Is it Spring or not?

I had plans to finish the bathroom over the weekend, that did not happen. I was reminded that we needed to sort the cows and sheep so we could get the ram in with the ewes and the small bull away from his mother as he is now 7 months old. To do this effectively we had talked about installing a gate in the yard fence so we could push the cows from the orchard pasture into the corral across the front yard hillside. So Mr Professional and I spent about 5 hours and got the side gate installed, we had to level the area, dig down and then clean up around the garbage shack. We leveled the whole area with gravel. My hope is the dogs won’t try and dig down. If they do then we will bury concrete blocks to prevent it but we are not going to go to the effort unless the dogs dig.

Once that was done we sorted the sheep. We peeled off 13 lambs that were older than 3 months and our oldest ewe “old brown” to move over into the orchard pasture. This way the ram won’t impregnate any of the young ewes and the ewes will put on weight faster as they are not nursing big lambs. The fat ram followed a bucket of sweet feed from the bull enclosure into the barn. He is such a push over for food. He has been in with the sheep for four days and we have yet to see him mount any thing. He better get to work soon, we will give him another three weeks. Luckily, we already had plans to go down and get another ram for competition. It may be that we are getting his replacement, time will tell.

I had to work that night so Mr Professional came out with a chainsaw and started to cut down all of the volunteer trees that were growing in the orchard pasture. We had talked about it and after he was done it sure made the area look a lot nicer. We are probably going to keep it this way for a while. He cleaned up the whole area also. When I got up we hung the new gate, he had just painted that day, down by the old apple tree. This is one of the heavy duty custom welded gates that the bull cannot tear apart. Once we had it up we did a little touch up painting and added a few boards to fill in the gap and drilled a locking receptacle hole. The gate fits like it was made for the opening. We took the bent one and drove over it with the tractor to straighten it out then installed it in the alleyway in the orchard pasture. We just need to pound In a T-post and add a panel onto the end. This will keep the animals from darting down this narrow pathway and getting stuck. Most of the time it will be open and doing nothing. The gate was not going to be used in a high traffic area due to being too lightweight to contain the bull.

We did not move the cows. I was beat, the covid is dragging me down again and starting to cause chest pain and shortness of breath. The cardiologist says I have pericarditis and need to take high dose NSAIDS for three months. I will see how I feel in four months.

Babies Cometh

It has been a week for random babies. I found the new calf last week while feeding. I came out on Wednesday early afternoon to get the new fence inspected and pictures taken for the water conservation grant. While we are walking toward the fence I spot a still wet calf out in the field. It happens to be green ear tag and she is the fiercest of them all when it comes to protecting a calf. So we gave her a wide berth. The pictures are all taken and I handed over all the hours spent on the fence and all the receipts. We will see how the check looks when it comes, I am hoping to cover supply costs. On Wednesday after spotting the newborn calf I saw brand new twins lambs up on the back hillside. About 15 sheep would not come off the hillside as they did not want to leave the new momma. I walked up there and pushed them down. She stayed with her lambs and I was able to swing panels in the barn and open up the momma area so she could be isolated in her movements. When I walked back up to the hillside she was so skittish that I ended up scooping a lamb under each arm and carrying them back to the barn. She followed me to the barn but then would not enter it. Every time I tried to push her in she would jump around me. I finally gave up and locked her in the barn lot. She ended up in the barn I just could not go up and shut the door.

We have been tossing baby chickens back into the coop after dark every night. They are too stupid to get the concept of going back into the coop before dark. On a plus side they are not afraid of snow. This is amazing as I have always had scaredy cat chickens that did not want to step in the white stuff. I tossed three chicks back into the coop.

Today we moved an old bookcase from our house to Sarah’s. This caused us to rearrange our entire master bedroom. We cleaned under and around things that had not been moved in ten years! We are having a new master bedroom set delivered in the next two weeks. We got a bed frame with drawers under each side. We are going to store linen under the bed in those drawers. This will let me store comforters and quilts in the bathroom closet. The linen always gets buried.

We got the bookcase out without too much trouble but on the way back we had to drop off a sewing machine and table at the Mother-in-law’s house and spotted another calf out in the field! Three born in the last week. Now if only the sheep would take off and start dropping babies.

The big orange barn cat did not run from me this morning. Usually it just hides when it sees me, Annmarie tells me she can touch it. So I fed it on the step and tried to pet it. I would just barely touch it and it would back up and away. We did this four times before it took a half hearted swat at my hand as I tried to pet it. I just stood close to it as it ate after that. I will keep trying to tame it down. The grey and white cat makes a random appearance also. I think there are four cats living out in the barn but they are incredibly elusive.

We bought new gate latch materials yesterday and I installed them today. They are working out very nicely except Zeke disappeared from the yard while I was doing this. He won’t stay in the yard 15 minutes now unsupervised before he is leaping over the fence at some spot. I started trying to cut off all the posts at 12″. Unfortunately, there are two shorter posts, a couple of inches shorter. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice, I am unclear how I thought this would elude her notice, it did not.

After much gnashing of teeth I will be recutting all the posts off to ten inches high and installing wires in the hopes that we can contain Zeke. I will also be cutting wooden extensions for the front gate so it matches the gate over by the outhouse building.

We got our first snow of Winter on Thanksgiving day. It made for a pretty day, we will see if it lasts.

We are going to start feeding the quail. They are living in the rose bushes in the driveway so we will be able to just toss out some feed as we drive to work or come home. We like the quail the best.

Vacation day 1

Its Tuesday and my first day of vacation! I have a very long to do list to get done in the next two weeks and a tight schedule. So things need to go smooth so it can get done!

I went up to the far upper field, 7 acre, first thing in the morning with the intention of burning. I had already called the burn line to leave a message and my burn permit information. I had notified the local fire department and I had gone to the minimart and purchased 19.6 gallons of propane for my 20 gallon tank.

I decided that the 7 acre field had plenty of detritus and was ripe for burning. The only real problem with this was it had rained the night before. I had high hopes for a large amount of flames! Tex is back and was going to come out in the afternoon so I wanted to burn these fields up and be ready for some manly bonding. Instead there were some performance issues. Despite the fact that I was using a propane torch and the wind was blowing around 10 MPH I could not get the fire to go! I kept trying but only the underbrush would catch and even then only when I held the flame directly at it and held it in place. On the off chance the fence line would be better I lit it on fire and it actually burned! This led me to burn the entire fence line around the 7 acre field and down along the road. If nothing else this just created a larger safety zone around the field for when I can actually burn. I spent all morning flaming the weeds and crisping my eyebrows. I was never in fear of actually catching myself on fire this time as I was wearing long sleeves, leather work boots, leather gloves and an all natural fiber jacket. No man made acrylics any where on my body this time!

Tex called to say he was headed out and wanted to know if he could bring his dog! He has a four month old puppy called “Daisy”, she is a red Heeler, cute dog, very friendly but very much a single people person dog. She lays around and watches him all the time, never very far away. She did pretty good with our three dogs, Zeke just ignores puppies, as they are an annoyance. Gizmo did not want to be low man on the totem pole so he was the most aggressive. They were all laying around within an hour of arrival.

Tex and I spent a few hours ripping out the side fence for our yard. The sheep had broken the post off and the gates were held in place with multiple boards propped up at an angle. I really did not want to go through a winter like that and more importantly it was on the honey-do-list!

We kept the corner post as it was an old railroad tie and still very stable. The mistress and I kept working the future fence line with the box blade in an attempt to get a fairly even surface. We weren’t trying for a level surface, just even. There was a lot of debris and old fencing to move out before we could even tear down the fence. I will need to get that fence over to the scrap metal pile.

I left for town after we were done so that I could pick up all the necessary supplies to build a new fence. I found everything but it seems excessive to spend $1000 on 100′ of fence with two gates installed. We are going to do it as we still need a way for vehicles to get into our yard.

It’s the small things that count

Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.

I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!

The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.

I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.

I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.

Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.

I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.

I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.

Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.

Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.

Assimilation issues

Well we are not part of the Weather Underground yet. One of the things that Annmarie and I did not know was that Weather Underground actually has recommendations for brands and models of weather stations that work well with their website. We did not get a recommended brand so Annmarie is going to have to work harder to make it happen. I am sure she can win once she puts her mind to it. She tells me that she just redid it today about two hours ago and thinks it may work! We are KORPILOT6 and so far it is not updating put it can take up to one day to update on Weather Underground so we will hopefully be up and running tomorrow. The ram must have had some issues when he was impregnating all the ewes. We went four days without a single ewe having a baby. Since Thursday we have only had one ewe per day give birth. We are thinking he went at his job gangbusters and got all the compliant and easy ewes first, had to take a few days of rest to recuperate and then started to work harder to get all the Wiley ewes. This part of the process seemed to take longer if our extended birthing time is any indication of his progress.

On Thursday I found the first single baby and isolated them in the momma baby area for the day. Unfortunately, I had installed our brand new aluminum gate between the momma/baby and pregnant ewe area. Doing work in the barn should not be an unfortunate thing but it seems like whenever I change something the sheep figure out how to prove that the job is incomplete. The little buggers can squeeze through the new gates! I had three lambs in the wrong area and unlike the feeders that they usually just crawl back out, they did not want to leave all those adult sheep even though none of them were their mommas. Two of the babies had ear tags already and the third was tagless but a big baby and not new. The first two just ran over and found momma and ate, the tagless one was crying nonstop and could not find momma. I had to block the new gate with an old wooden gate to keep the lambs from repeating that trick.

Momma had abandoned him so he came inside and went into the laundry basket. He jumped out first thing and ended up doing the four way splits on our tile floor. I was heating up his bottle when this occurred. After saving him he took a little milk and fell instantly asleep. I fed him three more times but every time he got a little in his tummy he would just fall back asleep. Tisha came and saved him, he will go live with the other three bummers, all of them are still alive.

On Friday we had another single lamb and the rest of our brand new movable gates arrived. Now I just need to find time to fix them, Annmarie suggested we just cover the bottoms with chicken wire so as not to add weight to the gates.

Saturday morning we had a set of twins. Every lamb has been getting the paste and now that it is freezing outside we don’t have to use the syringes. We just squeeze out the frozen length we need and roll it into a ball and then feed it to the lamb.

The lambs are all over the place, I am sure we have lost track of how many we have despite writing it down every day. We should only have 9 untagged babies now but when I look at them running around it looks like more that’s that. Next week I will do the whole tag and band adventure and then we will count everyone again. We have 14 ewes left to give birth. One ewe is not pregnant so we will watch her, I am not sure if she is barren or just lost her baby but she has no udder and is not pregnant. She does have a girl tag, I might want to check her gender just in case there was an error. The lambs are very comical at this age and there are a lot of them. I was out in the barn today applying chicken wire to all the new gates and they were running all over the place. I had kicked out the ewes and pasted and moved the single lamb with our old lead ewe into the momma/baby area. This let me keep the barn closed up so I could fix and install new gates and not worry about mixing up everyone. This is a nightmare if you have to resort with this many babies. The chute doesn’t work well as everyone gets separated. You have to mix the sheep up in a pen then find babies and get them to bleat so you can find their momma then separate them off, it takes forever.

The lambs kept trying to go outside, so they would run down the chute and then run back to the main area. I snagged this picture when they were running back into the main area. This is not all of them.

I just zip tied some chicken wire to our brand new fancy gates. The gates are very light and we did not want to put wire panel pieces on them and weight them down. The chicken wire adds almost no weight and does its job well.

I installed a gate in the far end and attached two new anchor bolts into the main beam so there are no more bungee cords needed. I also installed a gate over the end of the chute so we can close the gate and the babies cannot sneak through. I also installed another gate between the momma/baby area and the pregnant ewes. I had to use bungee cords on that one. I need to install another board and some eye bolts.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

10 singles

13 twins

3 triplets

25 ewes birthed

15 pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

 10 babies dosed only

These numbers are a mere approximation. Until I do the tagging and banding and physically touch every baby and count every ewe these are best guess. It never fails that every year I try and keep a strict count I always manage to get off somehow. They do add up but that doesn’t mean they are right.