Holiday = water leak

Well it’s that time of year again, I have come to realize that the farm has a sense of humor. It is without a fail a guarantee that on the hottest or coldest days of the year or any recognized holiday we will have a water leak. This must occur annually also to meet the criteria of truly annoying. It doesn’t matter how much I don’t want it to occur, the only good thing is now it seems to be a new location on a more regular basis now. Donna pointed out on Friday that there was water leaking out of the ground behind her house. Annmarie and I went down with the hope that it would be a leak from her front sprinkler, it was not, there was water bubbling out of the ground. We had a big long discussion on how the water got into the house and Annmarie and I were certain that there was another cross line. So the plan was for me to dig up the leak, then just cap off the line because we thought it was extra. My new Kubota tractor made short work of digging the hole and luckily there was an old PVC pipe from heat pump circulation line, now defunct that I hit so I quite digging with tractor. The water line I wanted was only a few inches deeper sitting directly on the hardpan. I of course did not have a cap that size so I had to go to town for it. Following my rule for buying plumbing parts I bought two of everything and a size smaller and bigger at the same time. I have a drawer full of parts and am considering going to a bin for plumbing parts in the machine shed. I add to it whenever I buy parts. This prevents unnecessary trips to town for things I should have on hand. I had the cap on in no time and then left the water off so the glue could dry. Amazingly we dug up an old repaired spot.

I figured I could use the time to go do some digging with the new tractor. I had not really used it much for digging so I went up to field #1 to work on the ditch and bank. I had already started digging a new ditch and reinforcing the bank so it was just a matter of continuing that work. I was able to really go to town with the tractor, the dry dirt did not really slow me down much. The Mistress could not dig in this dry heat with hard ground, but the Companion had no problems at all and made quick work of the problem. I am almost 2/3 done now and will need to get down and finish the rest after we get seeds in the ground. I figured it was time to call it done and went over into field 2, this cause me to get distracted and work on clearing weeds and moving some dirt to the outer edges of the soft area. The entire ground is dry now so I am working on making dirt embankments around the wet areas to keep anyone from accidentally driving or going into the spring muddy areas. After I played around with that I put the cows in for the night and then went down to fire up the water pump. I was looking forward to having water again. I started the well pump at the controller but kept getting a -1P code. I have no idea what that is but it is not a pressure readout like normal. I went upstairs and Donna found the operating manual for the pump. It turns out that the broken line really is necessary, it supplies all of the water to the second house! I had to call Annmarie, who was still in town, to get her to buy a stick of PVC pipe and some connectors. I went back out and cut the plug off the pipe and had to bail water for almost thirty minutes as the pump had turned on and pressurized the line. We had bad Chinese for dinner, they forgot our sweet and sour sauce, then went to my mother’s house so I could take a shower. I was in bed by 2100, I was tired.

Saturday I went down to repair the pipe and turn the pump back on. The real problem is the old 1.25” line is in the middle of a piece of 2” line. If the break is up in the 2” line I have no idea how we are going to repair it. There is a heat pump on an old concrete slab that is broken in several places, a new concrete room addition onto that end of the house and all of it is over the buried pipe. This being a holiday weekend a plumber would only be about three times as expensive as normal. We figured we could just get the water up and going again even if it did leak and get it fixed professionally on Tuesday. Yeah, the leak is up inside the 2” pipe! I went home and did the dishes and filled up more containers with water just in case. This will let us use water all weekend. I dug a little trench from the hole to let the water run out in one spot. Monday night I will turn off the pump, break the line apart and bale out all of the water. The water is not getting absorbed into the ground as that is clay and rock hardpan that the pipe is sitting on.

Saturday after I turned the water back on I went and changed out the box blade on the Kubota for the pull behind mower. Now mind you this is a new tractor and I have not yet figured out all of the oddities. The adjustable three point bar is not centered, there is more toward the tractor even though it is all threaded. I was going to pull it apart and redo it when I discovered this. As I was trying to get into the field I had parked a little too close and could not close the gate so I just went over to the tractor and pushed on the gas with my hand to move it out of the way. Now this is an unapproved usage issue and Kubota knew it, the tractor died. I had to get on it to start it and drive it forward one foot. I had another issue as I was going around in circles. I was using the cruise control and the tractor started to overheat. The intakes get covered with weed fuzz and need to be cleaned off. This was the third time I had to stop and clean out the vent intakes. I need to look at a portable air compressor and using a pallet to mount some tools and a box that can be carried by the tractor forks so I can keep working and have the necessary tools to continue on after a quick stop in the fields. I shut the tractor off, cleaned it up and then tried to start it. It would not start. I figured I had waited a little too long and the temperature sensor said the engine was too hot. So I crawled under the tractor, set an alarm for 30 minutes and took a nap. When I tried to start it after my nap it still would not turnover, this caused me to investigate further and I realized that the cruise control lever was fully engaged. I pulled it back and the tractor started right up, another safety feature I didn’t know about.

I used the tractor to put the cows into the barn lot. They pretty much know the routine now and were waiting down by the gate. The water has dried up in fields 2, 3 & 4. We still have water coming up out of the ground at the spring head in our barn lot. It is running well as we can now see it since Mr I Need a Belt Bad cleaned out the ditch in our yard. I had been telling Annmarie that her horse, “Hogs”, Mahogany, is so tame that I think I should be able to go get cows on her in a few weeks without a saddle. She keeps telling me that Hogs is not listening well to the bridle and needs more work. Mind you I have zero experience riding a horse but Hogs is so calm and used to me that we get along well and I can pretty much do anything to her and she lets me. When I opened the gate to let the cows in she took off and started running for the upper field. I had to follow with the tractor. Nope, I will not be riding that horse without a saddle and not until Annmarie says she is easily controlled. I saw her run all out as fast as she could and I am positive I would not be able to stay on!

Ready for winter

Well we are finally starting to make progress on the finishing touches for the front porch. Mr Professional and Mr Rainman got the blocks installed on Friday. They were having some trouble with the corners getting them to match up and get the cut angles correct. I told them I would get it this weekend. I spent about two hours on Sunday cutting angles with the wet tile saw and then breaking the blocks with a mason’s hammer. I then used a diamond blade to grind the rough edges smooth. I was able to make both corners and ends fit nicely. Annmarie thought I had not had enough water to drink, said my lips looked like I was dying. I had to go inside and look in the mirror, I had concrete dust all over my face and my lips were a pasty white color! I am going to live.

I let the sheep into the front yard hillside both days this weekend. I put the dogs on their runs and then had to chase the sheep into the yard as they just did not want to go on their own. I ended up using Zeke to chase the sheep into the yard every morning and then used Mouse to bring the cows in every night. Mouse is starting to dramatically improve. Separating him from Zeke when they work has helped a bunch. He is really starting to listen and we can just focus all our attention on him. The front hillside has at least five days worth of food on it. We are keeping the sheep in front of the barn due to lambing season, but since we had the one baby last week, we have not had another. A few of the mommas look like they are getting milk, and we are hopeful they will have babies this week. I think the sheep can eat on the hillside for another few days. The only problem is the dogs need to stay on the runs outside to prevent the sheep from eating my trumpet vine and my hens and chicks. Eventually we will finish the rock wall out front and get a fence on top of it to keep the dogs out or in depending on if we are using one side as a buffet for the animals.

Saturday was moving large hay bales onto the farm day. This typically takes most of the day. Mr Rainman cleaned out the machine shed storage area and then proceeded to clean up the machine shed in between loads. The new tractor can just barely lift a new bale off of the ground but it cannot get the lower bale on top of another bale. It just won’t lift it up and the governor won’t let it lift that much weight. So we were only able to get 13 bales in the machine shed and 9 more in the horse arena we moved next to the grain bins. This keeps the alpaca from tearing up the bales. They are horrible about burrowing holes into the bales. They love alfalfa!

Mr I Need a Belt Bad spent two days digging out the front ditch. The weeds were clogging it up. He helped me dig out a ditch in front of the block wall today. I ended up having to drag some dirt to lower the area some in from of the new porch. Now that a rain ditch has been installed it will need to be filled with gravel. My railing part for the stair railing is on factory back order. It may get shipped this week, I am unclear on if this will actually happen. The new Kubota 3100 tractor is a little big to use inside our yard. I am loving the tractor so far but in the yard the small space would be better served by the little John Deere, but it has a flat front tire. I will need to get that fixed this week. There always seems to be something.

Annmarie and I went out to the orchard just before dinner and ate some honey crisp apples directly off the tree. They were so good, the dang yellow-jackets think so also and have been eating the near ripe fruit. I am going to have to hang out traps next year and see if that slows them down. We took about 30 minutes Saturday morning to drag out the path of our next fence. It is going to be blocks on the lower half and a metal topper. I measured the posts today and their outside dimension is 1 5/8”. So I need to buy a pipe with an inside diameter just over that so I can set the new pipe into the ground in concrete and then slip the fence inside of it.

Time to start getting ready for winter

It’s been a long week at work and sometimes the farm is just what you need for a reset. This week was definitely a reset week. On Monday one of the calves got out again. Now I had already tooted my horn about the fence repairs from last weekend and told the wife no one was getting out. It took almost 24 hours for one of the calves to prove me wrong. She got it back into the lower fields by opening the gate and herding it in. It wanted to go see its mama. This left the dang water crossing that the bull beat up all last year. Annmarie told me that what I really needed was a culvert in the spot. I could then secure the fence to the culvert and the water and dirt would hold it down and prevent the bull from getting through or for that matter, any of the cows. I actually like this idea a lot! I have a four foot diameter culvert that could be cut in two to make two ten foot sections and one could be used here. The other one is for another crossing I am having trouble with. Pulling the eight foot trailer across the ten foot culvert when it is loaded and there is an eight foot drop on one side makes some people nervous. I need to add about 3-4 feet to this to prevent any mishaps from sloppy drivers. It was hot, I was just getting off work and not dressed to do any type of complex fencing. There happened to be a rats nest of fencing from the spring work laying around and I “installed” it in the fence to prevent anyone else from leaving. We have not had a single animal escape since my repair.

Friday I cleaned out the old big bales from the machine shop. They are light enough with some maneuvering I can get them about eight inches off the ground and carry them with the pallet forks using my new Kubota tractor. We will need to set up the full horse arena out by the grain bins to keep the alpaca away from the large hay bales we will have to store outside. I get about half in the machine shed and the rest outside. We feed the outside bales first so by the time the weather really gets bad we are feeding nice bales from the shed.

Our plan for the day was to work the cows and sheep. The rams needed to be pulled off of the sheep herd. Our house calendar says we should start lambing at the end of the month. This means the herd needs to be closer to the house. I am not sure that we are but that is what our calendar says. We still had two cows to tag and one to band. The upper five cows needed to be swapped with the lower cows. There is more feed above the house, there is also most likely a cougar. We lost four lambs again during this summer. A cougar has been spotted by several people but we have not seen it. Moving the fewer cows down below the house means they can work on the less available forage easier. The real problem with moving cows into field 2-4 is that we have to bring them in every night so we don’t lose any to a big cat. This choice has really been taken away since there is no rain. I noticed tonight that the running water that was going through all of field 4 is drying up about half way through the pasture. The most cows have to go to the most feed.

Annmarie, the child and Mr Professional all worked on animals. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was weeding the back garden then going out into the berry patch and doing more weeding. I do not believe that he would choose weeding as a primary task if he had a choice, but the weeding does need to get done. The thistles are trying to take over the berry patch. They went to get the cows while I moved the calf table in place and put up part of the horse movable arena around the calf table. We set it up so that we could just leave an open gate back into the corral and the calves would not run all over heck and gone. I used the new Kubota tractor with my pallet fork attachment, so amazing. Something that would have taken me an hour got done in 20 minutes. I am loving the pallet fork attachment, even if I can only lift 1100 pounds.

We put the sheep into the back barn lot Friday night so they were ready for us when we needed them Saturday. We pushed the upper sheep down and sorted off the steer/bull undescended testicle guy, we are not quite sure about his testicle status. Yes, a neutered cow,steer can still push out his penis. My record keeping skills are not the best in this area. We gave everyone pour over fly medicine and sorted the bull off and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls. We then moved all 16 cows from below into the corral. We did pour over on everyone and then tagged and banded two calves, one boy (our youngest) and tagged the “squirter” that got away last time. I had her in the chute with a lot of other cows and she was at the end. I just pushed her into more cows until she was pinned then reached over and tagged her. The calve we used the calf table and it went very smoothly. We will be using the portable fencing whenever we do this in the future. I had plans to build a permanent calve chute but honestly it was going to take forever and this is so much easier. After we pushed them up into field 4 (they can just walk into 2-3), we tried to push the four cows from the upper pasture through the yard into the orchard. This did not go well. Not well at all,as there was much yelling and dogs not cooperating or cows complying. Mr I Need a Belt bad left the gate into the garden open. We ended up with a five hundred pound cow jumping onto our elevated beds and watering system. There was a lot of screaming at him to get out of the berry patch and go shut the gate after the cow ran out. He was headed for that gate when more screaming ensued to make sure he had just latched the gate he had used to get into the yard as three cows were headed his way. He had latched it, he hurried with some prompting and got the gate closed. Later at quitting time we discussed the gate rule on a farm. Leave it in the position you found it unless told otherwise. You don’t need to know why just do it, there is a reason. We did get them down below where they belong.

We set up the barn so we could run the sheep down the chute then sort them on their way out. We only needed four sorted off to go into the orchard, two rams and two whethers. The sheep would not go down the chute. They bunched up in front of the opening and refused to go further. As we discussed options Annmarie noted that the boys were right in front of us. We just caught all four and pushed them into a pen. Our old ram is a gentle giant passive resistance is his greatest skill. He had to be pushed into the pen, they are all now in the orchard. We plan on letting the momma sheep work on the front hillside for a few days to clean it up.

There were quite a few disparaging remarks about the ability of the corral gates to open and to latch. We had some we could hardly get open and a couple that would not latch or you had to stand on the end of the gate to latch it. So Mr Professional and I spent a couple of hours and installed chains across the top of the corral chute and we did the same over some gates. We rehung four gates also to lift them out of the dirt. Not surprisingly the gates and corral work a lot better now than they did when we actually used them for animals. It was triple digit hot so we called it quits at 1500.

I had to go up with the tractor after dinner and put the cows in. They were already in field four but I did not want to have to go to the end of field four every morning to open the gate. I just pushed them into the back barn lot and in the morning we just need to open the connecting gate. It can stay open until the cows come back in again at dark. I figure in a few days they should have it down and will put themselves in every night. At least that is my fervent hope.

Escape artists

I had a plan today, it was going to be hay day. Well honestly, that was my second plan, my first plan was supposed to be cow day. Instead it turned into Fence day as my third plan. My first plan was good but when I woke up this morning there was going to be change because I could not do cows. I was way too sore to be working the cows. So since I was not going to be doing cows then my second plan was going into effect, Hay day. I need to move the old bales out of the machine shed and store them over by the grain bins. But to keep the alpaca off of them I need to move the round horse corral out to use as a fence. Then I need to clean out the hay area and move some plywood out of the way. But just as I was leaving the house Mr Rainman tells me that a calf is out again. We had one get out earlier in the week and I found a large hole in the fence down by four corners. So knowing there is a problem and believing that it has repeated itself we went to the third plan which was Fencing day.

Mr Professional was going to come out later and work on the porch railing a little later. Mr Rainman loaded up the bucket on the new tractor, “Companion” with fencing tools. He spotted the bunny! We had not seen it in over a week. We went down to four corners and proceeded to fix the hole in the fence. We ended up cutting all of the willow trees back and then I crossed the fence and cut them back about 6 feet back from the fence. We tightened the entire fence and then went in and hammered in new staples into the wooden stays and added the broken T-clips back onto the fence. It looked like a brand new fence. Mr Rainman was mistaken, the calf was not out of the outer fence enclosure, he just was not inside the fence with his momma. He was going to have to walk down to the open gate to get past the fence.

We then drove up to the top of the hill and then went down to the schoolhouse field to patch the woven fence that the cow jumped through last year. We ended up retightening the entire thing and pulling the top two wires together to remove several inches of slack from the fence. I decided that the only way to stop this from happening again was to add in T posts. I think this was the plan two years ago but I thought the all wooden fence would be aesthetically pleasing and the cows would respect it for this reason, I was wrong. We unloaded all the tools there since we were going to be coming back. We stopped at the ditch and reopened the ditch to flood irrigate the schoolhouse pasture. I was able to dig down and get it running. We then went back to the house, small stop to fill the tractor bucket with large rocks as we were going to come off of the rocky hillside to get T-posts anyways. We did not want to move an empty tractor. The rocks were moved to the front yard for the rock wall that needs to be completed. We grabbed more supplies and went back, installed the T-posts and then had to install the clips onto the posts. This seems like an easy job. If you have never applied fencing clips before you would think its easy and you would be wrong. Mr Rainman was given a tutorial and cut loose. In the time it took him to complete four posts I had 17 posts done! He ended up getting terminated from that task and went back to load up the tractor with tools. We got all of the obvious fence corrected. The top CRP fence really needs to be repaired and rebuilt.

I have a new Companion!

It has happened, my new tractor has arrived and was delivered on Wednesday. I was given the safety speech and how to operate it instructions so once the papers were signed it was all ours. Yes, I opted to go with a Kubota this time around. So we are going to see which one I like better, the John Deere or the Kubota. They both have advantages so we will see how they compare over the next few years. It was very easy to get the new sickle bar mower off so I could go out and play with my new Companion for a few hours. I spent the next three hours moving gravel for Mother-in-law’s new shed. I managed to get the tractor to rock front to back pretty easily with a full bucket of gravel even with 300# of ballast in the tires. At one point I had the tractor on two opposing tires, one front and one back wheel, the bucket movements need to not happen suddenly and during a turn. The five foot vs four foot bucket makes a huge difference when moving gravel. I parked the Companion under cover and left the Mistress out in the weather. I need to clean up the machine shop again and make more space to park equipment.

I had plans to go pickup two new rams, one for us and one for Pahlow Farms. They bought a bunch of ewe lambs from us this year and plan on growing their own flock. We had the mellowest batch of lambs ever this year so they are starting out great. I had to clean out the pickup, gas it up and install the animal racks into the bed. The racks can be leaned back, driven up to then drop the front onto the tailgate and then lift and slide them in. This is possible to do with one person but it is a lot of work and not easy. I need to make a rack that stores them up in the air and you just slide them in and out of the pickup using a rope. Since I don’t have this fancy tool I muscled it into place. I had three tie downs so I tied it down on three of the four corners. Sarah had volunteered to go with me in the morning, we were going to near Canby, OR.

The trip is almost a four hour drive each way. We went around Portland but still saw homeless camps along the freeway, while traveling I-205. The traffic is terrible, we went from 15 mph to 65 mph, up and down for no apparent reason. Luckily, the child is used to me hollering and talking to myself which was in abundance once we got into traffic.

We got there 7 minutes late and had to wait another 10 minutes so she could sort the rams off of the herd again. They kept sneaking back in with the mommas. They both look great, we love the temperament and size of all her rams. These two are only about six months old. They will add on at least another 100-120# as they mature.

Once we got back we just parked the pickup in the orchard and opened the gate on the animal pen. We figured the new boys would get tired of hanging out and decide that jumping out to see the four sheep in there would happen, it did later.