It’s my old joy

It was not a giant spider, I told myself after I screamed like a little girl. I was out in the barn doing chores late Wednesday evening in the dark. I waited too long to do chores in the daylight. I went to move one of the inside swing doors and a black and white cat was sitting on top of the door, unbeknownst to me and when I swung the door closed this “thing” dropped down onto my arms. I had a mini meltdown until I realized it was the cat and not a man eating spider. I am sure I lost a a little more hair off of my head due to this life threatening event.

I tried to take a picture of the full moon with my new IPhone. Low light pictures are still not very good with a phone camera.

I lined up some help for Thursday thru Sunday to build some more fence. I wanted to finish the fence I started this Winter and redo the barn lot arrangements. We really want to get a Flow Hive and have at least one bee hive. We feel that we need to supply some sustenance to the bees first. So we are going to build two flower areas in the barn lot. These will be isolated from all the animals and one of the two will be able to be watered. This may even let us grow a couple of trees that the animals cannot eat before they get any height to them.

I got the skinning pole area dug out and ready for gravel. It will be nice to not have to work in the mud when skinning animals. We killed three last summer but the most I have done is ten at once.

I have a new helper, he will here forth forever be known as Tex. I thought about continuing the trend and calling him Mr. Tex but I just could not do it and have shortened it to just Tex. Tex set posts while I ran around on Thursday finding supplies, tools and getting fuel. I even made a trip to the scrap metal junkyard.

Once the posts were set and H braces made with cross wire we got the woven wire up and the gates installed. Tex had built fence before so we just had a couple of small learning curve issues. As in all things there are many different ways to skin a cat. We tied in the creekside fence to the back of the chicken coop so I decided to shrink the coop pen and rip out all the extra. The pen is useful to get the chickens to lay in the coop if they start to stray all the time, but it does not need to be that big. So we moved a post and connected it to the front part only. That meant we had to add a gate against the old house to close off the ram pasture. Now we can let the lambs out here without worrying their moms would try and jump the fast moving creek and leave the babies to make that same attempt. That option would not be healthy for lambs or old ewes.

Tomorrow we will get the smooth wire up and I will have to build a pass through in the fence for the chickens that will hopefully not let the lambs through.

Tex did a great job and I am looking forward to Friday’s progress report.

Water runneth

The back creek started to run this week. Its pure runoff from the mountains and runs about six months out of the year. On Monday night I spotted some standing water in the creek, on Tuesday when I came home I heard it running and it kept me awake all night. I again thought that I should go out and lift the fences from over the creek. I did not do this and Wednesday when I came home the creek was a torrent! I ended up spending an hour in the dark in my wader boots trying to get the fence out of the creek and the weed dams to broken up. Every year I end up out in the dark surrounding by raging water trying to lift the fence. I tell myself that every year I should go out on the very first day I notice the standing water. I never do, I always wait until the last minute.

The upper fields are improving but the one is solid green while the other is just having the green start to poke through. I keep hoping the second field will take off. Today I had to start feeding the cows alfalfa. At the rate we are going through feed I am sure we will end up with some left over. The cats are going to be disappointed when it goes away as they keep tunneling down into it to stay warm.

I spent an hour with the new calf table cleaning it up and trying to get it to work. I managed to get all the pieces moving but I can only get the table to lean back 45 degrees. Annmarie tells me for $50 I had to expect to work on it more than one hour, but hopes springs eternal in my mind and I was hoping for instant success.

I thought I had misplaced the box blade but managed to find it after a couple of hours. This is super good as I do not have to admit to the wife that I misplaced it. See it was sitting right where it was supposed to be.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles

15 twins

3 triplets

29 ewes birthed

7 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

3 babies dosed only

Little bit windy

It’s been a long week. I am playing catch up and the weather is not really cooperating. Our door latch from Ukraine came this week and it fit perfectly! I was able to get it above the door knob without having to move the knob and I was able to use the hole I accidentally drilled through the door frame 10 years ago. It was almost like I had planned this ten years ago! I talked to Annmarie and I think she is going to print me a plastic bushing on the 3D printer that I can slide into the wooden hole so the door latch doesn’t widen the wooden hole. It is amazing what you can find on the internet these days and have shipped directly to your home. So now none of the dogs can get into the craft room, same for little kids.

The weather has been very strange all week, we have horrible winds. They are sustained around 25-40 MPH with gusts over 70 MPH. Luckily the place is old and has survived 95+MPH winds. The stuff damaged in that wind storm has been repaired or torn down since that occurred right after we had moved in. I have been careful since then to make sure that all stuff is over built due to the unpredictability of our weather and the wind. The wind blows all winter long usually, just not this hard. Our new windows always bow and flex in the wind so we are always surprised at how well they do, none have ever broke in a wind storm. The temperature is over 50 degrees F, which is absurd for a winter in Eastern Oregon. Luckily, our front spring fed creek has been rising steadily over the last two months so there is water going into the ground somewhere.

I started patching all the old curtain rod holder holes in the walls this weekend. I want to get them patched, primed and painted before Christmas. One less eye sore in the downstairs area and one step closer to having a completed main floor. My current dilemma is I cannot find the door to the closet that I removed when doing the floor. At this point I really think I tossed it onto the burn pile and lit it on fire. This sucks but I cannot find it and have dug all around the house with no success. One more thing I am going to have to duplicate. I will finish getting the pictures up on the wall soon also. I am a definitely the 90% project completion type of guy, those last 10% are brutal to finish.

I went outside today to do some more work. The weather was not super conducive to it but it was not freezing so I figured I could get something done. My big goal was to move the scrap metal pile that came from the old house (it has only been there since August 2018). Annmarie can see it just outside the fence through any window on the SE side of the house. She does not like it and thinks I need to move it before our company shows up in January. I was going to bring the old pickup trailer around but it still needs a tire swap and this weather is not conducive to climbing under anything suspended in the air so I opted to use the tractor and just make more trips. After the first load I got distracted and ended up dragging all of the horse poop out from around the barn and releveled the compost pile I had spread out earlier this fall. I need to plant grass seed on it but that is not happening in 45 MPH wind. After every load taken to the metal scrap pile I kept my eye out for more scrap metal along the way, grabbing it off of fence posts and the base of fences. I stash it there all year long as I find it or it surfaces from the ground. I went over and cleaned up the last of the old metal Smith shop area. I took a bucketful of keeper metal to the barn and stashed it in the barn. I took the last of the falling down wooden worktop and put it on the burn pile. I even managed to push the two bucket loads of old hay baling wire that I found buried outside the metal shop onto the scrap pile. My scrap pile is sufficiently big to attract someone to come claim it. It is not worth very much and there are a few gears inside the pile I would like to reclaim if I can find them. I managed to find a manual brake system with the notched locking piece and the handle just stashed over there. I kept that. Eventually I want to put some nonsensical gears and handles and steering wheels throughout the barn.

Annmarie asked me about the grass fields I planted this week so I took the time to run up and check on them. This is good and bad news depending on how you look at it. The first field got done two weeks earlier than the second and got two good rains and some warm temperatures, that is this very nice green field. The second field was two weeks later and I ended up finishing it up in the rain and then it got really cold. It is currently still very dirt like. On the plus side there are no weeds growing either which tells me that the growing conditions are just not there yet. I would love to burn off the barley field but I am afraid to light anything on fire in this wind so it will just have to wait.

I was fortunate to finish the machine shed ceiling support before the windstorm.

We also have a new calf on the ground, it is a week old today. It is probably our biggest calf to date and the mother is still crazy. I cannot wait to get that fence line up so the cows cannot hide down near the creek. They will be stuck in the field away from water. We may need to build some form of three sided, roofed enclosure so the cows can shelter the babies. I will have to consult the wife and mother-in-law for design guidance. I have enough left over 2×8 and 1×12 to make a wooden structure that looks like all of our other outbuildings. I even have some leftover old metal roofing that I can install so it slants toward the hillside so you won’t see it from the houses.

The sheep are so pregnant it is painful to look at them. Every morning we go out expecting to find 8-12 lambs on the ground and every morning we are disappointed. I told Annmarie they were all going to come on Christmas Day and I will have to get the turkey in the oven before helping her corral all the new moms and babies. Today I switched gates around and set up the momma/baby area. I moved a feeder in there for them and filled it with alfalfa. This caused me some problems after the sheep figured out I had the good hay in the momma area. I had to manhandle three ewes to get them out of the area and away from the feeder. I did forget to move one inside gate to allow access to the outside baby area. I will need to bring over some more straw for that area anyways. The goal is to have it all ready so on baby day you just have to toss them in. If you have to do all the setup also its a very long and painful process.

Our 6×8 foot greenhouse came in the mail also. I am going to put it in the orchard after I make a concrete footing for it. If I don’t do that the wind will blow it away. I was going to set it on some loose bricks but after this week there is no way I am going to not attach it permanently with some heavy bolts weighted down with some concrete!

Grass is greener on the other side

Last weekend I spent three days trying to plant the last of the grass hay pasture in the upper fields. I had to drag the field with the harrow to knock down the weeds and smooth out the ground. One advantage of all the rain is that it softened up the dirt clods I had inadvertently created this summer. I managed to get the ground pretty smooth.

Friday was a gorgeous day! The temperature was pleasant and I was able to work most of the day on the tractor. I was able to finish the day and tell Annmarie that I was gonna get it done this weekend! I even managed to plant and cover almost 1.5 acres.

Saturday the plan had to be altered. I had been putting off killing the sheep for the last two months and managed to put it off until the last weekend of October! There was no more month to procrastinate in so Saturday was kill sheep day. We had three sheep to slaughter. Annmarie and I put them into the barn with the help of the dogs then when the two buyers showed up we sorted off the three whethers. Two of them were around 60# and the third was around 90#, he was the oldest. I usually do the killing when we are not having them professionally killed. I bleed them out using an old Basque method. We lift the animals and set them onto the barn window ledge with their head hanging out the window. I hold their head and right where their chin is I pinch the trachea slightly to find out where it located in vicinity to the spine then slide a fillet knife behind the trachea without cutting it. This allows you to sever both carotids and a hole on each side of the neck. The sharp side of the knife is pointed toward the spine so you don’t knick the trachea. You then just turn the knife sideways and apply pressure towards the spine, creating a wider hole for the blood to drain out. As long as the trachea is not cut the animals will just lay there and bleed out. It can be messy for the person holding the knife if the artery sprays blood out the top hole instead of following the laws of gravity. They just drain out and you end up with a very clean carcass. I am getting better at it. No mistakes or inadvertent knicks this time. Its important to understand that we treat the animals well and provide for them so that they can provide for us. Its not cruel, it is their purpose. We are all a part of the food chain and being at the top is always better than the alternative.

The two smaller animals we traded for a pig and the larger one we sold to an amazing gentleman from India. We all three cleaned, skinned and cut them up. We were able to use up almost every part of each animal. Americans don’t really understand how much of an animal we don’t consume. We saved the lungs, heart, kidneys, livers, heads, and all lower legs/hooves from every animal for the Indian gentleman. We asked him how he processed the head and lower legs and he said in India they burn off the hair then scrape the hide and then cook with them. I had a burn pile ready to go so I lit it for him and pulled all the boxes and paper I had saved this summer from the old house. He took 30 minutes and did exactly that before packaging up his portion. We also had jointed out his lamb and cut rib strips and entire spine into three sections so he could cut it up further at home. He was very happy and we learned something new, Oxen are not revered like the cow. Those that rever the cow can still consume oxen. I totally did not know that! I am going to have to fix the skinning area and install a gravel drain bed. When we wash off the carcasses it can get a little muddy. I want to dig down about 8-10 inches and fill it up with 2 inch gravel then the top 2 inches 3/4 minus gravel so the water just drains away immediately. My father always taught me the importance of keeping all your meat clean and up front prep is the key to doing this. I had bleached down the stainless steel table prior to us starting. It needs a little reinforcement, after five years it is starting to get a little wobbly. I can fix that, although the table will just get that much heavier after I reinforce it.

I was able to get my burn pile taken care of, I dumped off the few leftovers and hide up on the bone pile. Our neighbors had come over and gotten their cows that had showed up on Thursday on our back hillside. I thought it was the neighbor up the creek but it turned out to be our, over the hill, neighbor. He had a hole in the fence which is highly unusual as he is a great neighbor. I have learned though that all cows will get out eventually. Mine get out at least twice a year and have done that since we have had them. Even when I think there is no way possible for them to get out they do. We now have a note on the fridge with all the surrounding cow people’s phone numbers on it for just such an emergency. We usually get a few stragglers coming down out of the mountains after it starts to snow and will need to call everyone once again. Once you start calling around it works like a calling tree and pretty soon you are getting calls. Its times like that I really appreciate living in a place that people still look out for each other and it is the normal behavior.

Annmarie was not happy with the pile of wire and large cut up tree branches still hanging out in the ram pasture from my fence redo this summer. I brought the tractor in at dark and pushed all the tree parts into the fire to clean it up. I need to get the scrap fence pieces onto the scrap metal pile. The sheep kept going around the pile then did not want to go through the gate into the barn lot.

It rained all night Saturday and I was afraid I would not be able to plant on Sunday. Determination is a wonderful thing. I put on my thin cotton pants, two pair of socks and my chest waders with built in boots, a yellow rain slicker over my jacket with a waterproof hat and went outside. I bagged up the grass seed into large heavy plastic bags and tossed them and seed spreader into the bucket of my tractor and drove up to the upper field. I was able to trudge through the field feeling like an organ grinder with the seeder on my chest, my right arm turning the throwing wheel and my left hand thumb holding the reservoir gate open to allow the seed to fall into the spinning wheel. After three hours of this my right arm and legs were killing me. Mud on your boots makes it a lot harder to keep marching. I just kept listening to my book on tape and telling myself to just move my foot one more step. I kept that up for another five hours. Its amazing that if you take it one step at a time you can just keep going. Now there is a consequence for abusing your body like that, I did not sleep well. I kept tossing and turning and moaning in my sleep. I also will put my arms over my head in my sleep which causes me to jab Annmarie in the head with my elbows. Neither one of us slept very well and she made sure to spell out the reasons for it first thing Monday morning. I love it when she puts on her grumpy face!!

So I am officially done with planting grass this fall. I got it all in the ground and only ended up with an extra 50#. Annmarie has convinced me that I need to purchase a seeder for our small tractor. I am getting old and I want to plant alfalfa and I want to plant a field of Sainfoin which has to be planted 3/4 of an inch deep. So our plan is to put up more fencing and create some smaller pastures with gates around and through them. This will allow me to block off a few acres, till it and then replant it. I can keep the animals off of it for a few months until it is established. Doing this will increase our nutrition base for the cows and sheep. Mind you the three lambs we slaughtered looked amazing! They had a lot of belly fat inside their abdominal cavities, fat on their backs and the chests were covered with a thick layer. They had been getting plenty to eat and have lots of padding going into winter.

40% done, wish it was enough

Last week I spent three days planting and then prepping the next field. It takes me almost an hour an acre to run my little tractor around in a circle. It just becomes a game of time in the tractor seat. I also managed to score 20 railroad ties for $15/each. This is a great deal and I have 10 holes dug from this spring that need ties dropped into them. I had run out and don’t like paying $25/each for them.

The welding class is still going, I am unsure how well. I finally managed to see the metal melt and not guess at the what is occurring in the blurry hot red blob I was seeing. No, I did not go get new glasses even though that may help. I accidentally discovered it when I started to weld horizontally at eye level. I was not trying to look out the bottom of my glasses and realized that if I looked up toward the ceiling I could see a reflection in the top of my welding goggles that was the actual weld in focus! Its kinda weird when you look up at the ceiling to weld in front of you but it works great. The only real problem is when you are done with a weld and attempt to look around you your eyes have to try and refocus back to normal. Like I said its weird but it works. Weeds just keep coming back, in the spring I will hit both these fields with 2-4-D to knock out the broadleaf weeds.

Winter is coming soon

This morning when the sun rose fall officially announced her presence. The large cottonwood trees in the front were shedding leaves by the 100s in the wind, it was quite impressive. I attempted to get a picture with actual leaves in the air but did not manage it. Today was my day off of work and I had a nice breakfast with a friend and then went to D and B to buy the rest of my grass seed for the upper 8 acre field. It was all gone!! I made them look in the computer and there was none left. I should have bought all they had the week before! I knew I should have but thought I was close and then ended up using more seed than I had planned. I still should have just bought all they had, it was on sale! I then had to make a few phone calls to get information on a local source. I ended up getting 200# of seed from Mckennon station for $644. They told me it was supposed to rain on Sunday so I really need to get this seed in the ground. I was just heading home when the powder coating place called for the second time.

I turned around and headed to Hermiston to pickup the mailbox holders. They turned out very nice and will not corrode any more. We just need to get a white mailbox now. Donna already has a black mailbox to go onto her black holder. I just need to cut the wooden bases for the mailboxes to mount them onto the holders. They are still very heavy! I will need the tractor to get them out of the back of the pickup.

When I went out to start planting seeds in the upper field I noticed cows on the back hillside, they are not our cows. Annmarie called all the neighbors when she got home. She thinks she may have found out whose they are and have called and left a message. I am going to have to figure out how wide the upper gate opening is and attach a couple of gates up there to keep the cows out.

The upper prime field I planted last week is sprouting quite nicely. My hope is I can get the seed in the next field, it will rain and the seed will sprout and grow for a couple of weeks before winter moves in for the long haul.

I managed to walk out and spread seed over about 40% of the field and managed to run the tractor over it to press it into the ground. The rain did not wait for Sunday. I should have brought a jacket, the cold rain made my hands turn into icicles. I had to turn on my headlights to finish covering the last of the seed on the ground.

Tomorrow we are going to have to sort sheep first thing and then kill the three whethers we had saved. I hope to be back at the planting by noon.

Clod Busting!

I spent most of the day on the tractor today. The rain caused me to delay planting but it also softened the dirt. My hope was it would soak the big dirt clods and then I could work the soil one last time to break them up and smooth out the field. I got a four acre field done today and it looks fantastic. Tomorrow I am going to seed it, our fancy chest seeder that holds 20# of seed came this week so I am going to throw the seed out by walking around the field. Once I have all the seed on the ground I will take the tractor and roll over the seed with the arena roller. Once that is done it can rain all it wants. I want to get into the next field and do another 7 acres after that. My plan is to get that done this week.

Annmarie moved our office furniture around today. We had talked about it several times but I guess she got tired of the talking and went ahead and just did it while I was out on the tractor. The good part of this is there is now a spot on top of the desk where I can put this large glass jar and fill it up with Marbles!! The downstairs glass jar is full of marbles so its time to start another one. I am not sure that Annmarie is going to agree with me but I will just get a wrist sling shot and call the marbles apocalypse ammo and keep buying them. I am not sure she will buy into my scheme but I can try and sell it anyways.

I was heading down to a delightful dinner of TatorTot Casserole filled with green beans, carrots and cheese when I noticed this picture on the stairs. I liked it so I took it,