Staycation 100% done

Well all good things must come to an end and I am no longer on vacation and am back to work. It has been busy so I was unable to post this on Sunday night. Annmarie got me to actually leave the house on Friday night and we went and visited friends and stayed the night. It was nice and now we are planning on them coming over to visit us.

Saturday when we got back we went right into sorting sheep. Our buyer from Elgin was coming over and we had to sort off his 20 lambs. They helped us sort everyone and we got theirs into the trailer and out the door. We now have our small herd of lambs out in the orchard. For some reason this year everyone has wanted a lamb. We have sold 13 lambs to local customers and 20 lambs to our Elgin contact. We have been discussing the prospect of expanding our sheep herd and shrinking the cow herd, the price of hay is going to determine what we do as it may not be cost effective to carry a bunch of cows through the winter. We then had to move the cows down to the lower pasture as they had laid over the fence and were walking around outside the fence. They thought they were starving. I did a 30 minute fix on the fence so the sheep could not get out and vowed to come back and fix the fence on Sunday.

On Sunday I went out to fix the laid over fence. This really meant that I had to dig and set eight wooden posts by hand as the fence was too close to the water to back the John Deere tractor up to the spot needing a hole. Instead I did it all by hand and even ended up putting a scoop of gravel behind every T-post to fill in the gap created by straightening the post. I had to tamp it all down to make the post rigid. I got all of them in but still need to repair one H brace as it is made out of round posts and one of them turned. This is of course the one with the chain gate tightener on it. This means the chain is so tight you cannot get it off to open the gate. Luckily, I don’t need the gate to open right now so this repair is going on the back burner.

Annmarie has started to work on the back garden and is getting things planted. We are going to have strawberries in one tower and herbs in the other. Currently, she is working out water inside the towers, the connections keep exploding and making a mess. She thinks she has a working plan now to fix it.

Tree killers

There is supposed to be another winter storm coming in the next 24-36 hours. The temperature is supposed to drop to 10F and we are supposed to get 8-18” of snow in the mountains which will again cut off all traffic through the area. So I spent the last two days doing projects as the weather is going to limit my choices again. I got the fuel pump all assembled and working! I just need to pump out the five gallons of diesel and treatment I dumped into each side of the tank then I can get signed up for diesel fuel to be delivered on a quarterly basis. It will be nice to not have to go and fill up five gallon cans every week during the summer. I used some more gravel to widen the driveway. I want to eventually use up all of the gravel so I can move the entire pile to behind the grain bins. Yes, I did go with a hand fuel pump, we don’t use so much that hand pumping 5-8 gallons really is not onerous.

Mr Professional came out today and we worked on cutting down the maple tree in the backyard. The tree is shedding leaves everywhere, shading our garden, and once we cut it down it was rotten to the core! It had a 8” patch in the middle of the tree that was dry rot. I was saving the trunk to get it cut for lumber but once we found the rot in the middle of the tree it was only good enough to throw on the burn pile. We removed about 60% of the upper branches and then tossed the rest over the fence so I could retrieve them and use them to build up our ”burn pile/quail cover”. The quail love the pile of wood so we are hoping that by building it back up they will choose to stay longer or even roost in it overnight.

We leveled off the area with the tractors, unfortunately the temporary fence that is no longer dog proof had to be torn down. So now Mouse will be able to freely just run back and wolf down all the cat food without anything slowing him down. I will be buying some fencing materials so we can fix this fence in a couple of weeks after the weather warms up again. Of course the faucet back there is leaking and will need to be repaired in the spring. The spring projects are starting to pile up! I am taking some time off work next month to come home and relax. I will be spending that relaxing time stripping and staining doors. Annmarie would like an upstairs bathroom door. Currently there is no door whatsoever.

On my way back to the machine shed I encountered one of our sheep having a seizure or had just gotten hit in the head. I watched it for a couple of minutes but it seemed to be coming out of it. By the time we had the animals fed and let them all into the barn he was inside wandering around the barn. So he was able to walk over with the rest of the herd all on his own. I will be checking on him in the morning. All 100 quail were in the driveway when I came home. They just cannot decide were to run and hide. It is a hoot to watch!

I am still messing around with the night time picture taking.

Making babies

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 got cold again

It has been a long week, the paying job is keeping me busy so I have not had a lot of time around the farm. I am trying to get the baler parts ordered now so when we start to hay we will have the necessary repair parts in case something breaks. I need to order some more plastic netting wrap also. In these times you have to plan way ahead of time. I waited too long to bale some of the hay last year and we have a lot of very near straw. So we are supplementing feed dramatically and I was feeding the sheep 3% of their body weight daily and am now feeding 4.5% with 1/2# of sweet feed per animal daily. We had one ewe with twins who got too skinny. She is now in a pen all by herself with all the food and water she can eat. I think she is too passive, not pushing her way into the food so everyone else is eating her share. Hopefully, we can get her fattened up since she has the all you can eat buffet and no competition for food. We should be killing animals soon and that will help with the feed supply. Getting the fields replanted and the hay figured out this year is essential to our next winter. Annmarie has been working on drafting out our five acres of irrigated pasture. She is laying out the pipe and heads and sizing everything including the pump to get us through the summer.

I went to town yesterday to get paint to finish the ceiling in the craft room after the water damage repair. I had to guess among the choices that Sherwin Williams said I had purchased in the past. I guessed wrong and ended up going from painting a 4×4’ section to painting the entire ceiling. The new color is whiter and brighter so that is a plus, but I had not planned on painting that much. Today I got the room cleaned up and usable again. Annmarie can start working on her loom again and get our new cover for wooden hall fridge completed. The antique fridge we use for hallway storage is pretty beat up on the top board, they tried to reseal the surface and got cloth fibers embedded. It needs a cover even after I scrubbed it clean.

I didn’t want to go outside for the entire day due to the temperature, 24F. So I worked on putting the new decorative windmill together. I had to watch a video to get it together correctly, I had the pieces mixed up. I was able to use the old cedar pole but I had to drill out a much bigger hole in the top of the 4×4 and then pound in a plastic bushing. The bushing had to be cut and sanded smooth to fit down into the hole. I used a broken wooden handle as a rod to pound on with a four pound hammer to get it to the bottom of the hole, then I used the intact second bushing to go at the top. I think its going to work but the 4×4 was flexing quite a bit in the wind, its 12 inches bigger than the old one. The old one pretty much disintegrated in the last 90 mph wind. The blades got torn up and they gouged the post also.

The new chickens are integrating well, when I went out this morning there was only one of them in the chicken coop, the rest were outside wandering around. In the last week I have only had to put one of them inside the chicken coop, the rest are getting in before the chicken door closes. I am getting almost a dozen eggs/day now. In the winter my chicken egg productivity is only around 35%. In the summer I go above 50%, but the year round production is what matters.

The wildlife is starting to move around. I saw a single coyote on the back hill side yesterday morning. It only stayed on the hillside for 30 seconds and then was gone. Our bunny is back!! We had not seen it for several months and thought an owl had eaten it. This is the normal cause of bunny demise around our place. I have now seen the bunny two evenings this week so it is officially back. We are hearing the owls again out in our big trees at night and early mornings. Spring is just around the corner and its only January 30!

Donna, Mother-in-law, wants to fix the corner fence down by four corners. So it will be getting new H braces, a new 12’ gate and a ditch crossing so we can add 1/2acre to the cows pasture area. Mostly this will just prevent this 1/2acre from being a weed patch like it has been. This will be a spring project unless it warms up for a solid week. It will need 12 railroad ties, one 12’ gate, 7 cross pieces for H braces, 12 high tension tighteners, one chain horseshoe latch, one roll woven 39” wire and one roll of smooth two strand wire, about 24 T posts with clips. We will use the 2×8” tamarack boards I bought for the corral extension. Those have come in real handy for fencing.

I am working on getting the fuel tank working. The tank is installed, copper grounding wire installed and the tank is sitting on four concrete blocks. I bought a hand fuel transfer pump yesterday but I was not able to get a water/sediment filter for 3/4” pipe, I will be ordering that, once that comes I will get hooked up with a fuel service for the farm and I will have 100 gallons of diesel on hand. I figure I will have to have it filled twice a year, not exactly a large account but it will be nice to have the fuel right here on the farm and I won’t have to keep filling five gallon fuel cans all of the time.

Back to fencing

We have all kinds of good news, we got new cell phones! This might not seem like a big deal but we are not into the latest and greatest for most things and had always been a model or two behind on phones. We finally decided to upgrade, with some coercion from a friend, and you can see the difference in our picture quality for the blog! Annmarie took the above barn picture at twilight just before it got totally dark. We never could have done that before so I am super stoked about getting some pictures I never could have before due to sun going down or just not up enough yet. On the plus side the battery lasts from 0400-2200 without a recharge and the old one would no longer do that.

I had to go into the barn and add a board as one of the mothers managed to crawl through the wooden boards on the side of the creeper area. She was trapped when I came out to let them out of the barn Saturday morning. I found a board, hammered it in and cut the end off. This opening was too large anyways as the babies could sneak out of the area also. This should solve both problems. Our new panels for inside the barn are still not available to order yet and we have only had one more baby! The mother was so crazy we marked her for culling in the spring.

Mr Tex has been coming out during the week for a few hours a day and stringing fence. We are trying to get that last fence up. On Friday I was able to secure three more ton of alfalfa hay. I need to up my summer purchase a few ton. We unloaded a ton into the barn. We were then just going to back the flat bed trailer into the lamb shed and park it. That way we did not have to unload it. Now I failed to take into consideration that despite the brilliance of this plan I had never parked the flat bed trailer in the lamb shed before. This is because the door is only seven feet wide and the trailer is 8.5 feet wide, I discovered. So Mr Professional suggested we use the forks on the new tractor so we did not have to move the 80# bales by hand. This was a brilliant idea and we unloaded the trailer four bales at a time and dumped them into the lamb shed. It worked very well and was much nicer than doing it all by hand. The barn part was unpleasant enough that in the spring we are going to bring out the 20 foot hay elevator and weld on it until we get it working properly. I want to use it to stack the hay this next year. We left the trailer out in the barn lot so the rams and horse could clean it all up, they had it spotless by the next morning. We were able to go out to the new fence area and install some wooden stays before it just got too cold. The fog moved in and it was dang chilly!

The next day Mr Professional went inside the house and matched the ceiling texture. It looks great and once we paint it you will never know we patched it. I had plans to go down and work on the H brace at the far end of the new fence and the gate but as soon as I got alongside the fence I realized that not all of the clips were installed. Mr Tex had stretched out the smooth wire but not clipped it in place, the woven wire only had 1-2 clips on it and we needed to finish it anyways. So I started clipping the fence in and working my way toward the far end. I got the entire fence clipped in! Mr Professional came out and we worked on stays for a large portion of the fence. We still have about 50% of the fence to install stays on and one H brace and to hang the end gate and it will be ready for the cows. Hoping to have it done by the end of the week. The spring up in field number three has started back up! This is great news, It is so much water that it is now running above ground.