Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Farm 0, Predators 1

Sarah came home from school this week and found a dead hen chicken on our front porch.  Zeke was laying on the porch watching the chicken.  The cats were trying to eat it.  Something had ripped out a huge chunk of its breast.  We figure Zeke found it and brought it back to the porch (he is always dragging unwanted stuff to the front porch).  We checked Zeke all over for blood and didn't find any on him.  We still think it is an unwanted predator, so yesterday I purchased some 58 grain varmit bullets for a .243.  When they get here I will get Sarah to reload them and then I am going to have to take some time to go kill some coyotes.  I saw three coyotes last week during daylight hours on our back hillside. 

Well our front screen door finally fell apart.  The hinges were literally torn apart over the last four years by the wind.  I had to take it down today as it would no longer close.  I am going to use the two windows in the screen for the barn.  I also managed to wire in the back porch light today.  Near freezing temperatures do not make for an easy wiring job.  My poor fingers were numb and aching by the time I got it working.  Should have done it last summer.

We are on the lookout for a flat bed trailer, 16 feet long, dual axle with a 2 inch hitch, and pockets for 2x4 stakes so I can build racks.  We can get a couple ton of hay on it and then with racks I can haul the sheep to sale.  We realize that the sale is at least next year, but we currently have 21 ewes and our goal is around 30-35.  With them having twins every 8 months and us selling them around the 10-12 month mark, we could have over a 100 at a time easily.   I just don't want to pay an arm and a leg for a trailer.  So the feelers are out and I am watching craigslist all the time, so far no real good deals. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lamb Update

Good news - when I went out for the second time this morning, the lamb was up and eating and looking much stronger than when I was out first thing.  I think he's (generic pronoun) going to make it just fine.  This is an experienced ewe who is a very attentive mother.  We'll let them settle in for a few days and then do a gender check.  This, however, is the tiniest lamb we've had.  I know we keep saying that, but this time I mean it.  The span between his front and back legs is only as long as my hand is wide, about 4 inches.  As a frame of reference, the slats in the photo are a standard pallet stood on edge.  He's not even as tall as the second slat up.  Last night he kept getting between the layers of the back pallet because the bottom slat on that one is missing, and he'd get in there, and then get his head up because he was looking for food and couldn't figure out to put his head level with his shoulders so he could come out.  But, he's much more stable on his feet today, so I'm hopeful.  For now, momma and baby are confined to the barn until he gets bigger.

On a side note - the rest of the sheep are out on the back hillside.  Remember those rail road ties that Steve burned earlier?  Each and every one of them that was afire is no longer connected to the ground.  They essentially burned off at ground level and are now hanging from the wire.  Since the railroad ties are supposed to provide the stability to keep the fence tight, that arrangement does not make for a sheep-secure fence.  He's planning to repair fence this week.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mixed News

One of our ewes delivered this evening.  I went out as soon as Sarah & I got home from her girls' afternoon that was her choice for celebrating her 16th birthday (manicures, movie, and dinner with a friend), and found one very new lamb.  And two others who were stillborn.  Sarah had been saying for quite a while that she thought this ewe was carrying triplets.  It turns out that she was right, but only one lived.  I think this may be a lesson in genetics.  I'd have to look back to make sure, but his may be Lucky's mother.  Who may also have been related to his father.  Clearly Lucky is not going to be able to stay on another year, but we already knew that.  I'm still not really sure about this lamb that is living now.  It was new enough that it hadn't yet stood up when I was out there.  I'm going to take a bottle out with me when I go back out to check on it in a few minutes. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Floor in progress

I have actually started to sand the floor in the spare room.   I only had 80 grit paper left over and it fills very fast with paint when I do the painted sections (yes, I did already strip the paint once).  I can only do about 3 square feet with a single piece of 80 grit.  I had one piece of 50 grit left and did almost five times as much with it, so I will be stopping and picking up some 50 grit and I am out of 120 grit also.  I don't go any finer than 120 on the floor, I want it to be rustic and with the old holes, stains and nails it is rustic.  The sander got away from me a couple of times yesterday.  I had forgotten how hard it was to sand, and how many back muscles it took. 

We decided to lock the sheep out of the ram pasture for a couple of weeks.  We are hoping to let it grow out and then let them in.  It helps that they have to pass through the ram pasture to get to the orchard and they have gotten out of the orchard twice in the last week.  I cannot figure out where.  There is a little loose fence up near the house that may be the cause.  One more thing to add to the list. 

The horses have managed to create quit the pile of manure near the barn this winter, so pretty quick I am going to have to fire up the tractor and move the pile.  I need to move the entire sheep poo pile away from the barn before I can get started on the barn any way.  Don't forget, I still need to finish my winter burning of the weeds.  It did rain this last weekend, but I am going to have to just mark out the next rainy day as a burn day no matter what is on the agenda for that day. 

The chickens have started to lay more eggs.  This is a good thing.  Only problem is they are starting to lay out in the barn again.  I found 8 eggs this morning in a nest of straw.  I picked up the eggs and stuffed them in my coat pocket then tossed all the loose straw out into the sheep pen so there is no place for them to lay.  They need to lay in the coop!  I had finished feeding the animals and was coming out to talk to Annmarie, she was headed to work, and had to stop her from giving me a hug due to the eggs.  When I went inside to empty my pockets one of the eggs had cracked and leaked all over my pocket and good wool gloves.  I had to wash out my glove and pocket.  Normally, this would not be a big deal, but I had taken the children to school and had my good coat on.  Our second rooster died sometime this week before I could put him out of his misery.  The chickens finished him off and we cannot find the body.  Literally, hen pecked to death.  Now mind you the other rooster is the one who drew first blood, but the hens did him in. 

There are still at least four ewes that have not had their babies yet.  Two of them look like they could pop at any moment.  So we still have more babies cooking.  We are going to end up with some extra hay.  At least 2 ton maybe more.  So I will probably plan on buying another 10 ton and then seeing how it goes.  We will have 23 ewes next winter and all of them will be pregnant.  If 20 of them throw twins we are going to multiply quickly.  I am going to have to look into the livestock sale by next spring. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sheep babies tagged

Sarah and I went out on Friday and tagged/banded babies.  We only had one boy to inflict the rubber band torture on and the rest were girls who only get an ear tag. We had six babies to catch.  So we took Zeke with us and herded the sheep into the barn, shutting the outside main gate so the sheep could go between the barn and the holding pen.  The initial idea was to sort them in the holding pen, but Zeke got rolled again and didn't want to get in there.  So we chased the sheep into the barn and Sarah caught babies.  Zeke chased the sheep back into the barn every time they tried to sneak out.  We are still going in chronological order of age with the tag numbers.  It just makes it easier to sort the sheep by age if we keep doing it that way.  Our only baby boy was tagged #10, so we will have 7 boys to sell this year.  They will almost pay for the hay this next winter.  In 2013 we might actually break even on the sheep!

The spare bedroom is emptied and ready for me to start in on the floor.  I just need to strip the paint around the edges and I can start sanding.  This project is holding me back from working on the barn so I need to get it done.  The weather is so nice I could already be working on the barn.  I am starting to get fixated on the barn project.  Not even sure where I should start.  First thing I am going to do is walk around with the camera and take pictures of the whole thing before I do anything. It has that chunk of roof that got blown over still on the roof, but it is holding down the leading edge of the surviving roof so I am reluctant to move it until the new roof is on, but I may be able to salvage some of the lumber from it for the repair.  Just going to have to crawl up on the roof and look and see if any of the main supports are still intact.  Haven't ever done that.  The hay turbinators are going to come down and I want to mount them horizontally on the barn ends as owl nests.  Annmarie is shooting down my plan as I type this.  She wants me to cut a hole in the ends of the barn and mount the metal tubes inside the barn.  Just mounting the owl landing board outside.  It makes it very neat and tidy and aesthetically pleasing, adding about 50% more work for me!  So of course this is how it will happen.

We did our taxes yesterday.  Annmarie does them, but I pay the day to day bills and do the filing, so I have to be present for the "TAX DAY".  Always much grousing about taxes and how I file the needed documents.  I had most of them readily available but did have to dig around for a few.  I should probably use an expanding folder for the farm so I can sort the receipts as I go, I had them spread all over the chair and myself trying to categorize them.  We delved into the small business side and used our "Stewart Creek Somethings" business to write off farm expenses.  There was some tax credit incentive for small businesses to purchase capital items (one time kinda thing) that let us claim the whole value of the tractor in one year.  That gained us another $4000, so in reality the tractor only cost us around $16k, the thing just gets cheaper and cheaper!  Not bad for a tool that I will never have to replace.  It lives in a barn all by itself with all its implements.  I am going to make a better storage place for the implements and maybe even eventually fix the door so that I don't have to lower the roll bar every time I need to park the tractor.  We are going to get enough money back that I will be able to purchase all the needed items for the barn remodel.  So as soon as our return comes in I can start ordering lumber and some gravel.  Once I get the barn leveled then I can worry about where to go next.  Most likely the tack room will be the next logical progression as I have to dig out a foot of grain and need a door to get at said grain. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another lamb succesfully sold

Child with Zeke (wife taught him to sit on furniture)
We sold another lamb and the processing guy came today and took him away.  In a couple of weeks our customer will have grass fed lamb ready for the dinner table.  I came home early to seperate out the sheep and get boy #3 in our holding pen.  I wanted a live weight on him so I spent five minutes chasing him around in the barn before wrangling him and carrying him to the scale.  He weighed 85#.  I let him go and he ran back to join everyone else.  I then spent another 10 minutes sorting him into the holding pen.  Zeke tried to help me sort the sheep in the holding pen, but he got rolled again by one of the Baker ewes.  He held his own this time, snapped and barked back.  He is getting wiser and more mature.  He did run out of the holding pen and would not come back.  He is scared to go through the sheep side of the barn.  After getting ambushed on multiple occasions he has learned to be leery of enclosed spaces with lots of animals. I had to bribe him three times to get him to run through an empty room.  He scrambles up the haystack like a champ now.  I now tell him we are going to "work" when we go out to work with the sheep.  He already knows the times we take care of the animals and waits by the door for us.  He gets anxious if we don't go out on time.

We found the body of that missing lamb buried in the bedding.  I moved the body near the opening so I could take it up to the bone yard in the afternoon.  When I went out to feed this evening it was gone!  I know a cat didn't take it the thing weighed the same as a cat.  Amazing how things just disappear and reappear. 

Computer stand made out of scrap pile.

Annmarie wanted our computer monitor to sit a little higher on the desk. She wanted me to make an upside U.  I thought about it, looked at the monitor which sits on three legs, and made a boomerang shaped shelf.  It works great!  I am still amazed at how much can be accomplished with a table saw, compound miter saw and table top sander.  It took me an hour to dig around, find some right size scraps, cut them to length, sand them and screw em together.  Job accomplished and wife is happy. 

Only time the computer desk will be clean.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ghost Truck

First green egg of the year.

Color on the walls, still need to pull down dividing paint tape.

I came home this evening to the headlights of the old wheat truck lighting up the driveway.  I happened to be on the phone with Annmarie and told her I thought her brother was finally out working on the truck.  I promptly forgot about it and went out to the barn to do the feeding chores.  When I came out of the barn Annmarie had a flashlight and was telling me that no one had turned on the headlights.  They magically turned themselves on and when I opened the door I could not get them to turn off.  Now mind you, when I was getting hay I couldn't get the headlights to work!  I had to disconnect the battery to get the lights to turn off.  So now the truck needs brakes and a new light switch. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Painting in Spare Bedroom Completed.

I finished painting the spare bedroom today.  The final coat on the ceiling was the only thing left.  Luckily, the ceiling only took one coat of paint.  The walls are so dark that they took three coats of paint to get a nice deep even luster.  Tomorrow I will be able to take the tape off the walls (I used it to keep a nice straight line from the ceiling color) and it will be done!  I still need to strip a little paint off the door trim, but I am leaning toward just using the palm sander to finish it off.  I will start emptying the room so I can lay down a coat of paint stripper around the edges of the room.  They painted the outside edges around a large central piece of linoleum.  Once I strip that paint off I can start sanding.  I am hoping to get started on sanding next week.  I am going to cut the shelves to the right length tomorrow.  Once the floor is finished I will be able to just pop the shelves in and load them up.  With all the fresh paint I won't sand until next week to give the paint some time to cure.  I really want to make a storage/laundry closet downstairs in the laundry room.  It will go in our current unused corner, the bottom 18 inches would be a spot for all our boots.  Then four divided bins for our laundry (whites, lights, darks and delicate).  This would be 4 feet high for a total of 66 inches tall, leaving 25 inches left to the ceiling.  I can get two more 12 inch shelves above the laundry.  The whole thing can be 18 inches deep.  Since it is that deep I may even be able to shrink the laundry storage height.  I would like to squeeze in one more shelf.  I have the whole thing designed in my head.  I even know how to attach it to the walls and add a floor just off the tile. I even have most of the lumber out in the old house...

The light in the chicken coop is working.  We collected 10 eggs today and the first green one!!  Totally cool.  I have been waiting for the green eggs to start back up.  Zeke finally learned to ring the bell today consistently.  Too bad he only rings it so he can run out and eat thrown out food in the compost pile!  Damn dog is too smart for his own good. 

We had another baby lamb.  One of our first time moms (#15) had a single baby girl one day while Sarah was in the hospital.  They are both doing fine.  Annmarie bought me an animal grease pen.  We have so many babies it is hard to keep track of who belongs to whom.  So I am going to write the mother's number on the baby's side. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

plodding along

Our child is in the hospital sick again, so we are just maintaining.  I have been coming home and taking care of the animals.  Yesterday, I got Zeke to run up a very steep hay pile and hang out 12 feet off the ground on top of the hay.  This let me throw bales off the top and not crush the puppy.  He is getting better.  I am trying to get him to understand the word "guard".  When he watches the open door and keeps the sheep from passing I tell him he is "guard"ing the door.  Works so far.  I did mount a new chicken light to a wooden pedestal on Thursday.  It has an enclosed glass cover and then a strong metal wire basket over that.  I wired it to an extension cord directly and screwed it to the ceiling in the coop this morning.  It was working great when I got home.  Amazing how much more light there is when it comes from the ceiling.  Now hopefully, we will get more eggs.  I recounted last night and we have 29 laying hens and are only getting around 7 eggs/day.  Some of them should be old enough to lay this month.  I am going to have to get our friend Doom to make me a few more wooden eggs.  The chickens have lost two of the wooden eggs and are now currently laying in the same nest boxes.  So I would like to put 2-3 eggs in the upper boxes to get them to move into the upper boxes.  We will see if he has the time.  No new baby sheep recently.  We still have at least three more pregnant ewes.  Two of those look like they are going to pop any minute.