Ouch, is it quicksand?

It has been a long two days already and there is one more left in the weekend.  First thing Friday and Saturday I got out of bed, made coffee and went out to spray fields.  We are trying to eradicate the star thistle and other thistles.  So I am spraying 2-4-d and Milestone on the fields and so is Mr Professional, between the two of us hopefully we will have it finished this week.  I keep running out of spray, last year we didn’t buy hardly any spray which may explain why we are spending so much this year.  I suspect we will end up with about $1500 worth of chemicals on the property, for around 70 acres.  The amount of rain we have gotten this year is causing the weeds to just keep coming out of the ground.  This has led me to the conclusion that the battery I got for the side by side is too small.  We keep having to use the external battery to jump start it.  I should have just gotten the kit that allows me to install a large marine deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat.  I will be doing that and getting a new battery that will just fit in the battery holder.  I need as much battery as I can get, even the trickle charger is not helping.

I did have to pump up the front right tire on the tractor on Friday.  I suspect I may have run over a nail.  I still need to replace the left front tire rim and both front tires are the originals and are almost 8 years old.  We now park the tractor in the machine shop but it used to sit out most of its life In the weather and sun which is reflected in the tire condition. It is time to get new ones.

Annmarie and I spent the late morning spreading out the rest of our ground cover tire bark on Friday and she took me to town to feed me lunch so we could get the rest of the parts needed to install a drip line on all the berries.  The berries and the lavender are both now on timers and drip lines.  We have about 20 bags of tire chips leftover.  I want to get the greenhouse up and use it on the floor as a heat sink.  Our wheat fields should be harvested next week.  I love the wheat when it is at this stage, I think it is at its most beautiful.

We spent Saturday morning fixing the drip lines on three herb containers in the back garden and I finished spraying the far field.  After breakfast and conversation with my mother I went out and put away the baler in the machine shed and decided to go up to the second field and dig more ditches.  The ditches I dug last week had water running in them and the surrounding ground has firmed up nicely.  I would like to move some dirt and fix all the runnels in the field that the flooding caused but there is still a pretty wet spot in the middle of the field.  My plan was to just dig some interconnecting ditches to help the water flow better.  I took flags with me and walked around the wet area and marked the borders so when it dried out I would know what was going to be super wet ground again in the spring.  I have pretty much convinced myself I am going to have to install pecker poles, some people call them vineyard poles, they are only 2” around and pressure treated.  I can drive them into the ground and they should stay for about 7 years.  I need to know where it is wet when I am cutting hay so I don’t inadvertently get out into the mud.

Why you ask would I like to avoid the mud?  Well it is wet and sometimes the bottom of the mud hole is hard to find.  I started to dig right at the top of a running waterway and got the front tires stuck.  I tried to back out and push out with the bucket but the bucket kept sinking and not finding a lot of firm ground.  I then went forward deeper into the hole and tried to pull myself forward with the bucket.  This let me get forward another three feet which put me nose down into a hole.  I was at the far end of the property and had no tools or vehicles except for two railroad ties laying over by the gates.  I had seen them there and was saving them for use later.  I hoofed it over and grabbed the first one, put it on my left should and walked the 200 feet to the tractor.  It was heavy and I could feel it digging into my skinny shoulder.  I wedged it under the front left tire and went back for the second one.  I simply could not squat down and get it up on my right shoulder, damn thing was over 100# and I was hot and tired.  So I put one end of the tie on a cross beam about three feet off the ground, lifted the other end and got under it.  I hoisted it onto my right shoulder and made it about 50 feet before saying no way and tossing it on the ground.  Mind you I think the tractor is sinking into the mud as I mess around with the railroad tie.  I grabbed a 3/8 chain I keep on the tractor and wrapped it around one end, made a yoke by hooking the other end to the tie, stepped in and started to pull it toward the tractor.  I was able to use my legs and whole body to move the railroad tie and got it to the tractor, I tossed it under the right front tire and a piece of cattle panel went under the back tires.  Nope, all this did was cause the ties to stand up when the front tires starting putting weight on them.  I needed a shovel to dig out a horizontal path for the tie.


I was keeping the tractor running because when I manipulated the bucket the front end of the tractor would fall into the water submerging the exhaust pipe.  My next trick was to pull out one of the ties and lay it just in front of the bucket.  The tie was wider than the hole I made so I figured I could push off the tie with the bucket.  This may have worked but when I lifted the bucket I rolled the tie toward me.

F034D4B0-9FEA-4F7E-A36D-0A6D290F6F28

I wanted it to be in just the perfect spot, unfortunately I rolled it too close and was unable to push off of it with the bucket.  I could kinda keep the front end out of the water only.  I then took the other tie and tried to get it under the front of the tractor.  Nope, it was just sinking faster and now the exhaust pipe was fully submerged.

In desperation I jumped off the tractor and gabbed the closet railroad tie and tried to stick in under the bucket at 90 degree angle to the other tie.  I figured the bucket could easily push off of that but I was not fast enough.  I tossed it quickly as the tractor had blue smoke coming out of it and was making a funny noise.  I tried to use the bucket to push me up but had to just turn off the ignition before I sucked water into the engine.  I had managed to get stuck more than any other time in the tractor’s life or my experience.  I called a friend, Mr Richard Hemphill who came out, looked at it and went back to get a bigger tractor.

150FD3A6-A8E0-4CB6-920E-A4A04387CF2B

I tried to take a nap while waiting but surprisingly the ground was very warm with the sun beating down on the ground.  I gave up and drank more coffee.  The very large tractor showed up, we hooked the tow strap on and it just pulled me out of the ground!  Once out Richard said start it, I had to dig mud out of the exhaust pipe first and since the water never got to the air intake I fired it up and it started on the first try!

I spent over an hour with a hose getting all the mud off the tractor and out of the radiator.  There was mud caked all over the engine and both side of the radiator.  I am going to leave it to dry overnight and will move it in the morning.  I will be done with the tractor until I get new tires, the front right tire is flat again.

On the plus side, my baler part from Italy will be here in two weeks!

 

House cannot be neglected either

C208F047-47B8-4A8E-BC71-59C13E4D8C31

It’s time to get the hay done, the flood damage fixed and the bathroom done, the only question is what order will it happen in and how long will it take?  I am making a valiant effort to get it all done but that is not leaving me any time for the blog.  I have been working until 2100-2200 every night and after my shower I am ready for bed not the blog!  In an effort to maintain some continuity I have been making notes on paper so that I do not forget what happened on that day.  So I am now going to play catch up on all the activities that have occurred in the last six days.  Friday of last week Mr Professional came out with two kids to do some manual labor.  They got the unit of lumber unloaded into the bull enclosure, Alcatraz.  It goes across the old granary foundation so it stays fairly straight and not on the ground.  I let the weather “age” it.  They then kinda mowed the front lawn with the broken mower and a weed eater.  It looked much better than before they started.  They also weeded the back garden area as it was starting to look like a jungle.  I took a pole saw out and cut all the low branches on both the maple trees by the house.  You could not see under them and they were too low.  The kids piled the branches across the creek in a pile to be burned later.

I took the trailer and pickup into Pendleton to pick up fencing supplies.  I got 12 of the last 15 railroad ties at the store and they were all rejects.  I paid $12/each but they were rough looking.  They will work fine for what I want but they will not win any beauty contests.  I also picked up some cable, clips, eyebolts, clamps and utility panels to make the breakaway fence sections.  We then drove around the farm and deposited all the supplies at various locations to be utilized when we get to that section of fencing.

After unloading I noticed a 3’ deep pond at the base of the culvert from the water washing all our rocks and concrete chunks away.  So I climbed down and started tossing rocks and chunks into the hole and spreading out the rocks to slow the erosion.  I got the pond down to under 1’.  Mr Professional had to call it quits as one of the young men was dying of heat exhaustion.  It was hot and he was not used to hard manual labor.  He could not keep up with the 50+ and 40 year old men.

After they left, I had dinner with the beautiful wife and then went back out to row up the triticale that Mr Professional had cut 1.5 days ago.  It was very thin and I had to make several passes to get a row built up.  I was almost done when I noticed the tractor was making a funny noise and had developed a vibration.  I did notice it but it was dark and I was almost done so I kept going until the front left wheel fell off!  All the lug bolts had fallen out.  I hoofed it home and called it a night.  The tractor place is open on Saturday from 0730-1200, I will get it in the morning.

 

I should be inside

Annmarie tells me that it is time to start working inside again.  I went to the tile store and had to get some input on what color of grout to order for our backsplash.  Annmarie and I chose the brown color.  I am using sandless grout for the backsplash as all those little squares will get some grout around them.  Luckily, I only have to do a 4’x4’ section for the backsplash.  We have some fancy edge tiles and a chair rail to go across the top to install also.  The chair rail will hold the mirror that I will be mounting on the wall.  They had to verify the tile was still being made as we had picked it out a year ago.  I was going to epoxy a table top for our bathroom vanity but instead I am going to trace out the top pattern and order a small piece of granite to sit on top, it will be less than 4 square feet.  I will use the backsplash tile to pick the granite color and have them drill a hole for the drain and the faucet.  I will glue the granite to the top of the vanity.

 

8F386D9F-8265-4547-B197-A4C71285F933I purchased all the mastic and hardiboard needed for the floor and now I just need to patch the walls and start laying in the hardiboard.  I am going to use Redgard as my water proofing membrane.  I just need to roll on a few coats and then I can tile over the entire floor.  So I will be working on that this week.

A20665E9-2471-48AF-8FCF-196E92866F7C

 

 

I spent most of the day on  Saturday outside working on the tractor.  I was supposed to be inside working on the upstairs bathroom but had to go outside to feed the sheep and cows.  Annmarie and had gone out first thing in the morning to check for babies and one of our old Baker girls pushed her way into the momma/baby area.  It was our old and infirm ewe so we let her.  She went outside and fell over, and could not get up.  We decided she was just too old and weak.  I came out later and put her down with a bullet to the brain.  She went up onto the bone yard at the far end of the property.  When we decided that we also sealed the fate of our other ewe with the lost hair.  She is losing more hair and has failed to turn around.  Her baby looks great so  we are going to cull the momma at 3 months age on the lamb.  That will be two culls for the year already.  We think we have at least 4 more this year.  We will be saving ten female lambs to use as replacements this year.  Most of the ewes  will come from the July 2019 bunch of lambs.  We are saving the old brown ewe’s baby as it is a little girl and if our old #1 ewe has another female we will save her also.  Choosing for temperament and mothering ability has benefited us and created a great herd to be around.

I ended up feeding both groups of cows.  I tossed my large hay hooks and have had to use a strap to try and drag out the large bales from the machine shed.  It takes longer to get the strap in place.  Now that I say that I may be able to use small all metal hay hooks and a chunk of chain.  I may try that next week.

When I went up to the boneyard I ended up dragging the upper fence line again to clear any rocks.  I did this last summer but I had a few rocks still in the path.  I now have a rock and debris free zone about 5’ wide next to the upper fence.  This means I can run the pull behind mower along the fence and not hit anything.  I like to do this to create a fire break alongside the fence line in the spring and early summer.  I ended up dragging the new fence line I cleared last summer also.  I also smoothed out a section for a gate and cut into the hillside so I can install a large rock crib for a gate and fence ending point.  All the moisture and moderate temperatures made it very easy to move the dirt and rocks around.

I even drug some dirt around in Alcatraz to clear the dirt away from the concrete footings of the old granary.  The cows were trying to bury it on one end and dig a hole under the other end.  So I just moved the dirt from one corner to the other.  At some future point I would like to work on this footing and build a floor and some walls.  This may end up being a retirement project but I would like to do it at some point.  I will also need to build about 120’ of stiff fence to keep the bull and ram out of my work area.  This is a project for another day, maybe another decade.

4A7BBCAD-C3D8-48E8-9C8E-CA1CBE937134

 

 

 

New Years accomplishments

Annmarie and I have moved several of the old ewes into the momma area so we can feed them a supplement.  One of those ewes, old brown Lead ewe, had a single girl lamb whose is super mellow.  We will be flagging that lamb to keep as a replacement ewe.  We are looking at flagging and keeping another 8 ewes to replace all our old ones.  We will let the old gals hang out till they drop or get super sick.  We like them and they have been with us since the beginning.

We also have one old ewe who lost a bunch of hair.  She also has a lamb.  It’s weird and we have her in her own confined area and are feeding her a protein supplement.  We have been using some fungal spray on her but it is not changing anything and no one else has it so we think its nutritional as she is one of the old Baker girls.  Her lamb looks great and is doing well so we will keep her isolated for a while and see if we can change her condition.  We are surprised by how late the babies are, the ram must have taken a couple of months to figure out what he was supposed to do once we put him back in with the herd last time.  I suspect he needed to run around and lose some weight so he could do his job!  He was very fat last time.  He is almost as wide as he is long now!  Super fat!

We knew we were going to work cows on Saturday so Friday I went up and worked on one of the short sections of fence I am allowed to complete this year.  I managed to get the two railroad ties set in gravel, the H braces installed and strung up the woven wire.  It’s enough to be able to let the cows into the orchard and not worry about them getting down into the ditch.  I will need to hang a gate on the end and I am going to have to drive T posts horizontally into the bank for 4’ so I can run a cable across the bottom of the ditch and attach the panels with clips.  This stops the cows from just lifting the panels with their horns.  This needs to be done soon as the cows are working the panels already.

I also managed to spend some quality time with the mistress dragging the driveway.  She had it all smoothed out in under two hours.  It is a lot better.  In the next year or so we are going to have to have some gravel brought in on a belly dump and let out over the entire length of the driveway.  It’s about $225 a load now and it takes three loads to do the entire driveway.  I even managed to find time to wire in more light panels in the machine shed.  I have an outlet for the “Buggy” in place and two light switches and boxes wired.  I ran out of boxes and need to get more so I can finish wiring the shop.  I have two more outlets and two more light boxes to install.  I am looking at high output LED lights that I have wired to be on one at a time.  This will cut down my power usage and demand as I only have 20 amps available.  I just need lights and a enough power to run one plugged in item.

5E387E98-7CEC-4E2B-8E40-FFCE67E9161E

Saturday we worked the cows, the Child came out to help and a work friend the Gimp came out.  The Gimp is on light duty so their vote was for us to use the calf table instead of wrestling each calf down to the ground wrestling style.  We thought we had three calves to tag and band.  Once we had them all into the corral we discovered that one of the three had already been tagged but the tag was buried in her ear.  I had to buy new tags and I got large tags that cannot hide in the ear.  This has been an ongoing problem for us.  It took me about 25 minutes of messing with the calf table to get it to work.  Lifting it with the tractor does not help it and I had to use wire brush and lots of WD40 to get the neck piece to move up and down.  I really need to think about putting it on wheels and pouring two concrete channels for the table to move 10 feet to either side of the corral chute.  Then you could just push it to the side when it is not needed.

The first calf went well but the second one was another one nutter.  I could not find the second testicle.  I was digging around for 5 minutes with no luck.  We tried moving his leg and still no luck.  So we will try him again in another month.  This time he will need to be caught old school so we can roll him around on the ground as I look for that second testicle.  We sorted off the Bull and put him in Alcatraz with the other five steer.  He hollered and screamed for only a few hours and has been very quite and content today.  It’s kind of weird.

D9239814-29BF-4985-90A2-3937BF27FC9E

I drove up to the other side of the old chicken coop to look at the spring head, front spring runoff and our fall planted grass field.  They all looked great!  I am hoping to get 2.5 tons/acre of hay in the spring time off of our newly planted fields.  I just need to get the Buggy battery adaptor and trickle charger installed and then install the upgraded spray pump.  The Buggy needs to be ready to spray this spring.

Whose the boss?

Well it’s a New Year!  One of the things I have noticed the most about doing the blog is I seem to repeat myself.  There is always a variety but we are a farm and do have the same type of animals and jobs that need to be done.  I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.  There is always a daily variety, the weather, the moon cycle, the sound of the birds or running creek, the leaves on the trees, something new every day to make it different.  I write this blog for me, consider it my therapy.  As I am out working on something I always wonder if it has been done before and what were the previous generations thinking?  We don’t have that so I wanted to create a record of what it is like to actually run a small farm and what it takes to keep it up and the problems that come up.  I have done the blog since March 2010.  I wish now that I had started three years earlier but I did not and at that time it was not as easy to create and run a blog.  I am not the most computer literate individual as my wife and daughter will attest.  Ten years is a long time to stick with this and I plan on doing it until I cannot.  I want to be able to pass on that day to day thought process and the highs and lows associated with farm life.  I truly do enjoy all the hard work, time and effort that goes into creating and maintaining a farm.  As I get older, I will need to learn how to work smarter, not harder and I hope someone can learn those lessons earlier than I did.  This has been my New Years revelation for 2020.  I hope the reader, you, can enjoy the small moments and laugh at the absurdity along with me.

I want out and took a picture of my new flood lights on the tractor after it was full dark.  Realize that I took these pictures with my IPhone that hates low light and I did it with no flash.  It was amazingly bright!  I have a front and rear view.  I will have no trouble working in the dark now.  I just need the weather to warm up and I will be ready to go!

6A24ECA9-B00C-4A2C-9440-8EC716A2084B

On January 1, 2020 I made the perfect breakfast.  I made fried ham and potatoes with onions and garlic with a perfect eggs over easy.  The yolks did not get broke in the flip and they were from our chickens.  The ham was from a trade of lambs for a pig this year and the potato was a baked leftover one from dinner a few nights before.  I have learned to drop the chopped garlic in for the last couple of minutes of cooking to get its full aroma and flavor.  I used to toss it in early and burn it and to top it all off I use “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun seasoning as my only spice.  Perfection.

 

33A6A680-8AFC-437F-9751-09AF752FD5EE

We have one ewe that has finally figured out the game. She just hangs out alongside the wall when we come in and feed and work in the barn.  She just stays sitting and we leave her alone.  She doesn’t bum rush the new hay when we put it out and when everyone else comes back in she gets up and joins the herd.  She is one of our original Baker Girls so she was in our second batch of sheep we ever bought.  So we have had for almost a decade.  As you look at our herd you can tell who the old original ewes are, they just look tired.  We have opted to allow them to just keep on keeping on.  They are now getting some supplemental food away from the main herd.  This has been helping them gain some weight and not constantly lose.  We may end up having to confine them in the orchard during the summer to limit their roaming.  As long as they can keep up with the herd we will let them.

My baby chickens still want to be stupid and not go in at night.  Unfortunately, they are not consistent.  Most nights they are all in the coop, one night I had seven chickens sitting outside the door.  On the first night of the year I had to go and put a black chick into the coop, I believe she is copper maran.  It is hard to catch a black chicken in the dark and when I scooped her up she smacked me in the face with her wing and caterwauled about being handled.  You would have thought she was going in the stew pot any second with the raucous she was creating.