Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's on the List

My life for the last couple of months has revolved closely around an ever changing series of lists. At some particularly hectic points in time, it has actually been a list of lists, subcategorized into project areas such as dairy barn, house, tractor, sheep, lamb sales, administrative.... While there is nothing more satisfying than crossing completed items off a list (I've been known to add an item to a list just for the sake of seeing it crossed off) there always seems to be two new items to fill the place of any one task completed. Every time I am given a suggestion of some improvement I could make to the farm or a problem that needs attention, my response has been, "It's on the list." Often the issue at hand does not rank very highly on my list compared to tasks such as buy hay, pay credit card bills, move out of trailer into house, but I like to acknowledge that it has not escaped my notice. It's just that my ability to handle problems and accomplish tasks does have its limits and a triage is necessary. Sadly for you, dear reader, updating my blog has often been given lower attention status and it is a list item that finds itself transcribed from one to-do-list to another.

So, what are the items of higher importance that have occupying all of my attention and energy, you may ask? Here is a summary, in list format:

DAIRY BARN: With the help of the contractors the dairy barn has quickly transformed from a raw old garbage-filled barn into a modern dairy building with glowing white walls and ceiling and specially sloped floors.

After finally receiving the funds from my start-up loan from California Farmlink, I have rapidly exhausted most of them procurring all of the various pieces of equipment I am going to need to milk 100 ewes and transform their milk into cheese.

HOUSE: I am not sure exactly how many feet of Pergo have now been lain on the formerly carpeted (very stinky, dirty carpeted at that) floors of the main house and the rental, but it must be getting close to the mile mark. A friend of a friend happened to have just arrived in town in search of employment at the same time that we started fixing up the houses, so Randy has been pretty steadily occupied with Pergo-ing, painting, and general handyman-ing for the past several weeks. I have finally moved out of my beloved Airstream trailer (which I need to sell to pay for my dairy if anyone's interested) and into my very own master bedroom--replete with not one but TWO walk-in closets! The contractors are now installing the new kitchen cabinets as I write and the dark, dismal wood-paneled living room is soon to be a cheery, bright yellow.

SHEEP: A late summer/early fall baby boom has put the young lamb population at about 25.
There's been about a month-long pause in lambing, but judging by the swelling udders in the flock, it will resume with a bang shortly. All of the mature ewes should be birthing over the next couple of months. Cosmo the ram has taken gladly to his task of impregnating the yearling ewe lambs as they come of age, and that group should start lambing in early spring.

MEAT: While my flock has been growing, it has also been shrinking by the harvest of plump wether lambs. So far about 30 of last years lamb crop has been slaughtered and sold (and mostly eaten), leaving only 15 left to feed. A neighbor of the Arab persuasion recently stopped by and offered to purchase most of these remaining lambs on the hoof so that they can be slaughtered Halal-style for the upcoming religious holidays. With the scarcity of options for slaughtering and butchering small numbers of livestock for resale (the nearest USDA slaughter house is 3 hours away--if I want USDA cut and wrap its 6)the option of selling the lamb live for someone else to deal with is very appealing.

PASTURE: The entire farm perimeter has now been fenced with livestock fence, as well as a holding pen/corral and an alley way to the milking barn. The entire irrigation system and well have been replaced and are finally completed. We received a nice soaking rain at the beginning of November which sprouted the dormant grasses in the fields. About ten days ago I had the main pasture, which is approx. 17 acres, disced and seeded with a dairy pasture mix of perennial and annual ryes, fescue, various clovers and a lesser amount of other grasses and forbs.

Last week was my first attempt at employing my new-used 3" irrigation pipe and the new well and buried mainline. I started at the top of the hill, which is the most challenging spot to irrigate as it is about 200 ft higher than the well, and the well pump itself is about 240 ft down the well. I've been anxiously hoping for rain, while at the same time waiting for the arrival of the canvas tent I ordered to cover my 26 ton load of organic alfalfa hay (which cost more than my Ford F-250). The tent finally arrived mid-day Monday, and rain was forcast for that night. By luck, my good friend Dave happened to be working at the farm that afternoon (he works for the sheet metal contractor who has been installing the gutters and downspouts on the barn) and I was able to rope him in to setting it up with me. We finally finished it at about 6 pm in the dark by aid of a headlamp. While it didn't rain that night or the next day, there was a nice solid day of gentle rain this Wednesday. Halleluah! My pasture got irrigated and my hay stayed dry. Whew.

Well, this is just a glossing over the surface of all that's been going on around here, but I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what I've been up to. While there is still an endless amount of work to be done, it does seem like a corner has been turned and things are starting to come together and take shape.

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