Spring is coming

Well, we have gotten some stuff done this week, it seems like the more you plan the more things need to change to accommodate what is actually occurring on the farm. We were able to sell our daughter’s house this week and will be closing at the end of April. This is going to be a big push for us to get her out and get the house cleaned up. We are going to have to clean out our spare bedroom for her to move into while she finishes college. She will be going to Moscow, ID for the next two years so we will see her on holidays and in the summer. I am sure we will need to make a spot in the attic to store a bunch of her stuff. Luckily, the boxes cannot be too big or they will not get through the attic door.

I borrowed our neighbor’s small backhoe and dug a very large hole. This took me three different locations to find one where I could get deep enough as the soil level is not very deep in places and the clay, rock level is the next level. I finished that over a few hours on Friday and was able to snag a big rock from the side of the road on my way back! Annmarie and I talked about adding it to our rock wall behind the barn. The lambs like to run and jump off of the wall but the best thing they like to do is play King of the Hill! I can put this 600+ pound rock on top of our existing wall and they will be at the highest point in the yard. I took loose gravel and poured it over the rocks after I had them in place so there is no obvious way to catch a leg, there is always a way for the sheep to find a way to get in trouble or harm themselves.

Our plumber came out and set a new drain plug for our upstairs sink and set the sink into the countertop. He is going to come back later after it all dries and finish the drain plumbing. It has this cool drain plug, you just push down the installed plug and it seals, to unseal it you just push down on the plug again! I have been vetoed on keeping the self retracting 50’ plant watering hose with wand plugged in at all times in our new bathroom, something about aesthetics. The compromise is we now have a quick connector installed so I can just push it on and then use the hose to water my plants.

The tractor is older now, ten years, and is starting to show my abuse. The front wheel oil seal blew on the driver’s side. I ordered and picked up a replacement and while I was talking to the dealer, we discussed my next tractor purchase. I am going to get the next size up. I need a slightly larger machine and I will keep the first one also. This will stop me from having to duplicate all of the attachments. I also ordered a new plastic sleeve cover for my hydraulic hoses near the bottom of the tractor, the old one is just about gone and I ordered new locking rings for my three point hitch, they look like a key ring and prevent the tightening mechanism from turning once you have set the tension. A stupid little five dollar thing that prevents a big headache of always having to jump off and retighten the three point side to side swing. These are the little things that you just learn to live with and I am going to make an effort to fix them.

Our ram had not been doing his job, we were hopeful that as soon as we tossed him into the herd he would start having sex immediately. Well, as fat as he is we were not sure how successful he would be and whether he could even mount a ewe. It took him until yesterday to finally get spotted doing his one and only job. We found a gestation tracker calendar we had stashed away and should have lambs starting August 16! We do realize that the sheep are on a 21 day cycle and he was going to be given the benefit of the doubt. His competition is coming this summer sometime. We will run two rams in neighboring fields in the hope that they will speed up their critical work and shorten our lambing season. On the plus side we have several baby ewes from this ram we want to keep and the new ram will allow us to do that.

Annmarie completed her very first alpaca yarn from our own alpaca! She spun the fiber, then made two ply out of it, then soaked it, shook it, dried it, and then put it into skeins. This process takes a lot longer than I had imagined! She spins for about 15 minutes every day, usually in the evening but sometimes first thing in the morning. We are talking about her making an alpaca rug now on her floor loom. We are still on the hunt for some male alpaca, cheap, who need a forever home. We have two that are very old and and don’t think they will make it through this year. We trim hooves, teeth and shear them annually now. They are allowed to free range throughout the farm and are the only animal allowed on the two acres around our cars and yards as they don’t scratch the cars and they are very respectful of fences. I have never been purposefully spit on, you can catch some spit if they are having a pissing match between two alpaca and one ducks. It’s nasty, but for the most part they are very benign. We have about four of them now who you can touch, none that you can just walk up to and pet while they stand still. They are super easy to herd. Just open a gate that they have not been through in a month and they will come running to see what is on the other side!

My favorite not job, outdoor plumbing

We finally had to tackle the dreaded water leak. Two weeks ago I was informed that the pump electricity bill had jumped by $100 and it was time to tackle the water leak. It was Sunday and I had some other plans. Those plans did not include crawling around in the cold and mud and digging up plumbing. I hate plumbing. After the wife and I had a discussion, the dogs were running for cover, I went out and put on my chest waders so I could go dig up the plumbing. Mr Professional and I went out to do battle. I was able to use the tractor to tear up the first 18 inches. This area was easy to dig in as I had filled it in with straight gravel last time it had a leak. We kept digging a channel on the downhill side to let the water run out.

It turns out the slip joint had broken. This is the second time this has happened. I think it is from over tightening the joint. We dug it out then went to town and got the parts to fix it. I made Mr Professional do the actual gluing. I cut all the pipe and got it all ready. No matter what I do I usually have to glue everything twice. Once the parts were glued in we left it unpressurized to dry and cure.

I woke up at 0400, went outside in the dark, fired up the pump, made sure there were no leaks and started using the water by taking a shower. It was glorious! A couple of hours later Annmarie texts me that it is now snowing. I had Mr. Professional run out to the house and fill the hole. When it dries out in a couple of months I will get in there with the tractor and build up the area. It only cost about $250 to fix the entire water leak. I was pretty impressed with the repair and cost.

Feeling better

I have been feeling a little better this week. I have been working full time without needing to go to bed at 2000 every night. I had decided that I needed to get out and do some more work but not overdo it. Mr Professional had come out and fixed the tractor and fed the large bales to the cows. He had some extra time so he filled the driveway potholes and drug the driveway.

On Friday I got our old heavy duty bird feeder holders up and working again and took them down to the Mother-in-law’s house to set them up on her back deck. She wants the bird feeders to hang over the air so the cats cannot have easy access to the birds. Since it is about 12 feet up in the air, the cats are going to need to be careful before leaping off the deck at prey. She will need to order some new feeders that are heavier so they don’t get thrown off the hangars by the wind.

I started dragging the driveway with the box blade to get it smoothed out. It has taken me many years to figure out how to rehab the driveway so we don’t have to toss down a few truckloads of gravel every year. It took about three hours but I got it all smoothed out. I even managed to expand the driveway where we park our cars. I had been wanting to do that all last year as we have a tendency to pull the trailer alongside the driveway and it would be nice if that area was gravel. I made it happen and now we just need to let the gravel settle and sink in. I have finally managed to build up the gravel enough in our parking area that there are no longer any standing water issues at any time. This used to be a problem and you had to pick your parking spot wisely so you did not get wet feet. Annmarie reminded me that we are going to have to install a package box near the front gate outside of the fence so the delivery people can deliver packages without having to come inside the yard. I was thinking a top open with hydraulic assist lifts but Annmarie said I can just make it a little taller an have the front upon up completely with two doors. She is right, it would be a lot easier. So I will be adding this project to the summer/spring agenda. I have enough spare lumber from the scraps I bought last year from the lumber yard that I can build the entire frame out of pressure treated wood. I have the rough cut 1×12 to side it all and some scrap metal roofing tin. As an added bonus I don’t have to move around a lot!

We had twins out in the barn Friday morning but the little one was getting pushed around by the momma. I turned the other little one out with its momma, without tagging it, and then pushed the twins under the stairs with their momma. The little brown one kept getting head butted but was hollering lots so it was pretty active. I came back two hours later after doing the driveway and it was off to the side and momma would not let it eat. This meant our second bummer lamb of the season was discovered. I took it inside, fed it and tried to set it down, but every time I did that it started to holler. I ended up watching some bad Korean TV series I am currently trying to finish. Tisha came out in a few hours and took it to its new home. The first bummer she has will be happy for the company.

Forever Friday 39/45

Sunday morning it dawned on me that I had a pull behind furrow for the tractor and was not utilizing it! Thank you Penny for convincing me to buy it when I had no need for it. I have had it a few years and not used it but once or twice. I hooked it up to the tractor and drug the ditch the entire length three times and it tore it up great! All I need to do now is go up there with the box blade on and I can finish getting the ditch cleaned out. I suspect it will take me another 8 hours to get it all cleaned up. I saw our friendly kestrel again. It must have a nest or be living right in the area. While I was digging the ditch I got the overhead tractor lights caught in the branches of a tree. After a few hours of digging my large light fell off the tractor and was hanging by its cord. I drove home and called it a night. I needed to fix the lights anyways.

Today I opted to get the disc set up and running. I had seen it up between the wheat fields. It took me abut 20 minutes to get the drag behind rakes off of the disc. There is so much organic matter I knew they would just clog up and I would have to stop every five minutes to empty it out. It took me a another 15 minutes to get it working correctly. I circled the little patch of ground between the wheat fields then took disc up to the seven acre field and went around its border three times. This way if I want to burn it in a month I can. The real reason to use the disc was to tear up the area I want to drag with the box blade. I want to lower the water laden area in field two another one foot and take that dirt and build up the surrounding area. I need to fix all the wash boarding that occurred from the running water throughout the field. I went over it in every direction for about 90 minutes and was able to get a fairly good loosening of soil. Using the teeth on the box blade now I should be able to drag this and move a bunch of dirt. I am running out of time! I only have half a day tomorrow then we go to the coast. I am going to work on tightening the momma/baby fence tomorrow. I can hard wire in the gate for now as I won’t need it to operate correctly until the spring. After I get the gate wired shut and the other fence tightened I just have the one spring crossing to harden. Luckily if they get under that fence they just get trapped in the second flower area and there are no flowers in there. So as soon as I get the fence tightened it should hold animals and we will be ready for winter. Next week after I get done working I will ready the barn and make the last rock jack. I may need to blow out the drip lines also. Winter is coming.

Monday morning I fixed the lights on the tractor. I had a smaller light that I installed looking forward. The light is about 75% smaller than the one I knocked off. I realized that you don’t need much light looking forward, more looking backwards where the equipment is pulling behind the tractor. I had so much light power I was sucking the battery dry. So less light is better for multiple reasons. Today I cut a piece of pipe to use as conduit so that branches could not grab the loose wires. I will need to try it out in the dark and see how it works still.

Forever Friday 35/45

Only 9 days left as I did all of this work yesterday! We are actually going to go to the coast for some actual rest and relaxation so I have fewer days than that to work on the farm. I need to be ready for Winter and its getting close to being finished and close to being winter!

I keep trying to get more organized. This is probably my single biggest hurdle. I will be making labels for my tool drawers next so I can finish organizing the new tool box and storage area in the machine shop. I am going to have Annmarie engrave labels on metal and get magnets for them so I can move them around if needed because I will not be happy with the first version. I also spent an hour and cleaned up all of the fencing buckets, tossed out the trash and got everything organized into grouped bins. I think I need to make a couple of shelves above this area to put tools onto, that project can happen later after everything else is done. I did take the drain hose and elevate it. It doesn’t weigh very much but it takes up a lot of space. I have this for around the barn but did not have time to get it into the ground. I used the old rope and pulley that used to hold up the fuel nozzle from outside the machine shed.

I had the pickup and trailer in the ram pasture but it was hard to drive in through the new gate as I am not going to get the flooded out culvert cleaned up and replaced. The angle of approach needed to be adjusted to make coming around the old chicken coop easier. This option had been discussed and since it rained 12/100” last night I thought moving some dirt was perfect. The moisture did not go down far but it did help some. I have a pile of dirt that I have been slowly lowering and I just lowered it enough to create a drivable dirt path. My little tractor can do this but it takes a lot of time with a 1/3 cubic yard bucket and a four foot wide box blade.

I got two more rock cribs finished and full of rocks. I am so ready for work where I do not have to move a few thousand pounds of rock a day. My limit alone is about 10,000 lbs of rock a day, which is only two cribs as I have to move the rock twice. After that I am ready to move onto a different job. So I ended up grading the animal access to the spring. It had three old post holes that needed cleaned up as we widened the water access and made it more into a funnel shape. I also dug out the water area to widen it and harden the far bank. My waterproof muck boots have gotten a serious workout this year.

I ended up watering the new plants with a bucket and collected eggs. For some reasons the chickens are slacking off as I only got seven eggs yesterday. I am unsure why, I am thinking it is time to cull all three roosters and the ancient hen who can only crab walk. The chickens don’t lay well when I disturb the normal patterns but since they are not laying anyway I might as well do it now.