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!

Bull corral eventually

This is gonna be dinner in just a few months. He just doesn’t know it yet. There are 3-6 bucks living on the place now and they make a circuit every day. My nephew and I both drew buck tags this year. We have been scoping out the deer. They won’t be huge animals but they will be good eating.

The wheat is harvested now and it came in at 42 bushels to the acre. This is the best it has been since we got back. It looked amazing. The largest problem we were told was that the deer had made huge trails and snacking points throughout the entire field.

I had to drop off the raccoon carcass on the boneyard so I snagged the old tractor rim that was buried up there. I am going to turn it into a fire pit in the ram pasture. I may even try and figure out how to build a spit for it.

Between a few hours here and there I have managed to get the bull corral operational. I still need to put up four rails in one spot over the woven fence and I need to figure out a latch for the gate that cannot be undone. We got all the scrap wood and scrap metal out of the enclosure and created a flat spot for the water trough. The trough will hold 265 gallons of water. Annmarie drug a hose out there from our house, about 250 feet and it took an hour to fill it. The horses are now living in it and we are feeding them twice daily. They were getting very fat and needed to come off the all you can eat buffet that was the upper prime field. They do not appreciate the genius and ingenuity it took to make the corral.

I need to drag out the lamb shed with the tractor. It is ankle deep in horse and sheep poop. I have some old windows in there from when my parents changed out their windows ten years ago. I am going to build a platform on the end of the barn so the large window can be installed. I am going to build 2×8 foot platforms like a set of steps twelve feet off the ground. So five separate steps covered with 1/2 inch plywood sheets. I am going to use the leftover tamarack railing. Once that is in place then I can climb up and install the window casings and we will be ready to man handle the window into place. I will probably get rid of the other windows. I have used a couple of them in various locations. I may look at the old chicken coop before I toss them. I may be able to glass in the open portion of the chicken coop.

We have decided to not expand the barn. We have only had one person call about our Craigslist ad. They only wanted to buy ten sheep not 40. So I wrote their information down just in case. I am now going to advertise in the surrounding area Craigslist towns. See if I cannot garner some more attention. If that doesn’t work then we are going to look at the small animal sale in La Grande. I am just unsure about the auction as you just never know what the final price will be. I certainly don’t want them sold for $30 an animal.

I have four left over panels that were not used in the corral. They will cover 32 feet. I think I need to bridge almost 55 feet to create another wall. So I am actually going to have to break out a tape measure and some spray paint and lay out another fence. This will make getting any animal into the sorting corral very easy.

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.

Barn teenager done

As I slept on the cough today trying to get better Bubba “finished” the barn. I say this because Bubba did a teenager finish. I now really understand my father as he was always getting on me about the minutiae. I learned by the time I was a teenager that the job had to be perfect. Yet every teenager I have ever had out to the farm uses a different measuring stick of completion. Bubba is correct, this section is clean of poop and straw. Yet for the barn to be functional we have to have all the sorting pen that was removed reinstalled and all of the feeders put back out.

This doesn’t include the two smaller areas where we keep the new mommas. It still needs to be cleaned out and under the stairs needs to be cleaned out. I went out and talked to Bubba to give him clearer directions and then we went over how to clean out the chicken coop. He started working on the coop after that and I went back to the couch for another several hour nap. We should have all the buildings cleaned out by Monday. I am super stoked. I need about 8 more hours on the bull enclosure and then its onto the next project. I need to trim the alpaca feet and fix the machine shed overhead beams I broke last year with the tractor. I will call on Monday and get some custom beams cut for the repair.

We need to clean out the milking area also. Meathead is coming out on Tuesday to finish moving all the straw and poop from the barn over into the compost pile. She can grab the extra compost from the alley way and front barn lot at the same time. There are four big rocks in the milking area I would like to take out. They were used as support for floor beams but they just get in the way now. I have tried to get them out with the tractor but there is no room to move the tractor around in this tight space. I am just going to have to use a breaker bar, shovel and fulcrum to get them out. Last night I went to bed early due to an illness. I was dead asleep when I was woken up by the dogs just raising a ruckus outside. It sounded like they were tearing something up and it was vicious. This went on for a little while then I heard Annmarie slap the side of the house loudly to shut them up and I fell back asleep. When she came to bed she told me that the dogs were at the back garden gate barking and trying to get at the four raccoons on our back porch. They were helping themselves to the cat food. She had flipped on the light and took a shot at them with the 30-30. She missed as they were almost gone by the time she got back with a weapon. So we have baited the back porch with more cat food tonight. I didn’t feed the cats in the barn and we are going to send Annmarie out to the chicken coop area and I will come out the back door blazing. Last night the raccoons ran toward the chicken coop. Annmarie will be waiting for them. As soon as I start shooting she will turn on her flashlight. I will not leave the back yard so she can shoot at anything that comes her way, no crossing of fire lanes. This is a stupid problem to have but they cannot get at my chickens! My babies should be laying next month and I do not want to wait another 8 months before getting more eggs.

My bladder made me do it!

You ever get that feeling that says get out of bed? As I approach fifty this sense of urgency has gained prominent attention. Last night I had to wake up at 0300 to pee as I forgot to do it before going to bed. I crawled back into a warm bed hoping to spend the rest of the night warm and blissfully uninterrupted. I was dreaming about these weird deadly creatures that only come out at night and were wiping out mankind when Annmarie jabbed me in the side and whispered “Do you hear that?” Something had cut through my dream but I was unsure if the deadly creatures were on the run in my dream or if it was external. It was external, some odd chittering sound. I had sudden hope that I might get to avenge my untimely departed chickens. The real trick here is time and stealth. Every time I have stopped for a coat, made noise or tried to sneak around on this night terror it has gotten away. That was not going to happen tonight, I got out of bed very quietly and went right downstairs to grab Killer (Walther P-22 pistol with laser sights). I usually load the pistol outside but it was time to change up and get serious so I racked one in, slid the safety off and laid my finger alongside the barrel. I snuck back to to the laundry room and peeked out into the dark. It is dark, I cannot see anything! I reach over and fumble around for the outside light switch. I had left all the lights on the back half of the house off so the predator would not see me coming. I flicked the porch light on and there it was, my Nemesis, a raccoon! I flicked the light off, took one second to ready myself and flicked the light back on and ripped open the door. I led with Killer speaking the language of death. This is where each of our actions have led to our current relationship. I got one “word” off while it was still on the porch attempting to get away from the cat food. I got a second “word” off when it ran left in the back garden. It remembered that the old house was safety and flipped a U-turn and headed back that way. I got off a third “word” which caused it to run behind a trough planter. Killer and I were a team, we followed the predator’s every move and spat out our language every time we had a clear view. There was a fatal flaw in the raccoon’s plan, it had to climb a fence and once it got in the small walkway clearing it realized it could not squeeze through the fence. It was too late, my bladder had taken control of my body and insisted that this event end right now! I just kept pulling the trigger until Killer ran out of breath. Now was time for another crucial conversation, was my bladder going to win or could my desire to see this through to a dead nemesis prevail? It has been too long, we have suffered under the burden of being preyed upon and it had to stop. I ran back into the house and grabbed a second big breath for Killer so we could say our goodbyes. Now normally, I would have just stuck the holster onto my pants, pajamas, robe whatever I was wearing but since I was not wearing anything this did not happen. Killer and I rushed back because my bladder was disagreeing vehemently with our decision to finish the conversation. Annmarie hollered down and asked if “I had gotten it?” She offered to bring down the 30-30, her preferred raccoon eliminator after her raccoon attack but my bladder won this point as we knew the delay would cost us. When I went out onto the back porch the raccoon was not moving, three “words” later I was running for bathroom. I had to pause at the door to unload Killer and drop it onto the couch. My bladder had taken control but Killer and I managed to get the final word in.

I made it in time! Always a great feeling. At breakfast Annmarie informed me that a raccoon has been terrorizing my mother-in-law and tearing into her bird feeders and opening desk drawers on her front porch. Hopefully, we have eliminated the problem and now if my stupid chickens don’t get in before the automatic door closes it won’t be a death sentence.