DECEMBER 21 – We had warmer weather last week, above freezing during the days. Michael and Carolyn got a trailer load of hay to haul to the upper place for their cows, and brought their tractor down to load it (and hauled an extra bale with the tractor). He also helped us break loose one of the round bale feeders in the bull pen that was starting to freeze down in the ice, and carried both feeders out to the hold pen with his tractor so they’d be easier for us to take them on up to the field for the cows.
Last weekend Andrea, Jim, Charlie and girls helped Emily move more of her things to the storage shed, and got her moved out of the rental house (which the landlord wants to remodel), and got her dogs and cats moved up here.
On Sunday Michael helped me take the shoes off Ed, Shiloh (she’d already lost one front shoe) and hind shoes off Sprout (I’d already taken off her fronts) and trimmed their feet.
Monday morning there were more than 100 elk on the hill above Andrea’s house, going back and forth trying to get through the fence. They had apparently been spooked by something (maybe the wolf pack that’s been in the area for several weeks) and had come through our place and were having a little trouble getting out. Our cows were fussed by all the elk and didn’t go to the hill to graze that day. A few elk were still on our hillside by late afternoon.
The elk came through again for several days and the cows finally got used to them and went to the hill to graze in spite of the elk. One elk calf stayed for nearly a week, hanging around close to Andrea’s house, and very unafraid—almost as if it felt safer near the cattle and humans.
Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent a few more photos of young Joseph (now more than a year and a half old), including one taken while he was napping in the truck.
|Joseph taking a nap in the truck|
Yesterday it snowed a little more and I took photos around the barnyard—including the yard fence and elm tree, and snow on the willows by the bridge.
|new snow on willow by the bridge|
|snow on the yard fence, elm tree and hay shed|
|snow on sagebrush next to tractor|
|snow on pens by barn|
|snowy corral and wood shed|
DECEMBER 31 – Last Saturday Andrea and her friend Scott went up the creek to get a Christmas tree for her kids, and took a photo looking down on our creek valley and the top of our upper place.
|view of our creek from the mountain above our place|
Sunday Michael and Carolyn came down with the flatbed trailer for more hay, with chains on his truck this time, so he could make it up our slippery driveway with the loaded trailer.
Andrea decorated the Christmas tree at her house (the kids were out at Mark’s place for the first part of their Christmas vacation, so they didn’t have a chance to help with it). She took photos of the decorated tree.
|Andrea's Christmas tree|
These old chaps have a lot of history behind them; they are more than 100 years old. They were given to me about 63 years ago when I was a young teenager, by an old cowboy named Carl Enquist who had a ranch farther up the valley from ours. He was old and ill, and no longer riding horses, and he appreciated the fact that I rode a lot out on the range, looking after the cattle. He gave me his chaps, which had seen many years and many miles. They had been repaired a few times, with a new strap and buckle). They had big pockets; he used to carry a lunch when he was riding all day, and was known to have a piece of pie in one of those pockets.
I hadn’t used those chaps for a long time; I have a shorter pair I use for shoeing horses, and some lightweight chinks that I use for riding in cold or wet weather (that Michael and Carolyn gave me about 5 or 6 years ago). After Andrea and I rode a few times this fall in wet, miserable weather (and she wore her motorcycle pants) I decided she could use those old chaps, and they would make a gift at Christmas—passing along a bit of history and “horse gear” that saw a lot of action on this range a long time ago.
Christmas day we went up to Andrea’s house early afternoon, after the kids got back from their dad’s place. We had a potluck bunch of snacks and food instead of a big dinner, with lots of goodies to eat while we opened gifts and enjoyed the day. Here are some photos Andrea took as we were sitting around enjoying the day.
|Jim's lamp - The Great Divides|
|Charlie & Sam|
|Sam on Christmas|
|Em on Christmas|
|Kids on Christmas|
|Andrea's new old chaps|
Michael and Carolyn got another load of hay that day, and Charlie came down and filled our wood box. Andrea checked the ice on the creek, to make sure the cows could still get to water.
The next day it was snowing, and time to start feeding the cows. Charlie and Andrea helped me haul a bunch of little bales on the feed truck from my hay shed, to stack by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens, then we loaded up a few old bales in the stackyard to feed the cows in the field by Andrea’s house.
|feeding the cows|
During the Christmas vacation Charlie had a chance to set up his new computer and here’s what it looks like. It’s a good thing he’s very computer-savvy; he was able to get it programmed and functional by himself.
|Charlie's new computer|
|feeding young cows on heifer hill|
Saturday it snowed some more. Andrea helped us feed the cows again, cleaning up the last of the little bales from the stackyard. That night we plugged in the tractor and the feed truck.
That evening she and the kids went to visit her friend Scott and his son Landon and she took a few photos—when Landon was showing them his computer, and when the girls were enjoying a bon fire that evening in Scott’s back yard.
|kids checking out Landon's computer|
|Sam & Dani|
Some of the cows were down in the lower end of the swamp pasture when we drove up there yesterday, and I took a photo of LillyAnn and her daughter Lilly Annie.
|cows in late December|
JANUARY 6 – On the first day of the New Year it was 10 below zero and only got up to 15 degrees for a high. We kept our stove going all night, and let the kitchen and bathroom sinks drip so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. The feed truck would not start, even after being plugged in for 17 hours, so we had to jumper it again, this time with the battery charger rather than have to start another vehicle to jumper it with. Lynn and I got the cows fed and Andrea chopped holes in the creek ice for the cows to drink. We put a new battery in the feed truck, and it started much better the next day. Also it wasn’t quite so cold; the low for the night was 10 above zero.
We used up all the old small bales in the stackyard, so after we got the cows fed we untarped the end of the new stack and loaded some on the truck to stack by the bull pen, and left a few on the truck to feed along with the alfalfa. Michael and Carolyn brought the flatbed trailer and loaded 10 big straw bales to take up for their cows on the upper place—to use as feed and bedding during the cold weather.
Andrea’s friend Scott and his friend Mike worked several days finishing the wall for Sam’s bedroom and it looks really nice.
|Sam's new wall|
|Sam's new look|
Dani practiced shooting her old bow and realized she’s outgrown it. Her arms are now too long for it!
|Dani shooting bow|
Wednesday morning Mark’s girlfriend Dawn (who has been living at Mark’s place for several years) had a heart attack and was sent by life-flight to a hospital in Idaho Falls. Mark drove down there to stay with her, and asked Andrea if Charlie could stay out at his place that night to do the chores and feed the pets. Andrea let Charlie and Sam stay at their dad’s place that night, and through this weekend (and let Dani go out there, too) even though it was Andrea’s weekend to have the kids. She felt it was more important to have them help out at their dad’s place and take care of things while he was gone. With the cold weather someone needed to stay there to keep the fire going, etc. Dawn had surgery Thursday morning, to put 3 stents in her heart, and Mark stayed with her until he was able to bring her home again on Saturday.
It was only 7 degrees on Thursday and our tractor barely started even though it had been plugged in all night. We used it to take an old straw bale up in the field by Andrea’s house to scatter in the brush where the cows like to bed. The willows at the edge of the field make a natural shelter, with almost a “roof” as well as a windbreak, so we put straw in amongst the willows for bedding. Here are photos of what the bedding area looks like, and the feeder where we put big straw bales for the cows to eat. The bale in the feeder was nearly gone that day.
|bedding in the willow|
|bedding area with willow roof over it|
|straw nearly gone in feeder|
Friday it warmed up a little (with a low of 14 degrees) and actually got up to 29 degrees. Michael and Carolyn hauled more loads of hay up to their place, one each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Scott and Mike finished the carpentry work and painted the walls on Saturday, so it was a nice surprise for Sam when the kids came back from Mark’s place this evening (and had dinner here at our house).
Today was the warmest day we’ve had for quite a while; it actually got above freezing. We put a new bale in the heifers’ feeder and took a bale of straw for them to bed on. Andrea took a picture as Lynn was bringing their hay bale with the tractor.
|feeding heifers Jan 6|
|Em eating a late supper|
JANUARY 15 – The warm weather only lasted a day. Last Monday morning it was 30 degrees at 4 a.m. and then the wind started blowing and we had some rain that quickly turned to snow as the temperature dropped. Andrea and Jim went out to help Russ (Jim cleaned his chimney—the job Russ was starting to do last month when he fell off the roof and broke his ribs—and Andrea fed his horses), and they brought home more firewood.
We had a fresh coating of snow on everything, including the old brush and little tool shed by the creek.
The next day was a little warmer but there was still some thick ice on the creek that we had to break so the cows cold drink. That afternoon Lynn went to town and transferred the title of our old car (a 22-year old Chevy Lumina) to Emily as an early birthday present for her; we loaned it to her this past fall but she needs something to keep driving until her old car gets fixed. This old white car, which she named “Luna” when we got it the summer of 2000—needing something dependable for Lynn to drive on the frequent trips to Salt Lake to the burn ICU to be with Andrea after her burn injury—is just a year older than Emily. She has a special bond with it, since we took her in Luna later that summer to see her mama when Andrea was finally well enough to have her little 2.5-year old daughter come visit her in the hospital.
Andrea and her friend Scott got another load of firewood that morning at Hughes Creek, and the next day Jim went down there and cut up some more wood, and helped Russ with some of his chores.
Jim recently finished a very unique lamp, which he named The Great Divide. The base of the lamp is a piece of burl wood with many contours, like a rugged mountain ridge, and he placed tiny figures on it—Indians and horses, teepees, etc.—and turquoise insets looking like streams of water. He’s hoping to find a buyer for it.
|Jim's lamp - The Great Divide|
|closeup of lamp base|
Thursday morning Andrea helped Lynn and me load up some small bales to haul to the bulls (to feed them for the next week or so) and after we fed the cows she went to town to talk to Dani’s teachers about her eye problems; Dani is having trouble reading because of her eyes and will be seeing an eye specialist next month.
These past few days I’ve been working many hours checking the page proofs for the third edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, and putting in updates from the 2nd edition (that came out 10 years ago). The new edition will come out later this year. The 4th edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle (which I updated earlier this year) came out a couple months ago and this is what the new edition looks like. It includes many new photos, all in color this time.
|new cattle book|
|trees gone from back end of stack so we could get to it|
Sunday was cold again and windy. Andrea helped me feed the cows. I cooked a big dinner for everyone that evening, when the kids got home from Mark’s house, and Emily came out for dinner, too.
Yesterday was very cold—10 degrees and snowing—and this morning the temperature was below zero. Andrea helped me feed the cows their small ration of alfalfa (for extra protein) and a few small grass bales. They are eating a lot of straw in this cold weather. We’ll have to plug the tractor in tonight so it will start in the morning—to take another big bale of hay to the young cows’ feeder and perhaps another big bale of straw to the older cows.
Today is Sam’s birthday (she’s 16), and Emily will be 21 on Saturday. We’re planning a double birthday dinner/party for the two of them this weekend.
***If anyone wants to purchase some of my books, most of my horse and cattle “how to” books are available from Storey Publishing. I have some my other books on hand, if anyone wants signed copies. These include my book about Andrea’s fight to survive horrendous burn injuries the summer of 2000, and the unexpected detour we all took--a journey that profoundly affected our lives:
Beyond the Flames – A Family Touched by Fire. ($19 for paperback, or $25 for hardback, plus $4 postage).
For anyone interested in some of the adventures over the years with our cattle and horses, and stories about life on the ranch, here are some of my other books:
Horse Tales; True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, Cow Tales; More Stories from an Idaho Ranch, & Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.
Signed copies can be purchased for $24.95 each (or $70 for all three books) plus postage ($3 per book, or $7 for all three books)
I also have some of my father’s books left. They are now out of print and hard to find. These are collections of some of his best meditations and bits of spiritual wisdom, and include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb. These books by Don Ian Smith can be purchased for $12 each (plus $2 postage for one book, $3 postage for 2 to 4 books) or $50 for the whole set (and $4 postage).