Mower still broken

Our mower is still broken and the lawn needs to be mowed again. This is a conundrum that can be solved but it does have a few drawbacks. Its messy, the sheep do not know how to limit droppings to only one part of the yard. This then makes golden tasting nuggets that the dogs love to eat which in turn makes them vomit randomly or get the runs themselves. Now the indigestion is sort of random but it is a chance you take with sheep mowers. Now on the plus side, you just have to open the gate and lawn gets mowed! I do have to clean off the walkway when they are done.

Sheep mowing our yard again! I need to do this for several evenings until the sheep have gotten it short enough. They do have a tendency to eat my fledgling trumpet vines. I think I am going to have to put up a temporary fence next year to get the vines some growth.

They also tear up my temporary fence gate. The post is broken off at the ground and i have four boards and some temporary scrap metal holding the dogs in. It cannot take 80 sheep trying to go through a small opening all at the same time. Annmarie tells me this is a sign that I need to get this 100 feet of fence rebuilt. It’s on the list for this year.

While I was putting tools away from the pickup I noticed that my old chicken coop fence was still up. I need to start getting the gravel moved over for the skinning post and the fence is in the way. I have been meaning to rip it out all summer long and have not gotten to it. So I took 15 minutes and ripped it out of the ground and away. I need to move gravel over here in the next two weeks. I am looking forward to not standing in mud while we are washing and skinning animals. I may even attach a sink to the end of my stainless steel table and set up a faucet that I can hook a water hose into! There are two old cast iron and porcelain sinks over by the old house that I have been saving for just this purpose. It looks al lot better with it gone. When I was driving the tractor through the barn lot I noticed that our front stream is starting to wind down. It is still running but in a week or so I expect it to stop. Our spring on the other hand shows no signs of slowing down but it won’t be fed with surface water from above soon.

I did order new blades to shear the alpaca and I ordered a spacer so that I will be leaving them about 3/4 inch of fur. This should stop the cuts and its going to get cold soon. This will be happening in the next 1-2 weeks.

On the bad news side, the raccoons look like they are now coming up to our house. I had a chicken die of old age and I had placed her body outside the coop on the roof of dust box enclosure about 3 feet off the ground. It disappeared! I will be moving the live trap up to our house this weekend and setting it with marshmallows.

One more field fenced in sorta

On Friday Hoss and I went up to the swamp field and worked on getting the creek side fence installed. I was hoping to get it all done on Friday, but my back was bothering me so I took medications and kept working. We ran out of woven wire! I even called the metal scrap yard but they only had one roll. We happen to be using some 48″ woven Red Brand fencing so it did not require any smooth wire on top. We quit around 1400 and I ended up going into town and picked up a single roll of woven wire and two utility panels. I keep calling them cow panels but when I go to purchase them I have to remember to call them a utility panel or they cannot find it in the computer.

I was unable to get up and go out and work on Saturday due to my back pain. An ice pick and napalm had nothing on it. Hoss finished getting the fence up, hung two gates and blocked off a four foot section. He is done for the summer as I have run out of money! The fence still needs a couple of days of work as I need to install all of the T-post clips in it. He put enough in it to hold up the fence. The sheep are now roaming all three fields and can hopefully tear up the far field. I don’t think they can knock it all down but they can hopefully thin it out.

Last night we got a call from Annmarie’s mother that the raccoons were out enforce on her front porch. So Annmarie grabbed the 22 rifle and I grabbed the trusty Walther P22 pistol. I have not gotten a laser for the new Ruger Mark IV yet. I gimped around the house until I found second flashlight and we walked down to the house. There were five raccoons on the front porch! The real problem is you cannot shoot any so we had to go up to the side of the house so we could shoot sideways and not hit anything. I shot at a couple of the large ones as they darted off and sent Annmarie around the back of the house so see if she could finish them off. This is where the story gets fuzzy. She claims that I do not get to count the raccoons as dead unless there is a body. The raccoons did get hit, but they do not die easily. I ended up with one dead and hit at least 2 more maybe three. She keeps telling me that I need more practice and in that I agree. It is a lot harder to hit a moving target in the dark than it is in the day. So I am going to have to put about a 1000 rounds through my new Ruger pistol. It has a five inch barrel instead of a two inch barrel. Its time to let the Walther retire and move up in the accuracy department. I need a laser and a holster but Annmarie reminded me I can use my vest with built in holster until I get a new one. I also need at least one more clip as I almost ran out rounds last night. Five predators is a lot of moving targets to be trying to kill in the dark. I need more rounds. So according to Annmarie I only killed one raccoon as that is number of bodies I tossed onto the bone pile.

While I was digging around in the bushes for my victims (they ran away) the cows came running over to the fence and started to holler. They get fed apples almost every day so they think all humans should feed them. I spent 20 minutes picking up and tossing them apples from the yard. I noticed two calves that still need ear tags and one needs banding. We have a brand new calf but that cow was not getting any where near the fence. She had a brand new calf nursing on her. I could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl from that far away.

Lambs squared

Annmarie said the sunrise was beautiful. I was inside nursing a cup of coffee and doing the dishes while she went out to check on the lambs. It has been 44 hours since our last post and we have only had one lamb born in that time frame. Honestly, sometimes the life of the farmer will make you crazy. The timeline is not set by you, its set by the animals and the weather. Even after all these years I want to drink coffee and take it slow in the morning and Annmarie has already been out to the barn and is now making us mashed potato, ham and onion pancakes for breakfast while I “blog it”.

The last 24 hours has been full of those teaching moments. Thursday night I woke up to Annmarie hollering “Chickens!” Followed by a slap to the chest. We sleep with the windows open year round and so when something is picking on the chickens we usually hear their death squawks, it is a very distinct scream. We have an automatic chicken door, if the stupid chickens would just go inside the coop before it gets dark then they would be perfectly safe. I have been getting eggs on a more regular basis but I don’t go out every night. I have noticed over the last two weeks that 1-5 chickens are protesting and refusing to head back to the coop until the automatic door is already shut. When I do go out and notice them I throw them inside the coop, unfortunately I don’t always go out and the predators seem to be more reliable than me when it comes to visiting the coop.

I leapt out of bed and grabbed my glasses and almost ran downstairs naked, but its cold outside and the death knell had already been sounded so I figured there was no saving the chicken. I grabbed the first bathrobe I could and ended up with a thigh high robe and headed downstairs in my slippers and robe to confront another chicken destroyer. I grabbed the trusty laser sight Walther P22 pistol and ran out the front door. I went right for the coop via the front yard. I wanted to catch the varmint in action! I spotted feathers as soon as I got out of the yard, there was a trail leading out of the coop yard door headed toward the barn. I started following the feather trail in hopes of finding the cause of said trail. I went over by the barn, looked in the front creek, flashed light over the hillsides and under barn to no avail. I headed back to the barn and spotted a chicken over by the old house. It was the source of the feathers and it was still alive! So I decided to leave it and complete my patrol. The last place to look was over on the dry creek side of the old house that runs behind our house. A HUGE fat raccoon was waddling away and he was already about 60 feet away. I quickly discovered a few problems. When you shine the super bright flashlight on the object of your desire, you cannot see the laser dot. 60 feet is a long way to shoot a pistol at a moving target and after three shots there is so much smoke, your super bright flashlight now makes it look like light is emanating from your head. To combat this shroud of light surrounding me I pointed the flashlight way off to one side and focused the laser dot near said enemy and blasted some more. All in all I hit nothing, Annmarie is now ribbing me about my shooting accuracy and just going out and plinking is not the same thing. So after the sheep are done lambing I will be going out after dark with my trusty Walther P22 pistol and shooting at my target in the dark with a flashlight only. I may have to resort to doing it in a bathrobe and slippers or just the slippers to mimic my combat environment. The battle was lost but the ongoing war is not yet decided. I will not give up!

So as soon as I get home yesterday I am walking down the sidewalk and Annmarie hollers from the barn that she needs some help. I expected this as we were going to try and go to the movies. The next words out of her mouth brought dread to my head. She cackles “you better bring the shoulder gloves”. There is only one reason to grab the gloves, someone needs help birthing a lamb. I have only had to assist twice in eight years and so far I have a ewe survival rate of 50%. Annmarie and I have this discussion every time I think I am going to have to pull a lamb out. I don’t like it. She says her dad did it all the time. I tell her she grew up on the farm so she should do it. She tells me I have helped deliver human babies so I have more experience. I tell her they are in no way the same as you don’t need a shoulder glove to help with a human birth! She then states I have done it twice already so am the more experienced as she has never done it so I get to do it again. This is typically done with me laying on the barn floor and Annmarie holding the ewe down. I dread it every time it comes up, we have the exact same conversation every time and every time I end up wearing the glove. I grabbed two gloves just in case and went out to the barn.

She had isolated one ewe and her single baby. The baby was huge and she was worried that a second baby was stuck. The mother was active, interactive with her lamb and eating and drinking. I told Annmarie I don’t go in until the situation is desperate. This was no where near desperate, personal crisis averted. We fed and watered the rest of the sheep, Annmarie had already rearranged the barn and added in the two wire gates. We will do some more pen building today.

After the movies I had to go out to the barn in the pouring rain to check on that ewe and her baby. Luckily I got some new mud boots this week and going through the mud pit to get to the barn is pleasant. I keep tying to plant some kind of grass or cover that will last the summer but this rock bluff gets parched and hot and everything dies in the summer.

Every picture has baby lambs hidden all over the place!

It’s No Shave November again!

I remembered on November 1 this year that it is no shave November! I did not shave off the entire beard on Halloween and then grow it for 30 days. This would be a good experiment to do next year and I may try it as I only need 30 days to get a really nice beard. Instead I have not trimmed my beard in quite a while and am going into the month fairly bushy for me. I will try and make it the whole month without shaving! Annmarie tells me I only get to do that if I make a donation to a cancer not for profit as that is how the month got started. So I will be doing that as it is only fair to have a soapbox to stand on while defending the facial hair.

On last Saturday when we sorted sheep we did count them and have lost four ewes this summer. We have 44 ewes and 1 ram now. Last night Annmarie woke me up to say the coyotes were on our back hillside. It sounded like they were directly out our bedroom window. We have not started to bring the sheep in every night as there is plenty of food out and about but the predators are going to force our hand. I ran downstairs, grabbed the Walther P22, flipped on the back porch light and shot a round into the back hillside just across the creek about 15 feet away. What I really wanted to do was blaze away onto the back hillside to chase the coyotes away. The problem with that is its not safe or responsible. The entire back hillside is one big rock pile and there would be rounds ricocheting everywhere! I might also accidentally hit a sheep or cow and that would not be cool. Flipping on the back porch light was probably just as effective as the loud sound of a gunshot in the night. But together they made me feel confident that I was getting my point across to the coyotes.

If we lose another 10 ewes it will be worth it to get a 22-250 rifle with a thermal or laser night scope. But for now we keep up the harassment techniques. I may have to start circling the property in the evenings once before starting dinner to look for coyotes. They are becoming enough of nuisance that I am going to have to start committing some of my time to hunting them down.

We have had a dumpster for three weeks now and I have managed to fill it every week. I still have not put the glass windows into it which is the sole reason I had it brought out!I still need to empty out the barn trash, the windows and I have a pile of trash out in the old lamb shed. These are things that cannot be burnt as those go in the burn pile. Nor is it anything that can decompose.

It rained all night again last night and I was supposed to clean out the barn lot today. I am hoping it stops for about three hours today so I can get out and finish cleaning up the horse area. I also need to cut off the 2×8 that is sticking out off of the fence. I almost knocked myself out twice last winter hitting it and I need to just make it go away this year. I found my SawzAll, so now it should be easy to cut off.

Rain is here

I am happy the rain is here. The upper 80 acre wheat field just got planted this last week so the rain had perfect timing for it. I have yet to plant our 14 acres of grass but this rain should let me break up the last of the dirt clots and make a nice smooth dirt surface. That will be much nicer to cut hay from next year. Unfortunately, the rain brought forth a nasty leak in our daughter’s house. I went over and discovered two leaking places. I will have to replace a 8×16 foot section of roof and fix the leak around the stovepipe. It never seems to end sometimes. One crisis after another.

Normally, I would do it after work but the welding class is tying up two of my weeknights until 2100. I am learning but there is a definite disadvantage for those of us who are true newbies. I spend every moment of every lab trying to get a passable weld. I just started brazing and I am horrible. So it will take me another 5-10 hours to figure it out. I just keep reminding myself that I need this class and knowledge to get our projects around the farm completed!

I looked up how much rain we got, 1.6 inches! That is a lot of rain for a place that only gets 12″ annually. This means I have to wait a few days to get into the fields.

Annmarie found another dead sheep on the upper hillside. We have lost four sheep this summer and not managed to kill a single coyote or another other sheep eating predator. At this point I am starting to suspect it may be a cougar. We have had a couple of “silent” nights were every living animal at night stops making noise. This is not caused by coyotes. This is a stupid problem. We have lost enough sheep to justify the expense of a guard dog but only this year. We will have to sustain steady losses to make it pencil out financially.