Water in the raw

Well the weather finally let me get into the upper fields. I drove the mistress up the road, stopped and talked to one of our neighbors on the way then made my way up to the far end of the property. I was able to get into the upper wheat field and drive along the bottom pasture. We do own a four wheel drive pickup but the problem with it is its heavy and it sinks down into the mud. The mistress has four wheel drive and is very light, she also has a bucket that can be used to drag or push you out of any place you get stuck. I have learned how to use the bucket to rescue myself. This does not work if you actually get stuck in a deep hole. You need a second vehicle at that point. I have only needed a second vehicle four times to extricate the mistress out of tight jams. The ground is truly soaked at this point. It is starting to give up water and is now running down the center of the field. I was hoping to get a single large pond that held the water but it does not look like that is going to happen. I also did not dig a channel down the middle of the field like I did in the lower field. It looks like the water is working on creating its own channel. When it dries out this summer I am going to have to deepen the channel that is made by the runoff. This will allow me to install a culvert so I can cross the ditch with the tractor and implements. I don’t want to bother with installing any buried tile network to drain off the moisture. My goal is to get the grass established and get a nice double cutting from the subterranean water soaked ground. If I have to give up some land due to too much moisture then so be it. Unfortunately, the ground is so sloped that there is no pond or reservoir like effect occurring. I am not so sure the ducks will like a mud pit. This is the bottom half of the upper pasture. I still need names for the two fields in the middle. Currently I have the Upper Prime Pasture which is the 4 acres just past the barn lot, two unnamed grass hay fields and the upper field which will forever be called the “7 acres”. I will have to consult the wife as to what the names should be. You can see that the lower channel has a tendency to widen and splits near the fence. The best part of this is that the elk have not gotten into the field and rooted up the grass seedlings!

Here is the lower of the two fields. This field has a channel dug into the center of it from five years ago. The water seems to be going directly to that channel. I would really like it to go to the already dug old original channel at the middle left of the screen. That is the original ditch from the 30s. I think I could easily direct it that way as you can see a low spot is already there. I would just need to encourage that water to make the jump to the front ditch instead of creating its own. This is the lower pasture. Last year I created a series of small connecting channels and they are working. This entire area in the picture used to be a mud fest area. I don’t dare go out in either field for at least two more months. The deer are living in the bottoms with the elk living on the hillside and up on top in the CRP. This is a good thing and I have high hopes for our grass hay crop this year.

We are going to work on our taxes this weekend. I need to do the farm categories and the chicken spreadsheets. Once that is done we are going to work on our loan application for the hay equipment.

I was supposed to get floor done

Annmarie was out of town starting on Monday of last week so I was supposed to get the floor finished while she was gone. That did not happen despite my attempt. Chores take time and when you are doing all the morning chores and all the evening chores I was spending about 2.5 hours a day doing chores. The snow keeps coming and going so I am now sweating whether we are going to have enough hay. The barn is almost empty so I will have to start bringing it over from the machine shop. We had a set of triplets, and I isolated them under the stairs. They appeared to be doing well. I found one lamb under the feeder a couple of times but everyone was getting up and eating. I went out the third night and found this gal buried under the feeder and ice cold. I brought her in and took her over to the propane stove to get warmed up. I tried to feed her a bottle but she didn’t have the energy to drink. So I worked her jaw for her. That got a little in until I got a syringe and started to squirt it in her mouth and rub her throat to swallow. She looked much better by the time that Tisha arrived to take her to her forever home.

We had a single born three days later and it is huge compared to the triplets. They are very small.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

5 bummers

13 singles (33%)

18 twins (50%)

5 triplets (17%)

36 ewes birthed

2 pregnant ewes pending birth

55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

3 lambs to process

Production rate:

Birthed 178%

On our farm and alive 161%.

Since we are running out of feed I am taking every opportunity to utilize outside feed. Our corral has an isolated pen that the grass had grown up in so I let the sheep in here to eat it down. The weather man says we are going to get 4-7 inches of snow over the next five days. I had to keep staining the stairs repeatedly. I forgot that I had put down oak treads and they just won’t take the stain very well. I had to stain the stairs three times and the upstairs floor twice. I managed to get the stain to a place that was acceptable. It’s not near as obvious where the dogs have created a path. My goal is to put on more than two coats of Varethane. I went to Sherwin Williams to get the same Varethane and found out it was discontinued but they had four gallons left. I only needed one and it cost about 1/3 of what I would have normally paid for it so I was pretty happy.

Phil was wrong

I heard that Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow therefore we would not have 6 more weeks of winter. Well we had snow over the last 24 hours and a winter weather advisory. Luckily for us, we did not get as much snow as was predicted and the storm went north of us. Whenever this happens to us late in winter I always start to have a mild panic attack. I am always fearful that we will run out of hay. What would we feed the animals? Yet, having too much leftover in the barn means you paid for too much hay. It would be one thing if we were producing our own hay then some carryover would not be near as big a deal. We could just sell the extra in the late spring to make room for our next crop. Us doing our own hay is going to be a game changer as far as expenses go for us. Paying out $6-7K annually for hay is not worth raising the animals, we need a source of hay that we don’t have to pay for annually.

It’s going to be real close on the hay and will require me to start bringing over alfalfa hay from the machine shed to finish feeding the sheep. It just dawned on me that we may even be able to put up a little straw for ourselves. This will require us to talk with the nice gentlemen growing wheat on the farm. We only use 2-4 ton of straw annually so not very much.

One of the new lambs decided that to get maximum access to the food it needed to crawl into the feeder and on top of the hay. I had to move the lamb out as I was afraid it would get stuck once its platform got eaten away. I never looked to see if it was a boy or girl but since I don’t see a tag in its right ear I am betting its a girl. A tag in the right ear means its a cull animal and all the boys are not keepers. I went out this morning to feed after a few hours of sleep and there was snow everywhere. The big bales are done so the cows are now eating normal 100# bales of alfalfa but these allow them to tip the feeders very easily. I wanted to feed some alfalfa and a little straw to the cows with the tractor. I started up the tractor even with the temperature under 20 F, no trouble. I let it warm up for a few minutes and put it in gear, the tractor died immediately. I did this 3-4 times all with the same results. I lifted the bucket up and down without any trouble. Stumped I decided that it just needed to warm up some more and I went and fed the sheep and horses. No babies this morning. The “wide as long” ewe was still in her pen and still not doing anything. The sheep are starting to mob me as I am giving them grain in the morning on top of their hay and at night I am tossing a half a bale of alfalfa onto the top of their hay.

When I was feeding the ram and his three ewes I noticed that our water was running again. We have a hand dug well on the property from the 1940’s and it has buried pipe that goes to the barn lot and under the creek over to behind the old chicken coop. The standpipe by the coop is broken and needs to be replaced. This will spontaneously start to flow when the ground water level gets high enough in the well. It will run for 3-4 months. Now we don’t have to bucket water to the ram. I just placed a drinking bucket under the running water and the sheep can just drink as much as they want. The pipes don’t freeze as it runs continuously.

I went back to the tractor and again tried to put it in gear and drive away, and the tractor tried to die. I was able to slip it back into neutral and it stayed running. This led me to think that it was the safety switch in the seat. It is there to make sure someone is sitting on the tractor when driving it or running the PTO. I stood up, beat on the seat a few times with my fist, sat up and down a few times and it worked! Problem solved! I fed the cows and went back inside after 2.5 hours outside doing chores.

This evening when I went out to do chores the “wide as long” ewe had finally had her babies!! She had a set of triplets and they were all sitting up and cleaned off. She paid attention to all three so we are going to let her try to raise them. We will leave them in the separate pen for a few more days to make sure they are all eating well and that mom and babies have bonded.

My wife loves fence

I was off work yesterday and thought about getting some work done. I even made a list during breakfast on a scrap piece of paper. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so I only had four items on the list. Instead a Netflix binge of the second season of one of my shows occurred. I managed to hang Annmarie’s stained glass window in our downstairs window after Netflix went down! So Annmarie can think some glitch in the netflix server for her window. I found some hand made hooks and some painted chain to hang it with on Etsy. We have had this stained glass window at least 15 years. I had it custom made for her from a wonderful lady.

Annmarie has been wanting me to go outside and put up the temporary woven electric fence in the ram pasture so the sheep can get out onto some grass. I really don’t want to do this. We had talked about running a fence from the corner of the chicken coop to the far fence so we could keep the sheep away from the back creek. We don’t want the lambs to be able to get to the running water in case it comes up. Now this was fenced off when we moved here. The fence ran from the corner of the old house to near our end fence. They had no water for the rams as no section of fence touched water when we moved here.

So since it was 50 F today I opted to go outside and create said fence. I did clean out the last of the junk from the craft room so Annmarie can now finish organizing it and start sewing. I have a request in for repair of two of my favorite pants and two new vests with more room in the chest and shoulders.

I have learned over the years how to build fence. I actually drug it fairly smooth with the box blade on the tractor as I had several high spots. I then string up a marker and using ground paint and a tape measure I mark out the fence. This makes construction much easier. I make the H braces 8 feet apart and I makes paint strip (long sided T) for T-posts and then I paint a dot for the wooden stays. I put the T-posts every eight feet and the wooden stays at four feet between them. This makes for a very tight fence and not one that any creature can squeeze through.

I had some trouble using the tractor auger as I hit clay and it would not go through. There was so much heat down in the hole that the dirt was smoking! I ended up having to use the manual post hole diggers and dig out a central hole that allowed the center part of the tractor auger to drop farther. The chisel tip of the tractor auger was riding on top of the clay. Odd part was it was not hard to dig manually but the tractor could not get through.

I managed to get all seven posts sitting in their respective holes. I pounded in 15 T-posts and laid out all 17 wooden stays. I will need to set the wooden posts in gravel tomorrow then cut and form the three H braces. I have two four foot gates to be installed in one location so we can get through the fence later. I am unsure where the woven wire is going to come from on the farm. I don’t think I have any left on my fence pile. I will have to look. I may have a roll up on the back hillside down by the school house. I am hopeful that I have two small rolls still on my fence pile. I have several hundred T-posts in the pile as I keep buying them from the scrap yard for $2/each.

When feeding tonight I lectured the “long as wide” ewe about the need for her to have her babies soon. She is a little more happy now that she has a gate and can see the other sheep. We are afraid to let her into “general population” as she may end up stuck on her back if jostled. The cat has managed to make her way back into the enclosure. We are definitely going to use up all our hay this year. I will be pulling over alfalfa from the machine shed by the end of February.

It will only take 20 minutes

Three days before Christmas and the ground is green and the soil is moist, this is not a normal December for our location. I keep hoping we will get a brutal two week cold spell down to single digits. I am afraid of what will happen with the bugs this upcoming summer. I think they will be horrible.

We had decided that we were going to finally have lambs soon. Since we were making the Christmas dinner the feeling was we would get inundated that morning. So on Saturday Annmarie and I went out to the barn for 20 minutes to move the ram over into the bull enclosure. I went to get panels from the large hay bale pile and Annmarie set up panels in the momma enclosure. I used the tractor to haul 7 panels over into the barn lot and then we hooked the panels together creating an alley way to the bull enclosure. I was one panel short so we pulled over a 16 foot cow panel that was stored over against the barn fence.

We sorted sheep using the chute in the barn and got the ram and three young females off the main herd. None of the females are pregnant and can hang out with him in the separate enclosure. We have learned not to put the animals by themselves as they just don’t do very well, always anxious and trying to get through the fence.

The ram with his three females. They were super happy as no animal had been inside the enclosure for over two months allowing the grass to grow undisturbed. We spent 2.5 hours moving and sorting animals!

I needed to clean out both cars as they both have engine lights on but Annmarie’s car seems to have an electronic ghost. Mine just has an engine light. I got a recall notice last week saying it can be a fuel tank indicator that can cause this and the part won’t be available until the spring of 2019.

I had a friend give me some old Toyota truck snow tires and I used the tractor to lift my trailer and change out the tires. I was pleasantly surprised when the tires fit the trailer. We are back in business and I loaded the trailer up with alfalfa from the machine shed. I will store it under cover in the lamb shed. I can feed the ram out of it and it will be available when I need to start feeding the cows small bales. I have 6 large bales left to feed the cows then I will be using the trailer to feed them small bales of alfalfa. The nice thing is I can pull the trailer with my tractor and get another three bales of hay in the front bucket.

Once I got the trailer into the lamb shed I used the 3 point quick hitch to lift it off of the ball. I hooked the safety chains into the hooks and then just lifted it off. This was very slick, now if only it will be that easy when I go to hook it back up.

I had to go feed and take care of my chickens. I had to carry another 100# of feed out to them. I noticed that the enclosure door was broken. One of the sheep got stuck in the enclosure and she just kept ramming her body against the fence in several places. She broke off one of the 4×4 posts. I ended up installing eyehooks and then using chain and a self tightener to pull the broken post into place. The only real issue is you have to pick your feet up when crossing the door threshold. I happened to spot all these hand grinders on the old house back porch. This doesn’t include the three sets we have inside the house.

I am going to have to install a couple of new posts in the chicken fence and rip out about 50% of it. I no longer need it all around the entire coop. The chickens are free range anyways.

I was supposed to take Annmarie out for her birthday dinner and had managed to keep an outside fire burning for three days. I was burning scrap wood, cardboard and branches that the wind had blown out of the trees. We had no wind for that entire time and when we went to go out to dinner the wind had picked up and was throwing hot coals 20-30 feet.

Annmarie made me put it out before we left for dinner. I actually managed to get the entire thing out and cooled so the wind did not restart it while we were gone.

Winter is almost here

Well, I can no longer say that Winter is not coming. It has frozen three times this week and we have had to turn our propane stove on. Last night when we went to bed, Annmarie wanted to open opposing windows wide open! I was freezing to death, so I moaned and groaned until she agreed to crack both windows only. It took me 20 minutes to get warm before I could fall asleep. I am putting another blanket at the foot of the bed just to add another layer over my feet!

Yesterday was errand day for me. I took a drive over to Hermiston to pickup our pig we swapped for lambs. The hanging weight on the pig was 199#. I brought three boxes home of frozen deliciousness. Our freezers were full but I had a bunch of frozen cherries from last year and the chickens are now eating those. I managed to get the whole pig into the freezer after clearing out the cherries, bacon before fruit!!! We had one pork belly turned into side pork. We have never done this before but we both like side pork and wanted to give it a try. You have to do the whole thing so we ended up with 7 pounds of side pork. As we had sausage this morning for breakfast Annmarie inquired if it was the new pig. I told her we had to eat the old pig first but I did get out a package of side pork for Sunday morning!

Annmarie is doing yoga 6 of 7 mornings as soon as she wakes up. I am on the “gonna workout” plan. The dogs have all learned that the yoga mat is a “no go” zone. Annmarie is not to be disturbed if she is on the mat and the dogs don’t get to step on it. It was not very hard to teach all three of them this rule. Yesterday, while running errands I had to pickup a package at the post office. It was some new yoga tights and dresses Annmarie had gotten on sale. This morning she told me there was a “no go” rule for me also after I violated the yoga zone.

We have had dumpster now for four weeks and have managed to fill it every week. I am hopeful this week that I will get the glass windows out of the lamb shed and break them into the dumpster. This was the sole reason for getting the dumpster in the first place. Annmarie keeps reminding me that if we can fill it for weeks on end maybe we should have gotten one sooner? It takes some concerted effort to keep filling it as I don’t just have a pile ready to go but I think we only have 1-2 weeks left before I will have them remove it. That will have gotten rid of 10-12 yards of trash.

The new barn kitty is still hanging out in the barn. It is a fixed adult black and white cat. Still in the barn and doing well. We feed the barn cats on a regular basis and it is settling right in. I did hear one big howling cat fight this week emanating from the barn but it settled down after a couple of minutes and we have seen the new kitty and our orange kitty both since then.

The chickens do not like daylight savings time either. This week I noticed that some of the chickens were not going into the coop at night. I opted to allow natural selection to occur, only the smart shall survive. Now, I have not seen a predator around but they are always there and yep I was right. Thursday we spotted a suspicious lump out on the back hillside visible from the kitchen window. The magpies were swarming it so it was pretty obvious. I went out and sure enough it was a chicken carcass. Imagine my not surprise when I went out to get eggs last night and every chicken was inside the coop and protected behind the automatic chicken door.

The cows are now getting fed on a weekly basis. Luckily, we have some big bales left this year. They are super handy to feed as I just have to push one or two out to the cows. I still need to get the tire fixed on the small pickup bed trailer as that is what I am going to hook up to the tractor to feed the small bales.

We are putting the sheep in every night now. The first four evenings we had to use the dogs but now if we go out after dark the sheep have already put themselves into the barn. We just give them a little feed at night as a reward. They are not starving as half a bale is enough for a reward and they leave some in the feeders. We are so happy with the new ram, he is super calm. We have decided that he only gets scratched under the chin so that we are not trying for dominance by reaching for the top of his head.

40% done, wish it was enough

Last week I spent three days planting and then prepping the next field. It takes me almost an hour an acre to run my little tractor around in a circle. It just becomes a game of time in the tractor seat. I also managed to score 20 railroad ties for $15/each. This is a great deal and I have 10 holes dug from this spring that need ties dropped into them. I had run out and don’t like paying $25/each for them.

The welding class is still going, I am unsure how well. I finally managed to see the metal melt and not guess at the what is occurring in the blurry hot red blob I was seeing. No, I did not go get new glasses even though that may help. I accidentally discovered it when I started to weld horizontally at eye level. I was not trying to look out the bottom of my glasses and realized that if I looked up toward the ceiling I could see a reflection in the top of my welding goggles that was the actual weld in focus! Its kinda weird when you look up at the ceiling to weld in front of you but it works great. The only real problem is when you are done with a weld and attempt to look around you your eyes have to try and refocus back to normal. Like I said its weird but it works. Weeds just keep coming back, in the spring I will hit both these fields with 2-4-D to knock out the broadleaf weeds.