Sunday, October 30, 2011

Almost done fencing, Farm 8, Predators 22

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

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

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

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

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

More completed fence minus stays

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

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

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

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

This is where Mika jumped over the fence.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fencing again hopefully will finish soon

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

One fewer stupid chickens

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Farm 7, Predators 22

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

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

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

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

farm 7, predators lots

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

Early Morning Happenings

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Horse Enclosure completed

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chickens are dying again

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Second bunch of hay in shed

storage area starting point

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

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

My "farm" tractor and its load.

Bales stacked eight high.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hay is arriving

I started the morning by driving into town to get a new battery for the pickup.  The hope was a new battery would fix everything with the pickup so I could use the pickup to start the wheat truck.  A battery was all the pickup needed.  I drove it over to the loaded wheat truck and gave the truck a jump start.  It worked!!  I left the pickup there and drove the loaded truck over to our house.  I pulled up alongside the new outside barn door.  I was about four feet away from the barn with the middle of the truck just opposite the door.  So I pulled down five bales of hay and used them to fill the gap.  That way I can just walk across the bales directly to the truck.  I had not planned on unloading the whole truck.

I ended up unloading the whole truck, 90 bales (approx 3.5 tons).  I started to get tired about half way through.  Actually, tired is an understatement.  I wanted to die.  This is the third day of hard manual labor and it felt like someone was hitting me across the upper back and shoulders with a 2x4, repeatedly.  I ended up stacking the bales four high!  The biggest problem is I need to clean out the rest of the space to make room for just this year's hay.  I actually just threw the last six bales inside the door and did not stack them.  Yes, I used my legs when lifting the bales onto the stack.  I never could have done it with arm power only.  So I made the call and have a teenager boy coming to help me on Wednesday.  We are going to clean out the rest of the barn and unload another 90 bales of hay.  If we have time the horse area will get finished.

Of course, the chicken butler failed again.  Sarah went out to get eggs and the chicken butler had not opened all day.  The chickens had no water and were not happy.  She only collected 3 eggs.  She also forced the chicken butler door open not helping its functioning at all.  I went out to trouble shoot it and couldn't get anything to work.  So I took two five gallon watering buckets and mounted them in the chickie enclosure so that if they get locked in water will be available.  While I was in said enclosure I happened to look over at my wire/rock barrier.  A small hole with a worn path had been created under the wire and next to a large rock.  I had to go grab two more large rocks, beat down the wire and pile two rocks over the area.  Now we have to go out every night and lock the chickens up and let them out in the morning. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Projects multiply

Everyone in the ram pasture today.  The sheep had been roaming.
I was supposed to finish the horse enclosure today.  Sarah picked up all our outside water hoses and placed them in the wood shed.  Annmarie and I had talked last night about how to get the horses to cross the creek in the barn lot.  We came up with a culvert covered in dirt.  The front creek crosses through one out in the orchard (size to be measured as we could not agree either 2 or 3 foot diameter).  Great idea, but I don't have any spare culvert and am still trying to pay for hay so this was not going to happen any time soon.  So, I decided to build one out of materials we already owned.  I threw down two cut pieces of railroad tie in the creek next to the bank and then dropped five railroad ties across the creek.  All of these were dragged behind the barn with the tractor.  Unfortunately, the tractor left them about 30 feet from where they needed to be.  I had to drag them in place by hand.  I saved the smallest one for last and it turned out to be the heaviest (just my luck).  After those were in place I used some old discarded one inch plywood (from my parents concrete stairway) across all five beams and screwed them all in place.  I then used the sawsall to cut the edges.  Very nice, very stout bridge.  Annmarie tried to get the horses to cross later, no go.  They stopped at the bridge edge and she was on the bridge tugging.  The horse wins every time in this contest. 

New bridge and path.  My soon to be burnt pile on the right.

I suggested Annmarie just throw some dirt over the bridge to fool horses.

 I then went up to the horse enclosure and started cutting out the last two beams.  I had to add some supports and then go at it with the sawsall.  The beam was huge I could not get through it.  I had to retry three times and then beat on it repeatedly.  No wonder, they were so clever a long time ago.  They had built in a drainage ditch in the back 1/3 of the milking barn so all waste could be shoveled into the ditch and sluiced out daily to keep the milk barn clean.  I had no idea this was here. 

Old wooden sluice in milk barn, below floor level.
I threw the beams over the wire and into the sheep area.  I want to store them in the barn for future use.  All but one were reusable.   It took me almost two hours to dig out the area with the tractor.  About half way into it I realized that the roll bar on the tractor was bumping into the door opening and had to be lowered.  I thought there was just a little dirt to be moved.  Not at all.  I moved almost three feet deep dirt across the whole area.  it was good practice for the tractor.  I did have to used four wheel drive, as the area was pretty wet from the rain last night.  I just dumped all the dirt and crap over the hillside in a low spot.  I did end up having to do about an hour of hand digging near the edges.  I just could not maneuver the tractor in to all areas.  I would have needed a backhoe.  I don't have a backhoe.  So I got to dig for an hour by hand.  I did remember to park the tractor under cover.  I have less than 8 hours of run time on the tractor so far. 

I need about another hour with a shovel.  Hence the wheelbarrow...

Dirt and sheep dung from the horse enclosure.  It needs to be raked by hand.

Rush to finish before Winter.

Saturday was supposed to be the big day to get the hay.  I had a few other things planned but this was the #1 goal.  As in all things that I do the first time, this went about as smoothly as normal.  Annmarie gave me a ride down to the truck (parked at the residence of the guy supplying us with hay).  I remembered to take the rope (I had just purchased it for this reason) so I could tie the hay down.  First problem, there are no hooks on the outside of the truck with which to tie a rope.  I ended up crawling underneath the truck and finding a gap on the cross beams that I could fish the rope through.  Plenty strong enough but very hard to pull real tight.  I definitely need to talk to someone about getting some hooks welded to the bed.  I am pretty sure the other truck (broken) has hooks welded around it.  I got it all tied down and went to start it.

I had just turned the key and the truck was trying to start when I noticed that the overdrive button was in high.  I mashed it down real quick and killed the engine.  Every time I tried to start it a small red light that said "override" came on and the truck would not even turn over.  I then read the directions near the floorboard on shifting into low.  I am supposed to do it with the truck moving after I have shifted the transmission.  Not first.  So I started walking home.  It is about a 2 mile hike.  Halfway home the hay guy shows up and agrees to give me a tow to see if we can get the truck going.  It didn't start.  So now I need to get the pickup battery replaced so I can drive the pickup over to the truck, check the fuses, and attempt to jump start the truck.  This is Monday's priority task.

He did give me a ride back to the house, but had to leave and go do some other things.  I decided that the priority for the day was to pick up all the old aluminum sprinkler pipe.  I would need to use the tractor to do this, but I still had the box scraper on the tractor and I had promised Annmarie a new path in the barn in an attempt to make the creek crossing easier for the horses.  So I made the path first.  It was pretty cool to just drag dirt and make a gradual path.  It only took me about an hour to make the whole thing.  Then I went off to get sprinkler pipe.

The pipe was on a large handmade trailer at the far end of the property near the road.  My mother-in-law had already had two people come to the house and offer to buy the pipe.  We were concerned that the pipe might just disappear in the night some time soon.  I went down and hooked on to the trailer after straightening out the load.  Couldn't go anywhere, used positrack, no where, had to put it in four wheel drive to get the trailer started and to pull it back around next to the grain bins.  It is a slow process, on the way I found another pipe sticking up near an irrigation ditch.  So I stopped and tried to pull it out by hand.  About half way down its length (40 feet) it gets buried about one foot under ground.  I did not have a shovel with me so it will have to wait until later.  I pulled up alongside the fence and sorted it into four piles.  The first pile is pipe that needs repaired but I can do myself (needs a new sprinkler riser or sprinkler), second pile is useable pipe (bent included), third pile is totally trashed and good for parts and scrap or could be welded back together (needs repair by professional) and the fourth pile is pipe that was used as mainline and has the sprinkler hole plugged with a cap (this pile had the straightest pipe).  Now that the trailer was empty I drug it out onto the road and back into the CRP field so I could get the pipe stacked up against the fence.  I ended up dragging the pipe out of the weeds and hanging one end on the fence so I could snag it from the other side later.

There are a few secrets to moving pipe.  Find the center of balance quickly it makes moving the pipe easier.  Pipe full of mud weighs a lot, a whole lot.  When pulling on pipe violently upwards to remove it from the grass and blackberry bush make sure you are not straddling the end with the sprinkler riser or else you may gag and hit the ground.  I reiterate, do not do this it is bad.  When fishing broken pipe out of the irrigation ditch make sure pipe is not full of yellow jackets.  They really don't like being disturbed.  When pulling on pipe that is kinda stacked together make sure that jerking on said pipe doesn't cause its neighbor to jam you in the ribs (large abrasion/bruise).   I ended up filling the whole trailer again and parking it behind the machine shop.  It needs to be unloaded before I can grab another 12-15 pieces behind the machine shop.  I stopped because it was dinner time and because I could no longer lift my arms above my head.  Anyone that pays for P90X can come to the farm and do work for free.  I guarantee you would be fit in 90 days! (after working 4-6 hours a day for 90 days).


On Friday we went to Sarah's Great Grandmother's house to make Sauerkraut.  I wanted to do it in a five gallon bucket but Ruby (grandmother) wanted to use crocks.  She had made it in the past and they always used crocks.  We forgot to measure the crocks but they are 1 or 2 gallon (much discussion/arguing about size).  When we can the sauerkraut the size issue will be resolved.  A lot of cabbage goes a short way.  We managed to get 14 pounds of sliced cabbage into the two 1 gallon ( my size choice) crocks.  We used our cabbage slicer that was purchased at an auction this summer.  Ruby used her recipe from a canning book written in 1943, I went onto you tube and watched about 40 minutes to video from various people.

You slice the cabbage very thin and then add 3 Tbsp of salt to every 5# of cabbage.  Mix the salt and cabbage together by hand and then pound the cabbage until it waters up and the water is at the top of the cabbage.  Then do it again until the crock/bucket is a few inches from the top.  Wipe off the top rim and sides, add a layer of whole cabbage leaves to the top and spread an unopened trash bag over the top.  Tuck the bag in and down along all the sides so it is sitting on top of the cabbage.  Take another water tight bag and fill it up with water while the bag is sitting on top of the cabbage.  This water bag acts like a weight and a seal.  Now wait 10 days to six months depending on who you listen to.  We are going to check it at 14 days.  We used up most of the cabbage from the garden doing this.  A five gallon bucket would take around 50# of cabbage (if I am right other wise it will only take 35#). 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

chicken update

No, I have not given up on the chicken financials.  I just happen to be four months behind.  I have all the data, but after the computer data wipe I cannot find my files.  Annmarie is going to have to find it for me.  It appears the Chicken Butler may be functioning correctly again.  I only found one chicken trapped outside tonight.  I collected eggs (the child is off doing teenager things) tonight and got a whopping 11.  We have been collecting around 7 every night.  No broken eggs tonight. I did do a chicken count tonight.  First time in a month.  I counted 49 chickens.  Three are roosters, 24 are immature and not laying eggs yet.  So my 22 producing chickens laid 11 eggs today.  Not too shabby.  Should be better once the chickens get used to the artificial light (I just got the timer working correctly yesterday).

On the lamb front, I went to the meat cutters today to pay and pick up some meat from our locker.  Oh my goodness, the price of live animals has risen drastically.  Pig, lamb and cattle are all selling at $2/lb live weight at the animal sale.  I am definitely going to have to raise prices.  Thinking the next lamb is going to go for $125 then after that $150.  Final price would be around $1.67/lb.  This would save me from having to transport the animals to sale.  This works as long as the price doesn't keep increasing.  Looking forward to another $1/lb increase personally... (lol).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More outside work, weather may turn soon

Three rocks closet to creek moved to the backside of the fence.

I went out and fixed the sheep leaks today.  Annmarie told me that the rocks needed to be moved by the creek so when the sheep pushed on the fence the rocks would stop it from moving.  I had put the rocks on the inside so I could lift the fence easily for the spring runoff.  The sheep are more of a problem than the spring runoff so I used a six foot steel cheater bar and still had trouble moving one of the rocks, but it eventually rolled into it's new spot. 

Beams are all that is left, sawzall has done its job.

As you can see the outside wall will need some work to make it stay  in place.

The winter horse shelter is the next big issue.  We are not sure where to put it and if we put it in the orchard then the hay will be a long ways off in the barn.  The original plan was to just let the horses roam in the barn lot and shelter next to the sheep.  Unfortunately, for that plan to work I would have needed to finish the fencing in the barn lot.   Still working on that...  But I liked the plan for the sheep/horse enclosure.  I was picking up scrap wood in the barn lot today and started to really study the broken down part of the lean to and decided that without too much effort and a few supplies I could re-purpose the unusable part into a covering for the horses.  So I started tearing into the floor and throwing the pieces out the door.  I even had time to string out some extension cords and cut into the floor beams.  The nice part is I only need to move two beam supports.  Two of the supports stick out two feet out of line with the other five beams.  Who knows why?  Those two will have to be shored up before I can cut those beams.  I wasn't able to salvage most of the floor.  It was broken, cracked and rotten.  I did manage to save five 4x6 inch beams about 10 feet long.  I am going to use them for the overhead walkway supports in the main barn.  I was pretty happy with that salvage. 

The foreground pile is going to be burnt this weekend. 

I will finish the outer wall and inner low wall from these scraps.

I spent some time fixing the sheep area before I dug into the horse area.  I had to move the metal panel further in to the sheep area to give the horses some more room.  I ended up using pallets to block the holes the sheep were crawling through.  On a side note most pallets are made out of hardwood and hardwood gets harder with age.  I broke four screws and bent three nails trying to connect two panels.  I finally just chained them together!  I didn't want to go get a drill and predrill a hole.   I drug down another feeder to place on the outside wall.  This gives us more space to feed and creates another barrier so the sheep cannot escape.  I had to make the old door by the hay storage room work, it needed some WD-40 and to cut off the bottom of the door opening so it would not pinch.  I also had to block the barn lot side with more pallets.  That wall is not in very good condition.  This new setup is pretty secure.  

We sold our first lamb on Monday for $100.  He weighed 90# live weight.  I have one more to sell at this price and then I have to do some more research.  It looks like the price has gone up rapidly in the last six months.  I am going to do more snooping around.  No drastic increases, but I may have to raise it some. The sheep should start having babies again next month or December.
Sheep and chickens browsing the ram pasture.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Houdini has come back as a sheep

Specifically, Houdini has taken refuge within our herd and has taught them one and all how to escape from a perfectly comfortable barn, with it's locked gate intact. We have had wolf sightings in the area, and I think I may have even seen 4 of them on the way home tonight. They were a ways off, and too large to be coyotes, too small to be deer, and very very black. I couldn't swear to it, but I'm fairly sure that I saw at least a part of the wolf pack that inhabits our fine county. Now, I have nothing against wolves in general, I just don't want them thinking my livestock (any of my livestock) is on the menu. So, we've been locking the sheep up at night in the barn. It would be more accurate to say that we have been attempting to lock the sheep up at night in the barn.

I sent Sarah out last Friday evening to lock up the sheep, which she did. The next morning, I looked out at 5:30 am, and the sheep were out. I said to her, "Didn't you lock up the sheep last night?" To which she replied, "Yes, why." I described the current view out my window (21 sheep happily grazing in the pasture and not in the barn, and she agreed that perhaps she needed to rethink her gate-locking technique. I agreed, until I went out to the barn to find the gate still locked! And locked in a manner that I would have considered secure. So the issue was clearly not her technique. The next night, I spent in the Tri-Cities with Steve, so our nephew locked up the sheep, and they got out for him too. Now, last night, I really needed them confined, since the mobile slaughter folks were supposed to be here at oh dark thirty to take our one boy who is large enough to fulfill his mission in life.

So, I dutifully locked them up in the barn, after which I made a detour past the chicken coop to make sure the chicken butler had closed (it had) before coming inside the house. By the time I got in (I had to detour around to pet on the horses, after all), it was nearly full dark. I went upstairs to change into my lounging clothes, and happened to glance out in the pasture to see 21 dark blobs that looked an awful lot like sheep grazing in the pasture. The little buggers hadn't even stayed in the barn for 20 minutes. I told them if they that they were on their own and settled in with my book for a while before going to sleep.

So, this morning, I was up at 5:00 to get out to the pasture at 5:30 so I could get the sheep contained. They, of course, were not in the pasture closest to the barn. Nor were they in the ram pasture, nor on the back hillside. That left the orchard. I decided to try the easiest path first, and went towards the barn, calling, "Here sheep sheep, here sheep." I'll be danged if it didn't actually work, and they came into the barn all on their own. You likely could have knocked me over with a feather. I got them all in, surveyed the situation, and decided they must be sneaking out one of the 2 foot square (approximately) holes in the end wall of the lean-to. Luckily, we have a gate that encompasses the area outside these escape routes, so I closed it and then proceeded to put as few sheep as possible into the small outside pen for the mobile slaughter fellas. By now it was close to 6:30, so I was expecting them at any time. I came into check on a few things. 6:30 came and went - no mobile slaughter truck. 7:00 came and went and still no mobile slaughter. By this point, I decided that they were probably not going to make it before I absolutely had to leave for work at 7:30, and wrote them a note telling them which animal to kill (blue ear tag #2), and hung it on the outside gate with duct tape (which I was actually able to find because Steve had organized the old house earlier this summer).

On this trip, I also noticed that the chickens were not out, which was odd because it was full light and the chicken butler should have been open. Not so much. Into the coop I went to flip the switch to manually open the door. I happened to look into one of the nesting boxes, and spied one of the latest batch of very wild kittens hanging out. Now, this means that he had to have been in there when the door closed at 8:00 last night. I'm thinking this may be our egg sucker. He, of course, disappeared as soon as I saw him, so no capture was accomplished. I informed Steve of my suspicions. My job is done.

So, added to Steve's already impossible list of tasks is eliminating the escape routes from the barn. Hopefully a single panel will fix this, as the lean-to is going to be taken out of service next year following the repair of the barn roof. It's looking like the horses may have to winter in the orchard. Now, this won't really hurt them - they have fur coats - and if it gets really bad, I'll take them into the lamb shed, but we need to think about how best to feed them so that we loose as little feed to snow / wind / rain as possible. I haven't come up with a good solution yet. I'm still working on it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting ready for Winter

Sheep heading out of the lean to.

Fresh straw ready for Winter.  Top left is a chicken.

We are still trying to decide how to get power to the barn.  Since I haven't even rewired the bridge lights yet and the barn isn't done yet lights are a low priority.  Annmarie found some battery powered low level lanterns.  I hung three out in the barn today.  When it gets dark at 1600 it makes it very hard to see inside of a dark barn.  I moved the old hay right next to the entrance of the storage area.  This way we will be forced to use the old stuff first. We have a whopping 9 bales or approximately 700 #. 

I put the pressure cookers away.  Two large pressure cookers and I cannot find weights for either one.  Both were gifts so I need to track down some weights to make them useable.  We ended up water bathing the tomato soup for 45 minutes.  It turned out very good.  I was in the root cellar (four time a year event) putting these away and snagged some homemade concord grape juice and put another four shelf rack in the cellar.  It was on the front porch for the thyme debacle (we started 900 plugs with creeping thyme seeds on the breeze porch.  By the time I got them planted last month at Annmarie's grandmother's garden only 90 had survived.  Not a rousing success.  I am thinking about trying to grow some lavender this winter!!).  This added more storage space to the root cellar.  I need to install a low/high thermometer so I can have some idea of the temperature swings.  I think I need a book or two on how to use a root cellar.  It is about 10 ft x 10 feet and about 4.5 feet down into the ground with rock walls on all four sides.  It needs some concrete filler around some rocks.  A later project, one that needs to be ready before the apocalypse.

New barn lantern, and empty area waiting for hay.

Hay stacked in walkway so it can be used first.

I went out and did battle with the Chicken Butler.  The whole point of buying the damn thing was to protect my chickens and more importantly make them low maintenance.  It is not low maintenance if I am having to repair the thing every two months.  The string gets tight and the motor has to be removed, allowing the string to stretch out.  I tried to put the door on a straight timer for opening and closing.  No go, it would not operate correctly with that configuration, despite the instructions saying otherwise.  It works again.  I wire tied all the loose wires down and the plugs are tied in so the chickens cannot unplug them easily.  Hopefully, it will go at least three months before I have to do anything again.  I cleaned out all the nest boxes.  I threw out all the eggshells and bedding and filled the nest boxes back up with fresh bedding.  I am at least hoping we can tell how many eggs are getting eaten a day. 

My luck is holding out, after dinner Annmarie went out to lock the sheep up.  My mother-in-law called to say that a stray dog had went onto her front porch and killed a cat.  So Annmarie wanted the sheep locked up to keep them safe.  She happened to look over at the chicken coop and found all the chickens trapped outside the coop.  The Chicken Butler had closed already.  She had to put 48 chickens into the coop one at a time.  I obviously need to reset the timers for my door and the light.   Annmarie told me that the light was not working.  The lack of light could be the reason I am not getting very many eggs.  The light problem will have to be fixed in the morning. 

Our sheep.

The ram pasture, it is no wonder the sheep are in heaven.


Farm 7, Predators 16

The other night Annmarie woke me up at 0230 to say that a chicken was squawking outside.  I usually sleep through this but it had woke me up also.  I was prompted to go outside and investigate.  In an attempt to be stealthy I dug around in the dirty laundry for some pants and only came up with some scrub pants and an old t-shirt to hastily don.  I ran downstairs grabbed a flashlight and paused to consider my weapon choices.  Normally, I would go for the Walther P-22 with laser, this being my normal weapon of choice for nighttime predator patrols.  But after the story of the dogs being afraid of leaving the front porch I figured I had better beef up the armament.  I grabbed the pistol grip shotgun and as an after thought shoved the .357 pistol in the side pocket of my scrubs.  Unfortunately, I did not take the time to tie the waistband of my scrubs.  By the time I got out to the chicken coop I had a very wide stance and my pants were riding on my thighs.  I spotted a possum six feet from the coop and blasted it with the shotgun.  I spent another 20 minutes scouting around with a very dim flashlight and repeated attempts to pull my pants up to my waist.  I attempted to go back to bed but had a hard time relaxing.  At 0530, I was woken up again by a chicken squawking and had to go out again and make a patrol.  No predators.  I did figure out that my chicken butler was not working again.  It had gotten unplugged so I plugged it back in hoping this would make it work again.  Not so much.  I had to lock the chickens up by hand last night.

Annmarie and I opened up the orchard to the ram pasture and chased the sheep over.  The horses didn't want to come but we left the gate open.  Of course, one of the little boy lambs keeps getting out of the orchard.  I have put him back in three days in a row.  I have no clue how he is getting out.  Hopefully, with them staying in the ram pasture his wandering days are over.  We chased the sheep up into the barn and caught the two biggest boys so they could be weighed.  There is an old wool scale in the barn, we caught the sheep and I sat them on the scale.  The oldest by (tag #2) weighs 90#, so he is going to be sold for lamb chops.  I already have  buyer.  Boy #2 (tag #3) only weighed 70# so he needs some more time before he is ready.  I had told the butcher 2 lambs, I will call today and tell them it is only going to be one this time around.  They are coming out on Saturday or Monday.  If they are in the area they add on the lambs so a special trip is not made for a few sheep.  It works well for both of us. 

We also spread out the straw in the lean to for the sheep to bed in this winter.  Sarah had cleaned it out earlier.  It is amazing how little room 21 sheep take up.  We could easily fit 60-70 sheep in the space we already have.  I want to get them into the barn next year.  It will just make things easier all around.  Far more room to work in and set up a sorting chute with a built in scale. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Experiment gone wrong

As in all things in life most of us don't account for ALL the details.  We make plans and adjust accordingly as they go awry.  No big surprise then that my chicken experiment failed.  We kept the chickens locked up for two days and only collected nine eggs total.  My premise was that I would get an accurate count of all eggs produced.  I was assuming that some hens were sneaking off and not laying in the coop (hence, the reason I am not getting any green eggs).  I would also be able to keep the egg suckers (cats) out of the coop.  I wanted to be able to make some informed thinning decisions.  All this depended on some cooperation on the chickens part (willing participants) and I forgot to account for a chicken's pathological fear of all change.  A happy chicken lays eggs, an unhappy one doesn't.  An expected side benefit to this experiment was to keep the chickens safe (they were locked up) but even that didn't happen.  Three of them decided to not go into the coop at night and one of them got eaten over the weekend!

Annmarie said that out two dogs were too scared to leave out front porch first thing in the morning after being let out of their kennels.  She had to go out and stand on the porch and coax the dogs off the porch.  She said she had heard wolves again howling that night.  We aren't sure if it is the wolves or a cougar scaring the dogs.  This just means we are going to have to go out armed first thing in the morning.  It is amazing to me that we live in a modern society and at our house we go out armed first thing in the morning ready to battle mother nature.  I would expect this if we were living in Alaska not Eastern Oregon.  After the whole raccoon incident, Annmarie isn't taking any chances (or prisoners!).  So far this year we have not lost a single sheep to predators.  The local paper had an article recently that Oregon fish and wildlife was going to kill another two wolves from a known pack after confirming over nine separate livestock wolf kills.  The wolves don't seem to be a personal danger.  Everyone I know that has encountered them personally has fared well, except for their dogs.  They are incredibly territorial and will kill all canines.  I am far more concerned a young cougar may come down to the house.  The joys and tribulations of living out in the country. 

The wheat truck is unloaded and ready for hay.  Sarah and I put away the left over cedar from the bridge project (yes, I know it was finished quite a while ago) over the weekend.  We have enough cedar to do another 32 feet of fence.  Annmarie and I are still trying to determine where the fence is going to run.  This will most likely entail putting out stakes and some marking tape so we have some visual references to help with the decision.  This is a next year or year after project.

I have managed to fill the entire floor of the clean and organized (was) tool shed.  It will most likely take me a good four hours to get it all straightened out.  It is mostly tools and yard sale finds in boxes and buckets.  My newest favorite container is a five gallon bucket.  You can just throw the tools needed for a specific job in the bucket and go.  It works great until you do this four or five times and then all the tools you need are spread out in various buckets.  I guess the moral of the story is put away tools every time... this may take a lifetime to learn.

We got a quote to fix our heating system.  Currently, we spend about $2400/year in propane for heat, hot water and cooking.  In the winter it is not uncommon to burn 400 gallons of propane in a bitter month.  This makes for a crazy bill.  We found out that our original heating company (forever nameless) had undersized our feeder duct to the downstairs by over 50%.  Replacing 20 feet of supply duct work in our upstairs bathroom will gain us another 1300cf of hot air downstairs.  Our hope is it will cut our propane consumption.  My theoretical goal (insert arbitrary number) is a 25% decrease in propane used.  It might be wishful thinking but you have to have goals.  The new contractor (whom we like and is very conscionable) is going to make the supply duct larger and wire in a third control zone.  A zone is an area of the house with its own thermostat that opens and closes a duct damper (valve) to regulate the temperature independent of the rest of the house.  Our third zone is going to be the breeze porch.  We had considered putting it off (Annmarie) until later, but if I install more flooring in the attic I will cover up the duct dampers making it that much harder to go back in and install.  We are going to get this corrected (repaired/fixed/put right) for the low low price of about $2000.  This is supposed to occur near the end of this month.  If our luck holds true it will be on the coldest day possible. 

Annmarie and I have started to negotiate the winter projects (I whine, she lists them off, I re-prioritize, she list them off again, I whine) for this year.  It seems having the beautiful stained glass lights in the stairwell covered with plastic and unusable for the last four years is long enough.  I need to put a second coat of paint on the stairwell walls (20 feet tall).  The large light is a three foot diameter upside dome that hangs four feet from the ceiling.  There is only six inches of clearance on either side of the light from the wall.  I love the light but it is going to become a huge dust/bug collector.  With it located over the stairs there is not good way to reach it to clean it our or even change a light bulb.  How on earth would I do it when I am seventy years old?  Two years later I finally came up with an idea.  I can go up into the upstairs bathroom and cut a 2x2 foot access into the wall.  You will be able to pull the door out and just reach through the wall.  The light is only six inches away from the light.  Simple and elegant, plus the wall that will contain the access door is only visible from the top of the stairs. 

Here is the project list as prioritized by the wife:
1.  Paint stairwell and make stair lights functional.
2.  Redo spare bedroom walls and floor (fix sheetrock, paint room, sand and stain floor).
3.  Thanksgiving project is to build a cookie sheet cupboard to go between the stove and counter (about 12 inch space 38 inches high with a couple of dividers and open front).
4.  At this point if I have finished the above I can kinda pick and choose from the other projects.
a.  Make the laundry room door close (I shot expanding foam around the door and it expanded too much so the door won't shut).
b.  Make spare room closet door shut (it sticks on top).
c.  Strip and stain breeze porch door.
d.  Finish wiring in attic light and power so I can work in the attic after dark.
e.  Finish floor in attic
f.  Empty old house so it will be ready for conversion to a wood shop.
g.  Tear out divider wall in old house.
h.  Level old house so windows and doors close.
i.  Any kind of barn work.
j.  Repair old fence.
k.  Move sheep crap piles away from barn (need room to work on outside walls).
l.  Clean up around farm so I can mow with the tractor without running over every thing.
m. Organize all the farm equipment into one area.
n. Tear down old grainary (before it falls down).
o.  Repair and tear up part of the sheep shed.
p.  Fix irrigation pump.
q.  Find and setup irrigation line
r.  You get the picture...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tractor time

Well I finally managed to get some tractor time in yesterday.  Since I cannot get the 10 ton of hay yet, I decided to put away the tractor and its attachments.  This involved getting diesel for the tractor since I only had a little over a gallon from the dealer upon purchase.  Did you know that all gas cans now have safety features?  They have an actual valve so they cannot tip over and leak.  This makes them a lot harder to use, but since beggars cannot be choosers and I need a 5 gallon can for diesel I am the proud owner of a plastic gas can with this hokey plastic handle valve contraption.  I did manage to get the fuel in the tractor without too much difficulty (took forever).  It fired right up (after I went back in the house and got the key, forgot it).  I managed to flop the post hole driver into the bucket and drive it all to the lamb shed.  I had to let the roll bar down to get in the main door.  I had to move an old sheep panel out of the way and managed to flop the post hole digger out onto the ground.  Of course that meant I had to back out, turn around and back in again to get the mower off of the tractor.  I pulled the three pins and kicked on it till I managed to move the arms out of the way (was wishing for a hammer).  Supposedly the PTO connection is just a splined piece of metal and I should have had to just pull to get it disconnected.  I pulled and pulled, ended up cleaning all the weeds out and still couldn't see very well due to the safety covers that were keeping my fingers away.  I finally got the right angle and it pulled right off.

Now it was time to do some work!!  The main driveway needs to be scraped to fill in the potholes.  I purchased a box blade for this purpose but have never used one before.  Instead of just winging it and trying to smooth the driveway I figured I had better practice with the box blade first.  The salesman told me there was a learning curve associated with the box blade.  What he didn't tell me is that it can be hard to hook up.  Especially, when they set it on uneven ground with the attachment points pointing downhill and stuck on a piece of protruding iron hiding in the weeds.  Said iron pinned the blade in place (it is very heavy).  At one point I was frustrated enough to break out the directions!!  Damn things did not help so I had to go back to just figuring it out (back up, align the holes and put the pins in place, Duh?).  I did it eventually (45 minutes later).

Off I went to the orchard to tear up some ground.  About 5-6 years ago the front creek got flooded and it tore up the orchard, causing a channel to be created.  The bad part was there is about a 60 foot section that is deep and shaped like a narrow V, this caused me to go onto three tires both times I was mowing the orchard.  Three tires are not very stable.  I almost tipped the rental tractor over.  The V needed to vanish.  I started to just drag the box, not a whole lot happened. We have some form of large grass clumps and the box would latch onto those and stop the tractor!  I made a couple of passes with very little effect.  The solution to this is to lower the ripper blades on the box blade.  I extended them as low as they could go (have to do this individually by moving a pin) and started again.  I ended up making multiple passes to just rip up the ground.  I spent a lovely 2.5 hours dragging and moving dirt with the bucket.  I only had the tractor on three wheels twice, only almost tipped it forward once and only got stuck four times!  Annmarie came out and made me quit.  There is nothing more relaxing than to be on the tractor, playing in the dirt and listening to tunes on an i-pod.  I need about another 4-5 hours to finish it up but it looks much better now and the head of the V is gone.  I just need to take the steep part of one side of the V down now.  It is so steep that you cannot take the tractor along it, you have to go straight up and straight down. 

On a side note, the horses like the tractor far too much.  Every time I stopped and got off they would run over and start exploring the tractor with their lips.  I am making a mental note to not leave the tractor alone with the horses. The great chicken experiment is kinda working. Two leghorns are boycotting the chicken enclosure and roosting outside somewhere.  Now there is only one leghorn (Farm 6, predators 16).  Stupid chickens.  I didn't get eggs yesterday, Sarah will get them tonight and we will see how many green eggs have been produced in the last two days.  Then I will make some culling decisions.