A little ingenuity

Today was cold and bleak. The snow from last night soon melted with the rain of this morning. It rained off and on all day and the mud was deeper every time I went out. When I fed this morning the smallest triplet seemed to have a full stomach so I didn’t offer a bottle. I checked sheep throughout the day, expecting more ewes to lamb, and each time I checked on the ewes and lambs in the lambing jug. [The lambing jugs are set up so that I can create small pens to segregate new moms and their lamb(s) but since the two ewes I put in the jugs were both experienced and taking care of their lambs, I went ahead and opened up the jugs so that the entire space was available to the two ewes (and their combined five lambs)]. Each time I checked, the littlest triplet didn’t appear to be hungry. The bottle I took out a short while ago was the first bottle I gave her today. When I first went out she didn’t come running as usual and as I watched she went to the ewe that was not her dam and started nursing. She actually nursed for a short while before the ewe realized it wasn’t one of her lambs and walked away. At that point the lamb came over for her bottle. I had figured she was nursing off her dam and getting some milk at night, but I guess the little one has found a new way to supplement her own feeding without requiring a bottle.

The rain is supposed to continue through tomorrow so I’m hoping the ewes who haven’t lambed will hold off until things dry out a bit and I can turn the ewes/lambs in the jugs out to make room.

Bosque Fire

Google earth map of my location. In the upper right is my house – the dark roof next to the circular drive. My barn is to the left with a gray (almost looks blue) roof. What is labeled 4th Street is really an easement along the south property line which my neighbors use to access their property. If you follow the easement there is a quonset hut at the end. This was converted into a house. Just west is the roof of my neighbor’s sheep pens. At the bottom left is a large rectangular building and just below that is a house. This is the property where the fire started.

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The next two photographs were taken off the website of an Albuquerque news station. The first is a picture of my neighbor’s property to give you an idea of how close the fire came to my property.

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And this shows the property where the fire began. FIRE1 It isn’t rotated the same way as Google Earth but you can see what is left of the workshop and house.

Inexplicably, when the fire jumped the fire break, it completely missed my property, and amazingly, when the wind shifted and the fire blew back, it again missed my property. As events unfolded, I did not need to evacuate my livestock. Power was restored within 24 hours and other than the smell of smoke, one could not tell there had been a fire by looking at my property. However, with the information available at the time, I decided leaving when I did was preferable to getting told I had to evacuate at 2 am and having to load animals into the trailer, in the dark, by myself.

Flood Fire Famine and Pestilence

In September 2013 flash floods flooded my property (see this post). Prior to that was the winter where the temperatures dropped to 14 below zero and all the pipes in the pump house froze and broke, leaving me without water from the house well as well as without water from the irrigation well used to water livestock. We have had several years of drought that impacted the farmers and made hay both difficult to find as well as expensive to purchase. I’ve lost countless chickens to coyotes and other predators as well as goats to coyotes and even a mountain lion once. With luck, the fire this year covers the last of the disasters.

Friday afternoon an explosion in a workshop to the southwest of my property caused a fire. Within ten minutes, the fire had spread to my immediate neighbor to the west and within thirty had burned a power pole to the ground cutting off power. No power translated into no water as the well pumps became inoperable.

View from my deck about ten minutes after the explosion.

View from my deck about ten minutes after the explosion.

This community is blessed with wonderful, dedicated volunteer firefighters who immediately responded. However, with limited access to water the priority became trying to prevent homes from burning and barns and other outbuildings were left to burn.

I had headed to my neighbor’s to offer whatever help I could provide when I was first called about the fire.

View from my south fence line - easement heads into my neighbor's property

View from my south fence line – easement heads into my neighbor’s property

(The photographs don’t really show how terrifying the fire looked.)

The neighbor was heading home but still some distance away so I called someone to help with my neighbor’s livestock. That friend swung by my place and picked up my trailer to bring to the neighbors. We were still trying to load livestock when the neighbor got home and made the decision to leave the animals. We took the trailer back to my place and swapped out trucks, hooking the trailer to my truck.

I had bought the stock trailer about four years ago, just because I was concerned about the possibility of fire. However, the SUV I had at the time would only tow the trailer empty – not real useful – and it took me another year or so to find an old Ford F250 which I could afford. The truck is a manual which wouldn’t be an issue except it has a very stiff clutch, making it hard to start and to get out of first gear. I don’t like driving the truck and can usually find all sorts of excuses not to use it. Fortuitously I had tried to start the truck a few weeks ago as I was running out of hay and needed to go pick up a few bales to tide me over until my hay supplier had hay, and discovered that the battery was stone dead. My mechanic (also a wonderful guy) swung by my place one day to take out the battery and bring back a new one. We had then disconnected the battery to ensure it didn’t drain itself again. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Although an evacuation was never ordered, without power and water, and with the increasing risk of fire on my property when the fire jumped the fire break crews put in at my neighbor’s, I decided to trailer as many of my animals that I could. Several friends had already phoned or texted offering any assistance they could provide. One, with a wonderful horse property on the outskirts of town, offered her facilities (and guest room). Another friend, without being asked, texted that he was hitching up a trailer and heading my way. He offered space at his place, but his fencing was less suited to my smaller livestock.

We loaded my trailer and started to load his, but it was getting late and I really wanted to be off the property before dark. I made the decision to leave the sheep, the pigs in the pasture and the chickens. I threw a few bales of hay in the truck bed and loaded the four dogs in the cab. I headed out, followed by my friend with his truck and trailer. By the time we got out my gates it was dark and by the time we got close to the bridge across the Rio Grande the smoke was so thick the only way to know where the road was, was by the lights of the emergency vehicles along the sides and the glowing orange embers in the tree tops which lined the road. I was too busy trying not to stall out the truck as I downshifted to get around emergency vehicles or was forced to stop for one to worry about photographs, but this one was taken by my friend behind me. IMAG0333

Another friend, driving home from Albuquerque, snapped these photos . .. the first is around Belen which is about 45 miles north. 20160610_190546 And this was from the freeway approaching Socorro. 20160610_191137

Photos of the area after the fire to follow. . . .

Snow in June

While I was working this afternoon, the wind started blowing. Not the gale forces we often get but more than a breeze.

Within minutes it looked like snow drifting down.

Cottonwoods are blooming.

Cottonwoods are blooming.

The Second Most Beautiful Sight

Rain (or snow) is the most beautiful sight when you live in a desert. The second most beautiful sight is a barn full of hay.

I had one third of my hay delivered tonight – 210 bales of wheat hay. My barn has four sections. On one side I have several dog kennels up and on the other side is a long bench with storage. That leaves the two middle sections to store hay. The other 400 bales of hay – alfalfa – is supposed to be delivered next week. I’m not sure I can fit 400 more bales into the remaining section of the barn.

Space for hay

Space for hay

Wheat hay

Wheat hay

Hay stacked to about six feet from cattle panel closing off front of barn

Hay stacked to about six feet from cattle panel closing off front of barn

Greenhouse

The previous owners of my place had left a metal gazebo screwed into wood strips, in turn screwed into the concrete pad. Over the years I kept telling myself I needed to take it down but never got around to it. A few months ago, I had a brilliant idea of turning the gazebo into a greenhouse. I also thought it could do double duty as an enclosed area to milk goats. The milking stand was on the deck, exposed to wind and rain, which translated into having to milk goats in the house in bad weather. However, in pricing out the polycarbonate sheets and other materials that would be needed, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to be a feasible project. It did get me looking at pre-fab greenhouses though and I found a Palram Nature Series Mythos Hobby Greenhouse on Amazon for a couple of hundred dollars less than it was going to cost me to convert the gazebo (and the shipping was free).

So I ordered the greenhouse and on January 29th it was delivered. The delivery driver put it over the gate and my first two thoughts were: 1) something was going to be broken and 2) the box wasn’t nearly large enough to contain a greenhouse the size I ordered.

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The box was too heavy for me to lift so I unpacked it at the gate and placed each piece in the back seat of my car to transport down the drive. Amazingly, nothing appeared damaged as I unpacked the box.

While I have no doubt that I could have (eventually) put the greenhouse up by myself, thankfully a (more skilled) friend came by on the 31st to put up the greenhouse for me.

# 1 - The first order of business was to take the gazebo off the concrete pad. # 1 – The first order of business was to take the gazebo off the concrete pad.

#2 - Then, each piece of the greenhouse was laid out. The instructions were simply diagrams - not my strong suit - and thankfully almost all the pieces had corresponding numbers to match the diagrams.

#2 – Then, each piece of the greenhouse was laid out. The instructions were simply diagrams – not my strong suit – and thankfully almost all the pieces had corresponding numbers to match the diagrams.

#3 - The next  step was to screw the frame into the wooden strips the gazebo had been fastened to.

#3 – The next step was to screw the frame into the wooden strips the gazebo had been fastened to.

#4 - Then the supporting framework was put up.

#4 – Then the supporting framework was put up.

Gradually more and more pieces were installed.

Gradually more and more pieces were installed.

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Until finally the greenhouse was completed

Until finally the greenhouse was completed

Note the vent (and the milking stand already set up for use)

Note the vent (and the milking stand already set up for use)

20160131_171024_resized In addition to the milk stand, there are now cinderblock and board benches with two earthboxes planted with peas and beets.

About 2 am the next day, the winds started to howl and blow. I lay there just waiting for the crash foretelling that the greenhouse had been blown into a tree or the pumphouse. However, the wooden strips screwed into the concrete which had held the gazebo in place were also able to keep the greenhouse anchored. Several high winds later, the greenhouse is still anchored and I have a sheltered area to milk goats as well as a chicken proof place to grow additional vegetables.

Snow Update

It took me three times as long to feed this morning because I had to first break a path to the barn and then had to go back for the hay cart. The snow was deep enough that as I was walking, snow was falling into my boots (which are 15″ high).

On right, snow from yesterday and last night. On left, I had knocked off the snow yesterday evening when I fed so that snow is simply the overnight accumulation.

On right, snow from yesterday and last night. On left, I had knocked off the snow yesterday evening when I fed so that snow is simply the overnight accumulation.


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The “gift” that keeps on giving

This is a photo from the door when I woke up this morning (or when it got light enough to take a picture).

Within predicted 8-12 inches of snow

Within predicted 8-12 inches of snow

As it is snowing again, I expect to be snowed in for a couple of days. According to the Winter Storm Warning Advisory another 3-8 inches is expected. Hope everyone out there is safe and warm.