Saturday, January 27, 2018

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - December 19, 2017 through January 15, 2018

DECEMBER 26 – A week ago today Michael and Nick worked on the new fence, setting more posts, and I fed them spaghetti for lunch. They continued setting posts all afternoon and then Michael helped me get another big bale for the heifers with the tractor, to put in their feeder, before they went home.

Then I did chores and fed the horses. The days are so short that I have to start chores very soon after 4 p.m. to get done before dark. I still had a tarp over the exposed loads of hay at the end of my hay shed, and had to get up under the tarp to roll some more bales down for the horses.
tarp at end of shed
The two rows of stacked hay have a gap between them, and I’m always careful to not slip and fall down that crack when I’m up on the stack. I stepped across the crack to get another bale, and had just chuckled to myself about what would happen if I ever fell down between the stacks and how long it would be before someone could find me!

Just a moment after having that thought, I was wrestling with a bale (these hay bales weigh almost as much as I do) to send it rolling down the stair-stepped stack, and it was caught on one end by the large tarp and not coming down. As I pulled on it to get it free, it suddenly gave way and pushed me backward and down, and one leg slipped down into that crevasse. The bale pushed me on over and I was literally hanging there by one leg, with my knee twisted around. The pain in my knee made me realize I’d really boogered that joint! I felt like an unfortunate deer or elk that gets a leg hung up in a fence while trying to jump over it, and hangs there to die.
It hurt even worse as I struggled around and pulled my leg out and crumpled and somersaulted on down to the ground. I lay there a moment, a bit shook up, and took stock of the situation. My knee was definitely damaged but I was not hurt in any other way. Pain was excruciating to get up and move my leg, but I quickly realized that the worst pain occurred with any side movement. If I kept the leg straight I could still tolerate bending the knee a little, so I very carefully climbed back up on the stack, under the tarp, and got a few more bales down, tied down the tarp again, wheeled some hay in the wheelbarrow around to where I needed it for morning, and finished feeding the horses and the two little bulls.

I was a bit slow and it was completely dark when I got back to the house, and then put DMSO all over the back and sides of that knee (the parts that were starting to swell) and wrapped it with Vet-Rap to give it some support and help inhibit sideways motion. I put an ice pack on the knee for the rest of the evening. I put more DMSO on it before bedtime and used an ice pack for a while into the night. The next few days I continued to use DMSO and wrap it, and was able to hobble around and do my chores. I realized nothing was broken (thank God for strong bones) but I probably tore the medial cruciate ligament (MCL) partly loose from the bone. It’s still very sore but tolerable, with careful movement; any turning, twisting to the side brings sharp excruciating pain. At least I can still do my work and hike around outside doing my chores if I do it carefully.
The day after I injured my knee, we brought our cows down from the upper place. The cold weather, snow, and diminishing grass made it necessary to bring our cows home, and for Michael to start feeding hay to their cows. Michael, Carolyn and Nick went up to the wild meadow late morning to start getting the cows in to sort, but they didn’t have to put them in the corral. Most of theirs were already off the hill pasture and had gone into the wild meadow to get a drink, and ours were still out on the hill. Nick hiked up there and encouraged a handful of their cows to go on down to the field, and brought ours around to the road. They were already starting down the road when Andrea, Lynn, Jim and I went up there with the feed truck and Jim’s truck. We turned around by Michael’s driveway, and Andrea and Lynn went down the road ahead of the cows, luring them with the feed truck, while Jim and I followed behind the herd in his truck. We put our cows in heifer hill and across the bridge to the field by Andrea’s house, to join up with the 8 pregnant yearling heifers already pastured there. The snow is not very deep on that field, and there’s still some grass, so we’re hoping they can graze a few more days before we have to start feeding hay.
Young Heather and Gregory sent us photos of little Joseph with his mom, his grandpa John Eppich, and trying to drive their pickup at a very early age.

Joseph 7.5 months old

Joseph and Grandpa John
Joseph driving the truck
Joseph helping his mom
Michael went to town to buy chains for his skid steer so he and Nick could finish setting the posts for our new fence. The snow and frozen ground on the little hillside beneath the ditch and the road made it too slippery to maneuver, and they needed chains for the skid steer for pounding those posts. Andrea went to the doctor again (9 days after her accident falling through the ice and tweaking her ankle) but it was still impossible to tell if anything was broken or just sprained.
Early Wednesday morning we had rain, that changed to snow, with temperature plummeting about 15 degrees in half an hour, and it was cold and windy all day. Here’s a photo of a young whitetail deer in of our upper fields.

young whitetail deer
Michael and Nick had to take the post pounder back to Millers because they needed it, and weren’t able to set any more posts for a couple days. Dani and Charlie have missed a couple days of school, being sick, and Andrea took them to the doctor that day, and took Sam to the chiropractor. We’re a fine bunch of invalids!
Thursday they all made it back to school. Michael and Nick got the post pounder back again and set almost all the rest of the posts. With the colder weather (down to 18 degrees) the ground has been freezing more (with deeper frost) and it’s getting harder to pound the posts. They had to dig a few post holes by hand.
Friday morning I plugged in the skid steer for Michael at 4 a.m. when I got up to type articles. Michael and Nick got here by 9:30 to try to finish work on the fence that needed to be done before the ground freezes more. Michael brought the backhoe down and made a new drain ditch at the top of the little field, so tail-water from the field above it during irrigation can go directly back to the creek and not down along the edge of this field where we are rebuilding the fence.

Lynn went to town for mail and groceries and a few last minute Christmas gifts and I made a bunch of personalized T-shirts for everyone for gifts (drawing horses on some of them, cartoons on the others). The next day I finished up all the T-shirts and last-minute Christmas cards and letters to mail.
Meanwhile, in Canada, baby Joseph had earlier posed in a Santa suit with his dad, since he was going to outgrow the little suit by Christmastime, and here are some photos of the littlest Santa!
Joseph in his Santa suit
Gregory and the littlest Santa
The morning before Christmas it was 8 below zero and the high that afternoon was 10 above zero. I waited until the sun came up before I broke ice out of the horse’s water tubs and watered them. We thought about feeding the cows but they went up on the hill behind Andrea’s house grazing, and the snow isn’t too deep yet, so we decided to wait. As long as they are still “working” and getting enough to eat, we’ll hold off, because once we start feeding hay they will switch to “welfare mentality” and want to be fed every day instead of going up on the hill to graze.
I wrapped the rest of our gifts (the T-shirts etc.) and we figured out a way to disguise the bow and arrows that Lynn is giving to Nick. It’s a really nice bow that my cousin Perk Perkins gave to Lynn about 30 years ago, but Lynn never did have time to archery hunt and never used it. We figured Nick would be able to put it to good use, being an avid hunter. We used two big plastic cat food bags to surround the bow and arrows in their case, and used duct tape and baling twine to hold everything together. He wasn’t able to guess the contents until he actually opened it on Christmas morning!
We had a little new snow on Christmas and it was 8 above zero. I got up early and finished an article I was writing for the Nevada Rancher called “Four Generations of Writers on Withington Creek” (telling about my father’s books, my writing, Michael’s writing for farm and ranch magazines, and now my grandchildren doing some writing—like young Heather publishing her first book a couple years ago), then did chores.

After breakfast we fed the bulls on our way up to Andrea’s house (the lane to her house goes through our barnyard and up through the back field where the cows are) and enjoyed the rest of the morning watching her kids open their gifts.
Dani & Sam
Dani & Jim
Sam & Grandma & Grandpa
Em & Jim
Charlie & Robbie
The highlight was a left-handed rifle for Charlie, a rifle for Sam and a 22 for Dani. Now that they are all good hunters, they need their own guns. Jim, Andrea and Robbie were able to get a really good deal on some used guns that were in excellent condition.

Emily and Robert came out Christmas morning, too, along with Emily’s co-worker at the hospital (Sam) and her boyfriend. We enjoyed meeting him.
Emily & Robert
Christmas - the whole crew
Robert was delighted with the surprise gift that we all pitched in to give him—a chain saw, so he can more efficiently get firewood. Andrea fed us turkey dinner and then the kids had to go out to their dad’s place for the rest of the Christmas holiday.
Today was warmer and sunny and it actually got up to 30 degrees. But the morning was cold (12 degrees ) so I plugged in the skid steer when I got up—so it would start when Michael came to get it and take it to Skinner’s ranch to set posts for them. On their way home Michael stopped by and helped me get another bale to the heifer feeder, since Lynn was in town getting the mail and groceries and doing all the town errands. I took the tarp off my hay stack this evening when I did chores and had to get more hay down. There’s only a little bit of hay sticking out from under the shed now, and I can use it up before the rain/snow can ruin it. I’m glad to have the cumbersome tarp off, even though it saved a lot of hay. I’m getting around a little better with my injured knee and am no longer wrapping that knee but I still have to be very careful how I move it. At least all the walking and chores I have to do are excellent physical therapy!

JANUARY 5 – We had more cold weather and snow for a couple days after Christmas. Jim helped Lynn put chains on the tractor so we can get around with it to load bales. I made turkey soup out of the turkey neck and leftovers Andrea gave us. I had to do a home sleep test for 2 nights, to see if I still qualify for oxygen use at night.
With the cold weather we had to check the creek ice on the watering holes for the cows, and break ice at the spring in the back of the bull pen. We also started feeding the bulls a little more hay, including some alfalfa.
bulls eating hay
Andrea checking bulls' water
Then it warmed up for a few days and we were glad we hadn’t started feeding the cows yet because they were able to keep grazing on the big hill by Andrea’s house. The whitetail deer started pawing through the net wrap on our big round bales by the horse pens and pulling out the hay and wasting it. When Lynn went to town on Thursday he got more salt for the cows, a tarp for the feed truck (to protect the hay when we have some on the truck, so the deer won’t eat it) and two big rolls of plastic mesh from the Fish and Game to protect our haystack. He and Jim put the wrap around the stack of round bales.
It warmed up so much on Friday that we had some rain and the snow was settling, then it froze and everything was horribly slippery. Michael and Nick were trying to set the rest of the posts at Skinner’s place for a new fence before the ground freezes more, and before Michael and Carolyn go to Canada to visit Heather and Gregory and baby Joseph.

We had more snow and some really nasty weather on Saturday. The kids came home from Mark’s place that evening and we had dinner here at our house. It was cold again that night, but the wind quit by Sunday morning, so Michael came down and took the shoes off Sprout and Dottie for me. My knee is still too sore to try to do any work with their feet, so I was glad he could do that for me.

We gave Michael the belated Christmas gifts for Heather, Gregory and Joseph, that they’ll be taking with them when the go to Canada. Jim and Charlie came down that afternoon and filled our wood box then dug some unfrozen dirt out of the big piles in Shiloh’s pen to put in large buckets to haul around in Jim’s pickup and spread over the worst of the icy spots in the driveway. That evening we all had dinner (New Year’s Eve) at Andrea’s house. She barbecued some little venison steaks and it was sort of a pot luck, and a lot of fun.

Monday morning was cold, 7 degrees, with a high of 20 degrees that day. I broke the ice out of all the horses’ water tubs. Jim helped Lynn chop the round bale feeder out of the ice in the bull pen, and pull it up to the swamp pasture where we need it for the cows. The cows were still grazing on the hill in spite of the cold weather but we’ll need to start feeding them very soon. We’ll put big bales of straw in the feeder and supplement them with some alfalfa hay. That afternoon Charlie, Jim and Andrea got more dirt from the unfrozen old manure piles in Shiloh’s and Breezy’s pens and spread dirt over more of the icy places where we have to walk around to do chores and on the driveway next to the house. Then Dani and Charlie went over the dump hill to do some target practice with their new guns.

Tuesday was even colder, so we started feeding hay to the cows. The big alfalfa bale was frozen together and we had to use an ax to break it apart and chisel some flakes off it. The creek ice is frozen solid again and we’re breaking ice every day so the cattle can drink.
Andrea feeding hay
cows eating hay
Michael, Carolyn and Carolyn’s mom left early that morning to drive to Havre, Montana where they spent the night and then drove on to Saskatchewan the next day. They plan to stay several days visiting young Heather and family.

That morning Andrea discovered that one of her older dogs, Curly, was very sick, lying out in the driveway on the ice. Andrea was able to put a mat under her and drag it and the dog to a better place—and put a blanket under Curly and over her. She called the vet clinic but the vet was not in that day. She called another vet who gave her some advice on treatment (fluid and broth by syringe, and a couple dissolved baby aspirin to try to help lower the dog’s fever). Jim helped her move Curly to a warmer place next to the house, with some bedding and shelter.

Nick is feeding Michael and Carolyn’s cows while they are gone to Canada, and he came down Wednesday morning to get a couple bales of straw (to mix with their hay). We had the tractor plugged in since the night before, so it would start, and took a round bale to the heifers, loaded Nick’s truck, and took a straw bale up to our cows.
cows utilize a little straw to balance their diet of alfalfa hay
Yesterday was a little warmer; it got up to 25 degrees for a high. Andrea took Curly to the vet first thing that morning, but the old dog wasn’t doing very well at all, getting worse, so she opted to have her put down. But first she went to get Emily so Em could have a chance to say good-by to Curly, since in the beginning she was sort of Em’s dog. Em spent a lot of time with Curly when she was growing up, with lots of good memories. Curly was raised by Andrea and kids from a pup--a big black dog with long curly hair that covers her face so much you can’t see her eyes. Andrea periodically had to trim the mop of hair from her face, and clip her long hair coat every summer.

One of the interesting memories was the strange friendship Curly had with a goose, when Curly was about a year old--when Andrea and her kids were still living in a rented house in town. It was spring, and Canadian geese were migrating north; many groups had already flown past the house. One day Andrea and kids found a wild goose in the backyard with their dogs. The big bird seemed enamored of the young furry Curly and stayed beside her, going everywhere she went, eating dog food with her, and sitting next to her when she slept. The goose liked to preen the dog’s fur and pick bugs out of that long hair coat.
Curly & her beloved goose
Curly was quite smitten by the goose, as well. The other dogs didn’t like the goose; it honked at them and attacked them, and they took cover under the porch. Curly was the only creature the goose wanted to be with. It didn’t tolerate humans, and chased the kids; that goose was simply in love with Curly! The young dog seemed to enjoy the bird’s attention for a while, and then after a week or so the novelty wore off and she got tired of being shadowed by a lovesick goose.

Andrea and kids were also beginning to dislike having the backyard dominated by a noisy, messy goose. It intimidated the kids, and everyone had to be careful to not step in goose glop. Attempts to chase it away were futile. Eventually it disappeared; one night it was there and the next day it was gone. Perhaps it got homesick for its own kind, and joined up with another flock heading north. At any rate, it was gone, and Curly seemed relieved to be free of her fickle lover.

Andrea’s kids all grew up with Curly and she was a good watchdog and loved the kids, and loved water. She always enjoyed any outing with the kids, especially when they went fishing or camping near a stream. Here’s a picture taken several years ago, of Dani riding Curly in the river. Everyone in the family is going to miss that dog.
Dani & Curly having fun in a river
Yesterday started I started feeding the little bulls some alfalfa hay, pulling it into their pen with the calf sled.

Andrea went to town for a checkup on her ankle. The MRI results showed that one of the small bones in her ankle was broken, but it’s slowly healing. It would probably heal faster if she kept wearing the protective boot, but she finds it too awkward and cumbersome for doing her work.
Andrea's broken foot
Today was warmer weather, with a low of 24 degrees and a high of 34. Andrea helped me feed the cows then took her car in to town to have a tire fixed; it keeps leaking air. She and Lynn did the town errands and bought some shoes for Em and Sam for their upcoming birthdays.

JANUARY 18 – We had some warmer weather the past 10 days, above freezing most afternoons. It was still too cold for the tractor to start, however, so we have to plug it in either very early in the mornings or the night before on the days we need to move big bales. At least with it warmer I don’t have to plug in the feed truck. We try to get the cows fed by mid-morning and by then the truck starts just fine.
cows enjoying their hay
Last Saturday we took another straw bale to the cows and put a couple more big alfalfa bales on the feed truck after we hauled some little bales from my hay shed to the small stack of bales by Sprout and Shiloh. We tarped the alfalfa bales on the truck because the whitetail deer try to eat on it. With a dozen or more deer eating on it every night (and even during the day) they eat and pull a lot of hay off the bale onto the ground unless we have the hay tightly covered.
That evening Nick ate supper with us and stayed a couple hours to visit. His folks were having a good time in Canada and Nick is feeding their cows.
I started working on the update/revision for Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. The publisher plans to come out with new editions for all 3 of my “Guide” books. My Guide to Raising Beef Cattle will have the 4th edition out later this year, and the Guide to Raising Horses and Guide to Training Horses will have new editions by next year.
Robbie helped Lynn change the oil in our pickup and we noticed that we didn’t have the new stickers on the license, and realized we never received them.
Charlie and Sam have been playing (trombone and trumpet) in the Pep band for a lot of the home basketball games. Here’s a quiet moment with Charlie and his trombone.
Charlie & trombone for Pep Band
Michael and Carolyn got home from Canada late last Sunday night. They were able to make it back in one day, since the roads and weather were better.
On Monday Lynn went to town and got the pickup license problem straightened out. The county office sold our stickers/license renewal to another person!
Tuesday night it rained and froze, leaving a half inch of ice covering everything. Even the places we’d put dirt over the ice were extremely slippery. I dug out the “chains” for my boots and put them on, so I wouldn’t fall down trying to walk around to feed the horses. Even the horses were having trouble moving around in their pens without slipping and sliding, and were scrambling to keep their feet. Lynn wasn’t able to find his boot chains so I did his chores (feeding the bulls in the back pen).
The next morning we had to use the tractor to move some big bales and load more straw for Michael, so Jim and I helped Lynn get across our very slippery driveway to get to the tractor. That night it snowed, with about 5 inches of new snow, which made it impossible to see where the worst icy places are, so I’m glad for the boot chains.
snow on the feed truck
young deer in snow
rooting through snow to get to some of the hay we fed the cows the day before
cows eating hay
Lynn went to town to get vaccine for the cows, and the next day (Saturday) we brought them all down from the field (very slowly and carefully because of the slippery footing) following the feed truck. Andrea’s kids helped; we sorted off the 8 pregnant heifers and a couple of the thinnest young cows (that will be having their second calves) and then vaccinated them all. Carolyn came down to help. She vaccinated, Dani pushed cows along the alleyway and into the squeeze chute, Sam ran the tail gate and squeeze after Andrea caught their heads, I filled the dipper with the proper amount of delousing product for each cow, and Charlie carefully spread the delouse all along each cow’s back from head to tail. This product does a better job of delousing the cattle than other products because one treatment will last longer; it contains an insect growth regulator as well as an insecticide. The insecticide kills the lice but not the eggs. There’s enough residual effect that when the eggs hatch the immature nymphs can’t survive because the growth regulator halts their development.
After we got the cows vaccinated and deloused, Lynn took them back up to the field where Andrea and Jim had spread out the hay for them, and the rest of us vaccinated and deloused the heifer group. Then we took them and a bale feeder and big bale up through the front field to heifer hill. We can feed them there and keep them separate from the older cows for the rest of the winter and they will do better. We can feed them free choice with some better hay in the feeder, and they can get their share without being pushed away from the hay by the older cows.
Andrea and Jim took the feeder up to heifer hill on the truck and set it up while Lynn was bringing a big bale with the tractor. He almost didn’t make it; the tractor tires spun out when he tried to go through the new ditch, even with the chains on. Finally the tires dug down through the snow and ice to bare dirt and he was able to get across the ditch and on up the field with the bale of hay.
The kids and I brought the heifer group up through the field, following the tractor.
Then we checked the creek ice at their water hole, and gathered up some old wire that we didn’t want them to get tangled up in. Afterward, Charlie helped Andrea haul some more little bales from the stackyard to the pile by the bulls.
Sunday we fed cows and took a block of salt to the heifer group. The whitetail deer were eating with the cows, as always.
deer eating with cows
One young deer didn’t bother to leave when we drove right past him with the feed truck, and as soon as he checked us out to make sure we weren’t very scary, he went right back to eating hay again, quite disgusted that we’d interrupted his meal.
young deer watching us
not too worried - right back to eating hay
We drove across the creek to heifer hill to give the heifers their salt block, and then came out of that field and down the road. The pregnant heifers were enjoying their hay in the feeder on heifer hill.
feeder on heifer hill
After we fed, I started to do a load of laundry and my old washing machine refused to fill properly. The hot water worked just fine, but the cold water inlet did nothing. We’ve had trouble with it before, clogging with rust, and had to take it apart and unclog the filter. Earlier this winter Jim helped Lynn take it apart and take the filter clear off and it worked better. This time it wasn’t just clogged and slow; it quit completely. This happened a few weeks ago and I filled it by hand to do the rinses, and part way through that wash day it started working again and worked fine for awhile. Then suddenly it’s not working again. Lynn helped me carry buckets of water from the bathroom to fill the washer for each rinse.

That evening we had a family birthday dinner and celebrated all the January birthdays—Robbie, Sam (turned 15 on Monday), Em (will be 20 on the 19th) and Robert. Andrea made a huge pot of spaghetti and we had a great meal and a lot of fun. Em and Robert rode up to Andrea’s house with us because the driveway is still very slippery.

Andrea took a photo of all of us at dinner, so she’s the only one not in the picture.
Birthday dinner
The last couple nights have been colder and I plugged in the feed truck at chore time so it would start easier by mid morning, but today it’s a lot warmer and the snow is melting. Our driveway is very slippery again!

*** Information about my books.

Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, is a collection of 22 stories about some of the horses in my life. According to the publisher, “Horse Tales is a unique memoir infused with the brand of wisdom that can be acquired only through an existence built around livestock and the land. Thomas centers each story around a specific animal, sharing lessons on life, family and stockmanship.” (282 pages)

Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (325 pages). The publisher says, “This is an entertaining and compelling autobiographical essays detailing her family’s adventures raising cattle in the challenging ranch country outside Salmon, Idaho. In the tradition of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), each story centers on a particular animal or aspect of animal husbandry, offering insight into the resourcefulness required to manage a cattle herd, and a heart-warming look at human-animal bonding.”

Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters (273 pages) consists of stories about the memorable horses, pets, ranch animals and wildlife that populate a working ranch.

These books can be ordered through any bookseller. Signed copies are available from Heather Thomas, Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467 (208-756-2841) [price of each: $24.95 plus $3 postage – Idaho residents add 6% sales tax. For all three books: $70 plus $7 shipping]

***Some people have asked me how many books I’ve written.  Here is a list.  Some of the earliest ones are now out of print.  I have some of the more recent ones on hand if anyone wants to order one from me, but most of them can also be ordered through Amazon or any book seller.
    A Horse in Your Life: A Guide for the New Owner (published in 1966)
    Your Horse and You
    Horses: Their Breeding, Care and Training
    Horses: A Golden Exploring Earth Book (children’s book)
    A Week in the Woods (1988, another children’s book)
    Sammy the Salmon (a Christmas story for children)
    Red Meat: The Original Health Food
    The Wild Horse Controversy (1979)
    Your Calf: A Kid’s Guide to Raising and Showing Beef and Dairy Calves
    Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle
    Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses
    Storey’s Guide to Training Horses,
    Horse Conformation Handbook
    Beyond the Flames: A Family Touched by Fire
    Care and Management of Horses
    Understanding Equine Hoof Care
    Getting Started with Beef and Dairy Cattle
    Stable Smarts
    Essential Guide to Calving
    The Cattle Health Handbook
    Good Horse, Bad Habits
    Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch
    Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch
    Ranch Tales: Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters
    [I also contributed chapters to a couple other books:  The Complete Guide to Equine Electrolytes, and The Real Wolf]

Friday, December 29, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - November 18 through December 18, 2017

DECEMBER 1, 2017 – We had our Thanksgiving dinner early, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, while Andrea’s kids were home (they spent Thanksgiving this year with their Dad). Bob and Jane Miner, long-time family friends, came also, so we had a full table. Andrea had all her kids there; Emily and Robert were able to come. Andrea took a photo of her three girls –Dani, Sam and Emily
three sisters at Thanksgiving
We had a few days of warm weather, up in the 40’s during the afternoon, with some rain (and snow on the mountains), but now it’s cold again. Andrea and I made a couple of rides to the 320 to check on the cows.
Andrea and Sprout on 320
Grandma and Dottie on 320
While we were there, she broke ice again on the little trough, and threw out the ice so the cows could drink.
getting the ice out of the trough
Andrea flipping ice out of the water
A week ago Monday, Michael and Carolyn went up to the 320 on their 4-wheelers and let the cows down into the road pasture along our upper fields. They opened the gates into the wild meadow so the cows can go in there and get to the creek for water. They brought down the 2 protein tubs that still had some protein in them, so the cows can finish eating those. Andrea and I moved our yearling heifers from heifer hill to the upper swamp pasture where there’s a little more grass.

Michael and Nick measured the little field above the house where we need to rebuild the old fence (the posts we set nearly 50 years ago are rotting off). After we moved the weaned heifers out of that field, Michael and Nick started tearing out the old fence, rolling up the old net wire. We will re-use the old netting later, on some jack fences.

Charlie split more wood for us and the girls helped move the weaned heifers down to the field below the lane, and helped Andrea rinse and fill their water tank, before they went out to their Dad’s place for Thanksgiving and the weekend.

On Thanksgiving Day I took Willow’s shoes off. We won’t be riding her any more this year, and her feet are getting long—and the shoes are worn out. The next day I took Ed’s shoes off. The only horses now that still have shoes on are Sprout and Dottie, because we may ride them a few more times to check the cows on the road pasture on the upper place.

We had rain and a horrible wind that took shingles off Andrea’s roof and more of the old roofing off our old barn/shop. The next day Andrea and Robbie went to town and bought more shingles, and some rolled roofing for the shop. Robbie put new shingles on Andrea’s roof to replace the ones that blew off, then he and Lynn started putting new roofing on our old shop, into the dark. The next day (Sunday) Andrea, Lynn and Robbie finished putting rolled roofing on the shop, until they ran out of rolls.
Robbie, Lynn & Andrea putting on new roofing
putting new rolled roofing on the old shop

Andrea putting tar on the rolled roofing
Michael and Nick cut and split more aspen from our upper place, and brought a pickup load to us and a load to Andrea. This will help augment our wood piles and maybe we’ll have enough to make it through the winter! We had more strong wind a couple nights ago. It scattered some of the hay I had in piles to feed the horses, but the new roof on the shop held on. On Tuesday Michael brought his skid steer down here, and he and Nick took out more of the old fence, and I fed them lunch. Nick has a bad cold and cough, however, and was wasn’t feeling very well. Michael left the skid steer down here, for me to plug in early the next morning, so it would start.

The next morning (yesterday) was cold (15 degrees) and one of Michael’s heifers was dull and not eating. I’ve been feeding the heifers some of my horse hay every morning, but in this cold weather they are not grazing enough and their pasture is about gone. It’s time to give them more hay. So as soon as Michael started the skid steer to go to work on our fence project, we plugged in our tractor. By afternoon we were able to start the tractor and take a big round bale of hay out to the heifers to put in their feeder.

Nick was too sick to work, so Andrea helped Michael all day on the fence project, taking down the old elk panels along the creek side of the pasture. Those were put on the fence about 30 years ago to keep the elk out of the stackyard across the creek. The old posts were rotting off and leaning, and the fence and elk panels have been tipping over into the brush. The only thing holding up that stretch of fence was the brush and trees.
taking out the old fence
Michael working on fence

This morning Michael’s heifer was still dull and not eating much, so when Michael came down to work on the fence he helped us put her in the headcatch by the calving barn. I took her temperature and it was 104.5 degrees, so we gave her antibiotics and Banamine. The Banamine is a good anti-inflammatory medication to help ease her pain and fever. By afternoon she was eating again.

Andrea helped Michael all day on the fence tear-down project again.
Michael sawing out tree that grew up though elk panel
Andrea helping take down old fence
Michael & Andrea taking out old fence
At chore time this evening I noticed that one of our heifers was also dull and not eating, so we got her in and treated her, too.

DECEMBER 9 – I’ve been working on book revisions for my 3 books that Storey wants to update for new editions: Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. This will be the 4th edition of the Beef Cattle book and Raising Horses book, and 3rd edition of Training Horses.

The day after we treated the 2 sick heifers they were doing much better, and so far none of the other heifers have gotten sick. They are enjoying their big bale—having hay to eat all the time and never going hungry—and their heated water. They drink more in the winter with the warmer water, and I don’t have to chop ice out of their tank!

A few days ago I took some photos, including one of Willow enjoying the sunshine, napping on the high spot in her pen.
Willow resting
Nick has been sick with a bad respiratory infection and hasn’t been able to help Michael on the fence project, so Andrea has been helping him. Last Saturday they sawed out more trees along the creek side, to make sure none will fall down on the new fence we’ll be building, and pulled the trees out of the fence line.
dragging trees
sawed-out trees, ready to be cut up
Robbie helped Lynn put on 2 more rolls of roofing on the shop. That was just in time, because it snowed that night and the next morning.

The kids got home from their weekend with Mark and all had dinner here at our house (our Sunday evening tradition on the weekends they come home).

Monday Michael and Andrea worked on the fence project again, piling and cleaning up the brush and trees (sawed into log lengths) to haul down to the post pile pasture where we will burn the brush later and cut the bigger logs into firewood next year after the wood dries out.
hauling the brush
We started treating Shiloh’s left eye again; it’s infected, weeping, and the eyelids are swollen. Carolyn helped me and Andrea put antibiotic ointment into her eye. Shiloh doesn’t like it, and it’s easier to do with 3 of us, especially since Carolyn is taller and can reach the eye when Shiloh puts her head up high to try to avoid the medication!

On Tuesday Andrea helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye (we have to do it daily for about 10 days) and also helped me loosen up the frozen top of the big bale in the heifers feeder so they can eat it. We also hauled 15 bales around for Sprout and Shiloh from my hay shed, so I won’t have to keep bringing their hay in a wheelbarrow.

Michael skipped a couple days working on the fence project because it was so cold, and then Andrea helped him again on Thursday. First he used the skid steer loader tines to break the frozen top and pick up the remaining core of the heifers’ big bale and tip it over so they can reach it better in their feeder. Then Andrea helped him load and haul the rest of the brush piles out of the field above the house. Now all that’s left are the logs that we’ll eventually use for firewood.
unloading the brush
piling the brush in lower pasture to burn later
It’s been really cold and damp the past few days, with an air inversion and fog, with low-hanging clouds. Without sunshine, the days are nearly as cold as the nights. We’ve been putting the tube of eye ointment for Shiloh in hot water when we take it outside, so the ointment will come out of the tube easier and not be so solid. Michael didn’t work on the fence project; it was too cold.

Today was frosty and cold again. Michael helped Lynn drill a hole through our house wall so we can put a cord through it and be able to plug in a vehicle, tractor or the skid steer here by the house, in case we need to have two outfits plugged in at once. The extension cord from the barn won’t service more than one.
skid steer plugged in

DECEMBER 18 – We had 2 weeks of cold, damp weather with lows at night hovering about 10 degrees (down to 4 degrees one night) and daytime highs in the mid to low teens. Some days were just too cold to do much work on the fence project. I took photos of the frost on the trees along the lane, and the frosty young bulls in the orchard.
frosty lane
frosty bulls
Last Sunday a week ago was a challenging day. Early that morning I was working on several articles (deadlines looming) and the letter o on my computer keyboard quit working. When Michael came down to help us take a new big bale to the heifers’ feeder with the tractor (and to help me doctor Shiloh’s eye—which we were still doing every day), he brought a keyboard he no longer needed but it was incompatible with my computer. Fortunately my brother had another one--that he brought later that day--and I was able to type again! Using a zero for an o doesn’t work!!

That wasn’t the end of the day’s problems. The long hose that I use for watering the heifers was frozen (I didn’t get it drained quite well enough the day before) and I had to bring it into the house to thaw out. That was minor compared to other water problems and their consequences; the steady cold weather caused the creek to freeze over and Andrea broke ice for the heifers in the swamp pasture. She’d already chopped ice away from one of the ditch headgates at the creek so she could put dirt in around the headgate to seal it off solidly so it won’t leak this winter and create an ice flow across the field. Then on her way down the creek she broke another water hole for the heifers—and fell through the ice (in a deep spot, and went over her boot) and landed crooked on that foot. Her ankle was seriously painful and she was afraid it might be broken. She went home to get dry clothes but instead of icing it she just wrapped it and had Charlie help her fill buckets with dirt to take to the ditch head and shut off the leaking water.

She then put ice and DMSO on her ankle and elevated it, and had a miserable night, and went in to the clinic Monday morning to have it checked. In spite of the ice on it all night, her ankle was too swollen to tell anything from an x-ray, so the doctor told her to come back in a week to have it checked again. She was fitted with a walking boot as a brace, but was supposed to stay off it as much as possible for a few days.

She wasn’t able to help Michael finish clearing the piles of tree logs out of the field above the house (and Nick was still too sick to help) so Michael did the rest of it himself with just the skid steer—working a few hours a day until he got too chilled-- for a couple of days, in the bitter cold. He also helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye, and helped Lynn put the battery charger on our pickup because it wouldn’t start. The cold weather may have damaged the battery. When Lynn went to town that day to do a lot of town errands he had to leave the pickup running everywhere he went.

The cold damp air (with no sunshine) created thick frost on everything. I took photos of frost on the trees and horse pens.
frosty elm tree
frosty pens
The frost was so thick on the net wire that you could hardly see the horses in their pens. Here’s Breezy eating her morning had, and Rishiam in his frosty pen.

Breezy's pen

Rishiam in his frosty pen
The next day was really cold, and Michael came down to break ice on the water holes (since Andrea can’t) and helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye. He spent an hour and a half hauling away the rest of the log piles with the skid steer. We also started putting medication in the heifers water tank (daily for 5 days) to treat them for coccidiosis. Most of them have loose manure (like pea soup) and we need to get them over this infection!

Charlie filled our woodbox when he came home from school on Tuesday. We are going through a lot of wood in this cold weather.

I took photos of Willow in the frost, with frost on her mane and whiskers, and her frosty pen by my hay shed.
frosty Willow
Willow's frosty pen & hay shed

Willow's frosty pen and water tub
Wednesday it warmed up, with a high of 24 degrees, and snowed a little. We picked a lull in the weather that afternoon to treat Shiloh’s eye. She doesn’t like the medication being put in, on a good day, and we didn’t want to try to do it in a snowstorm! With the warmer weather (24 degrees instead of low teens) I did a couple loads of washing, knowing that the drain line from the washer wouldn’t freeze.
Sam was sick (with a high fever Tuesday night) but felt a little better that day and insisted on going to school, and singing that evening in the school Christmas program because she had the lead part in a trio the choir was doing.
On Thursday Lynn took the pickup to town to get new tires. With snowy roads the old tires are not safe; they were worn out last winter and we barely made it through the winter with them, but they have no traction left and are NOT safe for going through another winter.
Emily cut her own hair, getting rid of her long lovely curls. Short hair is easier to handle in her cleaning job at the hospital, and it also looks pretty cute.
Emily's new haircut

Michael didn’t work on the fence for a couple days, waiting for the posts he ordered from a local supplier who had to cut and treat them. Some of the posts were finished by Friday so he went to get those, and he and Nick set those (47 posts) in the fence line across the top of the little field. They rented Sy Miller’s hydraulic post pounder, which makes it a lot easier and faster. We were worried about frost after all the cold weather, wondering if we could drive the posts, but there were only a few places the frost was too thick. There were some areas where it was 12 inches deep, but most places it was only 3 inches deep, which was fairly easy for driving the posts. We’re using very tall posts, to make a fence that the cows won’t be able mash down and the deer and elk will be hesitant to jump over. This may help keep the elk out of my hay shed below that field, if we have another winter like last year, when the elk came down here to eat our hay and got into my shed.
new posts along the top boundary of the field
When they finished that afternoon, Michael helped me treat Shiloh’s eye one last time. It had been looking better for several days (we treated it for 11 days) and we hope it is safe now to quit treating it.
Friday the temperature got up to 32 degrees. It would have been a good day for driving posts but there weren’t any more ready yet. Michael spent a couple hours sawing sagebrush out of what will be the new fence line on the west side of the field, since we are moving the fence several yards that direction, so he’d be ready to drive posts there.
Saturday Michael and Nick spent a couple hours hauling off the huge pile of sagebrush. Michael used the skid steer to gently lift up the ancient manure spreader from its resting place where it was parked for more than 40 years along the ditchbank with the sagebrush growing up around it. The new fence will be going there, and we needed to move it. He was able to get it loose from its resting place, and that afternoon Michael carried it up to his house with the skid steer. Carolyn is going to use it as a lawn ornament and plant flowers in it.
Heather and Gregory sent us photos of little Joseph, who is 8 ½ months old. Here are photos of him in his crib, wanting to get out and try to walk around.
Joseph in his crib
Joseph in his crib
He is already trying to walk, and holds onto the furniture to walk around. His mom has a little harness for him to keep him contained, so he can’t get too far out of sight or fall down. He went shopping with mom the other day, and when they went into a tack shop he enjoyed sitting in a saddle.
Joseph trying to walk and dance
Joseph trying out a saddle
Yesterday was cold (4 degrees in the morning) but got up to 20 degrees in the afternoon. Andrea and Robbie drove to Missoula to get Jim at the airport; he was flying home from New Jersey where he’s spent several weeks doing some carpentry work for his twin sister. They didn’t get home from Missoula until 9 p.m. Charlie brought his sisters home (they spent the weekend with their dad) but they didn’t stay for supper here as they usually do; they were all very sick. So we just sent some supper home with them.

We treated Shiloh’s eye with antibiotic ointment for 11 days and it cleared up nicely, so we stopped treating it, with our last treatment on Thursday. It looked normal again, for several days, and then yesterday evening the lower lid was swollen again and she was holding the eye half shut. Discouraging! I hope we don’t have to go through another round of treatment—which neither she nor us would enjoy very much.

This morning Michael got more posts, so he and Nick laid them out along the creek side of the pasture (where they tore out the old fence and sawed out a lot of trees).
posts laid out along fence line
Then they spent the rest of the day setting posts, and got most of them driven. Here are photos of the skid steer with hydraulic post pounder, setting some of the tall posts. We’ll put the elk panels back on this part of the fence when we get it built, to keep the deer and elk from getting into the stackyard right across the creek.
Nick & Michael pounding posts
pounding posts
I’ve had several book orders already for my “Tales” books (Horse Tales, Cow Tales, Ranch Tales) as people start thinking about Christmas gifts. They make a good read any time of year for folks who like animals and true stories about animals. Details about these books are posted at the end of previous blogs. I also have some of my late father’s books on hand, if anyone would like those.

Best wishes to everyone for the coming New Year!