Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - December 13, 2018 through January 15, 2019

DECEMBER 21 – We had warmer weather last week, above freezing during the days. Michael and Carolyn got a trailer load of hay to haul to the upper place for their cows, and brought their tractor down to load it (and hauled an extra bale with the tractor). He also helped us break loose one of the round bale feeders in the bull pen that was starting to freeze down in the ice, and carried both feeders out to the hold pen with his tractor so they’d be easier for us to take them on up to the field for the cows.

Last weekend Andrea, Jim, Charlie and girls helped Emily move more of her things to the storage shed, and got her moved out of the rental house (which the landlord wants to remodel), and got her dogs and cats moved up here.

On Sunday Michael helped me take the shoes off Ed, Shiloh (she’d already lost one front shoe) and hind shoes off Sprout (I’d already taken off her fronts) and trimmed their feet.

Monday morning there were more than 100 elk on the hill above Andrea’s house, going back and forth trying to get through the fence. They had apparently been spooked by something (maybe the wolf pack that’s been in the area for several weeks) and had come through our place and were having a little trouble getting out. Our cows were fussed by all the elk and didn’t go to the hill to graze that day. A few elk were still on our hillside by late afternoon.

The elk came through again for several days and the cows finally got used to them and went to the hill to graze in spite of the elk. One elk calf stayed for nearly a week, hanging around close to Andrea’s house, and very unafraid—almost as if it felt safer near the cattle and humans.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent a few more photos of young Joseph (now more than a year and a half old), including one taken while he was napping in the truck.
Joseph
Joseph taking a nap in the truck
On Tuesday Jim hauled one of the feeders to heifer hill on his little trailer, so it will be there when we have to start feeding hay. It started raining that night, and turned to snow by morning. The roads were very slippery and treacherous. We were going to sort the cows (and put the young ones on heifer hill so we can feed them separately and give them some better hay) but they all went to the hill to graze so we waited a couple more days. Jim and Charlie took a bale of coarse hay from my hay shed to make beds for Emily’s dogs in the dog houses Jim fixed for them at Andrea’s place.

Yesterday it snowed a little more and I took photos around the barnyard—including the yard fence and elm tree, and snow on the willows by the bridge.
new snow on willow by the bridge
snow on the yard fence, elm tree and hay shed
As I hiked around doing chores I took more photos –of snow on the big old sagebrush next to where we park the tractor, snow on the pens by the calving barn, and snow on the old woodshed behind the corral. A snowy morning is beautiful quiet and peaceful; the snow seems to muffle all small sounds and produces a quiet calm.
snow on sagebrush next to tractor
snow on pens by barn
snowy corral and wood shed
There’s not much grass left on the hillside by Andrea’s house, and the snow is covering up what little is left, so today we sorted the cows and started feeding hay. Lynn and I took his 4-wheeler up to the field with a little bale on it, which we scattered around by the upper gate (and a little bit on the other side of the gate) and easily sorted the young cows (first and second calvers) through the gate into the heifer hill pasture. We left the older cows in the field by Andrea’s house. There’s still some grass on heifer hill (it hadn’t been grazed this fall after haying) so we’ll let those young cows clean it up for a few days, unless the snow gets deeper.


DECEMBER 31 – Last Saturday Andrea and her friend Scott went up the creek to get a Christmas tree for her kids, and took a photo looking down on our creek valley and the top of our upper place.
view of our creek from the mountain above our place
As they started up the road from our place, they hauled a tub to leave at heifer hill on their way. Lynn took salt and mineral up there on his 4-wheeler and secured the tub to the fence so the cows wouldn’t tip it over. That afternoon he delivered a few Christmas gifts around the neighborhood and went to town to get mail and groceries and take a gift to his sister Jenelle. While he was gone I made some gifts for family (everyone gets a T-shirt with a horse or some other critter or a cartoon drawn on it).

Sunday Michael and Carolyn came down with the flatbed trailer for more hay, with chains on his truck this time, so he could make it up our slippery driveway with the loaded trailer.

Andrea decorated the Christmas tree at her house (the kids were out at Mark’s place for the first part of their Christmas vacation, so they didn’t have a chance to help with it). She took photos of the decorated tree.
Andrea's Christmas tree
The day before Christmas Lynn went to town for his physical therapy (his shoulder is getting better, little by little, and he met up with Andrea to do some shopping for her kids (school clothes, etc. for Christmas). I made more T-shirts for friends and family. I also boxed up my old chaps for Andrea, the ones that have always been a little too long for me—and they will fit her better because she is taller. When we are riding in rain or snow checking cows on the 320 in the fall, she needs something better to protect her legs going through the wet brush, to keep her legs warm and dry; her thin leather motorcycle “chaps” are not as durable, and more easily damaged by a lot of moisture.

These old chaps have a lot of history behind them; they are more than 100 years old. They were given to me about 63 years ago when I was a young teenager, by an old cowboy named Carl Enquist who had a ranch farther up the valley from ours. He was old and ill, and no longer riding horses, and he appreciated the fact that I rode a lot out on the range, looking after the cattle. He gave me his chaps, which had seen many years and many miles. They had been repaired a few times, with a new strap and buckle). They had big pockets; he used to carry a lunch when he was riding all day, and was known to have a piece of pie in one of those pockets.

I hadn’t used those chaps for a long time; I have a shorter pair I use for shoeing horses, and some lightweight chinks that I use for riding in cold or wet weather (that Michael and Carolyn gave me about 5 or 6 years ago). After Andrea and I rode a few times this fall in wet, miserable weather (and she wore her motorcycle pants) I decided she could use those old chaps, and they would make a gift at Christmas—passing along a bit of history and “horse gear” that saw a lot of action on this range a long time ago.

Christmas day we went up to Andrea’s house early afternoon, after the kids got back from their dad’s place. We had a potluck bunch of snacks and food instead of a big dinner, with lots of goodies to eat while we opened gifts and enjoyed the day. Here are some photos Andrea took as we were sitting around enjoying the day.
Jim's lamp - The Great Divides
Charlie & Sam
Sam on Christmas
Andrea’s friend Scott was there, as well. Michael and Carolyn dropped by briefly in the evening, and Emily and her friend Greg came out to spend the evening, too. Here are a few more of Andrea’s candid photos.
Em on Christmas
Kids on Christmas
Later, she tried on the chaps I gave her, and here’s what they look like on her.

Andrea's new old chaps
The day after Christmas Lynn went with his sister Jenelle to one of her doctor appointments in Rexburg. He got up early and met her at Baker at 7:30 and they had good roads and a good trip, getting back that evening just after dark.

Michael and Carolyn got another load of hay that day, and Charlie came down and filled our wood box. Andrea checked the ice on the creek, to make sure the cows could still get to water.

The next day it was snowing, and time to start feeding the cows. Charlie and Andrea helped me haul a bunch of little bales on the feed truck from my hay shed, to stack by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens, then we loaded up a few old bales in the stackyard to feed the cows in the field by Andrea’s house.
feeding the cows
Our internet server was out of commission all day, and I was unable to send several articles to some of my editors, and had to call one of them to explain why I couldn’t meet the deadline. We learned later that Century-tel was “down” in 37 states. Fortunately they got the problem fixed by the next morning.

During the Christmas vacation Charlie had a chance to set up his new computer and here’s what it looks like. It’s a good thing he’s very computer-savvy; he was able to get it programmed and functional by himself.
Charlie's new computer
Friday Andrea and the girls left early to drive to Idaho Falls for Dani’s check-up with the orthodontist, to adjust her braces. The weather was clear and cold (nearly down to zero) and the roads were good. Lynn and I fed the cows a few more old bales from the stackyard, and took salt and mineral to them. We had to break loose the big tractor tire that was frozen down (pulling on it with the feed truck), to get it farther away from the ditch before we put the tub in it for the salt/mineral mix. Then we drove up to heifer hill and gave those young cows their first feeding of hay this winter.
feeding young cows on heifer hill
That afternoon Charlie and Jim drove to Hughes Creek to check on Russ (home from the hospital in Missoula, after his fall from his roof and breaking 6 ribs and puncturing a long). They hauled firewood in for him, and brought a load home.

Saturday it snowed some more. Andrea helped us feed the cows again, cleaning up the last of the little bales from the stackyard. That night we plugged in the tractor and the feed truck.

That evening she and the kids went to visit her friend Scott and his son Landon and she took a few photos—when Landon was showing them his computer, and when the girls were enjoying a bon fire that evening in Scott’s back yard.
kids checking out Landon's computer
Sam & Dani
Yesterday morning I did chores in a blizzard, but it quit snowing by mid-morning which was nicer for feeding the cows. Charlie and Andrea helped us, and we took one of the tarps off our stack of big round bales, so we could take a bale with the tractor to heifer hill—to put in the feeder up there for the young cows. Then Lynn and I took a bale of second cutting to the young heifers in the field below the lane while Andrea and Charlie dragged a bale feeder, with the 4-wheeler, up to the field by Andrea’s house. While Lynn and I took a big bale of straw up there for those cows, Charlie and Andrea started getting the tarp off the old alfalfa stack, and we loaded two big bales on the feed truck. We are now feeding the cows a little alfalfa hay daily, to go with their barley straw.
Some of the cows were down in the lower end of the swamp pasture when we drove up there yesterday, and I took a photo of LillyAnn and her daughter Lilly Annie.
cows in late December
This morning was cold again (7 degrees). The cows are eating quite a bit of straw in this cold weather, to generate body heat via digestion (forage breakdown in the rumen creates a lot of heat). The feed truck wouldn’t start, however, in spite of being plugged in for 6 hours, and we had to use jumper cables to get it started. It needs a new battery.


JANUARY 6 – On the first day of the New Year it was 10 below zero and only got up to 15 degrees for a high. We kept our stove going all night, and let the kitchen and bathroom sinks drip so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. The feed truck would not start, even after being plugged in for 17 hours, so we had to jumper it again, this time with the battery charger rather than have to start another vehicle to jumper it with. Lynn and I got the cows fed and Andrea chopped holes in the creek ice for the cows to drink. We put a new battery in the feed truck, and it started much better the next day. Also it wasn’t quite so cold; the low for the night was 10 above zero.

We used up all the old small bales in the stackyard, so after we got the cows fed we untarped the end of the new stack and loaded some on the truck to stack by the bull pen, and left a few on the truck to feed along with the alfalfa. Michael and Carolyn brought the flatbed trailer and loaded 10 big straw bales to take up for their cows on the upper place—to use as feed and bedding during the cold weather.

Andrea’s friend Scott and his friend Mike worked several days finishing the wall for Sam’s bedroom and it looks really nice.
new wall
Sam's new wall
Sam plans to paint a solar system on her new wall. She also has a new look; she dyed her hair back to plain blonde again.
Sam's new look
We’re trading some of our old machinery and pickup beds for part of the carpentry work; Mike enjoys repairing and restoring old vehicles and farm machinery and he was like a kid in a candy store looking at all the old junk parked here and there around our barnyard.

Dani practiced shooting her old bow and realized she’s outgrown it. Her arms are now too long for it!
Dani shooting bow

Wednesday morning Mark’s girlfriend Dawn (who has been living at Mark’s place for several years) had a heart attack and was sent by life-flight to a hospital in Idaho Falls. Mark drove down there to stay with her, and asked Andrea if Charlie could stay out at his place that night to do the chores and feed the pets. Andrea let Charlie and Sam stay at their dad’s place that night, and through this weekend (and let Dani go out there, too) even though it was Andrea’s weekend to have the kids. She felt it was more important to have them help out at their dad’s place and take care of things while he was gone. With the cold weather someone needed to stay there to keep the fire going, etc. Dawn had surgery Thursday morning, to put 3 stents in her heart, and Mark stayed with her until he was able to bring her home again on Saturday.

It was only 7 degrees on Thursday and our tractor barely started even though it had been plugged in all night. We used it to take an old straw bale up in the field by Andrea’s house to scatter in the brush where the cows like to bed. The willows at the edge of the field make a natural shelter, with almost a “roof” as well as a windbreak, so we put straw in amongst the willows for bedding. Here are photos of what the bedding area looks like, and the feeder where we put big straw bales for the cows to eat. The bale in the feeder was nearly gone that day.
bedding in the willow
bedding area with willow roof over it
straw nearly gone in feeder
We also took a big straw bale up to the brush in the field below heifer hill, and let those cows come down into that field, to have a better place to bed at night and get out of the wind. Andrea dragged their feeder (which was nearly empty) down to the next field, pulling it with her 4-wheeler, and we took another round bale of grass/alfalfa hay up there to put in the feeder.

Friday it warmed up a little (with a low of 14 degrees) and actually got up to 29 degrees. Michael and Carolyn hauled more loads of hay up to their place, one each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Scott and Mike finished the carpentry work and painted the walls on Saturday, so it was a nice surprise for Sam when the kids came back from Mark’s place this evening (and had dinner here at our house).

Today was the warmest day we’ve had for quite a while; it actually got above freezing. We put a new bale in the heifers’ feeder and took a bale of straw for them to bed on. Andrea took a picture as Lynn was bringing their hay bale with the tractor.
feeding heifers Jan 6
We are enjoying this warmer weather’ it almost feels like spring! That evening I cooked dinner for everyone here at our house. Em came out late, so Andrea took a plateful of food for her, and Em ate it up at Andrea’s house while she visited with her siblings and enjoyed the attention of one of the house cats.
Em eating a late supper

JANUARY 15 
– The warm weather only lasted a day. Last Monday morning it was 30 degrees at 4 a.m. and then the wind started blowing and we had some rain that quickly turned to snow as the temperature dropped. Andrea and Jim went out to help Russ (Jim cleaned his chimney—the job Russ was starting to do last month when he fell off the roof and broke his ribs—and Andrea fed his horses), and they brought home more firewood.

We had a fresh coating of snow on everything, including the old brush and little tool shed by the creek.
more snow
Tuesday morning was cold again (about 2 degrees). Lynn went to town for his last session of physical therapy for his shoulder (it is doing much better) and Andrea and I fed the cows. She moved the young cows’ feeder with her 4-wheeler, and brought their mineral tub down closer to where they bed at night, and tied it to a tree so the cows won’t tip it over. Lynn and I took a big bale to those cows that afternoon after he got home from town.

The next day was a little warmer but there was still some thick ice on the creek that we had to break so the cows cold drink. That afternoon Lynn went to town and transferred the title of our old car (a 22-year old Chevy Lumina) to Emily as an early birthday present for her; we loaned it to her this past fall but she needs something to keep driving until her old car gets fixed. This old white car, which she named “Luna” when we got it the summer of 2000—needing something dependable for Lynn to drive on the frequent trips to Salt Lake to the burn ICU to be with Andrea after her burn injury—is just a year older than Emily. She has a special bond with it, since we took her in Luna later that summer to see her mama when Andrea was finally well enough to have her little 2.5-year old daughter come visit her in the hospital.

Andrea and her friend Scott got another load of firewood that morning at Hughes Creek, and the next day Jim went down there and cut up some more wood, and helped Russ with some of his chores.

Jim recently finished a very unique lamp, which he named The Great Divide. The base of the lamp is a piece of burl wood with many contours, like a rugged mountain ridge, and he placed tiny figures on it—Indians and horses, teepees, etc.—and turquoise insets looking like streams of water. He’s hoping to find a buyer for it.
Jim's lamp - The Great Divide
closeup of lamp base
Thursday and Friday were quite warm—barely freezing at night, and up to 40 degrees during the day. We didn’t have to worry about ice in the horse tubs or on the cows’ drinking holes at the creek. I wrote a letter of condolence to one of our good friends in Montana who lost her husband to kidney problems. We met those two wonderful people in Salt Lake when Andrea was having physical therapy after her burn injury and he was also having physical therapy from an earlier burn injury. Some of the folks we met through our shared experiences with burn survival became very dear friends—like family.

Thursday morning Andrea helped Lynn and me load up some small bales to haul to the bulls (to feed them for the next week or so) and after we fed the cows she went to town to talk to Dani’s teachers about her eye problems; Dani is having trouble reading because of her eyes and will be seeing an eye specialist next month.

These past few days I’ve been working many hours checking the page proofs for the third edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, and putting in updates from the 2nd edition (that came out 10 years ago). The new edition will come out later this year. The 4th edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle (which I updated earlier this year) came out a couple months ago and this is what the new edition looks like. It includes many new photos, all in color this time.
new cattle book
A few days ago Jim sawed out a few trees in the stackyard that were leaning toward the end of our old stack, and got them out of the way so we can get to that end to load the old alfalfa bales and old straw.
trees gone from back end of stack so we could get to it
The next day Andrea and Scott got a huge load of firewood (on truck and trailer) and Jim helped Lynn and me get into that old haystack to load alfalfa bales on the feed truck and take a bale of barley straw to the cows’ feeder and a bale of old straw up to the cows for bedding. Jim spread it around in the brush where they bed while Lynn and I fed a big round bale to the young heifers and took a bale up for the young cows to put in their feeder.

Sunday was cold again and windy. Andrea helped me feed the cows. I cooked a big dinner for everyone that evening, when the kids got home from Mark’s house, and Emily came out for dinner, too.

Yesterday was very cold—10 degrees and snowing—and this morning the temperature was below zero. Andrea helped me feed the cows their small ration of alfalfa (for extra protein) and a few small grass bales. They are eating a lot of straw in this cold weather. We’ll have to plug the tractor in tonight so it will start in the morning—to take another big bale of hay to the young cows’ feeder and perhaps another big bale of straw to the older cows.

Today is Sam’s birthday (she’s 16), and Emily will be 21 on Saturday. We’re planning a double birthday dinner/party for the two of them this weekend.
***
If anyone wants to purchase some of my books, most of my horse and cattle “how to” books are available from Storey Publishing. I have some my other books on hand, if anyone wants signed copies. These include my book about Andrea’s fight to survive horrendous burn injuries the summer of 2000, and the unexpected detour we all took--a journey that profoundly affected our lives:
Beyond the Flames – A Family Touched by Fire. ($19 for paperback, or $25 for hardback, plus $4 postage).

For anyone interested in some of the adventures over the years with our cattle and horses, and stories about life on the ranch, here are some of my other books:
Horse Tales; True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, Cow Tales; More Stories from an Idaho Ranch, & Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.
Signed copies can be purchased for $24.95 each (or $70 for all three books) plus postage ($3 per book, or $7 for all three books)
book series
Book orders can be made by phone (208-756-2841) or mail (Heather Thomas, P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467)

I also have some of my father’s books left. They are now out of print and hard to find. These are collections of some of his best meditations and bits of spiritual wisdom, and include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb. These books by Don Ian Smith can be purchased for $12 each (plus $2 postage for one book, $3 postage for 2 to 4 books) or $50 for the whole set (and $4 postage).


Friday, January 11, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - November 15 through December 13, 2018

NOVEMBER 20 – This week has been cold, with most nights down to about 13 degrees, but thawing during the day. Andrea has been taking Dani in to the school for basketball practice early in the mornings in spite of the fact she’s sidelined due to her sprained ankle; all the kids still have to be there and support their team, and go with them to games. Wednesday morning Andrea drove her pickup to Hughes Creek and her friend Russ helped her cut, split and load some firewood. Andrea took photos of loading the truck, and the full load when she stopped at North Fork on her way home.
getting firewood
firewood
The next day she unloaded part of it here, part of it at her place, and took some to town for Emily. We also bought a load, so we’re getting closer to having enough firewood for the winter. Here are photos I took when she unloaded some at our place.
unloading wood
Lynn and I went to the new dermatologist who comes to Salmon periodically to see patients, and he froze off a bunch of precancerous lesions on my face and on Lynn’s face. It’s good to get rid of them before they get to be a real problem. That’s the price we pay for way too much sun exposure for so many years.
Thursday Jim took his pickup and trailer to Hughes Creek to get more firewood. Lynn and Andrea got our old feed truck running and brought a load of little bales from the stackyard to haul around by the bulls’ pen, since they were running out of hay, and Lynn and I got hay from my hayshed to haul over by Sprout and Shiloh’s pen. 

Andrea then took her pickup to Hughes Creek to get another load of wood, but while backing up the hill toward the cut-down trees she ran a sharp branch through the sidewall of a tire and ruined the tire. She and Jim tried to get the spare tire down off its holder but it had been there ever since she bought the pickup 15 years ago and the holder wouldn’t release. They finally had to borrow a tire from their friend Russ, and it went flat as soon as they put it on her pickup. Jim put some air in it from his little compressor in his pickup and Andrea was able to limp home with it, without any wood. The only wood they got that day was on Jim’s little trailer.
The next day Andrea hiked up to the 320 to check on the cows and they were all high on the mountain again and doing pretty well. She checked the water trough in Baker Creek to make sure the ice wasn’t getting too thick.

water trough
The next two nights were really cold, however, and we worried about their water situation, so yesterday Andrea and I both hiked up there to check on them, and check the water in Baker Creek.
checking cows on the 320
hiking to check cows
Some of the cows were still high, but 10 of them were down at the bottom and pretty empty (not much grass in that area), so after we broke the ice off the lower trough we left the gate open into the lower part of that pasture in case those cows want to drift into that side where there’s a little more grass. Andrea took a few photos; I didn’t take my camera because the weather was cold and my battery low, and it would have quit working. Here are photos of the cows on the lower end of the 320.
cows on lower end of 320
It was cold again last night (13 degrees) but the temperature got up to 35 degrees this afternoon. Lynn went to town for his physical therapy session at the hospital. His shoulder is getting a little stronger and less painful. On his way home he located a well site for some folks on Kirtley Creek. Andrea made another fast hike to the 320 to check on the cows. All of ours had found the open gate into the lower part, along with most of Michael’s cows. Most of the grass is gone on the high end now too, so maybe the rest of the cows will be coming into the low part before long.


NOVEMBER 25 – It was cold again for a few nights then warmed up a little and the ice didn’t get as thick on the water tubs and troughs. I’ve been feeding a little bale every morning and evening to the weaned heifers. Even though they still have some grass in their pasture, they are slow to start grazing on cold mornings when the grass is all frosty, and they really appreciate a little hay. They all come running now whenever they see me.

I’ve had several e-mails from granddaughter Heather in Canada, and she sent photos of young Joseph riding in the tractor with his daddy.
Joseph with Gregory in tractor
Joseph helping daddy auger post holes
They’ve also been pounding some posts where the frost is not too deep--trying to build a lot of new fences before the ground is too frozen. Here are photos Heather sent of Gregory pounding posts.
building fence
pounding posts
My nephew Matt Smith (my brother Rockwell’s son) and kids came Wednesday afternoon and stayed for supper. It was great to have a visit. It had been 2 years since we’ve seen Matt, and fun meeting his kids. His daughter Luna will soon be 13 and we hadn’t seen her since she was a toddler, and we’d never met his 9-year-old son Leo. They enjoyed meeting Andrea’s kids (their 2nd cousins) for the first time and stayed overnight with Andrea’s kids. Andrea took photos of them before they left the next day.
Matt & Kids
On Thanksgiving day Matt and his kids drove to Idaho Falls to join Rockwell and Bev and her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Lynn and I went to Andrea’s house for dinner. She had 15 people at her house, and we all brought food. I cooked one of her turkeys here in my oven, and Charlie came down to get it before dinner.
Andrea took photos of some of the crew lounging around before, during and after dinner. Here are photos of Emily with Andrea’s good friend Anita and small son Jesse, and oldest son Jeremy and Jeremy’s wife Madesta.
Em with Anita, Madesta, Jesse and Jeremy
Here are photos of Anita having dessert while visiting with Sam and Charlie, Grandma and Grandpa (us) with Grandpa is enjoying dessert, and a photo of Em (making a pouty face) and Jeremy.
Anita having dessert
Grandpa Lynn having dessert
Em & Jeremy
Friday Matt and kids were here in Salmon again briefly; they bought flowers at the grocery store and Andrea went with them to the cemetery. His kids had never seen where their great grandparents (my parents) are buried. Then they stopped by at the ranch again to say Hi before heading back to their home in Burien (near Seattle).

Yesterday it snowed a little. Andrea and I hiked up to 320 to check on the cows again. They were all in the lower part of the 320 so we shut the gate on the ridge and locked them in there, so they’d be easier to find when we brought them home. 

Today we brought them down to the fields. Lynn took the feed truck to the upper place, with a couple bales of hay on it, and parked by the gate into the upper corral. Andrea and girls and I went up there in her old Explorer (“Goldie”) and the girls stayed there with grandpa to head the cows into the corral. Michael and Carolyn drove 4-wheelers up through the 160 and into the 320 and started bringing the cows down, while Andrea and I hiked up from the bottom and opened the old wire gate along the way. We had the gates open by the time the cows started down out of the 320, and we followed them down to the road and down to the corral—where Lynn and the girls stopped them and turned the herd through the gate into the corral.

We sorted ours off, and brought them 2 miles down the road to our lower place. Lynn drove the feed truck to lead them, with Andrea on the back encouraging them to follow it (they could see the hay bales) while Dani and I hiked behind. Sam brought up the rear, driving the Explorer, to stop any traffic that might try to drive through the cows.
bringing cows home
heading up the hill past the wild meadow
coming up the road past the Wild Meadow
cows coming down the road toward the Gooch place
The trickiest part was getting past the Gooch place with all of Alfonso’s cows wanting to come join us. They are out of grass and hungry, and came rushing over to the fence. The fence is not very good along the road, so Andrea kept enticing our cows (making them think they were going to be fed) with wisps of hay off the truck, to keep their attention on coming down the road. We didn’t want our cows attracted to the mob of cows bawling at them through the fence. By the time we got to the big corner at the end of that field, Alfonso’s cows were about to crash through the fence so Dani stayed there a few minutes and yelled at them, deterring them until our cows could go on around the corner. At that point we let the pickup (that had come down the creek road and was following the herd for a short distance) come down through the herd and get past us, since there was no longer any danger of our cows trying to go through the fence to join Alfonso’s cows.

We put the cows into heifer hill and took them across that field, across the creek, and over to the back field by Andrea’s house, to join the young cows that stayed home all fall. There’s enough grass on that hillside to last a couple weeks of so for the whole herd, if it doesn’t snow under.

Then Andrea helped me load more hay to haul around to Sprout and Shiloh, from my hay shed, and got our tractor started. It started ok after being plugged in for 3 hours, and she put power service in the fuel tank (to help keep the diesel from freezing, now that the weather has gotten colder). Andrea and I dragged the round bale feeder out to the field below the lane where the weaned heifers are, and Lynn took a big round bale down there for them with the tractor. It was time to start feeding them the big bales (a mix of alfalfa and grass) and I won’t have to keep feeding them my horse hay.

Michael and Carolyn brought their feed truck down about the time we finished hauling that bale and putting air in one of the big tractor tires (it was a bit low), and Lynn loaded a big bale for them to take home for their horses. 

Most of their horse are out on pasture, but they have one old mare (Thelma) babysitting her yearling colt in the corral by their house—so they can halter break that colt. They tried to bring them down to the corral by their house yesterday after we moved the cows, leading Thelma, with the colt following, but just before they got down to the corral the colt turned around and ran all the way back up to the upper corral where he’d been living. They had to haul him down in the stock trailer, using their old gelding Captain to lure him into the trailer and they herded the two of them into it.


DECEMBER 2 – It got cold again. Charlie stopped by after school several days to fill our woodbox. I made turkey soup from some of the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers Andrea gave us. On Tuesday Andrea took her pickup to Hughes Creek and her friend Russ helped her saw up a tree and split it. She hauled a big load of split fir to add to our woodpile and Lynn and I put a tarp over it.
Granddaughter Heather sent some more photos, including one of young Joseph climbing up the ladder to the fuel tank—probably hoping to help his daddy put fuel in the tractor!
Joseph ready to fuel up the truck
Wednesday morning it warmed up enough to start raining but the rain quickly turned to snow and our driveway was very slippery. I gave the heifers a little of my horse hay because their pasture was snow-covered and they were discouraged—and they are not liking some of the hay in their feeder (part of it is moldy due to rain on that bale this fall—it was the only bale that didn’t fit under the tarps we put on that stack).
After lunch I took the shoes off Dottie—the three that were still on-- and trimmed her feet. Lynn held her for me. The snowy driveway wasn’t the best conditions for farrier work, with snow balling up under her feet and cold snow on my hands, but I figured I’d better get her shoes off before the weather gets any worse.
The next day Andrea got another load of wood from Hughes Creek, then went back to town for Dani’s last basketball game. Dani is still unable to play (with her sprained ankle) but cheers her team on. Andrea snapped a picture during the game.
Dani (number 14) at game
It snowed again on Friday, but let up by mid morning. When I gave the heifers a little hay that morning, I lured some of them in through the gate by the horse pens and was able to sort back a few, leaving just our lame heifer (Galaxy, daughter of Stars) and a couple extra to keep her company. I lured them with some hay into the second-day pens by the barn and fed them a little hay there to keep them happy for a few hours until the vet came to check the big lump that’s been developing in Galaxy’s right flank.

Before the vet arrived, Lynn helped me get all the gates ready and we brought those three heifers around to the main corral and locked them in the alley by the chute. I took photos of Galaxy’s big swelling.
Galaxy with a couple buddies in the corral
big swelling on Galaxy's right flank
When the vet got here we put her down the chute and into the headcatch. He poked a needle into the swelling to determine whether it was fluid or pus. It was pus—a big abscess—so he sliced it open and pushed the pus out of it. I went to the house to get some water and disinfectant for him to finish flushing it out, then we let her and her buddies go back to the field with the other heifers. Exercise will help keep the incision open for drainage.
Yesterday Sam came down early morning and helped me clean house for a while before chores, then I typed a few interviews and got a few more Christmas letters ready to mail. Lynn helped me continue cleaning house.

Today was cold but clear, which was nice because a gal from New York came out to meet our family and take a few videos of the ranch. Sam and Dani showed her the horses, and we took her up in the field to “meet” our cows, and then took a drive up the creek to see the beautiful scenery on the upper place.


DECEMBER 13 – More cold weather, with some nights below zero. We’ve been breaking ice on the creek where the cows drink. Charlie stopped by several times on his way home from school to fill our woodbox and carry some bags of pellets (for the pellet stove Lynn likes to have going during the night) in from the barn across the driveway.
One morning a pack of wolves (two adults and three younger ones) came across the highway near Baker and headed our direction. That same morning a cougar was in a tree next to Tammy Sager’s house, just down the road from us. Too many predators!
Jim made a nice cribbage “board” out of a deer antler, and I took photos of it. He is hoping that someone will want to purchase it as a Christmas gift.
antler cribbage board Jim made
Last Tuesday Lynn went with Andrea to Idaho Falls (for her pain doctor appointment) and while they were there they got a new trumpet for Sam (for an early Christmas gift) since her old one is wearing out, and a computer for Dani since she has to use a computer for school work. That evening after Sam came home from play practice after school she stopped here at our house and tried it out, to see what it sounds like.
Sam's new trumpet
Wednesday I plugged in the tractor early morning, so it would start by late afternoon, and we took another big round bales out to the heifers to put in their feeder. They are eating more hay during this cold weather.

This weekend we were going to put the chains on the tractor so it would be easier to get around on the ice and snow, but we didn’t plug it in long enough and it wouldn’t start. We left it plugged in overnight and it started ok the next morning. After Jim helped him put the chains on, Lynn used the tractor to bring a couple batches of little bales around from the haystack, for feeding the bulls in the back corral—probably enough to last them a couple weeks. The cows heard the tractor running and came down to the gate to see if maybe we were going to feed them. While they were all there and handy I hiked over to take a good look at them, since they were in the field just above the corral gate.
cows in field
So far they are doing ok and not losing weight, so we will leave them out there “working” and grazing the hillsides by Andrea’s house a bit longer. We don’t want to feed hay until we absolutely have to, or we will run out of hay before spring. At present we don’t have quite enough hay to see us through winter (Michael and Carolyn had to start feeding their cows already) so we called Phil Moulton to see if he has any hay left, and he will sell us another 30 tons. With good luck, that should get us through the winter.

On my way back from checking the cows, I took photos of the bulls eating hay in the back corral, and one of our cats sunning herself by the shed near the creek.
bulls eating hay
cat sunning herself on fence by shed
Andrea has been helping Emily pack up and get ready to move. The house she’s renting near town is going to be remodeled; the landlord wants it vacant by Dec. 15 for the remodel (and then will charge more rent), so we’ve rented a storage shed for Em’s furniture till she can find another place. 
In case she needs a place to stay for a while, Andrea has been cleaning out Emily’s old bedroom, which had a lot of things stored in it. Lynn helped move some of the stuff, and now the room is cleared out and ready if Em needs to some stay.
Grandpa helping move things out of Em's old room in Andrea's house
Em's room
The past few days we’ve had more snow, and the roads are very slippery—and so are the rooftops. Our friend Russ Kozack, who lives on Hughes Creek, was up on his roof Tuesday afternoon to clean his chimney, and slipped when he came back down, getting tangled in the ladder and falling to the ground. Fortunately he was able to call a neighbor, who came to his aid and called an ambulance. He was stabilized here at our local hospital and sent by life-flight to a bigger hospital in Missoula, Montana, where he is currently being treated for broken ribs and punctured lung. We’re hoping he’ll be ok.

Last night we went to the Christmas concert at the high school and it was awesome. The Jazz band that Sam and Charlie play in sounded like a professional band, and the chorus (with all three kids singing in some of the numbers) was spectacular. Andrea took some photos of the kids. Here is Dani in one of the songs.
Christmas concert - Dani
This morning it was quite cold (5 degrees). Charlie’s little truck is having a few problems (the 4-wheel drive isn’t working) so Andrea helped him put a bunch of cinder blocks in the back for traction—so he can make it up our steep driveway. Going to school this morning, he got up enough speed to make it up our driveway without spinning out, and plans to work on his truck this afternoon to try to get it more functional again.

***
If anyone wants some of my books, most of my horse and cattle “how to” books are available from Storey Publishing. I have some my other books on hand, if anyone wants signed copies from me. These include my book about Andrea’s fight to survive horrendous burn injuries the summer of 2000, and that unexpected detour we all took--a journey that profoundly affected our lives:

Beyond the Flames – A Family Touched by Fire. ($19 for paperback, or $25 for hardback, plus $4 postage).

For anyone interested in some of the adventures over the years with our cattle and horses, and stories about life on the ranch, here are some of my other books:

Horse Tales; True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, Cow Tales; More Stories from an Idaho Ranch, & Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.

Signed copies can be purchased for $24.95 each (or $70 for all three books) plus postage ($3 per book, or $7 for all three books)

Book orders can be made by phone (208-756-2841) or mail (Heather Thomas, P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467)

I also have some of my father’s books left. They are now out of print and hard to find. These are collections of some of his best meditations and bits of spiritual wisdom, and include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb. These books by Don Ian Smith can be purchased for $12 each (plus $2 postage for one book, $3 postage for 2 to 4 books) or $50 for the whole set (and $4 postage).