I had plans to finish the bathroom over the weekend, that did not happen. I was reminded that we needed to sort the cows and sheep so we could get the ram in with the ewes and the small bull away from his mother as he is now 7 months old. To do this effectively we had talked about installing a gate in the yard fence so we could push the cows from the orchard pasture into the corral across the front yard hillside. So Mr Professional and I spent about 5 hours and got the side gate installed, we had to level the area, dig down and then clean up around the garbage shack. We leveled the whole area with gravel. My hope is the dogs won’t try and dig down. If they do then we will bury concrete blocks to prevent it but we are not going to go to the effort unless the dogs dig.
Once that was done we sorted the sheep. We peeled off 13 lambs that were older than 3 months and our oldest ewe “old brown” to move over into the orchard pasture. This way the ram won’t impregnate any of the young ewes and the ewes will put on weight faster as they are not nursing big lambs. The fat ram followed a bucket of sweet feed from the bull enclosure into the barn. He is such a push over for food. He has been in with the sheep for four days and we have yet to see him mount any thing. He better get to work soon, we will give him another three weeks. Luckily, we already had plans to go down and get another ram for competition. It may be that we are getting his replacement, time will tell.
I had to work that night so Mr Professional came out with a chainsaw and started to cut down all of the volunteer trees that were growing in the orchard pasture. We had talked about it and after he was done it sure made the area look a lot nicer. We are probably going to keep it this way for a while. He cleaned up the whole area also. When I got up we hung the new gate, he had just painted that day, down by the old apple tree. This is one of the heavy duty custom welded gates that the bull cannot tear apart. Once we had it up we did a little touch up painting and added a few boards to fill in the gap and drilled a locking receptacle hole. The gate fits like it was made for the opening. We took the bent one and drove over it with the tractor to straighten it out then installed it in the alleyway in the orchard pasture. We just need to pound In a T-post and add a panel onto the end. This will keep the animals from darting down this narrow pathway and getting stuck. Most of the time it will be open and doing nothing. The gate was not going to be used in a high traffic area due to being too lightweight to contain the bull.
We did not move the cows. I was beat, the covid is dragging me down again and starting to cause chest pain and shortness of breath. The cardiologist says I have pericarditis and need to take high dose NSAIDS for three months. I will see how I feel in four months.
Annmarie and I had been talking about my to do list for Saturday and I stated that the sheep really need to start going on the back hillside but with all the little lambs we thought there should be a bridge. I reminded her that the old bridge from the momma baby area had floated down into the orchard pasture and I could get it and drag it around with the tractor. We knew both the mommas and baby’s would use it as they did in the other enclosure. All I had to do was drive the tractor over, pick it up and drive it around and toss it over the water. I ended up digging out a place for our new gate in the front fence. I just need to bring in some gravel for it now and then dig one post. Once the post is in place I will support it back to the rock crib with 2×6 boards. We need a way to get the cows/sheep from the orchard into the corral easily and through the front yard hillside is a straight shot. We have fence and gates everywhere and I keep putting more in but it is finally to the point where we can start separating fields and animals pretty easily. Since the bull still managed to impregnate one of our cows through the bull enclosure fence the two fence rule is essential if we don’t want someone to get pregnant.
I did load the bridge onto the tractor and went around the barn lot. I made a stop to try and mess with a piece of culvert to use as a down spout so the water will quit digging a channel but the culvert was too heavy to hold up and then try and rearrange rocks under it. I tried a few times and then just gave up, I am going to have to have help to fix that problem. When I got to the old spring culvert crossing I dumped the bridge off of the tractor bucket and went down into the spring to move some rocks. I want the banks of the spring to dry out so I need to stop all backed up water. I removed about 12 rocks out of the stream flow to let it flow easier. Since I was there I started to dig out the footings for the Rastra with the tractor. I did that on both side of the 16’ gate. The culvert is 20’ long so I am going to set the Rastra 18’ apart and it is about 8” wide so the culvert will stick out a few inches on both ends. I used the extra dirt to build up the berm alongside the fence. I need to get that berm up about two feet so the back spring runoff cannot flood the barn lot again. Once that was done I did go put the bridge in place but it is only eight feet long and there was only a couple of places that it could bridge the gap. I placed it and hoped for the best.
Before I could let the sheep onto the back hillside I needed to make the rounds of the fence. I walked the entire length of the outer fence. I had to fix about six spots that were guaranteed to let the sheep out. Now just because I have fixed those spots it does not mean the sheep are contained. Honestly, they always seem to find a way out eventually. A couple of hours later I did spot the sheep on the back hillside.
The bridge location was less than ideal so I told Annmarie I should build another bridge. I have a lot of scrap lumber I purchased last year as a lot, it was made up of old discarded, broken or twisted lumber. I got a great price and they delivered it! I took a fairly twisted pressure treated 6×6 that was 20’ long and cut it in half and cut two foot sections of 2×6 lumber as decking, moved it all over to the creek with the tractor and found a crossing near where they normally cross. I could not install it on the angle they like because I would need about another 5’ to bridge the gap on a diagonal. I figured it was close enough. Annmarie fed me the pieces and since I am out of 3” screws I just did it the old fashioned way with long nails. I like to fence with a shingle axe. This tends to make people nervous when I am hammering in stuff with an axe and Annmarie was no exception when she had to stand on the boards. I did not hit her or me. It only took about an hour from start to finish and the bridge is absolutely solid!! I think if I lift it another ten inches on each end the spring runoff wont even touch it. I may have to make a little ramp for the lambs to get onto it. That can wait until later in the summer. Annmarie and I both appreciate it, much easier than climbing down into the stream bed and back out the other side. My twenty minutes outside project took me about four hours total!
Well it’s the downhill side of the project now! We managed to put up all but one piece of crown molding today. I had to cut all of the angles after paying for angle cutting, the cuts went the wrong direction. We have enough left over to put crown molding inside the closet also! Mr. Professional helped me get it installed. It just takes time, all of these finishing steps just take time, the last 15% of every project takes almost as much time as the first 85%.
The closet door is glued together and just needs to dry overnight. I will glue the shelves together every couple of nights this week so we can get those installed. I ordered metal shelf brackets today but I am not sure if they are going to be here on time to get the shelves in next weekend. Nope, I just looked the shelve brackets do not arrive until Tuesday, nine days from now. They are only one inch wide so we may just be able to leave room to install them when they arrive and still hang the shelves as long as we don’t put any weight on the shelves. The paint stripper is coming by Friday so we can get the grey paint off of the one side of the bathroom door. Annmarie tells me I am not allowed to use the bathroom until the door works! Currently that is not an issue as the plumber has not been here yet. I am hopeful the plumber will come in the next two weeks.
I am loving the new clean breeze porch. I was able to transplant 10 jade plant starts today from their watery containers into actual soil pots. I only started one more jade cutting today, I am trying to shape my big plant and it keeps wanting to send off random shoots. I keep cutting them back and it is finally starting to fill in.
Annmarie just informed me that I am not allowed to build any new fence this year! I had two new sections of fence planned for this summer. I have to complete the culvert in the barn lot that got torn out last year due to flooding and then I need to put a new front porch deck on. I know that the front decking job will be a nightmare because as soon as I tear off the decking I will see the support framework and it will probably need a lot of help. The front deck job has been on the calendar for the last three years. My new fencing project has been on the calendar for six months. I love new projects!!
I am also going to start looking into plans for a craft building. I have found a location am just trying to finalize the shape. I won’t start on that for a couple of years. I really like the idea and think if I do the floor in tongue and groove wood, and the outside in rough lumber I can do the inside in plywood. This would let us build custom shelves and long work benches that are counter height, maybe even an island in the middle of the room to just use as a flat space for assembly and whatever. New projects are the bomb! They let my brain spin, plan, assemble, tear apart and redo without ever lifting any tools.
I have one chicken that cannot figure out it needs to lay eggs in the chicken coop, not the barn! I found a green egg in the barn straw this morning when I went out and let the sheep outside. When Annmarie went out to feed the sheep this evening she found the culprit in the middle of a feeder hunkered down but she did not have any eggs. The chickens are not very smart but boy the home grown free range eggs are amazing and now we have one chicken that is laying double yolk eggs consistently.
A lot has been happening on the farm. Not a lot by me, but stuff is getting done. As always, Annmarie is keeping us afloat and continues to do 85% of the chores, maybe 90%! I do go out to the barn once a week to “do my part”. Getting to the barn is the hardest part, once I am there I can do the feeding but the return trip to the house I can feel the shortness of breath and chest pain kicking in, I need to get past the Covid leftovers so I can be ready for spring. The sheep are really not doing their part on having babies. They are doing some serious lollygagging, I suspect the chief culprit is the ram. So we are still lambing, one here, one there, we have only had two born since the last blog update.
30 lambs born
20 ewes delivered
15 pregnant ewes (I counted Jan 2, 2021)
10 single lambs
10 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
145% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (26/26)
On Friday, I needed to go to the scrap metal yard and pickup a culvert and check on my gates. We have opted to no longer go with commercial gates as the bull has decided he can just bend and twist them to his whims. I had asked for three 12’ gates a few weeks ago, I now need five 12’ gates. Luckily, I knew there was needed lag time so I don’t need them for about another two months. I am now on the list for five gates. I picked up two loads of old metal rims for a new section of fence down by the machine shop and a 20’ four foot diameter culvert for the barn lot drive over crossing. This crossing will be about 16 feet of drivable wide crossing with the other four feet taken up by concrete rastra and rebar. I am going to put rastra on both ends of the culvert and some cable between the two ends so if the water runs over the top it won’t be able to push out the downstream side. This and two fencing projects are the big ticket items for this next summer. I ordered an attachment for the tractor bucket that should allow me to push in a T post into the ground instead of pounding it in. This won’t help where its super rocky but the fence I want to install is just long, not horrible tough ground. So I now have some more metal rims, but not enough to do the section of fence I want yet. I will need more trips to the junkyard for that. This expended a lot of energy, even though I did a lot of sitting.
I am not known for my Uber iPhone skills so my phone will randomly take pictures when I am trying to use the camera. I decided to keep the sleeve picture as its my father’s old denim coat from the late 1960’s. We use it as a barn coat and it has just gained more character the longer it is in use.
Saturday morning was the planned day to work on the barn and I just did not want to get out of bed. I was reminded that the day before was really a play day and I now needed to get to the planned job. Again, very correct and I drug myself out of bed and went and picked up Mr Professional so we could work on the bathroom. We managed to get the window cut using a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner to try and keep the dust to a minimum. This is never possible when cutting sheet rock with a sawzall. So it took another hour to vacuum, wipe up the mess and clean up the stairwell. I spent most of the day cleaning up the breeze porch. The window caulk came and I want to get it up so we can keep some of the bugs off of the porch. We removed lots of trash and tools and even ordered some new dog kennels in an attempt to neaten up the porch.
On Thursday Annmarie called me at work to let me know that the cows and sheep had gotten out again. This is the third time the sheep had gotten out. They pushed over a gate in the barn lot I had not installed. I wired it shut that evening, eventually it needs to be installed correctly. Friday morning I was taking it easy and had just gotten up and was making coffee, the water had not boiled yet when Annmarie went out to feed the horses. She called me and told me I was needed out in the barn lot as the bull had gotten out of Alcatraz.
Alcatraz is impenetrable, he should not have been able to get out. So I put on my multiple layers of clothes and head out. Yep the bull, one nutter and the ram are not in Alcatraz. Not only are they not in Alcatraz but the horse pen door has been opened and the animals have had free access to the hay pile. Turns out the bull had unlatched the human gate and opened the horse pen gate. He is just too smart for his own good. I chained the gate shut and put screw together chain tighteners on it so he cannot work them loose. I shut the horse pen gate so we could run the bull back into Alcatraz. Annmarie ran them around and then between me on the tractor and her we got them into the barn lot. I had pushed a new bale of hay into Alcatraz and then Annmarie just waived her right hand slightly and tapped the bulls backside with her left and herded him right into Alcatraz, one nutter, the ram and an extra steer just followed them in. She shut the gate and now the cows are separated again.
The screwy part was we had a weanling to sell, Valentine, but had not moved him to his new home as we were going to have to run all the cows through the chute to sort him off. He was hiding on the backside of the hay pile in the horse pen so was stuck in the round pen! This meant I needed to hook up the horse trailer so I could just back up to the pen, load him in and drive the two miles to his new house. While driving to his new home about 1/2 mile from our house I spotted some deer up on the hillside and was wondering to myself if there were any bucks left in the area. All I keep seeing on our place are does. It appears that there are still some bucks, I spotted 3 in this group of 8 deer.
I pulled into the field and let the little steer out. He cam zipping out of the trailer as fast as he could and never slowed down. I watched for him over the hill and then one of the purchaser’s cows jumped the lower fence! I called him and left a message then headed home with the trailer. One cow will come back to the fence and not stray far. I was almost home when the purchaser’s spouse called to say he was at a doctor’s appt. which meant I needed to go back and get cows, she said they were all out now which is a totally different problem. I dropped the trailer off, found all of my fencing tools, spare wire and a fence stretcher. I grabbed both Border Collies and the lead rope for Mouse as he is still in remedial education. We headed for the purchaser’s neighbors house as that is where the cows were headed. I found them all together in a field eating off a large hay bale. Another neighbor came over to check on me and asked if I needed any help moving cows. Being fairly positive despite my lack of coffee I stated that I thought the dogs and I could do it. He headed out then stopped to watch us, I told Zeke to circle around to the left and push the cows away toward the creek. The large older angus cow turned, lowered her head and refused to move. Zeke jumped at her and then started dancing and barking and she would not move. I called him off then sent Mouse in, he made her circle but she still would not budge. I then loosed both dogs on her, Mouse likes the heels and Zeke likes the head, after about 30 seconds she decided that going back to the other cows and towards the creek was a good idea. They made it all the way over to the Purchaser’s fence and then walked away from the open gate they had broken. We pushed them back through the gate and then the Purchaser showed up! Great timing on his part. He brought some tools and wire and then I went and got the pickup with the rest of the fencing tools. We got the gate tight and I told him the fence needs to be taller. The cows did not even take a running jump at the fence, they just hopped over.
I finally got my first cup of coffee and breakfast at 1130. I stayed at the dining room table until I had inhaled two cups of coffee.