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.
It’s happening again, the battles have continued and both sides have sustained casualties. For the last few weeks when the dogs go outside they have been tearing out the door and off the porch. We even flip th outside light off and on to warn any cats that the dogs are coming. They have been barking at things that we assumed were cats out in the yard. This morning as I was letting them out to head to work in the dark the tone of their barking was far more menacing. I ran back into the house and grabbed my new 22 pistol. The pistol needs sighted in but I had my hearing aids in and the pistol has a muffler on it, making my audiologist happy, to keep the noise under 85db. It is fairly quiet. There was a bag of black sunflowers on the old porch that I have been feeding the quail from and there was a raccoon in it! I shot it twice then heard this chittering noise. It is pitch black outside and the border collies abandoned me as soon as I ran out with the pistol. They do not like the noise. I waved the flashlight around and spotted three more raccoons! They had climbed up the porch railings and were hanging there. I tried to shoot one off the railing and realized I was out of ammunition. I had not brought more and I had not reloaded after the last melee. I usually only squeeze off a couple of rounds and then am done shooting. I had to run back in the house to grab another clip and reload. The raccoons all started running for the back dry creek bed when I left. I managed to find two up in the large bush behind our house and dispatched them. The 3rd and 4th got away but I am pretty sure there will only be one tonight. I plan on leaving the seed out so I can see if the last one can be dispatched. I found two dead chickens tonight when I was getting eggs and my 30 chickens are only laying 5 eggs/day, something is upsetting them.
When I came home tonight the dogs and I went into the upper pastures and pushed the sheep back down into the barn. It was not horrible, my voice did get a little hoarse after directing two border collies. After we had everyone in the barn I drove the two carcasses up to one of our boneyards. The Border Collies got to tear it up and run around on our place while I drove the tractor. They don’t get out much when I am on the tractor because they disappear. They will sneak off and either harass the deer or sneak back and harass the livestock. Sometimes they will stay in the field and just kill voles but after eating 15-20 voles when they fart it is a terrible smell. So mostly they have to stay in the yard unless they are working animals. The occasional jaunt is good for them. I would bring them more often but they are just too animal focused and will lock onto anything and attempt to control it. There is no real off switch, its needed but it can be annoying. This is the real reason people don’t understand the breed, you cannot let them get bored and they must have a large amount of exercise or they will make you crazy and develop bad habits.
I am continuing my pursuit of old marbles. I have a few people who look for them for me when they go to yard sales. These bad boys have been washed and polished and are ready for the container up in our office. The one in the living room is full already. It usually takes me a few years to fill one of the containers up. I like them and they remind me of playing with them as a kid which always brings a smile to my face.
The chickens are trying to die again. It is a battle sometimes to keep them alive. I heard Gizmo barking outside in the dark so I ran out with the pistol locked and loaded. Gizmo was being an idiot and was barking at nothing. I peeked over at the chicken coop just to be safe and spotted multiple chickens locked out of the coop. I had to go back inside and put something on my feet that was not slippers. I found nine chickens outside the coop! I tossed them all back into the coop and only a couple were upset about it, most made no noise at all. There are 39 chickens in the coop with at least three roosters and one very old hen. I am going to cull them soon. I keep saying that but I really wanted the babies to develop enough that I can see how many roosters are in the free chicks so they can be done all at once.
Our freestanding propane stove in the dining room does not work, I called two weeks ago and talked to the heating guy. He put me on the list. This week the temperature drops below freezing and no heating guy. I called on Wednesday, he answered and led conversation with the fact he would be out on Thursday or Friday. I told him if he wasn’t I was going to have the wife start calling him! He laughed and made it out on Friday. We need a new thermostat and a spider had made a nest in the pilot light hole and was preventing the stove from lighting. We can now turn the stove on or off and have purchased a $10 fan that sits behind the stove on the ground to blow air around it. Due to the existing heating system distribution we can only heat the downstairs to about 64 without the freestanding stove. Once the freestanding stove works we only use the main furnace as a fan to circulate the hot air throughout the house.
Thursday night was supposed to be coldest day this fall so Annmarie and I went out to feed the animals for the first time in the barn. I needed to move a large bale of hay into Alcatraz area and Annmarie headed to the barn. We were dressed for cold weather as we are simply not used to it yet. We both had head lamps but I chose not to turn mine one. I usually blind Annmarie with it when we are out after dark and I knew where the tractor was. I am trudging along at a fast pace mere six feet from the tractor when I managed to step into the harrow and then attempt a third step, this caused me to fall forward into the dark. I managed to catch myself on the ground with my arms but my left shin was pinned up against the harrow support bar. I managed to tweak my knee and have a bone bruise but nothing else. I turned my head lamp on right after that and kept it on the whole time. I may want to do this all the time!
Well now that I am back to work I only have time to blog occasionally again. My goal is still 6-8 posts/month and I have done pretty good this year keeping to it. I was driving to work early Tuesday and spotted a coyote in our driveway. I knew we had one on the property as a friend had called and told me they had spotted it in the stubble field. A coyote hanging around the place is bad for the sheep. One of our nephews shot the coyote this week! So the sheep are safe and I don’t have to spend time hunting it down. Tonight, Annmarie spotted a porcupine on our back hillside. Luckily we dispatched it before the dogs discovered it or we would be going to the vet with three dogs. Annmarie is pretty sure the dogs tangled with a raccoon in the dark early one morning this week. Winter is coming, the predators are starting to come in to the buildings and head towards the chicken coop. The vet bill to sedate three dogs, remove quills and come in on an emergency basis, around $800-1000 for enquiring minds. Our oldest border collie has a torn up ear from wrestling with something in the yard this week. The dogs are valuable team members with a very specific job and they need to do that as we are going to have to start moving animals for selling and feeding in the barn.
We took our first two cows in to be butchered. Thursday evening Annmarie took both border collies into the upper fields and pushed the cows down into the corral. Mr Professional and I showed up after she had the cows in the corral. We sorted off two cows for slaughter. It helps that most of the bunch were on the menu but we just snagged a couple of the bigger ones and sorted them off into the third pen. We then pushed everyone else out and gave them water overnight. I backed the horse trailer up to the chute so I could just open the chute up and push the cows into the trailer first thing in the morning. We had to be there by 0730. The cows are all pretty skittish as they have not seen a human for about two months. Friday morning I just opened up some gates and pushed the cows into the trailer and off we went, took 10 minutes and we were on the road. We are going to have to drop off the cows two at a time and the sheep in batches of five. So we will be doing this every week. We were going to kill one of our original three cows but she is pregnant! She is so mean we had wanted to make her into hamburger. She is going to get another one year reprieve. Our bull only had access to her for about one week after she gave birth but it was enough to get her impregnated.
Today we started out the day with homemade cinnamon roles that raised overnight in the refrigerator along with some Kansas City bacon! It was so good we are having a repeat tomorrow morning. I am going to drown my cinnamon role in butter tomorrow though. It kept raining off and on throughout the morning so when I went outside I had my rain coat on. I had to run to town for diesel before getting a start. It was raining again after I got the disc hooked up to the tractor. If it gets too wet I cannot pull the disc. I remembered that a cheat for this is to weight the front of the tractor down, I found and put 350# of tractor weight into the front bucket to give the tractor more traction. I headed up to the upper pasture to disc with the rain coming down hard. I managed to get a few times around before going into field #2 and working out some of the water ruts in one area. I was cold as I only had a neck gator on and a long sleeve shirt under the thin raincoat. I need better clothes for this, I need to use my chest waders, a warm vest and some waterproof gloves! By the time I made it back to the house 3.5 hours later I was freezing cold and spent 45 minutes in the shower getting warm. We got 0.12” of rain by 1700 today and have gotten 15.49” of rain this year so far.
I like the rain as it softens up the ground but too much and I cannot work the fields. Such a gamble, I had no idea how much luck was involved in farming. Our Morris chair hinges came today. Some old geezer makes them, so now I will be buying a couple of pieces of oak so I can take apart the chair back, make a new rail and reglue the entire back.
After taking yesterday off to drive around doing errands I was ready to get back at it today. I went into town at the early time of 0900 after two cups of coffee, some breakfast and I did all the dishes and started the dishwasher. Not in a big rush during this time off, everyone tells me I am supposed to be relaxing, this is me relaxing, not starting until 0900. I went into town with the trailer to pick up a bunch of fencing supplies and a couple of new gates. My plan is to widen the access to the back barn lot and to create a funnel shape so the animals can be pushed toward the gate and go through easier than the flat open eight foot gate that was there before. This afternoon, Mr Professional and his progeny came out to help me. In five hours we got done what would have probably taken me two solid days to finish alone, maybe more. We got half of the fencing completed. Completed is a strong term since there are now three rock cribs built that need to be filled with rocks. But the fence is up and those rock cribs are made out of railroad ties that are buried 2.5 feet into the ground and set with gravel then screwed together with 2×8 boards to make the crib. They are pretty secure now they just need the extra weight to make them storm proof.
The opening to the back barn lot is now sixteen feet not eight and there is a definite V shaped funnel going on. I was even able to make a protected spot for a tree. I just need to put another board up to limit the horses ability to reach over and munch on the top of the tree. I will be making another two tree spots tomorrow. The trees will help create anchor spots along the creek bed and we like them. We are going to plant black walnut trees.
As the day progressed the smoke was getting thicker, you could see it rolling down the hills. There is a 50 acre fire up in the mountains near us and it is only a day old now. It looks like we may be wearing our N95 masks tomorrow as we work outside. This is fine with me as long as we get to keep working.
I picked up some bird food today and we are going to start trying to feed the quail in our front yard. I will start in the morning. We love the quail! There were also raccoon tracks in the dust in the barn lot. This is not surprising but not good news. I will be responding appropriately to all raccoon sounds in the middle of the night! Save the chickens!!!!
Thursday morning as I was putting on my shoes to go to work I heard Annmarie hollering from the upstairs bedroom. Now I did have my hearing aids in but when I am downstairs and she is upstairs in the master bedroom, technology cannot overcome the should differences. I managed to hear “coyote” and “ram pasture”. It’s all I needed, she identified the threat and gave its location. I ran to the front door sans shoes as they had not made it on my feet yet and grabbed for a gun, I had to move the 22LR to grab the .243. I ran out into the front yard, I need to spray some thistles out of the front yard, and spotted the coyote low on the back hillside and fired a shot and hit it. I took aim again and missed and then the gun clicked on empty. I only had two rounds in it. So I ran back inside and ran upstairs to the bedroom, threw open the closet window and grabbed the 17HMR, no angle and the tree was in the way so I had to run back downstairs and out into the front lawn, two more shots and I was out again! I need to work on keeping the rifles loaded. The coyote was laying up against the fence working on dying. I went in, loaded up on ammo and walked out and finished off the coyote. Annmarie said it was right behind the house where I feed the chickens compost. It would have had one of my chickens in another 15 minutes. When I went back inside the house I realized that the .243 has an ammo butt stock holder! I had ten more rounds!! I am so used to the 17 HMR and 22LR it never even occurred to me to look. I guess I will have to use the .243 more often.
Mr Professional came out to work on the sickle bar mower and tear it apart to replace the broken rocker arm. He found the carcass after following my directions explicitly. He tried to find it just by looking in the general area but it blended in too well. It’s now on the boneyard pile.
Friday we put the sickle bar mower back together with the new parts and it doesn’t make any noise!! It runs fairly quietly, a big change from the broken sound. I will mow field #1 on Saturday. It’s the last field we still have to hay. I may get 2-3 tons, we will know by the end of the week.