Saturday, October 23, 2021

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - January 14 through February 11, 2021

JANUARY 22 – Last week the Christmas package from Granddaughter Heather arrived from Canada, with a nice photo album she created – pictures of Joseph and James, the two great-grandsons we haven’t ever seen yet.

She also sent an e-mail with a few new photos of the boys—baby James (who is almost a year old, and a photo of the boys with grandma Barb, with Joseph sharing an ice cream cone with his little brother.

Joseph sharing ice cream cone with James
baby James
It’s been cold at night and we’ve been chopping ice on the creek for the cows to drink at their water holes. Last Friday we babysat Christopher awhile in the afternoon and evening when Andrea went to town to take Samantha shopping for her birthday. He had fun at our house, strewing all his toys around, and swinging in the swing that we can put up in the door arch between the living room and dining room. That swing has been enjoyed by 2 generations of kids—starting with granddaughter Emily and now her little boy. I took a couple photos of him swinging but one picture is a little blurry because he was swinging so fast.
Christopher swinging
Andrea picked him up after supper and took him home, and he must have bumped the door lock with his foot when she picked him up to carry him out of her car, and the door locked—and her keys were in the car. She had to call the local locksmith to come out and get into her car to retrieve the keys.

Sunday evening we went up to Andrea’s house to have a combined birthday celebration for Sam and Emily. Their birthdays are close together; Sam’s is the 15th and Emily’s is January 19. Charlie and Sam came out a little earlier in the day and Charlie was able to get Andrea’s snowmobile started and the kids had fun riding on it, even though the weather was very cold.

After supper we all played Tripoli for a while and had a good time. Christopher entertained us throughout.

Tuesday I had a lot of phone interviews to do, for various articles. I did chores really early, came back in for an interview, went back out to water the horses and heifers, then did another interview, fed the bull on our way to feed the cows, and hurried back to do another interview.

The ice is really slippery around Shiloh’s water tub and the next day Dani hauled some dirt from the big pile in her pen, to spread over the ice so she won’t slip and fall down. 

Andrea left Christopher with us again a couple days ago when she had to go to town (and Emily was working) and I took photos of them when she came to pick him up.
Christopher & grandma Andrea
Yesterday it snowed. Dani’s friend Jack carried in more sacks of pellets (from the old barn across the driveway) for our pellet stove, and filled our wood box. It snowed more in the night and we had several inches of new snow this morning. 

Andrea helped me feed, as usual but the last part of the big round bale (that we need to feed tomorrow) was really precarious and about the fall off the truck every time we hit a frozen cow pie. So we used the baling twines off the 2 little bales that we fed—and tied them to the rope around the big bale core, tying it down to the truck bed in 6 different directions to help stabilize it so we could creep back out of the field and back to the barnyard without that bale core toppling off.

This afternoon Emily took Christopher sledding up and down Andrea’s driveway below her house and he thought that was a lot of fun.
Emily pulling Christopher's sled
Em & Christopher and old Chewy the dog
Then Dani took Christopher for a ride around the field on the snowmobile.
ready to go snowmobiling
having fun whizzing around the field
Then when the temperature dropped sharply at sundown Andrea took him to the house and Em and Dani continued having fun, and went out over the low range a ways on the snowmobile.
Dani & Em heading off down the field to go out to the road to the low range

FEBRUARY 2 – My computer has been acting weird and wasting a lot of time doing “updates” and then having to reverse the updates because they didn’t work, and then doing it all over again after a couple days—making it impossible to work on articles while it is spinning its wheels. I don’t need any “updates” for the things I use my computer for (writing articles and getting e-mails from editors and sending them articles) so my brother came by and turned off its update paranoia. It hasn’t tried to update since, and is no longer interfering with my work!

Sunday morning was 3 below zero, with a high of 17 that afternoon. We are back to breaking ice on the creek every day again for the cows to drink. The next day was just as cold. Jim used our pickup to haul some more firewood up to Andrea’s house.

Then Lynn went to town for mail and groceries. A packet arrived from Margot Hauptman’s daughter-in-law in Washington. Margot was the lady from Latvia who was the housekeeper at our dormitory (Harrington Hall) when I was a student at University of Puget Sound, and she was a wonderful person. She was always interested in us students and some of us kept in touch with her after we left the university. I exchanged Christmas letters with her until she passed away in 2001 at the age of 91.

I was surprised to get the packet from her daughter-in-law. The letter she sent me explained that she had only recently found the letters, Christmas cards and photos that Margot kept, and she was returning them to me. Her letter said that even though Margot had passed away 19 years earlier, “it took our retirement and then forced lockdown of COVID for her son Martin and me to finally sort through several boxes of her personal things…We have learned a lot about her life and want to thank you for your part. She kept all her ‘Harrington kids’ letters and cards, stuck in books, apron pockets, on her night-stand, desk and coffee table. It was obvious to me that you were very special to her. And so I return them back to you with love and information about her life, knowing that you made her smile.”

In the packet were all the letters, etc. that I’d sent her over the years, plus some photos of Margot as a young person riding horses in Latvia, and her obituary. She was born in Orel, Russia in 1910 and raised on the family estate in Riga, Latvia. She was an excellent horsewoman, and an accomplished pianist, receiving a degree from the Riga Conservatory of Music. She was married for 9 wonderful years until the horrors of war chased her and family from their homeland, seeking refuge first in Germany, where they got separated. Margot, her children and parents emigrated to the U.S. and hoped that her husband would eventually be able to join them at the end of the war. Instead, he was locked behind closed borders of the Iron Curtain until he died in 1987.

Margot and her family settled in Tacoma, Washington in 1940, with help from the Lutheran Resettlement Service. She worked as a supervisor/teacher at a day care center, as a nanny and housekeeper and then in 1960 became the housekeeper at Harrington Hall at UPS, until she retired in 1975—and then devoted her time to a wonderful flower garden and to keeping track of her many “Harrington kids” like me.

Receiving this packet from her daughter-in-law brought back many memories and I shall always treasure my friendship with this very gracious lady who had to make a new life for herself and her children in a strange country.

Tuesday was 6 below zero. Andrea helped me feed little bales to our young cows, since their feeder was empty and it would be one another day before we’d be able to start the tractor and put a big bale in their feeder. We plugged in the tractor and put a tarp over the motor to help insulate it from the cold, so it would hopefully start the next day.

We had another e-mail from granddaughter Heather in Canada, and more photos-- of the boys playing with their toys, and Joseph showing how strong he is, lifting his little brother.
Joseph lifting up little brother
Dani started her GED classes Tuesday evening. She goes to class twice a week—Tuesdays and Thursdays—and is enjoying them much more than going to school. She has more one-on-one help if she needs it and is not afraid to ask questions.

Wednesday was a little warmer, but very windy, which made it difficult to feed the cows; hay leaves were blowing away and into our eyes. Fortunately it was the last day’s worth of the big bale on the truck, and we just pushed it off and rolled it down the hill, letting it unroll as it went—leaving a carpet of hay on the ground for the cows to eat, and less apt to blow all the hay leaves away in the wind. On our way back down from the field we saw that the wind had blown the tarp off the big bale by the bull pen (the hay I feed to “Babe”—our new bull) so we had to wrap it up again. We have to keep a tarp around it so the deer don’t get into it and tear up the bale and waste the hay.

Andrea and I loaded the truck again with little bales to take to our “emergency stack” and Lynn was able to get the tractor started—to load another big bale on the truck and take a bale to the young cows’ feeder. One of the front tractor tires was low and about to come off the rim, so he had to take the tractor to the shop and put air in the tire before we could take that bale to the young cows. Then we took a bale of straw to the older cows for bedding, and Andrea took this photo of Lynn and me bringing the tractor back down from the field.
bringing tractor back
The wind and cold weather made it difficult for Michael and his fencing crew for several days; they were building a jack fence for a rancher near Lemhi, and the wind chill made it equivalent to 40 below zero. They could only work a few hours each day in those conditions and it put them behind schedule finishing that job. We were glad it wasn’t quite that cold here at our place, but the wind still made working outside miserable.

The next couple days were warmer, which made everything easier, and we didn’t have to break ice for the cows and the bull’s water hole. Lynn tweaked his bad knee Thursday evening, however, and it was painful and swollen and he was having trouble walking. I put DMSO on it for a couple days, which helped reduce the pain and swelling, and he’s been wearing his knee brace again, so he won’t tweak it again.

Friday was the day the seniors gave their presentations, showing their senior projects and explaining what they did. Sam’s project was creating the fancy big bumper for her pickup and learning to weld. Even though her bumper got smashed when her pickup slid off the icy road last month and crashed into the rock cliff (and the bumper saved her life) she had it with her at the school and told how she had created it and all the welding she had done.
Sam and her bumper
That evening it snowed and we had 3 inches of new snow the next morning. We loaded another bale on the feed truck and took down the deer netting around the alfalfa bales so we could get a bale for the yearling heifers. Their feeder had been empty a couple days and I’d been feeding them little bales of my horse hay. We helped Lynn get into the tractor, using a stool, so he wouldn’t strain his bad knee; the first step up into the tractor is a little too high.

Andrea has been cleaning house and getting ready to go visit Stan for a while in California, and took this photo of Christopher lounging on her couch, eating chips.
Cristopher relaxing & eating chips
Sunday was cold again, and it wasn’t snowing, so the roads were better, and Andrea left early that morning to drive to California to stay a week with Stan. Jim helped me feed cows, and will help during this coming week while Andrea is gone.

Yesterday I chopped a bigger hole in the ice for the bull’s water hole; the hole had gotten so small that he could barely get his nose down in it to reach the water. 

Christopher had a bad night and a high fever. Emily and Dani nearly took him to town to the ER but he finally settled down and slept and seems to be doing a little better this morning. Emily had to work this afternoon and evening, and Dani had to go to her GED classes, so Lynn went up to Andrea’s house to help Jim take care of Christopher. He was feeling better by then and seems to be past the worst of whatever ailed him.

When I did chores this evening I discovered that the cows had come down from the field through the open gate by the hold pen, and had gotten the tarp off the big bale by the bull corral and were eating it and messing it up. I chased them back to the field and gathered up the scattered hay and put the tarp around it again (to keep the deer out). From now on we’ll have to leave that gate shut! The cows have been really good about staying up in the field where we feed them, but now that they’ve discovered the bull’s hay, we won’t be able to trust them!

FEBRUARY 11 – We ordered vaccine for the cows and Lynn picked it up at the vet clinic last week. We were going to vaccinate them this week after Andrea got back from California (their pre-calving vaccinations to ensure a high level of antibodies in their colostrum, to keep the calves healthy and prevent scours) but the weather has been too cold and nasty. We’ll hope to vaccinate them next week.

Last Thursday Michael brought his skid steer and a couple loads of posts and poles, and he and two of his fencing crew guys started work on rebuilding several of our bad fences. They took down the old pole fence along the lane to the post pile pasture (an old fence that was nearly 50 years old and the posts and poles were rotting and the poles breaking). Dani stopped by on her way to town for her GED class and brought in some firewood for us; our wood box was about empty.

The next day we had new snow and the guys didn’t work on the fence. Saturday was warm enough (40 degrees by afternoon) that the snow melted and settled a little. Dani brought Christopher down here for us to take care of that day, when she went to her job at the motel, and picked him up that evening. Emily and a co-worked had to go to Pocatello. The roads were bad on this end, and Jim loaned Emily his pickup for that trip, since it has better snow tires than Em’s car or Andrea’s old car.

Sunday was cold and windy all day, and the wind made it miserable for feeding hay. Dani had to work all day again at the motel, cleaning rooms and making beds; the motel was full, with the weekend hockey tournament here and all the teams from out of town. Emily dropped Christopher off at our house again on her way to work and we took care of him for the afternoon and evening. That kid is sure growing, and very “busy” and quite entertaining. He jabbers away in his own language and probably wonders why we can’t understand what he’s trying to tell us!

Andrea drove home from California and got here about 11 p.m. that evening. Even though the wind was bad most of the way, the roads were good. She took a photo of elk in one of the fields along the highway as she came down the Lemhi River.
elk next to highway
Monday the guys came back to work on the fence. They took out the old fence along the top of the horse pasture (some of the posts are rotting off, after being there for nearly 50 years when we fenced that pasture) and started setting new posts, and started taking down the old rotten pole fence around the pen below the calving barn.

The first dump truck load of rocks came at noon (to fill in the deep eroded hole below the calving barn where the ditch has washed the bank away, and gotten too deep all the way down along the fence). Our driveway was icy and we knew the truck would have trouble getting back up it (especially empty, with no traction) so Andrea spread some sand at the top of it where it’s the steepest. The truck driver got a good run at it (starting from where he turned around across the creek) and barely made it up around the corner without spinning out. So before the next load came, Andrea and I dug buckets full of dry dirt out of the big pile in Shiloh’s pen (next to the driveway) and spread dirt over the icy tracks, the whole length of the driveway. We got that job finished just before the second load arrived. While I was out there I hiked down to the field below the lane and took a photo of the heifers eating at their feeder.
heifers eating at their feeder
We’d used up all our spare sand at the top of the driveway so when Lynn went to town he and Jim got 3 more tubs of sand to replenish our supply for putting along the icy banks where the cows have to go into the creek for water.

We got 3 dump-truck loads of rocks that afternoon, and Michael spread them into the deep ditch, with his skid steer, and also dragged several batches of poles up to the top of the horse pasture where the guys were setting posts.

Yesterday morning was cold again, below zero, but sunny, and it warmed up to 20 degrees. The guys were able to finish rebuilding the horse pasture fence and I took photos of their handiwork. This will be much more durable than the old one that was sagging, with the old posts rotting off.
new horse pasture fence
Then they set the posts below the barn for part of the new fence around that pen. Michael had plowed all the snow out of it with his skid steer and piled the brush back a ways to clear a good path for setting the new posts. They got the poles on one side of the lane below the barn and I took photos of their progress.
rebuilding fence below barn
putting up poles
Andrea helped me feed, and brought in a little firewood. Then that afternoon she and Dani went to town; they each had doctor’s appointments. Andrea was having her shoulder looked at (follow-up from the MRI that was done earlier), and Dani was having a second appointment with our family doctor who is trying to help her with depression issues. She needs to see a counselor but the only way she can be referred to a counselor, in this medical system, is to have her admitted to the ER and sent to a specialist. So, yesterday evening Dani went to the ER and then Andrea had to drive her to Idaho falls late last night, to be admitted to a facility where she will be evaluated and assessed to determine what is going on with her (possibly bi-polar) and what medications might help.

This morning it was down to zero again but got up to 20 degrees by afternoon. The ice was thick over the bull’s water hole so I had to chop it out when I did chores. Lynn helped me feed cows, since Andrea was still in Idaho Falls, and Jim had a doctor’s appointment in town. 

The fence crew was here again today, working on the pen below the barn, putting up poles on the posts they set yesterday, and setting posts for the new fence between the pen and the field where the heifers are. The hydraulic pounder is able to drive the posts through the frozen ground.
pounding posts
The heifers were not very worried about the noisy post-pounder; one of them was napping nearby and she never even bothered to get up.
heifer napping
heifer napping next to post pounding

It will be really nice when the crew gets this fence finished; we built the old pen nearly 50 years ago, and this new fence will definitely out-last Lynn and me!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - December 15 through January 14, 2021

DECEMBER 24 – We had cold weather last week, nearly down to zero and then it warmed up a little. We bought a couple more protein tubs for the cows and Jim helped unload them up in the field by Andrea’s house. We are hoping to not have to feed hay to our main bunch of cows until after Christmas and the protein helped encourage them to keep grazing and go up on the hill where there is still some grass that isn’t snowed under.

Last Wednesday it actually got up to 30 degrees in the afternoon. Lynn and I took a little bale to the young cows on his 4-wheeler. Dani left Christopher here on her way to work and picked him up that night on her way home.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent a photo of Joseph and little James sledding and it looked like they were having a great time. 
Canadian boys sledding
Thursday morning it snowed and Dani came down and helped us untarp one of the big round bales in the stackyard and Lynn took it up to the field with the tractor, for the young cows. Dani took them a bucket of loose salt and mineral. Then we hauled a ladder around to the stackyard to make it easier the next time we have to get the tarp off a top bale. While she was here she carried several sacks of pellets into the house from the shed across the driveway, for Lynn’s pellet stove. On cold nights we usually have that stove going as well as the wood stove in the kitchen. That afternoon it snowed again.

Andrea drove home from California on Friday. The roads were fairly good, considering the new snow, and she got here before midnight. She brought home a saddle that she and Stan bought for Dani for Christmas, and the next morning Emily brought it down here so we could hide it at our house until Christmas.

On Sunday Andrea put up a temporary electric fence down around her driveway, with a “gate” across a flatter spot so it will be easier for people to stop and open and shut it. The real gate is across a steeper part of the driveway and it’s hard for vehicles to stop there and get going again without spinning out on the ice. This will make it easier to keep a gate closed so the cows can’t keep going up into her yard. It was a little difficult to put the step-in posts in a few places (frozen ground) but it wasn’t as frozen in some of the areas covered with deep snow and she was able to keep the fence standing up.

Monday was warm and rainy and foggy, and the rain made everything even more slippery, then it was very windy that night and blew one tarp mostly off my stack of hay next to Sprout’s pen. It also blew the little trampoline in Andrea’s yard clear over the fence and down into the field.

I wasn’t going to send out Christmas letters this year (too busy trying to meet article deadlines that I hadn’t taken time to write one) but as we received more and more cards and letters from extended family and friends, I realized I’d better write one and at least send out a few, so people wouldn’t wonder if we’d died of COVID!

So I wrote a letter of sorts and yesterday when Lynn went to town to get a couple more tubs of protein for the cows, he had some copies made. I also took time to draw horses on a bunch of white T-shirts (my traditional “grandma” gift for everyone in the family –personalized T-shirts).

The new edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Training Horses has just come out, and the publisher sent me a few copies. It’s a nice update, and the illustrations for this one are in color. I took photos of the new edition.
new book
new book back cover
Also, my book Beyond the Flames: A Family Touched by Fire is being reprinted by Lemur press and I took photos of it, as well.
back cover
Today was cold again (only 6 degrees this morning, with a high of 22 degrees). The tractor barely started at noon, even after being plugged in all night), and we took a big round bale up to the young cows in the field above the house. Dani helped me move their feeder to a new location. At this point these are the only cows we are feeding hay (except I’m giving the weaned heifers a little of my horse hay every morning, to encourage them to get going and graze in the snow; they still have a lot of good pasture left if it doesn’t snow clear under). The older cows are still grazing on the hill behind Andrea’s house.

Michael stopped by on his way to town and dropped up some gifts and a big plate of cookies that Carolyn made, and we gave him our gifts for him and Carolyn and Nick (who will be spending Christmas with them). My brother Rocky stopped by also and we exchanged gifts, and I took a picture of him with his “Santa” beard.
brother Rocky & his beard

JANUARY 3 – Christmas day I started sending out more cards and letters, and finished the series of articles for Bovine Med’s new website. We broke ice on the creek for the cows. Nick stopped by for a visit here, while he was spending the day with his parents. It was great to get a chance to see him.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent photos that were taken that day of their little family.
Heather, Gregory and boys
She also took photos of the boys in their Sunday clothes, and young Joseph later showing off some of his Christmas gifts.
young James
James and Joseph
Joseph and his new winter hat
We didn’t celebrate Christmas until Sunday when Stan and all of Andrea’s kids could come out to her house. Stan drove back from California on Saturday, getting here at 9:30 that evening. Andrea spent that day cleaning house and getting a turkey ready to cook for Sunday. Dani came down and carried more sacks of pellets into our house for Lynn’s pellet stove. We took advantage of it being a little warmer (so the feed truck would start) and drove it over here by the house so it can be plugged in on cold mornings, in case we needed to start feeding hay to the cows.

That evening I finished wrapping gifts for Andrea’s kids, and made a huge box (duct taping two big boxes together) to wrap up the saddle for Dani.

Sunday morning was cold and I did chores early and fed the heifers extra hay (taking some of my horse hay out to the field with the calf sled) and broke ice for the little bull. Sam and her friend Colter stopped by on their way to Andrea’s house, and picked up the big box with the saddle in it, and some of the other gifts to take up there. Soon after, Charlie and one of his best friends came, too.

After breakfast Lynn and I went up to Andrea’s house (and took our part of the pot-luck meal) and watched everyone open presents. I took photos of Christopher checking out his stocking from Santa and opening his presents, sitting on the little couch with Stan.
Christopher & Stan
Christopher had a lot of fun opening presents. Last year (at not quite a year of age) he didn’t quite have it figured out, but this year he quickly got the hang of tearing open the wrapping paper and checking out what was inside.
Christopher opening presents
He was also fascinated watching Dani open the big box that had her saddle in it.
Dani opening the big box
Dani's new saddle
He had great fun until the girls put him on Dani’s new saddle with it held up like it was on a horse, and he slipped and fell on the floor. Andrea tried to grab him as he fell but wasn’t quick enough. He banged the back of his head a bit, but seemed to be ok, and after a bit of comfort with his bottle he rejoined the fun.

Christopher entertained himself for awhile climbing into the box the saddle had been wrapped in, and hiding in the box.
Christopher playing in the box
hiding in the box
We had a wonderful meal and ate too much, and the kids all had fun (and I took a photo of the kids and their friends) and then Lynn and I went home to do chores.
kids & their friends
That night was colder, down to 3 below zero. Emily left early the next morning, to take one of the patients at the care center to Idaho Falls for his doctor appointment. Stan and Andrea went to town to do all the town errands. Monday night it was 3 below zero again.

Andrea, Dani and Emily were all a little sick for a couple of days. Our wood-box was empty and Dani had planned to fill it for us, so Lynn and I filled it ourselves—just more trips with less wood! We’re not as strong as we used to be.

We plugged in the tractor that night, and the next day Lynn and I took a little bale (some of my horse hay) to the young cows above the house because they were out of hay in their feeder. We moved the feeder to a new location (pulled it with the 4-wheeler) and then took a feeder to the field below the lane, for the weaned heifers. Andrea and Stan came down that afternoon and helped us get a big bale of second cutting alfalfa for the weaned heifers (the first time we’ve fed them alfalfa hay this winter) and a bale of grass-alfalfa for the young cows to put in their feeder, and a big bale on the feed truck—and one little grass bale. We fed the cows for the first time this winter, giving them about 1/3 of the big bale and the little grass bale.
feeding the cows
When we finished and parked the truck, we put a tarp around the rest of the bale on the feed truck to keep the deer out of it.

The young heifers were so full after eating on the alfalfa for only an hour that we were afraid they might bloat, so we put deer netting around the feeder to keep them out of it. This alfalfa is really rich and fine and they could easily eat too much and bloat. They need to adjust to it gradually. The next morning we unwrapped their feeder and let them eat on it again for about 1 ½ hours and wrapped it up again, and let them have it for another 1 ½ hours in the evening and warped it up again for night.

After feeding the cows that day, one of the rear tires on the old feed truck went flat as we were putting on another little bale for the next morning (to feed in addition to the last of the big bale). Fortunately it didn’t go flat while we were up in the field! Those tires are very old and weather-checked and it was just a matter of time that they would give out. So Stan and Andrea went to town and got two new tires before the tire place closed early for New Year’s Eve. Luckily it happened when it did, or we would not have been able to get new tires until after the holiday weekend!

New Year’s day was bitterly cold again. I unwrapped the heifers’ feeder at chore time and let them eat on it for a while; their rumen bacteria are adjusting to the higher protein level and lush alfalfa but we are still being cautious. 

Stan cleaned off the battery terminals in the tractor and we waited until the warmest part of the day (23 degrees in late afternoon) to try to start it. It is sluggish starting on cold days even when it has been plugged in all night. It did start, and we were able to load another big bale on the feed truck, and also took a bale of straw up to the cows to put along the brush for them to bed on.

Yesterday was a little warmer. I opened up the heifers’ feeder and let them have it fulltime; we seem to be past the critical period for bloating them. Their water tank (with tank heater) was really dirty; we hadn’t cleaned it since we started using it for them this fall/winter. So I emptied it with a bucket, squirted out the crud that accumulated on the sides and bottom, and filled it up again with clean water.

After we fed the cows, Stan and Andrea went to town, and Dani went to work. When Em went to work she left Christopher here with us and he entertained us while I cleared all the piles off our dining room table and cooked a big supper. He and Lynn watched a movie while I did chores. Dani picked him up after work, and then Nick came by to eat supper with us and play Tripoli. He loves that game –from when we used to play it with him and his sister and his folks many years ago. It was fun to do it again.

Today was the warmest it’s been for a long time—up to 40 degrees. By afternoon it got windy and a fast blizzard blew through. We were glad we were done feeding the cows before the weather changed.

JANUARY 14 – Last Monday a week ago it snowed; the cows were happy to have some straw bedding in the protection of brush along the bottom of the field that serves as a natural windbreak.

Stan helped us feed the cows for several days and I took photos one day as he and Andrea were unrolling the hay off the big round bale.
Andrea & Stan feeding cows
…and took photos of the cows enjoying the hay.
cows eating hay
Then we took the feed truck back to the stack yard to load another big bale on it with the tractor, to be ready to feed again the next morning.
ready to reload the truck
Dani was staying overnight last week with a couple of friends, and one of the sisters was having an emotionally bad time. Dani realized that the girl had been in the bathroom too long and went in to check on her and found that she’d tried to commit suicide, cutting herself. Dani and the sister called 911 and got her to the hospital in time, and now she’s having counseling. This was pretty tough on Dani. Kids today have a lot of challenges—more than our older generation had to face at their age.

The next day Emily didn’t have to work and she took Dani to town to do something fun together and help bolster her spirits.

Andrea and Stan loaded our little old 4-wheeler (“little red”) into his pickup to take back with him to California to see if he can fix it. It’s been a great machine but it is 25 years old and has had hard use and has some worn-out parts, so Stan wants to try to get it running again. He left last Wednesday to go back to California, since he had a doctor’s appointment on Friday.

That afternoon Michael stopped by and we hiked around a few of our old falling-down fences for him to measure. He and his fencing crew will come in a couple of weeks and start rebuilding the fence along the old lane below the old milk barn (that pole fence was built 40-plus years ago and the posts and poles are rotting), and the pen below the calving barn, and the top end of the horse pasture. 

Last Friday was almost down to zero again, and I must not have drained my hose adequately the day before when I watered the heifers and two horses. I carried a bucket of water to Shiloh, watered Sprout with a short hose, and didn’t water the heifers until afternoon (they still had enough water in their tank to be able to reach it). Even though the temperature didn’t get up to 30 degrees, it was a sunny day, and after the sun had been shining on that hose for several hours the little bit of ice in it thawed enough for me to use it again. These little episodes are good reminders to be more slow and careful when draining the hose in future!

Andrea helps me feed the cows every day; I drive the truck and she unrolls hay off the big bale and feeds a couple little bales. With the little bales to fill in, one big bale lasts 3 or 4 days. On Saturday it was time to load the truck again, but she helped Lynn put more oil (and hydraulic oil) in the tractor first, and we also put more gas in the feed truck. The gas gauge hasn’t worked for years so we just go by a certain number of days’ feeding (about 3 weeks) and gas it up again—and mark it on the calendar so we know when to do it again. We don’t want to run out of gas up in the middle of the field.

The next day I had trouble starting the feed truck. The old keyhole is getting gunked up and it’s hard to make it work. When we got done feeding we put WD-40 in the keyhole and that helped. The truck is a 1973 model and it sometimes needs a little TLC to keep going.

We had several cold nights, nearly down to zero, which meant breaking ice at the water holes for the cows (along the creek) and for the little bull in the back pen. A spring runs through there but the channel freezes over if it gets very cold. The water holes at the creek are getting very slippery and treacherous for the cows so Lynn got some sand when he was in town on Monday, and Jim helped him bag it when he got home. The next day Andrea took sand up to both water holes (the young cows on this side of the creek, and to the older cows’ water hole in the swamp pasture on the other side) and sprinkled sand on the steep approaches so the cows won’t be afraid to go down to the creek.

Tuesday after we fed, Andrea helped me load a lot of little bales from the stackyard while the truck was empty, and we hauled them around to replenish the stack by the calving pen—where we grab a couple bales every day to go with what we feed off the big bale. We got the tractor started and took hay to the young cows and loaded the feed truck again. About that time it started to snow and snowed all afternoon.

Dani worked all day that day at the motel where she helps clean rooms and make beds. We’d just finished chores and supper when she called to tell us that Sam had an accident on the river road out toward their dad’s place. With the new snow, the roads were slick, and on one of those icy corners her truck started to slide and it was about to go into the river. She got it turned back the other way but with the slippery conditions it kept sliding and crashed into the rock wall on the other side. The impact tore off the front bumper—the fancy bumper she’d created and welded on, for her senior project, and bent it around. It totaled the pickup, but the bumper took much of the impact and maybe kept her from being hurt worse. She had bruises from her seat-belt and possibly a broken wrist and/or thumb. Her friend Colter was driving his pickup behind her, convoying, and he was able to call 911 and the ambulance came out to take her to the ER. 

Lynn went up to babysit Christopher so Andrea could go into town and to the hospital to see Sam. They did an EKG to make sure her heart wasn’t bruised, and some other tests and eventually released her to go home to her dad’s house—and will have to check her hand and wrist again later after the swelling goes down. She’s very lucky she didn’t go into the river, and we are glad she wasn’t hurt any worse. Yesterday she felt well enough to go to school, so hopefully she will heal quickly.

We took photos of her smashed truck (that was towed to her dad’s auto shop) and torn-off bumper. The bumper was in the back of the truck.
Sam's smashed truck
smashed bumper in the back of her truck
Our weather changed dramatically; after such cold weather we had a warm night that night and strong winds yesterday—and rain. The wind and rain made it difficult to feed the cows.

The wind was blowing so hard when we finished feeding that it was almost impossible to put the tarp over the hay that was still on the truck – it was blowing us all around like the sail on a sailboat.

Today wasn’t quite as windy, but the temperature dropped dramatically this morning and we are back to breaking ice on the water holes.