A lot has been happening on the farm. Not a lot by me, but stuff is getting done. As always, Annmarie is keeping us afloat and continues to do 85% of the chores, maybe 90%! I do go out to the barn once a week to “do my part”. Getting to the barn is the hardest part, once I am there I can do the feeding but the return trip to the house I can feel the shortness of breath and chest pain kicking in, I need to get past the Covid leftovers so I can be ready for spring. The sheep are really not doing their part on having babies. They are doing some serious lollygagging, I suspect the chief culprit is the ram. So we are still lambing, one here, one there, we have only had two born since the last blog update.
30 lambs born
20 ewes delivered
15 pregnant ewes (I counted Jan 2, 2021)
10 single lambs
10 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
145% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (26/26)
On Friday, I needed to go to the scrap metal yard and pickup a culvert and check on my gates. We have opted to no longer go with commercial gates as the bull has decided he can just bend and twist them to his whims. I had asked for three 12’ gates a few weeks ago, I now need five 12’ gates. Luckily, I knew there was needed lag time so I don’t need them for about another two months. I am now on the list for five gates. I picked up two loads of old metal rims for a new section of fence down by the machine shop and a 20’ four foot diameter culvert for the barn lot drive over crossing. This crossing will be about 16 feet of drivable wide crossing with the other four feet taken up by concrete rastra and rebar. I am going to put rastra on both ends of the culvert and some cable between the two ends so if the water runs over the top it won’t be able to push out the downstream side. This and two fencing projects are the big ticket items for this next summer. I ordered an attachment for the tractor bucket that should allow me to push in a T post into the ground instead of pounding it in. This won’t help where its super rocky but the fence I want to install is just long, not horrible tough ground. So I now have some more metal rims, but not enough to do the section of fence I want yet. I will need more trips to the junkyard for that. This expended a lot of energy, even though I did a lot of sitting.
I am not known for my Uber iPhone skills so my phone will randomly take pictures when I am trying to use the camera. I decided to keep the sleeve picture as its my father’s old denim coat from the late 1960’s. We use it as a barn coat and it has just gained more character the longer it is in use.
Saturday morning was the planned day to work on the barn and I just did not want to get out of bed. I was reminded that the day before was really a play day and I now needed to get to the planned job. Again, very correct and I drug myself out of bed and went and picked up Mr Professional so we could work on the bathroom. We managed to get the window cut using a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner to try and keep the dust to a minimum. This is never possible when cutting sheet rock with a sawzall. So it took another hour to vacuum, wipe up the mess and clean up the stairwell. I spent most of the day cleaning up the breeze porch. The window caulk came and I want to get it up so we can keep some of the bugs off of the porch. We removed lots of trash and tools and even ordered some new dog kennels in an attempt to neaten up the porch.
I had to divert from field work on Sunday to take care of a couple of OMG its going to freeze items on the to do list. I fed the cows. I like to try and hold off until November but it was just not going to wait any longer. Annmarie had a great idea, we are going to feed one bale in the orchard and one bale in the pea field (#7 if we use the same counting and a total of 10 fields delineated by fence). This forces the cows to choose and not run off certain cows. I will swing the gates and isolate them to this area only in a few weeks when the weather gets bitter cold. I also had to fill in the ditch we dug this summer to fix the main water line leak. I had not done that yet, so I took the time to fill in the ditch with the piled up dirt I had dug out. It took a lot less time to fill it in than it did to dig it out. After that was all done then I did go pull the disc around.
I spent Monday and Tuesday evening/early nights on the tractor dragging the harrow around. This would have been easier if I had burned off the field first. It keeps getting clogged up with dead plant debris. The upper wheat field (#1) is so rutted from the flooding this spring that it just bounces you all over the place. It’s brutal to sit on that little tractor and get bounced like a monkey in a cage. If if did not keep my seatbelt on I would get tossed off of the tractor. The harrow has a bar and rolling compactor in the back, its an arena groomer, so I am able to really smooth out the field but it means going over the entire field a second time!
Driving around in circles leaves lots of time to think. There are definitely more mice out in the dark then daylight. Unfortunately, there are not six hawks and the local kestrel resident swooping down and killing them at night. I started wishing for owls to drop out of the sky and swoop down and catch mice but none came. Then I thought it would be cool if large mice eating bats would drop out of the sky and start picking up and flying off with mice, very cool. But then it dawned on me that the bats would probably have to be fairly big and blood suckers. It sounded less cool after that so I went on to large spiders. But then I figured the spiders homes would be in the very dirt I was turning up and then the tractor is not tall enough and has no cab. I do not want huge spiders crawling all over me. I went back to my original idea of owls, owls are safe. I had to give it up Tuesday night after a harrow part came loose and I needed two wrenches and only had one on the tractor. It was a sign from above to be done.
Annmarie finished our third batch of apple butter. Really our ninth as we keep making triple batches. My suggestion was to double the spice and cut sugar down from 6 cups to 5 cups. When I came back inside she had tripled the spices and kept the same sugar. It tasted like she had added about half as much sugar as the last batch where she only used 1.5 times the spice. This #3 batch is the best! We are looking to see if we have enough apples for a fourth batch.
Today Mr Professional came out and blew water out of our sprinkler lines and picked up hoses. It is supposed to drop down to mid teens by Saturday and snow. I have not managed to plant yet. I am hoping next week after it warms up I can finish it all up. This is not easy to get all the things done in a day. I finally took tonight off and cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned the hard water deposits off of our apple butter jars and worked on the blog.
Winter is definitely coming, it probably should have been here already but it is time to get ready. Thinking about all the things that need to be done before it freezes. I am also trying to get the fields ready to be planted also. It’s a tough balancing act and I am hoping winter holds off just a little longer, maybe another six weeks!
My mother picked her apple trees so we now have over a 100# of apples. I loved the apple butter Annmarie made last year, I ate all of it! So I wanted lots more this time, unfortunately we thought we had purchased an apple peeler/corer/slicer for our KitchenAid. We had not and had even tossed out our old hand crank one. So while she was in Walla Walla both of us went to various stores until I got lucky and found one. This made processing the apples much easier. We ran them through food processor afterwords and then used an immersion blender in the hot pan. The single biggest takeaway from this was do NOT start apple butter cooking at 1900. This process involved many steps and cannot be rushed. I finished it at 0100. We did a triple batch and got 11 pints, one I ate the next day and two I talked Annmarie into over filling which caused the lids to crease. They are now in the fridge waiting for new homes. I have two people that are willing to eat them right up and not store them. We now have a plan and first thing in the morning I will help Annmarie with the corer/peeler/slicer and once it is cooking I can go outside and do farm work, Annmarie will finish canning them.
I had Mr DirtyClean come out on Wednesday and do four hours of discing. He had a few open hours and I needed the help. Thursday, I went out and disced for a little over five hours. I am averaging about 1.5 hours per acre to get them torn up. After I am done with the disc I will run the arena groomer over it again and knock up the clots and smooth it out. I also want to put the manure forks on the bucket so I can scoop up any weed piles while I am smoothing it out. I think I need about another 6-7 hours to finish field #1. The kestrel is definitely living up there somewhere. I see it every time I go to that end of the farm.
We had to load up two more cows for the butcher Thursday evening. I used the tractor to push the cows into the ram pasture. I was able to drive the new cow/calf pair but once she got into the ram pasture she got in a corner of the pasture and would not move. She kept trying to get at the tractor. This is of course the cow we wanted to turn into hamburger for this exact reason!! So now she gets to keep the calf and we have to keep her away from the bull for another 9-12 months.
Annmarie had to come out and get the cows to go through the gate into the back barn lot. I was having zero luck with my stick and with the newborn calf we could not use the dogs. After she got tire of me waving a stick around in the air and the cows just going around me she jumped off the tractor, started hollering and waving the stick and she had them through the gate and into the corral in about five minutes. I just told her they all knew she was pissed and wanted to avoid it. She does not appreciate my ineptitude at times. It’s a learning process and 13 years later I am still learning!! It seems so natural for some but definitely not me.
The next morning she had to come out and help me get the two cows into the trailer. I had a hard time getting the steer in through the chute. His horns were so wide he could not walk down the chute. His lolly gagging caused the heifer to jump back out of the trailer and now they were head to head in the chute. I kept running them out of the chute and trying to get them back into the trailer. After the third attempt I brought the dogs into the corral and used them on the steer. He did not like the dogs and kept going for them instead of going into the chute. Zeke likes to bite between the horns or on the nose, Mouse likes to bite the back heels or tail. So when the steer went for one dog the other got him. I had been at this a few minutes when Annmarie came out. I managed to get the steer into the trailer by using the dogs to push him down the chute unfortunately the heifer decided to go crazy and jump out. We got them into the trailer and when I delivered them they just calmly walked out. The attendant was surprised at how placid they were. I told him they were just tired.
Sunday morning it dawned on me that I had a pull behind furrow for the tractor and was not utilizing it! Thank you Penny for convincing me to buy it when I had no need for it. I have had it a few years and not used it but once or twice. I hooked it up to the tractor and drug the ditch the entire length three times and it tore it up great! All I need to do now is go up there with the box blade on and I can finish getting the ditch cleaned out. I suspect it will take me another 8 hours to get it all cleaned up. I saw our friendly kestrel again. It must have a nest or be living right in the area. While I was digging the ditch I got the overhead tractor lights caught in the branches of a tree. After a few hours of digging my large light fell off the tractor and was hanging by its cord. I drove home and called it a night. I needed to fix the lights anyways.
Today I opted to get the disc set up and running. I had seen it up between the wheat fields. It took me abut 20 minutes to get the drag behind rakes off of the disc. There is so much organic matter I knew they would just clog up and I would have to stop every five minutes to empty it out. It took me a another 15 minutes to get it working correctly. I circled the little patch of ground between the wheat fields then took disc up to the seven acre field and went around its border three times. This way if I want to burn it in a month I can. The real reason to use the disc was to tear up the area I want to drag with the box blade. I want to lower the water laden area in field two another one foot and take that dirt and build up the surrounding area. I need to fix all the wash boarding that occurred from the running water throughout the field. I went over it in every direction for about 90 minutes and was able to get a fairly good loosening of soil. Using the teeth on the box blade now I should be able to drag this and move a bunch of dirt. I am running out of time! I only have half a day tomorrow then we go to the coast. I am going to work on tightening the momma/baby fence tomorrow. I can hard wire in the gate for now as I won’t need it to operate correctly until the spring. After I get the gate wired shut and the other fence tightened I just have the one spring crossing to harden. Luckily if they get under that fence they just get trapped in the second flower area and there are no flowers in there. So as soon as I get the fence tightened it should hold animals and we will be ready for winter. Next week after I get done working I will ready the barn and make the last rock jack. I may need to blow out the drip lines also. Winter is coming.
Monday morning I fixed the lights on the tractor. I had a smaller light that I installed looking forward. The light is about 75% smaller than the one I knocked off. I realized that you don’t need much light looking forward, more looking backwards where the equipment is pulling behind the tractor. I had so much light power I was sucking the battery dry. So less light is better for multiple reasons. Today I cut a piece of pipe to use as conduit so that branches could not grab the loose wires. I will need to try it out in the dark and see how it works still.
I opted to move no rocks as I did not sleep well, my shoulders are constantly aching and all of my muscles are twitching so bad they are keeping me awake. I ended up in the spare room so I did not keep Annmarie awake also. I vowed no rock picking on Saturday and I am going to stick with it. I do realize that a large portion of this this is my own fault by not doing some more baseline exercise. I need to think about that and consider the fact that I am not getting younger! I do believe there is an inherent amount of wisdom gained by getting older, mine comes mostly from past mistakes.
I ended up using the arena groomer to smooth out the area around the machine shed and grain bins. I want to replant them in grass again. We need to get on top of the weeds and this is helping. I then switched over to the box blade so I could go up and look at the flood damage in the 7 acre field (#1). The field is incredibly rough from all the water rivulets that were created from the flooding. I want to focus on the old irrigation ditch. All of the fields used to be flood irrigated. I am looking at cleaning out the ditches and setting them up again used for this purpose. I started at the near end and worked for four hours. I was able to get about 20% completed. My goal is to get this completed this week, we will see if I have the time.
I got to see a kestrel hawk come in and fly about 20 feet away. The wind was perfect and the hawk was just suspended in air and just twitching its wings to stay in one spot. I am thinking about using more of those 16’ posts in the ground for the predator birds to use as perches around the outside of our fields. More mice and voles getting eaten is a good thing. On the way home I stopped at this buried piece of metal and attempted to dig it out. I thought it was a piece of equipment. It looks like it was five anchors for something. The ground is so hard I cannot get it out with my tractor and will have to wait until spring and tackle it again. Hidden things in the weedS are bad for the farm equipment, especially the mower. My coffee cup does not appreciate getting covered in dirt, but I tell it that as long as it contains the elixir of life I will always love it.
As we were settling down to dinner I let the dogs inside. Mouse starting talking because he wanted dinner. He talks at us when its food time, it is not a bark, more like a whine/controlled vocalization. We told him no as we had dinner on the table and he was going to have to wait. He kept pacing so Annmarie told him to lay down in the hall. He came into the kitchen, flopped down on his side and then voiced his protest at not getting dinner! We made him wait until our dinner was over then all the dogs got to eat. He definitely had an opinion and was able to express it quite eloquently.