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.
Thanksgiving was very nice, a good friend of our came up to spend it with our family. This is always nice as I did not do any work on the farm other than feed and take care of babies while Doug was visiting. He left Saturday morning and I headed out to the barn to do chores right afterwards. There were four more ewes that had given birth! There were two sets of twins and two singles. I pushed everyone else out of the barn then proceeded to rearrange areas to take the new babies and mommas. I put both singles and their mothers in the same pen, I tag and banded the twins that were under the stairs and released them into the momma/baby area. I put a new set of twins under the stairs and I penned the last set of twins in the far back corner of the barn mostly because they were there already and it was easy to pen them there. I then had to feed and water everyone. At some point trying to get over the 2×4 we keep at the barn entrance, to keep the horse out of the barn, I ended up falling on my face. Luckily, the ground was dry and I was able to slow my fall. This would have been very messy earlier in the week when there was four inches of squishy mud and sheep poop. I will be moving the 2×4 over to the end gate on the side of the barn, I don’t know why I did not think of this sooner. I guess I just needed the proper motivation.
I had noticed that the spring was getting pretty muddy the previous day. It was a combination of silt buildup and sheep pushing dirt into the spring bed. So after taking care of the sheep I went and dug out a short section of the spring bed. I even built a new cinder block wall out of six blocks using sticks, mud and gravel, not my best work but I do expect it to last through the winter until it can be corrected in the summer. I went in and took a nap after that. I used the breaker bar too much last week helping with the fence and had to sleep 10-12 hours a night for three nights running to even feel good. My chest pain started to come back so I have vowed to take it easier and let my helpers do the metal breaker bar work and I need to let them do the heavy lifting. Even after 12 months of catching Covid, I am still taking high dose aspirin, only twice a day now, and get intermittent chest pain with increased physical activity. My hope is that by 18 months I will be back to normal, the only real problem is I will be 1.5 years older and out of shape!
Mr Rainman and Mr Tex came out this morning to work on fence. There was another set of twin lambs born last night. So all of the mommas/babys from yesterday all got shoved together in the far end of the barn and the new set of twins got put under the stairs.
11 of 34 ewes have given birth, 32% completed
Lambs born alive 18, birth rate 164%
Stillborn lambs 0
Lambs rejected 0
Lambs died before 2 weeks 0
Lambs bummered not rejected 0
Flock productivity 164%
Singles 5 of 11, 45%
Twins 5 of 11, 45%
Triplets 1 of 11, 9%
My single biggest summer project is getting the rastra and new drive over culvert installed. After that is in then I can think about other items. We would like to get our septic tank pumped but currently no big truck can get to the house.
We worked on the fence some more, the barn lot is pretty beat up alongside the wheat field. The horse has been pushing on it and bending the T-posts. We are working on getting some wooden posts in the ground along that side of the fence but it is rock from about 12” down, very hard to dig a hole in. Luckily, with the moisture we have had we are having pretty good luck digging holes with the tractor auger, I only sheared 3 shear bolts today. We are working on the corridor fence that will allow us to run the animals from pasture to pasture without keeping all of the pastures open. We want to control the pasture rotation better next year. We think we can extend the usefulness of our pasture this way. We got 18 posts set today with 12 of those including digging the hole. We had to create one rock-jack as the posts were directly on top of a rock bluff. I think four more days should see us getting the fence completed. Its a race with the weather now. Although it was 66 degrees F today and we all wore short sleeves and blue jeans, except me, I wore a long sleeve shirt also but I do that when its 100 degrees F. The weather is very crazy.
It was a long week last week and I kind of made it that way. Mr Rainman and Mr Tex came out last Sunday to help me finish up the fence in 4A. I ended up having Mr Rainman work on our yard, he finished trimming all of the lavender plants and trimmed out all of the old raspberry canes and tied up the new ones and trimmed them. He also tied up our thornless blackberries, he even managed to plant a few new plants that had self started by rooting the tips of runners. So hopefully by the end of next year we will have the entire row filled in with blackberry plants. This was work that was going to take a while and needed to be done.
Mr Tex went down to work on the fence in field 4A and Mr Rainman and I went to the barn to tag and band lambs and to rearrange the barn to hold more mommas & babys. I went down to help Mr Tex finish the fence and It turned out very nice. On our way back to the house we ended up fixing the fence in 4B all alongside Stewart Creek, which is currently dry. I had not tightened or repaired that fence in many years. It looks much better now and no animal should be able to get out, this is not a definitive won’t get out. I have learned over the years that if they want to get out they will. I snapped the high tension wire and had my hand down on the tightener when it happened, my poor right hand thumb took a beating and has been bothering me for over a week now, I am hopeful it will get well soon.
We had another set of twins born. We keep hoping that they will just hurry up and start having babies all at once. So far this has not happened. I will get the numbers together soon for our lambing season. So far it has been good other than incredibly protracted. On the way past the barn I noticed our fat orange barn cat laying up in the window area soaking up some heat rays from the sun. He is incredibly fat! I am unsure how many mice he eats but I have not found a single mouse in the hay yet so the barn cats get to stay and someone is doing their job.
It has been a very productive two days! I had Mr Rainman come out for Friday and of course it rained for a few hours. We cleaned up the machine shed, I worked on welding the weight holder for the three point auger. The soil is only moist for about the first two inches and then its very dry and our dirt has quite a bit of clay. The auger would not go down into the dirt. I had this idea to add 150# by welding on a tractor weight holder so we could put some weight on the auger. Since I had tried the auger for 30 minutes and was getting nowhere we opted to go back to the shop and do some welding. I just keep digging around in the old burn pile and the pile of scrap that keeps coming out of the ground. I have a pile started outside the machine shed and I just dig through it looking for something that will work. If you cover it all up with paint after you are done it covers up a lot of mistakes. I have learned to hit it hard with a hammer afterwards to just make sure it holds. We still had to dig out a small center part of the hole in three of the six holes as we could not get the auger to dig down without it, but it went fairly smooth after that. We were able to do 2 of 6 holes without doing anything. The first day we set the railroad ties in gravel and then used the Mistress (John Deere) to drive in the T-posts. I did have to fill the bucket with gravel and then throw on an extra 150# of tractor weights into the bucket to get enough weight to push in the T-posts. I still had to use the bucket as a driver on three T-posts. It is not elegant but with the bolt on T-post driver I have it does the job. We called it a day after that as I did not have any splicing tubes so I needed to go to town. Annmarie and I went shopping then had dinner afterwards. It was nice.
Saturday we did not have to fight the rain, just the cold! It was 40 degrees and the sun would not come out of the clouds. I felt like an a decrepit old soul trying to get out of bed this morning. I had a hard time sleeping as my entire back and upper arms felt like they were on fire all night long. I started out slow by doing more welding and Mr Rainman, cleaned out the machine shed some more and made the mower ramp for my mother-in-law for her new shed. He also moved the old John Deere baler over to the tractor tool area and away from the machine shed, therefore opening up another bay in the machine shed. I welded some gate latches out of scraps laying around or dug out of the ground. I had to clean the parts up a little bit with the grinder first as I could not get a good spark through all of the corrosion. Some of my later pieces look better than the early ones. Maybe if I keep this up I may be able to do some not so ugly welding.
The wind was blowing and with the cold spell the trees have finally started to drop leaves. My solution to leaves is the same as mowing the grass, I put the sheep in the front yard! I did it first thing this morning and will do it all day tomorrow also. The dogs go on the run so they cannot harass the sheep and the sheep know to stay away from the dogs. They also know the dogs cannot get at them, how they know that I do not know.
I had to run back to town to get the right size splices, the one I picked up the day before was too small. We got all of the wire up, attached and the gates hung in about four hours. The new battery powered fence stapler is the bomb!! It just slams through driving staples. We had all the wooden stays up in under ten minutes, push, hold the trigger, machine whines then slams a staple into the stay. I love using the high tension wire and tighteners now to make H-braces. It keeps them taut and if they get loose at all they are incredibly easy to tighten. Which is not true when you use wooden stays and smooth wire twisted together.
I even managed to sell our old ram as ground mutton this week! He will be going to a good home that will appreciate what he has to offer. I think I still have one cow left to sell.
There was some rain last week and the grass is taking advantage of it. If you stare at the picture long enough you will see some green covering starting to happen on field #3. The cows had been going up through the freshly planted fields as they were dry and there was more grass up above for them to eat. When I noticed this new growth this week I locked the cows into field #4 and the barn lot only. I started to feed the cows hay now. I need this grass to get well established so that next year we can get as much hay as possible and have as much grazing land.
It has been a long week. I had some help early on in the week, Mr Rainman came out to do a few things while I did the paying job. He worked on finishing the harrow work in field #4 then planted dryland grass seed. I want to plant sections of fields where the animals are but need to keep them off of the area while we get the grass established. We want to get the grass growing and the fences in place so we can install an irrigation system. We have been looking at various solutions and need something that is doable when we are 70 years old. We have found an underground system that uses a mainline then has a soft pipe connection to the mainline and a plug in ground level connector. You just plug in the sprinkler head and it works, the best part is the connectors are off to the side and made of flexible pipe so they account for vehicles and animals stepping on them without breaking any pipe. This is the same reason to subdivide the fields. As we run into very dry summers we need to be able to keep the animals off of certain areas to enforce a rotation so that the grass has a chance to snap back. We are looking at selling all of our aluminum pipe to fund the majority of our system. This is in our two year plan, but next year our big expense is gutters for the front of the house and ice breakers for the roof. Again, looking at that retirement need!
I had him cut back our trumpet vine next to the house as the wind had been blowing and it was scratching on the metal roof. He did this the day of a 40mph+ wind storm, it was so bad Annmarie had me send him home.
I also had him trim the trumpet vine growing next to the old house as this had not been done for about seven years and the house was getting rubbed on. We had a huge windstorm today and there was absolutely no sound from anything rubbing on either house. Big win and may cause us to not even have to trim anything next year.
He also picked up all of the branches from our front yard one morning after a wind storm. There were branches everywhere. We usually ignore the leaves and if they get deep enough in the yard then I just let the sheep into the front yard and they eat the leaves. He then went out and pulled a disc around the back half of field #5 (#5b, as I am not going to keep renumbering fields when they get split). That section has a 3-4 foot drop off between levels and needs to be knocked down some to make it safe to drive on. It is not safe to drive the tractor on the drop off unless you are going up or down, no sideways driving will happen unless you want to roll the tractor onto its side.
Friday we were fortunate to have 0.82” of rain fall throughout most of the day, this doesn’t sound like much but its 6.8% of our annual rainfall of 12”. I looked it up we get between 12”-13.5” annually, depends on where you look. This was much needed rain, and if the temperature will stay above freezing and get above 50 F during the day I may get some growth on my fields.
Saturday I spent the morning being lazy, this is not a common occurrence at our house but it does occasionally happen. I then went out and used the arena groomer on field #5b. I spent about four hours going around in circles and trying to knock down the 3-4’ drop off, so when we were driving out here with the tractor we did not have to worry about tipping the tractor over no matter how we drove. It is now safe to drive sideways the length of the drop off. It took a lot of going around in circles to smooth out the field and drop off. I am always amazed at how not flat a field can be that looks pretty smooth from a distance but when you get into it you notice the little irregularities. This should make it pretty easy to cut and bale in the late spring. I keep forgetting how much rougher the little John Deere tractor is to ride around in. I felt pretty beat up after my four hours and definitely wore my seat belt the entire time. Ｉthen took the arena groomer off and put the post hole auger on the tractor. My top three point adjusting bar is broken on the little tractor. I need a new one, it is not turning any more. Once I got the three point auger on I realized I could not hook up the pto shaft as it was rusted on the auger! I drove to the machine shed, parked under cover and used 1/4 bottle of spray lubricant onto the shaft and then let it soak in repeatedly. Once I get the thing freed, if needed I will chain it to the other tractor and pull it apart, then I will clean up the inside shaft, use some lithium grease and put it all back together. I was really just trying to get the auger on the tractor so I can weld on a T shaped 8” holder onto the auger so I can stick 50-150# worth of tractor weight onto the arm near the auger. Sometimes, you just need a little weight on the end to make it work better as I cannot get any significant downward pressure with my 3 point hitch. The hitch won’t even notice the extra 150#. I figured this would help me in drilling holes and speeding up work. I will have to be careful to not let it cut too fast or I will be changing out the shear bolts all the time, but this will be easy to do.
I did not get to do the welding as we had a huge wind storm on Sunday! I fed the sheep and horse then went to get the Kubota tractor with pallet forks to feed the cows in the upper barn lot. The problem is the wind is 50mph and it started to rain again. The rain felt like hail due to the wind, I had to keep checking it as I was sure little ice balls were pelting me nonstop but no, just liquid water at high velocity. The Kubota has been moving the big bails fairly easily, I did not count on that 0.86” of accumulated rain in the last three days adding a bunch of weight to the bale! I had to drive the tractor in 4wd due to only the front two tires and one rear tire touching the ground the entire time. Needless to say, the bale was just barely above the ground and kept touching the ground so the tractor could stay on three tires with one rear wheel about 1” off the ground. I need to prioritize getting a quick hitch for the Kubota and converting one of the 50 gallon drums into a weight that I can back up to and drive off with when using the pallet forks. I have one full of horseshoes and it weighs around 800#. I know this because that is the max weight on my John Deere bucket and its all it can do to lift it. This is going to become a priority. I did notice that the Kubota tractor has an all steel foot deck with raised holes that cleans the mud off of my boots and lets me wash down the deck easily, I had to keep my hat tilted down to keep the rain from pelting my face and I may also need a new pair of muck boots as mine are pretty beat up but still waterproof so I will most likely hold off until they leak.