Friday, July 30, 2010

Farm life practicalities

I find myself worrying that our recent trend of posts have offended some of you. Now, most of you are probably aware, at least on some level, that life in the country is not all idyllic and peaceful. Especially not when you're surrounded by 100's of acres of what is essentially idle land that has been planted in native grasses, trying to raise domestic animals that are by their very nature prey to the predators that live in those 100's or acres of native grassland. But, Steve's rather blunt about the measures that we have taken to protect our investment. I've tried to suggest that he move on, but he's rather stubborn. I suppose that's a good thing, as I'm rather stubborn as well. So, I hope you'll stick with us and not judge us too harshly for having to protect what needs protecting. I promise this trend will end soon - or at least I hope it will. I'm not a big fan of searching for the angry racoon at 3:30 in the morning dressed in Steve's robe, and carrying a 22 rifle and a flashlight.

In the meantime, I'll gush a little bit about how exciting it is to have the barn useable this winter. No, the roof will not be repaired, nor will the entire floor be fixed. But, remember that the sheep had next-to-nothing for shelter last winter. Even with a big hole in the roof at one end, the rest of the barn will provide more shelter than they had last year. We'll start repairing the floor at the end nearest the house, and stop when we run out of time. We'll put panels up at the end of the good floor, and that will be where the sheep get to stay for the winter. We only have 7 of them (or will only have 7 by winter). They don't need very much space to sleep and eat in anyway. The hay has been moved into a much more secure location (thanks to Hector), and we have a plan that will eventually allow easy access to that space for future unloading. And, it's in the barn - right where we will need it.

You see, this barn was built by folks who knew how a barn was supposed to operate. There's a large open space where the animals live. I suspect that this space originally had stalls for the draft horses, but that's just supposition. And there are two very large feed bins. Bins is really not the right word. Imagine rooms approximately the size of a decent living room. But empty with a tunnel over the door. When Grandpa fed the sheep, he fed chopped hay, and the chopped hay was literally dumped into these rooms. The tunnel over the door allowed a person to walk in and scoop what they needed from right by the door. The feed would shift and re-fill the space, always keeping the feed handy, at least until the level dropped. Then you had to go a bit further in. Still, it was a good system, and it works just fine for baled hay too.

It feels like a win that we're going to be able to salvage a good portion of the building and put it to good use again. It's been standing for over 100 years. Here's hoping that with a little rejuvenation and minor (okay sort of major) surgery, it can stand for just a little bit longer.

On another note, this is Sarah's favorite of the photos she took. She doesn't really like Steve's favorite. Anyone want to weigh in with their favorite? We need some neutral voices to break the tie. I'm staying out of it, because I'm just very proud that she took the initiative and then took some great photos.

Predators 14, Steve 6

It was a short night.  I had to stay up late doing work on computer (my fault I procrastinated) and Annmarie woke me up at 0330 thinking she heard the chickens squawking.  I was not really awake.  She got out of bed and saw a raccoon out our back bedroom window.  By the time I got the screen out of the window and she got the flashlight (moon was about 90% full, but not quite enough light to see through a scope) the coon was gone.  I went back to bed while she did the armed perimeter sweep.  We got a twofer!!!  Two teenage raccoons in the trap!  She left them alone and came back in the house.  The rooster started to crow at 0430.  It was hot.  Needless to say I did not sleep well.  So I dispatched the raccoons this morning.  Hopefully, the weekend will see the last of the raccoons vanish.  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Predators 14, Steve 4

Another one bites the dust!  So what is worse than 1 raccoon?  Two.  What is worse than 2 raccoons?  A family!  The one Annmarie killed and the one I dusted this morning were both from this year.  They are the size of a large cat.  A very mean and nasty cat that hisses and spits at you.  So based on my last experience with a raccoon family (I had to kill 2 adults and 6 teenagers) I have a ways to go still.  I looked into an automatic door for the run so that the chickens would be let out of the yard automatically at sunrise and locked in automatically at sunset.  It will cost $200.  I could patch one together for about $60, but it would have exposed parts and subject to more external forces.  We are still discussing the need for one, and do realize that any lapse in memory is going to mean more dead chickens.

I had two "fairy" eggs for breakfast.  They are the first eggs to come out of chickens.  They are typically very small and have no yoke.  I added them into my scrambled eggs.  This is good news.  It means my other 11 chickens are going to start laying soon.  The people at my work will be happy about that.  I haven't had very many eggs to take to work.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Predators 14, Steve 3

Well this is my catch up post.  We have been very busy with other things and haven't had time to make a post.  So I am going to try and catch everything up.  For starters I snagged another raccoon in the live trap on Monday night.  I had to go to work very early Tuesday morning so Sarah and Annmarie had to finish it off and take it up to the bone yard to dump off the body.  Of course I managed to lose one more hen in the last week.  I haven't done an official count in the last week, but I saw a new pile of feathers.  I will do one next week.  So I reset the trap and baited it with dog food tonight when I locked the chickens up.  I have been looking at my new baby chicks and I think I ended up with more roosters than hens.  The chickens are definitely of different sizes now.  I have 7 huge chicks and 4 small ones, plus one normal small showgirl and one showgirl that is so small if I did not know any better I would say she is a brand new chick.  Just tiny!  I played with them for a little while today.  We try and get them used to some handling.  We haven't had one as friendly as "Wally" our WalMart greeter that got eaten last year.  Wally would jump up on the perch and want to be petted whenever you went into the coop.  She got eaten by a raccoon.

The barn is dug out!!  I am not sure of the total hours exactly, but it is somewhere just over 80 hours.

Hector did a great job.  The barn floor is in real rough shape.  I never could have used a piece of equipment to dig it out.    We did go over our budget by about 50% but it was worth it.  Now I need to work on the floor and supports after I figure out how to get the last 1 inch of sheep crap off of the wood floor so I can tell what is salvageable and what isn't.  You can see the "dirt" on the wood floor (it is sheep crap).  I tried to use the hose with a spray nozzle, it got about 40% off but that glued on stuff was not coming off.  So I am going to use a pressure washer on it and I am sure it will work.  I will also pop a board up off the floor every 10 feet or so to spray the crap under the barn instead of working it toward an outside door.  Pretty obvious where the crap level was!  
Hector also dug out the attached lean to on the end of the barn.  It was even deeper than the barn as the cows used to get in there and hang out.

So this is all completed now.  It was finished today.  The floor is some menagerie.  I cannot sense any rhyme or reason to the direction of the different floor sections or why there are so many different sections.  Kinda weird.  This section is going to get ripped off so I can use the tin ceiling for the main barn and the wood in the barn.  

This is the pile of crap from the main part of the barn.  In the middle is a path so you can get to the barn.  Once this gets wet I expect those large chunks to turn into a smelly mush.  In a couple of years this will be primo compost!  The metal silver topped building is my chicken coop and the building to the left of that is the old house that we are using as a shed.  It is the shelter for my future wood shop.  You can see by the dryness that Summer is here.  We had a very impressive lightning storm today.  I expect some fires from it.  

This is the pile for the lean to.  All this was removed with a pick ax, shovel and wheelbarrow.  Not easy work, but Hector did a great job and wants more work.  I had a hard time explaining that I had run out of money and he did great work, I just could not afford for him to keep working.  I managed to get it across and wrote his phone number in the wood of the barn with a nail for future reference.  

I took this picture through one of the old barn windows.  They had some heavy duty screen on them.  We are going to screen them again and place wooden shutters inside the barn for ease of operation of the shutters.  I am still not sure if I will use fly screen or just use some hardware cloth (heavy duty mesh wire with 1/2 inch openings).  I figure the bugs can get in anywhere, but the hardware cloth will keep the birds and predators out.  Sarah took this last picture at Sunset the other day.  The longer I look at the picture the more I like it.  The symmetry works, the sky and ground lines line up, let me know what you think of it.  
Sarah's sunset picture

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Barn washing

The main section of the barn is shoveled out.  Hector is now digging out the lean to enclosure.  It is even deeper than the barn.  I went out and spent a couple of hours washing the inside of the barn.  I had to buy some more hose to reach the barn.  The barn floor and walls are covered in sheep shit and it is not easy to get off.  The floor has almost an inch of crap glued to the wood.  I am having a hard time getting it off.  So I will borrow my parents pressure washer and give that a try.  I will have to string a bunch of extensions cords together so I can power the washer.
The floor has 1 inch gaps between each board.  I am sure this is due to shrinkage over the last 100 years.  So I am definitely going to have to do some work on the floor to make it safe for the sheep.  We have about three large holes in the floor.  I figured I would get the crap washed out of the barn then I will crawl under the barn and shore up the foundation.  It is nice and hot here so it won't take long for the area under the barn to dry out.  Nothing like crawling around on top of sheep poop on my belly and back.  At least it will be dry.  I had to strip outside before coming in the house tonight.  I had wet poop all over me.

I did remember to lock the chickens up tonight.  I had to replace a couple of the yard sprinklers so I can keep the grass green inside the chicken run.  Letting them run around helps immensely.  I planted grass, but the chickens ate most of the seed.  I did get a little to sprout.  We have decided that a door that opens automatically when the sun rises and shuts when it sets is a necessary option.  I will need to order one and wire the coop for power.  Just one more thing to do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Barn cleanup - leaps and bounds

It is amazing!  The progress is fantastic.  After seeing more of the floor, I am really glad I did not try to drive any piece of equipment into the barn.  It would have fallen through in places.  Hector is out there digging away right now (1000).  Probably another two days.  It will have taken him seven days to dig it out.  I will need to work on the foundation before I can move the wall in.  After surveying the rafters, I am going to have to halve the barn on that side.  The wind tore up the roof support beams that were left for almost another 20 feet.  I hate to make the barn smaller, but in reality it is so much more barn than we will ever use even after it is shrunk.  If we do nothing the barn will disappear by falling apart.  Not a very dignified ending.

Look at the dark patch along the walls.  That was the height of the sheep dung in the barn!  Hector is still digging (1530). I went out and had a conversation with him.  It was an effort in frustration.  He wants to work, as he can see all the stuff that needs to be done on the farm, but I had a hard time communicating that I could not afford him to work all the time.  I got him set up to take a day off tomorrow and come back on Thursday.  He will finish the barn and then dig out the attached lean to on the back side of the barn.  That will let me tear the tin off of that roof and take down that addition to the barn.  I will use the tin over the part above where the sheep will be hanging out.  I truly do understand the importance of mucking out the barn in the Spring now.  I will need to get some straw to use in the winter.

You can see the different levels and layers in the barn here.  I will get a hose and pressure washer out here before I do anything else and get it all cleaned up.  Seems like overkill, but it will make it far easier for me to tell what is good wood and reusable.  Besides once every 100 years the barn can have an inside shower.  See the black mark on the wall?  It is much higher in the back of the barn.  Everything is starting to dry out here.  I have not been watering the lawn (no mower, and sheep have been banished from the yard for eating my roses).  So I tried the age old tactic of not watering.  It helped but I almost killed my grape plant in the back yard.  So I am now watering the yard and starting to drag our hoses to the surrounding sheep pasture to get about 50 yards watered around the house.

Annmarie forgot to lock my chickens up the other night and I think I lost another one.  I have 27 hens now and 1 rooster.  This doesn't include the 13 babies I just got a couple of weeks ago.  Predators are not my friends this year.  If only I could keep a weed eater going...

Here is a picture of the fields I just took yesterday.  We have cheat grass everywhere!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The grass is greener....

So, apparently our sheep are dissatisfied with their pasture. Before Steve went to work, he chased a ewe and one of her lambs back inside the fence. This morning, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed two of the adult sheep laying out on the hillside next to the fence. It was already pretty warm, and the rest of the sheep were huddled against the woodshed or under the bridge. It was kind of odd to see these two out in the sun. Then it dawned on me that I hadn't heard the coffee girls in a while. They are quite vocal usually. So, I went out and checked, and sure enough, Long Tail and coffee girls were outside the fence. Speckle-butt was still inside the fence, but was apparently keeping Long Tail company while they all cooked their brains. I opened the gate and walked the wayward children back in. They rushed right over to the shade of the tree by the chicken coop and rested for a while. They appear to have recovered quite well, and the coffee girls are once again talking.

A little before 7:00, I was on my way down to Mom's for some conversation and coffee, and I noticed that Short Tail was acting quite agitated, and her boys were not near her as they usually are. Then I noticed some unusual movement in the tall grass near the cars - definitely outside the fence. Of course it was Lucky and Darky, Short Tail's boys. There was not a convenient gate this time, so I just urged them back towards the fence, and they wiggled under in what was most likely the same place the came through the first time. Now, the feed is a little dry, no doubt, but it's no drier than anywhere else. Still, we'll start a sprinkler next week.

On the barn front, our laborer returned today and made more great progress. He cleared another 12 feet or so today. I am absolutely thrilled with how much he's getting done. And he's gladly coming back tomorrow too. Conversation is a bit of a challenge, and even something as simple as "have a good evening" does not apparently translate well. Now, I have a tiny tiny bit of Spanish, but I don't ever recall the phrase I need until after I'm back in the house and we've stumbled through with what little English he has. We manage, but it's not easy. Still, we get the important points through. And, he's an incredibly hard worker and seems truely happy for the job, so everyone wins.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good help is hard to find

But find it we did. Actually, our contractor friend, Lee, found it. He found a first-generation immigrant working at McDonald's who was looking for extra work and was not afraid of hard work. Lee's been using them for laborers, and we hired one of them to dig out the barn, since Steve keeps getting distracted by other more pressing projects. There just don't seem to be enough days off for him to get it all done (that's an observation, not a complaint). Anyway, Lee brought his laborer out this morning, and introduced me to a very small young man from Honduras. Now, I have known other small men who can outwork a larger man, so I wasn't too concerned by his size. I was, however, a bit dismayed to see that he had no water and no food with him. It was HOT here today. That's OK - I can supply a water jug, and a sandwich for lunch is not going to put me in the poorhouse. So, I took him out a couple of hot dogs (don,t look at me like that. It's what I had, and they were all meat quality dogs) and a handful of grapes at noon, and refilled his water jug. I was impressed with his progress at that point. He'd dug almost as much in 3 hours as Steve had in 6. At the end of the day, I went out to pay him (yes, we pay the laborer by the day), and was very very impressed. In 6 hours, Steve had cleared just a little over one shovel length. We now have a full 3 1/2 shovel lengths completely cleared of buildup. In 8 hours, this little fellow had dug twice as much as Steve was able to remove in 6. I was concerned that he wouldn't want to come back tomorrow, because it was hot, dirty, stinky, back-breaking work, but instead of complaining, he thanked me repeatedly for the work and promised to return in the morning, with his own food tomorrow. We are very spoiled in this country.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

chickens are safe!

I just got back from a predator sweep of the yard and my chicken yard.  No predators and all chickens were accounted for.  I have 28 hens, one rooster and 11 new babies.  of course, 11 of those hens are not laying eggs yet.  The sheep were trying to get me to let me into our yard.  Now this does slow down my need to mow the lawn (a very good thing) but they are killing my bushes and roses and make an awful mess on my back porch.  So no sheep in the yard.  I locked the chickens back up.

Sheep got out, didn't think it was possible

The sheep got out.  Technically, only two sheep got out and one of them was a baby so it only counts as 1.5 sheep that escaped.  I was incensed.  I was hollering at the kitchen window, the child thought I was hollering at her.  I had to go outside immediately to find out where they had escaped (dinner was on the stove).  I found the hole.  It was were the fence crosses the creek.  I had left the panels movable so the water could push them out of the way.  There was a one foot gap and the mother had snuck out.  I opened the gate and shooed them back inside the fence.

I have been trying to get the weeds knocked down.  What a nightmare.  I tried the two riding lawnmowers and neither one would start.  I couldn't get my dad's gas weed eater to start this morning either.  So I looked up renting a powered bush whacker.  I could rent it for $85/day.  Then I talked with someone who used one and said it will beat you to death running it.  I can rent a small tractor with a four foot mower behind it for $225/day.  If you look at the above picture you will see some small green weeds sticking up out of the dry grass, it is the dreaded Star Thistle.  Very nasty noxious weed.  It needs to be sprayed, but I have eliminated it on our few acres by digging it all by hand.  Not going to do that for 150 acres.  So we have cheat grass everywhere and it is two feet tall.  

Here is the upper gate I opened to let the sheep back in.  I had to chase 2 babies and their momma back in.  The second baby showed me where the hole was in the fence as we were walking down the fence line.

I still don't have a powered yard mower so I used our manual rotary cutter and beat down 30% of the lawn.  Hard manual labor.

On a side note, I forgot to lock the chickens up last night...tonight when I go out to lock them up I will do a count and see if my lack of memory cost me some more chickens.  I hope not.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Long weekend

Well, we survived the weekend just barely.  Trying to dig out the house now.  Looks like a tornado hit the inside of our house.  It was pointed out to me that my predator post may have implied that our new baby that died was killed by a predator.  It wasn't it just did the chicken thing and died.  I had to go out the next morning and hold another one up to the water dispenser and make it drink.  Took me about 15 minutes to perk up that chick.  It is doing just fine now and we have only lost the one.  The new babies are doing fine and running around and eating without any difficulties.  Annmarie and I were talking about switching to a nipple waterer. That way the inside water will not make any messes and during the winter I can stick an immersion heater inside.  No mess.  Now if I only had power to the coop...

Need to build fence before I wire the chicken coop.  It will be the next thing though. Our chocolate lab, Bailey thinks that any baby, no matter what kind is hers and needs to be protected.  This is her watching out for our new babies.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Predators 13, Steve 2

Well I just spent the last 15 hours locked in a new cook shack getting ready for my daughter's swim team meet and then cooking for it.  We have a brand new shack (very nice, donated, expensive trailer with fire suppression system and the works) that needed its maiden voyage charted by a not so gentle soul.  So I just got home.  I was bemoaning the fact that one of my new babies died last night and I had to find it this morning.  Of course it was not one of the two free ones we got.  I just don't have time to mess with the live trap and I could see more of my chickens dying.  By the way I was in my Toyota Prius, and it is a very low car, when I crested the last hill to our turn off and there were two sets of eyes in the road.  I swerved, and a raccoon ended up under the front right tire.  No more raccoon.  The second set of eyes was a cat.  I am not sure how it happened it was very quick.  But there is one less chicken predator within 1/4 mile of our house.  Gotta go as I have to get up in 4.5 hours and do it again for 15 hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Chickens

So I found some new chickens!!  I was cruising Craig's list and found a listing for Auracuana chickens, they lay BLUE eggs.  So we went to the Tricities today and picked them up at a gas station in an exchange.  She gave us a couple of other chickens called Showgirls (Turkens with fluffy feathers).  So the babies are in the coop now.  I should not loose any this time as they will grow up in the old area and as they get bigger they can go into the 360 degree fenced in outside area.  I am not letting these ones out until they are older than four months.  No cat food this time by letting them out early.  So the chickens were $60, medicated chick food 50# was $14 and new pellet bedding was $12.75.  Now if I can just keep them alive for 6 months I will start to see some return from them.  Now if I could just catch those predators...These are my babies.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Predator escaped

We woke up at 0130 to the weirdest noise.  It was some animal, but not one either one of us recognized.  I had crawled into bed after midnight and just could not get motivated to go out and check the trap.  I figured it would be there in the morning.  So first thing in the morning I went out to the coop, marked my territory (peed on one corner of the fence) and checked the trap.  NO predator...  my daughter had to empty out and take care of the dead coon.  The trap doors have a flap that pops up and keeps the doors shut.  There is a way to secure those flaps up so that it is easier to empty the trap.  I never use them.  I just use my third arm to hold it all together and empty the trap.  Sarah used the latch and I forgot to check.  The predator got away.  It did eat all the cat food first.  So I fixed that and we will bait the trap again.  I will get it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

June monthly chicken financials

YES!!!  I am positive for the year.  The chickens have finally made money.  I am now up a whopping $41.33 for the entire year.  Now if I only didn't have to spend $60 this month for new baby chicks to replace my losses.

It is another month, so time for the monthly egg report for June 2010.  Here goes for all those curious egg connoisseurs. 

 So June was a profitable month(three in a row).   I made $75.18 net profit on average 19.1 hens laying (yep, I had to account for all those chickens killed.  I started the month with 30 chickens and ended up with 17 by the end.) (for the year my net income is +$6.89/month.  I had $45 in expenses mostly food (I only had to feed 200#/4 bags.  I had to actually buy egg cartons.  The people I work with are not returning them.  So I almost ran out.  So now all customers who don't supply cartons will have to pay $3.00/doz.  The egg cartons cost $0.30/each.   Also, my feed store sells feed at the daily market price for grain.  The feed cost was $9.03/bag all month long.)  For the year my monthly expenses are $45.82.  We collected a total of 428 usable eggs (131 less than last month due to my chicken killers) averaging 16.2 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 11.8).  The chickens ate 0.40#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.71#/egg, remember I count my feed expense against the laying hens.  The babies are just starting to lay, we collected two mini eggs this month so hopefully they will start laying next month.)    In June it cost $0.07/egg or $0.84/doz (my yearly average is $0.16/egg or $1.92/dozen.  I have been selling my eggs for $2.50 dozen since the beginning of the year.)  I am +$41.33 for the year.  Next month after purchasing new babies and some more bedding and starter chick feed I will probably be at the break even point at the end of July.  

If you were a wily predator, would you want to snuff the life of this innocent chicken and have a fresh dinner?

We found some more hair sheep on Craigslist.  I am still surprised by this as hair breeds are not very common.  We will be picking up seven more sheep in the next two weeks.  They are Katahdin/Dorper crosses, 4 ewes and 3 whethers.  I scheduled three of our current sheep with the mobile slaughter the first of September.  We will be slaughtering our old ram, old whether and a lamb whether.  So sometime after that we will give a report on just how different is the flavor between a Suffolk and a meat breed.  Annmarie had to call around to find us a horse trailer to borrow so we can go pick them up (one more thing to acquire eventually).  

We started looking at tractors and implements online this month.  There is just too much land for me to take care of by hand.  Even if I limit myself to the 20 acres that surround our houses I just cannot do it all.  I need some mechanical assistance.  We are going to keep looking and pricing brands and fancy gadgets that can be attached to the tractor.  


Friday, July 2, 2010

One chicken killer down, 2 more to go

I went out this morning to let the chickens out of their run and spotted something in my live trap.  It looked like our cat UAC (ugly ass cat).  It was a raccoon.  So I used the trusty Walther P-22 and shot it one time in the head.  Now if I can just catch a possum and a skunk.  I don't think it was just the raccoon killing the chickens.  Last time I cleaned out raccoons they were dragging the chickens away and I was just finding feathers.  Now some of my chickens ended up that way, but not all of them.  I think my chicken coop has become the local all you can eat buffet.  I suspect the dogs and daylight are my greatest asset during the daytime.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Is fence a dirty word?

The picture to the right is an old water pipe that is gravity fed from the original hand dug well.  The pipe has frozen so many times it has holes all along its side.  It only runs in the spring.  Eventually, I want to fix it so that it supplies year round water for the animals.  Way down the road...

Yes, I really have been doing more fencing.  It is an incredibly laborious process.  My young helpers have been busy elsewhere so I have been at it alone.  I did get the corner post pulled over and tied in to a third post.  The come-a-long is starting to become my new friend.  It is much better than using a fence stretcher.  The fence stretcher is better when repairing a break.  I keep using scraps from all over the farm.  One of my railroad ties is pretty rotten near the top, it is missing about 50% of its body, but in a railroad tie that is pretty good, and the part in the ground is 100%.  Some is painted and some is not.  It is definitely different.  One thing about it, the fence has been fairly inexpensive so far.  I have had all the sheep wire on hand.  Which is a good thing since that stuff is around $130 for 100 feet. I truly don't know how many feet of fencing I have installed.  When I am all done I am thinking about measuring it and counting the pieces just for posterity.  It needs to be recognized as an accomplishment.  One thing for certain, I am getting in shape.  I can feel my upper body and shoulders growing.  Or that could just be the constant pain?

As you can see here I was moving in on the final stretch.  I had to alter my plans.  My fence line had the potential to interfere with other plans so I had to change the angle.  So if you look closely on the left side of the picture you will see where I had cleared a path with the weed eater for the old fence line.  We even got some metal posts in the ground.  Not any more, I ripped the metal posts out yesterday.  Look directly over the center tall pole straight back to the apple tree.  That is my new fence line.  The nice thing is it is a straight line.  The bad thing is it crosses the front creek twice.  Each crossing means four posts, and I need a people gate near the apple tree (extra 2 posts), plus the near post to change the angle back toward the tree (remember the leaning post I just fixed?) for a grand total of 12 post holes to dig and a new line to clear.  I am not going to get much work on the farm completed next week.  We are working at our daughter's swim meet and I am in charge of the cook shack, so I have to purchase all the food and make it work for 2.5 days.  We will see how good my planning was after that weekend.  I have been bemoaning all the rain and bad weather.  Well I am ready for it to come back.  The ground is drying out.  I am starting to have a very hard time digging.  In a few more weeks I am not going to be able to build any more fence.  I need to get this done!!!  On a positive note, I have the fence 100% completed up to the above corner.  I finished it up today.

My chickens are still alive.  I did a night time count tonight as I was locking them up for the night.  17 hens, 11 pullets and one rooster.  We have started to get a couple of "fairy" eggs (very small eggs typically unformed yolk,eggs from immature chicken usually) so my babies may be trying to start laying.  They would make up for the chickens that were killed.  I tried to get more pullets on Wednesday, but no one has any chicks for sale.  One place I checked had pullets, but they were already sold.  I need another 2 dozen pullets to start up.  I planted grass seeds in the chicken yard this morning.  Not sure whether it will survive the chickens eating it all up.   It looked like they tried mighty hard to eat it all.  Now in the new ultra secure baby pen, there are no chickens so it should grow just fine in there.  I have had to start watering the chicken yard this last week.  It was starting to dry out.

Here is my new baby enclosure.  You can see that it is just part of the chicken yard that I have enclosed both ends and added wire to the top.  The important note here is the electric fence.  I have a line that runs right at the top next to the boards and two feet below that I have a line that sticks out about 6 inches from the wire.  I used to have a line at the bottom, but the weeds kept growing into it and shorting out the fence.  Why is this important?  Because Annmarie saw a raccoon go under her parent's front porch, I have smelled skunk three times in the last two weeks and when I was at the farm supply store explaining my chicken woes to them the person was sure my description of the eaten chicken was a possum. On top of all that, when I was planting grass today in the chicken yard I noticed a new hole going under the chicken coop.  Around the back, something had moved a few rocks and gotten under the coop.  NO leg traps at that hole.  I will have to change that problem next week.
I am getting my wish.  It is raining here now.  Too bad I couldn't work on the fence this weekend.