I had lots of help on Saturday, Mr I Need a Belt Bad and Mr Professional came out. Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I helped Annmarie sort sheep first thing in the morning. We had the sheep in the barn first then set up the gates. It’s easier if we do the gates first but the simple fact is using the gates and sorting chute is one of the best decisions we have made when it comes to raising sheep. It doesn’t take up much space and we can sort them whenever we need. We never want to sort the sheep, its always a need. We needed to sort off more lambs that were over 90 days old. We got 18 more pulled off and even managed to mark three of the little girls as savers and future breeders for us, they are incredibly calm. We proceeded to push them through the front hillside and over into the orchard pasture. This would have gone smoother if Mouse had not decided that he knew how to herd sheep better than Annmarie’s directions and just as they neared the gate he broke and rushed in. There was some chasing of a particular sheep and yelling and some creative word play. On the next attempt the dogs listened and the sheep went through the gate. This all leads to the necessity of a woven fence on top of our rock wall to keep the sheep out of the yard. We also want to keep the dogs out of our yard so we can get a no hole yard. This whole process only took one hour. It used to take around 2-3 hours before the chute and then you had to chase the sheep around the barn and dive on them or catch them mid air when they tried to leap away. It was entertaining but a lot more work and we are not getting any younger. Our ram is starting to lose weight and it looks like some of our ewes are pregnant. We hope so as he only has one job.
Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I then stayed in the barn and proceeded to get it ready for hay. We did this by putting all of the netting and hay string into empty 50# feed bags and tossing them into the back of the pickup. The dumpster is still on the property and got emptied Friday so it needs to be filled again. I was hoping that I could be done with one more week but after emptying two hay rooms and picking up all of the netting and more buried twine we filled the entire dumpster with the addition of all of the feed bags from the chicken coop. I still have a lot of items in the old house that need to be round filed so the dumpster will have to stay for one more week to get filled for the last time, a total of 6 yards of trash will have been removed from the farm. I sure am glad we have weekly trash service. Once we had all of the trash corralled we went into the barn and reorganized some wood. I had built a loft over the sheep feeding area and had been storing wood on it. We reorganized the room over the tack room and then moved and restacked all of the lumber except the 1×12 boards into that room. I used the 1×12 boards to toss down and cover some of the holes in the decking. We are going to start haying soon and we have a couple acres of cheat grass. The flood ruined a couple of the fields and now there is a lot of cheat grass. I just about had it under control in a couple of fields and it is back. So we are going to hay it and use it for bedding. The bales will be stored up on the walkway and you will be able to just cut them open and dump them off the walkway. The sheep will break them up and spread them out. It’s a great use for them and stops me from having to buy straw. It also lets me work out any kinks in the baling process before I get to the good grass. Practice is essential as we have only used it for one year. When it comes time to clean out the barn I need to open up all of the doors and use the leaf blower to blow the dust off of everything. I will need goggles and an N95 mask for that as it will be very dirty and dusty.
Mr Professional arrived and started to work on getting the lawn mower running, he had it fired up in no time and started in on the lawn. Mr I Need a Belt Bad went to the back garden to weed for the second time. All of the grass that he missed last week had gotten some rain, sun and some extra room to grow. It had taken off and he was able to knock it down one more time. I will mix a little Roundup now and keep it in a little one gallon hand pump sprayer. I used it every 1-2 weeks to knock down the grass instead of having to pull weeds all the time. Weeding sucks. While they did that I finished spray painting another three metal gates. If I waited much longer the rust was going to become much worse. Mr Professional fired up the weed eater and I knocked down an especially tall spot in the yard then proceeded to weed eat the berry garden. Once we had it down, we went around to each plant and pulled out the weeds by hand to create a weed free zone around each berry bush. I may even plant some blueberries as well as the berry garden is doing. I am going to bring over our large water trough and get it set up for strawberries. This will keep them from spreading all over the place. We do have a mole out there and I am going to have to set a trap. We tried to find the entrance hole but couldn’t find it. So all of the mounds got spread out so I can decide wear to set the trap.
Mr Professional and I set up my Christmas present and I now have two targets mounted on the hillside at 100 yards. Now to see if the sheep will leave them alone. I was able to use the rangefinder to figure out how far objects on the hillside were, 150-200 yards. The side by side had a flat front tire so we took it off and I will get it fixed this week. The tractor is the key piece of equipment that is missing. As soon as it comes the sickle bar mower needs to get attached and fired up to do a job.
Saturday evening Annmarie and I had to go down to the far end of the property and get the sheep. They were in an area they were not supposed to be and had to crawl through a hole in the creek crossing. I knew the flood had damaged the creek crossing fence but had not been down to repair it yet. The sheep found the hole like they always do and went through. This area is still fenced but I just did not want them in there yet. I took Mouse as he doesn’t work well for me and we are trying to reinforce the dogs training and obedience. It took a while, it would have been faster had I listened to Annmarie, this does seem to be a trend in my life. She really is the smarter individual. It got done and Mouse listened much better to me then he had at any time this year.
Mr I Need a Belt Bad came out again on Sunday. I had some things to do inside and it rained again last night, so mowing the lawn was not going to happen again. I turned him loose on the grass and weeds in the back garden area. There was a jungle and lawn attempting to grow and he tackled it with a pair of bent needle nose pliers! He got the entire area cleaned out, I have a few stragglers that I will hand spray with Roundup and put them out of their misery. I even went and got the leaf blower out and blew all of the winter leaves out and cleaned up the area. It looks much better and this needed to be done.
I stayed inside and did some inside chores, cleaned up and even hung up another oil lantern. Annnmarie’s grandparents had these drop down cast iron stands for lamps. I took one last night and scrubbed on it nonstop and got it fairly clean. I also cleaned up an oil lamp from them also. The lamp was stunning! It had an amazing color to the glass and we wanted to showcase it. So I hung the lamp shelf in the bathroom on the slanted wall that was never going to have anything in it. The lamp looks great and it will be a nice reminder of them.
After 24 hours without a front porch I was ready to be done, using the back door nonstop is going to be painful. So we finished pulling nails out of the porch and laid down temporary sheets of OSB I had out in the machine shop sitting around. The dogs and everyone else appreciates the return to our routine. Once we start back up with the supplies this is going to be a big incentive to get things completed in a timely fashion. I may even take some time off to just see it through to the end. I think we could be done in a week.
Mr Professional came out to look at replacing the front bearing seal on the tractor. Once we figured out you needed a hydraulic press and had the potential to damage the bearings we just hooked up the trailer and loaded it up. I will drop it off at the dealers tomorrow at lunch and get it fixed. We will need it in a couple of weeks to mow. I need to get the parts for the second sickle bar and get it up and ready also, we may get to make some hay this year. We are working on adding a large marine battery to the side by side. It will go under the drivers seat so we can hook the sprayer up to it and it has a voltage sensing switch that will isolate the main battery if it starts to go low so we will always be able to start the side by side. I am draining the little batteries trying to run the sprayer as much as we do. The sprayer hose all needs to be replaced, I have all the parts but just have not done it yet. I need to weld on the extensions and just get it done. There is always something. I have one good day in me on the weekends and then take it easy on the second day. I am feeling better but I am not out of the woods yet with my post Covid symptoms. It has been five months now since I caught it.
Well last Sunday I decided that I needed to mow the upper field #2. Since Mr. Professional is helping me we have devised a simple way to talk about the various fields. We start from the upper bottom pasture and number them in ascending order 1-4. Then you have the “pea field” down by mother in laws house then you have lower pasture down by schoolhouse. This forgets about the 1 acre piece closer to mother-in-law’s house and across the creek. We don’t talk about that field specifically so it just gets tossed into the schoolhouse field.
I had sprayed #2 field a couple of weeks earlier but it is so thick and tall it needs to be knocked down then sprayed 2 weeks later to kill the thistles. I drove up there in the tractor and remembered to add on a crescent wrench so I could fix the broken gate.
After fixing the gate, there was some internal dialogue about fixing the gate on my way out of the field, but you never know what is going to happen so I opted to just fix the gate first thing as a safer move. I think the bolt just came loose and it fell down, I don’t believe it was anything nefarious.
I started mowing on the left hand side of the field first. It’s the smaller side and I would get to see results sooner. The pecker poles are amazing! I knew exactly where the water was and was able to not get the tractor stuck. As I continued to go around in circles I kept spotting the baby deer. There were four different deer all had spots and they were about dog sized and running all over the place. The pheasants are also plentiful this year. I jumped four juvenile roosters that had their colors but no tail feathers at all. Since it was almost a 100 F outside I had raised the mower deck about 14 inches off of the ground. The weeds are incredibly thick and I did not want the mower to get overheated. My goal is simply to knock them down so that when I drive over the area with the side by side the spray gets evenly distributed. You could see where some swaths of field had great spray coverage and others were limited by the height of the weeds and spray dispersement.
I was taking a break after the first section was done when Richard pulled out and asked me if I was ok. He is the one who pulled the tractor out of the mud for me. He thought I had gotten stuck again as I was parked near where I was buried before. I chuckled and thanked him for checking on me but no, I was taking a break as the field is very rough and furrowed from the flooding and the tractor is beating me up. It really works your lower back muscles.
There are hawks everywhere! We have at least 6-8 living all over the farm. It is pretty amazing. I am sure that at least two of them are juveniles as our nesting pair is back but we may now have two pair of nesting hawks. They used to only be on the upper end of the property but are now the full length of the place.
I started in on the second half and about halfway through tragedy struck!! The weeds are tall and you cannot see the ground. I do pay attention as I don’t want to hit rocks and need to stay on the completed line so I can get finished in a timely manner. I came around in a shorter square pattern, I get tired of doing the entire field and tend to break them up into pieces. It looks like I am getting done quicker. I came back around and saw a 1-2 day old fawn on the ground dying. I had run over it with my actual tractor wheel. If I had mowed over it the fawn would have been just fine as the mower is set high, but alas of the four foot wide swath my tractor makes only a 2.5 foot tire free zone. This did cause me angst for the rest of the day. The fawn never tried to get up or run away and it was so much younger than all the other babies I had been watching run all over the fields.
After mowing I spent another hour digging more ditches. I managed to not get stuck this time. There is still water coming out of the ground and forming a small running spring. This water does not leave the field it ends up running down about half way and getting reabsorbed. I finished the field and went back and cleaned off the tractor. A couple of days later I had come to terms with the mowing tragedy. I took a finished photo below.
Yesterday I got a late start and started mowing the fields at 0630. I had plans to get out of bed at 0500 but that just did not happen. I needed to mow the bottom four fields as they were getting covered in cheat grass and weeds. The fields do better with a mow job. I will spray them in a week or two. I have a new seat for the tractor but I keep losing the bolts out of it. I have lost two already. I need some lock tight to go on the threads.
The cows were hanging out by the school house and since I was on the tractor they just ignored me. This allowed me to get a good picture and discover that Annmarie was right we do have new calves! I found a second brand new calf. So fairly soon we will need to run the cows back into the barn lot and tag and band. I did not check to see whether they were a boy or girl. I stopped around 1000 to load up 2.5 yards of prime sheep poop compost for a friend. They left some fresh blueberries and an amazing sour raspberry jam. The jam is so good I will need to get the recipe. I managed to go all day until 1600 mowing without overheating the tractor!
I attribute this to two things, first thing was I blew all of the dust out of the radiator, inside engine compartment and even opened up the dust filter and cleaned off both filters. The second thing was I figured out how to get the mower to ride parallel to the ground by lowering the back wheel allowing the cut grass to get out of the mower blades and not bogging the tractor down. This allowed me to go all day without killing the tractor once.
I finished mowing around the machine shed today and then spent 45 minutes cleaning off the dust and weeds from the tractor and mower with water. I want to finish pulling out the old flooded fence in the barn lot tomorrow. I will need the box blade put on so it adds weight to the back of the tractor giving me the necessary traction.
I also spent another 45 minutes cleaning out the back of the pickup with water so it is neat. Annmarie wants me to pick up the antique rocker we purchased a couple of months ago and I need a clean bed for that to happen. The real challenge will be keeping the pickup clean until then.
The manure trade involved a young 3 month old rooster residing at our place. He was running around with the hens yesterday. I have not seen him at all today. I am not sure he survived the night. He probably did not go into the coop last night and is raccoon food. I have another coworker who is looking to get rid of a couple of roosters, it may be time to give her a call. The predator wars are definitely back on!
I have started clearing the lavender area again with a shovel. It takes longer than I realize every time. I spent three hours on it today and it needs another three hours. Unfortunately, I did not water all the little plants consistently and there is some significant lavender die off. I am back to watering every other day and we should know in a week how many actually survived. This is totally my fault for not watering them more frequently.
Yesterday was a burn day finally, we have had an inversion over our part of the county and the last week no one has been allowed to burn. I left the stock racks on the pickup as it gives me something to lash the 20 gallon propane tank to in the back of the pickup. Otherwise I have do do this spider web thing with 6 tie downs that never lasts the entire time. The stock racks hold it in place with only one tie down and make the tank refillable from the tailgate.
My goal was to burn the middle upper field that had no work done on it. Seven acres of prime soil waiting for me to do something with it. I had the pile that Rain Man and I had made to burn, I had a pile of weeds down by the cow feeding area and I had visions of burning weeds out by the main gate. Now my single biggest mistake was not communicating my goals to the missus. I started both piles and then ended up burning all the star thistle down by my mother-in-law’s house. I then burned weeds on both sides of the road by the entrance cattle guard.
Unfortunately, while I was doing that the fire took off up the fence line and headed up the road. I watched it for about an hour then realized that it would take another 4 hours at the slow rate it was creeping along. I tried to burn back stops twice but just managed to start a fire further up. I finally just took a pitch fork and rake and made a dirt gap then lit one side on fire. This stopped the oncoming fire and put it out so I could go to the actual field I was planning on burning in the first place.
Unfortunately, the field was not super dry so I had to keep applying flame to get it to burn. I only had a three foot wand and it was too short for the job. I was cooking my face, head, ears, beard and arms from the heat. I tried burning for another three hours until I ran out of propane and broke the burning wand, both events occurred simultaneously. I was driving the truck and dragging the lit wand backwards on the ground. Otherwise you have to turn off the gas, wind up the hose into the back of the pickup and put the wand in the back after making sure the flame is out. If you do this every time you have to move the pickup it will make you crazy. But if you don’t do something then the wand gets broken.
So I went to town Saturday evening and bought a 6′ torch! I figured I could get away from the heat and keep burning. It was dark when I got home so I would put it together in the morning. I can fill the tank after that.
I even took the second cow feeder down and filled it with a second bale. Our weather has been pretty mild but it is time to start feeding the cows.