Flood recovery is slow as it’s not the only thing left to do

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I had plans to fix my haying problems and fix some fence.  I managed to get “some” fence fixed and did not fix my haying problem.  Friday was very nice and I figured I was going to get loads of stuff done.

I managed to tear apart and rebuild both spring crossings in the yard.  They are now dog proof.  On the plus side, both of these crossings faired very well.  The panels lifted and bowed and moved out of the way of the water.  I will be making every crossing just like these two.  I managed to fix both crossings in under four hours.  I took some measurements for the span down by the propane tank (big picture below).  Annmarie is going to make me some plans for a new bridge.  She is making me plans for trusses, I will build two trusses and install them onto my concrete footings I will be installing then I will be bolting them down to the concrete.  I am going to pour “L” shaped footings so that the truss will rest on the lower L part and push against the upright part.  I will install two large bolts so I can bolt it down.  I will be using all thread, I love that stuff then I can just stuff it down into the concrete.

I did go up and tried to turn the hay in the upper prime field.  It was full of mud, I finally gave up and just started to shove the grass into large piles.  I have a set of manure forks that clamp onto the bucket coming.  I ordered them last week after the flood.  I think we will just burn the piles in place in a couple of weeks if it ever quits raining. I tried to go into the upper prime squared field but it still had water running through it.  I cleaned out the culvert and ended up having to dig out the ditch in about five places to get all the water flowing into designated channels.  I will need to wait a couple of days and go up there and try it again.  I think I may be able to salvage at least 2 acres of grass that did not get mud in it.  But if the rain keeps up it is going to start rotting on me.

The horses LOVE this no fence world as they are gorging themselves on all you can eat grass from all over the farm including my ruined hay fields.  They are so full that both of them were laying down and taking naps in the shade.  So far none of the dogs have escaped the yard after my repairs and they have had ample opportunity over the last three days.  

Yesterday, I decided to focus on our yard.  Sometimes the house needs to be prioritized also and it was time to knock everything down.  I spent the day on the weed eater.  I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to get the weed eater to work.  I have to do it every spring as I always forget the ins and outs and after pulling it 50 times in an effort to get it started I figured some help was warranted even if it was unwanted.  The YouTube lady had me up and running in under five minutes!  I also trimmed our lilac bush and some other bush we had in the back that was trying to take over the gate area.  I was getting tired of fighting the plants to get in and out of the back gate.  I burned over 1/2 gallon of gas in the weed eater getting the hillside cleaned off.  I forget how my body feels after five hours of using the weed eater.  My single biggest complaint is what the vibrations do to my hands, they ache.  I love getting old.

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Today, Annmarie and I went out to work on the lavender patch.  I dug about 14 rocks out of the patch that I had not removed and cleaned up a pile of ash.  Annmarie wondered how we were ready if I had not done all the prep.  I reiterated that one cannot have all the prep work done ahead of time and it was not very much.  She laid out the ground cloth while I carried in the fake bark.  We have colored recycled shredded tires.  I put out 1200 pound of the stuff and it didn’t even make a dent!  We quit laying out ground cloth because I did not want the wind to tear it all up and we ordered another 10k# of recycled tires.  It will be here in 10-14 days.  The nice part was I just scooped it up into a five gallon bucket by hand and spread it out with the bucket.  It worked great and stopped me from having to try and rake it out over the ground cloth.

Once we ran out of that I went out to help Mr Professional, it was supposed to rain so he was not going to spray.  Instead we took the spare wood out to the old chicken coop.  This meant he pulled the down fence mess off of the culvert so we could drive the trailer and pickup across.  Unfortunately, this exposed the torn out corner near the culvert.  It was not bad only a couple of feet but enough that the trailer was not going to get past.  I had moved some rocks into the barn lot that I was going to use on the flat spot I made behind the barn.  I had expressly collected huge rocks as that was what I wanted to go there.  So we used those rocks to fill in the hole that allowed us to drive the trailer across the culvert.

While he was getting ready to unload the wood, he had to clear a spot I tried to straighten out the Alcatraz water area, I cleaned off the grass on the side that was supposed to allow water in and then chained onto it.  I moved it about two feet before it hit resistance and I just started sliding all over the muddy hillside.  I need it to actually dry out for a few days.  We unloaded the wood, while it started to rain again.  We staged about 20 pieces of blue pine for the bathroom on the front porch.  The plan is to start working on the bathroom for a few hours every evening and get it done!  I so want a second bathroom and our bathroom lights came on Friday.  The rosettes I ordered to go around the mirror came but they only had 1/2” nails with them and I wanted at least 1.25”.  I ended up ordering another 6 rosettes from a different place with longer nails.  These are all hand forged and come with 1.25” nails to hold them in place.  They will hopefully be here this week so I can install them and remove the board I have propped across the entire room leaning onto the mirror.

I did go out into the orchard after we finished with the ground cloth.  I realized that the culvert was still plugged up and it was causing water to run across the orchard.  I spent an hour hand digging and pulling out weeds and branches from the ditch until I got the backlog down and the channel cleared out for 20 feet.  I then went down to where the water ran under/through the far fence.  Ouch, there is a three foot drop off that is about 14’ wide.  I am going to have to just cut the fence, install two H braces on either side, put a cable across the top and hang cow panels down.  I can fill up the one side with large rocks but I am running out of easy access to large rock piles.  I have one rock pile in the orchard that I  had been building up from all over the orchard.  I think I can hang some weights on the panels so that the cows cannot lift them but if the water rushes by again it will just lift the panels.  This is my new plan, all water crossings need to be able to “float” out of the way if we ever get flooding again.  Annmarie tells me that we beat a record rainfall set in 1894 with this flood on this day.  I would believe it but that surely does not help when you are cleaning up.  As always, we are grateful and fortunate that none of the houses or buildings were damaged.  We are just cleaning up fences and losing hay, less than $20K dollars worth of damage.  The amount of work it will take to fix it is the hard part, that took several years to install.  On the plus side our bridge for the barn lot survived!  I just have to hook onto it with the tractor and pull it back.  I will have to find another extra railroad tie as I was pretty much the only one who could drive the tractor across the four foot bridge.  You cannot get a straight shot at it so it makes it very hard.  I am making a list of more things to by now.

I even went down to the barn lot crossing and fished out all the blocks today.  It was a mess.  I am going to buy another 200 blocks and then rip out what is currently installed and replace them all.  I want to extend the blocks out along the sides and then stick the crossing on top of the blocks, this should gain me another foot of clearance and prevent the bridge from being eroded out.  I am fine with it being lifted off its footings as this is a safety feature.  This many blocks will take 3-4 people about a day to install.  Once those are in and the bridge is back in place then I can worry about getting the fence back in place.  It’s going to be a long summer.

I am going to have to focus on the cross fences above first to keep the animals out of the hay fields.  So that is the next priority project, once I have those done we can sort the cows and pull the young meat heifers off of the main herd and then let the bull back in with the cows.  The steers and heifers can go in the upper prime pasture and we will get two fences between the bull and them.

 

 

Too much of a good thing is not always great.

It’s been a long week, even longer than normal.  Wednesday morning before going to work Annmarie asked me to go out and lift the fence crossing I had lowered over the back creek.  We had already gotten 1.5” of rain in the last 24 hours and she figured Stewart Creek would start rising as it had turned muddy and was up about 8”.  So I went out and did that before going to work.  By noon it was coming out of its bank and by 1400  it was so high it was just running across a 1/4 mile section of the road above our property.  All of this water was then going into the front spring runoff area and we had a rushing stream going through the barn lot that was 5-6’ high.  Needless to say that the spring flow is normally measured in inches.  All of my pictures are the next day after the flooding occurred.

Annmarie kept sending me pictures while I was at work.  It was painful to watch.  The best part was we lost no animals, no humans, no damage to our house and absolutely no damage to our front walking bridge.  This is almost a best case scenario for any flooding. The back creek did not jump out of its channel due to erosion, it literally just got so high that it just flowed over the banks in multiple locations.

Another plus is the front spring bed is now all gravel, it is a couple feet lower in places and there are a couple of waterfalls. On the negative side we are missing a foot bridge that was in place to allow the propane guy to walk across the spring and fill our tank.  This will need to be fixed in the next two months.  It will require two concrete footings on each side and then I have to give the span to Annmarie and she will find an arched truss bridge made out of 2×6 boards that I will build.  

The barn lot was all finished last year, I had made two separate flower garden areas and an animal drinking area, those do not exist.  Nor does the the 5’ wide railroad tie bridge that I used to drive the tractor across.  The bridge has vanished.  I have not found it yet.  The only reason the fences in the one flower area survived is I installed huge rock cribs and tied them all together.  They were more than the water could handle.  One is lifted up by about 8” but it is still staying in place.  I will be moving the location I was going to put bee hives on another 6’ higher.  I don’t want them to get washed away.  I had two brand new 16’ panels leaning up against the fence, they have disappeared, again I am unsure where they ended up.

 

The mamma/baby area is missing a little 2’ spring crossing and all of the fence near the water.  The barn lot cow panels have been mangled and piled up along the bank.  I think the damage would have been less severe if I had not cut hay a week ago and the field had not flooded and carried all the loose hay into the waterway effectively damming it up in places.  This was not good for the fence crossings.

The culvert crossing in the middle of the barn lot is washed out.  It needs to be replaced and this time the culvert needs to be 4’ instead of 2’.  The water moved the Alcatraz water fencing but did not manage to rip it down.  Thankfully, the bull was contained.  I am going to let him and his compatriots out of Alcatraz tomorrow after I chain three gates closed top and bottom so he has two fences between him and the heifers in the lower pastures.

The three upper cross fences have all been laid over by the water pressure.  The cut loose hay just created dams when it hit the fence, I have maybe 1-2 acres of hay I can save if I am lucky but a lot of it is ruined with mud.

The far upper field triticale is ready to be cut, it is a horrible threadbare crop but I cannot harvest it as the entire field was under water.  I may get 3-5 tons off of it.  The upper middle field did not follow the ditch I had started to dig.  I did not carry the ditch far enough up the field.  This needs to happen this spring.  I had two culverts up there but had not installed them yet, the water knocked one into its spot, the other one is too small and I will need to get a bigger one.

On the plus side my little 1 acre spot of peas may come through and I may get to harvest it!

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Bottom line is I have a lot to do, I have had several people offer to come out and help.  I am going to take those offers up so I can get a leg up on all that needs to be done.  I cannot get out in the fields so I am planning and staging already.  I have 100 2x6x16’ tamarack boards ready to be picked up on Tuesday, I have 300 4” Fastenal anchor bolts purchased, I have purchased clamp on manure forks for the tractor bucket so I can move rocks and loose hay easier.  The manure forks should be here next week.  I still need to buy about 150 cinder blocks, 100’ of cable, a bunch of metal clips, some gates, metal panels and about 1200’ of woven wire, 30-6” posts (I may have enough from my spring used post purchase if I can cut them in half, even better if I can cut them in thirds.  I will need to bring over a bunch of rocks and I will need about 10 more cow panels.  Annmarie has said I can use tires to hang from the creek crossings that are in the upper pasture as the bull won’t be able to move them but the water will be able to push them.  I will also need some plywood, probably 8 sheets and some 2x4s and about 50 bags of Sackrete to pour the four footings.    It sounds like a lot of work, that does not include replanting both garden areas.  The plan is to just fix it all and take into account the problems that Mother Nature threw at us and see if we cannot work around them so they don’t get us next time.

 

 

 

 

Lucky ones

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Annmarie goes out in the mornings to do the chores and she is a much better kitty whisperer than am I.  This is a picture of our “barn kitty”.  We have 2-3 barn kitties but this one is the most elusive.  It is very hard to spot and runs at the sight of people.  It will now come out when she feeds it and lets her see it!  The fat orange barn kitty lets her pet it and I can even touch it now.  It looks like Garfield and kind of behaves that way also.

We have switched to feeding out of the other side of the barn.  The hay is of a better quality and we are using the lousy hay for bedding and filler.  We are using around 10 bales a day now.  I hope we can compost most of the lousy hay this spring and kill the weed seed that way.

I ordered a new battery for the side by side (buggy) and next week will be installing the new battery and trickle charger so the buggy will be ready for weed spraying this spring.   I may have to steal one of the barn portable lights so I can see to work on wiring the machine shed after my paying job is over in the evenings.  If I spend 1.5 hours a night I should be done in a week.

We are still lambing.  It has been ten days since I posted the last updated birth statistics.  Since that time we have had 8 more ewes deliver, for 14 more lambs of which 13 are still alive and 12 of those babies are sets of twins.

Umatilla County has had record setting runoff in the Umatilla River causing water levels to be the highest ever recorded in history.  Large chunks of towns are under water and at least 6 bridges have been damaged and closed.  We have it better than last year.  None of our fields have flooded and our back runoff creek is already lower than usual for this time of year after we had the flash runoff on Wednesday.  I wish those people luck and the perseverance to hang on and build back up.  This is really going to strain the ability of our county to get projects completed due to the sudden demand for contractors to fix all of this water damage.

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  • Total lambs born (dead or alive):  42
  • # of singles:  7
  • # of twins:  13
  • # of triplets:  3
  • Stillborn lambs:  1
  • # died without a tag:  5
  • # bummered:  3
  • # ewes delivered:  23
  • # lambs alive on property:  33
  • Birth rate (alive & dead included):  183% (goal>150%)
  • Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm):  143% (goal >125%)
  • Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week):  79% (max 100%)

We have had 23 ewes deliver their babies but it looks like at least 10 more need to have babies.  We really need to to run everyone through our chutes and do an individual count of all involved parties so we know exactly how many animals there are out in the barn.

Our three cow carcass weights were 386#, 338#, 325#, we shoot for 330# so they were right there.  We are going to hold our price to $2.50 lb/hanging weight for all of 2020 again.

The chickens are making me crazy, we have 32 now and the babies keep trying to decide whether to lay or not.  We were getting 7 eggs a day and are now down to 2/day.  I keep hoping that as soon as the weather warms up the chicks will take off laying and we will be buried in eggs.

 

 

 

I need a break

Annmarie spotted another random newborn lamb yesterday evening. This morning Tex and I went out into the ram pasture and Tex snagged the newborn. I could of done it but it ran to his side of the field! We took it to the barn so I could tag and band it. I even remembered to enter it into the Airtable spreadsheet so we could track it.

Afterwards we went to install the culvert in the orchard. We had to dig out the bottom of the channel by hand and had to put it in a couple of times to fit test it prior to back filling it in. I was able to use the old dirt and then drag down the edges. We even rocked in the inlet side of the culvert. I can now get the tractor over to the other side of the ditch.

We were able to move the pipe trailer out of the field and snagged all the loose pipe laying about. We moved the pipe trailer out of the fields over near the wheat field then proceeded to clean up the scrap metal piles. We tossed the metal over the fence so the scrap metal guy can pick it up on his next visit.

I had to go to town to get more diesel for the tractor. We were running on fumes. I had Tex go use the chainsaw on the downed trees at the spring head. I also wanted him to trim the tree touching the old chicken coop. After lunch, we took the now filled tractor over to drag out the downed trees. Between the chain saw and the tractor we got all the dead massive limbs piled up into a large burn pile. Hopefully, next week we can light it on fire. Annmarie ran the horses in the round pen yesterday but I had put it on the soft dirt. The horses tore it up something fierce. So I will need to move it next week. We have plenty of spots for it.

After she got back from church we went out to work on the front hillside and started to set up the water system so we can start growing clover. We were able to reuse some of the aluminum uprights from the main sprinkler system, along with the valves and sprinkler heads. We keep trying to reuse as much stuff as we can. I also got a large piece of Elm for the anvil. I will need to make some custom holders for it. My plan is to get it attached and then use it whenever I need to beat something into submission. I realized that the only thing I don’t really have yet is a portable grinder. So after I get that I will dress up the anvil.

I had Tex fill in gravel in the ditch behind the machine shop. I will need to finish it off this week. The rest of our hay equipment should arrive this week. We will be able to store it in the machine shed now! We did park the tractor in the shop tonight. It is an amazing thing.

I am done! I am so tired that I started losing my grip while working on the sprinkler system. I will be taking it easy next week. I am thinking about working on the bathroom upstairs. More thought than muscle.

Spraying necessary

Sunday of this week Tex came out and finished fencing on the upper prime pasture. It needed wooden stays and to fix the spring crossing. He worked on that all day while the sheep continued to mow our front lawn.

I spent the day on the tractor trying to spray our upper middle field. It is growing gangbusters but it needs some weeds eradicated. I am only able to spray about a 6 foot swath at a time. I went to a fixed sprayer with no boom but the pump cannot keep the pressure up in the tank so it varies in its spray application rate. Its causing me enough problem that I have started to look back into a boom system. Luckily, I kept the 12 foot boom from the old four wheeler, I tossed it over by the metal scrap pile and never made it go away! I just need to mount it on the 55 gallon spray tank frame. Using that I can change out the size of the nozzles to control flow rates. I will be able to spray about 50% faster than I currently can.

I spent all day on the tractor and simply ran out of time. The middle prime field is done! There is about a half an acre of soggy ground in that field but the grass looks great.

Annmarie and I talked about it and I am going to dig a ditch to collect the water and make it run in a narrower channel. Hopefully, this will prevent it from forming fingers throughout the entire field.

I spent the next three weeknights after work trying to get the upper field sprayed. I found even more wet and muddy spots. There is about 1/3 of the field that I cannot get into due to the mud and soft ground. This is going to cause us some problems.

My hope is Tex and I can crank out the machine shed this upcoming weekend and I can get back to spraying.

I may even have to mow the lawn. Annmarie is getting tired of the dogs rolling in sheep manure and Gizmo keeps making himself sick from eating too many turds. It starts to make the cost more than its worth.