Thursday, June 30, 2011

Organizing tool shed

Porch is starting to pile up with stuff that needs to disappear.

I went back out to the shed today and decided that I needed some peg board up on the wall.  I measured for the board and cut it and all the sundry underlying supports.  The problem with this is I changed my mind about how I was going to organize the space.  I started moving the shelving units all over the place.  I even took one six foot tall 2 ftx4 ft and made it into 2 three feet tall shelves next to each other.  I am going to take a large piece of plywood and place it across the top to make a work surface.  I can mount my drill, sander and scroll saw to this table and actually use them!!!  Very cool concept.  I may even hook up all three to my shop vac so I can have a dust collection system going.  I will need to move my shop vac out of the house next week anyway.  I have the duct work for a dust collection system already.

I did manage to hit my shop light and break out the bulb.  So I may have to adjust the location of this light and definitely need to raise it.  Of course with no light there will be no nocturnal progress made on the shed.

New work bench, needs a new top but you can see how it going
to work out, my scroll saw is already claiming a space.  The far
wall on the left side of the window is going to be pegboard. 

It is better now even with being torn up.  I have taken out five bags and
one box of trash.  The trash guys are in for a big surprise.
that wooden shelving unit next to the plastic buckets is
going to be mounted on the wall to the right of the window.
I just need to add in a bottom and top support. 

  I also ended up moving my pegboard to a separate wall and am going to move an old cabinet over to its spot and mount it to the wall.  I did remove an old work top/shelving unit that was original in the old house when I cleaned it out the first time.  It is just too tall to work on.

I got the deal of the century today.  I have been talking to the scrap metal yard owner about saving woven wire fencing for me.  I picked up 450# of new looking woven wire (I mean this stuff is brand new, no rust, bright metal color).  It is amazing stuff.  I cannot believe that anyone would rip it out.  I would be good for another 20-30 years!  I just looked up the fence type and I ended up with almost 600 feet of fencing or $0.167/foot.   An amazing price!  I asked for another pickup load and I will have my fencing needs met.  Now if only it would build itself...

Farm 6, Predators 15

Well we are slowly gaining ground.  Another raccoon off to the big blue sky.  We ended up with another family it looks like, so until they are all gone, then the chickens will keep disappearing.  This happened two years ago, but I happened to catch the family outside during the daylight and capped six at once so I got ahead of the game that year, doesn't look like that is going to happen this time.

I did go out and lock the chickens up in the electrified chicken yard.  I also spent another hour organizing my tool room in the old house.  It was starting to really get out of control.  I was having a difficult time finding tools, so I figured it was time to organize.  I went out and bought a bunch of see through containers and am currently organizing the room.  I hung some stuff on the walls today and added in another shelf.  I may move one of the shelving units.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bridge Day 4, this is getting old fast...

Baby chicks growing up.  I will open the cardboard cover
next week and let them roam out into their play yard.  

Yep, I worked on the bridge again today.  We got to pour concrete today!  I was very happy to get the concrete poured.  The only problem was I did not realize how much concrete we were going to pour.  I had changed some dimensions after purchasing sackrette and did not recalculate how much concrete would actually be needed.  This did prove to be a problem.  On the plus side, we used the electric concrete mixer ($280, worth every penny!) I purchased at Home Depot.  It was the only thing that saved us.  We could not have mixed 4.5 cubic yards of concrete by hand (40-80# bags of sackrette).  I was amazed at the amount of concrete we used. I also figure that I saved 50% of the concrete cost by purchasing my own mixer and paying someone to help me over buying premixed and having it delivered.
Finished concrete, will pull the forms off next week (a full seven days Doom). 

We figured we better date our work for future generations.

This is our center posts with thread all inserted to attach
the pressure treated post between the beams.    Yes, I
do know the concrete is not beautiful.  Remember,
it will be UNDER the bridge. 

My concrete is not beautiful but it is very functional.  I had to leave after lunch to buy more concrete and left my helper to dig out that last post.  I came back an hour later and he tells me this post is worse than the other one (burning didn't help, stupid steam put out fire).  He had dug down quite a bit and the pickup was in the front yard full of concrete so we hooked onto the post with a chain and jerked it out with the pickup.  It worked!  Saved us another few hours of battle with the post.  This post was not nearly as rotten as the other.
I will be all ready by the end of next week to build a bridge!  I saw our cedar all bundled up at the hardware store while I was picking up the concrete.  They are keeping it for us until we are ready.  Mighty nice of them.

On a positive note another raccoon died.  It was foolish enough to get trapped in the trap.  On a more negative note it was a small raccoon so that means there are several more to catch now.  This does bring the count up to Farm 5, Predators 15.

My labor saver, concrete mixer. 

I am so looking forward to work so I can rest and recover.  I need a day off.  I did manage to sneak up and take some pictures of the back creek.

Back runoff creek.  It is way slower now.  

Back runoff creek, trying to decide which picture I like best. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bridge day 3, plus new baby lamb!

New baby boy born last night.  He is a looker, too bad he is the wrong gender.

Today did start out with a pleasant step.  I had messaged the Chicken Butler guy last night after noticing my failed door.  This morning I had a message from him and he is going to send me a brand new replacement.  I offered to send the defective one back to him.  Great news.  Annmarie is sore and tired, her left foot is swollen (I am sure from kicking the raccoon in an attempt to dislodge it from her leg) and I made her stay in the TV room all day with her foot elevated.  I would like to say she took the forced inactivity gracefully, but that is not the case.
Sarah found another baby lamb today.  It is from one of the batch we picked up in December.  Which means she got pregnant within one month of arriving at our farm.  Oreo has been busy.  We listed Oreo on Craigslist and no one has called.  I am thinking he may be our dinner at the medieval feast next month.  I just need someone to help me butcher him on the Friday before.  Still thinking about this, I like it.
The baby lamb is another little boy.  That makes four boys this year.  Two will be ready this fall and the other two won't be ready until Spring of next year.  He is very pretty.
I managed to catch a cat in our live trap last night.  No skunk or raccoon.  Sarah worked on chopping down the six foot thistles today.  She got halfway through them and will finish them this week.  We set up another live trap down at our inlaw's house.  We are trying desperately to kill off all the predators.  On a plus note, Annmarie bought all the reloading supplies for the 30-30.  I don't have time to do it, so we are sending Sarah to Grandpa's house on Tuesday so he can teach her how to do it.  He has no fine motor skills left in his hands, but he has all the knowledge she will need and lots of patience for his granddaughter.  If that turns out well then I am going to have her load a few hundred 38 cal pistol rounds also.  I may even need some 30-06 rounds!  Definitely need some 357 rounds.  This is just snowballing.
Day 3 progress, doesn't look much different than day 2!
Hard to believe we spent 8 hours on it.

The bridge is progressing.  I did not quite meet my goals today.  Some brainstorms are better than others.  Burning out the posts was a great idea.  Unfortunately, when doing this you need to be sure that you are not burning over water.  The steam came up and put the fire out.  I think it may have worked if we did not add the dirt to the top.  It did help as my helper had the stubborn post out in 30 minutes.  So we decided to light the other post on fire one more time.  I didn't figure we could get to that post and even if we poured concrete it could be done last.  Since we did not manage to pour any concrete it was no loss.  It took a considerable amount of time to set the far concrete forms.  There is a fabulous crop of rocks on that hillside.  I could not drive a single stake into the ground.  It was painful.  We had to assemble the entire form, get the height right and then back fill with large rocks to hold it all in place.  We pinned the whole form in place, hopefully it stays.
We did get all the rebar in place in the other five forms.  I even made round pieces of rebar to go around the vertical rebar pieces in the tubes.  Had to beat them into shape with a 3# hammer in the vice.
My help was mouthing off and being lazy so I popped him in the nose and gave him a bloody nose! LOL.  He was straining to bend the rebar in the vice and got a bloody nose.  Spent the last two hours with a napkin stuffed up his left nostril and blood all over his gloves.  We didn't even stop for lunch.  Neither one of us was hungry.  Of course by quitting time at 1815 I was starving.  So we are stopping for lunch tomorrow.  We did get the concrete mixer assembled just before quitting time.
Rebar in place and ready for concrete.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

night patrol action after dark report

Annmarie is not feeling well, her leg is swollen and hurting, foot is very swollen from kicking raccoon.  She went to bed early and then called down to say she heard chittering outside our bedroom window (Sarah and I are watching the Dirty Harry anthology, #2 tonight).  So I weaponed up and did a patrol.  Lots of cats, I mean almost all our outside cats were together on the back porch.  Very unusual behavior for the cats.  The live trap is just outside our side fence baited with cat food.  I have smelt skunk both nights from that side so we are hoping to catch the skunk.  It was still set, no predator.  I swung by the chicken coop and the Damn Chicken Butler was wide open again!!  It is not working correctly.  There were new white feathers on the ground and one chicken outside the coop in the chicken yard resting on an outside roost.  I went into the coop but no predator.  So I locked up the whole chicken yard again.  I am not happy with the Chicken Butler people.  Not happy at all.  I was unable to count the chickens but am betting I lost another one.  I will count them in the morning.  This sucks.

Bridge day 2

Bridge day 2.  Still no concrete.
Well the bridge had a solid eight hours of labor today by two individuals.  No concrete was poured today.  Pouring concrete today was my goal, even though I still had to pull four posts out of the ground, install the concrete forms, bend and install the rebar, assemble the concrete mixer, and finally mix and pour the concrete.  Sounds ambitious for one day doesn't it?  It was and as such did not happen.  Now there was one major snafu.  When we were pulling the railroad ties out of the ground with the redneck tractor (pickup) the two nearest the house broke off at the ground level.  They were that rotten.  I figured they would just come out with a little effort.  Three and a half hours later the 16 yr old still did not have it out.  I had helped a couple of times.  He was getting water out the center of the post but there was still a lot of solid post below ground.  It just would not come out.  So I went and bought two bags of charcoal.  Dumped one in each hole (we hadn't even started on the second post so we just dug down and exposed it) lit them on fire, added a bunch of scrap wood and thirty minutes later dumped in a 50# bag of wood pellets in each hole and covered the holes with dirt!  Now as long as no one steps on those holes all will be good.  Tomorrow we will dig them out.  We did get two tubes placed and one footing form completed.  So the plan for day three is to finish the forms, install the rebar and assemble the concrete mixer.  If we get that done then Monday we can pour concrete and call it a weekend!
Bridge day 2 from road perspective. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bridge work begins

Bridge starting point

I drove home late last night to protect the wife from the big bad raccoon only to find out she had already shot it! This allowed me to get an early start on the bridge.  First trip to Home Depot to get the dreaded rebar.  Sorry Doom I didn't know what "size 3" correlated to in the English measuring system (and of course the help at Home Depot didn't know either) and since it is only a foot bridge I bought 3/8inch rebar.  I wasn't sure I could form hoops by hand if I used 1/2inch.  While there I almost bought a laser level but talked myself out of it.  I did remember to pick up the glue for the beams we are going to make.  I managed to do all my errands and show up to the house just as my help arrived.

 I may have found a responsible hard working 16 year old male.  This is a rare specimen of mankind and very elusive.  He knew we were going to do some kind of bridge work.  So I gathered up some tools and told him to start ripping up the bridge.  He wanted more direction.  I told him to put the nails, screws and especially the lag bolts in a box I had set out.  When he started ripping up the floor first I did mention that he should start on the hand rails first.  He was a little dismayed at first, but he tore in and got the job done.
Bridge almost tore down.
New pathway to the house, from the outhouse down to the tree and
across the bottom of the picture to the gate.

 I had to fire up the new weed eater and clear a pathway from the driveway to our yard.  So I chopped down weeds, moved downed tree branches, fixed the propane bridge, made a couple of steps out of rocks and removed two old bird feeder holder and raked the whole path.  Once I had that done I helped finish tearing up the bridge and we loaded all the rotten wood (all of it) into the pickup and took it up on the hill to the one remaining burn pile I have not burned yet (will save this pile until the snow flies now).  We still have four railroad ties to rip out of the ground and demolition will be completed.
Four railroad ties left to remove.

Unfortunately, I learned that I am going to have to pour footings at each end of the bridge.  I was hoping to use what was there but there is no upright keeping the dirt from falling down and rotting out the pressure treated beams.  I have been working on a way to angle the footings so that I don't have to cut a weird angle in to the bottom of my beam (this is what was done previously).  I have spent the last four hours coming up with a solution in my head, Annmarie pointed out an obvious water problem that I would have overlooked.  I have a cure for that now.
We went and had dinner then another trip to Home Depot was in order to pick up that laser level and more rebar for the footings.
Annmarie was getting ready for bed when we both smelled skunk.  I did a perimeter search armed with pistol and flashlight.  Saw four cats, two horses and a bunch of sheep but no skunk.  Sarah's new job is going to be to weed eat all the weeds within fifty feet of our yard fence.  I need a clear lane of fire!  So she will be on starting tomorrow (tonight the ogre let her go to a friends house to stay the night).

An interesting life

Yesterday was an interesting day. Bear in mind that one of the most powerful gypsy curses is said to be, "May you lead an interesting life." Yeah - yesterday was interesting like that. We'll skip the fact that I had a migraine, because there is nothing interesting about those, but keep it in mind through the rest of this post. It just adds to it.

On the good news side, we have a new baby lamb. I let the sheep out of their small pasture in the morning, and discovered the addition. Momma was quite protective and I had a hard time getting a good photo, but here's the best I managed. Last night when I locked them up again, I managed to catch the lamb napping, and checked gender. It's a boy. He looks good and strong, and kept up with Momma and the rest of the flock very well yesterday. I'm sure he's going to do just fine.

Now, to change the topic a bit. Did you know that the Pacific Northwest is considered to be essentially free of terrestrial rabies? Neither did I, until last night.

About 9:20 or so last night, the dog very politely rang the bell to go outside (We have trained our dogs to ring a bell on the door when they want to go outside. It cuts down on the noise and confusion), so I got up and let them out. The minute the door was open, Bailey tore down the porch, with Sprout hot on her heals. Now this is not too unusual. There is one cat in particular that Bailey dislikes, so I slip on my shoes and go outside to rescue the poor cat. As soon as I get out, however, I realize it was not a cat they were going after. It was a raccoon. And not your typical run when challenged raccoon either. This one had turned around and was fighting back at Bailey. Now, Bailey, being the chocolate lab coward that she is, turned tail and headed back to me. Great, wonderful. Sprout was still behind them, but at least he was trying to get a hold of the 'coon. I was trying to keep Bailey out of the house, because the last thing I needed was a 'coon inside. I was hollering for Sarah to get me a gun when the 'coon let go of Bailey and grabbed hold of my leg. That was when the hollering degenerated to screaming like a girl. The damn thing was holding onto my left leg and looking up at me and growling. I was screaming and hollering and jumping around (and probably kicking too, from the way my foot feel). Sprout was trying to figure out how to help, and Bailey was still trying to get into the house. I managed to get the thing off my leg, although I have no idea how, and Sarah handed me the 22. I looked quick to make sure it was loaded. No clip. I got inside with Bailey (Sprout was out in the yard still), and got a clip. Back out I went. No 'coon in sight. I figured it had gotten scared off by all the ruckus and called Sprout back in. We all came in and I realized I had blood on my pants. And my knee was starting to hurt. I looked down, and there was a hole ripped in my pants. I made it a little bigger (it was quick and the pants were already ruined anyway), and saw that I had two small punctures and a fairly deep rip in my leg.

I sent Steve a photo of it (the convenience of cell phones and unlimited messaging plans) and called him at work. He said that yes, I needed to go to the ER. I was kind of shaking at this point, so I called Mom to see if she could drive me. She said, "Of course." so I made sure I had my insurance card and my ID and stepped out the door. The raccoon was at the far end of the porch growling at me. I came back in a grabbed the (now loaded) 22 and engaged in battle. I put 4 bullets into the dang thing and it still didn't die. It did, however disappear from my sight. I was hurting and angry, but I wasn't stupid, so I did not go searching for it in the dark. Instead, I kept my flashlight out and took the rifle with me to the car, and went to get Mom for the drive to the ER.

The check-in lady had never had to type, "Attacked by a raccoon" into the incident description before, and we were the subject of much conversation. Apparently this is not a regular occurrence. But, the doctor checked with infectious diseases, and was given the information that the Pacific Northwest is nearly free of rabies. The only wild animals that have tested positive for rabies in the last 10 years are bats and foxes. That fact, coupled with the fact that it was claws that got me and not teeth (remember it was looking up at me and growling while attached to my leg) saved me from the torture of a rabies vaccination regime. Just for information, the first dose has to be infused around the site of the bite. The three more doses are required at days 4, 7, and 21. And I'm told they hurt - a lot. But, at least I didn't have to experience it first hand.

This morning, I'm sore and tired, and kind of angry. I was going to get on the horses this weekend, but given the state of my knee and foot, that's not going to happen. So, I'm considering a more deadly addition to my arsenal. I need something bigger than a 22, but nicely precise so the scatter (like a shotgun) doesn't take a bite out of the house. Remember, we were on the porch, and I was shooting parallel to the house wall. I'm open to suggestions. At this point, we've got a 357 magnum that Steve says we can load with 38's to make it easier to shoot, but still more deadly than a 22. I suck with a handgun, but I know someone who can teach me to get better. I'd rather have a rifle somewhere between a 22 and 30-06. Like I said, I'm open to suggestions.

Today, I'm calling Fish and Wildlife to see if they know anyone nearby with 'coon hounds. I'm thinking we may need to go hunting. In the meantime, no going out after dusk without a rifle and flashlight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Farm 3, Predators 15

Well, I am losing ground quickly this year.  I lost another chicken last night, one of the leghorns.  We were getting ready for bed around 2230.  I was opening the bedroom windows wider (more cool air) and thought I smelled a skunk.  This necessitated a night time patrol before I could go to sleep (Annmarie just tells me to go so I don't keep her awake).  I had worked on the chicken butler last evening and got it working again.  I had to re-position a micro switch so the door could operate.  So I knew the chicken butler was functional, but we had the clouds come in and cause it to get dark suddenly.  As I approached the coop the chicken door ramp was festooned with live birds camping out at the door.  I tried to toss them inside the coop through the door (after I opened it) but the hole is kinda small to toss a flapping bird through and the other hens kept trying to peck me.  After the third time getting pecked I gave up.  I did a search of the coop yard and found lots of loose white feathers.  On the way out I shut up the coop yard door.  

This morning I counted chickens again (kinda like counting coup) and found out I had lost another teenager, one of the leghorns is missing.  I know have five leghorns and 7 brahmas from my initial 18 chicks.  So now I have to purchase a timer so the butler will work when I deem necessary. 

I sprayed weeds all day yesterday.  This doesn't seem like a strenuous activity but the mule was bucking all over the place and I had to stay inside.  It wears on the muscles.  I made a first pass through the orchard breaking ground through ten foot tall milkweeds and lost a spray nozzle.  After turning the spray boom off, tying the boom arms up in the air and installing the spray wand to the tank I made a second pass through the weed jungle.  My whole boom setup fell off the mule.  It took off one of the spring cotter pins, bent one of the holders and loosened another bolt.  So now I will need to re-install the boom next week.  I have a plan, just need some time to complete it.  On one of the later passes a fawn deer jumped up and ran just before getting run over.  I tried to get a good view but all I was graced with were flashes of brown running and jumping through the weed jungle.  I did make it to the far end of the upper pasture and found an old hay loader that attaches to a wheat truck and lifts the bales up to the bed height.  It is ancient but looks like it still works.  The only thing I could not find on it was a way to attach it to the truck.  I chased three more deer out of the upper pasture.  They were all does and they all circled back around, which tells me there is a baby hiding in the grass some where.  

Sarah started the weed eating process out front near the bridge.  We need to knock down the weeds so we can start tearing out the bridge.  My concrete expert tells me I have to use rebar and let the posts cure for a week before using them.  So I need to get that done so when my help arrives we can just dig in and start building.  Tearing out the bridge and pouring the posts is this weekends project.   

OH, and I ran over the dog yesterday.  She has been chasing the pickup when I am driving around the farm.  I had told the wife and child that it was just a matter of time before I ran over the dog.  We were driving into the CRP to pull the mule out of the fence (I had been driving along the fence line squishing down the tumbleweeds put the drop off between the fence and the field kept getting steeper and the two wheel drive mule got stuck next to the fence) when we heard a yelp.  The child started ranting until I stopped her and told her this was going to happen.  Luckily for the dog, it happened out in the field.  I ran over her head and she ended up with a split eyebrow.  Other than that it turned out great.  The dog is doing fine today.  Has a little bit of a limp in that front leg this morning when she first got out of bed.  I am hoping that she is cured of her pickup chasing now.  Will know this weekend. 

Sprout actually let the horses sniff him this morning.  He has been avoiding them since we got them.  Not sure why he decided they were not evil today.  Annmarie would like to teach him and the horses to ride on the horse with her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Farm 3, Predators 14

We caught a raccoon in the live trap down at my inlaw's house.  So I went down this morning and dispatched it and took it up to the bone yard.  The weeds are over growing the road up to the bone yard.  I need more traffic headed that way.  None of the live traps outside the coop were tripped.  My super large clip was still in place so no chickens vanished last night.

Annmarie tried to set up the camera to watch the coop but there is too much interference for the camera to transmit into the house.  So we are looking at a wireless receiver that ties in to our internet page directly and it would be housed in the old house and then the signal would be clear for us in the house.  Still considering this option even though it will cost more cash.  The first batch of baby chickens are three months old so they have at least another three months before they start laying.   Next year I may have to ask around in January to find out which feed store is ordering chicks first and put in an order for 25 chicks right away.  I think the one store starts in February, that way my new chicks could start laying by August.

Hopefully, this was the critter killing my chickens and it stops.  I got the new part for the chicken butler in the mail over the weekend so I will go out and work on it today.  Once it is back up and running perfect the chickens will be safe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weed eradication has begun. Farm 2, Predators 14

I started spraying weeds today.  In reality this is a necessity.  There is currently no way I can control the weeds without using herbicides.  There is about 25 acres that I am trying to keep clear and there are not enough animals to keep up with all this rain!  Needless to say it took me over two hours to get the sprayer hooked up, strapped down, powered up, parts purchased (two separate trips) and running.  I sprayed a brand name called "Banvel-d" a couple of years ago.  When I went to buy more herbicide today that brand was not being carried so instead I purchased "Rifle-d", much cooler name.  The sprayer has one small leak on a nozzle assembly, but it will work just fine.  If I am in Pendleton later in the week I can pick up the part and replace it, but for now I am going to keep spraying weeds.  Had a heck of a time in the orchard, the milk weeds and thistles are so tall that the mule kept getting high centered on the weeds.  Lots of forward and backing up to get over the weeds.
Annmarie and I were walking back from our in law's house near dark and the weeds were already starting to wilt!  I may have the concentration a little strong, but I did follow the directions on the bottle.

We have been locking up the chickens every night since the Chicken Butler is currently nonfunctional.  Unfortunately, Annmarie informed me that the chicken door has been opened the last couple of mornings after she locked it up at night.  I have lost another 5 hens.  I am down to only 16 laying hens...  this is killing me.  At this rate I am not going to have any chickens.  We had a gate locking mechanism on the chicken door that has to be turned just right to lift off the latch.  So tonight I put a large carabiner on the latch.  I do not see a raccoon getting that off.  I have also expanded my kill zone.  I set up a trap at the in laws on her back porch.  Something is eating sunflower seeds off her deck at night.  I also set up another live trap outside the chicken yard.  I NEED to KILL the nasty predators before I have no chickens left.  Again, this is a stupid problem to have.

I have a weekend already lined up for my bridge endeavor.  The second weekend of July is the start of bridge construction.  I am going to tear out the old bridge and get the four pillars and footings poured before that weekend so it will be build time.  I have someone coming to help me finish it up.  Looking forward to getting this out of the way.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Attempted to finish orchard fence today

Ditch crossing before tightening fence and installing cable over the water. 

Well I gave it a go today.  I was hoping to finish the orchard fence today and just could not get it done.  I got all the crossings buttressed and stabilized.  I strung up the woven wire fencing and put on the first row of smooth wire.  I had to cut the panels in half as I do not currently have enough available to make the entire crossing.
We turned the sheep loose in the orchard tonight.  When I came back from my parents one sheep was already outside the fence.  I am thinking she crawled under the gate and didn't jump over the low fence...
I will keep thinking that all weekend long.

I had to run wire in X shape between both posts to stiffen fence end.
I bought 60 feet of cable for the two crossings and ended up
with an extra four feet.  Good thing I didn't buy 50 feet
like I was initially planning. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Annmarie was commenting on the beautiful sunset so I ran out and managed to snag this picture.  It was truly a very gorgeous event.  Glad I caught some of it.
Add caption

Fencing the never ending story

Old fencing by the equipment graveyard looking into the foothills of the Blue mountains. 

Here is the view after we pared down the number of posts
and cut off the extra height.

So what is wrong with this picture?  I did not think to look
down the fence line (assumed they were all lined up) and
Annmarie pointed out that I would be moving another post
yet again tomorrow.  This will be the fifth time I will have moved
a post on this section of fence alone.  The automatic post hole
digger was nice but I sure did get the holes all over the place with it. 
Sarah and I went out and pulled up the extra railroad ties today.  We loosened them with a chain and the pickup, then pulled them up.  This worked okay for the first two posts, but the third one was too heavy for us to pull out.  So we inserted a chunk of tall wood under the chain and cinched the chain at the base of the post and used the pickup to force the lever action.  Worked really well, should have done this for the firsts two posts.  
I trimmed off the tops of the posts today with the chainsaw and cut in ledges for the stiffening boards.  I only had to cut on nine posts and I had to sharpen the chain saw three times and fill the gas four times!  Those ties are very hard.  My poor chain saw bar was smoking and getting duller by the minute.  Sparks were flying.  I hate seeing sparks when I am using my chain saw.  Luckily there weren't any more posts.  It is a twenty minute endeavor just to sharpen the blade each time.

Now that Annmarie pointed out the post that needs to be moved again, I will have to do that first thing in the morning.  After I get the post re-positioned then I can tighten the ends up against each other and install the cables across the irrigation ditch.  Once that is all completed I will be ready to string out wire.  Not sure I will be ready for wire tomorrow.  I will try very hard to get some wire up and in place.  If I can get just the sheep woven wire up we could probably turn the sheep loose in there this weekend.

I had to go to the feed store today to buy more metal fence posts, cable and connectors for the orchard fence.  I figure by the time we are done with the orchard and barn lot fence we will have spent over $1000 this year on fencing supplies.  They add up fast and that is with me getting used woven wire from the scrap metal guy.  Nice part is all the fencing I am doing is going to last at least twenty years without too much maintenance.  Learned the hard way that you cannot just haphazardly throw stuff up or you will be constantly fixing it.
Sarah read an article on how to raise colony rabbits.  You just create a large pen and they live in the large enclosure.  This cuts down on maintenance and upkeep (as I eye the far hillside by the creek).  I would have to bury the fence and ultimately put some bird netting over the top to keep the birds of prey away, but it sounds very doable.  They could just eat hay like every other animal we own.  I would have to run an electric fence around the outside of the enclosure to keep all the predators out.  I like the idea.

Hard to see the posts now that they are trimmed and quantity minimized.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fencing over weekend

The baby lamb is growing and is very fast now, hard to catch
the little booger!
Well I spent most of the weekend fencing.  Sarah and I set railroad ties in the orchard on Saturday.  She got sick about 2/3 of the way through.  She is so not used to hard manual labor any more.  I ended up finishing with some help from Annmarie.  We are trying to get Sarah to take her drivers license permit test so she can start driving.  This means she has to practice driving when we are on the farm.  I made her drive the pickup when it was out in the orchard.  The only problem with that is there was an irrigation ditch on one side of us and four foot drop off on the other side.  The pickup needed to be turned around by jockeying it back and forth.  Witch then left her with a drive over a 10 foot culvert and eventually to a 10 foot gate opening.  After much yelling and screaming (partly out of fear for my life and frustration with the amount of time it would take to get the pickup out of the ditch) we did make it out of the orchard.  We had to stop twice so she could finish crying, but she persevered (dad would not let her quit) (and only the front tire went into the ditch while crossing the culvert and she managed to back out) and the pickup doesn't have any new dents.
Anything not in line with the metal posts will be
removed and on the far side a couple more will
disappear also.  After the fence is installed I will
shorten the posts.

Orchard fence with tie posts installed, they look tall
because I have not cut them off, will do that after
stringing and tightening the fence.  It is the very
last step to the fence construction step.  

This is my second attempt at an orchard fence.  The posts are very obtrusive.  They are sticking way up in the air and making an eye sore.  After some discussion it was decided that I need to minimize the number of posts utilized in that fence line but I didn't know how to do that as I am crossing the irrigation ditch twice.  So my engineer wife came up with a great idea.  I had to install extra posts so that I could cross the irrigation ditch at a ninety degree angle.  I was using boards across the ditch to stiffen the posts and the longest board I have is 16 feet long.  She told me to use a piece of cable and I could then hang wire panels from them.  So I am going to do that.  This will allow me to pull up four posts and I will remove two more from the back side of our people gate.  This will let me remove 6 of the 13 posts.  Great ideas usually never occur in my life on the first or second try.  This is why experience is invaluable, but how do you get experience if you have never done it before?  By doing the same thing over and over until you get it right!  This whole farm thing is one big learning curve.  I am still not over the hump of the bell curve yet.  After I finish the fencing, the bridge and rebuild the barn then I will be at the hump.

So on Sunday, I went up and set the posts for the upper barn lot fence (I need a new name for that area, may start calling it the spring pasture for the spring (water) that surfaces there).  Way more posts, but not as obtrusive as they are very spread out.  I will be installing three gates on that section of fence.  A new gate in the outer fence so that the person leasing the pasture can drive in and out of the pasture without going through the barn lot.  The ruts in the barn lot are over a foot deep now after having had a tractor drug over them.  That new gate will also allow me to tighten the fence.  There was nothing I could pull to as most of the fence is pretty loose.  I needed an anchor point.  After all that fencing is completed I want to put in one small internal fence to separate the barn lot and the spring lot.  This will give us six separate pastures to rotate the sheep and horses through.  Should be plenty of opportunities to keep the animals rotated and the grass happy.
Horses up by the house, they keep trying to stay in
pen sized areas.  We are pretty sure they didn't see a lot of

Purebred Arabians, they are so tame they come when called like the
dogs, sheep, and chickens.  It is incredibly handy.  
To top off the whole weekend, Sarah and Annmarie got the house very clean (looks great for us!) and the plumber came out yesterday and installed our utility sink!!!  This is great news, not only that, the custom built sink enclosure was the right size and worked great!!  This is fantastic, thanks Doom!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Holes dug

I finished dragging railroad ties to their future resting homes this morning, did it in the rain.  Annmarie called to have me cancel the rental on the post hole digger.  I vetoed that idea and told her at this rate I would never get anything done and I would just have to work in the rain.  I redrew the plans for our front bridge.  We are going to go with a four foot wide instead of six foot wide.  The six foot wide bridge was going to cost around $3300.  The four foot bridge is going to cost about $2100 who coulda thunk that?  I placed the order for all the bridge supplies today.  So things are looking up.

I rented a post hole digger that is basically a walk behind machine with tracks.  It was amazing!!  I dug 31 holes in three hours and four of those holes were next to the creek and went through 3-6 inch rocks the whole way.  I was ecstatic that I will not have to build a single rock jack this time around.

Sarah and I will set all the posts in the ground tomorrow.  Sunday we will measure the distance and mount the cross pieces then I will be able to tighten the two posts together by myself on Monday.  Hopefully, we could start tightening on Sunday but we have to install almost 20 cross pieces and cross the creek twice. Progress is being made.
I forgot to take more pictures of the horses.  I will try and get Sarah on this tomorrow.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Given up on yard...

This is my wounded rooster, he is on the mend!

The weather has conspired against me.  Our yard is over 18 inches tall.  I cannot get a push mower through it due to the rain arriving every other day like clockwork.  Since the Winter was especially hard on everything we just decided today to go old school.  Yup, we locked the sheep up in our yard.  Those 17 critters are staying in the yard until the grass is below 6 inches.  They are already complaining to get out, but they have a job to do and they are not getting out until it is done!
I figure about 6 days to clean up the yard.

See our yard really is tall

I met the horses today.  Amazingly people friendly, I (complete stranger) walked over to the loading pen and they came right over and greeted me and let me pet on them.  Very calm and well mannered.  I was amazed.

More baby chicks arrived today.  I picked up another 25 babies (12 buff orpingtons and 13 Easter eggers (mutts)), so Sarah and I had to dig the baby area out, clean out everything, lay in new bedding and fire up the heat lamp so they would not get cold.  Now if I could only catch whatever is killing my chickens.

I did a nighttime security check after dark, locked and loaded!  I thought I heard something when I was on the computer.  I did not find anything, but my chicken butler is still on the fritz.  I worked on it today, but there is a limit switch that is mounted too low and it keeps blocking the door from falling down.  I emailed tech support tonight so hopefully we can get it worked out soon.  I did lock the coop up manually.
25 three day old baby chicks

This is the weekend for fencing.  I have four more days off work and I already reserved a post hole digger for tomorrow afternoon.  Sarah and I remarked again today as the cows had moved all our flags.  We also placed the gates in the right spot so I drill holes correctly.  I started moving railroad ties to their future homes right before dark.  I just grab 2-3 ties with a chain and use a redneck tractor (pickup) to drag them to their future resting spots.  On a plus note, we did purchase a small tractor (23 hp) for use on the farm with all the implements I would need to get things moving, but it won't arrive until mid August.  So I am still having to rent a tractor a couple of times this Summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New additions

Meet Meeka (the gray) and Mahogany (the bay). They are the newest Stewart Creek Somethings.

Steve informed me earlier this month that he was ready for me to really start looking at horses, so I proceeded to search and make contact. I wasn't finding anything within his price range, and was prepared to search most of the summer. He came home, sat down at the computer, and found 3 separate offerings, all closer than anything I had located. One sounded really good after initial contact, so I drove down last weekend to take a look. What I found were two young but very well mannered and well-started Arabian mares. Yes, I purchased them. No, we don't own a horse trailer. Luckily, I know people and one of those people offered to help out. Tonight was the night we agreed on to pick up the horses. After a little adventure that involved a slipped lead-rope latch (my fault) and a very stubborn young mare who did not want to get into the trailer, we made it home. We turned them into the small pen, and they have settled right down and are munching away. Of course, now I have two horses and only one saddle. Anyone got a saddle they want to sell?

Friday, June 3, 2011

May chicken financials

May report:  I lost $13.06 for the month on an average 26 hens laying (I realize that last month I predicted no more chicken lose due to the Chicken Butler, but I had not counted on the predator ingenuity.  I lost 6 hens last month all in the last two weeks.).  My net income total is $193.53 for the year .  I had $44.28 in expenses for feed (200#) this month (this is probably going to go up in consumption since I have the chickens locked up due to predators).  For the year, my monthly expenses are $108.04 (a decrease of $0.50/month). We collected a total of 429 usable eggs averaging 13.8 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 13.6 eggs/day).  My productivity for the month was 53% (decreased 13% from last month) (for the year it is 51%).  The chickens ate 0.47# food/egg (a raise from last month probably due to me having to lock the chickens up ) (for the year are averaging 0.56# food/egg).   It cost $0.10/egg or $1.20/doz for feed (my yearly average is $0.13/egg or $1.56/dozen).  My monthly net income is a loss of $38.71/month this year. 

I did make a move in the positive direction (I lost less than last month).  Of course since I just purchased more chicks this month it is going to go more negative again.  I just cannot seem to stay ahead.  I did have a $61.78 expense last month in live traps.  I bought two more and that was a single expense.  I have three live traps set out now all varying sizes from rat size up to raccoon.  My original raccoon size trap is taking a beating.  The predators have bitten holes in it, scratched it up and bent parts of it.  One would thing they don't appreciate my hospitality or are suddenly blessed with an end of life vision.  So that may not last another couple of years.  

The wife and child are doing some serious horse seeking.  So soon we will have horses...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Lamb

I went out to lock the sheep up last night at 2220 (normally I remember to remind the child to do this but I forgot, so I got to do it).  I took my Walther P-22 out with me as I am at war with the chicken predators.  Once our chocolate lab saw the gun (doesn't matter what kind) she was pushing her way to the door so she did not get left behind.  We toured the chicken coop yard first to make sure all was quite then went to lock up the sheep.  Unfortunately, all my traps were empty at the chicken yard.

Once we crossed the creek and headed up to the barn the dog started throwing a hissy and whining and bugging something on the ground.  I flashed the light that way and spotted an adult sheep running away from the dog and the dog trying to lick and step on a new baby lamb!  I went over and picked the lamb up and told the dog to look for another one.  She ran around but did not find another baby.  The mother had ran into the barn with the rest of the sheep.  I stuck the baby in the barn and waited for momma to come claim it.  She did so I went back inside and informed Annmarie.  We decided that we had better start locking the sheep up right at darkness.  It had only been about 2.5 hours since the sun had gone down when she had her baby.
Baby boy 16 hours old

Baby boy

This morning Sarah went out to check the gender of the lamb just before school (soaked her shoes through) and came back in to tell me that it was another little boy!  He won't be ready to go until Jan-Mar 2012.  I think we still have four more really pregnant moms.

Annmarie and I went and purchased a washer/dryer since ours went out over the holidays.  I can remember when they used to last 20 years!  Not anymore.  So I have to disconnect the old ones today and then make a trip to the laundromat to catch up on laundry (Annmarie is out of socks, again).  

I went out to the chicken coop at lunch today, patrolling for predators, and the back creek is running!  The rain is coming off the mountains in spades.  Of course when the clouds cleared and I got a look at the mountains they are totally white again.  So I spent an hour raising my fence out of the water so it doesn't get ripped out by the flooding waters.  As usual I had wired the fence to a cross wire in the middle of the stream. I had to hang on to the top of the panel, crawl out on the panel over the water then lean back to reach down to the water level to unwrap the wire.  I am hanging backwards and facing the dark muddy water rushing underneath me.  It is very disorienting.  I had to concentrate on the wire and ignore the visual effects I was getting from the roaring water.  I trudged up the creek to the other fence crossing and had a log jammed into the fence.  I couldn't pull it out due to the water volume/speed, so I had to trudge back to the shed and bring the ax back to the fence.  I chopped the tree loose and pulled it up onto the side of the hill well away from the water line.  At this rate my chicken yard might get flooded.  As long as it doesn't rip out my chicken fence all will be well.
Back creek runoff has tripled in size in last 4 hours

Back creek running toward house. 

Log stuck in the fence.  I got it out.

Coming up on my coop yard.

Farm 2 Predators 9

I lost another chicken on Monday or Tuesday.  I am at 21 laying hens now.  Sarah and I went out on Wednesday and worked on picking up (Sarah worked at the coop, I moved rocks on the hillside and supervised) inside the coop.  I provided motivation.  We have a deal where she can trade jobs with me at any time and moving rocks didn't look appealing to her so she picked up dead chicken parts from all over the chicken yard and inside the coop.  As far as I know nothing is killing the chickens now that they are protected behind the electric wire laden yard fence.  I did have to move the rock pile back into place for my babies.  Whatever was crawling under the fence moved a few 15# rocks and tried to squeeze under the fence again.  Luckily, I drove a large wooden stake through the wire and planted the wire firmly into the ground.  The predator could not get inside!  I replaced the rocks and decided that it is not a cat, most likely a raccoon again. Not having any luck with the traps so far, still setting them but no takers since the possum.  Annmarie is going to get the camera setup on the computer this weekend so I can see what is eating the chickens.

I compensated for the loss by purchasing another 25 babies.  They should be here in a couple of weeks.  The first of June was the last day to order chicks from the feed store and not have to pay shipping charges.  I can order myself via the mail but shipping is around $35 on top of the chick cost.  So getting free shipping is a big deal.   I ordered 12 Buff Orpington and 13 Ameracanus (really Easter Eggers since I am getting them from a hatchery).  So I will need to kick the teenagers out in a week or so and let them assimilate with the main flock.  They are always scaredy cats at first and take a while to fit in.  Kinda surprising since they are in the same coop and only separated by wire.

Annmarie and I had discussed the need to cull the old chickens last year but I lose almost 35% of my chickens every year.  I have one or two chickens from my original batch that are almost three years old.  Everyone else has gotten eaten by predators.  That is a crazy predator kill loss ratio.  People wonder why old time farmers used to be so hard on predators.  It is pretty obvious to me.  I use technology and electricity to help me out but without those I would be even worse off.  The only good thing is the predators are killing my black and red sex link chickens.  I never really cared for them and see them as no great loss except for their ability to lay eggs.  No personality and very far ranging.