Tuesday, May 31, 2011

morning patrol

I had to let the chickens out of the coop this morning since I am having Butler issues (which I hope are easily fixed).  At the same time I let the sheep out of the barn, weather is not very good so the sheep decided to stay in the barn any way.  But, I did notice a bundle of white feathers in the tall grass up by the barn, so I waded through the two foot tall water laden grass to get there (in my slippers of course) and found my white rooster!  He got a leg stuck in the fence.  It was pinched between a wire panel and a 2x10 in the cattle loading pen.  I got him out and set him on the ground.  He was hanging out when I left.  Not sure if his leg is broken or not, but since the chicken pen seems to be the cafeteria for some predator I figured he was safer on the ground in the deep grass.  We will see if he pulls through.  No traps were sprung, I am going to figure out how to put a trap in front of the chicken door to the chicken yard.  The electric fence is still on so they aren't going over the wall.  I like Spring I really do, but every Spring I have a knock down drag out battle with the predators.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Farm 2 Predators 8

There is no more skirmishing going on.  We are under full attack!  I lost another two chickens today.  We were gone all afternoon and didn't come home until after dark.  I found one dead chicken inside the coop and my Chicken Butler door was wide open!!  Now in the Butlers defense we had another severe storm with lighting and that may have messed it up.  The chickens are still dying due to a malfunction of the door.  I manually shut the external coop door and latched it.  One hen had managed to crawl up on top of the quail pen.  She was seven feet straight up with no way to reach her.  She would have survived a full blown raccoon family assault.  I think I may have another mother raccoon.  This happened last time I had a mother raccoon. she just kept coming back and killing 1-2 chickens every couple of days.  I am not sure what I am going to do.  First thing to do is to get the Chicken Butler working.  I may have to put it on a timer, not real sure what I am going to do.  May just have to reset the limit switches on the Butler.  I need to turn my babies loose so I can get more babies, but until I catch the killer that will just provide more victims.

On the plus side Annmarie just got me a wireless camera that will transmit 200 feet.  I was going to mount it outside looking at the chicken yard door, but I may mount it inside and outside the door and just move it after I catch whatever is killing my chickens.  It even has low light capability so I can see in the dark.  I am trying to talk Annmarie into setting it up to live stream video from our website.  I thought that would be cool!!  But right now I am thinking it is one more tool to use in the Predator War.  If I get it hooked up to the computer I will be able to view a 24 hour window of video and start marking the predator's habits so I can nab it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stuff done despite the rain

The weather decided to cooperate today.  It was windy and rainy this morning, Annmarie and I went in to start bringing back the feral cats we had fixed.  We had 10 cats fixed this weekend all feral.  Only two left, one at our house and one and Annmarie's mother's house.  Hoping to get those next month and our kitten problem will be gone!!  Yeah.  We will have almost 20 cats spayed or neutered on the property, that seems to be about the number that is needed to keep the mice away from the houses.  I suppose if we didn't live in the middle of 300 acres of CRP (undisturbed native grass fields) we wouldn't need as many, but we do so we will keep this number up.

Cattle guard prior to fixing the rails. 

Cattle guard after adding rails and hog wire panels.  

Sarah and I went out and finished fixing the rails for the cattle guard.  They used to have two boards bolted to them which I always thought was decorative, not so.  The rails kept the sheep from sneaking around the cattle guard.  So I added hog panels to make doubly sure that the sheep would not sneak around the wooden rails.  Sarah dropped a 2x12 on my tennis shoe foot.  The joys of working with an unwilling teenager.  Luckily, I can still walk.  Once the cattle guard was done we restretched the fence on the South side of the guard.  I would have done the North side but I needed some wire/T-post connectors and they were back at the house so I opted to do that another day.

I lost at least one more chicken today.  I will have to recount tomorrow night to get an accurate count for the new month.  They are disappearing during the day which means it is not a wild predator but a domestic predator.  The domestic predator was in my chicken yard snacking on chicken legs.  We are one less domestic predator tonight.  I will get the count tomorrow night and post it.  Not sure whether it is one or two chickens.

On the way up to the bone yard I noticed three different rock chucks scampering around the hillside.  The upper fence is almost laying down for about 50 yards.  The cows are going to be able to just step over it to get into the CRP.  That upper fence is in very poor shape, but since I haven't finished the fence around the house I cannot get up there.  Not until after the barn is repaired before I can start working on external fencing.
Horseshoe above door.  At this point I need all the
help I can get to protect the chickens. 

Traps as a visual predator deterrent!!  I think they will work (at least that is what I am telling the wife).

On the chicken theme Sarah and I mounted the traps along the chicken coop today.  They look very good.  Annmarie was not that impressed.  I know that all predators will see the wall and tremble!  Plus, I have three live traps set up outside the chicken yard tonight.  I baited them all with dead chicken wings and feet.  Sarah thought it was morbid to use the body parts, but I told her what was the best bait for catching a chicken killer?  Chicken!  Seemed pretty straightforward to me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

And the saga continues

We started out this weekend with a plan. We usually camp this weekend for a semi-annual medieval event in the Tri-Cities, but we had instead planned to work on fence and the bridge, and help Mom move Dad to a new assisted living facility. Dad's move happened earlier than originally planned, but in the meantime, the hitch for our pickup had wandered off the farm, and we were in no way prepared for the first camping event of the year, so we revised our plan to catch up on some housework and work on the fence. It is still to wet to work on fence, so we have visions of some really significant catch-up happening on the house. I'm afraid it didn't work out that way.

Yesterday afternoon, the child was doing the laundry and hollered that there was a problem. We asked what that might be, and she stated that the washer had quit working. She was not too specific, so Steve went to take a look, and the washer would not drain. It would have been nice if it had failed to fill, rather than failed to drain, but that's not what happened. Steve flipped a few switches, reset a fuse or two, and tried a different cycle, all to no avail. We were planning to go to a movie, so we didn't do anything else at that time. We left for the movie and put off thoughts of washing machines until morning. I just spent a fairly significant amount of time addressing the immediate problem associated with the failure of the washing machine to drain. You can see the results below.

Yes, those are towels drying on the fence. No, it is not good weather for drying clothes outside. It's only about 50 degrees, and those are storm clouds in the sky. The load in the washer could not have been whites, or Steve's scrubs, or even sheets. No, the washer had a full load of towels in it. And the washer failed at the end of the wash cycle, so they were soapy and sopping wet. As I was sitting on the edge of the bath tub, rinsing and hand-wringing each towel in preparation to hanging for outside drying, it occurred to me that many modern conveniences are interwoven. For example, modern ulta-absorbent terry cloth towels are nearly impossible to adequately wash, rinse and wring by hand. The very existence of these soft squishy things we all expect to waiting for us as we step out of our showers of hot running water depends on the modern washing machine being available to do the work of washing, rinsing, and wringing. By the time I had dealt with the entire load, I had decided that if ever I was permanently deprived of my modern washing machine, I would be reintroducing linen as an absorbent material. And yes, the washing machine still has water in it. Steve and I are discussing how best to remove it. I want to use a garden hose and siphon it out, much like you would empty a fish tank. Steve wants to bail it out with a bucket.

Prior to undertaking the task of the towels, however, I took some of the outside cats to a spay / neuter clinic in Pendleton. When I parked, I noticed steam coming out from under the hood of the car. It was rather odd, since Steve had just have the oil changed and the coolant flushed yesterday, and the temperature was in the 40's, so overheating really should not have happened. Besides, the temperature gauge was not showing that the engine was hot. But, I couldn't deal with it right then, so I proceeded to take care of getting the cats registered and dropped off, and then worried about the car. It was no longer steaming when I came out, which I took to be a good sign. I started it up to move it to a better parking spot and the steam started back up with the engine. So, I moved it only two car lengths, and called Steve to come get me and figure out what we needed to do about the car. After some poking and wiping and peering and checking, we concluded that all of the necessary fluid levels were sufficient, and decided to drive it to the shop. Steve opted to drive the steaming car, and I drove his. We got separated, but that was OK, because we both knew where we were going. Before I got far, though, my cell phone rang. It was Steve, saying that he thought it was probably just spray or overflow from the service and he was going to drive on home where he could put it up and take a closer look. I defer to his judgement in most things automotive, so I didn't argue, and went on about running my errands. Before I got to my first stop my phone rang again. Steve had gotten about 5 miles out of town before the water pump in the car failed. He called Triple A for a tow, and the car went to the shop.

As an aside, we have so many feral cats between our house and Mom's that we got a volume discount at the spay & neuter clinic. The houses are now surrounded by live traps in the hopes that we can get a few more in before tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Farm 1 Predators 6

Possum-chicken killer

This sucks, lost another adult chicken.  Am down 2 adult laying hens.  I can see my production dropping off by the day.  Sarah found another carcass today tucked under the old house back porch.  I had her count chickens again and she said we were down to 25.  I panicked cause that means more than one chicken died so I just got back from checking on the sheep, chasing a lone hen, who has decided the barn is her new home, back into the chicken coop and counting all my chickens again.  I counted 27 with 2 of those being roosters.  This means one of the roosters got eaten and one hen.  The roosters don't count as they don't produce so no big loss there.  I had to chase one cat out of the coop.
New and improved wire enforced predator proof enclosure

Rock and wire enforced water run-off channel

  So now everyone is a suspect in the chicken wars.  To top it all off, Annmarie found a dead baby weasel in our front yard.  It was only about 8 inches long so not an adult.  I am sure it was a victim of the cats.  But if we get a weasel family moved in it is going to be hard to kill them off.  Worse if they get a taste for chicken.  So I am going to buy two more live traps on Friday.  We set the one trap we have up and I locked the chicken yard gate so that anything that wants to get in has to crawl over the fence and under the electric fence wire.
No problem for a weasel but anything else won't be able to do it.

 I think on Friday night I will open the chicken gate into the yard and put my live trap right up against the opening so I can catch any critter going into the chicken yard.  If that doesn't work, I may just run the electric fence to the trap so that any critter that tries the opening will get shocked.  That will have to wait until the rain stops which right now it is pouring outside.

Sheep out in CRP where they do not belong.

Upper pasture in the Spring

Red tailed Hawk babies and their mother

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farm 1 Predators 5

Here we are again losing the battle.  Chicken War II is on and we may have lost a few battles but we haven't lost the war!  Annmarie called to tell me that we had caught a possum in our live trap.  She sent it to predator heaven and then both womenfolk took it up to the bone yard to dispose of the carcass.  Sarah has dumping the carcass out of the trap without actually touching the animal down to an art form.  She tips the trap up on end and shakes the recently expired critter out onto the bone strewed hillside.  I was happy as I only knew about the one adult hen being eaten.

Annmarie called me this morning and informed me that the predators were snacking on my baby chickens.  I truly blame Mother Nature for this problem. I cannot put gutters on the chicken coop due to the heavy snowfall sliding off in the Winter and ripping them off (besides who puts gutters on a chicken coop?).  So a lack of gutters causes small channels to be formed in the ground from the water cascading off the roof.  We have had an inordinate amount of rain this year causing this rut to deepen dramatically.  So much so that the rock I had jammed under the board last year was just sitting there doing no good.  The death deserving predator(s) were crawling under the board and eating my baby chicks.  The outside chick run had feathers all over the place!  They killed four of my babies.  I started with 18, lost one to disease and now four more to predators and am down to 13.  As always, my favorite chicken was ruthlessly slaughtered by the enemy.  She was a little tame brown leghorn.

So Sarah and I refortified the fortified chicken enclosure.  It is now surrounded totally by wire on all four sides and over the roof.  We added wire to the building side, attached it to the wall and bent out 8 inches at ground level then piled rocks on top of those 8 inches.  We then plugged the crawl through hole with a stake through the wire and more heavy rocks.  My hope and wish is that all casualties from our side will stop.
Annmarie also dropped another bomb this morning.  We lost another newborn lamb.  It drowned in the creek.  Near as we can guess it was trying to stay next to momma and she used the narrow foot bridge across the creek and the lamb fell in.  This learning to farm is rough on everyone.  Both Annmarie and I were saddened by this useless death.  In some ways it seems silly since in nine months he (newborn was a boy) would have been someones meal.  But it is hard to discount the easy and meaningful life he would have had until that time.    We had been talking about  locking the sheep up every night in the barn but had not been doing it.

So with one miscarriage, one newborn drowning and five more sheep ready to give birth we are now locking the sheep up at night in the barn.  This whole talk of sheep brought up another point.  Someone asked me today how many sheep we own.  I could not answer this question with any certainty.  So today I counted them while they were out in the pasture and got 17.  The child did a birth record slash count on her fingers and came up with 16.  So tonight when she locked them up she counted them...16.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One chicken killer down

I went for a walk this morning, after again chasing the sheep out of the CRP, and detoured over the let the chickens out, and noticed that the trap was occupied. It was a possum. It is now a dead possum. Hopefully, there was only one possum, and not a family. Time will tell. In the meantime, today is the day to finish off the lawn, and I'm going to take pity on the poor little chicken who is still sitting on a wooden egg. She's been at this for long enough that she's obviously not giving it up. So, I'm going to move her and about 6 or 8 eggs into a dog crate where she can sit undisturbed with readily available food and water. We're going to let the babies start mingling with the general population, so the baby pen will be available for her and her babies when the eggs hatch in about 4 weeks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicken killers are back

I am down one hen chicken.  I set up the live trap two days ago without any bait.  Today I went out to get eggs at dark.  I only found four eggs and was swearing up a blue streak about egg stealers while I was in the coop.  I was trying to figure out which cat was sneaking in and eating MY eggs.  On the way out of the chicken yard I shut the outer door of the chicken yard so the chickens will be forced to stay inside the coop yard to lay more eggs where they belong and to keep said egg suckers out of the coop.  I happened to look over at my live trap and there were feathers every where!  So I ran back in and counted the chickens, one less hen...
The worst part is the live trap was closed and there was no chicken body.  We had three kittens killed last week under a piece of equipment.  They had their faces chewed off.  The opening was only four inches off the ground. Annmarie thinks we may have a weasel.  My live trap will not catch a weasel.  If it is a weasel, I am going to have a very hard time catching or killing it.  This could become a nightmare.  Good thing I have the chicken butler or I may have started loosing chickens sooner.  I just need to check the live trap every day to make sure no chickens are trapped in it at bedtime.

Escape artists

Is there truly such a thing as the perfect fence?  I am seriously beginning to wonder.  I drove up to the house yesterday morning and there were the sheep out in the CRP!  They are not supposed to be there.  That is why I tightened the equipment fence so they could not go out there.  The only sheep that was not out in the CRP was the wild and crazy ewe.  After thinking about it, she never tries the fence and always stays within the proper boundaries.  How is it that the only ewe that obeys the fence restrictions is crazy?  I was in a time crunch so I opened the far gate and drove out to chase the sheep back in.  It was working until the dog came from the wrong direction and chased them back toward me.  So after calling the dog several choice names I got out of the pickup and herded the sheep around the corner toward the gate.  I was walking along the fence line and scared a wild turkey hen off of her nest.  She hung tight until I was about four feet away.  I never saw her until she jumped up.  I would have walked right by as the nest was tucked under tumbleweeds.  She had 10 big eggs in the nest.  Now I just chased the sheep out of the CRP about 3 weeks ago and she wasn't there at that time.

As the sheep got to the equipment gate (5 strands of barb wire fence still standing upright) they proceeded to plunge directly through the fence en masse.  Totally ignoring the open gate 20 feet further down the fence line.  So now I am going to have to string up some woven wire.  So the lesson learned from this is barb wire is basically useless it is only good on top of woven wire to make the fence appear to be taller.  The woven wire only lets them get their head through then it stops them cold.  No amount of pushing and jumping works.  On a plus note all that going thru fences is removing their Winter coats quickly.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Crazy weather

This is truly an odd year, the weather is psychotic.  It rained something fierce yesterday.  So even had I wanted to go outside I could not have.  I was sore and tired with no real inclination to go outside so it suited me just fine.  As I look up into the mountains this morning I see fresh snow on the peaks just a few miles away.  Our back runoff creek is getting higher by the hour and is now brown with mud.  I told Annmarie yesterday that at the rate the grass is growing we would need a few hundred sheep for a month to eat it all down.  I am going to have to rent a tractor mower again this year to knock it all down. That is two times already this Summer I am going to need a tractor.  I really need our own tractor...

I did manage to take some nice pictures of the sunset last night.  The rain stopped just long enough to cooperate with my picture taking endeavors.

Stormy sunset

Pink clouds


Rain runoff rising

Sprout man chilling like a villain!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Outside all day

Double rainbow.

Other end of the rainbow.  It was so close I couldn't get the whole thing in one frame. 

I decided that I needed to catch up today.  So I went to town to get the boards necessary to fix our main entrance cattle guard rails.  I fired up the weed torch (propane torch with 4 foot flame) and cleaned up around the cattle guard then came in front of our house and burned winter weeds.  I also burned two slash piles.  I still have four more slash piles to burn, but they were not where I was working so they will have to wait.  I finally ran out of propane so I couldn't finish burning.

 I did drive in the rest of the metal posts for the orchard.  Now I just need to rent a tractor with a post hole digger for one day.  I have 33 holes to dig for railroad ties.  It would take me all Summer long to dig those out by hand.  I need to be done with the fencing in a couple of weeks, three weeks maximum.  I also dug around and scrounged up all the metal posts I could find.  I found 44 posts and only needed 45.  I have 8 more posts that are in the ground and just need to be pulled up, so I will do that next week.  A handyman jack and short piece of chain pop the posts right out.

I was looking at the gate openings I marked for the new fence and I think the gates I want to use are wider than the openings I marked.  They may be 14-16 feet wide.  I am going to have to scrounge the three gates I want to use and prop them up in the openings so I have them right.  One of them has a pretty big bow in it.  I am going to lay it on the ground and jump up and down on it to straighten it out!

While I was dropping off my fencing tools in the old hen house I realized I needed to dig around the building.   Over the years the dirt has piled up next to the concrete and the dirt and weeds are starting to grow up into the siding.  So I dug an eight inch clearing all around the foundation about a foot wide.  That should keep the wood from eroding any further until I can get out there in a few years.

Of course, the weather did not comply and we had a big nasty storm come in.  The storm caused our outside automatic lights to come on it was so dark.  This also made my poultry butler shut the door to the coop.  I had to go outside and override the door so it would open and the chickens could enter.  The chickens were not too happy about being locked out.  It lightened up again so the door is back open now.  Go figure.  I should try and get some pictures of the red tailed hawk pair that are nesting on the farm.  I will try and remember at some point.    

I have two new plans.  I want to create a large waterfall and water feature in our front yard that draws water from the front creek and then lets the water run back into the creek.  It will be about 20 feet x 10 feet, pretty big with about a 12-16 foot rise.  I am thinking of at least two waterfalls maybe three.  My next idea is to create a small pond near the start of the spring.  I only want it to be a couple of feet deep.  I am going to create the pond at the old bridge opening.  This is fairly easy to do.  Not sure when I can sneak this project in.  The wife doesn't know about it, so it will have to be a stealth project.  None of these until the fencing and front bridge are done.

Fencing is on again

I was wandering around the farm taking
fence pictures and noticed the moon
was out already, so I took a few pictures.

Well, I should have started fencing a month ago, but the weather is not committing to my time line.  Now if I was a multimillionaire I would not have to work full time and might have managed to squeeze in some work before now, but alas, that is not the case.

Sarah and I went out and marked all the new metal fence post, railroad tie post and gate positions for the three new sections of fence yesterday.  We even managed to put in eight metal posts.  Today the child thinks she is dying because her arms and back are aching (she is off light duty now after her four month illness, so she really is out of shape).  I explained to her that I hurt also, but I would be right back at it today.  Other wise nothing would ever get done.  I am not sure she appreciated the sentiment, but maybe in ten years she will understand it.  I am going to install two 12 foot gates and one 14 foot gate.

Machine shop trying to capture the moon. 

 I will reroute the drive in access to the upper pasture around the barn lot.  In the Winter we end up with huge ruts from the lessee driving through the lot.  So the new road will follow the CRP field and cut into the pasture above the barn lot.  There is already a road there just not a gate.  Once that is in place I can work on filling in the ruts and not having them return every year.

Some of the sheep are starting to smooth out by shedding their Winter coats.  In my reading I have noticed that animals can be bred for temperament.  I understand that to some degree, but until you see it in person it is hard to conceptualize.  If you look closely at this picture of our sheep you will see an adult ewe way in the background.  She is crazy, flighty and won't ever let us get near her.  The lamb near her is her very first, now she is teaching that lamb to be just like her.  That is why it is not up with everyone else.  So she may have to go next year.  I don't want a small group of wild outliers that are hard to work.

Upper pasture gate area.  In the distance, up in the tree,
you can see the red tailed hawk nest.  I had to make the gate
go in on the right side of the power pole.  The pole was
right were I wanted to locate the fence, but I didn't figure the
power company would have any sympathy for my wants.
Upper pasture fence line, the fence turns left at the dirt colored line.
That line is the back creek bank, you just cannot see the water.

Sheep wanting some more attention.  See the crazy ewe way in the background with her lamb.  

The barn looking into the setting sun.  My favorite picture of the night.
Annmarie thinks the foreground ruins it.  I told her it just added
character, besides how many people know it is over 50 years
of sheep shit that got dug out last year?  See, character!

New access road to the upper pasture.  You can see where
the road is even though no one uses it any more.
Orchard fence, I had to jog the fence at the irrigation ditch, I could
not get across the ditch diagonally, so I had to make a straight line.
It means a couple more railroad ties in the ground. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I am temporarily winning the battle

One day after it rained.  Luckily it didn't rain this day. 

The sheep cannot get out of the ram pasture and barn lot now and are not real happy with this arrangement.  Even though, the area, they are trapped in has grass almost 10 inches high every where.  The grass truly is greener on the other side in their minds.  It is still raining all the time here so I have been having a hard time finding a couple of dry days to mow the lawn.  I managed to squeeze it in today, but it took an extra hour due to all the moisture in the grass.
Barn egg stash, these got recycled no
telling how old they were. 

Annmarie found an egg stash again in the old barn, one of the green egg layers was hiding in a corner under a bunch of tumble weeds and laying eggs.  I found 13 green eggs and a couple of random brown eggs three feet away.  I took all the tumble weeds back outside and piled some stuff in the nest, plus when I caught her on the nest I chased her out of the barn.  Hopefully, she will go back to laying in the chicken coop.  If not then I will have to lock the chickens in the chicken yard for a couple of days to help her forget about her barn nest.

We got our cattle guard welded back together.  It was very fast!  I just went and talked to the welder last week.  Luckily, he had another job out near here yesterday so he stopped by and fixed us up also.  It looked like the snow plow caught the support and sheared it off.  Now I have to put some new support boards up.  While I was talking to the repairman he mentioned that he heard we had sheep.  I said there will be two lambs for sale this Fall and he is welcome to come choose one.  He said he would come out!!  Very nice and I have one other person at work very interested.  The repairman owns a local metal fabricating shop that we drive by on our way home.  He has had several rolls of old sheep fencing there on occasion.  He informed me that he is the owner of the scrap metal yard now and he would sell me that wire for 25 cents/pound.  Far cheaper than I could buy new and it has lots of life left in it.  I told him I would take 1000 feet for starters.  That is going to save me a bunch of money on fencing!!
More clouds.  I liked them. 

I also need to burn and spray some weeds.  I will try and burn as much as I can then spray what is left over.  I am starting to think about marking the posts and railroad tie holes for the new fence also.  I think I will do that this weekend!!  I am starting to get closer.
Sheep are starting to shed their Winter wool.  The little brown one in the center of the picture is all done
and he looks like a goat!!  They thought we were going to give them a treat.  You can see our
shadows in the bottom left of the picture.  

The sheep are starting to look pretty ragged.  They are all shedding their Winter wool.  The goat look is coming around.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sheep are sneaking out again

I came home Wednesday to find the sheep all over the farm.  They were in three different groups all separated by fences.  Annmarie had told me she would lock them up for me, so I knew they were not where they were supposed to be.  Instead of doing the things I had planned on my drive from work I went back to fencing.  I had three large holes, all on hillsides and near water.  So I spent the next three hours installing more fencing and tightening fencing that I had installed last year (for any future fencers out there, you need to wrap the wire around the pole a couple of times then wrap it back on the incoming wire and put ONE staple in that is it!!  No more.  I had to take out four staples on each one I had to re-tighten.  I was not taking into account the animal factor and their ability to loosen fence.)  Now mind you on the way home I stopped and got some really, really long rubber gloves.  One of the young ewes had miscarried and had some afterbirth hanging out and I thought I was going to have to go fishing.  I know, I am squeamish, but you really can get a few skin diseases from the sheep, hence the glove purchase.  Once Annmarie came home we caught the ewe in question and luckily for me, she had passed everything, no more hanging out stuff.  I will save the gloves as I am sure they will be needed at a later date.

I went outside to work on the rose bushes today.  The Winter was not kind to our roses.  All but one froze to the ground and one died.  the roses were so big I had to use the Sawzall to cut them down (that and I couldn't find the loppers).  My large bush rose was almost four inches across at the base and it died to the ground.  I had a blooming tree in the corner of the yard that was sagging so I tried to prop it up today and it broke off at ground level.  It was dead and had rotted off, surprising since it was alive in the Fall.  I also cut down about 200 thistles out of our yard.  They are coming back with a vengeance this year.

Again, I could not find the sheep in the pasture so I figured I had another hole!!  So I spent another three hours fencing.  This time I worked on the gates (place panels to the gates so the sheep cannot jump between the bars) and added a panel gate to the exit of the loading chute.  I found one more spot on the main fence line and I nailed in a 2x8 to cover that section and used wire staples to attach the sheep wire to the 2x8.  I still have not seen the sheep.  I pulled a pine tree over to the burn pile with the pickup (forty foot tree) and spotted the sheep out in the CRP (of course since they are not supposed to be there).  If you were a sheep would you leave all that tall green grass to go out into the scraggly tall brown grass?  I wouldn't, but apparently I would not make a good sheep.  So I herded the sheep back in to the main area of the farm and tightened the machine access gate, an old wire and pole gate.  I had to add a couple of fence posts to hold up the panel on the other side of the gate.  This is were I learned the value of twisting the barb wire and not putting in four staples.  I just had to unwrap the wire from itself once I used the fence tightener and just wrapped it back on itself.  NO staples at all.  This makes this very easy to do.

I am fairly certain that at this point the sheep, cannot in any way, get out of the ram pasture.  I do realize that this is a bold statement, but my arms are killing me and I am almost certain that the sheep cannot get out now. We will know in a few days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It rained again, no big surprise there.

I did manage to finish up the wood shed door today.  I dug around in the machine shop and came up with a iron ring, some old chain and an old bolt with square nuts.  I used an old hinge from a door as a slide locking mechanism.  It turned out nice.
Completed wood shed door.  Yes, the concrete walls have moved in the last
80 years and the opening is not square.
I had to switch the water container for the chickies again today.   I keep having to get bigger and bigger as the chicks grow.  I have a five gallon water bucket outside but the chicks just do not want to go outside.  I figure eventually they will get it figured out and start using the grounds outside.  This is probably the friendliest batch of chicks we have ever had.  Not sure why that is true.
Five week old chickens.
Of course it did rain again today.  We had frost on the ground on Sunday morning.  The weather is just not cooperating with our attempts to get a garden going (we do this at Annmarie's grandmother's house, she is too old to do all the hard manual labor so I do that and she keeps the daily stuff going.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

wood shed door

 I really had plans to work on the wood shed at some later date.  It needs a couple of windows, a front door and  a dormer window installed plus some new siding on the South side.  This is hands down a do last kinda project.  Unfortunately, we purchased a new mower on Saturday.  My normal storage spot (anywhere outside in the weather) will not do for the new machine.  I attempted to get into the wood shed with the mower but you must turn 90 degrees once inside and the mower is too long.
If you look closely into the dark hole you will see the wall
that was obstructing my mower.  I added a couple of new
2x4s to stiffen the top and ripped out the wall.
So I spent most of today ripping out the boards that were obstructing our straight in entrance.  Wanting to reuse the boards meant being careful while taking them down and removing all nails (which I put in a bucket so they can be disposed of in the metal recycle pile).  So I built another door.  I found some neat old wood when I was removing it off of the wall, someone had carved in their initials and a little house and various other marks.  I put the initials at eye level on the door so you would see it upon entering the wood shed.  I installed another wooden rail slide locking mechanism.  This one was much easier than the one I did on the outhouse.  I knew what I was doing this time.  I am still concerned that the door may shake in the wind and the vibration will open the slider. I think I am going to hang an old hinge behind the lock so gravity keeps it down and when you want to open the door you just lift one side of the hinge.  The only real problem with this is if someone locks you in it will not be possible to get out.
Almost completed door.  It is hung and the latch cutout is made
so the door will stay shut.  I just need to install a stop on the
non-hinge side, a door handle and the slide locking hinge.

I of course need to still cleanup.  I carried down a few too many 2x4s from the chicken house (wood storage area) (vs the chicken coop which is near the house).

We had one of the ewes we picked up in November give birth.  I only know this because I saw afterbirth hanging out of her this morning.  I went out but could not find the lamb and of course it frosted.  She is only about 10 months old.  Our other pair of young ewes miscarried their first lambs also.  We are not sure if it is a size thing or because they ate some pine needles and blue spruce needles.  It is a consequence of running the sheep with the ram all year around.  So Annmarie was right and I need to lock the sheep up every night, even if it is only in the barn lot.  This will make a whole lot less ground to cover if there are any baby questions.

I had to throw the baby chicks out into their grassy yard today.  They just did not want to leave the coop, but they are getting too big for that space and are starting to peck bald spots on each other.  At first they just hunkered down and did not move around, but after a couple of hours they started roaming the grass and having a good time.  Of course only two of them could figure out how to get back into the coop.  Which meant I had to catch each one and put them back in the coop for tonight.  It froze this morning, so I don't want to leave them out yet.

April Chicken financials

Well it is officially May and I can do another chicken report.  I would like to say it is going to be good, but that is not going to happen.  I purchased the Chicken Butler (automatic door) last month and that threw me even more negative.  Since I have been negative for a while it is going to take me a while to dig out.  At this point I am hoping to be positive by July.  That gives me 2-3 months of good egg production before it drops off again.  Hopefully, I can get enough ahead to cover the feed until the end of the year.  On a plus note, I did not lose any customers by raising my prices.  I didn't really have any choice in raising the prices, but no one likes to do it.  I have been watching the prices in the grocery store and depending upon where you shop $3/dozen for farm fresh, free range, no antibiotic, colored eggs is a great deal.  Walmart had them at $4/dozen and certified organic are pushing $5/dozen.  Feed prices jumped another 5% last month from the beginning of the month.  It is crazy how fast the price of feed is changing.  The screwy weather in the Midwest may make it even worse this year.  I would have to charge $5/dozen to make any money (other than expenses) and I am unwilling to do that.  I would have to start hitting all the local farmers markets and most likely get certified organic to make it work.  I see eggs on Craigslist going for $2.50-3.00/dozen, with an occasional $2/dozen.  I realize those people are probably not tracking their expenses and most likely do not realize how much they are actually spending on their chickens.  

April report:  I lost $115.16 for the month on an average 27 hens laying (Should not lose any more to predators with the automatic door!  Now if I only had a door for the sheep that would lock them in at night...).  My net income total is $177.47 for the year .  I had $50.21 in expenses for feed (200#) this month (the weather is improving and the chickens are actually getting food when they forage now).  For the year, my monthly expenses are $108.54 (an increase of $42.12/month). We collected a total of 414 usable eggs (110 more than last month) averaging 17.8 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 13.5 eggs/day).  My productivity for the month was 66% (increased 29% from last month) (for the year it is 50%).  The chickens ate 0.38# food/egg (this is a drop of 118% from last month!!  Say hello to better weather and I included the feed for the baby chickies as a feed expense) (for the year are averaging 0.59# food/egg).   It cost $0.9/egg or $1.08/doz for feed (half of what it cost last month) (my yearly average is $0.13/egg or $1.56/dozen).  My monthly net income is a loss of $44.37/month this year.  I have hope if the chickens can keep up production that I may break even this year.  My babies will start producing in late Fall so that should help.  Unfortunately, the Brahmas sometimes take up to 9 months to start laying instead of the average 6 months for most breeds.  

I was taking pictures last night and happened to catch the sunset.  I took some pictures of the machine shop with the sun shining through the holes in the walls and then some more around one of our 100 year old trees.  I just could not decide which ones I liked best.
Machine shop with setting sun #1
Machine shop with setting sun #2

Machine shop with setting sun #3

Setting sun horizon #1

Setting sun horizon #2

Setting sun horizon #3