It is spring, mid April and yes we had several major snow storms! It is miserable outside so we have had to go out and feed everyone hay. Luckily, we have just enough feed left to get through one more week of any kind of weather. It did finally melt off but now we have a night and morning of snow which covers everything and the temperature hovers right at 32 degrees F. By 1400 every day the sun comes out and the snow melts off and all of the green grass pokes out allowing all of the animals to go out and feed on grass. It has been miserable to go outside, the wind is blowing and it is very cold. I have had to scrape my windows twice this week just to get to work at 0500. I even had to sweep off the walkway one morning as it had about three inches of snow on it.
The wheat looks amazing and our grass fields are really starting to come up now. If we could get a couple of weeks of warm spring weather everything would just take off and shoot up into the air. We are still considering downsizing the cows based on the price of hay. We may have to jump the price up dramatically to cover feed costs. We need about 7-8 ton of hay per month to feed all of the cows. Last year we paid around $265/ton for alfalfa in large bales. The real problem is if we have a dry desert like summer you have to start feeding by September. So you feed for about 7 months or six months if you are lucky. We will have gone through 45 ton. We did not cover feed expenses last year. So we are going to look at costs again and decide whether its worthwhile or not to have this many large animals.
The sheep are easier and cheaper to feed. We just need to raise the price on them this year also to reflect the new prices. It’s sticker shock when you go to buy something these days but meat in the grocery store is very expensive. We are hoping the snow and cold did not affect the fruit trees but if they were trying to bloom there is no way they survived the repeat 25 F we kept getting several nights in a row.
I got behind again on the blog. This is so easy to do if you do not just sit down and write every week. It can get away from you quickly. Kind of like the weather at the end of February. We got snowed on and it persisted. The alpaca were getting used to green grass then there was snow all over the ground and it was cold! It dropped down to -1 F! This of course caused much consternation as I have half a barn full of straw, not really hay. There are not enough nutrients in it to keep the animals going but I have a lot of it! There is so much I am unsure where I am going to store it all to make room for this year’s perfect and awesome hay that is going to be baled and stored in the barn for next winter.
Mr Professional and I went and bought another three ton of alfalfa from the rancher we had just purchased some from 6 weeks earlier. Both times we went over scales and paid per ton. The bales lost 6% of their weight in those six weeks. They went from 100# bales to 94# bales. I have never looked up how much weight is lost over a year when you talk about bales and dry out over a year even if stored inside. We have enough hay now to make it until spring to not have any leftover.
I had two of the new chickens die. One stayed outside and got eaten by something. I am not sure what as it tore its head off, tore both wings off and only ate a little of the body. It was pretty weird. But we did see a bald eagle flying around the property but I doubt it was a large predator bird as I would have expected one of them to just remove the chicken from the premises.
A week after the cold spell the snow just up and vanished. Our back runoff creek did not go up at all. This is very good news as it means that moisture dropped into the ground and soaked in. Now our front ditch which is fed by a spring has gone up quite a bit. The springs on our place are putting out a lot of groundwater. The fields all look really good!
Mr Professional also found a great deal on some cow scratchers and a pto driven seeder/fertilizer. All of it together was very reasonable. We just need to get them mounted, one on the upper property and one down on the lower property so the cows can use them both. We are going to hang fly powder directly above them so when they scratch the fly powder will fall down at the same time.
It has been a long day. It started last night by the realization that I was not going to go to work, the wind was howling. When we went to bed the gusts were over 50 MPH and sustained winds over 40 MPH. It was a long night as the house creaked and swayed the entire time. In the morning when we checked the weather station our peak gust was 89.5 MPH! I did not look at our siding today but will need to inspect the entire outside tomorrow. My decorative windmill out in the ram pasture had a crooked tail before the storm. It is now missing its tail and one of the windmill vanes is missing. It is going to need a lot of TLC. Hopefully, I can salvage it. One of the front porch lights blew off last night, it got beat up by falling ice which cracked it then the wind finished it off. The ice breakers and gutters for the roof are moving up the priority list.
On my way down to the driveway I spotted the old lamb shed, it had been pushed off of the railroad ties it had been sitting on. about ten feet North of where it was. Last time the wind got this high it actually rolled the building onto its side. The roof shingles on Donna’s garage were blowing off also. the building is set 90 degrees to the direction of the wind which allows the shingles to just be lifted right off the roof.
I fired up the Kubota and Annmarie went out to the barn to do chores. We had not checked the driveway but it is prone to drifting so we figured it was drifted shut, we were right. It took me three hours to get the 1/4 mile of driveway cleared with at least an eight foot wide path down the middle. This just kept going on and on. I had lots of clothes on and still had to go back inside and put on my warm snow boots instead of my muck boots at one point.
The temperature heated up over freezing and the wind had cleaned off a lot of snow, so much so that the chickens actually came out of the coop and scrounged in the compost pile that had been building for days.
After I went and dug out two more friends I made it home after seven hours out on the tractor. I dumped off the bucket and got the forks installed. I grabbed a large bale and headed into the barn lot. Yep, even though the barn lot looked clear it was not. I managed to beat through three different drifts and got into the cow area. I went down over the culvert and hit a huge drift on the uphill side. The tractor kept sliding down toward the six foot drop off! I finally just stopped and parked the tractor and walked away. I was just going to dump the tractor over into the spring and then it would have been super painful to get out, neighbors, favors and fence cutting to get enough equipment in to pull it out. It was just not worth it.
The forever shower once I came in and the early bedtime was well deserved.
I managed to dig the tractor out with my little tractor a shovel and 1/3 yard of gravel the next day.
I went out Sunday morning to do the barn chores and found the horse in the old milking enclosure. Mind you, the day before Sarah and I had lowered the panel to prevent the horse from getting in as she had done the day before. I have no idea how she got in, she must have gotten down on her knees and army crawled in! She was a little perturbed about being trapped and as I was working on getting the panel down she kept coming up to push on it. I had to shoo her away as I needed to reef on the panel to get it out and did not want to smack her in the nose with the panel. She might take offense at that.
We fed the sheep, who are being picky eaters. We have some wonderful green hay and some not very good hay. I am feeding it out 50/50 right now and the sheep are not eating the lousy hay, which tells me that they are wasting the good hay by only looking for the choicest morsels. So the 50/50 will continue as the good hay needs to stretch out. I have a new plan for haying in the spring and I am simply not going to let the hay get as dry. I have a moisture tester and used it last year. But I am baling the round bales fairly loosely, and the bales are drying out after they are baled. I am going to experiment with the bales and if necessary the first weeks worth of bales will be stored outside and not stacked super tight and used first in the winter!
I had noticed that someone was cribbing our new ram enclosure. I suspected the horse but it was fairly low and could have been the sheep. After catching the horse in the old milking area I am convinced it is the fat horse trying to get to more hay. I used a tie down to make the hole smaller so even if she keeps cribbing she cannot get into the ram area. This summer we will build it up and make the exterior match the barn.
Since it is the new year I continued on my annual cleaning and organizing trend. I stopped the stairway fan, vacuumed it off and then wiped it down. When I was doing the same to our large stained glass light I found a solid layer of dust on it and two of the six lightbulbs were burnt out. I ended up having to wipe the whole thing down and vacuum down the walls to remove dust laden cobwebs. I am forever grateful I had enough foresight to cut the access holes into the bathroom walls to allow easy access to the stairway ceiling. The stairway is a lot brighter now!
We have officially had our coldest night of 2021 last night! It got down to -6.7 F per our thermometer last night. I waited for it to warm up before going outside to do morning chores – it was 8 F. This doesn’t sound much warmer but it really is a lot warmer than negative numbers. I dressed up in four different layers. I will admit the two stockings on my head was overkill and did make it a little too warm when I was out in the barn feeding. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I was even able to find a couple of places that still had undisturbed snow to take some pictures. We still have six ewes that need to give birth and they are not having lambs any time soon. It is crazy how much the old ram spread out his affection. We have been lambing for over four months now. The old ram comes over and visits us when we go into the barn lot. He wants scritches and some more food, fortunately for us he is teaching the new ram that we are the source of all that is good. I have been able to pet on the new ram several times and I have not even fed him any grain yet.
The cows up above and down below all got some supplemental hay bales tossed out today. They can root through the bales and pick out the grain heads and use the straw as filler. I will feed them supplemental hay again tomorrow. This just stretches the large bales that we are feeding. When I went down to feed the lower cows the alpaca had pushed them away from the feeder and the cows were down by the schoolhouse wandering around. I drove the tractor in circles to flatten the snow to create a spot to toss out the bales. The cows came running when they heard the tractor!
I told Annmarie I would start in on some of the winter projects. One of which is to make frames for the upstairs bathroom closet. But before I could do that I needed to clean off the shelves. This led to a very large give away pile and the joy of space bags being realized. The space bags made short work of all the extra blankets and pillows. I found three more Pendleton wool blankets buried and we had even taken them to the dry cleaners at one point as they all were still in their bags with tags. Annmarie is going to order the heavy duty magnets and I will make the frames and install the magnets on the cabinet faces and the frames. We are then going to cover the frames with fabric. There will be three frames for each side so you will only need to remove one frame to access what you want. Once I get the bathroom door back on there will be no room for cabinet doors. The magnetic frames is a great space saver for this tight spot.