It’s the small things that count

Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.

I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!

The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.

I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.

I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.

Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.

I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.

I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.

Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.

Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.

Assimilation issues

Well we are not part of the Weather Underground yet. One of the things that Annmarie and I did not know was that Weather Underground actually has recommendations for brands and models of weather stations that work well with their website. We did not get a recommended brand so Annmarie is going to have to work harder to make it happen. I am sure she can win once she puts her mind to it. She tells me that she just redid it today about two hours ago and thinks it may work! We are KORPILOT6 and so far it is not updating put it can take up to one day to update on Weather Underground so we will hopefully be up and running tomorrow. The ram must have had some issues when he was impregnating all the ewes. We went four days without a single ewe having a baby. Since Thursday we have only had one ewe per day give birth. We are thinking he went at his job gangbusters and got all the compliant and easy ewes first, had to take a few days of rest to recuperate and then started to work harder to get all the Wiley ewes. This part of the process seemed to take longer if our extended birthing time is any indication of his progress.

On Thursday I found the first single baby and isolated them in the momma baby area for the day. Unfortunately, I had installed our brand new aluminum gate between the momma/baby and pregnant ewe area. Doing work in the barn should not be an unfortunate thing but it seems like whenever I change something the sheep figure out how to prove that the job is incomplete. The little buggers can squeeze through the new gates! I had three lambs in the wrong area and unlike the feeders that they usually just crawl back out, they did not want to leave all those adult sheep even though none of them were their mommas. Two of the babies had ear tags already and the third was tagless but a big baby and not new. The first two just ran over and found momma and ate, the tagless one was crying nonstop and could not find momma. I had to block the new gate with an old wooden gate to keep the lambs from repeating that trick.

Momma had abandoned him so he came inside and went into the laundry basket. He jumped out first thing and ended up doing the four way splits on our tile floor. I was heating up his bottle when this occurred. After saving him he took a little milk and fell instantly asleep. I fed him three more times but every time he got a little in his tummy he would just fall back asleep. Tisha came and saved him, he will go live with the other three bummers, all of them are still alive.

On Friday we had another single lamb and the rest of our brand new movable gates arrived. Now I just need to find time to fix them, Annmarie suggested we just cover the bottoms with chicken wire so as not to add weight to the gates.

Saturday morning we had a set of twins. Every lamb has been getting the paste and now that it is freezing outside we don’t have to use the syringes. We just squeeze out the frozen length we need and roll it into a ball and then feed it to the lamb.

The lambs are all over the place, I am sure we have lost track of how many we have despite writing it down every day. We should only have 9 untagged babies now but when I look at them running around it looks like more that’s that. Next week I will do the whole tag and band adventure and then we will count everyone again. We have 14 ewes left to give birth. One ewe is not pregnant so we will watch her, I am not sure if she is barren or just lost her baby but she has no udder and is not pregnant. She does have a girl tag, I might want to check her gender just in case there was an error. The lambs are very comical at this age and there are a lot of them. I was out in the barn today applying chicken wire to all the new gates and they were running all over the place. I had kicked out the ewes and pasted and moved the single lamb with our old lead ewe into the momma/baby area. This let me keep the barn closed up so I could fix and install new gates and not worry about mixing up everyone. This is a nightmare if you have to resort with this many babies. The chute doesn’t work well as everyone gets separated. You have to mix the sheep up in a pen then find babies and get them to bleat so you can find their momma then separate them off, it takes forever.

The lambs kept trying to go outside, so they would run down the chute and then run back to the main area. I snagged this picture when they were running back into the main area. This is not all of them.

I just zip tied some chicken wire to our brand new fancy gates. The gates are very light and we did not want to put wire panel pieces on them and weight them down. The chicken wire adds almost no weight and does its job well.

I installed a gate in the far end and attached two new anchor bolts into the main beam so there are no more bungee cords needed. I also installed a gate over the end of the chute so we can close the gate and the babies cannot sneak through. I also installed another gate between the momma/baby area and the pregnant ewes. I had to use bungee cords on that one. I need to install another board and some eye bolts.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

10 singles

13 twins

3 triplets

25 ewes birthed

15 pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

 10 babies dosed only

These numbers are a mere approximation. Until I do the tagging and banding and physically touch every baby and count every ewe these are best guess. It never fails that every year I try and keep a strict count I always manage to get off somehow. They do add up but that doesn’t mean they are right.

Bottleneck in progress

In an attempt to eat more vegetables I added tomatoes to my breakfast fry. I do know that tomatoes are technically a fruit but some fruit with my starch and protein is better than no fruit. It’s fresh yukon gold potatoes, fresh onion, fresh garlic, fresh jalapeño, home grown ham all fried in bacon grease with some Slap yo Mamma seasoning and some tomatoes. It turned out quite nice. Annmarie did the morning barn run and reported only one new baby, a single.

So we have now had three singles born this batch. We have lost track of how many ewes have given birth and will need to do a count soon so we can predict when we will need to move the internal barn wall.

Our new weather station is looking pretty good! It is still not visible on Weather Underground so Annmarie will have to do some troubleshooting. We can see it and that is the most important part.

We had an odd request come through the blog. There is a person from Nigeria that wanted to use our chicken tracker but asked if we could do “crates” of eggs (30 in a crate) and feed in Kilograms and $ sign in Nigerian symbol. Well Annmarie went up to the computer and had it all converted and done with feed in grams per egg as an added bonus. It only took her 15 minutes and it now lives on our Blog. So anyone else from any other country that needs a slight adjustment to the chicken tracker let us know!

I tried to get all the babies into one area tonight to get a picture. I was unsuccessful. Care to guess how many babies are in the picture below? No cheating, give it a try first before I give the answer. Chores at night take an hour and we had to buy a hammer to break the ice now that it is actually getting cold.

There are 17 babies in the picture.

Joining the Collective

It was weather day today. We bought a weather station for the farm. We wanted one that would track and trend our weather and after further research we decided that connecting to the Weather Underground so that our data flowed into a national database was beneficial for all parties. The best part of the one we got is that it connects directly to the internet via our modem. It doesn’t have to go through our computer. This would not have been possible without our investment in fiber optic cable directly to the house and a business account.

Annmarie and I had already discussed where we were going to mount the weather station, the wood shed. We had not quite decided on where we were going to attach it. After further reading this morning I discovered we could mount it on 3/4″ pipe. It also said we should use lithium batteries for optimal performance and for any temperatures below -5F. So I ran to town for 10′ of pipe and some eyelets and some J bolts. I had to call Annmarie out to the shed as I wanted to mount it in the middle, then I wanted to mount it on the near end, Annmarie wanted it mounted on the far end. I mounted it on the far end. I had to drill a hole in the roof, insert the pipe from the roof side and then J bolt it in place after leveling it. I then had to put up two support boards inside to keep the main bolted support in place. The final step was to put the weather station on top of the pipe. Unfortunately, the pipe is now seven feet above the roofline and I had to move my ladder to a slanted hillside. I thought I had it supported when I climbed up to the top of the ladder but I felt it shift. I needed to find due South for the solar cells to maximize their output but I could not find the compass app on my phone! My legs were shaking the wind was picking up and making the ladder move and I kept envisioning me falling from 20 feet up in the air and counting as a trauma activation patient at work. I finally had to use the search function in desperation to find the compass. I got it in place and secured and got down as fast as I could. Annmarie got it all set up inside the house and even managed to put it on our WordPress blog site. It should be live in the next 24 hours.

It was my turn to go out and work the sheep. We had talked about moving panels around to create a bigger baby area as we are expecting 80 babies. So I moved panels around and found two old wooden gates up in the loft of the barn to bungee into a temporary wall. It is fairly obvious that I will need to weld three custom length panels to make it so that we can easily do this in the future. We will be able to store the panels on the walls so they will be available whenever we need them. I will do it out of 3×3 mesh to keep the panels as light as possible. Or I could just buy the twirly spiral hinges Annmarie wants and cut four foot sections of paneling and put them together in any order we want. That sounds like a more reasonable plan and actually doable.

We did not have any more babies today and the lone ewe still only has one baby. I just think our sheep are super fat this year. We have started to cut back a little on their feed. Hopefully, tomorrow we will have another spurt in babies.