Monday, September 8, 2014

Late February - Early March 2014

FEBRUARY 25 – Breezy is doing very well now, recovering from the surgery to remove her eye.  The padded face mask has helped keep the socket warmer in our very cold weather, and I’m sure she’s been a lot more comfortable with it covered.

After the rescued calf and her mama had been in the barn a week, and the calf seemed to be getting around ok on her frostbitten feet, Michael and Carolyn came down and shoveled the snow out of the windbreak corners of the pen below the barn.  They put hay down for bedding, and we put the pair down there.  They were happy to get out of the barn.  

It was nice to have Michael home from North Dakota for a few days, and he enjoyed a break from steady truck-driving in the severe winter weather. We had more snow and storms, but at least the weather was warmer than the day young Heather’s cow calved unexpectedly.  We thought that would be the only “surprise” calf, but on Valentine’s Day the skinniest little old cow of Michael and Carolyn’s was calving when we fed the cows that morning.  We called them, and they came down a couple hours later.  The old cow had calved by then, and Michael pulled the calf down through the two fields in a sled, with the little cow following.  We put them in the barn, out of the wind and snow.  It snowed hard all evening.

            That Sunday it quit snowing briefly.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather helped Lynn and me vaccinate and delouse the bulls and the yearlings, and tagged the yearling heifers (brisket tags) with their permanent cow numbers.  Then we put the little skinny cow and her new calf out of the barn, down in the pen with Heather’s pair.


           Those 2 calves were sired by the precocious bull calf last spring, but there won’t be any more of those surprises because the rest of those cows had barely calved when Michael and Carolyn weaned that little bull and took him out of the herd.  None of those cows would have had time to rebreed. The calf we rescued 3 weeks ago--with the frozen ears and feet--is losing the skin off her nose, and the ends of her ears, but she feels good.

            Andrea had some tests done on her throat; she has permanent damage from 14 years ago when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU after her burn injuries—with the tube down her throat and trachea.  She has to go to a specialist for more tests.

            Lynn was supposed to have a treadmill stress test at the hospital last Thursday to check his heart, but the doctor who was supposed to come from Missoula wasn’t able to come, so it got postponed.   We had a lot of new snow and Michael and Carolyn are feeding their horses hay up on the wild meadow.

            The yard light in our barnyard and calving area quit working, so on Friday Michael helped Lynn replace it.  They put a long extension ladder up the pole and Lynn steadied it while Michael climbed up there to replace the light and timer.  I’m glad Michael was able to help him do this before he went back to North Dakota.  Lynn and I are not very steady on ladders anymore!

Jim and Andrea took Em to the state hockey tournament in Idaho Falls, the last games of the season.  Lynn stayed those nights at Andrea’s house with the other 3 kids and they had meals here and enjoyed helping us feed cows and do chores.  Emily’s team was doing well, but in the next to last game she and another girl were racing for the puck and Em slammed into the wall going full speed—and broke her leg.

The next day, we got about 8 more inches of new snow and Lynn had to plow our driveway and Andrea’s and Michael and Carolyn’s.  At least the roads from Idaho Falls weren’t too bad; Jim and Andrea made it home ok, with Em lying in the back seat with her leg elevated.  They got her situated at home with ice packs and crutches.  She has to keep it iced and elevated to get the swelling out of it before a cast can be put on.

MARCH 9 – Emily had another x-ray of her leg and found that she won’t be able to have a cast put on until after it is surgically repaired.  The tendons are pulled loose from the bone and the break is separating.

            Over the weekend the other kids helped us feed cows and enjoyed riding on the back of the feed truck.

            I’ve been working on the edits and page proofs of my next book, which will be coming out in April.  It’s called Good Horse, Bad Habits and is published by Trafalgar.  This book looks at ways to deal with bad behavior—discussing various tips on retraining problem horses.

            On Sunday Andrea helped us feed the cows and put new straw bales in their empty feeders.  She put more loose salt and mineral in their tub in the tire holder.

Then her friends Jade and Anita came out to the ranch.  Their kids played with Andrea’s kids while they helped us split more wood (with a borrowed wood splitter) for Carolyn and hauled it up to her house, then Andrea fed them supper.

            We had some warmer weather last week and the snow is melting and settling.  On Wednesday Emily had surgery on her leg to reattach the tendons and stabilize the fracture with a metal plate.  The surgery was several hours later than scheduled, and then took awhile, so Andrea wasn’t able to bring Em home until very late that night.  Lynn got the kids off the bus and we fed them summer and then took them home to bed.  Emily has to stay off the leg for 2 weeks, keep it iced and elevated, and then later will have the stitches taken out before a cast can be put on it.

            With the warmer weather there have been a lot of snow slides.  A huge slide closed the road between here and Missoula.  On Thursday water was running down our road and across the fields like rivers.  Water coming down a draw by the upper place nearly washed out the road; Lynn called the county road department and they brought a road grader up that evening and got the flood diverted and the next day brought a couple truck loads of gravel up to fix the wash-out.

            We’ve had Michael and Carolyn’s trailer parked here in the calving pen ever since we were trailer training all our horses last fall and early winter.  Those lessons halted when it got so icy that it was risky to be leading the horses back and forth.  The trailer froze into the ice and we just left it there.  Now it’s finally thawed out, and today Carolyn and Heather brought their truck down to get the trailer and take it home.  We’ll soon be calving and needed to have it out of the calving pen.

MARCH 18 – Andrea’s kids have 2 new puppies.  One of their friends had a litter they needed to give away.  These puppies are half border collie and half Brittany spaniel and they are very cute.  They will help entertain Emily while she is recuperating.

            Our holding pen has thawed out and was getting boggy, so Lynn moved the rest of the big straw bales (that were stacked there) into the hay stack yard.  We soon need to clean out the barn stalls where the two cows with surprise babies spent time, so we can put some new straw in the barn to get ready for calving.

            Saturday morning we fed the cows at the lower end of the field by the gate, and sorted off 5 that are starting to get udders.  We put them in the horse pasture and orchard where we can watch them.  Next Sunday Carolyn and Heather plan to take their herd to the upper place to calve.  The snow is melting off those fields, but yesterday we had another blizzard.  The wind made it a bit challenging to undo (and then redo) the tarp on our big hay stack to get a couple more big alfalfa bales to load on the feed truck.  The wind was so strong it caught our storm door when Lynn went outside, and slammed it against the house and broke it.

            We still have to put a tarp over our feed truck every night to keep the deer from eating the alfalfa hay.  We’ve had to sweep new snow off the tarp on the snowy mornings.

            I’ve been writing the life story for a rancher friend in Oregon who is 86 years old.  He wants to have it written up for his children and grandchildren.  I tape record our conversations on the phone as he tells me his adventures and stories about his life and then type them up.  It’s been a very interesting project.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Winter Late January - Early February 2014

JANUARY 23 – Breezy, the old mare that had her eye removed, was still having problems last week.  I had her on ulcer medication (given 3 times daily—the last dose late at night in the dark) for her gut discomfort.  I started giving her yeast again (mixed in a little water and put into her mouth by syringe) to aid her digestion.  We used warm massage on her neck (where she had some swelling from all her injections).  Rice bags heated in the microwave made nice warm “hot packs” to rub on her neck.  Within a few days of this regime she was feeling better and eating better again.

            Last Wednesday Rusty Hamilton hauled us 20 big straw bales.  Weather has been cold, and the cows are eating a lot of straw along with their daily ration of alfalfa hay.

            Granddaughter Heather is still doing Suzanne’s chores morning and evening.  She stops here on her way home in the mornings and works with Willow for a few minutes.  On Thursday she put Dani’s little saddle on the filly—the first time she’s been saddled.

            Emily turned 16 last week and Sam had her 11th birthday.  Em took her driving test and written test, so now she has her driver’s license.  It will be handy having her able to drive the younger kids to the bus or to hockey practice. when Andrea is busy.

            On Sunday we took off Breezy’s mask and gently washed her eye socket.  That area is no longer so painful, but was swollen again and dirty.  The stitches are probably itchy; she’s been rubbing the side of her face.  We’re glad we have it covered and protected with the padded mask.  The mask was very dirty so we took it off and washed it, then got it dry and put it back on again before night.  It gives her a lot of protection on that side, and also keeps the shaved area warmer in the cold weather.

            Monday there was no school, so that afternoon we had a combined birthday party for Emily and Sam, at the Pizza place.  On Tuesday Emily drove the kids to the school bus so Andrea could sleep a little longer before helping her friends Jade and Anita on a house remodeling project. 

That afternoon when I looked at Breezy’s eye it was oozing yellow fluid between the middle stitches.  The stitches are coming apart.  I called the vet and she prescribed a week of antibiotics—so I am again giving Breezy medication morning and night.  The pills dissolve readily in water so I mix them with a little molasses and she doesn’t mind having the fluid squirted into her mouth.

Andrea’s kids’ female rabbit had babies a few weeks ago and they are getting too big for their cage in the house.  Lynn took our old jeep (with camper shell) to their house and put hay in the back of it; this will be a home for the rabbits until they can make a proper outdoor rabbit hutch.  They need protection from the cold weather.

This evening Charlie had hockey practice and stayed in town, so Lynn got the little girls from the bus and they ate supper with us.  Then Dani made our calving calendar for this year—writing the names of the cows on the dates they are due to calve.

FEBRUARY 2 – Last Friday Andrea took Emily to town very early in the morning to go with one of her teammates to their hockey tournament in Missoula, Montana.  Andrea helped us that morning with feeding—part of a big bale of alfalfa hay—and she drove the other flatbed truck up to the field with the two big straw bales, for Lynn to unload with the tractor and put the feeders around them. 

Just as Lynn and Andrea got back with the tractor and truck, our new Amish neighbor Rosina Yoder and her little boys came hiking up our lane to visit us.  Jayden (a4 years old) was hurrying ahead, eager to see our cats.  He spied Sammy’s old bicycle leaning against the house and was trying to push it around in the snow and ice.  Andrea found a smaller one for him that the kids outgrew years ago, and gave it to him, and Lynn used our air compressor to pump up the tires.

That afternoon Andrea took Sammy and Dani to their hockey tournament here in Salmon) and then took Charlie to Sun Valley (a 6 hour drive) for his first game the next morning.  It’s a bit of a challenge with 4 kids in hockey, going 3 different directions for their tournaments!  While Andrea and Charlie were gone for the weekend, Lynn went up to their house several times and put wood in the stove, to keep things warm and the pipes from freezing.  The little girls stayed with their dad.

I continued giving Breezy antibiotics, and carefully washing her eye, but no longer had to flush the eye; it’s not oozing anymore--just a dry crust at the stitches.

Carolyn and Heather have 2 new pups.  Their good cowdogs (Baxter, Tuff and Tiny) are getting old and lame (arthritis); Fred is their only young dog, so it was time to get some pups coming along.  These pups, Abbey and Katie, are very cute and smart, and Fred is quite jealous of these new kids in HER house.

We had some warmer mornings—not so bitterly cold—and Heather worked briefly with Willow a few times, putting the little saddle on her, driving her in long lines.  On Monday she put a larger saddle on got her used to the feel of weight in the stirrup, then Heather leaned up over her back.  She’ll keep working with her periodically (it got really cold again and we quit for awhile) and by spring will probably start riding her.


Rusty Hamilton said he could bring us another load of straw in a about week, so Lynn took 4 big bales of straw down to John Miller, to replace the 4 he loaned us when we started feeding our cows.  One of the boys unloaded them; they were working on the horse barn they are building.  John and our neighbor Jeff Minor were shoeing their big draft horses—sharp shoes for traction on the ice.

Tuesday a box of books came in the mail—the book on wolves that was recently published.  The book is called The Real Wolf: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Co-existing with Wolves in Modern Times.  It was written by Ted Lyon and Will Graves (who wrote Wolves in Russia) and has chapters by other people including Dr. Valerius Geist of Canada who is a leading expert on wolf behavior.  I wrote the chapter discussing wolf impact on livestock and ranchers.  The purpose of this book is to present scientific facts and dispel the popular fictions about wolves in North America.  The wolf issue has become an emotional topic.

Wednesday it snowed most of the day.  It was hard to see where the worst icy spots were, and Lynn fell down hard on his back when he went out to do his morning chores.  His back and hip are sore, but no broken bones.  With all the new snow, Rusty won’t be able to drive up here with his trucks to bring the straw; we may have to put the blade on one of our tractors and plow the driveway.  This weekend Emily has hockey tournament here, and her team won some of their games. 

Today Andrea took her in for an early game, then got back home late morning in time to help us bring the cows down from the field.  Dani helped, too.  Even though it was 6 below zero this morning, it was a sunny day with no wind, so we went ahead and gave our cows their pre-calving vaccinations and deloused them. 

Carolyn and Heather came down and helped.  Carolyn brought their big 4-wheel drive tractor down for loading the hay and straw, so we won’t have to put chains on our tractor to get around in the snow and up the slippery driveway.  We got the cows done in less than an hour, and took them back up to the field.   We decided to wait and vaccinate the bulls and yearlings another day (and brisket tag the yearling heifers).

FEBRUARY 12 – We’ve had colder weather again, and wind.  The ice is thicker on the creek and it’s more difficult breaking ice for the cows and for the bulls in the corral.  The cows are eating more straw and we have to take big bales up to their feeders more often.  Last Wednesday Carolyn and Heather drove the truck up with the straw, and chopped ice out of the water holes in the creek.  While they waited for Lynn to move the feeders to a different location with the tractor—out of the wind on Heifer Hill and closer to the brush—they looked at all the cows and noticed that Heather’s cow was starting to get more udder, and relaxed muscles around the vulva.  None of the cows are supposed to calve until late March at the earliest (and Michael’s herd isn’t due to start calving until mid April), so this was a concern.

            The cold weather has made the ice so thick on the little stream (spring water) in the back corral that we can no longer use that corral.  Lynn chopped for more than an hour that afternoon to try to find water for the bulls--down to the dirt with no water.  We had to move the yearling bulls out of the front corral (where the creek runs through, with a better water hole through the ice) and put them in the orchard where I can water them with the hydrant and hose, and put the big bulls in the front corral.


            The next morning it was 25 below zero but even colder with wind chill.  Andrea kept the kids home from school; her car wouldn’t start to take them to the bus.  She helped me feed the horses and break ice out of all the water tubs, and then helped us feed the cows and break ice on the creek for them.  We looked at Heather’s young cow and saw frozen blood down her tail and hindquarters and knew that she had calved in the night.  We figured she must have aborted, since she couldn’t be due to calve until April. 

            We assumed she lost a 7 month fetus, but Andrea was determined to find where she calved, and went hiking down through the fields, checking the brush, as Lynn and I drove back home with the feed truck.  As we turn into our driveway, Heather passed us in her little truck—taking garbage to the dump.  I told her the bad news, that her cow had aborted, and that Andrea was hiking down through the field to look for the birth site.

            Lynn and I drove on down toward the house and noticed that all the horses were intently watching something up in the field, and as we came around the corner we saw Andrea struggling across the field, with a calf!  We hurried down to the barnyard and drove up past my haystack and up through the field.  Andrea had found a live, full-term calf, in a deep ditch in the brush along the fence.  Its ears and feet were frozen but it was licked dry and very much alive.  It was a big calf and hard to get it up out of the ditch, but with great determination she succeeded.  She covered it with her coat and was bringing it across the field.  We helped her load it into the pickup cab and hurried home.


            I put towels on the floor by the woodstove and we brought it into the house to warm it up.  Andrea went up to her house to get more towels, a heater, and Dani, who wanted to help thaw out the calf, while I called Carolyn to tell her the good news.  Carolyn called Heather on her cell phone, and they both arrived at our place at the same time to help with the calf.

            We thawed out her ears, tail and feet with warm water.  Her hind feet were so cold that the cold immediately seeped through each hot wet washcloth we applied, but we kept changing them, applying more hot water, until the feet warmed up.  Amazingly, this calf was not chilled to the core; the inside of her mouth was still warm, and she still had circulation in her feet after we warmed them up.  She won’t lose her feet but she will lose the tips of her ears and tail.


            We got her warmed and fed her 2 quarts of colostrum substitute by bottle.  Then the calf was sleepy and Dani babysat the napping calf by the stove while we drove the feed truck back to the field to bring the herd down.  By that time they had finished their day’s ration of alfalfa hay and willingly followed the truck down through the two fields.  Heather’s young cow was at the rear, however, and decided to go back to where she’d calved, so Carolyn and Heather had get off the feed truck and hurry around the cow and bring her on down with the herd and into the horse pasture and maternity pen, where we fed them a little bit of hay.  Then we were able to sort them all back into the horse pasture except the young cow that calved, and Buffalo Girl.

            Emily’s pet cow, Buffalo Girl, is the one we always use for leading heifers into the barn to calve, or to stay in the barn to babysit a nervous heifer.  Heather’s young cow had never been in a barn.  They bought her as a pregnant heifer and she calved mid-summer out in the field.  So we thought it would be wise to use Buffalo Girl to lead her into the barn, and to stay in the adjacent stall to keep her company. 


We brought the calf out into the driveway next to the maternity pen and brought the two cows out—where the nervous mama sniffed her baby, recognized it as hers, and allowed herself to be herded to the barn with Buffalo Girl.

            The baby didn’t nurse mama, however, so at 8 p.m. I thawed some of our frozen colostrum (that we milked out of Maggie last spring and stored in the freezer) and fed her a couple more bottles.  By the next morning the calf had figured out how to nurse and managed to nurse one teat.  By afternoon she was nursing all four quarters, and her hind feet were no longer so swollen.  We were glad she was in the barn (weather was still severely cold that next day).

            We speculated as to how the young cow became pregnant so early, since the bulls weren’t put with the cows until early July.  Putting the pieces of the puzzle together brought a possible answer.  This young cow was part of a group of pregnant cows and heifers that Michael and Carolyn purchased the year before.  She calved mid-summer as a first-calf heifer and didn’t breed back; she was open last year.  There were several late-born calves in that group of cattle, including a bull calf that didn’t get branded or castrated.  He was still with the herd the next spring, and apparently bred the open cow before he and several other late calves were weaned and removed from the group.

            We kept the cow and calf and Buffalo Girl in the barn for several days;

On Saturday it snowed off and on all day, and by Sunday we had a foot of new snow.  Andrea’s kids helped us do chores and feed cows during the weekend, and Charlie drove the feed truck.  The kids enjoyed seeing the baby calf in the barn.  Saturday night we all went to the lasagna dinner at Church, and it was snowing so hard on the way home that we could hardly see the road.  There was so much snow by Monday that school was closed.  Andrea helped us all morning, feeding the cows, getting another sled load of alfalfa hay for the young bulls, helping Lynn put the blade on our little tractor.  That afternoon he plowed her driveway and ours. 


The weather has warmed up and there’s water in the spring channel in the back corral again.  Yesterday Andrea chopped through the ice on the big hole Lynn made last week trying to find water, and there was plenty of water, so we moved the big bulls back there.  We took Buffalo Girl out of the barn and back to the field.  Today, if it’s not snowing, we’ll shovel some snow out of the sheltered corners in the pen below the barn, put down some straw for bedding, and let the young cow and her baby outdoors.

Rusty brought the rest of our straw yesterday—two loads on his flatbed trailer--so it was a good thing Lynn plowed our driveway.  It was still a bit slippery; Rusty had to chain up to get around in our barnyard, but he managed to get in and out of here with his trailer.  It’s nice to have the straw.  We won’t run out now for feeding the cows, and will have a little extra for barn bedding when we calve.

Michael drove home from North Dakota and arrived yesterday evening (barely made it through some bad roads).  He will be home for about a week and it will be really nice to have him home!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Winter 2014 December - January

I apologize for getting so far behind again with this diary of our lives here on the ranch.  I will try to catch up in the next few months.

DECEMBER 20, 2013 – A week ago last Tuesday the vet came out and took a biopsy of the growth on Breezy’s left eye.  The results came back as cancer, so the eye will have to come out.  We thought it might be a good idea to help her adjust ahead of time to being blind on that side, so Carolyn sewed two layers of denim onto the left side of a mesh fly mask, and we put it on Breezy.  She seems to be adjusting pretty well.

        Our very cold weather finally moderated a little.  When Lynn broke a bigger hole in the ice for the bulls to drink, in the spring in our back corral, the ice was more than a foot thick. The roads were good when Michael and Nick came home.  They met in South Dakota—Nick coming from college in Iowa and Michael from his truck driving job in North Dakota—and convoyed the rest of the way home together.  They made it home late last Thursday night.  Andrea took Lynn to his doctor appointment in Missoula, Montana that day for a checkup.  It will soon be a year since he had the stents put in his heart.
        All of Andrea’s kids are playing on hockey teams this winter.  The little girls had their first home tournament last weekend.



        The weather finally warmed up enough to butcher Freddy—the cow that almost died last summer.  She regained her lost weight and looked really good, and we’d planned to butcher her last month.  Then the weather got too cold.  We didn’t want Andrea’s hands to freeze while field-dressing that old cow.  So Sunday afternoon after the kids’ hockey games, Andrea and Lynn butchered the cow.  Michael and Nick helped; it took twice as long as normal to get the guts out of the carcass; there were multiple adhesions.  She must have had peritonitis last summer when she was so ill.  We left the carcass hanging on the tractor in the barnyard to cool out, and covered it with tarps to keep the magpies off.
        Whitetail deer have been coming into our haystack at night—about 20 of them--and eating a lot of the alfalfa hay.  Lynn put more elk panels around the spots they are getting in.  The weather got very cold again for a few days.  We haven’t started feeding hay yet; we need to stretch our little bit of pasture as long as possible so make sure our hay will last all winter.  With the cold weather we needed to encourage the cows to keep grazing the old dry grass, so we bought some protein supplement and more mineral mix.   
        Tuesday night we went to the school music concert.  Charlie plays trombone in the middle school band and Samantha started playing trumpet this year in the beginner’s band.  It was a nice program.
        A couple days ago Michael took the shoes off Sprout and Ed, and the hind shoes off Dottie (I’d already removed her fronts a month ago).  We won’t be riding any more this winter, with the ice and cold weather.  Today Andrea and girls went up the creek with Michael and Nick to get Christmas trees, and the girls enjoyed playing in the snow and making snow angels.

        This afternoon Andrea cleaned out a space in Dani’s room for Michael and Nick to hide a new chair that they are buying for Carolyn for Christmas—so it will truly be a surprise.   They will come pick it up on Christmas day.

JANUARY 1 – Last week we met the new Amish neighbors from Indiana who are renting the little house a mile below our place, and took them Christmas gifts.  They have two little boys age 2 and 4.  We also took gifts around to the other 2 Amish families on Maurer’s old place.  One of John Miller’s boys broke his ankle playing hockey and had to have surgery the day after Christmas to put the main bone back together.
        A couple days before Christmas we started leading Breezy around a little to get her used to being handled blind on that side. 

        Michael brought their stock trailer and parked it in our calving pen where we could work with several of the horses to get them used to going in it.  Breezy hasn’t been in a trailer since she arrived here nearly 18 years ago as a green 4-year-old.  We wanted to make sure we could get her into a trailer to take her to the vet clinic for her eye removal. 

        The first day, I simply let Breezy (and the two fillies) eat some alfalfa hay from a big tub at the back of the trailer.  Dottie and Willow haven’t had much experience with trailers, either, except when they came here as a weanling and two year old.  Dottie was suspicious of the trailer at first.  When it was Willow’s turn to eat out of the tub at the back, she wasn’t that interested in the food; she was curious about the trailer and decided to hop right in.  She’s a very bold young filly!  Over the next few days we gave all of them some trailer lessons, and put Breezy in with Ed, who is an experienced traveler. 

Christmas morning Nick and Heather picked up the chair for Carolyn on their way back from doing the neighbor’s chores, and dropped off a desk for Charlie for Christmas—one that they didn’t need anymore.   It was wrapped in blankets so it would be a surprise for Charlie.  Andrea had wrapped the big chair box in Christmas paper, so Carolyn wouldn’t know what it was until she opened it.  Nick and Heather managed to get it into their house and surprise her.  After chores Lynn and I went up to Andrea’s house to watch her kids open their gifts.  That evening we had dinner at our place.

After Christmas we continued the trailer loading lessons for the horses.  Old Veggie (who will be 28 this spring) is the only reluctant one.  He’s never ridden in a trailer.  But he is finally getting in now (with his sister Rubbie) and is comfortable standing in there to eat alfalfa hay. 


Emily went with friends to her hockey tournament in Kalispell, Montana.  On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and kids brought their small herd of cows down the road from the upper place, leading them down with the pickup with hay in it, and following them on 4-wheelers.  We put them with our cows, and started feeding hay to the combined group.  We were pleased that they didn’t fight very much and seem to be getting along just fine.  We’re glad our little bit of fall pasture lasted this long and didn’t snow under too deeply.

 On Monday we put a horse blanket on Breezy briefly for the first time in her life, to get her used to it.  Yesterday we did our chores and feeding early.  Breezy didn’t get to have any food before her surgery, however.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather came at 9:30 and we loaded Ed and Breezy in the trailer and took them to town to the vet clinic. 

 We left Ed in a corral at the back and took Breezy into the padded stall where the vet put her under general anesthesia and removed her left eye.  Breezy was waking up just as the vet finished stitching the lids back together, and lurched to her feet before the vet could put the bandage on.  But she managed to get the mesh and bandage in place after Breezy staggered and fell against the wall and was immobile for a few moments.

After Breezy was fully awake we put her padded eye cover back on, and the horse blanket, to help keep her warm on the way home.  She was drenched with sweat from the drugs and the stress.  We were thankful the weather moderated (barely freezing, rather than so bitterly cold).  She eagerly hopped in the trailer as I put Ed in, and rode home ok.  We kept the blanket on her after we put her in her pen, and tried to towel her neck and belly dry.  It started snowing hard by mid-afternoon and we took her into the barn, but she became very nervous in the barn and we had to take her out after about an hour.  Fortunately the snowstorm was letting up a bit, and she didn’t get too cold.  We put her in our side pen by the house, under the yard light, so I could check on her through the night.  This morning she seems to be doing ok so I put her back in her own pen.

JANUARY 14 – We kept Breezy on antibiotics (given twice a day orally) for a week, and on Banamine (to help relieve pain and swelling) twice daily for 5 days.  Andrea or one of the girls held the flashlight for me to give her the injections and medication late at night.  We changed her eye bandage daily for nearly a week, until there was no longer any oozing from the incision.  That area is very painful and sensitive so we had to be careful to not touch her face very much.


        While Michael was home he borrowed our flatbed trailer and hauled several more loads of hay for Heather—small bales that she bought from a neighbor.  This will be her year’s supply of hay for her horse training program.
        A couple weeks ago Lynn borrowed a wood splitter.  He and Andrea and kids split several pickup loads of firewood and took it up to Michael and Carolyn’s house.  That evening we had everyone here for supper before Michael and Nick went back (to North Dakota and Iowa).
        The day before Michael left, he and the kids brought their orphan calf, Peabody, down here in the trailer, to live with our heifers for the winter.  Peabody was the twin whose mother abandoned him, and they raised him on a bottle.  They weaned him off milk replacer a couple months ago, but he was still enjoying a bottle of warm water at feeding time.  After he came down here and no longer had his bottle, he was upset and forlorn—pacing the fences and bawling, and not wanting to socialize with the heifers at all—it was like he was being weaned from a mother cow!
        The little kids enjoyed sledding on our slippery, icy driveway the weekend before they went back to school after Christmas vacation.  With our old-fashioned runner sleds they could whiz down the slope from the old root cellar clear across the bridge past the house.


         The frozen cow carcass was hanging on our tractor loader for a couple of weeks, but we needed the tractor to load the big alfalfa bales to feed the cows.  So Andrea, Emily and Lynn sawed off the front quarters to take up to Andrea’s house.  She had to let the meat thaw for a whole day before she could cut and wrap it.  She did the hindquarters a few days later, then ground all the hamburger. 

It’s nice to have our tractor available for use again!  We are feeding the cows about 10 pounds of alfalfa hay per day, and letting them eat some year-old barley straw (big bales in feeders) free choice to provide the roughage they need.  When we ran out of old bales we borrowed a few bales of straw from our new neighbor John Miller until we can have another load of big bales delivered here.  The deer eat on our alfalfa hay on the truck at night so we had to start putting a big tarp over the hay. 

 A few days ago I trimmed Willow’s feet.  Young Heather has been working with her again the past few days, refreshing her memory on lessons with driving, longeing, etc.  It’s just been awhile since we’ve done much with her except a few trailer loading lessons and the filly is needs to go back to school and be reminded of her manners! 
Heather is also working with a group of horses that the owner wants broke to ride before the horse sale in April.  She started that project yesterday, working with those horses a ranch that has an indoor training arena.
This past weekend Andrea took Sam and Dani to Sun Valley for their first “away” hockey tournament. 


        While they were gone Charlie and Em ate with us, and played games here after supper.  Charlie helped Heather every morning, driving the pickup for her to feed horses on the upper place.

        The past few days were warm and windy; some of the ice on the driveway is melting.  Breezy’s eye seems to be doing fine, but she’s had gastric discomfort the past couple of days and isn’t eating very well.  We hope she doesn’t have ulcers from all the medication she was on for the week after her eye surgery.  I started giving her some ulcer medication yesterday.     

Sunday, March 9, 2014

November - December 2013

NOVEMBER 22 – Last Saturday weather was mild and Andrea brought Sam down to help us get the horses ready to ride and Lynn took Charlie and Dani up to ride Carolyn’s horses (Gus and Thelma).  Granddaughter Heather helped them get those horses saddled, and she rode Romeo, the horse she’s training. 

We’re giving Ed the winter off because she gets too frisky and goofy when she’s only ridden occasionally, and we don’t want Dani to become scared of her.  They’ve made such a good team.  We’ll just have Dani start riding Ed again next spring after Andrea or I have written her a few times.

Andrea (on Sprout), Sam on Breezy, and me on Dottie rode up the creek to meet up with Carolyn, Heather and the other two kids.  We went for a ride over the low range.  It got windy and threatened to snow, so we cut it short and made it home to our place before the storm hit.

But Carolyn, Heather, Dani and Charlie had to ride 3 more miles back up the creek to put their horses away.  The blizzard hit them just before they got there, with snow hitting them in the face.  We were glad they wore heavy coats and warm hats!

That afternoon Andrea drove to Idaho Falls (170 miles) for her appointment with her pain doctor and refill her pain meds, and while she was there she bought hockey gear for the kids—since all 4 of her kids are playing hockey this year.  I fed the kids supper that night, since Andrea was very late getting home.

On Sunday Andrea and I made a short ride on Sprout and Dottie in the wind, still trying to ride every day that we can.  When we got back, I took off Dottie’s front shoes, since they are worn out and her feet are getting long.  The worn-out shoes had no traction and were dangerous on slippery, frozen ground or ice.  I’ll take her hinds off at a later date.  For several days I rode with Carolyn and Heather; Andrea was busy the rest of the week helping some friends put a new roof on a local church.

Carolyn and Heather sorted their cows, keeping some and sending the rest to a bred cow sale at Butte, Montana.  They are selling those to pay off the loan on their cows.  Bred cows have been worth quite a bit so they hoped the cows would bring a good price, but that particular day there weren’t very many buyers at the sale and most of their cows were sold at cull cow prices, which left them a bit short for paying the loan.  We helped them make up the difference and they can pay us back later.

Monday morning Heather came down and worked with Willow for awhile, teaching her to drive in long lines, and doing more ground work with her.  We may start riding her a little next summer when she’s two.

Tuesday afternoon our vet come out and checked Breezy’s left eye.  The back corner (white part of the eye) has been red and irritated for quite awhile (we had a vet look at it a couple years ago), but now there’s a growth in that corner and we are afraid it’s cancerous. 

The vet took a scraping of the growth to check under a microscope, and found mostly epithelial cells (normal tissue), a lot of bacterial cells and only a couple cancerous type cells.  She prescribed an antibacterial ointment, to put into the eye twice daily for two weeks, and then will check it again.  We’re hoping it’s not a malignant growth because that would mean the eye would have to be removed.

Breezy doesn’t like having the ointment put in under her eyelid and it takes two of us to do it—to have enough hands to hold the eyelids open and put the ointment in.  These last couple days the weather has been cold; the ointment wouldn’t come out of the tube.  I have to put it in a bottle of hot water when I take it outside to medicate the eye.

This afternoon we moved Freddy and the 4 weaned heifers to the field below the lane, where we can plug in the tank heater—and not have to break ice out of their water trough every day.  It was too cold to ride today, so Dottie got a day off from training.

DECEMBER 1 – Last Saturday it was still cold, but Heather and I rode our two trainees for a short loop over the low range.  Dotty was grumpy and frisky in the cold weather but I was able to keep her from bucking.  That evening Alfonzo brought all his cows down to the lower fields (weaning his calves and leaving them in the corral at the Gooch place) so the cows were all trying to come back through the fence between us.  He still has bulls with his cows, so we didn’t want them right next to Freddy (since she’s not pregnant and might come in heat).  To avoid the risk of having bulls crash through the fence, I lured Freddy with a flake of hay and led her up to the corral below the barn.  Now she’ll have to be fed hay until we butcher her.  The 4 heifers will probably be ok in that field because they are too young to be breeding yet, and won’t attract the bulls.

The next morning, some of Alfonzo’s cows (after trying all night to get through our fence) crashed over his fence along the road—which is in worse shape than our fence—and trooped back up the road to the Gooch place to try to get back to their calves.  Later that morning Alfonzo and his son brought 7 of those cows down again (including one that had a small calf with her, that apparently crawled out of the corral to join her), and a couple hours later brought 2 more back down. They put some steel posts in the broken-down fence.

Andrea, Carolyn, Heather and I rode that afternoon, making a long loop over the low range, since Dottie needs more miles to settle down her goofy attitude on these cold days.  As we came back over the ridge to come home we saw 3 cows of Alfonzo’s trying to get out again, crashing the newly fixed fence.  One cow got stuck in the fence and struggled and bellowed, and flipped over backward.  She tried again, and made it over the fence.  Apparently 8 or 9 cows went right back up to their calves, and this time Alfonzo gave up and left them up on the Gooch place.  This was a relief to us.  We don’t like our place being used as a buffer zone for his weaning—with his cows trying to come through our fences.

Carolyn sent a package to Michael in North Dakota by Fed-Ex, to deliver to the truck shop where he’s located.  He’d run out of prescription meds, including his blood pressure pills, since his job demanded him staying longer back there than originally planned—and wasn’t able to come home for Thanksgiving.  The package arrived the day before Thanksgiving, as planned, but was delivered to the wrong place, and wasn’t located until a week later.  It sat outside during that time and the medication froze—reducing the effectiveness of the blood pressure pills.

Andrea and crew kept working on the church roof and finally finished it the day before Thanksgiving.  Those days I rode with Carolyn and Heather.  On Wednesday Dani rode with us, on Thelma—Carolyn’s old horse—and Sam rode Breezy.  After our ride the two little girls filled our woodbox, to help Grandpa, since he’d taken Andrea’s snow tires to town to be put on her car while she was at work.

When Lynn got home he started his tractor and brought 2 big square bales around to my stack yard—to augment my dwindling hay.  He also took a bale below the lane, so we can start feeding Freddy (until we get a chance to butcher her) and our young heifers in the adjacent field if the snow covers their pasture.  We put tarps over those big bales to protect them from snow and rain.

We had Thanksgiving dinner here for Andrea and Emily (the other kids were at their Dad’s) and Carolyn and Heather.  Michael wasn’t able to come home, nor Nick (too far, from college in Iowa) but they will both be home for Christmas.

The next day Andrea rode with Carolyn, Heather and me, glad to be done with the roofing project.  Our plan is to keep riding Sprout and Dottie as much as possible this winter.

Today it rained and we didn’t ride.  I started feeding our heifers a little bit of hay, just to get them used to coming to me.  This evening we had a second Thanksgiving dinner up at Andrea’s place after her kids got home from their Dad’s, and invited Carolyn and Heather to join us.

DECEMBER 10 – Last Monday it was rainy off and on but Andrea and I managed to make a short ride between storms.  It turned out to be our last ride of the year.

When we got back, I took off Breezy’s shoes for winter, and then it started to snow.  I still need to get Ed’s shoes off, and we need to either take off Sprout’s shoes or reshoe her, depending on whether we can keep riding through winter as planned.  Our weather became suddenly very cold (below zero) and we haven’t ridden now for more than a week, so I’m not sure if we can continue riding and training Dottie and Sprout.

Lynn was supposed to go to Missoula for a checkup (heart doctor) last Tuesday but postponed because of snowstorms and bad roads.  He’s rescheduled for this Thursday.  It got so cold that it became impossible to put ointment in Breezy’s eye morning and evening, so we quit.  It had been nearly 2 weeks of treatment anyway, and the vet is coming out again to check her eye.

With the snow and cold weather I started feeding our heifers a little alfalfa hay.  We haven’t started feeding the cows yet; they still have some rough feed left.  We bought a little protein supplement to encourage them to keep grazing, and hope we won’t have to start feeding hay for a few more weeks—unless the last of our grass snows under. The creek froze over and Lynn is chopping ice daily on their water holes.

Carolyn and Heather took the shoes off the rest of the horses they’ve been riding, and turned them out on pasture for winter.  They brought Mr. Peabody (the orphan twin calf they raised on a bottle) down from the upper corral so he wouldn’t be all by himself up there.  Heather led him down the mile down the road to the corrals by their house, using one of her mom’s old show halters with a chain under the chin, and he was broke to lead by the time they got down to the house.  After Michael gets home from North Dakota for Christmas they plan to castrate that big calf, and then he can live with our heifers for winter.

Heather has been doing chores for Suzanne Nebeker—one of our local doctors who lives across the valley from us.  She has horses, and raises and shows Tennessee Walkers.  This past week she went to Salt Lake City, Utah for surgery and will be gone awhile, so Heather has been taking care of her horses.  Thursday afternoon when Heather went over there to feed the horses she discovered a herd of elk had gone through the pens and pastures and scared the horses.  The elk were still there—about 30 of them in a frightened group—huddled in a fence corner in a neighbor’s field.

One of Suzanne’s mares had jumped over a fence and injured herself and couldn’t get up.  She was lying on the ground and very cold.  Heather had a wool horse blanket in her car and put it over the mare and called her mom and the vet.  Carolyn, the vet and a couple neighbors worked with the mare into the night, building a shelter of panels and straw around her and covering her with blankets.  The vet gave her fluid and medication to ease the pain and inflammation.  After the mare warmed up she tried to get up, but her hind legs wouldn’t work.  The injury seemed to be in her pelvis.

She made it through the night and was perky the next morning, eating and drinking, but shortly after noon she suddenly died.  The vet came back out and thought that she probably split her pelvis in the accident, and in one of her later attempts to get up the bones shifted and severed an artery and she quickly bled to death.  It was a terrible tragedy—a sad end for a very nice (and valuable) mare.

The elk are still in the neighborhood.  They spent 3 days huddled in the neighboring field—a plowed field—with nothing to eat.  We are assuming wolves drove them down out of the high country (a pack of 6 wolves left tracks across the road only a few miles above the neighborhood where Suzanne’s horses are).

Friday morning Emily and Andrea drove to Bozeman, Montana for Em’s hockey tournament.

The weather was bitterly cold (40 below zero) just over the hill from us in Montana.  Andrea and Emily got back home Sunday evening.  We moved our cows to Heifer Hill and the little field below it that still has some grass, and Andrea helped Lynn move their protein tubs.  Three of the yearlings wouldn’t cross the bridge and didn’t want to cross the creek ice, but Lynn and Andrea were finally able to herd them across the creek.

Carolyn and Heather came down to get a pickup load of firewood.  We’ve been burning a lot of wood these days to keep our houses warm.  This morning it’s not quite so cold—it didn’t go below zero last night.  It’s supposed to storm again, so we’re hoping the roads won’t be too nasty for Nick driving home from college (from Iowa) tomorrow.