Annmarie had a discussion with me about her loom. Now mind you I had to move the loom to paint the entire ceiling after doing the small repair in the craft room. What I did not know was that before you move a loom that is warped up you should relax the warp. Otherwise, you can throw off the tension and alignment, not that I did that. Annmarie was able to fix it because not only did I have to move it out to paint, I had moved it back in place afterwards! She is back to working on our woolen woven hallway old ice fridge cover. She has about 24 ” done and it needs to be 54” long, so almost halfway. Basically the takeaway is ”Don’t touch the loom”.
Since the weather was so nice and Annmarie wants me to catch up on all the little things we spent Saturday fixing the new round planter in our back garden. It needed to be filled with gravel, then soil, Mr Professional filled it with a lot of gravel, some sheep manure compost then we topped it with some good planting mix soil. We topped off all the other bins with extra soil also. It does seem odd to be doing garden stuff in mid February.
The old ram bolted through the gate when we were hauling gravel around, he promptly ran for the main herd of sheep and started sniffing tails. This caused some consternation from Casper, the new ram, so much so that after we got the old ram out of the herd Casper had to mount a couple of ewes just to establish his rank. This is a good thing, as we have seen some breeding activity but not as much as we would like to see. I personally would like to see him lose 10-15% of his body mass due to an unrelenting focus on getting everyone bred as quickly as possible.
I spent an hour grooming Gizmo. It has been a long time since I have taken the time to totally strip all of the loose hairs off of him. He looks great! I should probably do it more often but he doesn’t particularly love this endeavor and I feel like I am picking on him when I do it. Which would be why he does not get stripped very often.
On Sunday I spent an hour and sanded down a piece of maple for Annmarie to practice the laser farm pictures on. We are going to laser engrave all of the turn of the century farm photos we have onto wood and mount them on the dormer in the kitchen. We are hoping to do around 20-25 pictures. So I have a lot more wood to sand!
February 5, 2022 is the day that our new ram, KRK2 was turned loose into the main herd. Annmarie has nicknamed him ”Casper” as he is very friendly with long white hair. Within five minutes of arrival he was already trying to do his business! He is small compared to his counterpart but getting the job done is what matters. We should have babies June 27-July 7 according to the online calculator we consulted. We had a discussion on whether we needed a second ram but Casper is going to get a crack at everyone this first time and we will see how he does.
I had to go out and rearrange the barn to open it all back up so the sheep are mixed together. I kept the two going to slaughter off in our momma/baby area but they are going away in 12 days. We normally keep that area closed off when not in use.
I saw some Dorper rams for sale this weekend on Craigslist but Annmarie reminded me that we had one Dorper die in a year and the second one was so mean he had to be put down because he was not safe to be around. I am still finding billy clubs stashed all over the barn from our precautions when he was alive. Our ram before Casper had injured his back leg and is unable to perform his job. He is super nice, great temperament and very large bodied just unable to do his job. He is going to be ground sheep for a family who does a lot of Andalusian cooking. They will appreciate him in a different way.
We have our kill dates for the animals starting this month, it was later than anticipated. Due to the rising prices of meat in the grocery store, people are starting to go back to the farm for their meat. This is good for us but bad for getting animals processed. I tried to call and make an appointment with our old processer. A slot in their calendar is 14 months out! This would mean feeding the animals through the winter again. I found a place in Lagrande that would do it at the beginning of September, so I signed up for four cattle slots and I will have to deliver the cows to the abatoir.
I was able to go buy 4-5” wooden posts x160 on Friday from a salvage company at $4/ea. Heck of a deal, I may go back in a few weeks and offer them less if there are still posts available. Its enough posts to build 50+ H braces for fences. I need a bundle of railroad ties still. We are going to finish the corner fence down by four corners. This will mean installing four H braces and one corner brace out of railroad ties. This is to match the current fence that is up. I will install one 12’ gate and cross one water drainage ditch with cable and panels. That project needs to wait until the ground softens more and the ambient are temperature stays above 45 F all the time. I don’t like fencing in the freezing wet weather, it is not pleasant.
I am ordering a banding tool today. I have located a chain saw with a large enough bar to use salvaging a downed tree. I want to take the tree to the custom sawmill and have it sliced into lumber. It will need to dry for a bit but I want to get it into the old chicken coop and then band it all up to minimize the warpage. I also need to order baler parts to fix it also. I am not a fan of digging through catalogs to find part numbers but I am going to have to do that today. I also got all the parts for the diesel fuel pump and filter to be installed on the tank. Once that is all assembled I will call and get signed up with a fuel delivery company. I will most likely only need to be filled up twice a year as the tank will hold 100 gallons. This will be so much nicer than dragging five gallon cans to the gas station.
The barn cats will actually let us see them all the time now. I think Annmarie can touch both of them, I cannot. We have a photographer friend who takes abstract pictures, I thought I would show him up with my ”Cat eating” mashup. I was fumbling the phone and trying to take the cat picture but my hands were cold and the phone is new, it took the picture as it was tumbling to the ground.
It has happened, my new tractor has arrived and was delivered on Wednesday. I was given the safety speech and how to operate it instructions so once the papers were signed it was all ours. Yes, I opted to go with a Kubota this time around. So we are going to see which one I like better, the John Deere or the Kubota. They both have advantages so we will see how they compare over the next few years. It was very easy to get the new sickle bar mower off so I could go out and play with my new Companion for a few hours. I spent the next three hours moving gravel for Mother-in-law’s new shed. I managed to get the tractor to rock front to back pretty easily with a full bucket of gravel even with 300# of ballast in the tires. At one point I had the tractor on two opposing tires, one front and one back wheel, the bucket movements need to not happen suddenly and during a turn. The five foot vs four foot bucket makes a huge difference when moving gravel. I parked the Companion under cover and left the Mistress out in the weather. I need to clean up the machine shop again and make more space to park equipment.
I had plans to go pickup two new rams, one for us and one for Pahlow Farms. They bought a bunch of ewe lambs from us this year and plan on growing their own flock. We had the mellowest batch of lambs ever this year so they are starting out great. I had to clean out the pickup, gas it up and install the animal racks into the bed. The racks can be leaned back, driven up to then drop the front onto the tailgate and then lift and slide them in. This is possible to do with one person but it is a lot of work and not easy. I need to make a rack that stores them up in the air and you just slide them in and out of the pickup using a rope. Since I don’t have this fancy tool I muscled it into place. I had three tie downs so I tied it down on three of the four corners. Sarah had volunteered to go with me in the morning, we were going to near Canby, OR.
The trip is almost a four hour drive each way. We went around Portland but still saw homeless camps along the freeway, while traveling I-205. The traffic is terrible, we went from 15 mph to 65 mph, up and down for no apparent reason. Luckily, the child is used to me hollering and talking to myself which was in abundance once we got into traffic.
We got there 7 minutes late and had to wait another 10 minutes so she could sort the rams off of the herd again. They kept sneaking back in with the mommas. They both look great, we love the temperament and size of all her rams. These two are only about six months old. They will add on at least another 100-120# as they mature.
Once we got back we just parked the pickup in the orchard and opened the gate on the animal pen. We figured the new boys would get tired of hanging out and decide that jumping out to see the four sheep in there would happen, it did later.
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!
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.