Is that twin calves?

Well, we may get some calves yet. We were not sure the bull was able to do his duty with the bum front foot he had but we have had one stillbirth and we now have twins! This is our first set of live twins, I think? Maybe? I may have to get spousal input on this determination but she is taking a nap so I am just gonna run with it for now. Mr Rainman said he spotted twins but I had only seen a single twice so did not believe him. Last night when we were rounding up the sheep to go back into the barn lot, Annmarie spotted the twins with a brown cow. So now we have a set of brown twins and two black single calves. I looked at the cows today and spotted at least two maybe three more pregnant females. So it looks like we will get at least five calves this year.

Today I went out and sprayed all of the stinging nettle from our house all the way up to field one. The stuff is everywhere! It has definitely been multiplying. Two of the upper fields are half cheat grass. We bought some new spray that is supposed to suppress the cheat grass but it is fairly new and not commonly used around our region. We are going to figure it out and use it on those two fields. I am just going to fix the fence, mow the grass and let the cows and sheep eat on it. We will work on fixing the fields down by the schoolhouse with good orchard grass. So we graze the upper fields and hay the lower fields. This was Annmarie’s plan all along. Amazing how the wife’s ideas are usually right.

I looked at the spot for the yurt today. There is a nice totally secluded spot on the other side of the bluff but the view is only in one direction due to being surrounded by about 210 degrees of rock bluff. I don’t like it as well as our original spot. I had time to look around as I was spraying weeds today. I may spend a couple of evenings exploring the bluff edge with the tractor. I don’t think people realize how noisy it is out here! The wind blows in the evenings. The cows holler, the sheep holler, the alpaca fight, the birds are incredibly noisy, the grass makes noise, the running water makes noise, the coyotes are incredibly noisy at night. There is a constant cacophony of wild sounds 24/7.

I put plastic owls in the machine shed in an attempt to slow down the birds nesting in there in the spring and summer. If you look above and to the right of the owl you will see a bird’s nest. They know the owls are plastic! I may try the little silver strings but the birds seem fairly smart when they are not harassed.

Moving cows is never easy, no matter what

Mr Rainman came out this week and finished spraying all the major fields. He has been backpack spraying the difficult to reach areas and still has more of this to do but I think he can be done in less than two days and will have gotten most of the farm, even the difficult to reach areas.

I came home early on Wednesday so that we could sort cows for butchering. It turned into sorting off six month old calves, sorting out 5 kill size cows and moving the old bull. This was going fairly smooth. I say that loosely as sorting any live animal does have its challenges. Mr Rainman is not a cow person, even really an animal and every time I got in the corral to walk around and sort out 12 jumpy horned cows he would squeal and get nervous. All was going well, I had placed Chance (1 year old border collie) on a 30’ lead and she was doing well. We are working on “down” command at any time and “left” and “right” commands. We only use “circle around”, “to Me”, “guard”(creates dog gate), “away”. “Stay” and “easy”. Those are the main ones, we do realize there are a lot more commands but over the years these are the ones we use. The only other thing is they have to learn to work in the barn with mommas and babies and to stay and allow the lambs to pass or sniff at them.

Once we had the cows in the barn lot, I tied Chance to the gate so the cows would not try and push on it and then we proceeded to push them into the corral for sorting. Everything was going smoothly (first indicator you are about to be in trouble) when one of the slaughter size cows reached the corner gate chain and lifted it off its anchor slot and pushed the gate open and got back in with the main herd. We finished sorting all the rest of the cows and even moved the weanlings off to the third holding pen so we could still use the main two and chute. We tried to push the herd back into the corral and they did not want to go especially the one we wanted. So I grabbed Chance and we pushed them into the corral. She got rolled twice by the cows, but she just jumped up and got right back at it. We pushed the cows in and I ran our target into the chute after he tried to climb the five foot corral fence. I failed to notice that I had left the sheep ramp in the chute. It is for running the sheep into the back of the pickup. It was leaning on the exit gate with about a 60 degree angle and the steer ran right up that ramp and jumped off it from five feet in the air. So we spent 30 minutes getting him back into the pen and in with the four sale cows. We never could have done this without Chance. We sorted off one steer (not crazy one) for someone to come pickup on Saturday morning (next warning sign). We would keep him in the corral for a couple of days until he could be picked up. The bull went into the corral to spend the night. He is so placid you literally have to go up and nudge him in the direction you want him to go.

I get up bright and early so I can be in Lagrande by 0730. Annmarie comes out to help me, the first four just go right into our livestock trailer. I try and run the bull through the chute but he keeps dragging his horns and having to turn his head. He is 13 or 14 years old and has a very large head and decent horns. So we let him back into the corral and Annmarie suggests just backing the trailer into the pen, opening the entire back and getting him to just walk into it by himself. We do this and he is coaxed in under five minutes. He is so calm.

I am off early around 0530, I adjust the trailer brakes and start the trip. I am going 55 mph and it feels fine. I get on the freeway and keep it at 55 mph, I can feel the animals moving around in the trailer. I creep up Cabbage hill at 45 mph. Honestly, except for my nervousness it is going well until I start coming down the hill on the backside. The whole rig starts shaking every time I hit the brakes over 50 mph. It did not do this on the flats. So more white knuckled driving and I pull in to Hines meat. I was there before the place was open. The guy comes out, compliments the bull on how good looking he is and we try and unload them. We got them unloaded but of course they did not want to comply.

When Hines called back this weekend to give weights on the cows they said there was one “surly” cow that gave them some trouble. Wanna guess who that was? Due to the small stature of a Dexter cow you get a lean meat and much smaller steaks. The carcass weights came in at 327#, 332#, 320#, 313# and the bull at 673#. The bull went to all hamburger. We are charging $3.50/lb hanging weight now. The average for our area is around $4-4.50/lb hanging weight.

On the trailer trip home I just dropped the horse trailer off at the tire place and asked them to balance all tires, check brakes and pack wheel bearings. The lights worked great!

Beautiful day

Last week on Sunday was my catchup day. I was able to get the trailer tires loaded into the pickup and ready to go to town to fix all three flats, sitting is bad for tires. I will get them repaired and then reinstalled and the trailer will be ready to go to Lagrande Thursday morning bright and early. This will be my first trip over Cabbage Hill hauling a horse trailer. I know this sounds innocuous, hauling a horse trailer, but for those that do not know Cabbage Hill is the steepest and longest grade west of the Mississippi. The length is what gets most people, especially semi trucks. It is also a major thoroughfare for crossing the upper part of the United States when traveling from Coast to Coast. After having two overloaded trailers almost flip me in the pickup I am getting a little gun shy about traveling long distances with a heavy load.

I went out to work on doing my part of the spraying. Mr Rainman has been making great progress. The weather was perfect and I sometimes forget how nice it is to just go around in circles in a green field on a sunny cool day. It was amazing. I noticed that the sprayer boom was bouncing around quite a bit. The arms are designed to bounce up and break away backwards if you hit something. I thought I had better look at it. I stopped spraying and noticed that the nozzles were tilted. Turns out the steel tabs holding the boom had broken on one side of the drilled hole.

I decided that it was going to fail soon and needed to be fixed. This meant breaking out the welder! I passed the class at the local community college with a B (an A for all written tests and C for all actual welding). After much practice and discussion with the welding instructor it was determined that I just needed to be able to weld a strong weld on the farm and beauty was going to be nonexistent. I am okay with that as long as the weld holds. So I went back to the machine shed, laid out all the tools and found a piece of scrap iron. I cleaned up the area with a wire wheel grinder. Cut two triangles out of steel and the proceeded to weld on a cross vibration support and welded the breaks on both sides. Not sure when they designed it why they did not do that initially. It needs it if you plan on using it to spray 30-50 acres 2-3/year. I even shot some paint on it when I was done to slow down the rust.

Horse trailer wired!

Finally, something has gone my way this month. It has been a long month and a lot has happened, most of it not great. My new hard hat came and after three of us tried to adjust the straps to lower it on my head, Meathead figured it out. I wore it when I was wiring the trailer! I will definitely need to wear a cloth rag on my head when I wear the hard hat. I was sweating. I complained to Annmarie about the heat and she pointed out that it was 84 F. This would explain why I though it was so hot, that is the highest we have been this year. I managed to get the entire horse trailer wired, added a small internal light and taped up all the future wear spots to protect them. I was worried that I would spend all that time and something would not work, that problem is very hard to fix if you think you did it right the first time. Everything worked perfectly, I was truly amazed. I did not even blow the fuse in the pickup. I had three spares just in case I needed to do some trouble shooting.

Now I need to get the tire off and replaced. I will take the tire off today and get it replaced tomorrow. I will also probably pickup a second spare tire. I will also get the spare tire for the flat bed trailer fixed. Might as well get it all taken care of at the same time. Unfortunately, the pickup tires need replacing soon also. I have to take five cows over to Lagrande this week to get slaughtered.

Mr Rainman worked on spraying around the house and the garden area had a nice kill rate. In a few days we will be able to clean up the dead grass and weeds. Field #1 & 2 are sprayed with 2-4-d and Milestone. I am hopeful I can get out and spray #3 this afternoon. He also got the lavender spot sprayed and started spot spraying the orchard. As soon as we get the spraying done we are going to spread some fertilizer. This will be the first year I have ever tried to fertilize. I am hopeful it makes a difference. The real test will be to see if the value added is worth the cost.

Annmarie has been working on the garden watering system. She added all of the wine barrels onto a new line and they will be growing our herbs. We kept some dried herbs to use throughout the winter and found that they were way better than the store bought ones. So we are going to put up more herbs this year.

We are going to get more bee hives. Mr Rainman made three concrete block spots out in the orchard for the hives to live on. I am going to add two posts and then we will hold them in place with a 2x8x16’ board across the top. I will use eye hooks and clips on the post and ends of the board to keep the hives from getting blown over in the wind like last year. The bee hives don’t do well in 80 mph winds. We are hoping to have the same success this year that we did last year.

Our back runoff creek has stayed amazingly quite this year. It is running clear and only about eight inches deep. No four foot mud wave roaring behind the house. This bodes well for not getting the upper fields flooded out this year. I need to do a little more ditch digging and cut down 1-2 trees and we will be ready for another flood level stream height.

The sheep may be done now. We have had a set of twins and a set of triplets in the last week. I need to catch them and tag and band them still. I will get the final stats done in a couple of weeks. I need to make sure there are not any more stragglers.

Resting sorta

Well things did not go as planned after my concussion last week. I ended up getting a head CT and going to the concussion clinic. They put me on some turmeric and fish oil supplements and I am to rest and relax. I am allowed to do what I can but not to over do anything that makes my head symptoms worse. Plus, I am off work for a week. This is not going to help my head next week when I have to catch up but right now I have a nonstop headache. On top of all of that I have to listen to a lot of awkward jokes about leading with my head, how did you do that and you need a hard hat all of the time. I did capitulate after a few days on the hard hat idea. I really don’t like this laying around and since I wear a hat all the time when I am outside anyways it didn’t seem like a stretch to just wear a hard hat all the time when I am outside on the farm. So I have a OSHA approved vented carbon fiber hard hat on its way to the farm. I will be getting rid of all of my hats in the laundry room so that there will only be one choice when I head outside, the hard hat! I normally hit my head several times a year hard enough to give me wounds on top of my head so I am looking forward to not having those anymore either. Plus, I don’t get headaches and I particularly don’t have the patience or tolerance for them. Muscle aches, yeah I am used to that but not the headaches.

Mr Rainman is back in the area and has agreed to help me out this summer. I won’t be doing half the amount of hay I did last year and my only big project is the back bridge. We are going on a vacation to Scotland soon so that has limited the projects that will occur this summer. We have the grain bin outdoor cafeteria building still to put put but I am having reservations about putting it in the front yard as it will block the view of the barn. It’s not a priority but my brain is spinning on how to do it so I made Annmarie talk me through it’s location again. We decided on the front corner of the hillside by the corral. The grass never grows there anyways. It only needs to be leveled by about 18” so it should not be too bad of an area to prep. The only concession I will need to make is a set of gates on it to prevent the cows and sheep from going into it when we are running them through the yard.

Mr Rainman and I walked the entire property to see how things were going. We spotted our first calf of the year! It is one of the new black ones we just purchased a few months ago. Every one else should start having their babies soon as we planned for May births. So next week we will be sorting cows as I need to take five to Lagrande to the butcher. We are going to create two new herds, new mommas and expectant mommas and everyone else. I will move the new bull into Alcatraz as soon as I take our old bull to the sale. He needs to not go into the herd until the end of July. So we can then have calves nine months later in the spring.

The upper seven acre field was covered with late grass last year and I never mowed it or did the second hay cutting. It looks like only about half the field came back. This just means that I hay what is there and in the fall we plant the rest of the field in true orchard grass. It maintains it’s protein status better than most grasses throughout its later life cycle so I don’t have to be as picky as to when it is converted into hay. The other upper fields looked good but the cows are eating on all of them but upper seven acres (it needs new fencing around it to make it animal safe). We outlined a plan for spraying all of the fields and he started cleaning up the corral, old rotten hay bales to the burn pile. The Kubota got cleaned and greased. A few hours later Annmarie texts me our bull is in with the neighbors cows. It is not our old bull as he is now in Alcatraz for this exact reason. So we went down and spent 45 minutes chasing the two bulls back into our pasture. They had to fight for 20 minutes at the neighbors before we could get them to go back through the culvert. Once back through we had to fix the crossing again. We ended up patching a couple of fence spots, reinstalling the gate down by the schoolhouse and driving back to the house via the upper hillside. The irrigation ditch was flowing outside its channel making a mess through the lower field. I thought we could dig the blocked spot and get it back into the channel. We ended up digging about a 75’ section with the tractor to get it contained. The upper hillside section I planted in the fall is not growing the grass I wanted. It is a lot smoother, it is not growing sage and the grass that normally grows on the hillside is coming in nicely. I then laid around for four days doing nothing and sleeping a lot.