Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cows are done now also

Friday was cow day. We had a few things that had to get done before our vacation and shearing the alpaca and sorting the cows were the last two things. We had just discovered a new calf a few days before sorting. Now mind you the calf was not three days old, more like 2-4 weeks old. The cows have an amazing ability to hide the babies after they are born. Mr. President's older brother came out to help us sort cows and get the lowdown on house sitting for us while we are gone. 
We ran them into the corral and then sorted them in the chute. Everyone got an initial dose of fly powder and I will fill the fly bag before we leave. We had to tag the baby, a little girl and our number ten heifer!  We only want to run ten heifers and our bull. From now on we will be getting rid of all the calves. The screwy part is that means we will have to run two herds and about 20-30 cows total at any one point due to the age difference and one calf being born every 12 months.  To tell which cows we are getting rid of we will be tagging the keepers in the left ear and all the cull cows in the right ear. We just have to have a plan. We have one eating calf in the pipeline for next year but he will be ours. He was the undescended testicle man, a little bull. We ate the last little bull and he was very tasty. So any calves born this year will be for sale in 6 months if you want to finish them off or 18 months after birth if you want to eat them. 
The corral system worked like a dream again. It can be done with two people but three is ideal. It lets everyone manipulate a gate or two and the animals get moved faster. We have a total of 13 cows now. 

Our necklace system did not survive the winter. The plastic necklaces and tags hung low enough that the cows kept catching them on the feeders and tearing them off. We opted to shorten the necklaces and remove the tags. We only really need to know the identities of our original three cows. They are the ones we can keep new heifers from for our herd management. I used a bent wire to reach under their heads in the chute. This prevented a random horn from impaling me. This was AnnMarie's idea. In typical guy fashion I was just going to play "who can move faster" with the horned cows. This is not exactly a wise decision, especially with our one crazy cow. You can also tell the original three by their horns. They have a narrow span and very forward pointing horns. 

Phil is going to work on watering the orchard, ram pasture and our yard. His big project is going to be to build rock metal cages for the horse area. This will let us create a drainage field and level out the horse area. It will also prevent horse poop from rolling down the hill. We worked on the first cage so Phil knew what to do and he only has to build four more. I am loving the idea of this project being completed while we are gone. 

Alpaca are done

Thursday was the day the alpaca were finished. The boys came out first thing and we continued the routine. My back ached from the previous seven hours so I made them do all the lifting. I was the "skilled help". The fact that I managed to cut all three of the alpaca is irrelevant. The boys kept trying to one up each other and Mr. Manners made the sidekick ask for help after he popped off that he could catch and halter an alpaca by himself. He could not and was reduced to having to ask for help twice before it was forthcoming. The boys were slow moving the alpaca to the shearing table or word had been passed down the previous night about the potential for a scalping because the last three laid down on the ground immediately!  The boys had to get on each side and grab hair and lift the alpaca to the shearing table, shove a knee under their belly then lift the shearing table into a horizontal position. I tied the head to the corner of the table. It was a crucial job that required minimal effort. 
Our hoof trimmer blades started to slide apart each time I went to use them. I made them work and even tightened and them loosened them nothing seemed to help. I just kept using them and told myself we were almost done.  I had the same problem with the last shearing blade. I swapped it out and could not get it to cut. I tried metal cutting blade instead of ceramic but that just made it worse. I finally went to an old used blade and a new ceramic blade. This is the real reason I cut the last three alpaca at least that's what I tell myself. Although in all fairness it does make a huge difference when using a sharpened blade. I am going to buy one more comb blade and only use the ceramic cutters. I will order it all this year when I get these blades sharpened. The alpaca were filthy!  They had rocks and dust at the base of their necks. We have ten large burlap sacks full of saddle hair and ten garbage bags full of seconds from neck and legs.

 We want to get the good stuff woven and the seconds made into hair mats, felted type. The big question now is how much will that cost and how many pounds do we have. We probably have 50 pounds at least at about $35-40/lb to process. So we are going to have to plan that expense. We have to buy 35-40 ton of hay this year so that comes first. 
I will pick up hoof trimmers soon and throw out the others so I will be ready next time. I am learning it is better to get everything you need for next time immediately so you don't forget anything and when you do it next time everything you need is at hand. I don't want to store the gunny sacks just because of the mice. 

I made the boys move the shearing table into the barn. The thing is a beast and it was not easy. I had to help Mr. Manners with his end of the table. He needs to do more strengthening exercises. It is now living in a corner of one of the hay rooms. Doing the shearing in the old milking shed area kept the sun off of us. I need to lay out the tarp over the dirt next time. We had one alpaca flop off of the table like a fish and it was still tied up by the feet. The ropes were not tight enough and we had not stretched out the animal. Plus, I might have just cut them with the shaver. The hair cuts got better looking the more practice I got. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Table works!

It is official, the shearing table works!  I had Mr. Manners and his sidekick came out early Wednesday morning to help. They had car trouble but called ahead and still made it less than 30 minutes late,  a diligent effort. We grabbed the shears and blades out of the laundry room. They have a little metal briefcase to store them in with all the blades. At this point the blades are approaching the cost of the shearer. I have four sets of blades now and this year I got ceramic cutters which last a lot longer than the steel ones. Unfortunately, they cannot be sharpened. I am going to try all steel next time and see how long they last. I managed to shear three alpaca per set today. We got 7 of the 10 alpaca sheared today. 

AnnMarie got a live action shot of me actually shearing. The boys all think I am crazy for wearing a long sleeve shirt in the summer. After a few hours of dirt and hair flying around my long sleeves started to look good. 
The very first alpaca we sheared screamed the whole time and kept spitting all over the table. I kept making the boys clean it up. They kept trying to pass the buck on that duty. I finally had to tell them to just get it done. They started swapping turns after that. I also did not think to take the harness off and trim up the neck and head so the first animal looks a little worse than the rest. The bald patches were not caused by me. I 

Mr. Manners is sorting the hair. We kept the saddle intact and placed it into gunny sacks and put all the other cuttings into bags to be made into fiber mats. 

The blanket belly strap did not work. It just gets in the way and the dirt piles onto it. Plus the first alpaca got frisky and tore it in half. I just took a knife and cut it off. We just got the alpaca next to the table, two people reach under its belly and grab the table edge then tilt it to a horizontal position.  We tie its head to the eyebolt before tipping the table. It works pretty slick. I then clip its legs to above the knees and then tie its feet together and stretch it out along the main pipe. 

I started to get better with more practice. We also removed the halter so I could clean up their face and neck unimpeded. 

I wanted to get these seven moved into the ram pasture but they would not go. I tried the dogs without any luck. I finally gave a chunk of rope and the halter to the boys and I took a chunk of rope. I got the first one snagged and literally had to drag it kicking and screaming across the bridge. I ended up catching 4 of 7. The sidekick caught the others and Mr Manners caught Zero, Nada, Zip. He will have a chance for redemption on Thursday morning. 
Our farm is the blob in the lower middle of the picture. AnnMarie took this on one of her recent morning walks. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Table done!

Sarah and I worked on the alpaca table today. I had gotten more supplies and more cut pipe on Thursday. She had to run to the local hardware once for bolts and then I had to go a second time!!  One would think I could count. Sarah learned how to put galvanized pipe together today. She had to assemble and reassemble pieces a few times. It was a hot and miserable day. We had to modify the table design on the movable leg. To create the H brace we needed to have a right and left handed thread on the same cross piece. We had to use tape to hold it together. This would be why the plans talk about using fencing clamps. 
I need to write all this up and make up some new plans but I probably won't. I may out curiosity find those weird pipe fence clamps. 

Sarah insisted we eat lunch in a timely fashion. We had lunch at 1215. I had plans for us to still sort cows after we finished the table. We went back outside and finished up the table. The thing is super heavy. I tried to start the gas tractor but the battery was dead. This would be why the negative terminal connection used to be removed. I need to charge the battery and put it back on the tractor. 

We tried to move the table. No way!!  I went and got the Mistress and she carried it over near the barn. It was so heavy and hanging so far forward that the rear wheels kept bouncing off the ground. Once outside the milking area we had to shovel horse poop before we could move the table inside. It was super heavy and Sarah was petered out by then. We wrestled it into place. 
No cows today. We went inside and laid in the living room floor. We were hot and I took off my glasses and laid them on the floor. I kinda fell asleep but noticed the puppy next to me chewing on something. It was my glasses. I tossed them up into the couch and laid there a while longer. He had been at the glasses a while. Both ear pieces a chewed up. One is barely there. I am missing a nose piece and one lens looks like I was in the movie Birds and the only thing that saved my eyes from being plucked out was my glasses. I have scratches and teeth mark over both lens. One lens is providing about 60% clarity. It's like looking through glasses someone licked after eating ice cream or drinking milk. The worst part is we leave for Taiwan in a week. I am not sure I can get them replaced before then. I did need new glassses but had planned on taking care of that when we got back from Taiwan.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tile work is done!

Well I did it I finished the floor in the library. I even managed to do it before AnnMarie got back from Berkeley. I stayed up till 0130 Thursday night working grout in and washing it off tiles. I ended up with a large blister in the palm of my right hand. I should of thought about rubber gloves but it took me almost five hours to complete. I don't think the gloves would have stood up and if they did my hands would have looked like raisins with multiple blisters from all the moisture trapped under the gloves. I showered before crawling into bed. I was supposed to be off all weekend but I messed up the work schedule and got called in to cover a shift the next morning. It was my own mistake. 
Unfortunately, the tile makes the room look like it needs something so we will now be picking out some new paint schemes for this room. I think I want to keep the ceiling the same and just paint the walls.  We will have to get sample cards and get this completed at the end of July so we can move the loom out of the living room. We have the book shelves stashed in the office upstairs. The goal will be to thin everything before it goes back in the room. 

Having to work on Friday threw off my alpaca shearing table build schedule. I went in today and had them cut another ten pieces of pipe and they recut my two 48 inch pieces into five threaded pieces plus cut another 5 threaded pieces for me. It is in the low 90s today and the pipe was in the bed of the pickup so it's really too hot to handle. This means first thing in the morning I need to get out there and finish putting it together. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Alpaca table that would be

We need to shear the alpaca. This is going to be facilitated by a table. The trouble with a table is the only directions we have is a diagram from the Internet posted a few years ago. There were no instructions and they did not show the connectors needed to attach it all together. Instead they talked about some kind of clamp that let you clamp sections of pipe together without threading them together. This was not something the local hardware store had in stock. I sat down at the kitchen table and tried to figure it out. I wrote up a list and purchased said list. Today, I attempted to assemble said pieces. This did not go well for me. The diagram did not account for the added joint lengths. This threw off everything and for some reason unbeknownst to me I had the legs cut as 48 inches. On hindsight, this was because I was following the flawed diagram with the weird unavailable clamps. What I really needed was 24 inches x4 not 48 inches x2. So after putting things together as much as possible I took inventory. I had five extra joint pieces and am short two T pieces. I can have the 2-48 inch pieces cut to 3-24 inch pieces, 1-14 inch piece and 1-10 inch piece. Plus, I will need 5 more 14 inch pieces and 3 more 10 inch pieces and 4 2.5 inch hangar supports and I will need 8-3.5 inch carriage bolts. And 8-3 inch carriage bolts. 
So off to hardware store again tomorrow and another $100. 
The 2x4 and 2x6 bolted to the plywood are to stiffen it plus I will be trapping my central pipe shaft between the two middle boards by clamping a 2x8 over the top of them. The boards are 1 5/8 inch thick and my pipe is 1.5 inches. It should work. In the eventuality it doesn't I can always rip the middle down on the 2x6. It will fit eventually. 


Chicken coop done

Saturday the boys came out again at 0800. I had worked the night shift and told them to start in on the barn when they arrived.  I had gone to work 30 minutes early, the previous evening, so I could pick up some wood pellets for the chicken coop. I showed both boys what I wanted done in the coop: vacuum walls, wipe walls down with bleach water, dig out right hand side of floor and toss outside, fill all feeders and waterers, move old pellets from left side of coop to under perches and put new pellets on left side, clean out nest boxes, vacuum feed area and move all feed bags around to clean up floor. I went back out 30 minutes later to drop off the cooler with lunch when I was approached with the burning question of the day, "Mr Manners cannot figure out how to set the mouse trap" per his compatriot.  Now don't think for a second I don't know that the two of them had been screwing around for 15 minutes trying to figure out how to set an old fashioned mouse trap. I demonstrated the technique twice with the warning to not hold the trap incorrectly or your fingers would pay for it. What are we teaching our youth?  Where are the valuable life skills needed to survive on your own coming from? 

I told them when they were done with the coop to finish the barn. I reinforced to them I thought it was possible to do both that day. They agreed, and when I went out to feed the horses that evening they had gotten close. There is about two hours of work left in the barn. The chicken coop is done and looks much better. The coop windows still need to be cleaned but the rest is good enough. 
The next big thing is to build the alpaca shearing table then actually shear the alpaca.