Spring is coming

Well, we have gotten some stuff done this week, it seems like the more you plan the more things need to change to accommodate what is actually occurring on the farm. We were able to sell our daughter’s house this week and will be closing at the end of April. This is going to be a big push for us to get her out and get the house cleaned up. We are going to have to clean out our spare bedroom for her to move into while she finishes college. She will be going to Moscow, ID for the next two years so we will see her on holidays and in the summer. I am sure we will need to make a spot in the attic to store a bunch of her stuff. Luckily, the boxes cannot be too big or they will not get through the attic door.

I borrowed our neighbor’s small backhoe and dug a very large hole. This took me three different locations to find one where I could get deep enough as the soil level is not very deep in places and the clay, rock level is the next level. I finished that over a few hours on Friday and was able to snag a big rock from the side of the road on my way back! Annmarie and I talked about adding it to our rock wall behind the barn. The lambs like to run and jump off of the wall but the best thing they like to do is play King of the Hill! I can put this 600+ pound rock on top of our existing wall and they will be at the highest point in the yard. I took loose gravel and poured it over the rocks after I had them in place so there is no obvious way to catch a leg, there is always a way for the sheep to find a way to get in trouble or harm themselves.

Our plumber came out and set a new drain plug for our upstairs sink and set the sink into the countertop. He is going to come back later after it all dries and finish the drain plumbing. It has this cool drain plug, you just push down the installed plug and it seals, to unseal it you just push down on the plug again! I have been vetoed on keeping the self retracting 50’ plant watering hose with wand plugged in at all times in our new bathroom, something about aesthetics. The compromise is we now have a quick connector installed so I can just push it on and then use the hose to water my plants.

The tractor is older now, ten years, and is starting to show my abuse. The front wheel oil seal blew on the driver’s side. I ordered and picked up a replacement and while I was talking to the dealer, we discussed my next tractor purchase. I am going to get the next size up. I need a slightly larger machine and I will keep the first one also. This will stop me from having to duplicate all of the attachments. I also ordered a new plastic sleeve cover for my hydraulic hoses near the bottom of the tractor, the old one is just about gone and I ordered new locking rings for my three point hitch, they look like a key ring and prevent the tightening mechanism from turning once you have set the tension. A stupid little five dollar thing that prevents a big headache of always having to jump off and retighten the three point side to side swing. These are the little things that you just learn to live with and I am going to make an effort to fix them.

Our ram had not been doing his job, we were hopeful that as soon as we tossed him into the herd he would start having sex immediately. Well, as fat as he is we were not sure how successful he would be and whether he could even mount a ewe. It took him until yesterday to finally get spotted doing his one and only job. We found a gestation tracker calendar we had stashed away and should have lambs starting August 16! We do realize that the sheep are on a 21 day cycle and he was going to be given the benefit of the doubt. His competition is coming this summer sometime. We will run two rams in neighboring fields in the hope that they will speed up their critical work and shorten our lambing season. On the plus side we have several baby ewes from this ram we want to keep and the new ram will allow us to do that.

Annmarie completed her very first alpaca yarn from our own alpaca! She spun the fiber, then made two ply out of it, then soaked it, shook it, dried it, and then put it into skeins. This process takes a lot longer than I had imagined! She spins for about 15 minutes every day, usually in the evening but sometimes first thing in the morning. We are talking about her making an alpaca rug now on her floor loom. We are still on the hunt for some male alpaca, cheap, who need a forever home. We have two that are very old and and don’t think they will make it through this year. We trim hooves, teeth and shear them annually now. They are allowed to free range throughout the farm and are the only animal allowed on the two acres around our cars and yards as they don’t scratch the cars and they are very respectful of fences. I have never been purposefully spit on, you can catch some spit if they are having a pissing match between two alpaca and one ducks. It’s nasty, but for the most part they are very benign. We have about four of them now who you can touch, none that you can just walk up to and pet while they stand still. They are super easy to herd. Just open a gate that they have not been through in a month and they will come running to see what is on the other side!

Machine shop almost back up to snuff

It still doesn’t feel like winter even though you can now see the snow in the mountains from our house. I ended up working a night shift to cover and arranged to go to a shop sale the next morning. Annmarie picked me up at work first thing Saturday and we went to go look at shop tools. They had a huge shop with multiple rooms but the only pieces of furniture we found were these two beautiful chairs! They almost match our side board and just need a really good wood washing and polishing to make them amazing. So we bought them, luckily we got there just as they opened. We had no intention of buying any more furniture but could not pass them up. I cleaned them last night and will be polishing them this week after welding class finishes.

I decided that I had better keep working on my winterize list since it is still not really winter and went out and worked on replacing the beam in the machine shop that I knocked out with the old tractor hay lift. My replacement beam was 6×8, I really only needed a 4×6 beam. I trimmed off 2 inches off of one end and cut the ceiling slant and managed to lift one side then lever the other in using my shoulder and legs to get it in the right spot. I then had to figure out how to scoot it 7 inches onto the ledge I just barely managed to get it onto. I went to shop and got a wood clamp and inched it over an inch at a time from the other end by clamping it to the cross beam. It took about a 30 minutes to get the beam in place. I used these awesome 10″ lags to hold it in place drilling from the top of the beam into the sill. I tried to replace the 2×6 beam next to it but again I had a 2×8 beam and could not get it to fit, I will need to get the 2×6.

I also had to rehang the gate. We tore it out this summer by hooking the gate with the hay trailer trying to get it lined up and back into the hay area. I ended up having to rip all the wood off of the left side and reusing part of the broken beam as the new anchor board for the gate hinges. I love reusing all the old and broken pieces of stuff to fix or replace the other broken stuff! Its a good thing also since the alpaca have been pushing the gate over and getting into the pile.

We had this plan to install a mailbox on the edge of the corral so we can drop off payments to the mobile slaughter or farrier or anyone else coming out to our house that needs paid while we are gone. I have four old plain mailboxes now but Annmarie wanted something fancier so we found the one below on Etsy. It is a lot nicer than anything we had laying around. I mounted it today so we can now slip in an envelope with a check and not have to worry about the wind or weather.

The next thing she wants me to do is build a drop off box by our front gate so that our packages can be placed in there instead of our front porch or just by the gate. The dogs have gotten into their chews that come through the mail and we have had some packages get wet. I need it to be fairly large 3×4 feet wide by 2 feet tall. I would like the lid to come up but want to put in a counterweight system so the lid opens easily. This is going to take some planning but I would like to get it done next year. I will have Annmarie make me cut out fancy wood letters I can put on it so the delivery people know to utilize it.

We should be getting lambs this month. This will be the true test of our new ram as we have not had any babies from him yet. We have 45 ewes so we should have around 65 lambs by the time we are done.

Ram is here

So yesterday was our day to pick up the ram. I spent a couple of hours on Friday cleaning out the back of the pickup and sliding the new stock racks in.

It has been a long week and this really occurred one week ago on Saturday. Annmarie and I have been getting ready for her to go to Berkeley for two weeks and I have been working long hours, the blog has suffered.

We drove to Canby Oregon to pick up our pure bred Katahdin ram. I hate Portland traffic, there was slow down to 15 MPH traffic on the freeway on a Saturday! I cannot imagine what it would be like on a weekday with everyone trying to get to work. I managed to rig a couple of cattle panels over the top of the racks. The tiedowns look a little hickish but they worked great and allow me to just slide the racks off and onto the ground. It is doable by myself as I just tip the rack up on its gate end and drive under it then just lift and slide it into the pickup. Eventually I may need to make a shelf that I can just slide it off onto without having to lift it up and down. I have a few years to figure that out. I also need to get it over to get sandblasted and powder coated but in all honesty that is just a money thing. I am working on saving for hay and some summer labor to dig out the barn and chicken coop. The tie downs also stopped all the rattling from the panels. The ride was very quiet. As an added benefit all the Portland traffic avoided me like the plague. I was driving a big truck, lots of dents in said truck, peeling paint and big rusted stock racks with tie downs holding everything together. I had no trouble passing.

We found the place and managed to go down this little lane to find the barn. I had to back out and back down the lane as there was not enough room to turn around by the barn. They had the ram all ready to go and the husband and I caught him. He was fairly tame as I was able to walk up and get within two feet before he tried to run away. He is BIG! I would estimate around 150#. I thought he was only going to be 8 months old but after Annmarie looked at the paperwork he is 18 months old. This is a perfect age for us, he is mature at his full size and fairly calm. He tolerated the trip well.

When we got home that late evening he saw all the weathers out in the orchard and started to holler at them. We were wondering how we were going to get him out of the pickup as we had a step stool to get him in. As soon as I opened the stock rack gate he leaped right out and ran over to his peeps. It took him about two days to integrate into the herd. He was walking around the outside of the group until they finally accepted him.

Bull fence

Today I finished painting the downstairs! I even considered starting in on the wood trim downstairs but I really want to do the windows first as the bugs have started coming around. I have the caulk to seal the wood trim to the window and the walls so no bug can sneak through. But the wooden shims have not arrived yet. I purchased a box of them and they will be here this week. I wanted cedar shims and I am going to leave the cedar closet lining boards I put up in the windows temporarily in place and just put the trim over them. They have helped keep the bugs out.

So instead I went out and started working on the Bull Enclosure. It will house the rams also when we are not using them. We have decided to pull the male species off of their respective herds at least a month prior to anyone having a baby. We don’t want the mothers to be stressed or harassed. I marked of a pen in the barn lot that will allow us to use the old lamb shed and lean to out back as shelter. The shed will be off limits unless we allow access. I have set it up so I have opposing gates that will allow us to block off the shed or allow them access to the shed and no where else. I broke out the hot pink paint marker and a tape measure and put a T sign every 8 feet. I will need to dig 57 holes! I think if I reuse what is present and use the old cedar posts I think I can come up with 40 posts maybe 45. I will buy the rest. I want to use railroad ties in the corners and two next to each gate side. I am going to install a 10 foot gate near the shed and another 8 foot gate on the back side of the fence past the lean to. I am contemplating one more near the culvert, but I don’t think so. Each gate is a weakness to be exploited by the bull. I managed to get 11 holes started tonight. I was unable to drill a single hole down to the depth needed even as wet as it has been.

The mistress was working hard and I had to replace one bolt on the auger and just as it was getting dark the shear bolt for the auger gave so tomorrow I will need to replace it before I can get started. My goal is to get all the holes started this week and then take a five gallon bucket of water and put it in each hole. I will do this every day and then drill it out the next day until all the holes are the right depth. I will start setting posts as soon as I can get a hole down to the right depth. I will set all the posts and put woven wire and smooth wire on the outside of the fence and I will line the inside of the fence with 2×6 boards. I will have to go 4 boards high to provide a sufficient barrier. So I will need to buy 2000 linear feet of 2×6 which also happens to be 2000 board feet. I want to buy 16 foot boards as I put the spacing at 8 feet apart, this means I need 125 boards. I will also need a saw and a whole bunch more wood anchors, another 500. This is the expensive part. That will cost me around $400 just for the metal screws.

I have the 10 foot gate, I will have to go scrounge around in my gate pile to see if I have another 8 foot gate. I may need to use a 6 foot gate.

The sheep have been hanging out on the back hillside. The gate nearest the creek is so badly damaged that it is not useful and needs to be replaced. I have simply not gotten to it and the sheep needed to go out on the back hillside anyways. We have had so much rain in the past few days that the back creek is up about 8 inches and running muddy.

2018 started with a clean slate

It is so much nicer to go out to the barn now that the Ram is no longer breathing. Some would claim that he is no longer of this earth. Not me, he is in our freezer, a friends freezer, his head and hide are being practiced on by a budding taxidermist and all his leftover parts are feeding all the wild animals. He is being very productive and generous in his death.

On Jan 1, we threw out fresh straw and neatened up the barn. Our supply of grass hay for the horses is dwindling quickly. Normally, the horses just eat what we feed the sheep but this year we got straight alfalfa for the sheep. I have some large bales that are a mix and we may have to break open one of those and feed it out to the horses. We have had no bummer lambs since the ram’s demise. We are fairly certain now that he was the cause of most of our 9 bummer lambs. Our bummer lady said that she has only lost one of the 9 lambs. She usually has around a 50% mortality as they are bummers for a reason. He is not missed. I can now wade through the barn and pet the ewes. There about 15 that come up and will let you scratch on them. We are still having babies. It should be ending soon. We were starting to sweat about running out of hay, farm nightmares are rooted in this calamity. It looks like we are going to make it no problem. We will be close on the small bales in the barn but we are going to have extra large bales. Hopefully, the snow will continue to pile up in the mountains.