I have a new Companion!

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.

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.