Winter is leaving

Mother Winter is finally giving up her grip on the weather and spring is trying to come out. For the fifth day in a row we have had above freezing temperatures during the day. This is allowing the snow to melt off at a slow rate. A slow rate is the rate we want. I have been out in the machine shed counting bales of hay to see if we are going to make it. We are going to make it for the cows just barely! We have been feeding the cows twice a day with all this snow on the ground. This morning when I went out and fed there was still hay from last night on the ground. The cows had not cleaned it up. We will go back to feeding the cows in the late evening. This forces them to forage during the day and ensures they have full bellies during the night when it gets cold. It is still freezing every night and dipping down into the low 20’s. I had to go over to Feedeville and buy another ton of pellets for the sheep. This time I picked up alfalfa pellets and more Kountry Buffet, an all purpose general feed. I would have gotten more Kountry Buffet but they ran out. There has been quite the rush on feed with this sudden extended snow storm deposits. It is incredibly expensive to feed this way but we are now getting enough calories into the mothers that they are starting to put weight back on. They don’t usually do that until the grass comes up and they get an all you can eat buffet.

I was sick all day yesterday and slept most of it. I blame my fellow coworkers for spreading the plague. I did manage to move 2400 pounds of food bags from the back of the pickup into the barn and chicken coop. I picked up 300# of chicken food for $12.75/50# bag, this is a good price but unless I buy a ton at a time (40 bags) and save another $1/bag its not really worth the drive. I like having the ton on hand but I hate the mice problems and despite $30 worth of poison traps for the mice they go right for the chicken food and avoid the traps. If I could find flat sheets of sheet metal to mount to the inside walls and floors of the chicken supply room I would feel better but that won’t be an easy task.

I will keep my open when I go to the scrap metal yard next time. I am due to go back and pick up some metal soon. If this 45-50 degree weather keeps up it will be time to start fixing fence soon. One of the barn cats has figured out she stays warm if she sleeps under the round feeders. After the sheep feed they settle down around the feeder and give off heat. The hay is dry and comfortable under the feeder and no one can step on her. It is a recent development and one that she keeps repeating. Our large orange barn cat is starting to mellow out. He stayed in the barn, sitting on a ledge, today the entire time I was working. He used to run immediately to the hole under the barn as soon as he saw us. I guess he likes being fed, I have not seen a single mouse in the barn this winter. Having the cats has made a huge difference. We found another dead cat on the place and have been seeing a raccoon again. I had a single chicken die this week but we think it was due to old age. Very soon we will be getting baby pullets. I just need to place the order.

We are currently trying to fill out paperwork to get a loan for the haying equipment. This is proving to take several hours of our time. Will see how it goes.

We need to start tracking our tractor usage by run hours. At start of March we had 730 hours.

Lots of snow

It started this weekend, it was supposed to be nice and steady but it came in like a wrecking ball! I spent over 10 hours outside on Sunday trying to clear snow from our driveway. This was complicated by the fact that on Friday our tractor bucket just quit working. I could not move the bucket at all it was stuck on the ground. So I just drove it around and pushed snow with the bucket on the ground. Not ideal and took longer than normal but it worked. The only problem with this is Annmarie parked her car outside of her mother’s house and it got stuck. I went down to drive it out and got it stuck worse. So we just parked it and when the snow melts we will get it! Next year we put the stud tires on even if there is no snow. It just kept snowing, it was horrible. We used to live in the Rockies, but I sold our track driven 8 HP snow blower in Moscow because we just did not need it. If the tractor worked we would be fine.

On Monday I was trying to clear another 6 inches and got the tractor stuck down by the cow gate. Annmarie had already had to pull me out with the pickup once 30 minutes earlier. So I called her again and she tried to get me out to no avail. She almost got the pickup stuck and had to apply a judicious amount of gas pedal to get it to clear out of its predicament. I tried to call the Tractor dealer to get them to come pick it up for repair but the phone was busy all day. So now we have two vehicles stuck!So now that the tractor is stuck we are using the pickup to move hay to the cows. The problem with this is you have to carry the hay about 100 feet. We are just tossing it over the fence, I usually feed farther into the pasture but I am not walking and carrying hay that far. It takes about 12 trips to get two bales fed. We feed two bales in the morning and two at night when there is snow on the ground, no snow they get three bales.

Its supposed to snow more, if we get another foot we are so screwed. If only the tractor worked!

The poor ram is the largest sheep in the barn and he gets pushed around the most! When we toss out hay into the feeders the ewes just keep pushing until they have taken over all head space and he gets squeezed out. He has maintained his casualness. Annmarie even saw him acting as a hill for the lambs and they were jumping all over him.

I have a friend who wanted a few lambs but we are going to sell her the ewes that are pregnant and off cycle. She gets pregnant sheep and we get rid of the off cycle sheep. Its a win-win situation.

We have been feeding the quail one quart of bird food on our back hillside first thing in the morning. This snow makes getting to food hard for the birds. We now see them several times a day digging through the snow looking for seeds.

Staycation

Well there is nothing like a good old vacation at home to get some stuff finished. The only bad part about this is that something always comes up to get you off track and distracted from the main goal. Our weather has been horrible so I am now feeding the cows every night and occasionally I have to feed them morning and night.
We decided to integrate the ram and his three girls with the main sheep herd this week. I just opened the gate and he found his way over to the barn. We still have five ewes separated out from the main herd. Two of those are no longer pregnant and need to go back in with the main herd. The other three are first time mommas, so our working theory is that the reason they are so far behind everyone else is that they were not old enough to get pregnant when we put the ram in the first time. So we are going to just keep those three and their babies separated off for 7 months and then toss them back in with the main herd. This will be easier than keeping the ram separated. 7C078585-042E-4E64-AF73-9C3D4031999A Clean old milk shed area
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My favorite Y gate
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Spare room closet
I got a new phone and ended up using the blog app directly from the website and it let me add titles to my pictures. I really like that feature and may end up having to do it every time. We will see after I get the app up and running on my phone. The whole reason for this Staycation was to get the spare bedroom floor completed. This sounds easy as I only need to sand the paint off of the outer 2′ next to the walls. It took me two days to empty the room 100%. I was unsure how I was going to move the big ticket items alone when I spotted the smooth furniture discs in the closet. Annmarie got these several years ago to slide furniture around and I may have ridiculed the idea some. It’s much more manly to just lift things. Unfortunately when you are alone that is not really an option on a stand up dresser or armoire. I used the furniture sliders, and they were definitely slick and the way to go. I apologized to Annmarie when she came home. 42F18C33-8E50-4BE5-A4EE-CB554E4C1E17

Floor sanding gear

I do wear a dust mask when sanding inside as it gets very nasty quickly in the room with all the doors shut. I had only been at it a few hours when the palm sander died! A lot of tools are not designed for hours of use at a time. They think you will use it for an hour or less. Annmarie picked me up one at the feed store. I am on Staycation so the rule is I don’t leave the house. I have been very good and following this rule. We did go out to dinner on Friday night for Valentine’s Day. Amazing how easy it was to get reservations for the day after Valentine’s Day. EB826E5E-117C-4E44-B2D3-245A57194C35 Sander died
The snow keeps coming, we have had to drag the driveway twice with the tractor to clean up the road. Today I did it first thing in the morning and it warmed up enough to melt off all of the driveway. This is the best reason to clean off the snow. The untouched areas of snow are still present and it is supposed to snow every day this week.
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Barn lot

 

 

Lambies are here

The quail have discovered our yard. We like this as we get to see them and the dogs seem to ignore them. The only real problem is our very large living room windows look out onto the yard. The stupid quail think they can fly through the window! I heard a large crash in the living room and ran into it from the kitchen, there were feathers on the window but by the time I got to the window the cat had already managed to pounce on one stunned quail and bit it in the neck killing it. I saved the other one but it had broke its neck and was dead so I didn’t really save its life. We would love to have 50+ quail flying around all over the farm, instead we have about 15 now flying around and we are two more short now.

I snagged this picture of all the pregnant ewes the day before they started popping out babies. They were very interested in eating as much hay as possible and ignoring me. I had just thrown out another bale of straw a few days before this picture.

The lambs are coming fast and furious now! Annmarie is on winter break from her job and is going out to the barn three times a day to deal with all the new babies. We have had one ewe deliver one baby, one triplets and one quadruplet. We have only had to bummer out one lamb and he was from a twin set. The mother is not very good about raising more than one lamb. We need to cull her. The quadruplets seem to now be triplets and the fourth lamb is now with one of our older mothers that only had a single baby. She is now nursing two lambs and everyone is very happy. So we have 16 lambs and 8 ewes feeding them. We still have 30-32 ewes left to give birth. We usually have about a 135% birth rate but we are over 200% now. If we keep that up we will end up with 80 lambs and 40 ewes! That is a lot of sheep. I will be super happy with a 150% birth rate. In a couple more days we will start letting the older babies go outside with their mommas into our limited outside newborn enclosure. This is our set of triplets. All the babies but three are solid chocolate brown. Three of them are spotted white and brown and very cute. One of those is a girl as I checked while getting lamb snuggles today. We may keep her. Her mother is super relaxed and calm which is what we are looking for in a breeder ewe. Annmarie and I went to town tonight and got two 8 foot gates so we could use them in the barn. Annmarie wants to order some twisty hinges from our sheep products supply company and I will be cutting 4×16 foot 3 inch square panels into 4×4 foot sections for her to arrange in any pattern her heart desires. The small panels make it easy to move parts all around the barn. I will need to grind off the sharp edges after I cut them with bolt cutters. We will order the twisty things when we order some liquid marking paint. Our hope is the ewes all have their babies in the next seven days.

It will only take 20 minutes

Three days before Christmas and the ground is green and the soil is moist, this is not a normal December for our location. I keep hoping we will get a brutal two week cold spell down to single digits. I am afraid of what will happen with the bugs this upcoming summer. I think they will be horrible.

We had decided that we were going to finally have lambs soon. Since we were making the Christmas dinner the feeling was we would get inundated that morning. So on Saturday Annmarie and I went out to the barn for 20 minutes to move the ram over into the bull enclosure. I went to get panels from the large hay bale pile and Annmarie set up panels in the momma enclosure. I used the tractor to haul 7 panels over into the barn lot and then we hooked the panels together creating an alley way to the bull enclosure. I was one panel short so we pulled over a 16 foot cow panel that was stored over against the barn fence.

We sorted sheep using the chute in the barn and got the ram and three young females off the main herd. None of the females are pregnant and can hang out with him in the separate enclosure. We have learned not to put the animals by themselves as they just don’t do very well, always anxious and trying to get through the fence.

The ram with his three females. They were super happy as no animal had been inside the enclosure for over two months allowing the grass to grow undisturbed. We spent 2.5 hours moving and sorting animals!

I needed to clean out both cars as they both have engine lights on but Annmarie’s car seems to have an electronic ghost. Mine just has an engine light. I got a recall notice last week saying it can be a fuel tank indicator that can cause this and the part won’t be available until the spring of 2019.

I had a friend give me some old Toyota truck snow tires and I used the tractor to lift my trailer and change out the tires. I was pleasantly surprised when the tires fit the trailer. We are back in business and I loaded the trailer up with alfalfa from the machine shed. I will store it under cover in the lamb shed. I can feed the ram out of it and it will be available when I need to start feeding the cows small bales. I have 6 large bales left to feed the cows then I will be using the trailer to feed them small bales of alfalfa. The nice thing is I can pull the trailer with my tractor and get another three bales of hay in the front bucket.

Once I got the trailer into the lamb shed I used the 3 point quick hitch to lift it off of the ball. I hooked the safety chains into the hooks and then just lifted it off. This was very slick, now if only it will be that easy when I go to hook it back up.

I had to go feed and take care of my chickens. I had to carry another 100# of feed out to them. I noticed that the enclosure door was broken. One of the sheep got stuck in the enclosure and she just kept ramming her body against the fence in several places. She broke off one of the 4×4 posts. I ended up installing eyehooks and then using chain and a self tightener to pull the broken post into place. The only real issue is you have to pick your feet up when crossing the door threshold. I happened to spot all these hand grinders on the old house back porch. This doesn’t include the three sets we have inside the house.

I am going to have to install a couple of new posts in the chicken fence and rip out about 50% of it. I no longer need it all around the entire coop. The chickens are free range anyways.

I was supposed to take Annmarie out for her birthday dinner and had managed to keep an outside fire burning for three days. I was burning scrap wood, cardboard and branches that the wind had blown out of the trees. We had no wind for that entire time and when we went to go out to dinner the wind had picked up and was throwing hot coals 20-30 feet.

Annmarie made me put it out before we left for dinner. I actually managed to get the entire thing out and cooled so the wind did not restart it while we were gone.

Welding pass

This week was the last day of my college evening welding class. I passed with a B, for which I had to work hard. I attended every class, got highest scores on the written tests and scored the lowest on most of the actual practical welds. What I did learn was this is a skill that needs to be practiced, a lot. I am not a natural and it would take me hours to learn some particular skill. I am now able to do it, which is a huge leap forward compared to where I was when I started the class. Now I need to figure out what type of equipment I need out on the farm. I really need to get a cutting torch operational and I need a stick welder. The major problem is I don’t have 220V wired anywhere on the farm. I can fix this in the old house but I don’t really want to weld around a wooden building. So I need to look at 120V welders, the good part is I don’t really need to weld through anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch. This will make it easy to cut back on the type of welder I need as I don’t need super high amperage. We also have a propane generator. I need to see how many KWh it puts out and if it has 220V capability. I don’t know as it is for emergencies and we have not had to use it. It would solve a lot of portability problems if it will put out enough juice to run a welder.

I ran out to look at the generator as I am curious now. It will do a 4000 W start and continuous 3250 W, but only does 120 V. The nice part is it has an RV plug so it will do 20 Amps. Further research has led to two SMAW (further use will be stick welding for the uninitiated) welders that run on 120 V. A Hobart Stickmate 160i stick welder for around $570 and a Century Inverter Arc 120 V stick welder for $260. The problem with the cheaper welders is you only can weld about 3 minutes out of 10 minutes and only go up to 90 amps so you must weld thinner material. Since I am already slower than the average welder the down time requirements are not going to hurt me. For you purists out there depending on how the weld was set up and as long as I did a good root weld I could layer in the rest of the welds and still weld thicker material. Luckily for me, I don’t have really anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch to weld and most of those are repairs. I really need a little cart I can put the generator on, propane tank and welder all in one place and have it ready to go. Maybe I need a bigger generator? I probably do not need a bigger generator as I am not a full time farmer working on great big piece of equipment. I am trying to keep our costs realistic and not go all out and buy the most expensive thing. I am also going to do more Oxyacetylene welding, its slow but it doesn’t need any power at all, hard to beat that advantage for some things. I told Annmarie my end goal was to be able to build a 10 foot diameter igloo out of old used horse shoes of all various sizes, old nails, rust and bent shoes included. I have not convinced her that it would be a work of art and not an eye sore yet. I need a few thousand more horse shoes. I only have a few hundred now. I am willing to pay $0.05/horseshoe or $50/1000 shoes, which is way better than the scrap yard. I have not given up the dream yet.

This morning she talked to me about marking the babies and mother sheep when we start lambing. We tried a crayon marker a few years ago and did not have very good luck. Instead of using paint irons where you have to use multiple irons her family uses a L shaped iron and marker paint. She drew it all out on a old envelope to teach me. You create a grid of 9 numbers and use the L iron to create the sides of the grid around the number you want.

I have copied in the four examples she showed me. The I threw me as it is not on the grid she made for me until I said it wasn’t there and she said it equals 0. It made sense when she told me what it was. You just have to have the orientation to the lamb correct and you can match the mothers and babies for the first month at least. She said I needed to just weld the marking rod. I figured out today how to make it without welding anything. I just need to get a piece of 1/4″ square stock 24″ long so I can make it. I will make a wooden handle so it won’t be so cold to handle.

We are very short on rainfall, less than 1/10″ last month. We need some moisture in any form. It can rain for all I care as long as it doesn’t warm up too much and fool the trees.

Winter is almost here

Well, I can no longer say that Winter is not coming. It has frozen three times this week and we have had to turn our propane stove on. Last night when we went to bed, Annmarie wanted to open opposing windows wide open! I was freezing to death, so I moaned and groaned until she agreed to crack both windows only. It took me 20 minutes to get warm before I could fall asleep. I am putting another blanket at the foot of the bed just to add another layer over my feet!

Yesterday was errand day for me. I took a drive over to Hermiston to pickup our pig we swapped for lambs. The hanging weight on the pig was 199#. I brought three boxes home of frozen deliciousness. Our freezers were full but I had a bunch of frozen cherries from last year and the chickens are now eating those. I managed to get the whole pig into the freezer after clearing out the cherries, bacon before fruit!!! We had one pork belly turned into side pork. We have never done this before but we both like side pork and wanted to give it a try. You have to do the whole thing so we ended up with 7 pounds of side pork. As we had sausage this morning for breakfast Annmarie inquired if it was the new pig. I told her we had to eat the old pig first but I did get out a package of side pork for Sunday morning!

Annmarie is doing yoga 6 of 7 mornings as soon as she wakes up. I am on the “gonna workout” plan. The dogs have all learned that the yoga mat is a “no go” zone. Annmarie is not to be disturbed if she is on the mat and the dogs don’t get to step on it. It was not very hard to teach all three of them this rule. Yesterday, while running errands I had to pickup a package at the post office. It was some new yoga tights and dresses Annmarie had gotten on sale. This morning she told me there was a “no go” rule for me also after I violated the yoga zone.

We have had dumpster now for four weeks and have managed to fill it every week. I am hopeful this week that I will get the glass windows out of the lamb shed and break them into the dumpster. This was the sole reason for getting the dumpster in the first place. Annmarie keeps reminding me that if we can fill it for weeks on end maybe we should have gotten one sooner? It takes some concerted effort to keep filling it as I don’t just have a pile ready to go but I think we only have 1-2 weeks left before I will have them remove it. That will have gotten rid of 10-12 yards of trash.

The new barn kitty is still hanging out in the barn. It is a fixed adult black and white cat. Still in the barn and doing well. We feed the barn cats on a regular basis and it is settling right in. I did hear one big howling cat fight this week emanating from the barn but it settled down after a couple of minutes and we have seen the new kitty and our orange kitty both since then.

The chickens do not like daylight savings time either. This week I noticed that some of the chickens were not going into the coop at night. I opted to allow natural selection to occur, only the smart shall survive. Now, I have not seen a predator around but they are always there and yep I was right. Thursday we spotted a suspicious lump out on the back hillside visible from the kitchen window. The magpies were swarming it so it was pretty obvious. I went out and sure enough it was a chicken carcass. Imagine my not surprise when I went out to get eggs last night and every chicken was inside the coop and protected behind the automatic chicken door.

The cows are now getting fed on a weekly basis. Luckily, we have some big bales left this year. They are super handy to feed as I just have to push one or two out to the cows. I still need to get the tire fixed on the small pickup bed trailer as that is what I am going to hook up to the tractor to feed the small bales.

We are putting the sheep in every night now. The first four evenings we had to use the dogs but now if we go out after dark the sheep have already put themselves into the barn. We just give them a little feed at night as a reward. They are not starving as half a bale is enough for a reward and they leave some in the feeders. We are so happy with the new ram, he is super calm. We have decided that he only gets scratched under the chin so that we are not trying for dominance by reaching for the top of his head.