Saturday, July 28, 2012

Need More Room at the Inn

For at least a year we have been contemplating making more housing for the ram lambs up in the Bachelor Barn.  When they are first weaned and moved up there the accomodations are more than adequate but as they put on rapid growth things start to get tight.  During a dry spell last year (not as long in duration as this year) we convinced ourselves that we ought to plan an enlargement *soon* since it was conceivable that we would have to house them inside and feed hay during a drought and there was simply not enough floor space for them to be comfortable especially if we had a 'ram year' and had more bodies.  Because Fate works as it does, this spring we had 35% more lambs than expected AND a drought that began in June and continued right though weaning and beyond.  Nothing like dire necessity to move a task to the top of the priority pile.

Adjacent to the area already built for sheep lies an equally large floor space that was being used for storage, primarily lumber that was stickered there before we were married (22+ years, but who's counting?) and other items that weren't really being used but "might come in handy later".  Farm people never throw anything away which is why the American Pickers are so often digging like honey badgers in old dairy barns, hay barns, tractor sheds and chicken coops.  Seeing the writing on the wall, way back in May Andy started moving the lumber to another building, doing a ruthless triage while handling it and getting an early start on the winter's firewood in the process if you get my drift.  Heifers had been housed in the area once and started trampling the dirt out from under the walls of the building, which is just a pole structure, various woodchucks had also dug burrows under the lumber piles over the years and kicked out more dirt and time had worn some away too so that was going to requre attention.

Once emptied (for the most part), Andy brought in a lot of rock and gravel to fill the sizable gap between floor and wall.

Next he decided how to space out the posts that would form the walls of the pen.  We didn't want the actual building's walls involved with it for a couple of reasons.  One nice feature is that a gap between the buildings wall and the pen will provide a walkway for us to use when feeding there without having to carry hay over the sheep.

Next came the post hole auger on the back of the tractor.  It was a tight and awkward fit (it's a big tractor) so he still had to dig three holes by hand, but it was still a huge savings in time and effort as each hole was two feet deep.

Holly checked each and every hole - a couple of times - because it just seemed like there HAD to be a woodie at the bottom of one of them.  I don't think it crossed her mind that she would not want to meet a woodie capable of making a hole of that magnitude.  Dogs have no sense of proportion.

The next order of business - today's task - was to set the posts.  Each one was anchored by two bags' worth of concrete, mixed in the wheelbarrow and shoveled in to really secure the posts.

We waffled over whether or not to pour a concrete floor.  On one hand, a dirt floor does offer some drainage so the area should stay pretty dry with a decent amount of bedding.  On the other hand, a smooth hard surface is easier to clean with the skidder and will stay level and flat over time.  Andy also didn't want bare dirt under the feeders he's going to build because that's just going to invite rats to tunnel under and set up house.  So, we decided to go for it and we'll be calling the concrete folks on Monday.

Tomorrow we're scheduled to run all the adult ewes over the scale to check eye scores and body condition, deworm anyone that needs it and replace any coats that are getting snug.  I know I've seen a few.  We did the rams a few days ago and they are growing well.  The ewe lambs will be checked in a couple of days when time allows.

Yesterday and today we got a very welcome 1.6 inches of rain without the tornadoes that touched down in Corning and Elmira (less than 50 miles away).  This is super good for the corn which is just starting to tassel, the alfalfa which needs to grow so we can make second cutting, and the pastures which have been a scary pale tan color for several weeks.

Red sky at night....means at least we won't be working tomorrow in the rain.  ;-)

1 comment:

  1. I'm all for the concrete floor. You could install a few drains/drain tile to get the best of both worlds.

    Love Holly's optimism...something like Magic's hope that she will catch a bird every day. She's successful enough that she keeps trying. I swear I'm going to find that dog halfway up a tree one day.