Sunday, December 28, 2014

Catching up.

I did my stretch at work so now it is time to relax and do some farm work. Due to the warm temperatures and moisture we are getting the barn lot has turned into one large mud pit. It is so bad neither Annmarie nor I want to walk the fifty feet to the cow feeder from the barn. Another method involving less mud was required. We had tried the back lean to behind the lamb shed but the horses ended up being pigs and chasing the cows away.  We needed some way to feed the cows and keep the horses away.  Annmarie and I came up with a new design that would allow us to feed the cows, store hay and keep the horses out.  We removed one feeder panel, moved one back in 8 inches and put up two movable cow panels. It works very well.  We lock the horses up at night and open the feeder panel for the cows. In the morning before we let the horses out we cover the feeder panel. I can store hay in the back of the lean to and no one can get to it. 

I dug out the horse stalls and gave them new clean straw. I filled in the pump hole from our latest water line break. I will need to dig it out again in the early summer to repair the electrical conduit. I need to unwire the pump and change out the conduit that is broken. 

I have some water getting into the lamb shed since I dug it out.  I need to dig out in front of the lamb shed and drag it down near the old granary. This area has poor soil and I want to replant the entire barn lot. 

Solar power in the barn would be ideal but it is going to have to wait at least one more year. 
Zeke was so filthy and muddy he had to get a real bath in the house.  Usually I just hook up a short hose to our outside spigot and hose him off.  Yes, I do this regardless of the outside temperature. He gets go come inside, I dry him off and he dries off in front of the stove. It took me almost fourty minutes in the shower go get him clean!  The dirt just kept coming off him. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Look what Santa brought!

Snow on Christmas day.

Second set of live triplets on Christmas morning.

Twins on Christmas morning.

Mother nature decided to comply with our white Christmas request this year.  The funny thing is two miles away in town there is no snow.  The temperature is barely freezing and fairly pleasant. 

I went out this morning to let the sheep out of the barn and found our second set of live triplets!  Amazingly, it looks like the mother is going to nurse and raise all three.  We had stuck a pregnant ewe in with our new momma last week to give her company.  We picked the momma that gave birth to the triplets.  They were already isolated from the main herd.  I found another ewe with newborn twins at the far end of the barn.  She would not follow the babies when I tried to lure her to the momma pen with newborn babies as bait.  Annmarie had to come out to the barn and remind me to just push everyone else out of the barn so we could then bait her into the pen.  She went right in with no complications.  We are going to tag the little girl from last week tomorrow so we can put them back into the main herd. 

Because it is so warm here the barn lot is a huge mud pit.  It is difficult to feed the cows inside the barn lot. Two of those cows will be freezer cows in less than two weeks.  Annmarie came up with a plan to repurpose and move panels on the lean to behind the old lamb shed to allow us to feed the cows at night and keep the horses away from the food during the day.  I just need to implement the plan. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Steve mentioned Thursday that the water line was broken again.  We called a different plumbing company and they came out first thing Friday morning (well, first thing to them, anyway) with all the equipment and parts they needed.  In short order they had dug up the line and found the problem.  As we had suspected, the previous repair job had not been exactly up to standards and had failed after just two months.  They fixed that and advised us to let the glue set overnight (always a good idea and something else the previous repair person did not do).  The only snag was that the conduit got broke.  They thought they had done it, and called their office to call in an electrician.  The electrician of course did not get back to them until late that day.  His response was that replacing conduit is usually more trouble than it was worth and we would be better off to patch it ourselves.  I was not surprised, but since Steve is at work all day today, it was up to me to seal it up well enough to withstand blowing water until he can get patched later in the week. 

Single gloves
I went to find gloves.  I wanted something different from my usual insulated feeding gloves, because I needed a as much dexterity as possible.  So, I dug in the glove bin and found lots of gloves, as you can see.  Notice, however, that those are not pairs.  There are some left gloves.  There are some right gloves.  Those are all orphaned unmatched gloves.  Well, I did eventually find a mate to one of them.  I'd have used unmatched, but there weren't even two of the same type and and weight.  Color, I don't care so much about, but it just feels wrong in the type and weight don't match, at least.  Like socks.

I also found several sets of gloves that I would not categorize as work gloves.  Now, Sarah's not very good about separating work gloves from non-work gloves and for the most part I really don't care.  I did, however, care this time.  I found this lovely hand-knit custom glove that I started last spring in with the work gloves.  I've gotten distracted and haven't quite finished its mate, but still, this lovely little wool-silk designed and created by me glove is decidedly not a work glove!
Definitely not a work glove.

I rescued the treasure and went out to farmerize the pump conduit.  Yes, I have resorted to the farmer-style temporary patch that consists of plastic bags secured with electrical tape.  When I looked closer at the conduit, I am not convinced that yesterday's mishap was the first.  I think it was just the first that we were told about.  The conduit was broken in two places on the vertical leg.  The lower break was packed full of mud.  That likely only would have happened if someone else had back-filled over a break and not told us about it.  It was just too solid to have happened just yesterday as the pipe was being exposed.  I agonized a bit over what to do and finally decided that it had clearly been operating that way for a while, so I took a leap of faith that the insulation was intact on the wiring and sealed it up.  It must be fine.  The pump is working again, and there's no smoking, arching or sparking.  No breakers have gone, so all indications are that I got lucky.  Steve can fix it right in the next day or two, but I really need to do some laundry.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Planting started.

Back barn lot replanted with new pasture grass.

I went out today and replanted the back barn lot next to the creek.  I replanted with dry land pasture grass mix.  The painful part was I had to plant and rake it all in by hand.  I only had a long sleeve shirt and a hat on and was sweating like a wrestler trying to make weight. I am hoping the grass takes off soon. 

I looked at the roof and could not see any overlap issues. I think it is a leak from old holes that I tried to fill with screws and didn't get a good seal. Looking like a silicon party is in order early summer. We had another lamb today. The solid white ewe finally had a baby. This is good for her because she was going to get culled otherwise. The baby girl is a dappled grey color, very different than our usual babies. The mother is very flighty and when I grabbed the baby to use as a lure to get the momma in the nursery pen she would not come. It didn't help that the lamb made no noise, none at all.  I finally gave up, set the baby down called Zeke into the barn then waded into the sheep catching the momma. She did not want to be caught!  I had to drag her into the nursery pen then snag the baby out of the herd.  Of course this time I grabbed the lamb it started bawling immediately until I put it in the pen with momma.  

Tonight when we fed we caught another very pregnant ewe and stuffed her into the nursery pen so the momma would not be alone. She had to be herded into the barn, just a little too flighty. So we actually shut the nursery pen door so she could not take the baby outside tonight. 

My chickens are going gangbusters. I got 8 eggs from 18 chickens tonight. This is pretty good for winter.  The water line has another leak by the pump. That sme leak has been repaired three times. We called a different company this time. So the tub and sinks are all full of water. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kitchen soon.

Soon to be kitchen counter and backsplash.

Well it is finally going to happen, we are going to tile the kitchen counters and backsplash.  As an added bonus I will be tiling around the window.  I went and picked up all the tile today.  We are going to install granite tiles on countertops and wood like tiles on the backsplash. Annmarie and were surprised by how much the "wood" tiles look and feel like real wood!  It is pretty amazing. This bodes well for our downstairs floor.  We want to lay down tile that looks like real wood so it can stand the abuse a working farm with dogs and animals dishes out. I cannot imagine a real wood floor with a newborn lamb running around the house. Hopefully, that project will get started late fall next year. I need to save up so we can buy all the tile at once so it matches. 

Annmarie's Christmas present this year is the kitchen update. I will start tearing into things the first of the year. I need to order some more tools!  Annmarie accused me of always needing "$500 worth of tools for every project". I don't think that is totally accurate. I will be spending $100 on a cordless Makita multi tool, $100 on a diamond tile blade for my tile saw, $150 for two Makita 3 amp batteries for my multi tool, $300 on instant wall supports to tent off kitchen and create plastic walled tile cutting area on breezeporch. So I will be spending $650 on tools. At least I didn't have to buy the tile saw!  Oh, I need a $35 1 inch diamond tile drill so I can drill holes in the granite for the kitchen faucet. I have all the hand tools and 6 foot level.  I also have the pipe clamps for making the custom cabinet for our downdraft vent fan. I have the sawzall for cutting the exhaust hole through the outside of the house.  

I have done enough planning now to avoid most of the problems. I will install the countertops then take measurements for everything else. It's going to make meal times challenging. I am starting to get excited about it. I love to finish all projects to the 90% completion point. The last 10% is painful.  

Our new counter and backsplash tiles, first time together to see how well we matched. 

Kitchen soon to be construction zone.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chicken Financials first 9 months of 2014.

Annmarie fixed the spreadsheet.  One place was supposed to be blank because I did not have any expenses.  Go figure, I never considered that.  Things are definitely looking up for the year on the chickens.  This may even be the year of the chicken!

Eastern Oregon, fog rolled in, that is the sheep on the top of the ridge. 

On average I had 18.7 laying hens (every time I counted chickens the number fluctuated.  I think I has a couple living outside for a while.  This number did settle down in September after a couple got eaten by predators) giving me 9.5 eggs/day, for a productivity rate of 51% (Anytime, I am over 50% it is a great day).  I am feeding on average 1119# chicken feed/month (decrease of 1 lbs/month) for a grand total of 950# this year already.  My pounds of feed consumed per egg only dropped to 0.36lbs/egg (drop of 0.01 lbs/egg, so not much change). Good weather and free ranging chickens is doing wonders for the bottom line.  My monthly feed bill is $27.98/month (a drop of $1.85/month).  On average just feed costs are $1.77/dozen eggs (a drop of $0.52/doz).  I have collected 2618 eggs to date.  Total feed costs are $224 ($75 increase), supply expenses were incurred, I purchased some wood pellets for deep litter method and spare parts to fix chicken door  are $34.50 this quarter. I also purchased a dozen Buff Orpingtons on sale for $39.  My total expense for the production of eggs is $2.14/doz (a decrease of $0.51/doz).  I am now charging $4/doz.   I am ahead $322.12 for the year. 

This is amazing!  I have never been this far in the black before.  The craziest part of the chicken saga is the price of eggs has continued to rise in the grocery store.  As of last week a dozen organic free range eggs was selling for $4.25/dozen.  I am actually charging less money than the grocery store.  On top of that I have been super careful with my feed purchases. Bi-Mart had chicken layer pellets and scratch on sale and I bought 1000# total.  I stuffed them into grocery carts the first 500 pound purchase.  Annmarie was not very impressed, then we went out and I threw it all into the trunk of her new car.  I could not have gotten another bag in the trunk.  Not to mention it look like a herd of elephants were riding in the back seat. The next time a customer service gentleman got a cart and we piled another 500# on and put it in the pickup.  The pickup doesn't mind the weight. 

I did an official chicken count tonight.  18 laying hens, one rooster and 9, three month old buff orpingtons.  The Buffs won't start laying until March.  So they are basically freeloading for the next 3 months.  The nice part about running chicks over the winter is they don't lay anyways and it is the least productive part of the year.  I don't know why everyone buys chicks in the spring so they can eat and grow during the most productive months.  Plus, most people don't give their chickens light in the winter so they don't lay eggs at all. 

Chicken financials first six months 2014.

I raised the price of a dozen eggs to $4/dozen in May.  It is helping my bottom line dramatically.  Now these numbers could be skewed because spring is always the most productive for the chickens.  They like the weather and food opportunities. 

On average I had 18 laying hens giving me 6.3 eggs/day, for a productivity rate of 37% (In June my six babies started laying).  I am feeding on average 120# chicken feed/month (decrease of 13 lbs/month) for a grand total of 600# this year already.  My pounds of feed consumed per egg went from 0.7 lbs/egg in first quarter to 0.37 lbs/egg this quarter. My feed use for last three months dropped 50% due to the weather and availability of natural food.  This is where free ranging the chickens really pays off.   My monthly feed bill is $29.83/month (a drop of $6/month).  On average just feed costs are $2.29/dozen eggs (a drop of $1/doz).  I have collected 1611 eggs to date.  Total feed costs are $149 ($41 increase, pretty good!), supply expenses are none this quarter.  My total expense for the production of eggs is $2.65/doz (a decrease of $1.26/doz).  I am now  charging $4/doz.   I am ahead $148 for the year.  Pretty amazing really.  I need to keep this up so the chickens make money or break even for 2014.  I have been looking at the feed cost thing but the feed store in Hermiston was the cheapest feed around and they went out of business.  I am thinking about buying in bulk.  When I see a sell on feed that can save me 10-20% I buy at least 6 months worth of feed at that time.  I can store it in the back of the chicken coop in the feed/egg area.  It's really my only option at this time.  Walmart now sells chicken feed, but they only carry a 40# bag and when you figure out the difference from a 50# bag they are not any cheaper.  They just lightened the bag to lower the sticker price.  The price of eggs in the store has started to slowly rise. 

Chicken financials 1st quarter 2014.

Ram pasture and back hillside, middle of December 2014.

I realize this is almost the end of the year.  I have been putting off entering all the data into my chicken spreadsheet.  I used to make Sarah do it all but she is so busy with her life now that I have to find the time to do it myself.  It is still valuable so I will make an effort to be more timely next year.  I am hoping for a better data collection year as I will be the one getting eggs most of the year.  These averages are cumulative for the year.  At a rough glance I think the chickens are going to lose money again!  We will see if my hypothesis pans out at the years end. 

On average I had 17 laying hens giving me 6.3 eggs/day, for a productivity rate of 37% (this is great for Winter, anything over 30% I am happy with.  My first two months of the year only averaged 19%, March made all the difference).  I am feeding on average 133# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 400# this year already.  This is okay, but the rising feed prices are killing me.  I will have to figure out how to combat them.   My monthly feed bill is $35.89/month.  On average just feed costs are $3.31/dozen eggs.  I have only collected 571 eggs to date.  Total feed costs are $108, supply expenses are $14 (50# oyster shell).  My total expense for the production of eggs is $3.91/doz.  I am only charging $3/doz.   I have lost $2 for the year.  Considering the eggs are costing me more to produce than I am charging a two dollar loss is pretty good.  I have been talking about raising the price but Annmarie is hesitant.  I have been following the store price and their eggs are going for around $3.25/doz organic.  So I will be a little high but the price increase has to happen or there is no way I will break even. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Maybe it is finished?

I have been ill for several days.  I contracted the plague from my lovely spouse after she violated my quarantine protocols.  They are still a work in progress but obviously not strict enough. Yesterday, I finally ventured out of the house to feed the animals.  Every time I enter the hay room I always wonder if there is enough hay to make it through the winter. Every single time I feed this thought passes through my mind.  It is gonna be close.  

My barn roof has a leak. Luckily, the leak was over the steps leading to the upper walkway.  I am not sure why there is a leak. I may have not overlapped the roofing correctly.  It may be that after four days of rain my reused roofing just wasn't up to the task. I am not going to know until this summer because I am not crawling up on the roof until then, no matter how much leaking occurs. The sheep were glad to see me. They are taming right down. I can walk through them and pet about half of them without bribing them with food. I even managed to get a hand on the ram. He is not into being touched.  The horses are now used to being locked up every night. The separated heifers and two meat cows are behaving themselves. The bull has not managed to get back in with them. 

All of these things are good.  We purchased all the new kitchen counter and backsplash tiles.  I should get started in a couple of weeks. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ice, Ice, and more Ice

We live in a very icy corner of the world this year.  Earlier this week, we had an ice storm that laid down a nice solid layer of ice over everything - and I really do mean everything.  I'm pretty sure here at the house, we haven't gotten above freezing since, well, I'll take that back.  It must have gotten warm enough here to thaw the top layer and make it nice and smooth.  Then it cooled off and froze again.  I'm trying to paint the picture so that what I describe next will make more sense.

I didn't get home until almost 5:00 tonight, and still had to feed, since both Steve and Sarah are at work.  So, I came in and let the dogs out.  Zeke got to stay inside with Sprout today because the clip on his run is frozen shut, and encased in a nice solid layer of ice too thick to easily break (I did say everything).  They went out an did their business and then I changed.  It's really not that cold - about 30 degrees - but I put on my Carhart coveralls anyway.  I figured I might need the padding. It was dark by this time, so all I had for light was the light from my beanie lamp and my flashlight.  That really might not be relevant, but it does add to the visual.  I was able to walk across the yard and pasture to the gate going to the back of the barn, mostly because the grass is long enough that it breaks beneath the ice.  I get to the barnlot gate, and the dirt path is a solid sheet of beautiful clear glass-like ice.  Not conducive to walking.  I try for the grass, but its so short it doesn't break.  It's just pokey ice.  There is no way walking is going to happen.  So, I approach the incline the only way I have left to me - I sit down and slide down the hill to the bridge on my hiney.  Remember that there is a matching hill up to the barn on the other side of the creek.  There's no walking up that either.  So, I have to crawl on my hands and knees.  No, it's not elegant, but the animals need feed.  They don't seem to have the same troubles with the ice that I have. 

Everyone gets extra feed.  The one concession I make is that the cows don't get their hay in the feeder across the icy lot.  They get it tossed out the door onto the ice.  I feel slightly bad about that, but then I remember what I had to do to get to the barn, and decided they could eat off the ground.  And yes, I had to reverse the process to get back to the house.  I'm going to go have a mocha.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bull shenanigans.

I was scheduled to work a night shift last night.  So in preparation I took a nap.  Work has been very busy for me for the last three months so this is a necessary precaution to be well rested.  Annmarie came home and woke me up at 1630.  Well, it was almost dark by the time I went out to feed the animals.  We have two battery lanterns in the sheep area and two in the hay area.  This is enough light to feed the animals without any difficulty.  I got the horses back to their area without any trouble and fed.  I then fed the sheep without any difficulty.  Then I went to feed the cows, it was pretty dark by this time.  I threw out some hay into their feeder and started counting cows, a habit.  There were five cows, there should only be four.  I assumed that one of the momma cows had gotten in because I noticed that the cows had gotten into the wheat field.  They were at the gate hollering to be let in.

 I trudged around and had to blow warm air over the clip holding the gate shut to melt the ice so I could unlatch the gate.  I had to repeat the maneuver for twice as long at the wheat field gate.  The whole time muttering that I need to replace all the clip gates with the horseshoe chains I had made this summer (next year priority).  I opened the gate and got a good look at the three cows, all girls!  Our bull had gotten in with the babies.  One of the young, six month old heifers is in heat!  So then Zeke and I waded in and tried to separate the bull.  Three round ups later we managed to get the bull and heifer alone in the new barn lot pen.  I then used a shaky stick and blunt stick to separate the bull from the heifer and ran her into the square pen.  When I was shutting the square pen gate the bull was right behind me pushing on the gate.  Zeke thought he was too close and tore in and chased him back away from me.  Very good Dog!  We then chased the bull out and let all the cows in the barn lot feed at the feeder. 

Zeke and I then went around and shut some more gates but never found a hole or open gate that would have allowed the bull access.  Annmarie and I made plans to move the bull and three pregnant heifers to the orchard.  We want to wait until they have eaten the huge bale of hay we have out for them.  The next one will go in the orchard.  This will put two fences and a hundred yards between the bull and any heifers.

Zeke and I went out tonight to feed and he could not get up the hillside in the barn due to the solid sheet of ice on the ground.  He had to use the shallow incline and do some quick foot work.  My chicken door may be inoperable again.  Not sure, as I keep going out after dark.  Annmarie opened the human door for them today.  So I may have to repair it again.  I do that dance about three times a year.  The nice thing is I have all the parts.  I am still researching a new plant for grazing Sainfoin.  We may plant it.