Friday, September 30, 2011

Sheep are at it again

I am continually amazed by the ongoing battle of wills on the farm.  Earlier in the week we were visiting with our mother-in-law (who lives 100 yards from us) and she was espousing the beauty of her roses (now that I had managed to corral the sheep in the orchard for the last 6 weeks without them escaping and eating her roses) and marveling at the fact that my fencing job was holding up.  The very next day I spotted the sheep out by our cars (meaning they got out somehow).  My back was killing me but I hobbled out and plugged the spots I thought had allowed the sheep to sneak out.  When I got back from the chiropractor the sheep were out again!!  I could not find the hole in the fence and my mother-in-law had no more roses!  The sheep love rose greens and the flowers and unopened buds!  So I tried to just herd the sheep back toward the fence to see where they were getting out (they tend to try and go back the same way they got out sometimes).  They were going out a side fence into the bottom pasture and then going through an open gate into the house area.  I spent another couple hours fixing that and wiring everything in place.  I need to fix the old fence but simply do not have time.  I still have 1/4 mile of new fence to install to get the upper barn lot enclosed.  I have to put that off a little longer until my back feels better. 

On that same note, I have suddenly started getting fewer eggs again.  Our new cats are turning into egg suckers!!  They are sneaking into the coop, biting the shell away on top to form a bowl and drinking the entire egg.  The only thing left is a hollowed out shell.  I have been chasing them out for a week, but these last two days almost a dozen eggs have been devoured.  We know it is not the chickens because they eat the shell also.  So we are going to feed the cats some more food in an attempt to curb this problem.  We already go through 80# of cat food/month.  The real trouble is we need the cats to keep the vermin down.  So I have to be very careful to balance out the needs of everyone when disturbing our little ecosystem. 

Sarah went out and counted chickens tonight.  We have 52 chickens, four of those are roosters.  One of those four is a Brahma, who was supposed to be a girl but his pathetic attempts at crowing have marked him as a boy.  We have not gotten a green egg in at least one week, so I will be taking a close look at the easter egger chickens that are a couple of years old.  If they don't step up to the plate and start laying eggs they are not going to make it into winter.  I want to cut my feed expenses.  I need to so the price of eggs doesn't increase.  I don't think my market can bear another price hike for at least a year maybe more.  I have already decided to take out two roosters ( the brahma gets to stay as he is very pretty and should be ginormous!), our injured rooster's limp has been getting worse causing him to be added to the hit list.  Sarah locked the chickens up in their pen tonight. This should keep the cats out and the chickens in allowing us to get an accurate egg count over the weekend.  Remember, 25 of those chickens are not laying yet as they are too young. 

I have already started worrying about irrigating the property next year.  I need to fix the electrical box, rewire some crappy wiring that was done (by a contractor), put in two new 3inch thick 12 inch wide x 10 feet long support planks (two of them) for the irrigation pump to sit on (old ones are pretty rotten) and clear out the mud.  That doesn't include putting all the working pipe together after finding all the pipe stashed on the property (six different locations I have found this year, just found a new one last week), lay out the pipe, find and purchase at least six (preferably eight) 3inch T irrigation sprinkler joints.  Not sure how much they cost, but  on Craig's list I saw one for $30.  I need to stack all the kinked, bent and broken pipe in one location.  I may even have to have someone come out and run the pipe through a straightener.  A fourty foot piece of irrigation pipe runs around $80-$100 new.  I need about 30-40 pieces.  I think I can find it already here but I may have to do repairs to some of the existing pipes.  The irrigation and the barn are next year's two big Summer projects.  Maybe tear down the old grainary if someone (you know who) arranges for help and comes and does it with me. 

The price of hay has risen dramatically.  I am going to feed barley hay (cheap stuff) at $145/ton (I need 10 ton) to the sheep.  I have seen hay priced anywhere from $80/ton (full of weeds per add) up to alfalfa at $245/ton.  This has also caused the price of all meat animals to go up.  I am going to sell the next two lambs at $100 each then raise the price up to $125/animal.  The going rate is around $2/lb live weight for lamb, boy can that add up fast.  We are not going to go there as that is pretty steep.  I would like to get it so that the sheep are paying for the hay (over the Winter) and irrigation (electricity and supplies for the Summer) with a little left over (not very much).  

The life of a farmer is never ending.  Wait until I get the green house installed...  just one more thing to look after. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Horses and an unexpected house guest

There are some things that you really do not expect to here from a family member at 8:00 at night.

"Mommy, mommy, mommy......There's a praying mantis in my room!" falls into that category.
Sarah was reading in bed before going to sleep, and looked over to see this young praying mantis on the wall next to her head. We relocated her (the mantis) outside so she could find a better place to hang out. We have no idea how she got in the house.

The horses are doing great. I haven't ridden them as much as I had hoped to this summer, mainly because I keep getting injured (foot bridge, raccoon, etc.). So we've mostly focused on ground work, but the effort is showing results. Sarah had not been out with me in quite a while and was pleasantly surprised at how much improved Meeka was in her willingness to be handled. We worked on mounting today, and Meeka willingly stood next to the mounting block and allowed Sarah to rub her all over on her off side. She wasn't too sure of weight being placed on her, but we'll get there. She did stand nicely while I put the bareback pad on her.

Mahogany, on the other hand had a great day! After standing nicely for the bareback pad, Sarah was able to mount her from the mounting block with no trouble, and rode bareback around the pasture. Both horses are wonderful to handle. They nicker every time they see us and come over to the fence for twice daily rubs. I feel incredibly fortunate that Steve stumbled across their ad on Craig's List.

This is Meeka watching our other unexpected visitors. I was working from home the other day, and looked out to see two little white tail bucks on the hillside in front of the house. They were browsing in the fodder just outside the barn lot, and are still in velvet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life continues

Well the back creek is truly dried up now.  No more runoff water from the mountains.  It lasted an incredibly long time this year.  We are hoping that that creek will start to run year round in the future.  I fenced again today, it was a mild 92 degrees in the shade.  I stood out in the sun and pounded metal posts into the ground and braced the railroad ties together with twisted wire.  Let me tell you that driving posts into the ground in mid-September is nothing like putting them in the ground in the spring.  My help was sick today, I was granted the privilege of driving the posts in by myself (Sarah usually stands on the other side of the post hole driver and we do it together.  Works well and we can put in more posts than I could do alone.).  Some of those posts I had to hit 30 times to drive them into the rocky (concrete like) ground.  It was not easy, but as in all things in life it needs to be done and I am running out of time, so it gets done the hard way.  I managed to string up a single strand of smooth wire to use as a marker for placing the metal posts.  I have to string the wire anyways, it only made sense to use the wire (instead of string) as my alignment marker. 

I ran the tractor for a little bit this last week.  I am trying to get the last little bit of mowing done since that is the current attachment on the tractor.  I mowed a path to the new gate past the barn lot.  This way the cows can be fed without driving through the barn lot.  I still have to use the tractor to get the foot deep ruts out from Winter.  Unfortunately, when mowing tall grass you cannot always see what you are mowing.  I ran over an old pile of used baling twine (from hay bales that were fed), pieces of hog wire and a coil of old barb wire.  Not good for the mower, it killed the engine on the tractor.  I had to get out and crawl underneath the mower and cut off all the twine and unwind the other assorted metal pieces.  I am going to start picking up big rocks and old piles of wood and fencing.  That way when I mow I won't hit anything.  This is a long term project.  I figure it will take me about three years to get the little stuff all picked up.  It is much better than when we started but it takes time and you really have to work to not just throw some stuff on the ground. 

My chickens are starting to pick up production.  I collected 14 eggs today.  I had to adjust the times for my night light and closing time for my automatic chicken door.  I need to count the chickens to see if any are disappearing.  I haven't taken chicken inventory in over a month. 

Took Annmarie out and she sighted in the 30-30.  She did great.  At 20 yards she can get a six inch grouping with three rounds.  We used the tires (future elevated garden, eventually) out in the ram pasture as a back stop.  Those slugs tore huge chunks out of the back of the tires.  No way is an animal going to get away from her again.  She put thirty rounds through it and is going to practice some more tomorrow.  Sarah is going to have to reload more shells!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Work is piling up

Well, the chores around the farm are not doing themselves.  We just got back from four days of camping and had a blast.  Truly enjoyed ourselves for the first time in a long time, very relaxing weekend.  I got to beat on people with sticks and pointy objects.  Of course, no one did anything on the farm while we were gone.  No little brownie doing all the chores while we were out having fun.  We did come back with eight bales of straw (archery and combat props) for the sheep to bed down this winter.  I really want an even ton of straw.  I figured I would put the call out on Craigslist for a ton of straw in the area.  I need to start concentrating on purchasing hay for the winter.  I want to lay in 10 ton of hay.  I think we will only need around 6-7 ton but just to be safe we are going to buy some extra.  The nice part about having a dark covered barn is the hay does stay together and safe from the elements.  We just make sure and feed the oldest hay first.

The sheep don't like being locked up in the ram pasture, so I opened the side gate into the orchard today.  I am hoping the five holes I plugged in the orchard solved my escape problem (five separate holes plugged).  I am not real hopeful, but the only way to figure it out is to let them back into the orchard.  I tied the gate high so the horses could not get out but the sheep could push their way in to the orchard.  I am crossing my fingers for luck.

Going to have to get back on to the fencing starting this week.  Plus, I need to look at the old sheep shed and clean out an area for the tractor and the horses this winter if needed.   I am not sure I can get the fencing  completed and the horse lean to done before the weather turns.  It is the goal, I am just not sure how realistic of an endeavor it is.

The back creek is still running.  It is a little weird as the water table has lowered to the point were the water comes out near the chicken coop.  Above that level the back creek is totally dry. So it counts as having water, since the sheep and chickens can still use it to get their daily water dose.