Spring catchup and yard improvements

We are working on getting everything caught up and ready to go before our vacation. The yard is getting watered and all of the hoses are getting repaired and we are going to try and get the ram pasture back in shape and get some actual grass length on it. The sheep use it as a pass through spot and always eat it down to nothing every year. I am surprised it comes back annually, Mr Rainman has been cleaning up the garden area, he cleaned off the old house porch and burned both slash piles we created over the winter. We still have a bunch of dead branches down by the spring head that need cleaned out and tossed on the slash pile.

He brought a bunch of compost (sheep manure and straw) over to the lavender patch to fill the horse trough. We are going to plant strawberry plants in the trough so they don’t take over the entire patch of ground. All of the hoses got laid out and connected to automatic timers. Annmarie will program the lavender and berry timers. She has been working on the garden every weekend. It is all planted as of this weekend. The elevated beds have vegetables and all of the wine barrel halves have herbs in them. We are also going to plant marigolds in planters between all of the elevated beds. We are hopeful that they will help with the bug issues and keep them away. If nothing else they are more flowers for the honeybees. We also seeded wildflower seed over three spots in an attempt to get more flowers up and going for the bees.

I was able to offload the side by side today. I just need to run the wiring for the machine shed across two more bays so it is out of the way. I will now have room to easily park both tractors under cover. I also cleaned up in front of the machine shed and beside it. I moved a lot of alpaca poop and some piles of dirt. I want to bring the old lamb shed up next to the machine shed. As of right now I could start using it to store all of the scrap metal I use for welding repairs and the fencing tools. I can build some racks and shelves for the metal. This will let me move three more pallets out of the machine shed. My mother-in-law wants me to move the old Dinky tractor, the very first brand new tractor ever purchased for the farm, into that corner spot. It is currently hidden across our driveway in and amongst a lot of other stuff. Everyone would be able to see the tractor when they come over to visit in the new location. It will just depend on how hard it is going to be to move the old lamb shed.

The entrance driveway is over 1/4 mile long and was starting to get pretty rutted. I spent a few hours yesterday with the John Deere tractor and tore up the road with the box blade hooks until I had broken up the surface pretty good then raised the hooks and used the box portion to spread out the gravel evenly. I usually do this right after a rain storm but the little tractor was at my mother’s house last time it rained. The road is very smooth now and won’t need any attention for a few months.

Animals think spring is coming

Along with the great weather the animals are thinking spring is coming! Annmarie went to check on the bees and they are fat and happy. They have tons of pollen and are bringing it back to the hive. We have not seen a single flower but they are getting it from somewhere. They just ignored her while she took some pictures. Hopefully she can get into the hive next weekend and we can tell how much honey made it through winter. If there is lots I would like to steal some more. So we will see hopefully next week.

I let the puppy out into the ram pasture to tear around. She ate lots of sheep poop and ran all over. The sheep were still in the barn so the only animal she could try and terrorize was the horse and she teases the dogs by standing next to the fence. I built a fire and cleaned off the old house porch and burned lots of scrap wood. Chance did come when called and I was able to tell her to “go home” and she ran for the front yard. She is super smart, unfortunately there really is such a thing as too smart. She has been jumping up on the table outside and digging. So far not under the fence. But we found out today that the reason there are dog mud prints on the new office door is that the puppy has learned to open the door!
We have one of those curved handled doors and she is reaching up and opening the latch while pressing on the door. She opened it twice yesterday so we are back to using the dead bolt to keep the door purposefully shut. She will hardly come in and visit with us. She comes and gets loves and hugs then wants to go outside. She sits on the front porch or lays by the door to make sure no one sneaks up on us. We did not teach it but she takes it seriously. Mouse has been picking on her to establish his dominance but she is starting to get tired of it. She is starting to bite back, I expect her to be the dominant dog in another three months. She is just not putting up with his shit anymore.

The sheep are still lambing! We are definitely giving them a small area only so the ram can chase them down more efficiently. This lambing forever is painful. We only had two ewes give birth this week, both had twins. I spent a bunch of time out in the barn on Saturday cleaning out feeders and reloading everything with fresh hay. I really want to get out here and install the 12 V lighting system! The DeWalt hack to the rescue for lighting. But I need to get the wife’s office done first. I told myself no other projects until I get that space completed!!

To that end, Annmarie came up with a fairly brilliant idea, it’s one we have bantered about but I could never see it before. She talked about a rough camping space in a yurt up in field four. We could put it next to the bluffs and raise it about four feet in the air so the animals could not get into it. This would raise it up just enough to give it a great view of the surrounding bottoms but still allow the bluff to protect it from the worst of the weather. Elevating it would also make it easier to install a composting toilet and a small solar panel with a 12 V marine battery. Heck, I might even just be able to use the DeWalt hack and give them a couple of batteries! The internet is spotty so you won’t be using an electrical device much. It would have a small propane heater and double burner propane cook top. Maybe not even have any source of heat. But that would limit the time of the year people would stay and it is pretty in the winter, although we would not be able to have running water in the winter. In the no freezing months we could have 150 gallon water tank. It would not be terribly expensive to get setup. Let’s get through this year and see if it is something we want to do.

The neighbor moved his Angus cows in the field just across the road from us again this year. Our old bull, Thor, is a pain in the ass and he goes down to the huge culvert under the road and crawls under the fence and under the pseudo fence on the other side therefore getting into his cows. This then prompts the owner to text us and we have to go get him. Now he worked hard to get over there and is never super keen to just come home. I chased him around with the tractor for about 30 minutes before he went back to the culvert and I was able to move a panel to lock him in that area. Mr Professional came back out and before we could formulate a plan, Thor just went back through the culvert. He just ducks, squats and bulls his way through. We chased him all the way up to Alcatraz through the bottoms and then our yard and into the impenetrable pen. Now that he is in there with the ram and other two whethers we will have to feed every day. It took 1.5 hours to get him corralled. I am so glad we are taking him to his soon to be forever home! Only six more weeks to go before he is no longer a problem.

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.