Too much of a good thing is not always great.

It’s been a long week, even longer than normal.  Wednesday morning before going to work Annmarie asked me to go out and lift the fence crossing I had lowered over the back creek.  We had already gotten 1.5” of rain in the last 24 hours and she figured Stewart Creek would start rising as it had turned muddy and was up about 8”.  So I went out and did that before going to work.  By noon it was coming out of its bank and by 1400  it was so high it was just running across a 1/4 mile section of the road above our property.  All of this water was then going into the front spring runoff area and we had a rushing stream going through the barn lot that was 5-6’ high.  Needless to say that the spring flow is normally measured in inches.  All of my pictures are the next day after the flooding occurred.

Annmarie kept sending me pictures while I was at work.  It was painful to watch.  The best part was we lost no animals, no humans, no damage to our house and absolutely no damage to our front walking bridge.  This is almost a best case scenario for any flooding. The back creek did not jump out of its channel due to erosion, it literally just got so high that it just flowed over the banks in multiple locations.

Another plus is the front spring bed is now all gravel, it is a couple feet lower in places and there are a couple of waterfalls. On the negative side we are missing a foot bridge that was in place to allow the propane guy to walk across the spring and fill our tank.  This will need to be fixed in the next two months.  It will require two concrete footings on each side and then I have to give the span to Annmarie and she will find an arched truss bridge made out of 2×6 boards that I will build.  

The barn lot was all finished last year, I had made two separate flower garden areas and an animal drinking area, those do not exist.  Nor does the the 5’ wide railroad tie bridge that I used to drive the tractor across.  The bridge has vanished.  I have not found it yet.  The only reason the fences in the one flower area survived is I installed huge rock cribs and tied them all together.  They were more than the water could handle.  One is lifted up by about 8” but it is still staying in place.  I will be moving the location I was going to put bee hives on another 6’ higher.  I don’t want them to get washed away.  I had two brand new 16’ panels leaning up against the fence, they have disappeared, again I am unsure where they ended up.

 

The mamma/baby area is missing a little 2’ spring crossing and all of the fence near the water.  The barn lot cow panels have been mangled and piled up along the bank.  I think the damage would have been less severe if I had not cut hay a week ago and the field had not flooded and carried all the loose hay into the waterway effectively damming it up in places.  This was not good for the fence crossings.

The culvert crossing in the middle of the barn lot is washed out.  It needs to be replaced and this time the culvert needs to be 4’ instead of 2’.  The water moved the Alcatraz water fencing but did not manage to rip it down.  Thankfully, the bull was contained.  I am going to let him and his compatriots out of Alcatraz tomorrow after I chain three gates closed top and bottom so he has two fences between him and the heifers in the lower pastures.

The three upper cross fences have all been laid over by the water pressure.  The cut loose hay just created dams when it hit the fence, I have maybe 1-2 acres of hay I can save if I am lucky but a lot of it is ruined with mud.

The far upper field triticale is ready to be cut, it is a horrible threadbare crop but I cannot harvest it as the entire field was under water.  I may get 3-5 tons off of it.  The upper middle field did not follow the ditch I had started to dig.  I did not carry the ditch far enough up the field.  This needs to happen this spring.  I had two culverts up there but had not installed them yet, the water knocked one into its spot, the other one is too small and I will need to get a bigger one.

On the plus side my little 1 acre spot of peas may come through and I may get to harvest it!

F4213E00-DA59-4964-A206-7DAD590ECAD1

Bottom line is I have a lot to do, I have had several people offer to come out and help.  I am going to take those offers up so I can get a leg up on all that needs to be done.  I cannot get out in the fields so I am planning and staging already.  I have 100 2x6x16’ tamarack boards ready to be picked up on Tuesday, I have 300 4” Fastenal anchor bolts purchased, I have purchased clamp on manure forks for the tractor bucket so I can move rocks and loose hay easier.  The manure forks should be here next week.  I still need to buy about 150 cinder blocks, 100’ of cable, a bunch of metal clips, some gates, metal panels and about 1200’ of woven wire, 30-6” posts (I may have enough from my spring used post purchase if I can cut them in half, even better if I can cut them in thirds.  I will need to bring over a bunch of rocks and I will need about 10 more cow panels.  Annmarie has said I can use tires to hang from the creek crossings that are in the upper pasture as the bull won’t be able to move them but the water will be able to push them.  I will also need some plywood, probably 8 sheets and some 2x4s and about 50 bags of Sackrete to pour the four footings.    It sounds like a lot of work, that does not include replanting both garden areas.  The plan is to just fix it all and take into account the problems that Mother Nature threw at us and see if we cannot work around them so they don’t get us next time.

 

 

 

 

There was to be no new fencing this year…

A7D6D4A3-C9D0-4C27-8ECF-B1AD387A02AC

Annmarie told me this year I was not to fence.  I had a lot to do and after spending most of last year doing nothing but fencing I needed to focus on other things this year.  Now I do not disagree with this but we really did need some more fencing…

Barb Morehead took this terrific photo of our little beautiful calf, and kindly shared it us.  He is named Valentine for the heart he wears on his forehead.  We were really hoping he would be a she.  He will still be good eating.

We have been slowly working on getting our berry/lavender grow area ready.  Unfortunately, this necessitated building a fence around the space to keep the herbivores away from our food.  The pine trees got cut down several years ago and I sprayed the area with Roundup a week ago.  This plant attack has done nothing but point out where all the thistles are located.  I have been slowly killing the thistles with a shovel.  I cannot use any other kind of herbicide or I will kill anything I plant in the ground.  I also tried to order ground cloth so we can plant our lavender through it but could not get any online that was not horribly expensive.  I still spent almost $400 on cloth and thought I had gotten a good deal.  I had to drive to the Tricities to pickup our bathroom vanity so I bought all the ground cloth that Home Depot had available.  The only reason they still had it was it was in a box high above and no one had bothered to check there yet.

A Pallet of stained brown tire chips was delivered on Thursday in one single great big bag weighing 1100#.  I need to finish killing the thistles then weed eat everything down to the ground then put the ground cloth down.  I have had a couple of boys working on the fence.  Since they were going to do most of the work I decided that we needed to fence in the orchard also.  Our orchard area is fenced in already but I wanted to just put up an interior fence around the fruit trees so that we can take all the skirts around the tree down.  I want to keep a 2’ tall cow panel ring around the trees only.  This will keep any animals from rubbing on the tree or eating the bark at the base of the tree.  This will also double the number of rings I have available for more trees.  There are seven young fruit trees so we can plant seven more trees.  I picked up two at Home Depot Thursday, Hardy Kiwi trees.  The fruit only gets to the size of a Kumquat but it is supposed to taste like a kiwi and it looks like a kiwi.  I bought two as they are small!  The plants are about 2 inches tall and its a single stick.  We will see in 3-4 weeks if they were alive or not.  We also bought some coconut fiber mats to go around the trees to keep the weeds down.

While we were working on the fence today the alpaca kept trying to sneak in through the gate.  I had to exit the gate to get wooden fence stays and they tried to bum rush the open gate.  They are very curious animals and will seek out new experiences.  One of them stood by the fence and made super weird noises today.  A noise even I had not heard before.  They won’t move if they are laying in the road either.  They will win a game of chicken every time, even into death.  The delivery guys are scared they are going to cream one, I am kinda surprised they have not hit one yet.

Today we got the orchard fence completed.  It looks good and even our border collies cannot get out of it.  I can move the border collies to the orchard and let the sheep into our yard to mow now!  If you try and keep the collies inside the house all day so the sheep can eat the front yard they make you crazy.  Zeke keeps ring the bell  hanging from the front door.  You have to remove the bell or he will just keep randomly ringing it and laying in front of the door waiting for you to let him out.  Mouse will come lick your hand repeatedly until you let him outside.  It is a tossup as to which Border Collie is more annoying in their attempt to get what they want.

8F252C95-582F-4526-9099-CF1D706F8366

I also found out that we have a red fox living on the property.  It has been spotted twice this week and I am sure I am down at least two more chickens.  I thought it was a raccoon and tonight when I was putting the sheep into the ram pasture I found a dead chicken head on the hillside.  I am told it has a den over by the fencing supplies storage area.  I will have to take a look for myself this weekend.

A little flash flood

It snowed yesterday and then rained all night.  I of course had not taken the fence out of the creek crossings yet.  I had been talking about it for the last two weeks and just never seemed to get around to it.  This morning while it was still dark I told Annmarie I was going to have to come home early and get those fences out of the back runoff creek.

As I was headed out of work early this afternoon, a coworker texted to remind me I was going to show him around the farm so he could come out and shoot coyotes.  I had of course forgotten this and had told him he would need to send me said reminder but this dovetailed nicely with me needing some help to get the panels out of the back creek.

My Doppelgänger came out and proceeded to help me pull the panels out of the now raging back creek.  It has rained 0.68 inches in the last 24 hours and has rained 5.63 inches since Jan 1, 2020.  We used to get 12” of rain annually.

144D9260-C85A-485A-8110-B128EAEC81E4

We pulled the fence out of multiple crossings and at one point I noticed my Doppelgänger was bleeding all over the fence.  He managed to cut himself on the very first piece of panel we moved.  This did not slow him down and I managed to not fall into the rampaging creek.  I escorted him over the property and showed him where the coyotes were most likely to be hiding and were it was safe to shoot.

Best last minute didn’t know they were gonna help, help I have ever had.  I would have been at it for at least a couple of hours trying to wrestle those panels out of the runoff by myself.  On the way back to the house we stopped off at the barn and Mr Doppelgänger and his girlfriend helped me feed the sheep while they played with the lambs.  Lamb snuggles are worth the wait.

My baby chickens have not been liking the rain and have started to protest and not lay eggs.  They need to just get over it and start laying consistently.

 

 

New Years accomplishments

Annmarie and I have moved several of the old ewes into the momma area so we can feed them a supplement.  One of those ewes, old brown Lead ewe, had a single girl lamb whose is super mellow.  We will be flagging that lamb to keep as a replacement ewe.  We are looking at flagging and keeping another 8 ewes to replace all our old ones.  We will let the old gals hang out till they drop or get super sick.  We like them and they have been with us since the beginning.

We also have one old ewe who lost a bunch of hair.  She also has a lamb.  It’s weird and we have her in her own confined area and are feeding her a protein supplement.  We have been using some fungal spray on her but it is not changing anything and no one else has it so we think its nutritional as she is one of the old Baker girls.  Her lamb looks great and is doing well so we will keep her isolated for a while and see if we can change her condition.  We are surprised by how late the babies are, the ram must have taken a couple of months to figure out what he was supposed to do once we put him back in with the herd last time.  I suspect he needed to run around and lose some weight so he could do his job!  He was very fat last time.  He is almost as wide as he is long now!  Super fat!

We knew we were going to work cows on Saturday so Friday I went up and worked on one of the short sections of fence I am allowed to complete this year.  I managed to get the two railroad ties set in gravel, the H braces installed and strung up the woven wire.  It’s enough to be able to let the cows into the orchard and not worry about them getting down into the ditch.  I will need to hang a gate on the end and I am going to have to drive T posts horizontally into the bank for 4’ so I can run a cable across the bottom of the ditch and attach the panels with clips.  This stops the cows from just lifting the panels with their horns.  This needs to be done soon as the cows are working the panels already.

I also managed to spend some quality time with the mistress dragging the driveway.  She had it all smoothed out in under two hours.  It is a lot better.  In the next year or so we are going to have to have some gravel brought in on a belly dump and let out over the entire length of the driveway.  It’s about $225 a load now and it takes three loads to do the entire driveway.  I even managed to find time to wire in more light panels in the machine shed.  I have an outlet for the “Buggy” in place and two light switches and boxes wired.  I ran out of boxes and need to get more so I can finish wiring the shop.  I have two more outlets and two more light boxes to install.  I am looking at high output LED lights that I have wired to be on one at a time.  This will cut down my power usage and demand as I only have 20 amps available.  I just need lights and a enough power to run one plugged in item.

5E387E98-7CEC-4E2B-8E40-FFCE67E9161E

Saturday we worked the cows, the Child came out to help and a work friend the Gimp came out.  The Gimp is on light duty so their vote was for us to use the calf table instead of wrestling each calf down to the ground wrestling style.  We thought we had three calves to tag and band.  Once we had them all into the corral we discovered that one of the three had already been tagged but the tag was buried in her ear.  I had to buy new tags and I got large tags that cannot hide in the ear.  This has been an ongoing problem for us.  It took me about 25 minutes of messing with the calf table to get it to work.  Lifting it with the tractor does not help it and I had to use wire brush and lots of WD40 to get the neck piece to move up and down.  I really need to think about putting it on wheels and pouring two concrete channels for the table to move 10 feet to either side of the corral chute.  Then you could just push it to the side when it is not needed.

The first calf went well but the second one was another one nutter.  I could not find the second testicle.  I was digging around for 5 minutes with no luck.  We tried moving his leg and still no luck.  So we will try him again in another month.  This time he will need to be caught old school so we can roll him around on the ground as I look for that second testicle.  We sorted off the Bull and put him in Alcatraz with the other five steer.  He hollered and screamed for only a few hours and has been very quite and content today.  It’s kind of weird.

D9239814-29BF-4985-90A2-3937BF27FC9E

I drove up to the other side of the old chicken coop to look at the spring head, front spring runoff and our fall planted grass field.  They all looked great!  I am hoping to get 2.5 tons/acre of hay in the spring time off of our newly planted fields.  I just need to get the Buggy battery adaptor and trickle charger installed and then install the upgraded spray pump.  The Buggy needs to be ready to spray this spring.

Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.

Lambies!

On Monday while Rain Man and I were out cutting wire away from some old cow panels to reuse them down by the school house we were talking about the sheep. All the sheep were in one corner of the ram pasture and I asked him to guess how many sheep there were. He guessed around 30, in reality there are almost 80 sheep in the picture. Most people underestimate how many sheep there really are when they see them all bunched up. I was explaining that we were expecting babies in December when he said “isn’t that a baby” and pointed to the left side of the herd. Yep, there was a single newborn lamb probably only 24 hours old but definitely not brand new. When all the sheep ran out of the pasture this lamb got stuck on one side of the fence while momma was on the other. I ended up catching it so it could be reunited with its mother. Rain Man got to cuddle the lambie and then set it out so it could find momma. He got called away right after that to go to work.

I hung the gates and put the panels up. I still need 16 4″ anchor bolts to finish my braces but I only have 6″ and 3.5″. The 3.5″ are about 1/4″ too short! I will have to get these in town later in the week.

I came in just at dark and Annmarie and I sorted off the ram and five whethers to go with him over into Alcatraz with the steers. Our ram is almost as wide as he is long! He is so fat. We will be killing whethers soon, maybe this upcoming weekend. We want to pull the ram off so we can keep all the ewes having babies as close together as possible.

Today I decided to integrate my baby chicks with the adult hens. I have 23 chicks that are over 3 months old. I opened the gate to their area and then filled their water and food so they can hang out for another 3-5 days without needing to leave. This lets them think about jumping into the door and making their way out into the real world. The only real problem with this is I have to start watching them to make sure they are getting back inside the coop at night or they will become raccoon food. Come spring time we should have lots of eggs!

Fencing 2019 completed

I feel like it has been forever since I said I would be done with fencing this year but it has finally happened. I was able to finish up the new fence this weekend. It took some perseverance but I did it. While I was fencing I had an assist from the sheep in raking leaves in the yard. They also did the last mowing at the same time. The only real problem with this is they fertilize the lawn at the same time they trim it and eat leaves. This means that the three dogs have an all you can eat buffet of sheep poop and as an added bonus get to roll around in sheep urine and poop both! This makes for very odiferous pets. Its a side effect that has to be considered when weighing the benefits of not mowing.

I spent Friday stretching fence and Saturday afternoon I finished stretching fence. The only thing left was to install a gate and cover two gates and two openings with cow panels.

I opted to spend Sunday cleaning house. It was needed and I was simply done fencing. It has been a long year of fencing and despite the need to get done so I can have the fence inspected by the water conservation district for my grant, I needed a break.

On Monday, I had a new helper, code name “rain man”. We cleaned up and readied the small patch of land next to the front yard that we are going to plant Lavender in next spring. We pulled weeds and found most of the branches. I will burn them on the next burn day but we have been under an inversion so there have been a lot of no burn days.

I brought him out to help me finish the fence but our next project was lifting the back bridge over the creek. We used a handyman jack to lift up the one side then dug back into the bank to prop it up with rocks. The first time we did not have enough rocks so we went for this massive piece of old concrete that weighed 300+ pounds. It was brutal to get back up the hill then down into the hole and into position under the bridge. We did it but it was a close call to not happening.

After that we went into the barn and filled all the feeders and dug out a bale of straw. The straw was buried under bales of hay so we had to move about 25 bales. The Rain Man can sweat! He hung in there and we got the barn all ready for animals as we are going to start locking them in every night. Winter is officially here as we are now feeding them every day.

I ended up having to finish the fencing alone as the Rain Man got called into work. I did it and managed to get most of my trash picked up. Unfortunately, the tractor bucket was full so I will have to go back to get the rest of the scrap metal pieces.