Woe Tex!

Tex came out of the chute ready to work first thing this morning. We fed the sheep, which is easier now that they are all one herd again. Tex helped catch yesterday and I tagged and banded the last four babies we had departed from the herd and we merged those mommas with the main herd.

We got four strands of smooth wire on one side of the gate and three strands up on the other side. The discrepancy is because one section of the fence uses a taller woven wire than the other.

I went over and marked out the rock crib locations and Tex started building them while I made the chicken portal through the fence. Once the discrimination gate was in place I used the trusty mistress to tear up the hillside and smooth it all out. I also had to go across the spring and work the other side of the spring. This necessitates driving a four foot wide tractor over a four foot wide bridge. I made and installed the bridge a long time ago. I am sure its logged in the blog so within the last eight years. I have been using the bridge whenever I need a short cut. Annmarie refuses to drive the tractor across as a tire is usually partially hanging off the bridge during crossing. I drove over the bridge several times today without any issues.

We had to make a run to the fencing supply pile to load the pickup up with railroad ties and the last of my round wooden poles. I only have 6 ties left unused and I may need those in the new section of fencing I have been ignoring.

We are going to have to install wire in the rock cribs to prevent the rocks from falling out when we fill them. I am hoping we can do that on Saturday. Tex went to get gravel to set two posts while I dug the post holes and set the posts down in for final seating. After Tex finished the second post he asked if I wanted the extra gravel in the skinning pit. I know it will take me hours to move all the gravel for the pit so any little help is appreciated.

I had given strict instructions on the first day that any time he was moving around in the tractor that he had to wear his seatbelt. This is to prevent you from getting thrown clear of the vehicle if something were to happen.

I warned him that the bridge was narrow. He then proceeded to attempt a crossing. Woe Tex!!! I saw it happen in slow motion! Luckily, Tex had his seatbelt on so he didn’t get thrown clear of the tractor. I made him stay in place so I could get a picture as I am usually the one in the compromising position.

We still had a pickup bed full of railroad ties so I had Tex grab a chain and drive the pickup around the barn and into the back lot. He had a hard time making the corner with the pickup in four wheel drive. The four wheel drive was mandatory as the entire back area is one giant mud pit. He kept sliding towards the fence as that was the lowest spot on the hillside.

He managed to snag a taillight on the driver’s side with encouragement from me. It looks like we just need a new light fixture.

We hooked onto the hitch and pulled that rear tire down onto the ground. Once we had the rear tire on the ground I was able to drive it out with some pickup assistance. The hardest part was getting the pickup back there and getting seat-belted into the tractor before trying any thing.

As penance, Tex put in a railroad tie next to the bridge. It sits on two very large rocks and widens the bridge by 10″. This will be nice in case I ever miss. He is also going to find me a new light cover to order off of the internet.

He came through for me and for $23 I have a new light cover already on its way!

He was looking a little hangdog by the time he was done for the day. Tomorrow we fill the rock cribs and drill some holes!

It’s my old joy

It was not a giant spider, I told myself after I screamed like a little girl. I was out in the barn doing chores late Wednesday evening in the dark. I waited too long to do chores in the daylight. I went to move one of the inside swing doors and a black and white cat was sitting on top of the door, unbeknownst to me and when I swung the door closed this “thing” dropped down onto my arms. I had a mini meltdown until I realized it was the cat and not a man eating spider. I am sure I lost a a little more hair off of my head due to this life threatening event.

I tried to take a picture of the full moon with my new IPhone. Low light pictures are still not very good with a phone camera.

I lined up some help for Thursday thru Sunday to build some more fence. I wanted to finish the fence I started this Winter and redo the barn lot arrangements. We really want to get a Flow Hive and have at least one bee hive. We feel that we need to supply some sustenance to the bees first. So we are going to build two flower areas in the barn lot. These will be isolated from all the animals and one of the two will be able to be watered. This may even let us grow a couple of trees that the animals cannot eat before they get any height to them.

I got the skinning pole area dug out and ready for gravel. It will be nice to not have to work in the mud when skinning animals. We killed three last summer but the most I have done is ten at once.

I have a new helper, he will here forth forever be known as Tex. I thought about continuing the trend and calling him Mr. Tex but I just could not do it and have shortened it to just Tex. Tex set posts while I ran around on Thursday finding supplies, tools and getting fuel. I even made a trip to the scrap metal junkyard.

Once the posts were set and H braces made with cross wire we got the woven wire up and the gates installed. Tex had built fence before so we just had a couple of small learning curve issues. As in all things there are many different ways to skin a cat. We tied in the creekside fence to the back of the chicken coop so I decided to shrink the coop pen and rip out all the extra. The pen is useful to get the chickens to lay in the coop if they start to stray all the time, but it does not need to be that big. So we moved a post and connected it to the front part only. That meant we had to add a gate against the old house to close off the ram pasture. Now we can let the lambs out here without worrying their moms would try and jump the fast moving creek and leave the babies to make that same attempt. That option would not be healthy for lambs or old ewes.

Tomorrow we will get the smooth wire up and I will have to build a pass through in the fence for the chickens that will hopefully not let the lambs through.

Tex did a great job and I am looking forward to Friday’s progress report.

Winter is leaving

Mother Winter is finally giving up her grip on the weather and spring is trying to come out. For the fifth day in a row we have had above freezing temperatures during the day. This is allowing the snow to melt off at a slow rate. A slow rate is the rate we want. I have been out in the machine shed counting bales of hay to see if we are going to make it. We are going to make it for the cows just barely! We have been feeding the cows twice a day with all this snow on the ground. This morning when I went out and fed there was still hay from last night on the ground. The cows had not cleaned it up. We will go back to feeding the cows in the late evening. This forces them to forage during the day and ensures they have full bellies during the night when it gets cold. It is still freezing every night and dipping down into the low 20’s. I had to go over to Feedeville and buy another ton of pellets for the sheep. This time I picked up alfalfa pellets and more Kountry Buffet, an all purpose general feed. I would have gotten more Kountry Buffet but they ran out. There has been quite the rush on feed with this sudden extended snow storm deposits. It is incredibly expensive to feed this way but we are now getting enough calories into the mothers that they are starting to put weight back on. They don’t usually do that until the grass comes up and they get an all you can eat buffet.

I was sick all day yesterday and slept most of it. I blame my fellow coworkers for spreading the plague. I did manage to move 2400 pounds of food bags from the back of the pickup into the barn and chicken coop. I picked up 300# of chicken food for $12.75/50# bag, this is a good price but unless I buy a ton at a time (40 bags) and save another $1/bag its not really worth the drive. I like having the ton on hand but I hate the mice problems and despite $30 worth of poison traps for the mice they go right for the chicken food and avoid the traps. If I could find flat sheets of sheet metal to mount to the inside walls and floors of the chicken supply room I would feel better but that won’t be an easy task.

I will keep my open when I go to the scrap metal yard next time. I am due to go back and pick up some metal soon. If this 45-50 degree weather keeps up it will be time to start fixing fence soon. One of the barn cats has figured out she stays warm if she sleeps under the round feeders. After the sheep feed they settle down around the feeder and give off heat. The hay is dry and comfortable under the feeder and no one can step on her. It is a recent development and one that she keeps repeating. Our large orange barn cat is starting to mellow out. He stayed in the barn, sitting on a ledge, today the entire time I was working. He used to run immediately to the hole under the barn as soon as he saw us. I guess he likes being fed, I have not seen a single mouse in the barn this winter. Having the cats has made a huge difference. We found another dead cat on the place and have been seeing a raccoon again. I had a single chicken die this week but we think it was due to old age. Very soon we will be getting baby pullets. I just need to place the order.

We are currently trying to fill out paperwork to get a loan for the haying equipment. This is proving to take several hours of our time. Will see how it goes.

We need to start tracking our tractor usage by run hours. At start of March we had 730 hours.

Elk damage

Well the elk did make it down to our orchard, luckily not very many of them came down onto the bottoms. This was a boon to us as they did dig in the snow and try to find the grass. We had one cow elk that stayed low and even spent the night in the machine shed with the alpaca one night. The weather has finally warmed up and the snow is slowly melting off. One of our greatest worries was that the elk would get down into our newly planted grass hay pastures and tear them up. I have been driving up to the upper end of the farm three times a week to look at the pastures and check for elk damage. I can go all winter without ever normally seeing the other end of the farm. I am unclear how me watching for damage will change anything but it did not stop me from looking. People ask why the elk are different than deer. The picture below is a great example. You can see above where the elk dug down and ate the grass. When you look at the picture below you can see the yellow spots on the ground. Those yellow spots are where the elk dug down and ate the grass. They will tear up the grass and eat the roots. In a couple of weeks we will know how much damage was done to the pasture but since it needed replanted we are not going to worry about it. The elk started moving up the hillsides as the snow started to melt off. They did not want to stay low and only came down because the weather forced them out of the mountains.

Our back creek is running a little muddy but it is doing great. We have a rock on the creek bank we use to measure the depth of the water. This rock has been buried but the creek has gone down again and it is visible. The water is starting to run clear also. All in all if this will continue for the next 6-8 weeks it is going to be a glorious Spring!

Water in the raw

Well the weather finally let me get into the upper fields. I drove the mistress up the road, stopped and talked to one of our neighbors on the way then made my way up to the far end of the property. I was able to get into the upper wheat field and drive along the bottom pasture. We do own a four wheel drive pickup but the problem with it is its heavy and it sinks down into the mud. The mistress has four wheel drive and is very light, she also has a bucket that can be used to drag or push you out of any place you get stuck. I have learned how to use the bucket to rescue myself. This does not work if you actually get stuck in a deep hole. You need a second vehicle at that point. I have only needed a second vehicle four times to extricate the mistress out of tight jams. The ground is truly soaked at this point. It is starting to give up water and is now running down the center of the field. I was hoping to get a single large pond that held the water but it does not look like that is going to happen. I also did not dig a channel down the middle of the field like I did in the lower field. It looks like the water is working on creating its own channel. When it dries out this summer I am going to have to deepen the channel that is made by the runoff. This will allow me to install a culvert so I can cross the ditch with the tractor and implements. I don’t want to bother with installing any buried tile network to drain off the moisture. My goal is to get the grass established and get a nice double cutting from the subterranean water soaked ground. If I have to give up some land due to too much moisture then so be it. Unfortunately, the ground is so sloped that there is no pond or reservoir like effect occurring. I am not so sure the ducks will like a mud pit. This is the bottom half of the upper pasture. I still need names for the two fields in the middle. Currently I have the Upper Prime Pasture which is the 4 acres just past the barn lot, two unnamed grass hay fields and the upper field which will forever be called the “7 acres”. I will have to consult the wife as to what the names should be. You can see that the lower channel has a tendency to widen and splits near the fence. The best part of this is that the elk have not gotten into the field and rooted up the grass seedlings!

Here is the lower of the two fields. This field has a channel dug into the center of it from five years ago. The water seems to be going directly to that channel. I would really like it to go to the already dug old original channel at the middle left of the screen. That is the original ditch from the 30s. I think I could easily direct it that way as you can see a low spot is already there. I would just need to encourage that water to make the jump to the front ditch instead of creating its own. This is the lower pasture. Last year I created a series of small connecting channels and they are working. This entire area in the picture used to be a mud fest area. I don’t dare go out in either field for at least two more months. The deer are living in the bottoms with the elk living on the hillside and up on top in the CRP. This is a good thing and I have high hopes for our grass hay crop this year.

We are going to work on our taxes this weekend. I need to do the farm categories and the chicken spreadsheets. Once that is done we are going to work on our loan application for the hay equipment.

More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.

Tractor is alive!

Being the “gentleman farmer” with 120 animals has taught me a lot over the years since we have moved back to the farm, but I realize just when I think I have it figured out something new pops up. I managed to get ahold of RDO, the tractor dealer yesterday to ask them to come pull the tractor out and take it in and fix the bucket. The helpful gentleman, Mr Shirt Tail Cousin, said the guys were out our way and he could send them my way. He called back to say they were already back at the shop but they wanted to know if I had triggered the lock out. What lock out? I asked Mr Shirt Tail Cousin if he knew where the lock out was, was it that tiny lever between my legs? He said it might be on the actual valve or at the base of the bucket control stick. I then mentioned that the stick felt stuck. He was convinced it was now a lock out issue and I said I would try the unlabeled tiny lever and call him back tomorrow for pickup if that was not it. Now I almost tried this lever a couple of days ago. I did mess with the knob right next to it that I don’t know what it does and that did nothing so I left the tiny lever alone. It was the tiny lever!

I was able to push myself out of the snow pile and get out of the path to the cows. I promptly went and put on the box blade. I had to drive around a bit as finding it in 16 inches of snow was not easy. The box blade weighs almost 500$ and hangs off the back of the tractor. It made all the difference in the back tires not sitting on top of the snow and spinning. I then proceeded to start clearing the driveway instead of feeding the cows. Annmarie caught me “playing in the snow” when she came home from work.

I should figure out what that knob does…

I need the tractor to go to the shop. It needs an oil change, it needs the hood beat out and repositioned, both lights are broken on the rollover bar, the safety switch under the seat keeps sticking and needs replaced, I need to install another waterproof canister on the roll bar that I can keep a few tools in, may install lights also that point forward and backwards so we can pickup hay in the dark or hay in the dark.

I got another coat of varethane on the spare bedroom floor and the stairs. There is gonna be some dog hair in the steps. I tried to keep them clean but its in the air! The room looks good. I want to recoat the steps one more time Thursday.

When I went down to eat dinner at mother-in-law’s I spotted a barn owl flying out of her big blue spruce tree. At dinner the night before she said she thought the raccoons had stolen her small bag of cat food. She stated that the bag fell out of the tree the next day, it could have been the owl! I have not seen the Great Horned Owl in a few months. Just when I think it has finally died I spot it. They were here when I dated Annmarie in high school.

Now that the tractor works I no longer worry how much snow gets dumped on us. I can clean up any amount! The tractor is lighter than the pickup also so it doesn’t sink as much.

After dinner I got a call stating that the elk have moved down out of the mountains and are in our upper bottom pasture. I just planted 14 acres of grass up there this fall. I am hoping the snow is deep enough that they will go up on top of the hill and eat the CRP. The CRP is 1-2 feet tall so the elk should have an easier go at eating it. The real question is how much fence have they torn up? They are rough on fence.

I found out we got the grant to build fence along the waterway. It should take about another month to get the final go ahead then I can start building it.