It was a holiday weekend so I had an extra day off. I had all these plans on accomplishing tons of things, this did not happen. I did get some stuff done but not as much as I envisioned. I also ended up with a couple of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are not pleasant and this weekend was no exception to that rule. I spent Thursday and Friday finishing digging out the barn. Hoss went to play in the mountains for the holiday so I finished digging out the barn the first day and then spent the next day moving piles of straw and sheep manure onto our compost pile. We have two piles and the old pile is almost ready to be distributed as soil. It takes 2-3 years to break down the straw and manure into a usable substance.
Meathead came out and sheared the dogs. Annmarie asked her to use a longer blade and she did not want to shear their tails. She is opposed to them having rat tales. It is easier to keep the cheat grass out of their hides with a shorter coat.
We went out and covered one of the plum trees on Saturday. It is loaded and the bats are out at night and Annmarie is hoping this will keep the bird and bats away from the fruit. We looked at the other trees but they do not have very much fruit on them. I will need to shape the trees this winter and we are going to shorten the tree skirting. We are talking about putting the two bully alpacas out with the three sold eating cows. This way we only have to skirt the trees for the sheep and not alpacas or horses.
We have a lot of thistles in the orchard so I am going to push the entire sheep herd into the orchard for a few days to eat the entire field down, then I will work on killing thistles again.
I got the post hole auger installed on the tractor Saturday and had plans to dig all the post holes on Sunday. Unfortunately I decided that I needed to weed eat the front driveway as the cheat grass and weeds were getting out of control. I moved the pickup back out of the driveway as it was covering weeds. I left my car in place and Annmarie was at church. On one of my trips to the pickup for weed eater fuel I noticed that my car window was busted out! Now mind you I had goggles and hearing protection on but the rocks getting kicked up from the weed eater were pelting me and they hurt. It did not occur to me that I would blow out a window on my car while trying to make the driveway neater. This sucks and now I have to get it replaced.
I did finally get on the tractor and go out and start trying to drill holes in the ground. The first five holes I only managed to get about 2-4 inches down. I did not have a bucket but will bring one up and start filling the holes with water. I will need to do that for a few days to soften up the dirt. Once I got down into the bottom fields the soil was actually muddy once I got six inches below the surface. This would explain the weed jungle that I have in the upper field. It is so bad I cannot even mow it. I have the tractor bucket fully raised at 8 feet and the weeds are still taller. The plan is to get the fence up around this field and to push the sheep up in the morning and bring them in at night. Our hope is the sheep can tear it up and thin it out so I can get the mower through it. There is still a muddy area in the middle of the field that I cannot drive the tractor through. Our hope is the sheep will knock it down enough I can get the tractor in to see the wet areas and dig a few ditches to let it drain better. I got 9 holes completed and five started, only 12 more to go.
On the way back to the house I noticed our three feeder cows out of their fence. The gate had not been latched correctly and they got out. I had to move gates around and get them pushed back into their pasture. The gate is latched correctly now.
My hope is that Hoss and I can get some fencing done this week, time will tell.
Being born must be really confusing. This morning, I was all dressed for work and headed down the driveway. I habitually look over the animals on my way out, and this morning I found something that made me stomp on the brakes. We had a new lamb in the orchard. We were kind of expecting this, since at least one of the little ewes we had put into isolation with the ram turned out to be old enough for him to be interested. But, we were about a week off in our timing. This normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the lamb was not snuggling up next to momma. No, the lamb was attempting to snuggle up next the the (male) alpaca.
Momma kept calling and trying to get the lamb to come to her, but the alpaca was unhelpfully friendly and attentive. I called Steve and told him he needed to come home and help me isolate the pair. Then I backed the car up so I could go change out of town clothes and into work clothes.
Now the sheep are in the orchard with the two trouble-maker alpaca, and all our gates, panels, and sheep isolation paraphernalia is in the barn. So out to the barn I go. On the way out, I devise a plan that involves the two brown gates we had purchased this winter placed in a corner of the orchard to make a pen. We would have to arrange for water, but the ewe would have plenty of feed, and we could choose a corner with a tree for shelter.
Once I got into the bar, it became clear that my plan has a flaw. Unbeknownst to me, Steve had used one of the brown gates in the new fence, so only one of those was available. I wrestled that one out of Steve’s storage place under the stairs, and packed it over to the orchard anyway. I figured Steve would be home soon, and he’d want to “discuss” my plan anyway, so we could figure out how to improvise the missing gate.
As I was wrestling the gate into the orchard, I realize I was quiet. I noticed the alpaca had moved off away from the sheep, and the little black ewe appeared to be laying down. I went out to the road so as not to disturb anyone, and walked down to Mom’s so I could get a better look. Sure enough. I found the ewe laying down, and could just make out the lamb’s head on the far side of her. Apparently the alpaca had lost interest, and momma was able to convince baby that she/he was a sheep. Steve arrived just in time for me to tell him that all was well.
I took the time this week to do a couple of little projects before we left for the weekend. There was an old 4×4 post that used to be bolted to a post that had old ceramic insulators installed at the top. The barn and old lamb shed used to have knob and tube power. I pulled the old copper wire out of the spring a few years ago. I had taken down the post as it had rotted away and saved this 4×4. I was going to mount a bat house to it at one point but while cleaning out the machine shed I found an old decorative windmill. I washed it all down with some water and applied some fresh grease. I had the metal sleeve also so I was able to drill a hole in the end of the wood, which turned out to be a solid piece of cedar!!! This would explain why it did so well laying on the ground for the last four years. I greased up the metal sleeve and after installing the windmill it just sat there and didn’t move. A couple of hours later the wind picked up enough to break everything loose and the windmill started to spin and it pivoted on its wood post. I was able to use some of the old lag bolts I picked up all over the farm. I found a railroad tie that was level and had not been pulled over during fence construction. I love it. Once Annmarie spotted it moving around she was surprised at how well it fit. Another fine example of a repurposed item. I finished it just before a rainstorm hit.
Wednesday I killed a couple of hours prepping for more fence. We are having so much trouble keeping the animals in when we cross the stream that I have started to look at ways to just avoid the crossings. We have a five acre spot on the hillside that has not been fenced off yet. Last year we redid the upper fence and started trying to drive posts down the hillside. The hillside is pretty much solid rock so it was not easy. I am hoping that we can get another 6 T posts on the hill. I took the tractor and using the box blade cleared a place for the rest of the downhill side. We will need about 12 more railroad ties to get this fence completed. We have more than enough T posts after picking up another 200 from the scrap yard. The scrap yard has 4 huge rolls of woven wire set aside for me so. I will be picking those up this week. It is enough wire to complete this new fence. This addition will help us with the sheep. They will be able to use the water from the barn lot.
Prior to us leaving this weekend we moved all the sheep into the orchard. There are 100+ sheep in the barn lot now. You cannot really tell that looking at the picture below. This way Tex doesn’t have to put them in and out of the barn lot while we are gone. He is watching and feeding the animals while we are gone.
The best part is he is also cleaning up the spring area and working on the short section of new fencing we started three weeks ago. It should almost be done by the time we get home. It’s the best way to fence.
Mother Winter is finally giving up her grip on the weather and spring is trying to come out. For the fifth day in a row we have had above freezing temperatures during the day. This is allowing the snow to melt off at a slow rate. A slow rate is the rate we want. I have been out in the machine shed counting bales of hay to see if we are going to make it. We are going to make it for the cows just barely! We have been feeding the cows twice a day with all this snow on the ground. This morning when I went out and fed there was still hay from last night on the ground. The cows had not cleaned it up. We will go back to feeding the cows in the late evening. This forces them to forage during the day and ensures they have full bellies during the night when it gets cold. It is still freezing every night and dipping down into the low 20’s. I had to go over to Feedeville and buy another ton of pellets for the sheep. This time I picked up alfalfa pellets and more Kountry Buffet, an all purpose general feed. I would have gotten more Kountry Buffet but they ran out. There has been quite the rush on feed with this sudden extended snow storm deposits. It is incredibly expensive to feed this way but we are now getting enough calories into the mothers that they are starting to put weight back on. They don’t usually do that until the grass comes up and they get an all you can eat buffet.
I was sick all day yesterday and slept most of it. I blame my fellow coworkers for spreading the plague. I did manage to move 2400 pounds of food bags from the back of the pickup into the barn and chicken coop. I picked up 300# of chicken food for $12.75/50# bag, this is a good price but unless I buy a ton at a time (40 bags) and save another $1/bag its not really worth the drive. I like having the ton on hand but I hate the mice problems and despite $30 worth of poison traps for the mice they go right for the chicken food and avoid the traps. If I could find flat sheets of sheet metal to mount to the inside walls and floors of the chicken supply room I would feel better but that won’t be an easy task.
I will keep my open when I go to the scrap metal yard next time. I am due to go back and pick up some metal soon. If this 45-50 degree weather keeps up it will be time to start fixing fence soon. One of the barn cats has figured out she stays warm if she sleeps under the round feeders. After the sheep feed they settle down around the feeder and give off heat. The hay is dry and comfortable under the feeder and no one can step on her. It is a recent development and one that she keeps repeating. Our large orange barn cat is starting to mellow out. He stayed in the barn, sitting on a ledge, today the entire time I was working. He used to run immediately to the hole under the barn as soon as he saw us. I guess he likes being fed, I have not seen a single mouse in the barn this winter. Having the cats has made a huge difference. We found another dead cat on the place and have been seeing a raccoon again. I had a single chicken die this week but we think it was due to old age. Very soon we will be getting baby pullets. I just need to place the order.
We are currently trying to fill out paperwork to get a loan for the haying equipment. This is proving to take several hours of our time. Will see how it goes.
We need to start tracking our tractor usage by run hours. At start of March we had 730 hours.
It started this weekend, it was supposed to be nice and steady but it came in like a wrecking ball! I spent over 10 hours outside on Sunday trying to clear snow from our driveway. This was complicated by the fact that on Friday our tractor bucket just quit working. I could not move the bucket at all it was stuck on the ground. So I just drove it around and pushed snow with the bucket on the ground. Not ideal and took longer than normal but it worked. The only problem with this is Annmarie parked her car outside of her mother’s house and it got stuck. I went down to drive it out and got it stuck worse. So we just parked it and when the snow melts we will get it! Next year we put the stud tires on even if there is no snow. It just kept snowing, it was horrible. We used to live in the Rockies, but I sold our track driven 8 HP snow blower in Moscow because we just did not need it. If the tractor worked we would be fine.
On Monday I was trying to clear another 6 inches and got the tractor stuck down by the cow gate. Annmarie had already had to pull me out with the pickup once 30 minutes earlier. So I called her again and she tried to get me out to no avail. She almost got the pickup stuck and had to apply a judicious amount of gas pedal to get it to clear out of its predicament. I tried to call the Tractor dealer to get them to come pick it up for repair but the phone was busy all day. So now we have two vehicles stuck!So now that the tractor is stuck we are using the pickup to move hay to the cows. The problem with this is you have to carry the hay about 100 feet. We are just tossing it over the fence, I usually feed farther into the pasture but I am not walking and carrying hay that far. It takes about 12 trips to get two bales fed. We feed two bales in the morning and two at night when there is snow on the ground, no snow they get three bales.
Its supposed to snow more, if we get another foot we are so screwed. If only the tractor worked!
The poor ram is the largest sheep in the barn and he gets pushed around the most! When we toss out hay into the feeders the ewes just keep pushing until they have taken over all head space and he gets squeezed out. He has maintained his casualness. Annmarie even saw him acting as a hill for the lambs and they were jumping all over him.
I have a friend who wanted a few lambs but we are going to sell her the ewes that are pregnant and off cycle. She gets pregnant sheep and we get rid of the off cycle sheep. Its a win-win situation.
We have been feeding the quail one quart of bird food on our back hillside first thing in the morning. This snow makes getting to food hard for the birds. We now see them several times a day digging through the snow looking for seeds.
The quail have discovered our yard. We like this as we get to see them and the dogs seem to ignore them. The only real problem is our very large living room windows look out onto the yard. The stupid quail think they can fly through the window! I heard a large crash in the living room and ran into it from the kitchen, there were feathers on the window but by the time I got to the window the cat had already managed to pounce on one stunned quail and bit it in the neck killing it. I saved the other one but it had broke its neck and was dead so I didn’t really save its life. We would love to have 50+ quail flying around all over the farm, instead we have about 15 now flying around and we are two more short now.
I snagged this picture of all the pregnant ewes the day before they started popping out babies. They were very interested in eating as much hay as possible and ignoring me. I had just thrown out another bale of straw a few days before this picture.
The lambs are coming fast and furious now! Annmarie is on winter break from her job and is going out to the barn three times a day to deal with all the new babies. We have had one ewe deliver one baby, one triplets and one quadruplet. We have only had to bummer out one lamb and he was from a twin set. The mother is not very good about raising more than one lamb. We need to cull her. The quadruplets seem to now be triplets and the fourth lamb is now with one of our older mothers that only had a single baby. She is now nursing two lambs and everyone is very happy. So we have 16 lambs and 8 ewes feeding them. We still have 30-32 ewes left to give birth. We usually have about a 135% birth rate but we are over 200% now. If we keep that up we will end up with 80 lambs and 40 ewes! That is a lot of sheep. I will be super happy with a 150% birth rate. In a couple more days we will start letting the older babies go outside with their mommas into our limited outside newborn enclosure. This is our set of triplets. All the babies but three are solid chocolate brown. Three of them are spotted white and brown and very cute. One of those is a girl as I checked while getting lamb snuggles today. We may keep her. Her mother is super relaxed and calm which is what we are looking for in a breeder ewe. Annmarie and I went to town tonight and got two 8 foot gates so we could use them in the barn. Annmarie wants to order some twisty hinges from our sheep products supply company and I will be cutting 4×16 foot 3 inch square panels into 4×4 foot sections for her to arrange in any pattern her heart desires. The small panels make it easy to move parts all around the barn. I will need to grind off the sharp edges after I cut them with bolt cutters. We will order the twisty things when we order some liquid marking paint. Our hope is the ewes all have their babies in the next seven days.