Lambs squared

Annmarie said the sunrise was beautiful. I was inside nursing a cup of coffee and doing the dishes while she went out to check on the lambs. It has been 44 hours since our last post and we have only had one lamb born in that time frame. Honestly, sometimes the life of the farmer will make you crazy. The timeline is not set by you, its set by the animals and the weather. Even after all these years I want to drink coffee and take it slow in the morning and Annmarie has already been out to the barn and is now making us mashed potato, ham and onion pancakes for breakfast while I “blog it”.

The last 24 hours has been full of those teaching moments. Thursday night I woke up to Annmarie hollering “Chickens!” Followed by a slap to the chest. We sleep with the windows open year round and so when something is picking on the chickens we usually hear their death squawks, it is a very distinct scream. We have an automatic chicken door, if the stupid chickens would just go inside the coop before it gets dark then they would be perfectly safe. I have been getting eggs on a more regular basis but I don’t go out every night. I have noticed over the last two weeks that 1-5 chickens are protesting and refusing to head back to the coop until the automatic door is already shut. When I do go out and notice them I throw them inside the coop, unfortunately I don’t always go out and the predators seem to be more reliable than me when it comes to visiting the coop.

I leapt out of bed and grabbed my glasses and almost ran downstairs naked, but its cold outside and the death knell had already been sounded so I figured there was no saving the chicken. I grabbed the first bathrobe I could and ended up with a thigh high robe and headed downstairs in my slippers and robe to confront another chicken destroyer. I grabbed the trusty laser sight Walther P22 pistol and ran out the front door. I went right for the coop via the front yard. I wanted to catch the varmint in action! I spotted feathers as soon as I got out of the yard, there was a trail leading out of the coop yard door headed toward the barn. I started following the feather trail in hopes of finding the cause of said trail. I went over by the barn, looked in the front creek, flashed light over the hillsides and under barn to no avail. I headed back to the barn and spotted a chicken over by the old house. It was the source of the feathers and it was still alive! So I decided to leave it and complete my patrol. The last place to look was over on the dry creek side of the old house that runs behind our house. A HUGE fat raccoon was waddling away and he was already about 60 feet away. I quickly discovered a few problems. When you shine the super bright flashlight on the object of your desire, you cannot see the laser dot. 60 feet is a long way to shoot a pistol at a moving target and after three shots there is so much smoke, your super bright flashlight now makes it look like light is emanating from your head. To combat this shroud of light surrounding me I pointed the flashlight way off to one side and focused the laser dot near said enemy and blasted some more. All in all I hit nothing, Annmarie is now ribbing me about my shooting accuracy and just going out and plinking is not the same thing. So after the sheep are done lambing I will be going out after dark with my trusty Walther P22 pistol and shooting at my target in the dark with a flashlight only. I may have to resort to doing it in a bathrobe and slippers or just the slippers to mimic my combat environment. The battle was lost but the ongoing war is not yet decided. I will not give up!

So as soon as I get home yesterday I am walking down the sidewalk and Annmarie hollers from the barn that she needs some help. I expected this as we were going to try and go to the movies. The next words out of her mouth brought dread to my head. She cackles “you better bring the shoulder gloves”. There is only one reason to grab the gloves, someone needs help birthing a lamb. I have only had to assist twice in eight years and so far I have a ewe survival rate of 50%. Annmarie and I have this discussion every time I think I am going to have to pull a lamb out. I don’t like it. She says her dad did it all the time. I tell her she grew up on the farm so she should do it. She tells me I have helped deliver human babies so I have more experience. I tell her they are in no way the same as you don’t need a shoulder glove to help with a human birth! She then states I have done it twice already so am the more experienced as she has never done it so I get to do it again. This is typically done with me laying on the barn floor and Annmarie holding the ewe down. I dread it every time it comes up, we have the exact same conversation every time and every time I end up wearing the glove. I grabbed two gloves just in case and went out to the barn.

She had isolated one ewe and her single baby. The baby was huge and she was worried that a second baby was stuck. The mother was active, interactive with her lamb and eating and drinking. I told Annmarie I don’t go in until the situation is desperate. This was no where near desperate, personal crisis averted. We fed and watered the rest of the sheep, Annmarie had already rearranged the barn and added in the two wire gates. We will do some more pen building today.

After the movies I had to go out to the barn in the pouring rain to check on that ewe and her baby. Luckily I got some new mud boots this week and going through the mud pit to get to the barn is pleasant. I keep tying to plant some kind of grass or cover that will last the summer but this rock bluff gets parched and hot and everything dies in the summer.

Every picture has baby lambs hidden all over the place!

It’s No Shave November again!

I remembered on November 1 this year that it is no shave November! I did not shave off the entire beard on Halloween and then grow it for 30 days. This would be a good experiment to do next year and I may try it as I only need 30 days to get a really nice beard. Instead I have not trimmed my beard in quite a while and am going into the month fairly bushy for me. I will try and make it the whole month without shaving! Annmarie tells me I only get to do that if I make a donation to a cancer not for profit as that is how the month got started. So I will be doing that as it is only fair to have a soapbox to stand on while defending the facial hair.

On last Saturday when we sorted sheep we did count them and have lost four ewes this summer. We have 44 ewes and 1 ram now. Last night Annmarie woke me up to say the coyotes were on our back hillside. It sounded like they were directly out our bedroom window. We have not started to bring the sheep in every night as there is plenty of food out and about but the predators are going to force our hand. I ran downstairs, grabbed the Walther P22, flipped on the back porch light and shot a round into the back hillside just across the creek about 15 feet away. What I really wanted to do was blaze away onto the back hillside to chase the coyotes away. The problem with that is its not safe or responsible. The entire back hillside is one big rock pile and there would be rounds ricocheting everywhere! I might also accidentally hit a sheep or cow and that would not be cool. Flipping on the back porch light was probably just as effective as the loud sound of a gunshot in the night. But together they made me feel confident that I was getting my point across to the coyotes.

If we lose another 10 ewes it will be worth it to get a 22-250 rifle with a thermal or laser night scope. But for now we keep up the harassment techniques. I may have to start circling the property in the evenings once before starting dinner to look for coyotes. They are becoming enough of nuisance that I am going to have to start committing some of my time to hunting them down.

We have had a dumpster for three weeks now and I have managed to fill it every week. I still have not put the glass windows into it which is the sole reason I had it brought out!I still need to empty out the barn trash, the windows and I have a pile of trash out in the old lamb shed. These are things that cannot be burnt as those go in the burn pile. Nor is it anything that can decompose.

It rained all night again last night and I was supposed to clean out the barn lot today. I am hoping it stops for about three hours today so I can get out and finish cleaning up the horse area. I also need to cut off the 2×8 that is sticking out off of the fence. I almost knocked myself out twice last winter hitting it and I need to just make it go away this year. I found my SawzAll, so now it should be easy to cut off.

It is really the middle of the night

Here are some pictures of the Bull Corral. I still need to get in there and use a harrow to tear it up and smooth it out. Everything is so dry and loose that I don’t want to get in there with discs I think they will go too deep. We are going to keep the horses in there for another five weeks. At that time we will have three of the cows slaughtered and they can then have the entire barn lot. The cows have free access to the upper prime lot so they can eat their fill. The horses were getting fat on that same all you can eat menu. They are quite vocal about being on rations. Mika would not come over to the fence and let me rub on her. I did not give her food until she acquiesced and let me rub on her face and side. I have learned that the horses are just like the dogs with that group mentality. You have to be the leader or they just won’t do what you want. Once you are the established leader they are much happier.

Annmarie woke me up at 0200 Thursday night, actually Friday morning to tell me a cow was mooing. Now in her defense at 0200 I am not thinking straight so she prefaces this with the following statement “Before you say anything that will speed up your ability to go to sleep when was the last time you heard the cows pitching a fit in the middle of the night?” I did actually pause before talking and I also heard the cow let out a moo. The moon was incredibly bright and it was very light outside so I went with that excuse first. It didn’t work. She got up to go outside and check on the cows. As she was getting dressed I rolled out of bed ready to go outside. She asked me about clothes. Again, this is simply an impediment to getting back in bed quickly and its 0200!! She made some statement about us maybe needing to go down to her Mother’s house and she didn’t want to see me in my newborn glory. I capitulated and put on pants, slippers and grabbed my Walther P22. I headed for the front of the barn as I was pretty sure it was the pesky annoying bull hollering. Annmarie was on the back hillside flashing a light around looking for cows. I spotted the bull laying down and all four cows just chilling. Mission accomplished, time for bed. We met at the bridge so I could report off on my findings when she states maybe the other cows, all the way down by the schoolhouse, are causing the ruckus. Normally, this could be discounted as no normal human can hear this far, but Annmarie’s hearing is not normal. Not by a long shot, she can hear as well as most owls. I am truly amazed at times by what she can make out or hear, her students can attest to this also. We headed back out to the pickup when I was saved by the annoying bull, he hollered thereby convincing Annmarie that was what she had heard. Once at the bedside I was back in bed in under 15 seconds. She had to get up early but I decadently slept in till 0830! It was amazing.

This is the moon on the ill fated early wake up. I took this just before dark over the back hillside. Who knew I was documenting proof for the blog in advance?

Raccoonageddon

We had a plan last night for predator control and we stuck with it. Around 2130 Annmarie heard raccoons chittering on the back porch. We started breaking out the weapons and the Border Collies started looking for places to hide. They are not real big on loud noises. Our ankle biter Brussels Griffin was all excited and wanted to go outside with us and chase stuff. We had to be careful when we let Annmarie out the front door that he didn’t slip past her. He is pretty sneaky. I gave her time to get to the other side of the old house and then I flipped the outside light on, popped the back door open and started blazing away with my Walther P22 pistol. The laser sight makes shooting in low light situations amazingly easy. I had to spread the wealth though as it was a target rich environment. There were four raccoons and I only had 11 shots when I started. So after two rounds in an animal I switched to another. Two 22 rounds typically does not kill a raccoon immediately unless you are head shooting them. I am not a bad shot but I am not head shot on four moving targets going all directions at once good. I had managed to hit three and was trying for a fourth when Annmarie started blazing away. I never did see what animal she was shooting at so I am afraid there may be five raccoons not four. I had time to slam another clip in and run to the fence to look over for more raccoons after Annmarie hollered it was clear. We looked in the trees and did not find anything. I came back, finished off one and we ended up with three dead raccoons. I usually deal with bodies in the morning as I was going to have to wash off blood from the sidewalk. So we went to bed and in the morning I went out to move the carcasses before going to work. There was only one carcass! The other two were gone. Now before I have any doubters they were all dead. As in finish them off dead before we left the porch. I have made that mistake in the past and don’t do it any more. We are unclear how two of the carcasses vanished. All the cat food was gone also. We will leave out cat food again tonight but I would be surprised if they came back again anytime soon.

The club wheat is ready to harvest and should be cut next week. It is probably the best crop we have had in years. It seems to get better every year.

As I was stepping out of the pickup to take pictures of the wheat two little deer fawn twins jumped out from under a rose bush and ran out into the wheat. If you look at the picture below closely you can see one ear. Both fawns were right there in the wheat field. They are little and still spotted, momma leaves them all over the farm. I have spotted them at both ends of the place. We also have a few bucks coming in at night and early morning. This is good as my nephew and I both have buck tags this year.

I picked up a 260 gallon water trough for the bull area today and 500# of wood pellets for the chicken coop. Bubba just about has the coop done and the pellets will be needed. He shoveled out the old sawdust and bleached the walls today. He just needs to lay down some new pellets after moving old ones. The nest boxes need to be cleaned out and the back room needs to be vacuumed up. He got the milking area of the barn cleaned out today also and under the stairs. Just the momma area, the feeders and the sorting chute need to be completed.

I looked at a set of discs today. It will cost $1000. I am going to have to break down and get them next week so we can finish prepping the fields for alfalfa.

We also got a quote for two miles of fiber optic cable to be strung out to the house. It’s not cheap but it is doable. We would rather have high speed internet than a boat, RV, four wheeler, new vehicle, motorcycle or snowmobile. So we should know by next week hopefully if it is possible and when it can be done.

My bladder made me do it!

You ever get that feeling that says get out of bed? As I approach fifty this sense of urgency has gained prominent attention. Last night I had to wake up at 0300 to pee as I forgot to do it before going to bed. I crawled back into a warm bed hoping to spend the rest of the night warm and blissfully uninterrupted. I was dreaming about these weird deadly creatures that only come out at night and were wiping out mankind when Annmarie jabbed me in the side and whispered “Do you hear that?” Something had cut through my dream but I was unsure if the deadly creatures were on the run in my dream or if it was external. It was external, some odd chittering sound. I had sudden hope that I might get to avenge my untimely departed chickens. The real trick here is time and stealth. Every time I have stopped for a coat, made noise or tried to sneak around on this night terror it has gotten away. That was not going to happen tonight, I got out of bed very quietly and went right downstairs to grab Killer (Walther P-22 pistol with laser sights). I usually load the pistol outside but it was time to change up and get serious so I racked one in, slid the safety off and laid my finger alongside the barrel. I snuck back to to the laundry room and peeked out into the dark. It is dark, I cannot see anything! I reach over and fumble around for the outside light switch. I had left all the lights on the back half of the house off so the predator would not see me coming. I flicked the porch light on and there it was, my Nemesis, a raccoon! I flicked the light off, took one second to ready myself and flicked the light back on and ripped open the door. I led with Killer speaking the language of death. This is where each of our actions have led to our current relationship. I got one “word” off while it was still on the porch attempting to get away from the cat food. I got a second “word” off when it ran left in the back garden. It remembered that the old house was safety and flipped a U-turn and headed back that way. I got off a third “word” which caused it to run behind a trough planter. Killer and I were a team, we followed the predator’s every move and spat out our language every time we had a clear view. There was a fatal flaw in the raccoon’s plan, it had to climb a fence and once it got in the small walkway clearing it realized it could not squeeze through the fence. It was too late, my bladder had taken control of my body and insisted that this event end right now! I just kept pulling the trigger until Killer ran out of breath. Now was time for another crucial conversation, was my bladder going to win or could my desire to see this through to a dead nemesis prevail? It has been too long, we have suffered under the burden of being preyed upon and it had to stop. I ran back into the house and grabbed a second big breath for Killer so we could say our goodbyes. Now normally, I would have just stuck the holster onto my pants, pajamas, robe whatever I was wearing but since I was not wearing anything this did not happen. Killer and I rushed back because my bladder was disagreeing vehemently with our decision to finish the conversation. Annmarie hollered down and asked if “I had gotten it?” She offered to bring down the 30-30, her preferred raccoon eliminator after her raccoon attack but my bladder won this point as we knew the delay would cost us. When I went out onto the back porch the raccoon was not moving, three “words” later I was running for bathroom. I had to pause at the door to unload Killer and drop it onto the couch. My bladder had taken control but Killer and I managed to get the final word in.

I made it in time! Always a great feeling. At breakfast Annmarie informed me that a raccoon has been terrorizing my mother-in-law and tearing into her bird feeders and opening desk drawers on her front porch. Hopefully, we have eliminated the problem and now if my stupid chickens don’t get in before the automatic door closes it won’t be a death sentence.