smooth it out, this in turn has caused a lot of rocks to surface. I now want to plant grass seed in the entire barn lot to hopefully choke out the cheat grass next year.

It was the Pendleton Round-up last week so I had to work lots and Annmarie did her first stint in the Mounted band. This caused me to not put the sheep away every night. It is now the weekend and I have no more excuses so I am traipsing up into the upper field every evening to put away the sheep and horses. One may ask why it is always me at night? That would be because Annmarie traipses out there every morning to let the sheep and horses out of the barn lot, same reason I do the dishes if she cooks dinner. This little fawn kept running up toward me after I got the sheep in and was in the process of shutting the gate. I have a buck tag this year but we only have about 8 deer on the entire property. One of them is a little buck that I keep seeing every few weeks. I am hoping he is here during deer season. I have yet to draw a doe tag.

I spent two days working on the front fence. I blasted it with high pressure water one evening then scraped it with a wire brush the next day after it had dried out. I spent 7 hours the next day painting it. Painting is my least favorite job ever. The entire fence has a single coating. I even took the time to use the pressure washer on the concrete walkway. It looks much better.

Planting prep begins

To be fair, there was a reason I slept in this morning, I was up for several hours in the middle of the night volunteering with the Quick Response Unit, so Annmarie let me sleep in. She did not want to wake me to let me know the dogs had been fed so she left a note for me in the one spot she was sure I would find it, the hot water dispenser! I make French Press coffee every morning no matter what, it tends to be the first thing I do in the morning. Now she did call and wake me up as there was a screamer lamb out in the field and she thought it might have gotten trapped on the wrong side of the fence last night. I was having a hard time sleeping in anyways, so I made a cup of coffee and a large thermos of coffee to go and let the horses and sheep out and up into the upper pastures. We have been trying to lock them in every night due to the coyotes and there have been wolves spotted nearby also.

The one good thing about staying up half the night was that I found out how to get an agricultural burn permit and what I needed to do to burn the fields. I need to do it for the weed control. Anything over 2 acres needs a permit and a burn perimeter. So I started today working on a burn perimeter.

Before I could get going I needed to clean up the tractor. I should have fueled it as I only had half a tank but if I have a full tank I can run for 8 hours and this limited my time away from the house. So I blew out the air intakes on the tractor hood, the radiator screen and the radiator. As I was contemplating the ambient air temperature and my last tractor overheat I was trying to figure out what would make the tractor heat up? Working hard, but how, pulling lots of weight? Running PTO? What about forcing the engine to work harder with less oxygen? So I popped the air filter can open and took out the air filter, holy smokes! I was able to beat out about 3# of dirt out of the filter then blew out another pound with the air hose. I was covered in ultra fine dust before I even got started. Luckily, there are two filters and the inside filter was almost spotless. I cleaned it but there was not much dirt at all, just a little skiff. I put it all back together and headed out to get the arena rake.

I thought I might be able to use it, but after fighting for 15 minutes to get it attached to the tractor and taking it down the side of the fence line twice I could tell that it was not going to work. So I brought it back, took it off and found the disc setup. I practiced in the barn lot getting the disc to work properly.

I ended up drinking a lot of dust with my coffee throughout the day but it was still good!

I ended up going around the perimeter of three fields and now have a 30 foot fire break around each field. This was me after a couple of passes. I tried to go upwind as much as possible but it seems that 50% of the time that is just not possible, so not all the brown in my coffee was creamer. The middle pasture had a nice break already from us clearing it to install the new fence. I disced up the dry ground to be visible dirt so there will be no fire creep. Last pass for this field. I got three fields done and only have one tomorrow. I did have to come in and get more fuel but that was good as I blew out the tractor radiator and intakes again. I never had an overheating problem today and it got to 92 F. On the way back I stopped at a blackberry bush to eat my fill, I had skipped lunch. They were amazing but the yellow jackets thought the same thing. I finally had to start shaking the berries before tossing them in my mouth so I would not toss one in with a yellow jacket on it inside my GI tract! After drawing blood a couple of times on the thorns attempting to get away from nasty stinging things I gave up on the berries, I had already eaten a couple of cups anyways. As I was headed in I remembered that I promised Annmarie I would pick plums from the tree in field. We got a few pounds last year from it, the first time in 12 years but this year the tree was loaded. I guess it likes all the water it can have as the new spring runs right next to it.

I moved the ladder around to pick the fruit but its in a U-shaped depression and the fruit ladder does not want to function in that environment well. I got some off the top of the tree and then resorted to lifting the tractor bucket four feet off the ground and crawling it it to use it as a platform. That first plum was super sweet and literally burst with juices as I bit into it. You can see the juice near my foot in the tractor bed! I started to fill up the 2.5 gallon bucket and tossed the overripe or bug eaten ones to the cows. One cow was wiser than the rest and he realized that there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain by coming up close.

I have no idea what type of plum these are as the tree is probably over 60-70 years old. They are golden with a rose blush and yellow meat and very sweet. I started to throw the other cows fruit as they were missing out. Everyone felt like it was safe to come over as long as I was in the tractor bucket.

My stupid chickens are getting agitated. I am pretty sure the raccoons are coming down and harassing them at night. Now they cannot get into the coop, but the windows are open and the chickens can hear them. I have metal fencing stapled over the outside of the windows to prevent them from getting in through the screens. I only had one brown egg tonight. I cannot get only one egg from 11 chickens per day, the math does not add up.