The needed but dreaded sorting of animals

It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task.  Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired.  Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house.  They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around.  Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn.  This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up.  This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen.  He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle.  Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me.  He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me.  It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral.  The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate.  We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy.  The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed.  Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out.  I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure.  We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows.  The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant.  We are going to eat him this winter.  Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does.  I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.


I am going to have to work on the corral next year.  When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute.  I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do.  The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out.  I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily.  I will shrink the chute back up another three inches.  I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation.  The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field.  They have lots of food and fresh water.  This will get them two fences away from the bull.  The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat.  Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.


Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep.  The sheep were a lot harder.  First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112.  Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting.  On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until  the numbers stabilized and matched.  It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify.  I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep.  We thinned the herd again hard this year.  It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years.  The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48!  Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram.  This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows.  We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers.   We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up.  The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity.  It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.

Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater.  It is out of control and our mower needs more work.  The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek.  The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding.  It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid.  We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy.  We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up.  We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek.  A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.

We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house.  I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed.  We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing.  The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap.  I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates.  Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.

Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out.  She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead.  LOL.  The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week.  .




Feverish farming


It’s spring time and we are still trying to clean up from last year.  This is the field I tried to burn last fall and just could not get the fire to drive through the weeds.  It got mowed down and I wanted to plant right through the weeds but there is too much biomass on the ground.  So we ended up pushing up piles of weeds by skimming the ground with the tractor bucket.  Once those piles were made they were so dry you could light them with a lighter and nothing else.  Two days of burning has cleared off a lot of weeds. The wind has been kind enough to blow and making the fire spread as needed.


I bought spring barley on Friday and want to get it in the ground this week.  It is supposed to rain on Wednesday and I would like to have the seed in the ground by then.  I have a small 1/2 acre plot that we saved for peas.  We sprayed every field but that one so that the 2-4-D won’t affect the peas.

I have another set of helpers out and set them to hardening the spring bank.  I only finished one side last fall.  Now both sides are blocked in and it should stop the dirt bank from falling into the spring.  We also lined the bottom of the spring with gravel in that area.  The sheep would know this if they would quit trying to jump over the water.  This did require the teenage helper to redo the wall three times to get it where it needed to be.


I have been working on my sheep calling abilities.  I have managed to post a couple of successful videos to Instagram.  The key to success is in choosing the right time to call them.  They are used to coming in at night for food and to be locked up in the barn area.  I have had zero luck trying to call them down off the hillside midday.  But if they can hear me in the evening they will come running.

We sold three more lambs off this weekend to someone who is going to raise them all summer long.  We sent our old brown ewe and her 3 month baby over with the lambs so they could try and hand tame the lambs.  Our old ewe will come to anyone who she thinks has food.  We also do not want her getting bred when we release the ram into the main herd.  90E31C90-FECF-4C46-B18B-0822D40F0E68I spent last night on the tractor for 4 hours driving around in circles pulling a disc trying to get the flooded out field from last year ready for spring barley crop.  The ground was full of ruts from the back creek flooding the field and making rivulets.  I hope I got most of them smoothed out.  We are hoping to get the seed in the ground tonight as it is supposed to rain 0.1-0.25” tomorrow and the hope is the seed will all be in the ground by then.  One must have goals in life.



In like a lamb, out like a lion!

Well one would think that spring was in the wind, but winter is not quite ready to let go.  Two weeks ago we had snow on the ground!  It snowed three days ago at our house but did not stick.  We have now started the constant daily rain.  This is going to make the weeds and hopefully the grass we planted grow.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus is slowing us down.  I am working way too much at the hospital getting ready for our Surge.  This  has left very little time for me to work around the farm.  This is going to cause us problems if I cannot figure out how to balance a work/life ratio.  I realize it is probably necessary for my health but I continue to work and worry and plan for something that I hope never comes.  This is causing me to not have the time or energy for the blog.  I will keep at it but there will be a noticeable dip in the quantity of posts I make.  As I use this medium for my official farm history to pass on to the next few generations I felt it necessary to add this in here.


The thing about Spring Winter is you get used to warmer weather so when the Mother Winter snaps back and reminds you she is still in charge it just feels colder!  Annmarie still persists in her belief that we cannot sleep at night without two windows open in the bedroom.  This is in blatant defiance of the outside temperature.  Our master bed looks like a blanket display at a market, dominated by Pendleton Wool Blankets.  We have decided that we don’t need a weighted anti anxiety blanket as we sleep under multiple wool blankets.


Our sheep continue to have babies!!  Just when we think it is all over someone else pops out another lamb.  So the ram is still stuck in with the bull and a couple of steers.  There is hope that in a few more weeks they will all be done, as a five month lambing season is brutal.  We want two months only for lambing season.  We need to give him two months to get at everyone.  There are too many ewes for him to service everyone in one estrus cycle.  He is fat and needs to go on a diet anyways.  This will make him work off some of that extra lard.

The sheep are not really any smarter than normal.  I had to let this lamb out of the feeder.  It managed to get into it but spent the day inside as it could not get out.  We have noticed that the brown and white lambs are probably the cutest we have but definitely the weakest.  We had another one die this week.  I had to put it down.  This has caused us to rethink the lambs that we will be saving when we cull this spring.  We are going to have to avoid the brown and white ones.  The weirdest part of this is that the color is what is separating them out.  It makes it easy to pick and choose but it is kinda weird that  the most deaths this year have been those sheep with those color markings.  We were going to cull out the older ewes anyways and have lots of lambs to choose from so picking won’t be a problem.







We were supposed to be done with lambing, it’s just that not everyone got the message.  Sarah went out this week and discovered a set of twins.  They got put into the momma area under the stairs.  The babies did well and today we went out and banded and tagged all the sheep in the momma/baby area, kicked them out with the main herd and moved the twins and their momma into the baby area.  Now we no longer have to carry water to any sheep!  This is one of our main goals in life.  We could not get the three untagged lambs running with the main herd as they were still out on the back hillside running around with everyone else.

When you walk through the barn lot it looks like the testicle fairy has been busy.  There are little fur bags with double bright orange rubber bands all over the barn lot.

Three days ago Annmarie opened up the back hillside to the sheep.  Within 3 hours they had figured out how to get under the fence at the creek crossing.  We just gave up and went out and opened up the hillside gate.  I cannot lower the fence over the runoff creek as there is a ton of snow up in the mountains and it was 64 degrees F today.  Once the runoff creek picks up the sheep will have a harder time crossing it.  So far its just a skinny little thing that has been running for a couple of months now.

I finally took all the cardboard items I had been stashing in the dining room and burned the twig pile I had been creating in the orchard.  We needed it burnt as this area is going to become our Lavender grow area.  It still needs a new fence and an animal lane to get to the side gate so we can still move sheep and cows around the garden.


Lambeggedon finished, we think

It has been an incredibly long lambing season, over three months of trickle babies the entire time.  The ram was totally slacking this last time around and us not having everyone synced did not help matters.  We have one last go around to do out in the barn.  We still have about 8 babies in the momma/baby area that need to be tagged and banded.  Once that is done we are absolutely done.  I will go out and lock the cows out of the orchard this week and let it start growing back again so in 2-3 weeks we can sort off all the old ewes we are culling and all the female babies that we don’t want pregnant and they can live in the orchard away from the ram.  He better be too busy to worry about those ewes once we turn him in with the main herd.  Our last set of twins was incredibly tiny and they have spent a week in their own pen growing.  They are now in with the momma/baby pen because we got tired of carrying water every day to them.  Now we just open the gate and they go get their own water.

I was headed to work last week and spotted mouse down by the creek avidly staring at something.  When he pays that much attention to something it is usually bad for the other thing.  It turned out to be a little lamb that stuck its head through the fence to get to the green grass and then when the dog scared it, it stood and could not get its head out of the fence.  Once all the dogs figured out the lamb was stuck, they all wanted to go over and lick its head which just freaked the lamb out more.  Once I forced its butt down it slid right out of the hole.

We have one brown and white speckled baby that keeps making these weird sounds.  I didn’t notice it (I never notice anything weird in the barn) but Annmarie said it was making these grunting sounds and trying to poop.  So I was out in the barn getting ready to feed and while chasing everyone out heard this weird noise.  I started looking around and spotted that baby ewe trying to poop.  I could not get a hold of it before it ran outside.  I have been paying attention to it ever since.  It is a little girl and it has a sweet tooth!  It keeps eating at the molasses licks in the barn and getting constipated from them.  That is some dedication to your passion.


These are are final numbers for winter 2019.  We actually did pretty good compared to the big farms.  We only had a 16% lamb mortality.  We almost had 150% productivity when you counted live lambs at a week and when you just counted births it was almost 180%! We are super stoked about those numbers and hope to keep up the average on the next go around.  The best part was I did not have to pull a single lamb this lambing season.