Well it was time to get back at some outside work, the real problem is my timing is totally dependent on when I have time away from my paying job. So when the weather person predicts that it will be 107 F during the day I still plan on working as I have time. This is more of a needs based time decision and not a will it be convenient type of decision. Mr Professional and I were at it by 0630 and spent some time cleaning off vehicles, gathering all the needed tools and filling the tractor up with hydraulic fluid. Now that we use the hydraulic takeoffs there is some inherent amount of leaking with making the connections. The tractor moved and the bucket was amazing after we got the hydraulic levels corrected. We are still trying to organize things in the machine shed. It will take another month of moving things out from the old house to get everything settled into its new home in the machine shed.
Mr Professional and I went down to the feed field and tore out the spring fence crossing. The old cross fencing up by the apple tree had already been removed earlier in the week. That new section of fence parallels the ditch instead of crossing it twice. We hand dug three holes for reused railroad ties. I also want to add in a rock crib on the East side of the water. We made a triangle out of 2×8 and tossed all our loose metal pieces, wires and fencing wire into the center and will fill it all with rocks. We did not have time to get rocks today. We added an H brace and then used an upper and lower cable strung between the posts to create a breakaway crossing. When the water and garbage pile up on the up water side it will cause a dam. This creates pressure on the fence and the lower clips are breakaway clips and they will spread and break allowing the panel to be lifted off of the ground. The upper part of the panel is attached permanently to another cable locking the two posts together. It took us about four hours to get it all apart and back together. I had to use a scoop of precious gravel. I have a small pile left and have had no luck from two different suppliers to get gravel delivered out to the house.
When we pulled up I set my coffee and speaker up on the H brace and spent about 10 minutes feeding apples to the cows. No one could get to the apples that are falling on our side of the fence. I was choosing our music selection and the bull really wanted me to give him more apples. The long sleeve shirts are what I normally wear during the summer but it is essential when it is super hot outside. Music selection is important as I don’t want to listen to country music, I prefer girl singers or Disco.
Since I could not cut more hay it was decided that I would spray weeds on Saturday. The plan was for me to get up early and do this. I did not get up early, I cooked and ate breakfast, learned from Annmarie that she heard the enemy, racoons, chittering through our bedroom window at 0400. I suspect they were eating cat food from our back porch. I have not seen them since our initial skirmish.
I had to call Mr Professional to get the side by side started. He had not plugged the trickle charger onto the battery so it was low. I used the external portable battery jumper and it fired right up. I managed to put about 50 gallons on the ground before the wind picked up and it was time to stop.
It was only about 1030 so I got back onto the tractor, dumped off the manure forks and went up to the pasture flooded out the worst this spring. I needed to finish the ditch I started last summer and since there is still running water and a mud pit in the middle I need to get the water diverted to my front ditch. So I spent a few hours creating a ditch and a berm. My hope is that if the back creek jumps the bank again it will hit the berm and get diverted toward the back ditch. I did this in both fields, even if they get flooded out it only floods 1/3 of each field instead of 1/2-2/3 of both fields. The water started to really flow once I dug down a foot. I will keep working on the berm for the next 2-3 years until I get it 3 feet high all the way across. I can then plant some grass on it to help hold it in place. My poor right wrist was getting tired from making the bucket dig, then shake the mud out then use the bucket to push me back out of the ditch. It was a very nice day. This field looks much better, last year at this time the entire field was covered in 7 foot tall thistles. I need to spray again.
On Sunday I did get up sorta early, I was out spraying weeds by 0600. I realize in farmer time this is late. I sprayed the barn lot, the ram pasture and all of the field I had just dug the ditch in yesterday. I really needed to get the hay put up so I can let the sheep and this years eating cows up into the green fields.
With that thought in mind I just decided to give making hay bales a try. I hooked up and started the baler up. It took me an hour to get the first three bales made. The first two bales I could not get packed tight enough and could not get the netting to wrap correctly. It kept going around a single roller. I forgot my pocket knife and luckily found one in the tool bag we made for the baler. It was so dull I am pretty sure it could almost pass as a safety knife. I also had to remove the packed hay from the pickup tines. After an hour I managed to get the netting to wrap the third bale. The key reason it was not working was I was going too slow. If I drove as fast as the tractor would go and got the hay feed jammed up the hay packed in well. We ended up with 50 bales of gorgeous grass hay. The best I have ever made, unfortunately it was only 50 bales. Annmarie, Mr Professional and I went out and picked up the 50 bales in 30 minutes then loaded them into the barn. We took the border collies with us and they killed four vole while we picked up hay. I would love to have them when I cut the hay but I am afraid they would get too close to the sickle bar. There are hundreds of voles running around when I cut.
Mr Professional has been working on getting our lavender garden planted. The ground cloth is in, grid laid out, drip line installed and then he takes out 5 gallons of soil and replaces it with premium soil and sets the plant. I managed to kill about half the plants from forgetting to water. So we have an order in for next year to replace them. The tire rubber bark is working out great! I am looking forward to seeing it all done and in about three years the lavender will be approaching full size.
I also cut out part of the flooded fence and then used the box blade to flatten the area and get it all prepped for new fencing. We will install another breakaway point in the field cross fence if the water should break through my new ditch and berm. I am hoping to get that fence done in the next two weeks. Their our two alpaca that need shearing this upcoming weekend.
It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task. Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired. Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house. They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around. Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn. This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up. This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen. He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle. Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me. He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me. It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral. The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate. We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy. The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed. Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out. I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure. We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows. The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant. We are going to eat him this winter. Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does. I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.
I am going to have to work on the corral next year. When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute. I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do. The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out. I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily. I will shrink the chute back up another three inches. I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation. The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field. They have lots of food and fresh water. This will get them two fences away from the bull. The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat. Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.
Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep. The sheep were a lot harder. First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112. Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting. On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until the numbers stabilized and matched. It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify. I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep. We thinned the herd again hard this year. It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years. The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48! Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram. This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows. We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers. We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up. The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity. It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.
Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater. It is out of control and our mower needs more work. The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek. The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding. It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid. We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy. We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up. We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek. A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.
We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house. I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed. We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing. The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap. I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates. Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.
Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out. She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead. LOL. The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week. .
The chickens are enjoying the weather and all of this rain. We have moved the compost dumping area down the fence line about 15 feet in an effort to get the chickens to work down the weeds. I have been trying to recycle 50# of dried rice used to dry out electrical equipment into chicken food. I use the rice cooker and give them 8-16 cups of cooked rice a day. I have been at it for two weeks and have half the rice gone maybe. Even the chickens are getting tired of rice at every meal, they will run over eat a little bit then run away. They do forage on the rice all day and eat it eventually but if that were cat food I was tossing out they would eat it until it was gone every time.
My spare parts for the haying equipment came this week also. Unfortunately, they did not have all the parts I asked for but I took what they sent me. It tends to take about 3-4 weeks to get parts from the company so I went through and looked at the parts I have already broken and the parts that may break and have started a list. The company did a great job of labeling each set of bolts and nuts so I know exactly what they are. I have them separated out into containers with sharpy labels on the outside. My goal is to get another 2 metal cabinets and use two of them for parts only. I want to dedicate half the cabinet to each piece of hay equipment so it is easy to find and won’t get lost since I have to have so many parts on hand.
I am having trouble with my front left tire that fell off. I was getting ready to go to the upper field with the arena groomer when I noticed that the same tire had two lug nut bolts missing. Luckily, the wheel had not fallen off again. I had picked up six bolts from the tractor store and put two back in and tightened down everything. I am going to have to figure out why this is happening. The new tractor seat came in, it is thicker than the old but I need some kind of shock absorber on it now so the ride is smoother. more internet shopping time is needed. The first seat lasted seven years and the tractor spent more time out in the sun than under cover. Since we have gotten the machine shed cleaned out the side by side and the tractor are parked inside away from the sun whenever they are not in use.
Mr Professional and the Future NASCAR driver have been working on the cross fence in the barn lot. All three of us went up there and got it finalized. I still need to get into the spring path and dig out some more mud but it was so bad that I kept getting stuck in the tractor. I made a deeper pathway that is only about 1 foot wide and will let it dry out for few weeks before I go back at from the sides with the tractor. I want to build up the embankment on the northern side so when the water comes rushing down it will get pushed back and over the embankment. We still need to cut the final cow panel to fit to the bottom of the gully but not until I reshape the gully to accept more water. So we just used the bent one from the flood and will address it later.
The ram started to favor his front left leg four days ago but would not let us touch it, we could get close enough to pet him but not pin him. He is also over 200 pounds and all muscle with some fat and is not going to let me just pin him to look at his foot. We ended up just moving all the boys from Alcatraz to behind the barn into a nice dry lot and watered them in the corral. This got the ram closer to our chute were we could pin him in place. We did this in the evening and then let them hang out all night by the next morning the ram was already putting weight on the leg and looked dramatically better. There was just too much moisture in Alcatraz. I spent a couple of hours with the box blade and manure forks and cleaned up Alcatraz. I now have two piles of mud, straw, hay and poop that will need to be moved out and mixed in the new barn floor contents when the barn gets cleaned out. I really need a manure spreader but they are expensive. I need a good used one, which leads to the I need a welder discussion as stuff keeps breaking and I need to be able to repair it.
It took me about 10 hours between two days to get the upper prime squared field all cleaned up. I used the manure forks to pick up the large piles and used the arena groomer to pick up the low grass and spread out the mud. The grass is trying to grow back but cannot get through the mat of mud and grass left by the flood. I had to go over each section repeatedly as the groomer would fill up with grass fast. I made two big piles out in the middle of the field and took everything close to the water over to my berm I am constructing alongside the spring. The berm is going to be 2-3 feet high. The water here only got about 18-24” deep so I think it will be enough to keep the water going to where I sort of want it. This should lead to only about 1/3 of the field getting flooded and none of the next field being flooded. Don’t get me wrong, I still installed flood break points in the cross fences just in case it does jump my berm. I don’t want to have to come back and redo all this fence again. The built in weak points will keep the whole fence from getting flushed down or pushed over.
The manure forks have been another amazing purchase! If I knew how handy they would be I would have done it years ago. The best part is they only cost $250! I have used them extensively to help clean up the flood debris and am actually looking forward to how they work when I clean out the barn. I may be able to just drive in scoop out some stuff and drive out with it instead of trying to push it all out one of the two doors and then pick it up with the tractor. If the rain ever stops the barn will get cleaned out.
Today was the day, in eight hours we got the entire orchard fence torn out, leveled off and reinstalled! Now it did take three of us to do it but Mr Professional spent the first three hours spraying thistles while the Future NASCAR Driver and myself did actual manual labor and tore out the fence.
Mr Future NASCAR Driver and myself first had to clean up all of the flood debris. My contribution was driving the tractor as we used it as a wheelbarrow. We did have to skid out a couple of logs with the tractor and we had to pull the bridge from the barn lot away from the fence! It managed to travel about 100 yards through three fence creek crossings before catching on the fourth fence line. It is still intact, I am going to create concrete footings for it and just drop it back in place in the barn lot! Once we had all the fence down and all the debris on the burn pile I used the tractor to tear up the ground and create a nice even slope. There were a couple of high spots and one spot where we lowered the ground level almost 12”. I used all that dirt to fill in the very large hole in the ground from the flooding. I was able to build back two feet of dirt line. When I combined the new dirt with moving the fence forward about 10” the new fence went right in.
Future NASCAR Driver and myself hand dug three railroad tie holes and Mr Professional came over and did the fourth. We created two H braces on the left of the new breakaway section and one to the right. The center 16’ section is suspended by a 1/4” cable between the H braces, it is clipped at the bottom with a flimsy clip that will only hold about 300# of material. I then took another 16’ panel and laid it under the breakaway and had to bend a 10” section upward at 90 degrees to cover the U shaped bottom. That section was clipped with heavy duty clips to the breakaway section then about 1500# of rocks piled onto the panel laying on the ground. When the water hits the upright side it will create a dam and the water will push the bottom out and wash away the rocks allowing the panel to lift up and allow the water and materials to pass through the fence with minimal to no damage to the fence. This is my hope and wish and dream.
As we were cleaning up and trying to get three rigs back out to the machine shed I asked the Future NASCAR Driver to move the pickup. He doesn’t drive. So I gave him the low down on the tractor. He was not super comfortable with it but I figured he could get the 4’ wide tractor over the 10’ culvert. Mr Professional had him drive the side by side as there is only a gas peddle and a brake pedal and he still had to holler at him to only use one foot and touch one pedal at a time.
We started the burn pile on our way out of the field and moved the bridge to behind the barn.
We did attempt to put the sickle mower on the tractor but I had bent the three point hitch adjustable bar earlier last week or the week before and did not have a replacement on hand. We managed to get to D and B store 2 minutes before they closed. I got the part and will be mowing hay first thing in the morning. We are going to work on the far barn lot fence. Once it is done we will be able to sort the cows in Alcatraz and let the bull out with the female cows, let the ram out with the sheep after we sort off the cull ewes and female lambs and let the main sheep herd down with the cows. I won’t be much help this weekend as I will be covering night shifts at work. I will try and help out when I can in between sleeping.