Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 4 – February 26, 2015

FEBRUARY 8 – We had some new snow this past week. The heavy snow on top of our woodpile shifted the tarps that were covering one end of it, and that side collapsed, crashing down on the wheelbarrow.

The new snow made our driveway nearly impassible. Lynn got the pickup stuck when he took Charlie home from the bus on Tuesday afternoon, and had to walk back to our house. Andrea and Robbie pulled it out of the snowdrift when they got home that evening, and brought it home for us. The kids had supper with us, and Dani made a calving calendar for this year, showing the due dates of the cows that will be calving in April, and we pinned it up on the wall. Every year we make a calving calendar, to give us an idea at a glance when each cow might possibly calve, and Dani likes to mark them off (circle their names) as they calve.
The next day Michael helped Lynn put chains on our big tractor so we won’t get stuck loading hay and straw, and took more straw bales up to the cows. Andrea picked up the kids from school that day and took them to hockey practice.
The cold weather has taken a toll on 29-year-old Veggie and he’s become so stiff that he can hardly walk. On Thursday I started giving him a dose of “bute” daily, dissolving 2 pills in warm water and mixing it with molasses, giving it to him orally with a big syringe. Like a big aspirin, it reduces pain and inflammation, and by the next day he was walking better, and not so lame and stiff.

The deer aren’t being dissuaded from eating hay with the heifers by having the dogs tethered next to where we feed the heifers. The deer come boldly, in spite of the dogs barking. So yesterday Robbie and Lynn took the dogs back home to Andrea’s house. The kids have been missing their pets!
Emily took another GED test (English) and passed it. So now she only has 2 more tests to take; she’s halfway done! She enjoys being able to study on her own time, and have a fulltime job—and pursue her photography.
With the snowy driveways, Lynn has been using his 4-wheeler to go back and forth from Andrea’s house, and to go to the mailbox.

This weekend Andrea took Emily to her hockey tournament in Sun Valley. The weather warmed up on Friday and the snow was melting, making slush on top of ice in our driveway. It was treacherous, and hard to get up enough speed to make it up the hill at the top when they left home. Michael spent that afternoon with our little tractor and blade, trying to make our driveways safer. He got the slush off, but some of the ice was still too thick and hard to get through. He had to spend another afternoon the next day, clearing the rest of it off after it melted a bit more.
It thawed for several days, and the snow melted off the low country, flooding the fields, ditches and roads. Now instead of snow we have mud! It washed some big gullies
across our county road, making it impossible to drive to and from our place without 4-wheel drive and a lot of clearance.
Yesterday my brother Rockwell Smith and his wife Bev brought a big U-haul trailer from Boise, the first load of things they are moving. They are selling their house in Boise, and moving to a little rented house here at Baker (just 2 miles from us), while their new house is being built this spring on the upper place. Lynn and Robbie helped them unload the multitude of boxes from the trailers.
The flooding continued today, but is slowing down. Most of the snow is gone off the low hills, and the higher snow hasn’t started melting yet. Andrea and Em got home from Sun Valley, where Em’s team won half their games.
Readers have been enjoying my new book Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, so I am now starting my next book, Cow Tales from and Idaho Ranch. It’s a fun project, remembering some of the interesting adventures with cattle.

FEBRUARY 12 – On Monday it rained, so in addition to melting snow we had even more water, and more flooding. The frost went out of the ground and even the main road up and down the creek became deeply rutted and challenging. It reminded me of the days when my parents and little brother and I had to leave our car along the road and hike the last several miles up to the little cabin above our present ranch, where we stayed in the summertime before my dad bought the ranch. The road got so boggy that a vehicle would sink down to its axles.
Monday morning while Lynn and I were feeding cows, Andrea shoveled the ditches along her driveway to divert the water away; it was making deep ruts, washing out the driveways. Michael spent 3 days working at a friend’s ranch fighting floods.
The nice thing about the warmer weather and snow melting off the fields is that the cows are happily starting to graze again. There was still some grass under all that crusted snow.
This has saved several big bales of straw; we haven’t put out straw for more than a week. We’ll save it for when the weather gets cold again. We’re feeding the alfalfa hay on top of some of the straw where the feeders have been—so the cows won’t waste it. The alfalfa hay has very fine leaves and if it’s fed on wet ground the cows tend to tromp it into the mud and much of the value is lost. It’s best to feed it on the old straw or thick grass where there’s no mud.
Dani missed school on Monday, and Andrea took her and Sam to the doctor on Tuesday; they came back from the weekend at their dad’s place with more respiratory problems. This has been an all-too-common occurrence—missing school because they are sick when they come home--after they spend a weekend in an environment with people smoking in the house.

FEBRUARY 20 – Veg is doing better, not so lame and stiff, so I cut back on the amount of bute I’m giving him (one pill daily instead of 2) and that seems to be enough. I don’t want to give him too much bute because it can be hard on the stomach (just like aspirin) and I don’t want him to get ulcers.
On Friday Andrea and Dani helped Lynn feed the cows; Dani loves to see the cows and goes with us every chance she gets—whenever she’s here at Andrea’s house—when we do anything with the cattle. Andrea’s friend Robbie has a job on a ranch the
other side of town, feeding cows, checking the calving cows, etc. and on Saturday Dani went with him to ride around in the tractor feeding hay, and see the new babies. Our cows won’t start calving until late March, and Dani is impatient to see some calves!
Sam’s hockey team had a tournament here this weekend. She had 2 games on Saturday and Lynn went to town with Emily to watch the second one.
My brother and his wife made another trip from Boise, bringing more of their things to unload here at their rented house, and a trailer load of outdoor things that they took to their house site on the upper place.
We had more cold weather, and Lynn plugged the tractor in overnight to make sure it would start on Tuesday to load more big straw bales for the cows.
On Wednesday Andrea took both Sam and Dani to the doctor—Dani for medication to ease her terrible cough, and Sam for an x-ray of her hip bone. She got hit really hard with a puck at hockey practice the evening before, and her hip was very painful. Just badly bruised, however, and not broken. It’s probably a god thing that hockey season is about over!

FEBRUARY 26 – This past weekend was Emily’s state tournament in Boise. She and Andrea drove down Thursday evening and Em’s first gave was Friday, late morning. Her team played Sun Valley and won 7 to 0, with Em making one of the goals and assisting with another. Emily’s boss (at the music store) was in Boise that day and came to watch her team play. They didn’t do so well in the rest of their games, and didn’t win them.
Sunday afternoon some folks from northern Alberta stopped here to meet us on their way south to see the Grand Canyon. They have a ranch along the Frasier River, near Yukon Territory. They have been reading my Rancher’s Diary column in Grainews (a Canadian farm newspaper) for about 20 years and wanted to stop by. We enjoyed visiting with them, and they stayed for supper with us and Dani, Sam and Charlie. Lynn went into town just before supper to pick up those three kids from their dad, who had them over the weekend.
Andrea and Em got home very late that night and didn’t get much sleep. Andrea needed to rest on Monday but insisted on coming down that morning to help us feed cows and help Lynn refill our woodbox. With the cold weather (dipping down to zero for several nights) we’d gone through a lot of firewood.
Dani’s respiratory problem took a turn for the worse again and she had a fever and stayed home from school. Her fever got really high Tuesday evening and Andrea took her to the ER, where the doctor gave her an injection of antibiotic. She is doing a little better by today.
On a brighter note, granddaughter Heather’s first book has been accepted for publication, by the same editor who published my book Horse Tales (which came out in late October last year). Her book discusses safety when handling horses, and will be published in April. We are all very excited and delighted about this news.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January 15 – February 4, 2015

JANUARY 18 – On Friday Andrea helped Lynn feed the cows while I did phone interviews for articles I’m writing for a horse magazine. I’m still recovering from the bad respiratory “bug” and don’t have much voice yet, but at least I don’t have to just whisper!
After Lynn and Andrea took the tarp off the hay (we have to cover the truck every night, to keep the deer from eating on the hay and pulling it out of the bales and wasting some) she took a picture of Lynn as they got into the truck to go feed the cows.

Her friend Robbie changed the oil in her car, since it has gone too many miles since the last oil change. That afternoon they took Dani to Sun Valley for Dani’s hockey tournament this weekend.
With all the kids in hockey, playing on different teams, it’s been a challenge to get them to all of their various tournaments. Some of them play in different towns on the same weekend, or one of the kids will have games here at home while one or two others go to different towns. Andrea often has to find rides for them with other team members on the weekends when she is taking one of them a different direction, since their dad refuses to take them to tournaments even when he has the kids for that weekend.
Gas and motel expenses for these frequent trips is a challenge, so Lynn and I help out all we can, with money for gas and lodging. They take food along, so they don’t have to buy meals. One nice thing this year about the Sun Valley trips is that Andrea and kids have been able to stay in a room furnished by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, for a small donation, making those trips less expensive. Dani had a lot of fun on this trip, getting acquainted with the pastor and his wife and two young girls. She also played enthusiastically in their hockey games. Their team lost most of their games, but tied the last one, and Dani was proud to be able to make the final goal—the point that tied the game. On the way home Andrea took photos of the sunset.

Here at home it was cold (down to 2 degrees yesterday morning). Jasper, one of the dogs tethered near the heifers (in our efforts to keep the deer from eating so much of their hay) broke his cable and was chasing the heifers, so we had to patch it back together and Lynn went to town for a new dog tether. The deer are getting very bold, and come to eat with the heifers in spite of the dogs. When I went to do chores that evening there were 7 deer lounging around in the field waiting for me to feed the hay. They come right back when we chase them away, and as soon as it starts to get dark even more of them come to eat the heifer’s hay. They’ve also been jumping into Veggie’s pen again and eating all of his alfalfa hay, and tearing down the electric fence.
Emily came by and helped Lynn carry wood. With the cold weather we have to fill the wood box nearly every day. I finished an article I’m writing, giving tips on how to deal with broken legs in calves (for a cattle magazine). I sent photos from a professor I interviewed, showing how to create a splint, and also photos of Peggy Sue (a calf we had in 2005) in the barn with her mother Rishira, with a cast on her leg. The cow stepped on the calf’s leg soon after she was born, and broke it, but it healed nicely.


Today Michael and young Heather came down to our place after they finished feeding their horses, and helped us take 2 more big bales of straw up to the cows. With all the ice, it’s getting harder to get around with our big tractor; Michael had trouble getting away from the straw stack with the bales. We’ll have to put chains on the tractor before we give the cows more straw in a few days.

JANUARY 26 – Michael spent several days working on Andrea’s old car—the Eagle she bought from our neighbors when she was still in high school in the mid 1980’s and drove thousands of miles. She’s getting it running again, to have a spare vehicle for Em to drive to work and hockey practice. Em has a fulltime job, is working on her GED, and also takes the kids to hockey practice in the evenings on days that Andrea can’t.
Sam and Em both had birthdays this month; Em turned 17 and Sam is 12. These kids are growing up fast! We gave Em a box of camera lenses that someone was selling inexpensively. They won’t all fit her camera, but the big one—that she really wanted—will probably fit with an adapter. She’s been taking lots of photos, and had some really nice photo books created, showcasing some of her best pictures.
We couldn’t find our tractor chains; we haven’t used them for several years and don’t know where they ended up. Michael’s tractor chains were easier to locate, but frozen in the ice. He chopped them out of the ice and helped Lynn put them on our tractor. This made it a lot easier to load the hay and straw bales without getting stuck. It was down to zero for a few nights, so we were also chopping ice for the cows.
On Friday Em went to her hockey tournament in Missoula, Montana with a teammate, Lynn took Charlie and Dani to the hockey rink here (for practice and games and to meet up with their dad since it’s his weekend) and Andrea took Sam (and one of her teammates) to her tournament in Sun Valley because Mark wouldn’t take her.
This weekend was a great experience for Sam and her friend; they had good games and a lot of fun. They enjoyed seeing the snow sculpture created each year (with a chain saw, from packed snow) by a fellow at Sun Valley, and posed next to it. Andrea also took pictures of Sam and two teammates.


They stayed again at the room provided by the Seventh Day Adventists, and the pastor and his wife fed them dinner. The pastor had a guitar and taught Sam some more chords, since she wants to learn how to play.

FEBRUARY 3 – Last week Michael worked on Andrea’s pickup, and also helped Lynn build a new fence along the ditch next to the lane to the calving barn. After putting in the new culvert last fall and cleaning out that ditch, it’s really deep and we don’t want calves falling into it when we’re taking them to and from the barn.
Last Wednesday I was interviewed for a podcast on off-farm income, discussing how I’ve used writing as a way to help make ends meet here on the ranch for the past 48 years. Writing articles and books has been my off-farm job I can do at home.
Andrea helped Lynn feed cows that morning. It was very foggy, and at first they could hardly see the cows. Then she took photos as the fog started to lift, and tried to take pictures of a “fog rainbow” that was really unique.

The young cows (heifers and 2nd calvers) are not competing very well with the older cows that push them away from the hay piles, and are losing a little weight. We decided to move the young cows to heifer hill where they can be fed separately, to make sure they get their share of the alfalfa hay.
We needed another feeder for them—for the big straw bales—and couldn’t afford the price of a new one (nearly $500). Michael chopped and pried one of his old round bale feeders out of the ice on the upper place and brought it down with his tractor, and we put it on heifer hill. Then we brought all the cows down Sunday morning, and put them through the chute. Michael and Carolyn gave them their pre-calving vaccinations and another round of delouse pour-on, then we sorted off the heifers and a few of the skinniest young cows and took them to heifer hill. Sam didn’t have a hockey tournament that weekend, so she enjoyed helping us sort the cows and move them. Andrea wasn’t here to help because she’d taken Charlie to his hockey tournament.
Meanwhile, three days before that, Andrea had been notified that Mark is reopening the divorce case and wants full custody of Charlie, Sam and Dani. This was an emotional blow to Andrea and to all of us, because we thought things were working fairly well with their shared custody. The kids have been able to spend time with both parents. It seems that the big issue for Mark is his reluctance to pay child support; he thinks he will be better off if he has custody of the kids and Andrea has to pay him child support!
The kids don’t want to be fulltime with him, however, because they want to be with their mom and older sister Emily, and they enjoy the wide family circle here on the creek—interacting with grandma and grandpa, their uncle Michael and aunt Carolyn, and their older cousins Heather and Nick when they are home. The kids also don’t want to give up their experiences here on the ranch, riding horses and helping take care of the cattle and enjoying their favorite pet cows. So it looks like another court battle, and we will try to help Andrea keep shared custody of her children.
The day after she got served the papers, she took Charlie to his hockey tournament in Wyoming, and Dani went with friends to her tournament in Idaho Falls (again, Mark wouldn’t take either child). Emily had a hockey tournament here, so Lynn, Sam, Michael and Carolyn went to watch some of her games and cheer for her team.
And speaking of teams, the nice thing about having all of our family here on the creek is that we are all a team—and enjoy helping each other. Lynn and I are “battery back-up” for getting kids off the bus, juggling trips to town for their activities, helping Dani with homework. Michael and Carolyn and family, and Andrea and kids help us with the ranch projects and things that are getting harder for Lynn and me to do. It’s a blessing having our family all here together, and we want to be able to keep it together.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 1-15, 2015

JANUARY 7, 2015 – We’ve had a week of really cold weather and I’m still sick. On New Year’s Day Andrea and Robbie fed my horses for me so I wouldn’t have to go outside (9 below zero), and they helped Lynn feed the cows and heifers and break ice on the creek for the cows. Our feed truck hasn’t been running very well so Robbie put new spark plugs in it, which made a big difference. Andrea got a few more small bales of grass hay on her pickup for the heifers, to feed with their alfalfa. Our high for the day was zero. Emily took the kids to town for their hockey practice that evening, and took a photo of Charlie waiting to play.

 The next day was a little warmer, only down to 6 below zero that morning. Andrea and Emily left early in the morning to drive to Kalispell, Montana for her hockey tournament, and Dani went with them. The roads were slippery and they had to go pretty slow on the last part of the trip, barely making it in time for Emily’s first game. They played several games that weekend—against the Kalispell team, Whitefish, a Canadian team from Lethbridge, Alberta, and a team from Seattle, Washington—and won them all, in spite of being short on players. They only had enough players to be a team, and when one of their teammates injured her knee in the 3rd game they had to “borrow” a player from the Kalispell team to be able to finish the tournament. Andrea took photos of Em playing, and a photo afterward of Em, Dani, and their goalie.


That weekend Sam had a tournament here at home, so Robbie took her to those games, since Andrea was in Kalispell with Emily. Robbie also helped Lynn and me do chores and break ice for the cows. Michael and Nick came down and put out 2 more big bales of straw with the tractor. We had stormy weather and more snow, and the roads were bad when Andrea and Em drove home from Kalispell, so we were glad they made it home safely Sunday evening. We had so much new snow here at Salmon that school was cancelled on Monday.
I had an encouraging message from my publisher of Horse Tales; he said the book did well during December, with people buying it for Christmas, and he hopes it will continue to have strong sales as more people learn about it. He gave me the go-ahead to do another book, on Cow Tales, and I hope to start writing it very soon.
I’m starting to feel a little better, and have been helping Lynn feed the cows again, and took a few photos when we fed yesterday.
 But for several days I had to do all my phone interviews (interviewing people for the articles I was writing) in a whisper. I’m starting to get my voice back again, and not coughing so much, which makes it easier to do the interviews. I’m also able to sleep a little better, which helps.
The whitetail deer are really plaguing us. The dogs are keeping them out of the haystack but now more of them are eating alfalfa hay with the heifers. Some of them are so bold that they just lie around in the field and wait for us to feed the heifers, then come
eat their hay. Emily took a few photos of several young deer with the heifers. She is taking a lot of pictures these days and I am using some of her photos for this diary.
[photos 6, 7 & 8 – deer and heifers]

About 20 to 30 deer are coming into the field in the evening right after we feed the heifers, eating their alfalfa hay. They ate so much of their hay the past several nights that the heifers were pretty empty and hungry by morning. The deer also jumped into Veggie’s pen and ate all his alfalfa hay. This isn’t going to work! Poor old Veggie (29 years old this year) has bad teeth and it takes him all day to eat his morning feeding, and all night to finish his evening meal. If the deer eat it, he won’t get enough to eat and will be losing more weight.

Lynn started shooting fire-cracker shells at the deer to scare them away, but they come right back. He went out there several times in the night and the deer were back eating the hay again every time. So we called the Fish and Game and asked what we could do to try to remedy this problem.
Three of their wildlife people came out this morning and assessed the situation. They didn’t have a solution for the deer eating our heifers and horses’ alfalfa, but they brought some strong plastic netting material that we could wrap around our haystack to protect it—something the deer can’t eat through. We wrapped it around the stack, so now we won’t need Andrea’s dogs tied at each end of the stack to protect it.

JANUARY 15 – The day we wrapped haystack, we moved the dogs to a new location—putting their little houses by the fence in the field where the heifers are, and staked them there. A few deer still sneak up around them, but they’ve been able to bark and scare most of the deer away that used to come right through that area to eat the heifer’s hay.
[photos 12 & 13 - dogs guarding the field]

We had several foggy, cold days this past week but at least the temperatures were no longer below zero. One night the power went off at 8 p.m. and was off for more than 3 hours—affecting about 800 people in our valley. We were about to go to bed anyway, so we just used flashlights to put wood in the stoves, and were glad we had wood stoves for heat!
Nick left early Friday morning to drive back to Oskaloosa, Iowa to finish his final semester at William Penn University. He had relatively good roads, and cold weather. We sent a full gas can with him, in case he got stranded somewhere; he could at least keep his engine running and not run out of gas, and be able to stay warm. But the roads weren’t that bad and he didn’t need to use the emergency fuel. He drove more than halfway that day and made it clear across South Dakota, spent a few hours sleeping at a motel, and made it the rest of them way in time to be there for track practice on Saturday.
In the meantime, granddaughter Heather was on her way back from another visit to friends on the wheat farm in Saskatchewan, and got home Friday night. That weekend Charlie’s hockey team had a tournament here, and Emily took pictures of him skating.

On Saturday Michael and young Heather came down to help us put more straw out for the cows and Heather brought a bucket of horse pellets for me to try for Veggie. He has trouble eating very much hay, with his bad teeth, and when the deer jump into his pen and clean up his alfalfa, he doesn’t get enough to eat. These are tiny pellets, easy to chew, and contain a lot of calories and nutrition. Young Heather bought a lot of bags of these to feed her old pregnant mare, Classy, and thought they might help Veggie.
That evening, I fed him a small amount in a rubber tub and he tasted them and nosed them around and kept trying to pick up the tub with his teeth and dump it (I had to stand there and keep him from flipping the tub over). The next morning I gave him some more, and he seemed to like them a little better—ate more of the handful I gave him—but still tried to dump the tub. By the third time, he decided he liked them. Now I am giving him 2 cups of pellets twice a day, and sticking his tub down firmly into an old tire so he can’t pick it up with his teeth and dump it. He always liked to play with tubs (with his teeth and feet) so I can’t leave one in his pen, just take it in there to feed him and take it out when he’s finished. He can eat it while we are loading up hay right there for the heifers, so that works nicely.

Now that he is willingly eating the pellets, I started mixing some joint medication (containing glucosamine, also in tasty pellet form) in with his easy meal, in hopes it might help his painful arthritis. He does fine in the summer, but his leg joints get stiff and painful in cold weather.
Michael spent a couple days fixing vehicles. He helped Lynn take 2 of the old worn-out tires off the feed truck (tires that had slow leaks and were always going flat) and put on some newer ones, and worked on Andrea’s car to get it to run better. Yesterday Lynn and Andrea fixed the electric fence around Veggie and Rubbie’s pens that the deer tore down, so now the heifers can’t lean through into Veggie’s pen and rub/press down the net wire. It’s hard to keep the fences working with all the wildlife going through them!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

December 2014

DECEMBER 14 – Andrea has been catching Rishiam every day that she has time, and handling his feet, rasping the nail clinches so she can get the shoes off more easily (since he has a bad phobia about nippers and any pulling on the shoe). Some days she leads him down the road a ways to try to help loosen the shoes, and lets him graze along the driveway while she works on his feet. Last week she was finally able to pull of his front shoes while he was grazing, and a few days ago she got his left hind shoe off.
Sammy and Dani had their first hockey tournament last weekend, here, and won all their games. Dani made her first goal. On Sunday Lynn and I went to town to watch one of their games before church, and took photos of each of them as they played.

Michael finished splitting all of their wood and brought the wood splitter down to start splitting the rest of ours. Heather got home from Canada last Sunday and said it’s a lot warmer down here right now than where she was visiting (west of Saskatoon). We are really grateful for the warmer weather because our cows are very happily grazing on the 320; every day that they can stay up there is one day less of feeding hay!
Last Tuesday Lynn and Andrea went up on the 4-wheeler to check on the cows, since we hadn’t gone up there for a while, and the cows were doing fine, but some elk hunters were shooting right above them. The elk ran down into the timber on our place, in amongst our cows, and the hunters were coming right after them. Lynn and Andrea were afraid they might come on down and shoot at the elk in our place—where the cows were scattered all through the timber with the elk—so Andrea hiked up through there and spooked the elk back out. The elk ran back toward the hunters, who shot one. So Andrea did everyone a favor—chased the elk back to the hunters, and kept the hunters from possibly shooting one of our cows accidentally in the timber on our place.
The whitetail deer are congregating in our fields and eating on our haystacks at night. We have to keep all the alfalfa hay covered with tarps, but they are still able to get at the lower edges of our big stack. The deer are small and don’t eat a lot—except when there are 20 or more and they start to make a mess of things as well as eat.
On Wednesday Lynn drove his 4-wheeler back up to the 320 to check on the cows again and make sure they are all ok after the hunting activity. He didn’t get far enough to see all the cows, however. Halfway up the ridge toward Preacher’s Spring something went wrong with the 4-wheeler and it wouldn’t go. Luckily he had his cell phone with him, and had cell service on the ridge, and called home. Andrea started up there with our other little 4-wheeler, but by that time Michael had gotten home from doing his chores and I called and told him about Lynn’s predicament. He drove up there and was able to help Lynn get his 4-wheeler home. It had no power on the rear wheels. It could go downhill ok, but not uphill, and Michael had to pull it up the hills with his 4-wheeler.
The next day Michael helped Lynn take it apart and ascertain what was wrong with it. Lynn went to town to order the new parts and we can hopefully get it fixed this week. Meanwhile Lynn will have to use the little old red 4-wheeler that Andrea and kids have been using for driving back and forth between their place and ours.
I’ve been doing lots of interviews for articles and trying to meet several urgent deadlines before Christmas. It’s always interesting doing the various assignments for
numerous magazines, writing about everything from cattle diseases and grazing strategies to equine hoof problems to broodmare care to ranch stories.
One of the most interesting interviews I did this week was with a young man and his family in South Dakota, telling about their incredible life-changing journey following his serious accident and traumatic brain injury 11 years ago. Rodney was a senior in high school, active in FFA and high school rodeo, training young horses. His mother sent me photos, including one of Rodney with some of the horses he was training in high school.


The young horse he was riding that October evening in 2003 must have spooked at something. It flipped over a barbed-wire fence, down an embankment, and was lying there, nearly on top of the unconscious young man when his father and brother found him later that night. The first miracle was that the horse had not moved. It would have crushed him if it had struggled and rolled on over him, but just as important, the body heat from the horse kept him from dying of hypothermia that cold October night. After being shocked back to life by the ambulance crew, Rodney was air-lifted to the hospital in Sioux Falls, and spent a month unconscious in the ICU with his parents at his side.
Many more miracles followed after he woke up, as Rodney struggled with rehab to regain his ability to move talk and walk. He insisted on riding a horse again within less than a week of coming home from the hospital, before he was able to walk—and the horse was the best physical therapy of all. Today Rodney team ropes again with his family. Even though his speech is slow, he expresses himself well, and travels around the country giving inspirational talks about his accident--and his faith. It is stories like these that make my writing job a delight! Here are photos of Rodney telling his amazing story, and talking with people about his miracles.


This weekend Emily had a hockey tournament in McCall. Her team played hard and won some of their games. On Friday Michael brought the backhoe down and worked all afternoon finishing some of the cleanup from the earlier project when we put the new culvert across the driveway. He got all the brush and debris away from the ditch below the new culvert so we can build a fence along it, and put lined the ditch above the culvert with rocks so it won’t wash out.
[photo 6 – hauling out the brush with the backhoe]


Lynn drove the other 4-wheeler up to the 320 and saw most of the cows but some of them were grazing in the timber and he didn’t see all of them. The weather was really warm and the snow was all gone—until yesterday. It started snowing early morning and by daylight we had 4 inches of new snow here, and deeper on the mountains. The cows will have more trouble grazing and we may have to bring them home. Nick got safely home from college on Saturday, after a 2-day drive on bad roads. It’s good to have him home for awhile!
Yesterday a cougar killed a deer in our neighbor’s field a mile below us. One of our other neighbors tried to track it with hounds but didn’t have any luck. We’re hoping it doesn’t hang around here very long.

DECEMBER 22 – Last Sunday Michael and Carolyn drove 4-wheelers up to the 320 to check on the cows and were able to see all of them—scattered all over the mountainsides and through the timber. The snow is getting deep again up there, but the cows were still rooting down through it to get at the grass. Michael’s 4-wheeler had trouble getting up the steeper hills and he and Carolyn had to push it up the steepest part of the ridge.
The next day it was colder. When I went out to feed the horses that morning, Sprout was lame, not wanting to put any weight on her right front foot. We couldn’t tell for sure whether she hurt the foot or the leg above it. We don’t know whether she banged it on the gate while bucking around and goofing off, or stepped on something sharp in her pen, or strained the leg stepping in one of deep holes in the frozen mud. Andrea washed the foot and leg and put DMSO on the leg above the hoof. That evening Andrea and Robbie drove up the creek and got a Christmas tree.
It was even colder the next day, and we decided it was time to bring the cows home and start feeding them hay. Michael had taken the shoes off their horses, so snow wouldn’t ball up so badly in their feet. He, Nick and Heather rode to the 320, and Carolyn went up on a 4-wheeler, and they gathered the cows to bring them home. It took several hours because the cows were still widely scattered, and a couple of them ran back up Baker Creek rather than wanting to come down.
Lynn and I got all the gates ready down here—and moved the bulls out of the main corral so the cows could go through it up to the field be Andrea’s house—then drove up the creek shutting all the gates into neighbor’s fields and lanes along the way. Then we came back down and waited at this end, to head the cows down our driveway when they came. There is still some grass in the pasture where we put them; we may not have to start feeding hay for a few days.

Andrea took Emily to her doctor appointment to have her leg checked. The bone she broke playing hockey last year is healing and growing down over the metal plate and screws and the doctor thought it was doing ok. Later in the afternoon Andrea washed up Sprout’s leg again and applied more DMSO to help relieve the pain and inflammation; she is still very lame. That evening we went to the kids’ Christmas concert at school. Charlie played the trombone in his band group, and Sam played her trumpet. Charlie sang a solo with his choir group.
On Wednesday we started feeding the weaned heifers; they’ve been nosing through the snow to grass but the snow is pretty frozen now and it’s harder for them to get enough to eat. They are happy for the hay. The new parts came for the 4-wheeler and Lynn picked them up in town. Michael put it back together and it runs fine.
We had several inches of new snow, and I took photos of the heifers and the horses that morning—including young Willow enjoying a roll in the fresh snow.

The creek road was very slippery with fresh snow on top of the ice, and Emily ran off the road down toward Baker, sliding into the ditch. A friend came along and was able to drive the car back up onto the road for her. She went to town for one her GED tests and passed it. She has 3 more tests to take and then she’ll have her GED.
With the colder weather we had to break a lot of ice out of the heifers’ water tubs, so we moved them to the field below our barn, where we can plug in the heated water trough. They appreciate the warmer water, and we don’t have to chop ice every morning.
I took photos of Pig and her friend. Pig is the heifer we rescued last February when she was born at 25 below zero, thawing her out in the house. She ended up with short ears (they froze) but is now the biggest heifer in the group.


Sprout is starting to put more weight on her lame foot; it seems to be healing. Andrea put DMSO on it a few more times and now she doesn’t need to anymore.
Lynn caught the bad cold that has been going around town and school, and has a really bad cough. Yesterday he was so sick and miserable that he didn’t go outside to do his chores until about noon. Andrea came down and filled our wood box for us, and got some more little bales of hay on her truck, for the bulls.
She and Robbie left late afternoon to drive to Idaho Falls for her pain doctor appointment early this morning. The roads are bad and they didn’t want to gamble on being slow getting there this morning. She finished the appointment and they were just heading down the street to go to the pharmacy when her car quit running. She was able to coast through an intersection and into a gas station. Robbie discovered that the fuel pump had gone out. They were able to borrow his mom’s car to do the rest of the things they had to do in Idaho Falls, then borrowed his dad’s pickup to go get a car carrier trailer from his grandfather, near Blackfoot. They finally got the car loaded late this evening, and will spend the night at a motel before heading home in the morning.
Meanwhile, Lynn was too sick today to do any of his chores. Michael and Nick came down and helped, and also figured out where the deer are getting into the stackyard (in spite of all the elk panels around it). The tracks showed that they’ve been going under the fence at the creek. So Michael and Nick put poles across that spot to try to keep them out, since they are making huge holes in our haystack.

DECEMBER 31 – Andrea and Robbie made it home with her car, we ordered a new fuel pump, and Robbie was able to get the gas tank off her car and put in the new pump. I sent out the rest of our Christmas letters and finished making personalized T-shirts for all the family (drawing horses on most of them, and cartoon characters on Lynn’s and Charlie’s). I wrapped gifts for the grandkids, using the colorful comic strip section of our Sunday newspapers; these serve a dual purpose (not having to buy wrapping paper, and the kids love to save the paper and read the “funnies”).
Two days before Christmas I started getting sick. Lynn and the grandkids shared their respiratory “bug” with me. Then that night the chimney in the livingroom started smoking, plugged with soot. The smoke in the house was so thick that it woke me up at midnight. We opened all the windows and used fans for a couple hours to get the smoke out of the house. Fortunately it wasn’t a very cold night! The next day, Christmas Eve, Robbie got up on the roof and used a long plastic pipe to knock the soot out of the chimney so we could start using that stove again.
I had a bad cough and fever that day and didn’t get much done—went to bed early and spent 12 hours in bed. Lynn helped me do my chores on Christmas day and we spent most of the day resting. Our Christmas dinner consisted of boiled egg and homemade
bread. We felt well enough that evening, however, to go up to Andrea’s house to watch her kids open their gifts.


I also took photos of Andrea and Lynn, and Sammy with her horse T-shirt from grandma. They were all having a great time, and it was fun to be a part of it.

The day after Christmas Michael and Nick brought their flatbed pickup and helped Lynn take a couple feeders and two big bales of straw up to the field for the cows. The pasture is about gone, and the new snow buried the grass that’s left, so it was time to start feeding the cows. Michael loaded two big bales of alfalfa on our feed truck and fed the cows some alfalfa to eat with their straw. The combination makes a balanced diet and the protein in the alfalfa feeds the rumen “bugs” so they can ferment and break down the straw to create energy. The heat of digestion also helps keep the cows warm in cold weather, so it makes a good winter diet.
I was so sick I didn’t get much done for several days, and was coughing so badly by Saturday afternoon (coughing up thick brown crud) that Lynn took me to our doctor, who lives 3 miles from us, across the highway at Baker. Suzanne listened to my lungs, etc. and prescribed an antibiotic, prednisone to help ease the swelling and inflammation in my throat and windpipe, and medication to ease the cough. Andrea drove to town to pick up the prescriptions before the pharmacy closed that evening.
These past few days she and Robbie have been coming down to help me do chores in the morning, and with it so cold lately (down to 12 below zero, and a wind making it even colder) I stayed in a couple mornings and just let them feed the horses and heifers and break ice out of the horse’s tubs.
Andrea and Lynn fed the hay to the cows, and on the warmest afternoon Sammy and Dani brought their sleds down here to sled down our driveway.

We’re having a lot of trouble with whitetail deer getting into our alfalfa. These deer are nothing like our native mule deer that winter in the hills. The whitetail started moving into our valley about 20 years ago, and are now thicker than rabbits. We have to tarp the hay on our feed truck at night and keep a tarp on hay we’re feeding the heifers, or the deer eat huge holes in the bales. They found another way to get into our stackyard in spite of putting poles across the creek where they had a regular freeway. So on Sunday Andrea and Robbie brought their two young dogs down to the stackyard and tied them at each end of the stack. They made a doghouse for each of them, and they are now guarding the hay from the deer. Jasper patrols one end of the haystack and Olive guards the other end.


With the sub-zero weather and deep snow, Michael and Carolyn brought their horses down from the 160-acre mountain pasture yesterday, and put them in the fields on the upper place, where they can feed them a little hay.
Yesterday Michael and Nick came down and helped move the feeders and put out more bales of straw. Nick chopped ice on the creek to open up water holes for the cows, and the bulls in the corral. It was sure nice to have help that day, because Lynn had to go to town to have his eye checked. The previous day, he suddenly had a big brown “floater” in that eye. The eye doctor said it was a small piece of detached retina, but nothing serious at this point.
I’ve lost my voice completely, from the sore throat and coughing. Andrea took me to the ER today because there were no openings at the clinic. They x-rayed my lungs and took blood tests, and determined that at this point it’s still just severe bronchitis—probably from the influenza strain that wasn’t in the flu shots this year—and put me on 5 more days of prednisone to help ease the pain and inflammation. It’s been interesting trying to do phone interviews with no voice (for the various articles I have to write for several horse and cattle magazines), but I can still whisper. And since the people I interview have to do most of the talking, it works!