Weather is so weird

The weather is definitely changing. This could be for the good, who knows, but it is definitely different. It is November 14 and today the temperature outside was 66 degrees F. I was able to work in a long sleeve shirt only and if I had kept doing manual labor nonstop could of done it in a tshirt. I had to work at the paying job on Friday as Annmarie and I left town for Veteran’s day. It was the third time we have left the farm in the last two years. I am told that is not very often when one is counting. So I had Mr Rainman come out on Saturday and Sunday to help me build fence. I am trying to get #4 field split in half with a fence so I have a 4A and 4B. 4A is already planted and I want to be able to keep the cows off of it so it can grow undisturbed.

Friday evening when I went out to take care of the sheep and put them in for the night I found a pleasant surprise, three new lambs! I was even more surprised when I put them in under the stairs and discovered that one ewe had all three babies, triplets! I fed and watered them and then ran all the rest of the sheep inside. I ran the other sheep past 3-4 times to make sure no one had a bloody backside and was missing a lamb. Nope, they were really a set of triplets and the mother looked like she could feed them all. Saturday morning they were all up and walking around and Annmarie went out and dosed them all with some selenium supplement. They are doing great and the mother is able to feed all three. Of course no one else had any babies all weekend long. Saturday we set up three partial pens so in the morning if Annmarie needs a pen she can just add one wall quickly and be done with it.

Mind you there are other projects that need to be done also but I had my heart set on fencing. We had to fuel and grease up both tractors then I was talking about building a platform for the new calf table on top of a pallet so I could just move the table with the new tractor forks. We ended up doing that Saturday morning. The calf table needed to be moved before January which is when our cows go to the butcher and I will need to be able to load them up through the chute. We built a platform on top of the pallet out of pressure treated 2” thick wood and even had to add another 14” to one side and add a 4×6 pressure treated board underneath. We bolted the calf table down to the pallet through the new covering boards after we anchored all of the new boards to the pallet. This project needed to happen, so we did it.

The fencing went fairly smooth. The fence is going into bottom land so it is much easier to drill in and that extra 150# of weight on top of the auger arm is the bomb! When the ground is not rock hard it just goes into the ground, I have a hole in a couple of minutes! It is so nice. Using the high tension wire and the cam tighteners is the perfect way to build a H-brace. It is super easy and now that I know what I am doing it is super easy to adjust. We have all of the T-posts and stays all laid out along the fence route. Three more H braces to finish and then press the T-posts into the ground with the tractor and we will be done with that in no time. We did have a piece of high tension wire pop and break today. Mr Rainman was putting too much muscle into use. I am now tightening the high tension line. We also converted a 50 gallon drum to ride on the 3 point attachment and its filled with metal horse shoes. The counter balance is great when moving big bales. The trouble is it drags on the ground a little and I did not realize how thin walled the barrels were. Depending on how things go I may need to think up something more permanent. I am hopeful we can get done in one day next week.

Eternity Deck

I am trying to get the front deck done but it doesn’t seem like everyone else is cooperating. I called on my three pieces of TREX decking, still not in. My TREX railing connectors are still on back order. So we still don’t have stair railings.

I decided I needed to get the power situation figured out so it would not be dragging everything else behind. It is also one of the few things that I have to do and cannot have either one of my helpers do. The world did not make a lot of electricians. I spent Friday morning bringing out tools and piling them by the crawl space entrance to get underneath the porch. Once I had a bunch of tools I actually read the install instructions for all of the deck lighting. Yep, I needed more parts, I will have to install a plug in under the deck, not wire in the power source directly like I thought. It was a little more complicated than I thought. I don’t have a special splitter that I need and I need some 12V extension cables also. I don’t have a third plug and I needed a 3/4 to 1/2 conduit reducer also. I made the trip to Pendleton and got what I thought I needed. It takes about 2 hours to make a quick round trip so I usually try and buy as much as I think I will need to prevent another trip. I worked on getting the porch outlet installed on the upright beam. I had to drill a hole from above then crawl underneath the deck and drill upwards at a different angle in an attempt to connect the two tunnels. I did do it and was able to get the wire and box installed on the porch.

We have had some more lambs, so far we have had 3 ewes give birth this week to 4 lambs, only one mother had twins. I really want to let the new mothers and babies out into the ram pasture. We added that little gate so it could happen but Annmarie pointed out we still have downed fencing piled up in the middle of the field and it would trap and kill the lambs. It was on my list and has been there for 18 months, so I should probably increase its priority.

Annmarie finished canning our garlic that we grew, courtesy of our neighbor. This should be enough to last us the whole year. Then she made lamb shanks, root veggies and lentils for dinner. It was very good.

I picked up Mr I Need a Belt Bad this morning so he could help me wire. Now he isn’t going to do any wiring but yesterday I realized that it takes me ten minutes to just crawl out from underneath the porch if I have forgotten any single thing I need. I need a “go””fer” for those times I forget something. We pushed th sheep into the front yard first thing and placed the dogs on their runs so they could not get at the sheep when we were not looking. I crawled under the porch and started installing electrical conduit. I had Mr I Need a Belt Bad do the cutting and once he got the hang of it he did well. We did have to have a brief lesson on how to read a tape measure. Then there was a more insistent tutorial on how to compare fractions and find a common denominator. That lesson got reinforced randomly throughout the day. I was able to install and wire up all three outlets. The only thing left was the junction box underneath the porch that had the actual power supply. I just kinda tapped into a box under the house and did not mark which breaker it was. I flipped five breakers and crawled under the porch, I actually checked the hot wire with a voltmeter before cutting it with my dykes. It was still hot, so I wrote down those breaker numbers and flipped two more switches. This time when I checked there was no electricity. So its one of those two breakers. Once I have the lights installed I can mess with figuring out which breaker they belong to and get it labeled. While I did the final connection Mr I Need a Belt Bad dug out the front ditch in our yard.

We did stop for lunch. I had cheese and crackers and an apple picked from our orchard. It was cleanup time next, I put the forks on the tractor and came and forked up the loose wire and took it to the scrap metal pile. I put the bucket back on and brought gravel to our front yard so that every trip was productive. I had that ditch in front of the blocks we dug last week that needed to be filled in. We used the bucket to get more scrap metal from the ram pasture and from the old chicken coop clean out pile. We did three total trips with the bucket

The damn dogs laid there and let my hens and chick planter get decimated by the sheep. The dogs would not harass the sheep unless i told them to and I did not notice them eating my flowers! I moved my planter to another temporary spot that I think is sheep proof. I need to get the front rock wall done and then I can put a fence on top of it and keep the sheep out.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad did manage to get his pay figured out with some prompting and educational teaching tenacity. I am pretty sure that tomorrow will be spent inside the house doing some deep cleaning and dusting and washing of walls.

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.

Lambing has begun again

Our daughter had noticed on our hallway calendar last week that Annmarie had written down we were going to have lambs. Annmarie had seen the ram do his duty then marked our calendar with a date five months in the future. I thought it was too early but we sorted the sheep off on Saturday anyways. The cows and sheep needed to be sorted so it was a good time. On Sunday when we drove the pickup and trailer around to the ram pasture Mr Professional did not latch the gate completely. He left a gap which all of the sheep exploited and left the area to go up into fields 2-4 to eat with the cows. Following the rule, I went up Sunday night and pushed the cows and sheep down into the barn lot. I propped the ram pasture gate open so the sheep could crawl through but the cows could not get in. My hope was the sheep would finish putting themselves back where they belonged with no assistance. The self sorting relocation idea was merely a pipe dream, the sheep did not come in to where they were supposed to be willingly.

On Monday when Annmarie opened the gate into fields to let the cows go up the sheep went also. They had not complied with my hidden directive to self sort. Annmarie sent me a text, I told her we could get it that evening it would be fine. She went out that evening before I got home and sent me a picture of the brand new baby lamb! Who could of thunk that would happen? I came home and helped sort the sheep and fed them a big bale. For some reason the other pregnant ewes were picking on the new momma, kept head butting her. So we sorted her off and put her in the barn with some food and water and her newborn lamb. Annmarie gave the lamb some selenium paste. There may have been some “I told you so” moments in the last 24 hours. We did not have any more lambs today. The sheep are now firmly trapped in the ram pasture, behind the barn and in the front barn lot. We walked the perimeter this evening to make sure there were no more lambs tucked away in some corner.

When we were walking around and getting water for the ewe, Annmarie pointed out that the spring needs to be cleaned out. This job requires rubber boots, gloves and a square nose shovel to get all of the vegetable material and extra dirt dug out. This is a perfect job for Mr I need a belt bad! More work for him.

Sheep sold for year

Annmarie took care of the lambs this year! We sold Pahlow Farm in Elgin, OR 24 ewe lambs and 4 whethers. We sold 11 whethers and a cull ewe to our regular buyer and we kept 3 whethers for local customers and one replacement ewe lamb for a grand total of 43 lambs. The real problem here is we should have had 6 more lambs as we did find one dead one in the barn lot.

We figured we lost six lambs from the lambs going into the upper field and getting eaten by some predator. We are not sure if its a cougar or a bobcat. We have had neighbors and helpers see both on the property. The bobcat was spotted trying to kill a fawn. Again we have that dilemma about cost versus loss savings. We lost about $500 worth of lambs. Annmarie has me trained during the winter to bring in the sheep. After the first few times the sheep pretty much do it themselves as they quickly learn we are feeding them when they show up every night. I take the summers as a time to just let them run wild and do whatever they want. What this really means is I don’t have to go out every night and get them into the barn lot and lock them in and then in the morning let them out again. So if we figure the summer consists of four months or 120 days and we lose $500 worth of sheep it costs us $4.20/day to not bring the sheep in every night. Now this is a fixed cost so only bringing them in occasionally will not be a cost savings, it has to be every night to realize an actual savings. Maybe what we really need to do is to run the alpaca with the sheep during the summer? We could get a little donkey to keep the horse company but it would really be for the sheep and I am afraid it would just get fat on an all you can eat diet like the sheep have. The donkey would have to be fairly cheap to make up for the loss of lambs and any upkeep it would cost us. Our adult ewes are still coming into the barn lot every night on their own so their good habits seem to be protecting them.

Annmarie had some help from Mr Rainman to sort them as they had all gotten back together. The latch I was supposed to repair a couple of months ago on the barn lot double gates failed and allowed the entire herd to reform. So they had to sort out the lambs from the ewes and then sort off two groups of lambs. She managed to get both parties to come on the same day to pickup lambs so sorting only had to be done once! She said the lambs were so tame that even a shaker stick would not move them down the chute. This is a good problem to have, usually they are so flighty that its hard to keep them contained. We have been working on temperament for years and it looks like we are finally starting to get some success. Pahlow Farm has a St Croix ram so it will be interesting to see what the blood line addition will do to the new babies.

Our three local sales and replacement ewe will hang out in the orchard for a few months and then become food and breeding stock. The game birds are doing amazingly well this year. We are seeing quail everywhere and today spotted a pair of adults with 10 babies! We have pairs of quail all over the place and went into spring with 40-50 mature adult quail. If every pair has 5 babies that would be another 100 quail but it could be another 250 quail! I told Annmarie if they can get past 500 quail maybe then we would consider culling some but not until they become a nuisance. They are by far and away our favorite bird on the property. I even spotted the Hun partridge covey again this week when I was coming to work. On our way home last night the stubble field had five whitetail buck deer in it grazing away after dark. There are a couple of nice four point bucks in the group but I did not get a buck tag this year.

The heating/air conditioning got repaired today! Annmarie says he is now her favorite man of the year. The house was 72 degrees within 15 minutes of it being repaired, the entire house! It was amazing, and yes he is secretly my favorite man of the year also. 72 was too cold so we had to turn the air conditioner up to 74 degrees so an extra layer is not needed inside the house. I am hopeful that Mr Rainman can get the entire place mowed next week and Mr Professional can get the yard cleaned up and my replacement door onto the Ford Focus that was attacked by deer.