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.
It has been a long summer and it is just getting started! The heat has been incredible. We had a new record high, 116 degrees F. This is an amazing amount of heat and one which normally would have had us hunkered down inside our house enjoying our central heat/ac via heat pump. Yeah, Lady Luck struck again and we had air conditioner issues. The worst kind of issue, the gradual change. As the heat kept increasing every day our heat pump kept losing temperature differential and the house just kept getting hotter. Our house got over 90 degrees and three days after we called a repairman out he came! I consider this a success, but we found out our system has a coolant leak and some valve that needs to be replaced and it turned out to be a factory order so we may get it fixed 8 days after discovering it. If its only 8 days I am going to take it as a win. The heat is now under 100 F and at night it is actually cooling off so we have a huge fan that goes in the breeze porch and sucks in all of the cold air and blows it everywhere via the upstairs hallway. We had to have some relief as Annmarie was sleeping at her moms and I was staying up late or getting up early trying to open the house to get it cooled off.
It turns out my mother had an air conditioner for the shop that she was not using. We thought abut putting it up in our bedroom but it really needs some external support. We ended up putting it down in our craft room with the Murphy bed! That bed is turning out to be on of our great purchases of the year. It is getting a lot of use. I had the saw set up and an old table I had not yet discarded and in an hour we had the stand built and the air conditioner installed and blowing cold air! It was the best nights sleep I had had in one week. The house only got to 79 degrees with the new setup. This is much better than 90, sweat does not run down my back just sitting in the living room now.
Friday was a lazy day for me. I don’t have them very often but it has been a long stretch at work and all of my helpers were busy having lives. So I started the day off by making waffles. I got 2 and the chickens got 4. They fought over theirs more than I did. I binge watched Netflix, I still didn’t manage to finish my TV series, it even has a second season so its going to take some more time. I did spend an hour trying to get our yard sprinkler up and going. I had it apart three times and managed to blow rust, and water all over my face and shirt one time. I did get it up and working eventually, that was my big feat for the day. Annmarie and I even went into town and had a sit down dinner, which hasn’t been happening much with Covid. Our local bunny rabbit makes a showing almost every day now. I see it hopping around and we even saw a covey of Hungarian Partridges (Huns) with babies in our driveway. All of the animals seem to have done well this spring.
Mr Rainman came out today with his wife, Gimpy today to help me pull in the last of the hay off of field #1. There was quite a discussion had, some whining, about my choice of names for helpers. A final ruling was made that a name is given on the very first day you come out to the farm to help and it is never altered. Yes, it may not be as pertinent but unlike your birth name there are no do overs or changes allowed. So Gimpy, without the injured leg, helped load hay today. We pulled another 174 bales off of the field. The best part of this was that our main barn was full so we had to use the lamb shed. What a sweet deal!! Mr Rainman said if I just tossed a round bale on the edge of another by the trailer it would spin and then roll all the way across the ground to the hay stack. This worked fairly well but during the second load he suggested we use the trailer tail gate as a ramp, pure genius and worked perfect! This made unloading super easy. Gimpy decided that the owning a farm was not in her future.
We had a Rock chuck lay out on the wood pile for the first three trips, I finally went into the house and grabbed the 17 HMR and of course we never saw the little varmit again. It was fairly obvious that we had issues with baling hay in field #1. There were just under 100 failed bales that had been jettisoned out of the baler, almost 2 ton. We went around and picked up all of the rolls and fed them to the cows/sheep in the upper pasture. It will take them a couple of weeks to go through 2 ton of feed. This puts off my building fence for a short while. We ended up getting just over 800 bales off of field #1. I think if the weather had not gotten so hot we could have gotten 1000. I am going to spray it with 2-4-D soon after we run the mower over it.
Mr Rainman is going to come out early this week after the holidays and mow down a bunch of cheatgrass. I am hoping to put the hurt on it on Monday. I will stick to the fields around our houses. The front porch has gone no where. So we laid down the same OSB sheets we used to have on it so we could use the front door again. After we get back from our week long respite I am driving to central Oregon to pickup our new ram. He will have a buddy as we are also picking up a ram for the farmer buying 28 of our lambs and starting up his own herd.
My helpers finished getting in the last two tons of hay into the barn this week. We managed to get one ton of grass hay just off of the area around the school house. Even with help and me doing the driving I was done last weekend by the time we got the hay into the barn. Mr CrossFit ran the weed eater and cleaned up the berry area. The grass and weeds keep growing back. We are going to lay down some ground cloth and cover it up to keep the grass and weeds down, eventually. It’s on the list but not a super high priority. It was time to shift gears and move on to the next project.
The front deck needs to be finished and TREX deck applied. I had all the TREX laid out by the house and thought I was ready to go. Friday morning, Mr Rainman came over to help, he unloaded the pickup with my daughter and then we went to town to buy more stuff for the deck. Another $1000 and we had more lumber and concrete blocks. We unloaded everything onto the yard pile and started in on making the deck underlayment. The price of TREX and building supplies is really high. I know I keep reading about it but a project I planned two years ago was going to cost $6k in materials and now is costing $10k in materials. It is crazy, I have had to shift some money I was saving for the old house remodel to the deck project. This is making the old house project look mighty lean!
We started to install the support framework. This did not go fast and we kept having to stop and take more measurements. The corner beam had to be moved in an inch. We had to stop, make adjustments and keep the width the same every time we moved forward. This sounds easy but it is a constant battle. We did not get very far on Friday. One of the beams had about 20% dry rot and had to be dug out, we ended up cleaning it out and filling the holes with concrete.
Saturday was the day to get completed! Mr Rainman came out and we started in again. I had him doing the cutting, which involved carrying and delivering the cut wood to the job site. I stayed in one place and hollered out measurements. We set posts for the railing, this involved digging a hole, filling with some gravel, setting the 4×4 concrete footing block then centering the block. Once we had the block centered we sandwiched the 4×4 with 2×6 pieces to keep it from moving then I even filled in the other two sides with wood and shims to lock it all into place so that there is no way the posts can come loose! It got hot on Saturday so Mr Rainman was in full force, we discussed the need to drink more water. Neither of us were drinking enough to pee every hour, but I was ahead. My wife was sticking her head out the front door and ensuring that my water consumption was sufficient. He was on his own.
That evening we went down and pushed the sheep up into the barn lot. The dogs did all the work, we just plodded along. Once we had the sheep into the barn we sorted off all of the babies. The youngest set of twins were not quite three months old. It actually went fairly smooth and we sorted off a nice big lamb for one of our customers. They took it home in a dog crate and Annmarie overhead the spouse telling their partner that “this one is food”. They now have two pet lambs from last year that are now no longer lambs. We pushed all the lambs over into the ram pasture but it is looking pretty eaten down, the sheep will need to be let up above into field #4 with the cows this week.
I had lots of help on Saturday, Mr I Need a Belt Bad and Mr Professional came out. Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I helped Annmarie sort sheep first thing in the morning. We had the sheep in the barn first then set up the gates. It’s easier if we do the gates first but the simple fact is using the gates and sorting chute is one of the best decisions we have made when it comes to raising sheep. It doesn’t take up much space and we can sort them whenever we need. We never want to sort the sheep, its always a need. We needed to sort off more lambs that were over 90 days old. We got 18 more pulled off and even managed to mark three of the little girls as savers and future breeders for us, they are incredibly calm. We proceeded to push them through the front hillside and over into the orchard pasture. This would have gone smoother if Mouse had not decided that he knew how to herd sheep better than Annmarie’s directions and just as they neared the gate he broke and rushed in. There was some chasing of a particular sheep and yelling and some creative word play. On the next attempt the dogs listened and the sheep went through the gate. This all leads to the necessity of a woven fence on top of our rock wall to keep the sheep out of the yard. We also want to keep the dogs out of our yard so we can get a no hole yard. This whole process only took one hour. It used to take around 2-3 hours before the chute and then you had to chase the sheep around the barn and dive on them or catch them mid air when they tried to leap away. It was entertaining but a lot more work and we are not getting any younger. Our ram is starting to lose weight and it looks like some of our ewes are pregnant. We hope so as he only has one job.
Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I then stayed in the barn and proceeded to get it ready for hay. We did this by putting all of the netting and hay string into empty 50# feed bags and tossing them into the back of the pickup. The dumpster is still on the property and got emptied Friday so it needs to be filled again. I was hoping that I could be done with one more week but after emptying two hay rooms and picking up all of the netting and more buried twine we filled the entire dumpster with the addition of all of the feed bags from the chicken coop. I still have a lot of items in the old house that need to be round filed so the dumpster will have to stay for one more week to get filled for the last time, a total of 6 yards of trash will have been removed from the farm. I sure am glad we have weekly trash service. Once we had all of the trash corralled we went into the barn and reorganized some wood. I had built a loft over the sheep feeding area and had been storing wood on it. We reorganized the room over the tack room and then moved and restacked all of the lumber except the 1×12 boards into that room. I used the 1×12 boards to toss down and cover some of the holes in the decking. We are going to start haying soon and we have a couple acres of cheat grass. The flood ruined a couple of the fields and now there is a lot of cheat grass. I just about had it under control in a couple of fields and it is back. So we are going to hay it and use it for bedding. The bales will be stored up on the walkway and you will be able to just cut them open and dump them off the walkway. The sheep will break them up and spread them out. It’s a great use for them and stops me from having to buy straw. It also lets me work out any kinks in the baling process before I get to the good grass. Practice is essential as we have only used it for one year. When it comes time to clean out the barn I need to open up all of the doors and use the leaf blower to blow the dust off of everything. I will need goggles and an N95 mask for that as it will be very dirty and dusty.
Mr Professional arrived and started to work on getting the lawn mower running, he had it fired up in no time and started in on the lawn. Mr I Need a Belt Bad went to the back garden to weed for the second time. All of the grass that he missed last week had gotten some rain, sun and some extra room to grow. It had taken off and he was able to knock it down one more time. I will mix a little Roundup now and keep it in a little one gallon hand pump sprayer. I used it every 1-2 weeks to knock down the grass instead of having to pull weeds all the time. Weeding sucks. While they did that I finished spray painting another three metal gates. If I waited much longer the rust was going to become much worse. Mr Professional fired up the weed eater and I knocked down an especially tall spot in the yard then proceeded to weed eat the berry garden. Once we had it down, we went around to each plant and pulled out the weeds by hand to create a weed free zone around each berry bush. I may even plant some blueberries as well as the berry garden is doing. I am going to bring over our large water trough and get it set up for strawberries. This will keep them from spreading all over the place. We do have a mole out there and I am going to have to set a trap. We tried to find the entrance hole but couldn’t find it. So all of the mounds got spread out so I can decide wear to set the trap.
Mr Professional and I set up my Christmas present and I now have two targets mounted on the hillside at 100 yards. Now to see if the sheep will leave them alone. I was able to use the rangefinder to figure out how far objects on the hillside were, 150-200 yards. The side by side had a flat front tire so we took it off and I will get it fixed this week. The tractor is the key piece of equipment that is missing. As soon as it comes the sickle bar mower needs to get attached and fired up to do a job.
Well, we think we are done having lambs. It was pretty drawn out this year and our plan to stop this is to turn the ram loose with the sheep in a confined space. When he has to run all over the farm and try and catch all the ewes to breed he starts taking his time and we need a faster approach. We will be putting the ram in with the ewes in 1-2 weeks so he can start the process all over again and we will have lambs again in five months!
49 lambs born alive
32 ewes delivered
0 pregnant ewes (we think….)
15 single lambs
17 twin lambs
3 bummer lambs, all survived
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
144% production rate (goal >150%)
96% survival rate at birth
98% survival rate at 2 weeks
Annmarie has already sold 20-25 lambs to a person nearby who wants to start their own herd of hair sheep! The truly amazing part is this same person wants to run them in with his Dexter cows!! We got a good laugh out of that as we thought we were the only ones in the area who had done this. He wants the sheep to eat what the cows will not which is exactly what they will do. He has not yet discovered the joy of eating a hair sheep and the fact that they are milder and sweeter tasting.