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!

Cows headed to new home

The sheep have gotten out of control! We keep having more lambs. All those sheep we sorted off last month because “they were not pregnant” have all had babies out in the main herd! Unfortunately, I think there are still 2-3 still left that need to have babies. I have lost track of how many we have had to date. Annmarie created a new spreadsheet and she has been keeping it up, I just need to review the data and post an update. Since we have had snow on the ground the sheep have really started going through the hay. I am pretty sure we are going to run out of hay in the barn. We only keep the small bales in the barn, the large bales are either sitting out or in the machine shed storage room. We have only used about 50% of our stored hay to date. I think we may end up storing 20 ton until next fall. This will cut down on how much we need to purchase next this year. It won’t cut it down by 50% but realistically by about 35% which is still better than nothing. I will probably end up pushing a big bale behind the barn for the sheep to tear into and eat what they want. They like to play king of the hill on them more than eat or get on top of the bale and while being king eat from the top of the bale. This will only be possible if the ground dries enough for me to move the bale with my little tractor. I have to make two 90 degree turns and the last turn is tight and if it’s muddy I won’t be able to make the last corner.

On Tuesday we found out that our butcher service was ready for two more cows and requested they be delivered on Friday morning at 0730. This means sorting the cows on Thursday evening, hooking up the trailer and locking them up in the corral so we can just chase them into the stock trailer first thing Friday morning. Honestly, the wife and I were both tired and we tried to push the cows alone and they would not go into the last enclosure. We just went and got the dogs and pushed them in. We usually try and just coax them in without the dogs first but it doesn’t always work. The dogs are more stressful on the animals than us just shooing them quietly toward the fence openings. Annmarie has convinced me that whooping and hollering usually doesn’t do much other than upset the animals, which it turns out is true. The dogs are far more effective than hollering and waving. Zeke still doesn’t like working the cows. He saw the sheep and wanted to go work them instead, I had to tell him we were working “cows”, he seemed a little deflated but went back to moving the cows out of the corner they had sequestered themselves in. Mouse loves the cows, he can stare them down, he can run at them, and if they still don’t move he gets to bite them on the heel or tail to move them, the sheep are boring. I always hook up the stock trailer and back it up to the chute the night before as this saves me from doing it first thing in the morning and it prevents the animals from exiting the corral via the chute. I had the trailer backed up to the chute, lined up perfectly on one try!! This is amazing after all the problems I had when we first got the trailer, it was brutal to try and back that thing up. I did have to pump up one tire, which is better than having to change one tire which is usually the case. The cows went right in and I drove them right to the secret location and unloaded them without a hitch. I thought about taking them for Dutch Brother’s coffee but decided we didn’t have time before their appointment.

I also managed to get the rest of our upstairs bathroom wired. I had a mild panic after I “misplaced” one of the outlet covers. I could not find it despite the 15 minute search. I used one of the other grey covers I had but it was metal not plastic and not quite the right color. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice. I was putting my tools away after job completion and the correct outlet cover magically appeared! It is now installed and they all match. I ordered simple metal shelf brackets last week and they came. If the weather permits we will cut 2” feather strips for the back of the wall and sides with room every three feet for a metal bracket. I want to get all the brackets installed without the shelves in place so I get the placement correct. This will make installing the shelves a simple matter of dropping them into place.

The last big news is we are having a full scale bug war at our house. The warming temperatures have caused the wax bugs and box elder bugs to come out of hiding. It’s crazy and we are killing about 30-50 bugs a day. I have finally resorted to using the Dyson portable vacuum 2-4 times a day to clear out the windows and occasional ceiling bug. I have sprayed the inside windows and it did not seem to do anything. It may be time to look at having new screens made for the windows. Ours have holes in them and are not all fitting tightly. When the weather gets slightly nicer I will start drenching the outside of the house in bug spray and see if I cannot knock down the amount around our house.

Annmarie and I have both been working on design ideas for the Craft Shack I want to build. I have been watching roofing videos on how to build gable roofs and dormers. She has been using CAD programs to draft out the size and inside layout. We think we have a final size. I want to use concrete columns with heavy duty floor jacks so I can level the building and make corrections in the future if necessary. Unfortunately that is 15 concrete piers with a $70 jack on top of every one. I do realize that the first layer is ultimately the most important to the long term viability of any building. We will start looking at prices of wood this summer. The cost of lumber is 2-3x higher than two years ago which is unfortunate for us. I am going to contact the two local wood mills and see if I can buy direct. The real kicker is what type of new and cool tool do I need to purchase to finish the job? I am thinking a rotary self leveling green laser with stand and a air powered framing nail gun. I have everything else we would need.

Odds & Ends

Today was a catch up day. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish but I made sure to eat my breakfast and drink a cup of coffee before I went outside. I was sure there would be more lambs, I would have given odds on there being more lambs, there were no lambs. The cows needed food so I pushed a large bale to their area. I also decided it was time to thin out the chickens. I had multiple free loading roosters from the unsexed chicks gifted to me this summer from a friend. I managed to kill five roosters and a very old hen. I loaded them all up into the tractor bucket and took them to a boneyard. Tomorrow will be a good day to look for coyotes, the raccoon carcasses and porcupine carcass are undisturbed. That left me on the tractor with the urge to go up into field number two and move some dirt. I could spend the next six hours doing that still not be done. I resisted the temptation to spend time with the mistress and went back inside.

I did spot the Quail on the way home. They are so fluffy due to the cold. I have been learning to use the delay bake on our oven. I use It when I am making baked potatoes or something else that needs to bake for long stretches of time. I started the butternut squash, then I spent an hour and a half cleaning the bathroom. Once all that was done it was time to tackle the spare bedroom.

I had to hang four pictures of the seasons, girls in circus clothing, we had framed earlier this year. I then had to clean out the cedar bench that has been sitting at the foot of the bed for three years needing to be sorted and some decisions made. I made them fairly quickly and we now have some more space to store wool blankets. Now I can buy more wool blankets. We had been using the room as storage for our giveaway items so I moved all that up into the attic after I bagged it all up so it would stay clean. I also rebalanced the heat distribution so more goes downstairs. Both Annmarie and I went out to feed the sheep and lock them into the barn, they are going to have babies tonight! I also fixed a latch that had fallen off our main hay gate between the sheep area and our first hay room, the old nut had fallen off.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving. I pick up the prime rib tomorrow and start the dry rub process. I will rub spices on it every evening until we cook it in a salt casket on Thanksgiving. We are having Brussels sprouts as the vegetable. We have this same meal every Thanksgiving. I even managed to snag the last bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls at the grocery store. We will cook at least 16-20 even though there are only five of us!