Elk damage

Well the elk did make it down to our orchard, luckily not very many of them came down onto the bottoms. This was a boon to us as they did dig in the snow and try to find the grass. We had one cow elk that stayed low and even spent the night in the machine shed with the alpaca one night. The weather has finally warmed up and the snow is slowly melting off. One of our greatest worries was that the elk would get down into our newly planted grass hay pastures and tear them up. I have been driving up to the upper end of the farm three times a week to look at the pastures and check for elk damage. I can go all winter without ever normally seeing the other end of the farm. I am unclear how me watching for damage will change anything but it did not stop me from looking. People ask why the elk are different than deer. The picture below is a great example. You can see above where the elk dug down and ate the grass. When you look at the picture below you can see the yellow spots on the ground. Those yellow spots are where the elk dug down and ate the grass. They will tear up the grass and eat the roots. In a couple of weeks we will know how much damage was done to the pasture but since it needed replanted we are not going to worry about it. The elk started moving up the hillsides as the snow started to melt off. They did not want to stay low and only came down because the weather forced them out of the mountains.

Our back creek is running a little muddy but it is doing great. We have a rock on the creek bank we use to measure the depth of the water. This rock has been buried but the creek has gone down again and it is visible. The water is starting to run clear also. All in all if this will continue for the next 6-8 weeks it is going to be a glorious Spring!

Water in the raw

Well the weather finally let me get into the upper fields. I drove the mistress up the road, stopped and talked to one of our neighbors on the way then made my way up to the far end of the property. I was able to get into the upper wheat field and drive along the bottom pasture. We do own a four wheel drive pickup but the problem with it is its heavy and it sinks down into the mud. The mistress has four wheel drive and is very light, she also has a bucket that can be used to drag or push you out of any place you get stuck. I have learned how to use the bucket to rescue myself. This does not work if you actually get stuck in a deep hole. You need a second vehicle at that point. I have only needed a second vehicle four times to extricate the mistress out of tight jams. The ground is truly soaked at this point. It is starting to give up water and is now running down the center of the field. I was hoping to get a single large pond that held the water but it does not look like that is going to happen. I also did not dig a channel down the middle of the field like I did in the lower field. It looks like the water is working on creating its own channel. When it dries out this summer I am going to have to deepen the channel that is made by the runoff. This will allow me to install a culvert so I can cross the ditch with the tractor and implements. I don’t want to bother with installing any buried tile network to drain off the moisture. My goal is to get the grass established and get a nice double cutting from the subterranean water soaked ground. If I have to give up some land due to too much moisture then so be it. Unfortunately, the ground is so sloped that there is no pond or reservoir like effect occurring. I am not so sure the ducks will like a mud pit. This is the bottom half of the upper pasture. I still need names for the two fields in the middle. Currently I have the Upper Prime Pasture which is the 4 acres just past the barn lot, two unnamed grass hay fields and the upper field which will forever be called the “7 acres”. I will have to consult the wife as to what the names should be. You can see that the lower channel has a tendency to widen and splits near the fence. The best part of this is that the elk have not gotten into the field and rooted up the grass seedlings!

Here is the lower of the two fields. This field has a channel dug into the center of it from five years ago. The water seems to be going directly to that channel. I would really like it to go to the already dug old original channel at the middle left of the screen. That is the original ditch from the 30s. I think I could easily direct it that way as you can see a low spot is already there. I would just need to encourage that water to make the jump to the front ditch instead of creating its own. This is the lower pasture. Last year I created a series of small connecting channels and they are working. This entire area in the picture used to be a mud fest area. I don’t dare go out in either field for at least two more months. The deer are living in the bottoms with the elk living on the hillside and up on top in the CRP. This is a good thing and I have high hopes for our grass hay crop this year.

We are going to work on our taxes this weekend. I need to do the farm categories and the chicken spreadsheets. Once that is done we are going to work on our loan application for the hay equipment.

Floor finished

Well it took a week longer than I thought and Annmarie had to sleep at her mother’s house for an extra week but I got the stairs and spare room floor finished. There is still a little light spot on the stairs from the dogs going up and down the stairs but it is not super noticeable. I suspect I will have to do the stairs again in 10 years. I may even sand them smooth then. I just slopped stain over them as is until I was happy with the color then slopped Varethane over that. I may have a few dog hairs in the Varethane.

The barn owl is hanging out in the machine shed now. I went out to feed the cows and it just was not going to leave. I started up the tractor and it just peered down at me and gave me the “what for” look. I drove off and it never moved from its perch. I need to get in the room and clean some more. I want to wipe down the walls and ceiling another 2-3 times to make sure I have gotten all the sawdust off of the walls and wood trim. Once all that is done then I am going to stain the door trim in place. Its a pain to do but I opted to do it in stages as I wanted to get the floor done first. I don’t think I will need a bunch of coats of stain and varethane on the trim. I will probably only do one maybe two coats. Unfortunately, I am not going to put the furniture back in the room until I am all done cleaning. I can do the door staining with the furniture back in place. It turned out very nice. I think I am going to add 1-2 more shelves in the closet storage room also. I will be able to store stuff all the way to the ceiling that way. I am also going to add a shelf between the intake and output duct. This will gain me five feet of shelf 18 inches wide and 20 inches deep. That is a lot of space! This has spurred me to reconsider building another narrow shelf next to our refrigerator. We currently have all our reusable bags just stuffed into a 7 inch wide gap. To minimize space loss I should use 5/16 plywood. The trouble is I like the look of old doors but that will cause me to lose 3 inches which is too much. So I am still arguing with myself on what to put their that will not cause a loss in decor. I am considering a frame type shelving unit using the old floor kickboards. I found a bunch of them in the rafters of the old woodshed when I was installing the weather station. I just need to figure out how I am going to put them together. That project is going to preoccupy my mind for the near future.

I have determined which alpaca is the smartest. It is the not smallest black one. The trailer got moved and this is the only spot on the entire property with visible grass and he was all over it. I came back two hours later and eight alpaca were trying to lay in this spot! The trailer was moved in the night so they did not see the spot come open.

More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.

Tractor is alive!

Being the “gentleman farmer” with 120 animals has taught me a lot over the years since we have moved back to the farm, but I realize just when I think I have it figured out something new pops up. I managed to get ahold of RDO, the tractor dealer yesterday to ask them to come pull the tractor out and take it in and fix the bucket. The helpful gentleman, Mr Shirt Tail Cousin, said the guys were out our way and he could send them my way. He called back to say they were already back at the shop but they wanted to know if I had triggered the lock out. What lock out? I asked Mr Shirt Tail Cousin if he knew where the lock out was, was it that tiny lever between my legs? He said it might be on the actual valve or at the base of the bucket control stick. I then mentioned that the stick felt stuck. He was convinced it was now a lock out issue and I said I would try the unlabeled tiny lever and call him back tomorrow for pickup if that was not it. Now I almost tried this lever a couple of days ago. I did mess with the knob right next to it that I don’t know what it does and that did nothing so I left the tiny lever alone. It was the tiny lever!

I was able to push myself out of the snow pile and get out of the path to the cows. I promptly went and put on the box blade. I had to drive around a bit as finding it in 16 inches of snow was not easy. The box blade weighs almost 500$ and hangs off the back of the tractor. It made all the difference in the back tires not sitting on top of the snow and spinning. I then proceeded to start clearing the driveway instead of feeding the cows. Annmarie caught me “playing in the snow” when she came home from work.

I should figure out what that knob does…

I need the tractor to go to the shop. It needs an oil change, it needs the hood beat out and repositioned, both lights are broken on the rollover bar, the safety switch under the seat keeps sticking and needs replaced, I need to install another waterproof canister on the roll bar that I can keep a few tools in, may install lights also that point forward and backwards so we can pickup hay in the dark or hay in the dark.

I got another coat of varethane on the spare bedroom floor and the stairs. There is gonna be some dog hair in the steps. I tried to keep them clean but its in the air! The room looks good. I want to recoat the steps one more time Thursday.

When I went down to eat dinner at mother-in-law’s I spotted a barn owl flying out of her big blue spruce tree. At dinner the night before she said she thought the raccoons had stolen her small bag of cat food. She stated that the bag fell out of the tree the next day, it could have been the owl! I have not seen the Great Horned Owl in a few months. Just when I think it has finally died I spot it. They were here when I dated Annmarie in high school.

Now that the tractor works I no longer worry how much snow gets dumped on us. I can clean up any amount! The tractor is lighter than the pickup also so it doesn’t sink as much.

After dinner I got a call stating that the elk have moved down out of the mountains and are in our upper bottom pasture. I just planted 14 acres of grass up there this fall. I am hoping the snow is deep enough that they will go up on top of the hill and eat the CRP. The CRP is 1-2 feet tall so the elk should have an easier go at eating it. The real question is how much fence have they torn up? They are rough on fence.

I found out we got the grant to build fence along the waterway. It should take about another month to get the final go ahead then I can start building it.

Lots of snow

It started this weekend, it was supposed to be nice and steady but it came in like a wrecking ball! I spent over 10 hours outside on Sunday trying to clear snow from our driveway. This was complicated by the fact that on Friday our tractor bucket just quit working. I could not move the bucket at all it was stuck on the ground. So I just drove it around and pushed snow with the bucket on the ground. Not ideal and took longer than normal but it worked. The only problem with this is Annmarie parked her car outside of her mother’s house and it got stuck. I went down to drive it out and got it stuck worse. So we just parked it and when the snow melts we will get it! Next year we put the stud tires on even if there is no snow. It just kept snowing, it was horrible. We used to live in the Rockies, but I sold our track driven 8 HP snow blower in Moscow because we just did not need it. If the tractor worked we would be fine.

On Monday I was trying to clear another 6 inches and got the tractor stuck down by the cow gate. Annmarie had already had to pull me out with the pickup once 30 minutes earlier. So I called her again and she tried to get me out to no avail. She almost got the pickup stuck and had to apply a judicious amount of gas pedal to get it to clear out of its predicament. I tried to call the Tractor dealer to get them to come pick it up for repair but the phone was busy all day. So now we have two vehicles stuck!So now that the tractor is stuck we are using the pickup to move hay to the cows. The problem with this is you have to carry the hay about 100 feet. We are just tossing it over the fence, I usually feed farther into the pasture but I am not walking and carrying hay that far. It takes about 12 trips to get two bales fed. We feed two bales in the morning and two at night when there is snow on the ground, no snow they get three bales.

Its supposed to snow more, if we get another foot we are so screwed. If only the tractor worked!

The poor ram is the largest sheep in the barn and he gets pushed around the most! When we toss out hay into the feeders the ewes just keep pushing until they have taken over all head space and he gets squeezed out. He has maintained his casualness. Annmarie even saw him acting as a hill for the lambs and they were jumping all over him.

I have a friend who wanted a few lambs but we are going to sell her the ewes that are pregnant and off cycle. She gets pregnant sheep and we get rid of the off cycle sheep. Its a win-win situation.

We have been feeding the quail one quart of bird food on our back hillside first thing in the morning. This snow makes getting to food hard for the birds. We now see them several times a day digging through the snow looking for seeds.

I was supposed to get floor done

Annmarie was out of town starting on Monday of last week so I was supposed to get the floor finished while she was gone. That did not happen despite my attempt. Chores take time and when you are doing all the morning chores and all the evening chores I was spending about 2.5 hours a day doing chores. The snow keeps coming and going so I am now sweating whether we are going to have enough hay. The barn is almost empty so I will have to start bringing it over from the machine shop. We had a set of triplets, and I isolated them under the stairs. They appeared to be doing well. I found one lamb under the feeder a couple of times but everyone was getting up and eating. I went out the third night and found this gal buried under the feeder and ice cold. I brought her in and took her over to the propane stove to get warmed up. I tried to feed her a bottle but she didn’t have the energy to drink. So I worked her jaw for her. That got a little in until I got a syringe and started to squirt it in her mouth and rub her throat to swallow. She looked much better by the time that Tisha arrived to take her to her forever home.

We had a single born three days later and it is huge compared to the triplets. They are very small.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

5 bummers

13 singles (33%)

18 twins (50%)

5 triplets (17%)

36 ewes birthed

2 pregnant ewes pending birth

55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

3 lambs to process

Production rate:

Birthed 178%

On our farm and alive 161%.

Since we are running out of feed I am taking every opportunity to utilize outside feed. Our corral has an isolated pen that the grass had grown up in so I let the sheep in here to eat it down. The weather man says we are going to get 4-7 inches of snow over the next five days. I had to keep staining the stairs repeatedly. I forgot that I had put down oak treads and they just won’t take the stain very well. I had to stain the stairs three times and the upstairs floor twice. I managed to get the stain to a place that was acceptable. It’s not near as obvious where the dogs have created a path. My goal is to put on more than two coats of Varethane. I went to Sherwin Williams to get the same Varethane and found out it was discontinued but they had four gallons left. I only needed one and it cost about 1/3 of what I would have normally paid for it so I was pretty happy.