Monday, December 30, 2013

Year end musings.

Zeke is not a happy camper.  Not only is he confined to the house again but he has to wear a t-shirt so he doesn't lick the steri strips off his belly.  He looks like a chick from the early eighties with his t-shirt all tied in a knot to make it shorter.  He is not impressed.  After another two weeks he should be okay.  By day 6 he starts bolting for the door in an attempt to get out and run around the house.  He misses chasing the cats.  

The weather was perfect yesterday.  The sun was shining it was warm and I ran around in a long sleeve shirt all day.  Today, it is a dreary December day.  The clouds are low and drizzling rain, the wind is blowing a nice biting cold and there is no sun.  It is hard to believe they are consecutive days.  Lee, the contractor is out working on the third side of the machine shop.  He is putting more brown tin up.  He should be done in a few days.  It is looking very nice.  Afterwards it will just leave the front and it needs a few new beams to replace the broken ones.  After that the shop will stand for another 50 years.  

I worked on the rock wall the other day.  I really wanted to drive the tractor up on the hillside and move some dirt behind the wall.  I am about 18-24 inches in the air and need to backfill before I can go any higher.  It was so not going to happen, the mud was so slick I thought I was standing on an inch of ice.  So instead I used the wheelbarrow to bring up more rocks and continue the wall.  I will eek out a few days this summer to move dirt and give myself some room to continue going up.  I think the wall will only be 4-5 feet tall.  I am going to get the first wall completed before I start the second one!  The main sheep compost pile that used to be in the barn is starting to break down nicely.  It is going to give me most of the needed dirt to backfill the first wall.  

The wheat that was planted this fall is just starting to pop up down by our driveway.  I noticed thin little strands of green today.  If I took a picture I am not sure you would even notice the green amongst all that dirt.  

Cow feeder moved.

The cow feeder area was starting to get ankle deep in muck.  When we started to feed this fall the area was flat and level, now it is a mud pit.  Our new plan is to set up all four panels in a square out on the area by the grain bins and move the feeding panels every 2 weeks.  This means loading the feeding area with lots of hay.  It took me 7 bales to line the inside of the feeder with a hollow square in the middle.  If we need to, we are prepared to fill the hollow with something to keep the hay were the cows can reach it.  I may be able to use old tires stacked in the hollow space.  Who knows, we will just have to wait a week and see how it turns out.  I did get to use the trusty tractor too move the panels.  They are very heavy and hard to drag along the ground.  I will drag out the mud pit later when it dries up some.  I did drag out part of the floor of the old lambing shed where the tractor is stored.  The old sheep shit is drying into these huge clumps that attempt to turn your ankle when walking inside the shed.  I need to pull out the mower and mule to get the rest but it will have to wait.  

I had scraped the dirt first in an attempt to move some of the cow patties.  During this movement I had to keep the gate open and the cows got out into the upper pasture with the horses.  So Zeke and I went out to get them.  I rode out on the tractor and Zeke followed along.  On the way up I noticed that the entire upper bottom had been mowed.  We had agreed to let the upper pasture be put into hay but the line was not all the way to the current fence.  I am going to run another fence in the spring up the bottom so we can have another pasture for the animals.  I can run 2-3 more fences and create a few more pastures.  

So the cows ran up on the hillside and I sent Zeke up to get them, but no cows came down.  So I had to get off the tractor and supervise the dog closer.  This worked to push the cows to the end of the fence but he didn't want to push them toward the creek.  The evil horses kept trying to chase the dog and the cows.  There was much swearing and waving of arms.  I was not sure who to swear at at one point, cows, horses or dog? The dog ran through the upper fence to get in the CRP so the horses could not get him and then I had to call him back.  We eventually got the cows into the correct area and I lured the horses back in with some grain.  I had to give both dogs baths because they smelled like sheep or cow poop.  After everyone was clean, Sarah noticed Zeke had blood on his belly.  Yep the moron cut himself again!  He had a four inch gash in his abdomen from the old barb wire fence.  We clipped then shaved his belly and steri stripped the wound closed.  We had to order more glue and steri strips from Amazon last night as we are running out!  To add insult to injury Zeke has to wear a T-shirt now to prevent him from licking his chest.  He is not a happy camper.  He still has a cut on both feet and we are talking about getting him some shoes so he doesn't cut himself so much.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

3rd Quarter Chicken financials

On average I had 17.7 laying hens giving me 5.2 eggs/day, for a productivity rate of 27% (this is horrible, in the last quarter I have only gained 2%).  I am feeding on average 127# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 1000# this year already.  This is good as I did not feed much during the third quarter but it is not helping.  With the price of feed going up every month my monthly feed bill is $41.12/month (a drop of $2.35/month).  On average just feed costs are $3.87/dozen eggs (an increase of 21 cents/doz, meaning I am now loosing $0.87 every time I sell a dozen eggs).  I have only collected 1437 eggs to date.  Total feed costs are $329, supply expenses are $376 and baby chicks for the year are $60.  I have lost $238 for the year (only lost $12 this quarter).  There is no way the chickens are going to be in the black this year.  I did thin out the nonproductive hens which is why my productivity increased but I should have done it sooner.  Plus, loosing half my new babies this year to self suffocation cut into my production.  I will need to start some new chicks first thing this spring to bring my numbers around.  My six little naked neck turkens should start laying by March and that will help dramatically.  I only have two free loaders left and they are laying more than 25% so they get to stay.  I need to get brown egg layers in the spring so I can tell who is who.  

Don came over at the beginning of the week and we killed the last two whethers.  He helped me tag all the babies and we let them back in with the main herd and turned all the jug momma and babies into the baby area after they got tags.  Only the oldest boy was ready to be banded at 1 month old and I still had to fish around to make sure I had both testicles.  I think two months old is a better age for finding testicles.  Since then we have had two more ewes give birth.  We have had three still born babies all from mothers having multiple offspring.  
Gannon and I had to go out and fix gate and fencing behind the grain bins.  The cows were pushing over the long equipment gate and going out to eat.  We found them about two miles from the house headed up the gravel road to Rocky Ridge.  We anchored the ends, installed braces and cross pieces and then ended up restapling and tightening fence.  We restapled all the way to the corner post.  I will need to tighten the barb wire strands in the spring time.  But for now, the cows can no longer get out of the pasture.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First bummer this birthing cycle.

Well things didn't quite turn out the way we wanted them.  Annmarie went out first thing this morning and found the ewe was head butting the baby we helped out last night.  She kept pushing it away so it could not nurse.  They do this to other momma's babies to keep the freeloaders at bay.   Annmarie pinned the ewe against the wall and let it nurse till it was full then we brought it into the house.  I like using a large box when we have one instead of a laundry basket.  They always get out of the laundry basket!  I keep offering him formula every hour but he doesn't want to take it from me.  So it's a battle. I am good at doing things not so much at nurturing.  No big surprise.  I have to go play with the baby it is trying to get out of box and bleating impatiently.  


Annmarie bottle feeding the baby.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Not every thing is glorious.

I had to go out of town today for work so it meant something had to go wrong on the farm.  It never fails to happen.  Annmarie called first thing to say that the cows had gotten out.  But before she could get the cows she had to go out and let the sheep out of the barn.  There were two new moms and two  babies.  The first mom was wild and did not want to go in a jug so Annmarie used the cow panel to pen her and the baby in their side of the barn.  The other mom was still in labor with a healthy baby next to her.  Annmarie fed everyone and then took Zeke out to chase the cows back where they belonged.  Zeke was a little over anxious and had to be called back repeatedly so he could stay focused. 

 He has had his foot dressing off for a few days now.  His limp was getting worse so we took the dressing off.  We had to wrap the foot so tight that Zeke could not get off but we forgot about his dew claw.  He had a healed cut but ended up with a pressure sore by his dew claw.  It is getting better every day, but hopping around on three legs for weeks has led Zeke to need some physical therapy.  So we make sure to take him out with us every time we go outside so he can run around and get that leg strong again.  

Once the cows were back out front everyone settled into their normal routine.  Annmarie went out to the barn a couple more times and the ewe was still in labor every time with no new baby.  She called and wondered when I was getting home.  We decided that the ewe might need some help.  I have never had to do anything like this before so we looked at some pen drawings on the internet about the potential problems and how to correct them.  Luckily, a couple of years ago I bought some shoulder length gloves (they only come in packs of 100!) so I didn't have to go commando!  We brought ky lube but I told Annmarie we probably would not need it if there was enough discharge.  We discussed whether this should have been done earlier but the ewe has to be tired enough for us to handle her and let us inflict this upon her.  There were no exposed parts when I started.  I figured it would be easy so I only put on the right glove.  As a reminder, the human arm can only turn so far, that turn radius is seriously impaired when some animals vaginal muscles are clamping down on your arm.  I had to stop and get the second glove.  I found one leg but could not find the other one!  I kept trying to find the other leg but it is not that easy "seeing" with your fingers on one hand.  Every once in a while I thought I felt a baby move but I could never tell what it was.  I finally managed to get two legs out and pulled, and pulled and pulled.  Out popped a dead baby, Annmarie told me I had to go back in and look for a third baby.  So I stuck my hand back in and pulled out a third baby that was deceased also.  She told me I had to go in again to get the placenta.   I told her it needed to come out on its own so I didn't cause any more bleeding.  A water sack appeared and then another black blob.  I reached down and pulled another baby out!  It was not moving, which was sad but it increased the odds of the ewe surviving.  When suddenly it started to move, I tore it out of the membrane sack and the only thing we had to dry it was my jacket!  I tried some straw but it was not working very well.  Annmarie got it mostly dry and she moved it right next to momma's head.  Momma started licking it dry while she was laying down.  After about 15 minutes she got up and Annmarie picked up both babies and moved them all in to a jug.  The ewe followed the babies right into the jug.   Momma started eating and drinking right away.  She has the largest udder we have ever seen, her body was definitely ready for four babies.  We are hoping everyone does well through the night.  

The baby laying down is the one that was just born.  This is not something I would like to do every day but it is amazing we were able to save a baby.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sheep/Chicken Show.

It got very cold here in Eastern Oregon!  The beginning of the week we had record cold temperatures.  It was as low as -18 degrees Farenheit at our house.  The older chickens did just fine.  I still had a heat lamp for the babies (who are over three months old) on and it brings the whole coop up about 20 degrees at least.  All the walls have insulation in them so when the door and windows are closed it is airtight.   I had opened up the baby area to allow them to go outside and cruise around in the 360 degree enclosed pen.  Unfortunately, I forgot how stupid the chickens can be.  Two of them went outside and froze to death 12 inches from the entrance to the coop and 4 feet from a heat lamp.  So now there are only 6 naked neck turkens.  At our house this is not such a bad thing, if they are too dumb to come back to the coop the predators get them anyway.  There is only one safe place and that is inside the coop with a functioning automatic chicken door!  Otherwise every predator on the planet likes chicken.  

Annmarie and I went out to the barn and threw out some more straw on the floor for the sheep.  She said it needed to be clean and dry.  I reminded her that prior to us redoing the floor no one ever covered the floor.  The barn is so cozy I would sleep out there!  I would smell like sheep but it would not be a hardship.  The roof still does leak in a few spots, but hopefully I can finish the roof next year and take care of that problem.  We pulled in a couple more long baby feeders so we can feed grain to everyone during the winter.  We give them a little supplement due to the cold and nursing the babies.  We talked about the ideal herd size and are considering thinning the herd down next year.  We have almost 25 ewes now.  We are thinking 15 ewes is ideal.  They would have 20-30 babies every 8 months.  So even at max capacity we would not have more than 80 sheep for a couple of months.  There is talk of bumping the cows up a couple more.  Feeding 7 cows has caused us to use a lot more hay than last year.  The females are all pregnant and the babies are around 250-300 pounds now.  So it is more of a drain than anticipated.  I am sure we are going to have to buy a few tons of hay.  i should probably start asking around soon.  

We saw a nice passive heating system made out aluminum pop cans painted black and a heating tube with small fan to move air through cans.  It was pretty cool.  We are still thinking solar power for the barn is the way to go.  At least a couple more years off.  The roof needs to not leak before we bring in power, the little things do tend to matter.  I am hoping for another good snow storm so I can burn the other two wood scrap piles I have laying around.  There is a small one in the barn lot and the huge one up on the hill.  The one on the hill is going to be very large, house size almost.  

When it got so cold I had Sarah put some hay in the hole in our front yard.  I never got the frost free standpipe installed and I was afraid the pipe would freeze.  We had no straw only hay bales out in the barn.  So Gannon pulled a bale of hay into the yard and broke it up into the hole.  The cows started to lean over the yard fence the next day and ended up in the yard eating my hay!  I had to let Zeke out to chase them out of the yard.  He liked that a lot since he is still cooped up with his bandaged leg.  He was licking it raw after I took the stitch out.  Hopefully next week we can be done with the dressing.  I then had to go over and fix the fence to keep the cows out of our front yard.  The fencing never ends!

The last two lambs are sold and will move onto greener pastures in a couple of days.  So anyone interested in lambs we will have more in 10 months.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sheep shenanigans.

I sold some lambs to a fellow coworker.  He did not want to send them to the butcher as he had a way to cut them up himself.  I offered to help kill, clean and skin them.  Annmarie and I were very excited to be getting rid of the last four whethers.  He was busy and had a change of plans a couple of times so it took us a while to get our schedules synced.  The plan was 1200 the day after Thanksgiving.  He called me that morning saying he had to stay over at work till noon and could we do it at 1400?  I said sure but I have to quit at 1700 to go to my other job.  Sarah, Annmarie and I went out that morning and we sorted out four whethers and put them out in the new momma area.  I tried to stick them in the barn but they kept leaping over four foot doors.  Sarah and I set up buckets, knives and a bucket of hot bleach water to sterilize the stainless steel table and clean off knives.  My coworker showed up after only driving by then entrance to the place once.  We went to catch the whethers and the little boogers pushed by the edge of the gate and got out with the main herd.  We had to take Zeke off of injured reserve (he has a foot lac that he keeps pulling the stitches out of) and chase all the sheep back into the barn.  Once in the barn it was decided to just catch two whethers at a time and kill them immediately so we did not have to keep catching them.  I was game to try the technique of slicing the carotid arteries with a fillet knife without cutting the trachea.  Just insert the knife behind the trachea all the way through and turn it sideways so the animals bleed out.  There was no great spot so we just put them up on the ledge and hung their heads out the barn window.  This technique worked good until the last one then I accidently knicked the trachea and i ended up covered in blood.  

We carried them over to the skinning pole and commenced with the messy work.  Trouble was it took us an hour to do the first part, so we only had two hours to go.  I am not a professional butcher.  I am capable but not quick.  At 1700 we still needed to finish skinning one animal.  I had to run in and get ready for work.  Sarah had to run to the boneyard and drop off a set of entrails so we could toss the second set in a bucket.  As she is driving through the gate I heard a crunch.  I was hollering across the field not to dent the new pickup.  We decided she should wait till the next morning to make the second trip to the boneyard.  She stayed out and helped clean up and carry carcasses to the vehicle while I got ready for work.  

To top it off, we still have two more whethers!  The second time around we found two more, we obviously need to update the spreadsheet.  The lucky tag numbers were 24, 30, 34, and 32.  

Water is not my friend.

Every year it seems like we have a water pipe break, usually in the winter.  Last year the nozzle in the back yard standpipe broke for the first time.  I replaced the faucet valve and it worked great this year.  Annmarie wanted me to dig it out and put in a frost free standpipe but I did not.  It was not an issue until last year and it is only about 18 inches from a 40 foot tall maple tree.  I did not want to hurt the tree or dig the hole to gain access to the pipe (4 feet down in the ground).  On Monday, Sarah texted me this picture of the ice art on our lawn.  

The valve had cracked again (frozen) it is made of bronze and the standpipe is iron.  I had to go to the hardware store and buy some heat tape, a cap for the pipe, insulation and plastic to repair, heat tape and water proof for the winter.  I had to string an extension cord from the back door outside outlet to the standpipe.  So far it is working like a champ.  Annmarie and I had a discussion as to why this has only happened twice in seven years.  For all the previous years when the other pipe broke that stempipe was drained of water and when the water was turned back on there was an air lock in place so no water was in the pipe until I started using it in the spring again.  It made sense at that point.  We have a lot of water discussions and I am usually incorrect in my assumptions (wrong).  So in the spring I will sharpen the axe and Sarah and I will dig out the hole and attempt not to kill the tree.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Progress of a sort

Winter is coming.  We had snow in the foothills this weekend but a warm wind came in the last two days and melted most of it off.  We are feeding everyone at night around the barn.  The cows are right outside the fence near the barn, the horses in their new enclosure off the barn and the sheep inside the barn.  All this close proximity makes it nice, we just don't have to move the hay as far.  I cleaned up the house some more, picked up piles and found spots and put stuff away, also filled our trash can.  I can go on thinning binges were everything gets pushed out of the house.  I want to get the library downstairs rearranged and I think we are going to get rid of our yard sale couch, on the breezeporch, and instead put another love seat up there and move an old rocking chair into the library.  The old couch will go to the burn pile.  
I fixed our front screen door.  The latch was not catching very well, so a $0.20 rubber stopper from the hardware store got jammed down behind the latch panel to keep it from bending inwards with use.  I also set the retractor cylinders to the winter position so they close a little tighter now.  
My aunt is giving us an old upright freezer so I went out to the shed and rearranged everything to make room.  It will go right inside the door and give us a total outside freezer capacity of 40 cubic feet.  Who doesn't need that? It should be enough to allow us to get rid of our meat locker at the butchers.  It is going to come in handy next year when we have beef! I am looking forward to eating our own animals. They have lived a pretty pampered life.  Since it is winter I am back on an exercise regimen which means for the next month or so I should make pretty good progress on my back wall.  It just feels better when I get to do something constructive while exercising.  Anyone who doesn't believe lifitng rocks and building a rock wall is exercise is welcome to come over and give it a try.  If they really like it I will only charge a small fee for the priviledge!  I am going to have to start bringing in some dirt soon.  I was thinking about knocking down the hill with the tractor and making it a gradual slope down to the wall.  Still not sure what I am going to do about building it up.  I may grade the road above a little more and just use that dirt.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How long is a work day?

On Monday, for Veteran's day, Sarah and I went out to the orchard to burn the wood pile.  This is the second largest burn pile on the farm.  The one on the upper hillside is huge!  It is where we piled all the unuseable wood from the barn remodel and various other wood piles discovered in the barn lot.  Our orchard burn pile is mostly composed of trees that have been blown over or limbs from various trees all over the farm.  I had dragged the big pieces of multiple trees onto the pile but we still had a lot of little branches to pick up.  Sarah wanted to know if we could roast marshmellows once we were done, I said sure.  I sent her out with a large paper bag full of newspaper a lighter stick and asked her to start the fire as I got ready.  I did tell her to ball up the paper and to start it on the SE end of the pile.  Twenty minutes later when I went outside there was a thin stream of smoke from the NW corner of the pile from some smoldering paper.  No flames, no wood burning.  I then proceeded to start the fire in the SE corner of the pile, sheltered from the wind with lots of single sheets of newspaper balled up (previous lessons as a pyro as a child can come in handy).  The fire took off in no time with the wind fanning the flames.  

Once the flames were soaring I let the child know that we would now start at the far end of the orchard and start throwing every stick of wood onto the fire throughout the entire orchard.  We used the tractor to drag over the last few large pieces of wood that could not be carried.  The bucket of the tractor became a wheelbarrow for all the little pieces of wood.  After about 4.5 hours of picking up branches Sarah asks if we are done.  I tell her no, we are just getting warmed up.  She then says we have been out here all day!  Out of curiosity, I asked her what she thought the normal length of a workday was?  She said 6 hours.   I laughed and then we talked about 8,10, 12, and 14 hour shifts.  We only had a six hour workday and got to eat roasted marshmellows at the end of it.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's too early for lambs!

Those were Steve's exact words when I described the following scenario to him.

Let's back up a few days.  Sometime last week, we had the sheep in the barn, and I said to Steve, "It's almost time to start locking them in at night."  He disagreed, and none of the moms-to-be were side-splitting huge, so I didn't argue.  We've been bringing the sheep in at night for feed, but not locking them in so that we have the opportunity to inspect the herd for new additions before they head out to graze in the morning. 

This evening, Zeke and I were bringing the sheep in to the barn, and one of the ewes was lagging quite a bit behind the rest of the flock.  I was concerned, so I moved to a better vantage point so I could see if she was hurt.  She was not hurt.  She had two little lambs with her!  It's too early for lambs!  Based on the gestation time for sheep, these babies were conceived sometime around June 20.  Unfortunately, we have no idea who the father was.  We had several wethers who were not actually wethers (we call them one-nutters), as well as our new Barbados ram, so everything born this year will have to be eaten or sold.  No keepers in the batch.  That said, they sure are cute.  Photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Farm 2, Predators 1

It happened some time last week, I lost a chicken.  I found the carcass outside the chicken coop mostly eaten.  I knew it was coming, there was a lone chicken that had decided it did not want to sleep in chicken knox.  Its stupidity needed to be rewarded so I just let it do its own thing.  
Two nights ago at bedtime I was turning out the back porch light and happened to glance outside and spotted a huge possum eating the cat food.  I grabbed the .22 pistol by the back door and stepped outside, the possum was gone.  I had forgotten to grab a flashlight so only had the porch light to see out into the dark.  Today, I cleaned off the laundry room shelves but moved the pistol so it would still be handy and put a large flashlight next to the predator killer.  
Tonight Zeke wanted to go outside and run around before bedtime.  Sometimes I let him go out for 30 minutes and terrorize the cats and anything that moves in our yard.  Annmarie and I were in the kitchen and we heard him raising a ruckus and barking nonstop outside the kitchen window.  He is not a barker, almost never barks.  So I grab the pistol and large flashlight and go out the back door.  Zeke is running around the base of the maple tree barking up at something, a raccoon!  He had treed a raccoon.  I went over to the base of the tree and brought out the pistol, as soon as Zeke saw the pistol he took off for the front bushes.  He does not like guns, if he could vote, it would be for gun control.  Big scaredy cat, will tear into cow with large horns but don't let him see a gun.  Once the dog disappeared the raccoon started down the tree not scared of me a bit at the base.  I shot it once in the head on its way down, no more chicken killer.   Sometimes it seems harsh to someone not living out here, but we don't go out of our way to harass the wildlife we just enforce the .22 rule around our house.  The predators cannot eat the chickens, cat food or cats.  Those animals all serve a purpose on the farm and cannot be spared.  Now I just need to get that possum.  The amazing thing is now that I have a working automatic chicken door I actually have to cull my own birds and get eggs year round.  At the beginning of the year I was only gettting one egg a day.  It was awful.  So we will continue to enforce our boundaries.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Weekend finale.

I am all caught up after this post.  I will make a pinky promise to do better and try to be more timely in the future.  We have been using Zeke every night to put the sheep in the barn.  We have not been locking them in at night just putting food out and letting them leave whenever they want.  Usually, they will spend the night in the barn and leave while it is still dark in the morning.  They haven't been eating hardly any hay, so there must be more out on the back hillside and pasture than there looks.  The horses have been picking at their food, the only one who has been eating their nightly allotment is the cows.  We have been feeding for the last 10 days. 

Now that the sheep and Zeke are starting to get the routine down it only takes about 10 minutes to get the sheep in the barn.  As it gets cold and the forage goes away the sheep practically put themselves away in the barn because that is where they get fed.  
Our bees made it through another summer and are still holed up in the barn wall.  I am going to leave them alone again this year and hopefully get to them next winter.  I want to get the sorting chute inside the barn and some stairs up to the walkway before I mess with the bees.  I need to brace myself first, it may become a painful undertaking. 

One of the guys from work is coming out soon so we can kill a sheep and he wants to cut it up himself.    I told him there is a skinning pole all set up out here.  We can drag a hose out, of the wood shed, and hook it up to the faucet so there is running water.  

On a plus note, Annmarie got our weather station to work!  I am very excited.  I miss not being able to look at the wind speed and our rainfall amount.  These are useful items to keep track of in the blog.  I will be updating the chicken spreadsheet soon and get that out here also.  Have a great month. 

Taming of the cows.

We moved the cows out to their winter pasture.  For us this means out front of the houses on the main road into the property.  This lets us feed over the fence just outside the barn and keeps the cows, horses and sheep all in their separate area so there is no food competition.   Everyone has been working on taming the cows.  The adults will let you feed them apples directly from your hands.  The bull seems to like women better than men.  He waves his horns in the air for an apple then lets Sarah rub his head between his horns.  Our goal is to be able to just walk up and rub on them.  It sure makes them easier to work around.  The babies are still pretty jumpy.   

I managed to get the spare tire out of the broken pickup with some help from Kelly.  Unbeknownst to me the lowering mechanism for the spare tires is pinned together and the pins are easy to break.  Kelly fixed it with a piece of copper wire from some Romex cable I had in the old house.  Once the spare was down I got the new used tire moved over to the undamaged rim.  It is on the pickup and it is ready to be moved near the house so I can reach the power cord so I can create the beast!  OPEN AIR FARM TRUCK WRECK.  no roof, no doors and seat covers made out of a plastic tarp and duct tape.  A pure genius inspiration. There were some damages noted to the suspension on the vehicle when we crawled underneath it, I would not trust it at highway speeds.  Good thing the farm truck will never go over 15 mph.  

I went in to the parts store to buy some new lights for the trailer and fuses for the pickup.  I picked up two lights and had to order the fuses.  Both lights were the wrong size and they haven't called to tell me the fuses are in.  I will have to stop by this week and get it sorted out.  

I went out and tried to drag the pear tree to the burn pile with my little tractor.  No way, the front tires were off the ground and it only went one direction which was not the direction I wanted to go.  So instead of cutting the tree into two pieces I went over and scooped up a big scoop of rocks with the bucket and then chained right back up to the tree.  It worked great, front tires stayed on the ground and I got the whole downed tree to the burn pile in one trip.  The weather is nice and dreary and we have had some rain so the burn pile is itching to be burned, but the last two days the wind has been terrible.  I need a calm day before I burn.  Just waiting for an opportunity.  

Chickens are on the move and reorganized.

The chickens are going places!  The babies got moved out to the baby pen, I cleaned it all out and set it up with a five gallon bucket and the drip waterers.  This system works great and doesn't make a wet mess all over the ground from water gettting thrown around by the chicks.  We still have eight naked neck turkens running around and getting bigger every day.  I have been keeping the heat lamp going for them and not only does it keep the chickens warm it keeps the water from freezing as it hangs near the heat lamp.  I got the light timer reset and the egg production has been steadily increasing, we are getting around 10 eggs per day now.  I still had three hens that needed to be culled and Sarah came to me saying they needed a chicken's foot for her current play at school so on Saturday I snapped necks and removed a foot, Sarah plucked some feathers for decorating the foot.  The old hens went up to the boneyard.  The foot was then placed in a dry coke can in which I had cut the top off and filled with table salt.  Today we decided that it was not drying out fast enough so we changed out the salt and put it in the oven in the salt bath at 170 degrees for a few hours to speed up the drying process.  Once it is dry Sarah can attach the feathers.  It will be a cool prop for the play.  

Our sheep don't like fences.

Well I am still behind on the blog.  I aim to catch up this month.  Life has been very hectic and I keep making excuses to not write the blog.  Journal keeping is demanding and I had let it overwhelm me.  We have a photographer friend who sees the most extraordinary views of the world even in the simple things.  I am refocusing and taking that approach, realizing that I cannot get everything done when I think it should be done and to just deal with the items as they appear.  The distractions are just new tasks in a different direction.  I can get back to the original goal eventually. 

We had to pick a day to sort the sheep when I was available, this turned out to be six days before the kill day.  Zeke was itching to have a shot at the sheep!  He loves working, Annmarie took him up on the hillside and they started pushing the sheep toward the back hillside gate.  Sarah and I went up on the back hillside to redirect the sheep toward the gate.  Unfortunately, the sheep had all summer to forget about Zeke and he had all summer to lose his control.  Zeke ran all over the place and the sheep balked at every gate.  It took all three of us and the dog forty minutes to get the sheep into the barn.  

Once we had them in the barn we used a 16 foot cattle panel to block all the sheep into a 8x20 foot section of the barn.  We used all the feeders to create a wall to which the panel could be bungy corded.  (We still don't have a sorting chute.  It's blueprints are locked in my brain.)  Annmarie and Sarah went in with the sheep.  We had a list of ten sheep we needed to kill, an older whether, lams and some want to be whethers (boys I banded too young and missed a testicle).   Annmarie waded in and started catching sheep.  It was fairly obvious whenever she grabbed a ram, as the fight was considerably harder and prolonged.  These caught sheep were then tossed out into the old horse area.  The plan was to let them fun around for six days with us supplying food and water.  We ended up having to catch an even dozen sheep as there were a couple more rams we discovered. I fed and watered them and inside we went.  

At 2200 when we went to bed I could hear sheep every where bawling at each other.  An inordinate amount of noise, enough for me to think there was maybe a predator out on the property.  So I grabbed a pistol, bill cap clip flashlight, hand flashlight and Zeke and we went to investigate.  Stupid sheep, there was only two sheep were the belonged.  Six had gotten out by pounding at the cow panel gate and bending the lower corner enough to crawl through.  All the sheep with horns chose this escape route.  Zeke and I spent 45 minutes getting them back in the approved area, with me spending 15 minutes to reattach the gate so it cannot occur again.  After that there were still not enough sheep in lock up area.  Four more sheep, with no horns had crawled under the gate on the other side of the lockdown area.  It took another 45 minutes to chase them into the barn and back out into the lockdown area.  At one point I had to take my hat off and put it on a post with the light shining at the sheep so they thought there was a third person herding them.  I then drug some feeders over to the gate to block off the exit.  After some contemplation, I decided the sheep would have 6 more nights to figure out how to get out.  I and Zeke pushed them all into the square pen, I moved the food and water into there and tied the outside gate closed.  I did not want to be back out there till after midnight every night.  

We fed and watered them every night till Mike's mobile slaughter came on Sunday afternoon.  We saved 9 hearts and livers for a coworker's dogs.  We also saved three skulls with the best horns, full curls that I want to have nature clean up for us.  Once they are all cleaned, next spring, I will mount the skulls on the barn. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winter is coming.

All the sprinklers and hoses are put away.  I have one more hole to fill in the front yard.  I will do it this next week.  We have started to feed the horses out in the orchard.  They are doing well.  I had Jason come out and help me tear up Grandma Ruby's garden, we took the vines and green things and placed them out in the barn lot but it took the sheep a few days to catch on that they were there.  Obviously, they are not hungry.  The sheep won't even really come into the barn yet.  A couple of times since we opened it up but there is not consistency to it.  We are going to slaughter ten sheep.  I definitely misbanded several when I was neutering them.  We have at least three rams out in the pasture.  This just means that we won't be keeping any of the babies this winter.  I think the sheep will start lambing around February.  I am just going to throw it out there and see if I am right!  The cows will be around the same time, maybe March.  

I brought home two plum trees and five black walnut trees from Ruby's garden but the cows ate two black walnuts off the trailer before I got them in the ground.  I planted two plums, three black walnut trees and then placed wire and posts around all four holes to keep the critters away.  

The new pickup is great, lots of power and sucks gas like it was water!  I still haven't figured out the mileage in it.  I lost my wallet and have no credit card or ATM card.  So I have been one of those annoying people who only puts $5-20 of fuel in the pickup at a time.  The local gas station let me write a check and I put in $60.  It was about 2/3 of a tank.  Sarah has driven the new pickup a couple of times.  We had to do a check ride on the back gravel roads first.  She doesn't particularly like driving it but it saves on gas when she only has to go to Pilot Rock.   Tomorrow, she has informed me she will clean out the wrecked pickup.   I need to take the drivers side rear tire off as the rim is broken and the tire flat.  I will just take it to the junkyard and see if I can scrap it and pickup an old rim.  

Here is a picture of Grandma Ruby's garden after we created the elevated beds for her.  We used pea gravel, ground cloth, horse troughs and she wants to add some wine barrels in the spring.  It turned out well.  

Fields back in service.

 My mother-in-law, Donna, has decided to place the fields back in service.  They were due to come out of the CRP program this year so she was approached by a local farmer to put them back in rotation.  They want to burn the fields to cut down on the weed seed, let it sprout, spray with herbicides and then disc back under a couple of times so they can plant in the spring.  The funny part about this is if you plowed you would cut back on the weeds dramaticaly but you lose soil and moisture.  There is always a trade off and I don't know of anyone around here that plows any more.  Of course there is a huge 5 bottom plow out in the equipment area.   They had to move the big John Deere tractor, but after installing a new battery it would not move or do anything.  The mice have chewed through the wiring. Luckily, they had a large CAT with rubber tracks and were able to chain onto it and drag it out to the equipment area.  There was a seeder out in the field also, that had to be moved before burning commenced.  After the weather cooperated they just burned last night.  I thought it would all torch right up, but there were sections where it doesn't even look like a fire passed through.  I was pretty amazed.  They pulled the disc around well into the night after the fire burnt through and were back at it first thing this morning.  

The cows are back out front near the cars and are doing well.  If you go out with an apple they all will come over and take it from your hands.  You can even touch noses and the occasional head.  They are not as tame as the horses but after this winter they should be a lot more easy to handle.  The three heifers are pregnant again!  They are starting to put on baby weight and size.  I am looking forward to fresh beef next year.  

I had a date for slaughter lined up for the sheep but it was when I was away.  Annmarie and Zeke tried to sort the sheep into the old baby area and the sheep rammed the external door off its track and got away.  Annmarie says Zeke was not helping, more like causing problems.  He has been a pill so the last two weeks we have been practicing tight control on all dog behavior.  He is much better and waits and listens better.  I had to have some help to reinstall the door it was a two person and a lever manuever.  I rescheduled the slaughter day for later this month.  I will help sort the sheep even if it means I need to feed and water the for a couple of days in the pen.  They are scheduled for two weeks from today.  

Catching up where to start.

I am way behind on the blog.  I know it and have been so busy I have let it slide.  On a plus note I have been taking pictures of the changes.  Lets start with the chickens.  I got more of the little buggers.  There was a sale at the feed store and I picked up some naked neck turkens, only 8 pullets.  We kept them in the house for almost two weeks in the brooder I made a couple of years ago.  When they get so noisy that you cannot watch TV in the living room then it is time to move them outside.  It is never simple so I had to go outside and clean out the baby area, apply more wood pellets, clean out the feeders and waterers and install them in the baby area.  I opted to go with the nipple waterer.  It is not freezing cold yet so the nipples will not freeze up yet.  We managed to get everyone moved over without incident and the chickens are doing well. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Everyone walked away

Saturday morning started with a call from one of Sarah's friends looking for a ride in to town.  Now, this friend lives out of town on the other side of Pilot Rock, but her parents were gone and she had no way to get to town to meet her commitments for the day, so Sarah took the pickup and headed out to pick up the friend and her brother.  All good.  I fed the horses, and got into the shower.  Sometime in that process, Sprout decided to go adventuring.  He didn't return when I called, so I decided to go ahead and shower.  He comes home eventually.  So, when I was getting dressed and heard his bark, I didn't think too much of dashing out in a very immodest state to let him in.  Until I saw Mom on the front porch.  I dashed back in to get something on other than undies, and she informed me that it was going to take more than my robe.  Sarah had called her.  She had crashed the pickup.

I dashed upstairs to get clothes, asking the pertintent questions - was she hurt?  how bad?  was anyone else hurt?  how bad?  The information I got was the Sarah had a bleeding lip and a small cut on her lip, and Ina had a hurt and bleeding finger.  That doesn't sound too bad, now does it?  I got the location from Mom and headed out.  I was pretty sure they were beyond cell phone service, so I didn't try to call (Sarah had called from a nearby house).  What I found when I got there were two very hysterical girls and one rather worried brother.  I hugged the girls and got everyone calmed down.  Noone was hurt badly enough to require an ambulance, but Ina (the friend) was clearly in pain, and has an underlying medical condition that required her to be checked out, so I loaded all of them into the car, and drove up to see the pickup.  This is what I found.  Needless to say, they all got to get checked out at the hospital.

Sarah had been driving down the gravel road at a decent clip, when a deer wandered into the road.  She had not completely internalized the advice to, "hit the deer" and swerved.  The deep gravel at the side of the road grabbed her and she over-corrected, ran up the bank, and rolled / cartwheeled the pickup back down the bank.  If you look closely, you can see where the side-beam of the room is sitting on her headrest.  I've had more than one person tell me that they've seen vehicles with less damage in which people had died.  I am eternally grateful that all three people in this vehicle were able to walk away from this crash.  Needless to say, we will be purchasing a new pickup.

Sarah has a mild concussion as well as various muscle-aches and a wide variety of bruises, but again, there is nothing that won't heal.  The policeman was wise enough to see that she was taking the whole thing quite seriously and did not write the citations he rightfully could have issued.  Two of the occupants were seat-belted.  The third was not.  Again, I say that I am eternally grateful that no one was seriously injured or killed.  I can almost guarantee that none of the them will ever again ride in a vehicle without a seat belt.

Day 21

I'm a couple of days late with this update, but Mahogany is doing very well.  She's even using the foot a little bit.  The tissue wound is healing fantastically, and is completely closed up.  The final layer is even beginning to form across the center of the wound.  She's out in the pasture at will now, and is enjoying activity as she can tolerate it.  Of course, as these things go, there is a new concern.  Now that the tissue wound is healing and is no longer distracting me, I can see that there is damage to the top of the hoof.  I'll give things a bit of time to heal and then call my farrier.  I think she'll be able to grow it out in much the same way that we can grow out damage to a fingernail.  The difference, of course, is that we don't put several hundred pounds of pressure on our fingernails with every step.  So, the farrier may have to help.  We'll see what he says.  In the meantime, things are still looking good.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that the positive progress continues.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 14

With the pear tree down, and Mahogany's love of pears, I thought I could turn her out into the pasture yesterday and she would be a little happier, but the pears would keep her from moving around too much.  I was sort of right.  She was happier, and did just fine, but she did not just hang around the pear tree like I had hoped.  When I got home, she was up on the back hillside, near the back gate.  Now getting around up there takes a bit of coordination, so I was slightly terrified that she would fall trying to make her way back down, but she did fine.  The injured leg was not swollen at all, so she tolerated the activity just fine.  I brought her in for a dressing change and some feed (she's getting rather thin.  I think healing this up is taking a lot of energy) , and kept her in overnight, but she got to go out again today.  I think that will be our routine for a while.  The wound itself is looking great.  The drainage is decreasing almost daily, and the depth of the gash is visually decreasing to where it's nearly closed on the outside (deep end) and the inside end is completely closed.  The center still has a little depth to it but not nearly as much as even last week.  There is still no sign of infection and I'm slowly moving from hopeful to downright optimistic.  If she keeps healing at this pace, we could be down to a surface wound in just another week or too.  It may be a while longer before she walks easily, but she already takes short little steps on it when she doesn't know I'm watching.  Just like a kid, I swear.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's one way to thin the orchard.

Yesterday we had a wild storm pass through.  The winds topped 70mph!  No buildings were damaged but one of the two pears trees in the orchard broke.  The tree snapped its trunk in half about five feet off the ground.  So we put the sheep in the orchard this morning to clean up the mess.  There were hundreds of pears all over the ground.  The sheep will eat all the leaves and hopefully strip the bark off also.  Once the tree is bare I can go out and cut it up and throw it on the burn pile.  We have already talked about replacing the tree and planting 6-10 more fruit trees out in the orchard.  There are only a few trees left from the original orchard that was in place when the Annmarie's relatives purchased the place.  The three black walnut trees I planted this summer are hanging in there and we will be planting a few more next month.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Winter is coming.

Due to my hectic work schedule we have decided to get ready for winter a little earlier than usual.  I tend to wait until the first hard freeze and then scramble to get every thing done.  I had to just call it quits on the barn roof.  I will hit it hard early next summer and see what I can do.   Jason came over and we got to work.  Annmarie had three requests, put the tools away in the barn for the roof, pull the irrigation pump out of the front creek and fix the electric fence on the back hillside and put it away.  I just wanted to get all the little things done so we could go fix some fence.  

There was a lot of stuff done.  The back yard maple tree got trimmed so it no longer touches the house.  The shrub by the back gate got trimmed so it doesn't attack you on your way to the wood shed.  The front creek water pump got pulled out and the dam removed from the creek.  I sawed down two volunteer trees that had sprouted over the summer and were growing where they should not.  We finished the stainless steel cutting table, shortened the legs and put in cross braces so it would not fall down again.  We did go up on the back hillside and repair four places in the electric fence and folded it all up and put it away in the woodshed.  I was going to put the solar charger unit in the wood shed also, but the instructions say to turn it off and place it in the sun so it can keep charging through the winter.  It ended up on the back porch of the old house so it can get some sun, who knew.  We cut a piece of 1 inch plywood to go under the plastic box on the trailer.  The bottom of the box was sagging due to the tie downs and chains inside.  I crawled up onto the barn roof and finished screwing down the temporary cover over the other cupola hole, then removed the safety ropes for the winter.   I snagged a couple of pieces of tin that we forgot about last week.  We drug the old grain cracker over to the chicken coop with the tractor.  We tried to sit it up, as the wind had blown it over, but it is too heavy so the tractor had to be used for it every time.  We made a ramp out of some old lumber and I pushed it into the old chicken coop with the tractor.  It is out of the weather now.  I am still not sure what we are going to do with it.   

We loaded all the tools up onto the trailer and drove around to the old house.  I put every tool back in its spot while Jason unloaded it.  We then threw all the scrap tin and wood onto the trailer.  We even threw the old wood pile next to the chicken coop, been there for 6 years onto the trailer.  On our way back to the barn we picked up three more scrap metal piles out of the barn lot and scrap wood.  We unloaded the good wood into the barn and the rest went onto another burn pile in the barn lot.  I really need to burn this winter, so here's to some snow or a really wet week.  We unloaded the scrap metal onto our scrap pile.  The scrap pile is getting big, Jason will be working on that in the next few months to make it go away.  I will have to plan a day to take the tires and plastic pipe and fence to the dump also. 

 We drug over three metal cow feeding panels to the other side of the barn lot fence with the tractor and set up a feeding area for the cows.  I think that they can turn their heads sideways and get through the slots with their horns.  Time will tell, and they won't be able to get away fast so I anticipate some cow nose scratching going on.  We emptied the spray out of the mule and parked it in the lamb shed.  We cleaned out the tack room, hung two different hangers inside, we repositioned the counters and got rid of one piece.  They are all lined up and ready for countertop.  We sprayed some more weeds before putting the mule away.  We parked the tractor inside the old lamb shed.  I even remembered to move the large cable from the front of the barn to the side so Annmarie can groom the horses at the front of the barn using the tie outs we installed.  It was a pretty productive day.  We never did get to that fencing. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I really want to just take a nap.

There are days on the farm when you realize why farmers are on farm time.  Farm time has its own dictations and sometimes it passes quickly but usually it drags out and sucks you in until the task is done.  Farm time does not care for a schedule or deadline.   I had plans to go out first thing in the morning and load up some hay in the pickup and move it around to the wood shed.  Annmarie and I had talked about feeding Hogs (horse) in the yard daily and how much time it would take.  School is starting and we don't have as much time in the morning.  It was decided that moving the hay next to the house would make all things easier.  I didn't get to do it first thing as I had to run into town for an errand.

  I went out to the barn and started loading 8 bales into the back of the truck.  They were heavy!  I drove around to the back hillside and figured I would just drive in next to the fence and directly behind the wood shed.  My handy dandy rock wall is making a fairly level area.  It was tight but I made it.  I drug all eight bales into the wood shed and started to back up.  I tried to back out but the dirt is super light and kinda steep.  I kept spinning the back tires.  By the time I tried to put it in four wheel drive I was stuck up against the rock wall and couldn't get enough travel to engage the hubs.  After 20 minutes I called uncle and got Annmarie to come out and help while I went for the tractor.  I chained the tractor to the pickup and had Annmarie drive the tractor.  No go, it could not pull it out.  I dug a path three more times by hand, threw rocks under the back tires repeatedly and even went and dug up a whole bucketful of dirt to weigh down the front of the tractor!  In true guy fashion I just kept trying different things.  Two hours later we finally got the pickup out.  I then filled the area with a little more dirt and leveled it with the tractor.  I really need to work on the wall and raise it another three feet.  

Annmarie woke me up from my prework nap so we could change Hog's dressing.  She was not very cooperative and threw a little fit.  We did get the dressing changed but she is not happy about having to stay in the yard.  
After dinner, Donna called to say that the sheep were out front around the houses.  Yesterday, we saw them out and just figured it was because our nephew was mowing the lawn and left the gate open.  Zeke loved it as he got to go chase the sheep.  So today when we told him he could go do some more "work" he was a happy camper.  I grabbed two horseshoe gate chains and we went down to chase the sheep back into the correct field.  I was able to tell Zeke to go around our in-law's house, he just ran around the house to meet Annmarie on the other side.  It is amazing how smart he is and how easy it is to move the sheep.  We installed the new gate latches as we think the sheep were pushing on the gates and squeezing through the gap.  I sure hope that is the problem.  

All these things needed to be done and none of them cared that they were cutting into my chore and sleep time.  I do love the farm and our life.  Somedays are just easier than others.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 7

It has been 7 days since Mahogany cut herself.  She is still housed in the yard and is starting to get a little grumpy about it.  But, she needs to not use that foot too much, so the yard it is.  So far, there is no sign of infection.  The wound is big and deep, and is draining as it heals.  It is healing, but the word from those with experience with these types of wounds is that it will take months.  We are changing the dressing daily.  She tolerates this pretty well as long as we don't have wash the wound out.  I did more research tonight and the recommendation is to just wipe the discharge off with saline-moistened gauze.  I'll try that tomorrow.  For now, she's healing well and we will continue to do what we can.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Horse woes

Steve alluded to Mahogany's injury in an earlier post, but I have avoided talking about it because I wasn't sure what I was going to say.  We are a few days out from the injury now, and Mahogany is doing well, and I'm optimistic for a positive outcome, so I can describe what happened.

Monday morning, Steve and I went out to take pictures of something (neither one of us can remember what at the moment) and noticed my brother's girlfriend's horses were on the hill behind the creek, outside of their pasture are.  We walked down to check out the fence Steve had just tightened earlier this spring that was supposed to keep the sheep out of the horse pasture and on the farm.  Physics being what it is, if a horse can get through the fence, then so can a much smaller sheep.  Before we headed out, we noticed blood on Mahogany's back foot.  The blood, however, was coming from her front foot.  She had a very deep cut across the back of her front foot, just above the hoof.  That's bad, for the non-horse people among us.  It was important, however, to confine the sheep, because they were headed for the hole, so I put the horses in the yard, registering that it was bad, and went to see what was up with the fence,  it turned out the horses had just rubbed the gate open, so we closed it up and went back the house.  On the way, I called Mom to get a hold of Matt to catch the wandering horses.  

We got back to the house, and looked for the source of Mahogany's injury.  She had apparently been striking at the other horses, whom she has previously gotten along with just fine, and caught the second-from-the-top strand of wire and broken it.  Yes, she snapped the wire with her foot.  About that time, my brother showed up and helped me evaluate the severity of the injury.  We determined that she had not cut the tendon, and he called someone he knew with more horse experience than both of us put together.  We just honestly did not know whether there was any hope of a horse recovering from this type of injury.  It turns out that if the tendon is not cut, and if you can keep the flies out and if an infection does not set in, the wound will probably heal.  If you have ever tried to bandage a horses ankle, you will realize this is not necessarily an easy set of conditions to achieve.

Matt was willing to help, and I really do care for my horses, so we gathered supplies and proceeded to treat the wound with Vetricin, then cover it with gauze and vet wrap, followed by a fancy duct tape booty for her.  The goal was to keep dirt and insects out of the wound so it could heal, while preventing her from re-opening the wound with every step.  Mahogany was not impressed, but we (mostly Matt) prevailed, and she ended up with a pretty silver toe.  We left that for two days, and yesterday, we reversed the process to see what we had.  It didn't look good at first.  There was a strong odor coming from the wrappings, and there was evidence of fly penetration into the tape layer.  I was getting a very bad feeling.  But, we got everything off, and amazingly, the wound itself looked very good.  Everything was the right color, and there was minimal swelling, and no evidence of infection.  So, we applied more Vetricin, wrapped it all back up, and tonight Mahogany got a shot of antibiotic.  Tomorrow we will change the dressing again.  We're on a two-day schedule for a while.

Right now it looks hopeful that she will recover.  Only time will tell if she has long term lameness or weakness.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  I'll keep you updated.  In the meantime, she's confined to the yard.  I bring her in some hay once a day, but she's still eating the grass down very short, and Sarah has a new chore that involves a shovel and the removal of the applied horse "fertilizer" on a daily basis.  Meeka comes and goes, but really, Mahogany is much calmer with her in the yard, so she spends about half her time in the yard too.  It's a good thing I hadn't put a lot of time and effort into our landscaping, because its going to take a beating.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cupola number one completed.

Today was the day we finished the first cupola!  It was a dreary over cast day.  A very good day to be on the barn roof.  It was very tolerable.  I snapped a picture while waiting for Jason to cut the next piece of wood and tie it to the blue rope so I could pull it up and attach it to the cupola.  Since our progress is measured in inches this year I decided I had better go cover the other cupola holes with plastic and a couple of pieces of tin to get us through until next year.  I had just crawled up the hole when a very large storm rolled in.  Jason was out watching for lighting while I tried to finish screwing the tin in place over the plastic.  I got the far side down before the rain started.  Oh boy does a cedar shake roof get slick with a little bit of rain on it.  I managed to get the second piece in place before the torrential downfall started.  I have hopes of doing another couple of days on the roof but I want to get things cleaned up and ready for winter now so I have to take it into account also.  

We ran to town and when we came back we did some more fencing down by the far end of the orchard.  The bull and sheep will no longer be able to sneak through the creek crossing.  We also used the tractor and shovels to clean out the front creek from the far end of the orchard to the creek pipe crossing.  The concrete chute where the old irrigation pump used to pump is full of dirt and grass, we just dug a path and removed most of the weeds.  I want the creek bed to dry up where the water is not running so it can be worked with the tractor.  There was a six foot wide path of mud, now there is a one foot wide channel with all the water running down it.  I am hoping that other five feet of mud dries out.  Here is a picture of the finished cupola.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Always something different

Day 5, one piece left on each side then other 2 sides!
It has been a long holiday weekend.  Jason and I worked on the cupola both Saturday and Sunday.  It was hot!  A nice overcast day would be nice.  On Sunday at lunch time Annmarie wanted us to start sprinklers.  So I changed out broken sprinkler heads on two sprinklers and tried to pump from the front creek.  With three sprinklers running we started to run out of water, so I shut one outlet valve, water level still dropping, so I shut another outlet valve, level still dropping so I throttled the last one down 50% and the creek level still dropped.  We cannot pump out of the front creek at this time.  There is only a small amount running.  So after Jason cut the same board three times and I threw it off the roof three times we called it quits on the roof for the day.  Instead we went to go look at the spring head up by the old chicken coop.  It does indeed have a cavern and it was all clogged up with grass and weeds.  We raked and shoveled the grass out till we got down to the area I could dredge with the tractor.  I dredged it and scooped out a few yards of foul smelling mud and dead weeds.  This is not pleasant work by any stretch of the imagination.  

I went out before dinner to get eggs and noticed that it was very dark due to a sudden storm having moved in.  My automatic chicken door had closed early locking several chickens outside the coop.  I had to chase the chickens around the coop three times before they would go inside the human door into the coop.  I have only been getting 3-4 eggs/day recently.  It finally dawned on me that the chicken light is out!  They are not getting enough light.  I will fix that very soon.  One of the horses got into the barb wire fence fighting with some other horses yesterday.  She tore up her front foot dorsal side pretty bad down near the hoof.  So I went and fixed the fence while Annmarie and her brother Mathew bandaged up Mahogony (horse).  She is now living in the front yard for the duration to limit her movement and keep her foot clean.  Annmarie is very worried that she will heal.  Time will tell, but the waiting is hard.  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Woe is me.

Jason came to the house bright and early so we could get on the barn roof before it got really hot.  He started to cut the flashing while I geared up to go up on the roof.  I got my little pouch of screws on, strapped myself into the safety harness and hung my impact driver from my pants pocket.  I climbed up to the roof peak carrying two pieces of flashing while clipped into the safety rope.  I crawled onto the peak and was sitting down reaching for my impact driver when it leaped off my waist and started careening down the roof top rapidly approaching terminal speed.  Gravity works and the ground is harder than the plastic casing on my brand new impact driver!  The handle broke on impact.  I have no way to put screws into the roof.  So I scooted back down the roof and discussed different approaches with Jason on how to tell Annmarie that I broke another impact driver on the barn project (#3).  Jason pulled the flunky routine and said I had to do it.  This would not be such a big deal if my other one was back from getting repaired but there seems to be a snag with that process.  I sent it to the repair shop, they called asking me what was wrong with it (I forgot to put that on the note), then last week they called twice and left messages telling me it was done.  I called on Thursday and the gentleman on the phone could not find my impact driver.  He took my name and number and said he would call me back.  It has been four days with no phone call.  I am hoping next week he calls, if not I will call him.  

I gave explicit descriptions of the offending item so that Annmarie could go buy me a new one at Home   Depot off she went.  Jason and I started by readying the barn for animals.  We finished cleaning it out and then spread straw all over.  This is a sure sign that the weather is changing because in spring and summer they never come int on their own.  We then went on to the fence between the barn lot and the ram pasture.  It needed to be redirected so that the creek crossing was at a 90 degree angle.  There was too much fence hanging over the creek and everyone was using it like an open gate.  We had to install a H-brace then custom cut some cow panels to go over the creek.  We also had to retighten all the fencing and install wooden fence stays.  This took us most of the day.  We even redug the front creek through the barn lot.  Jason even found some tiger salamander larvae (we had to look them up on the internet!)

Annmarie brought the new driver back but we were busy so it got left over by the fence.  After our work was completed Jason went over and picked up the box and says "its 12 volts".  The one thing I forgot to tell Annmarie was it should be an 18 volt driver!  I jumped in the car and went over and exchanged it while Jason cleaned up the fencing tools.  Tomorrow we will hit the roof early and I will use a piece of parachute cord as a safety rope for the impact driver.  On a potential plus note, I had saved body #1 of the first broken Makita driver and I may be able to change out the plastic bodies.  Here's hoping that works.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Planning again.

We have slowed down for the last week.  Annmarie is getting ready for a new school year at the college and Sarah has started her senior year in high school.  I have started planning an elevated garden for our 89 year old grandmother who lives in town.  Ruby has conceded that keeping up with 600 sq ft of weed opportunity is too much.  We are going to tear out a small nonproductive apple tree, rhubarb and some creeping thyme, cover it all with ground cloth, set out 8 various sized 2 feet tall stock tanks and fill the rest with pea gravel.  The hoe will be replaced with a gallon of roundup.  This project starts first of October.  So only five more weeks of roofing on the barn.  We are running out of money for the roof any ways.  I am going to spend this holiday weekend roofing.  I believe we can get half the roof done.  It will take another day to finish the cupola then three days of laying tin.  The cupola will have taken five days to build.  Not all those days were full days but they were days where I just could not be on the roof any longer.  

I have about two more days of fencing to throw in there also.  The bull is still getting out of the fences!  It is obvious he is lifting something because the sheep cannot get out.  I need to fix the lower orchard creek crossing and the ram pasture/barn lot dividing fence and that creek crossing fence.  The sheep are violating those holes also.  The fence is not doing its containment job.  

I did manage to get our new bathroom faucet and drain installed over the weekend.  The old one would shut the hot water to a trickle when it got too hot.  This new one works great and matches the bathtub fixtures.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Treasures discovered

We were tidying up, and Steve stumbled upon this poem he penned a few years ago.  He's since moved it back to the kitchen table every time I move it off the table, so I'm inferring that he would like it to be immortalized somehow.  While I work out that how, I'm putting it here so it doesn't get lost.  So, for your enjoyment......

An Opportunity
by Steve Hardin

Life is an opportunity
Some of us will seek
Some souls will surrender
Others may never settle
Is it really a journey
Or merely an opportunity
A chance to love
The joy of creating
The sadness of acceptance
The strength in integrity
Death is the real opportunity
May we all have the privilege of choice
The richness in embracing a new life
The magnificence of a new journey

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Catching Up

Steve's been doing so much work he's having a hard timing keeping up with the blog entries, so I'm helping out a bit.  We've actually had quite a bit going on this summer.  One of my goals for the summer was to give the kitchen an update.  I was tired of the orange Formica.  Just for a refresher, this is what the kitchen has looked like since we moved in.

We weren't quite ready to bite off the cost of new countertops, and besides, the countertops were fine, other than the color.  They are solid wood and actually still in pretty good shape - other than being orange.  So, we decided to take a chance and used a paint-on treatment from a company named Gianni that is supposed to mimic the look of granite.  I am not known for my artistic abilities, and this was one project that I actually mostly did.  Sarah helped with the base coat, and Steve did the final clear coat, but I did the part that actually shows and make the pattern.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement, but I am actually quite pleased with how it turned out.  This is what the kitchen looks like now.

Even the yellow cabinets look better with the brown granite instead of the yellow.   I'm not sure how well it will wear, but the cost was incredibly reasonable, and the appearance is so much nicer, that I'm willing to baby it along.  We'll invest in a few cutting boards to serve as trivets and to be continually handy so that nothing damaging is set on the countertop, and since standing water is a no-no on this surface, the dish drainer will not get to live on the counter.  This does not make me sad.  This winter, we will tile the backsplash and around the window.  I'm very pleased with the current state, but am also excited to see the final outcome this winter.  Stay tuned.

On top of that, progress on the barn continues slowly.  Steve has changed his plans a bit on the cupolas.  The new design will take a bit longer, but will be more aesthetically pleasing.  In his heat-befuddled state last week, he made a truly regrettable comment to me that led to some discussion of his plans on that day, and followed by a noticeable and intentional avoidance of the subject on my part.  Yesterday, he announced that he would be putting wood siding on the cupola.  His previous plan had been to wrap them in tin, which would have made them match the roof, but be ugly.  I was not impressed.  The downside of his new plan is that each cupola is a four-day project.  He figures they will finish this first one before they have to move on back to the tin.  Then he will put a temporary cover over the second hole to get us through the winter.  The barn will officially become a three-summer project, but should be finally finished next year.

Won't that look cute when it's all done?  Just envision it with a neat weathervane on the top, and a twin where you can see the hole in the roof.
The reason Steve's having a hard time keeping up is that he keeps working.  The upside of that is that they occasionally fly over the house and he's gotten some really great aerial photos of the place.