Saturday, March 31, 2012

Barn work has begun!

This is the backside of the barn.  You can see it is sinking on the left hand side.
Today was the big day, I started work on the barn.  Unfortunately, not the kind of work I wanted.  After removing the panels covering up the pillars I realized that I needed to dig out under the barn.  Two feet of sheep shit!  There is nothing like sitting on your butt bent over digging under a building.  A real upper body and back workout.  I fired up the tractor and slanted the dirt so the water would run away from the building and not back under the barn.  I did manage to scoop out about two feet of dirt with the tractor but that was it.  So I started digging by hand, the old fashioned way.  My progress is measured by how many pillars are unburied.  There are 9 pillars and I managed to uncover three but only dig out two spaces between the pillars so only 25% completed.  I only dug back under the barn to the next set of supports.  I need to buttress up that beam, as it is twisted and low on the low end of the barn.  Hence having to dig it out.  

First day of digging completed.

This is going to create far more dirt so I will be attempting to spread that all out on the barn lot side to cover all the rocks and get a nice level area ready for pasture seed.  I went and purchased some dry pasture seed (doesn't need to be irrigated) a 50# bag costs $60.  Once it is all dug out, roof repaired and windows installed I will plant the seed.  I may just leave a 10 foot section near the barn unplanted so I can get the rest of the pasture planted.

Two sections all dug out, see the row of supports back under the barn.

The wind has been howling and it ripped our wood shed door hinge screws right out of the wood.  I am going to have to purchase some 8 inch long bolts to bolt the door back in place. 

The chicken door worked!  The chickens came out this morning without any difficulties.   They ran around in the rain all day.  Digging under the barn made me immune to the rain.
All the beams are sitting on rocks under the barn.  No concrete and no precast anything, just good old fashioned flat rocks.   

Another automatic chicken door.

Outside of coop before installing new chicken door.
Inside of coop, old chicken butler that needs to be removed.
I just love the concept of an automatic chicken door.  I cannot imagine anyone who has lost chickens to predators not wanting one.  My first one was a bust, the chicken butler, I installed two of them and they both were too finicky and broke.  It was either the chickens, the design, the predators or my teenager daughter that caused the butler to fail so quickly.  Either way, not designed correctly.  I happened across an add in craigslist of a gentleman who builds his own in Portland.  I contacted his wife and she packaged and mailed me one.  Only cost me $110, less than 50% of what I paid for the chicken butler.  I just got it in the mail yesterday, so it was installation time.  We had fallen back into our wonton ways and were not locking up the chickens at night.  Its dark out there!  Hence the need for a new automatic door.  I had not done a head count in a month either and our egg production was slipping so I feared the worse (another predator).  Sarah and I went out to survey the requirements needed for installation.

When installing our chicken butler I had to make a frame for it to be mounted against.  This needed to be torn off.  But after looking at the new door it needs to be attached directly to the outer wall.  I have insulated walls and old paneling on the walls.  Which means cutting a much larger hole to accommodate the new chicken door.  The new door doesn't have a name.  Any good product needs a distinctive name, I have decided to name it the "POULTRY PROTECTOR"!  The Poultry Protector has a built in light sensor that needs to see the daylight.  Once I cut away everything inside the coop I will need to drill a hole to the outside so the eye can get some light.

Inside of coop with Poultry Protector installed.
I just used my zip it to cut the paneling.  It is not a precision tool, but hey, at this point it is just the coop.  It needs to work but doesn't have to be perfect.  It took a couple of tries to get the right height.  My old opening was framed, but the Poultry Protector was a little too snug, that problem was corrected with the judicious use of a hammer.  Once the door was installed I had to adjust it so it opened.  I kept screwing with the adjusting knob to get the sensitivity right and blew the fuse (already a better product, it has a fuse!).  I changed the fuse and it worked fine.  The opening is slightly smaller.  My only improvement  for this product is to have it not touch the base plate.  I would have the base plate come up against the back of the door so if mud or poop built up it could not keep the door from closing.

Outside, hole for sensor, smaller opening.

The use of a piece of threadall means you have positive closing and opening and the rope doesn't pinch itself and cease to function. 

We have two hens that are brooding.  I checked both of them yesterday.  One was sitting on four eggs and the other had no eggs.  So I gave the no egg hen six eggs.  We are going to let them try and hatch the eggs.  We will have to clean out the chick area in the next 25 days just in case they actually manage to hatch some babies.  I also counted hens, there are still 27 hens and one rooster.  My light had burned out in the coop so I changed the bulb.  More eggs should be coming directly.  I will do my monthly egg reports tomorrow.  I only used 100# of food last month.  If I can keep the feed usage down the chickens may actually pay for themselves this year.   I am going to start in on the barn today.  I will be sure and get some before pictures. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fire is supposed to be your friend

It has rained and snowed for the last three days.  I was sure it was safe to burn weeds, not only that but the back creek is starting to raise from all the moisture and the weeds are clogging it up.  So I fixed the burner and started burning.  It went great.  Cleaned out the back creek, raised both fences so the water can go under the fence and not through.  Then I went up to the spring head and burned the weeds.  When I left there I noticed a little smoke coming from one of the dead upright trees.  The tree in question stands 16 feet in the air and is three feet in diameter.  I cruised on down to the driveway to start burning weeds out of the fence line.  After two sections I look back and notice some of the fire going into the CRP.  I go down and stomp it out.  I burn three more small sections and look back.  Fire, lots of fire.  It takes me about 30 minutes to stomp it all out and I had to stop a few times to let my boots and blue jeans cool off.  I decided then that it needs to be actively raining now before I can burn.  After my shower I could still smell smoke, but attributed it to residue in my sinuses.  The dog just asked to be let out.  There is a 16 foot tree on fire!!  The whole stump is burning from the inside out.  Luckily there is nothing over there but that tree.  Fire is supposed to be my friend.  It just is not turning out that way this year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New toilet finally.

New toilet installed!  Only sat in the shed for 4 years...
I received a very angry call at work on Monday.  The old toilet was overflowing and the water float was not turning off the water so it was continuing to overflow.  Sarah shut off the supply valve and then plunged the toilet back into functioning status.  Needless to say the toilet jumped to the top of the priority list.  Actually, it was handed down that NO other job could be done until the toilet was changed out.  I managed to get it installed with only two trips to the hardware store.  One for a new hose (I had two different length ones already but both had the wrong size fitting on one end) and the other for clear and white silicone.  Which is no longer called caulk it is now silicone adhesive.  It really isn't used for its adhesive properties, at least I don't use it for that reason, but that is how it is being marketed.  I had to read three different labels checking to see if they added anything to the silicone.  I will finish caulking the base today.  I started it then realized I had better let the toilet get used for a day or so before finishing up the caulking job.  No leaks now, I had one at the supply valve and had to tighten the packing. This toilet is marginally taller than the old one (it had been dated 1988 on the inside of the tank lid, probably by Annmarie's grandfather). 

I called around yesterday pricing lumber for the barn.  Found a great deal at Blue Mountain lumber in Reith, OR.  They had some 1x12 inch x 16 ft boards that had been sitting outside and had gotten weathered.  They had almost 3000 bf (a board ft, bf, is 1 inch thick lumber x12 inches wide) or in this case 3000 lf (lineal feet, actual total length of the boards).  I only wanted 2000bf, but the price was so good I opted for 2500bf.  They called back and just threw in the last 500bf to get rid of it for the same price.  The final price was $1000 for 3000bf or $0.30bf or $4.80 for a single 16 foot board.  The weathering won't hurt the boards at all since they are going to go on the outside of the barn any ways.  I also got a great deal on some 2x6 tongue and groove rejects.  They were milled incorrectly and the visible "V" cut is chattered.  I can just turn them upside down and use the square side.  I need to measure the barn floor to see how many of these I need.  If I take random lengths the price stays low.  So of course I am going to do that.  I am only using them for flooring in the barn, they don't need to be beautiful, just sound.  Now if I only had my trailer...

Second day of spring.
 It snowed last night.  We woke up to a white second day of spring.  School was not cancelled.  Surprisingly, some of the chickens were out wandering around in the snow.  They usually stay indoors.  Hopefully, the non scared chickens can teach the scared ones to come out of the coop next winter.
Second day of spring.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeds started

We did it and got all our seeds planted on the breeze porch greenhouse.  Also managed to replant all the cactus that we started from seed two years ago, about 12 plants now in their own containers.  I also started some lavender from seeds.  I started those in the peat plugs like the creeping thyme.  I have over 100 plugs with seeds in them, we shall see how many I can sprout and then subsequently keep alive.  I want to grow the lavender inside this year then plant it next year, but it will depend on how fast the stuff grows and how big it gets.  We want to stick it in clumps on our driveway side hill.  I didn't get to plant the asparagus starts yet, the seeds have to soak for 24-48 hours before you plant them.  Next week I will try and get those in some dirt. 

Moving along slowly

.243 brass drying after getting washed.
Sarah and I have started getting ready to reload some 243 ammo.  I tumbled all that my dad had on hand and we washed it yesterday.  Sarah told me I should be able to balance it on a paper towel, but I could not get them all to stay upright. Now mind you, she has been reloading pistol rounds and they are a lot wider at the opening than 243 rounds. I had to come up with some way to hold them upright so the inside could dry.  It dawned on me that Annmarie's cookie wrack has a nice grid like top and it turned out perfect. 

I am trying to get the upstairs bedroom floor completed but all these other little jobs are distracting me.  We are having toilet issues again so a new toilet install has started to rear its ugly head.  Never mind that I have all the parts and new toilet, I am just not ready to install the new toilet.  Haven't really been ready for last four years!! 

Upstairs bedroom, 80 grit sanding done in middle, need to do edges near wall with hand sander.
The upstairs bedroom picture was taken from the inside of the furnace closet.  I need to hand sand the edges with 50 grit then 80 grit then 120 grit.  Once that is done then I will sand the middle of the floor with 120 grit on my belt sander and I will be done sanding.  For a super smooth finish you should go up to at least 200 if not 400 grit, but I am going for the rustic look so 120 is fine.  After the sanding is done, I vacuum really well, wash the walls, and ceiling then the floor.  Once everything is clean and dust free I will stain the floor, let it dry for a day then apply two coats of lacquer to harden the floor and keep the stain from rubbing off as easily. 

Free grape plants
My grape plants have taken off.   I read about starting plants from the vines that are cut off in the winter.  A friend of mine at work, mike, kept some vines for me and I drug them home in the back of the Prius.  A couple of weeks later I trimmed them all up and planted them in some potting soil.  I drilled some holes in the bottom of the top bucket and placed it inside of another bucket.  Soaked the dirt down, placed in medium temperature room with lots of sun and viola!  Live grape plants for free!  I would like to plant three different varieties.  So I am going to only use up 1/3 of my available planting area with this variety. 

Sarah and I are going to try to plant our garden starts this year.  Seeds are expensive, but the starts are outrageous.  So I am going to use the little green house we started the creeping thyme in last year.  Hopefully, we will have better than 10% survival rate.  Today we plant all the seeds. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Winter or Spring, make up your mind

Mother nature cannot decide whether it should be spring or stay winter.  We had snow this morning, and yesterday the wind was gusting over 50 mph.  One of those gusts blew the front screen door into our porch pillars, denting a section of it.  Truly, if it is not one thing it is another.  I managed to wrestle the screen door into the old house without breaking anything.  The wind managed to break the window out of the back door on the old house.  So now I need to level the old house so I can fix the door then fix the window.  My duct tape fix did not hold the glass in against 50 mph winds, go figure. 

We had another lamb born on March 7, ewe #1 gave birth to a single baby boy.  So now we have two young babies and two very protective mothers.  Zeke and I went out last night to herd the sheep into the barn and the two mommas did not want to move.  The closed ranks and faced Zeke down.  He could not get them to move.  Plus the idiot keeps circling around them and trying to push them away from the gate we are trying to go through.  One time the lead ewe got mad and chased him down and rolled him a couple more times.  He jumped back up and I sicced him on her, he grabbed her by the hair on her shoulder and hung on for 30 feet before I called him off.  The sheep still would not move after that.  I had to help the dog and he was a little gun shy about facing off against them.  We did eventually get the sheep into the barn.  He is getting much better, but our sheep do not want to cooperate. 

Zeke is outside today running around the yard.  He just will not stay inside, rings the bell until someone lets him out.  This morning he ran down to my mother-in-law's house and chased her cats around.  I have been keeping an eye on him since. 

We have decided to purchase a flat bed trailer.  We can haul lumber, hay and sheep (after I build some racks) using our pickup.  I only wanted to spend $1200 for a dual axle, electric brakes, lights, wood decked, stake pockets trailer.  I have just spent three hours on the internet and calling 12 different places, average price $2500.  I found one place that uses tubular steel frame and I can dictate the number of stake pockets.  They will custom paint it and delivered to Hood River, OR for $2000.  We are going to go with them. 

I did get lucky and win a unit of 2x8 x10feet boards at a fundraiser for $200.  This is going to constitute a large portion of the new floor in the barn.  Great deal, just need a trailer now to pick them up.  The water leak from the frozen pipe is getting worse.  So this weekend I need to change out the faucet.  We are starting to get a small swamp in back yard. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lamb given away

I went out 1.5 hours later (I set an alarm) to check on the baby boy and he was truly rejected.  I found him five feet away from the ewe buried in the straw trying to stay warm.  The other lamb, boy, was curled up at his mother's feet.  I gave him a little warmed formula which caused him to perk up some, but not very much.  So I wrapped him up in a hand towel and took him down to Tish.  She will hand feed him and take care of him.  She took our last bummer lamb.  Otherwise, I don't know that he would have survived the night.  I think it would have gotten too cold for him.  I forgot to check the ewe's ear tag so I could write it down.  Will do that tonight so I can put a red check mark after her name on the spreadsheet. 

Farm stuff

Spring is here, even if I don't want to admit it.  Over the weekend Annmarie had me spray the bugs trying to get in the house.  She said they were swarming on the sunny end of the house.  What an understatement.  I thought I was in a B horror movie, a bad one, when I started to spray the bugs.  They were in a huge soccer ball sized pile and then covering the entire sunny side of the house.  I fired up the little hand pump sprayer and bugs started flying every where.  I was jumping around and swatting bugs off my face and arms nonstop.  Not a fan of dive bombing bugs.  Luckily, I only muttered obscenities so no bugs flew into my mouth.  After I did our house, I went down and did the same thing to our in-laws home.  A couple of days later it kicked in and the bugs are much better.  I would have tried to attract the chickens over, but Zeke is being a pest and chasing the chickens at every opportunity.  I was hollering at him on Sunday for harassing a chicken and he came running back to me with a feather stuck to the corner of his mouth!  I watched the chicken get away, but he loves to chase anything that will run away from him. 

We had another set of lamb twins today.  Annmarie called me at had me get on the road early so I could be here to monitor the babies.  She had noticed that the mother was in labor and had locked the sheep up in the barn lot.  I came home and the ewe had one healthy baby at her feet, so I went into the barn and started setting up the pen so we could isolate her for a few days.  I came out with the water buckets and on my way to the creek I found a little baby covered in dirt all splayed out on the ground.  So I picked up that baby, her acknowledged baby and put them in the pen.  I then had to chase all the sheep into the barn then sort out all but her.  She kept trying to run out, after one failed attempt I did manage to get her locked in with her babies.  I then went and fixed a bottle, got some rags and went out to dry off the baby and bottle feed it.  I got it dried off and it ate about 1/2 ounce of milk substitute.  I then dragged the healthy baby next to the reject and left the reject wrapped up in towels to keep it warm.  I am not sure the mother will accept it.  So I will be going out every 1.5 hours to check on the baby and feed it.  It is a little boy.  I didn't check the other lamb's gender.  The healthy lamb is almost three times as big as the reject.  Not sure whether to blame the ewe or mother nature.  She will get a red check mark against her record any way.  If you are not a perfect mother, we are keeping track. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Who knew animals could make that much poop

Luna, our barn kitty, she was following us around.
Today it did not rain so I got to play on the tractor.  I love my tractor.  Annmarie may get jealous if I continue to praise the tractor and all its myriad abilities.  It is a huge force multiplier.  I spent about seven hours moving horse and sheep poop.  It would have taken me a couple of weeks to do it by hand.  The more I use the tractor the more amazed I am by how fast a job can get done.  I dug out all the horse dung alongside the barn and lowered the dirt level to create some natural drainage out of the horse pen.  There was a low spot right at the opening and it was getting pretty muddy and nasty.  Two of the gates could not be fully opened due to all the poop.

 This last fall I thought I could make it all winter without cleaning anything, but there is no way.  After this cleanup I may be able to go a whole year.  I won't, I will do it one more time this fall after we fix the barn.  I want to be ready for winter.  I had plans to move both large piles of sheep dung to a single pile out in the barn lot. Just not enough time.  It is probably going to take a couple of days to move both piles.  There is a lot of shit!  I did move about half the pile that was closest to the barn.  This allowed me to break up the large dry chunks and to make space so I can back a vehicle up to the side of the barn.  My very first step completed on revamping and improving the century old barn. Next step is to crawl underneath the barn and start digging the dry dung away from the rocks so I can install new supports directly onto the bedrock.  I don't want to put the new supports onto a foot of dried dung then let the whole thing get wet and soft.  So yeah for me, more digging under a building.  This is pure physical torture.  I might tear a couple of holes in the floor of the barn so I can stand up and dig.  Sounds like a great idea. 

Zeke thinks we are "working" so he is on the prowl for sheep.   This is all clean now.

We have decided to buy a trailer and I was talking with a local man who is in the know about a used trailer and he told me that I can buy my lumber directly from the mill in Rieth.  So I can buy three units of lumber for the barn.  They also make a tongue and groove board that is 2 inches thick for trailer beds that I could use on the floor of the barn.  I will be pricing that out soon.  He also sells scrap metal and has some old tin roofing.  I am going to go look at that also.  Things are starting to come together. 

Nice clear spot next to the barn so we can do some siding work.

Thursday night someone saw a cougar outside our mother-in-law's house, less than 100 yards from us.  This doesn't include the wolf sightings on the back hillside or the three coyotes I saw during the daylight hours last week.  Our house now looks like an arsenal.  I dusted off my 30-06 for the cougar and brought my father's .243 over for the coyotes.  The 30-30 still sits next to the door for Annmarie to shoot the coons with and there is a pump shotgun with laser and flashlight attached on the other side of the door.  I use it to go out at night now when I am doing the patrol.  The .22 pistol is nice but the ante has been upped and I am unwilling to just take it on a night patrol now.  I will call fish and game on Monday about the cougar being next to a residential dwelling. 

Barn is to the left, I added to the dung pile and smoothed out the road in the process.