Sheeporoma!

 

 

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We were supposed to be done with lambing, it’s just that not everyone got the message.  Sarah went out this week and discovered a set of twins.  They got put into the momma area under the stairs.  The babies did well and today we went out and banded and tagged all the sheep in the momma/baby area, kicked them out with the main herd and moved the twins and their momma into the baby area.  Now we no longer have to carry water to any sheep!  This is one of our main goals in life.  We could not get the three untagged lambs running with the main herd as they were still out on the back hillside running around with everyone else.

When you walk through the barn lot it looks like the testicle fairy has been busy.  There are little fur bags with double bright orange rubber bands all over the barn lot.

Three days ago Annmarie opened up the back hillside to the sheep.  Within 3 hours they had figured out how to get under the fence at the creek crossing.  We just gave up and went out and opened up the hillside gate.  I cannot lower the fence over the runoff creek as there is a ton of snow up in the mountains and it was 64 degrees F today.  Once the runoff creek picks up the sheep will have a harder time crossing it.  So far its just a skinny little thing that has been running for a couple of months now.

I finally took all the cardboard items I had been stashing in the dining room and burned the twig pile I had been creating in the orchard.  We needed it burnt as this area is going to become our Lavender grow area.  It still needs a new fence and an animal lane to get to the side gate so we can still move sheep and cows around the garden.

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If only all studs could be this lazy

These are not Siamese twins, some sheep are just greedy.   They were trying to get more grain than was their due and figured that crowding their way in would work.  Sarah wanted to know what to do about them.  She thought that she would have to cut the feeder apart to get them loose.  I told her to just ignore them and continue feeding, they would get themselves loose.  They figured out how to get out of the feeder on their own with no human assistance.  Just like a cat figuring out how to get down from a tree!

On Sunday, Sarah and I went outside and worked the sheep.  We tagged and banded all the babies and turned everyone loose into the main herd.  It took almost three hours in the barn to get everything done.  I even hung some hooks for the buckets so you can now find a needed bucket quickly and they are out of the way.  26785DDE-C95E-4B9A-9048-23236CEAEE45

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It seems like a fairly simple idea, but not one we had put in place.  I blame all of the LEAN projects I have been doing at work on getting the right supply to the right place as fast as possible and as conveniently as possible.

I am still working on the upstairs bathroom.  I really want to get it to a place where I can lay down tile.  I cut the first piece of hardiboard with the skilsaw and had dust everywhere!  It took 20 minutes for the dust to settle down on the breeze porch and I still had to open two windows to get it.  I switched to a utility knife and breaking it along th escorted line afterwards.  It takes longer but there is no dust.  I just need to get the 3” tall wall pieces installed and the bathroom backsplash done and I can start painting the Redgard water sealant on.  That is going to be key to making it waterproof.

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Annmarie and I are tired of lambing season dragging out.  The ram was definitely taking his time.  We have been lambing since Christmas and are just over half way done.  We are in serious discussions on getting a second ram, maybe that will spur some competition?

 

 

 

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