Sheep sorting

Sunday afternoon we opted to sort lambs as our buyer had contacted Annmarie Sunday morning. We were unsure how many lambs we had and needed to give an accurate head count. We also needed to sort them off so they would be ready and could just be driven into the corral and out the chute, in and out in 15 minutes is the goal. We used the dogs to move them into the back barn lot. We had already set up the barn for sheep sorting. Annmarie got them into the barn and decided to invite the dogs into the barn while I moved gates around outside. Next thing I know I hear her yelling both dog’s names and some violent movement in the barn. By the time I made my way into the barn she had both dogs corralled and placed into the hay room. I thought that Mouse had been the bad boy and lunged for one of the new mommas with babies. Nope, Zeke’s arch nemesis ewe had a set of twins, she would not back down and Zeke went for her throat. He has hated this same ewe ever since he was a puppy, she used to stomp on him. He has not forgotten her, and the hatred is mutual and expressed by both parties. We then proceeded to push about 2/3 of the herd into the back sorting area and tried to get them to go down the chute. The chute run was not a popular event, no one wanted to start the festivities. There was some grumbling amongst the worker types as to who should do what and where should they stand and when should they lean near the chute. Once that was all worked out in terse undertones the sorting began. Let it be said that I now wear my “I herd you” border collie T-shirt and Annmarie wears her “I can’t keep calm it’s lambing season” shirt when we sort sheep. I also like to wear the “I am sorry for what I said when we were working sheep” shirt, as it is far more relevant. Honestly, until you have done it and then had to redo it and then had to do it again all in the same day you will not understand. Now throw in some random animal craziness, stuff breaking and a dog escaping and you have reality.

We sorted off the lambs, I was supposed to be counting them and marking them by gender in my phone. I got done and had managed to count a total of 43 sheep to sale. I had Annmarie come down and count with me in the far pen. We counted several times and I got anywhere from 38-43. We finally just ran them back through the chute and counted again. We have 44 sheep for sale. We kept 8 for us and the locals that want to buy directly from us. We have 5 sold so far and we may take at least one. We pushed the rest of the herd out onto the back hillside and orchard. We will keep the for sale lambs in the back barn lot and just feed them hay for a day. He will be here Monday afternoon to pickup the sheep.

Before the sheep sorting adventures, our progeny, sent me a link to an auction that was only 13 miles from the house. I went to said auction and picked up a very nice leather wrapped chest for $70 and an old hand water pump for $35. I found a bunch of semi precious stone jewelry and spent the other half of my money on it. Annmarie was very happy with my finds. I will need to get the outside of the chest clean as it is very dusty and the leather needs conditioning. I am looking forward to what it will look like when it is all cleaned up.

Hoss is working on getting the loaner hay equipment back on pallets so we can get it shipped back. Our hay equipment is supposed to arrive on a freight truck on Friday. I plan on cutting hay on Saturday. I am hoping to get another 5 ton baled.

Population boom

It has started again, the sheep are lambing. Of course Annmarie is out of town, but luckily all of the sheep but one were in the orchard. When I let the dogs out this morning I was pretty sure I heard a newborn lamb. I say this because they make a very distinct sound that only lasts a few days, after that their voice changes. It is odd but honestly you can hear newborn babies. I looked up on the hillside at the lone sheep who had snuck out of the orchard and she had at least one lamb, turns out she had twins. Hoss and I pushed her back into the orchard with another loner who made it out. They are crawling through the ditch. When it flooded this spring it lifted it out of the water. I will need to fix it tomorrow but I am going to have to put on my waders as my normal knee high boots are not going to keep me dry. Hoss and I also turned on water in the orchard and started to water the grass. We have not watered it at all this year. We then went out to finish digging all the post holes.

Hoss has been working on getting T-posts pounded into the ground and trying to finish the holes I started. It is too late in the season to be attempting new post holes in our ground. He has been filling the holes with water and digging out 2-4 inches every day. Today we tore it up and got every hole drilled that we needed. Some just required time, some needed finesse and some we had to dig out by hand. The tractor auger will sit on top of the clay but if you dig it by hand it will be much faster. We had to dig out five by hand. We have 24 done and ready for posts now. On Sunday we will fill the pickup with gravel and set as many posts as we can. I set all wooden posts with gravel now. They stay in place better and it cuts down on the weeds growing around them. Which makes it less likely for me to burn up the wooden post.

Hoss stated that yesterday he got stung 4-5 times by the yellow jackets in one particular place. The blackberry bushes were right up next to the fence location. He gave up. Today I took the tractor in there and shoved the bushes back five feet and knocked down the weeds. I did not get stung a single time. I think he was exuding fear.

We came back to the house to look at the hay mower. It needs more than a couple of bolts. I need to tear apart the cylinder, find the correct bolts, remove the broken bolts from the welded in place nuts straighten the blade arms and put it all back together. This is going to take a couple of days. I will need more tools.

Once I realized it was going to take more than a couple of hours we moved onto the next project. I decided to finally move the panels in the bull enclosure so that any animal can take itself to water. We had a trough initially and it worked for the horses but the sheep we had to water separately in buckets. So we moved a panel out into the channel and added two more. They were very hard to get unpinned and moved. The fence is incredibly strong. I will need to add in a gravel pathway so the animals do not sink into mud when getting a drink. I had 20 more yards of gravel delivered last week. I knew we would need it for the fence posts and the skinning pole. I will need at least five yards just to fill in under the skinning pole. I am looking forward to not having to work in the mud when skinning an animal.

We moved the horse trough down to chicken coop. I want to level a spot under the eaves of the old house so that the rain helps keep it filled and then I want to get goldfish! I think they can survive the winter. They are cheap and I miss having fish.

Zeke, our herding border collie, keeps getting out of the front yard. I was certain that he was jumping over one of our gates. He got out again today and ran into the upper fields to harass the wildlife. So I added new slats to the gate to make it too tall for him to leap. I then ran to the store for a quick errand knowing he was secure. When I got home he was outside the fence again. I have no clue how he is doing it. I am going to have to install our game camera up onto the trash can to watch the front fence and see where he is getting out. I suspect he is going over it I am just not sure where. Take my advice, do not teach your herding dog to get over, under, through every fence when herding because you are just creating a containment nightmare for yourself. Until we figure it out he goes on the overhead run now whenever we are not home.

We also installed some metal equipment rims in the old oak tree spot down at my Mother-in-laws today. I am not sure how it will be received so I am holding off on pictures until later.

After a solid 8 hours it was time to call it a day. I sat out in the rocking chair, drank some water and ate Sorbet! It was very good and incredible after a hot day. It was 90 degrees today. Our back creek is still running which is amazing. I suspect it to end by August.

The sheep are popping babies out everywhere. We had three sets of twins and at least one single born today. I called Annmarie and she said it was time. I thought they were all due in August. This means next week we have to get the barn functional so we can sort off the market animals and the new babies. The babies will need to be tagged and banded. We also need to track their mother and birth date! Since I could not get close today I will take out the binoculars tomorrow and I should be able to get tag numbers and quantities born. I will even use our new tracking software!

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.