This weekend some time had to be devoted to the sheep as always when we have lambs. I used to think it was special to spend a few hours in the barn but with the lambs and constantly changing situation I have just realized that I will be out in the barn for a few hours. I have been trying to clean up the old house porch which means burning scrap wood. I had a gallon of beeswax finish that was done and was holding saturated rags. I tossed it on the burn pile to get it cleaned out before tossing it in the trash. Unfortunately, I left the gallon paint can out in the pasture and one curious lamb got it stuck on its head! The dummy could not get it off of his head. This was noticed and said offending bucket was removed from said idiot’s head. The bucket went into the trash can and the lamb went off on its way as if this was a normal part of life.
I pulled down three jugs. We only have three set up now and there are no sheep in any of them. Not having to haul water is amazing! We are so glad we only have to do it when the ewes are in jugs and otherwise they can get their own water.
I have started to toss out four bales outside the barn so the sheep can pull the bales apart and eat what they want. I also gave in and opened up the barn lot to the mommas and babies. So they have another 1 acre area to roam around on and to eat the grass. I had been keeping them off of it so the grass would grow. It had grass several inches tall on it. If we would ever warm up the area would shoot up with fresh grass. The weather keeps driving the sheep back into the barn. They don’t mind a little rain or sleet but they don’t like a downpour or pea sized hail.
The sheep all have their own personalities but some tend to stand out amongst the others. This little lamb is easy to spot in the barn. It wants to run off and do everything by itself. It is super curious and will come right over to you looking for a treat. It also gets lost and distracted easily. When everyone runs off to the green pasture it stays behind and hollers because it is alone. This morning I had to chase it out of the barn area and out into the pasture as it could not seem to grasp the concept of leaving the barn to find their friends.
The back creek is running from the melting snow but since the mountains keep adding snow we have not had a noticeable rise in the runoff. I took the tractor and drove through the creek to go to the wood shed and get bee supplies and drip irrigation supplies for Annmarie. They now go in her little garden supply shed by the garden. She is eager to get out in the garden but it keeps freezing at night. I scraped the car windows last week. Maybe by mid April she can start getting plants in the ground. She has started herb seeds inside the house this weekend. I got a heat mat for starting cut propagation attempts on my house plants, so the seed starts are taking up most of the mat now. My African Violet starts are starting to take off and I may be able to get 12 more plants. I am shooting for 25 plants in the next couple of months. I have about 10 Jade plant starts going right now and have managed not to kill any yet.
Date of update- April 2, 2023. We think there may be 4-6 ewes left per Annmarie, I think there are only two left but I would not bet more than $10 on my opinion, Annmarie is usually correct!
# of Lambs born – 54
# of ewes who have delivered babies – 33
# of ewes still pregnant – 8 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
# of single lamb births – 13
# of twin lamb births – 19
# of triplet lamb births – 1
# of bummer lambs – 5
# of lambs who died in first two weeks – 3
Total # of lambs on farm -46
% birthing rate- 164%
% production rate -139%
% survival rate at birth – 100%
% survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 85%
We have decided that it is imperative we get our septic tank pumped. It has been 15 years and it is way past due. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the bridge built this year. I have run out of time and money this year and it will have to be put off for another time. The real problem is the water has worked its way under every single culvert we have across the front spring. The flooding just washes right under them. So we decided to repair the old crossing and improve on it. They used to drive through the spring in the barn lot. It sits on bedrock so the vehicle doesn’t sink when you drive through but the approach was pretty steep and all dirt so with just a little water on it it would become impassable. We ordered up ten yards of 3” gravel and ten yards of 1.5” gravel and had it dumped in the barn lot on Friday. So I spent five hours on Friday cleaning up the area, moving out six loads of driftwood from the flooding and moving large rocks out of the way. I used the biggest rocks to extend the rock wall I am creating behind the barn. I was able to extend the wall another eight feet. I only have about thirty feet left to build. I used the smaller 6-8” rocks in the bed of the waterway then buried them with 3” rock. The rock was not all solid 3”, it had a lot of smaller rock in with it. I think if I had all 3” rock I could have gotten all of the water to run through the rock and none over the top. Now mind you by the time I got the 1.5” rock spread out over the 3” and up both sides of the approaches there is only a little bit of water flowing over the top, most of it is going through the rock bed. We are now ready for the septic pumping truck to drive through the spring. Unfortunately, this is a temporary fix if we have another flood it will wash out the gravel. As soon as I finish digging out the barn, picking up and unloading all of the cow alfalfa I will be going to the far end of the property and working on a flood break right next to the road. I need to stop the flooding from coming down the middle of every upper field. After that I have to start prepping fields for planting. I may have to prep for planting before I do the digging for flooding. Actually, I will have to do the planting first. I did not dig out the barn like I had planned, any excuse to put off digging is always welcome.
I had no more excuses and the barn needs to be dug out. So today I finished digging out the main part of the barn, closed the bottom half of the doors to allow for the wind and heat to pass through the barn easily, allowing the wooden floor to dry out. I have to shut the doors or the horse goes in there, hangs out and poops everywhere. I had to shovel some extra horse poop today as I had not been shutting the doors. The main section of the barn is completed and I have about 60% of the momma/baby area all dug out. I have about 3-4 hours of hand digging left. If I was smart I would rip out the entire momma/baby area and buy another $2k worth of aluminum panels. This would let me clean up almost the entire barn with the tractor and we could make pens on top of the flooring and continue to lift the panels as the material on the floor continued to pile up. It’s more money and currently we are planning a trip overseas, a bridge in the barn lot, finish the office in the old house and remodel the downstairs bathroom so we have plenty of other items to spend our money on.
The little white alpaca is going to live, I think. The wound looks a ton better than it did when we started. It is about 50% healed at this point and I was able to find some 4” Medipore tape that will stick to the hair on the alpaca! So now I can keep a dressing on the wound and not have to dig dried dirt and mud out of the wound every evening. I only found three maggots yesterday. I am having to cut away the dead tissue with a razor knife. The edges got hard and scabby and the wound didn’t want to heal so I have been trimming those off and the edges are now starting to heal. The alpaca does not particularly like this process. We tie it to the corral and use the hose to get it all clean. It is much easier to do with two people. I had to do it one night alone and it was harder. Annmarie will be gone several days this week so I will be doing it alone. I am hopeful that the wound will be healed in a week.
Annmarie spotted a small calf down with our main herd by the schoolhouse four days ago. We looked again yesterday and it looks like one of our cows had twins! They were both running around and playing. So now we will need to run the cows back up to the barn and sorting chute and tag and band the calves. We want to swap the main herd to the other end of the farm as there is more food above the house than below.
Every year without fail the snow melts in the mountains when it warms up and the back creek starts up and eventually when the winter runoff is completed it dries up again. This cycle happens every year and one would think that I would plan better for the changes but they always seem to catch me by surprise. I knew the back creek had started up and I knew that it would get deeper eventually. The real trick to being a procrastinator is knowing when it is essential that something be done. This “art” takes some dedication and a real zen type sense of impending doom.
I came home from work on Monday evening and the back creek was roaring! The temperature had gotten to over 50 degrees F after all that snow. I had failed to accurately predict when the runoff was going to occur, this seems to be an annual problem. I had Mr Professional come out with me and we both stood on each side of the roaring water and worked to pull the panels out of the water. The panels had already started to collect debris and back the water up even higher. The only real downside to this endeavor is that you have to climb out to the middle of the raging stream while staying on the fence above the water and remove the metal clip that holds the middle of the panel in place. Without releasing this clip you cannot lift the panel out of the water or remove it completely. It is a crucial part of the operation yet you cannot stare at the moving water as you are looking down or you will start to develop vertigo. You must maintain a hyper awareness to your surrounding so you don’t accidentally let go and end up in the water. We managed to get the only two crossings out of the water. I pulled two others and just don’t use them much and if I do I only use them in the spring and pull them up in the summer. I need the two near the house and don’t seem able to remove them. I do need to pull them out of the DRY creek bed the first week of January. I say this now but for the last ten years I have scrambled in the dark or late evening to pull them out of a raging waterway, maybe I have learned?
Hard to believe that the back runoff creek is already running! It is only January and it is full of water and moving toward the ocean. The creek is so much wider after the torrent we had last year so I am hopeful it won’t get out of control this spring.
The damn tractor broke again! The worst part is the hydraulic steering cylinder that broke this summer just broke again! I just don’t understand why this is happening. It’s the bolt in the hydraulic cylinder that is shearing. So I will order another one and we can get it installed. Mr Professional managed to use enough bailing twine to get it to hold in place long enough to drive it back to the machine shed.
The winter weather has brought some amazing color changes to the skyline. I have been trying to get pictures whenever the light has been unique. I do love the changes.
I managed to miss one of the extra roosters. I have two now and need to thin the the second one. He is not very good at crowing, he sits on the top of the coop ramp entrance and blocks the hens from going in when it is getting dark. We have had to round up the hens every night and push them into the chicken coop. He is making me crazy. I keep hoping that one of the raccoons will actually eat the spare rooster. It has gotten so bad we are now using the Border Collie, Mouse to herd the chickens back into the coop at night!
We did tag and band the lambs on Saturday and sorted off the seven ewes that we think are pregnant and have isolated them to the momma baby area. Everyone else is now in with the main herd and the entire barn is opened up to them. I will update the lamb statistics next week.
It snowed yesterday and then rained all night. I of course had not taken the fence out of the creek crossings yet. I had been talking about it for the last two weeks and just never seemed to get around to it. This morning while it was still dark I told Annmarie I was going to have to come home early and get those fences out of the back runoff creek.
As I was headed out of work early this afternoon, a coworker texted to remind me I was going to show him around the farm so he could come out and shoot coyotes. I had of course forgotten this and had told him he would need to send me said reminder but this dovetailed nicely with me needing some help to get the panels out of the back creek.
My Doppelgänger came out and proceeded to help me pull the panels out of the now raging back creek. It has rained 0.68 inches in the last 24 hours and has rained 5.63 inches since Jan 1, 2020. We used to get 12” of rain annually.
We pulled the fence out of multiple crossings and at one point I noticed my Doppelgänger was bleeding all over the fence. He managed to cut himself on the very first piece of panel we moved. This did not slow him down and I managed to not fall into the rampaging creek. I escorted him over the property and showed him where the coyotes were most likely to be hiding and were it was safe to shoot.
Best last minute didn’t know they were gonna help, help I have ever had. I would have been at it for at least a couple of hours trying to wrestle those panels out of the runoff by myself. On the way back to the house we stopped off at the barn and Mr Doppelgänger and his girlfriend helped me feed the sheep while they played with the lambs. Lamb snuggles are worth the wait.
My baby chickens have not been liking the rain and have started to protest and not lay eggs. They need to just get over it and start laying consistently.