Yesterday when I fed the sheep and cows there was no dead animal in the orchard. When I came home to feed this lamb was dead out by the feeding area. It had to have happened last night. The worst part of this is that it is only about 50 yards from two different houses. The lamb was attacked from behind and only the hind quarters were eaten. So now instead of 17 lambs left to sell this spring we only have 16. Odds are this was a coyote, but without pictures who knows. I have yet to invest in a predator call but after the last two summers and winters I am going to have to do some more predator control. Simply going from a 22 rule to a 243 rule in regards to how close to the house and lambs they are getting I may have to actively work to thin out the predators. Honestly, the reason I have not so far is laziness. I don’t want to be outside in the dark trying to call in predators. So we will be looking to see if this is a one off or else I will be forced to intercede to keep the lambs alive. Such is the wheel of life or death depending on if your card is getting punched.
Back at the office
I really need to finish finish reinforcing the berm and digging a secondary ditch in field #1. It has been cold and now the rain is coming again. Instead I am going to focus back on the office! We had company come for Thanksgiving. So our old office is back to being a bedroom until after the holidays now with people coming and going. This means if I want to get the office stuff out of our bedroom then I need to finish the office! Mind you the office was only supposed to take a couple of months so we didn’t really organize the old clean out of the in house space and just moved it all into our master bedroom. This was a mere six months ago, minuscule on the house remodeling time scale, but still annoying. So Doom helped me out in the office on Friday. I messed up big time when I started that wall. I am installing tongue and groove and you always want to start at the ceiling and work down! Do not violate this rule. I for some unknown now reason did violate the aforementioned rule. This meant I needed to cross the door in the middle of the room. I have not idea what I was thinking when I did it! I have managed to cuss myself out several times in an attempt to fix my blunder. You know it’s bad when you have to cuss the previous contractor/remodeler and its you. Nothing is level or square, the house is at least 120 years old and only this room sits on a rock wall foundation. I have to compensate all the time. I know this, I am still dumbfounded that I made this decision. Anyways, after cussing out the noob again, Doom and I decided that the only way we were going to get the thing corrected was to just split the wall in half over the door frame. By the time I trim out the door and trim out the ceiling there will only be about two inches of the wall visible and the trim will draw your eye away from my blunder. You have to look closely at the picture to tell what we did. Sometimes it is all about being able to cover up or handle the oddities that an old house presents. I was working on the trim near the machine work room I made and the wall is so crooked that I had to lean the board up, and just trace the angle. I used the table saw to just follow the line. Without a tape measure your eye really does not notice the one inch difference, because the line is straight. I have learned that if I can look at something, figure out how to accommodate it and after install step back and it looks good/normal then the technique I used to cover up the oddity worked. Since I am installing wood with color variations and defects that helps a ton also.
The feeder sheep have finally decided they may need to actually come in and eat some hay. They have been out free ranging on the hillsides and bottoms and have not wanted any supplemental feed. Even the three bulls will go out and free range during the day. I don’t worry too much about the sheep not being able to get to the feed. They always find a way.
I got another raccoon. It had been living in the barn but it has been mighty cagey. So the count for the year is Predators 15, Farm 6. The predators are winning. I got six adult chickens online. I think one is a rooster! It was not obvious when I brought it home but it was a fairly juvenile bird. I am going to give it another month. If its a rooster then I will keep it and kill my old rooster. He is not accepting the latest batch of chickens. He gets a fungus on his feet and makes them look all weird. Sarah looked it up and it is a delicacy in some countries. The coyotes can have him from the bone pile. We are only getting 1-2 eggs a day now. I thought it was the raccoon, then the lack of light, but now I am unsure why no one is laying in the henhouse. So I am looking for another dozen laying or soon to be laying chickens. We have just enough eggs for us, no one else.
We were watching a movie last night. Our daughter took this picture of me highly engrossed in the captivating film. Putting up Christmas decorations just tuckered me out.
Predators 15, Farm 5
I seem to be doing one of these updates weekly now. As we go into winter things definitely slow down. Our kittens came back to the wood shed this week! We have been feeding them out in the wood shed but would like to get them to come over to the garden so we don’t have to cross the bridge. I will hopefully get to cut the bridge down in the next two weeks. I will need to make some 2×6 crossing for the kittens so they can get over the water to food once the back creek starts running. It doesn’t need to be much to allow the cats to cross.
Between Annmarie and Donna the alpaca are getting pretty tame. Annmarie keeps apple flavored treats in her car for them so they like seeing her come home. They are not all compliant with eating out of her hand. Our blind one is definitely blind and still a bully. I saw him today tearing up to another alpaca at full speed, chest checking it then start neck wrestling. I was hoping that injury would slow him down.
I asked Annmarie what she wanted for Christmas and she stated she wanted a little shed for the bee supplies and her drip system tools and spare parts. So we found one online and had it shipped. I did not want to assemble and install the shed in January. I realize this may be an early Christmas present but it is only realistic if we do it now so I can get it assembled. It came this week and I spent a day putting it all together and creating a gravel pad for it so that it would not rot out the bottom. I just need to bed the back fence toward the yard and I should be able to attach the shed to the fence to prevent it from blowing over. I found a metal cable and used it to temporarily hold it down. I just need to get the spare drip parts out of the wood shed. So they are all in one place.
Chance, the puppy, is getting bigger. She is not as focused as mouse when it comes to the animals but she does like to chase things. After her run in with the front gate last weekend she has been limping. We keep telling her to take it easy but a six month old puppy does not know how to do that. Yesterday, they got out of the yard when I was working on the shed. This was exhausting so diner time was spent laying down and eating. The puppy is now limping on the other leg. We are starting to take her out on a lead rope around the sheep. I will be taking her out to the barn in the evening to expose her to more animals. She is sitting well for us and holds until released for food.
This week I went and picked up six more adult chickens from someone on Facebook. I was down to only nine hens, the raccoons have been slowly picking them off. I am reluctant to use live traps as I get tired of catching the cats and chickens. But Friday night Annmarie woke me up and said something was trying to get a chicken. This was obviously a stupid chicken as it did not go into the coop at dark. I had to run outside in my underwear and boots in 23 F weather. It is not comfortable! I spotted a raccoon under the old house but failed to hit it after three attempts. It is much harder to hit something in the dark. The next morning I ordered new batteries for my pistol laser. Someone told me there are traps that are dog/cat proof and will only catch raccoons. I got three of them and set them out yesterday afternoon. Today at 1000 I heard the dogs throwing a shit fit over by the chicken coop. They just would not let up. So I went out with my pistol and there was a raccoon that was trying to get into the coop during the day! There is one less raccoon on the farm now.
I went up to the bone yard, dropped off the carcass and proceeded to go up to field one to work on the ditch. I was able to get about another 120’ of ditch dug. I am over 2/3 done with the ditch. I still need to cut the tree out of the dry creek bottom so it doesn’t push the water out of the banks. I am hopeful that I can get this all done before it does a hard freeze and stays frozen.
Predators 15 / Farm 4
Well my staycation continues, Monday was the big day I needed to go pickup hay for the cows. We buy big bales for the winter. I am hopeful that we can get enough triticale planted this fall to put up enough of our own hay to not have to buy anymore. We are getting close. My hope is we have enough for two years this purchase. Then when I hay next year we are set. That is the plan, we are closing in on self sufficiency, it has not been easy to figure out what we need or how to get there.
I started the morning out with a good breakfast! This is the key to farm work. I almost always work through lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner so cooking something hearty first thing is essential. I did do the dishes afterwards. I then hoofed it up the back hillside to make sure the gates were closed after we moved the cows this weekend. I took both border collies and the puppy was in seventh heaven. She doesn’t get out of the yard much as she has a distinct lack of control. Of course I was able to call them back and got the gate opened, Mouse ran in and the puppy, Chance, ran up to the gate then saw a chicken, the chase was on. She terrorized several chickens, me hollering to no avail when she spotted the sheep! So she ran up the creek line alongside the fence looking at sheep, when she turned around and barreled towards me I was ready. I just snatched her off the ground and carried her back to the yard. She was distinctly unrepentant in her demeanor, wagging her tail and licking me the entire time. I then went out and pushed the three bulls across the barn lot, through the front yard and down into the below fields. We have three fences between the cows and the bulls now, our old bull should be contained. He is the Houdini of fence crossers and we don’t want him impregnating anyone. He will be hamburger in the spring. I then had to run to town and drop off stuff for wife, came back just in time to hook up flat bed trailer, pump up back trailer tire that is always chronically low and fuel up the tractor so I can move the bales off of the trailer. I also called for farm diesel to be delivered. Luckily for me, they were loading the truck with diesel for a Pilot Rock run that day and I was able to get squeezed onto the delivery route! This was much appreciated as I was going to run out in the next couple of days as many hours as I am putting on the tractor every day. The best part about this is the hand pump only needs to be moved every other delivery so two times a year. This is very reasonable and the pump works great, I am happy I did not get a second pump for another $350 installed with all the accoutrements.
I then went to get hay, its only about five miles away but we determined that I can only haul four bales at a time. The seller reminded me, four bales, I had him put a fifth on anyway that first load as there were 40 bales to move. It was not happening, four it was. The plan was to just pull the trailer into field four, shove them all off randomly and tomorrow I would place them in an organized fashion. I cannot stack them as the new Kubota will lift them 2-3” only. Which is not bad considering the lifting capacity is only 1100# and the bales weigh 1400#. I will stack them in a neat square.
I pushed three bales off and figured out I could just park the tractor and set the bucket to the right height to hold the bales in place while I drive the trailer out from underneath the bale. This worked super slick and I was off for the second load. I congratulated myself on my efficiency and kept going. The second load I tried to move two bales off at the same time using this technique and almost ripped the plastic bin off the front of the trailer, the bucket height was too low. I fixed that then was pulling the tractor sideways, there was too much weight to hold in place. I had to unload each bale individually with the tractor. On the third load I tried again but this time I got the front of the tractor in front of the spare trailer tire attached to the trailer and pulled the tractor sideways again. I had to unload individually again. Now I was not to be deterred by these obstacles and was determined to recreate the perfect bale dismount again. On the fourth trip I got the bottom part of the tractor forks too low and crushed the tire well! I tried to bend it back and beat on it with a hammer but I had a couple of creases in the metal and it was not happening. I managed to get it off the tire enough to drive it to the shop and cut off the tire well with a grinder. I am going to have to fix that, but I did learn my lesson and discontinued my duplication of perfection. It was getting late and each round trip was taking around 45 minutes. I needed to pick up the pace.
I was not even getting out of the pickup at the loading site and moving as fast as possible to get done before we lost daylight. This meant missing dinner but we were having leftovers so I could eat when I was done. On the 8th trip the alpacas decided to create chaos. I had to open one gate to get into the shop/grain bin area. The alpaca had been watching me all day and occasionally would start running at me when I opened the gate. I had been jeering at them and making less than respectful gestures as they tried to rush the gate. I had been winning. This trip they were waiting for me at the gate. I have to open the gate, get back in the pickup and pull pickup and trailer through and then jump out and shut the gate. I had 11/12 of them rush through out into the wheat field! I tried hollering, waving my hat, screaming, hitting them with hat and epithets but none of them worked and the sun was low on the horizon. I just left them. I simply did not have time to mess with them and they knew it! On my 9th trip there were several in the dirt road and when I opened the gate I was able to heard them with the horn and pickup out the gate, now there were 6/12 where they were supposed to be. On the last trip, just enough light to load the trailer, I parked in the alpaca area, with the trailer visible through the gate and used the tractor to push the last six out towards the alfalfa hay. They went grudgingly. Now I think they are all there but there may only be 11, it was hard to count in the dark. I will check in the morning. If there is one out it will stay close to its buddies.
At some point during the day our old bull got up onto the hillside behind our house. He is not supposed to be there, that was the point of me checking the gate. So I will need to look at the top gate and most likely secure the creek crossing. He just crawls under the panels at the creek crossings. He is so annoying. Now there are two fences between him and the females.
I used the tractor to herd the sheep into the barn lot. If they would sleep with the cows we would leave them up there but they always go off by themselves. We are having predator problems again. I have something eating my chickens again and we lost another lamb this last week. So here is the count. I have lost 12 chickens to predators and 3 to natural causes. I am sure it is a raccoon but it keeps harassing the chickens and I am only getting two eggs a day, they are stressed. We have lost three lambs to predators and one jumped into the old hand dug well and drowned. I just noticed this catastrophe by the smell and will now have to fish out a horrible mess. We don’t use the well but I need to clean it out and cover it up, sheep are so stupid. It had to jump up into the thing. We lost one calf to the flooding. The dogs have been barking at night and in early am and I have been going out for the last two weeks with a pistol and flashlight and have not found anything. I scan the trees looking for eyes. Last night at bed time the gods started up the barking, I went out and was just about ready to go inside when I decided to go look at the chicken coop, I was shining the light around and spotted eyes high up in the tree. It was a raccoon. It is no more. The predators and nature are definitely ahead this year. I need to get rid of the coyotes in the upper pasture but I have not seen them this week. Hopefully, we will now start getting more eggs. It will take the chickens a few days to relax and calm down.
Predators 8, Farm 3
It’s that time of year again, to count how many animals we have lost to predators. We had one calf drown in the flash flood and that is not counted against the predators. We have lost no other cows.
The sheep are another story. We have lost two lambs so far. One we just found the remains of in field four this week. I had been smelling it for a week but could not find it. The smell would come and go and was hard to pinpoint. Annmarie was putting in the sheep with the puppy on a lead and she spotted a buzzard! When the buzzard jumped off, so full it could not fly, she walked over to the skin and a few bones. The other one was last week, we had one with a broken back. I blame the cougar for this one. We had a cougar go through the property that morning and we think the sheep panicked and it somehow broke its back. I had to put it down. The cougar has not passed through again but it is concerning so we will be catching all of the sheep this upcoming weekend to tag and band everyone and get an accurate count of all of the lambs.
The chickens so far I have lost 6 this year. They are random disappearances and every month I count the number left at some point. I put it on my egg counting sheet so I can calculate the productivity rate of the chickens. We know the chickens are the victims of the raccoons. So far we have dispatched three raccoons but there are at least two more still roaming the place.
I need some more target practice with my 22 pistol. The wife is a better shot with the lever action 30-30. I keep telling her that a pistol is not designed to shoot 75 feet, she keeps telling me what my excuse is when its close. Hence the reason I need more practice.