Monday, August 31, 2015

Lots of Progress!

Alan had a very busy weekend getting the water line into the house.  Our well is in a concrete "bunker" next to the house and the water line goes out of the bunker and into the house.
Alan wanted to have the water line to the barn attach in the basement so he could have more control over it, but that meant getting through the bunker. A hammer drill on the outside down in a ditch wasn't working so that meant he had to go down into the bunker and drill from the inside.
But that tank from the old jet pump system was in the way. And the hole in the lid of the bunker wasn't big enough to get the tank out. So Alan took out a corner of the lid. Why they just didn't make a bigger hole when they poured the lid is beyond me. It was so small a normal sized man had trouble getting through it.
Once the tank was out of the way Alan had lots of room to cut the hole for the water line. Getting into the house was the easy part. The current line from the well had plenty of room for another line to
slide right in next to it.

Today the contractors were here with a crew. The mason put the scratch coat on the block. The drain tile was laid and then the area was backfilled.

The area around the garage and driveway was graded to make it possible to mow and the parking area was enlarged.
Tomorrow we get more stone spread in the parking area and up by the barn where it was all torn up getting the water line dug. And the mason should be back to put the finish coat on the parging. Alan hopes to move back in to the third bay of the garage this weekend which will give me more room in the barn, yay!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Soil Fertility

A couple weeks ago I sent soil samples from the vegetable garden, the orchard, the lower pasture and the hilly pastures to the Penn State Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory. The results were somewhat as I expected and a little surprising in other areas.
This is the report for the vegetable garden:
Apparently the soil is perfect in the garden. All they recommend is an application of a 10-10-10 fertilizer. I think I'll stick with compost and composted manure.

The orchard is almost the opposite of the vegetable garden; every value is below optimum. The pastures were not too bad. They just need lime, only 6,000 pounds! I've been reading up on liming pastures and found out you shouldn't put that much lime down at once. Usually half is spread one year then the other half the next year. That's great, I only need to spread 3,000 pounds now. That's only 150-50 pound bags. Most farmers have a truck come in and spread lime and it's not expensive. But I don't think a truck could get into my pastures with all the fences, gates and hills.  We are still figuring out the best way to do this but we need to come up with something soon since the lime should be spread before the reseeding.

The most surprising result though was the selenium. I paid extra to check selenium levels and they are more than double the top of normal for this area. I guess I don't need to worry about selenium deficiency in my sheep. The risk of selenium toxicity is something I need to think about. Chronic toxicity may take a while to show any symptoms but so far the sheep are doing fine on the pasture and have no signs of selenium toxicity. I can send a whole blood sample to the lab for selenium level for $25 or I can send a liver sample and get results for calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc for $34. Since I will be butchering a couple of rams soon I think the liver sample is the way to go. I need to know if the selenium is just in the soil or if it is being taken up by the plants and eaten by the sheep.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's a Block Wall!

Yesterday the mason was very busy! It is so nice to have level walls.
The back wall is up too. They are supposed to be coming tomorrow to parge the exterior.  The contractor stopped over today to discuss the grading work we want done. Hopefully everything will be finished sometime next week. Then Alan has to frame in the doors, make the doors and figure out what we are using for siding and colors. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, August 24, 2015

More Progress

Alan had a very busy weekend putting screened soil around the water line (don't ask what happens when a water line has sharp rocks around it), filling the trench part way, then laying down electrical conduit and finishing the back filling.
He has about half the conduit buried and all the water line buried. Still to come is getting the water line into the house and connected to the line from the well. Then it's major landscaping time.

The contractor came today and took down the rest of the old block wall. It looks like we have a carport.

I am guessing the mason will be coming soon. I am glad Alan only has the trench to work on right now. Originally he wanted to replace the wall but we had the money and there are so many other jobs he could be working on. He is one tired man after working on the trench all weekend.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Neutering Has Begun!

The local trap/neuter/return special until the end of September is $20 for neutering, rabies vaccine, worming, flea treatment, ear cleaning, ear mite treatment. And they tip the ear and tattoo a green line down the incision. I got two traps on Friday and caught one of the kittens this morning to take advantage of the no appointment, walk-in with one feral cat at the Allentown location today.

Everyone at No Nonsense Neutering has been really helpful. They gave great instructions for after care as well. Here is poor Tabby on the ride home.
She is up in the barn stumbling around in her cage waking up from the anesthetic. They recommend keeping females in the cage for 48 hours so they don't hurt themselves. I am hoping to catch Stumpy Tuesday morning to take her to the next walk-in day. But one of the other kittens would be fine too.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sheep in Coats

 My order from Rocky Sheep Suits came and we put the new sheep suits right on the sheep.
They of course were rewarded for being so good about getting into their new suits. Elwood was no trouble at all while he was getting his suit put on.

Rocky, from Rocky Sheep Suits, was very helpful and informative. The sizing was perfect. I am glad I bought extra sizes for when the ewe lambs grow and the wool gets longer. The suits seem really sturdy and I got the lighter weight, less durable fabric. I can't imagine how tough the heavier fabric suits are.
The sheep don't seem to even know they are wearing these suits. They aren't shifting or bunching up anywhere. We had a good two inches of rain yesterday afternoon and evening and the sheep stayed out in the rain. Elwood's suit was very dirty this morning. I can just imagine the dirt the suit kept out of his wool.

Rocky Sheep Suits and Matilda Sheep Covers were both recommended by the farm where we bought our Coopworths. I compared the two covers and they seem about equal, but the price was a little lower on the Rocky sheep suits but more importantly, I like to purchase local or at least USA made products when I can. I received no compensation, free or discounted items.

Friday, August 21, 2015


On Day 1 (Wednesday) the young guy with the excavator dug the trench up to the barn:
and dug out most of the soil around the end bay of the garage.
Alan then laid the water pipe in the trench since the weather forecast was calling for heavy rain in the next 24 hours and we were afraid too much soil would get washed into the trench.
Next up for the trench is some backfill then laying the conduit for the electrical line, more backfilling then seeding. Alan will be doing all that work himself.

 On Day 2 I went to work in the dark and came home in the dark. This morning I awoke to this:
It looks like a tornado came through here.
Can't wait to see what next week brings!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Soon! Water in the Barn!

Today is a big day. The day I have been waiting for since early spring when I wrote out the deposit check for work on the barn, the trench to bury the water and power lines to the barn, and the replacement of the wall on the north end of the garage.

The sheep and I have been enjoying the barn overhang/addition for a couple months, but I was eager to get water up to the barn and have the wall replaced.

The beginning of the trench up to the barn!

Once the trench is dug Alan will lay water pipe and the power line and fill in the trench. It will be so nice to have water up in the barn this winter. No more carrying buckets of water or sliding around pulling the ice sled. The 275 gallon tote we used last winter in the barn was great until it got really cold (like 14 degrees fahrenheit) and froze solid. We now have a series of hoses we use in the warmer months that run up through the garden, to the barn, across the stream to the ram's pasture, and over to the chickens' pen. We will definitely be able to get rid of some of those hoses. Alan will put a yard hydrant at the garden too.

I am also excited to get the end and back wall to the third bay of the garage replaced. Every time I look it seems worse.
That is daylight coming through the crack next to the spider. There are multiple places where daylight is shining through. One block can even be taken out and put back in by hand. We warned the guy digging that the wall might collapse once the soil supporting it is taken away. It's a strange concept; the ground that is pushing the wall in and making it unstable is also what is holding it up.  It's nice to see some big things happening.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pasture Renovation Update

There is much work still ahead on the renovation of our pastures.

The sheep and goats have been busy munching away on the brush. Fall is the best time for seeding (by end of Sept) so it will soon be time to get out the roots and stumps in prep for seeding.

Our new brush hog to mow pasture after grazing worked great. I had been trying to scythe down the tall weeds left in the paddock when I moved the sheep. But the brush hog works so much better.
Took a bit of work to get going. Alan had to grind/sharpen blades the blades to get a decent edge.
And add a rubber edge (in place of the mangled up back edge) to prevent projectiles.
That man does love to tinker.

The other big pasture work will be reseeding. I sent off soil samples so we could correct any deficiencies now in preparation for reseeding. Now I am just waiting for the results to arrive.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quarantining the Quarantined

Poor Hazel had been limping occasionally since we got her. On Thursday she began to limp more often than not, was grazing on her front knees, and was laying around a lot. Alan and I were finally together and caught her to look at her hooves. Both her front hooves were a little over grown and had an area of redness and irritation and a smelly yellow/gray discharge between her toes. We trimmed up her hooves and treated her with a zinc sulfate solution. She got a repeat treatment yesterday and then today I trimmed her hooves again; then put a gauze pad soaked in zinc sulfate solution between her toes and put a small baggy with the zinc sulfate solution over each hoof. Then I wrapped each baggie in livestock wrap and loose duct tape. She is soaking now and due to have everything removed after one hour.
She looks very stylish in her little make-do treatment booties.

Yesterday I worked 16 hours so her treatment was done by my husband and daughter. I had not seen her hooves since my original examination 2 days ago. I was relieved to see great improvement. No more odor, no more redness, no more limping.

All the reading I did about foot scald and foot rot on the internet was very pessimistic. Hazel's symptoms were similar to foot scald, except for the odor. Though with her rapid recovery I am hopeful it is just foot scald. She is not very happy being separated from her buddies so I will probably let her out of the barn tomorrow. But this has allowed us to have some "quality bonding time." And I was able to get a good assessment of her condition. She must have not been grazing well for a while as she is very thin. I can now get her supplemented so she can improve her condition score.

Some helpful websites:

Great post about using LA200 and DMSO to tx foot rot

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moving the Sheep, Again

The ewes have really gotten used to being moved. This last move was a little more complicated than most of the others they have experienced though. Usually they move into the next area, but this time we moved into a whole new area, out of one paddock, down a hill through the woods, and across another pasture. They are happy with their new grazing.
By evening their rumens were stuffed!
That's Clara's huge rumen sticking out on her left side (on the right of the photo.)
The pasture they are in now does not have any shed in it so I rigged up a shelter for them using two cattle panels, two t-posts and a tarp.
Most of our cattle panels have been cut in half then rejoined with hinges bent in the wire ends. This makes it easier to carry and I can make this teepee structure easily. The right side is pushed up against the old trailer and held on with a ratchet strap. The left side is up against the t-posts and pulled out with another ratchet strap. The sheep were totally freaked out by the tarp when we were unfolding it. I was afraid they wouldn't go in their little structure based on the way they acted. No problem, they went right in for their mineral trough.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shop Update

Alan has been on a push to get his shop finished. In the past month he got all the drywall up and spackled.
He bought a door and jamb to replace the antique interior door that was being used as the back door for the garage. Now to get the jamb and door installed.
Next up is paint, then cabinets, workbench and electrical conduit. The cabinets have been sitting in the garage for over a year. And Alan picked up a great stainless steel sink.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Electric Rope Fencing v Electric Netting

Our new sheep came from a farm that used electric netting to split up paddocks. Since I didn't know how they would respond to the electric rope I have been using I brought out the roll of electric netting I have used for the chickens for the past few years.

In trying to set up the electric netting I realized that I have become spoiled with the electric rope system I have devised. The electric netting was always difficult for me to move around mostly due to the shear weight of the roll and the bulkiness. We bought the 48" poultry netting (164 ft long) which weighs nearly twice as much as the 36"  sheep netting (at 100 ft long). The videos of people holding the netting in one arm, walking along and sticking each post in the ground never worked for me. First, I could never carry the entire roll in one arm; second, our soil is shale with lots of little rocks. The spikes never go in easily.  Third, our ground is very uneven so the netting would never sit quite flat to the ground. There would be areas where the netting sagged onto the ground and areas where a determined chicken could climb under the bottom wire.

With the roping system I am using now I use a tough step in post to make the holes for my cheap poles. Since the rope strings through the open loops on the poles I can move the poles to wherever I need them versus the netting with the poles attached. The rope requires a little more walking but is easier for me in my situation.

And our new friends figured out the electric rope very quickly and have had no trouble adjusting. Now I wonder if the chicken could be trained to the rope.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The New Sheep

When I was first looking into getting sheep I was leery of wool breeds since I didn't know if it would be hard to find someone to shear the sheep and the market for wool is not that great. So we came upon the Royal Whites. I learned a lot about sheep management and how to buy sheep (mostly what not to do.) When I learned about the wool market for hand spinners and the great fleece the Coopworth breed has I was intrigued. There are also quite a few shearers in our area. When we went to the MD Sheep and Wool Festival in May I bought some Coopworth roving and loved the softness and feel of the wool.

Finding Coopworths, especially an adult breeding ram proved to be harder. I also wanted to buy from a breeder that I respected. We ended up finding just such a breeder, but five hours away. Martha at Deer Run Farm participates in the National Sheep Improvement Program which tracks the sheep on a nationwide database to improve genetics. Martha had some impressive stats on her sheep and seemed very knowledgeable. Just the sort of person from whom I should have bought my first sheep.

The drive through the mountains of Virginia/West Virginia was absolutely lovely. And if I wasn't worried about hauling sheep in a trailer I could have enjoyed it more.

We picked the sheep up early Sunday morning, trying to drive through the cooler morning hours, but we had such a great time talking to Martha and her husband it was hard to leave. I learned so much in the couple hours we were at their farm. She gave the lambs a copper wire bolus to help with worms before we left. I need to get more info together on using the copper wire. The brief search I did while driving home was very interesting. There is some great research out there from very reputable institutions.

Elwood was featured prominently in yesterday's post so I will introduce the ewe lambs. The older one, by only a month, is Hazel.
Hazel is white but carries color genes. It will be interesting to see what her lambs look like. She was born in mid-March and hopefully will breed in the late fall.

Ruth was born in mid-April and also carries color genes.
The fields they came from had woven wire fencing and electric netting. I tried to put up our electric netting but realized I prefer my electric rope fencing. Today the new sheep learned all about the electric rope and did very well with it.

Right now the new sheep are in quarantine for a few weeks. By then I hope to have the older ram lambs at the butcher. Then Elwood will spend some time in with the younger ram lambs until his services are needed with the ewes. I am more worried about integrating the ewe lambs in with the other ewes.  Well, at least I have a little time before that happens.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Introducing Elwood

Meet Elwood, our new herd sire.
He is a registered Coopworth. His fleece is so soft. He is two years old and has never bred so we have our fingers crossed. His mother threw many sets of twins and a few sets of triplets. We picked up Elwood and two Coopworth ewe lambs in West Virginia this morning. It's been a busy day driving and getting the new sheep set up in their new home. More to come tomorrow on the new ewe lambs and our trip to WV.