Staycation 88% completed

This week the weather has improved dramatically so the priorities have had to change a little. I wanted to get projects done that set up Mr Professional so he can come out and work alone when I am back to work. So lots of organizing, sorting and cleaning up has been happening. On Wednesday morning we sorted the sheep and pulled off the rest of the lambs. Not sure why I didn’t think of that the first time, but problem solved. We moved all the lambs but three over into the orchard pasture to hang out. I thought we only had three in with the ewes, we spotted a fourth one that evening when we were feeding, a little boy snuck past, he must have been hidden in a mass of ewes. The grass in that pasture is over eight inches tall and needs something to start eating it down so I don’t have to mow it. We want the babies close as they have a tendency to disappear due to predators. We let Zeke, our old border collie push the lambs through the yard into the orchard, he was very happy. All he did was walk up to them and lay down. He has been laying around a lot lately and has started not eating all of his meals. We are going to switch him to soft food to attempt to encourage him to eat. He is probably not going to make it through this year.

We went out to the machine shed and sorted through the piles of scrap wood we got a couple of years ago. It was leftovers we got for a steal and had it delivered right to the house which made it even a better deal. We are now starting to dig through and use the material for various projects around the house. But it was taking up space in the machine shed and we are going to make the old chicken coop the storage area. So we sorted out the junk. Sorted out the stuff we would use once for concrete forms, which are now stored outside the chicken coop and tarped, under the eaves, so we can have easy access to it when needed. We even kept the subflooring sheets and oak plywood sheets separately in the chicken coop so we can use them for the old house. The old bathroom is going to be Annmarie’s office storage room and it will get oak plywood flooring. The floors are slanted and will need to be leveled. The old kitchen, soon to be freezer room, will need to get leveled also but it will just be 3/4” subflooring and 1/2” plywood sheeting on it. We will just be sanding down the original floor like we did in our upstairs rooms in the house.

I took the time to brush the horse. She is shedding something fierce and without another horse buddy to help her groom she needs some assistance. I have brushed her twice this vacation and Sarah brushed out the dogs when she was home so everyone looks pretty good. We came into the house and took out the old TV stand. It is very heavy but Annmarie reminded us we have the shoulder furniture movers so we found those and it made moving the stand an easy thing. I moved the new chest into its spot after cleaning the floor and doing some cord management stuff to organize the electrical mess. Annmarie wants us to use a piece of plastic channel to contain all of the TV cords to make it neater. When that comes we will install it, it does look a lot nicer with the cords contained.

Mr Professional got the side by side up and running in under five minutes. This is without the battery being plugged in. Adding that large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat was just what we needed to keep the thing going. A dead battery all the time is highly annoying.

The small stuff I ordered for the tractor came this week. The speed handle is installed! This should just come standard on every tractor, I am unsure why they don’t. There are a couple of tool racks that will hold a chain between them now mounted behind the seat on the roll bar. The chain is actually in one spot now not tied down to some random piece of the tractor. The quick hitch is now installed and I have filled the ballast box with horseshoes. So now the Kubota has pallet forks on the front and a ballast box on the back with several hundred pounds of steel in it. It feels a lot better when you are carrying something heavy on the front.

We let the new alpaca out of the orchard thinking that everyone seemed to be getting along. The old adage that fences make great neighbors is still true. By that afternoon Mad Max had the young brown one pinned to the ground and was screaming in his ear. I tried to holler at them to get them to stop but no go. I went over and encouraged him to get off of the baby and strained my right knee. He did not initially take the hint. The alpaca can be very stubborn or determined, depending on how you look at it. We watched them for a while and all seemed to be copacetic. The next morning when I went outside there was more fighting. I went out and chased away the offenders but I could only find the two new young white alpaca and only counted ten. Which meant that the young brown one was missing, but Mad Max was present but one of our other old brown alpaca was missing. I had to walk all the way down to the end of the driveway and found the poor little alpaca pinned to the ground and the older one on top grinding into him. I had to chase him off with my coffee cup as a tool, my knee still hurts so no kicking. When I got back to the now 12 alpaca I wanted to put the three babies back into the orchard with the lambs. But they kept walking away from me. So instead when I opened the gate the seven older ones bum rushed the open gate and went into the orchard. So now the new animals are outside the fence and the old grumpy men are stuck in the orchard. Mad Max is now with the young ones but he has not been any trouble since the split. So now Annmarie asked me if I verified the gender on all three new alpaca. I did not do that. So now we need to verify that we did not end up with a female as we really do not want any cria.

On Thursday we got the side by side ready to spray. I put the first 30 gallons of round up through just spraying our road and driveway down. The only bad part about roundup is it takes at least a week before you can tell something was sprayed and two weeks for it to totally die. We cleaned out the tank and Mr Professional sprayed field #5 & 5A with 2-4-D & Milestone to kill the broadleafs, the thistles are already starting to spread. Unfortunately, the flood from two years ago changed the direction of the creek and one of the tall banks is seriously undercut. We have probably already lost eight feet of hillside and may lose another eight feet. If we lose that total 16’ I will have to move the fence. There is a very large curve in the creek now. We finished cleaning up and tossing everything onto the burn pile. I will need to get that burned again in the next month.

The big push now will be to get the spray onto all of the hay fields. We need to do this as soon as possible and then once that is done we can start fixing the fence down by four corners. As soon as that fence is done then it will be repairs on the hay baler and getting all the tractors tuned up and oil changed so everything is ready for haying season. We will be getting the barns cleaned out also so we have a place to put the new good hay.

Spraying

Thursday was a perfect day to catch up on our field spraying. The side by side is all ready and as long as I put a quart of oil in every time I add five gallons of fuel it works great. Yes it is burning a lot of oil. I am hopeful there is a treatment I can add to the oil that will extend its working life. Now that we have the big marine battery installed under the driver’s seat it starts right up! It is pretty amazing to just turn the key and have it start.

We are mixing 10 cups of 24D, 3 cups of sticker and 7 ounces of Milestone to 50 gallons of water. This is killing the broadleaf and the thistles are dying. I noticed after looking at the fields we sprayed a month ago that it was time to spray again. New broadleaf weeds were 3-7 inches tall and ready to be murdered. I was able to spray all of field #1, 2 and 1/3 of #3. This was incredible progress, the wind finally started to pick up so I had to call it quits. During this time I realized that our home weather station is broken again. I kept trying to check the wind speed (no spraying over 15mph, I like to stop at 10mph). The trees were moving the wind was blowing and our weather station little round cups were not moving at all. Turns out they have decided to stop going around and around in the wind. So we researched another brand and purchased a new one, this one using sound to measure wind speed, it has no moving parts! Our hope is this will last and not cause us problems. Luckily, the pole I installed on the last replacement can be used for the new one so this will save a lot of time.

I was able to spray all of the fence lines along the fields also with the hand wand. This has caused me to realize that I need to install a hose on a reel for the spraying that is self retracting. This way when I get off the side by side to spray I can move around more than 12 feet. I am going to have to look at what Harbor Freight. I am sure a frame will have to be welded to our current setup to get it to fit and be stable.

I was able to spray all of #4 and another 1/3 of #3 on Friday before the wind made it impossible to continue. The fields look better and I need to cut at least one field as it is all cheatgrass. The sheep don’t like to eat it but after last year we have learned that if I bale it we can use it as bedding for the entire barn. The sheep will spread it around and then pee all over it. If I have enough of it I don’t have to buy any straw to use for the bedding. The best part is the compost pile gets hot enough the next year to kill all weed seeds. Unfortunately, the tractor is in the shop for repairs. The front wheel bearing seal requires too much work and a hydraulic press which I don’t own. When I took it into the shop I found another leak from it sitting on the flatbed trailer. I had them quote me for fixing the wheel bearing seal, for fixing rear hydraulic takeoff connector, the hydraulic leak and the bucket controls are sticking so they are going to fix that also, for the low low price of $1200. Annmarie heard the quote on the answering machine and wants to talk about a new tractor! I do need a new tractor but we are waiting two more years until Meathead is out of school. So for now we will repair the tractor and continue on.

I net wrap I ordered came and a spare hydraulic hose for the sickle bar mower. I really needed the actuator arm for the baler. It is bent and the constant pulling on it is making it worse. I will need to call them on Monday to see where my last two rolls and the actuator are.

Calves are coming!

Annmarie talked me into putting all the cows that are due to have calves in one field and locking them in so we actually know when they have babies. This is a new concept for me as I usually have them running all over the farm and we finally get to see a calf when it is 2-4 weeks old and its mother actually lets it wander around with her. Our first calf has been born and more should follow soon. Once the last one is born we can just run them all into the corral and band and tag them all at once. Doing it all at one time will be a nice change.

The sheep bridge I built was not in vain. Even though the sheep initially did not want to use it, they all pretty much line up to use it now. The ram still refuses to go across it, he jumps the back creek every time. Some of them feel that waiting in line is beneath them so they jump. The bridge is 10 feet across and barely spans the creek. I really need to build a 16 foot bridge. The flood really tore up the creek bed and widened the creek by about 50-100% in some areas.

Mr Professional and I spent a day laying block and gravel after I dug down to create a pad area for my mother-in-law’s new shed. The shed is coming prebuilt on a truck, the shed is 10×20 feet long and they should be able to just set in place now. Once the shed is in, we will work on building the ramp.

I am having trouble with a weed called a common mullein. I had to pull in a weed expert and figure out how to kill it. It looks like spot spraying with a lot of sticker and some roundup will kill it in its tracks. It is starting to spread and I had noticed that it was not dying with the 2-4-D & Milestone combination. I am loving the spray set up on the side by side but the side by side needs a ring job and it is burning oil. For every two tanks of gas I have to fill the oil. Sometimes I think I can kill the weeds merely by slowing down and letting them get a taste of the exhaust. I upgraded the spray motor last year dramatically and now get a nice continuous spray. I think we are going to add one more nozzle on each end of the boom.

I am going to have to break out the welder soon. I need to modify the stock rack for the pickup, the flat bed trailer locking tongue is cracking so a new one needs welded on and I need to extend the spray racks. Those are the current big things that need to be welded. There are lots of other little things but those things need to happen soon to keep everything running. We have to go pickup our new ram early this summer.

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.

Flood damaged pasture replaced

Today was the day, in eight hours we got the entire orchard fence torn out, leveled off and reinstalled!  Now it did take three of us to do it but Mr Professional spent the first three hours spraying thistles while the Future NASCAR Driver and myself did actual manual labor and tore out the fence.
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Mr Future NASCAR Driver and myself first had to clean up all of the flood debris.  My contribution was driving the tractor as we used it as a wheelbarrow.  We did have to skid out a couple of logs with the tractor and we had to pull the bridge from the barn lot away from the fence!  It managed to travel about 100 yards through three fence creek crossings before catching on the fourth fence line.  It is still intact, I am going to create concrete footings for it and just drop it back in place in the barn lot!  Once we had all the fence down and all the debris on the burn pile I used the tractor to tear up the ground and create a nice even slope.  There were a couple of high spots and one spot where we lowered the ground level almost 12”.  I used all that dirt to fill in the very large hole in the ground from the flooding.  I was able to build back two feet of dirt line.  When I combined the new dirt with moving the fence forward about 10” the new fence went right in.

Future NASCAR Driver and myself hand dug three railroad tie holes and Mr Professional came over and did the fourth.  We created two H braces on the left of the new breakaway section and one to the right.  The center 16’ section is suspended by a 1/4” cable between the H braces, it is clipped at the bottom with a flimsy clip that will only hold about 300# of material.  I then took another 16’ panel and laid it under the breakaway and had to bend a 10” section upward at 90 degrees to cover the U shaped bottom.  That section was clipped with heavy duty clips to the breakaway section then about 1500# of rocks piled onto the panel laying on the ground.  When the water hits the upright side it will create a dam and the water will push the bottom out and wash away the rocks allowing the panel to lift up and allow the water and materials to pass through the fence with minimal to no damage to the fence.  This is my hope and wish and dream.

As we were cleaning up and trying to get three rigs back out to the machine shed I asked the Future NASCAR Driver to move the pickup.  He doesn’t drive.  So I gave him the low down on the tractor.  He was not super comfortable with it but I figured he could get the 4’ wide tractor over the 10’ culvert.  Mr Professional had him drive the side by side as there is only a gas peddle and a brake pedal and he still had to holler at him to only use one foot and touch one pedal at a time.

We started the burn pile on our way out of the field and moved the bridge to behind the barn.

We did attempt to put the sickle mower on the tractor but I had bent the three point hitch adjustable bar earlier last week or the week before and did not have a replacement on hand.  We managed to get to D and B store 2 minutes before they closed.  I got the part and will be mowing hay first thing in the morning.  We are going to work on the far barn lot fence.  Once it is done we will be able to sort the cows in Alcatraz and let the bull out with the female cows, let the ram out with the sheep after we sort off the cull ewes and female lambs and let the main sheep herd down with the cows.  I won’t be much help this weekend as I will be covering night shifts at work. I will try and help out when I can in between sleeping.
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