Forever Friday 29/45

So strange to think that I will have to return to work. I have really enjoyed by time away and am getting lots done around the farm. I have spent the last three days concentrating on the barn lot fence. We need that fence to be completed so we can maneuver animals around this winter and allow them to go where needed but to to stay out of other areas. I had some help this week and it made all the difference in the world.

I am going to dig some flood irrigation ditches to come out of our back irrigation ditch so we can get more water out onto the fields. This should help us with the feed.

On Wednesday we started in on getting the area for animals stuck in the ram pasture water access. The chickens are not super happy with all the changes as they are now beholden to following the same path as the large animals. They really are not as they could squeeze between the cow panel squares. It will just take them some time to learn this trick.

I think I have designed the fence this time so that the panels will break away under water pressure and allow the flood waters to pass. I have anchored the posts with large rock cribs and even went so far as to alter the way I am making H-braces. I used to use smooth wire and then use a post to twist the wire to make it tight. The problem is in a couple of years the wire gets slightly loose and I want to retighten it but cannot as there is now woven and smooth wire going over the H-brace. I am now using high tension wire and tightener spools with small crimp on tighteners. I can ratchet the wire super tight and in the future I can retighten easily. I even went so far as to cut small notches at the sides of the railroad tie to let the wire lay in so there was not any pressure on a staple. It took me about halfway through the fence construction before I realized I should have been doing that all along. All the other posts have three two inch staples holding them in place. Fencing is definitely an art and over the years I learn something new every time I do a major rebuild. I look at why the fence broke and or how the animals got out and then try to rebuild to prevent that in the future. I also look at how other people have overcome some of these obstacles.

By Thursday we were down to just the fence in the momma/baby area left to be completed. The real crime here is that none of the rock cribs have rocks in them! We will have to go back and fill them all with rocks. I think I have a plan for that this year. I am going to take the 16 foot trailer up on the upper CRP and next to the fence line there are huge piles of rocks that have been removed from the field piled up next to the fence. I can pick up those rocks with the tractor, place them into the flat bed attached to the pickup and then when its full pull it down into the barn lot. Picking rocks up on the hillside one bucket at a time and driving them to the barn lot takes a lot of time. The trailer will hold 7500# of rock at one time.

Today we had to build two more rock cribs for the Momma/baby area. I wanted to get them almost 16 feet apart so we can have one cattle panel hanging between them and allow the water to push it away. The only real problem is I could not get them far enough up the hill to make a really good valley for the water between them. This means they are likely to be surrounded by water if the water level gets too high. We made the cribs 4×5 feet and will fill them to the top with rocks. I need them to be massive enough that the water will not mess with them. I do realize that constant water would eat at them but I only need them to withstand flood stage for 1-2 days a year.

I am getting pretty good at using the tractor and guessing how much weight you can manipulate in the bucket and not tip the tractor over! The tamarack 2x8x16 foot boards I got last year are amazing! They look great and are in great shape. I expect them to last an easy 20 years. Mr Professional and I went up to the upper fence line and using the tractor, pickup and trailer ended up getting 2.5 loads of rocks! We used the tractor to load them and then I just backed the trailer up until it was on a downhill slope in the barn lot and we rolled the rocks out the back end of the trailer. The incredibly large rocks will go behind the barn where I am building a retaining wall so we don’t keep losing soil down into the spring. I don’t want any rocks under 100# for the retaining wall base.

Forever Friday 26/45

After taking yesterday off to drive around doing errands I was ready to get back at it today. I went into town at the early time of 0900 after two cups of coffee, some breakfast and I did all the dishes and started the dishwasher. Not in a big rush during this time off, everyone tells me I am supposed to be relaxing, this is me relaxing, not starting until 0900. I went into town with the trailer to pick up a bunch of fencing supplies and a couple of new gates. My plan is to widen the access to the back barn lot and to create a funnel shape so the animals can be pushed toward the gate and go through easier than the flat open eight foot gate that was there before. This afternoon, Mr Professional and his progeny came out to help me. In five hours we got done what would have probably taken me two solid days to finish alone, maybe more. We got half of the fencing completed. Completed is a strong term since there are now three rock cribs built that need to be filled with rocks. But the fence is up and those rock cribs are made out of railroad ties that are buried 2.5 feet into the ground and set with gravel then screwed together with 2×8 boards to make the crib. They are pretty secure now they just need the extra weight to make them storm proof.

The opening to the back barn lot is now sixteen feet not eight and there is a definite V shaped funnel going on. I was even able to make a protected spot for a tree. I just need to put another board up to limit the horses ability to reach over and munch on the top of the tree. I will be making another two tree spots tomorrow. The trees will help create anchor spots along the creek bed and we like them. We are going to plant black walnut trees.

As the day progressed the smoke was getting thicker, you could see it rolling down the hills. There is a 50 acre fire up in the mountains near us and it is only a day old now. It looks like we may be wearing our N95 masks tomorrow as we work outside. This is fine with me as long as we get to keep working.

I picked up some bird food today and we are going to start trying to feed the quail in our front yard. I will start in the morning. We love the quail! There were also raccoon tracks in the dust in the barn lot. This is not surprising but not good news. I will be responding appropriately to all raccoon sounds in the middle of the night! Save the chickens!!!!

Forever Friday 25/45 correction, we all make mistakes

It has been pointed out to me recently, last night, that I may have miscounted how many days off from work I was taking. In my defense I am taking five weeks of PTO, but to the dismay of those covering for me I will have been gone 6.5 weeks. In my defense I was mostly just counting how many days of pto I was going to take and not how many they were going to have to cover. So to correct this grievous error I have updated my Forever Friday count to the 45, not 44, days that I will have been gone and working on the farm.

I spent about 6 hours outside on Sunday, wearing a N95 the entire time due to the smoke. This caused me to decrease my fluid intake, even coffee! It’s painful to pull down the mask, drink,, wipe your lips and replace the mask. My solution was to just not eat or drink anything, to skip lunch and just keep working. It took me over two hours just to dig three post holes with tractor and breaker bar. September is really not the most ideal time to be building fence in a climate that has had no rain for over two months. I have managed to get 19 of 21 railroad tie posts set in the ground in gravel. I only have two left and I am sure that the one opposite the gate I need to install will need to be moved over another eight inches to meet the gate. This means more hand digging, so I am saving that section of the fence for last.

I am now ready to go purchase a 8 foot & 6 foot gate and a bunch of cow panels to make the crossings. I have enough cable on hand and this time I am going to make the H braces using high tension wire and tensioning spools. I think it will go faster and make for a more adjustable brace. I am going to experiment and see how they do.

I just kept working and working until I finally was just spent. This caused me to need to go inside and wolf down some cottage cheese and tomatoes so I could make it through my shower. After dinner, I laid on the couch and was headed to bed by 2030. I had so much muscle fatigue and strain that in my sleep all of my muscles kept getting spasms. I ended up on the couch so Annmarie could sleep! I slept like a baby on the couch and didn’t wake up until 0430 then was back asleep until 0630. I vowed that on Monday I would do no physical labor. I need a break from that thing called manual labor.

Instead I drove to the Tricities to pickup Annmarie’s Bernina sewing machine she had dropped off for a service and repair. We have to now drive 90 miles to get the sewing machine serviced. They did it for a reasonable price. I did no manual labor on Monday and will be back at it tomorrow. My goal tomorrow is to build rock cribs and start putting up wire and horizontal boards. I need to get this done so I can get onto the momma/baby area next.

Today we spotted two separate covey of quail on the place of about 25 birds in each covey. We are going to see if they will stick around the house if we feed them. We have decided to start feeding the on the front hillside. I did place the little gnome doors against our rock walls out front. I definitely need to be more accurate when mixing epoxy, the backs are still a little sticky. My eyeballing it methods are not working and are being disparaged. They may be accurate also!

Forever Friday 23/42

It’s fencing and more fencing time!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but when I am drawing it out I am not so sure. I was attempting to explain to Annmarie the work I was doing on the barn lot to fix the flood damage and mitigate it should it occur again (probably gonna happen). So I drew out our current surviving fence below. The left side of the paper is where our house is located. the bottom of the paper is where the barn is located. The road is the road we use to get from the ram pasture to the behind the barn. It is not really a road but its what we use so we can move the tractor and the animals follow it. We cannot get to the barn without the road when the dirt gets all muddy.

I then edited the sheet to show Annmarie all the changes, the house is now at the bottom of the picture and the barn is to the right side. The green lines are all the changes. The green hatch spots are new rock cribs. I will be installing five new cribs. I am trying to build anchor points so I can have the fence break at certain sections to prevent the wipe out we got this year. In doing the planning I also decided to straighten out a couple of fences and create more of a V-shaped entrance to the bridge area and wider to allow the animals to be funneled into the barn lot when we want to sort them.

I worked for about seven hours on Friday outside with no mask. As the day progressed I could see the smoke layer getting thicker until I finally just gave up around 1700 and went inside. I did not feel well due to smoke exposure.

On Saturday, I wore an N95 mask. It made all the difference, I was able to spend 5.5 hours outside working on more fence. September is not a good month to attempt to build new fence. I am having to drill down into the ground a few inches then fill the hole with water and then step back and wait for it to all soak in. Sometimes I have to do this a couple of times and even use the dig bar multiple times to get down through the clay layer.

I still have three holes to dig and two more to finish to get the current fencing completed. I have to set six posts still and will need to pull over five more railroad ties from my used pile. So I really have 11 more posts to set! Each post takes about 1/6 yard of gravel to set. I will be setting 22 posts this time, I will still need to fix the momma baby area fence when I am done. I am still working on the repair in my head, I know I need two more rock cribs but I am trying to determine if I can put them 16’ apart and then connect them. This lets me use a single panel and makes it move easier/harder at the same time. There is no way I can get the large culvert crossing completed this year. I simply do not have time. I did manage to salvage all of the posts from the mass of twisted flood damaged fencing. I am still deciding if it is worth the $1.50/ea to pull out all the wooden stays from this mess. There is probably only about 15 stays and they won’t be easy to get, I could just throw the mess on the burn pile and pick out the wire for the scrap heap after the fire is out. I am leaning toward this option. I will be cutting up most of the bent panels and maybe even some woven wire to use inside the rock cribs. I install the wooden cross beams and then line the inside with wire so the rocks don’t fall through as easily. this seems to work better then just getting all big rocks.

The new center piece and blades I put on the tractor post hole auger are making the difference! I will need to not let this set get so worn before replacing them.

My tractor hydraulic leak is bugging me. It needs to get fixed, I am just unsure when I can afford for the tractor to be gone for two weeks.

Forever Friday 21/42 halfway mark accomplished

I did it, I made it to the halfway mark! This has been an amazing rest and I am getting lots of stuff done. The best part is I hardly think about my paying job!

I posted the below picture to show why it is that the quail survive. There are over 23 quail in this picture. They come out every evening and eat on our back hillside and we watch them from the kitchen window, look dead center and just below midline for them.

I started out the day with coffee on the front porch. I then cooked a potatoe egg scramble for breakfast and then went out to put the tractor tire back on. I had managed to go to the auto parts store yesterday while killing time and got the bolt that fell out for the tailgate strap on the passenger side. I of course broke the first one off in the hole and had to use an Easy out to get it out and then installed the second one with a ratchet instead of a battery impact hammer. Who could of guessed that outcome? The impact hammer was just sitting there begging to be used.

I did go install the tractor tire, moved it then retightened the lug nuts. the sheep came up on their own so I let them into the upper pastures to eat. There is more green grass in the upper pastures. The back creek stopped last week but the upper pastures are still about 50% green from subterranean water.

I had the box blade on the tractor so I drug some new paths for new and improved fence lines. Annmarie has pointed out that the cows and sheep do not want to go through a gate in the middle of a fence. I am reworking the fence line to make a V like shape toward the gate so the animals will be funneled toward where they need to go. I am unsure why I did not think of this the first time. It was probably due to my love of straight lines and 90 degree angles. This will help and honestly it is not very much more effort to make the changes now as most of the fence has been destroyed.

I parked the box blade and installed the auger and noted that I was probably the last one to use it as the shear bolt was broken and one of the bolts holding the auger on to the shaft was bent and missing a nut. It took me two hours and a trip to the hardware store to get everything and to cut the shear pin head and beat it out with my new flat punches I just ordered and received!

I am slowly cleaning up the machine shed and making sure that all new parts go into the appropriate labeled bin. Each piece of equipment has a large bin and all new parts for that machine go in the correct bin. This keeps me from losing or mixing stuff up.

I moved the new compressor out to the machine shed, blew out the dirt from the tractor, added hydraulic fluid and fueled the tractor. I have a hydraulic leak from the pto takeoff under the tractor. It’s for a deck mower that I don’t have and will never use, but the leak is making me crazy. We have added hydraulic fluid twice this year already. I may have to get it fixed.

I went out and started to drill post holes with the auger. I have a new center piece and new teeth as of this spring and boy can you tell I have all new parts! The thing works great, I was able to dig six holes completely and start six more. I went back and filled those six holes with water and will do the same thing first thing in the morning. Once the water is in place I will clean out the completed holes with a hand post hole digger. I may even set some posts and refill the water a third time before trying to dig out those holes. I have five more holes to start but I need to run some string out before I do that so my holes all line up. I am hopeful I can get six posts set and all the holes dug tomorrow. If I can do that then I should be able to get the rock cribs built on one day and ready for rocks. The rock part alone will take 2-3 days to fill them all. I am hoping to be done with fencing in seven days. We will see.