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.

Just one thing outside…

Annmarie and I had been talking about my to do list for Saturday and I stated that the sheep really need to start going on the back hillside but with all the little lambs we thought there should be a bridge. I reminded her that the old bridge from the momma baby area had floated down into the orchard pasture and I could get it and drag it around with the tractor. We knew both the mommas and baby’s would use it as they did in the other enclosure. All I had to do was drive the tractor over, pick it up and drive it around and toss it over the water. I ended up digging out a place for our new gate in the front fence. I just need to bring in some gravel for it now and then dig one post. Once the post is in place I will support it back to the rock crib with 2×6 boards. We need a way to get the cows/sheep from the orchard into the corral easily and through the front yard hillside is a straight shot. We have fence and gates everywhere and I keep putting more in but it is finally to the point where we can start separating fields and animals pretty easily. Since the bull still managed to impregnate one of our cows through the bull enclosure fence the two fence rule is essential if we don’t want someone to get pregnant.

I did load the bridge onto the tractor and went around the barn lot. I made a stop to try and mess with a piece of culvert to use as a down spout so the water will quit digging a channel but the culvert was too heavy to hold up and then try and rearrange rocks under it. I tried a few times and then just gave up, I am going to have to have help to fix that problem. When I got to the old spring culvert crossing I dumped the bridge off of the tractor bucket and went down into the spring to move some rocks. I want the banks of the spring to dry out so I need to stop all backed up water. I removed about 12 rocks out of the stream flow to let it flow easier. Since I was there I started to dig out the footings for the Rastra with the tractor. I did that on both side of the 16’ gate. The culvert is 20’ long so I am going to set the Rastra 18’ apart and it is about 8” wide so the culvert will stick out a few inches on both ends. I used the extra dirt to build up the berm alongside the fence. I need to get that berm up about two feet so the back spring runoff cannot flood the barn lot again. Once that was done I did go put the bridge in place but it is only eight feet long and there was only a couple of places that it could bridge the gap. I placed it and hoped for the best.

Before I could let the sheep onto the back hillside I needed to make the rounds of the fence. I walked the entire length of the outer fence. I had to fix about six spots that were guaranteed to let the sheep out. Now just because I have fixed those spots it does not mean the sheep are contained. Honestly, they always seem to find a way out eventually. A couple of hours later I did spot the sheep on the back hillside.

The bridge location was less than ideal so I told Annmarie I should build another bridge. I have a lot of scrap lumber I purchased last year as a lot, it was made up of old discarded, broken or twisted lumber. I got a great price and they delivered it! I took a fairly twisted pressure treated 6×6 that was 20’ long and cut it in half and cut two foot sections of 2×6 lumber as decking, moved it all over to the creek with the tractor and found a crossing near where they normally cross. I could not install it on the angle they like because I would need about another 5’ to bridge the gap on a diagonal. I figured it was close enough. Annmarie fed me the pieces and since I am out of 3” screws I just did it the old fashioned way with long nails. I like to fence with a shingle axe. This tends to make people nervous when I am hammering in stuff with an axe and Annmarie was no exception when she had to stand on the boards. I did not hit her or me. It only took about an hour from start to finish and the bridge is absolutely solid!! I think if I lift it another ten inches on each end the spring runoff wont even touch it. I may have to make a little ramp for the lambs to get onto it. That can wait until later in the summer. Annmarie and I both appreciate it, much easier than climbing down into the stream bed and back out the other side. My twenty minutes outside project took me about four hours total!