The needed but dreaded sorting of animals

It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task.  Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired.  Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house.  They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around.  Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn.  This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up.  This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen.  He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle.  Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me.  He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me.  It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral.  The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate.  We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy.  The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed.  Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out.  I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure.  We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows.  The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant.  We are going to eat him this winter.  Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does.  I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.

 

I am going to have to work on the corral next year.  When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute.  I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do.  The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out.  I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily.  I will shrink the chute back up another three inches.  I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation.  The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field.  They have lots of food and fresh water.  This will get them two fences away from the bull.  The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat.  Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.

 

Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep.  The sheep were a lot harder.  First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112.  Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting.  On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until  the numbers stabilized and matched.  It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify.  I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep.  We thinned the herd again hard this year.  It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years.  The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48!  Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram.  This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows.  We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers.   We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up.  The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity.  It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.

Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater.  It is out of control and our mower needs more work.  The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek.  The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding.  It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid.  We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy.  We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up.  We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek.  A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.

We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house.  I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed.  We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing.  The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap.  I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates.  Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.

Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out.  She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead.  LOL.  The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week.  .

 

 

 

Flood damage repair still

The chickens are enjoying the weather and all of this rain.  We have moved the compost dumping area down the fence line about 15 feet in an effort to get the chickens to work down the weeds.  I have been trying to recycle 50# of dried rice used to dry out electrical equipment into chicken food.  I use the rice cooker and give them 8-16 cups of cooked rice a day.  I have been at it for two weeks and have half the rice gone maybe.  Even the chickens are getting tired of rice at every meal, they will run over eat a little bit then run away.  They do forage on the rice all day and eat it eventually but if that were cat food I was tossing out they would eat it until it was gone every time. 04E110F3-9383-4A26-A4BD-A1649619DB3B

My spare parts for the haying equipment came this week also.  Unfortunately, they did not have all the parts I asked for but I took what they sent me.  It tends to take about 3-4 weeks to get parts from the company so I went through and looked at the parts I have already broken and the parts that may break and have started a list.  The company did a great job of labeling each set of bolts and nuts so I know exactly what they are.  I have them separated out into containers with sharpy labels on the outside.  My goal is to get another 2 metal cabinets and use two of them for parts only.  I want to dedicate half the cabinet to each piece of hay equipment so it is easy to find and won’t get lost since I have to have so many parts on hand.

I am having trouble with my front left tire that fell off.  I was getting ready to go to the upper field with the arena groomer when I noticed that the same tire had two lug nut bolts missing.  Luckily, the wheel had not fallen off again.  I had picked up six bolts from the tractor store and put two back in and tightened down everything. I am going to have to figure out why this is happening.  The new tractor seat came in, it is thicker than the old but I need some kind of shock absorber on it now so the ride is smoother.  more internet shopping time is needed.  The first seat lasted seven years and the tractor spent more time out in the sun than under cover.  Since we have gotten the machine shed cleaned out the side by side and the tractor are parked inside away from the sun whenever they are not in use.

Mr Professional and the Future NASCAR driver have been working on the cross fence in the barn lot.  All three of us went up there and got it finalized.  I still need to get into the spring path and dig out some more mud but it was so bad that I kept getting stuck in the tractor.  I made a deeper pathway that is only about 1 foot wide and will let it dry out for few weeks before I go back at from the sides with the tractor.  I want to build up the embankment on the northern side so when the water comes rushing down it will get pushed back and over the embankment.  We still need to cut the final cow panel to fit to the bottom of the gully but not until I reshape the gully to accept more water.  So we just used the bent one from the flood and will address it later.

The ram started to favor his front left leg four days ago but would not let us touch it, we could get close enough to pet him but not pin him.   He is also over 200 pounds and all muscle with some fat and is not going to let me just pin him to look at his foot.  We ended up just moving all the boys from Alcatraz to behind the barn into a nice dry lot and watered them in the corral. This got the ram closer to our chute were we could pin him in place.  We did this in the evening and then let them hang out all night by the next morning the ram was already putting weight on the leg and looked dramatically better.  There was just too much moisture in Alcatraz.  I spent a couple of hours with the box blade and manure forks and cleaned up Alcatraz.  I now have two piles of mud, straw, hay and poop that will need to be moved out and mixed in the new barn floor contents when the barn gets cleaned out.  I really need a manure spreader but they are expensive.  I need a good used one, which leads to the I need a welder discussion as stuff keeps breaking and I need to be able to repair it.

It took me about 10 hours between two days to get the upper prime squared field all cleaned up.  I used the manure forks to pick up the large piles and used the arena groomer to pick up the low grass and spread out the mud.  The grass is trying to grow back but cannot get through the mat of mud and grass left by the flood.  I had to go over each section repeatedly as the groomer would fill up with grass fast.  I made two big piles out in the middle of the field and took everything close to the water over to my berm I am constructing alongside the spring.  The berm is going to be 2-3 feet high.  The water here only got about 18-24” deep so I think it will be enough to keep the water going to where I sort of want it.  This should lead to only about 1/3 of the field getting flooded and none of the next field being flooded.  Don’t get me wrong, I still installed flood break points in the cross fences just in case it does jump my berm.  I don’t want to have to come back and redo all this fence again. The built in weak points will keep the whole fence from getting flushed down or pushed over.

The manure forks have been another amazing purchase!  If I knew how handy they would be I would have done it years ago.  The best part is they only cost $250!  I have used them extensively to help clean up the flood debris and am actually looking forward to how they work when I clean out the barn.  I may be able to just drive in scoop out some stuff and drive out with it instead of trying to push it all out one of the two doors and then pick it up with the tractor.  If the rain ever stops the barn will get cleaned out.

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I guess I will work on bathroom again

Sometimes I struggle with what is real important information for the farm blog.  It may appear that farm life is a mere repetition of the same type of themes, what is growing (animals or plants), how is it maintained and how is it harvested.  I would actually agree with this theory.  It is basic, at its core all life is basic, we all yearn and strive to ensure the basics are fulfilled so that we can concentrate on the other things.  So that being said I have determined that minutiae is important, even critical as it breaks up the normal routine.

That being said I now have self granted permission to boast about my rock chuck dispatching.  I spotted it running across the ram pasture, minding its own business.   They live up on the hillside in a large pile of rocks and when they start venturing out and I start seeing them we know there are too many.  They are usually fairly reclusive and avoid the house.  I had to get dressed before I could go outside (it was chilly and clothes are really vital when it is that cold outside). I then had to run upstairs and grab my 117 hmr rifle.  I have not shot this gun much but it has reach that the 22fLR does not and the little digger was about 50 yards away.  I snuck around the house and spotted it down by the creek, I realized while looking through the scope that I need a new scope. This one is not very good and my father spoiled me with Leopold scopes my entire life so I am adding a new scope to my wish list.  One shot and the little digger was dispatched.  They are so reclusive that you usually only get one shot before they all hide for the entire day.  One may ask what did it do to me?  All you need to do is come out and fix some of the fence and rockcribs that have been ruined by them digging holes and you would know.  I don’t go out of my way to eradicate them but population controls are necessary for all the animals on the farm including the ones we don’t raise.  A few animals of any kind are not usually a problem, but a lot of any one type of critter takes a lot more management effort.  The fox has not been spotted in the last two weeks and I have not lost any more chickens but I suspect that the fox is still up and doing fine as it has no predators.  We will keep our eyes out.  I spotted both of our barn cats slinking out around the barn lot this weekend so the fox has not managed to get either of them.

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Saturday I decided to do some odds and ends chores to play catch up on the little things.  I hung seven yellow jacket traps out around the house and orchard.  We are hoping to cut down on the yellow jacket population this summer and keep them away from our ripening fruit.  I will also be spraying all of the nests so they do not gain a foothold.

I used the tractor to drag the colored tire pieces over to the future lavender patch.  The bag weighs almost 1100 pounds and my tractor will only lift 800 pounds.  Luckily, it was on a pallet so when I drug it off the pallet it was just touching the ground and I was able to drag it over to its new location.  The four legged 120# cats (alpaca) bum rushed the gate to the orchard as soon as I had it open.  They are so inquisitive that it is painful at times to keep them away from things you don’t want them in.  You cannot let them touch it with their lips or let the gate be open or they will touch it or go through it no matter what is on the other side.  While I was over by the future lavender patch I killed all the thistles with a shovel.  I just need to to roll out the ground cloth and start piling on the rubber bark to hold it down.

I also went out into the orchard and cut all the metal tree rings in half with the bolt cutters.  I was unable to finish tearing them down as I did not have any fencing pliers.  I need two of them to go around the new kiwi plants and then I will have five more ready for more fruit trees.  I will probably dig holes and install the other five rings so I am ready for more fruit trees.  I am on the lookout for 1-2 standard size apricot tree saplings.  Since I had the bolt cutters I also trimmed a piece of  cow panel to go under the orchard gate to prevent Zeke from digging under it and escaping the new orchard fence.

Annmarie offered to grill dinner as we are getting tired of eating beef, pork or lamb from the stovetop.  Unfortunately, I needed to do the spring cleaning on the grill and to make matters worse I cannot use the grill.  No matter how many times I have tried to use the little grill I have messed it up.  The last two times I have even failed to get it lit properly (it’s a little pellet grill).  So I spent an hour cleaning it all up and making it spiffy and nice so Annmarie (the pants wearing variety) could run the grill and make us dinner.  This has really been the story our entire life.  I do not have the patience for the grill and never really learned to master it or even barely use it.  I have embraced this knowledge and let Annmarie do all the grilling for us.  Even now, I am making the rice and steaming vegetables while she is out grilling us chicken pieces in peanut satay sauce that I trimmed and marinated this morning.    After I cleaned the grill I washed and cleaned off the back porch siding to make a nice neat area.

Yesterday afternoon I went out and collected two more hay samples for Annmarie to test.  The weather has just not been cooperating I need 3 good solid warm and windy days all in a row and have not had it since I cut the grass hay.  She got 39% and 43% which is better than the last time we tested but still not low enough to bale.  I went out on the tractor and turned it one more time.  I am getting used to the hay rake and it only took me 2.5 hours to turn all 7 acres.  This was of course negated today by the 21/100” of rain that we had pour out of the sky.  I will be looking at turning the hay again in a couple of days.  I think its supposed to rain every 1-2 days all week long.  This is not helping my haying abilities.

After dinner we had to go outside and use the dogs to chase the sheep off of the back hillside.  I have not yet dropped the panels down into the back creek as I keep expecting us to get a bunch of water runoff from the mountains.  It is now Mid May and we still have a low Stewart creek so after the dogs did their job I lowered the first set of panels down into the creek bed to stop the sheep from escaping.  I have three other creek crossings that I am going to leave up for now.

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So today was a lazy day except for the bathroom, I cut the single hardest piece of wood yet, it had part of an arch from the top of the mirror, a light outlet notch and I had to cut out around the door all on one piece of wood.  The real problem is there is about 1/2” difference on height between the mirror sides.  I cut a template three separate times and had to make two attempts at the board and finally had to bring the jigsaw up into the bathroom to make a couple fo final adjustments.  I got it in, its not perfect but it is the best I could do and I suspect most people will not notice the gap.  If I cut it in half I could have covered it up or if I rip apart the right side of the mirror and slowly add in some space I could make up the difference.  I am not going to do it.  The wife said it was good enough and I am going with that.

 

Haying adventure begins

Yesterday we decided to get ready for haying.  Unfortunately, there are always things to do on the farm and we had decided that this was the weekend to work animals.  On a good day this is complicated.  On a bad day it is worse and at the best of times it will stress any relationship.  Any one who thinks they live in marital bliss just needs to come work animals with their spouse and they still have to get the animal work completed no matter how hard or complicated or how many times you have to walk back down to the other end of the pasture!  All in all it was not bad, we had to use the dogs on the sheep even though they started in the ram pasture.  They would not go through the gate into the back barn area and then they would not go into the barn.  The dogs did great, Annmarie runs Mouse and I run Zeke at the same time, the dogs are trained to only follow commands after their names are said plus Mouse does better with Annmarie and Zeke works with me better.  Don’t get me wrong, all the dogs like Annmarie better as she lets them up on the couch for hugs.  Zeke is just used to the curmudgeon approach to sheep commands and Mouse is fairly sensitive and takes it personal.

We set the barn up before pushing the sheep in, they are finally getting used to the sorting chute as a group.  Making them go both ways through it helps them understand it is part of the routine.  Once we had the sheep inside and started taking a good look at them and who was going to be culled we opted to wait another 30 days.  In one month we will be able to wean all the lambs and we can cull the 10 ewes for sale.  We have 10 that are old and scraggly and they need to go.  So they got to run back out the chute to freedom.

The cows were next, Annmarie and I walked down to the schoolhouse as the cows saw us coming and ran in the opposite direction.  We typically don’t use the dogs when there are new born calfs on the ground as the cows just want to chase the dogs and not move where we want.  We got them into the ram pasture after three attempts.  Luckily they didn’t start really getting stubborn until we were up by the house and we had a closed gate stopping them from running backdown to the schoolhouse.  We tried multiple times to get them to go into the back barn lot and they would not do it.  I hollered and eventually Annmarie agreed to let me use the dogs and her and Sarah exited the area and went into the yard (behind the fence) to watch.  We forgot to do a video.  The dogs and I pushed the cows near the gate, then Annmarie came out and the dogs pushed them through the gate.  We had to call the dogs into the back barn area to get the cows the rest of the way in.  We sorted into two groups, Annmarie sprayed fly stuff on them and then Annmarie and Sarah caught the newborn little calf girl and I put in the ear tag.  Stupid ear tag pliers kept misbehaving, making the two women on top of the calf holler at me.  I got it!  I have offered to do the pinning but we have discovered that I have the hand strength needed to make ear tag and banded work and the women cannot do it so I am relegated to the easy tasks.  We are missing one calf.  The problem with this is two fold.  We know there was a cougar at the neighbor’s house 4 days ago.  The other issue is the calf is only 4 days old and the cows will hide them.  So we could of just missed it.  We will keep an eye out and see what happens in the next 14 days.

Mr Professional and I worked on the sickle mower for the tractor yesterday.  It is brand new and owners manuals are not the same as operators manuals, nor are they assembly manuals.  Turns out we had to tighten almost all the bolts, two leaky hydraulic connections (there are only two) and move a part they put on wrong.  It then took us a couple more hours to figure out how to get it to adjust right per the instruction manual.   We managed to bend a weld on a stop that we still cannot figure out how it functions, so it will need to be welded back in place eventually.  By this time it was time for lunch, he went home for lunch and I even went inside and ate (I normally skip lunch).

After lunch I went out to mow the nearest field, Upper Prime (I really need a sheet with all the names on it for the fields as I occasionally change the names!).  This field was solid cheatgrass last year and I used it to practice with the hay equipment.  It is still about 75% cheatgrass so it will again be practice.  It will be filler food for the horses and cows.  I will look into spraying it down mid summer and reworking it in the spring with peas.  Something to start killing off the cheatgrass.  It takes me about an hour an acre to cut and it took some practice to figure out how to use the sickle mower and get it to function optimally.  Speed is the key, you must go fast so the grass rows up or it bunches up and clogs the tines.  Also, cutting will have to be done in the afternoon as wet spots at the base of the grass gum it up dramatically.  I had a few wet spots that I ended up butchering multiple directions in an attempt to get them cut.

The Upper Prime Squared field (next one beyond first, away from house) looked great!  It had about 25% with cheat grass but the rest looked good and about 50% looked good enough to sell.  The same problem here, I encountered three wet spots out in the field.  Luckily, they were not muddy but it was highly evident that the surface water was more plentiful.  We had sprayed for thistles but had only used 2-4-D and the thistles were shriveled up but not dead, they got put into the hay.   Again, we will spray as soon as we get the hay put up.

The real problem is it is supposed to rain Wednesday and Thursday.  I knew this but did not want the cheat grass to get more of a hold so went ahead and cut anyways.  We will turn on Monday and hopefully start baling on Tuesday night.  It is going to be close.

I tried to get done before it got dark, I even held off turning on the tractor lights until it was not possible to do without them.  I need to down grade the front light still so it doesn’t pull as much juice from the battery as my big one.  I have one that is about 1/3 power that I am going to install.  I will leave the big one mounted just in case I need it, I can just unplug my other and plug it in.

There are lots of rooster pheasants all over the place!  I did not see a single hen, but I saw roosters strutting all over the place with no regard for their safety.  I saw a thousand voles at least.  The dogs would have loved it but the sickle bar mower hidden in the grass does not make this an option for letting them run around.  No quail or foxes were spotted in 8 hours of mowing.  I did manage to eat my nuts and some Carmel popcorn while driving around in circles.  I got pretty good at moving the sickle bar and gaging how best to mow an area.

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Catch up weekend

I did work on the house over the weekend.  Mostly catch up kind of stuff, which always seems to grow.  We got a couple more tables for the office so Annmarie can sit in front of the window when she does her Zoom teaching sessions and have the best natural lighting.  The tables went together fairly easily and we got all wooden ones so there was no particle board to tear up.  The sheep were taking it easy in the front yard and one lamb even decided to use the wooden bench as a resting area.

One of my egg customers asked me how I cleaned my eggs and whether I used a candle on them.  So I took this picture of my fancy egg collecting basket and told her that I just take the eggs out of the fancy basket and put them into the cardboard egg carton.  If the egg is covered in poop then I run it under hot water.  That is the extent of my treatment for our farm fresh eggs.  They taste good!!

I swept up the upstairs bathroom floor and cleaned up my mess.  I swept and mopped the floor.  Once that was done I realized I needed to do a little more work on the closet before I could start putting up the tongue and groove boards.  So I made a wall with shelves built in for the closet.  I don’t want the space to go to waste.  I still need to create the top part and angle.  I am looking at putting in a sliding door to cover the closet opening.  It will look like a barn door.  Slowly but surely I will get the sprayer up and working.

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Zeke keeps getting out so I finally had to add another wire to the top of the front fence.  I drilled a hole through the posts so he could quit crawling under the wire!  He is the worst when it comes to trying to contain him.  So far he seems to be staying in the yard.

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