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.

Uh oh Elk

Mother Nature finally drove the elk out of the mountains last week. There is so much snow up there that the elk cannot dig their way down to fodder. When this happens they move to lower elevations which means wheat fields, hay patches and CRP. The real problem with this is the elk are very destructive. Not only do they just tear down fences by going through them but they dig up the ground looking for food. We have about 80-100 animals on our property. My real worry is that they will find the 14 acres of planted grass I put in this fall! I don’t mind the deer nibbling the green tops of the grass but I certainly cannot afford for the elk to go down there and dig it up by the roots. It would cost me about 2 weeks of time and another $1000 to replant but the hard part is we would lose the growing time. Which would mean we would lose an entire first cutting on the grass fields, maybe even both of them which could cost us 30-60 ton of grass at a minimum loss of $4500-9000. This would hurt us on top of the extra feed costs we are incurring now due to the late and deep snow. So far we have put out for 2 ton of bagged feed for the sheep and may need to buy another ton still so we are out about $850 so far. We have just enough alfalfa to keep the cows going for another three weeks, longer if the snow will go away.

Several of my coworkers have offered to come kill elk if if I had land owner depredation tags. The problem with that is there are thousands of elk in the area. Me killing a handful is not going to make them go away from our property. So we just suck it up and hope they don’t tear up our fields.

The problem with the snow going away is there is a lot of snow! At this point we want a nice gradual warming up or our back creek will flood and try and rip out fence. I know it seems like a farmer is always bitching about the weather but in all reality they live or die or succeed by the whim of Mother Nature therefore giving them more right to complain. That is my take and I am sticking to it. The damage to the fence is gonna cause me problems. I had the upper fence all repaired and tight. So far I have not noticed any damage to the lower sections but I cannot get to the upper fence without just hoofing it up there and there is currently nothing I can do about it so I am leaving it for a surprise later this spring when I can inspect it on the tractor.

Annmarie tells me that last night the elk came down into the orchard to eat grass. We have been seeing a couple of them here or there but she said they came down en masse. I didn’t see any this morning when I went out to feed except for a lone cow elk down by my Mother-in-law’s house. She ran off when I came with the tractor to feed our cows.

The sun was shining today and melting snow despite the temperature only being 30 F. The elk are still on the back hillside. We have mostly cow elk with the occasional bull, there are larger bull elk in other fields, just not ours. We are getting so much moisture that the bottoms are starting to create wet spots, this one below is in the 7 acre barley patch that we are going to turn into alfalfa this spring. This wet spot is going to delay planting. The deer are hanging out in the bottoms away from the elk.

No horrible raging runoff creek yet. It is very sedate and clear at the moment and we hope it stays that way for the next six months.

My wife loves fence

I was off work yesterday and thought about getting some work done. I even made a list during breakfast on a scrap piece of paper. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so I only had four items on the list. Instead a Netflix binge of the second season of one of my shows occurred. I managed to hang Annmarie’s stained glass window in our downstairs window after Netflix went down! So Annmarie can think some glitch in the netflix server for her window. I found some hand made hooks and some painted chain to hang it with on Etsy. We have had this stained glass window at least 15 years. I had it custom made for her from a wonderful lady.

Annmarie has been wanting me to go outside and put up the temporary woven electric fence in the ram pasture so the sheep can get out onto some grass. I really don’t want to do this. We had talked about running a fence from the corner of the chicken coop to the far fence so we could keep the sheep away from the back creek. We don’t want the lambs to be able to get to the running water in case it comes up. Now this was fenced off when we moved here. The fence ran from the corner of the old house to near our end fence. They had no water for the rams as no section of fence touched water when we moved here.

So since it was 50 F today I opted to go outside and create said fence. I did clean out the last of the junk from the craft room so Annmarie can now finish organizing it and start sewing. I have a request in for repair of two of my favorite pants and two new vests with more room in the chest and shoulders.

I have learned over the years how to build fence. I actually drug it fairly smooth with the box blade on the tractor as I had several high spots. I then string up a marker and using ground paint and a tape measure I mark out the fence. This makes construction much easier. I make the H braces 8 feet apart and I makes paint strip (long sided T) for T-posts and then I paint a dot for the wooden stays. I put the T-posts every eight feet and the wooden stays at four feet between them. This makes for a very tight fence and not one that any creature can squeeze through.

I had some trouble using the tractor auger as I hit clay and it would not go through. There was so much heat down in the hole that the dirt was smoking! I ended up having to use the manual post hole diggers and dig out a central hole that allowed the center part of the tractor auger to drop farther. The chisel tip of the tractor auger was riding on top of the clay. Odd part was it was not hard to dig manually but the tractor could not get through.

I managed to get all seven posts sitting in their respective holes. I pounded in 15 T-posts and laid out all 17 wooden stays. I will need to set the wooden posts in gravel tomorrow then cut and form the three H braces. I have two four foot gates to be installed in one location so we can get through the fence later. I am unsure where the woven wire is going to come from on the farm. I don’t think I have any left on my fence pile. I will have to look. I may have a roll up on the back hillside down by the school house. I am hopeful that I have two small rolls still on my fence pile. I have several hundred T-posts in the pile as I keep buying them from the scrap yard for $2/each.

When feeding tonight I lectured the “long as wide” ewe about the need for her to have her babies soon. She is a little more happy now that she has a gate and can see the other sheep. We are afraid to let her into “general population” as she may end up stuck on her back if jostled. The cat has managed to make her way back into the enclosure. We are definitely going to use up all our hay this year. I will be pulling over alfalfa from the machine shed by the end of February.

Omelet anyone?

I have been craving a ham and cheese omelette for days. One would think that this would be an easy fix, but one would be wrong. The light went out in our chicken coop and I replaced it early in the week but this sudden change screws with the chickens ability to lay eggs in the winter. Now they have to get used to the light again and this has caused the egg production to halt. We also have a bunch of free loader house finches sneaking into the coop whenever the automatic chicken door opens. They are going for the easy meal plan.

Now we had an extra dozen eggs on top of the fridge on Monday but Annmarie took them to town and sold them to one of our customers. Annmarie consumes one raw egg a day with her morning smoothie, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, raw egg and a splash of milk. I need three eggs to make a decent omelette. I am only getting 1, 2 or 0 eggs per day this week. I cannot seem to gain eggs in the fridge. Tonight when I went out I got 2 more eggs total. I now have a total of four eggs in the fridge and will be having an omelette in the morning tomorrow! Luckily, I held off on using the two eggs in the fridge for French toast this morning. I never would have gotten my delicious ham, cheese, onion, garlic, jalapeño sharp cheddar cheese omelette. I can already taste the deliciousness. I went out and worked on the shelves some more. I faced the sanded down oak plywood sheets with an oak 1/4″ edging. I smeared glue on the whole thing, pin nailed it then put clamps and wood shims to hold it all together. I will take the clamps off tomorrow and work on getting the pieces stained and clear coated after that. It is going to make the house stink but it needs to be done. It will take me a few more days to get the stain on and both sides of the shelves sealed up. I want to be able to just wash them down if needed. Pretty much anything is going to be more organized than it was before. I took out all the gun barrel clamps they had on the left side of the upper cabinet. I found several hats I thought I had lost when I cleaned out the cupboard.

Annmarie has been working on getting our laser cutter up and going. She is trying to get it perfected so we can burn in the old pictures from the farm and put them up in our kitchen. To do that she needs to practice and practice. I am having trouble keeping my phone propped up in the kitchen while typing the blog so she took a piece of scrap she had printed a picture on and make a ipad/iPhone holder out of it. I love it and think it is even neater with the picture on it. I can now do the blog without using the napkin holder and pushing the bottom up with my keyboard.

Annmarie imported all of my blogspot posts into WordPress so I now have all the blogs since 2010 in one place! She also managed to create a new look, a quick subscribe button, search function, categorize by month and year and a list of top 50 tags I have used that you can click on. It is super cool! This is where the magic happens at our kitchen table. I type most of the blogs up right here, it is more convenient than going up to the computer. Once I finish the welding class a new kitchen table is on my agenda. I am going to weld it into two pieces that stack and the bottom piece will be on casters. I will then glue on a solid piece of granite to the top of that. I would like to have some wooden dividers built in also. I am still trying to decide how those are going to fit. I have to build and tear it apart in my mind at least a 100 times before I start a project. It cuts way down on the redos.

I did snag a picture of the new diamond bungee cord arrangement in the barn. I had a partial box made out of 3×3 wire mesh so I finishing wrapping it with wire and will use it in the barn lot. It is all ready for rocks, although I should put a wooden post in it before I start tossing rocks into it.

The new barn kitty is a pest, she comes running the minute you open a door and wants to be greeted. If you don’t stop and pet her she will follow you around the entire barn getting underfoot. I was trying to do the horse’s feet today and had one of their front feet in the air and the the cat kept rubbing on the other down front leg. The horse kept trying to hop to the side with only one foot on the ground. I finally had to shoo the cat away so I could finish cleaning out horse feet.

I am wanting to build another fence! I make Annmarie crazy with all the fences but honestly, they all do something. I want to plant flowers on this rocky hillside to cut down the erosion. We want to do bee hives sooner than later and they will need flowers. I like the disorganized chaos of wildflowers. Annmarie likes orderly flowers better. The horses and sheep keep eroding this hillside so I am going to fence it off and then plant the whole thing in wildflowers. The fence will keep the horses and sheep out of the flowers and hopefully the bees will like it. We will mount a sprinkler on top of one of the posts so we can water it in the summer.

I have decided to add an occasional piece of Bad Dad Poetry, they are all inspired by my daughter and I write them for her with a theme.

My wallet is thin

My pocket yearns for the days of prosperity

It used to struggle to hold in the bounty

This month times are lean

If only someone could help?

Final fall Mowing

I am still trying to get ready for winter. I should be ready, I guess I am ready if you count having enough food for all the animals. The nice thing about Winter is it waits for no man! Once it is here I will be done prepping regardless of how many things are left on the list. This morning after I went out to let the sheep out of the barn I unhooked the hoses and shut off the outside fire hydrant spigots. I had two of them still open with Y splitters and hoses still attached. Annmarie caught me unhooking these hoses. She said I got lucky as we have had three freezing nights this last week. I like to think of it as good timing, no break, no foul.

I decided to rake the leaves in the yard and do the final mowing. My heart is really not in the task and I have lots of other things to do so I cheated. I closed off gates so that the only place the sheep could go to get real food was our front yard. I am hoping the sheep will eat the leaves along with the grass. I had to keep the dogs inside all day which they did not appreciate but hopefully with a couple of days of no dog time the sheep can make a dent in the yard.

Annmarie wants us to create a chute that goes from the barn to the bull/ram corral. She doesn’t want us to create a mean ram by pinning him up against a wall, tying on a halter and dragging him across the barn lot. We were suppose to go out and calmly talk about needed changes to the fence and I was supposed to listen not throw up road blocks to change. She doesn’t want any more of my mammoth rock cribs. We need a rock crib to keep the fence from leaning over courtesy of the horses. She wanted a gate in the side of the fence. I managed to pull the fence out of alignment and add in a four foot gate bolted to the large corner rock crib. The fence is still leaning and I will need some type of rock crib I am just unsure what kind I will construct.

I managed to get the rest of the cow panels up inside the fence to stop the sheep from jumping through the feeder panels. I also found all the tools and picked them up. I found an impact driver and two 3.0 amp batteries and about 12 fastenal anchor bolts in the lamb shed hidden! This is a major score as I needed those 12 fasteners to finish the last of the wooden rails over behind the lean to. Once those four boards are in the corral will be officially completed. I still have to fix the low side of the lamb shed as the sheep have punched out about 4 boards and can now get out of the barn. Tomorrow the plan is those four boards and hopefully get the lamb barn completed. I put both batteries on the charger and should be good to go in the morning.

We had ordered a white mail box for our repainted stand but the new box was smaller than the one my Mother-in-law purchased. So then we had to buy another mailbox that was the same size. I put the numbers on today and cut wooden platforms that I screwed onto the stands. The platforms allowed us to then screw the boxes to the entire stand creating a completed official mailbox. I had already brought gravel down to the road and created a flat spot for the mailboxes a few weeks ago. I love our new red and white mailbox. Since the gates are open for the sheep the dogs cannot hang outside. At night they want to terrorize the entire front yard so I put a stop to that. I placed a flashing light on everyone’s collar and was able to stand on the front porch and holler at everyone in the dark. It is even better than trying to keep track of them during the day!