Sheep sorting again, ram time

Yesterday was sheep sorting day. We have a bunch of skinny mommas and we need to wean off the lambs that are old enough, we need to worm everyone, create two herds (edible, keep) and turn the Ram loose in with the mommas (keep). This seems simple enough on the surface but nothing is ever simple when you are working with animals that have not been touched in three months. Most of the lambs have only been touched once in their entire life which makes them the most difficult group to handle. We started by having to dig trenches in the barn to be able to move the panels around and create chutes and three large pens in the barn. Once that was done I found the oral drenching tool and our wormer. I did not have enough oral drench so Annmarie volunteered to go to town and get more while we tagged and banded. I had about a 1/3 of a bottle so we could start while she was in transit. Mr Rainman and I then attempted to push the sheep into the barn. Nope, they would not go, no matter what we did, they kept breaking free of the pile and would not go into the chute into the barn.

Mr Rainman went and got Chance, border collie puppy, and he attempted to get her to move the sheep into the barn while she was on a lead. She would not really listen to him and since she is learning you have to be patient and strict at the same time. I took over and she was baling them up well but they would not go into the barn. She would be within four feet of them and they would not budge. One broke loose and she dived for it, I had a hold of the lead rope with just my hands, no gloves. I had to clamp down and grab rope to jerk her back for a correction. I ended up with a two inch rope burn on my middle finger! But I did get the puppy stopped and corrected. We had to go get Mouse also and squeeze the sheep from both sides and push them into the barn with the dogs. They just would not go on their own, and before that would work we had to open up the barn so they could just go through the door, once in the barn we pushed them to the far end so we could run them through the chute. We were still having trouble getting them into the chute so Mr Rainman started to just catch the little ones and then I could tag and band them. We had about ten lambs that needed tagged and banded still. On one of his snags he caught a pink tagged big lamb that was a ram! So it got banded, which was not easy as the testicles were so big I had to pop them through the bander opening one at a time. I have not made this mistake in years, so it was a great catch by Mr Rainman.

We used the oral drenched but the little clip that holds the bottle to the belt does not work so I tie it upside down under the belt with a piece of cord then it will work. It’s fairly redneck but it does the job and using the drencher hand pump is so much faster than having to measure out a syringe every time you need to dose a sheep. Once we had two groups of sheep we had to run them through the chute again to count them! Here are the final numbers: 46 ewes, 10 babies (too young to wean) , 1 ram in the first group and 40 lambs, 1 cull ewe, 13 eating size in second group for a total of 111 sheep. We are going to be taking the eating size ones to sale soon to see how they do. The ram is now in with the momma herd and we are keeping them in the orchard for now so he doesn’t have to chase them all over. We are bringing both groups into the barn lot every night to keep the predators at bay. One group in the front side and one group on the back side. They can see each other but not mix. There is an amazing amount of noise for the first few days once we separate off the lambs.

I hooked up the sickle mower onto the Kubota and tried to cut the orchard but the space is full of trees and metal rings around the trees. I did not even make it around the field once before I hit a cow panel and popped off a tooth from the bar. So I had to go put that sickle bar up and put the rake on the Kubota and set up the smaller sickle bar on the John Deere. We did not use it last year so I had to make some adjustments and get it all greased up. The Italians that designed it put one essential grease zirk where it is near impossible to access. It took me 30 minutes to get the thing into a spot where I could access it with a small grease gun and a 90 degree elbow. It is of course exactly where the bolt fails every time so it has to be done. I can pop the other mower apart and redo the rivets but that will take time. So it will be something I need to do after hay season. I had to pull the break away bar from the mower and beat on it with an eight pound sledge hammer to get it back into some semblance of shape and function. It’s not perfect but it is much improved. I am now ready to cut more hay today. The plan is to cut 1/3 of the leftover ground today and turn it on Tuesday. Then bale it on Wednesday. I will cut more hay on Tuesday, another 1/3. We have managed to bale 346/900 needed bales and 252/900 are in the barn. I was able to scavenge another 20 bales yesterday from the leftovers.

Haying 169/900 bales completed

It’s definitely haying season. I get to go to work (paying job) then come home and continue working until dark, repeat this over and over until all of the hay is put up. Mr Rainman has been coming out a couple of times a week to help out. It helps out tremendously but I have to keep cutting and turning and mowing after work to keep up. If I get it all prepped then when Mr Rainman shows up he can spend a day and get it all baled. Today I was trying to figure out how much hay we really needed to get the sheep through the winter. This grass is very nice so I figured five bales per day for six months. That is quite a bit of hay but I wanted to make sure we have enough on hand. This means we need 900 bales to get the sheep though the winter. So now the countdown to enough has been started.

I have been able to cut and turn every night and get done just as the sun was dropping. One night I did have to turn on the lights to get it finished. In between all of the hay I had to readjust the gate going into field #3. I had to fix the hole in the fence behind the house that the bull and sheep had widened. I also dropped the panels over the back creek behind the house so we can let the sheep out onto the back hillside.

After I patched the hole in the fence that the bull was using Annmarie tried to get him out of the field. I had opened the gate in the hope that he would just walk out. He did not, so she tried to push him out but he walked over to the gate, looked at it, looked at her then walked away. He stayed on the back hillside. This is the one nutter that is now a two nutter and needs to go away.

Chance has been doing well on the lead rope when I take her out to bring the sheep in at night (predator deprivation prevention). Annmarie was telling me that Chance was doing well for her so I have started to let her off the lead on the way back to the house after we have worked the sheep. Annmarie noticed me doing this and commented on how brave I was! I told her I thought she was doing the same, so I had assumed it was safe. It was safe but not because Annmarie was doing it also. I was feeling pretty good about the puppy, we have been teaching her every chance we get and it is starting to pay off. Then one night I was getting eggs and water for the baby chicks so I failed to latch the yard gate. I knew the gate was not latched but I thought the sheep were locked out of the ram pasture so if the dogs got out of the yard they could not cause any chaos. I was wrong. I came out of the chicken coop and Chance had a bunch of sheep balled up in the ram pasture and she was moving the herd back and forth across the pasture. I tried to call her, I tried to get her to lay down, I tried to catch her, I did a lot of yelling, she was having a grand old time. Eventually, she listened and laid down as instructed. I walked her back to the yard. On the plus side this time, she did not dive directly into the herd to grab a sheep, she circled them and bunched them all together. She did go for any sheep that tried to leave the bunch. So we are back to the lead only when working the sheep and we are really pushing the down command at any moment so she learns to listen better. She is improving every day we just need to keep after it, she is only one year old and it normally takes us two years to train them well enough to work the animals without too much difficulty.

The new sickle bar broke last time I was using it. I, of course, do not have a cache of spare parts for it yet as it is brand new. It looked like it was something I could correct so I broke out the welder and actually fixed the problem! The weld looks better than anything I have done to date. I have yet to actually try out the repair. I will need to use the bar mower tomorrow so that will be the real test for my repair.

First hay in the barn

It is time, haying season is officially here. I went out and inspected the fields last week. The cheatgrass is a menace. Fields that I tried to replant in the fall with new grass are nothing but solid cheatgrass. Fields that were full of cheatgrass last year are not this year. So we are mowing the cheatgrass down wherever we find it and just haying where I can find big patches of good grass.

The lower schoolhouse pasture looked pretty good this year so it got cut on Sunday. The new sickle bar mower cut through the whole field in under two hours. I then turned it after work twice in the late evening. I was able to finish just as the sun was going down so I did not have to use the work lights on the tractor. Wednesday it was ready to be baled.

Mr Rainman came out Wednesday to start baling. He had to wait until it warmed up a little and burned off the dew. He managed to get the first bale made but could not get the net wrap to roll out like it was should have. I came home to trouble shoot it, I should have known that the first time operating the baler for the year was not going to go smooth. I was hoping it would! I washed the feed roller, no go. I then verified net was installed correctly and finally I just pulled some of the netting loose from the roll. The roll was very dusty as it has been on the baler since last year. I think I may need to cover the baler with a tarp this year after we get done and get it cleaned up. Once we got the first roll wrapped the clean netting worked just fine on the next bale. He was off and going and managed to bale the entire lower field, 133 bales in a about 3 hours. I came home, we hooked up the flat bed trailer to the pickup and went out into the field and picked it all up. The first 83 bales went into the barn. The next 50 bales made it to the barn lot but not inside. Their were about 3-4 bales that had a moisture reading over 20%. So we spread the bales out on the trailer so the sun and weather could heat them up for a few days.

The weather was cooperating fantastically until last night. We had a storm come through last night and drop 11/100” of rain on us in under an hour. So now the bales will need to stay out in the weather a little longer. I had big plans on cutting new hay down yesterday but I had to prioritize the paying job an spent most of the day working. When I came home I was tired, took a nap in the yard for an hour and then Annmarie told me to just do it the next day. I took her offer and by the time the rain showed up I was grateful that I had not cut any grass. I will have to wait another day now before I can cut hay. This rain should give my field #1 a needed boost. That is going to be the field I cut last. There are 50 bales to a ton this year. The bales are 40-45# this year. The grass looks great and since we are only doing small batches it is very green and lovely hay.

Haying season is starting soon

Haying season is starting soon. Our weather went from warm and wet to hot and dry in a very short time. This has caused the grass to shoot up and made me realize that I had better get ready for hay season. Unfortunately, there are always other tasks to complete on the farm and there is very little single task focusing allowed.

So on Friday I went over to LaGrande in the pickup to get four cut and wrapped beef. The fifth one had gone to Ascension Camp in Cove. I agreed to pick up the four that were on this side of the mountain. So I went over first thing and had them all loaded up into the back of the clean pickup bed. I had washed it out the night before in preparation for this task. They bag it! I was expecting cardboard boxes which is how I have always received cut and wrapped meat. The bags were easier to handle but wow did they not hold the cold very well. I made three stops before getting home and by the time I got home we ended up having round steak the next night due to the thawing that occurred from the bags.

The meat tasted great as always. It is definitely grass fed and it is obvious when you look at a steak. The meat is very dark and not very pink (fat filled). Our freezer is now full again but we have a lot of ground beef left over from the cow before this one. So more hamburger is on the menu.

While I was doing that Mr Rainman came out and starting to mow all of the cheat grass around the farm. Three fields I planted with grass are nothing but solid cheat grass. So basically worthless to use as fodder for the animals. So we are trying to get all of it mowed down before the heads become mature. I am also trying to see exactly how much needs to be harvested. Some fields that were wonderful last year are now mostly cheat grass and others that were mediocre last year are very good. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some fields have turned. Although, if I worked the field with the cultivator the cheat grass seeds are taking over! The fields that I left alone are the ones that are doing great this year.

I spent most of Saturday mowing and cleaning up the edges of fields that are going to get harvested. I saw lots of quail but not once did I spot a coyote or any other type of predator running around on the place.

Sunday once I got back to the farm, Mr Rainman and I put the new sickle bar mower on the Kubota so I could start cutting hay tomorrow evening after my real job. It went on fairly easy but when I ran the blades there was a horrible clacking. I turned it off and looked closely. It appears that at the end of last years haying season I broke the bar mower and failed to fix it all winter/spring. I don’t specifically remember this but it is fairly obvious that I did it. Because I have had to help repair this exact problem I knew what it was. It’s a broken bolt near the rocker arm. The only real problem is this is a special bolt that is shaped and rounded on one end then it bolts through the back half of the arm and onto a stop nut that must be inserted as you screw in the bolt or the nut won’t fit. I do not have any spare parts for the newer sickle bar mower. So I went and “borrowed” parts from the other small Italian sickle bar mower. The bolt was too long and the threads need to go down the shaft about 1/4” more. Luckily, I had gotten tired of this exact scenario a few years ago and had purchased a metric 110 piece tap and die set. My father was a machinist and I had learned how to create threads from him. I just needed to extend the threads. Luckily, I had the correct die and was able to extend the thread. We got it all together and got it all greased up. It is now ready to start cutting some hay!

If it fails to rain tonight I will be cutting hay when I get home tomorrow! Mr Rainman has figured out that if we use a leaf blower on the tractor and mower it is a faster than trying to use an air hose. The air hose is now only needed for the radiator. The rest is much faster and effective to use the leaf blower. I had to order farm diesel fuel which should be delivered this week.

I am now trying the electrolyte replacement powder “liquid IV’ in my water when I am out and about. My hope is it will let me tolerate the heat better than I did last year. It doesn’t taste that great but it did stave off any headache. I will use it a few more times and see if it really works.

Bee swarm success!

The bees are helping us out. We had just purchased two more used hives with miscellaneous bee working tools and ordered a second full hive kit. I had just assembled the new hive and we were deciding where to store all of the stuff when Mr Rainman spotted a bee swarm. We were outside working and the bees started to swarm and he came over and asked me what was going on. They are very loud and become a cloud of bees before they settle down onto something. They ended up in a tree on an old magpie nest. Way too high to mess with trying to catch them. I thought it was a missed opportunity. About an hour later Mr Rainman spotted them all massed up on one of our lavender plants! It was one of the grey plants that have not yet started to green up but they were inside the bush.

I decided to give reclaiming it a go. I had never attempted it nor worked the bees. Annmarie does the bee work usually but I did not want to miss out on a free colony. I donned the bee suit, Mr Rainman had to help me zip it up as I could not figure it out once I had it on. He took some pictures and attempted to film it until he got stung on the forehead. I just knelt down and started scooping the bees out of the bush and putting them into a plastic starter set we had just picked up. I did that for a while until the bees were good and upset. I could not reach down into the bush and was only able to get about half of them and I figured the queen was still in there. I had a full honey frame that I slipped into the starter box in the hopes that it would attract the bees into it. It did attract the bees but they just went in and ate all of the honey! They took it back to the mound.

I was working on the driveway when Mr Rainman spotted them swarming again. They flew up into a tree near the barn, again out of reach. They came back to the lavender about an hour later on a different greener bush this time. I had the starter box out there already so I had Mr Rainman take the new hive box I had just assembled and put it out in the lavender with the hope that they would migrate into it.

By the time Annmarie came home they had not moved. My set out houses idea was not working. So she went out and took the super, removed some frames so there was only five in the box and set it on a diagonal over the bees with the lid on it. Just before we went to bed I put on a bee hood and gloves only and went out to check on them in my short sleeve shirt. They had gone into the box and were on the frames. So I picked up the box, put it on a bottom and put the lid back on. I was going to do more but working in a bee hood with a head lamp is not super conducive to actual work and the bees were starting to get upset. I realize that as we get more comfortable around the bees we will wear less protective gear. If you are calm and don’t hurt them they are pretty passive, you just have to stay calm and move in a controlled manner. It definitely takes some practice.

The next morning she went out, closed off the hive and moved it to the new area we set up out in the orchard. Eventually, we will get the hive from the lavender patch moved out into the orchard, but it is full of bees and heavy so it needs to be moved as an entire unit early in the morning when its cool.

Annmarie watched a You Tube video on how to clean bees wax and make wax pellets. There was a full honey super of no plastic insert frames in the used hives we just purchased. So I cut them all off and am now filtering the honey out so we can harvest the bees wax also. She cleaned up the little bit of wax we had collected last year and made pellets out of it. Once I get the honey out of this crushed wax mess we will take the wax out to the hive and the bees will clean it all up then we can harvest the wax. They are far more efficient at finding all of the honey then I am.