February catchup

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.

Back to fencing

We have all kinds of good news, we got new cell phones! This might not seem like a big deal but we are not into the latest and greatest for most things and had always been a model or two behind on phones. We finally decided to upgrade, with some coercion from a friend, and you can see the difference in our picture quality for the blog! Annmarie took the above barn picture at twilight just before it got totally dark. We never could have done that before so I am super stoked about getting some pictures I never could have before due to sun going down or just not up enough yet. On the plus side the battery lasts from 0400-2200 without a recharge and the old one would no longer do that.

I had to go into the barn and add a board as one of the mothers managed to crawl through the wooden boards on the side of the creeper area. She was trapped when I came out to let them out of the barn Saturday morning. I found a board, hammered it in and cut the end off. This opening was too large anyways as the babies could sneak out of the area also. This should solve both problems. Our new panels for inside the barn are still not available to order yet and we have only had one more baby! The mother was so crazy we marked her for culling in the spring.

Mr Tex has been coming out during the week for a few hours a day and stringing fence. We are trying to get that last fence up. On Friday I was able to secure three more ton of alfalfa hay. I need to up my summer purchase a few ton. We unloaded a ton into the barn. We were then just going to back the flat bed trailer into the lamb shed and park it. That way we did not have to unload it. Now I failed to take into consideration that despite the brilliance of this plan I had never parked the flat bed trailer in the lamb shed before. This is because the door is only seven feet wide and the trailer is 8.5 feet wide, I discovered. So Mr Professional suggested we use the forks on the new tractor so we did not have to move the 80# bales by hand. This was a brilliant idea and we unloaded the trailer four bales at a time and dumped them into the lamb shed. It worked very well and was much nicer than doing it all by hand. The barn part was unpleasant enough that in the spring we are going to bring out the 20 foot hay elevator and weld on it until we get it working properly. I want to use it to stack the hay this next year. We left the trailer out in the barn lot so the rams and horse could clean it all up, they had it spotless by the next morning. We were able to go out to the new fence area and install some wooden stays before it just got too cold. The fog moved in and it was dang chilly!

The next day Mr Professional went inside the house and matched the ceiling texture. It looks great and once we paint it you will never know we patched it. I had plans to go down and work on the H brace at the far end of the new fence and the gate but as soon as I got alongside the fence I realized that not all of the clips were installed. Mr Tex had stretched out the smooth wire but not clipped it in place, the woven wire only had 1-2 clips on it and we needed to finish it anyways. So I started clipping the fence in and working my way toward the far end. I got the entire fence clipped in! Mr Professional came out and we worked on stays for a large portion of the fence. We still have about 50% of the fence to install stays on and one H brace and to hang the end gate and it will be ready for the cows. Hoping to have it done by the end of the week. The spring up in field number three has started back up! This is great news, It is so much water that it is now running above ground.

Is it Spring or not?

I had plans to finish the bathroom over the weekend, that did not happen. I was reminded that we needed to sort the cows and sheep so we could get the ram in with the ewes and the small bull away from his mother as he is now 7 months old. To do this effectively we had talked about installing a gate in the yard fence so we could push the cows from the orchard pasture into the corral across the front yard hillside. So Mr Professional and I spent about 5 hours and got the side gate installed, we had to level the area, dig down and then clean up around the garbage shack. We leveled the whole area with gravel. My hope is the dogs won’t try and dig down. If they do then we will bury concrete blocks to prevent it but we are not going to go to the effort unless the dogs dig.

Once that was done we sorted the sheep. We peeled off 13 lambs that were older than 3 months and our oldest ewe “old brown” to move over into the orchard pasture. This way the ram won’t impregnate any of the young ewes and the ewes will put on weight faster as they are not nursing big lambs. The fat ram followed a bucket of sweet feed from the bull enclosure into the barn. He is such a push over for food. He has been in with the sheep for four days and we have yet to see him mount any thing. He better get to work soon, we will give him another three weeks. Luckily, we already had plans to go down and get another ram for competition. It may be that we are getting his replacement, time will tell.

I had to work that night so Mr Professional came out with a chainsaw and started to cut down all of the volunteer trees that were growing in the orchard pasture. We had talked about it and after he was done it sure made the area look a lot nicer. We are probably going to keep it this way for a while. He cleaned up the whole area also. When I got up we hung the new gate, he had just painted that day, down by the old apple tree. This is one of the heavy duty custom welded gates that the bull cannot tear apart. Once we had it up we did a little touch up painting and added a few boards to fill in the gap and drilled a locking receptacle hole. The gate fits like it was made for the opening. We took the bent one and drove over it with the tractor to straighten it out then installed it in the alleyway in the orchard pasture. We just need to pound In a T-post and add a panel onto the end. This will keep the animals from darting down this narrow pathway and getting stuck. Most of the time it will be open and doing nothing. The gate was not going to be used in a high traffic area due to being too lightweight to contain the bull.

We did not move the cows. I was beat, the covid is dragging me down again and starting to cause chest pain and shortness of breath. The cardiologist says I have pericarditis and need to take high dose NSAIDS for three months. I will see how I feel in four months.

Farm Work was happening

I started out the Sunday by tagging and banding the last two little lambs we had in the barn, a little boy and girl. I then mixed all the sheep together so we don’t have to manage two separate herds. I came in and started working on the bathroom shelves and while outside cutting lumber heard some squawking. I looked around the edge of the house and there was our pretty rooster in the front yard desperately trying to get through the metal fence to get away from the dogs. Unfortunately for him, he is too big to fit between the gaps. I was able to call the Border Collies off but our little ankle biter Brussels Griffin, Gizmo, did not want to leave the chicken and had to be hollered at. I tried to open the gate but that just confused the chicken and ended up just having to reach down and grab him and toss him over the fence. He got lucky and only lost about 30 feathers. I have no idea what he was doing in the yard, the chickens know it is not safe.

I went out to pickup the carcasses and once I got into the barn lot I decided I had better do a couple of things before just getting the carcasses. Annmarie and I had noticed the culvert that did not get repaired was undercutting the bank and drive over path. She was afraid if the horses got out they would try and cross this and fall through potentially braking a leg. So I dug out the old culvert, it took a few tries to get it above ground. I finally had to go clear all the dirt off of the culvert before I could lift it out of the water. I moved that culvert over to the other culvert and will work on getting it set so it takes the water coming out of the crossing and allows it to run down through the culvert and not eat out the bank edges. I will mess with that after the water level goes down some or I won’t mind getting wet.

While I was messing with the culvert I spotted something in the back runoff creek. I wasn’t sure what it was but it looked like an animal carcass. My only thought was I hope it isn’t and if it is then please don’t let it be so decomposed that I cannot just drag it out of the water. I was able to just slide a chain around its neck and pull it out of the water. It had been dead for a few days only so it was still intact mostly. I took it up to the boneyard and then came back for the stillborn lambs, dead lamb and dead alpaca. It smelled bad but managed to stay in one piece while moving it with the tractor. I was eternally grateful that the carcass only smelled a little bit.

While I was dropping off the carcasses I noticed water running in an ancient ditch that has never been there before since we moved back in 2007. I will need to dig out the ditch again and make it a little deeper and give it some consistent shape. I will just have to add it to my list for the year. I am starting to feel better after my run in with Covid19. It has been eight weeks and this was the first weekend I did not notice any chest pain. My hope is that my aerobic ability will improve quickly now.

I need a break

Annmarie spotted another random newborn lamb yesterday evening. This morning Tex and I went out into the ram pasture and Tex snagged the newborn. I could of done it but it ran to his side of the field! We took it to the barn so I could tag and band it. I even remembered to enter it into the Airtable spreadsheet so we could track it.

Afterwards we went to install the culvert in the orchard. We had to dig out the bottom of the channel by hand and had to put it in a couple of times to fit test it prior to back filling it in. I was able to use the old dirt and then drag down the edges. We even rocked in the inlet side of the culvert. I can now get the tractor over to the other side of the ditch.

We were able to move the pipe trailer out of the field and snagged all the loose pipe laying about. We moved the pipe trailer out of the fields over near the wheat field then proceeded to clean up the scrap metal piles. We tossed the metal over the fence so the scrap metal guy can pick it up on his next visit.

I had to go to town to get more diesel for the tractor. We were running on fumes. I had Tex go use the chainsaw on the downed trees at the spring head. I also wanted him to trim the tree touching the old chicken coop. After lunch, we took the now filled tractor over to drag out the downed trees. Between the chain saw and the tractor we got all the dead massive limbs piled up into a large burn pile. Hopefully, next week we can light it on fire. Annmarie ran the horses in the round pen yesterday but I had put it on the soft dirt. The horses tore it up something fierce. So I will need to move it next week. We have plenty of spots for it.

After she got back from church we went out to work on the front hillside and started to set up the water system so we can start growing clover. We were able to reuse some of the aluminum uprights from the main sprinkler system, along with the valves and sprinkler heads. We keep trying to reuse as much stuff as we can. I also got a large piece of Elm for the anvil. I will need to make some custom holders for it. My plan is to get it attached and then use it whenever I need to beat something into submission. I realized that the only thing I don’t really have yet is a portable grinder. So after I get that I will dress up the anvil.

I had Tex fill in gravel in the ditch behind the machine shop. I will need to finish it off this week. The rest of our hay equipment should arrive this week. We will be able to store it in the machine shed now! We did park the tractor in the shop tonight. It is an amazing thing.

I am done! I am so tired that I started losing my grip while working on the sprinkler system. I will be taking it easy next week. I am thinking about working on the bathroom upstairs. More thought than muscle.