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.

Said I was cleaning old house

I told Annmarie I was going to clean the old house on Friday. This usually entails picking up all of my tools that are scattered on all horizontal surfaces and digging out the floor so you can actually see it. I like to put tools in a bucket for each job then I put the bucket in the old house. But I still had tools in boxes from the tile job this winter. I could not find a cordless drill, it was time. I was down to only one crescent wrench and it was a humongous one. My truest indicator of time to clean is when I run out of tape measures, crescent wrenches or a cordless tool I need is missing.

I decided that it was time to make forward momentum on the old house. I would like to set up the wood working area but I need the middle two rooms cleaned out so I can finish wiring the house. I need three 220V outlets, one for planer, one for joiner and one for a table saw. I will use my current 110V table saw for a while but eventually I would like to have a 220V. They don’t draw near as many amps as a 110V. I had some help lined up Thing 2 was coming as his brother was busy. Bubba is done for the summer, early retirement. So we started tearing into the back room of the old house. This is the room directly over the root cellar and was most likely the main living area. It has a hole for a chimney directly in the middle of the room, no cold spots in that room. We needed to empty it out first and it still had boxes from when we moved here 10 years ago. If we haven’t used it in that time we can probably get rid of it, was my mantra as we started emptying boxes. We laid out a large tarp on the lawn and started unwrapping all the stuff packed in the boxes. We ended up keeping two large moving boxes and one medium one. They had dishes and display items for our curio cabinets. We found the glass shelves for our large curio cabinet that has been living in the upstairs unfinished bathroom. A great score, now I just need to fix the one leg that broke off in the move. We found the naked ladies pictures! Another great find, we bought four prints of the four seasons, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall at an auction house when we were first married. They are a little scantily clad but wonderful pictures and usually reside in our guest bedroom but we have not been able to find them. I have dug through boxes twice over the years looking for them and never succeeded. I will be mounting them on the wall over the bed in the spare room this week.

We scored a lost grinder for the kitchen aid. We had replaced this already but will hold onto the spare as we may need it when grinding up our own meat. We scored a nice wedding picture I didn’t know we had. We lost most of our pictures to a water leak in one of our houses so it was a nice score. I found a couple of gifts to be for some difficult gift recipients.

Annmarie talked me into getting rid of the old 36″ screen door that has lived out there for eternity. I also found another 36″ white screen door that is brand new in the original box but cut open. We moved it from Moscow with us. We don’t have a single door it will work on, it went out to the tarp.

I had Thing 1 start in on the bathroom. It is the picture below. The story is that grandma lived out in this house after the main house was built. Grandpa lived upstairs in the main house. As she got older a bathroom and kitchen were added to the old house so she didn’t have to go outside and use the outhouse. It is piled full of old parts and boxes and boxes of old nails, at least 100-200# worth.

The old kitchen, above, is full of tires and I know there is at least one milk separator in there somewhere. The old sewing machine that I took apart fifteen years ago without marking anything is out there in a box also. I am going to get to that eventually.

As Thing 1 restocked all the wood I noticed the back of one of the door jambs was stamped with “Pilot Rock Lumber, Pilot Rock Oregon” stamp. This board is around 120 years old. It is amazing what you can find if you pay attention. I have been saving all the old door jambs so I can reuse the wood. It is amazingly straight grained and wonderful. I will just have to get the paint off of it first.

Our first day after 8 hours didn’t seem to net us much progress. I used some old metal hanging shelves left over from Sarah’s closet reminded 10 years ago to mount a shelf for the free shop lights I managed to get about five years ago. We also ripped down all the cloth wallpaper on two walls. I figured if we were doing it we might as well go all in and get it ready.

My big take away was that I am going to have to buy a bigger circuit breaker box to fit in the new shop lights and to do the 220V breakers. So that will be my next purchase when I am at Home Depot. I will even recess this next one into the wall. I am not sure why I did not do that other than this was easier.

We sold 35 sheep on Monday! They will come get the other 15 sheep in a few weeks. This has been a true blessing as my add on Craigslist was not going any where. I was getting ready to advertise in multiple areas. We put all the small 15 sheep in the orchard and have been watering the grass and tossing them a bale of alfalfa in an attempt to fatten them up. We are saving that money and our cow money to pay for the alfalfa seed that will be planted this fall.

The Professional came out and we have a plan in place. I have been walking the property every evening and have discovered that we have several things in plenty, pheasants, doves, pigeons and deer, lots of deer. There are around 50 deer making the place home and I saw at least 4 sets of twins and at least another 10 fawns and all of them still spotted. I have yet to draw a single doe tag in the last 10 years. I am hoping they don’t decimate our alfalfa crop.

It is really the middle of the night

Here are some pictures of the Bull Corral. I still need to get in there and use a harrow to tear it up and smooth it out. Everything is so dry and loose that I don’t want to get in there with discs I think they will go too deep. We are going to keep the horses in there for another five weeks. At that time we will have three of the cows slaughtered and they can then have the entire barn lot. The cows have free access to the upper prime lot so they can eat their fill. The horses were getting fat on that same all you can eat menu. They are quite vocal about being on rations. Mika would not come over to the fence and let me rub on her. I did not give her food until she acquiesced and let me rub on her face and side. I have learned that the horses are just like the dogs with that group mentality. You have to be the leader or they just won’t do what you want. Once you are the established leader they are much happier.

Annmarie woke me up at 0200 Thursday night, actually Friday morning to tell me a cow was mooing. Now in her defense at 0200 I am not thinking straight so she prefaces this with the following statement “Before you say anything that will speed up your ability to go to sleep when was the last time you heard the cows pitching a fit in the middle of the night?” I did actually pause before talking and I also heard the cow let out a moo. The moon was incredibly bright and it was very light outside so I went with that excuse first. It didn’t work. She got up to go outside and check on the cows. As she was getting dressed I rolled out of bed ready to go outside. She asked me about clothes. Again, this is simply an impediment to getting back in bed quickly and its 0200!! She made some statement about us maybe needing to go down to her Mother’s house and she didn’t want to see me in my newborn glory. I capitulated and put on pants, slippers and grabbed my Walther P22. I headed for the front of the barn as I was pretty sure it was the pesky annoying bull hollering. Annmarie was on the back hillside flashing a light around looking for cows. I spotted the bull laying down and all four cows just chilling. Mission accomplished, time for bed. We met at the bridge so I could report off on my findings when she states maybe the other cows, all the way down by the schoolhouse, are causing the ruckus. Normally, this could be discounted as no normal human can hear this far, but Annmarie’s hearing is not normal. Not by a long shot, she can hear as well as most owls. I am truly amazed at times by what she can make out or hear, her students can attest to this also. We headed back out to the pickup when I was saved by the annoying bull, he hollered thereby convincing Annmarie that was what she had heard. Once at the bedside I was back in bed in under 15 seconds. She had to get up early but I decadently slept in till 0830! It was amazing.

This is the moon on the ill fated early wake up. I took this just before dark over the back hillside. Who knew I was documenting proof for the blog in advance?

WAR has begun

We had the Professional come out and evaluate our two sheep kills. He said to call him back when the wheat was harvested as it provides a good spot to set up. Wheat was harvested a few days ago and we have been bringing the sheep in every night into the ram pasture next to our house. No sheep have died in the ram pasture but Annmarie found another dead animal up on the hillside! Three sheep already this year! We definitely have a problem. I will call the professional on Monday to get him out. This means a total mobilization is in the works. I am going to have to start carrying a rifle when we go out to work animals and in the evening I am going to try my hand at calling in the coyotes with a hand call. The odd part of this is that I would rather be doing something else as catching a wiley predator can take time and patience, neither of which I have in abundance.

We have 40 sheep for sale on Craigslist and have not been getting any takers. Today I was going to spread out to other Craigslist regions in hope of getting a single buyer. At 0600 our old buyer called and wanted to know if we had any sheep for sale. We do, he is now working for someone else while he gets back in the saddle. We negotiated a fair price and he will come on Monday with cash in hand to pick up our largest 35 lambs, with a return visit to pick up another 15 in a few weeks. We are going to have to cut down our herd size to only 45 ewes to do this. But since we are not looking to drive to the sale and we really want a regular buyer the downsize is good for a few years. If we can get a regular buyer we are willing to jump up to 100 ewes. Our expansion can wait a few more years. This gives me time to fine tune a few more things in the barn. Plus, we can figure out how to put up our own hay.

I got this beast yesterday. My first set of junk yard special discs broke apart and need some serious repair. I got this set of Left hand pull discs for $250 and for an extra $50 they delivered them to our house from an hour away! I paid cash, and ten minutes later they were pulling away! Luckily, I had been putting off going into D & B and buying a set from them for $1000. They are in great shape, have grease zerks and the tractor had no trouble pulling them off the trailer. I will give them a spin next week after this heat wave breaks. I will have to do it late evening after dinner. The only thing I need to buy is a Clevis to go onto the tongue so I can attach it to my tractor.

Raccoonageddon

We had a plan last night for predator control and we stuck with it. Around 2130 Annmarie heard raccoons chittering on the back porch. We started breaking out the weapons and the Border Collies started looking for places to hide. They are not real big on loud noises. Our ankle biter Brussels Griffin was all excited and wanted to go outside with us and chase stuff. We had to be careful when we let Annmarie out the front door that he didn’t slip past her. He is pretty sneaky. I gave her time to get to the other side of the old house and then I flipped the outside light on, popped the back door open and started blazing away with my Walther P22 pistol. The laser sight makes shooting in low light situations amazingly easy. I had to spread the wealth though as it was a target rich environment. There were four raccoons and I only had 11 shots when I started. So after two rounds in an animal I switched to another. Two 22 rounds typically does not kill a raccoon immediately unless you are head shooting them. I am not a bad shot but I am not head shot on four moving targets going all directions at once good. I had managed to hit three and was trying for a fourth when Annmarie started blazing away. I never did see what animal she was shooting at so I am afraid there may be five raccoons not four. I had time to slam another clip in and run to the fence to look over for more raccoons after Annmarie hollered it was clear. We looked in the trees and did not find anything. I came back, finished off one and we ended up with three dead raccoons. I usually deal with bodies in the morning as I was going to have to wash off blood from the sidewalk. So we went to bed and in the morning I went out to move the carcasses before going to work. There was only one carcass! The other two were gone. Now before I have any doubters they were all dead. As in finish them off dead before we left the porch. I have made that mistake in the past and don’t do it any more. We are unclear how two of the carcasses vanished. All the cat food was gone also. We will leave out cat food again tonight but I would be surprised if they came back again anytime soon.

The club wheat is ready to harvest and should be cut next week. It is probably the best crop we have had in years. It seems to get better every year.

As I was stepping out of the pickup to take pictures of the wheat two little deer fawn twins jumped out from under a rose bush and ran out into the wheat. If you look at the picture below closely you can see one ear. Both fawns were right there in the wheat field. They are little and still spotted, momma leaves them all over the farm. I have spotted them at both ends of the place. We also have a few bucks coming in at night and early morning. This is good as my nephew and I both have buck tags this year.

I picked up a 260 gallon water trough for the bull area today and 500# of wood pellets for the chicken coop. Bubba just about has the coop done and the pellets will be needed. He shoveled out the old sawdust and bleached the walls today. He just needs to lay down some new pellets after moving old ones. The nest boxes need to be cleaned out and the back room needs to be vacuumed up. He got the milking area of the barn cleaned out today also and under the stairs. Just the momma area, the feeders and the sorting chute need to be completed.

I looked at a set of discs today. It will cost $1000. I am going to have to break down and get them next week so we can finish prepping the fields for alfalfa.

We also got a quote for two miles of fiber optic cable to be strung out to the house. It’s not cheap but it is doable. We would rather have high speed internet than a boat, RV, four wheeler, new vehicle, motorcycle or snowmobile. So we should know by next week hopefully if it is possible and when it can be done.