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. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Alpaca table that would be

We need to shear the alpaca. This is going to be facilitated by a table. The trouble with a table is the only directions we have is a diagram from the Internet posted a few years ago. There were no instructions and they did not show the connectors needed to attach it all together. Instead they talked about some kind of clamp that let you clamp sections of pipe together without threading them together. This was not something the local hardware store had in stock. I sat down at the kitchen table and tried to figure it out. I wrote up a list and purchased said list. Today, I attempted to assemble said pieces. This did not go well for me. The diagram did not account for the added joint lengths. This threw off everything and for some reason unbeknownst to me I had the legs cut as 48 inches. On hindsight, this was because I was following the flawed diagram with the weird unavailable clamps. What I really needed was 24 inches x4 not 48 inches x2. So after putting things together as much as possible I took inventory. I had five extra joint pieces and am short two T pieces. I can have the 2-48 inch pieces cut to 3-24 inch pieces, 1-14 inch piece and 1-10 inch piece. Plus, I will need 5 more 14 inch pieces and 3 more 10 inch pieces and 4 2.5 inch hangar supports and I will need 8-3.5 inch carriage bolts. And 8-3 inch carriage bolts. 
So off to hardware store again tomorrow and another $100. 
The 2x4 and 2x6 bolted to the plywood are to stiffen it plus I will be trapping my central pipe shaft between the two middle boards by clamping a 2x8 over the top of them. The boards are 1 5/8 inch thick and my pipe is 1.5 inches. It should work. In the eventuality it doesn't I can always rip the middle down on the 2x6. It will fit eventually. 


Chicken coop done

Saturday the boys came out again at 0800. I had worked the night shift and told them to start in on the barn when they arrived.  I had gone to work 30 minutes early, the previous evening, so I could pick up some wood pellets for the chicken coop. I showed both boys what I wanted done in the coop: vacuum walls, wipe walls down with bleach water, dig out right hand side of floor and toss outside, fill all feeders and waterers, move old pellets from left side of coop to under perches and put new pellets on left side, clean out nest boxes, vacuum feed area and move all feed bags around to clean up floor. I went back out 30 minutes later to drop off the cooler with lunch when I was approached with the burning question of the day, "Mr Manners cannot figure out how to set the mouse trap" per his compatriot.  Now don't think for a second I don't know that the two of them had been screwing around for 15 minutes trying to figure out how to set an old fashioned mouse trap. I demonstrated the technique twice with the warning to not hold the trap incorrectly or your fingers would pay for it. What are we teaching our youth?  Where are the valuable life skills needed to survive on your own coming from? 

I told them when they were done with the coop to finish the barn. I reinforced to them I thought it was possible to do both that day. They agreed, and when I went out to feed the horses that evening they had gotten close. There is about two hours of work left in the barn. The chicken coop is done and looks much better. The coop windows still need to be cleaned but the rest is good enough. 
The next big thing is to build the alpaca shearing table then actually shear the alpaca. 

Teenager solution

I had help out on Friday, 2 teenage boys. It was their first day working for me this year. "Mr Manners" had worked for me one day last year. I like the money hungry teenagers. They tend to work harder and it allows them some perspective when putting up with me. 
My real goal was to get the barn and chicken coop dig out but as I was only going to supervise the boys during the morning I decided to work on odd jobs around the place first. Since the first step in their work ethic trial was to arrive at 0630, they passed, it was before the trash guys arrived. So the old grill from the front yard is gone. All the trash from the old house is gone. All the trash from the chicken coop is gone.  All the trash and old drip hose from back yard/garden is gone. 
I needed to finish vacuuming the tile in the library so I could bring the shop vacuum out for the old house and chicken coop cleaning so I vacuumed. I then sorted all the tools and supplies spread all over the house and had them taken out to the old house (shed/shop).  I also had them move all the hardiboard I no longer needed to the old house porch. We cleaned up the old house porch. I "forgot" to take before pictures. It was so bad I did not want it documented for posteriority. We picked up the inside floor as it was totally obscured by all the tools, bins, bags, trash and buckets laying around. I only found a couple of things I was missing but I do have tools again!!  

Being able to walk around in the old house is amazing!!  We took all the yard tools and put them away in the wood shed. All the trash and leaves were removed from the back yard. I even hosed off the house on two sides and the back yard concrete. It looks good! I had one planter that had quit draining. The one with our tomatoes. So I had one of them take a pitchfork and drive it into the soil from the top and a long screwdriver in the bottom drain hole.  It had six inches of standing water. I also removed the drip hose. In a few days I will put the drip line back in the container. 
I had them take down the temporary sheep fence from the front yard then tie the two strings I used from that fence onto the side yard in preparation for a new fence along this side. I looked out and they were trying to untangle the string. The string was straight and stretched tight before they removed it, fifteen minutes later it was still not done. Both of them were screwing around unraveling their respective string mess. We then discussed the benefit and loss ratio of labor cost as a function of time vs $4 roll of string. Two minutes later a string was up with new string and the old was in the trash. 

I always feed anyone who comes out to help. I had Mr Manners grab all the sandwich fixings from the fridge and some grapes and then they sat at the table while I fixed sandwiches. I asked Mr Manners to hand out grapes and he proceeded to ask for scissors. SCISSORS?!!  I asked what they were for he replied "To cut apart the grape clusters". He received much ribbing about "using your hands" and lost man card points. I told him he truly was his mother's child. 

After lunch I went out to the barn with them and had them start in on it. I was sure it would not be finished as there was too much left. They did very well while being directed and passed so I asked them to come out the next day. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tile headway made

I made a note to myself of all the things I need to do in the two weeks AnnMarie is gone. The fact that I have about six weeks of work on the list is meant to motivate. Sarah came over Monday night and watched the puppy so I could work on finishing getting the tile glued to the floor. I finished!! Now I need to let it cure for two days and get the grout spread out. 
Today, while at work I got a call from Donna about one of the alpaca getting some wire wrapped into its fur. I thought it was just a little piece. When I got home I looked at it and it was a large strand of barn wire wrapped around a brown alpaca's neck. It was trailing about ten feet of loose wire. I went to the old house and grabbed a pair of wire cutters. I tried to catch the alpaca but it stayed just out of reach. Running it down was not going to work. I opened the gate on the hay end of the machine shop. Despite acres of green grass all of he alpaca ran towards the hay. It makes no sense that they would do this.  The one I wanted plus two others ran inside and I shut the door. I chased the brown alpaca around the hay until I managed to get a rope around its neck and tied it off to a railing. I then cut the wire in two places and managed to pull it out of the hair. It was not deeply embedded in the skin or hair. It was laying on top and had not hurt the alpaca.  As I walked between the three alpaca they started to spit on each other!  I was hit in the crossfire. I hollered at them to stop and managed to get the gate opened so they could spread out and quit spreading their stomach content onto me.  
I have arranged for help to come out on Friday and Saturday. I have some hard manual labor lined up for them.  I want to shear the alpaca on Sunday. It all depends on whether I can get the table built. I picked up the pipe parts and plywood today. 


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Killed mower again.

I got AnnMarie to the airport bright and early and after breakfast and puppy play time it was time to work. I wanted to get the upper prime pasture finished. After that the only thing to mow was the upper hay field that didn't get planted. It's super tall and full of weeds but as wet as it's been there is probably running water out in the middle. Tractors sink in the mud!  
I mowed the fence lines and my T post line from the fence I did not get installed. There is a lot of water still out there!!  I tried to mow around the muddy parts to give some indication of where it was safe to drive a tractor. Almost 50% of the "upper prime squared" field (new name for the part I started fencing in last year) is swamp and running water. I couldn't get close enough to mow as I was getting stuck with my little light tractor. If not for being able to push the tractor 8 inches at a time by planting the bucket and rotating it. I never would have gotten out of the mud. As it was I still almost didn't get out. I just kept finding more swamp. I spotted the baby deer again today. 

I really think I am going to have to dig some more trenches and subdivide the upper prime squared field. Create one side for hay and the other side for animal grazing.  Even with that the animals won't be able to graze until late July. This will require me to put in another gate into this new pasture. I like having a late pasture available. I liked the hay more but not being able to actually run a tractor over the ground is a real problem. 
See the standing water in most of the above picture?  Swampy ground. 
I had to push myself out with the bucket a few inches at a time. 
The upper prime squared pasture is very tall. This is mostly grass, volunteer wheat and barley. I tried to knock down some of the ten foot weeds.  After mowing around the water I went up along the upper hillside fence line. I was clearing a section of fence that needs to be repaired. This is not an area I normally mow. I hit a hug rock pile and the tractor started to shake and mower made horrible noises. My newly repaired and rebuilt mower. I got out and tried it again, same horrible noise. I figured I had a bunch of barb wire wrapped around the blades. Nope!!  I somehow sheared off one of the two blades. It looks like I can just remove the metal disc and replace the one blade. The other blade needs to be bent back into shape also. Damn mower!  So now my mowing days are done. I will have to get the disc off tomorrow. 
The completely mowed upper prime pasture. 
It's Father's Day today. I have been trying for over a year to get AnnMarie's grandfathers zippo lighter to work. I gave it a shot again today, my fourth attempt. I had to ream out the flint chamber as it had clogged up so much the flint could not touch the roller. This made me very happy!  It will only hold one piece of flint in the flint holder.  I stored two more in the bottom of the lighter just like my grandfather used to do. 

Weed mowing.

Its obvious from this picture that my mistress needs some TLC. She is dirty and it just keeps getting worse. I am trying to get the field mowing done. But there is a lot of it!  I have all the area around the houses and all the way down to the school house done now. I just need to get the upper prime pasture. It's not very exciting, round and round we go. Friday, I had a baby deer jump out of the grass just before I ran over it. It was little and kept trying to get through the woven wire to get back into hiding in some other tall grass. It was fine. I have seen hundreds of vole. I also saw two rock chucks.  They had snuck down off the hillside to come down to the waters edge and eat. Of course I had no rifle as that is something I don't carry on the tractor. Zeke had snuck out of the yard so I sicced him on them. He caught one and shook it a little bit but it got under a rock crib and he could never get at it again. I am always surprised when we can call the dogs off of something like that. 
I had another coworker's son out yesterday helping me clean out the barn. I got the tractor in there and pushed it out one end and had johnathon shovel it out the other. The hardest part is getting it loosened. I did as much of that with the tractor as possible. One more day to get the barn totally cleaned out. 
AnnMarie is off at Berkeley and I have a honey do list long enough I am not sure I could get done if I had vacation for the next two weeks!  The new puppy is dragging me down. Someone has to entertain him in the evenings. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sheep success!

We had some great luck on Thursday!  One of the sheep buyers from last year randomly called AnnMarie and asked if we had sheep for sale. She negotiated a fair price for both parties.  He wanted to come over on Friday but she had to work and I needed to dig out the barn some more to allow panel placement. 
After two and half hours of digging on Friday I had managed to clean out about Six feet of the barn. It's slow going.  I had already broken one tine on a pitchfork and bent another one on a second pitchfork. It sucked. I finally decided to see if I could fit the tractor inside the barn. It fit through the door with a couple of inches to spare on each side. Unfortunately, I had dug a trench for a panel and had the tractor on three tires trying to keep it from falling onto its side. In 30 minutes I managed to dig out more than I could of done in five hours by hand. It was enough to get the panels in place. I used to always tell AnnMarie that the tractor would not fit into the barn. Funny how when I have to do all the digging suddenly I figure out a way to make it happen!  
This plan to get ready for the sheep sorting threw me off finishing the tile floor on Friday. AnnMarie had went out on the back hillside Friday evening to bring all the boys into the ram pasture. There should have been 22 animals there was only 12!!  We are not sure what is happening. We have not seen any predators but the grass is very tall.  I need to mow but the mower has been out of commission. They called Friday at noon to tell me it was ready, $1000 to get it rebuilt. I went into town late afternoon to pick it up before heading to work. We are going to have to contemplate the cause of this loss. This could be a cougar, wolf problem. We have not seen anything harassing the sheep or cows since our dog problem. Whatever it is the sheep are far easier to kill than the cows 

We had to get up early on Saturday so we could be out sorting at 0700. AnnMarie let me sleep in till almost 0630. This was very nice as I had gotten in late. We called Sarah to get her to come out and help us. 
I wore my "sheep sorting apology" shirt just in case. AnnMarie started out by running both dogs together. This caused much swearing. I went to the barn to finish getting it ready. At one point Annmarie called us into the ram pasture as she needed a human fence because the dogs would not listen. I offered my assistance, T-shirt turned toward her, as she impaled me with her narrowed eyes and proceeded to tell me where to put my offer. I made a great silent fence after that. Sarah and I had just had this whispered conversation in the barn about me helping run the dogs. I had predicted this outcome. Not sure why I offered, probably just to rile her up a little. She gets better looking with a little ire in her blood. 

We ran the boys into the chute and sorted off two boys and the ram then ran them out of the barn back into the ram pasture via the swing gate. We managed to get the mommas and babies in through the front of the barn. Tanner was helping us also. He was more like reluctant boyfriend help. We needed 29 sheep from this group to make our agreed upon 40.  Unfortunately, were counting on 20 from the back hillside not 11. So we started sorting off everything we thought was three months old off that could be weaned. We herded the keepers into the almost empty hay room, this kept them distracted.  Our buyer showed up about 2/3 of the way through the first sorting. He was talking to her as I was on the other end of the chute. Turns out the sheep he bought from us last year turned out great!  He was surprised at how fast they put on weight and their low maintenance. He said that our sheep are learning to forage at a young age because of our pasture type. Their mothers teach them to look for food. He wants to buy sheep from us every 2-3 months. The reason we were going to downsize again is because we cannot find a consistent buyer. If he would take all the female babies before 5 months old we would never have to run two herds. This does mean however that we will need to run the sheep in nightly so we can tag and band and pay better attention to our genetics. We talked about getting a cull color ear tag for the girl babies so we can easily sort, green=good. I wonder if they make a gold tag= $?
So we tossed back several females and we put the ram back in with the herd. We might be able to produce 70-100 babies a year maybe 150 we will have to see. This is enough money to get us our winter feed!  Now that we have the hay loader we can have it delivered on a semi truck and unload it. This will give us a much better price.