Friday, December 30, 2011

Utility closet upgrade

Animal food containers before

Barn coats
Annmarie was looking at a catalog yesterday that had pet food plastic containers.  We would like to get all three types of food into its own container but still be able to close the closet doors.  She called but the containers were too big.  This led me to the conclusion that I could probably just build our own custom wooden boxes and line them with plastic.  So today I cut up a whole sheet of plywood and some supports and screwed them all together making three wooden boxes.  It took me a few hours but I got it all done.  I even built the boxes 1/4 inch shorter so the doors could shut.  This was not enough.  I had to take the lower door support (3/4 inch thick) off and put on a 1/4 inch piece of plywood so the doors would shut.  After that I was sure the doors would shut, no luck.  I had to sand off about 1/16 inch off the top of the left hand door.  Finally, the doors shut.  I raised the coat hooks and added five more hat hooks.  It actually all works. 

Raised hooks and hat racks

wooden bins lined with heavy duty trash can liners.

New super thin bottom supports.  I will stain in the future.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

lamb issues

Well, after we went out and checked on the new baby and reunited it with its mother we learned that it was not well bonded.  The first baby ran out and joined the herd while the mother was still giving birth to the second twin in the lean to.  Unfortunately, I did not know until today that if a baby is not well bonded you can rub the afterbirth on the first baby and the mother will some times bond with the baby.  We considered giving the lamb away but it seems to be keeping up its energy.  Us going out and pinning the ewe up against the feeder three times a day so it can get its fill of milk is helping. 

Catching a ewe by your self is not an easy task.  They are quick little buggers and even at 100# they are hard to stop unless you have some leverage.  The second time I grabbed on to her I was off balance and ended up in the straw.  Eventually I caught her.  Annmarie and I had to add some holes to the halter we had already purchased last year.  It is a little big, causing straps to hang down under her chin.  These straps make it easier to catch her.  I think she is starting to be resigned to her mistreatment.  As far as the little baby is concerned we are the cats meow!  The little lamb starts wagging its tail when we come into the barn because it knows it gets to eat its fill instead of sneaking a drink non stop all day. 

I keep hoping that all the other ewes will have their babies so the little bummer can just go around stealing milk from every one.  I got to use my bill cap light tonight.  I felt like I was in a horror film.  It projects a round light six feet in diameter roughly eight feet in front of your feet.  A monster could be creeping up on you at any time.  It made it very easy to walk around and not trip over any thing.  Good thing there aren't any monsters.  So the cap light is out for night stalking maneuvers. 

I bought a sheet of plywood today to build some pet food storage bin in our utility room closet.  It was raining when we got home so I had to bring it in and put it on the old house porch.  Unfortunately, the wind was blowing around 20-30 mph.  As soon as I got the piece out of the back of the pickup and upright between my two arms the wind found my sheet of plywood (now known as a very large kite!).  I was blown 10 feet sideways before managing to stop myself.  For every two steps forward I made I slid back another foot.  I was not sure I was going to make it the 200 feet to the porch.  I had to stop 20 feet from my goal and take a breather so I could push through.  I did it and tomorrow I am going to make those bins. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Lambs

I was sitting in the living room this afternoon nursing the cold that the progeny has shared with both Steve & I, watching the sheep in the pasture, when I noticed that there was one extra lamb out there.  I counted again, just to make sure, and sure enough, there were three lambs out there.  The newest one was acting kind of odd: running from sheep-to-sheep looking for someone to nurse from, and was not really being tended by any ewe.  That was not good, so I called to Steve, who was nursing his cold upstairs while "supervising" the cleaning of the daughter's room.  After some discussion, he agreed with me that we needed to get the sheep in the barn and figure out who the lamb belonged to so we could isolate them overnight and hopefully get the lamb bonded to the ewe.  When we went in the barn, our jobs got a whole lot easier, since there was a ewe delivering the afterbirth in the corner.  The second twin was hovering nearby, trying to get in to get his first meal.  Apparently the one I had seen in the pasture was the first-born and was strong enough to follow the rest of the sheep out.  Unfortunately, she wasn't smart enough to stay with her mama after she got her first drink.  All three are now settled in  a jug (a small pen specifically intended to keep lambs in close proximity to the ewe to facilitate bonding).  Oh, the second lamb is a boy.  The count for this batch so far is 3 girls and 1 boy.  For the record, the mother is ewe #13.

The one laying down is tired from her adventures in the pasture

This is the best shot I could get of the little boy - he was too busy nursing to pose.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coyote kibble

The puppy held out till 0530 this morning before whining to let us know it was time to be let out of his crate so he could go potty outside.  So Annmarie got out of bed and let all three dogs outside.  I came down 10 minutes later to let them inside.  Bailey (adult chocolate lab) and Zeke (border collie puppy) were right outside the door ready to come in, Sprout (Brussels Griffin) was no where to be seen.  Sprout only weighs 11 pounds, therefore negating the effects of having a fence.  He can just crawl between the cattle panel squares.  Annmarie stuck her head out a little later to call him in and heard him barking up past the chicken coop.  She thought he had something cornered and needed a human to bail him out.  So we went out with guns and flashlights (I wore my new ball cap light, very cool!).  We ended up walking past the old hen house, the spring and all the outbuildings.  No Sprout any where.  Annmarie went to let the animals out while I took the dogs and arsenal back to the house.  Within a few minutes Annmarie's mother calls to say that Sprout is down at her house.  It turns out that she had seen him on the back hillside.  He was chasing coyotes off the property!  He was over a 1/4 mile away from the house and in the opposite direction of the out buildings.  The sound of his barking was bouncing off the out buildings making Annmarie think that is where he was located.  Sprout needs to learn that at a whopping 11 pounds multiple coyotes are going to make mince meat out of him.  He just does not get that concept.  He came home happy as can be and still in one piece. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve discoveries

Annmarie talked me into going outside with her to feed the sheep and horses our left over apples.  The sheep loved them.  I happened to look up from feeding the sheep to discover a four month old lamb inside my chicken yard.  The lamb has been crawling in my chicken door set in the fence to go inside and eat the grass no one else can get.  It crawled out the door while we were watching.  Still no new babies.  January is going to be a busy month.

Stairwell overhead fan, for hot air movement.

I installed the fan in our stairway today.  I should have measured the actual width of the stairwell before ordering fan blades.  After getting the fan installed I have less than one inch between the ends of the fan and the wall on both sides.  Now the nice thing about that is I did get the fan centered!  It works without hitting any walls but we are probably going to order the 42 inch blades (our current blades are 44 inch, total width).  It is already making a huge difference.  We lowered the upstairs temperature by 4 degrees with the fan pushing the hot air back down.  I don't like standing on the ladder on the stairs, despite having a special ladder that has adjustable length sides.  Only one more time up on the ladder, to install the trim on the upper stairwell window.  It makes me feel safer just thinking about it.  When we do the barn roof this summer, I am going to have safety harnesses.  That way if I fall the rope will catch me.  

Fan in action.

We opened Christmas presents tonight and Annmarie got me a light/laser combo that I can attach to a gun.  I am going to put it on the pistol grip shotgun!!  It has great potential.  I need to shim under the bracket to get it to fit properly.  I am stoked!  Always looking for ways to get ahead of the predators. 

I went out to feed tonight in the dark.  I had to put out extra so in the morning we would only have to open gates and be done.  So I was stepping off into the sheep area with hay for the horses and tripped over one of the dark ewes.  I could not see her, so I landed on my face and chest in the sheep poop laden straw.  Now the good part of this is I just added some more straw last month so it is about eight inches deep.  Lots of padding for the fall, didn't hurt at all.  Annmarie got me a bill cap light for Christmas!  It clips onto the bill of your cap.  I tried it out when the dogs went out to pee.  It works great.  Not great for shooting because you get a little too much light back into your eyes, but for feeding it is going to be the Bomb! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Morning Adventures

I'm not sure if we have mentioned it, but the grey horse loves babies - of any sort.  She and the puppy have had quite a time because she keeps wanting to sniff him, and since her nose is as big as his head, he finds that a bit frightening.  So, this morning when I looked out and noticed that she was craning her neck to try and get her nose over the barrier between them and the sheep, I suspected we might have babies.  When I went in to the sheep area, though, I didn't immediately see or hear any babies, so I decided the horse was just being a knuckle-head.  Then, the sheep shifted, and there were two of the cutest little tri-colored lambs standing next to their mama.  I did a quick gender check, and they are girls.  These are the cutest ewe lambs we've had yet, and I'm looking forward to adding their coloring to the herd.

Mama and her babies

All is well until I hear a crash behind me, and the horses are suddenly there in with the sheep.  Meeka (the aforementioned grey) had pushed down the board I had wired up to keep the horses out of the sheep area this summer.  The floor is just not stable enough for them.  But, she really really wanted to see those babies.  So, now I had 22 sheep of various sizes, 2 newborn babies, 2 full grown horses, and Zeke (the border collie puppy) all in this tiny little area.  Mama sheep is understandably upset.  The babies are just trying to stay near mama.  Zeke is trying to stay out of everyone's way, and the horses just want to get to those babies.

I pick up Zeke and put him up in the upper part of the barn to get him out the way, dash back outside to holler at Sarah to call Grandma to take her and her cousin to school, because I'm not going to make it now.  Sarah of course wants to know why, so I tell her, "I've got baby lambs and the horses just broke into the barn to come greet them!"  Luckily, she understands exactly what this means, and dashes back in to call for a ride to school.  I return to the barn to try and sort everyone out.  After a little looking and thinking, I get some grain and lure the horses out.  They'll do just about anything for their morning grain, even leave babies.  Of course, I also got three of the summer lambs (mostly weaned but only half-grown) with them.  They don't want to go back in, so I leave them out with the horses for the time being and go back in to feed the sheep.  Then, I go to the other side of the barn to give the horses their hay out in the lot.  It all sounds kind of complicated - mostly because it is.  But it's doable, and the babies will have a chance to get fast enough to be able to avoid the horses. 

45 minutes later, I finally have all the sheep where they need to be and fed, the horses fed, the appropriate gates opened and closed, and can head to town to meet Steve when he drops off the PT Cruiser to get the damage from the suicidal deer of a few weeks ago repaired.  We then spent most of the day getting my grandmother's new television purchased and set up for her.  Her old one had died of old age after a long a distinguished life of service.  When we finally got home, we snuggled the lambs a bit and took some photos.

Sarah snuggling one of the lambs.  It is impossible to not smile when holding a less-than-one-day old lamb. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sneaking up on the greenhouse

I snagged 8 used windows today for free.  Six of them are double pane 1/4 inch thick on a side, very heavy and 3 ft x 5 ft.  Nice and big, they are old windows that had some kind of plastic film put on them to keep the light out.  The film peels right off with no problems.  I forgot to bring some towels or blankets with me to put between the windows once I put them in the back of the pickup.  It was raining any way and they would have gotten wet.  So instead I used two feminine hygiene pads (hey, they are sticky on one side) at the top of each window.  They nice thing is with the adhesive strips the pads stuck to the glass and stayed in place.  It worked great, I didn't break a single window.  Luckily I had 14 pads in the pickup.  Two of the windows are 2ft x 2 ft, single pane wooden framed.  These are the type of windows I had initially figured I would have to use.  The double pane old school ones were a great find.  I am still trying to decide on how big to make the greenhouse.  I am thinking around 12 ft x 20 ft.  I want to dig down 2 feet so the ground never freezes in the Winter.  I am also considering making the back wall a heat sink/super thick wall filled with rock/dirt to help regulate the temperature.  Still not sure yet how to do the back wall.  It will have to be pretty tall to help with the temperature regulation in all four seasons.  This is my new fantasy project.  Won't happen for at least two more years.  This gives me time to do at least fifty revisions of the plans in my head.  This many plans and revisions usually means I don't have as many problems when I am actually building.

I rehung the upstairs bathroom door.  It closes now without scraping on anything, but it still won't latch shut.  I spent two hours getting it just right and another 30 minutes trying to get the latch to work.  As Annmarie was calling me for dinner it dawned on me that the reason for the old hook latch at the top of the door was probably because the latch did not work a long time ago either.  I think the solution is to move the entire metal plate 1/16 inch into the room.  This will create a little visible gap when the door is open, but I can stain the wood and it will hide it.  The whole door frame is warped into a C shape with the middle of the C being where the latch is located.  This means taking the locking plate off and chiseling out 1/16 and re-drilling the two holding screws.  Gonna be painful, but I am off the door project for the night.  I was going to do the spare bedroom door tonight but I used up the two packs of shims I had on hand.  So I will get four more packs of shims next week. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

House progress

Sarah picture of our barn lot fence.

Well I actually did it, the hall lights now function.  I painted the spots on the wall that were thin and took all the plastic off of the lights.  I thought I had installed light bulbs 4+ years ago in the large light, but it turned out I had not.  It takes SIX light bulbs.  I thought it only took four.  So I scrounged around the house and found six bulbs.  To my great surprise the light actually worked.  I had to bring in a ladder to take the plastic off the light at the top of the stairs.  No way to cut another hole in the wall for that light.  The heating duct is in the way.  I cleaned up my mess and am now ready to move onto the spare bedroom.  This week I will work on emptying out the spare bedroom.  I have decided to also fix the walls in the furnace room (spare bedroom closet) at the same time.  This way I can add some shelves to the furnace room and have some more inside storage area.  I will have to patch the sheetrock, texture the patches, prime and paint the walls and ceiling.  Once that is done then I can sand the floor then stain and seal it.  I should hopefully be done by the end of January.  At that point, I am not sure what I am going to do.  I would like to start framing in the duct work in the bathroom and installing some shelves. 

Top of the stairs with camera flash

Top of the stairs without camera flash

Bottom of the stairs looking straight up.  Yes, I know window trim is coming soon.

I finally caught up with the custom wood cutter guy today.  My random drives past the business finally netted me someone at the place.  It has only taken me three months.  I picked up 120 linear feet of 6 inch tongue and groove blue pine for $0.38 lf.  I was ecstatic.  I bought some and put it out in the old house.  Annmarie's first question was what am I going to do with it.  My first answer was I need about another 500 linear feet!  Some of the wood is very blue and some of it is not.  I will have to dig through it all and color match the pieces.  I am going to continue doing random passes by the business until I get enough wood for a project. 

Sarah took some pictures yesterday of the hoar frost.  Yes it is a real word and we really do have hoar frost and not snow.  She is getting very good with a camera. 

Looking up hill just behind chicken coop

Looking toward hen house from our home over ram pasture

Sunday, December 11, 2011

houdini 2

So it is not enough to own sheep that get out of the fence at every opportunity, we have a puppy who is worse.  After the fiasco earlier in the week were said puppy just leaped over the doggy pen gate and was waiting for us on the front porch when we got home.  We decided that something more secure was needed.  The kennel is the best option for security (Zeke hates it and howls for 30-45 minutes when kenneled, down from 2 hours).  Unfortunately, his bladder limit is only about 4-5 hours.  We were going to go have an early Christmas dinner with my parents and might be gone past the potty limit.  Our solution was to kennel our adult dog in the house and put the puppy outside on our overhead dog run.  We clipped him onto a 15 ft retractable leash attached to a five foot chain onto an overhead wire.  NO way the puppy can get free.  Our 80# lab cannot get off this setup.  Six hours later we come home in the fog and snow and try and spot the puppy in our yard.  No puppy, then Annmarie says "He is on the front porch!".  Zeke came running out to great us in the driveway.  How does a puppy get off of said prison?  You chew through the cloth band holding the clip to your collar.  So now the retractable leash is toast.  So not only will I need a new retractable leash, I will need to pickup a small section of chain to clip to Zeke's collar and then (three feet later) clip the other end to the retractable leash.  This way he can never get to a section that can be chewed in half.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finished access hatch to stairwell light.

New puppy, "Zeke", border collie for the sheep.

 Well, I managed to finish the stairwell access panel despite watching a new puppy constantly.  Zeke is a constant distraction to make sure he doesn't sneak off and go potty some where he is not supposed to go.  He does very well, will sit at front door already and does make little noises when he needs to go out.  Hates being alone.  Follows me every where and whined when I used the saw and he had to stay on the porch.  Staying on the porch was his idea.  He did not like the saw or the sander. 

This will be painted white soon, sure will be easy to get to the light!
 I had to recut several pieces and tear one back out after installing it, but I did finally get it in place and done.  The hallway side will be painted all white and the inside (bathroom side) will be left bare wood.  It turned out very nice and was made out of $20 worth of wood and some scrap dowels I had laying around. 
View from inside the bathroom

It turned out nice and the dowels lock it into place.  My dowel material was warped.
Next is to repair the fence out by the cattle guard.  Something ran in to it and tore it down.  A small recreational vehicle most likely.  After that then I can start cleaning out the spare bedroom and getting ready to finish it off.  On my off weekend I will do some painting so someone else can watch the puppy.  I don't want everything covered in paint!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fencing completed for year!

I did it!  I finished all the fencing I was supposed to do this year.  The barn lot is totally enclosed by sheep wire.  I should probably hang a small board under one of the gates so the sheep don't crawl under it, but that doesn't count since the sheep are staying in the barn lot currently.  Zeke (new puppy we just got on Saturday, border collie) and I spent half a day finishing the fence.  Zeke does not care for the horses.  He hid under the pickup when they came over.  I had some scratches on the hood of my pickup, the curved edges at the sides of the hood that I thought were from the dog trying to scramble up onto the hood in a storm over the summer.  Imagine my surprise today when I caught the horses dragging their teeth on the curve and trying to bite the hood.  They took paint off with their teeth!  I had to chase them off repeatedly.  This did make Zeke happy, he kept wanting to bark at them.  He ignored the sheep and chickens today when we were outside. 

I went to the far end of the farm and managed to get the old gate up so no one can drive into the CRP and park and party.  Trash was accumulating at the far end of the farm due to no visibility from the houses.  It looks like my mother-in-law may not lease out the pasture next year.  So I now have a whole new chunk of fencing to repair and weeds to spray and mow.  It is going to be a busy next year. 

I called the insurance company today and the adjuster told me to just go to the shop and get a quote.  The shop is a preferred provider so they can just fix it.  I will do that tomorrow.  I also picked up the lumber for the light access panel in the upstairs bathroom today, $20 worth of lumber for the whole thing.  I will start framing it tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

October chicken financials

October report:  I lost $17.34 for the month on an average 22.5 hens laying(a increase of 5.5 hens/day. predator issues again!).  My net income total is - $275.25 for the year .  I had $59.34 in expenses for feed (250#) this month.  For the year, my monthly expenses are $94.85.  We collected a total of 253 usable eggs (decrease of 63 eggs)  averaging 8.2 eggs/day collected.  My productivity for the month was 36% (decrease of 2% from last month).  The chickens ate 0.99# food/egg (an increase from last month of 20.2%).   It cost $0.23/egg or $2.76/doz for feed (an increase of $0.48/dozen over last month).  My monthly net income is a loss of $27.53/month this year (a decreasing loss of $1.13/mos).  It is slowly getting better, but winter is coming and my feed expenses are going to go up.  Now there was a large increase in the cost of feed in early summer but that has gone away.  I am currently paying around $11.89 for a 50# bag of layer pellets at the feed store.  In Pendleton it is running around $15/bag that would add$12-$15/month in feed expenses if I had to buy it in town. 

September chicken financials

September report:  I made $21.52 for the month on an average 28 hens laying(a increase of 8 hens/day).  My net income total is - $257.91 for the year .  I had $59.48 in expenses for feed (250#) this month.  For the year, my monthly expenses are $98.79.  We collected a total of 316 usable eggs averaging 10.5 eggs/day collected.  My productivity for the month was 38% (decrease of 13% from last month, I had to add in all the chickens that are old enough to lay).  The chickens ate 0.79# food/egg (a decrease from last month of 16.4%).   It cost $0.19/egg or $2.28/doz for feed (an decrease of $0.36/dozen over last month).  My monthly net income is a loss of $28.66/month this year (a decreasing loss of $6.32/mos).
This is starting to look better for the year.  I would prefer to only loose about $12-15/month as this is our normal egg consumption but I am still not there yet.

August chicken financials

August report:  I lost $32.88 for the month on an average 20 hens laying(a increase of 1.7 hens/day).  My net income total is - $279.43 for the year .  I had $70.38 in expenses for feed (290#) this month.  For the year, my monthly expenses are $103.71.  We collected a total of 316 usable eggs averaging 8.5 eggs/day collected (a increase of 1.7 eggs/day due to my leghorns getting old enough to produce).  My productivity for the month was 51% (increase of 5% from last month).  The chickens ate 0.92# food/egg (a raise from last month of 17.4%).   It cost $0.22/egg or $2.64/doz for feed (an increase of $0.48/dozen over last month).  My monthly net income is a loss of $34.98/month this year (a decreasing loss of $0.24/mos)
My leghorns started laying this month and boosted my egg production.  

July monthly chicken financials

Another month ready to go, some may wonder why I post this stuff.  Initially, it was a way for me to just let friends and family keep up with the things going on around the farm.  Then it become a log of things not to do.  Now it is a record for me of the things that have gone on and the times they occurred.  I can look back and find information and facts of things that have happened.  So now I use it as a journal and log book for the various things around the farm.  Next year, I will start posting some of the sheep facts also. 

July report:  I gained $10.11 for the month on an average 18.3 hens laying(a decrease of 1.2 hens/day).  My net income total is - $246.55 for the year .  I had $46.89 in expenses for feed (200#) this month.  For the year, my monthly expenses are $108.47.  We collected a total of 263 usable eggs averaging 8.5 eggs/day collected (a decrease of 2.6 eggs/day due to predator kill).  My productivity for the month was 46% (decrease of 11% from last month).  The chickens ate 0.76# food/egg (a raise from last month of 1.4%).   It cost $0.18/egg or $2.16/doz for feed (an decrease of $0.12/dozen over last month).  My monthly net income is a loss of $35.22/month this year (a decreasing loss of $7.56/mos)
I made money this month!  Thank goodness for Summer and plenty of bugs and green grass.  The decrease in feed costs helped lots even with the decrease in hens.   

June monthly chicken financials

Yes, I realize I had gotten behind on the chicken financials.  Sarah helped me catch up and got all the data input done for the spreadsheet.  Now I only have to choke back a tear and post them for public consumption.  I will be unable to run the year to date results for each month.  This is something that totals itself from the data already in the system.  Another reason to keep it up to date.  

June report:  I lost $63.13 for the month on an average 19.5 hens laying (I realize that I thought the chicken butler was going to end my predator problem, but that did not turn out to be the truth.  I also purchased another 25 pullets at a cost of $65.05).  My net income total is - $256.66 for the year .  I had $62.58 in expenses for feed (250#) this month (I purchased baby food for new chickens).  For the year, my monthly expenses are $118.74.  We collected a total of 332 usable eggs averaging 11.1 eggs/day collected (a decrease of 2.7 eggs/day due to predator kill).  My productivity for the month was 57% (increase of 4% from last month, most likely due to me keeping the chickens locked up and the weak chickens are succumbing to the predators ).  The chickens ate 0.75# food/egg (a raise from last month of 63%).   It cost $0.19/egg or $2.28/doz for feed (an increase of $1.08/dozen over last month).  My monthly net income is a loss of $42.78/month this year (an increasing loss of $4.07/mos)
 Like I said, painful.  The predators and the faulty chicken butler killed me this year. 

Thanksgiving work party completed

We had a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Doug and Linda came up and we had great food (best prime rib I have cooked in years), great company and we got some projects done around the house.  As always it is nice to see long distance friends.  The weather was incredible.  On Saturday it was 60 degrees, unbelievable for the end of November.  Annmarie and Linda worked on recovering the cushions for our loveseat.  Annmarie should be able to complete them today.

Stone/cookie sheet holder
Doug and I tackled a few small projects around the house.  Annmarie wanted a baking sheet/stone holder for the dead space next to the stove.  We built it on Thanksgiving before dinner.  It was the first time I have ever cut grooves in a project for a central dividing wall.  It actually worked. The best part was we just scrounged around the house and old house for lumber that was laying around not being used.  The whole thing cost NO money just time.  My super favorite kind of project.

On a side note, I felt guilty about not finishing our project from last year (the utility sink cabinet). Here are the completed pictures for the utility sink.  I had it all done before Doug arrived.

stained and door on.

The utility sink still needed a shelf over the top of the back splash.  I glued some hardwood flooring together before his arrival and had it ready to go.  We cut it down to size and attempted to install it.  It is on now, but I kept hitting something in the wall and ended up stripping the head out of one of the screws.  Of course it is a colored wood screw so I will have to stop at a large hardware store to find its replacement.  I can stain it in place now.  I will do it this week some time. 

Utility sink shelf, even 3 screws are holding it up.
  The laundry room seemed to be the mini focus of this year's projects.  We also fixed a door on the pantry.  It fell out due to the screws coming out of the wood, too much useage and wear and tear on the holes.  I had found some little metal tabs that you cut to size, bent in half and inserted into the oversize holes then you just reused the old screws.  Doug seemed kinda doubtful they would work.  His solution was to drill out oversize holes, glue in dowels and then redrill for door hinge hardware.  This is a viable option, but labor intensive.  The metal tabs worked great and were much faster.  The door held with no difficulties. 

Right hand door repaired.
The other inside project was to get the utility room door to shut.  It has not shut for over four years.  I was tired of the noise and shot expanding foam insulation into the cracks.  Well it did exactly what it was supposed to and "expanded" enough to push the door frame inward until our door would not shut. This has been an ongoing issue, but I did not want to dig all the foam out.  So we cut a couple of pieces of lumber to go against the inside of the door frame and used a bottle jack and a 4x4 to press the inside of the frame outward.  It wasn't really working then it popped out of the frame and clubbed Doug on the left knee.  We ended up digging every bit of foam insulation out of the cracks and beating the door frame back over.  It works fine now.  I even had some old pipe insulation wrap (fiberglass) that I had picked up in a whole bundle of garage cleaning out items from craigslist.  I was going to throw the insulation away next week.  That same craigslist find I sorted out about 20 pounds of scrap iron from the 7 boxes of "useful" stuff I purchased.  I found about 15 cable clamps and 7 grounding clamps in the same pile of stuff. 

We also made a three different pieces of testing equipment for Annmarie's structure class.  It is for testing their manila file folder bridges.  The bridges are supposed to hold 11 pounds.  Pretty impressive from a manila file folder. 

We also went and picked up another dog yesterday.  We now have a border collie puppy.  They had one short hair puppy but she had lost her playmate (he went to another home) the day before and would not come see us.  She was the prettiest of the bunch but we wanted a very responsive and interactive puppy.  So Sarah picked one out and we brought him home last night.  He is adjusting as are we, incredibly smart dog.  Already comes to his name, Zeke, and whines to go outside and go potty.  Amazing at 9-10 weeks old.  Of course we must have some bad with all that good (just one of those years).  A deer made a suicide run into the front driver side quarter panel of our PT cruiser a mile from our house.  I had no time to react, it smashed into the quarter panel and flew six feet into the air.  I was afraid it was going to land on the roof top.  It killed it dead.  Of course when I attempted to get out the driver side door to check on the deer, I was unable to open the door.  I had to crawl over the gear shifter and out the passenger door.  I dragged the deer to the side of the road and when we got home I called the insurance company and then the county dispatch center.  That poor car has been hit on the front quarter panel at least 8 times now. 

I am going to start in on the access panel for our large light in the stairwell.  I am going to cut a panel in the upstairs bathroom wall so the light can be accessed for cleaning and changing of the bulbs.  No ladder necessary. 
Left hand side of wall is future location of access panel.

Bathroom side with lines marked for cutting and tearing out boards.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Farm 9, Predators 22

I have been frantically trying to complete a couple of projects before our company arrives for Thanksgiving.  Last year, Doug helped me build the utility sink enclosure.  This summer we finally got the plumber here to set and install our deep utility sink.  I had not finished the wood on the enclosure or attached the door yet.  Last night I stayed up late and stained the sink enclosure and laundry room door.  Today, I cleaned up the upstairs bathroom area so the new heating guys could come in and fix our original poor heating job.  I had to pop a bunch of tiles out of the ceiling and those plastic tiles make it very easy to do. 

I even spent some time today cleaning up the old house.  I had to install a locking catch on the outside of the door.  The door doesn't stay latched any more.  The chickens and cats were making a mess inside the old house.  I am going to have to clean up again.  I emptied five gallon buckets full of tools off the porch and put them away.  Since we are having 40 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph, I had to go out and fix the chicken coop roof.  The sheet metal roofing was tearing itself up.  I beat the edges over and screwed them in the end so the wind cannot grab the roofing and heave it up.  Hopefully, this fixes the problem. 

Our heating is amazing.  They got the new feeder duct installed.  The old contractor had left an original, not currently in use, duct in the ceiling.  There was enough new supply that we got an extra 6 inch heat supply for the living room!  They are coming back tomorrow to finish it all up and add the 3rd zone to the breeze porch.  If it stays like this all winter it will be worth it. 

I spent an hour installing the door and latch on the utility sink stand tonight.  I had found 8 bottles of bleach (courtesy of my sister) out in the old house and they needed a home under the sink.  I finished the door and forgot about them sitting outside in the wind until it was time to go to bed.  I didn't want to hunt them down in the morning so I ran to the laundry room and opened the back door.  The cats were all over the porch and this large rat thing.  It took me a second to realize it was a huge possum!!  The cats were only about two feet away from it.  It was looking for cat food crumbs.  I had already remembered to lock  up the chickens earlier.  So I ran back in and grabbed the handy Walther P-22 with laser sights.  By the time I got back to the porch the possum was gone.  I shined the flashlight on both sides of the flower bed and didn't see anything but four cats.  I bolted to the back fence and started shining the light along the running back creek.  There it was, the future chicken killer staring back at me.  I eliminated its ability to harm my chickens with extreme prejudice.  I did remember to bring the bleach in and put it under the sink. 

Since Doug is going to help me with another Thanksgiving project, I figured I had better complete last years before they come.  They will be here tomorrow. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November is here and not much is getting done

This has been a crazy month.  I have just not had time to keep blogging.  I usually shoot for 10-15 posts/month.  I am working way too much this month at my paying job.  I did try to get the barn lot fence finished.  Still not done.  I have a large chunk of woven wire being held up with a fence stretcher.  I really only need about 6 hours to finish the whole thing but I keep finding other things to do.  I have started to clean the house for our company coming next week.  Yesterday, I burnt the scrap wood pile in the barn lot.  I started the fire first thing in the morning and then drug all the tree branches from the ram pasture onto that pile.  It took a few tries to get it lit.  The paper was covered in frost and I had to go get a little weed burner to get it started.  It was so cold the weed burner did not give off much of a flame.  It was enough. 

I went in and had coffee with Annmarie's grandmother, Ruby.  I try to stop by every week and see her.  She needs some rose bushes moved in her yard, but she has a very sheltered yard and all the roses still have green leaves on them.  I will try again in a couple of weeks.

I was going to change the oil in the tractor (I had already purchased the oil and filter) but after reading the owners manual I don't have to do that until 50 hours of use.  I am at 11 hours now.  I also have to change the transmission oil and filter at that time.  Next Summer's project for sure.  I won't get another 40 hours on the tractor for quite some time.  I decided to use the tractor since I was there and I had my rain suit on (very farm like, bright purple/blue and black waterproof bicycling suit leftover from when I was in the Navy riding 100 miles/week).  I was styling!  I went into the ram pasture and drug the box blade over a high spot and attempted to smooth out the hill so I would not bottom out the mower in the spring.  I had to drive through the creek and realized that I might be able to dredge the front spring with the tractor.  It was not easy and I almost got the tractor stuck repeatedly, even with four wheel drive, but I got as much cleaned out as I could. 

Since I was burning I decided to start piling all the tree limbs from the orchard into another pile.  We had a couple of pieces of tree out front of the house that had not burned completely a couple years ago.  I hooked onto them with the tractor and drug them over to the orchard burn pile.  It took a couple of trips to get that onto the pile.  I then snagged some old wood that was buried in the weeds and not visible until this year.  The only thing left is three pieces of a large tree I tried to burn up a few years ago over by our house.  I grabbed onto the first large chunk and was dragging it to the burn pile when I noticed the front irrigation ditch/spring had a leak in the ditch wall!!  This ditch so needs to be cleaned out with a backhoe.  The entire ditch is full of cow shit.  There is at least a foot of cow manure on the bottom of the ditch the whole length.  I scooped up a whole bucket of dirt and dumped it over the leak then tried to dig out the ditch with the tractor.  The one side was low enough I could drive up and reach down then drive the front tires into the ditch.  Sometimes I could pick up the mess other times I had to dump it on the far bank.  The weight was enough to stop me from getting out of the ditch.  As it was I had to rock the tractor several times to get out of the ditch.  On a wiser note, I am wearing my seat belt on the tractor all the time!  Next summer the ditch has to be dug out, no question that it cannot wait any longer. 

I also managed to finish moving dirt in the orchard so the tractor tipping ditch is flattened out enough I won't dump the tractor over when mowing.  With all these bare spots of ground visible I need to get some type of pasture grass to seed next week.  I will stop today and see what is available.  That way in the spring it will just magically appear.  Most of the areas are far enough away from the chicken coop that I think the chickens will leave the grass seed alone. 

I happened to spot an "uh oh" moment yesterday.  I was stepping up onto the front porch and noticed a dark spot on one of our columns.  The columns are wrapped in white steel from when they did our siding.  I thought it was just a little dirt.  Upon bending down and scrutinizing the spot it turned out to be a bullet hole.  More precisely, it was a .22 bullet hole.  Now I have been very careful to not shoot the house or old house when I am out and about.  On the other hand I did not have a raccoon attack me on the front porch.  Annmarie admitted that when she went outside the second time (to go to the hospital), she saw eyes glowing in the front bushes.  So she started blasting the evergreen bushes with bullets.  She figured if it was a cat it was on its own.  Turns out it was the raccoon and it came out to the end of the porch were she shot it.  So besides the scar on her left knee we have a bullet hole as a reminder that mother nature is not always predictable. 

I will get the chicken reports out this month. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Almost done fencing, Farm 8, Predators 22

Here is the dip that I smoothed out and filled in.

Well another day on my own.  Mr. President had a prior engagement that lasted all weekend.  It was a beautiful day.  I fenced almost entirely in a T-shirt and pants only.  Four hours into it, I realized that I was actually enjoying myself.  It is very relaxing.  Hard work but simple and you can see progress.  Not like my real job at all.  I spent the next couple of hours finishing up the fence and even cut in the new gate for the property lessee. Now they won't have to drive through the barn lot and make huge ruts in the winter and spring.  I had to dig around a while to find the fencing hinges I had purchased three months ago but I did find them, eventually. 

Fence to be, you can see it on the ground.

I was enjoying myself until I saw the sheep out by the vehicles.  I thought they had found a new hole to crawl out.  But it was the lead ewe who had opened our gate.  It was closed but not clipped and she managed to get it open.  Then I noticed Mika (grey horse) was out and Hogs (other horse) was running up and down the fence line frantically.  I went over and saw that Mika had jumped the fence and taken a header on the hillside.  So I spent another 45 minutes fixing the damage and adding another row of smooth wire 10 inches higher than the last height. 

Completed fence (almost just needs metal stays twisted on).

More completed fence minus stays

Annmarie came out when she noticed the horses out of the orchard just before dark (I was picking some winter pears off the tree, which are still good and not quite perfectly ripe yet!).  It turns out that Mika scraped up both front legs so she walked them to the barn and I helped hold Mika while she doctored and wrapped the front left leg.  I had reopened the front gate because the sheep were trying to go back in it.  It was getting dark so I gathered eggs and locked up the chickens.  We still have at least two hens that are living outside the coop somewhere.  They may stay safe for a few more weeks with the raccoon gone.  I updated the count, still not very much in our favor this year. 

I have to install three gates tomorrow and the horses can be turned loose in the barn lot.  We closed up the orchard so the sheep and horses cannot get in there.  We are hoping the weather holds out for another 2-3 weeks and the orchard can snap back and grow another couple of inches.  It would have been amazing if we could have had the irrigation going this year.  One of the two major summer projects for next year.  Fixing the barn and getting the irrigation up and going.

This was my biggest fence repair, the price you pay for recycling old fencing.

Old blacksmith shop, door wall lifted and ready for scavenging of door parts.

This is where Mika jumped over the fence.

I pulled all the weeds and grass on the hillside so the horses can see that the fence is really tall.  I also re-tightened the top three wires and added a fourth. I used the magical tractor to lift the old wall of the blacksmith shop.  I wanted to scavenge the door hinges and locking mechanism.  Doom and I tried to lift this by hand a couple of years ago and could not do it.  It was too heavy.  Not for the amazing tractor. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fencing again hopefully will finish soon

I fenced today all alone.  My help had to do other things so I was at it all alone.  There is a price to be had for reusing old fencing.  It has holes and needs to be patched, it comes in too short lengths and has to be spliced together.  On the upside we did save 75% on the fencing costs.  I finished the L side completely.  I may have to build another rock jack to hold the fence down in the low dip.  I stretched it pretty tight and I am afraid it may pull up the metal posts.  So now I need to build another jack.  The long side has half the woven wire standing up already.  I may very well get all the fence up tomorrow even if I do it alone.  The only problem is installing the three gates.  I will need help with that.  I will have to work on the fencing again on Monday.  I am crossing my fingers for a completion date of Monday. 

I had to run in to Pendleton to get some T-post clips (these are used to hold the fence against the metal posts).  I went into PGG and asked the checkout gal for T-post clips, she called someone and this young gentleman came out.  I asked him if the clips came in packages of 25?  He said they did, so I asked for 30.  He gave me this weird look and went off to the store room.  I wandered the store and kept trying to figure out why he had given me "the look".  It took him a few minutes and out he came with 30 clips.  A single bag of 25 and 5 loose clips!  I laughed at him and said I need to do "some real fencing" and I wanted "30 bags" of clips.  He looked chagrined and went back and got a large bag full of clips.  I chuckled all the way to the pickup. 


Yes, I am once again posting at 3:47 am. But this time, it's because I got the rotten little thieving bugger.

Steve woke up to open windows at 1:30 this morning because it had gotten too warm in our room. I heard chittering, so he went out to check. After a fruitless search, he returned to bed disappointed and we went back to sleep. At 3:40, we one again heard the death-squawks of a stupid chicken. There were more of them not going in the coop than we had thought. This time, we actually did dash into action, with no discussion whatsoever, and out we went. Steve had the shotgun, and I was reaching for my 30-30 when I remembered that I had neglected to load it after I unloaded it following my patrol last night. So I was back to the 22, since it was the only other rifle handy. I actually managed to find a good flashlight - a tiny little AA mag lite that was hiding in a glove drawer - because all of the dim flashlights have been moved form their usual locations.

We did our patrols around the house and coop without seeing anything. Yesterday I had seen a chicken foot and feathers under the barn, so as a shot in the dark (literally) I passed my good strong light over the crawl space under the barn, and happen to catch eyes flashing red in the light. I called Steve over, but by the time he got there, the eyes had gone up and into the barn. I was considering our options when I saw the dang things up off the floor, above the old wool area. I was actually seeing them through the big gaping hole in the barn roof. I pointed the eyes out to Steve, and this time he managed to get his eyes on the too. He traded me weapons and took a shooting stance. The little bugger dropped out of site. Steve relaxed moved forward to get a rest. The bugger popped back up again. Now Steve couldn't see the eyes. He came back to me, and saw the eyes. Took his stance. and the eyes went out. This time he held his stance, and the eyes came back on. He couldn't see them. We did this for a while, with me saying, "There they are! and him replying, "Where?"

Finally, I convinced him to give me the rifle and handed him the flashlights. The eyes moved a bit during this exchange, and I was afraid the stupid bugger had finally lost interest, but then they came back on. I was ready. I got the scope on him (I usually detest scopes, I will admit just this one it helped because I could see more than just two glowing eyes), and pulled the trigger. The rifle discharged, and then we heard a large thump followed by a lot of random thumps - death throws. Steve looked at me with what I'm sure was amazement (I wasn't looking at him, so I can't say for certain) and said with some shock in his voice, "You got it!" I responded with, "Yeah - I got it. I'm a good shot." He seems to periodically forget that fact. It was gratifying to remind him with something more useful to be shooting than a target. And it was a heck of a good shot, after all. We were in the old ram pasture, by the chicken coop, and the critter was in the barn - at the upper end below the old feed chute.
Locations of all interested parties

We went to see what I had gotten. It might have been a cat after all.  The horses met us at their corner of the other end of the barn and were looking at us as if to say, "What are you doing out here at this time of night?"  They followed us until we went into sheep area (I installed a board so they can't go in but the sheep can).  We went through the sheep and up into the main area of the barn.  Sure enough, there was the dead raccoon in one of the old feed troughs that Steve had stacked in front of the old wool bin.  I head shot him!  Steve again expressed his wonder (yes, I'm gloating a little.  I'm almost done).  And we returned to the house.  I, of course cannot sleep.  Steve is already back in bed and is sound asleep.  I'll take a nap later.  For now, the chickens are again safe.  Even then ones that are too stupid to go roost in the nice safe coop.  At least until another raccoon comes through.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One fewer stupid chickens

The chicken thief came through again last night. I was awakened by the death-squawks of one of the last of Steve's chickens that were too stupid to go inside when it got dark. I looked at the clock - 3:40am. I did my wifely duty and got out of bed (Steve was of course at work) to do a night-time patrol. I didn't find anything. This morning, however, I see a pile of feathers on the other side of the tractor from the chicken coop. Steve had parked both the pickup and the tractor next to the coop for easy access when this weekend, and there, right in front of my nose, was a pile of feathers. I was so focused on the coop when I went out the gate that I didn't even look over there. Stupid chicken must have roosted on the tractor for the night. The carcass was gone, which suggests that it might be a female dragging it back to her kids. Raccoons are the worst. They are sooooo hard to get rid of. Tonight, we're setting up the live trap and baiting it with the horses' sweetened grain mix. Hopefully the cats won't like the grain mix, but the raccoon should think it smells great. Wish us luck.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to move the hay truck. It had been parked next to the barn. Again, for easy access this weekend when the unloading was scheduled to take place. When I went out to move the horses (orchard to barn for evening feeding), I noticed Sarah standing at the gate to the barnlot and yelling. I asked her what she was doing, and she pointed out to me that the pasture renter's cows had discovered the hay. They had pulled one bale down and broken it open. Once it was gone, the couldn't reach any more, so they just stared eating the lower level of bales from the ends in. They ate one almost half or one bale and probably 1/3 of two more bales. So, I moved the beast of a truck. Yes, I got it started. No, it wasn't easy. Yes, it steered - sort of. No, I didn't run over anything, although that was due more to prior planning than to functioning brakes. I was mindful of Steve's ruminations over the brakes on the truck and moved real slow and coasted it into it's current parking spot. The thing steers like a drunken tank so I'm not sure how Steve's going to get it out - I pretty much just steered a great big circle, but I'm sure he'll manage. He's coming to an understanding with the truck, after all.

Right now, he's out working on the fence with Mr. President. He's hoping they will be able to finish this weekend. Since the hard part is done (the posts are all driven), he might even be right. Pulling the wire actually doesn't take all that long. Although it kind of looks like rain out there, so maybe not. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Farm 7, Predators 22

I did an official count tonight on the chickens and there are 43 chickens, two of those are roosters.  Not all are mature yet so I only collected 9 eggs tonight.  I did want the record to show again that my shotgun blast was only 8 inches away from the raccoon with an overhead shot over a board and in the dark.  I didn't get the promised pictures.  Instead, Mr. Vice-President and myself went out and worked on the fence.  He drove in all the metal posts while I used the tractor to drag the ditch sides down so that a pickup could be drive through the ditch without the bumper dragging on one side.  We did have to build one rock jack at the base of a rock outcropping.  Luckily, there used to be one nearby that had fallen apart so we just scavenged the pieces from it and pounded in some new nails, used some old barbed wire to support the wooden pieces and instant rock jack.  Mr. Vice-President is going to be gone for a couple of days but when he gets back he will be filling the rock jack full of rocks!

On a more official note there is a new tractor rule.  Rule #1, always, 100% of the time wear the seat belt that is provided.  I got bucked off the tractor today and the only thing that saved me from the ground was the control lever for the bucket.  The control lever was not designed to keep a 155# from hitting the ground.  I will now have to take it off and straighten it out on the vice.  The roll bar does me no good if I run over myself.

The last load of hay is parked next to the barn and ready to be unloaded, Mr. Vice-President is all over this upon his return.  We gathered all the tools and wire necessary to secure the chicken coop from animals crawling under it.  Mr. Vice-President rolled the rocks away and started digging the trench.

I also filled in the hole in the front yard from the water line repair today.  A lot of little things that needed to be done.  The goal is to have the fence up and secure by Sunday!  I also want to burn the scrap wood pile.  One of the fence challenges is that four gates have to be installed also.  They take time.  I will attempt pictures on Friday.  Annmarie has already informed me that if the chickens raise a fuss tonight I am to leap out of bed and run outside immediately to dispatch the predator.  I forgot to grab the carcass this morning as I was rushing out of the house.  The cats and chickens at the whole thing.  Only some loose feathers this afternoon.

farm 7, predators lots

I will have to do a recount tonight just to figure out how many chickens we have lost to predators this year, it is going to be over 24.  They are decimating my birds.  Annmarie woke me up in the middle of the night again to the sound of chickens squawking.  I did not want to get out of bed.  The bed was warm and it was still dark.  After some "discussion" and a final blood curdling squawk from one of the chickens I leaped to action (after I found my glasses).  Due to paranoia reasons I no longer take the 22 out at night, so I grabbed the shotgun and a truly crappy $0.99 flashlight (my good ones keep disappearing, must be the flashlight gremlins, they are trading with the sock gremlins).  I hold the flashlight in my left hand on the pump mechanism.  I pumped a round in the chamber and hustled over to the chain link gate shining a crappy weak light into the coop yard.  A black blur ran toward the back of the coop and I ran after it.  The sheep were on the backside of the coop yard earlier in the night but luckily they had moved so I didn't have to run through them.  I heard some scrambling so I knew some thing was crawling up the 4x4 post.  I shined the light and there was a big raccoon sitting on top of the fence.  I was on the outer corner, but when I aimed the shotgun the barrel was pointing toward the old house and our house.  I had to move four feet to the left, but now I had to raise the shotgun up high to get over the chicken fence I had just stepped behind to change angles.  I shot, damn flashlight fell on the ground, I heard  the culprit jump down (didn't sound like a belly flop) so I stepped right and blindly shot at the ground in the approximate area.  There is a reason I don't let the dogs come out with me at night.  I found the flashlight (still on) and picked it up off the ground.  NO dead raccoon.  I shined it up to the spot it was sitting on the fence and there is a 1 inch x 4 inch wide chunk of wood missing from the 2x4 the raccoon was sitting on.  Unfortunately, it is eight inches to the right of where it should have been.  I missed.  I met Annmarie on the way back to the house.  We had a discussion about how she only hears the chickens when I am home.  I will run out and throw the dead stupid chicken (not supposed to roost in the yard) into a live trap today and tonight I will set it up and see if the raccoon comes back. 

Early Morning Happenings

Yes, it is 4:30am. No, that is not my usual time to be awake and sitting in front of the computer. I was (once again) awoken by the sounds of squawking from the chickens. This is always a bad thing after dark. I nudged Steve, and he "discussed" with me the value of checking on the chickens. I "discussed" back and we came to the agreement that if he wanted to have chickens he needed to get out there and see what he could see. So, he fumbled around for his glasses and threw on the his robe while I got dressed (my robe is in the wash). As I was grabbing the 30-30 (22's are not lethal enough), I heard the shotgun discharge twice. I headed out, and Steve informed me he had missed. Since I wanted more details, I asked him to tell me what had happened.

He went out last night to lock up the chickens, and had indeed latched the door on the coop proper - a good thing, as it turns out. What he found in the coop yard was a fairly large raccoon trying to open the sliding door to get into the chicken house. Now, this raccoon had apparently climbed over the (not currently electrified) chicken wire to get into the chicken yard and knew there were chickens behind that closed door. In truly annoying raccoon fashion, he set about trying to get into the buffet. Luckily, they are not quite advanced enough to be able to unhook the hook-and-eye latch. When he (generic he - gender is actually unknown) saw Steve, he ran around the back of the coop and climbed up onto one of the upper supports for the baby fort knox. Steve adjusted his angle so he wasn't shooting at the house and took his shot. He missed. He claims he missed by only eight inches, but he is the only witness. Besides, the critter is still mobile, so how much he missed by is only a matter of his pride.

The good thing is that we now know what is killing our chickens. The bad thing is that we detest raccoons. They are too clever and are difficult to catch. We'll do all the things we should. We'll set out traps, and electrify the fence, and keep locking the door on the chicken house rather than just the much more convenient outer door on the yard. Hopefully the chickens will get smarter and stop sleeping out in the yard and we'll either rid this earth of one more raccoon or he'll move on to easier pickings. We did loose one more yard-sleeping chicken tonight. But we interrupted the critters dining, so maybe he won't try again. Hope does spring eternal, after all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Horse Enclosure completed

I tried to get Mr. President to help me this week.  I have so much stuff to do at work that this is my last week of pushing to completion the home projects.  I have decided that hired help is needed ASAP.  He was busy all week long, but luckily for me his older brother just came home for a couple of weeks and is available.  He came out to help today and will be further referred to as "Mr. Vice-President".  We went to work on the horse enclosure.  It got dug out completely, OSB boards to separate the sheep and horses, completed the outside wall, added another support beam in the middle of the wall.  It looks decent, very functional.  The scrap wood pile was moved to the burn pile and I raked out the yard.

Next, we went and installed the horizontal supports for the fencing railroad ties.  Mr Vice-President put in the slanted wire and tightened them all up.  I tried to use the tractor loader to pull dirt into the low spot on the upper fence.  I just managed to rip up the ground and make it very uneven.  I need to use the box blade for this type of work, but the box blade was not on the tractor.  They make a fancy mounting system ($350) that lets you just back up to a piece of equipment and flip three switches and you are hooked up.  This doesn't even require you to get off the tractor seat.  I did not purchase said system, so it took me almost 45 minutes to hook up the box blade and needed the assistance of Mr. Vice-President.  I could not get it done alone.  In my defense this is only the second time I have put an implement onto the tractor, that should count for something. 

Annmarie said that the horse feeders are mounted too high and need to be lowered about one foot.  I kinda suspected that once we got them in place, but needed the expert opinion before altering any thing. 
My poor chicken yard looks like someone tore open four goose down pillows.  There are feathers every where!  Mr Vice-President is going to dig a trench around the coop tomorrow a foot deep then we will attach wire to the side of the building, lay it in an "L" shape in the trench, fill said trench with very large rocks and add dirt to fill in crevices.  I think the predators are living under the chicken coop again.  Stupid problem #11. 
At the rate things are progressing I expect to have the entire upper fence job completed by Sunday!!!!  All of the outside work for the year will have been done before Winter, simply amazing. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chickens are dying again

I went out to lock the chickens up and did a head count.  Only 46 chickens roosting in the coop and I had to chase out the mother cat and her five babies out of one of the nest boxes.  Sarah later informed me that there was a chicken carcass in the yard.  I am not sure who is doing the killing.  On a positive note, I did get the wheat truck running and drove it over to get the last 80 bales of hay loaded.  No one was around so I hoofed it the two miles home.  If the weather will hold for another 3-4 weeks I may be able to get the upper fence completed.  Here is to surface frost only and no deep freeze.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Second bunch of hay in shed

storage area starting point

The second pile of hay is in the barn.  Everything ran the way it normally does for me.  My help showed up on time and we started to clean out the hay area.  Once the chutes were maneuvered out the door I had him jump in the pickup so I could drive the hay over to the house.  Amazingly, the truck started fairly easily.  I had to drive into Pilot Rock and weigh the truck on the scales.  We needed to know how many bales are in a ton.  I drove to town and my help (further known as Mr President) went back to the barn to finish cleaning it out and getting it ready.  The truck weighed 5150 lbs (done a couple of weeks ago), full of hay it was 12050 lbs.  90 bales weighed 6900 lbs or about 77 lbs/each, 10 ton of hay = 260 bales.  There are currently 180 bales in the barn.  I need another 80 bales.  I was pulling away from the scale when the truck started to die.  Truck ran out of gas.  Since the gas gauge doesn't work it shouldn't be a surprise.  I placed a call to Mr. President on his cell phone, I wanted him to bring the pickup and a gas can.  He is the only teenager I know who doesn't carry his cell phone on him.  I ended up walking to the hardware store, buying a gas can and walking to the gas station.  The gas station owner let me use his pickup to take the gas to the wheat truck. While I was pouring gas into the tank the cheesy little plastic tube that directs flow fell into the gas tank.  I got out to the house and the truck died right outside the barn lot gate.  Damn thing would not start again.  I tried multiple times to jump start the truck with no luck.  So I brought the new tractor out all 23 hp.  I hooked onto the loaded wheat truck and pulled.  In four wheel drive it pulled the truck.  Mr. President was driving the non-powered large loaded wheat truck with specific instructions to pump the brake pedal to build up pressure so he can stop.  We made a large circle in the barn lot and the chain came loose.  I kept pulling but the path to the barn at this point is slightly downhill.  All of a sudden the wheat truck started to get away and come at the tractor.  I ended up having to dive to the left in the tractor to avoid getting hit by the wheat truck.  I was screaming at Mr. President to "pump the brakes".  He managed to get the truck stopped directly over the chain.  I ended up just going behind the truck and pushed it forward about six feet.  The real work began. 

Ready for more hay.
We started unloading and making the pile taller.  We needed to leave room for the next 80 bales that are still needed.  Once the stack gets taller than 6 bales high it started to get painful to drag those bales up to the top.  Annmarie came over and was talking to us when we found a snake on the truck buried in the hay.  It was a bull snake, Annmarie stayed far away.  I just tossed it on the ground so it could go eat more mice and bad snakes.

My "farm" tractor and its load.

Bales stacked eight high.