Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cooperation not existent

It just seems like nothing ever wants to work out.  I locked the sheep in the yard yesterday (the lawn needs mowed).  It is just easier to turn the sheep loose than use our push reel mower.  I broke two gas mowers last year.  The sheep are now happily outside the yard again.  They pushed (broke) my small wooden gate in the cat area and then crawled under the fence to get outside the yard.  Of course, when I got home I saw four of them crawl under the main fence in the dry creek bed so they could get outside of our Ram pasture.  They just want to be somewhere I don't want them to be.  Starting to get annoying.  Eventually, I will get some time to fix those creek crossings, just not yet.

Our chocolate lab, Bailey, has decided that odour de skunk is the best thing since sliced bread!  Every time she gets out of the yard, since I killed the skunk, she runs over and rolls around on the ground.  Fresh skunk smell.  This morning I saw the trap had been sprung, I started to dread the skunk smell before I even knew what was in the trap.  I trudged outside begrudgingly.  Luckily, it was one of the kittens.  A not very impressed kitten.  I shook the cage a little and then let it out.  I reset the trap and it still had some dog food in the bottom.

Of course it rained today and is raining now, so who knows if I will catch anything again.  I am hoping the demand for eggs starts to go back up as the chickens are producing more now.

I have decided to remove one of the sheep from the slaughter list.  We have one female who has had two miscarriages.  She is very pregnant again, so I am going to give her one more shot at it.  If it doesn't work this time then she is done.  Three strikes rule.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Predators 14, Steve 9

I came home from working a stretch.  Annmarie and I cleaned out boxes and threw a bunch of stuff out.  All in an attempt to get things clean before our company comes in 2 weeks.  Now, we all know that it needs to be done anyway, but this lights a fire under me and things get done.  I am very much a deadline kinda guy.  As in, I like to wait until the deadline is near before I do anything!  I work better under pressure.  Kinda explains my career choice.  But I digress.  

I was readying the car for the five boxes from the house and I noticed the 50# bag of chicken food.  Sarah had just gotten home so I asked her if the chickens needed feeding.  She said yes, so being the naive parent, I asked why the chicken food was in the car if the chickens needed it?  So I lugged it to the coop and ranted to the child about the state of the chicken's water and food when I smelled it, skunk.  Annmarie had told me that the dog had found a skunk over the weekend.  I had set the live trap last week, but had not put any food in it.  I checked it every day, telling myself I should throw some bait (dog food) in it all week long.  I looked up and sure enough there was a black and white stinky kitty in the trap (skunk).  I also had to catch my little tiny showgirl hen baby.  She had gotten out of her enclosure.

So I went back inside and grabbed the P-22 pistol.  Now when shooting skunks I stand about 20 feet away from the trap.  I had to shoot the skunk three times before I smelt the tell tail waft of dead skunk.  I went back into the chicken run to work on some holes in the fence I made last year with the metal weed whacker blades.  Sarah had pointed them out to me.  So I was down on the ground trying to sew metal mesh together with metal wire, when Sarah points out that the skunk was still alive!  It was standing up and had turned around in the cage. So I went back over and shot it three more times using my laser, then turned said laser off, and put three more rounds in its head with the sights only.  I did not want to move a live skunk.  Not to mention it is like shooting a small ping pong ball at 20 feet.  Skunks have small brains.  It was overkill.  Even I realize that, but I did not want a third resurrection.

I scooped the top four inches off of my deep litter in the coop under the roosts.  I also turned it all and then wet it down with the hose, I am hoping that keeps some of the dust down.  I need to get the shop vac out there and clean up the coop and spider webs.  Sarah threw away 10 empty bags of feed.  I turned the sprinklers on as I was leaving.

I got to drive up to the bone yard and dispose of the skunk.  Some predator likes the taste of skunk!  The last skunk carcass had been moved about ten feet and picked over.  I dumped that one out onto the ground and drove back to the house.  I counted over 20 deer on the 1/2 mile drive to the house.  Of course, the back of the pickup reeks like skunk again.  Not sure what to do about this.  If the mule (small four wheel drive utility vehicle) was still working I would use it, but it is broken.  I sure hope the predators stop coming around soon.  I did set the trap and bait it again tonight.

Here is a picture of our house at night.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

eggs are too small

Well, I never got out there and hooked up my light to the chicken coop.  It is definitely on the to do list today.  Sarah only collected 8 eggs this morning (didn't do it yesterday, as parental supervision was minimal).  Two were fairy eggs.  I have been giving the fairy eggs away, as they are very small and some don't have a yolk.  I have another dozen!  I just gave away an 18 pack away on Monday from last week.  Chickens need to get it figured out!  At 2230 last night I stepped out the front door on my way to lock the chickens up, I was assaulted by a horrific odor.  Another skunk.  Now I had been contemplating not locking up the chickens.  This whole locking them up every night is getting old.  I feel like a child who sleeps with closet door closed.  If I forget to close the door the bogey man will get me (or my chickens).
 That $200 for the automatic door is starting to sound more affordable every day.  Especially, if I get the chicken numbers back up over 50 laying hens.  I quickly changed my plans, went back in and grabbed the Walther P22 pistol.  When I loaded it, I realized I had not changed the clip after the latest round of executions, so I slipped in a fresh clip.  Hitting a moving target in the dark is not easy, especially when it is a skunk and distance is a serious issue.  I sulked out the front door armed and ready, as I flashed my high power flashlight around, I spotted glowing eyes everywhere!!!  The orchard was full of them.  I spotted 5 deer before I quit counting.  No skunks. Over by the coop I pulled a bead on my favorite new kitty "mouse killer".  He is all black and was running toward me.  Luckily for him, my finger is my safety, and I did not have my finger on the trigger, it was laying along the body of the pistol.  Chickens were golden.  I flashed the light around through the chicken door.  They muttered at the intrusion.  The hen that is trying to hatch one egg was still in her nest box and our Polish hen was sitting in the opening to one other nest box.  I figure if those two are alive then all is good.  They are the easiest to snack on, as they are the closest to the ground.

Here is mouse killer's picture.  He was batting around some poor mouse this morning on the front porch.  Luckily, for the mouse, it was dead.

mouse killer

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stupid Problem again

I took the dead skunk up to the boneyard to drop it off.  It stunk something fierce.  Sarah refused to come with me, I offered to trade her jobs, but she wasn't biting.  I drove the mile up to the boneyard and jumped out to empty the trap.  I lifted one end of the trap and attempted to shake the skunk out onto the ground.  It would not come out, so I shook harder.  Thing would still not fall out and the stink was all over me and getting worse.  So I turned the trap over and looked to see what was hanging up the body.  Damn skunk had sunk its teeth into the cage in its death throes.  Its jaws were locked onto the cage!  Didn't want to get more stink on me, so I just rolled the cage around till it fell loose.  I then had to shake all the dirt out of the cage also.  It stank something fierce.  I didn't want to leave the dirt in the cage, it was contaminated with smelly spray.  I hosed out the cage when I got back to the house.  Set the trap on the other end of the chicken coop enclosure.  For everyone who thinks I am cruel, the trap is less than six feet from my chicken enclosure.  The predators are choosing to die by scouting my chickens.  Just avoid the chickens and you will live a healthy and long life.

When I went out to lock the chickens up after dark and bait the live trap the moon was out.  I ran back in and took some pictures.  I noticed afterwards that I have something on my camera lens.  I cleaned it and tried it again.  Slightly better, but I still have a few spots that show up.  May have to take it to a camera shop if this persists.
This is the old wooden grainary at night. hard to believe it is lit by moonlight only.

This is the tree behind the chicken coop.  It is amazing how light it can be with the moon.  I had to come inside and shower after dealing with the skunk and I still smell it occasionally, even now.

Dumb chickens only gave us 9 eggs today.  Definitely need to get that artificial light going inside the coop.

Predators 14, Steve 8

I caught another predator this morning.  It started out simple, let the dogs out to pee, since I was up and outside I decided to let the chickens out.  That was when I noticed the skunk in our live trap.  Now they make a live trap for skunks, it is far smaller than mine.  I cannot catch big raccoons if I use the smaller skunk trap.  Know why the skunk trap is smaller?  It is so they cannot lift their tail.  If they can not lift the tail then they don't spray.  Hence no bad smell.  Unfortunately, I cannot just cruise on up to the live trap, lift it and carry it away.  I would get sprayed.  So I had to stand way, way back and shoot it.  Every time I shoot a skunk they spray, there is just no way around it.  I am going to have to go out way later today and empty the trap up at the boneyard.  The smell is palpable!  I was having a hard time breathing because I could taste the smell.  Not very pleasant.  Then Annmarie and I heard some meowing (she had come outside after she heard the gunshot).  One of our kittens had somehow gotten into the back of the chicken coop and was stuck up on a rafter.  While I was getting the ladder, she coaxed it into coming over to her while she was standing on top of the nesting boxes.  I was not needed.

As I am moving sprinklers around in the Ram pasture (I was outside, so might as well get some things done quick) I noticed all the sheep were outside the fence where they are not supposed to be!  The three sheep that were inside the fence where they belong are the three that are getting slaughtered in 2 weeks... go figure. I will have to find a small amount of time today to fix that chunk of fence.  

So as I am walking inside the house I spot a hawk land in the tree directly next to my chicken coop.  I came inside, thought about it for a couple of minutes and went outside and scared it off.  It is one of the juveniles from the nesting pair we have about 400 yards from the house.  They usually just leave us alone.  No chicken dinner for him.  No chicken dinner for anyone.

When our sheep were inside the yard eating (mowing) our lawn, Annmarie caught one of the coffee girl lambs up on the front porch licking our screen door glass.  I had just washed the door with windex cleaner the weekend before.  Obviously, windex tastes good, who knew?  I had been blaming the dogs for rubbing their noses all over the glass!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I got to spend a little time in the chicken coop tonight.  Sarah was feeding the chickens and she found a mouse in the chicken food garbage can.  Now, since I have instructed the child multiple times to place the lid back on the metal trash can I was less than sympathetic.  I told her to pop it with the plastic container, scoop it up and toss it outside for the cats.  I went outside and worked on the sprinkler system for the chicken yard.  Sarah hit the mouse multiple times to no avail.  She ended up getting a second container and trapping the mouse and then taking it outside for our cuddly kitten (about 14 weeks old).  The mouse took off running, it was no match for a wily outside cat.  No more mouse.  I need to add a couple more sprinklers to the chicky yard.  My new grass died from lack of water to the appropriate spots. 

  I am getting several small eggs a week now.  So hopefully my production from the chickens will start back up again.   It is almost time to get the timer and light going again.  The chickens need 17 hours of light/day to maintain peak production.  I use a timer and a cheap light (40W).  I had unplugged the extension cord to the coop to use for my new electric weed eater.  So after this weekend, I will put it back.  After September, I should have time to wire the chicken coop with power.  Lots of jobs, just no time to finish them.  

This is my oldest rooster.  He has a young pup to compete with now.  He is constantly running every time he hears a hen squawking.  He chases the young roo off of the hens.  Unbeknown to him, both of the roosters will be food when my Blue egglayer roosters grow up.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Everyone is alive

There are times when nothing gets done.  Work has been crazy (I volunteered to teach some classes and drive a metaphorical bus, more work), we are getting ready for the Swim team major fundraiser in 4 weeks and there is no time left for anything else.  So the farm is on cruise.  Now that has not prevented the sheep from getting out every day.  I left the barn door open and I think they are jumping into the barn and running out the other side.  The momma and her babies are still crawling under the fence where it crosses the creek (I am gonna fix that today with a hog wire panel).  The teenage chickens have started to lay.  In the last two weeks we have gotten over a dozen fairy eggs (very small eggs with no yolks).  I gave them all to one of my original local egg customers.
My baby chicks are running around in their outside enclosure.  I had switched my drip sprinklers to a new rotary style drip sprinkler.  Damn things won't turn.  Total waste of $2.  So now I am going to scavenge parts off of those and use in my old ones.

Here are the sheep cooling off next to the old wood shed.  They love leaning up against the concrete on a hot day.  The chicken is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.  They are pretty fragile as chicks but I am having good luck with them as adults (if they live to adulthood).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

July monthly chicken financials

 So July was the end of my profitable run.   I lost $119.73 for the month on an average 17 hens laying (still paying for all those raccoon dinners.) (for the year my net income is -$11.20/month.  I had $169.73 in expenses.  I spent $12.75 on bedding and $54.79 for three nipple waterer setups. These waterers will allow me to have water inside the coop without the chickens making a mess and getting the bedding soaking wet.  Plus, in the Winter I can just drop a heater in the bucket and keep them from freezing.  I also purchased some Araucuana chicks for $60for a dozen chicks.  They lay blue eggs!!!  Unfortunately, I had to buy straight run chicks and think I only ended up with 5 hens out of 12 chicks.  They are still pretty young, I will know their gender for sure in about 3 months.    For the year, my monthly expenses are $54.95 (not counting my flock purchases).  We collected a total of 348 usable eggs (80 less than last month due to my chicken killers) averaging 11.2 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 11.7).  The chickens ate 0.57#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.69#/egg my teenagers did not start laying this month)    In July it cost $0.12/egg or $01.44/doz for feed (my yearly average is $0.16/egg or $1.92/dozen.  This did not change since last month.)
I never did raise my prices for the egg cartons!  Since my production dropped so dramatically, I have not had any trouble keeping up with egg cartons.  I still have at least 25 of the original 30 cartons.  They have been used several times and keep coming back.  
This is really going to affect whether I can purchase an automatic chicken door.  The door is going to cost $200.  I still need to wire power to the coop.  I am about to get distracted with my daughter's swim team major fund raiser for the next month.  So it is going to be hard to get anything done around the farm.  

Here is the farm from the upper hill.  Farm house at 1200, old wood/coal shed at 0300, chicken coop at 0900 and old house (now my shed) at 1000.  Sarah took this picture. 

Predators 14, Steve 7

Sunday night when we were going to bed Annmarie asked me if I had locked the chickens up?  Of course, I was upstairs in our bedroom half undressed.  I had not locked the chickens up, so I trudged downstairs, grabbed a flashlight and some dog food.  I figured since I was going outside already I would bait the live trap.  I locked the chicken yard up and set the trap and baited it.  The trap is literally four feet from my chicken enclosure, so any critter getting caught in it has aspirations of a chicken meal.  We woke up Monday morning and are laying in bed talking when Annmarie says "Isn't that a raccoon chittering?"  I listen and then make an authoritative statement "No, just some birds".  We send Sarah out to the chicken coop to feed the babies and water first thing in the morning (she had not done it the evening before).  She comes running back inside stating "There is a raccoon in the trap".  I guess Annmarie was right and I was wrong.  I went out and dispatched the coon, then carried the trap to the pickup so they could drive it up to the boneyard for disposal.  I heard later that Sarah was moaning because she got a drop of blood on her shoe when she emptied the trap.  I still have not caught the other adult coon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

mowing pictures

Can you tell I spent seven hours on the tractor mowing?  Here are the before and after pictures.

Ram pasture before mowing
Ram pasture after mowing
We have started pouring water onto the ram pasture after the mowing.  Hopefully, the grass will take off.  You can see the green about 1/3 out from the chain link fence.  We would like that to go all the way out to the far fence.

If you look closely at the after mowing picture you will notice all kinds of stuff piled up along the fence.  The dog keeps escaping from our yard.  So I keep trying to add stuff in an effort to keep the dog in the yard.  It is not working.  Now one of the sheep and her babies have figured out how to crawl under and get into the yard.

Front of the house before mowing

This is looking out from our front porch.  You can see the corral gate that I had to wire a hog panel to the gate.  The baby sheep had figured out that they were small enough to slip through the rails and go out and eat on this hillside.  Well, the momma sheep just stood at the fence and bawled nonstop every night.  So I installed the hog wire.

Front of the house after mowing

Looks much better doesn't it?  I have to use the weedeater to get the stuff near the creek.  The hillside was too steep to get the tractor down there.  Yes, I did buy another weedeater.  I went for a cheap $60 electric one.  I can just throw it away when it breaks.  I hate weedeaters right now.

Orchard near house before mowing

This is the orchard from our front lawn.  See the dirt patch at the bottom of the picture?  That is where I had to dig up our water line last winter.  That was another back hoe experience.  Nothing like fixing pipe in the rain.  It rained the entire weekend I was outside fixing the line.  See the huge stand of Russian thistles?

Orchard near house after mowing

Looks much better!!  The mower was able to tear up the thistles, it just took a long time.  At the bottom left of the picture you can see the post I ripped out to make my gate.  I could have driven between the posts.

Me on the tractor!!  You can see the orchard before I mowed here.  Take a close look for the back fence, it is the one that is hidden behind all the weeds.  That huge mess of thistles behind the cab is the road into the orchard.  to the left and right is the front creek ditch.  

Orchard mowed

This is the orchard mowed.  The tall weeds in the center mark the path of the front ditch.  I couldn't get close enough to mow them.  If you look from the post in the bottom left corner of the picture to the post just right of the apple tree you will be looking at the new fence line.  I will start working on this again this week.

Orchard mowed.  See fence line!!

Boy howdy.  Look at that fence line.  The amazing part is that the field is green with no irrigation of any kind.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tractor time

The weeds were getting out of control around the houses.  We had about 10 acres that needed some serious help.  I have broken three weed eaters this year already (no one wants to lend me another, go figure) so I figured I would try something else.  I looked into one of those weed power mower things like a D. R. Trimmer.  Someone told me that they can jump all over like a rototiller if you hit lots of stuff.  I weigh in at a whopping 160#.  Rototilling 10 acres seems virtually impossible not to mention I am not a masochist.  So that was out.  I went in to the rental place on Tuesday and grilled him also about my weed issue/problem.  He showed me a trimmer and then we talked tractors with mowers on the back.  The five foot mower was bigger than the four foot mower so being a guy he tried to get me to rent it.  I would have gone with the bigger mower (being a guy) but I needed a 3/4 ton pickup to pull it.  I don't have one, so I settled for the smaller one to go with my smaller pickup.  Price wise not too bad, around $220 for 8 hours of run time in a 24 hour time period.  I had Annmarie bring the pickup in to Pendleton on Friday morning and we changed rigs.   I was coming back from work and had the Prius.
We swapped rigs and I pulled the trailer out to the farm.  I had already told Annmarie that I was going to live on the tractor until dark.  I managed to get the tractor off the trailer without incident.  I have rented a couple of small backhoes in the past and I got my five minute lesson at the rental place before leaving.  I had never used the PTO drive on a tractor before (it spins around and powers the equipment you are towing behind the tractor) and kept killing the tractor when the mower bogged down in the weeds.  I kept lifting the mower but the cut was not very neat.  It took me an hour to figure out that I needed to increase the throttle and let the tractor run (not idle like I thought) at a higher RPM.  The gas pedal is not really a gas pedal, it just makes the tractor move forward.  It mowed much nicer with the RPM up around 1600 (a small detail the rental guy failed to mention).
Did I mention that it is dirty and loud?  I did have my ear muffs on to keep the noise down.  The nice thing about the ear muffs is you can put your ear bud headphones from the ipod player in and listen to music even on a loud piece of equipment.  So I messed around for about 3 hours up by the house cutting down the dead cheatgrass.  I finally moved down to the orchard pasture and got those weeds.  I had a heck of a time getting past the thistles growing on top of the culvert.  I tried to push past the thistles with the bucket on the front of the tractor and could not get through.  I had to turn the tractor around, lift the mower in the air and back up over the thistles and beat them down with the mower!!  Now the mower was doing some work, the grass and weeds were about 4 feet tall here.  The irrigation ditch water got diverted out of the ditch (in an attempt to dry out the far end of the ditch so it can be repaired) so I had to avoid the water so as not to sink the tractor, luckily it was a four wheel drive tractor and I managed to not get it stuck (it was close a couple of times).  To get to the other side of the creek I needed to get in to the field via our yard.  The only problem with that is there was no gate.  I cut the fence and pushed over one of the poles.  As I was removing the pole from the ground by hand Annmarie told me that the tractor would have gone between the posts and I could have just cut the wire.  I wanted a bigger opening, I really did.  I will eventually have to install said gate at some time in the not too distant future.
This was the money shot here.  The thistles were eight feet tall and just thick in places and I had some type of milkweed hollow thing that had formed its own forest over 10 feet tall along the back fence.  I had to push the weeds over with the bucket and just creep along with the tractor and keep raising and lowering the mower so as to not kill the tractor motor.  Good thing I had practiced up on the rest of the property first.  I literally could not see anything but weeds once I got in there with the tractor.  The grass was over five feet tall!  I kept after it till dark (Annmarie badgered me into coming in for dinner.  It was very good, grilled burgers and corn on the cob with potatoes.  So I had a 30 minute reprieve).  At Dusk, I saw the deer try to come down off the hillside into the orchard to lay down.  They didn't care for the tractor.  I couldn't get it all finished before it got dark.
So I went inside, got all cleaned up and set the alarm for 0500.  I am not a morning person, but I wanted to get everything done and the clock was ticking.  I had until 1030 Saturday morning to show up with a full gas tank and a clean tractor at the rental place.  So I got up, ate breakfast and jumped on the tractor.  I braved it and drove through the creek a couple of times and started getting right alongside the creek, I stopped after I got stuck and had to rock the tractor out (thank goodness for four wheel drive).  I was five minutes from finishing.  I had two little patches of grass to mow, when all of sudden the tractor died and smoke started coming out of the hood.  I couldn't start it.  I looked down at the temperature gauge (they had told me it had one) and it was maxed out.  I lifted the hood and the water overflow lid was off.  I filled it from my cooler and then went inside to let it cool off.  After 45 minutes, I went out and filled the radiator and the tractor started right up.  I finished and then drove the tractor straight to the trailer, hooked it all up with chains and then hosed it off.
I filled it up on the way back,  it only took around 3.5 gallons of diesel.  It ran for 7 hours (per the rental place, it seemed longer to me).  Pretty good fuel usage.  I mentioned to the rental guy that the water had gotten low.  "Ya, they heat up pretty fast" was his sage advice.  Too bad no one mentioned that when I rented the tractor.  As soon as I dropped off the tractor, I went to the local John Deere tractor supply place and got a quote on a BRAND NEW TRACTOR!!!!
So next year we are going to buy a tractor and some implements to maintain the farm.  Did I mention that one of the implements is going to be a post hole digger?
Will post some before and after pictures later.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sheep got out, didn't think it was possible

I was sure I had it covered this time.  I think they pushed on the lower movable fence over the almost dry creek. One of the momma sheep with her two babies was up wandering the hillside.  Of course she is teaching them bad habits.  Luckily, one of them is going to be food eventually.  Sarah is outside chopping down thistles in our yard again.  She thought she was done yesterday.  Not so much.  I will go check on the sheep and see what I can do about them sneaking out.  I really did think I had it covered.

Fencing again

Well I spent the morning trying to stop the sheep from sneaking out of the pasture.  I patched the large hole, obviously a favorite spot since there was a worn down trail in the cheat grass.  I placed hog panels over both large metal gates.  The babies could just jump between the metal rails.  The adult sheep could not get through the gates, but they bawl and raise a ruckus when the babies get away from them.  Our runoff fed back creek is still running.  At the far end of the property it has dried up, but near our house and lower it is still running.  I think it is getting some water from the pasture and spring on the other side of the old chicken coop.  It is hot!  I am going to stay inside for the rest of the day now.  I needed to do some housework anyway.  We have a heat pump so central cooling happens automatically.  It is a pleasant 72 degrees F inside the house and over mid 90's outside.  I called Annmarie and told her I had stopped the sheep from leaving the pasture,  she laughed.  No really, I think I got it covered this time...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Houdini has been talking to our sheep

You'll recall that I mentioned a few days ago that the sheep seemed to be dissatisfied with their pasture. After today, I'm pretty sure the problem is actually just the perverse nature of sheep.

This morning, I let the dogs out to do their business, and noticed some rather unusual animal life out by the cars. No, it wasn't deer, nor moose, nor anything more exotic than 4 of our very own sheep. Oreo, the adult ram, and Longtail and the boys. Now, we've gotten pretty immune to seeing them out on the hillside, but not out by the vehicles. Besides the obvious potential issues, there is a very large open field not too far from where they were, that opens up onto the road a ways up. And no, there is not a gate on this end either. Just a nice opening through which the sheep could pass into this haven of freedom. Needless to say, they needed to be encouraged back to their more usual range.

Sheep are usually creatures of habit, so I thought this would not be too much of a problem. I'd go out, leaving the front gate to the yard open, encourage them to go into the yard they covet anyway, and everyone would be happy, since the side gate out of the yard opens directly onto their pasture. So, I ducked back inside the house to grab my shoes, and went out the gate. The dogs, of course, came with me. That's when everything went wrong. Sprout, the little one, headed at top speed for Mom's house (in the opposite direction from the sheep), while Bailey, the big one, headed over to try to mother the lambs. Needless to say, Momma sheep was not too happy about this, and any visions I'd had of calmly herding the sheep into the yard vanished as they darted back into the barnyard. Bailey, or course, followed. I'm sure she was trying to be helpful, but.....

So, I went back to the house, and woke the progeny to come man the gate at the upper end of the pasture. My thinking at this point ran along the lines of getting the sheep to cross the creek in the barn lot, and then go up the road and into the gate. The sheep cooperate in the beginning by walking up to the creek. Where they promptly mill about looking confused. Bear in mind that the creek is all of 2" deep here. It's a bit wide, but really, their feet will get wetter in the tall grass than they will crossing the creek. Once again, my plans are thwarted as the sheep insist on turning tail and heading upstream and out the barn lot as fast as their legs will carry them. At this point, I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have go get the pickup and find them so I can get them back to the general area of acceptability and then try to get them in.

Then, I notice them up on the hillside behind the house. Now, understand that this means that the contrary little creatures went just a little bit upstream and then crossed not one, but two creeks in order to get from where they had been to where they now were. I was only asking them to cross one creek and then go in a gate.

By this time, it's become a matter of principle, and I must get them back into their pasture. So, I move Sarah to the other gate (the one that opens onto the back hillside), and I go out and straight up the hill in order to get above the sheep so I can circle around them to move them towards the gate. I probably haven't yet mentioned that this is the hillside on which the star thistle are flourishing, nor that I didn't bother with socks, much less boots when I started on this adventure. I am at least wearing jeans, but my ankles are fairly unprotected, and star thistle are sharp little buggers. I successfully circle around the sheep and come up on them nice and calmly. By this time they've remembered that food generally comes from us two-legged beings and we're not all evil, and they calmly wait for me to approach. Then I notice that they are eating the little bitty short almost moss-type weed that grows on the barren hillside! Not the green grass growing right beside it. No, the nearly dried out browned bristly little lichen-stuff. And yes, there is plenty of this inside their fenced area. See, perverse. Anyway, this time they go calmly into the pasture, and Sarah shuts the get behind them. Then, she gets some corn and treats everyone so they can remember why they should come when we call them.

Then, I only needed to go down to Mom's and get Sprout. At least I got to sit down and fish the stickers out of my shoes once I got there, and Mom came out and we had a nice visit while we watched the hummingbirds. Did I mention that all of this took place before 7:10 this morning?