Wife is a savior

Annmarie has been picking up all the slack around the farm as I have been fairly worthless since catching covid. She has been feeding and sorting and checking on lambs, feeding chickens and collecting eggs. She has been amazing during this time. She made me promise to not overwork myself when I went back to work. I took a few more days off for a total of 14 then went back to work on Monday. I stayed in my office mostly with only 1-2 trips out of my office. Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was unable to do evening chores at home due to shortness of breath and fatigue. By Thursday I started to get chest pain that continued to get worse, I ended up in the ER that night to make sure I did not have a blood clot in my lungs. No blood clots, just post covid syndrome. So I am back to sitting around again most of the day, resting. I hate resting. I have had to reiterate the not working so hard promise.

We have had the usual drama on the farm. The chickens have decided that they don’t want to go into the coop at night. Anywhere from 3-7 chickens dawdle and end up outside the automatic door. This is not healthy for the chickens as we know there is most likely one raccoon living in the barn or around the barn. Annmarie saw fresh tracks in the snow recently. So we have been kicking them back into the barn when we get eggs. Unfortunately, we only let the ones sitting right outside the gate into the coop, we do not hunt down any strays. It looks like one managed to survive a raccoon attack and it is still alive days later. It is missing part of a wing and hopefully can survive. It unsurprisingly has been hanging pretty close to the chicken coop and is making it inside before the door shuts! So it is maybe not the stupidest chicken in the bunch. We have had two more sets of lamb twins and a huge single lamb born since the last update. I will need to go out and tag and band on Sunday so we can integrate all of them into the momma/baby area. The weather has been very unusual, mid 40’s in December! This is so not normal for us. The front spring is already on the rise and the back winter runoff creek has not started up yet.

The ram is not doing his job in a timely fashion. The ewes are taking their sweet time with having babies. We are talking about getting a second ram so in the off season they can have a buddy. We will also split the ewes into two herds. Once we figure out who is the more active ram we will divide up the ewes in the correct proportion. This will also let us save more of the ewes for cross breeding purposes. If we rotate out the ram every three years this will add significantly to our size upgrade. We really want to get the lambing all done in 30 days.

  • Lamb update
  • 22 lambs born
  • 14 ewes delivered
  • 20 pregnant ewes(maybe)
  • 6 single lambs
  • 8 twin lambs
  • 1 bummer lamb
  • 21 lambs on the farm
  • 157% birthing rate
  • 150% production rate (goal >150%)
  • 100% survival rate at birth
  • 100% survival rate at 2 weeks (7/7)

Farm 5, Predators 2

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!

Forever Friday 26/45

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!!!!

Forever Friday 18/42

We had very good friends over for the weekend. It was a wonderful weekend and the best part is we will get to see them on their return trip! We ate good food all weekend, Doom got to take pictures, but he did not get the quail and had a hard time with the humming birds. I think he did finally manage to get a hummingbird. He had to use his cell phone to take the dragonfly picture and he missed out on the hawk that swooped out of the tree, into the wild rose bush and a minute later flew out with a finch in its claws and then flew up on the tree to perch for thirty seconds. He had no camera for that one.

Sarah’s new boyfriend took the alpaca picture below. He takes pretty good pictures.

I was sleeping Saturday night when I woke up to this banging sound. I was sure it was a raccoon on the back porch. But does one sneak downstairs to grab the 22 LR pistol and jump out the back door and blast away when one has company? I did think about it but this is war and I aim to win so I snuck downstairs and leaped out the back door, in pajamas, to battle my nemesis and it was nothing. I went back to bed and still heard the sound but it was not raccoons. I did not have to explain to our company what those gunshots were.

On Sunday, Doom and I walked around the barn lot and he found two more piles of pine lumber I have stashed away. He may work a trade on a new bathroom vanity for some lumber. We will see how negotiations progress. We had a call by a neighbor about a new calf out in the bottom pasture near the schoolhouse. The problem with this is we should not have any calves born until March 2021. But one should never not go investigate. Annmarie and I drove up the road and found a pile of twine out in the field that looked like a newborn calf laying down. I need to pick it up eventually.

Auction score

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So frustrating, my blog company is trying to get me into the 20th century and now wants to upgrade my editor abilities to include “blocks”, which as far as I can tell are snippets of information that are standalone and are inserted into your blog.  It looks cool, but it means everything is independent and instead of 3 choices I now have 30 and they can all be independently modified.  I tried it this morning and just got frustrated, it is looking like my blog time will triple and honestly I don’t have time for that, so I am back to the old archaic version until they force me to use the new, which I am sure they will eventually.  I had a cap on the pictures I could insert this morning so I will be attempting to do the blog more often as there appears to be a cap on how many pictures I can upload. Even with all of this and the changes I have still managed to keep this thing going for over 10 years now, which surprises even me!

On Sunday, we decided to forgo sleep and working on the farm and went to an estate auction.  The weather was cold, windy and very rainy at times.  Despite all of this we managed to buy some new living room furniture for $200 and a jewelry box for Annmarie that almost paid for itself when we took out the liner to oil all of the wood and discovered a little money hidden inside.  I found one of my favorite of all times auction finds an antique clothes drying rack.  These are far and few between and this one is in great shape.  I will get it all cleaned up with some soapy water and that is it as I don’t want oil to get on our clothes.  This thing is great!  I am going to mount it on the wall in the laundry room.  I was told by the lady who sells reproductions, for $40, that I must of really wanted it as she kept trying to outbid me for it but I really did want it.  After we got the furniture unloaded into the house we took a long nap as I had worked part of the previous night.  I was very tired after all of that and carrying the furniture inside and did not want to take the old furniture out as we had no place for it yet.  Now we still have two sets of living room furniture in our living room and dining room and I am on 14 day home/work quarantine, even Roomba can hardly get around.

When I got home on Monday the dogs were throwing a fit by the back corner of the front yard.  I went over to investigate and noticed that they were staring up into the tree, it was a squirrel!  Hopefully it was “the squirrel” that has been down at mother-in-law’s house.  I went inside, grabbed the 22 and dispatched said squirrel.  We cannot let them get established as they are incredibly hard on the power lines and transformers.  They are the number one reason for power outages in cities per the power line worker who I talked to when we lived in a city and lost power due to a squirrel.

On Tuesday we had more rain and Annmarie reiterated the “no carcass, no count” rule in our bid to eradicate the rockchucks.  It is a fair rule but it does make it a lot more challenging.  It does make it very clear cut, no subjective “I got it” interpretations are allowed.  I had held off on cutting hay on Saturday and now that it has rained twice I am glad I did.

On Wednesday, Annmarie called the shipping company to ask about our tire bark.  They have failed to deliver it twice already and have had it for two weeks.  I did feel a little sorry for the person on the other end of the line, but we did get our ground cover!  Five pallets, 5 ton should be enough to get all of the ground cloth covered up and secured in place.  Now we just have to install it all.  I spent part of the day trying to mow the weeds and grass around the place, I ended up overheating the tractor attempting to mow a thistle patch.  I will try it again early in the morning, not at high noon when its the hottest time.

On Thursday I was headed out of the house by 0445 to go to work and Gizmo was just ranting and barking at the front fence.  He would not come back in the house meanwhile the border collies were just running around the yard.  I got him to move a couple of feet and there were raccoons on the other side of the fence!  I ran back into the house and grabbed the 22 rifle.  I considered shooting from the porch but there is the fence, the cars the corral all in the way plus Gizmo is out there terrorizing them so they don’t come in his yard.  So as I ran up the pathway to get to the cars and the raccoons started running for the barn.  I only got two shots off just as they darted across the 16 foot gate opening at the end of the corral.  I missed, we didn’t even need to enact the no carcass, no count rule.  There were five of them!!  My chickens are not going to survive five raccoons.  So war is officially on again!  But the real question is do I get to start counting all the rodents we kill in on the predator kill count?  Is that cheating to just inflate the numbers?  I think it is so I will continue to only count animals that kill my chickens as this was the original definition of a predator.    When I got home Annmarie had me grab the binoculars and we drove up the driveway to look for a new baby calf she had spotted the day before.  Again,  we had given up on the last two cows having calves as it was just not happening so we had turned the bull loose a couple of weeks ago.  Sure enough there was a new baby calf out in the field.

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