Yesterday is proving that I may need a slight break from hard manual labor. I managed to get one rock crib filled and the other about 1/3 of the way done before I gave up on the rock cribs. My back is screaming at me after I move about two ton of rock now. I only have 2/3 of a rock crib left to fill and one rock jack to construct. The nice thing about the rock crib is there is a pile of rocks right next to where I am making it so I can just reach over and fill it without having to move every rock twice. The completed rock rib is on the right side of the picture and the partially full one is on the left side of the picture. I also turned on the sprinkler at dark plus it rained 3/100” last night!
I picked out the largest rocks from my current pile and brought about five loads up onto the back hillside behind the barn. The sheep are constantly knocking the dirt down the hillside and I wanted to be able to create a level spot so I can see if I can get some grass to grow up here in the spring. I arranged the rocks so they were stable and then dumped gravel over the top and scooped and spread gravel until it filled all the cracks and crevices. Once this gets some rain I will work on removing the gravel from the rocks so I get a better rock outline. I won’t do that until late spring of next year. I want everything to settle into place.
Since I was not going to move more rocks, I worked on leveling the strip of dirt behind the machine shed with the box blade then switched to the arena groomer to tear up the surface dirt of the field around the grain bins. I want to be able to plant grass again in this area and see if it will take hold better this year. The weeds are virtually nonexistent this year compared to last year. Once I get the fencing done I will be moving onto grass seed planting. I am going to do tractor work tomorrow.
Only 9 days left as I did all of this work yesterday! We are actually going to go to the coast for some actual rest and relaxation so I have fewer days than that to work on the farm. I need to be ready for Winter and its getting close to being finished and close to being winter!
I keep trying to get more organized. This is probably my single biggest hurdle. I will be making labels for my tool drawers next so I can finish organizing the new tool box and storage area in the machine shop. I am going to have Annmarie engrave labels on metal and get magnets for them so I can move them around if needed because I will not be happy with the first version. I also spent an hour and cleaned up all of the fencing buckets, tossed out the trash and got everything organized into grouped bins. I think I need to make a couple of shelves above this area to put tools onto, that project can happen later after everything else is done. I did take the drain hose and elevate it. It doesn’t weigh very much but it takes up a lot of space. I have this for around the barn but did not have time to get it into the ground. I used the old rope and pulley that used to hold up the fuel nozzle from outside the machine shed.
I had the pickup and trailer in the ram pasture but it was hard to drive in through the new gate as I am not going to get the flooded out culvert cleaned up and replaced. The angle of approach needed to be adjusted to make coming around the old chicken coop easier. This option had been discussed and since it rained 12/100” last night I thought moving some dirt was perfect. The moisture did not go down far but it did help some. I have a pile of dirt that I have been slowly lowering and I just lowered it enough to create a drivable dirt path. My little tractor can do this but it takes a lot of time with a 1/3 cubic yard bucket and a four foot wide box blade.
I got two more rock cribs finished and full of rocks. I am so ready for work where I do not have to move a few thousand pounds of rock a day. My limit alone is about 10,000 lbs of rock a day, which is only two cribs as I have to move the rock twice. After that I am ready to move onto a different job. So I ended up grading the animal access to the spring. It had three old post holes that needed cleaned up as we widened the water access and made it more into a funnel shape. I also dug out the water area to widen it and harden the far bank. My waterproof muck boots have gotten a serious workout this year.
I ended up watering the new plants with a bucket and collected eggs. For some reasons the chickens are slacking off as I only got seven eggs yesterday. I am unsure why, I am thinking it is time to cull all three roosters and the ancient hen who can only crab walk. The chickens don’t lay well when I disturb the normal patterns but since they are not laying anyway I might as well do it now.
Saturday was a good day for multiple reasons. I had a new helper out to work on fence with me. He kept with it and never complained. It took me longer than usual to come up with a name and I had 2-3 to choose from but I finally settled on Mr DirtClean. I watched him wash his hands with dirt on three separate occasions. I was not going to use this name as it does actually help get stickers out of your hands and we were working in the weeds, but when he spilled some fermented rice must on himself moving the large plastic container he rubbed dirt into it in an attempt to get the smell out! That single act cemented the name, and the smell did not go away with the dirt, it just made mud!
We hauled another three trailer loads of rock down to the barn lot on top of using the two and half loads we already had piled up. It took about four loads of rock to fill the three rock cribs on the far end of the ram pasture. We still have four more rock cribs to fill but they are all smaller than the main two we filled Saturday. There is probably only about another 1-2 loads of rock up on the hillside left in the area we are picking. I would have to drive farther down the fence line and find another pile of rocks. Mr DirtClean does not like snakes either, I spotted a three foot bull snake slithering away and pointed it out, he was not impressed. The momma/baby area fence is upright hanging up by two fence tighteners. I am unsure if I can even drive in the needed three T-posts so I may end up building a small triangle rock crib out of the old cedar posts laying around. It just needs to stop all the animals inside the fence from pushing the fence out. I will know on Sunday when I go out and finish it up. I am working solo on Sunday.
We got 0.01 inches of rain Friday night and Saturday morning we saw clear skies for the first time in almost two weeks. The rain cleared out all the smoke from the forest fires. It was just enough rain to clear up the sky and it was amazing!
We had some friends come out and we had pizza for dinner out on the front lawn. I need to mow the front lawn, a long discussion of pros and cons about using the sheep to mow the lawn was had. We need an outside dining area setup. I want to do it on the backside of the house, it just requires more fencing! They stayed until dusk and spotted an owl that came to visit and while we were out showing them the lavender garden a bat was spotted flying around behind the house. The bats live in the trees. The alpaca were even gracious enough to get into a screaming fight to add to the atmosphere of our farm life.
Annmarie was not impressed with the three different types of chairs and old warped table I found to put the pizza on. We definitely need to up our entertainment cred some more.
So strange to think that I will have to return to work. I have really enjoyed by time away and am getting lots done around the farm. I have spent the last three days concentrating on the barn lot fence. We need that fence to be completed so we can maneuver animals around this winter and allow them to go where needed but to to stay out of other areas. I had some help this week and it made all the difference in the world.
I am going to dig some flood irrigation ditches to come out of our back irrigation ditch so we can get more water out onto the fields. This should help us with the feed.
On Wednesday we started in on getting the area for animals stuck in the ram pasture water access. The chickens are not super happy with all the changes as they are now beholden to following the same path as the large animals. They really are not as they could squeeze between the cow panel squares. It will just take them some time to learn this trick.
I think I have designed the fence this time so that the panels will break away under water pressure and allow the flood waters to pass. I have anchored the posts with large rock cribs and even went so far as to alter the way I am making H-braces. I used to use smooth wire and then use a post to twist the wire to make it tight. The problem is in a couple of years the wire gets slightly loose and I want to retighten it but cannot as there is now woven and smooth wire going over the H-brace. I am now using high tension wire and tightener spools with small crimp on tighteners. I can ratchet the wire super tight and in the future I can retighten easily. I even went so far as to cut small notches at the sides of the railroad tie to let the wire lay in so there was not any pressure on a staple. It took me about halfway through the fence construction before I realized I should have been doing that all along. All the other posts have three two inch staples holding them in place. Fencing is definitely an art and over the years I learn something new every time I do a major rebuild. I look at why the fence broke and or how the animals got out and then try to rebuild to prevent that in the future. I also look at how other people have overcome some of these obstacles.
By Thursday we were down to just the fence in the momma/baby area left to be completed. The real crime here is that none of the rock cribs have rocks in them! We will have to go back and fill them all with rocks. I think I have a plan for that this year. I am going to take the 16 foot trailer up on the upper CRP and next to the fence line there are huge piles of rocks that have been removed from the field piled up next to the fence. I can pick up those rocks with the tractor, place them into the flat bed attached to the pickup and then when its full pull it down into the barn lot. Picking rocks up on the hillside one bucket at a time and driving them to the barn lot takes a lot of time. The trailer will hold 7500# of rock at one time.
Today we had to build two more rock cribs for the Momma/baby area. I wanted to get them almost 16 feet apart so we can have one cattle panel hanging between them and allow the water to push it away. The only real problem is I could not get them far enough up the hill to make a really good valley for the water between them. This means they are likely to be surrounded by water if the water level gets too high. We made the cribs 4×5 feet and will fill them to the top with rocks. I need them to be massive enough that the water will not mess with them. I do realize that constant water would eat at them but I only need them to withstand flood stage for 1-2 days a year.
I am getting pretty good at using the tractor and guessing how much weight you can manipulate in the bucket and not tip the tractor over! The tamarack 2x8x16 foot boards I got last year are amazing! They look great and are in great shape. I expect them to last an easy 20 years. Mr Professional and I went up to the upper fence line and using the tractor, pickup and trailer ended up getting 2.5 loads of rocks! We used the tractor to load them and then I just backed the trailer up until it was on a downhill slope in the barn lot and we rolled the rocks out the back end of the trailer. The incredibly large rocks will go behind the barn where I am building a retaining wall so we don’t keep losing soil down into the spring. I don’t want any rocks under 100# for the retaining wall base.
After taking yesterday off to drive around doing errands I was ready to get back at it today. I went into town at the early time of 0900 after two cups of coffee, some breakfast and I did all the dishes and started the dishwasher. Not in a big rush during this time off, everyone tells me I am supposed to be relaxing, this is me relaxing, not starting until 0900. I went into town with the trailer to pick up a bunch of fencing supplies and a couple of new gates. My plan is to widen the access to the back barn lot and to create a funnel shape so the animals can be pushed toward the gate and go through easier than the flat open eight foot gate that was there before. This afternoon, Mr Professional and his progeny came out to help me. In five hours we got done what would have probably taken me two solid days to finish alone, maybe more. We got half of the fencing completed. Completed is a strong term since there are now three rock cribs built that need to be filled with rocks. But the fence is up and those rock cribs are made out of railroad ties that are buried 2.5 feet into the ground and set with gravel then screwed together with 2×8 boards to make the crib. They are pretty secure now they just need the extra weight to make them storm proof.
The opening to the back barn lot is now sixteen feet not eight and there is a definite V shaped funnel going on. I was even able to make a protected spot for a tree. I just need to put another board up to limit the horses ability to reach over and munch on the top of the tree. I will be making another two tree spots tomorrow. The trees will help create anchor spots along the creek bed and we like them. We are going to plant black walnut trees.
As the day progressed the smoke was getting thicker, you could see it rolling down the hills. There is a 50 acre fire up in the mountains near us and it is only a day old now. It looks like we may be wearing our N95 masks tomorrow as we work outside. This is fine with me as long as we get to keep working.
I picked up some bird food today and we are going to start trying to feed the quail in our front yard. I will start in the morning. We love the quail! There were also raccoon tracks in the dust in the barn lot. This is not surprising but not good news. I will be responding appropriately to all raccoon sounds in the middle of the night! Save the chickens!!!!