Thursday, September 25, 2014

Late March-Early April 2014

MARCH 25 – A week ago Andrea took Emily to the doctor to have the stitches taken out of her leg, and a cast put on it.  She still has to stay off it for another 6 weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                Lynn went to town and bought a new headgate/culvert for one of our ditches that originates on the backside of the creek on the Gooch place.  We share that ditch with Alfonzo, and the headgate he put in last year (to replace the one we put in 30 years ago that was wearing out) was too small; we were never able to get enough water through the ditch to service his fields and ours and we were always short of water.

                Over the weekend Andrea’s kids enjoyed helping us feed the cows.  Several are getting ready to calve.  Andrea cleaned out all the old bedding and manure from the calving barn, and helped Lynn load hay on the feed truck and bring more bales around for the heifers.   The two calves born during the cold weather in February are a month old now, and the one we thawed out in the house has lost her ear tips.  Her feet are still sore; she spends a lot of time lying down.   But she’s lucky she didn’t lose her feet and they seem to be getting better.

              
On Sunday Andrea helped us bring the cows down from the fields above the house.  We fed them in the orchard and horse pasture and sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s cows.  After breakfast Carolyn and young Heather came down with their stock trailer.  We sorted their old slow cow into the calving pen and loaded her with the two pairs below the barn (the calves that were born during the cold weather in February) to haul to the upper place.  We put the cows in the front compartment and the calves in the back of the trailer.

Later that morning they hauled their horses down and trailed the rest of their cows to the upper place.  Hopefully the weather will warm up a little and more of the snow will melt off before they start calving.

Yesterday we all signed Emily’s cast and drew cartoons on it.  Lynn helped Andrea capture the rabbits that have been living in the camper shell on the back of our jeep, putting them in a kennel carrier.  Andrea took them to a friend who wants rabbits.

Today we brought a big bale of straw around on the old jeep and drove it into the barn, ready to spread in the stalls as soon as the dirt floor dries out a little more.  Even though we prefer to have the cows calve outside, April can be pretty nasty and it’s nice to have a barn during a blizzard!

APRIL 1 – A few days ago it started snowing and we decided to get the barn ready in case any cows calved.  We tried to start the jeep (in the barn with the bale of straw on it) but it was out of gas.  When Lynn poured gas in, it all ran out on the ground; the gas tank/line had come apart.  So we off-loaded the big bale of straw in that stall, pulled the jeep out of the barn with a tractor, and took the straw into all the stalls with the big calf sled.  That took a little longer than backing into each stall aisle with the jeep, but it worked.   We left a big bare spot in the stall where the jeep was parked—where the gas leaked out—so it can evaporate before we cover it up with straw.

                We had several days of cold, stormy weather.  On Thursday we moved all the rest of our cows down from the field into the horse pasture and orchard where they will be easier to watch, and moved their straw feeder into the horse pasture.  We had our first calf born that day (Cupie Doll had a nice bull calf), in the barn, during a snowstorm.

                The next day we started training the heifers to come into the calving pen for alfalfa hay.  On Saturday we put them in the little pen in front of the barn, and on Sunday we put some alfalfa in the barn and put them in for the first time.  The last couple of days they’ve headed right into the barn for their daily training session.  It will be really easy to get any of them in the barn if they calve during bad weather.

                Today Carolyn brought their truck down and Lynn loaded more straw bales for her.  Then Andrea helped Lynn put straw in our calf houses in the field above the house, after patching a big hole in the floor of one calf house.  Lynn built those calf shelters in 1968 and 1969, and the floor boards were rotting out.


               This evening Cub Cake started calving.  We first put her in the calving pen but the temperature dropped dramatically after dark, with a nasty wind, so we put her in the barn to calve.

APRIL 10 – Andrea has been staying here at nights to watch the cows so I can sleep, then I get up at 4 a.m. to watch them (checking on them as I type articles) and Andrea sleeps.  Emily is able to drive now even though she’s still on crutches, so she gets the kids up and takes them to the school bus in the mornings.

                Our friends Pete and Bev Wiebe from Canada arrived here last week to stay at Andrea’s house a couple days on their way home.  They spent part of the winter with the Mennonite Disaster Service doing various house-building projects in Texas for families that had lost their homes.  It was great to have a good visit with them.

                The second day they were here, I was doing chores early and saw 3 black wolves run down the hill from the road and across our field to the creek.  We learned later that horn hunters had seen them that same day, on our range.  They’ve been hanging around the area and have disturbed the elk.  A large group of elk stayed on the hillside above Michael’s house for 2 days and wouldn’t leave.  This was similar to what happened earlier this winter when a big group of elk came running down through the neighborhood and spent 3 days all huddled together in a field next to a subdivision.

              
                Andrea took Emily to the doctor that day to have her cast cut off.  She now wears a walking boot but is still supposed to use her crutches for a few more weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                That afternoon Pete helped Lynn untarp the haystack to get a few more big alfalfa bales to haul around to the heifers and load the feed truck, and get another big bale of straw for the feeder in the horse pasture.  Bev helped me cook a big dinner for everyone that evening here at our house.

                We’d just finished eating when Lynn’s sister Jenelle called us, from the hospital, to tell us that their brother Will Thomas had suffered a massive heart attack.  Lynn, Andrea and Emily drove to town to the hospital, but Will passed away before they got there.  They stayed awhile with Jenelle and Nita (Will’s widow) and then drove Nita’s car home for her, and came home late.  Jenelle stayed with Nita so she wouldn’t be alone.  Pete and Bev took Andrea’s kids home from our place and got them to bed.

                The next morning we visited with Pete and Bev awhile before they had to leave for the last part of their journey home to British Columbia.  They were a wonderful source of support for us in this time of loss and grief.

                The weather finally warmed up and on Monday Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed for the first time this year, to start getting those old mares back in shape and ready for the little girls to ride.  It was the first time we’ve ridden Breezy since her eye was removed last December. 

                  
                It has healed nicely, and she is adapting very well to being sightless on that side.  Andrea had a good ride on her, and we rode again during the next several days.   Breezy handles herself very well on the trails and hillsides; a person just has to be aware that she can’t judge the slope on her blind side.  On our 3rd ride we found a newly shed elk horn (6 point) and Andrea carried it home on Breezy.
                

                Michael came home from North Dakota for a couple of weeks to take a break from his truck driving job, and was able to be here for his Uncle Will’s funeral on Tuesday.  Andrea picked up the kids at school, and took them.  Lynn and I were getting ready to leave, and noticed that Rosalee was calving.  We put her in the calving pen in front of the house, and I opted to stay home and watch her.  It’s easy to see the calving pen from our windows.

She had a big calf, and it was a good thing I was here, because she struggled to her feet with the calf hanging out, hiplocked.  It was a big, long calf, with its feet nearly touching the ground while its hindquarters were still stuck inside the cow.  I ran outside to the calving pen and grabbed onto the calf’s front legs.  Rosalee swung around and around and it was like crack-the-whip but I couldn’t get the calf to come out.  Fortunately he was able to start breathing, while hanging there.  Finally the cow stood still and I pulled and twisted the calf one way and then the other, several times, and it took all my strength to finally pop him loose.

                I named the calf WillyBill. I don’t think Lynn’s brother would have minded that I didn’t make it to his funeral.  He was a good stockman in his younger years and always took good care of his cattle.  I had the feeling that he was right there looking over my shoulder and approving as I delivered that hiplocked calf.  It was a nice funeral, and Andrea took photos when the family went to the cemetery—photos of her kids with Lynn, and Lynn’s nephew John (Will’s son).
               


  
                Our new Amish neighbors, renting the little house below us on the creek, have 2 little boys and are expecting another baby.  Andrea’s girls enjoy babysitting and playing with the little boys and helping Rosina.  Once a week Rosina has to go to town to the chiropractor (she has a very painful back) and either Andrea or Emily drives her to town and helps her do her grocery shopping.  These Amish families that have moved into our neighborhood use horses and buggies but can also ride with anyone who will drive them somewhere in a vehicle.

                Our first heifer calved yesterday (Buffalulu, a daughter of Buffalo Girl).  She had a nice heifer calf.  We’re nearly half done calving.   Today I put the pair out of the barn into one of the nearby pens.

                
                Today Andrea drove to Missoula for her doctor’s appointment to check her throat (she has some damage from the breathing tube when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU 15 years ago) and also has a problem with acid reflux so the doctor put her on medication for that.   Lynn got the kids from the bus, and then discovered that Sam left her trumpet on the bus and he drove to town to get it.  We fed the kids supper this evening and the girls enjoyed hiking with me up through the cows to see all the new calves.

APRIL 20 – We had sad news on Saturday; a good friend drowned that morning while trying to clean debris out of a springbox that discharged into the large ditch by his house.  The side of the springbox gave way and he fell into the ditch, where the force of the water sucked him into a culvert.  His wife tried to pull him out but could not.  She ran to the neighbor’s place to get help, and it took 2 men to pull him out of the ditch.   His death was a shock to our community.

Young Heather has been working with 15 green horses the past 4 months, helping get them trained and ready for the horse sale held last week.  They were horses of all ages—mainly broodmares, and a couple of recently gelded stallions--that the owner decided to break and sell.  Most of them were 6 to 12 years old and pretty set in their ways so they were more challenging to break than young horses.   They did fairly well at the sale, but the first one Heather started to saddle to ride into the sale ring that day was upset and nervous at all the noise and activity at the Fairgrounds and kicked her when she came up to him with the saddle.  Fortunately she was right next to him and didn’t get the full force of the kick or get kicked in the head.  As it was, he knocked her about 12 feet, hitting her in the ribs and belly with one foot and hit the saddle with the other.  She had cracked ribs and bruised muscles but still managed to ride him (and 8 more horses) through the sale ring.  She’s pretty sore still, but managing to do her chores and some riding.

                Andrea harrowed our fields the past few days.  Charlie and Dani rode with her in the tractor one day and Charlie enjoyed driving the tractor.  Last Saturday Maggie calved—a big bull calf.  Dani was upset because it was the weekend the kids were with their Dad and she didn’t get to see Maggie calve.  Maggie is her special pet.  Maggie is getting older and her udder is saggy, and Andrea had to help her big calf nurse.  

               

                Michael came down on Sunday and loaded manure in Jade and Anita’s trailer for their garden, then took our backhoe up in the field to clean silt out of one of our ditches, then he and Lynn went to the Gooch place and dug out the too-small culvert/headgate and put in the new one at the head of our ditch.

                We had a couple cows calving that night and it was very cold and windy so they had to calve in the barn.  It was down to zero by morning.

                I lost my twin cousin Kit this past Monday morning.  She and I were born the same day—February 13, 1944—and we shared a very special bond of friendship all our lives.  These past few years, however, she was in poor health with Parkinson’s disease and progressive dementia, and finally lost that battle, slipping away in her sleep.  She will be greatly missed, but always vibrant and alive in good memories.   Here’s a photo of her and me when we were about 6 years old.

               
                Wednesday it was still very cold but not windy for a change.  Michael has been shoeing all their horses, and that afternoon he came down and shod Ed and Breezy for me.

 We learned later that day that our neighbor Galen Kossler died that morning.  He was 85.  We had many good years working together with Kosslers as range neighbors ever since they moved here in 1974, until they sold their ranch a few years ago (and it resold last year to 3 Amish families).

                Thursday morning Michael put shoes on Sprout and Dottie, and trimmed Willow’s feet.  Then he went home to shoe their last horse before he goes back to North Dakota.  That night we had more rain.  All the new babies have learned how to get in the calf houses and out of the cold rain.

                My computer started to die last week and I have to leave it turned on all the time until I can get it replaced.  Lynn started irrigating the fields above our house.  Yesterday Dani helped me do chores and water the cows, and helped me sort out the cows that are most ready to calve.  We put them into the orchard where they are easier to see at night from the house (with spotlight and binoculars).  The cows are gentle and easy to handle and they all know Dani.  She’s very good at handling the cows quietly and tactfully, reading their body language and knowing just where to be, at the right time.  Whenever she comes to see the cows she picks a little grass along the driveway (it’s finally grown tall enough to pick!) to feed Maggie.

                Outie started calving early this morning and we put her in the calving pen.  Dani and Sammy came down to watch her calve—with a great view from the window, but she put it off all day.   Two more started calving—including Magdaleena (a heifer)—so we put them in the adjacent pen.  The heifer made progress faster and we put her in the barn to calve.  Dani helped me keep track of them all; she sat out by the barn and peeked in the back door, and came to tell me when the heifer started to get serious—lying down and pushing the feet out. 

                The heifer calved ok, and the calf got up and nursed.  By contrast, Outie put it off serious labor until dark.  We turned the yard light on (at the end of my hay shed) and it lit the calving pen enough that Sammy and Dani could watch her calve, when she finally did it at 10 p.m. – a big bull calf.

APRIL 29 – The night that Outie calved, the temperature dropped dramatically and the calf got chilled.  We ended up putting that pair in the barn at 2 a.m. after helping the calf nurse.  I worked madly the rest of the morning to get some articles finished and meet the deadlines before I had to give up my old computer.  Lynn took it in that afternoon to have its innards removed and put into a new computer.

                Young Heather came down that afternoon and worked with Willow (longeing and ground driving, saddling, etc.) in her pen.  She also put weight on the saddle in preparation for the first rides.




                 Heather then worked with Dottie and rode her for the first time this spring.  Dottie has had a vacation all winter, after her 5 months of riding/training last year.  Heather’s ribs and abdominal muscles were still sore from being kicked a couple weeks earlier, but doing better.

                Buffalo Girl calved that evening.  Now we only have 4 slowpokes left to calve.   Michael and Carolyn’s cows are more than half done calving.

                We went to Galen Kossler’s funeral last Tuesday.  The church was packed; he had a lot of friends.  The Amish neighbors (some of whom now live on the old Kossler ranch) came as a group and sang several hymns.

                It took 2 days for the computer folks to set up my new computer, and then they couldn’t get my e-mails transferred from the old one.  It took several more days and I basically lost a week in my writing.  I’m still having trouble figuring out how to use this new one!  Michael helped me get a couple things working again, before he went back to North Dakota last Thursday.


                We had some wet, cold days of wind and rain.  This brought on a few cases of scours in the calves.   We had to catch Buffalo Baby’s calf a couple days ago, and Buffalo Girl’s calf today, to treat with neomycin sulfate solution (a good oral liquid antibiotic).  Andrea sneaks up behind the calf and grabs a hind leg while I distract it.  If a person can treat with neomycin at the first sign of scours, before the calf gets dehydrated, one treatment usually halts the gut infection and we don’t have to administer fluid and electrolytes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Late February - Early March 2014

FEBRUARY 25 – Breezy is doing very well now, recovering from the surgery to remove her eye.  The padded face mask has helped keep the socket warmer in our very cold weather, and I’m sure she’s been a lot more comfortable with it covered.
          
 

After the rescued calf and her mama had been in the barn a week, and the calf seemed to be getting around ok on her frostbitten feet, Michael and Carolyn came down and shoveled the snow out of the windbreak corners of the pen below the barn.  They put hay down for bedding, and we put the pair down there.  They were happy to get out of the barn.  
          
 

It was nice to have Michael home from North Dakota for a few days, and he enjoyed a break from steady truck-driving in the severe winter weather. We had more snow and storms, but at least the weather was warmer than the day young Heather’s cow calved unexpectedly.  We thought that would be the only “surprise” calf, but on Valentine’s Day the skinniest little old cow of Michael and Carolyn’s was calving when we fed the cows that morning.  We called them, and they came down a couple hours later.  The old cow had calved by then, and Michael pulled the calf down through the two fields in a sled, with the little cow following.  We put them in the barn, out of the wind and snow.  It snowed hard all evening.

            That Sunday it quit snowing briefly.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather helped Lynn and me vaccinate and delouse the bulls and the yearlings, and tagged the yearling heifers (brisket tags) with their permanent cow numbers.  Then we put the little skinny cow and her new calf out of the barn, down in the pen with Heather’s pair.

           

    
           Those 2 calves were sired by the precocious bull calf last spring, but there won’t be any more of those surprises because the rest of those cows had barely calved when Michael and Carolyn weaned that little bull and took him out of the herd.  None of those cows would have had time to rebreed. The calf we rescued 3 weeks ago--with the frozen ears and feet--is losing the skin off her nose, and the ends of her ears, but she feels good.

            Andrea had some tests done on her throat; she has permanent damage from 14 years ago when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU after her burn injuries—with the tube down her throat and trachea.  She has to go to a specialist for more tests.

            Lynn was supposed to have a treadmill stress test at the hospital last Thursday to check his heart, but the doctor who was supposed to come from Missoula wasn’t able to come, so it got postponed.   We had a lot of new snow and Michael and Carolyn are feeding their horses hay up on the wild meadow.



            The yard light in our barnyard and calving area quit working, so on Friday Michael helped Lynn replace it.  They put a long extension ladder up the pole and Lynn steadied it while Michael climbed up there to replace the light and timer.  I’m glad Michael was able to help him do this before he went back to North Dakota.  Lynn and I are not very steady on ladders anymore!

Jim and Andrea took Em to the state hockey tournament in Idaho Falls, the last games of the season.  Lynn stayed those nights at Andrea’s house with the other 3 kids and they had meals here and enjoyed helping us feed cows and do chores.  Emily’s team was doing well, but in the next to last game she and another girl were racing for the puck and Em slammed into the wall going full speed—and broke her leg.

The next day, we got about 8 more inches of new snow and Lynn had to plow our driveway and Andrea’s and Michael and Carolyn’s.  At least the roads from Idaho Falls weren’t too bad; Jim and Andrea made it home ok, with Em lying in the back seat with her leg elevated.  They got her situated at home with ice packs and crutches.  She has to keep it iced and elevated to get the swelling out of it before a cast can be put on.

MARCH 9 – Emily had another x-ray of her leg and found that she won’t be able to have a cast put on until after it is surgically repaired.  The tendons are pulled loose from the bone and the break is separating.

            Over the weekend the other kids helped us feed cows and enjoyed riding on the back of the feed truck.
            
 


            I’ve been working on the edits and page proofs of my next book, which will be coming out in April.  It’s called Good Horse, Bad Habits and is published by Trafalgar.  This book looks at ways to deal with bad behavior—discussing various tips on retraining problem horses.

            On Sunday Andrea helped us feed the cows and put new straw bales in their empty feeders.  She put more loose salt and mineral in their tub in the tire holder.


Then her friends Jade and Anita came out to the ranch.  Their kids played with Andrea’s kids while they helped us split more wood (with a borrowed wood splitter) for Carolyn and hauled it up to her house, then Andrea fed them supper.

            We had some warmer weather last week and the snow is melting and settling.  On Wednesday Emily had surgery on her leg to reattach the tendons and stabilize the fracture with a metal plate.  The surgery was several hours later than scheduled, and then took awhile, so Andrea wasn’t able to bring Em home until very late that night.  Lynn got the kids off the bus and we fed them summer and then took them home to bed.  Emily has to stay off the leg for 2 weeks, keep it iced and elevated, and then later will have the stitches taken out before a cast can be put on it.


              
            With the warmer weather there have been a lot of snow slides.  A huge slide closed the road between here and Missoula.  On Thursday water was running down our road and across the fields like rivers.  Water coming down a draw by the upper place nearly washed out the road; Lynn called the county road department and they brought a road grader up that evening and got the flood diverted and the next day brought a couple truck loads of gravel up to fix the wash-out.

            We’ve had Michael and Carolyn’s trailer parked here in the calving pen ever since we were trailer training all our horses last fall and early winter.  Those lessons halted when it got so icy that it was risky to be leading the horses back and forth.  The trailer froze into the ice and we just left it there.  Now it’s finally thawed out, and today Carolyn and Heather brought their truck down to get the trailer and take it home.  We’ll soon be calving and needed to have it out of the calving pen.

MARCH 18 – Andrea’s kids have 2 new puppies.  One of their friends had a litter they needed to give away.  These puppies are half border collie and half Brittany spaniel and they are very cute.  They will help entertain Emily while she is recuperating.

             
            Our holding pen has thawed out and was getting boggy, so Lynn moved the rest of the big straw bales (that were stacked there) into the hay stack yard.  We soon need to clean out the barn stalls where the two cows with surprise babies spent time, so we can put some new straw in the barn to get ready for calving.

            Saturday morning we fed the cows at the lower end of the field by the gate, and sorted off 5 that are starting to get udders.  We put them in the horse pasture and orchard where we can watch them.  Next Sunday Carolyn and Heather plan to take their herd to the upper place to calve.  The snow is melting off those fields, but yesterday we had another blizzard.  The wind made it a bit challenging to undo (and then redo) the tarp on our big hay stack to get a couple more big alfalfa bales to load on the feed truck.  The wind was so strong it caught our storm door when Lynn went outside, and slammed it against the house and broke it.

            We still have to put a tarp over our feed truck every night to keep the deer from eating the alfalfa hay.  We’ve had to sweep new snow off the tarp on the snowy mornings.

            
            I’ve been writing the life story for a rancher friend in Oregon who is 86 years old.  He wants to have it written up for his children and grandchildren.  I tape record our conversations on the phone as he tells me his adventures and stories about his life and then type them up.  It’s been a very interesting project.

            

Monday, September 1, 2014

Winter Late January - Early February 2014

JANUARY 23 – Breezy, the old mare that had her eye removed, was still having problems last week.  I had her on ulcer medication (given 3 times daily—the last dose late at night in the dark) for her gut discomfort.  I started giving her yeast again (mixed in a little water and put into her mouth by syringe) to aid her digestion.  We used warm massage on her neck (where she had some swelling from all her injections).  Rice bags heated in the microwave made nice warm “hot packs” to rub on her neck.  Within a few days of this regime she was feeling better and eating better again.

            Last Wednesday Rusty Hamilton hauled us 20 big straw bales.  Weather has been cold, and the cows are eating a lot of straw along with their daily ration of alfalfa hay.

            Granddaughter Heather is still doing Suzanne’s chores morning and evening.  She stops here on her way home in the mornings and works with Willow for a few minutes.  On Thursday she put Dani’s little saddle on the filly—the first time she’s been saddled.

            Emily turned 16 last week and Sam had her 11th birthday.  Em took her driving test and written test, so now she has her driver’s license.  It will be handy having her able to drive the younger kids to the bus or to hockey practice. when Andrea is busy.

            On Sunday we took off Breezy’s mask and gently washed her eye socket.  That area is no longer so painful, but was swollen again and dirty.  The stitches are probably itchy; she’s been rubbing the side of her face.  We’re glad we have it covered and protected with the padded mask.  The mask was very dirty so we took it off and washed it, then got it dry and put it back on again before night.  It gives her a lot of protection on that side, and also keeps the shaved area warmer in the cold weather.


            Monday there was no school, so that afternoon we had a combined birthday party for Emily and Sam, at the Pizza place.  On Tuesday Emily drove the kids to the school bus so Andrea could sleep a little longer before helping her friends Jade and Anita on a house remodeling project. 

That afternoon when I looked at Breezy’s eye it was oozing yellow fluid between the middle stitches.  The stitches are coming apart.  I called the vet and she prescribed a week of antibiotics—so I am again giving Breezy medication morning and night.  The pills dissolve readily in water so I mix them with a little molasses and she doesn’t mind having the fluid squirted into her mouth.

Andrea’s kids’ female rabbit had babies a few weeks ago and they are getting too big for their cage in the house.  Lynn took our old jeep (with camper shell) to their house and put hay in the back of it; this will be a home for the rabbits until they can make a proper outdoor rabbit hutch.  They need protection from the cold weather.


This evening Charlie had hockey practice and stayed in town, so Lynn got the little girls from the bus and they ate supper with us.  Then Dani made our calving calendar for this year—writing the names of the cows on the dates they are due to calve.

FEBRUARY 2 – Last Friday Andrea took Emily to town very early in the morning to go with one of her teammates to their hockey tournament in Missoula, Montana.  Andrea helped us that morning with feeding—part of a big bale of alfalfa hay—and she drove the other flatbed truck up to the field with the two big straw bales, for Lynn to unload with the tractor and put the feeders around them. 

Just as Lynn and Andrea got back with the tractor and truck, our new Amish neighbor Rosina Yoder and her little boys came hiking up our lane to visit us.  Jayden (a4 years old) was hurrying ahead, eager to see our cats.  He spied Sammy’s old bicycle leaning against the house and was trying to push it around in the snow and ice.  Andrea found a smaller one for him that the kids outgrew years ago, and gave it to him, and Lynn used our air compressor to pump up the tires.

That afternoon Andrea took Sammy and Dani to their hockey tournament here in Salmon) and then took Charlie to Sun Valley (a 6 hour drive) for his first game the next morning.  It’s a bit of a challenge with 4 kids in hockey, going 3 different directions for their tournaments!  While Andrea and Charlie were gone for the weekend, Lynn went up to their house several times and put wood in the stove, to keep things warm and the pipes from freezing.  The little girls stayed with their dad.

I continued giving Breezy antibiotics, and carefully washing her eye, but no longer had to flush the eye; it’s not oozing anymore--just a dry crust at the stitches.

Carolyn and Heather have 2 new pups.  Their good cowdogs (Baxter, Tuff and Tiny) are getting old and lame (arthritis); Fred is their only young dog, so it was time to get some pups coming along.  These pups, Abbey and Katie, are very cute and smart, and Fred is quite jealous of these new kids in HER house.

We had some warmer mornings—not so bitterly cold—and Heather worked briefly with Willow a few times, putting the little saddle on her, driving her in long lines.  On Monday she put a larger saddle on got her used to the feel of weight in the stirrup, then Heather leaned up over her back.  She’ll keep working with her periodically (it got really cold again and we quit for awhile) and by spring will probably start riding her.

 

Rusty Hamilton said he could bring us another load of straw in a about week, so Lynn took 4 big bales of straw down to John Miller, to replace the 4 he loaned us when we started feeding our cows.  One of the boys unloaded them; they were working on the horse barn they are building.  John and our neighbor Jeff Minor were shoeing their big draft horses—sharp shoes for traction on the ice.

Tuesday a box of books came in the mail—the book on wolves that was recently published.  The book is called The Real Wolf: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Co-existing with Wolves in Modern Times.  It was written by Ted Lyon and Will Graves (who wrote Wolves in Russia) and has chapters by other people including Dr. Valerius Geist of Canada who is a leading expert on wolf behavior.  I wrote the chapter discussing wolf impact on livestock and ranchers.  The purpose of this book is to present scientific facts and dispel the popular fictions about wolves in North America.  The wolf issue has become an emotional topic.

Wednesday it snowed most of the day.  It was hard to see where the worst icy spots were, and Lynn fell down hard on his back when he went out to do his morning chores.  His back and hip are sore, but no broken bones.  With all the new snow, Rusty won’t be able to drive up here with his trucks to bring the straw; we may have to put the blade on one of our tractors and plow the driveway.  This weekend Emily has hockey tournament here, and her team won some of their games. 


Today Andrea took her in for an early game, then got back home late morning in time to help us bring the cows down from the field.  Dani helped, too.  Even though it was 6 below zero this morning, it was a sunny day with no wind, so we went ahead and gave our cows their pre-calving vaccinations and deloused them. 

Carolyn and Heather came down and helped.  Carolyn brought their big 4-wheel drive tractor down for loading the hay and straw, so we won’t have to put chains on our tractor to get around in the snow and up the slippery driveway.  We got the cows done in less than an hour, and took them back up to the field.   We decided to wait and vaccinate the bulls and yearlings another day (and brisket tag the yearling heifers).

FEBRUARY 12 – We’ve had colder weather again, and wind.  The ice is thicker on the creek and it’s more difficult breaking ice for the cows and for the bulls in the corral.  The cows are eating more straw and we have to take big bales up to their feeders more often.  Last Wednesday Carolyn and Heather drove the truck up with the straw, and chopped ice out of the water holes in the creek.  While they waited for Lynn to move the feeders to a different location with the tractor—out of the wind on Heifer Hill and closer to the brush—they looked at all the cows and noticed that Heather’s cow was starting to get more udder, and relaxed muscles around the vulva.  None of the cows are supposed to calve until late March at the earliest (and Michael’s herd isn’t due to start calving until mid April), so this was a concern.

            The cold weather has made the ice so thick on the little stream (spring water) in the back corral that we can no longer use that corral.  Lynn chopped for more than an hour that afternoon to try to find water for the bulls--down to the dirt with no water.  We had to move the yearling bulls out of the front corral (where the creek runs through, with a better water hole through the ice) and put them in the orchard where I can water them with the hydrant and hose, and put the big bulls in the front corral.

           

            The next morning it was 25 below zero but even colder with wind chill.  Andrea kept the kids home from school; her car wouldn’t start to take them to the bus.  She helped me feed the horses and break ice out of all the water tubs, and then helped us feed the cows and break ice on the creek for them.  We looked at Heather’s young cow and saw frozen blood down her tail and hindquarters and knew that she had calved in the night.  We figured she must have aborted, since she couldn’t be due to calve until April. 

            We assumed she lost a 7 month fetus, but Andrea was determined to find where she calved, and went hiking down through the fields, checking the brush, as Lynn and I drove back home with the feed truck.  As we turn into our driveway, Heather passed us in her little truck—taking garbage to the dump.  I told her the bad news, that her cow had aborted, and that Andrea was hiking down through the field to look for the birth site.

            Lynn and I drove on down toward the house and noticed that all the horses were intently watching something up in the field, and as we came around the corner we saw Andrea struggling across the field, with a calf!  We hurried down to the barnyard and drove up past my haystack and up through the field.  Andrea had found a live, full-term calf, in a deep ditch in the brush along the fence.  Its ears and feet were frozen but it was licked dry and very much alive.  It was a big calf and hard to get it up out of the ditch, but with great determination she succeeded.  She covered it with her coat and was bringing it across the field.  We helped her load it into the pickup cab and hurried home.

     
       
 

            I put towels on the floor by the woodstove and we brought it into the house to warm it up.  Andrea went up to her house to get more towels, a heater, and Dani, who wanted to help thaw out the calf, while I called Carolyn to tell her the good news.  Carolyn called Heather on her cell phone, and they both arrived at our place at the same time to help with the calf.

            We thawed out her ears, tail and feet with warm water.  Her hind feet were so cold that the cold immediately seeped through each hot wet washcloth we applied, but we kept changing them, applying more hot water, until the feet warmed up.  Amazingly, this calf was not chilled to the core; the inside of her mouth was still warm, and she still had circulation in her feet after we warmed them up.  She won’t lose her feet but she will lose the tips of her ears and tail.

          

            We got her warmed and fed her 2 quarts of colostrum substitute by bottle.  Then the calf was sleepy and Dani babysat the napping calf by the stove while we drove the feed truck back to the field to bring the herd down.  By that time they had finished their day’s ration of alfalfa hay and willingly followed the truck down through the two fields.  Heather’s young cow was at the rear, however, and decided to go back to where she’d calved, so Carolyn and Heather had get off the feed truck and hurry around the cow and bring her on down with the herd and into the horse pasture and maternity pen, where we fed them a little bit of hay.  Then we were able to sort them all back into the horse pasture except the young cow that calved, and Buffalo Girl.

            Emily’s pet cow, Buffalo Girl, is the one we always use for leading heifers into the barn to calve, or to stay in the barn to babysit a nervous heifer.  Heather’s young cow had never been in a barn.  They bought her as a pregnant heifer and she calved mid-summer out in the field.  So we thought it would be wise to use Buffalo Girl to lead her into the barn, and to stay in the adjacent stall to keep her company. 

          

We brought the calf out into the driveway next to the maternity pen and brought the two cows out—where the nervous mama sniffed her baby, recognized it as hers, and allowed herself to be herded to the barn with Buffalo Girl.

            The baby didn’t nurse mama, however, so at 8 p.m. I thawed some of our frozen colostrum (that we milked out of Maggie last spring and stored in the freezer) and fed her a couple more bottles.  By the next morning the calf had figured out how to nurse and managed to nurse one teat.  By afternoon she was nursing all four quarters, and her hind feet were no longer so swollen.  We were glad she was in the barn (weather was still severely cold that next day).

            We speculated as to how the young cow became pregnant so early, since the bulls weren’t put with the cows until early July.  Putting the pieces of the puzzle together brought a possible answer.  This young cow was part of a group of pregnant cows and heifers that Michael and Carolyn purchased the year before.  She calved mid-summer as a first-calf heifer and didn’t breed back; she was open last year.  There were several late-born calves in that group of cattle, including a bull calf that didn’t get branded or castrated.  He was still with the herd the next spring, and apparently bred the open cow before he and several other late calves were weaned and removed from the group.

            We kept the cow and calf and Buffalo Girl in the barn for several days;
          
 

On Saturday it snowed off and on all day, and by Sunday we had a foot of new snow.  Andrea’s kids helped us do chores and feed cows during the weekend, and Charlie drove the feed truck.  The kids enjoyed seeing the baby calf in the barn.  Saturday night we all went to the lasagna dinner at Church, and it was snowing so hard on the way home that we could hardly see the road.  There was so much snow by Monday that school was closed.  Andrea helped us all morning, feeding the cows, getting another sled load of alfalfa hay for the young bulls, helping Lynn put the blade on our little tractor.  That afternoon he plowed her driveway and ours. 

 


The weather has warmed up and there’s water in the spring channel in the back corral again.  Yesterday Andrea chopped through the ice on the big hole Lynn made last week trying to find water, and there was plenty of water, so we moved the big bulls back there.  We took Buffalo Girl out of the barn and back to the field.  Today, if it’s not snowing, we’ll shovel some snow out of the sheltered corners in the pen below the barn, put down some straw for bedding, and let the young cow and her baby outdoors.

Rusty brought the rest of our straw yesterday—two loads on his flatbed trailer--so it was a good thing Lynn plowed our driveway.  It was still a bit slippery; Rusty had to chain up to get around in our barnyard, but he managed to get in and out of here with his trailer.  It’s nice to have the straw.  We won’t run out now for feeding the cows, and will have a little extra for barn bedding when we calve.


Michael drove home from North Dakota and arrived yesterday evening (barely made it through some bad roads).  He will be home for about a week and it will be really nice to have him home!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Winter 2014 December - January

I apologize for getting so far behind again with this diary of our lives here on the ranch.  I will try to catch up in the next few months.

DECEMBER 20, 2013 – A week ago last Tuesday the vet came out and took a biopsy of the growth on Breezy’s left eye.  The results came back as cancer, so the eye will have to come out.  We thought it might be a good idea to help her adjust ahead of time to being blind on that side, so Carolyn sewed two layers of denim onto the left side of a mesh fly mask, and we put it on Breezy.  She seems to be adjusting pretty well.

            
 
       
        Our very cold weather finally moderated a little.  When Lynn broke a bigger hole in the ice for the bulls to drink, in the spring in our back corral, the ice was more than a foot thick. The roads were good when Michael and Nick came home.  They met in South Dakota—Nick coming from college in Iowa and Michael from his truck driving job in North Dakota—and convoyed the rest of the way home together.  They made it home late last Thursday night.  Andrea took Lynn to his doctor appointment in Missoula, Montana that day for a checkup.  It will soon be a year since he had the stents put in his heart.
            
        All of Andrea’s kids are playing on hockey teams this winter.  The little girls had their first home tournament last weekend.

  
         

 


        The weather finally warmed up enough to butcher Freddy—the cow that almost died last summer.  She regained her lost weight and looked really good, and we’d planned to butcher her last month.  Then the weather got too cold.  We didn’t want Andrea’s hands to freeze while field-dressing that old cow.  So Sunday afternoon after the kids’ hockey games, Andrea and Lynn butchered the cow.  Michael and Nick helped; it took twice as long as normal to get the guts out of the carcass; there were multiple adhesions.  She must have had peritonitis last summer when she was so ill.  We left the carcass hanging on the tractor in the barnyard to cool out, and covered it with tarps to keep the magpies off.
            
        Whitetail deer have been coming into our haystack at night—about 20 of them--and eating a lot of the alfalfa hay.  Lynn put more elk panels around the spots they are getting in.  The weather got very cold again for a few days.  We haven’t started feeding hay yet; we need to stretch our little bit of pasture as long as possible so make sure our hay will last all winter.  With the cold weather we needed to encourage the cows to keep grazing the old dry grass, so we bought some protein supplement and more mineral mix.   
            
        Tuesday night we went to the school music concert.  Charlie plays trombone in the middle school band and Samantha started playing trumpet this year in the beginner’s band.  It was a nice program.
            
        A couple days ago Michael took the shoes off Sprout and Ed, and the hind shoes off Dottie (I’d already removed her fronts a month ago).  We won’t be riding any more this winter, with the ice and cold weather.  Today Andrea and girls went up the creek with Michael and Nick to get Christmas trees, and the girls enjoyed playing in the snow and making snow angels.
      
    
 


        This afternoon Andrea cleaned out a space in Dani’s room for Michael and Nick to hide a new chair that they are buying for Carolyn for Christmas—so it will truly be a surprise.   They will come pick it up on Christmas day.

JANUARY 1 – Last week we met the new Amish neighbors from Indiana who are renting the little house a mile below our place, and took them Christmas gifts.  They have two little boys age 2 and 4.  We also took gifts around to the other 2 Amish families on Maurer’s old place.  One of John Miller’s boys broke his ankle playing hockey and had to have surgery the day after Christmas to put the main bone back together.
            
        A couple days before Christmas we started leading Breezy around a little to get her used to being handled blind on that side. 

          
  
        Michael brought their stock trailer and parked it in our calving pen where we could work with several of the horses to get them used to going in it.  Breezy hasn’t been in a trailer since she arrived here nearly 18 years ago as a green 4-year-old.  We wanted to make sure we could get her into a trailer to take her to the vet clinic for her eye removal. 

        The first day, I simply let Breezy (and the two fillies) eat some alfalfa hay from a big tub at the back of the trailer.  Dottie and Willow haven’t had much experience with trailers, either, except when they came here as a weanling and two year old.  Dottie was suspicious of the trailer at first.  When it was Willow’s turn to eat out of the tub at the back, she wasn’t that interested in the food; she was curious about the trailer and decided to hop right in.  She’s a very bold young filly!  Over the next few days we gave all of them some trailer lessons, and put Breezy in with Ed, who is an experienced traveler. 


Christmas morning Nick and Heather picked up the chair for Carolyn on their way back from doing the neighbor’s chores, and dropped off a desk for Charlie for Christmas—one that they didn’t need anymore.   It was wrapped in blankets so it would be a surprise for Charlie.  Andrea had wrapped the big chair box in Christmas paper, so Carolyn wouldn’t know what it was until she opened it.  Nick and Heather managed to get it into their house and surprise her.  After chores Lynn and I went up to Andrea’s house to watch her kids open their gifts.  That evening we had dinner at our place.



After Christmas we continued the trailer loading lessons for the horses.  Old Veggie (who will be 28 this spring) is the only reluctant one.  He’s never ridden in a trailer.  But he is finally getting in now (with his sister Rubbie) and is comfortable standing in there to eat alfalfa hay. 

 

Emily went with friends to her hockey tournament in Kalispell, Montana.  On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and kids brought their small herd of cows down the road from the upper place, leading them down with the pickup with hay in it, and following them on 4-wheelers.  We put them with our cows, and started feeding hay to the combined group.  We were pleased that they didn’t fight very much and seem to be getting along just fine.  We’re glad our little bit of fall pasture lasted this long and didn’t snow under too deeply.


 On Monday we put a horse blanket on Breezy briefly for the first time in her life, to get her used to it.  Yesterday we did our chores and feeding early.  Breezy didn’t get to have any food before her surgery, however.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather came at 9:30 and we loaded Ed and Breezy in the trailer and took them to town to the vet clinic. 


 We left Ed in a corral at the back and took Breezy into the padded stall where the vet put her under general anesthesia and removed her left eye.  Breezy was waking up just as the vet finished stitching the lids back together, and lurched to her feet before the vet could put the bandage on.  But she managed to get the mesh and bandage in place after Breezy staggered and fell against the wall and was immobile for a few moments.


After Breezy was fully awake we put her padded eye cover back on, and the horse blanket, to help keep her warm on the way home.  She was drenched with sweat from the drugs and the stress.  We were thankful the weather moderated (barely freezing, rather than so bitterly cold).  She eagerly hopped in the trailer as I put Ed in, and rode home ok.  We kept the blanket on her after we put her in her pen, and tried to towel her neck and belly dry.  It started snowing hard by mid-afternoon and we took her into the barn, but she became very nervous in the barn and we had to take her out after about an hour.  Fortunately the snowstorm was letting up a bit, and she didn’t get too cold.  We put her in our side pen by the house, under the yard light, so I could check on her through the night.  This morning she seems to be doing ok so I put her back in her own pen.

JANUARY 14 – We kept Breezy on antibiotics (given twice a day orally) for a week, and on Banamine (to help relieve pain and swelling) twice daily for 5 days.  Andrea or one of the girls held the flashlight for me to give her the injections and medication late at night.  We changed her eye bandage daily for nearly a week, until there was no longer any oozing from the incision.  That area is very painful and sensitive so we had to be careful to not touch her face very much.

       

        While Michael was home he borrowed our flatbed trailer and hauled several more loads of hay for Heather—small bales that she bought from a neighbor.  This will be her year’s supply of hay for her horse training program.
            
        A couple weeks ago Lynn borrowed a wood splitter.  He and Andrea and kids split several pickup loads of firewood and took it up to Michael and Carolyn’s house.  That evening we had everyone here for supper before Michael and Nick went back (to North Dakota and Iowa).
            
        The day before Michael left, he and the kids brought their orphan calf, Peabody, down here in the trailer, to live with our heifers for the winter.  Peabody was the twin whose mother abandoned him, and they raised him on a bottle.  They weaned him off milk replacer a couple months ago, but he was still enjoying a bottle of warm water at feeding time.  After he came down here and no longer had his bottle, he was upset and forlorn—pacing the fences and bawling, and not wanting to socialize with the heifers at all—it was like he was being weaned from a mother cow!
            
        The little kids enjoyed sledding on our slippery, icy driveway the weekend before they went back to school after Christmas vacation.  With our old-fashioned runner sleds they could whiz down the slope from the old root cellar clear across the bridge past the house.

         

         The frozen cow carcass was hanging on our tractor loader for a couple of weeks, but we needed the tractor to load the big alfalfa bales to feed the cows.  So Andrea, Emily and Lynn sawed off the front quarters to take up to Andrea’s house.  She had to let the meat thaw for a whole day before she could cut and wrap it.  She did the hindquarters a few days later, then ground all the hamburger. 

It’s nice to have our tractor available for use again!  We are feeding the cows about 10 pounds of alfalfa hay per day, and letting them eat some year-old barley straw (big bales in feeders) free choice to provide the roughage they need.  When we ran out of old bales we borrowed a few bales of straw from our new neighbor John Miller until we can have another load of big bales delivered here.  The deer eat on our alfalfa hay on the truck at night so we had to start putting a big tarp over the hay. 


 A few days ago I trimmed Willow’s feet.  Young Heather has been working with her again the past few days, refreshing her memory on lessons with driving, longeing, etc.  It’s just been awhile since we’ve done much with her except a few trailer loading lessons and the filly is needs to go back to school and be reminded of her manners! 
            
Heather is also working with a group of horses that the owner wants broke to ride before the horse sale in April.  She started that project yesterday, working with those horses a ranch that has an indoor training arena.
            
This past weekend Andrea took Sam and Dani to Sun Valley for their first “away” hockey tournament. 

           

        While they were gone Charlie and Em ate with us, and played games here after supper.  Charlie helped Heather every morning, driving the pickup for her to feed horses on the upper place.

            
        The past few days were warm and windy; some of the ice on the driveway is melting.  Breezy’s eye seems to be doing fine, but she’s had gastric discomfort the past couple of days and isn’t eating very well.  We hope she doesn’t have ulcers from all the medication she was on for the week after her eye surgery.  I started giving her some ulcer medication yesterday.