Office progress made with minimal interruptions

Monday I wanted to really make progress on the office. There was no way we were going to be doing anything outside. We did walk around the farm to see how much damage was inflicted by the water and surprisingly, not a lot. The breakaway sections we built two years ago will need to be reassembled and much weaker clips used so they will actually break away this time. The posts and anchors we installed all held!! This was the plan and the reason we put so much work into getting the anchor points installed. Unfortunately, it will take more than a week for the upper fields to dry out due to the amount of water that was on them. Of course it is scheduled to rain again on Thursday or Friday. This summer we are going to have to clean out the willow areas down by the schoolhouse. A huge lake was created due to the amount of debris backing up in the trees.

Mr Professional wanted to look at the pickup and see if we could get it out of the ram pasture and back out to the front driveway. We had to fix the hydraulic leak that did not get repaired and it would barely engage into gear. We managed to milk it along until we got to the front parking lot and parked it. I am not sure how I am going to pick up the windows this week without it. Hopefully, the windows will fit in Annmarie’s car.

I really wanted to get on the office so we went back at it. It would have gone much smoother if the guy cutting the angles could get it right, five hours of cutting and I would get about one out of four pieces right. I got so frustrated I just wanted to hang it up for the day. Mr Professional just kept badgering me and we just kept cutting more boards. It is mighty hard to get those warped, misshapen and cracked boards up on the ceiling. We joked that it we had to pay extra for character. The problem is that is exactly right! The ceiling is coming together and it doesn’t look like a plain old wooden ceiling. It does have character, it will be unique and it will elicit oohs and ahhs. We almost made it to the halfway mark, I think another five hours and the ceiling will be done. We have one more idea that is going to be tricky but its a surprise for the wife.

Plans interrupted, second 100 year flood commencing

Sunday was the day we were gonna really get cranking on the office. It was supposed to rain most of the day so working outside was just not going to be an option. Since we had the new door installed on the new office we could turn on the little heater and get it fairly comfortable inside. I had decided that working on the ceiling was going to be our project for the day. Our rain indicator showed that in the last 24 hours we have gotten 1.96” of rain and the back runoff creek Stewart Creek was running muddy and starting to finally rapidly rise. It was still contained in the banks so I was not too worried. Mr Professional came out and we started our discussion on how the ceiling was going to be installed. It turns out that the Juniper wood we purchased from a local mill has a lot of knot holes and cracks in it. This means there are gaps and holes so we needed the intact old intact ceiling to be able to use the new wood. The best part is the old ceiling will peak through the new ceiling. I wanted to just install it in horizontal rows, while this is fairly boring it is the quickest install. Mr Professional talked me into going across the ceiling in a 45 degree angle. We managed to get about five boards installed when my daughter came out and asked us if we had seen the front spring?

We had not but holy moly! The entire front spring was now a raging torrent. The only way this happens is if the creek has diverted upstream and is flowing down all of the hay fields. Mr Professional and I put on waterproof clothing and started going upstream and cutting the panels loose. The metal clips were supposed to break under pressure of the water. This did not happen, the 500# rated clips were holding back a few feet of raging water. We started cutting the cables and clips or grinding through them to release the water and pressure on the fence. This was done blindly sometimes as the water was very muddy. Luckily, earlier in the week after moving hay I had trouble keeping my glasses on due to all of the sweat. I put on these little silicone wings that grab the ear pieces and wrap a piece of silicone around the bottom of each ear. This was essential to me keeping my glasses during the storm. I cut a panel loose and it scratched across the left side of my face and ripped my glasses off of that side of my face. The only thing that kept my glasses on my head was the silicone piece on the right ear! Mr Professional hollered across the water that I was bleeding. There was a short discussion about the known saying ”all bleeding stops eventually!” The bleeding did stop so we continued on and continued to release the breakpoints in the fence the entire length of the property. There was 8-12” of water across the entire bottom grass fields with three feet of grass, by the time I got to the far end of the field, I was utterly exhausted. Mr Professional had gone back to get the side by side so I could ride back and not walk.

The side by side has some major issues and we have known this. It sounded rougher than normal but I concentrated on drinking water and getting back to the house. Annmarie hollered when we got down to the end of the driveway. It turns out that Star, our only white stripped cow had lain her baby down on the wrong side of the raging torrent of water. We ended up catching the calf, who did not like this and were going to just take the side by side up and around the hill and drop off the calf with her mother. The side by side gave its final cough and died as soon as we got to the driveway. It is dead! It will need some major engine work or a new engine to correct its current state. Now the calf is stuck in the side by side with me waiting for a ride. The pickup transmission problem has it trapped in the ram pasture and it is now pinned between two raging water torrents.

So Mr Professional and Annmarie went to obtain her Subaru all wheel drive vehicle. Clear plastic was tossed in the back of the car, I crawled in and held onto the calf while Annmarie drove us up on the back hillside. I let the calf out and it promptly ran in the wrong direction. Annmarie went out and chased the calf down. It was reunited with its mother and all was well.

I was exhausted. A shower was had, 16 ounces of dip and chips consumed and an hour long nap on the couch was needed. As soon as I woke up I talked the wife into driving into Pendleton to “check on the reservoir level” but as soon as we got to Pendleton we went to Dairy Queen so I could eat a banana split!! I wolfed it down, we went home and it was bed time! Not exactly power food but it sure was comfortable and well received. I was supposed to eat some real food in there somewhere. My scratch got scrubbed clean and bacitracin ointment applied. If It scars then I will have a cool ”pirate” wound.

A snail will get to the finish line eventually

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.

  • Lamb 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.

Can we squeeze 6 more hours into a day?

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 coming

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.