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.
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.