Cows have not been cooperating

The club wheat on the farm looks great! On our drive to Adams to get the walnut tree I kept comparing wheat fields and ours looks very good in comparison. I talked to the responsible farmer and he said they are trying a new mineral supplement and it seems to be doing the trick. Time will tell if the moisture will hold out for the needed amount and times.

This has been a long week related to cows. The bull keeps getting out of our pasture and going under the road via the culvert to visit the 100% papered Angus heifers that the neighbor has next door. We pushed him over on Sunday and figured we had the access point hardened enough he could not get through. On Tuesday, our neighbor was texting Annmarie to tell her he was in with the heifers again. This time I had to gather tools after work and Mr Professional had come out and pushed him back into our field. He laid down on his belly in the middle of the stream, reached down with his horns and lifted the panel up and then army crawled under the fence, in the water, to get to the other side. He did this because his normal access point is at the side of the fence but we had secured those enough he could not get through. This led to more additions, some tightening, a few extra panels and a ground panel that sticks forward so he has to stand on it to get his horns into the upright panel, therefore holding it down with his own weight. All of this done by tractor flood lights as it was getting dark and the culvert is down in a hole. I was down there working alone and the bull snuck up on me, I didn’t realize it until he was about two feet away. He scared me so I chased him away, he knew what I was doing and did not really want to leave, it took some encouragement to get him moving. So far it is holding I would like to say it is fixed, but I then leaned toward certain as a better word. After a few minutes and thinking about how often he gets out I am pretty certain he is contained, it looks pretty good and we sure gave it the old college try. It kinda depends on how lovesick he gets, maybe it will be good enough, we will see.

There is another creek crossing further up on our property that was destroyed in the flood that lets him drop down into the creek bed and scoot on down to the culvert. If we can get that crossing hardened enough then he will most likely be contained. The crossings have to be removable in the fall so the spring runoff can happen and nothing gets damaged.

I had the opportunity to get another black walnut tree! This one was a ways away and I did not want to load up the tractor on my trailer and drive over there. I would have to make two trips and decided that taking longer to load was an acceptable trade off to not having to make two trips and haul the tractor. I gathered chains, cables, sheet of plywood to cover the metal ramps, come along and a metal pipe to use as a cheater bar. I picked up Mr Professional and away we went. This sounded like a well thought out plan but honestly I did not take into account the shear mass of a large piece of this wood. It took us three hours and the first half of that time was moving the large base piece onto the trailer first. We needed two come alongs to do it and everything else we brought. Unfortunately, by the time we got done the custom cut shop was closed so the trailer just stayed loaded and I will get it offloaded this week. We will go back into the cue for cutting and may get it cut up in a couple of months. Luckily, I ordered more banding and it’s a different color so it makes it easy to differentiate the trees that will banded and stored together in the old chicken coop. I am even considering getting into the maple pile, cleaning it up and then having it all planed down to useable flat pieces. I can then shrink the storage space it takes by banding it all together and storing it in the coop.

The alpaca seem to have finally come to a consensus and are now behaving. They are such weird creatures. The rabbit is back! I have seen it several times and it is still not afraid of humans, you can get within a few feet before it even moves.

With all this wind we are having the new windmill needed an addition to keep the top plastic bushing in place. This should keep it from popping out now and the windmill can tear it up, which it is doing in the 35-40 mph winds. It is only rated up to 65 mph so we will see how it does in our area long term.

Beauty fence

Well the weeds are sprayed and the grass is not tall enough to mow out in the fields so the Four Corners fencing project has begun this weekend. I spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon tearing out fences and wooden stays from the fence lines. I also developed a plan for redoing the fence. I cannot just tear into the ground as the telephone line is buried just outside the fence line and it is not buried 2-3 feet. It is only eight inches deep by our house so I am assuming it is fairly shallow here also.

Today Mr Professional came out and we went down and worked on the fencing all day. We took the trailer down filled with gravel, this was Mr Professional’s idea and proved to be useful as we are about 1/2 mile from the gravel pile and tractors are not exactly fast. We promptly broke out the bolts on the auger on the first hole. It appears that the hard pan is not very deep, about 18-24 inches down. We had to use the breaker bar to keep digging and we never did manage to break through the hard pan level. We just gave up on the digging once we got ”deep enough”. We started a small fire after we started to rip out the fence line and found scrap wood every where. We burned the weeds and a lot of the wood scraps. We managed to dig six holes with the auger and have five more to go. We are going to have to create a wash out area that lets the water run through/under the fence. I think we are going to have to use the old tires to keep the bull from just lifting the fence. He is so painful. We had to reinforce the culvert entrance on Tuesday as he had lifted the fence and went to see the neighbor’s heifers. Today we saw him trying to get through the culvert again but he cannot after our repair! He tried on three separate occasions throughout the day to get through to the other side with zero success.

We got the corner braces in and all tightened down. They look really good and our goal is to make the fence look very nice as everyone who drives by will see this addition. Once we have all the fence up we will take down the inner fence down by the willow trees and start to clear the flood debris out. It is a mess down there now. A few more days and we will get it done.

The spraying that was done two weeks ago is starting to come visible. I was spraying in front of the side by side and driving over the area so I could see where i was spraying. I started to notice some unintended consequences of that choice. Hopefully,, the grass will grow back without too much difficulty.

Staycation 100% done

Well all good things must come to an end and I am no longer on vacation and am back to work. It has been busy so I was unable to post this on Sunday night. Annmarie got me to actually leave the house on Friday night and we went and visited friends and stayed the night. It was nice and now we are planning on them coming over to visit us.

Saturday when we got back we went right into sorting sheep. Our buyer from Elgin was coming over and we had to sort off his 20 lambs. They helped us sort everyone and we got theirs into the trailer and out the door. We now have our small herd of lambs out in the orchard. For some reason this year everyone has wanted a lamb. We have sold 13 lambs to local customers and 20 lambs to our Elgin contact. We have been discussing the prospect of expanding our sheep herd and shrinking the cow herd, the price of hay is going to determine what we do as it may not be cost effective to carry a bunch of cows through the winter. We then had to move the cows down to the lower pasture as they had laid over the fence and were walking around outside the fence. They thought they were starving. I did a 30 minute fix on the fence so the sheep could not get out and vowed to come back and fix the fence on Sunday.

On Sunday I went out to fix the laid over fence. This really meant that I had to dig and set eight wooden posts by hand as the fence was too close to the water to back the John Deere tractor up to the spot needing a hole. Instead I did it all by hand and even ended up putting a scoop of gravel behind every T-post to fill in the gap created by straightening the post. I had to tamp it all down to make the post rigid. I got all of them in but still need to repair one H brace as it is made out of round posts and one of them turned. This is of course the one with the chain gate tightener on it. This means the chain is so tight you cannot get it off to open the gate. Luckily, I don’t need the gate to open right now so this repair is going on the back burner.

Annmarie has started to work on the back garden and is getting things planted. We are going to have strawberries in one tower and herbs in the other. Currently, she is working out water inside the towers, the connections keep exploding and making a mess. She thinks she has a working plan now to fix it.

It got cold again

It has been a long week, the paying job is keeping me busy so I have not had a lot of time around the farm. I am trying to get the baler parts ordered now so when we start to hay we will have the necessary repair parts in case something breaks. I need to order some more plastic netting wrap also. In these times you have to plan way ahead of time. I waited too long to bale some of the hay last year and we have a lot of very near straw. So we are supplementing feed dramatically and I was feeding the sheep 3% of their body weight daily and am now feeding 4.5% with 1/2# of sweet feed per animal daily. We had one ewe with twins who got too skinny. She is now in a pen all by herself with all the food and water she can eat. I think she is too passive, not pushing her way into the food so everyone else is eating her share. Hopefully, we can get her fattened up since she has the all you can eat buffet and no competition for food. We should be killing animals soon and that will help with the feed supply. Getting the fields replanted and the hay figured out this year is essential to our next winter. Annmarie has been working on drafting out our five acres of irrigated pasture. She is laying out the pipe and heads and sizing everything including the pump to get us through the summer.

I went to town yesterday to get paint to finish the ceiling in the craft room after the water damage repair. I had to guess among the choices that Sherwin Williams said I had purchased in the past. I guessed wrong and ended up going from painting a 4×4’ section to painting the entire ceiling. The new color is whiter and brighter so that is a plus, but I had not planned on painting that much. Today I got the room cleaned up and usable again. Annmarie can start working on her loom again and get our new cover for wooden hall fridge completed. The antique fridge we use for hallway storage is pretty beat up on the top board, they tried to reseal the surface and got cloth fibers embedded. It needs a cover even after I scrubbed it clean.

I didn’t want to go outside for the entire day due to the temperature, 24F. So I worked on putting the new decorative windmill together. I had to watch a video to get it together correctly, I had the pieces mixed up. I was able to use the old cedar pole but I had to drill out a much bigger hole in the top of the 4×4 and then pound in a plastic bushing. The bushing had to be cut and sanded smooth to fit down into the hole. I used a broken wooden handle as a rod to pound on with a four pound hammer to get it to the bottom of the hole, then I used the intact second bushing to go at the top. I think its going to work but the 4×4 was flexing quite a bit in the wind, its 12 inches bigger than the old one. The old one pretty much disintegrated in the last 90 mph wind. The blades got torn up and they gouged the post also.

The new chickens are integrating well, when I went out this morning there was only one of them in the chicken coop, the rest were outside wandering around. In the last week I have only had to put one of them inside the chicken coop, the rest are getting in before the chicken door closes. I am getting almost a dozen eggs/day now. In the winter my chicken egg productivity is only around 35%. In the summer I go above 50%, but the year round production is what matters.

The wildlife is starting to move around. I saw a single coyote on the back hill side yesterday morning. It only stayed on the hillside for 30 seconds and then was gone. Our bunny is back!! We had not seen it for several months and thought an owl had eaten it. This is the normal cause of bunny demise around our place. I have now seen the bunny two evenings this week so it is officially back. We are hearing the owls again out in our big trees at night and early mornings. Spring is just around the corner and its only January 30!

Donna, Mother-in-law, wants to fix the corner fence down by four corners. So it will be getting new H braces, a new 12’ gate and a ditch crossing so we can add 1/2acre to the cows pasture area. Mostly this will just prevent this 1/2acre from being a weed patch like it has been. This will be a spring project unless it warms up for a solid week. It will need 12 railroad ties, one 12’ gate, 7 cross pieces for H braces, 12 high tension tighteners, one chain horseshoe latch, one roll woven 39” wire and one roll of smooth two strand wire, about 24 T posts with clips. We will use the 2×8” tamarack boards I bought for the corral extension. Those have come in real handy for fencing.

I am working on getting the fuel tank working. The tank is installed, copper grounding wire installed and the tank is sitting on four concrete blocks. I bought a hand fuel transfer pump yesterday but I was not able to get a water/sediment filter for 3/4” pipe, I will be ordering that, once that comes I will get hooked up with a fuel service for the farm and I will have 100 gallons of diesel on hand. I figure I will have to have it filled twice a year, not exactly a large account but it will be nice to have the fuel right here on the farm and I won’t have to keep filling five gallon fuel cans all of the time.

Back to fencing

We have all kinds of good news, we got new cell phones! This might not seem like a big deal but we are not into the latest and greatest for most things and had always been a model or two behind on phones. We finally decided to upgrade, with some coercion from a friend, and you can see the difference in our picture quality for the blog! Annmarie took the above barn picture at twilight just before it got totally dark. We never could have done that before so I am super stoked about getting some pictures I never could have before due to sun going down or just not up enough yet. On the plus side the battery lasts from 0400-2200 without a recharge and the old one would no longer do that.

I had to go into the barn and add a board as one of the mothers managed to crawl through the wooden boards on the side of the creeper area. She was trapped when I came out to let them out of the barn Saturday morning. I found a board, hammered it in and cut the end off. This opening was too large anyways as the babies could sneak out of the area also. This should solve both problems. Our new panels for inside the barn are still not available to order yet and we have only had one more baby! The mother was so crazy we marked her for culling in the spring.

Mr Tex has been coming out during the week for a few hours a day and stringing fence. We are trying to get that last fence up. On Friday I was able to secure three more ton of alfalfa hay. I need to up my summer purchase a few ton. We unloaded a ton into the barn. We were then just going to back the flat bed trailer into the lamb shed and park it. That way we did not have to unload it. Now I failed to take into consideration that despite the brilliance of this plan I had never parked the flat bed trailer in the lamb shed before. This is because the door is only seven feet wide and the trailer is 8.5 feet wide, I discovered. So Mr Professional suggested we use the forks on the new tractor so we did not have to move the 80# bales by hand. This was a brilliant idea and we unloaded the trailer four bales at a time and dumped them into the lamb shed. It worked very well and was much nicer than doing it all by hand. The barn part was unpleasant enough that in the spring we are going to bring out the 20 foot hay elevator and weld on it until we get it working properly. I want to use it to stack the hay this next year. We left the trailer out in the barn lot so the rams and horse could clean it all up, they had it spotless by the next morning. We were able to go out to the new fence area and install some wooden stays before it just got too cold. The fog moved in and it was dang chilly!

The next day Mr Professional went inside the house and matched the ceiling texture. It looks great and once we paint it you will never know we patched it. I had plans to go down and work on the H brace at the far end of the new fence and the gate but as soon as I got alongside the fence I realized that not all of the clips were installed. Mr Tex had stretched out the smooth wire but not clipped it in place, the woven wire only had 1-2 clips on it and we needed to finish it anyways. So I started clipping the fence in and working my way toward the far end. I got the entire fence clipped in! Mr Professional came out and we worked on stays for a large portion of the fence. We still have about 50% of the fence to install stays on and one H brace and to hang the end gate and it will be ready for the cows. Hoping to have it done by the end of the week. The spring up in field number three has started back up! This is great news, It is so much water that it is now running above ground.