Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chicken Education

I went out last night with the dogs to feed all the animals.  Mouse had to go on a leash.  Annmarie had multiple issues with him helping herd the sheep the night before.  He is now fast enough to keep up with Zeke so as the sheep were driven to the barn, Mouse kept getting in front of them and balling them up.  This resulted in the sheep finally scattering and Mouse getting carried while the actual working dog put the sheep into the barn. 
I took mouse out on a short leash.  We walked up onto the hillside and stood still while I directed Zeke to push them into the ram pasture and then into the barn.  Zeke did do it with a minimal amount of swearing.  He wasn't perfect or the swearing would not have been necessary but it wasn't painful and my throat didn't hurt from yelling.  Once the sheep were headed to the barn, I turned mouse loose and told him to "put them in the barn".  He ran right for the sheep and Zeke was pushing them into the barn so I am sure he thought he did it. 
We fed the sheep.  Mouse has decided that since the sheep poop in the barn he should also.  We are still working on discouraging this. So it has to be thrown out the window so a human doesn't accidently step in it.  Sheep poop is not like dog poop!  I cleaned up the momma area in the barn, added some more straw, pulled in a hay feeder and tossed out the eggs some chicken had laid in a secluded corner.  I was impressed I managed to throw the eggs 15 feet through a 2x2 foot window and never splatted one on the inside of the barn!  I wasn't sure that was possible when I started.  I am not known for my baseball skills.  Tomorrow, I will fill all the feeders in the momma area.  I even propped open the back door so they can get out to water on their own.  Our mommas should start dropping babies any time now, January is going to be a busy month. 
I told the dogs we were done and they ran over toward the house.  I still needed to collect eggs and check on the chickens.  My annual chicken report is coming up next week so we will see how I did.  I am not really sure how I did for the year actually.  I heard this poor chicken hollering in distress on my way to the coop.  I started running to the coop and hollering a generic "NO!" at the top of my lungs.  It didn't matter I could not see the offending parties, I knew someone was at fault.  The automatic chicken door was closed so the chickens should have all been inside the coop.  Mouse had a chicken cornered in the chicken yard, the chicken had its head through the chicken wire and was trying to get away from the dog.  He was tasting the chicken with his mouth, no blood but pure chicken terror was involved.  I hollered "NO" and threw my gloves at the dog.  I scooped up the chicken who then started flapping and trying to get away.  I had to grab a leg to hold onto it, so it ended up hanging upside down flapping and screaming.  Mouse thought this was fantastic!  He kept trying to run in and bite the chicken.  I kept hollering "NO" and smacking him every time he lunged at the chicken.  We walked around the side of the coop and Mouse was circling me four feet away out of reach.  I shook the chicken so it would flap and make noise.  This excited Mouse who came in a couple of more times for some chicken tasting.  All he got was a couple of more smacks and "NO!".  By the time we made it to the coop door Mouse was keeping his distance.  I shook the chicken one more time so it would squawk, Mouse looked at the chicken and exited the chicken yard.  He wanted nothing at all to do with the chicken.  I tossed the stupid bird into the coop, fed the chickens and collected eggs.   I know this is not the end of the chicken terrorizing but one small victory at a time is needed to teach him to obey and avoid certain things. 

This morning after letting the sheep out of the barn I had to holler at Mouse, he was tearing around the outside of the chicken coop fence, scattering 30 chickens every which way.  He was having a grand time!  I was able to call him right over to me at the barn.  See he is learning. 

Christmas with the puppy.

Fenced in Christmas tree

We opted to not put any glass or breakable ornaments on the Christmas tree this year.  We knew the puppy would offer challenges to the tree integrity.  So only plastic and fabric ornaments were used in the creation of our holiday tree.  Our first problem was the tree skirt.  If you run really fast and jump on the skirt it acts like a sled and slides across the floor.  Great fun if you are a puppy.  Next was the foot button cord for the tree lights.  This makes a great chew toy.  Finally there are the ornaments themselves.  He took an immediate liking to the Disney plastic characters.  After Tinkerbell and Pluto were slayed we put up the dog fence to protect the tree.  He then proceeded to get up on the couch and reach over the arm and pluck ornaments off for destruction.  All the good ornaments are dead and he now leaves the tree alone. 
Offending party

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Near Calamity of epic proportions!

Heat lamp fire in chicken coop.
The chicken coop caught on fire!!  I went outside just at first light to let the sheep out of the barn when I started to smell smoke. I looked over at the chicken coop  and saw smoke pouring out of it. I ran over to the coop in my tennis shoes, dress slacks and leather coat. I did check the door to see if it was hot before opening it. If it had been hot I would have had to just call 911.  It was cool so I opened the door. My heat lamp had been knocked down and was hanging three inches above the wood pellets. A two foot area was blackened and hot.  I immediately unplugged the heat lamp.  Surprisingly, the chickens looked alive.  They were clucking and throwing a fit but the outer chicken door had not opened up yet as it was still too dark.  I left the door and ran for a bucket of water, I had not gone ten feet when I realized I had left the door open and was now feeding the fire much needed oxygen.  I went back to shut the door and there were now flames shooting out of the floor of the coop.  I shut the door and ran for the old house to retrieve a five gallon bucket, along the way I found an old metal watering can I filled also.  I used the old metal watering can to put out the fire.  I then raked all the hot coals and wood pellets outside the coop onto the ground.  Once I had those cleaned out I went and got my sawzall and cut all the burned wood out of the coop.  I then took a small axe and whacked on the wood floor to get all the hot charred wood out of the floor.  Once all that was done I soaked the area in water again.  Once I was certain it was all out I went inside and told the family of our near miss.  Sarah wanted to know why I did not get a picture of the coop with smoke coming out the door.  I told her that there is a time for photography and a time for fire fighting and they don't always coincide.  Priorities in life are a necessity. 
I had been wanting to update my baby area but it was working for me so I didn't really see a need.  This is a good reason to make some improvements.  The first one is going to be lining the area with concrete board.  No more fire hazards after that, and I will be screwing my heat lamp in place so it cannot be knocked down.  Funny thing is I unscrewed it two years ago, I used to have it permanently mounted on the wall so it could not fall.  I guess I should have left it that way.  I will also use some hardware cloth on inside so the little birds cannot get in and eat any of the food. 
Amazingly, no chickens were killed in the fire or from smoke inhalation.  They have started laying better!  I am getting way more eggs than I was prefire. 
Sawzall all burned material out of coop even though it was still hot.

floor of coop burned.

Outer wall of baby area.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Down draft fan completion nearing

Stovetop downdraft fan

On Thursday I had the heating guy come out and look at installing the duct work for our downdraft fan.  He wanted to look at the owners manual for the fan, but despite some desperate searching it was no where to be found.  I printed one off the internet five minutes before his arrival.  He actually read the instructions!!  The horror and determined that the four inch ventilation damper I had obtained is insufficient.  He said he would contact his suppliers.  He called the next day to say that he could not find one for vinyl siding.  So now the onus is back on me to locate the proper wall vent and call him back.  I will be searching for that tonight so I can get this project done and laid to rest before the end of the year.
The best part is I will not have to crawl under the house in the dead of winter.   A very nice thing indeed. 

A step closer to walk in closet.

Oven area needs some cupboard doors.
I had the custom cabinet guy come out on Wednesday to give us a quote on the walk in closet.  I walked him upstairs and gave him some scribble scratches on a few pieces of scrap paper.  He seemed happy.  We then proceeded downstairs where I said I need doors for the oven area.  We settled on plywood that are filled and sanded and ready for paint.  This works out well for the overall plan of repainting the cupboards.  As an added bonus he asked me if I wanted doors on the stovetop enclosure also!  I told him to throw those into the quote also!  This will catch me up on all outstanding doors except in the laundry room.  The kitchen is high visibility so I am really happy.  The quote will be here in a week.  He told me as long as I didn't need the job done before Christmas he had plenty of time.  I told him the new year works well for us. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.  The walk in closet is a big deal and takes a huge load off.  It will be a great way to start the new year. 

Stovetop needs some cupboard doors.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Huge puppy.

"What?  Was that a command or a suggestion?"

"I look so innocent"

We are waiting for this calm to develop in the puppy.
The puppy is a dog weed basically.  He grows and grows and grows.  He is 19.3 lbs already with no signs of slowing down.  It is amazing how quickly he is gaining weight.  It shouldn't be since he consumes two times as much food as our adult 50+lb dog does. Luckily, he is smart so that is offsetting his puppy behavior.  He is truly annoying.  At night he wants to go outside and pee every 15 minutes.  Can you imagine how awful pausing your movie every fifteen minutes is when you have no control of the pause location.  It is crazy.  He pees every time.  I offered a suggestion to Annmarie that we not let him drink any water after dinner.  She wasn't going for it.  He can now jump on the couch, so now we are teaching him the "off" command.  He is also starting to bark at the cats inside the house.  That is a big "NO", he ignored Annmarie this morning until she hollered at him.  He took her serious and stopped.  They tell you to maintain your calm and control.  It is not always possible.  We are picking him up every day and carrying him around to get used to being man handled.  I want to be able to carry him or put him on his back whenever is necessary without him panicking.  He will now sit for his food and tonight he waited for a release command.  He is scary smart. 

It is December.

It is the first week of December, in Eastern Oregon.
It is amazing!  It is the first week of December and the snow is gone, no more in our little neck of the woods.  We had a very warm chinook wind come off the mountains and melt all the snow off in a single day.  I went to Pendleton for errands in the morning and by the time I got back that afternoon this is what I saw.  The stupid trees better not get fooled and try and come out of their winter stupor.  It will kill even more this year than last. 

I had to rush out to the back runoff creek and move fencing.  I have cow panels hung over the runoff creek in six different places.  I had to go lift all those sections of fence out of the creek bed while it was still dry.  It is incredibly painful to do while hanging over a two foot deep raging runoff stream.  I don't swim well and those conditions are better for a kayak than swimming.  I walked around in a long sleeve shirt only.  It was great, bad for the trees but very pleasant to be out and about.  I had an EMS call and had to run from the school house to my pickup by the house.  I thought I was going to die before I got to the truck.  I definitely need to do more aerobic exercise.  The horses and sheep are starting to go up on the green hillside and eat the grass that is now growing again. 

I cannot believe it is December, wore a long sleeve shirt and blue jeans to move fences.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Predators 3, Farm 1. Deer vs Car tie.

It's only fitting that the farm come out swinging in the last month of the year.  I went out tonight with Zeke and Mouse to feed the animals and almost stepped on a possum!  Directly in the path to the barn laying down and not really moving was a possum.  Nasty dirty little creature, I could see him jonesing for a chicken.  I had to run back in the house for an appropriate dispatch device.  The possum was kind enough to wait for me to come back with my favorite chicken killer laser directed dispatch device.  One shot wonder to the rescue.  The current price and availability of 22 LR ammo necessitate the conservation at every opportunity.  Zeke of course ran to the barn when he saw the firearm emerge.  Mouse wasn't sure what to do so he just stayed back ten feet and sniffed the ground where something had been just prior.  We went into the barn and fed all the sheep without any further attempts to create a chicken dinner.  Mouse thinks pushing the sheep around the barn is a fun event.  The sheep are afraid of him because he is a dog.  He has no idea that they would stomp him into the ground with nary a thought.  Unfortunately, he doesn't listen to anyone.  I cannot call him off the sheep, so then I end up running around the barn chasing a puppy trying to keep him away from the sheep and any injury.  He is coming along so well, it is amazing how quick he is learning.  Sarah said he rang the bell to get let out four times today.  It was his first time ringing the bell!!

Annmarie called me this evening to tell me that she had hit a deer in her car on the way home.  The deer died alongside the road and the car is still drive able but not going any where.  She said the car had a shake, plus it was missing a headlight and some plastic pieces from the front right corner.  On the plus side she managed to dent the same side she hit the deer on last year!!  Always a bonus to get the old dent fixed at the same time.  So now I get to drive the pickup for a few weeks until our car is fixed.  The evil deer coalition has not won, our car will be back and in working order eventually.  This is merely a temporary setback for humankind. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Water pressure woes.

We have been having temperature and pressure fluctuations while people are showering. It seems to only be occurring in the bathroom. I decided I would try and fix it even though it involves plumbing. I had used vinegar to clean out the keurig maker last week I figured it was time to do the same thing to our hot water heater.  My parents had a sump pump and I cut a short hose in half and made a double female ended connector and a regular short hose. I used two five gallon buckets and three gallons of white vinegar. It was pretty loud once I got the vinegar recirculating so I closed the laundry room door and had to open the back door so the vinegar fumes didn't make me pass out. I let it circulate for an hour. Then closed it all up and blew out the hot water line into the deep sink.  We got some stuff out but not a ton. I also changed the shower head in the bathroom. Tonight when I took a shower the water temperature was great!  Very consistent throughout the entire event. The water pressure was still an issue. I need to change the system in line filter and then see how it feels. I suspect I will have to tear apart the bathroom faucet!!  The Home Depot junk valve is still haunting me. I will do the filter first because it is easy!!

I had to put another bale of hay out for the cows. Unfortunately, there is snow on the ground and my little tractor could hardly move the bale. This was exacerbated by the stupid bull getting on the other side and pushing back!!  I had a very hard time getting the hay to its final destination I will have to start moving the feed spot closer to the hay stack. I counted the large bales of hay, we have 20 left. Five for every month will get us to April 1 2016.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Winter is here

Mother Nature did not dissapoint, winter is here!  Three days ago we got four inches of snow. It is hard to believe I was walking around in a short sleeve shirt less than a week ago. Now we feed all that hay that got put up this summer. We have to feed two bales to the sheep because it is so cold. I think we are down around forty sheep now, after selling off 23. I should have another 11 ready in the late spring. Come March we will begin the search for a new ram. 
Now that daylight savings has struck we are always feeding in the dark. I doubled up on the head lamps with great success.  The child thought it looked ridiculous but it's all about the lumens. It worked very well. We are taking mouse to the barn when we feed. He is staying away from the sheep and when they  get excited and start jumping around he runs over and stands under Zeke' legs. No sheep will get him there!  He knows sit and down well. Knows no, kinda knows off but doesn't like it. Kinda knows phooey but doesn't like it cause it's disguised as a no. He will go to the front door to potty do you have to watch him. No more random squats. Another two weeks we should have him potty trained. He is crate trained at night. Will go 6-7 hrs in his crate at night. He will sit briefly for his food dish. Everyone else has to wait for go signal to eat. He will come for me about 75% of the time outside. Not very responsive to return command when he is outside. I have been treating him nonstop so my success rate is higher. 

I was out in the barn laying out straw for the sheep and horses and found another stack of eggs from the hen who hatched her babies in the barn. Another two dozen eggs stashed between two straw bales. I will have to throw them out now. Who knows how long those have been there. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Last sheep sale of the year.

The cows do know it is winter. There is no more feed available out by the vehicles so I had to start feeding the cows. Unfortunately, I have not picked up my special hay hooks to go on a chain to allow me to pull the large bales off the stack with my little tractor. So instead I climbed on top of the hay pile, sat on the second bale and attempted to push the top bake off with my legs. It took a few tries but I managed to get it off the stack. Since I was already up there I knocked two more bales on the end off. They were much harder as they were lower and kept rocking back into my legs. I didn't think I was going to get them to fall over.  But, perseverance won. Now I have a few weeks more to go get my hay hooks. 

I have been super busy at my various jobs so I have been having to feed the cows at night. As long as Zeke runs interference and guards the hay it works out pretty slick. He has to keep the cows away from the hay stack while I fish out a large bale with the tractor and then push it across the ground to the feeding area. 
Feeding the cows by tractor light.
I have a few small bales of hay for the alpacas stashed over here. They don't use much hay. 

We sold the last of our for sale sheep six days ago on Saturday. A very friendly, very pregnant ewe and a non related intact ram lamb who was only about three months old.  We had two Rams. I banded the second one but his balks were huge!  I could only get one rubber band around them so I hope it works. 

Machine shop hay pile lower and alpaca hay in place.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Is it almost thanksgiving?

One week ago today this was the weather. I figured at this rate I was never going to have to feed the sheep.  The horses were getting the occasional hay feeding as they are the most pampered animal on the place. I was outside doing chores in a short sleeve tshirt. I love the mild weather but dread the spring as the bugs are always worse!  What good does it do to be ready for winter if it isn't coming?  Was all that planning and prepping for naught?  It looks like I should be out building fence. Luckily we are still getting rain so my new planted field is getting moisture. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Upper prime done!

Upper prime pasture all planted and ready for spring.
Ram all deboned.

Ram ready for freezer two hours later.
It is done, the upper prime pasture is all ready for spring.  We just need the correct temperature, moisture and optimum growing conditions to make it a success.  Time will tell if I got it right.  It took me two hours this morning to run the harrow over the entire field.  Annmarie puppy sat while I did that first thing.  I then puppy sat for most of the day while paying bills and doing inside chores. 
Late afternoon I had to run out in the rain and wind and strip the ram carcass of any meat so I could grind it up with our kitchen aid.  Surprisingly easy to hack off the meat when you are just going to grind it all up any ways.  It goes a lot faster than I anticipated, only 30 minutes.  It took longer to clean and skin.  I tried to take the puppy with me outside but Zeke took off after the chickens, tearing around the coop and rolling chickens this way and that way along the run.  I was holding the puppy in my arms and hollering loudly with multiple swear words.  Zeke finally came over and laid down, not very contrite but he did comply.  I set the puppy down on the ground and he ran straight for the house!  I had scared him by hollering at Zeke.  I caught him twice running back and finally just had to put him on the breeze porch with Zeke.  He did fine up on the porch. 
I went to feed the cows a new bale of hay and had some difficulty with the bull.  As soon as the bale was out of the machine shed the bull started attacking it with his horns.  He has learned to tear up the bale this way.  It is much more efficient and fun than just eating it calmly.  The problem was I still needed to move the bale over to the feeder.  This is done by me pushing it with the tractor.  The bull was on the opposite side and once I started moving the bale he took that as a challenge and started ramming the bale and pushing back.  My poor little tractor was having a hard time moving the bale and the bull all at the same time.  Swearing at the bull did not make him waiver for a second.  He just kept pushing back.  Once I got the bale into its proper position and quit pushing it the bull really went to town on the bale, tearing it up with his horns and prancing all around.  I had to shoo everyone away so I could cut the strings and get the feeding panels around the bale.  I so need to get the hay hooks I requested for the tractor.  That was the last easy bale, all others will need to be pulled down off of a three high stack.  My little tractor cannot reach the top bale with its bucket.  I have a week to get the hooks. 
I ground up the entire ram and will now use it for summer sausage.  I will give it a try next week.  I expect good things from the sausage as the meat is pretty strong.   I did not have to add as much pork fat as I thought I would because the ram had more fat on him then I anticipated. 

Fencing deals.

Five human gates and 25 T posts.

Yesterday was a busy day.  Mouse got to go on another car ride.  My mother found out about a friend of her selling gates, panels and fencing supplies.  It was a great deal!  I saved over 50% off on everything.  These are the things that I will need eventually but don't currently have them allotted to any one location.  Now that I say that, one four foot gate needs to go down by the old apple tree in the orchard.  I have a gate opening all ready installed in the fence it just needs a gate.  A cut to fit panel is wired in place now.  I also want to install one in the back fence of the orchard so you can walk out onto the back hillside without having to climb the fence.  I picked up five small gates so that leaves three more for somewhere on the farm.  Luckily for me, even our tractor will go through a four foot gate.  I won't be putting the people gates in places I need to actually get through with a tractor.  In the bottom pump pasture, (new name just created) I want to fence that off next year.  I think it is only 2-2.5 acres and I want to plant Sainfoin as a test feed crop.  Once established it comes back like alfalfa, but it is a legume so it will bind nitrogen into the soil.  I really need a manure spreader.  I could spread the straw and poop from the annual barn cleaning over the pastures.  It is on my list.  I need a decent used one at a fantastic price!  No pressure in finding that.  The bottom pump pasture will need a fence alongside the top of the creek bank.  I will need a tractor gate in it down by the culvert and a people gate at the end and maybe even the side closest to the creek.  So that is four small gates and one large gate used up already.  Another large gate needs to go into the school house pasture next to the old barley field.  There is already an opening with a cow panel wired in place.  I think this may be a 16 foot opening so I would have to move one rock crib to make an appropriate sized opening for a 12 foot gate.  I need to retighten and update that same section of fence next year so moving the far sided rock crib is not that big of deal.  Plus I want to add a new fence up the back hillside down by the upper prime far fence line.  That will need a 12 foot gate.  I also wanted to subdivide the back hillside one more time down by the apple tree, another 12 foot gate needed.  I also need to install a metal gate on the upper hillside to replace a long barb wire gate that is unwieldy and hard to operate.  That leaves me with one 2 foot gate left out of all the ones I just purchased!  I now have over 20 railroad ties.  I probably need at least another ten to do all that fencing.  I will have to keep working on acquiring more.  I have over half a mile of woven wire now stashed in my fencing supply area. 
Once home, I took mouse with me to the post office.  He tried to sneak out while I was shutting the door and caught his nose between the seat and door.  He yelped and didn't want to face the door anymore.  We then played for a couple of hours until Annmarie came home.  I then went out and planted the upper prime field with a non irrigation pasture grass mix.  I went with the plastic whirly seed spreader.  I had to twirl the handle for three hours, but I figured I saved at least an hour of fighting with the old seeder in addition to the planting time.  It was worth it.  I was walking back and forth slow and methodical but that was taking forever.  I opened up the seeder one more notch and started to fast walk across the field to get good coverage.  I had to start removing clothing due to all the sweating from the workout.  It took me three hours to get the seed spread out.  I probably would have only used 8-12 pounds of seed if I had used the seeder.  I used about 35 pounds of seed doing it by hand.  The sun was going down so I will have to use the harrow on Tuesday. 
Five 12 foot gates and 15 railroad ties.

More cheap labor.

New worker added to family.

Well we did it, we have a new puppy!  Annmarie drove 7 hours each way to pick him up on Saturday, November 28, 2015.  He is a purebred Border collie from working parents.  The breeders were going to hold him back for themselves but had things come up.  They will only sell their dogs to working farms and say they can work both cattle and sheep.  The biggest thing is being able to differentiate between cattle and sheep, they are not herded the same.   He is silver in color, bright blue eyes and only eight weeks old.  We had been talking about waiting until spring but Annmarie has more time available now and hopefully Sarah will be home soon.  This will spread out the puppy duties to ease the burden.  They are so much work!  The first couple of days our dogs didn't want much to do with him.  Now Zeke will play with him and not growl at him nonstop.  Zeke playing with him has helped ease the burden a lot.  Otherwise, he needed a human play toy incessantly.  We did the math and with Zeke being 5 years old and it taking us 2 years to really train the puppy well. We will need a new dog every 5-7 years.  I would like to wait until the old dog has died before getting a replacement.   His name is Mouse, its color appropriate.  I needed a name I could holler out easily.  No multiple syllable names were allowed in the choosing process.  No names that started with a S or Z were allowed either.  Oh and nothing that sounded like one of our commands.  I really wanted a single syllable name, hence the choice Mouse.   It was Annmarie's idea to call him Mouse.  He gets to sleep with us for a couple of weeks until we are sure he can hold his pee through the night then we will crate train him.  The first three nights of the crate are the worse.  The nice thing is both other dogs are crate trained so it won't seem so foreign to him. 
He is already showing an interest in the livestock.  He tries to chase the alpaca out of our yard and he loves watching the chickens through the fence.  He just needs to not get rolled by the sheep!  The plan is to just keep him near Zeke when we go out to the barn.  Zeke is generally avoided by the sheep and he will protect both of them.  Mouse is constantly trying to grab Zeke by a leg when they play. 

Sprout is not taking to the puppy.  Its interrupting his desires and needs.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Killing almost done.

Number four of ten.

Today was the day!  I was hoping this was going to be the last of the sheep killing for the year.  It won't be but it was close.  One of my friends wanted 9 lambs and he comes to the house and we kill them and his dad cuts them up.  This is a lot more work for me but for Don, the nicest guy I know, I make exceptions.  I did tell him that we would need to kill our ram also.  As an added bonus he usually has to help me band and tag a few babies when we are sorting the sheep and today was no different.  I knew there was at least two babies without tags.  I had just ran them into the barn right before he arrived.  Zeke is proving just how smart a border collie can be today.  We went out to get the sheep and they were all the way down by the school house on the upper hillside.  So we walked down but the gate was at the top of the hill and the bottom of the hill and we were in the middle of the hill.  I was able to teach him how to climb up the rock jack and jump over the fence at the top.  It took some prompting but he did it!  First time ever for this trick.  I then just stood on the hill and hollered commands while he herded the sheep down below to the open gate and over to the barn.  His only mistake was letting one of the babies break ranks over by the barn and get trapped on the wrong side of the fence away from everyone else.  He had to go down and circle behind the baby and push it back to the herd.  Every once in a while he lets a couple squirt out from the edges.

We sorted the sheep using the fancy sheep chute and tagged and banded two new baby boys about three weeks old.  We sorted off fourteen boys and kept them in the barn then chased all the babies and mommys out of the barn.  This is where the killing doesn't end.  We have an all white ewe from a Katahdin ram that mysteriously died of a wasting disease. She is literally wasting away, very skinny with bones sticking out.  No one else in the whole herd looks like her.  She looks just like her father did before we had to put him down.  I will put her down in the next week and just take her body up to the boneyard.  His death is what caused us to go pick up all our new rams from their homes.  It allows us to see how the animals are raised and what their herd looks like before we purchase a ram.  We are sticking to that rule with all new rams.  Our current ram came from a beautiful home and has thrown wonderful babies, but he now has granddaughters in the herd and his bloodline is making everyone jumpy and scared all the time.  So it was time for him to go away, and with those beautiful horns he was not going to a new home. 

We then resorted the fourteen boys and put ten of them into the chute for processing.  Don's dad wanted to know how I killed them.  I said I had learned to kill them by slicing the carotid arteries with a fillet knife by stabbing them behind the trachea then turning the blade 90 degrees and hold the wound open so they bleed out without starving for air because the trachea is not cut.  I said someone had told me this is how the local Basque gentleman had taught him so I have been practicing it.  He said this is how a Kosher butcher would do it without the blessings.  I didn't know that.  Don and I hung each lambs head out the barn window and I proceeded to bleed them out.  I did the first nine without missing.  Perfect every time. Unfortunately, I was saving the ram for last as he is the largest of the animals.  He was getting very nervous by the time we snatched the last three boys out of the chute.  He tried to jump out on the last animal.  So I told Don we had to get him as soon as we finished the ninth one so he didn't jump out of the chute.  We got him into the small section of the chute and I tried to get in with him.  He kept trying to ram me with his very large horns.  It was not safe, then he tried to jump out by going over a gate and caught his back foot in the gate and broke his leg.  I had to go inside the house and get a 22 pistol and shoot him in the head inside the barn.  Next time the ram goes first and I will start taking the pistol out to the barn when I am killing so it is handy if needed.  He was a lot bigger than I had estimated.  He weighed over 150 pounds!  I have him hanging out on the skinning pole.  I will buy some suet tomorrow and then bone out his carcass.  We are going to grind him up and make mutton burger.
Our ram, soon to be mutton burger.

I make a great summer sausage that is even better with a strong flavored meat.  Its pretty good with plain hamburger but with a strong flavored meat it is divine.  Not sure why it is so much better with a strong flavored meat.  I just purchased a meat grinder for our Kitchen Aid and it came two days ago in the mail, all hail the great AMAZON! 

Pasture progress

Mowing lawn one last time for the year.
I keep getting behind on my blog posts.  I do try and make them in a timely fashion but it can be hard to sit down and write when I am on a TV marathon of one show, currently the Game of Thrones.  I love binge watching seasons at a time.  On Monday, I mowed the lawn for the last time this year!  As always I went the easy way and let 50 sheep into the yard and had them mow it for me.  It is far more efficient plus they will get the hillside I cannot mow.  No fossil fuels were burned in the grooming process of our lawn.  See how green I can be?  Annmarie has another word for it, but any good redneck will tell you that sheep are the best lawnmowers ever. 
Upper prime pasture getting ready for grass seed.

I had just gotten started on discing the upper prime pasture so it can be replanted.  The sheep and horses had pretty much stripped it down to nothing so it was perfect to work.  There was too much dead grass in places and did make it kind of hard in places.  I had to clean out the harrow multiple times as it kept building up clumps of dead grass.  Tuesday was supposed to be kill sheep day but it was raining so Don and I decided to move that to Thursday and I spent all day on the tractor dragging the disc around then the harrow.  It was wet which meant the tractor had to stay in four wheel drive all day, but the ground was easy to work.  I got it all ready for grass seed.  I had Richard come out and I asked him to give me pointers on using the seeder.  I am still nervous and not sure if spending 2-3 hours working on it then it being too heavy for my little tractor is worth the effort.  I may still seed by hand then run over it with the harrow.  The good thing about it only being four acres.  If I had to do large areas I would have to use equipment.  I still do a lot of things the hard way!  I realize that they are not always the most efficient technique available.  We are supposed to get more rain this weekend and my week is booked up solid with other things so squeezing in the seeding is going to be hard and yet essential.  It may have to wait till Sunday.  I am running out of good weather and time, a killer combination to beat. 

Upper prime pasture ready for grass seed.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sasquatch assist.

Who do you call when you need to open the barn first thing in the morning?  You call sasquatch!  No longer having a child at home has allowed certain clothing restrictions to loosen when it comes to errands first thing in the morning.  I can positively state that is not freezing outside yet. 
Sasquatch to the rescue.  
Annmarie grabbed my cell phone and rushed upstairs to our bedroom to catch this elusive creature on a digital image.  May many more assists happen in the future. 

I am still trying to catch the chicken killer.  Yesterday, I placed an egg in the trap and thought it had gotten eaten but no it had just been moved.  Tonight I baited the trap with some squirrel food.  I know it is a raccoon.  I found footprints down by the front ditch in the soft dirt this morning.  Now that it knows there is chicken inside that wooden structure it will come back every night looking for a way inside.  I found a couple of rocks that had been rolled out of the way so a tunnel was open underneath the chicken coop.  The raccoons did this a couple of years ago also.  The war has begun and I am to finish it. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Predators 3, farm 0

It has begun. War has been declared and I did not even fire the first shot. When your chicken yard looks like a feather pillow exploded it is never a good sign. I know why this happened, I started to like a certain breed over the rest. Both Annmarie and I really like the brahma chickens. They are pretty, mellow and fun to watch. I only had three white ones and two buff colored ones survive the brooder this year. I found the wings only of one, a whole body dead one and no body for the third one. This sucks as I really liked them.  The two buff colored ones are still alive, I saw them after investigating the feather explosion. I am suspecting a raccoon. I set the live trap but I had to bait it with horse treats as I could not find the sunflower seeds. I will try and pickup some sunflower seeds on Friday. The best part of the seeds is the cats don't eat them so it cuts down on extra animals in the trap. 

I let the cows into the car area. Unfortunately, I did not stake the panel nearest to the oak tree. Our bull lifted the panel and then popped it open and pushed the tree over so they could eat the leaves off the tree. I came home the next day and staked up the tree. Put some tree wrap around the tree and tied it up to the stake.  I put in three T posts and then put in a second fence three feet out from the first one!  It should now be cow proof!   I have high hopes that the tree will snap back and survive this heinous assault. 

I have started discing the upper prime field. I would like to get it planted but it needs to be ready for seeding. I keep getting distracted from this job. My third load this summer. It needs to go to the back deck but it keeps getting pushed back.  

I need to concentrate on my battle plans for eradicating the chicken killer!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Last of the gravel.

stepping pad so the gate can open and you don't have to stand in the mud.
I went out and did a few things with the tractor yesterday.  I had left it in the middle of the driveway with a bucket load of gravel.  I had a little bit of gravel left, about 1 yard, and used it to make a stepping spot so you can get off the concrete and open the new fence gate.  I also made a walkway so you can get to the barn lot gate without getting muddy.  I really do hope it is going to rain soon and this will be a needed feature.  The barn lot gets sloppy but I am hoping the gutters and downspout and drain make this much better.  Only actual rain for a few days and weeks will really make it known if this is the fix or else I need another ditch on this side of the barn with another drain line down to the front ditch.  We would like the area to not be a solid mud pit, but it is just a little soil over an entire rock bluff so not a lot of natural drainage. 

I forgot to shut the chicken run human door and the horses pushed it open and went into the run.  The only real problem with this is the door will shut behind them and then they are stuck!  I went out to get eggs and there they were stuck.  The funny part is they cannot get to any chicken food just the grass in the run.  They went out with a little coaxing. 

Gravel walkway to the barn lot so you can stay out of the mud and still see the horses.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chicken financials for the first nine months of 2015.

On average I had 21.4 laying hens giving me 9.3 eggs/day for a productivity rate of 44% (no change in productivity.  I have not changed my collection methods).  I am feeding on average 150# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 1350# this year already (I have started to chase house finches out of the chicken coop, sometimes there is 30 of them in there!  They are eating a lot of the food, I need to hang some clear acrylic strips on the inside of the chicken door so the chickens can push through but the finches cannot fly into the coop).     My monthly feed bill is $35.75/month (almost a $2/month decrease).  My feed costs are $1.58/doz (35 cent/doz decrease since last report) with my total cost of production $2.05/doz (a 36 cent increase in cost since last quarter, attributed to another dozen baby chicks I purchased with very poor outcome).  My chickens are consuming 0.53lbs food/egg produced and it is costing me $0.13/egg in feed, this is great and hopefully I can keep my feed costs down. I have collected 1694 eggs to date (142 less than last quarter, poor collection and breakage issues, Sarah was in boot camp this entire time.  I am the only egg collector now, I really need to get more timely).  Total feed costs are $322, supply expenses are kicking in, new chicks for a total of $111, I purchased another dozen chicks this quarter. .  I currently have a profit of $243 (finally  $20/month for labor) for the year. I use my fancy chicken spread sheet.  It seems like every year I find something that needs to be added.  There are a couple of calculations that need to be changed.  It doesn't count chick purchases as an expense against the chicken.  I had to make notes and now see if I can get Annmarie to make the changes.  Until that time I will continue to do the math myself. 

Chicken financials for first half of the year.

I decided it was time to catch up on some accounting this weekend.  I am on the last day of my vacation and am trying to get all caught up.

On average I had 21.5 laying hens giving me 9.4 eggs/day (I had a couple of mysterious deaths of some unknown illness), for a productivity rate of 44% (I like to be over 50% during the summer but I am getting some egg breakage because I am not getting eggs every day.  I need to improve my egg collection timeliness).  I am feeding on average 158# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 950# this year already (50# of this is baby food for the new chicks, which I just throw in here as an expense for feed.  ).  The ton of food I bought from BiMart is still going strong.  I don't expect to buy any more till next year.    My monthly feed bill is $37.64/month (only a 30 cent increase over lst quarter).  My feed costs are $1.93/doz with my total cost of production $1.69/doz (a 24 cent decrease in cost since last quarter).  My chickens are consuming 0.56lbs food/egg produced and it is costing me $0.13/egg in feed, this is great and hopefully I can keep my feed costs down. I have collected 1694 eggs to date (268 more than last quarter).  Total feed costs are $226, supply expenses are kicking in, I purchased bedding and new chicks for a total of %80.  I am keeping with the new charge of $4/doz I started last year.  I am not going to raise the prices.  I don't see me making as much as last year, but I am now covering expenses so I will let it ride for now.   I currently have a profit of $138 (an increase of only $54 for the last quarter, not even $20/month for labor) for the year.  My expenses for babies will be more this year because I kept killing them in the brooder for some reason.  Annmarie thinks I was getting them too hot, so modifications will need to be made next year. 

Plumbing is done for this year, hopefully.

Second time around is the real deal.
I went out first thing Thursday morning and installed the new piece of pipe and hydrant.  Ideally I would have had some end to end connectors and I could have glued this monstrosity differently, but I do not live next to a hardware store and I did not want to wait all day again for the glue to set up.  So I used what I had on hand.  The old pipe to the side used to supply the hydrant.  It was four feet to the east.  I decided that this was just one more thing to break and would just put it over the main line.  It also gives me a visual marker if I need to dig up the line.  I at least know exactly where one spot is located. 
After that quick assembly I went to the dreaded metal pipe in the backyard.  I crawled down into the hole and started digging away from the exposed pipe so I could get a wrench down low when I looked up and noticed that the spigot was on.  Not only was it on but its handle had become bent sometime in the last two years laying around.  I bent the handle back in place and actually closed the valve.  Could it be that the reason the hole filled up was because I did not shut the valve?  Could it be that I actually installed it correctly the first time?  I called down to the house and got the pump turned on.  No Leaks, NONE!  I had done it, I had successfully installed to outside hydrants in 1.5 days.  Luckily, labor is free when I do plumbing.  I used the tractor and placed 1/3 yard of gravel at the base of each hydrant to allow them to drain after closing the hydrant even in winter.  We don't use these much in the winter but they sure are nice if you do because they work and don't freeze afterwards. 
Side yard frost free hydrant.

Backyard frost free hydrant

I spread some more gravel over the new culvert in the barn lot.  I don't want it to become a mud pit in the winter.  I would like to put some more gravel on the back yard deck but I don't have enough.  I am waiting for another 10 yards to be delivered.  I was hoping it would show up while I was still on vacation but no luck.  Hopefully, it will show up next week or I will bug the supplier.  I always make sure I have lots of time available for these things.  When you live in a small town/country area there are only so many people to provide services and they are usually busy.  You cannot just get things the same day or even the next, 1-2 weeks is more often the likely time frame. 

Plumbing is for magicians.

Well, winter is almost here.  It can no longer be denied even by those of us who wish differently.  I managed to put off doing any plumbing all summer long.  The real problem is last year I said I would install the frost free outside spigot/hydrant in the front yard.  I had the hole dug and did not do it.  I had to fill the hole with straw to prevent the main house supply from freezing.  I then had to install a cap to the backyard spigot and then apply heat tape and insulation to keep it from freezing. I was again approached by the lovely wife to actually get the two frost free spigots installed this year.  To this end I paid my nephew to dig the back line up and redig the front spigot hole, as it had gotten partially filled in.  This was done by midsummer.  The holes sat there as stark reminders that I should actually do something about them.  I ignored them.  The backyard one is kinda in the way to get to the new deck area.  It is possible to drive the tractor past without actually ending up in the hole.  Wednesday was the day of plumbing.  I had everything I thought I needed already and decided that I would need all day to do this magical task.  I can do a lot of things, and some of them very well but plumbing just seems to elude me.  I have not done a single plumbing task correctly on the first try, EVER!  There is just something about it that I just don't get.  I now plan on simple tasks taking a day or two because nothing is going to go right and I will need to redo the project at least once. 

I wanted to remove this 18 inch section of pipe that actually had a threaded joint and a slip on joint.  I was going to add the hydrant to this section so if there was a problem I would be able to easily replace a small section of pipe and could take it out of the hole to work on.  It sounded like a good plan except I could not screw the pipe joint apart.  It was PVC pipe and it would not unscrew.  I finally resorted to a metal pipe wrench on both parts but still could not get it to unscrew.  I did however notice that I was stressing the joint and wondered if that would come back to haunt me later. I had all the needed parts so I attempted to glue the parts together.  No biggie as I had lots of old cans of PVC glue out in the shed, two from last year.  I tossed out four cans of dessicated and hardened glue.  I had to run to the local hardware store and thankfully they had some PVC glue.  I came back to the house and glued in the T piece and let it sit outside the hole for a few hours.  I then went to replace the backyard hydrant.  I needed to remove a four foot long piece of galvanized metal.  It would not budge!  I tried some WD-40 on the joint but to no avail.  I found a four foot chunk of pipe to slip over the handle of the pipe wrench.  This makes for some serious leverage, but after the few metal things I have broken this summer I went easy on the power and tried more finesse and steady pressure instead of reefing and swearing at it.  The pipe came out and I screwed the hydrant in without any complications.  Five minutes once I had the cheater pipe.  All plumbing jobs should be this easy.  I then went to town that afternoon to get all the PVC parts to do the job one more time.  I had plans to apply water pressure that evening but if there were any complications I would not be able to go to the hardware store and would have to wait.  The $10 was cheap insurance.  That evening I installed the PVC pipe and got it all tightened down and ready to go.  I called my mother-in law to start the pump.  Both our houses are on the same pump and there is no isolation valve so if one of us has a leak we both lose water.  She fired it up and all my joints I added held wonderfully.  It was pure magic, except for the large stream of water shooting out from the old joint I stressed with my large metal pipe wrench.  It had a jet of water leaking by a one inch section.  I had to call and quickly get the water turned off before the hole filled up with water.  I ended up having to dig the hole a little bigger to allow me access with a hack saw to cut the pipe.  I had no simple end to end glue joints.  I glued a hole new section together with parts of the one I just removed and let it dry in the house.

Then I remembered I had not checked on the backyard hydrant.  The entire hole was filled to the top with water!  The main pipe at the bottom of the hole has a 3/4 inch valve and a 90 degree elbow and a reduction joint.  I was not certain where the leak was at.  I am sure my gentle application of pressure with a four foot cheater bar had broken a piece of the 80+ year old pipe buried in the ground.  There was so much water that it was just going to have to wait until morning, plus it was starting to get dark.  I smelled like pipe glue and primer so Annmarie made me go to my mother's house and shower.  Plumbing is always painful, never easy and done twice at a bare minimum. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Winter is coming.

Milk shed area scrap cleaned up.
Well I spent most of Sunday just tinkering around the place.  I had volunteered for a closet remodel at the church rectory and it took four days to get it to the trim needed status but the lumber yard is closed on Sunday so I had time to get a little work done around the farm.  I went out and installed bungies on all the new gates in the barn.  I thought I had bolt on eye hooks but I could not find any so I had to use the threaded kind.  I am not sure how well they will hold up.  The bungies keep the doors shut even when they are not latched.  Annmarie had threatened to add a pull cord to make the new double door latch work from the outside.  She used some bailing twine.  I rearranged it and added another eye hook and used some parachute cord to make it all pretty and easier to operate. 
I cleaned out the milk shed.  We had stacked all the old wood earlier in the summer but there was a large trash pile by the entrance.  I tossed it in the pickup and picked up more nails from the ground.  I had a list of 34 things that needed to be done before winter.  I am down to 14 now but some of those are pretty big items.  They are going to have to wait till next year. 
I put the cow protein lick out by the machine shed so as soon as we let the cows in to the car area to feed them everything is ready.  Our two picked on alpaca have had access to our front yard and they come in every day and work on the lawn.  I may not have to do the last mowing of the year!  The larger black one is getting fat, the super skinny one is starting to put on some weight.  He looks better, doesn't look like he is going to keel over and die at any moment any longer. 
My baby chickens are still alive and doing well.  The hen throws a fit whenever I have to reach in and fix the water or add food.  Last night when I went out to the chicken coop my five new brahma chickens were roosting in the nest boxes.  I had to throw them all out while I was getting eggs.  That could be why the eggs are getting broken. 
I have put off installing the yard water hydrants so long that now they must be done.  Tomorrow is the big day I have to do some plumbing.  I cannot wait...

Milk shed crap.

They really are alive.

They want a treat.  They will come to me just calling their names.  I almost always have a treat!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Eureka baby chicks!

New babies!  Homegrown.

13 babies.
Last week Annmarie spotted a lone white chicken out in the barn hidden under some hay.  She was sitting on 20 eggs.  It was the beginning of the month so we had decided to give her 25 days to hatch any chicks.  Annmarie started checking on the hen every day to see if any chicks hatched.  Yesterday morning she found chicks!  Lots of chicks.  I was heading out to get the cow hay so there was no time to catch chicks.  We decided to do it later in the afternoon.  I hauled over 24 bales of hay and our neighbor brought the 25th one and stacked all the big bales in the machine shed. 
We went out to catch chicks.  The hen was not happy.  She kept trying to peck us.  Eight of the little buggers were stuck between the outside door and barn.  Annmarie was catching them when one dashed under the barn.  I had to try and squeeze past the outer paneling I installed a few years ago.  There was some loud discourse on the fact that I did not install a gate to get under the barn.  It will need to happen eventually.  I ended up crawling halfway under the barn and could not catch the chick it disappeared.  I had Annmarie run to the other side of the barn and the chick had snuck out.  She snagged it and we tossed the hen into the box with the babies.  We took them to chicken fort knox in the coop.  I had to go back out to the barn to get the dog and decided to throw out the eggs from the nest that had hatched and the unopened one.  I didn't want them to rot in the barn.  I heard the occasional chirp when I was grabbing all the eggs and kept digging around in the straw for any missing chicks.  I never found any and the sound was pretty infrequent.  I took the eggs out to the barn lot and started breaking them on a rock so they would get eaten.  Most of the eggs broke right open, but a couple just bounced.  Then I heard the chirping again from an egg I had just tossed down.  I had to peel the shell off a baby chick.  It was still alive!  It was barely moving.  I found another one that had to be peeled out of its shell.  I decided to take them back to the coop and put them under the warming light in the hopes that they would survive.  I do realize that natural selection was at work and I was violating the principles by helping the chicks out of their shells.  When I went out a couple hours later to check on the two stragglers one had survived and one had expired.  Not bad 50% survival rate.  Today all the chicks were running around chirping their little hearts out!  Free baby chicks!  Now I hope that more than 50% are girls and not boys. 
Alfalfa for hay.