Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ranch Diary: July 1 through August 10, 2016

[I didn’t take very many photos this past month, except at our granddaughter Heather’s wedding reception!!]

JULY 12, 2016 – Last week Andrea went to the hospital for an MRI on her neck and spine, which showed a serious bone spur in her neck and some narrowing—which may explain some of the nerve problems (numbness in her arms every morning) and pain. She goes to physical therapy twice a week, which helps, but may need to go to a spine specialist to figure out what can be done about the vertebra problems and bone spur.

Grandson Nick ran a cross-country race during Salmon River Days and came in second. He is now coaching the cross-country runners at the middle school and high school (as a volunteer) and has been hired as a track coach.

Lynn turned and baled hay on the field below the lane, until the baler broke down. Robbie was able to fix it a couple days later and we got that field baled and hauled. Then the next day we baled and hauled the field by Andrea’s house. We got done haying earlier this year than we have for several years, so we can now hopefully irrigate those fields and get some regrowth for fall pasture--before the creek drops too low and we run out of water.

Early Wednesday morning Robbie helped Andrea set several steel posts along the fence below our house where trees have fallen over it. They got that fixed before we had to move the cows back down to that pasture. Then he went to work (helping Michael and Nick build custom fences) and Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed to gather up the 3 range bulls that were hanging on our outside fence, trying to get in. They were obnoxious and didn’t want to go, and one of them threatened my horse briefly. The older one kept trying to run down the mountain the wrong way and we had to outrun him down through the rocks and sagebrush. We had to take them a couple miles, but eventually got them to their proper pasture.

That evening we moved the cows and bull to the pasture below the lane, since the range bulls are gone now (and our bull won’t try to go through a couple fences to fight them and they won’t be trying to get into our place to fight him), and moved the heifers and yearling bull to my horse pasture.

We’ve been having hot weather, up into the 90’s during the day. At least it cools off at night and we can open the windows and cool off the house.

On Friday Sam and Dani rode with Andrea and me on a short ride over the low range, and I took some photos of the girls riding Breezy and Ed.
We discovered a dead cow of John Miller’s that must have died while their cattle were out there in late May. We called to tell them about it, and they were not aware that she had died. Her orphan calf would have been about 3 months old when he lost his mom, and probably got moved to the middle range in June.

I cooked dinner for Andrea and kids that evening, and granddaughter Heather stopped by after dinner with a dress for Sam to try on. Heather’s wedding is the 23rd of July. Her best friend from college, Lexie, is supposed to be a bridesmaid, but she is in China teaching English, and having trouble getting her travel visa approved to come back to the U.S. for the wedding. If she isn’t able to make it, Sam will be a “standby” bridesmaid to fill in for Lexie.

On Saturday Nick ran in the extreme challenge 60 kilometer race along the continental divide (across the valley from our ranch, on the mountain range between Idaho and Montana). People from all over the world come here to run it. A man from France came in first, and Nick came in 9th which he felt very good about. The trail was very rugged and treacherous in places, along the top of some dramatic cliffs.

We had a thunderstorm the next day, and were glad it didn’t happen the day of the race. Lightning knocked out Michael and Carolyn’s phone and they had no phone service for a couple days. Their dog Baxter got scared by the Thunder and went up to Rocky’s place. He tried to call them to ask if this was their dog, but their phone wasn’t working. Baxter is one of the two old cowdogs that hid in the old Explorer during a lightning storm a few years ago, and “drove” it down off the hill where it rolled a few times and ended upside down, smashed, on the county road with the dogs still in it.

Today our new watermaster and his boss checked all the ditches on our creek and Gary learned how to read all the different weirs.

JULY 20 – Andrea helped Lynn and me put a tarp on my haystack—the part that sticks out past the hay shed. We moved the cows to our upper swamp pasture. The heifers are running out of grass, but have to keep them in the horse pasture a few more days with the young bull, so we are feeding them a little alfalfa hay to stretch their pasture.

Michael, Carolyn and young Heather have been working on all the preparations for the wedding this coming weekend. Michael leveled a place for pouring a cement patio on the shady side of their house, and Carolyn and Heather have done a lot of landscaping. They created some lovely flower beds, and covered the hill by their house with rockwork. Lynn went up there on Saturday and sanded their deck railing (to smooth off any old wood splinters) and sanded the wood blocks for the table centerpieces for the reception dinner. Heather came up with unique centerpieces symbolizing their combining forces—with a horse on one side and a tractor on the other.
On Sunday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to check the 320 fences, to make sure no range cows are getting in, since those cows have eaten all the grass on the middle range side of our place and are pressing the fence. We discovered that Alfonso had already put a bunch of his cattle into the high range (a couple weeks early) and they’ve already eaten out Baker Creek just above the 320.

We realized that his bulls now have no buffering pasture between them and Michael’s cows (and the bull we loaned Michael). Andrea and I rode around the mountain above our 320 and found a group of cows and a big bull on that salt ground just above our place – if they came around the fence they would be next to Michael’s cows and bull. The bulls would likely fight and tear the fence down, with risk of injuring one or both.

Andrea called Carolyn from the ridge above the 320 where there’s cell service and luckily caught them in the house taking a break from their landscaping work. We asked if they wanted us to bring their cattle down before the bulls created a problem. They were glad we were up there to remedy this crisis, and they drove up the creek on a 4-wheeler to open gates. We brought their cattle down out of the 320 to their field, after taking a few minutes to prop up some fence the elk pushed over.

Heather stopped by our place later that day to pick up a dozen empty milk jugs to freeze water in – to have some ice for their coolers. She and Carolyn drove to Montana on Monday to meet Gregory on his way down from Canada, and they bought all the produce for the barbecue and the reception dinner (to bring home in the coolers and store in our extra refrigerator space).

Andrea and I made a quick ride on Shiloh and Dottie. It was the 1st ride on Shiloh this year. We’ve just been too busy with everything else to get her back into working again. We still need to start working with Willow again, too, and continue her training.

The past few days we’ve been having water problems, with our neighbor Alfonso stealing water—not only taking more than his allotment out of the creek, but also using part of our water in the shared ditches. The creek is dropping, and water is getting shorter in supply. We’ve had a lot of hot weather – in the mid 90’s every afternoon, but cool nights (high 30’s to mid-40’s).

Yesterday morning Andrea was awakened at about 5 a.m. by her dogs barking frantically. She looked out the window and saw a big cougar right by her deck. She yelled at it and it and it went down through the field by our cows and calves. Later full daylight they looked at its tracks in the mud by the sprinklers and they were huge.

That afternoon our cows and calves were running around, bawling, but we didn’t find anything wrong. Then last night just before dark Cub Cake was bawling, trying to find her calf, so Andrea went to check, and found her calf across the creek, dull and weak and breathing fast. She could hardly get him to cross the creek. He was so weak and wobbly that he almost fell down going up the other bank.

I helped her sort that pair out of the herd and through the gate and brought them down to the corral and over to the barn. It was completely dark by then so we put them in the pen by the barn where we could plug in the light above the headcatch. We cornered him there and took his temperature. He had a fever of 105 degrees. We gave him antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory medication, and left him and his mom in the second day pen pens where there is grass and some shade/shelter. We figured that he might have pneumonia, from the stress of such hot days and cold nights. This morning he’s feeling better, drinking water and grazing a little, and has nursed his mom a little.

We had our vet, Dr. Cope, come out this afternoon to check the calf and to also check our yearling bull. We worried that he might not be fertile. He has bred every heifer, but the first 3 that he bred have cycled again. We decided to have him checked, and if he’s not fertile we will put the heifers in with the cows and the older bull. Cope took a semen sample to test, and said the yearling has live sperm but his sperm count isn’t great. His assessment was that the yearling should be able to settle a cow, so we’ll leave him with his group of heifers and hope that those “returns” were just a fluke.

While Cope was collecting a semen sample, the side of our squeeze chute broke. The chute is old (we bought it in 1979) and the bottom parts have become corroded from rust and manure. It was awkward trying to finish the collection with the whole side of the chute flopping loose (and the bull just caught by the head). We’ll have to fix it before we can use the chute again, and it’s probably a blessing it broke now, rather than in the middle of preg-checking our cows later this fall.

We had Cope look at our sick calf while he was here, and he was puzzled at how the calf could have been so sick last night and so perky and normal this morning. He suspected it might have been heat stress (from the hot day yesterday and maybe some additional stress with the cougar and the cattle running around and upset) with possibly a touch of early pneumonia that responded quickly to our treatment last night. At any rate, the calf is doing much better today.

This evening we had another challenging situation. Alfonso diverted ALL of our water out of the ditch by Andrea’s house and she didn’t realize it until she got home late this afternoon. Not only had we been shortchanged on our allotted water for irrigating that field, but the lack of water in the ditch nearly burned up her little pump that she was using to water her yard. She left a phone message for Alfonso, and we also called the watermaster, so he could explain again to Alfonso that he cannot legally use the water that comes through our ditch.

JULY 30 – We kept Cub Cake and her calf in the pens by the barn a few days just to make sure he was doing ok, and then put them back with the herd.

We’ve had more water problems. Alfonso is using much more than the allotted rights on the place he is leasing from Colstons, and Jack (at the mouth of the creek) was short for his right, so the watermaster adjusted everyone’s headgates and shut off the 4th right (our upper place, which is Michael and Carolyn’s place). There would have been enough in the creek for everyone, however, if Alfonso hadn’t been using more than his share.

This past weekend was special, with the wedding of our oldest granddaughter to Gregory Eppich, a young grain farmer in Saskatchewan. Last Thursday Lynn took our barbeque and all our plastic chairs up to Michael’s place, and the guys hauled Andrea’s picnic table up there. Most of the Canadian guests had arrived (many of them were staying in motels and Gregory’s parents and Carolyn’s mom staying at their house). Carolyn’s brothers and their families camping there.

Friday morning Sam and Dani helped me clean house and then we moved our heifer group to the field above the house. That afternoon we all went up to the barbeque at Michael and Carolyn’s house. It was nice to meet Gregory’s family and we enjoyed visiting with his parents, sisters and relatives. We also got a peek at the wedding cake, made by Carolyn’s brother’s wife. The top of the cake as adorned with a wedding couple sitting on a little tractor.
Saturday we all went to the wedding at the little Catholic Church downtown, and afterward there were some family pictures taken outside the church—the bride and groom with their parents (Carolyn and Michael, and Barb and John Eppich).
And a photo of Gregory and Heather with her grandparents (Lynn and me, and Carolyn’s mom Irene)

Here are a couple more photos of the bride and groom right after the wedding, taken at a friend’s ranch:
Lynn and I came home to do chores after the wedding, then went back to town for the reception. The dinner was really nice (many friends pitched in to help make the dinner) and the slide show was a lot of fun. They’d put together a bunch of old pictures taken when Heather and Gregory were growing up—showing both of them at various stages of their lives through childhood—plus photos him on the farm in Canada and her riding horses here on the ranch. The final photos were some that Emily took earlier this summer when Gregory was here—neat photos of the two of them together in scenic settings here on the creek.

After the dinner, speeches and toasts, they cleared away the tables for a dance. The two little flower girls (Gregory’s nieces, who are cousins the same age) spread rose petals along the floor.
Before the dance, Gregory’s sister Theresa, and his good friend and neighbor Leon entertained everyone with a humorous song they had “rewritten” about marriage and John Deere tractors. Here are photos of the singing, and the listeners.
Then Heather and Gregory had their first dance, as man and wife, and they were a very handsome couple!
This was followed by several special relative dances, starting with the bride and her father, the groom and his mother, Heather and her new father-in-law, Gregory and Carolyn, etc. Michael gave a little speech before his dance with Heather, telling how everything had come full circle, starting when he carried her around when she was baby/toddler singing to her in the middle of the night to help her fall asleep, and now dancing with her at her wedding.
Michael told about Heather’s early love of horses, and how he used to sing her the Ian Tyson song "Adelita Rose," about all the pretty little horses. So that’s the song that they played for the father/daughter dance for this wedding, and it was very touching. Michael sang along softly with the Ian Tyson music, singing the lullaby he used to sing to his little daughter:

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
You know she is my sunshine wherever she goes
Lie-lie-lie lay-lay-lay
Lie-lie-lie lay-lay-lay
She is my sunshine wherever she goes.

Adelita Rose stay in your own little bed tonight
For the sake of your Momma and me.
We gotta get some sleep
Tomorrow's gonna come early.

We don't wanna hear any sound at all
Don't wanna hear little feet coming down the hall
Got to sleep, dream of all the pretty little horses.
The blacks and bays and the dapples and grays,
The red tail hawk on the summer days
The gravel road winding down to the river

And watch that pony or goodness knows
He's gonna step on your baby toes
Go to sleep, dream of those
Pretty little horses.
Then everyone danced—and it was delightful watching everyone enjoying themselves. The little flower girls were dancing with each other,
…and the bride dancing with her uncles, and all of us just savoring the joy of this occasion. Here’s a photo of Heather dancing with her uncle Brian, along with the flower girls dancing around them.
All the little kids were having a blast, dancing around with everyone else. One of Gregory’s nieces (Maria who is not quite 3 years old) stole the show, dancing around and around by herself through the whole time. I captured her happy face a few times in my camera as she went whizzing by.
The bride danced with nearly everyone, including the flower girls.
Andrea danced with her kids, and I was able to snap photos of her dancing with Charlie and with Samantha.
I got to dance with my grandsons, and my son, and we just all had a wonderful time. Here’s a photo Andrea snapped of me and Charlie.
I also had the honor of dancing with Gregory, my new grandson-in-law!
My brother Rocky was talked into dancing by Samantha.
Grandson Nick gave his 4-year-old cousin a good time out on the dance floor.
Near the end of it all, I caught a few candid shots, including Gregory and his new father-in-law Michael having some kind of discussion.
At one point Michael and Carolyn actually had a chance to dance with each other.
After the dance, Heather and Gregory cut their wedding cake, and everyone enjoyed a piece of that wonderful creation.
Sunday morning, Michael and Carolyn hosted a brunch for everyone at their place, with Michael cooking pancakes. It was a nice chance to visit again with the Canadians before they had to leave for home. Just as it all started, however, happy spirits were dampened by a phone call from Judy Skinner (good friend of Michael and Carolyn—ranchers across the valley from us) to say that Jim had been in a 4-wheeler accident, so Carolyn and Heather rushed over there to help Judy. Jim was life-flighted to a hospital in Missoula Montana. He was very lucky, we found out later, with no internal injuries. They did surgery on his shattered arm, but they said he would soon be back home again.

Later that day we visited with Leon and his wife and daughter (the farmers who neighbor with Gregory) who stayed 2 nights with Andrea. Then Gregory’s aunt Norma and uncle Neal came down to visit us, and then Gregory’s parents, Barb and John. It was nice to get to know them better.

That evening Lynn and I moved our cows to their next pasture--an easy job that mainly consists of calling them, opening the gate, and getting out of the way as they pour through it! Leon and family came down to our place again that evening to see the horses and Dani also wanted to show them her favorite heifers, so we walked out in the pasture above the house and the heifers all grouped around us to eat grass out of our hands.

Monday and Tuesday nearly all the Canadian guests were leaving to drive back to Saskatchewan. There was a brief thundershower Tuesday afternoon but not much rain. Lightning started a big fire the other side of town on Napoleon Ridge. That evening Heather and Gregory brought back our chairs and barbeque grill and visited a bit, then went over to see Jim Skinner, who had just got home from the hospital.

Gregory left for Canada the next morning and Heather will be leaving in a few days to finish up a few things. She won’t be coming home again for quite awhile; she has to stay at least 2 years without leaving Canada, to gain her citizenship.

Wednesday morning Andrea and I rode with the girls briefly. That evening Dani and her friend Sekowa started cross-country practice with their 6th grade team, with Nick as their coach.

Thursday morning, the watermaster came out here adjusting water. Right after Gary left, Alfonso took water out of one of our ditches again, and raised the headgate on another ditch on the Gooch place to take more than his allotted share, so Gary had to come back and readjust it, and tell him AGAIN that he can’t take water out of our ditch.

We moved the cows down to back field across the creek. It has enough regrowth, after haying, that it might last them a couple weeks.

Friday Andrea and I rode 4 hours and checked 320 fence along the top (Alfonso and Millers moved the rest of their cows to the high range that morning) and we patched a couple places where the elk had broken the wires going over the fence.

This evening Andrea and Robbie helped Lynn take apart the broken chute and load up the two sides in Andrea’s pickup—and took them to Vern England to weld and fix. He’s the excellent welder who very creatively reconstructed our wrecked flatbed trailer several years ago when it and the tractor slid off an icy road and rolled down a hill.

AUGUST 10 – Last week we moved the heifers again, putting them on new pasture. It’s a juggling act, rotating them around, and the cows in their group, hoping to have enough irrigation water to keep the fields green and growing so there will be regrowth to come back and graze again as we rotate around.

Vern England got the broken pieces of our chute welded back together, and Lynn and Andrea went over to get them. A couple days later Robbie put them on the chute and it works again. It’s a good thing we got it fixed because we had to use it to treat one of our bulls with a second dose of antibiotics for foot rot. This is the big bull we loaned to Michael and Carolyn this year. They discovered he was lame so they put him into their upper corral and into their old chute. They treated him with a long-acting injectable antibiotic (oxytetracycline) and sulfa boluses, then hauled him down to our corral.

We rounded up our big bull the same day (it was time to take the bulls out of the cows, to make sure our calving season ends in early May next year) and we put him in the back corral with a cow and calf to keep him company so he wouldn’t try to jump out. We rounded up the heifers and took the yearling bull out of their group, to put with the lame bull to keep him company. We had planned to sell both of the older bulls; Michael was going to haul them to a sale this week. But now we’ll have to wait a month on the lame bull until he is fully recovered and no longer has any antibiotic residue in his body. He can live in the corral for awhile with the yearling bull.

It’s been a streak of bad luck lately. The reason Michael and Carolyn discovered that the bull was lame was because they were looking for a calf that disappeared. They didn’t find the calf, so Andrea and Carolyn went back again the next day and searched through the brush. They saw 3 coyotes in that field, and Carolyn has seen them several times in that area. Now we are thinking something happened to that calf and the coyotes ate him.

Michael is recovering from an accident with his 4-wheeler when it tipped over on a steep hill when he was hauling posts, on a fencing job. He wrenched his knee severely while attempting to get away from it so it wouldn’t crush him.

Robbie had a bit of bad luck when he was working on his pickup a few evenings ago, putting a newer engine in it. He was underneath it and the strap holding the engine broke, and it fell on his chest. It’s a good thing he (and Michael) are pretty tough! They are both sore, but fortunately neither one of them was seriously injured in their mishaps.

We are still having water problems. The creek was too low during several hot days to fill all the rights so the 3rd and 4th rights are now shut off and our 2nd rights are cut in half. Two of our neighbors are irrigating at night, however, and turning their ditches back off in the morning, which makes the flow erratic and the water even shorter. One of them tried to make it look like we were stealing water, by turning on one of our ditches in the middle of the night. We are hoping that by next year everyone will be forced to have lockable headgates. We’ve been pushing for this for the past 3 years, but there are a couple users on the creek who DON’T want headgates locked, for obvious reasons. Lynn and Robbie welded some angle iron on one of our headgates, with holes in it for adjustments. We plan to put locks on all of our headgates, and at least that will keep other people from tampering with ours.

Dani is enjoying track practice, running several nights a week, and Charlie started drivers’ education class last week. He will be 15 year old this month, and is eager to get his driver’s license.
The kids came home Thursday night from a week at their dad’s place and they are happy to be home. They all had supper here, then the girls helped me lead Rubbie and Veggie back to their ditch bank pasture. I had them behind the barn for about a week, eating the grass so it would be all cleaned up (and not a fire hazard) for parking the haying equipment there. On Friday Lynn cleaned hay out of baler and swather and parked them behind the calving barn until next year.

Saturday we had thunderstorms that started several more forest fires. Between showers, Lynn located a water well for some people on the other side of town, and Andrea and Robbie helped me put the big bull through the chute and give him more antibiotic injections. He’s still a bit lame, but walking better—putting weight on that hind foot. We’re hoping he won’t need any more medication.

After the thunderstorm we had strong winds that blew branches off the elm tree by our house. On the other side of town, a burst of wind blew one rancher’s hay shed apart and blew it clear out of his barnyard and onto the highway. Fortunately no one was hurt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sky Range Ranch Diary: May 18 through June 30

JUNE 1 – Last week we had a little rain. Michael drove over to Dillon, Montana last Thursday to get a load of poles for his fencing jobs, and planned to make a second trip in the afternoon, but the weather got worse (snowing on the mountain pass) and he didn’t want to risk sliding that big trailer off the bad road. He turned around and came back home, to make that trip another day.

In the rainy weather our electric fences weren’t working very well; one of the young cows (Sugar Bear) went through a fence, and during the night Willow tore down the electric fence around the top end of her pen. I fixed it the next morning, and we also moved the cows and calves around to the lower swamp pasture. When we brought the herd through the lane by my hay shed, and calving pen, I could hear a calf coughing. It was Charky. She had a snotty nose and was breathing hard. All the wet, cold weather probably made her more susceptible to a respiratory infection. We sorted out her and her mom and put them in the far pen next to the barn, since that pen has a tarp over one corner to make a little roof. On the way through the pen in front of the barn, we captured Charky at the headcatcher and gave her injections of antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory medication to help ease her respiratory distress.

By the next day we realized she had diphtheria rather than pneumonia (swelling in her throat and upper airway, hindering air passage) so we changed antibiotic and gave her a shot of dexamethasone to help reduce the swelling so she could breathe easier. One way you can tell the difference between pneumonia (infection/inflammation in the lungs) and diphtheria (infection/inflammation in the throat/windpipe) is that an animal with diphtheria will have trouble inhaling because the windpipe is restricted. An animal with pneumonia has more trouble exhaling--with more effort required to push air back out of the damaged lungs. This calf was struggling to breathe, and coughing, especially if she moved around and exerted very much. We treated Charky for several days, until she got over her cough and was healthy again.

Last Saturday we had a hard rain and a hailstorm, but Charky had her sheltered corner to get out of the downpour. I got soaking wet doing my evening chores. It was Andrea’s birthday so we all had dinner at her house. The rain had stopped by then, but her driveway was too muddy/slippery to drive our pickup up there safely, so Lynn and I drove up there on the 4-wheeler. Robbie baked Andrea a cake, and the kids had fun decorating it.

The rain and cool weather prompted us to use the wood stove again on a couple of the coldest mornings, but our chimney was plugged with soot. Robbie and Lynn got up on the roof and used a long plastic pipe to clean the chimney.

Last week the Millers turned their cows out on the range, but Alfonzo kept his in longer, feeding them some old hay and straw that he bought cheaply. He has his cows crammed into the little field above our place, feeding them in a tiny area above the ditch. Wasted hay and straw, and wads of twine and net wrap are falling into the ditch and obstructing the flow, and not much water is coming on down to our field. Frustrating. First he starves his cows during winter by not feeding them at all until late February (after overgrazing all of his fields and pastures, and several of them died of starvation) and now he’s overfeeding them some very poor quality hay instead of turning them out on green grass on the range. We don’t understand that man!

Over in our swamp pasture, two of our yearling heifers (Panda and Surprise) jumped over the crossfence to get in with the cows and calves, but we’ll probably just leave them in that group for now. I pulled up the net wire they’d mashed down and repaired the fence so no more heifers would try to jump over it.

The next day Lynn and I went to town for our appointment with the dermatologist, who froze several precancerous lesions off both of us (my face, Lynn’s face and arms). We’ve both had too much sunshine exposure, for too many years!

Dani is playing soccer this year and really enjoying it. She and a boy her age are their team’s best kickers; both of them played hockey and were good at it, and that seems to give them some kind of advantage.

The kids went on several field trips during the last weeks of school. Dani’s class went to a ranch and had fun panning for garnets. A few kids found some nice stones.

Andrea and Robbie put up an electric fence in the field below our lane, to divide off the hay field from the swampier side that we can’t cut for hay. We moved the cows to that side where they can graze for a week or so. That pasture stays wet all summer and is too boggy for haying equipment, but grows back 2 or 3 times for our rotational grazing.

Later that day Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed to check the fence around our little hill pasture, to make sure the range cows won’t get into it. Several of the wires were off in the posts in the gully at the far corner, and we had to fix that spot.

Our water problems are starting early this year. There is lots of water in creek but not much in our 2 ditches that come through the Gooch place. Alfonzo keeps damming them off to use most of the water on his fields and isn’t letting very much come on down to our place, even though we have a prior water right for those ditches.

We have the opposite problem on the upper place, where Michael and Carolyn are trying to irrigate their fields. They have plenty of water, and are sharing their wild meadow ditch with Barb Peets (who lives on the small acreage below them, around the hill from the wild meadow). She wanted more water for her little pastures and to keep her pond full. But the neighbor below Peets, Bob Loucks, keeps sneaking into the upper place and shutting down their headgate on that ditch. He claims they are flooding him. There’s water subbing out of the ground just above his house.

The actual problem was the wet spring (lots of rain), saturated ground, and the pond that Peets’ dug 35 years ago as a swimming hole for their kids. They run their ditch into that pond, and it was very full all spring. It actually doesn’t hold water very well; some of the water seeps out the bottom. There seems to be an underground water course from that pond. When we were leasing the Gooch place (for 40 years), we started having problems with a bog near the top end of the field below Loucks’ place, after Peets’ created their pond. There was a large area that we couldn’t cut for hay anymore (the machinery would sink into the bog) so we just used that part of the field for cow pasture in the fall.

Alfonzo finally turned out his cows on the range last Thursday, so they are no longer jammed in the little field that our ditch comes through.

That evening we went to the school’s Spring Concert to hear Sam and Charlie play in their band concert (Charlie on the trombone, Sam with her trumpet), and singing in their chorus. The kids all did a great job.

A few days ago we moved the machinery and the brush pile out of the pen below the lane. The brush was from the fence rebuilding project this past winter. With those obstacles out of the way, I put the old gray horses out there to have a bit of green grass. Veggie is now 30 and Rubbie is 29. They are happy to be out on grass again. 
A couple days ago Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie (Sprout’s first ride this year), and then that evening I went with my brother Rocky and his wife Bev to the cemetery. We put wildflowers (a lovely arrangement Bev created) on my parents’ grave.
Yesterday Andrea and Lynn had breakfast downtown with Lynn’s sister Jenelle, his sister-in-law Nita and her daughter, and his nephew Craig (who drove over here from Washington).
Then several of them went out to the cemetery -- Andrea, Lynn, his sister Jenelle, and his nephew Craig -- to put flowers on Lynn and Jenelle’s parents’ graves.

Afterward Craig came out to the ranch to visit us, and to see Andrea’s house (which he had never seen). That afternoon Andrea and I trimmed horses’ feet—Sprout, Dottie, and Veggie. Their feet were too long, and starting to crack and break. We need shoes very soon on the ones we are riding. 

Today we patched the electric wire the deer tore down last night—before the cows got out into the hay field. Then Andrea went to Dani’s end-of-school track meet. Tomorrow will be the last day of school for the kids. They had an awards assembly this afternoon; Sam and Charlie each received music awards, and Sam got a special award from her teachers for being the friendliest 7th grader.  
All the kids are eager for summer vacation. Several of Em’s friends graduated this year (she finished her GED a year ahead of her class) and this photo was taken at graduation--of Em and her best hockey buddy (Audra) and the old gentleman who helped sponsor several of the hockey kids. 

JUNE 15 – Two weeks ago I put front shoes on Sprout; she was becoming too tender-footed and I couldn’t wait until Michael had time to shoe her.

The middle school had an end-of-school party for the kids, and Andrea took photos of the kids before they went to that event. 

That evening Andrea and Robbie took the kids fishing. The next day Dani’s friend Sekowa came out to stay with Dani a couple days. They always have a lot of fun together and Sekowa loves to ride horses. Andrea and I took the girls riding—Sam rode Breezy, and Dani and Sekowa rode Ed double. That old mare is a jewel; she didn’t mind the extra weight of those two giggling girls.

A couple days later Michael put hind shoes on Sprout, and shod Ed and Dottie for me. Breezy can probably get by a little longer without shoes, since she has very strong, hard feet and isn’t being ridden very much. 

We’re still having water problems. Bob shut off Michael’s ditch again, and Alfonzo is stealing our water before it gets to heifer hill! 

Last Saturday we moved the cows from the little pasture below the lane and put them down in the post-pile pasture. We are rotating them through several small pastures until we can get the hayfields cut and some grass growing back on those fields—IF we get enough irrigation water to get adequate regrowth.

We had a streak of hot weather, and our high snow on the mountains is about gone. Our high water is past; the creek is dropping. We hope to get the hay off a little early this year so we’ll still have enough water to irrigate the fields afterward.

Our old machinery needs lots of maintenance. Robbie took one of the balers apart last week and we ordered the new parts we’ll need for fixing it.

Last Monday morning there was a lot of bawling down in the post-pile pasture when I went out to do chores, so I hiked down there and discovered a stray calf was in with our cows. Several range cattle had gotten into Alfonzo’s field down below our place, and one of their calves had come up through our fence. The calf was very wild, and ran into the middle of our group of cattle that had come to greet me. I waited awhile until the calf’s mother’s bawling finally got his attention and he went back down to the fence. I quietly started down toward him to try to take him along the fence to hopefully find a weak spot where he’d come through, but those wild range cows took off, and the calf went ballistic and crashed over/through the fence like a wild animal.

Then I walked along the fence in the bushes and found a spot where he might have come in—and patched it with a bunch of tree branches. That morning we called Alfonzo to tell him there were range cows in his hayfield. He was unaware that the range neighbors on that side had moved their cattle into the area next to our places, and he would soon have a field full of cows because he’d left his back gate open! So he was grateful that we told him about those cows.

I’ve been letting Ed graze several hours each day in the lane by my hay shed, to gaze down the tall grass before we stack new hay in there. She enjoys the green grass!

We had a storm and very strong wind a few days ago, and it blew the tarp off the bales of hay in the pen below the lane. Now the weather has turned hot again. Michael, Nick and Robbie are very busy building fences for a lot of people around our valley, and are now starting very early in the mornings (before sunup) so they can beat the heat and get most of their work done before late afternoon.

Andrea has been doing all our irrigating again this year, trying to keep the fields green and growing—to grow our hayfields and pastures. Her dogs love to go with her as she goes around to all the fields to change the water, and I snapped this photo as they came through our driveway.

Last Tuesday Andrea took Lynn over to Missoula, Montana for his doctor’s appointment with the neurosurgeon/back specialist. After looking at the MRI results, Dr. Mack said that he would not be able to do anything surgically to help Lynn’s back; there is too much damage and deterioration. But he did prescribe some medication that he says is safer than the pain meds and Tylenol that Lynn has been taking (which is hard on kidneys and liver) and told him to try it. This is actually an anti-seizure medication and works on about half the patients who try it for back pain. Lynn has been taking it, and it does help—but he only takes it at night because it makes him drowsy. He’s getting much better sleep than he’s had for many years!

Andrea and I have been riding Sprout and Dottie a few times, to start getting them back in shape again. When we came home from a long ride Wednesday afternoon, we repaired some old fence along the lane above the post-pile pasture and let the cows in there for a couple of days, since they were running out of grass. Then we let the cows graze our stackyard above the corrals for one day.

Alfonzo and Millers finally moved their cattle out of the low range pasture and took them to the middle range. Then we were able to move our cows to our little hill pasture above our house. We always have to wait until the range cows are gone, to make sure no bulls try to come through the fence and breed our cows. We don’t put our bulls in with our cows until late June. We don’t want our cows bred this early, or the fence torn down. We especially don’t want our cows bred to Alfonzo’s bulls because that would put our cows at risk for several diseases that we don’t want in our herd.

Andrea, Sam and Dani and I rode over the low range to make sure there were no range cattle left behind in the low pasture, and didn’t see any, so we went ahead and moved our cows and calves to the hill pasture. I took this photo of Dani as we were looking for stray cows.

Robbie and Andrea helped Lynn haul water troughs up there, and finally got our old pump started—and pumped water for the cows from our ditch across the road. Andrea made sure there was enough water in the ditch, early that morning, but just before we started pumping, Alfonzo changed the water in the field above us and the water flow cut down drastically—and was also murky and brown from the tail water coming into it from the filthy pasture where he’d confined his cows to feed them! So our cows had to contend with dirty water, their first few days on that hill pasture. 

Robbie got our baler put back together after we had the plunger welded, and hopefully the old thing will work better than it did last year. Lynn loaded manure from our bull corral for David Yoder (who brought down his little trailer) for his garden. 

Charlie took his second level test (now that he has earned his ham radio operator’s license) and passed it, so now he is determined to take the highest level test.

On Sunday Emily drove out here to take photos for young Heather and her fiancĂ© for their wedding invitations, and showed us her new car. She borrowed $8000 at the bank (her first loan, to start establishing her credit) to purchase this 2008 Chevrolet. It is in really great shape and gets good mileage, and is bright red—her favorite color.

Day before yesterday the range cattle next to our back field were pressing our fence, and that evening we could hear bulls bellowing and fighting. We went down there to make sure they hadn’t crashed through the fence, and they were dispersing by the time we got there. But the next morning when Andrea went down there to change water in that field, she discovered that cattle had knocked the fence down and gotten into our field. They’d mashed down some of the hay. Andrea propped the fence back up again.

Andrea, Dani and I rode that afternoon and chased some range cattle away from the fence. That evening Robbie helped us set some steel posts in the fence to hold it up.

Andrea has a very sore, red eye, ever since a branch hit her in the eye when we were riding through some brush. She went to the eye doctor, who sent her to an eye specialist in Idaho Falls, so she and Carolyn drove over there early this morning. Andrea was able to go to the eye doctor late morning, and then to meet with the court-appointed mediator in the custody case.

The mediator met with Andrea, and with Mark (separately, in another room) and tried to encourage them to work out some kind of compromise so this case won’t have to go to trial. The mediator was very good, and Andrea was willing to make some concessions (and let Mark off easier on his contempt of court judgment and give him more time to get her name off the mortgage without him having to sell his house) but Mark refused to budge. I guess he’d rather spend thousands of dollars on a trial trying to save a few hundred dollars in child support! He doesn’t really care about the kids (and his girlfriend hates them) and this whole battle seems to stem from the fact he wants to take the kids away from Andrea and not have to pay child support! We’d hoped for a miracle and some kind of peaceful resolution without having to go to court, but we are not surprised that the mediation attempt didn’t work.

JUNE 30 – What erratic weather! The last couple days have been in the 90’s, while just two weeks ago we had morning temperatures below freezing! The weather was so cool for several days that the cows on the hill pasture didn’t drink much water and we only had to pump water for them three times to fill the tanks while they were on that pasture. One of those mornings it was so cold that Lynn and Andrea had trouble getting the pump started.

The range cows on the other side of our place have been pressing our fence along the back field, and last Saturday Michael, Robbie and Justin (the high school graduate who has been helping on their fencing jobs) built a sturdy jack fence along the lower end of that field so the range cows can never push the fence over again. There’s a spring there that keeps the ground boggy and it’s hard to keep posts upright when the cattle keep reaching and pushing to get through the fence, which they always try to do when the range grass is dry or gone. They want to get into our green fields. The jack fence should solve the problem.

The next day Andrea and Robbie set steel posts along the ditch in our field above the corrals, and put up a hot wire so we can graze the strip along the ditch like we did last year. We put the cows there when we brought them down from the hill pasture, and put the yearling heifers (from the upper swamp pasture) with them.

Willow went under her hot wire again. She’s always reaching under it for grass, even though it’s 4 strands of electrified tape. She got clear under it and then couldn’t figure out how to get back, and was stuck between the electric fence and the boundary fence of her pen. I rescued her, but two days later she did it again. That time she was stuck in the little corner by the crab-apple tree.

We have the tree fenced out of her pen because we don’t want her eating all the apples (fallen and reachable ones) when they ripen, since overeating on them can cause colic. So, I took down the hot wires and extricated her, and moved her to another pen (our extra calving pen next to the house). She can live there until we rebuild her fence with no-climb netting—something she can’t chew on--so it won’t need to be augmented with electric wire to keep her from destroying the wood fence. She is too smart, and figures out ways to nibble right next to an electric wire without getting shocked.

Andrea has been diligently irrigating, trying to keep our fields growing, but she’s been constantly short of water on our shared ditches that come down through the Gooch place. Alfonzo keeps using his share and some of ours, too. Last week she was very short of water for heifer hill and hiked up the ditch to see what was wrong. She found that Alfonzo had stuffed a bunch of net wrap and hay twine in the ditch to divert the water out before it could come down to our place. She spent about 30 minutes digging and pulling about 80 pounds of saturated junk out of the ditch and headgate, and strained her shoulders and back.

Alfonzo has been using his little tractor to make lots of small ditches out of the big ditch, to take more water out. A few days ago he parked his little tractor on the hill above the country road. It seems to have a bad battery and he has to roll it downhill to start it. The next morning the poor little tractor was upside down in the field. It had apparently rolled down off the hill, across the road, through the fence and tipped over next to the ditch.
Lynn started cutting hay, on our back field across the creek. Andrea went with him for a few rounds, to show him where the wet spots were, to avoid getting stuck. She had to move a newborn mule deer fawn out of the tall hay; fortunately she saw it before he swather ran over it. It was so tiny and new! The mama came back for it and found it; Lynn saw them together a little later. 

Last week Bob Loucks called a big water meeting at his house, theoretically in an attempt to resolve the water issues but more obviously to tell us all what he wants us all to do regarding our own ditches. He told us he would have a lawyer there to interpret the legal aspects, but the lawyer refused to come (Bob doesn’t have any legal right to stop Michael and Carolyn from using their decreed water right). Bob also wanted us all to go to regulation so Michael and Carolyn would have to shut down their water use, but the creek is not that short yet. We agreed to share our ditch water with Alfonzo 50-50 until we actually go into regulation (at which time we would have the prior right) but the very next day Alfonozo took all our water again! I’m afraid this is going to be another stressful summer on Withington Creek. 

We had all the kids here for dinner Thursday evening when they came home from their week with Mark. On Friday Dani and I rode Dottie and Ed and checked the 320 pasture gates and the fence between us and range cattle. I took photos of Dani on Ed as we were heading out to go up Baker Creek, and again on the way home as we passed the colorful rock outcroppings on lower Baker Creek.

Charlie spent the weekend at a ham radio workshop at Rocky’s place and had a great time. Now Charlie plans to learn Morse code along with everything else. 

Saturday Andrea started baling hay down below. We moved some hay out of my hay shed and rearranged the rest so we could start stacking. Lynn finished cutting heifer hill and field below it. 

Sunday morning Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down and hauled our spare 3-year-old bull (Lightning Strike) and their yearling bull up to the upper place to put the yearling with their heifers and young cows and our big bull with their older cows. Then we sorted our herd and put our 3-year-old bull (Thunderbull) with our cows and calves. We took them to the little pasture above our house, and put our yearling bull with the yearling heifers in the orchard. The grass in there has grown nicely and is about 2 ½ feet tall. It might hold them for a few days and then we’ll put that little group in the horse pasture.

Michael came down that afternoon and showed Robbie how to run our old stackwagon. They stacked 4 loads of hay in my shed. Meanwhile, Lynn was trying to grease the swather before heading out to cut hay below the lane, and discovered a serious problem that needed fixed. Bob Minor was going to Idaho Falls the next day for sprinkler parts and picked up the bearings and parts we needed, to fix the swather.

Range cows broke through Rocky’s fence on his little acreage on the upper place, and were getting into his garden. Michael and Carolyn helped get them out, and Rocky propped up the fence. Those cows are pressing our fences all along that back side—for 3 miles—because they are hungry for green grass. They need to be moved to their next pasture.

These past two days have been really hot. Andrea got most of the hay baled on heifer hill and then the baler broke down just before she finished. Robbie worked on it that night and got it working again, so yesterday she finished baling that field and the little field below it. Dani and I rode Ed and Dottie, so Dani could get a ride before she has to go back to her dad for a week.

With the swather fixed, Lynn started cutting the hay below the lane, and after Robbie got home from helping Michael on a fencing job he stacked hay. So maybe we will eventually get our haying finished!