Friday, August 18, 2017

Barn ready for winter!

The Padawan returned the next morning on Sunday. He again had cereal for breakfast and was fed egg scramble with potatoes, onions and sidepork. He ate it all, no hot chocolate for him but I had two cups of coffee. He was itching to get out to the barn and finish the feeders. I had done all of the board cutting and had him assemble all the pieces on the wall with occasional help and lots of verbal direction. If it was wrong or loose I just had him undo and redo it. It's a barn and we are reusing scraps and old wood. This just adds more character to the building. We had to start using several pieces instead of one piece as I was running out of long boards. Once the Padawan finished the feeders I had him dig in the second story of the barn for my leftover tongue and groove board I had used on the main floor. We needed to add a new floor to one of the hay rooms. The boards had broken and it was a safety hazard. I cut the boards and then had him screw them down. We had to float three pieces together then screw down one, add a new one etc. you have to do it this way or else you cannot add the new board. The tongue and groove will warp when you tightened the first board down. Leaving two free floating allows you to counteract this problem. While he screwed down the floor I worked on adding another board to the momma and baby area. They can still jump out!  The problem with this is the grain bin lever. You need to be able to reach it to open the gate. A higher enclosure would block access to the handle. My solution was pure brilliance, I reused one of the jug gates!!  I also stiffened the enclosure. 

I also fixed the sorting chute. The sheep kept jumping over the ends of the smaller chute section. I added a heavy wire panel over these bolted in place to bounce them back into the chute should they attempt to jump out. I used some scrap panels, scrap wood and an old metal grounding strip plus new bolts. I don't have a good selection of old bolts. Most of the old nails and bolts I sent out with scrap metal. It was too hard to keep track of them and they needed to be sorted. I had no time for that. 

We also set up our new corral system as a hay enclosure. Our large bales that don't fit in the machine shop will live outside. I think I can only fit 15 ton in the machine shop. 

We had lunch at 1216 today. The Padawan remembered and was rewarded with more food. Ham and cheese sandwiches again. 

Supposed to be fencing

It has happened again, I have started with another teenager. I had told his mother we would fence but by the time he arrived last Saturday morning I had changed my mind. I had managed to get the outside fence secured so the animals are not escaping. I really want to enclose the new upper prime squared area but it will take me 40-60 hours to complete that fencing. That is a huge time commitment for four acres. Instead, I voted on actually getting ready for winter. The young Padawan was dropped off at 0645 with his father apologizing for the early drop off. I told him no problem and did not tell him I usually make them start at 0500-0530 during the summer. The Padawan is only 14 so he cannot drive. 
I drug him inside the house and asked him what he had for breakfast, "cereal" was the succinct answer. I was cooking breakfast as I had expected him at 0700.  We were having fried side pork and fresh farm eggs cooked in same grease pool pan that the pork was cooked in. He denied hunger. I went on the presumption that he was a teenage boy and can eat any time no matter how soon a meal was completed. He drank hot chocolate while I finished. He didn't know what side pork was and he picked gingerly at his two eggs upon their sudden arrival in front of him. AnnMarie asked me if I had asked him if he even wanted food. I gave her the look "he is a teenage boy".  He tried the pork and eggs. By the time I finished my breakfast he had consumed all the food in front of him. He was very polite and even offered to rinse off his own dishes. AnnMarie gave him the requisite speech about making me stop for lunch when he got hungry or else we would work all day with no lunch! 

We went outside to knock down the tumbleweeds in our driveway. I asked him if he knew how to drive. He stated yes. I got into the passenger seat as a precaution. I was hollering for him to push the break in the first five seconds of vehicle movement. He was turning into the car parallel to the pickup. Next was teaching him to actually look over his shoulder when backing up not just saying a Hail Mary prayer and going for it!  This concept took quite a bit of prompting almost as only using the right foot for the gas and brake. He managed to get the pickup over to the burn pile without adding a new dent.  On the plus side, between the numerous dents, dings and peeling paint I am not sure a new one would be noticed. I finished dragging weeds over to the burn pile with the tractor while the Padawan walked around picking up hay bale strings. We tossed loose scrap wood onto the burn pile also. I tasked him with parking the pickup back near our other vehicle. I did encourage him to hit the brake and not crunch through my fence and down into the front creek when parking. He did fine. The farm pickup is no worse for meeting him. 

We went into the barn to get ready for winter. Since we will have another 21 sheep we needed more feeder space. We had agreed that the jugs needed to come out as we were using the momma/baby area instead of the jugs. We had lumber stacked on the jugs and had started to dissemble by the time I remembered to take a starting picture. The goal as always is to reuse as much as possible. I saved the intact gates. Those had come from the old lamb shed. A gate is hard to make and harder to make one that will last 40 years so I just store them for use in later projects. They are "barn ready and tested" which is vital when you actually use them. We got the jugs totally disassembled and then started building the wall feeders. I just build stuff!!  No plans just an idea in my head and then I just keep digging through the scrap piles to make old pieces usable again. I taught the Padawan how to use an impact driver. I only swapped out six new drivers the first day!!  He did remember lunch. We were inside by 1230 eating ham and cheese sandwiches. 
We finished after an 8 hour day and he was disappointed we had not finished and moved onto fencing. I chuckled and told him we were close and had accomplished more than I thought we would.  He seemed excited to come back the next day to finish up the project!  He is also the only teenager I have had help me who could read a tape measure and knew what was a T square. Bonus points for the Padawan!  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Phil's last fencing day

I have been saving broken off T posts for some occasion. I was unsure of what exactly that occasion would be but I figured I would find a use eventually. Here is the use, I pounded in three posts to keep the barn wall from sliding off the rock again. 

The bull managed to push through the fence in the corner. He ripped out the panel and pushed out a board. I had only held the panel in place with staples. This time we lowered the board and screwed it in with long Fastenal anchors. We added a second board across the top and wrapped wire around the ends of the panel so it cannot be lifted or pulled away again. 

Phil came out to help on Saturday. The goal was to get the rest of the upper prime pasture enclosed and secured so we can let animals loose. The goal is everyone staying in place. We worked for nine hours and got all the outer fence secured. AnnMarie had told me there was another hole in the far corner. I was not convinced but we drove the whole fence to be sure. Guess who was right?  Yep the wife scores again. The cows had done the same thing for a third time!  Picked a corner and pushed out a panel. I again had only bent nails over to hold the panel in place. I used 3 inch staples on both sides and we wired the panels to the posts so they cannot be lifted even if the staples get popped out. We had to tighten one more back section of fence. I had added T posts and I the back section a couple of years ago but it looks like I need to add more. The main pasture is ready. We just need to sort the cows again. 

Damn bull!

Well Friday was spent fixing stuff!  The bull was tired of being in a pen. He started throwing a fit and managed to knock the corner of the milkshed off its rock corner. Now in his defense gravity was the only thing keeping that corner on said rock. AnnMarie let him out of the pen so she could load the sheep up on Thursday. He promptly ran out into the barn lot and magically got out to be with the female cows. There is now another hole in the fence that will need help I be repaired.  I used the little tractor and tried to lift the corner up. No go it is over the 800# weight limit so I piled two pallets into the bucket and then tipped the bucket once it wouldn't lift any more. The tilt hydraulics don't have a governor so they will move regardless of weight!  This allowed me to lift it a couple of inches so I could get the wall back on the rock. I will need to pound in some stakes to prevent this from happening again. I had been meaning to put in stakes anyways. 

Since the bull was out this necessitated me repairing all the lower fence as quick as possible. So I loaded up the tractor with supplies and tooled on down toward the school house. I found a hole in the fence I did not know about. 
The cows had decided to make their own decisions about where to eat and my wishes were being ignored. I ended up adding a new wire and restretching and attaching the fence to the rock crib again. I tried to add a T post but I kept hitting rocks so I added another wooden stay. There was a roll of barn wire there so I used it. I remembered why I only use smooth wire. The stuff is horrible to handle and the animals don't seem to care if it's smooth or barn wire they treat it the same. It was very hot outside. 

The cow hole is now repaired but I had been told there was an opening down by the schoolhouse and this one was just an added bonus. 

Down by the schoolhouse there was a 20 foot section I had only stretched woven wire across. I thought the animals could not get to it due to the hillside. I was wrong. So I stretched three more strands and added some wooden stays. This should hold them I hope. All this took me six hours to repair. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Million dollar man fences

Sunday afternoon AnnMarie and I went to pickup a bunch of used fencing and animal supplies. We won't use it all up immediately but there are several gates and a bunch of cow panels that will get used eventually. I like using them as rock cribs. The only real problem is they have to be entirely filled to the brim with rocks. It's a lot of rocks!!  It was hot again. When we got home I unloaded the trailer. I inadvertently committed the trailer to be used in a parade next month. Which means I need to get the lights fixed, the license plate holder mounted, the fenders stiffened and the ramp holder lock replaced. So today after fencing I dropped it off at the welding shop so the repairs can be done. I will have enough time to hit it with a can of black spray paint to make it look fairly pretty. There is nothing I can do to make the pickup look pretty. 
The pickup does need some brake work and a new muffler. So this week I will work on getting the pickup repaired. 

The million dollar man came out to help me fence today. He would say he is only a $100k man but what are a few zeros between friends?  
We spent five hours fencing today. I taught him how to attach wire clips to woven wire. We spent the entire five hours clipping wire up to preinstalled T posts. There is another 16-20 hours of fence clipping necessary. I am working on enclosing a new section of ground so the animals will have a new grazing area. 

On the way back to the house I noticed that one of the trees/large bushes was covered in little round yellow things. I thought it might be apples. None of the trees in the upper prime pasture had ever produced fruit. Turns out it is a type of blonde plum and it's not ripe yet!  It needs another 1-2 weeks. The tree is absolutely loaded with plums. I will be watching it closely so we can pick some when they are dead ripe. I want to make a few containers of freezer jam out of them. Plus, I want to eat them until I get sick. I suspect all the rain this year allowed the tree to flourish. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

It's hot and late July is perfect fencing weather

Yesterday, Phil came out to hit it hard and get that horse area finished. I had managed to get in a good six hours of rock picking in on Friday and we still had more to go. I did get the furthest run from the house completed. This is where the metal hanging gate was going to be attached. I had a brand new green gate and an old painted blue one. The green one is for the machine shed but I opted to use it instead of the blue one. The blue one has peeling paint and needs another coat of paint. Not anything I am going to do soon. Since it is visible from the house I opted to go with the pretty one for asthetical reasons. The blue one will go some where far from the house where no one will car that it has peeling paint. I hung the gate and blocked off the small gap between the gate and the barn with a couple of vertical 2x6 boards. Once hung I had to cut a woven panel to wire to the gate. I don't buy the straight small animal gates as they are more money. Besides for $25 I can add panels to any gate. The price savings is worth it. 

Phil had to collect around 12 loads of rocks. One trip he asked me if I had heard him screaming I said no. Apparently he had overturned a rock with a hornets nest under it and they took offense. He said he had ten of them hanging on his shirt when he took it off he managed to not get stung! We kept filling in rocks. It was like a black hole of rocks, just when you thought it was full more rocks would fit. 
Next up I needed to drive four T posts into the ground. Oh boy, I managed to get three pounded in and my failure we moved I've a foot and Phil managed to get it pounded in. It rotated almost 90 degrees due to some rocks. It was good enough. We stretched out some old woven wire and the three pieces of old barn wire that were there before. Next up was a short stretch on top of the rocks on the up hill side. I opted to use the old version oven wire section we had just removed. It is about 8 inches shorter than the woven wire I used everywhere else. This height difference caused me some decorative issues later. When we ran the woven wire across the horse area and over to the gate I noticed that the wooden upright posts were still a little loose. So I decided to use some 2x6 boards across the top. I still have some left over from the unit of wood I purchased two years ago. Once we saw how much that reinforced the fence we put it everywhere!!  I put it six inches above the woven wire. Hence the problem, one measly section was shorter which caused an asthetic disalignment for practical reasons. I was informed that this discord would need to be corrected when the foreman went out to look at our progress. 
We spent ten hours out in the heat and got everything done but the asthetically pleasing additions necessary to complete the job. My big mistake was in not moving the new kitchen table into the house after lunch. I was so tired and sore it felt like I had been caned everywhere from the waist up and we had to carry 175# table set into the house from our driveway. Not a small feat and one that threw me over into perpetual agony for the night. 
I will get the fence fixed in the morning. 

Sheep are sorted

I had visions of another solid day of fencing. I knew that I needed to make the asthetic changes dictated by the wife first. I had a friend come out to help today. We will henceforth know him as "TJ Hooker". The first thing we did was add the two boards dictated by fashion. Once those were in I decided to continue the slanted board down to the water crossing. This ties the whole fence together and prevents the fence from skewing sideways. We were able to find a bowed board that fit nicely as the uprights are not aligned.  This did manage to pass muster in the afternoon. We may have to fill in the triangle section with paneling if Zeke starts to leap out this hole. We are going to hold off and wait for this event to occur before we fill in the opening. 
My arms were killing me after this little bit of overhead work. Luckily, fencing was not on the agenda for the day. 
Last night our sheep buyer called and said he is ready to pick up lambs. Unfortunately, we don't know how many are ready to sale. So TJ and I finished cleaning out the barn. Then we moved all the alpaca hair to the tack room. I need to make a skirting table so we can get the dirt and loose particles removed from the fleece. This needs to happen this year so we can get the hair to a small processing mill. 
We then lined up the feeders on the opposite side of the sorting chute to make an alley way to push the sheep to the back of the barn. We sorted off 41 lambs. After this the buyer will need to wait until December before he can come back.  This will help us dramatically with our hay consumption. We currently have 40 ewes that can have babies and five babies that were too small to sale. We had to look up how many ewes a single ram can service. The answer is no more than 50 for him to impregnate them in the same 34 day estrus cycle. He can do more it's just that the babies will come over two months instead of one. He was very well behaved today in the barn. Also the ewes are getting used to the frequent sorting. They ran down the chute with very little prompting. 
I am going to have to fix the gate latch on the corral. When we installed the new fence we moved that railroad tie a little bit and now the latch is off 1/4 of an inch and won't engage. I need to drill a new set of holes in a 2x6 board and attach it to the railroad tie. This will fix all the latching problems. We also tightened up a couple of hanging gates. 

Well the sheep for sale have been hanging out in the barn lot all day and a momma managed to get into the ram pasture. So the babies have started to test the fence, unfortunately it's not very good!  So after quitting early so I didn't feel horrible after working all day in the hot sun I ended up back out in the heat fixing the fence. I tightened it and then added a whole layer of woven wire on the upper half of the fence. I rolled it out and was 1.5 feet short. So I just filled it with smooth wire patches. The other little section will have to wait till tomorrow I am beat and tired. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Summer activities

Phil came over the next day to finish fencing with me. It had just dawned on me early that morning that Phil had my tools out by the horse stalls. The one place I never thought to look. We now have enough fencing tools for three people!  I even got another fancy belt so all your tools are handy and there is a space for staples and clips. I had already spent a few hours on the horse wall during the week, moving rocks around and stiffening the area around the wooden posts.  It didn't really look like I had done much. We worked on the barn lot fence using the old tools and the new tools for a day and it didn't really seem like we had gotten any where. 
No young person knows how to use a hammer. I have probably taught ten youngsters how to drive a nail or staple correctly: Hit that thing!  Quit choking up so much on the handle!  Take a big swing!  Hit it straight on! Grab the hammer at the end of the handle!  You are choking up again!  Big swings! 

So Phil and I are out restretching the fence, this can also be called fence tightening. Which I think is an oxymoron because you practically have to dissemble the fence first before you can tighten it again. This takes a lot of time. We got the west side of the barn lot done. Then we tightened the south side. On this one we had to install wooden fence stays as I had never done that before. My plan was just to alternate with Phil as we walked down the fence line. The problem with this is No One Knows How To Hammer!  For every one Phil got hammered in place I did three!  I razzed him but we had been at it 8 hours in 98F weather and we were tired. Every time I leaned over to bend down and get the bottom staple I got light headed and dizzy. I know it was hot but I had drank 1.5 gallons of water that day!  I wanted to get that fence section completed but called it quits with three stays left. I was afraid I would pass out and there was no sense in paying Phil any longer for the day. He was hurting also but was unwilling to give up as I was still plugging along and am half his age. 

We had a friend offer up some apricots. All we could pick!  So on Thursday we went to their house and picked a large box. A single box only. I put them on the kitchen table and the next day we picked up four packs of pectin. We had never made apricot freezer jam before. So I fished them out of the box and put them into the sink bath. AnnMarie puréed them in the food processor. It only takes 3 cups of purée for every box of pectin. We doubled the recipe and made two batches. So we used 12 cups and then froze 30 cups of apricot purée do later use!  It was amazing stuff as I had to keep taste testing to ensure adequate quality standards were met. 

Fencing for cows

I am not even sure where to begin. July has been a whirlwind month for us. We spent two weeks in Tiawan visiting our foreign exchange student Monica and her family. It was amazing!  They told us two weeks was not long enough and next time we needed to come for a month. 
We did manage to find a house sitter. A young man who used to help me out a few years ago. He watched the place during the week and a nephew watched it on weekends. Phil also worked on the horse rock enclosure while we were gone. He made good progress but was unable to finish. 
The cows got out four times while we were gone. This is excessive even for them. The morning after we got back AnnMarie said we needed to sort cows again as they were mixed up again.  AnnMarie got them into the ram pasture and just behind the house when I decided to help with the dogs. Zeke pushed them through the fence corner and one cow got stuck straddling the smooth wire fence. Now mind you the fence has needed some TLC the last three years but has not been getting it. I had to cut the fence wire to get the cow out. So now the fence really does need repaired. We sorted and put the bull in the corral. He had a slight limp and a crack in one of his front hooves. We figured the rest and relaxation with some hose cleanup of his wound would fix him right up. He has been getting out and is usually the instigator in these little escapades. We put the cows in on the upper prime pasture as it had been closed off while we were away. I was ready for a nap and AnnMarie was headed to town 30 minutes later when she called me. The cows were out and up in the neighbors alfalfa. No nap. We loaded the dogs into the pickup and I rode in back with mouse. He hates vehicles and won't stay in the back yet alone. Zeke loved it and doesn't jump out without a command. We pushed the cows toward the upper prime pasture. They found the open gate that leads out into the wheat field!  I had to get ahead of them and open another gate. We both ended up with sunburns and I forgot a hat and burnt my head. Damn cows, the upper prime field has holes all over. It's time to get my fencing on!!

The following weekend I managed to get Mr. Manners out to help with fencing, we started at 0500. My alarm went off at 0410 and I promptly turned it off and rolled over. We had only been back 4 days and our sleep schedules were not normalized yet. AnnMarie woke me up to tell me Mr Manners was due at 0500. I was exhausted!  I drug myself out of bed, went downstairs and made coffee. I then proceeded to put away the clean dishes and cooked some Kansas City bacon. Mr. Manners showed up perfectly on time. I suspected this had more to do with dad being the chauffeur. He had not eaten breakfast and for a teenage boy this is a significant event. I fed him two bacon and egg sandwiches then we went outside to fence. It took about 30 minutes to fill the back of the pickup with T posts and fencing stays and wire. I could not find any tools!!?  I looked everywhere to no avail. So we started on the simple stuff that needed no tools. We laid out T posts in the barn lot and started pounding them in. July is a lousy month to fence. It's even worse when you start pounding posts into the ground by hand. By the 8th post Mr. Manners was telling me how he had hurt his back playing a sport. I am three times his age plus some change and I did my half of the posts. I would have let him drive them all if he had been capable. We then strung out smooth wire in the upper prime pasture. It had some holes that needed an extra row of wire to narrow the gap so the cows would quit working an opening into the fence. After that we went and got several rolls of woven wire to lay out in the upper prime squared field. 
There is a significant amount of discussion surrounding my naming scheme of fields. It's a fluid situation and may be subject to change in the future. I am getting ready to fence in the hillside and want to call it "square root of prime". But for now this is the field we pounded in T posts last year and never strung out the wire. We laid out woven wire along all the fence lines.  
I taught Mr. Manners how to drive the tractor and asked him to move a large pile of feces away from the front of the barn. He was on it when I left for town to get tools. I made it to the checkout stand with all my tools before I discovered I had no wallet or money. The drive home was uneventful, I hollered at Mr. Manners to level the tractor bucket with the ground so he could take a bigger scoop of poop. This time I returned with tools. He was doing much better on the tractor. We ate lunch then just did a couple of things before the chauffeur arrived. His dad, the chauffeur, got out to thank me for allowing his son the opportunity to work. It was nice. I am sure he went home and took a nap. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cows are done now also

Friday was cow day. We had a few things that had to get done before our vacation and shearing the alpaca and sorting the cows were the last two things. We had just discovered a new calf a few days before sorting. Now mind you the calf was not three days old, more like 2-4 weeks old. The cows have an amazing ability to hide the babies after they are born. Mr. President's older brother came out to help us sort cows and get the lowdown on house sitting for us while we are gone. 
We ran them into the corral and then sorted them in the chute. Everyone got an initial dose of fly powder and I will fill the fly bag before we leave. We had to tag the baby, a little girl and our number ten heifer!  We only want to run ten heifers and our bull. From now on we will be getting rid of all the calves. The screwy part is that means we will have to run two herds and about 20-30 cows total at any one point due to the age difference and one calf being born every 12 months.  To tell which cows we are getting rid of we will be tagging the keepers in the left ear and all the cull cows in the right ear. We just have to have a plan. We have one eating calf in the pipeline for next year but he will be ours. He was the undescended testicle man, a little bull. We ate the last little bull and he was very tasty. So any calves born this year will be for sale in 6 months if you want to finish them off or 18 months after birth if you want to eat them. 
The corral system worked like a dream again. It can be done with two people but three is ideal. It lets everyone manipulate a gate or two and the animals get moved faster. We have a total of 13 cows now. 

Our necklace system did not survive the winter. The plastic necklaces and tags hung low enough that the cows kept catching them on the feeders and tearing them off. We opted to shorten the necklaces and remove the tags. We only really need to know the identities of our original three cows. They are the ones we can keep new heifers from for our herd management. I used a bent wire to reach under their heads in the chute. This prevented a random horn from impaling me. This was AnnMarie's idea. In typical guy fashion I was just going to play "who can move faster" with the horned cows. This is not exactly a wise decision, especially with our one crazy cow. You can also tell the original three by their horns. They have a narrow span and very forward pointing horns. 

Phil is going to work on watering the orchard, ram pasture and our yard. His big project is going to be to build rock metal cages for the horse area. This will let us create a drainage field and level out the horse area. It will also prevent horse poop from rolling down the hill. We worked on the first cage so Phil knew what to do and he only has to build four more. I am loving the idea of this project being completed while we are gone. 

Alpaca are done

Thursday was the day the alpaca were finished. The boys came out first thing and we continued the routine. My back ached from the previous seven hours so I made them do all the lifting. I was the "skilled help". The fact that I managed to cut all three of the alpaca is irrelevant. The boys kept trying to one up each other and Mr. Manners made the sidekick ask for help after he popped off that he could catch and halter an alpaca by himself. He could not and was reduced to having to ask for help twice before it was forthcoming. The boys were slow moving the alpaca to the shearing table or word had been passed down the previous night about the potential for a scalping because the last three laid down on the ground immediately!  The boys had to get on each side and grab hair and lift the alpaca to the shearing table, shove a knee under their belly then lift the shearing table into a horizontal position. I tied the head to the corner of the table. It was a crucial job that required minimal effort. 
Our hoof trimmer blades started to slide apart each time I went to use them. I made them work and even tightened and them loosened them nothing seemed to help. I just kept using them and told myself we were almost done.  I had the same problem with the last shearing blade. I swapped it out and could not get it to cut. I tried metal cutting blade instead of ceramic but that just made it worse. I finally went to an old used blade and a new ceramic blade. This is the real reason I cut the last three alpaca at least that's what I tell myself. Although in all fairness it does make a huge difference when using a sharpened blade. I am going to buy one more comb blade and only use the ceramic cutters. I will order it all this year when I get these blades sharpened. The alpaca were filthy!  They had rocks and dust at the base of their necks. We have ten large burlap sacks full of saddle hair and ten garbage bags full of seconds from neck and legs.

 We want to get the good stuff woven and the seconds made into hair mats, felted type. The big question now is how much will that cost and how many pounds do we have. We probably have 50 pounds at least at about $35-40/lb to process. So we are going to have to plan that expense. We have to buy 35-40 ton of hay this year so that comes first. 
I will pick up hoof trimmers soon and throw out the others so I will be ready next time. I am learning it is better to get everything you need for next time immediately so you don't forget anything and when you do it next time everything you need is at hand. I don't want to store the gunny sacks just because of the mice. 

I made the boys move the shearing table into the barn. The thing is a beast and it was not easy. I had to help Mr. Manners with his end of the table. He needs to do more strengthening exercises. It is now living in a corner of one of the hay rooms. Doing the shearing in the old milking shed area kept the sun off of us. I need to lay out the tarp over the dirt next time. We had one alpaca flop off of the table like a fish and it was still tied up by the feet. The ropes were not tight enough and we had not stretched out the animal. Plus, I might have just cut them with the shaver. The hair cuts got better looking the more practice I got. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Table works!

It is official, the shearing table works!  I had Mr. Manners and his sidekick came out early Wednesday morning to help. They had car trouble but called ahead and still made it less than 30 minutes late,  a diligent effort. We grabbed the shears and blades out of the laundry room. They have a little metal briefcase to store them in with all the blades. At this point the blades are approaching the cost of the shearer. I have four sets of blades now and this year I got ceramic cutters which last a lot longer than the steel ones. Unfortunately, they cannot be sharpened. I am going to try all steel next time and see how long they last. I managed to shear three alpaca per set today. We got 7 of the 10 alpaca sheared today. 

AnnMarie got a live action shot of me actually shearing. The boys all think I am crazy for wearing a long sleeve shirt in the summer. After a few hours of dirt and hair flying around my long sleeves started to look good. 
The very first alpaca we sheared screamed the whole time and kept spitting all over the table. I kept making the boys clean it up. They kept trying to pass the buck on that duty. I finally had to tell them to just get it done. They started swapping turns after that. I also did not think to take the harness off and trim up the neck and head so the first animal looks a little worse than the rest. The bald patches were not caused by me. I 

Mr. Manners is sorting the hair. We kept the saddle intact and placed it into gunny sacks and put all the other cuttings into bags to be made into fiber mats. 

The blanket belly strap did not work. It just gets in the way and the dirt piles onto it. Plus the first alpaca got frisky and tore it in half. I just took a knife and cut it off. We just got the alpaca next to the table, two people reach under its belly and grab the table edge then tilt it to a horizontal position.  We tie its head to the eyebolt before tipping the table. It works pretty slick. I then clip its legs to above the knees and then tie its feet together and stretch it out along the main pipe. 

I started to get better with more practice. We also removed the halter so I could clean up their face and neck unimpeded. 

I wanted to get these seven moved into the ram pasture but they would not go. I tried the dogs without any luck. I finally gave a chunk of rope and the halter to the boys and I took a chunk of rope. I got the first one snagged and literally had to drag it kicking and screaming across the bridge. I ended up catching 4 of 7. The sidekick caught the others and Mr Manners caught Zero, Nada, Zip. He will have a chance for redemption on Thursday morning. 
Our farm is the blob in the lower middle of the picture. AnnMarie took this on one of her recent morning walks. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Table done!

Sarah and I worked on the alpaca table today. I had gotten more supplies and more cut pipe on Thursday. She had to run to the local hardware once for bolts and then I had to go a second time!!  One would think I could count. Sarah learned how to put galvanized pipe together today. She had to assemble and reassemble pieces a few times. It was a hot and miserable day. We had to modify the table design on the movable leg. To create the H brace we needed to have a right and left handed thread on the same cross piece. We had to use tape to hold it together. This would be why the plans talk about using fencing clamps. 
I need to write all this up and make up some new plans but I probably won't. I may out curiosity find those weird pipe fence clamps. 

Sarah insisted we eat lunch in a timely fashion. We had lunch at 1215. I had plans for us to still sort cows after we finished the table. We went back outside and finished up the table. The thing is super heavy. I tried to start the gas tractor but the battery was dead. This would be why the negative terminal connection used to be removed. I need to charge the battery and put it back on the tractor. 

We tried to move the table. No way!!  I went and got the Mistress and she carried it over near the barn. It was so heavy and hanging so far forward that the rear wheels kept bouncing off the ground. Once outside the milking area we had to shovel horse poop before we could move the table inside. It was super heavy and Sarah was petered out by then. We wrestled it into place. 
No cows today. We went inside and laid in the living room floor. We were hot and I took off my glasses and laid them on the floor. I kinda fell asleep but noticed the puppy next to me chewing on something. It was my glasses. I tossed them up into the couch and laid there a while longer. He had been at the glasses a while. Both ear pieces a chewed up. One is barely there. I am missing a nose piece and one lens looks like I was in the movie Birds and the only thing that saved my eyes from being plucked out was my glasses. I have scratches and teeth mark over both lens. One lens is providing about 60% clarity. It's like looking through glasses someone licked after eating ice cream or drinking milk. The worst part is we leave for Taiwan in a week. I am not sure I can get them replaced before then. I did need new glassses but had planned on taking care of that when we got back from Taiwan.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tile work is done!

Well I did it I finished the floor in the library. I even managed to do it before AnnMarie got back from Berkeley. I stayed up till 0130 Thursday night working grout in and washing it off tiles. I ended up with a large blister in the palm of my right hand. I should of thought about rubber gloves but it took me almost five hours to complete. I don't think the gloves would have stood up and if they did my hands would have looked like raisins with multiple blisters from all the moisture trapped under the gloves. I showered before crawling into bed. I was supposed to be off all weekend but I messed up the work schedule and got called in to cover a shift the next morning. It was my own mistake. 
Unfortunately, the tile makes the room look like it needs something so we will now be picking out some new paint schemes for this room. I think I want to keep the ceiling the same and just paint the walls.  We will have to get sample cards and get this completed at the end of July so we can move the loom out of the living room. We have the book shelves stashed in the office upstairs. The goal will be to thin everything before it goes back in the room. 

Having to work on Friday threw off my alpaca shearing table build schedule. I went in today and had them cut another ten pieces of pipe and they recut my two 48 inch pieces into five threaded pieces plus cut another 5 threaded pieces for me. It is in the low 90s today and the pipe was in the bed of the pickup so it's really too hot to handle. This means first thing in the morning I need to get out there and finish putting it together.