The club wheat on the farm looks great! On our drive to Adams to get the walnut tree I kept comparing wheat fields and ours looks very good in comparison. I talked to the responsible farmer and he said they are trying a new mineral supplement and it seems to be doing the trick. Time will tell if the moisture will hold out for the needed amount and times.
This has been a long week related to cows. The bull keeps getting out of our pasture and going under the road via the culvert to visit the 100% papered Angus heifers that the neighbor has next door. We pushed him over on Sunday and figured we had the access point hardened enough he could not get through. On Tuesday, our neighbor was texting Annmarie to tell her he was in with the heifers again. This time I had to gather tools after work and Mr Professional had come out and pushed him back into our field. He laid down on his belly in the middle of the stream, reached down with his horns and lifted the panel up and then army crawled under the fence, in the water, to get to the other side. He did this because his normal access point is at the side of the fence but we had secured those enough he could not get through. This led to more additions, some tightening, a few extra panels and a ground panel that sticks forward so he has to stand on it to get his horns into the upright panel, therefore holding it down with his own weight. All of this done by tractor flood lights as it was getting dark and the culvert is down in a hole. I was down there working alone and the bull snuck up on me, I didn’t realize it until he was about two feet away. He scared me so I chased him away, he knew what I was doing and did not really want to leave, it took some encouragement to get him moving. So far it is holding I would like to say it is fixed, but I then leaned toward certain as a better word. After a few minutes and thinking about how often he gets out I am pretty certain he is contained, it looks pretty good and we sure gave it the old college try. It kinda depends on how lovesick he gets, maybe it will be good enough, we will see.
There is another creek crossing further up on our property that was destroyed in the flood that lets him drop down into the creek bed and scoot on down to the culvert. If we can get that crossing hardened enough then he will most likely be contained. The crossings have to be removable in the fall so the spring runoff can happen and nothing gets damaged.
I had the opportunity to get another black walnut tree! This one was a ways away and I did not want to load up the tractor on my trailer and drive over there. I would have to make two trips and decided that taking longer to load was an acceptable trade off to not having to make two trips and haul the tractor. I gathered chains, cables, sheet of plywood to cover the metal ramps, come along and a metal pipe to use as a cheater bar. I picked up Mr Professional and away we went. This sounded like a well thought out plan but honestly I did not take into account the shear mass of a large piece of this wood. It took us three hours and the first half of that time was moving the large base piece onto the trailer first. We needed two come alongs to do it and everything else we brought. Unfortunately, by the time we got done the custom cut shop was closed so the trailer just stayed loaded and I will get it offloaded this week. We will go back into the cue for cutting and may get it cut up in a couple of months. Luckily, I ordered more banding and it’s a different color so it makes it easy to differentiate the trees that will banded and stored together in the old chicken coop. I am even considering getting into the maple pile, cleaning it up and then having it all planed down to useable flat pieces. I can then shrink the storage space it takes by banding it all together and storing it in the coop.
The alpaca seem to have finally come to a consensus and are now behaving. They are such weird creatures. The rabbit is back! I have seen it several times and it is still not afraid of humans, you can get within a few feet before it even moves.
With all this wind we are having the new windmill needed an addition to keep the top plastic bushing in place. This should keep it from popping out now and the windmill can tear it up, which it is doing in the 35-40 mph winds. It is only rated up to 65 mph so we will see how it does in our area long term.
It has been a long week, the paying job is keeping me busy so I have not had a lot of time around the farm. I am trying to get the baler parts ordered now so when we start to hay we will have the necessary repair parts in case something breaks. I need to order some more plastic netting wrap also. In these times you have to plan way ahead of time. I waited too long to bale some of the hay last year and we have a lot of very near straw. So we are supplementing feed dramatically and I was feeding the sheep 3% of their body weight daily and am now feeding 4.5% with 1/2# of sweet feed per animal daily. We had one ewe with twins who got too skinny. She is now in a pen all by herself with all the food and water she can eat. I think she is too passive, not pushing her way into the food so everyone else is eating her share. Hopefully, we can get her fattened up since she has the all you can eat buffet and no competition for food. We should be killing animals soon and that will help with the feed supply. Getting the fields replanted and the hay figured out this year is essential to our next winter. Annmarie has been working on drafting out our five acres of irrigated pasture. She is laying out the pipe and heads and sizing everything including the pump to get us through the summer.
I went to town yesterday to get paint to finish the ceiling in the craft room after the water damage repair. I had to guess among the choices that Sherwin Williams said I had purchased in the past. I guessed wrong and ended up going from painting a 4×4’ section to painting the entire ceiling. The new color is whiter and brighter so that is a plus, but I had not planned on painting that much. Today I got the room cleaned up and usable again. Annmarie can start working on her loom again and get our new cover for wooden hall fridge completed. The antique fridge we use for hallway storage is pretty beat up on the top board, they tried to reseal the surface and got cloth fibers embedded. It needs a cover even after I scrubbed it clean.
I didn’t want to go outside for the entire day due to the temperature, 24F. So I worked on putting the new decorative windmill together. I had to watch a video to get it together correctly, I had the pieces mixed up. I was able to use the old cedar pole but I had to drill out a much bigger hole in the top of the 4×4 and then pound in a plastic bushing. The bushing had to be cut and sanded smooth to fit down into the hole. I used a broken wooden handle as a rod to pound on with a four pound hammer to get it to the bottom of the hole, then I used the intact second bushing to go at the top. I think its going to work but the 4×4 was flexing quite a bit in the wind, its 12 inches bigger than the old one. The old one pretty much disintegrated in the last 90 mph wind. The blades got torn up and they gouged the post also.
The new chickens are integrating well, when I went out this morning there was only one of them in the chicken coop, the rest were outside wandering around. In the last week I have only had to put one of them inside the chicken coop, the rest are getting in before the chicken door closes. I am getting almost a dozen eggs/day now. In the winter my chicken egg productivity is only around 35%. In the summer I go above 50%, but the year round production is what matters.
The wildlife is starting to move around. I saw a single coyote on the back hill side yesterday morning. It only stayed on the hillside for 30 seconds and then was gone. Our bunny is back!! We had not seen it for several months and thought an owl had eaten it. This is the normal cause of bunny demise around our place. I have now seen the bunny two evenings this week so it is officially back. We are hearing the owls again out in our big trees at night and early mornings. Spring is just around the corner and its only January 30!
Donna, Mother-in-law, wants to fix the corner fence down by four corners. So it will be getting new H braces, a new 12’ gate and a ditch crossing so we can add 1/2acre to the cows pasture area. Mostly this will just prevent this 1/2acre from being a weed patch like it has been. This will be a spring project unless it warms up for a solid week. It will need 12 railroad ties, one 12’ gate, 7 cross pieces for H braces, 12 high tension tighteners, one chain horseshoe latch, one roll woven 39” wire and one roll of smooth two strand wire, about 24 T posts with clips. We will use the 2×8” tamarack boards I bought for the corral extension. Those have come in real handy for fencing.
I am working on getting the fuel tank working. The tank is installed, copper grounding wire installed and the tank is sitting on four concrete blocks. I bought a hand fuel transfer pump yesterday but I was not able to get a water/sediment filter for 3/4” pipe, I will be ordering that, once that comes I will get hooked up with a fuel service for the farm and I will have 100 gallons of diesel on hand. I figure I will have to have it filled twice a year, not exactly a large account but it will be nice to have the fuel right here on the farm and I won’t have to keep filling five gallon fuel cans all of the time.
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.
Well as always things progress on Mother Nature’s schedule. I keep thinking she will cut me some slack, and honestly she did, I was able to work on the front porch for three days straight a week ago! Now it is back to haying. I have one field left, #1, 7 acres of grass, triticale, oat and something else. It’s a pretty big mashup from all the different attempts to plant and the flooding. The field looks great but seven acres is going to take at least 7 hours to cut and as thick as it is it will most likely take even longer. So I went out on Thursday after work to do some cutting, Mr Professional was already out cutting so I swapped him out so he could go home. I only managed a to do about two hours before I broke the sickle bar mower. I thought it was making more noise than normal and I was right, except being right meant the mower was broken again.
We have a bunny living on the place, it keeps running around the corral, barn and car area. We spot it almost every day. When we were working cows it just kept hanging around us, never really ran off. I think it is one of the Pygmy rabbits native to Oregon. We get them occasionally but usually they succumb to the predator birds. Who doesn’t like rabbit in their diets? We would not mind having a few on the farm but they can never seem to get established.
Friday was maintenance day, my least favorite day of the year. I can mechanic, I just really don’t like to do it. We ended up breaking the sickle bar bolt that joins the bar to the rocker arm. The real problem with this is it is a double threaded bolt, it is threaded through the arm and then a nut to lock it in place. The real problem is there is not very much room on the backside of the arm and you have to use two fingers to get the nut on as soon as the bolt comes out of the arm. When the bolt brakes this causes a problem as there is very little room to work and you have to break out a drill and easy out. We were able to have enough of a lip to cut a groove in the end with a sawzall and then use a flat head screwdriver and some WD40. It worked and we were able to get the old one out, since we were working on the mower we swapped out the cutting bar blades also. This would have been easier if we had pressure washed the blades first. It took a ratchet strap and an anchor point to pull the blade out after I had it unbolted.
After a few hours we had it all back together and working. Mr Professional was turning hay while I baled it. I was having trouble with the baler as it kept jamming. Mr Professional thought I was going to fast so we switched jobs, I accidentally ran over a completed bale and caused the rake to slam into the ground breaking the wheels again. I thought we were done, nope he just tore off the wheels and kept going. This does need to be corrected eventually but for now this will work. It looks pretty weird. We finally just gave up on baling. It was too wet so we went back and swapped out the baler for the mower and I went out and finished cutting the last two acres. I can drive around in circles no problem. I brought a couple of bales back to the machine shed and tested them for moisture content 24-30%, too high.
Saturday was scheduled to be our big day, we were going to do cows. Honestly, I think that all couple therapy should have a live animal sorting component. It’s brutal and yes, I am learning but I still keep screwing up. So after the first thirty minutes we had a routine. I had gone in to pick up Mr I Need a Belt Bad, and Annmarie called me to say we needed tick medicine. So we waited for the ranch store to open and picked up some pour over medicine and some fly bags. Annmarie had already moved the mommas and babies into the barn lot and everyone was ready to be sorted. We moved the calf table onto the end of the corral chute. The plan was to crowd the chute, dose the mommas and then sort them off and then deal with the calves. The chute is spreading and has been for several years. I had always intended to put chains up high to prevent that from happening but have never done it. It’s going to have to happen. There are two gates that won’t latch, one is just spread apart and the other is on the down hill side and the gate keeps tipping up away from the predrilled holes. I need to stop the downhill slide. So I added the corral to the to do list for this year.
We got medicine on the mommas, and managed to get all of the calves tagged but one. It was a squirter, it got past the neck lock and then Annmarie and Meathead tried to catch it, they were hollering for me, but I was in the chute and by the time I got out and touched the calf it got away. Luckily, its a little girl. We found another boy with undescended testicles. It’s scrotal sack was empty and shrunken so there was no way for me to use the bander. I may have to learn how to cut instead of using a bander, maybe just cut if there is no other option for me. It’s a stupid problem but one we keep having. So now we have a bull from last year (one nutter) and now we have a fully intact calf. They have to stay off by themselves after they are weaned. Meathead ended up getting bitten by one of the calves when she was holding their head. I did not think they would do that but the obvious bite mark on her palm contradicts my belief!
Mr Professional came out about the time the last calf got away so we opted to push them back to the barn but they had ran down to their old stomping grounds. They were wild, crazy, panting and drooling and would not go where they needed so Annmarie just called it off, we will do it later, they were too stressed. Unfortunately, our plan to just let the calves go did not work, we were missing one. So the five of us searched the area, I used the tractor, and Mr Professional found the calf at the far end of the driveway down by the cattle guard. This is looking more and more like I need to put in the double gates down by the in-laws house so when we work animals we can close the gates and keep them from running and hiding from us. This didn’t make the to do list but it keeps coming up as an option. It took six hours to do all of that, sort the eaters and sort off the bull and put him in with the females. We also pulled off three breeders from the feeders who were hanging out in field#4 and tossed them in with the bull. He should be happy now! He has been locked away for over six months. The one nutter and a steer are now in Alcatraz as there are a couple of young heifers in the feeder herd. We have seven cows for sale this year, a one nutter and a ground beef only 15 year old cow are in that total. We really have handling the sheep down to an art, and working the cows is an act of frustration. I have added a corral remodel to the list. We need to create another pen, a calf chute and a place for the calf table to reside so we can work easily and keep all of the calves contained. This means actually drawing up some plans, taking some actual measurements and then gathering all of the materials. I already know we will need to custom create at least three gates but most likely five to fit the new configuration. I want the chute to be smaller, our current one is 24” wide, so I am thinking 16”-18”. I want it too small for the adult cows to enter, so it should probably only be 16”. I will need to chain the entrance to keep it from spreading and maybe even put a chain lower down so the adults would have to bend down to get lined up on the narrow opening. This can only happen in the spring when the ground is soft enough to really make drilling holes with the auger easy.
Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I ate lunch then we talked about him weeding the garden and porch area. We still need to work on our communication. Annmarie tells me I did not let him give me a stop time, I asked for a job time estimate and he said an hour, I figured two for the job. I paid him for the day and then went out to turn hay, while I was hooking up the rake he left, after an hour. I suspect he had already given a stop time to his ride but that was not communicated to me. So I have a new plan, quitting time is 1630, every day he comes out. This just makes it easier on all parties and we all know the stop time. Sometimes I forget what it is like to be around teenagers, then they remind me. One would think after all these years and countless teenagers I would have this down to a science but they are all different and it takes a while to get things figured out.
I went out and finished turning the hay, I love the smell. Plus, we have a set of baby deer twins that are cat sized! They are very tiny and very cute. The birds love all of the grain and the hawks love the voles that get disturbed. It is very peaceful to just go around in circles, listen to a book on tape (nothing educational, pure pleasure) and drink water/gatorade. In the morning I will start baling and get it all ready for someone else to pickup and put in the barn.