New or recycle?

The weather has been nasty the last two days. Yesterday I had to bundle up in 100% waterproof getup so I could go out and drill holes in the ground with the tractor. The longest stretch of fence is ready for posts and I have started on the two corner stretch already. The long stretch is about 2/3 of the fence-line. I was able to purchase new teeth for my auger. I took a picture so you can see that I should have replaced them sooner. The really worn down teeth were the ones on the outside. I am still waiting on the new center piece but the auger works much better now! I had to go away from my desire for an aggressive center piece as it would not stand up to the rocks that get thrown at it.

One of the things that Tex and I decided was that we really needed a piece of culvert placed in the irrigation ditch. Even though I cannot get the trailer down into the field we will be able to drive the tractor across and not get stuck when weighed down. We are going to use the pickup to move the supplies and it would not make it through the ditch. So I went to the local junk yard and found a piece the appropriate length and installed it. I have a few issues down by the school house. The ditch did not get dug out this year. It needed it down by the schoolhouse. It has jumped its channel and is flood irrigating. I ended up having to spend 30 minutes digging out the channel to get everything back in place. The only real problem was I used the mud to fill in around the culvert. Not my greatest idea but it is raining and there is no spare dirt pile. So yesterday I brought a bucket full of gravel to toss on it and I will do the same today. I may need a few loads but we just had another 10 yards delivered to my never ending gravel pile so there is plenty for this. I just go through the ditch backwards with the tractor. I am getting stuck about half the time but going backwards I just use the bucket to push myself out and off I go.

I have to say that fall is here, when the sun drops down it gets cold very quickly. Another good clue is when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines directly on you the work stops just so you can bask it its heat! Good clue that you might be getting chilled slowly. The ground has a solid layer of clay about 18″ down so the holes are still taking a while but they are going in and I am not digging them all by hand.

I lost my coffee cup yesterday! I was driving from the house, up the hill and down to the school house then across the ditch. I didn’t realize it was missing until I got to the fence-line so I am unsure where it leaped off. Luckily I had a thermos full and it will keep you warm, just take a small cup every hour or so. I have also decided that pepperoni sticks are the perfect tractor snack. They come in a container about the size of a thermos, its dust proof and waterproof. The container opening is large enough you can reach inside without having to remove your gloves. A little rain does not alter the taste or the consistency of said perfect snack. Plus you can store it on the tractor so it is always available! The perfect tractor snack.

I am trying to enter the modern age and last week I accidentally turned on my cell phone camera timer. It took me a while to figure out what I had done to turn it off. Its highly annoying to have to hold the phone up for 10 seconds while you wait for it to take a picture. I figured maybe I could use this function for selfies. The picture below is my first attempt at a selfie. The alpaca look good. I then turned the camera and shot into the building so there was no extra light and it worked. This is my working in the rain outfit. It worked, I did not get wet. It was still cold out in the rain and wind. It blew a 8″ branch out of one of our large trees it was blowing so hard.

On the way back to the house, after having filled all the tires full of mud digging out the ditch, I had to traverse down a steep hillside. It was slick and had a skim of mud on it. I realized this as I was speeding up going down the hill and had angled the front bucket down to use as an emergency brake just in case. As I was nearing the bottom and the gates I was just contemplating engaging the emergency bucket brake when the back end of the tractor slid sideways and I started sliding down the hill diagonally. I opted to immediately deploy my preplanned safety device and we stopped! Luckily, I do wear my seat belt. I had removed the tractor from four wheel drive and this was rectified after I opened the gates and crawled down and across the stream bed.

The nice thing about this entirely new fence is this is the first time I have done it since moving back to the farm. I have always reused materials from the scrap yard. The only thing I don’t reuse is barb wire, but all the T-posts and woven wire are from the junkyard. I did this thinking I was saving 50% in costs. Well now I am not so sure. I was able to build the first section of fence, about 750′ in six days. Now I put in 48 hours and Tex put in 24 hours but it was done. It looks good and it doesn’t really need the wooden stays. In materials alone I had $2000. I am now working on the next section of fence, 1100′ and its even cheaper, $1600. Now I am using some of my old cedar posts down by the school house for aesthetic reasons but it would have only needed five more railroad ties. So when you average that out the fence, in materials only cost around $1.89/foot. A new heavy duty T-post costs $4.29. I am buying them at the junkyard for $2. The trouble with this is I have to buy the T clips for the used posts at a cost of $1.20 per post, they come free with the new posts. The speed at which I can install the new woven wire is amazing! A new roll costs $160/330 feet. I pay about $65 for that used. But it’s a hassle to install, I have to mix and match sizes and then go back and patch holes and the wooden stays that cost $1.50 each are necessary. The new woven wire goes right up. I am going to try another fence brand new and keep track of the costs but I think I just need to plan on $2/foot and do it all new. Time is my enemy and something I am constantly fighting. New will save me time.

Fence stretcher use level 9

Yep, my vacation is turning into real work. Sometimes I think that I do this stuff so that I can enjoy working in a temperature controlled environment more. I know that I don’t do as much physical work at my place of employment as I do on the farm. I am finally into the ache all over phase of my vacation. My back no longer hurts incessantly, my entire body just has a dull ache except for the two fingertips with splinters in them, they feel like little needles under my skin! I have even had to start using lotion on my hands and sanding down my callouses. I need to have nice smooth, soft supple hands for my paying job. I am wearing gloves but only about 65% of the time. It should be >90% but they get in the way of some things so I take them off and get callouses.

Yesterday we got the upper 40% fence installed! I finished tightening the woven wire using a lot of fence tighteners. Tex tells me I need to be using a come-a-long to get it tight enough. It’s pretty tight now. He came out in the afternoon and we finished it up. The only thing missing is the panel over the spring culvert outlet. This is coming from moving a chunk of fence in the orchard. I can salvage two utility panels, a length of cable, and four railroad ties for the price of two railroad ties and 7 T posts I just need my tractor back so I can start hauling gravel to set the railroad ties. Tex was pulling on a metal hinge while we were hanging gates and his fingers slipped and he wacked himself in the genitals. He did not hit the ground and roll around like a beached fish. He did pause, stop moving, bend forward two inches and practice his breathing in silence. He survived and we got the gate hung.

In my effort to get to the fencing right away I accidentally left a large bag of trash on the front porch. I did not know this until Annmarie came home and told me that the dogs had a party all day courtesy of me providing the favors. It was not horrible as it only took me ten minutes to clean up. Good thing we throw all food things out to the chickens so there was nothing in the trash for the dogs.

Today, I went to town to run errands and pick up some flags to mark the new section of fence. I usually just paint the ground but it is supposed to rain for several days and I don’t want things to wear off too quickly. Tex and I figured out the best way to lay the fence and then we measured out all the T-posts and railroad ties. An accurate count was needed before I went to the store and purchased a bunch of new fencing supplies. We also took 30 minutes and cleaned up all of the bricks, wood and rocks from the ground around the old schoolhouse. I just need to pull out the one pipe that is sticking up and it will be safe to make hay down there. This is the perfect time of year to discover and remove any normally hidden obstacles. We figured out what was needed and then we figured out how we could get it into the field. I cannot pull the trailer across the ditch. I really need a culvert installed and I am out of culvert. I tried calling the junk yard twice today but did not get an answer. I may have to drive over there first thing tomorrow and see if I can pick some up. I really need to get this fence done so I can reimbursed. I have spent $3600 in just fencing supplies. The gravel needed to set the posts, the fencing staples and all the wood used for the H brace crosses are not charged against the cost.

I saw 25 quail cruise on by outside the kitchen window. I talked to one of our hunters and he said that he saw another 60 on the upper end of the property. This is the most quail we have ever had on the place. He said there are very few pheasants this year. I disagreed and in the last two days I have seen four more roosters just flying around. I agree that we do not have as many as last year but there are still a bunch of them. There are no deer. I did not shoot a little buck this year. My very first time I did not find one on the property. Hopefully, I will get a tag next year and there will be a little buck running around for me.

Perfect tractor needs to have…

Since my recent rental of the next size up John Deere tractor I have decided to come up with some necessary items for the tractor I will be buying in 6 years. Some may say this is planning a little too far in advance but the blog is forever and these are good points.

1. I still need a small tractor. It has to be under 35 HP to operate the new hay equipment so 30 HP seems ideal as my current one is 25 HP.

2. It needs to have a comfortable seat. The new seat is not as comfortable as my old one. My old one is wearing out so I will need to research an aftermarket seat.

3. It needs to have a manual seatbelt. This is a must! The rental had an automatically retracting type and it does not stay tight enough. The manual one I can tighten down snug over my thighs and my butt stays in the tractor seat no matter how many bumps you hit!

4. Fuel efficiency is a must. In going up 5 HP my fuel consumption went up almost 50%. It was a dramatic change over my little tractor.

5. Some form of tool holder needs to be able to be mounted on the tractor. It is necessary.

6. The damn cup holder needs to be deep enough that the coffee cup cannot jump out of it when you hit a bump.

7. It needs to have 4 wheel drive.

8. Some form of secondary dust filtration system. Most tractors have a grate on front of tractor then there is a screen of some type over the radiator. I need a third line of defense. They also need to be easy to clean out. I work in lots of dust and dry weed debris. It clogs things up fast.

9. It needs to have chain hooks welded to the bucket. I can do this. This is such a lifesaver when it comes to lifting things with the bucket.

10. Rear hydraulic takeoffs. Need for hay equipment.

If I think up any more things I will be sure and write them down.

Saturday I had to go out into the rain to let the sheep into the barn. Once they figured out I was opening up a path to the barn they came running! I went in to check on my baby chicks and counted adult laying hens and there are only 8 left. They are slowly getting picked off! The predators are winning. I also had one dead chick. No apparent cause of death so now there are 24.

Tex was late this morning. I think he had forgotten we were working cows today. He was out by 0800. I had taken both border collies out to go get the cows pushed to the barn. I happened to find a deer shed almost buried in the ground. This is the second one in as many years that I know about. I have a buck tag but not sure it will get filled this year. I have only seen a few deer on the place. I will be doing some actual hunting at the end of the week.

Tex and I finally got the cows into the barn lot and managed to get the two 6 months cows sorted off as they will be going up with the steers for a while to get away from momma. Sorting off the three babies was not too bad as we were able to leave most of the cows in the main area. Once we had it down to three calves in the corral we were ready to start. I promptly dropped my castrating/tag bin off of the fence railing first thing. I definitely need to make a shelf for it so its not on the ground. Tex grabbed the first calf a little girl who is only a couple of weeks old. She bawled but he just picked her up so she could not fight. The other two calves were both boys. They also happened to weigh around 120-135#!! Luckily, I had grabbed two of the extra large bands for the bandarator as backup. Once Tex grabbed that first calf and threw it on the ground it was pretty obvious I was gonna have trouble. I tried but could only get one testicle in place. I switched to the large bandarator and it was smooth. For the last calf I placed the bandarator and tagging pliers in my back pocket loaded and ready to go. Tex tried multiple times to drop the calf and it kept getting back up. I finally intervened and ended up at the head of the calf on the ground with my left arm under the calf holding a front leg and the calf and I pinning my arm in place. I was over the calf’s shoulder and neck and Tex had the back two legs. I hollered for him to use the bandarator but it had fallen out of my pocket. He managed to get it and still hold onto the calf. After he banded it I worked my arm free and placed an ear tag. My back has been bothering me but had been improving. Wrestling a calf is not a good way to improve your back pain. The odd thing about the cows is we used tag #19 & 20 or the two boys and only #9 for the girl. Our sheep tag numbers are very similar but the cows not so much. This might explain why we band so many cows. Annmarie and I had been talking about moving the front porch stairs to over to in front of the actual door. The door used to be directly in front of the stairs but we moved it back to the original opening. To do this the evergreen shrubs needed to come out. The fire department guys had been warning me that they were a fire hazard anyways so I get to kill two birds with one stone. I was really afraid that the wood would be in worse shape than it was but it was okay. Amazing since no one has seen it in 30 years. We were able to use the tractor to pull the bushes out of the ground. I don’t think this would have been possible without all this recent rain.

Once we had cleaned up we popped the stepping stones out of the ground also and then hosed everything off to make the mud disappear.

I wanted to burn the scrap pile but it was not a burn day. So we are going to have to wait a little longer. I had Tex cut the bushes away from the house and the back tree was touching the house so it got trimmed back also. We found a huge 18″ bald faced hornet’s nest in the upper corner of the house. I had no idea it was there and its not visible from any of our doors or windows. Tex was knocking it down and as it started to fall I told him not to get any on him. He asked why and I said because the thing probably has hornets in it! He got a little panicked looked on his face but it was only 40 degrees outside so he had little to worry about. I went inside the house and unleashed an entire can of wasp/hornet spray on the ground and the overhead nest. They are no more.

Once all the leaves fall off the trees we will need to do some tree trimming. This upcoming weekend hopefully we can do more catch up.

Getting ready for winter

Yesterday, I got up at 0408 and was out the door, after cooking myself breakfast by 0428. Now it was only a ham, egg and cheese hot sandwich but it was breakfast. I wanted to get out early while it was cool so I cold mow with the rental tractor and hopefully not have it overheat. It had headlights and I had already filled it with fuel the night before. It was only about 15 degrees cooler and I had to stop three times before it got light due to overheating. I even took an air tank down to blow out the radiator. This worked the first two times until I ran out of stored air.

Annmarie called me back up to the house to help her get dressed. She has had some horrible muscle spasms in her back. I did and she got a deep tissue massage and is on the mend now. She thinks she will now survive, yesterday she was not so sure.

After a few more hours I had to head to town to get money for the cow hay I was picking up today. I stopped at the bank, the bakery (a pastry of some kind was calling my name, it turned out to be a peach filled deliciousness), the coffee shop, the seed place (grain elevator) and then convenience store. The only place that did not bat an eye at my dust/soot covered countenance was the seed silo. He just wanted to know if I had an account, I don’t or had cash or check. I then mentioned that a pastry was going to save me as I had to get change to buy it and I needed $252 for the seed. I was saved by a pastry and a coffee!

While I was at the seed silo I enquired about winter beardless barley. Its what I really wanted to plant but they only had spring barley and I am not sure I can get into the mud pit this upcoming spring. I then asked about a grain based hay seed and the guy said “club wheat”. He said a lot of people are turning it into hay. It only cost $14/50#.
Annmarie and I had talked the night before and triticale had come up as we fed it one winter and all the animals liked it. So the triticale was only $18/50#. So I bought 800# of triticale seed for the upper 7 acre pasture. You are supposed to seed it at 80#/acre. Since there is no magical setting on the seeder and I have to guess and adjust on the fly I figured I better have a little extra.

I came home and planted 2 acres. The harrow had a hard time as the soil was hard, rock filled and there was a lot of plant matter. I had to adjust the seed rate several times and ended up planting the 2 acres and then opening up the seed grate and running over the entire two acres quickly with the harrow to get seed to drop out at the right rate.

Tex came first thing in the morning so we could tag and band the sheep before picking up the cow’s hay from a nearby seller. Tex used Daisy (his red heeler pup) to help move the sheep around. I had him keep her on a lead rope so she could not get away. At four months old she liked chasing the animals and was excited to work.

After we tagged and banded the left over sheep, I went to the post office to pick up our baby chicks! We ordered 25 pullets for $100 all inclusive cost. Since they have to be about 6 months old before they lay I like to start my chicks in the late fall so come spring time they are old enough to start laying and I feed them through the winter at their smallest. I usually brood them in the house for a couple of weeks but I just started them out in the coop this time. I had to send Tex to Pendleton as the rental tractor had a flat front tire. I took care of the chicks and setup while he got the tire fixed. Once he got back, I started driving the trailer back and forth to pick up our hay. Unfortunately, I can only carry 5 large bales at a time and I had to transport 36 bales, a total weight of 25 tons. In between trailer loads, Tex moved some old irrigation pipe, got the cow feeder panels into the bull Alcatraz and hooked up the seeder to my tractor.

My tractor came back from the shop today. Someone (had to be me, despite my lack of memory) put regular fuel into the diesel tractor. I didn’t really understand how bad this is. After the rental cost and tractor repair the wrong fuel mistake cost us around $1000, this was a very expensive lesson. I will now be buying a third yellow fuel can for diesel to prevent this in the future.

We got all the hay put away and ready. We were going to do cows today, but didn’t get done with hay until 1600. I was tired and did not want to go wrestle with cows so we will be doing cows on Monday!

My goal tomorrow is to disc the three acres I have mowed in the 7 acre field. I need to get the soil broken up and rocks picked so I can get in there with the power harrow and plant triticale. The goal is to get those three acres planted by tomorrow evening. That will leave me with two more acres still to mow and plant. The middle seven acre field needs burned and disced and mowed and some soil moved around. I am saving it for last.

After dinner, Annmarie asked me to go get the sheep. They were visible from the kitchen window. I put on my shoes and Annmarie asked me if I wanted the dogs, my reply “the sheep like me I won’t need them”. I called the sheep onto the back hillside but they did not want to come into the ram pasture. I ended up on the back hillside with the sheep spread out every where and no dogs. I tried to call Annmarie as I could see her through the kitchen window. NOPE, I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. I went old school and pulled out my white handkerchief and started waving it around. It only took her about 2 minutes to spot me through the window! When she came out the door I hollered for her to let the dogs out. Five minutes later the sheep were in the ram pasture. I was still on the hillside and had asked Mouse to guard the gate opening. Zeke and I were ambling down the hill when I looked up and spotted mouse chasing down two sheep that had broken from the herd. I started hollering and he reached up grabbed the ewe by the throat and tossed her to the ground. It took him about 1 second to roll her onto the ground. He didn’t hold onto her neck as she dropped to the ground and when she got back up she went right back to the herd. This is why Mouse loves to work the cows, he can be very aggressive. This is why Zeke loves to work the sheep, he just needs to run around them and stare them into submission. Unfortunately for them both, they have to learn to do both.

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.

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.