The Tractor is Back!

I picked up the tractor on Christmas Eve!  It took them a week and one of the connectors has been pieced together from three different fittings.  It now has a rear hydraulic takeoff with its own lever.  I will now be able to control the angle of the sickle mower and raise the back hatch of the hay baler so it can drop off the completed bale.  I just need to get the lights fixed and working on the roll bar.  I have to move them and attach the new rear facing light as the first time I put them in the wrong spot and lowering the roll bar caused us to destroy one of the lights.  So now I am on the second light and a second wiring harness and the lights have not even worked yet!

While I was in the parking lot at Bimart I had a couple come up to me and ask my opinion about my tractor.  I gave a whole rundown, cost and time savings benefit and the do’s and dont’s.  I walked them around the tractor and spent 30 minutes espousing my love of this machine.  They were convinced they needed one and thanked me for being honest.  This beauty has been used and she shows some wear and tear but keeps on chugging along.  03A20B3A-4531-4178-A8A7-D7780660DE32

I came home with the tractor and had to feed cows in both spots so I pushed large bales around, moved the feeders over the new bales and even spent some time scraping the road clear of alpaca poop.  Annmarie finally called me to ask me what was going on as she thought I was playing with the tractor.  Adult men do not play with tractors, we work with tractors any man could tell you that.  It was nice to be back on it.  I could do 2 hours of tractor work every day and not think it was work.

We had two of the old maps framed and I hung them on our wall.  The maps are from 1886-1912.  We have about 15 left to frame, but it is going to take us a few years to get them all done.  They are of various cities and railroad yards of the surrounding area.

Annmarie and I went out this morning to tag and band the three lambs that are currently out in the barn.  The first one was out with the main herd.  We went into the barn and closed the door so no one could escape.  I slowly waded into the sheep and spotted the untagged baby.  I tried to grab it but it snuck by me.  Annmarie wanted to run all the sheep through the chute but it takes 15 minutes to set it up so then she suggested just squeezing them all at one end of the barn and then I could wade in after she shut the gate.  As she was moving one of the panels I spotted the lone lamb again, I crept up on it and got it isolated.  It started trying to dash side to side and squeeze by me, as it leaped up into the air to get past me, I dove reaching out with my left hand and snagged it out of the air in a flying tackle and ended up longwise on the barn floor in the straw, I had her!  The amazing part is by the time we were done with all three lambs I ended up with no sheep poop on my entire body despite rolling around in the straw with a lamb.  We had two girls and a boy and we moved the momma and babies in with the main herd.

On the way back from the barn, I told Annmarie about my plan to collect 300# rocks and put them on the hillside.  She accused me of wanting to spend time with the mistress (tractor) when there were other things to do.  So instead I worked on mounting the flood lights on the tractor.  I had to run to Pilot Rock for some large hose clamps but I managed to get the lights all installed.  I even mounted a separate on/off switch into a piece of grey plastic electrical conduit and clamped it to my roll bar.  So now to turn on the flood lights I turn on the head lights then turn on the flood lights if needed.  I wired in the flood lights through the tractor lighting circuit.  I need some pins for the quick connect and will have to order them in.  My next project is to order a conversion kit for the “buggy” to put in a large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat and a trickle charger.  This way we don’t have to worry about it starting whenever we want it to run.

I also need to get the machine shed wired so I can install lights and I need another metal cabinet for tractor parts.  Plus, I need to get the sprayer motor changed out to the new one with double the flow volume.  DC05D1FC-F261-4AC5-ADFF-6B3AE2351FA7

Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.

Machine shed joy

Yesterday was very productive, having Tex come out and help has really allowed us to take on some projects that had just been getting pushed to the side. We started the day by tagging and banding cows. Now mind you we knew there were three babies that needed to be tagged but until we catch them we don’t know their gender. Last time Annmarie did the tractor trick and they came out of the lower pasture to follow the tractor. This time she and Tex went outside and then I did the dishes. I saw the cows up on the back hillside so I ambled on out to the tractor with my coffee in hand and proceeded to drive up the back hillside. I figured the cows would follow the tractor. I proceeded to drink a lot of coffee on my way up the hillside. Well as soon as I got on top of the hill the cows started running in the opposite direction away from the tractor. Cell phones might sound like a great communication device but after the third time your wife calls you when you are supposed to be helping move cattle its time to ignore the phone. As soon as the cows heard the tractor they ran back down to the gate I always bring food in through!! Who is stupid now? By the time I got down off the hill I had just enough time to open the barn lot gate and they pushed the cows inside. We had them sorted in under 10 minutes. It took me about five minutes to get both testicles on the larger calf into the rubber band device. The calf kept peeing on me. I persevered but after 220 lambs I am a lot better at them. I have only done 18 steers and I messed up the first three.

We sorted off the cows to sell this fall. There was supposed to be two, there were three. So now I have to sell one more cow and Annmarie has convinced me we need to use her shared spreadsheet app she made in Airtable. We need to be able to keep track of days born and how many we have on hand. She inputted all three new calves into the system. We have sorted them off and they are now in the upper prime field. It has lots of green grass and running water. They are not happy about being sorted off of their mothers. We will have 7 cows for sale next year. We will finally have our numbers up.

I had to go to town and pickup gates for the front of the machine shop. I had to buy multiple sizes to get them to fit right as I cannot adjust the opening of the shop. I had to buy 10 gates for around $800. The 50 yards of gravel cost around $900, four days of labor cost around $600. Not to shabby for an incredibly useful space and a lot of it!!

We had to alternate attaching gates inside the opening or outside depending on whether we needed to fill in space or use less. We even managed to get most of them to match. Its hard to believe that they are on a slant from the left side to the right. I spent some time and spread out the rest of the gravel. While I did that Tex mounted 6 sheets of plywood into the hay area. We don’t want the hay scraps to fall back into the cleaned out area. He go six sheets up and I need to go buy six more to finish the wall separating the hay area and the rest of the shop.

While we were hanging gates Annmarie was taking a nap! I spotted the evidence that evening when I came inside. I was incredibly jealous. Tex also cleaned up all the junk behind the machine shed and dug out a drainage ditch. We will get it filled with gravel in the next week or so. This should help the moisture inside the shop also.

Quail are hanging in there

We are supposed to get a big winter storm today. So far the sun has been shining and the temperature got to 43F and now its 21F and snowing. The best part is we only have a slight breeze and not the predicted gale that is surrounding us. I spotted the quail this morning out in the front yard and this evening they were on the back hillside. I counted over 21 quail! If they can survive the next two weeks with snow on the ground we should have a huge population by the end of the summer. We usually only have 4-8 quail by the end of winter. This could make the population boom!

The back runoff creek is running clear. It has dropped several inches over the last few days. Our rock we use to measure it is now visible. Hopefully, the snow will stay in the mountains and melt off slowly. This is our wish every year but it doesn’t always happen.

The hay is running low in the barn so I moved a ton of alfalfa into the barn and out to the old lamb shed for the ram. We are going to start feeding 1/2 bale in the morning on top of the 1/2 bale we feed at night and we are giving two scoops of sweet mix in the morning. The ewes are getting skinny! The lambs look amazing!! You would never be able to guess that the oldest one is only six weeks old by their size

Zeke has figured out how to get out of the yard again. He dug out under the fence near the creek. He is so devious. I almost need to line the creek sides with wire directly under the fence to stop this problem. I tossed another 50# rock in his hole to slow down his escape. If he wants out again he will find another way, there is always another way for a Border Collie.

Annmarie, Sarah and I went out to the barn today to tag and band the rest of the babies. We caught nine babies and four were boys. The triplets were all boys!! We wanted to save any girls from that set as their mother is fantastic but no luck. We still have a few ewes that are not delivering. They are the jumpiest sheep of the bunch and we think the ram had a hard time doing his business with them. So the plan is for us to put the ram back in with the main herd next week. This should get us back in sync for more lambs in 7 months.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

12 singles (35%)

18 twins (52%)

4 triplets (11%)

34 ewes birthed

4 pregnant ewes pending birth

55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

Production rate:

Birthed 176%

On our farm and alive 162%.

All they need is a number

I came home early today from work so we could catch up on the lambs. We had to bummer out a second one on Wednesday and it was not able to stand. After talking with several people we think it may be a Selenium deficiency. The trouble is there is not a really good salt lick for sheep that delivers selenium. The one for cows has a toxic dose of copper for sheep. They do make a paste you can feed them so we got some. I also picked up some more buckets and straps and plastic salt holders with predrilled holes in the bottom so the water doesn’t make a mess. After stopping at the feed store I headed home. We had decided to get this all done during daylight hours and we always underestimate how long it will take.

I told Annmarie we might as well tag and band at the same time. That way we will know who got medicine. So we chased all the babies and mommas into the barn and Annmarie got the three moms and four babies in main population with two extra ewes into the barn and we locked everyone else out. That left one mom and one lamb outside with the ewes. She had also managed to separate out two ewes and four babies this morning into the far pen in the barn. I usually just sit down on the barn floor and let Annmarie bring the lambs to me. I had to go into an unused corner of the barn to get a couple of piles of clean straw to toss down where I wanted to sit. I laid out the medicine and the tags and bander on each side of me and she proceeded to start catching babies. We did the combo area first and there are times you would think we killed the little boys. Some do not like the rubber bands on their testicles. They keep backing up after it happens in the hopes of getting away from the pain. After anywhere from 5-30 minutes they start behaving normally. The other reaction is to just sprawl out on the straw and appear to have died. It also goes away in 15-30 minutes. If you are going to be melodramatic you might as well draw it out.

We then snagged the four lambs in the middle part after kicking the two adult pregnant ewes out. We opened up the entire barn after snagging the two sets of twins on the end and pushed all done herd into the baby area.

Now we have 24 ewes left in “General Population” or “Gen Pop” for short per Annmarie. I get a kick out of it every time she says it. Only 23 have not delivered a lamb yet. We have had 17 ewes give birth for a total of 30 lambs in our barn. This gives us a reproductive rate of 176%!! This is very good. If you counted the two bummers and the one I found dead as live births we would have 194% birth rate, Annmarie tells me I cannot manipulate the numbers this way and only get to count the live lambs we have in the barn.

So the current numbers are as follows:

1 death

2 bummers

5 singles

2 triplets

11 twins

17 ewes birthed

23 ewes still pregnant

30 lambs tagged and banded

Two men = no balls

It has been another long week. Annmarie kept telling me to slow down or I was going to make myself sick. I spent all day on the couch today sleeping cause I am sick. I am not sure if her words were prophetic or a curse, lets just poll all married men to get a final answer.

I did take it easy one night! I have started to work on cleaning my dog tag maker! I only used water, cotton rag and some 320 grit wet/dry sand paper to clean it up. There are some very precise rails, tracks and flat stops that need to be polished. I spent two hours working on it and barely touched it. I also realized some tools are required. I really need to take each piece off and clean it then reattach it. Luckily, it is so old I only need a standard screw driver, and an open end wrench. The trouble is I need a stubby screwdriver or an angled one and the same on the open end wrench. So I ordered special tools on Amazon and they are here except for my special open end wrenches. Those should be here next week. I will attack it again when I have all the tools. I am going to try and add up all the hours it takes me to just clean it up and get it functional. At this point I am going to estimate a 100 hours and I already have 2 hours into it.

The Expert came out to look at our predator problem. We had a very good discussion and I will call him after the wheat has been harvested. He is going to set up some traps and get a predator contract resigned. The farm used to have one so we will get a new one signed. So our farm will be added to the arial shooting plan. All in all I was very happy with the interaction. He remembered Ted and Tom and all their sheep. He also loves lamb, states it is the best meat of any animal. I agree with this statement.

The momma cow and baby stayed in the corral and milk barn area for three days. We fed them and used our 35 gallon water trough. It was incredibly hot but the cow would go in the barn if she wanted shade. I had to wait for help to get that calf tagged and banded. I went over and took out some alfalfa hay for them and fed 1/3 bale and set the other outside the corral so she could not get at it. I also moved the last of the hay from winter into the barn lot for the soon to be food cows to eat extra on. This was what the lazy alpaca were eating on instead of foraging. So the slugs found my stash of hay for the cow and started eating on it! You know they are lazy when they have to lay down to eat.

My nephew came over on Tuesday and we went out to deal with the calf. Annmarie was going to film us but we didn’t really give her time and had the calf pinned pretty fast. The nephew went for the all hands on deck approach and just jumped in and tried to grab a front and back leg and drop it on its side. He ended up on the ground and holding one back leg with the calf near a gate and a corner. I jumped on it and pinned it down then he climbed on top of it. We were right next to the gate hinges. This is important because I had a hard time finding two testicles. So I kept asking him to move the calf around a little bit to ease the abdominal muscle tension. There was a yellow jacket nest in the end of the gate. He got stung twice in the ear before we finally just grabbed the calf and slid him three feet away from the gate. It took me about five minutes to find both testicles and get them into a rubber band. The calf is a little old and you have to pull the scrotum through then kinda pop each testicle past the rubber band. I got them both so in a few weeks the calf will have no testicles. We tagged him in the right ear also. I did verify i had the right color tag this time but just in case all our cull animals will be tagged in the right ear if we are selling them. So even if I mess up gender the ear will tell us which ones to get rid of. I need to look but I think its number 13 or 14.

We then had to chase them out onto the back hillside and out with the other cows. Our no nutter bull has torn up our fence in front of the barn to get near her so he needs to be two fences away from her. She ran to the top of the hill so our nephew went up and chased her down while I opened all the gates ahead of her to get her out with everyone else. I really like the picture that Annmarie took below.

We then went over and finished working on the bull corral. We got the last four posts set in gravel and put up all the used feeder panels. The panels are heavy so we used the tractor to drag them over to the post line. We also had to use the tractor to lift sections of the panels so we could hook in the next section. The only thing left to do is to add the cow panels and chain everything to the wooden posts. I do need to finish filling the last rock crib and put up four wooden boards. After that I need to clean out the old wood scraps and all the old fence materials. I also have about four fence holes to fill in. I also need to drag the ground and level the area out. Once that is done I need to install the water trough. I may need to put In a couple of gold fish in the tank to keep it clean. I am at 85% completion! In three hours I could have the fence done the rest is to make it safe and provide a spot for water. The water trough will hold 235 gallons of water and we are not going to use a pump. I will be hand dipping water from the spring into the trough. I just thought up a bucket arrangement I can attach to a railroad tie that has a hose attached to the bottom that I can just bucket into it and then the water will flow into the trough so I don’t have to try and throw the water through the fence. That will make a mess.