Hay torture

It’s that time of year again where I wish I had a clone. This clone could then work for me doing all of the things I don’t want to do, chief among them is bring in the hay. Last week on Sunday, Mr Tex came out to pickup hay bales, he had informed me he had a friend that would work just as hard as him, so I said yes bring him. His friend has the same stature, lean and tall. Yes, his friend did know the meaning of hard work and did work very hard. We will henceforth call said friend ”Mr Clone 1”. I appreciate it when all I have to do is drive around the fields and someone else loads the trailer. I did help unload the trailer every time and we did get another 10 ton of hay unloaded into the barn! It was hot and they were both worn out by the time we got done, it took about 6 hours. I treated them to lunch at the minimart as we needed truck fuel. We had only driven 57 miles and burned up 20 gallons of gasoline! All of those miles were in the field getting hay. So the barn is basically full, I think I can fit another 3-4 ton only between the two rooms. I currently have 27 ton stacked in the main barn. I am saving the space for our second cutting we are going to get off of field #1&2. This will be the first year ever to get a second cutting on our grass hay that is non irrigated.

Since we had just gotten back from vacation and the rain had finally quit and everything had dried out it was time to get back to haying. I went out and turned hay in field #3, we had 1/2 the field cut and it needed to be turned. The Girls (Daughter #1 and Daughter #2) did chores while we were away and the sheep continued to lamb. We had one set of triplets that the mother could not feed the third baby and by day 4 the Girls had to bottle feed it and give it to our regular bummer caretaker. She gets all the bummer lambs for the price of coming whenever we call. Annmarie saw a family of raccoons running up the creek. We think they are living inside the barn so we set out a live trap in the barn with cat food. Raccoons love cat food! My chicken egg production is down and I am not sure if its due to fright from raccoons or just the heat but the chickens need to lay more! I managed to only spend 13.5 hours outside on my first day back from vacation doing farmwork.

Annmarie found a 18’ grain bin that is disassembled and 8’ high with all of the roof pieces for sale. It was delivered and we were able to unload it in four loads with the Kubota tractor and a set of loader forks. It is so much nicer to use the pallet forks instead of your back. We just stashed it all in a pile out of the way. That is totally next years project and when they delivered it was when I realized there was no top cap for the roof. I am going to have to try and hunt one down or else make one. The real question is how fancy do we get? I know I will be running some conduit to it so I can put in some outdoor outlets. I am even thinking about tapping into the water line but I am not sure how to do this as I only need 1/2’ line and want to use pex tubing and an antifreeze fixture. I may even go so far as to put an underground shutoff valve that will drain the above ground line so I can just shut it off in the winter. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is next years project and I need to just let it go.

Daughter #2 has managed to get the tractor stuck out in the field twice already. Once she hit a bad culvert with some undercutting from the flooding and the other time she hit a spring and got stuck in the mud. The springs and mud are really bad this year. I am going to have to move some more dirt around to mark the edges of the muddy spots so we don’t get stuck in the mud as often.

The puppy, ”Chance” missed us while we were away but the Girls managed to get her to not holler every night when she is kenneled so that was very pleasant surprise when we went to bed. You still have to get up and potty her at 0400 but that is a small price to pay for the whining and yipping to be gone.

Lambing progresses while haying goes on hold

Annmarie says I need to quit complaining about there being too much hay this year, since last year I complained that there was not enough hay! I told her I am embracing my inner farmer it has just taken me a while to internalize the dialogue. We were going to leave the farm for a whole week and I was super nervous that the hay would just lay on the ground an not get baled. Luckily for me a nasty weather front moved in and it has rained for the last three days! This has put the haying process off at least several days so now I can enjoy my time away from the farm guilt free. Our lavender patch is really shaping up this year. The bees from our hive love it and no plants died this last winter. We are hoping that by next year the plants will be nice and mature. Every year they get a little bigger.

The baler had a broken pickup tooth, so on Saturday first thing in the morning I decided to be a mechanic. Now honestly I don’t like to mechanic, but I do realize that it is a necessary evil. Mr Professional usually does all of the repair work. It was too early to bale so I decided to take on changing out one set of pickup rakes as that was what I was told was broken. Well after having broken a bolt and breaking out the grinder, hammering a piece straight on the anvil and discovering a second broken pickup rake I was two hours into the repair before I had them both changed out. I decided, after searching YouTube for a repair video and finding nothing, that I needed to start recording repair videos and posting them for everyone else who cannot find anything. So I took snippets of videos while I was doing my repair and now I just need to learn how to edit and mash all the snippets together into one video. I may even have to do voice over on the videos even though I did talk while filming the snippets. I am trying to work on a TikTok channel but I am not sure if I can figure that out or not. Somethings I don’t understand well but daughter #1 tells me I need to get with the times.

The girls are managing things while we are away. So daughter #1 and daughter #2 are in charge! Daughter #2 has been watching the sheep and so far it is going amazingly well. We have had triplets, twins, single, twins, twins, triplets. The last set of triplets today the single mother took over one of them! We are so keeping her, if she will foster out an extra baby every year she is worth the effort to hold onto her. It is hard to find a non-picky ewe and having 1-3 of them in the flock is a true blessing. Lambs don’t go hungry when you have a few in the herd. So far this year our lamb productivity is at 200%! This is the best start we have ever had.

Daughter #2 could not start the John Deere tractor this morning. She texted me and I was sure that the battery was acting up again, nope, she did not have it in neutral!

Lambing is now officially commencing

Again, the haying continues. We are still using the Micro hay equipment from Italy. Everything has done alright but the rake. The back wheels fell off last year and we attempted to weld them back on twice but the metal is not very good and it it keeps weakening and breaking so we now just use the front half and sooner or later we will have to repair the back half. It works for now and that is really the fact that continues to be pertinent.

I spent all day today on the tractor turning and rowing field two and then going back over it and cutting under the rows with the sickle bar. I was doing this after the rowing when I heard a change in the way the sickle bar was mowing and yes, I broke a bolt and the mower was not functioning correctly. I went back to the house and called it good.

I needed to be cleaned up early as our summer guest is arriving today, Monica! Monica was our foreign exchange student 8 years ago. She is going to vet school in the UK and came to spend summer with us instead of flying back to Taiwan, yeah for us! We are excited to have her and to teach her about the animals. She came at a perfect time as we just started to lamb today. Our first ewe had triplets this morning and was watching and feeding them all. This round of lambs is the first from our new ram we purchased last year. By this evening we had another set of twins and a single.

I let the sheep in the front yard to mow. Eventually, I am going to have to mow the lawn but that means I need to not be on the tractor all day and so far that is not happening. But, the lawn continues to grow so I have to do something. The sheep mowing will need to happen for another few days to really put the lawn in its place.

We have been talking about putting in a grain bin silo gazebo for outside cooking and entertaining. I realize we are not exactly social mavens but having a spot out of the weather where we could gather would be very nice. We could even put a little power to it so we could have lights and a plug in. So we have been asking around to see if someone knew of someone getting rid of a bin and have not had any luck yet. Annmarie was perusing Craigslist yesterday and spotted someone selling 18’ bins with 8’ walls and the entire roof. We reached out today and the pieces and parts should be delivered in a couple of weeks! So now we need to mock up some plans to take into account how we want to setup our outdoor area and where. We have the spot picked but it means we will need to move the yard fence out to accommodate the new location.

I am fairly certain with the amount of hay we still have to process, the new office needing to be completed and the bridge to be built we will not be getting to the Gazebo this year, but who knows if winter fails to come until December we may have time. But at least now we will have the parts necessary to do this project.

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.

Lambogeddon progresses

We have five creches, jugs per wife, for newborns setup in the barn. One is larger than the others so we stuff multiple day old mommas and babies in it to free up the individual jugs. Twice this week I have had to go out after work and tag and band babies to release them into the momma/baby large pen. There was simply no room at the inn to keep them until the weekend. Now when there is only one momma and a set of twins in a single jug it is relatively simple to tag and band and send a text to Annmarie with momma number, number and gender of baby(s) and their tag numbers. This is infinitely more complex when you stuff four mommas and four sets of twins into one large jug and you want to assign the correct babies to the correct mothers. I had to just sit down on the barn floor in the bedding and watch the sheep to see who belonged to whom. The easiest way is to wait for them to nurse. The mommas don’t like milk stealers and will head butt any strays to keep them away. This worked for the first two pairs but the second pairs I finally had to catch babies and just hold onto them until they bleated then turn them loose in hopes that they would run to mom. It took about thirty minutes to get them all tagged and banded. I even managed to get more baby sheep poop all over my Carhart overalls. As soon as we are done lambing it will be time to wash the overalls. They are getting all kinds of interesting substances on them.

The babies are so curious that if you just sit down on the floor and stay quiet and they will come over and start sniffing you and playing around you. This is highly entertaining and very therapeutic. It is very hard to be sad or frustrated when baby lambs are leaping around you and coming over to sniff your boots and hands. I highly recommend this course of treatment. Especially when an entire section of the barn is nothing but lambs cavorting and running around like miniature mobs.

Lamb Statistics

  • 24 of 34 ewes have given birth, 71% completed
  • Lambs born alive 38 birth rate 158%
  • Stillborn lambs 1
  • Lambs rejected 0
  • Lambs died before 2 weeks 1
  • Lambs bummered not rejected 0
  • Flock productivity 154%
  • Singles 11 of 24, 46%
  • Twins 12 of 24, 50%
  • Triplets 1 of 24, 4%