Closing in on planting

It is getting cold, yesterday I thought it was cutting and was chilly until the sun came out. Today, I had to come back into the house after feeding the cows and get a neck warmer. It was the only way to keep the wind from blowing down my neck and shirt. I was still very cold and spent 30 minutes in the shower after I got done warming myself up. I need to break out the Overalls if I am going to sit on the tractor for hours at a time in this weather. I still have about 1/2 acre in field four to plant and to put away all the yard tools and roll up all the water hoses. All the garden and drip lines have been disconnected and blown out so they are ready for winter.

I have been trying to get the last of the grass seeding done. Unfortunately, this is a longer process than I had envisioned. I can do about 3 acres a day, that is it. This is not exactly a rapid process. The other part is that I was working on our seven acre plot and it has a lot of rocks. A lot less rocks after Mr Rainman picked them but the cultivator kept bringing rocks up out of the ground. This meant after I make the trip around again I had to disengage the PTO, jump off, pickup rocks and toss them into the bucket and then engage PTO and go again. I ended up picking four buckets worth of rock over the three days. I did not see a single deer in three days. What I saw a lot of were quail! We have an amazing amount of quail on the farm. We are hoping to thin out the pigeons and maybe some doves as we have about 100 of those also. They are competing with the quail for food. We may have to put out some bird feed blocks this winter for the quail.

Alpaca day!

I am a week behind, as I was too tired to post again. I always wonder if I should just skip it and ignore the day, but it really did happen and it shows how things are not always under your control so I decided to just finish it before starting this week’s post.

Mr Rainman came out on a Friday so we could get the alpaca sheared. This takes a full day and I had sent in all of the blades to be sharpened so we should have been ready. We moved all of the alpaca into the barn lot and then got the shearing table all setup. Power moved out to the barn and then Annmarie came out. She was busy in the house. Of course the easiest alpaca to catch was Snoop. He is the most laid back and tame of the bunch, they all like women better than men as my mother-in-law hand feeds them treats every day. The wife and daughter do it occasionally also, I do it once to twice a year, I don’t count. We got him in next to the table and up onto it and stretched out and tied down. We took 30 minutes to trim his feet till they were all pretty and functional, no curled toes. It was time to shear, well I thought I had ordered ceramic cutting blades but I only had metal ones. I prefer the ceramic ones as they last longer and seem to work better for me. This was a huge understatement. I could not get the damn shearing blades to adjust correctly. I tried everything. The blades were new and sharpened and I could not get them to cut. I managed to get the saddle portion off of Snoop but that was it. I promptly ordered the ceramic blades and will be using them when they come. I had the blades so tight that the heat was too much. When i backed off the tension I could not get them to cut. It was weird. My once a year, three years running experience does not exactly make me an expert.

We gave up and turned them loose and went back to the front porch. We had to install stay boards between every step as the pressure treated boards were warping on their own. It has been crazy doing the porch as all of the new lumber has not what I would call great quality. It has warped within 2-3 weeks after getting unbanded, every single piece! So we installed and straightened as best we could to keep the boards from shifting more. The TREX doesn’t have any structural strength so the boards need to stay in place and the TREX can just sit on top and look pretty.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad spent the day cleaning out the chicken coop. It took him two days and it had not been done in 2 years. Covid killed my activity level and it just did not get done. He disturbed the chickens enough that they spent two days hollering at him for invading their space. We had to discuss attention to detail items a few times, typical of a teenager.

Annmarie and I are seeing quail everywhere! If the baby quail survive our population should increase by a factor of 5-8. It will be amazing, I am hoping for at least a couple of hundred quail on the farm after this year. It is official we do actually have two rabbits on the place. This may lead to more rabbits, we will see. In the past this has just led to the owls eating rabbit.

Upstairs bathroom is back on the list and work is happening.

Well it is now 2021, we were fortunate to have a New Year’s lamb born yesterday. Unfortunately, it was in one of our young lambs that Annmarie did not think was pregnant, just fat due to her age, so instead of 6 ewes left we probably do have around a dozen left to deliver lambs. We kept quite a few 6 month old lambs this summer when we culled and they must have been old enough to get pregnant. Yes we do know they can pregnant that young but for the most part they tend not to in our experience.

I decided the upstairs bathroom needs to get finished. Due to Covid I have not been doing much this last month but I am having Mr Professional come out now and he does most of the work, cringingly I will add that I do a lot of supervising! This will make some people happy in my life but it is incredibly frustrating for me to stand around and do something for five minutes then sit down and wait or breathe. I vacuumed bugs off of the breeze porch five different times! We have a Dyson with a four foot rigid hose attachment and I kept vacuuming them up and dumping them outside all day. The chickens will not eat grease bugs or the black and red ones, this is a travesty as we have a lot of those bugs around the place. I ordered two cases (24 tubes) of silicone caulk last night as I will be improving the sealing around the inside breeze porch windows and inside siding. The bugs made me crazy yesterday, they kept dive bombing me while I was sitting around doing nothing.

I did manage to get the inside portion for our bathroom window cut. The plan is for me to finish the rough frame, install it and then Mr Professional and I will mark the stairway side by drilling the corners, blue taping the seam, cutting away the Sheetrock with a razor blade with a vacuum going then we will cut out the wood shiplap. Our “window” is a stained glass piece that will look out into the natural light coming into the stairwell. It will be about eight feet above the stairs and protected from approach by a moving overhead fan, no one will be peaking. The bathroom Is in the middle of the house and has no natural light so we thought this was a good way to just come some ambient light into the room and display our purchase from an Oregon Coast trip made in 2020. It will be our version of shining some beautiful light on 2020!

We got the room cleaned up prior to starting as it had “acquired” some items over the last year, cleaned up the horizontal surfaces and floor of dirt and debris. We collected tools, emptied out 12 month old construction supplies into the outside dumpster and then spent about an hour trying to figure out where the cut pieces we had leftover went! We figured that out and figured out which ones we wanted to discard and then started in on the closet area. It doesn’t look like we got much done but we actually installed 11 pieces of wood yesterday. Of those five had to be be custom fitted with more than a single saw cut. It is progress and this is a great thing!!

Our chickens are going gangbusters! We have 27 hens and they are old enough now we have two sizes of eggs, small and extra large. We are collecting almost 16 eggs every day in winter with a light bulb, on a timer, that gives them 17 hours of light a day. This is what I would expect of my summer production so I am not sure what the summer is going to look like. I usually only get about 30% production in winter and 50% in summer. Unfortunately, these chickens don’t like to go into the coop at night so we end up chasing 3-7 chickens in due to them missing the automatic door opportunity. The raccoons will solve this problem eventually.

The mild winters have been great for our bird populations. We have about 50 quail living on the property now and I have it on authority that there are at least 18 rooster pheasants running around on New Year’s Eve. I see the pheasants all the time running around the stubble fields. The pigeons have almost been controlled and the only other nuisance bird causing us issues is the Eurasian ring necked Dove. It is starting to overtake the property and push out the native mourning doves. This will have to become a 2021 issue to correct. We are hopeful that the quail can triple this year! I would love to have a few hundred quail running around on the place, they make us smile every time we see them! We holler out “Quaillyyy” whenever we spot them.

I had to do an update to the lamb count. My version is a 6×9 spiral binder with scribbles. I consulted the wife’s new spreadsheet, I missed a set of twins so that correction will be included below.

  • Lamb update
  • 28 lambs born
  • 18 ewes delivered
  • 17 pregnant ewes (I counted Jan 2, 2021)
  • 8 single lambs
  • 10 twin lambs
  • 1 bummer lamb
  • 27 lambs on the farm
  • 156% birthing rate
  • 150% production rate (goal >150%)
  • 100% survival rate at birth
  • 100% survival rate at 2 weeks (20/20)

Odds & Ends

Today was a catch up day. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish but I made sure to eat my breakfast and drink a cup of coffee before I went outside. I was sure there would be more lambs, I would have given odds on there being more lambs, there were no lambs. The cows needed food so I pushed a large bale to their area. I also decided it was time to thin out the chickens. I had multiple free loading roosters from the unsexed chicks gifted to me this summer from a friend. I managed to kill five roosters and a very old hen. I loaded them all up into the tractor bucket and took them to a boneyard. Tomorrow will be a good day to look for coyotes, the raccoon carcasses and porcupine carcass are undisturbed. That left me on the tractor with the urge to go up into field number two and move some dirt. I could spend the next six hours doing that still not be done. I resisted the temptation to spend time with the mistress and went back inside.

I did spot the Quail on the way home. They are so fluffy due to the cold. I have been learning to use the delay bake on our oven. I use It when I am making baked potatoes or something else that needs to bake for long stretches of time. I started the butternut squash, then I spent an hour and a half cleaning the bathroom. Once all that was done it was time to tackle the spare bedroom.

I had to hang four pictures of the seasons, girls in circus clothing, we had framed earlier this year. I then had to clean out the cedar bench that has been sitting at the foot of the bed for three years needing to be sorted and some decisions made. I made them fairly quickly and we now have some more space to store wool blankets. Now I can buy more wool blankets. We had been using the room as storage for our giveaway items so I moved all that up into the attic after I bagged it all up so it would stay clean. I also rebalanced the heat distribution so more goes downstairs. Both Annmarie and I went out to feed the sheep and lock them into the barn, they are going to have babies tonight! I also fixed a latch that had fallen off our main hay gate between the sheep area and our first hay room, the old nut had fallen off.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving. I pick up the prime rib tomorrow and start the dry rub process. I will rub spices on it every evening until we cook it in a salt casket on Thanksgiving. We are having Brussels sprouts as the vegetable. We have this same meal every Thanksgiving. I even managed to snag the last bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls at the grocery store. We will cook at least 16-20 even though there are only five of us!

Lots of snow

It started this weekend, it was supposed to be nice and steady but it came in like a wrecking ball! I spent over 10 hours outside on Sunday trying to clear snow from our driveway. This was complicated by the fact that on Friday our tractor bucket just quit working. I could not move the bucket at all it was stuck on the ground. So I just drove it around and pushed snow with the bucket on the ground. Not ideal and took longer than normal but it worked. The only problem with this is Annmarie parked her car outside of her mother’s house and it got stuck. I went down to drive it out and got it stuck worse. So we just parked it and when the snow melts we will get it! Next year we put the stud tires on even if there is no snow. It just kept snowing, it was horrible. We used to live in the Rockies, but I sold our track driven 8 HP snow blower in Moscow because we just did not need it. If the tractor worked we would be fine.

On Monday I was trying to clear another 6 inches and got the tractor stuck down by the cow gate. Annmarie had already had to pull me out with the pickup once 30 minutes earlier. So I called her again and she tried to get me out to no avail. She almost got the pickup stuck and had to apply a judicious amount of gas pedal to get it to clear out of its predicament. I tried to call the Tractor dealer to get them to come pick it up for repair but the phone was busy all day. So now we have two vehicles stuck!So now that the tractor is stuck we are using the pickup to move hay to the cows. The problem with this is you have to carry the hay about 100 feet. We are just tossing it over the fence, I usually feed farther into the pasture but I am not walking and carrying hay that far. It takes about 12 trips to get two bales fed. We feed two bales in the morning and two at night when there is snow on the ground, no snow they get three bales.

Its supposed to snow more, if we get another foot we are so screwed. If only the tractor worked!

The poor ram is the largest sheep in the barn and he gets pushed around the most! When we toss out hay into the feeders the ewes just keep pushing until they have taken over all head space and he gets squeezed out. He has maintained his casualness. Annmarie even saw him acting as a hill for the lambs and they were jumping all over him.

I have a friend who wanted a few lambs but we are going to sell her the ewes that are pregnant and off cycle. She gets pregnant sheep and we get rid of the off cycle sheep. Its a win-win situation.

We have been feeding the quail one quart of bird food on our back hillside first thing in the morning. This snow makes getting to food hard for the birds. We now see them several times a day digging through the snow looking for seeds.