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.

White Christmas

Surprisingly we woke up to a white Christmas here in Eastern Oregon. When we went to bed there was no snow, we woke up and viola snow!

I was on turkey duty so Annmarie and Sarah went out to take care of the sheep first thing in the morning. There was a set of triplets in addition to the twins that were born the evening before. The mother did well once we got her in the separate enclosure and her biggest baby could quit following everyone else around the barn and concentrate on her.

We knew the sheep would start popping babies out left and right since we had not had a ram in with them at all for six months prior to us dropping the new ram in with them. We have never had this many ewes this close together before. Our goal was to get lambing over with quickly. Here’s hoping it goes smoothly. So far its a bunch of little brown babies!The snow didn’t last until the next day but it did last most of Christmas Day.

Final fall Mowing

I am still trying to get ready for winter. I should be ready, I guess I am ready if you count having enough food for all the animals. The nice thing about Winter is it waits for no man! Once it is here I will be done prepping regardless of how many things are left on the list. This morning after I went out to let the sheep out of the barn I unhooked the hoses and shut off the outside fire hydrant spigots. I had two of them still open with Y splitters and hoses still attached. Annmarie caught me unhooking these hoses. She said I got lucky as we have had three freezing nights this last week. I like to think of it as good timing, no break, no foul.

I decided to rake the leaves in the yard and do the final mowing. My heart is really not in the task and I have lots of other things to do so I cheated. I closed off gates so that the only place the sheep could go to get real food was our front yard. I am hoping the sheep will eat the leaves along with the grass. I had to keep the dogs inside all day which they did not appreciate but hopefully with a couple of days of no dog time the sheep can make a dent in the yard.

Annmarie wants us to create a chute that goes from the barn to the bull/ram corral. She doesn’t want us to create a mean ram by pinning him up against a wall, tying on a halter and dragging him across the barn lot. We were suppose to go out and calmly talk about needed changes to the fence and I was supposed to listen not throw up road blocks to change. She doesn’t want any more of my mammoth rock cribs. We need a rock crib to keep the fence from leaning over courtesy of the horses. She wanted a gate in the side of the fence. I managed to pull the fence out of alignment and add in a four foot gate bolted to the large corner rock crib. The fence is still leaning and I will need some type of rock crib I am just unsure what kind I will construct.

I managed to get the rest of the cow panels up inside the fence to stop the sheep from jumping through the feeder panels. I also found all the tools and picked them up. I found an impact driver and two 3.0 amp batteries and about 12 fastenal anchor bolts in the lamb shed hidden! This is a major score as I needed those 12 fasteners to finish the last of the wooden rails over behind the lean to. Once those four boards are in the corral will be officially completed. I still have to fix the low side of the lamb shed as the sheep have punched out about 4 boards and can now get out of the barn. Tomorrow the plan is those four boards and hopefully get the lamb barn completed. I put both batteries on the charger and should be good to go in the morning.

We had ordered a white mail box for our repainted stand but the new box was smaller than the one my Mother-in-law purchased. So then we had to buy another mailbox that was the same size. I put the numbers on today and cut wooden platforms that I screwed onto the stands. The platforms allowed us to then screw the boxes to the entire stand creating a completed official mailbox. I had already brought gravel down to the road and created a flat spot for the mailboxes a few weeks ago. I love our new red and white mailbox. Since the gates are open for the sheep the dogs cannot hang outside. At night they want to terrorize the entire front yard so I put a stop to that. I placed a flashing light on everyone’s collar and was able to stand on the front porch and holler at everyone in the dark. It is even better than trying to keep track of them during the day!

Winter is almost here

Well, I can no longer say that Winter is not coming. It has frozen three times this week and we have had to turn our propane stove on. Last night when we went to bed, Annmarie wanted to open opposing windows wide open! I was freezing to death, so I moaned and groaned until she agreed to crack both windows only. It took me 20 minutes to get warm before I could fall asleep. I am putting another blanket at the foot of the bed just to add another layer over my feet!

Yesterday was errand day for me. I took a drive over to Hermiston to pickup our pig we swapped for lambs. The hanging weight on the pig was 199#. I brought three boxes home of frozen deliciousness. Our freezers were full but I had a bunch of frozen cherries from last year and the chickens are now eating those. I managed to get the whole pig into the freezer after clearing out the cherries, bacon before fruit!!! We had one pork belly turned into side pork. We have never done this before but we both like side pork and wanted to give it a try. You have to do the whole thing so we ended up with 7 pounds of side pork. As we had sausage this morning for breakfast Annmarie inquired if it was the new pig. I told her we had to eat the old pig first but I did get out a package of side pork for Sunday morning!

Annmarie is doing yoga 6 of 7 mornings as soon as she wakes up. I am on the “gonna workout” plan. The dogs have all learned that the yoga mat is a “no go” zone. Annmarie is not to be disturbed if she is on the mat and the dogs don’t get to step on it. It was not very hard to teach all three of them this rule. Yesterday, while running errands I had to pickup a package at the post office. It was some new yoga tights and dresses Annmarie had gotten on sale. This morning she told me there was a “no go” rule for me also after I violated the yoga zone.

We have had dumpster now for four weeks and have managed to fill it every week. I am hopeful this week that I will get the glass windows out of the lamb shed and break them into the dumpster. This was the sole reason for getting the dumpster in the first place. Annmarie keeps reminding me that if we can fill it for weeks on end maybe we should have gotten one sooner? It takes some concerted effort to keep filling it as I don’t just have a pile ready to go but I think we only have 1-2 weeks left before I will have them remove it. That will have gotten rid of 10-12 yards of trash.

The new barn kitty is still hanging out in the barn. It is a fixed adult black and white cat. Still in the barn and doing well. We feed the barn cats on a regular basis and it is settling right in. I did hear one big howling cat fight this week emanating from the barn but it settled down after a couple of minutes and we have seen the new kitty and our orange kitty both since then.

The chickens do not like daylight savings time either. This week I noticed that some of the chickens were not going into the coop at night. I opted to allow natural selection to occur, only the smart shall survive. Now, I have not seen a predator around but they are always there and yep I was right. Thursday we spotted a suspicious lump out on the back hillside visible from the kitchen window. The magpies were swarming it so it was pretty obvious. I went out and sure enough it was a chicken carcass. Imagine my not surprise when I went out to get eggs last night and every chicken was inside the coop and protected behind the automatic chicken door.

The cows are now getting fed on a weekly basis. Luckily, we have some big bales left this year. They are super handy to feed as I just have to push one or two out to the cows. I still need to get the tire fixed on the small pickup bed trailer as that is what I am going to hook up to the tractor to feed the small bales.

We are putting the sheep in every night now. The first four evenings we had to use the dogs but now if we go out after dark the sheep have already put themselves into the barn. We just give them a little feed at night as a reward. They are not starving as half a bale is enough for a reward and they leave some in the feeders. We are so happy with the new ram, he is super calm. We have decided that he only gets scratched under the chin so that we are not trying for dominance by reaching for the top of his head.

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.