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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

The Tractor is Back!

I picked up the tractor on Christmas Eve!  It took them a week and one of the connectors has been pieced together from three different fittings.  It now has a rear hydraulic takeoff with its own lever.  I will now be able to control the angle of the sickle mower and raise the back hatch of the hay baler so it can drop off the completed bale.  I just need to get the lights fixed and working on the roll bar.  I have to move them and attach the new rear facing light as the first time I put them in the wrong spot and lowering the roll bar caused us to destroy one of the lights.  So now I am on the second light and a second wiring harness and the lights have not even worked yet!

While I was in the parking lot at Bimart I had a couple come up to me and ask my opinion about my tractor.  I gave a whole rundown, cost and time savings benefit and the do’s and dont’s.  I walked them around the tractor and spent 30 minutes espousing my love of this machine.  They were convinced they needed one and thanked me for being honest.  This beauty has been used and she shows some wear and tear but keeps on chugging along.  03A20B3A-4531-4178-A8A7-D7780660DE32

I came home with the tractor and had to feed cows in both spots so I pushed large bales around, moved the feeders over the new bales and even spent some time scraping the road clear of alpaca poop.  Annmarie finally called me to ask me what was going on as she thought I was playing with the tractor.  Adult men do not play with tractors, we work with tractors any man could tell you that.  It was nice to be back on it.  I could do 2 hours of tractor work every day and not think it was work.

We had two of the old maps framed and I hung them on our wall.  The maps are from 1886-1912.  We have about 15 left to frame, but it is going to take us a few years to get them all done.  They are of various cities and railroad yards of the surrounding area.

Annmarie and I went out this morning to tag and band the three lambs that are currently out in the barn.  The first one was out with the main herd.  We went into the barn and closed the door so no one could escape.  I slowly waded into the sheep and spotted the untagged baby.  I tried to grab it but it snuck by me.  Annmarie wanted to run all the sheep through the chute but it takes 15 minutes to set it up so then she suggested just squeezing them all at one end of the barn and then I could wade in after she shut the gate.  As she was moving one of the panels I spotted the lone lamb again, I crept up on it and got it isolated.  It started trying to dash side to side and squeeze by me, as it leaped up into the air to get past me, I dove reaching out with my left hand and snagged it out of the air in a flying tackle and ended up longwise on the barn floor in the straw, I had her!  The amazing part is by the time we were done with all three lambs I ended up with no sheep poop on my entire body despite rolling around in the straw with a lamb.  We had two girls and a boy and we moved the momma and babies in with the main herd.

On the way back from the barn, I told Annmarie about my plan to collect 300# rocks and put them on the hillside.  She accused me of wanting to spend time with the mistress (tractor) when there were other things to do.  So instead I worked on mounting the flood lights on the tractor.  I had to run to Pilot Rock for some large hose clamps but I managed to get the lights all installed.  I even mounted a separate on/off switch into a piece of grey plastic electrical conduit and clamped it to my roll bar.  So now to turn on the flood lights I turn on the head lights then turn on the flood lights if needed.  I wired in the flood lights through the tractor lighting circuit.  I need some pins for the quick connect and will have to order them in.  My next project is to order a conversion kit for the “buggy” to put in a large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat and a trickle charger.  This way we don’t have to worry about it starting whenever we want it to run.

I also need to get the machine shed wired so I can install lights and I need another metal cabinet for tractor parts.  Plus, I need to get the sprayer motor changed out to the new one with double the flow volume.  DC05D1FC-F261-4AC5-ADFF-6B3AE2351FA7

Fencing blues

Well it’s going to be a long month as I will be fencing by myself. I spent last weekend working on getting more posts set in the ground! I needed to set as many as possible and all of the wooden posts down by the schoolhouse need to be hand dug. I knew if I dug them out with the tractor the holes would be too big.

I also figured out that I need to install another gate in the cross fence that I had not originally planned. I need to be able to go from the front field into the area around the back creek without going through the bottom area. This way I can let the animals down here briefly without letting them get into a newly planted bottom. Mind you, I have not replanted the bottom yet but it is on the agenda to do in the next two years. This picture shows where I want to install the gate. There is just enough room here to get a homemade gate I had laying around installed. I will just need to hand dig two more holes, set two new wooden posts, install 2 more H-braces and re-stretch two sections of fence. More work for me, I just cannot seem to let it lie half done or not done like I want it. I am always looking for functionality and the ability to go around or move from one pasture to the next.

On Sunday, Mr Expert came out and brought a couple of helpers for about three hours. It made a huge difference. We were able to get all of the hand dug holes completed and we set all but 4 railroad ties, 7 wooden posts and 7 T posts that need driven into the ground. I have used another 2 cubic yards of gravel setting wooden posts. I keep tossing the extra out on the dirt covering my newly installed culvert.

The alpaca are incredibly lazy. The brown one in the picture was laying down and eating. That is pretty dang lazy. I was late and did not get my cutting blades from last year sharpened on time. So I ordered new ones but by the time they got here it was too cold to shear the alpaca. They are truly overgrown. It has been two years since I sheared them. There will be some nice long fibers when I do it in the spring. As soon as the rain lets up the alpaca are getting sheared. We were just talking about them as we have no idea how old they are. We have had them 6 years. They lead a very lackadaisical existence.

New or recycle?

The weather has been nasty the last two days. Yesterday I had to bundle up in 100% waterproof getup so I could go out and drill holes in the ground with the tractor. The longest stretch of fence is ready for posts and I have started on the two corner stretch already. The long stretch is about 2/3 of the fence-line. I was able to purchase new teeth for my auger. I took a picture so you can see that I should have replaced them sooner. The really worn down teeth were the ones on the outside. I am still waiting on the new center piece but the auger works much better now! I had to go away from my desire for an aggressive center piece as it would not stand up to the rocks that get thrown at it.

One of the things that Tex and I decided was that we really needed a piece of culvert placed in the irrigation ditch. Even though I cannot get the trailer down into the field we will be able to drive the tractor across and not get stuck when weighed down. We are going to use the pickup to move the supplies and it would not make it through the ditch. So I went to the local junk yard and found a piece the appropriate length and installed it. I have a few issues down by the school house. The ditch did not get dug out this year. It needed it down by the schoolhouse. It has jumped its channel and is flood irrigating. I ended up having to spend 30 minutes digging out the channel to get everything back in place. The only real problem was I used the mud to fill in around the culvert. Not my greatest idea but it is raining and there is no spare dirt pile. So yesterday I brought a bucket full of gravel to toss on it and I will do the same today. I may need a few loads but we just had another 10 yards delivered to my never ending gravel pile so there is plenty for this. I just go through the ditch backwards with the tractor. I am getting stuck about half the time but going backwards I just use the bucket to push myself out and off I go.

I have to say that fall is here, when the sun drops down it gets cold very quickly. Another good clue is when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines directly on you the work stops just so you can bask it its heat! Good clue that you might be getting chilled slowly. The ground has a solid layer of clay about 18″ down so the holes are still taking a while but they are going in and I am not digging them all by hand.

I lost my coffee cup yesterday! I was driving from the house, up the hill and down to the school house then across the ditch. I didn’t realize it was missing until I got to the fence-line so I am unsure where it leaped off. Luckily I had a thermos full and it will keep you warm, just take a small cup every hour or so. I have also decided that pepperoni sticks are the perfect tractor snack. They come in a container about the size of a thermos, its dust proof and waterproof. The container opening is large enough you can reach inside without having to remove your gloves. A little rain does not alter the taste or the consistency of said perfect snack. Plus you can store it on the tractor so it is always available! The perfect tractor snack.

I am trying to enter the modern age and last week I accidentally turned on my cell phone camera timer. It took me a while to figure out what I had done to turn it off. Its highly annoying to have to hold the phone up for 10 seconds while you wait for it to take a picture. I figured maybe I could use this function for selfies. The picture below is my first attempt at a selfie. The alpaca look good. I then turned the camera and shot into the building so there was no extra light and it worked. This is my working in the rain outfit. It worked, I did not get wet. It was still cold out in the rain and wind. It blew a 8″ branch out of one of our large trees it was blowing so hard.

On the way back to the house, after having filled all the tires full of mud digging out the ditch, I had to traverse down a steep hillside. It was slick and had a skim of mud on it. I realized this as I was speeding up going down the hill and had angled the front bucket down to use as an emergency brake just in case. As I was nearing the bottom and the gates I was just contemplating engaging the emergency bucket brake when the back end of the tractor slid sideways and I started sliding down the hill diagonally. I opted to immediately deploy my preplanned safety device and we stopped! Luckily, I do wear my seat belt. I had removed the tractor from four wheel drive and this was rectified after I opened the gates and crawled down and across the stream bed.

The nice thing about this entirely new fence is this is the first time I have done it since moving back to the farm. I have always reused materials from the scrap yard. The only thing I don’t reuse is barb wire, but all the T-posts and woven wire are from the junkyard. I did this thinking I was saving 50% in costs. Well now I am not so sure. I was able to build the first section of fence, about 750′ in six days. Now I put in 48 hours and Tex put in 24 hours but it was done. It looks good and it doesn’t really need the wooden stays. In materials alone I had $2000. I am now working on the next section of fence, 1100′ and its even cheaper, $1600. Now I am using some of my old cedar posts down by the school house for aesthetic reasons but it would have only needed five more railroad ties. So when you average that out the fence, in materials only cost around $1.89/foot. A new heavy duty T-post costs $4.29. I am buying them at the junkyard for $2. The trouble with this is I have to buy the T clips for the used posts at a cost of $1.20 per post, they come free with the new posts. The speed at which I can install the new woven wire is amazing! A new roll costs $160/330 feet. I pay about $65 for that used. But it’s a hassle to install, I have to mix and match sizes and then go back and patch holes and the wooden stays that cost $1.50 each are necessary. The new woven wire goes right up. I am going to try another fence brand new and keep track of the costs but I think I just need to plan on $2/foot and do it all new. Time is my enemy and something I am constantly fighting. New will save me time.

Fence stretcher use level 9

Yep, my vacation is turning into real work. Sometimes I think that I do this stuff so that I can enjoy working in a temperature controlled environment more. I know that I don’t do as much physical work at my place of employment as I do on the farm. I am finally into the ache all over phase of my vacation. My back no longer hurts incessantly, my entire body just has a dull ache except for the two fingertips with splinters in them, they feel like little needles under my skin! I have even had to start using lotion on my hands and sanding down my callouses. I need to have nice smooth, soft supple hands for my paying job. I am wearing gloves but only about 65% of the time. It should be >90% but they get in the way of some things so I take them off and get callouses.

Yesterday we got the upper 40% fence installed! I finished tightening the woven wire using a lot of fence tighteners. Tex tells me I need to be using a come-a-long to get it tight enough. It’s pretty tight now. He came out in the afternoon and we finished it up. The only thing missing is the panel over the spring culvert outlet. This is coming from moving a chunk of fence in the orchard. I can salvage two utility panels, a length of cable, and four railroad ties for the price of two railroad ties and 7 T posts I just need my tractor back so I can start hauling gravel to set the railroad ties. Tex was pulling on a metal hinge while we were hanging gates and his fingers slipped and he wacked himself in the genitals. He did not hit the ground and roll around like a beached fish. He did pause, stop moving, bend forward two inches and practice his breathing in silence. He survived and we got the gate hung.

In my effort to get to the fencing right away I accidentally left a large bag of trash on the front porch. I did not know this until Annmarie came home and told me that the dogs had a party all day courtesy of me providing the favors. It was not horrible as it only took me ten minutes to clean up. Good thing we throw all food things out to the chickens so there was nothing in the trash for the dogs.

Today, I went to town to run errands and pick up some flags to mark the new section of fence. I usually just paint the ground but it is supposed to rain for several days and I don’t want things to wear off too quickly. Tex and I figured out the best way to lay the fence and then we measured out all the T-posts and railroad ties. An accurate count was needed before I went to the store and purchased a bunch of new fencing supplies. We also took 30 minutes and cleaned up all of the bricks, wood and rocks from the ground around the old schoolhouse. I just need to pull out the one pipe that is sticking up and it will be safe to make hay down there. This is the perfect time of year to discover and remove any normally hidden obstacles. We figured out what was needed and then we figured out how we could get it into the field. I cannot pull the trailer across the ditch. I really need a culvert installed and I am out of culvert. I tried calling the junk yard twice today but did not get an answer. I may have to drive over there first thing tomorrow and see if I can pick some up. I really need to get this fence done so I can reimbursed. I have spent $3600 in just fencing supplies. The gravel needed to set the posts, the fencing staples and all the wood used for the H brace crosses are not charged against the cost.

I saw 25 quail cruise on by outside the kitchen window. I talked to one of our hunters and he said that he saw another 60 on the upper end of the property. This is the most quail we have ever had on the place. He said there are very few pheasants this year. I disagreed and in the last two days I have seen four more roosters just flying around. I agree that we do not have as many as last year but there are still a bunch of them. There are no deer. I did not shoot a little buck this year. My very first time I did not find one on the property. Hopefully, I will get a tag next year and there will be a little buck running around for me.