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.