Quick thaw

It has been a long week. The weather has of course totally flipped from having to stay home on Monday to dig out the driveway for hours to today a mere six days later driving around on the tractor in a long sleeve shirt only feeding the cows and doing work in the barn coatless as it is 50 F. This change in the weather had the Child and Annmarie out at the back creek fence trying to cut the panels loose. I have only two panels left that hang across the back creek. They are needed to prevent the sheep and cows from going up the dry creek bed in the summer. In the fall I should lift them out of the creek bed but it never seems to happen. Also, once I do that the fence line has a hole in it and the animals have to be kept out of that area. We had a sudden warming spell and Annmarie woke up to the back creek running. This is usually very bad and I end up in waders in three feet of raging water trying to undo the clips holding the panel in place from being lifted out of the water. Annmarie and Sarah spared me this by going out right after breakfast and loosening the panels, they did have to step into the ice cold water to get the center clip loose. They did not have to battle a torrent of water but they did have to get wet with the ice cold water. Two days later and the back creek has dropped to a depth of four inches. I am glad the mountain snow did not try and all melt off, it’s only January and it needs to stay until late May. Mr Professional and I went out this weekend and lifted the panels so they are ready for the spring flood. The weather also destroyed our ancient decorative windmill I had found and rehabbed and put back up. It tore off the tail and bent a bunch of the vanes. It is toast and cannot be easily repaired. I am now in search of another with sealed bearings so I don’t have to grease it annually. This is going to take some sleuthing on the internet to find one we like and think will last in up to 100 MPH winds.

Mr Professional and I got the hole in the ceiling in the craft room cleaned up and he got the sheetrock patch installed and it now has two coats of mud on it and the next coat is going to be texture! I even found some Kilz 2 upstairs to prime it after he gets the texture to match. Once we get the ceiling painted I can take down all the plastic drop clothes over everything and give the room a final deep cleaning. The room will be ready to use again after that.

We went into the barn and worked on installing some more eyebolts. I wanted to be able to set up some more jugs and to do that we had to install 2×6 boards to the wall then install two eyelets for the long pegs to drop through. We currently have enough eyelets installed to create 6 jugs and split the barn into 2/3 and 1/3, using the space under the stairs we have 7 jugs in the barn. We just need three more six foot panels to make this all happen but they are currently on back order through Premier. Once we had that done we created a baby feeding area using our Creep gate. We have never used the creep gate before so this will be a first for us. The creep gate is suppose to keep the big sheep out and only let in the size you set for the babies. When I went out tonight it did not look like any babies had been in it eating the grass hay. I put out a small dish of straight grain in the middle of the area, no momma can reach it so if its gone in the morning some lamb has figured out how to use the lamb only feeding area. I only managed to cut myself twice this weekend and Mr Professional only took one divot out of a finger out in the barn. If he would wear gloves more often this would not happen.

The turn signals and emergency flashers were broken on the pickup and all of the lights on the John Deere tractor were out. Mr Professional cleaned some stuff, changed out some fuses and got everything working again today. I had to get more fuel in five gallon containers so we had fuel. I filled up the John Deere this week and I could see the entire bottom of the fuel tank, it was dry! I don’t know how I did not run out of diesel when I was using it to dig out the big tractor. We have moved over an old 100 gallon double compartment fuel tank, I have grounded the tank and just need to get a tank fuel pump for it so I can start having diesel delivered to the house. I will probably only need the tank filled twice a year. It will be nice to not have to use five gallon jugs all the time. The old fuel tank used to be on a trap wagon they had for cleaning out combines and equipment during harvest.

I will be ordering repair parts for the hay baler this week and some more baling wrap so we may actually get them before June.

Snow drift removal

It has been a long day. It started last night by the realization that I was not going to go to work, the wind was howling. When we went to bed the gusts were over 50 MPH and sustained winds over 40 MPH. It was a long night as the house creaked and swayed the entire time. In the morning when we checked the weather station our peak gust was 89.5 MPH! I did not look at our siding today but will need to inspect the entire outside tomorrow. My decorative windmill out in the ram pasture had a crooked tail before the storm. It is now missing its tail and one of the windmill vanes is missing. It is going to need a lot of TLC. Hopefully, I can salvage it. One of the front porch lights blew off last night, it got beat up by falling ice which cracked it then the wind finished it off. The ice breakers and gutters for the roof are moving up the priority list.

On my way down to the driveway I spotted the old lamb shed, it had been pushed off of the railroad ties it had been sitting on. about ten feet North of where it was. Last time the wind got this high it actually rolled the building onto its side. The roof shingles on Donna’s garage were blowing off also. the building is set 90 degrees to the direction of the wind which allows the shingles to just be lifted right off the roof.

I fired up the Kubota and Annmarie went out to the barn to do chores. We had not checked the driveway but it is prone to drifting so we figured it was drifted shut, we were right. It took me three hours to get the 1/4 mile of driveway cleared with at least an eight foot wide path down the middle. This just kept going on and on. I had lots of clothes on and still had to go back inside and put on my warm snow boots instead of my muck boots at one point.

The temperature heated up over freezing and the wind had cleaned off a lot of snow, so much so that the chickens actually came out of the coop and scrounged in the compost pile that had been building for days.

After I went and dug out two more friends I made it home after seven hours out on the tractor. I dumped off the bucket and got the forks installed. I grabbed a large bale and headed into the barn lot. Yep, even though the barn lot looked clear it was not. I managed to beat through three different drifts and got into the cow area. I went down over the culvert and hit a huge drift on the uphill side. The tractor kept sliding down toward the six foot drop off! I finally just stopped and parked the tractor and walked away. I was just going to dump the tractor over into the spring and then it would have been super painful to get out, neighbors, favors and fence cutting to get enough equipment in to pull it out. It was just not worth it.

The forever shower once I came in and the early bedtime was well deserved.

I managed to dig the tractor out with my little tractor a shovel and 1/3 yard of gravel the next day.

Fencing has reached the no stopping point!

I am trying very hard to get this last fence finished before the weather stops us. Luckily, the weather just will not freeze. Friday, Mr Tex, Mr Rainman and Mr Professional all came out. We hit it hard and got the barn lot fence entirely rebuilt. We figured it had been ten years since I repaired it and it was in sad shape. The only reason the sheep had not been getting out of it and out into the wheat field to feast is that they are all pregnant, well fed and currently lazy. They will no longer be able to get out of the barn lot through the fence. We have a new gate installed in the barn lot out into the new alleyway. We also got the road gate hung going into the alley way. Mr Professional and I worked on getting T-posts pressed into the ground. This was not easy and the wind was blowing. I am deaf, he is deaf, the wind was blowing and the tractor was running. There was a lot of yelling and hand signals for hours on end.

Saturday, Mr Rainman and Mr Tex came out to continue fencing. The real problem is we have a wind advisory going all day for high winds. I dressed warmer on Saturday as the wind cut through my coat on Friday and I was cold most of the day. Mr Rainman and I continued to install T-posts while Mr Tex worked on getting the woven wire installed. The real problem Saturday was the constant strong wind, the wind was such that it blew all dust directly into my face. Luckily, I was wearing my new wraparound safety glasses so I was not getting dust in my eyes, just in my face. We spent five hours putting T-posts into the ground. I knew if we could get it done then there was no stopping the fence progress. All of the steps that require us to dig into the dirt would be completed. The rest can be done in freezing weather. At one point, Mr Rainman warned me that if I started to feel moisture falling on me it was from his snotty nose. This was not the most reassuring thought but it was true! The average wind speed for the day was 20 MPH with the highest gust at 55 MPH per our weather station. We quit early as soon as we had all the T-posts into the ground!

Sunday, I opted to start at 0800. It was raining when we started and in no time it started to snow, big wet heavy flakes. It was miserable on my hands, soaking wet leather gloves are no fun and eventually your hands get so cold that they get numb! Mr Rainman worked on getting clips installed on the woven wire that got put up yesterday and Mr Tex and I worked on installing the other H braces. We got three H braces completed and cut the cross pieces cut for the last two. The Kubota tractor almost slid off the road due to the mud and slant in the road, our hands felt like popsicles and we just decided by consensus that this was not going to happen. Christmas is just around the corner so between activities and holidays it will be January before we get at the fence again. I think three more solid days on the fence with three people to get it done. We got 3/10” of rain this morning.

No new baby lambs since mid week. It looks like the ram had to take another breather and rested up before he started working again.

Catch up

There was some rain last week and the grass is taking advantage of it. If you stare at the picture long enough you will see some green covering starting to happen on field #3. The cows had been going up through the freshly planted fields as they were dry and there was more grass up above for them to eat. When I noticed this new growth this week I locked the cows into field #4 and the barn lot only. I started to feed the cows hay now. I need this grass to get well established so that next year we can get as much hay as possible and have as much grazing land.

It has been a long week. I had some help early on in the week, Mr Rainman came out to do a few things while I did the paying job. He worked on finishing the harrow work in field #4 then planted dryland grass seed. I want to plant sections of fields where the animals are but need to keep them off of the area while we get the grass established. We want to get the grass growing and the fences in place so we can install an irrigation system. We have been looking at various solutions and need something that is doable when we are 70 years old. We have found an underground system that uses a mainline then has a soft pipe connection to the mainline and a plug in ground level connector. You just plug in the sprinkler head and it works, the best part is the connectors are off to the side and made of flexible pipe so they account for vehicles and animals stepping on them without breaking any pipe. This is the same reason to subdivide the fields. As we run into very dry summers we need to be able to keep the animals off of certain areas to enforce a rotation so that the grass has a chance to snap back. We are looking at selling all of our aluminum pipe to fund the majority of our system. This is in our two year plan, but next year our big expense is gutters for the front of the house and ice breakers for the roof. Again, looking at that retirement need!

I had him cut back our trumpet vine next to the house as the wind had been blowing and it was scratching on the metal roof. He did this the day of a 40mph+ wind storm, it was so bad Annmarie had me send him home.

I also had him trim the trumpet vine growing next to the old house as this had not been done for about seven years and the house was getting rubbed on. We had a huge windstorm today and there was absolutely no sound from anything rubbing on either house. Big win and may cause us to not even have to trim anything next year.

He also picked up all of the branches from our front yard one morning after a wind storm. There were branches everywhere. We usually ignore the leaves and if they get deep enough in the yard then I just let the sheep into the front yard and they eat the leaves. He then went out and pulled a disc around the back half of field #5 (#5b, as I am not going to keep renumbering fields when they get split). That section has a 3-4 foot drop off between levels and needs to be knocked down some to make it safe to drive on. It is not safe to drive the tractor on the drop off unless you are going up or down, no sideways driving will happen unless you want to roll the tractor onto its side.

Friday we were fortunate to have 0.82” of rain fall throughout most of the day, this doesn’t sound like much but its 6.8% of our annual rainfall of 12”. I looked it up we get between 12”-13.5” annually, depends on where you look. This was much needed rain, and if the temperature will stay above freezing and get above 50 F during the day I may get some growth on my fields.

Saturday I spent the morning being lazy, this is not a common occurrence at our house but it does occasionally happen. I then went out and used the arena groomer on field #5b. I spent about four hours going around in circles and trying to knock down the 3-4’ drop off, so when we were driving out here with the tractor we did not have to worry about tipping the tractor over no matter how we drove. It is now safe to drive sideways the length of the drop off. It took a lot of going around in circles to smooth out the field and drop off. I am always amazed at how not flat a field can be that looks pretty smooth from a distance but when you get into it you notice the little irregularities. This should make it pretty easy to cut and bale in the late spring. I keep forgetting how much rougher the little John Deere tractor is to ride around in. I felt pretty beat up after my four hours and definitely wore my seat belt the entire time. Ithen took the arena groomer off and put the post hole auger on the tractor. My top three point adjusting bar is broken on the little tractor. I need a new one, it is not turning any more. Once I got the three point auger on I realized I could not hook up the pto shaft as it was rusted on the auger! I drove to the machine shed, parked under cover and used 1/4 bottle of spray lubricant onto the shaft and then let it soak in repeatedly. Once I get the thing freed, if needed I will chain it to the other tractor and pull it apart, then I will clean up the inside shaft, use some lithium grease and put it all back together. I was really just trying to get the auger on the tractor so I can weld on a T shaped 8” holder onto the auger so I can stick 50-150# worth of tractor weight onto the arm near the auger. Sometimes, you just need a little weight on the end to make it work better as I cannot get any significant downward pressure with my 3 point hitch. The hitch won’t even notice the extra 150#. I figured this would help me in drilling holes and speeding up work. I will have to be careful to not let it cut too fast or I will be changing out the shear bolts all the time, but this will be easy to do.

I did not get to do the welding as we had a huge wind storm on Sunday! I fed the sheep and horse then went to get the Kubota tractor with pallet forks to feed the cows in the upper barn lot. The problem is the wind is 50mph and it started to rain again. The rain felt like hail due to the wind, I had to keep checking it as I was sure little ice balls were pelting me nonstop but no, just liquid water at high velocity. The Kubota has been moving the big bails fairly easily, I did not count on that 0.86” of accumulated rain in the last three days adding a bunch of weight to the bale! I had to drive the tractor in 4wd due to only the front two tires and one rear tire touching the ground the entire time. Needless to say, the bale was just barely above the ground and kept touching the ground so the tractor could stay on three tires with one rear wheel about 1” off the ground. I need to prioritize getting a quick hitch for the Kubota and converting one of the 50 gallon drums into a weight that I can back up to and drive off with when using the pallet forks. I have one full of horseshoes and it weighs around 800#. I know this because that is the max weight on my John Deere bucket and its all it can do to lift it. This is going to become a priority. I did notice that the Kubota tractor has an all steel foot deck with raised holes that cleans the mud off of my boots and lets me wash down the deck easily, I had to keep my hat tilted down to keep the rain from pelting my face and I may also need a new pair of muck boots as mine are pretty beat up but still waterproof so I will most likely hold off until they leak.

Closing in on planting

It is getting cold, yesterday I thought it was cutting and was chilly until the sun came out. Today, I had to come back into the house after feeding the cows and get a neck warmer. It was the only way to keep the wind from blowing down my neck and shirt. I was still very cold and spent 30 minutes in the shower after I got done warming myself up. I need to break out the Overalls if I am going to sit on the tractor for hours at a time in this weather. I still have about 1/2 acre in field four to plant and to put away all the yard tools and roll up all the water hoses. All the garden and drip lines have been disconnected and blown out so they are ready for winter.

I have been trying to get the last of the grass seeding done. Unfortunately, this is a longer process than I had envisioned. I can do about 3 acres a day, that is it. This is not exactly a rapid process. The other part is that I was working on our seven acre plot and it has a lot of rocks. A lot less rocks after Mr Rainman picked them but the cultivator kept bringing rocks up out of the ground. This meant after I make the trip around again I had to disengage the PTO, jump off, pickup rocks and toss them into the bucket and then engage PTO and go again. I ended up picking four buckets worth of rock over the three days. I did not see a single deer in three days. What I saw a lot of were quail! We have an amazing amount of quail on the farm. We are hoping to thin out the pigeons and maybe some doves as we have about 100 of those also. They are competing with the quail for food. We may have to put out some bird feed blocks this winter for the quail.