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.
I started Saturday morning by going out to the freezer to get butter, we were out and I had said I was going to do that the day before. More importantly, one of the horses was laying down in the ram pasture, I walked out and she let me pet her while she stayed laying down. Most of the time the horses will not allow this, they stand when you approach them. I did get the butter this time! I had a slow start, had breakfast with my mother at our house and then headed out to work on fencing. I need to get the animals off of the fields. As I was headed out to the fields I stopped at the culvert and scooped out most of the gravel from the back of the pickup. This lightened the pickup and the culvert crossing needed it. I like to do little parts at a time on projects, some would even say I flit from project to project but it works if you keep after it. Unfortunately its not very timely.
I ended up pulling most of the T posts from the first section of fence, splicing in an old section and then tightening the whole thing. This sounds fairly straightforward, but I had to remove all the clips from the broken T-posts and pull them out of the ground by hand. I finally got it all up and then decided to stretch a single row of smooth wire on the top. The horses keep leaning over the fence and bending the woven wire I am hoping the top strand will stop that or at least lessen its impact. I then installed cable and a 16’ brake away section to the middle of the fence. If it floods again I want the fence to give! I went over to the front spring and worked on tightening H braces and putting in cross boards. I was going to reuse the old fence but I was going to have to splice in 2-3 sections and it is just not worth the time necessary to accomplish the task, I will use all new. While I was working on that I decided that the ditch needed to be dug out as it still has flood mud and cut grass piled up in it. I stepped down and the bottom of the ditch was firm. I just need to drive the tractor into the ditch and I can reach up with my fancy new manure fork and get the junk away from the fence. I went down to the machine shed and put the box blade on the tractor then went in for dinner. I had a plan and after dinner it would be executed.
Annmarie was headed into the hospital for rounds and it had just started to rain slightly and she questioned my wisdom in going back out to dig in the ditch. It’s fine, I just put on a neck warmer and a jacket. First thing I did was dive right into the ditch with all four tires, within 10 seconds I realized that this was not the smartest move I had made. Unfortunately, I seem to have these thoughts on a fairly regular basis. It took me about 20 minutes to get out and I had to use the bucket to pull myself out of the ditch. I then ditched the manure forks and started to dig out the ditch with tractor bucket. I had a neighbor offer their small backhoe to help clean up the flooding problems. I am going to have to take them up on it later in the summer to dig out the ditch and silt and grass that has piled up. I am going to use the mud and weeds to create a berm on the North side of the ditch. This way if the upper creek jumps its bank again it will flood out the upper two fields but protect the 1.75 fields. It will also create a boundary so we don’t fall in the ditch with the tractor (done that already this year). I am going to widen the ditch slightly and dig it down another foot. While digging out the ditch in the rain I spotted the double rainbow and took a picture, it was beautiful!!
It’s been a long week, I have kept notes so I could keep track of all the things that have happened. Monday evening after dinner I went out and turned all the hay. It just keeps raining. The hay is not very good after all the rain and flooding. I need to get it up into bales so the grass underneath can come up and I can get a good second cutting. I worked until dark and got it all turned and in neat rows. Mr Professional came out during the day and worked on setting wooden posts in our field closest to the barn lot, I would like to get the sheep and horses off of the hay pasture. They keep eating the barley sprouts.
Tuesday after work I went out to the field and got the baler to work. It’s a learning curve and I had to get my memory back up to speed after last year. It is not quite the same critter as the string non-hydraulic one I had last year. I got it to make about 20 bales up in the triticale before it got dark. I was happy but I have learned there are some things that are not easy to do in the dark and baling is one of them, seeding is the other.
Wednesday after work I went out to check on Mr Professional. He was hot! He had broken 9 shear bolts already and the hay was too thick. It was a constant battle. I went out after dinner and threw the hay back out. No rows, the tractor carriage is too low and the underside hits the hay pile. I really need a side pull but I did not think of this. I may be able to accommodate this at a future time. The real answer is just don’t row it. Just throw it around and pick it up with the tractor. The little baler does better if it is not plowing through super thick material. It can grab a bunch and pull it in and shear the safety bolt before you know it.
Thursday I had off and Mr Professional and I had to go to town to find a bolt as one had broken on the arm for dumping the bales. The arm got bent in shipping and I did not think it was a big deal. It is turning out to be a problem. I will need to order a replacement soon. I forgot about it when I placed the big order last week. We may have found the right size shear bolt at hardware store but we did not have any to compare. We left them at home. When we got home I found the dozen spares I knew I had ordered last year, they were not with the others. It took us 2 hours to clean off the baler, replace the shear bolts and grease and oil it so it was ready to go. I baled about 100 bales and only broke two shear pins, one low and one high. I hit some wet grass and sheared the lower pin. After spending 30 minutes digging it out I just gave up. It was dinner time and I was beat, I took it all back to the shop, we can get it ready tomorrow morning. Mr professional and the kid worked on the fence. My manure clamp on hooks for the tractor bucket arrived! I used them to move mud and hay away from the fence, they are great! I am thinking that cleaning out the barn this year may be a lot easier than normal. The tractor can push the spikes into a pile of mud and hay where I never could have gotten it into the bucket before. The only thing is it makes the tractor pretty front heavy, I need to attach the box blade on the back for counterweight.