Monday, June 28, 2010

Fencing woes

I learn as I go.  I really learn from mistakes, but to do that, I have to first make the mistake.  I was out fencing again today.  I finished up all the minor details on one stretch today.  I added the stabilizer twists and nailed down the loose ends.  So that was good.  On the bad note, my new stretch I am working on turns a corner about 130 degrees.  I kinda figured I would not need to support the corner post on both sides.  Saves me from digging a hole.  Not so much.  When you crank down with the come-along it is cause the post to bend over.  I am now going to have to loosen the fence, back the pickup over there, hook onto the post and the pickup hitch, bend the post back up till it is square and add in the support post I didn't do the first time.  So from now on all corners get 3 posts regardless of the angle.  The next two pictures are of my completed fence.  Thank goodness it is done.  Hopefully, I will not have to build any more rock jacks.  Very painful to do and then once built, you have to actually fill them with large rocks.

I had to go in and pick up my cut maple.  My parents had to remove another maple tree, this time from a rental property and I had them keep the trunk and a couple of large branches intact.  The custom cut guy has had it done for a couple of weeks so I went over today and picked it up.  I figure I got over 400 board foot (this means the board is 1inch thick and 12 inches by 12 inches wide and long = 1bf.) of maple for $120. Around here it goes for around $3.50-$5 bf.  I paid about 30 cents/bf.  Not too shabby at all.  I stacked it out in the old chicken coop with my other maple and my pine boards and my old scrap pile.  Now this would be way cheaper, but if the guy hits a nail you have to pay $60 for a new bandsaw blade.  I am 2 for 2 in nails.  So I could have had all this maple for $60 if it weren't for someone banging a nail into the tree.  So now you know, never ever ever put nails in trees.

My new maple pile is dead center in the picture, my old pile (now dried out and ready for use) is in the far back right corner, front left corner is a stack of pine 1x12 to use as siding for an outbuilding and then there are some scraps between the two maple piles.  We have an antisocial cat, Luna who lives out here in the coop all alone. She comes in and visits us every couple of months.  She lets the family just pet on her, but only when she wants it.
I took this picture of the barn in passing as I was getting pictures of the fence.  I love living in the country.  Even if there is cheat grass showing up all over the place in our house.  It is still fantastic!!  I almost forgot to lock the chickens up tonight.  I did a head count and they are all still there.  I am down to around 16 eggs/day now. I hope those babies start laying soon.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

catch up again

It has been a haul.  Trying to catch up with everything and the blog has paid the price.
I still have a chicken killer.  It snagged Puff, the original tree chicken, out of a tree one of the nights I was at work.  When I came home on Friday, Sarah kindly informed me that there was another dead chicken in one of the nest boxes.  It turned out to be one of my Buff Orpington hens (original chicken lineage).  She was the one who had egg duct issues that I thought would die.  So now I have a whopping 17 laying hens left.  I still have all 11 of my babies and they should start producing in a couple of months.  They are out with the other chickens now and a new pecking order is being established.  I had Sarah leave the dead chicken out in the chicken yard and shut the yard gate.  This was so I could be sure that my killer could not get past the electric fence.  The dead chicken was undisturbed this morning.  So I will just start locking the outer gate at night.  That way the chickens are not trapped in the coop until we let them out.  They can just leave the coop at the crack of dawn and wander the yard.  I will start watering the chicken yard so the grass will keep growing.  I also spent part of the last two days using the weedeater (I had to borrow my parents, I break them, had to fix this one twice in last two days) to create a kill zone around the chicken coop.  I am hoping to make it uncomfortable for the killer to return.

If you look on the right side of the picture, you can see how high the grass is.  Today I cleared a 10 foot swath all around the coop and made all the tall grass you can see on this picture go away.  The weed eater finally gave out on me.  The things make me crazy.  I have already broken two in the last 3 weeks.  I had to shut it off today to refill the gas and could not get it restarted!!  So instead I went out and chopped down thistles (broke the blade chopper head yesterday for the weed eater) by hand until dinner.

The sheep are doing great.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why everyone isn't in love with baby sheep?  They are the cutest little stinkers.  We keep catching them and petting on them. Here is a picture of Lucky, the multicolor ram.

Annmarie named the black one, Blackie.  Not very original, but easy to remember and he is going to be food so a simple name is better.  No name is best, but that didn't happen.  We don't get to touch these babies very much any more.  They are quick and jump and leap around.  Plus, we don't have anything they want.  So for now we will bide our time.  Our first baby, Hershey was the same way and he eats out of our hand now.  He really likes corn, they all do.

Here is a picture of the coffee girls.  Annmarie took this out our front window, the sheep have been banned from the front yard.  Yes, I realize that they were mowing the lawn, but they were also using the back porch as a bathroom.  But most importantly they think roses are a delicacy.  They were going to kill my roses if they were not ejected from the yard.  They can come back in the fall when the trees and bushes are dormant.  

Annmarie drug me out of bed early this morning.  Early being a relative term, it was late if we were going to make the swim team practice, but since it is a weekend there is no practice.  So she drug me out to go to a tool sale/yard sale.  I picked up a large crowbar for $4 and the find of the day!  I bought a 1 gallon coffee container full of old hand drawn reclaimed nails for $15.  Total gold mine!  I was happy.  We drove to Pendleton and by the time all was said and done we visited 12 different yard sales.  We picked up a few goodies and I found a solid metal hammer with forged handle for $4 (another killer find).  We spent all morning doing that and had a good time.

The nails are 1.5 inches long.  They are going to look great in whatever I use them for.  The gal that we bought them from said her husband used to take down old buildings in the midwest and reclaimed the nails whenever he demolished a building.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chickens killer exposed (I hope)

So I spent most of the day today fencing.  I had both nephews helping me and we made great progress.  Got the gate hung and five posts in the ground with supports, a stretch of fence posts installed and the sheep wire attached for that stretch.  We had to restretch an entire section after repairing the anchor point.  I put the wire support on the top instead of the bottom and pulled the post over.  So great progress was made on the fencing front.

I also had to let the baby chickens out of their enclosure today.  They were out of water and they are almost the same size as my adult chickens.  We had been leaving them in there because it was predator proof.  When I went to lock up the chickens tonight all the "babies" were back in their area all cuddled up together.

Important news flash, I may have found my chicken killer, as I was typing this Annmarie and I heard a loud chicken squawk.  I grabbed my predator killer outfit (flashlight and Walther p22 with laser sights), almost opted for the pistol grip shotgun, but I stuck with old tried and true.  I had to battle our chocolate lab at the door, she wanted to run out and protect the chicken, but I couldn't randomly throw lead in the air with her running around outside, so I opted for quantity over quality and kept the dog inside.  Now mind you, I had just come in from locking the chickens up in the coop.  But we have one chicken, Puff, a Polish hen who has decided the coop is not safe (not a bad assumption) and is now sleeping in the top of the bushes.  Well her daughter started sleeping outside a few days ago also.  We thought it was Puff throwing the squawking fit.  I ran all around outside in my best imitation of a cop in hostile territory.  No predator.  I was coming back in the house when Annmarie started talking to me from the upstairs open bedroom window.  I went over and found Puff sitting alone in the bushes.  Her daughter was missing.  One more pass of the yard with my flashlight and I found her dead over by the fence with our smallest adult female cat next to her.  I took a shot, but am unsure if I got the cat or not.  I did recognize it, so it is dead now even if it doesn't know it.  It will have killed about $200 worth of adult chickens and another $620 in lost income from eggs from those now deceased chickens.  It violated our cardinal rule "live and let live" along with "everyone gets along or else".  It is just practical, I realize it sounds kinda cold, but I am out $820 already and cannot afford to have any more chickens killed.

On top of all that, I think one of my chickens has a prolapsed egg duct and may very well die in the next couple of days.  I noticed it when I was counting the hens the first time I was outside.  So now I have 19 females but in a couple more days I may only have 18.  This sucks.  I actually do like the chickens and animals on the farm.   We sat at the lunch table today (during lunch) and discussed genetics for the sheep and which ram to keep and whether to let one of the new baby boys become our breeder.  On our way to swim team we discussed our cut and wrap options and which sheep to have slaughtered.  As soon as we got home tonight we caught the baby lambs and petted on them.  They are the cutest little buggers.  Life on a farm, is very practical.  If you are not practical you cannot survive.

Good night.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Still Alive

Well, the chickens survived the weekend.  No one died while I was at work.  My traps did get moved around yesterday, but not sprung.  So when I went out to lock up the chickens I moved the traps around in an attempt to better catch my predator.  Annmarie did shut the outside coop run one night and the trap did not get sprung.  I now think the predator is not living under the coop.  It is just leaving leftovers under the coop and keeps coming back for seconds and thirds.

Worked on fencing again today.  We got the wire up near the creek  Tomorrow I hope to fix my error at the gate and install two corners (six posts) and 75 feet of fence.  It doesn't seem like much for us to finish in one day.    But I will be ecstatic if we can do it.  I will only have about 150 feet and ten more posts to go.  The digging kind of posts with braces.  I almost forgot about the walk through gate we need to install. I used the weed eater along the twine path so we could get the fence in through the grass jungle.

Our chocolate lab, Bailey was chasing a turkey today.  They have started to move in next to our house.  I don't want them competing with my chickens!!

Annmarie took this last spring on the way out of town toward our house, about two miles away.

good night.

Friday, June 18, 2010

No Killer still

This is kinda frustrating.  Still no killer.  I went out first thing this morning (armed of course) and found the mess.  Something had triggered my traps.  Both traps were tripped and wound up together in a knot next to my stake I had driven into the ground.  One of the traps had closed on the other traps chain.  I had them too close together.  Obviously, I need bigger traps.  Unfortunately, they are expensive.  The traps I am using were free.  They were hanging up in the machine shop on a nail.  So I reset the traps, stuffed one way into the hole and the other right at the opening so they would not catch each other this time.  I covered the hole back up with the two tin shields and hopefully I will have better luck next time.  Annmarie and her brother, Matt, have both seen a badger up on the hillside.  If I have a badger, I am going to have a hard time catching it with a trap.  I may have to smoke it out, but that is gonna cause a whole new set of problems.  I will keep trying this for a few days.  Maybe, I will just irritate whatever is living under the coop enough that it will go away.

I have also started marking the chicken coop outside fence as mine.  Using the age old animal technique understood by all creatures, I pee on it.  This sounds like a simple procedure but I have an electric fence running around the outside of the fence, so you do have to pay attention or you will pay the price for your inattention.

Doom, artistic photograph.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trap set

Well, I went out and set the traps up today.  I checked on them twice with no success.  I just got back from my lockdown patrol (armed with pistol, flashlight and camera).  Still no trap action.  Just to be on the safe side, I counted all the chickens, still have 20 hens and 1 rooster.  They don't like the flashlight, and cluck their displeasure at roll call.  So hopefully tonight the problem will solve itself.

I left the live trap set up just in case something ran through it.  On the bottom left corner of the picture you can see a metal post in the ground.  I have a wire rope connected to that post and both leg traps under the chicken coop.  I covered the hole with that metal pan and old blue and white can.  That way no cat or chicken could wander into the traps.  You can see I have lowered and latched the chicken door shut so nothing can get in tonight.  Since I have lost 32% of my laying hens in the last week, I need to get this under control soon or there won't be any chickens left.

one fence down, one more to go (really 4 more)

The Ram pasture fence is done!  I had told Annmarie it would be done and with the sheep eating the barn lot up I needed to be done, plus the weather was supposed to turn bad on Thursday so Wednesday was the perfect day to get finished.  Not so much.  I drove through rain on the way home Wednesday morning.  I got my two teenage nephews to help out on the fence.  As soon as we started fencing it started to rain and kept raining until the last hour.  It took us just over 3 hours to finish the other half of the fence.  Not having to sink any posts or reinforce end posts cuts a lot of time.  The weather was very miserable but still not bad enough to drive us inside.  I had to give an inclement weather bonus to the boys (Annmarie's suggestion).

 I will quietly proclaim that the fence is now sheep proof (very quietly, maybe even a whisper).  We turned the sheep loose into this pasture, but they are currently in our front yard again snacking away.  We actually had to go get the older twin babies and carry them across the small creek because they would not cross and momma left them.  These are her first babies.  She's not as attentive as we might hope.

This is the completed fence looking Northwest.  I had to reload the rock crib with rocks.  The cows used my corner crib as a scratching post last year.  I may need to run a hot wire on the outside of the fence for just that reason.  We even ran sheep wire (woven mesh wire) along that small stretch between rock cribs.  I actually need another rock crib halfway between those two.  I tried to drive a post into the rocky hillside and it is kinda in but won't take any pushing on.  So, eventually I will have to add another rock crib.

This is looking Southeast.  Near the center of the picture you can kinda see my gate.

I lost what we thought was one more chicken on Tuesday night.  Annmarie showed me the carcass on Wednesday.  It was the same as last time, no head and eaten from stomach up.  Literally.  Only the gizzard was left, other than the bones and wings.  I moved the live trap into the chicken yard and put the dead chicken carcass in as bait.  When I was doing this I noticed a hole going under the chicken coop, it normally has a grapefruit size rock in front of it, but the rock was moved.  The cats were getting under the coop so I had moved the rock into place earlier.  I moved the rock back in place

You can't really see it, but just to the middle left of the photo with the trap is where the hole is.  I didn't think much of it at the time.  When I went out to lock the chickens up for the night at 2100 the rock was moved again and my dead chicken was missing!  Of course the trap had not been sprung.  So I put the rock back and put a tin can in front of the rock so I could check on it again in the morning. At bedtime, 2300, I couldn't help myself.  I grabbed the pistol and flashlight and made a nighttime patrol.  I spotted three cats and all the sheep but no predator.  Well, in the morning the rock and tin can were pushed to the side and the hole was open again.   I believe whatever is killing my chickens is living under my coop!  Nothing like being close to your food source.  So after grumbling to Annmarie last night about my predators choice of accommodations we came up with a plan.  We had to opt out of all poisons as we have too many animals running around.  We have some leg traps out in the old machine shop.  If I set a couple and stick them in the hole and stake them into the ground and put the rock back then I should only get my predator.  Every one else will be safe.  So today I will do that.  At this point it is all out war.  Even if it is couple of our cats, I need to stop the killing or I won't have any chickens left, because it was not just one chicken yesterday.  I counted the chickens last night when I locked them up.  I lost 3 more chickens Tuesday night.  I only have 20 laying hens left.  If I were to attempt to buy an adult laying hen it would cost me around $25-30/each.  But if you figure each hen lays around 280 eggs/year and I sell them for $2.50/doz then each hen lays around $58/year in eggs.  So I am losing big time, not to mention that they don't start laying until they are 6 months old.  The chicken killer must DIE.

Here is a picture of the newest lambs (coffee flavors).  We moved them and momma into the old wood shed for a few days due to the cold, windy, rainy weather.  This keeps momma in one place and allows the babies to get stronger.  We will let them out next week to run with everyone else.  Our next ewe is due in a couple of months.  I am hoping she has twin girls also.  This is machiatto nursing.  You can almost see her wagging her tail!

And this is for Doom.  He is trying to go all artistic photography on me so I thought I would throw this in for him.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lamb Update

I have to apologize, because I don't have new photos. Sarah's twice daily swim practices, combined with my treasurer's duties for the swim team have stolen the day away from me. About the only productive non-treasure thing I managed to accomplish today was feeding us both lunch, and swimming laps for about 15 minutes before I thought I would die. Yes, I am that out of shape, but hopefully that will change if I keep it up. But, I promised an update on the lambs, not my busy out-of-shape self.

We checked when we got home from swim practice, and while Machiato (the lighter of the two) was being very very noisy, she was warm, dry, and hydrated. Her tummy was also comfortably full, so she had clearly eaten. Her sister, Mocha, was drowsily napping in the sun. Also dry, and warm with a comfortably full tummy, so all is well. I watched Machiato grab a snack, and this is the ewe that successfully raised our only surviving lamb this winter, so I'm confident that she'll do just fine. We'll get new photos up tomorrow.

And, just for the record, I did not holler at Steve. I simply woke him enough to make sure he was processing and asked him if he wanted to come help with the babies. That was enough to get him out of bed. He just doesn't want to admit it.

Fresh from the oven

We sleep at night with the windows open.  That cool breeze is always refreshing.  The side effect is my wife, Annmarie can hear everything that is going on outside the house.  Which by transference means I am alerted (shaking or hollering) of the goings on outside.  This morning before 0500 I was woken up (hollering) to my wife announcing that we had more baby sheep.  Twins again!!  This is good news and I even managed to roll out of bed with very little prompting.  She said she could hear them and they woke her up.  You could hear them bawling occasionally from our bedroom window.  So we got dressed and trudged out to the barn lot.  I remembered to bring the camera with us and a towel (only one towel, I did mention there were twins?).  The babies were literally only minutes old. They were still covered in goo, shaky and momma had not birthed the afterbirth (placenta) yet.  So we decided to lock momma and babies up in the loading corral for a few days.  So I went and filled a five gallon bucket of water and got some grain for the momma sheep.  We took the babies to the corral and she followed .  We tried to hold her and let the babies latch on, but she kept shifting even when I had her pinned to the fence and eating grain.  So we just left them.  Annmarie will check on them in three hours when they get back from swim.  She can feed a supplemental bottle then if needed.  Now the cool thing is both of them are girls!!  Way cool.  Two more sheep for free to breed.  I like that.  I have a picture of the babies, but you will notice the flash had to be used as it was still dark outside.  They will be far cuter by this afternoon.  Momma will have them all cleaned up and it is supposed to be nice and warm today, low 80's so they will dry out nicely.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chickens live

Well here it is nighttime again.  We got home after dark so I had to take a flashlight out to the chicken coop so I could collect eggs.  I still don't have power to the coop yet.  It is a low priority.  Besides, the outside extension cord has grown down into the yard and you cannot even see the yellow cord any more.  I gotta get that fence done before anything else.  When I went to get eggs (in the dark) the predator trap was sprung again.  I shined the light in and something black was in the cage.  Upon closer inspection it was another chicken.  They just are not very smart.  I tried to shake it out of the trap but it would not fall out, I finally had to reach in and pull it out.  I did do a recount on my poultry parade and I still have 23 hens and 1 rooster.  So no one has died since I implemented the lockdown after lights out policy.  I only collected 17 eggs.  I am missing those 6 laying hens.

I worked on fencing once Sarah and I came back from gate shopping with Grandma.  I have a very nice sunburn on my neck to prove it.  Cooper (nephew) and I got the ram pasture gate installed, 50% of the upper fence totally completed and put in the end posts and supports on the other side of the gate.  Just need to put the angle support wire in place and string the sheep wire on that 50% and we will be done!!  One more day, this upcoming Wednesday, and I can turn the sheep loose in the ram pasture.  Just made it, as they are running out of fodder in the barn lot.  No way I could go another week with them in there.  Oh boy, once that is done I get to start back on the orchard fence.  I will be glad when the fencing is done and I can go to the barn.  That is my real project for the year.  I want to get that up and running for the sheep this winter.

Plus, I need to start picking out my pieces of wood I am going to use for the trim inside our house from the barn wood.  I am going to trim out all our windows and the kicker board along the floor out of barn wood.


I went out this morning to let the chickens out of Alcatraz and I only counted 22 hens... now it is easy to miscount as they came pouring out the door like crazed beasts running for the cat food on the cellar wall.  I am sure they heard me call the cats just before letting them out.  They think "here kitty, kitty" means "here chicky, chicky" (yes, we really do use both as they work for the cats and chickens).  So I could just be off by one in the counting.  Will have to verify tonight when I lock them up.  They are far easier to count when they are sitting on their roosts.  I found the trap not sprung and the chicken wing taken out of the trap and the cat food missing.  So I will refill it and try again.  I am really hoping it is not a mink.  It will be very hard to catch if it is.  With it being super wet and both creeks running it very well could be.  I need that kill zone!  Unfortunately, I need that ram pasture fence done first!!  So I am running into town to pick up our daughter from swim team practice, going to pick out a new gate for the orchard pasture and then back at that fence.  Gotta work tomorrow so I can rest then.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fencing again, chicken killer update

It seems like I talk a lot about fencing.  I do actually, that is because I am constantly fencing!!  Fixing old fencing is a skate in the park compared to building it from scratch.  I removed the bottom three strands from the ram pasture (had smooth wire and sheep just used the entire fence as a gate), I drug them around to the front orchard fence and installed them above the sheep wire I put in last week.  I was tightening the wire with a come-a-long (i wanted it really tight) and I pulled over my end post on the far end.  I had buttressed it incorrectly and allowed the railroad tie to move about 3 inches at the top.  Now, I have to cut the bottom sheep wire loose, apply a new tightening wire going the opposite direction and stretch the bottom sheep wire again to get the little wobble out.  I have been installing used gates in all my new fence sections.  I keep scrounging all over the farm and finding ancient sheep gates.  They look like the bottoms of spring mattresses only longer.  So, my mother-in-law saw the one I was going to install up front between our houses.  So tomorrow we are going to go shopping for a new vehicle gate and people gate to install on that visible section of the fence.  It lets me use that gate for another section of the farm.  As soon as I can get this fencing done, I am moving to the barn.  The sheep need a place to hang out in the winter.  We had an amateur photographer come spend a day and night taking pictures of the farm and buildings over the weekend.  Once we get a copy of the pictures we will post a few to show everyone.

Well, I checked the live trap this morning to see if my chicken killer was caught.  I had a kitten and her mother in the trap.  I shook them up a little and dumped them on the ground, so hopefully they won't be back.  I opened both doors (exterior door to run, the killer would have to climb over the electric fence, then open the chicken door to coop that was latched shut) so my chickens could free range .  I had 29 chickens before the foul play and only have 23 now.  A 21% loss.  No more 24 eggs/day...  Sarah collected 18 eggs today.  Tonight when I was locking the chickens up I spotted something in the trap.  I ran over to confront my killer and it was a chicken.  Stupid hen had gotten stuck in the pen trying to steal cat food.  Chickens love cat food.  So I let her out and shooed her into the coop for lockdown and baited the trap again.  Hopefully, I will catch my villain soon.  I didn't have time to weed eat a kill zone around the coop today.  I need to get the ram pasture fence completed so the sheep will have a new grazing area.  So back at it again tomorrow!  I found some new muscles in my back I didn't know existed, just below my shoulder blades.  Nothing like digging those fence posts by hand.

We keep trying to get a picture of the baby lambs playing king of the hill.  Our ram lays down on the ground and the babies stand on top of him and then push each other off of him to be king of the hill.  I looked out the living room window and they were both standing on top of him.  Our first lamb used to do this also.  We are amazed at how tolerant he is of the lambs.  We will keep trying to get a picture of this in action.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

chicken predators are back!! (warning graphic predator kill photo)

It figures.  I finally get the chickens laying and am able to sell all the eggs we are collecting from our true free range flock and the big bad chicken predator comes in to destroy my plan.  While I was off at work the nasty predator came in and started killing my chickens (graphic picture to follow).  Now mind you I have been just letting the chickens do their chicken thing.  I never lock them up at night, they come and go as they please and whenever they get tired of free ranging for feed they can come back to the coop and get the free - all you can eat buffet.  A good life for a chicken if you can get it.  My only problem with this scenario is predators.  Now that I have the cat issue fixed, I still have to deal with the wild animal problem.  I have the electric fence running around the top of the coop run, but that only works when I shut the door. So tonight, I shut the run door, and I even shut the coop chicken access door and used the latch on the door in case my perimeter electrified fence was breached!  I also set up the live trap.  I used a dead chicken wing as a plate and poured cat food on top of it.  So as I am sitting here typing my post, both Annmarie and I start smelling skunk.  So I grabbed my boots, Walther p22 pistol with laser sight and a large bright flashlight to scope out the coop action.  I walked all over and all I found were 3 cats.  One of them got lucky, he was hiding behind a rock crib and I had to put the sneak on.   It was just a cat, Indy our inside cat.  I have learned to not shoot first at night, gotta have a positive ID before I pull the trigger.  On top of it all, I am going to have to borrow my father's weed eater tomorrow (I killed two today at my wife's grandmother's house.  different story) to clear a kill lane around my chicken yard so I will have a clean shot at whatever is killing the chickens.  And I really need to get the ram pasture fence completed because the sheep are running out of forage in the barn lot.  It just never ends.
Here is my poor defenseless dead chicken.  I did not include the two different piles of feathers I found.  insert warning here courtesy of the spouse, not for the weak of stomach.

Friday, June 11, 2010


One of the wonderful things about this part of Oregon is how very much the landscape changes throughout the year. We get snow in the winter, rains in the spring, and heat in the summer before autumn arrives and cools us off again and the cycle begins anew. The most striking contrasts occur between spring and summer. This spring has been exceptionally long and exceptionally wet, so the contrasts promise to be even more striking. Probably the best way I can explain this is to share a couple of photos.

This is the back creek now.

This is that same creek last August. The photo was take a little bit further downstream than the one above, but you still get the idea.

Quite the difference, huh? Yes, it gets hot and dry here by late summer. But, the hot dry only lasts a couple of months, just like the bitter cold in the winter. In between, we have lovely mid-range temperatures that are perfect for spending the day outside. Besides, we knew that when we decided to move home. That's why we installed central air conditioning and heating.

In other news, I was getting some grain for the mamma sheep and went into the part of the barn where we used to shear the sheep. We aren't out there very much, and I made two discoveries. First, there is a kitten out there that I didn't even know had been born. Looks like we're going to have some actually honest-to-goodness barncats that fend for themselves. The other discover was not quite so cute, and while it illicted some chuckles on my part, Steve's reaction wasn't nearly so......civil. I think I'll just show you.

Yes, that is a pile of eggs in the barn, rather than in the chicken coop where they belong. 18 of them to be exact. I don't know if you've noticed that all of the rebel chickens are laying fairly dark brown eggs, but I have. Steve thought he wanted to go for brown eggs instead of the green our first breed choice produced, so he purchased a brown egg laying hybrid chicken. These hens range much farther afield than our original flock, and are obviously not as imprinted on the coop. Further evidence of that fact was offered to me last night. Sarah had found a mostly eaten chicken (if anyone knows what predator eats everything from the stomach-side and leaves the skeleton and wings all intact, let me know), so I had decided to lock the coop at night. It was full dark, and all of the chickens should have been inside. But, I found five of these little buggers huddled on the old stump by the old house. They were sound asleep, so it was a simple matter to pick them up one at a time and carry them into the coop, but still......the coop gate was open, and that's where they should have been. Stupid chickens.

Yes, the lambs are still doing well, and now I have to go off and write on my thesis. Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

catch up

I have been busy and the house had plague over the weekend while I was at work, so here I am catching up.  I started back inside the house.  Annmarie wants me to empty out the downstairs bedroom (soon to be a library and TV/game room/craft room).  I had been storing boxes for burning from the ceiling, then I started adding all burnables.  It took me almost 2 hours to cart out all the burnables and torch them.  There was quite a bit of stuff.  Probably should have stored it elsewhere.  So now I am moving all my tools out and ripping up the old carpet.  Once I get it empty I will work on taking off the wallpaper trim at the ceiling line, then pull wire to electrical outlets, patch sheetrock, texture, prime, paint, wire outlets, wire in light, move all bookcases and huge entertainment center into room.  Easy peasy.  Still working on the fence.

 Here is the corner.  I used pieces of our old rope bed (medieval camping) for the support bars and stabilizer.  The tighteners are pieces of an old baby playpen I found out in the old hen house.  Someone had taken it apart and kept the wood scrap pieces.   I burned and threw away dump trucks worth of stuff in the last several years cleaning up.  Every once in a while, I remember something I might have been able to use again, but would I have ever been able to find it?  It is amazing how much stuff can be accumulated in, at least, 70 years.

I did actually do some fencing yesterday.  I should say I did more fencing.  Sometime it seems like all I do is fencing.  I worked on building supports across the creek so I can span the front creek with a fence.  It is painful to build a fence that crosses water.  I would recommend avoiding it if at all possible.

Yes, there really is water there.  The front creek is really about 4 feet across right now and about 8-10 inches deep.  That is a fine crop of cheat grass and weeds with a little bit of oat grass thrown in.  We have had a ton of rain.  Far more than is normal for us and it shows.  Eventually, I will have to go at this with a weed eater.  I will stick to this side of the fence as I am hoping that the sheep will eat the other side.  If I ever get it done, so they can be turned loose inside.  The little bridge you see is for the propane guy.  Our propane tank is just to the right of that large tree.  The bridge had floated down the creek a few years prior to us coming back and he was having to wade across the creek.  He was very grateful when I found the bridge downstream and brought it back.

It doesn't look like a lot, but it took me over two hours.  It is amazing how much time it takes to set the posts level, measure, cut, install and do everything that needs to be done.  Luckily, I had found some old lumber on the property, it was stashed in various locations around the farm.  The great thing about this lumber is I found it in 16-20 foot lengths.  That is a custom length nowadays.  You can still find 16 footers, but a 20 footer board is far harder to find and you pay out the nose for one.  I use the long boards to span the creek, then I will tie the two inner most poles together with wire and a tightening board (loop the wire in a circle, stick the board through the center and start twisting the board, end to end, to tighten the wire on itself).  That stiffens the whole thing and I can then hang hog wire panels from the overhead board.  I cut the panels to the outline of the bank so that the fence goes all the way to the water.  It is working well for me in the other areas I have done this in.

We let the new momma sheep go back to the herd yesterday. I went over to the edge of the barn lot to take a picture of the herd and everyone ran over to see if I had any corn.  They love chicken scratch (wheat and cracked corn).  This is our little sheep herd.  Everyone is present, Hershey, our very first live baby is on the far left.  He still has his baby coat.  He will eventually grow out of the fuzzy look.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back at that Fence! Again...

It was supposed to rain today.  That would have prevented me from building any fence yet again.  It did not rain.   Late morning time I went down to my in-laws to see if my teenage nephew was available to help me out today on the fence.  He was (on the computer) but more than willing to come help me out.  We drove metal fence posts in the Orchard fence then braced a corner and end/gate section of the fence.  We also managed to roll out and attach sheep wire to the bottom of the fence we were working on today.  Cooper also dug the holes for the fence braces to continue the fence on the other side of the front creek.  Of course while looking for tools I could not find my post hole diggers.  Things grew legs and walked away.  I was amazed at the amount of progress we made today.  At that rate, I can have the back fence of the Ram pasture (with gate installed) done next week in 2 days.

The front creek is running high, we went up to the upper pasture to look (I thought the back creek had gotten dammed up again and diverted to the front one.) around and see what was going on.  I had to turn the pickup around and gun it back down to dry land.  The entire pasture is one seeping, oozing mud pit.  There is 1-4 inches of standing water over the whole thing.  I had a duck jump off a pond in the middle of the pasture land. We walked the creek and no diversion, just all that surface water trying to go somewhere.

Will try and get some photos up soon.  It is of course raining very strong outside right now.
Sarah is hoping it rains so she doesn't have to mow the lawn.  The weatherman and I are hoping we are right.  We shall see who is right on Monday.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

May monthly chicken financials

It is another month, so time for the monthly egg report for May 2010.  I will try and keep the same format so it is easier to read.  I always agonize when I should count the eggs I have sold.  I sold 9 dozen on June 1 because of the holiday weekend.  The chickens laid all the eggs in May, but I will count them in June.  I figure as long as I am consistent it all works out in the end.  Here goes for all those curious egg connoisseurs. 

 So May was a profitable month(two in a row).   I made a whopping $23.24 net profit on 30 hens laying (yep, lost three hens from last month, no trace of them.  Not really sure what happened) (for the year my net income is -$6.77/month.  I had $60 in expenses mostly food (remember, I had to lock up all the chickens for almost 10 days until I made Fort Knox for the babies to keep the cats from killing more chicks.  This drastically increased my feed expense for the month.  Also, my feed store sells feed at the daily market price for grain.  The feed cost jumped 17% in the middle of last month) (for the year my monthly expenses are $46.02).  We collected a total of 559 usable eggs averaging 21.1 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 10.9).  The chickens ate 0.46#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.77#/egg, remember I count my feed expense against the laying hens.  So when I am feeding babies the adults are responsible to make up the difference and the cats killed off 13 of my 24 babies last month).  In May it cost $0.09/egg (up slightly from last month, due to me locking them up until I could get the upgrades done to the coop) (my yearly average is $0.18/egg or $2.16/dozen.  I have been selling my eggs for $2.50 dozen since the beginning of the year.)  I am -$33.85 for the year.  Still haven't broken even yet and we are almost halfway through the year.  I will hopefully break even for the year this month.  Luckily, all the improvements to the coop last month were done in scraps so I did not have to pay for anything. 

At the beginning of May I was paying $8.55 for a 50# bag of layer feed.  Halfway through the month it jumped to $10.05.  I bought some today and paid $9.03.  Now for all those naysayers, this is a great price.  The local places sell it for $13-$15/bag.  So I am getting a much better deal, I just never know what the price will be when I go into the store.

I am not having any trouble selling my eggs, between Annmarie and I and our local customers we could easily sell about 2-3 times what we do know.  That is just a lot more chickens.  I do get to buy another dozen babies in about 6 weeks to make up for the ones the cats killed.  Now that we have the chicken Fort Knox they are safe from predators and have a space to spread out into.  It got too crowded in the coop, they needed an external run (insert wife comment here "I told you so" "last year").  

It keeps raining nonstop here.  I cannot spray any weeds and the grass is getting very tall.  The real problem is we have a lot of cheat grass and it is already forming heads.  Hopefully, I can get the ram pasture fence done in a couple of weeks (needs to stop raining when I am off work, not happening today) so the sheep can be turned loose in the pasture to eat it down.  

If anyone knows where we can get some Barbados Black belly sheep at a reasonable price let us know.  We love not having to shear them.  We would like to get up to about 15 ewes.