Yesterday when I fed the sheep and cows there was no dead animal in the orchard. When I came home to feed this lamb was dead out by the feeding area. It had to have happened last night. The worst part of this is that it is only about 50 yards from two different houses. The lamb was attacked from behind and only the hind quarters were eaten. So now instead of 17 lambs left to sell this spring we only have 16. Odds are this was a coyote, but without pictures who knows. I have yet to invest in a predator call but after the last two summers and winters I am going to have to do some more predator control. Simply going from a 22 rule to a 243 rule in regards to how close to the house and lambs they are getting I may have to actively work to thin out the predators. Honestly, the reason I have not so far is laziness. I don’t want to be outside in the dark trying to call in predators. So we will be looking to see if this is a one off or else I will be forced to intercede to keep the lambs alive. Such is the wheel of life or death depending on if your card is getting punched.
We are trying to get ready for lambing season, it should start this month. We sorted off four weathers into Alcatraz and sorted the ram off of the ewes. He was starting to get fat and pushy. He wanted to sneak up on you and try and ram you. I had come to an understanding with him but the few times Annmarie went out in the evening to feed he kept trying to sneak up on her and head butt her. This is both annoying and dangerous. If he knocks you to the ground you can get stepped on if the sheep panic and start to bolt. They do not care what is in their way, they just jump over or on it as they run away. So we are hoping that a few months isolated in Alcatraz with a few like minded folks will mellow him out. We still have all the rest of the feeder lambs down with the three bulls. They all share the alfalfa bales.
The weather is all screwy, on Saturday the temperature got to 50F. Since it was a holiday weekend I ran to town to get more insulation and a belt sander. They did not have the precut insulation so I got two full rolls. We can cut our own sections. While I was there I priced CDX 1/2” plywood, it was $30/sheet, not cheap but the second room only needs 20 sheets to redo all the walls. This will be the fastest way to finish off the room and economical. This room is going to be a reloading and jewelry making room for me. I am going to use the old outer door from the new office to be my inner door to the old freezer room. I will still need a new back door but I want one with a window in it to let in more natural light. I still need to stiffen the outer wall in that room before a new door gets installed. I did buy a new 18” belt sander, it was cheap! I was amazed at the price on corded power tools, most were under $100. Everyone wants battery operated tools nowadays. I know I do but after looking at the prices I went with a corded belt sander as I am only doing one room.
I came home and started working on installing the overhead lights, this did not go well for me. I want to preface this discussion by saying I have never installed track lighting before. There are definitely a few learning curve points. I had to tear off the decorative cover three times and keep adjusting the power supply connector to the track. It was off center and this was stopping the decorative cover from sitting flush. I also installed 12 feet of track. Holding up an eight foot section while on a ladder from one end is not a realistic prospect. Luckily, the track comes in a cardboard tube. I cut it shorter and then jammed it under the track at one end and the floor and used it as a third hand to hold the track up while I adjusted and screwed in the opposite end. After many tries I got the track installed and lights on the track. One of the lights is missing a bulb so I ordered spares on Amazon. I then went to the center light. This also did not go smoothly. The light is heavy, the box is retracted about a half an inch up into the ceiling. I was trying to wire the light and hold it up at the same time. I finally just wired in the ground wire and hung the light from the ground while I tried to get the other wires together. This was not easy and in the end I ripped out the grounding wire. I fought with it some more, and gave up. Today I added extenders to make the holder sit lower and got the light installed. Now that I had two lights installed I went out and flipped the breaker to see how the lights looked! Nope, I forgot that I had daisy chained the power to all three lights and the beginning of the chain was the light I had not yet installed. So I flipped the breaker back off and went and installed the last section of track lighting. This time I only had to remove the cover one time to get everything in alignment. I went and flipped the breaker to see if the lights work and viola, two of three work! Big surprise the main one in the middle of the room does not work. I also had to adjust two of the track lights to get them to fit into the track correctly. The track lighting is dimmer than I expected. So Annmarie ordered a new light and I will get it installed this week.
Saturday, Annmarie wanted me to burn the boxes and Christmas wrapping paper, she was tired of it living in the hallway. This was valid and the wind was no longer blowing so I moved it all out onto the front porch and grabbed the only fire stick I could find. Mind you, I only needed to make two trips out of the yard to take all the boxes out to burn. The smart move was to latch the gate as soon as I went through but that would require me to unlatch the gate again. I thought I could just fake it and make the gate appear to be closed therefore fooling the puppy, Chance to not run out and play with the animals. She ran along the fence away from the gate, I kept trying to light the damn fire stick! It would not make a flame, after about 75 tries I hear chickens squawking. I look up from my failed task and the border collie puppy is running after chickens! She is having a great time and feathers are flying everywhere. I run over screaming and throw the failed fire stick in her direction, it misses and she then spots the lone sheep in the field and makes a bee line for it. I have now given up on screaming or running after her and just start heading toward the barn. She has the sheep all balled up outside the barn then pushes them all into the barn before I can get up to the barn. When I enter the barn she has them all balled up against one wall and is laying in the hay trying to decide if she should move them some more. I chased the sheep out of the barn and shut the door. Eventually, I manage to catch the puppy, there was a lead rope on the wall so I attach that to her and we go out and actually work the sheep for five minutes on the run. She did manage to realize that “easy” did not mean hit the end of the lead rope at a dead run. It took a bit but she is teachable. She was glad to go back in the yard and did not look abashed at all.
I really need to finish finish reinforcing the berm and digging a secondary ditch in field #1. It has been cold and now the rain is coming again. Instead I am going to focus back on the office! We had company come for Thanksgiving. So our old office is back to being a bedroom until after the holidays now with people coming and going. This means if I want to get the office stuff out of our bedroom then I need to finish the office! Mind you the office was only supposed to take a couple of months so we didn’t really organize the old clean out of the in house space and just moved it all into our master bedroom. This was a mere six months ago, minuscule on the house remodeling time scale, but still annoying. So Doom helped me out in the office on Friday. I messed up big time when I started that wall. I am installing tongue and groove and you always want to start at the ceiling and work down! Do not violate this rule. I for some unknown now reason did violate the aforementioned rule. This meant I needed to cross the door in the middle of the room. I have not idea what I was thinking when I did it! I have managed to cuss myself out several times in an attempt to fix my blunder. You know it’s bad when you have to cuss the previous contractor/remodeler and its you. Nothing is level or square, the house is at least 120 years old and only this room sits on a rock wall foundation. I have to compensate all the time. I know this, I am still dumbfounded that I made this decision. Anyways, after cussing out the noob again, Doom and I decided that the only way we were going to get the thing corrected was to just split the wall in half over the door frame. By the time I trim out the door and trim out the ceiling there will only be about two inches of the wall visible and the trim will draw your eye away from my blunder. You have to look closely at the picture to tell what we did. Sometimes it is all about being able to cover up or handle the oddities that an old house presents. I was working on the trim near the machine work room I made and the wall is so crooked that I had to lean the board up, and just trace the angle. I used the table saw to just follow the line. Without a tape measure your eye really does not notice the one inch difference, because the line is straight. I have learned that if I can look at something, figure out how to accommodate it and after install step back and it looks good/normal then the technique I used to cover up the oddity worked. Since I am installing wood with color variations and defects that helps a ton also.
The feeder sheep have finally decided they may need to actually come in and eat some hay. They have been out free ranging on the hillsides and bottoms and have not wanted any supplemental feed. Even the three bulls will go out and free range during the day. I don’t worry too much about the sheep not being able to get to the feed. They always find a way.
I got another raccoon. It had been living in the barn but it has been mighty cagey. So the count for the year is Predators 15, Farm 6. The predators are winning. I got six adult chickens online. I think one is a rooster! It was not obvious when I brought it home but it was a fairly juvenile bird. I am going to give it another month. If its a rooster then I will keep it and kill my old rooster. He is not accepting the latest batch of chickens. He gets a fungus on his feet and makes them look all weird. Sarah looked it up and it is a delicacy in some countries. The coyotes can have him from the bone pile. We are only getting 1-2 eggs a day now. I thought it was the raccoon, then the lack of light, but now I am unsure why no one is laying in the henhouse. So I am looking for another dozen laying or soon to be laying chickens. We have just enough eggs for us, no one else.
We were watching a movie last night. Our daughter took this picture of me highly engrossed in the captivating film. Putting up Christmas decorations just tuckered me out.
I tried to start the pickup yesterday without success. Since it rained an inch and I had the windows rolled down on the pickup and it had a dead battery there was quite a bit of water inside the cab. Not horrible but I was glad I did not have to sit on the seat. So I added drive to town to my list yesterday. I went out to the machine shed and worked on an alpaca fiber cleaner (sorta tumbler). We had purchased the items several weeks ago and I just needed to assemble them. The top pops off, you toss the fiber in, you hang it up, start it spinning and hit it with the leaf blower to get the dust and debris out of the alpaca fiber so it can be spun into something. I ruined a great new large plastic bucket to make this. Annmarie has been wanting this since spring. I figured since I was going to town I should get new bolts for harrow/seeder. This turned out to be near impossible. The bolt is metric size 10x40mm with fine machine threads that happen to have a 1.25 pitch. I could not find anything with a nylon lock nut for this size bolt. It needs a lock nut and it cannot have a widened flange on the bolt as it sits down and locks into place so you can screw in the bolt without a second wrench. No way to fit a second wrench of any kind up where that nut lives. So I am going to look online and if that doesn’t work then I will order it from the tractor company who will have to order it from Italy, ugh. I cannot find a partially threaded bolt M10x40mm without a flanged head or flanged nut and nut needs to be locking, fine threads and 1.25 pitch on the internet, mind you I only spent 15 minutes looking for one bolt and gave up. Io amo I’Italia!
I was able to buy a new battery for the pickup. As soon as I had it installed I rolled the windows up! We topped off the night by Annmarie cutting an open front box for the safe and a upright for the far side on her laser cutter. The box joints are so tight it took me about 15 minutes with a nylon hammer and some assembly/disassembly machinations to get it together. I got it all installed in the old safe. Today we slipped a note and a dime from 2022 under the new carpet we installed so 50 years from now someone will know how we got the safe! The thing is still hard to get into, it only took me three tries to get it open! On average I would say it takes us about 20 minutes to get it open, it is not something you get in on a regular basis. But since we have all of our legal paperwork stuff in there and our passports the 20 minute time is a concession we are willing to pay. The top shelf is original and we added the new carpet and bottom box and right hand support. It looks cool!
I brought in all of the sheep feeders into the barn yesterday. I need to shorten them for Annmarie and the ground is wet so it was a perfect time to cut the metal outside. The problem was I could not find the right grinder. I found one but discovered I had managed to lose a piece that is necessary to hold a cutting blade in place. I had taken it off to attach a metal cleaning wheel. I finally gave up and started in on the alpaca cleaner and as I was finishing that up I found the correct grinder. It was time to go to town by then, I will get it later in the week. I kept the sheep locked into the barn lot today to see if they would spread out the grass/bedding I had tossed out yesterday. I just dumped unrolled bales all around the barn with the hope that the sheep would spread it out. They did a fine job! I did notice that I forgot to install the 2×4 board at sheep back high to keep the horse out of the barn. The horse bends down and gets into the bar with the sheep otherwise. I put the board up today. Horse poop can pile up pretty quick!
Today we ended up cleaning out the back garden and tossing it over the fence so the sheep can clean up the leavings. They will eat everything down, if the chickens are not fast they will not get any green tomatoes. Besides, the chickens don’t deserve anything special. I am getting 2-3 eggs/day from 11 hens. On top of that, one of the cheeky buggers is an egg eater! I keep finding eggs with a little hole poked in them and the inside eaten out. I am not sure who it is yet but I do need to figure it out. Annmarie gave an injured alpaca update, his eye is open. He still has an eyeball from the pictures but it looks like his right cheek may be swollen. Since we can no longer just go to the farm supply store and buy penicillin we will keep watching him.
The bull was kind enough to crawl through the fence on the upper hillside while we were inside in the kitchen today. He has a spot just past the second large wire rock crib. He just ducks his horns down to the ground, pushes forward and lets the panel rub across his back as he moves forward. I now know where to fix the fence if I ever get time to do it.
I finally had to cry uncle and take some time off of work to get stuff done around the farm. I had worked six weekends in a row and winter just keeps getting closer. I have several projects to get done. The first one I am attempting to complete is to get some flood control and water management ditches dug. It seems I always wait until it starts to rain then it is so muddy I cannot get any dirt moved. I have managed to dig ditches out in pasture #3 and #2, they are all ready to go. I have managed to get all of the roadside ditch done in field #1. This way when the flood comes from upstream over the road the ditch will catch it and let it flow back to the creek and not out through our pasture. I still need to finish the secondary ditch alongside the field so that if the creek bank gives (like it has the last two floods) there will be a secondary ditch and another dirt berm to keep the water from flooding out into the field. This has been a lot of tractor work. I have about 40 hours into just tractor work alone moving dirt. I am hoping to have the ditches finished in 1-2 more days then I am going to hook the mower up, mow weeds for a day then start dragging a disc around and then planting more grass and a couple of fields of triticale hay. I even have some fertilizer that I want to toss out this fall.
The ditch digging is really letting me get through the books on tape! I can get a whole book listened to every 1.5 days. At the current rate of diesel consumption I am going to have to get the diesel tank filled for a third time this year!
I also need to rearrange the machine shed and get all of the equipment under cover and out of the weather. I have nine days off so I am going to make the best of it and I may have to take some more time off to get everything done. I did let the sheep into the front yard and get in a good mow down on the yard. I think I will have to do it one more time this year before winter sets in. A few of the ewes are pretty skinny. We did not get all of the old ones culled and boy can you tell who is old and decrepit. The new ram is fitting right in. He did wait until I turned my back on him yesterday before hitting me in the leg with his head. He only did it once and it did not knock me down so when I swatted out at him and he dodged it I did not pursue smacking him. I just let it go.
I found another dead lamb in field #3 yesterday. We have been spotting a coyote up on the back hillside but have been unable to get a shot at it. I may have to actually get a coyote call and start taking some time to thin the coyotes. Time is the most precious commodity I have when it comes to chores on the farm.
We had to tag and band the last two calves that were born late. We ran them up to the corral today and separated off the two babies. The nephews were out working on their grandma’s deck so they took ten minutes and helped us. Calf number 35 yellow tag is really a girl not a boy. I had two boy tags and placed the ear tag before I checked the gender. We separated off the bull and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls and then pushed all of the cows into the upper fields as there is a lot of green grass after that last rain. Tomorrow I am going to push the three bulls down by the schoolhouse. There is not as much grass down there but for three cows there will be plenty. We can keep the two fence between rule going so we should not have any winter surprises. I keep seeing at least two large covey of quail when I go up to the far end of the property. We will see how many survived when they all band together this winter.
The back creek finally dried up a week ago. That is the latest it has ran since we have moved back to the farm.