Time to start getting ready for winter

It’s been a long week at work and sometimes the farm is just what you need for a reset. This week was definitely a reset week. On Monday one of the calves got out again. Now I had already tooted my horn about the fence repairs from last weekend and told the wife no one was getting out. It took almost 24 hours for one of the calves to prove me wrong. She got it back into the lower fields by opening the gate and herding it in. It wanted to go see its mama. This left the dang water crossing that the bull beat up all last year. Annmarie told me that what I really needed was a culvert in the spot. I could then secure the fence to the culvert and the water and dirt would hold it down and prevent the bull from getting through or for that matter, any of the cows. I actually like this idea a lot! I have a four foot diameter culvert that could be cut in two to make two ten foot sections and one could be used here. The other one is for another crossing I am having trouble with. Pulling the eight foot trailer across the ten foot culvert when it is loaded and there is an eight foot drop on one side makes some people nervous. I need to add about 3-4 feet to this to prevent any mishaps from sloppy drivers. It was hot, I was just getting off work and not dressed to do any type of complex fencing. There happened to be a rats nest of fencing from the spring work laying around and I “installed” it in the fence to prevent anyone else from leaving. We have not had a single animal escape since my repair.

Friday I cleaned out the old big bales from the machine shop. They are light enough with some maneuvering I can get them about eight inches off the ground and carry them with the pallet forks using my new Kubota tractor. We will need to set up the full horse arena out by the grain bins to keep the alpaca away from the large hay bales we will have to store outside. I get about half in the machine shed and the rest outside. We feed the outside bales first so by the time the weather really gets bad we are feeding nice bales from the shed.

Our plan for the day was to work the cows and sheep. The rams needed to be pulled off of the sheep herd. Our house calendar says we should start lambing at the end of the month. This means the herd needs to be closer to the house. I am not sure that we are but that is what our calendar says. We still had two cows to tag and one to band. The upper five cows needed to be swapped with the lower cows. There is more feed above the house, there is also most likely a cougar. We lost four lambs again during this summer. A cougar has been spotted by several people but we have not seen it. Moving the fewer cows down below the house means they can work on the less available forage easier. The real problem with moving cows into field 2-4 is that we have to bring them in every night so we don’t lose any to a big cat. This choice has really been taken away since there is no rain. I noticed tonight that the running water that was going through all of field 4 is drying up about half way through the pasture. The most cows have to go to the most feed.

Annmarie, the child and Mr Professional all worked on animals. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was weeding the back garden then going out into the berry patch and doing more weeding. I do not believe that he would choose weeding as a primary task if he had a choice, but the weeding does need to get done. The thistles are trying to take over the berry patch. They went to get the cows while I moved the calf table in place and put up part of the horse movable arena around the calf table. We set it up so that we could just leave an open gate back into the corral and the calves would not run all over heck and gone. I used the new Kubota tractor with my pallet fork attachment, so amazing. Something that would have taken me an hour got done in 20 minutes. I am loving the pallet fork attachment, even if I can only lift 1100 pounds.

We put the sheep into the back barn lot Friday night so they were ready for us when we needed them Saturday. We pushed the upper sheep down and sorted off the steer/bull undescended testicle guy, we are not quite sure about his testicle status. Yes, a neutered cow,steer can still push out his penis. My record keeping skills are not the best in this area. We gave everyone pour over fly medicine and sorted the bull off and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls. We then moved all 16 cows from below into the corral. We did pour over on everyone and then tagged and banded two calves, one boy (our youngest) and tagged the “squirter” that got away last time. I had her in the chute with a lot of other cows and she was at the end. I just pushed her into more cows until she was pinned then reached over and tagged her. The calve we used the calf table and it went very smoothly. We will be using the portable fencing whenever we do this in the future. I had plans to build a permanent calve chute but honestly it was going to take forever and this is so much easier. After we pushed them up into field 4 (they can just walk into 2-3), we tried to push the four cows from the upper pasture through the yard into the orchard. This did not go well. Not well at all,as there was much yelling and dogs not cooperating or cows complying. Mr I Need a Belt bad left the gate into the garden open. We ended up with a five hundred pound cow jumping onto our elevated beds and watering system. There was a lot of screaming at him to get out of the berry patch and go shut the gate after the cow ran out. He was headed for that gate when more screaming ensued to make sure he had just latched the gate he had used to get into the yard as three cows were headed his way. He had latched it, he hurried with some prompting and got the gate closed. Later at quitting time we discussed the gate rule on a farm. Leave it in the position you found it unless told otherwise. You don’t need to know why just do it, there is a reason. We did get them down below where they belong.

We set up the barn so we could run the sheep down the chute then sort them on their way out. We only needed four sorted off to go into the orchard, two rams and two whethers. The sheep would not go down the chute. They bunched up in front of the opening and refused to go further. As we discussed options Annmarie noted that the boys were right in front of us. We just caught all four and pushed them into a pen. Our old ram is a gentle giant passive resistance is his greatest skill. He had to be pushed into the pen, they are all now in the orchard. We plan on letting the momma sheep work on the front hillside for a few days to clean it up.

There were quite a few disparaging remarks about the ability of the corral gates to open and to latch. We had some we could hardly get open and a couple that would not latch or you had to stand on the end of the gate to latch it. So Mr Professional and I spent a couple of hours and installed chains across the top of the corral chute and we did the same over some gates. We rehung four gates also to lift them out of the dirt. Not surprisingly the gates and corral work a lot better now than they did when we actually used them for animals. It was triple digit hot so we called it quits at 1500.

I had to go up with the tractor after dinner and put the cows in. They were already in field four but I did not want to have to go to the end of field four every morning to open the gate. I just pushed them into the back barn lot and in the morning we just need to open the connecting gate. It can stay open until the cows come back in again at dark. I figure in a few days they should have it down and will put themselves in every night. At least that is my fervent hope.

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.

Calves are coming!

Annmarie talked me into putting all the cows that are due to have calves in one field and locking them in so we actually know when they have babies. This is a new concept for me as I usually have them running all over the farm and we finally get to see a calf when it is 2-4 weeks old and its mother actually lets it wander around with her. Our first calf has been born and more should follow soon. Once the last one is born we can just run them all into the corral and band and tag them all at once. Doing it all at one time will be a nice change.

The sheep bridge I built was not in vain. Even though the sheep initially did not want to use it, they all pretty much line up to use it now. The ram still refuses to go across it, he jumps the back creek every time. Some of them feel that waiting in line is beneath them so they jump. The bridge is 10 feet across and barely spans the creek. I really need to build a 16 foot bridge. The flood really tore up the creek bed and widened the creek by about 50-100% in some areas.

Mr Professional and I spent a day laying block and gravel after I dug down to create a pad area for my mother-in-law’s new shed. The shed is coming prebuilt on a truck, the shed is 10×20 feet long and they should be able to just set in place now. Once the shed is in, we will work on building the ramp.

I am having trouble with a weed called a common mullein. I had to pull in a weed expert and figure out how to kill it. It looks like spot spraying with a lot of sticker and some roundup will kill it in its tracks. It is starting to spread and I had noticed that it was not dying with the 2-4-D & Milestone combination. I am loving the spray set up on the side by side but the side by side needs a ring job and it is burning oil. For every two tanks of gas I have to fill the oil. Sometimes I think I can kill the weeds merely by slowing down and letting them get a taste of the exhaust. I upgraded the spray motor last year dramatically and now get a nice continuous spray. I think we are going to add one more nozzle on each end of the boom.

I am going to have to break out the welder soon. I need to modify the stock rack for the pickup, the flat bed trailer locking tongue is cracking so a new one needs welded on and I need to extend the spray racks. Those are the current big things that need to be welded. There are lots of other little things but those things need to happen soon to keep everything running. We have to go pickup our new ram early this summer.

Spring is here, finally

I had big plans to get stuff done this weekend but you only have so much time in a day. On top of that its Easter weekend so we have a family dinner during the day and I don’t do any work. I know its not very common for me but I do take a day off occasionally. Since the beef needed to be cut up that occupied all of Friday. It took about ten hours to cut it and wrap it all, that included the clean up time at the end which is essential or the entire house will continue to smell like raw meat. The meat is incredibly pale and Mr Professional and I had steak, eggs and toast for dinner and it was amazing. Annmarie is busy all week with Easter and helped for a couple of hours before having to go into church. Our biggest problem is the two freezers are full! I had to move a lot of stuff around to make room for the unexpected beef. We filled the tractor bucket with all of the bones. Mr Professional was out after dark putting stuff in the pickup and heard a commotion at the tractor, the cats had figured out where we were piling the scraps! We have two cats living in the machine shed, we must need a few more since the mice got into the air intake on our side by side.

The side by side was ready to spray so I got moving early on Saturday and was out spraying weeds by 0830. I realize that this is not especially early but I did cook breakfast, sausage and waffles, first and then had to drop the panels over the back creek to keep the sheep near the house. We wanted them to be able to go up on the back hillside and eat. For two reasons, one the grass is growing and two they are eating lots of hay. Due to the changes in the creek banks from last years flooding I had to cut the panels to fit as they would no longer occlude the opening like they used to. While Annmarie was letting the sheep out onto the back hillside she asked me if I could see Big Brown, our old ewe. I did not spot her, but once Annmarie came into the yard she reminded me we put her into the orchard with the weanlings to give them some direction. We chuckled as both of us had forgotten this detail. Once that was done, I went out and sprayed. Our side by side has a 50 gallon tank on it and when it is full it makes steering the side by side very hard. The front tires are not really gripping the ground very well and any turn takes twice the normal radius. I need to get the welder up and going so I can make some tractor weight holders to mount on the front of the vehicle. This should help the steering immensely. I sprayed the orchard first by just spot spraying with the wand. It didn’t need the entire field but it did have some patches of thistles that needed to be killed. I found the old Big Brown ewe dead over by the far gate. She had died in the last 24 hours. I finished spraying out the first load of spray then went and picked up Mr Professional. He took the beef bones and Big Brown ewe up to the boneyard.

Once he came back from the boneyard and saw all the green grass and the flood damage he wanted to start planting the bare spots. I told him nope, the plan for the day was to spray weeds and finish the bathroom, nothing else!! We cannot get distracted, there is a lot to do and limited time to do it. We must prioritize or the necessary things will not get done. This is the sole reason to keep a running list of to do’s and keep juggling their priority. He finished installing the four boards in the bathroom and rehung the sliding door so it opens and closes correctly and stays shut. I did not have it level.

I managed to spray all of our upper field, #1 including the fence lines and the ditch. I even managed to get 1/2 of field number 2 sprayed. I also sprayed the triangle near the wheat fields that is a breeding ground for thistles. At one point I overfilled the tank and even managed to spray all the area behind the grain bins. The side by side really needs a ring job, it is burning lots of oil. Before the engine got warmed up I thought I could merely drive over the weeds and smoke them to death. I was getting ready for tank number four when all of a sudden our power went out. Mr Professional was upstairs and hollered to look at the power line, it was waving back and forth. Our up stream neighbor was having some trees cut down. So we drove up there to check and sure enough they dumped a tree on the power line but had no cell service, we drove back down th road until we got service and called the power company around 1330. We did not get power back until around 2315 last night. Before the power company was done they had 3-4 vehicles and a backhoe out there and ended up having to replace a power pole.

Since we had no power, Mr Professional and I went out to work on stringing up the new fence line that runs along the edge of the wheat field. I now use the 5000 foot bailing string to run fence lines and it is the best! We used the T-post tractor pusher to set the T posts, it is the slickest thing ever. We put a few extra right by the horse’s resting area so no one runs over it.

The sheep had gone down to the schoolhouse. My fence repair was supposed to stop that, but fixing the fence does no good when you leave the gate open! Luckily the sheep put themselves onto the back hillside with no prompting and the gate just had to be shut. They even came down and slept behind the barn last night with no prompting! As always, when the sun is out shining it is hard to tell a live alpaca from a dead one.

Sheep out to graze

Annmarie fed the sheep last evening while I started cutting the bridge parts. After we got the bridge installed we both walked up the hillside and attempted to push the sheep back into the ram pasture. The sheep were not really having any of this. We got them down near the creek but they would not cross the water. We finally gave up and Annmarie went and got the border collies. This was the first time this year they really got to work the sheep and there are babies! The babies are exciting and a huge distraction to the dogs. Mouse just would not settle down or listen. So basically he was a pain in the ass and pinned a lamb up against the fence. So now we will be taking a lead rope with us and when he fails to instantly comply he goes on the lead. He does not like the lead and we don’t like him playing an independent consultant.

The sheep did not appreciate the extent or amount of work put into placing and making bridges. Out of the 80+ sheep only about 6 used the new bridge and none used the first bridge I placed. The problem with them jumping the creek is they keep wearing down the bank where they scramble up it. I may have to add another bridge, but if I do it will have to be 16 feet long and it will have to be exactly where they are crossing and at the angle they jump across the creek. Otherwise our chances of compliance and usage will be abysmal.