Hay equipment is here!

Well, the much needed hay equipment is here. It arrived on Friday. I had Tex come out and start cleaning up fencing scraps and wood scraps. We have them strung all over the farm from doing all the fencing, since a scrap guy is coming I want to try and get all of it cleaned up, sent away or burnt. The new burn pile is already starting to grow. They tried to deliver the equipment on Wednesday but I was not available for a 4 hour window and told the clerk on the phone that they came at the end of the four hour window last time and if they would do it this time I could do Wednesday. She said no, I had to be there the entire four hours. We pushed out the delivery day to Friday as I knew Tex or myself would be available. I had to go into work that morning and was hoping to be done by 1100. They called me at 1040 to say that they were ready to deliver and in Pilot Rock! I called Tex and went home ASAP. There was three pieces of equipment delivered, the mower, the power rake and the baler.

There were some issues, the company over sold the mower I wanted so I have a loaner mower, it’s a little smaller and does not condition the grass. It’s cheaper should I decide to keep it. The round baler is smaller and only bales about 90 bales an hour vs 120 on the one we want. The one we want still has to come over on a container by ship from Italy. All of this stuff is made in Italy. We had to keep all the shipping material so that the baler and mower can be shipped back to the company when they send us our mower and baler.

I had visions of just backing up to the equipment with our quick hitch system and hooking up to everything and just putting it in the machine shed. This did not happen, as not a single piece was capable of using the quick connect. I kept trying, finally Tex told me I had to take the quick connect off the tractor and hook directly to the three point hitch.

You can see that it almost wants to do it, it just needs a couple more inches. I took pictures and sent them to the company asking for a fix. What good is a quick connect when you cannot use it? Prior to this round of equipment I had four pieces for the tractor and three of them can use the quick connect. This makes switching out a couple of minutes and that includes parking it in the correct storage spot. Now that we have four more pieces of equipment the quick connect can only work on 3/8 pieces. This is not acceptable. I ordered 8 adjustable pins that I can bolt on myself. They are about 2 inches longer so I will gain 4 inches total. Looking at the pictures I think that four inches is going to be plenty. I also ordered a box of various locking pins to hold the equipment on. The cleaned out machine shed is amazing!! There is still quit a bit of dust but I am hoping that when I get the plywood up on the hay side I can start to contain the dust. I may drag a hose out and wet down the gravel, maybe even spray down the entire inside of the machine shed to give it that once a centennial cleaning.

The old floor scale that Annmarie’s dad got from PGG has all the parts, I really want to install it and put all the pieces together. I will need a level poured concrete pad about 4×6 feet first. Next year I may do it. It shouldn’t be too bad, I can use sacrete and I have the mixer. I can just use a piece of cow panel as the rebar.

Zeke got out of the yard twice this week so Tex and I removed all the old scrap wood and fencing that was leaning up in the corner of the yard. So now there is no ramp for him to use as a launching platform over the fence. I also went and dug down the piles of dirt I had placed near the side fence.. He had a 18 inch launching platform to go over the fence. Since doing that on Friday, he has not been able to get out of the yard a single time. Who knows if it is a lack of opportunity or just an unwillingness to leave. Time will tell.

Animals all caught up

When I say “caught up” its a relative term when applied to farming. The animals were worked, we did sell off 7 and we did deal with sheep and cows. We have two calves just a few days old that could not be herded up into the corrals so they will have to wait for at least two more weeks before we can tag and band them, so we are “caught up”.

Tex was coming out again, so while I cooked breakfast Annmarie went out to see if she could lure the cows to the barn lot with some hay and the tractor. She only managed to get them out of the bottom and into the area around the house. But that saves us about an hour of walking and she did not get the bull or either brand new momma so the cows should be easier to work. After Breakfast I had Tex go finish installing cow panels along the creek in the barn lot over the metal panels. Otherwise the sheep can just cross through the water. I gathered all the tools necessary to work on the calf table. The thing will still not tilt right. I am convinced it is pinching somehow and we may have to take the table apart.

Tex came over and we started to pull it apart. We popped one hinge off and it still would not tip so we popped off the second hinge, the table is now free of any constraints except gravity and should tip on the frame. It would not tip more than about 30 degrees! As I am voicing my opinion abot an inanimate object I kept trying to get it to work when I spot a piece of bailing twine down at ground level hidden in the tall grass still attached. When I moved it from the junk yard I secured it in multiple places. I had forgotten to cut one small piece of bailing twine and that was the cause of the table not tipping. I had already sprayed lubricant on all the moving parts and cleaned up some rust. So it only took me about 3 hours of combined time to figure out the twine issue.

I had Tex go back and finish installing cow panels while I gathered all the tagging and banding supplies. I then grabbed both dogs and started to work the cows towards the barn lot, 30 minutes later, very hoarse voice from yelling at the dogs, I have them cornered up by the gate but they will not go into the barn lot. Annmarie comes out and the cows scatter. We put the dogs away, walk the cows to the barn lot, Tex comes out and the alpacas go into the barn lot and the cows follow. We where done in ten mintues.

The cows got sorted and we had a four month old boy and a three month old girl. Tex pinned the girl up at one end of the chute and she stuck her head through the gate so I put a tag in her ear, done. The little boy kept turning around in the chute going the wrong way. Tex said the way to get them into the table is to grab their tail and keep them from going out the other side. So he did that and we got the table turned and locked down. The calf kept trying to put his foot in weird spots but we were able to fix that. We used the large banderator for the first time. I had to pop the testicles through the band one at a time because they would barely go through. I finally had Tex hold the banderator so I could pop testicles through. They both finally got in the right spot and I slipped the band off. Four months is the max age for using that thing.

The sheep were next but for us to set up the chute system in the barn, Tex and I were going to have to dig for at least an hour. I convinced Annmarie we could just run everyone into the barn and we could snag them. We did it! We sorted off the ram, #1 ewe (she is limping), two whethers for their company, three whethers to sale and two young mommas with their single babies for sale.

Tex and I delivered the whethers and the mommas. While we were visiting the first house he got offered a summer job of moving sprinkler pipe every morning for 4 hours/day. I gave him the necessary contact information and he is thinking about it.

Tex swapped the gate and filled the gap with lumber. We need to put in a new H brace support going the other direction now. While he did that I finished bringing in dirt for the culvert and then set a few pieces of concrete at the waterfall edge of the spring in hopes it will slow down the errosion. I also filled the channel with gravel and rocks.

We had some more wooden stays to install and the new railroad ties needed to be set and the entire fence attached to the new posts. Tex did all of that while I started to bring over supplies for a new fence line. The sheep and cows keep getting out through the creek crossings so I have started to work on fencing the water ways away from the animals. I hauled over 27 T posts, 27 wooden stays, 4 thick wooden posts, 2 gates, 2 cow panels and 1 railroad tie (last one we have unused on the farm) and set them out along the fence line. I had already used orange paint to mark out the locations of everything.

Tex and I managed to pound in the T posts that would go into the ground. Some are not pretty but they did go in. If you look at the middle of the picture below you will see a stretch with no T posts, there is a rock bluff located under the road and we cold not get anything to go into the ground. After the fence is up I will see what I need to do to support that section of fence.

It was a very productive day. The barn lot fence is now completed. I just need to put a latch on the 16 foot wheeled gate, the sheep pushed it open last night. I would have sprayed but the wind howled all day. It was just too much to spray.

Reality check

Well it has been a long week. I didn’t get to do all my farm work this last weekend as I had to work all weekend at the paying job and Sunday was Easter. I had come home twice and found the sheep out in the stubble field eating volunteer wheat. It has been too wet for them to spray it down. The sheep really appreciate the extra feed. The only real problem is the field is not fenced off from the road and the sheep are not supposed to be out there. The first time I thought it was the gap at the gate. I thought this because the gate post was loose and there was a gap with sheep hair on either side so it was fairly obvious they had been pushing through. I patched that up with a spare gate filling the gap and some bungee cords. It was only supposed to be temporary so the bungee cords are okay. I came home several days later and spotted the sheep out again. I could not figure out how they were getting out. I cruised on down the fence line and found as spot they had started to squirt through. The nice thing about them shedding is it makes it fairly obvious where they are sneaking out.

I had Tex come out on Friday and add two more strands of wire to that fence. He also moved the railroad tie so there is no gap at the gate. We still need to add in a few wooden stays to the fence to stiffen it up so the sheep cannot push their way through.

We had a rain storm and it cut a rivulet into our new flower area. I think if I pile some dirt up on the frontside of the rock wall I may be able to slow this down. I may end up laying in a French drain on the front side of the rock wall to help. I am unsure exactly what I am going to do.

We had to start putting Zeke on the run as he kept sneaking out of the front yard. I had convinced myself he was running up some wood stacked in the corner of the yard. I moved some of the pile but he was still getting out. One day when Sarah was out moving dirt she watched him army crawl under the fence below. He laid down in the water with just his head and nose out of the water and got under the fence.

So I added another panel to the bottom that goes all the way to the spring bottom and he cannot crawl through now. I was so convinced of this that I left him off the run the next day. He got out! I still don’t know how he is doing it so he is back on the run when we are not home.

I spent two nights working on the barn lot fence. We added two more wooden posts and I took the extra panels I had laying around and added them. There will be no more calves jumping through the fence because they can. Now we just need to get the fence over by the lamb shed completed and the sheep will be stuck in the barn lot whenever we shut the gate.

Fencing fury

Sunday we decided to start with fencing and hope we could get some parts completed. We went to the fencing supply pile and snagged the last of the railroad ties. My supply pile is getting pretty sparse. I only have one roll of woven wire left, no wooden fence posts and two rolls of smooth wire. We managed to get the last five stood up and my little tractor managed to get them over to the barn lot, but it was not pretty. The chain stretched with the weight of the railroad ties and they went all cattywonkous.

We used the two heaviest ties for the gate crossing the culvert bridge. The tractor was only able to dig those holes about 18″ and I dug the other three feet by hand. It makes for a very sturdy post when it is set in gravel. We are setting all wooden posts in gravel now. They just hold up better and stay stiffer. The gate opening was 16 feet which is a long gate. These gates usually sag so I went into the barn and found one of those wheel attachments and we attached it. I snagged three of them at a yard sale a couple of years ago. This is the first time I have gotten to use one. The real problem came when we tried to attach the gate to the post. We hooked in the bottom part and then swung the gate to see how it moved. Nope, I needed to take some dirt down to make it level.

I spent the next 1.5 hours cutting into the hillside in an attempt to get a level path for the gate. We hand dug it a couple of times and kept marking the path with the gate wheel. I finally had to go dump off the tractor auger and install the box blade. I should have done it an hour earlier.

I spread the dirt out all over the area in an attempt to cover the rock face that keeps trying to jut out of the ground and we made sure the animals can get to water. We also chained the panels together to make sure they stay in place.

As an added bonus we got two solid wood posts installed in the barn lot cross fences and will. Be tightening both of those fences next week. Once we get the culvert and last outer water damaged barn lot fence done next week the entire barn lot will have been redone and should be good for another 7-10 years with just a little repair.

I even got the momma/baby area leveled out. I want to toss out some grass seed this week after work and see if it will grow. Annmarie had me take the dogs out with me as the sheep were mowing our yard. I came inside that evening with a hoarse voice as I had to keep hollering for the dogs to come back or to quit harassing some animal. I even made them stay in place for over an hour a couple of times. It’s good practice for them and they don’t like to do it so it did work out well as a training exercise. My voice is not cut out to holler and swear all day. I am good with that for short periods of time only. We have decided the only dog working videos I can post are sped up and make me sound like a chipmunk. No one can understand what I am saying!

Our current numbers are as follows:

2 death

6 bummers

14 singles (37%)

19 twins (50%)

5 triplets (13%)

38 ewes birthed

57 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

1 lambs to process

Production rate:

Birthed 176%

On our farm and alive 155%.

Ready I think

I am focused on getting the upper fields ready for planting. I finished the discing yesterday. I now have to get an expert opinion out to look at the fields and tell me what to do next. I want to get the alfalfa fields planted this month. After they are planted then we will start working on getting financing arranged to buy our haying equipment.

I ordered the wood to fix the roof in the machine shed. I broke a couple of boards last year when I was trying to move the large bales in and out. So I should be able to fix the damage soon. I want to bolt the new beam in place so the upper wall cannot pull apart. I may even bolt the upper beams at the front and back of the opening so it is done in three places. We will need to line the walls with plywood or use 2×4 fir strips every 12 inches so the new small bales don’t push on the outside boards covering the buildings.

Mouse was being a good boy and listening. We were waiting for Annmarie to push the sheep past us. We were in place to keep them from circling around the barn lot instead of going out the gate and out onto the upper hillside. Once the sheep spotted Mouse they turned and went out the gate, without him they would have just ran right by me.

I always wear a hat when I am outside but sitting on the tractor can make for a dusty experience. I don’t like the dust masks so don’t use them much. It seems like every time I look at myself I have less hair on top of my head! I am not sure why my mother says I need a haircut every 2-3 weeks. It may be time for a beard trim though… I asked Annmarie if I would look younger if my beard was all brown. She told me to just dye it. I cannot bring myself to do it. I would rather have custom done coffee beans before spending a dime on personal appearance grooming things. I could get a free haircut every 2-3 weeks and still manage to hold off 2-3 months before getting one. I guess I am just not very stylish. I asked the puppy his opinion and he didn’t care one way or another. So I guess I will keep it this way.

Fresh beef coming

I have been busy and am having a hard time working on the blog daily. I have gone to the weekends as I can carve out the time. It allows me to think about the work that has been done and see how we are moving forward. I still like the daily blogs but after dragging myself in and cleaning up, I am tired and it is proven that I don’t write very well when I am tired. Annmarie says it is possible to read my emotions when reading the blog. Sometimes I am short and factual but other times I see it. I am still not convinced but I have come to enjoy writing about something I love. It’s not always glamorous, its not always humorous but it is honest. It’s the real trials and tribulations that happen on a farm. We have worked hard to learn about what went on and why things were done by the families that lived on this farm before us. A diary of the farm would have been a treasure trove of information. I guess in a way this is my dairy and contribution to future generations of the Gilliland Century Farm. This is our part of the story and I want those families to love it as much as we do. We work every day to make this place our own, we work every day to repair and build onto the work done over the last 114 years. It is a daunting thought to think that it really has been that long and we are continuing the tradition. Every year we try to become a little closer to self sustaining. I think we will make it in the next three years. I am going to boldly proclaim this goal!! Because, honestly, its just words for now, the real work will be documented here in this blog.

The butcher is coming to the farm soon and we needed to sort cows. We had kept the four boys off of the main herd of cows but Donna had spotted a new calf. Annmarie and I spotted it when we came home from our coast visitation/vacation/restacation. This means we need to run in the cows, and deal with the new calf. On the last calf we waited too long and the nephew and I could hardly hold him down while we tag and banded him. We now have large banding pliers with oversized bands that will fit a calf up to 250#. I personally do not want to wrestle with a 250# calf in an open pen with no rope and only two men.

We do have a real roping rope and we have a real short chunk of rope to tie the legs. We watched a YouTube video on how to tie up a goat and I have forgotten about 80% of what we learned. I find that to really cement a YouTube lesson one must watch it, then go out the same day or next and practice it for real then go back and watch it again. I did not do that. I figure that if I can learn to shear, trim feet and teeth on an alpaca from YouTube I can lean almost any animal husbandry from it. I do realize that YouTube is not an expert but if you are careful you can find good information. Trial and error is the best teacher.

We had to run the four boy cows into the corral first then sorted off the 8 month old to leave in the corral. He gets to rejoin the main herd and the other three got pushed into the upper prime field. They get to have a butcher visitation next week. We have already sold all three live animals.

We took the dogs with us and I even remembered to grab the 30 foot lead rope in case a dog got super exuberant when we worked the cows. I set the lead down on the corral while working the first set and did not remember it until we were on the back hillside headed down to get the main herd. I never manage to actually bring the lead when needed. The cows were down by the school house, farthest distance from the house possible as usual. I took Zeke down and rounded the cows up while Annmarie stayed on the hillside with Mouse. Mouse did not like this arrangement and ran down to me. We really needed the lead rope. The calf was fairly young, probably only a few days old. We are guessing this because it was still very curious. We had a hard time herding it as it kept wanting to come see us or the dogs which caused the momma cow and the bull to get agitated. Eventually we ended up getting the cows into the barn lot. Annmarie and Zeke pushed the sheep out of the barn lot then we pushed the cow herd into the corral. This was not too bad, the green ear tag cow did not want to go, she never does. We have at least three more cows that are super pregnant and should have more calves in the next two months. The summer births are way better for the calves with this breed of cow. We got the cow and calf isolated to one pen and then got the momma into the chute so we could touch the calf without her being able to touch us. I asked Annmarie to film us but she was irritated as I did not have all the tools ready and had to make a barn run. It went very smoothly, I got two testicles and I used the right color of ear tag and I even remembered to tag the calf in the right ear as we will be selling it. Keepers get a tag in the left ear. We then put pour over fly medicine on the cows. The flies should be going away as soon as the weather turns.

We discovered that last year we missed a steer. I realized this seems near impossible, but it is easier than you think. So we sorted off another cow for the butcher. We will be stocking our freezer this year with beef it seems.

We managed to do all of this in under two hours. This is very good and the dogs made it all that much easier. Zeke had snuck off while we were in the corral the first time working the cows but as we headed down to the school house he appeared down by the pumping station. Mouse was a good boy and waited for us.

I have been trying to get the two upper pastures disced and knock down the weeds. I seem to be tracking in a small bucket of dust every time I get on the tractor. I am closing in and hope to be done this weekend. I spent about 14 hours at the beginning of the week going around in circles. I change it up occasionally by going in a rectangular pattern and if I am feeling adventurous or in an odd spot I will even go in a figure 8 pattern. Its not very riveting but I have found that a book on tape is the best thing for this kind of work. Its way better than music for keeping my brain engaged. The mistress is no worse for the wear. Not a single new dent or scratch from the tip over. I really need to take a few hours this month and give her a bath, repaint the hood as the horses took another bite out of her. I may even take a hammer and see if I cannot beat the dent out of the hood. The hood latch is very hard to work and I may need to do some adjusting but that probably won’t happen as long as I can make it work. The roll bar lights on the right side are missing and need to be replaced. I suspect I will need new tires in a year or two. I am pretty happy with my little John Deere tractor. It has made my life a lot easier and I would recommend a small tractor for any small farm. It is a must.

Cowboy breakfast

The animal experience ended well, we made homemade biscuits and milk gravy! I even fried the sausage in leftover bacon grease, do not knock it until you have tried it! The sausage was really lean and you need some fat to get the flour to brown. The biscuits are always made from Bisquick, which isn’t really from scratch but they are still made at home and they are amazing. It was a great ending to a long morning. We started moving animals at 0530 this morning. It has been very hot and the animals don’t do well in the heat, they get stressed easily. Annmarie doesn’t like the heat either, one could say she gets stressed also, if one dared. So we were out the door by 0534 to begin our adventure. It’s hard to explain to people why we have worked so hard to subdivide the property and why we have so many different gates and enclosures throughout the farm. It all comes down to moving and sorting animals, this task is much easier if you can place animals in pens or re-sort them when needed. This was especially true today as we had two separate groups of cows and two separate groups of sheep.

The sheep and horses were in with the first group of six cows. We used the border collies to push the sheep into our front yard. This was Annmarie’s idea as it gets them out of the way and I agreed but as an added bonus the lawn needs mowed. Dual purpose is the name of the game. The dogs did very well and it took less than a minute to get them out of the barn lot and into the yard with no swearing. This is a near miraculous event and not very common. Our dogs are trained to respond to swearing and yelling. This is totally our fault, but we realize that the dogs need to practice on the animals to learn but it can be trying at times. We got the first six cows into the corral and dusted them down for flies. We had them in 2 of the 3 pens then went to get the other cows. The other cows were way down by the schoolhouse. Actually, half were up by the irrigation pump but they ran down to see the bull and ended up at the end of the property by the school house. Annmarie took both dogs and Mouse was being a spicy pickle with tons of extra hot and a dash of horseradish. Sarah asked me why she kept using him if he kept running and doing the wrong thing. I told her that she was teaching him, he won’t learn without mistakes and since she could call him back every time with the animals visible he just needed fine tuning. Getting him to return to us with the animals in his sight is the hardest trick of all to teach and that one we have done. The rest is just repetition. He wants to go in a straight line and pretends that the command “right” or “left” means run directly at whatever animal it is we are currently working. She got them out of the trees and headed back toward the house. We pushed them through the first fence and I closed the gate and worked the dogs as Annmarie’s voice was wearing thin as well as her patience. The cows don’t want to work easily as there is a calf in their midst. The reason we want them is so we can tag and band the calf and let the bull at the sequestered cows and yearling heifer.

The above picture is where the cows were the first time, the below picture is where the cows are after they got around the dogs and Annmarie because the dogs failed to turn them when they broke. They ran for the dry creek bed and went under the fence. I had not locked down the panels in the creek area yet. I usually do this later in the summer when we are trying to control access to certain areas of the pasture. I did shut the gate, even though it didn’t help. Sarah had to go to work so Annmarie and I and the dogs pushed them up the hill this time so we could run them across the top of the hill away from obstacles. This worked well and we got them into the barn lot fairly easily. We locked them in behind the barn and attempted to push them into the corral. Now it should be noted that before we went out to get these cows Annmarie asked me if we should not use the horse corral panels to build a funnel for the cows to go directly to the corral. I was opposed to this option as it meant more work. Well, this came back to haunt me as the cows would not go into the corral. The mean cow with the green ear tag would not go, she kept coming back at us and eventually ran past us. Annmarie is a huge proponent of gentle steady pressure when moving the animals. I am more of a holler and dog kind of guy. She got me to agree to make hamburger out of the green tag cow and to add her to the butchers list but even more importantly she agreed to go into the barn while I worked the cows with the dogs. The dogs did great and we pushed everyone right into the corral. She wanted to know why I didn’t do that every time. I stated that my method is only quicker part of the time and the animals tend to break away more as I use the dogs and shaker sticks aggressively. I just got lucky.

We powdered and sorted cows, the green tag cow went into the to be eaten in six weeks pen. We have a no scrotum bull that was wreaking havoc in the pens. He is in the to be eaten pen. He is is about 100# heavier than everyone else. We had a one nutter last time we killed and he was great eating. This one never had any testicles descend stupid problem number 15.

We managed to get the calf isolated to one pen and I went and got a tag and bander pliers. I like the calves to be under 30 days old but this one is more like 2+ months old. I am here to tell you that there is a world of difference when you are grabbing and catching one by yourself. I couldn’t get it by the neck but managed to snag a back leg. Have you ever seen those vibrating dumbbells advertised on infomercials that go back and forth and you are supposed to hold onto them? It was exactly like that trying to hold onto a back leg and getting drug around the pen. I knew that I needed to grab the opposite front and back leg and then flop him onto his side. But the execution of this was not happening. I could not get to the head of the animal. So I grabbed the other back leg! Now I have two of these pumping pulling weights attempting to jerk me off my feet. I got kicked in the chest and belly several times before it finally started bawling at the top of its lungs. I couldn’t take the physical, auditory and mental abuse any more. I let it go and we concocted a plan to get this stuff done. We decided to keep the calf and mother in the corral until I can get some help. We will feed them, let them into the old milking portion of the barn and fill the 35 gallon water trough. I realize that the cure for this is to learn to rope. I had rope to tie up legs on the calf but I could not get it to ground. Annmarie tweaked her back 3 days ago so she was forbidden to help wrestle the calf. On a good day I end up with bruises and sore for a couple of days.

After all of that Annmarie decided to give the green tag cow a butcher reprieve and she was put back in with our bull.

The bull and his 8 ladies needed to be pushed back out to get a double fence between them and the market cows. So the dogs and I stopped at the spring to get our fill of water before moving on. Zeke went upstream and made the water muddy for me to drink. This is part of the annual water quality check I perform. I have never gotten sick yet. As far as we know no one has over the course of the farm’s life. The spring head is only about 60 feet away.

The sheep just did not want to leave the shade or the front yard. We tried twice with the dogs but everyone was tired after 4 hours working animals and the lawn still needs to be mowed so we are going to leave them in for at least a day.

We called the state trapper on Friday and he returned our call today. He is coming out to evaluate our predator problem on Monday. We will get this sheep depredation problem under control. Someone suggested guard dogs and they do work, but they cost about $75/month per dog to maintain. We are not about to go into this yet as it costs us about $120/month for the two border collies by the time you add in food and all the vet bills. This is cheap help and saves us from having to pay a human being to help so it is totally needed but it is an ongoing cost and we like to keep those as low as possible.

Annmarie and the dogs were all tuckered out after the running around and a hearty breakfast.