Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sky Range Ranch Diary: May 18 through June 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ranch Diary: April 28 through May 18, 2016

MAY 4 – When Andrea took Sam back to the doctor a week ago to have her elbow checked again, the x-rays showed both bones broken near the growth plate. They are not displaced, and should heal ok if she doesn’t over-extend the elbow (and keeps from moving it very much). The doctor now has her wearing a hinged brace that limits the movement of her elbow.

Last Wednesday Dani came home sick from school and Thursday stayed home from school. She didn’t feel well all day, and slept quite awhile here on our couch while Andrea irrigated and took new bales of hay around for the cows and heifers’ feeders.

She was feeling better by evening. Lynn went to town that day for the MRI on his lower back, and for his physical therapy, and brought Sam home after her physical therapy. Charlie got back that evening from the music trip (with the school band) and Emily picked him up in town.

Everyone was really tired that evening and Lynn went to bed early. I put Maggeriete (nickname Shrek because of her jaunty ears) in the calving pen where I could see her easily from the house. She’s the last one to calve, and she decided to do it that night. I got up and looked at her from the window, not long after I went to bed, and she was obviously in labor, pacing the pen. I watched her awhile and then when she got more serious—in active labor, lying down to strain—I put her in the barn because it was raining. Just after midnight the calf started to come, and the feet (when they appeared) were huge. I called Andrea, and she came down from her house and brought Dani, who insisted on being present when our last cow calved. Andrea and I pulled the calf, and Dani helped get him breathing.           

Shrek is a very gentle cow and knows and trusts Dani (that kid feeds her grass!) and didn’t mind having all three of us in the stall helping with her new baby. Then Andrea took Dani home to bed and came back to help me suckle the calf. He was so big and tall that he didn’t understand how to put his head down low to find the teats. Rather than try to force his head down (which would have made him resist) we simply milked a little colostrum from Shrek into a bottle and got the calf started sucking the bottle. After a taste of that good stuff he was very eager for more, and much more cooperative about following our fingers to suck on—and readily suckled when we stuck a teat in his mouth. He was so big it took a lot of colostrum to fill him up, and we managed to get him on all four teats. By then he was starting to figure out how to get onto them by himself.

About 30 minutes after we finished that task and Andrea went home, the power went off and was off for 2 hours. We were lucky it didn’t go off while we were trying to suckle Shrek’s calf, since it’s very dark in that barn without lights!

It’s a relief to have our last cow calved out! We actually finished 3 weeks quicker than last year and got done calving in just over 4 weeks from start to finish. The next morning we put Shrek and her big boy out of the barn, into a nearby pen. He’s the biggest calf we had this year, and still a bit clumsy.

Dani still wasn’t feeling 100% that day (Friday) and had a fever, so Andrea tried to get a doctor’s appointment for her, but the clinic was booked up and they told her to just wait and take her to the walk-in clinic on Saturday. Andrea took her in early Saturday morning but the doctor’s assistant who examined her said it was just a virus and that she didn’t need any antibiotics.

She still had a fever on Sunday and felt even worse by Monday morning so when Andrea took Charlie and Sam in early to school that morning to get on the bus to go on their next band trip, she took Dani to the ER. The doctor there concluded that she had a serious infection and should have been started on antibiotics two days earlier when Andrea brought her in to the walk-in clinic.

Lynn did his physical therapy again on Monday and got the results from the MRI on his back. It doesn’t look good, and he was referred to a specialist in Missoula, Montana—a neurologist who does back surgery.

Later that day Carolyn and young Heather stopped by and we gave them their belated birthday gifts and belated anniversary gift for Michael and Carolyn. Their anniversary was April 27th.

That night Dani had high fever of 105.3 and Andrea stayed up all night with her, giving a cold shower to get the fever down, giving her medication, etc. It was pretty scary. Tuesday (yesterday) she stayed in bed and we hoped that soon the antibiotics would help her fight the infection.

Last night Dani was still pretty sick, with fever and a bad cough, and Andrea stayed up all night with her again to keep track of her temperature and bring it down whenever it got too high.

Today Andrea took her to the ER because her fever had gotten very high again. The doctor took blood tests and put her on oxygen and IV fluids; her oxygen level was too low and she was dehydrated from the fever. They decided to keep her in the hospital but it was middle of the night before they got her into a room. She and Andrea were camped out in the ER all day.

MAY 11 – Last week Michael brought us two more loads of oat hay (4 bales total) since we need to keep feeding the cows a little longer until the pasture grows enough to put them out on grass. The new water master for this year (Gary Thomas, no relation) came last week to become familiar with all the ditches and locations of headgates and weirs. We are hoping that we can have a better irrigation year without so many conflicts!

Last Thursday Sam and Charlie went on a school bus with their music teacher and a group of other students to Boise to see a musical play, but Robbie took them in early that morning so they could stop and see Dani and Andrea in the hospital. It was an overnight trip; the kids stayed in a motel after the play, and were scheduled to come back home on the bus the next morning. The bus broke down however, and they were delayed in Boise all day—and finally had to borrow a bus from a Boise school to come home, arriving home about midnight on Friday.

Emily stopped by to see Dani in the hospital a few times and give her support and comfort.

Andrea stayed with Dani in the hospital all day Thursday and Friday, except for a couple hours when Lynn went in to sit with Dani so Andrea could come home and help me move some big bales out to the feeders for the cows and heifers and load more alfalfa hay on the feed truck.
Dani was starting to do a little better by Friday evening, but still not eating much. The doctors decided she was doing well enough to come home by Saturday afternoon, but even though it was Mark’s weekend to have the kids, he didn’t want the responsibility of having to take care of Dani—and told Andrea that he thought it would be ok for her to take Dani home. 

Andrea brought her home to our house where she took a 4-hour nap on our couch (after we enticed her to drink a little water and have a few sips of chocolate milk) while Andrea did the irrigating. We didn’t want Dani to get too dehydrated, since she was no longer on IV fluids, so after her nap we encouraged her to drink more water, and a glass of milk. She actually had an interest in food by then, and ate a peanut butter sandwich (the only thing that sounded good to her). This was the most food she’d eaten at one time since before she got sick. 

Then she insisted on seeing the calves, so she and I walked slowly up to the pasture above the house and she sat on the big tractor tire (that serves as a holder for the mineral tub) and many of the cows and calves came up to her. She always picks grass for them and they were wondering why she didn’t have any! She was delighted to see her favorite calves, and enjoyed watching the calves playing around, especially her favorite one, MagDoll, who ran around bucking and then sniffed noses with Sugar Bear’s mom.

Then Dani and I walked slowly back down to the house. By then Andrea had brought her medicine and breathing treatment (puffing medication into her lungs). It’s great to see Dani starting to feel better! 

I called Carolyn to tell her that Dani was home from the hospital, and Carolyn told me about the close call she’d had that morning when she was irrigating on gopher meadow on the upper place. After all the runoff and high water from the early snow melt, a lot of sand had washed down into the ditches and one of her irrigation dams was full of sand. It was too heavy to get the dam out of the ditch, so she was going to cut the dam and let the water wash through it and take the sand with it. She had driven down into that field on her 4-wheeler, and one of their leased cows (a second calver) had snorted at her and then went into the brush with her calf. 

This young cow calved more than 2 weeks ago, up on the hill behind gopher meadow, and didn’t bring her calf down to the herd until it was about a week old. At that point, Michael and Carolyn drove toward the calf on their 4-wheeler to see if it was a bull or a heifer. It was a little bull, and very wild and crazy! It charged right at them and tried to climb up onto the 4-wheeler with them! This was quite unusual behavior for a young calf. The mama cow was also aggressive and crazy.

So when Carolyn drove into the field to irrigate and deal with the ditch full of sand, she drove around that pair at a good distance and was relieved to see them disappear into the brush. She didn’t think much more about it, and started to slit the irrigation dam with her knife—when all of a sudden she heard a bellowing snort behind her and that cow was charging at her. The cow hit her and knocked her over the dam into the ditch on the other side, and kept trying to hit her again. The only thing that saved Carolyn was the fact the cow couldn’t quite get over the pole holding the dam. Carolyn still had ahold of her shovel so she hit the cow over the head with it—multiple times, since the cow wouldn’t back off. Finally, after many whacks on the head, the cow departed, and went back into the brush to find her calf. Carolyn was lucky. She was up there all by herself and it was a good thing she wasn’t seriously hurt by that crazy cow.

The next day, Sunday, was Mother’s Day. Dani came down for a little while when Andrea came to irrigate, and they picked grass for their pet cows and calves, then Dani took another nap. Andrea kept her home from school Monday and Tuesday because she needed to rest and recuperate a more, and then was able to go back to school today.

In spite of the cool weather, it’s feeling like spring, and most of the birds are back. The killdeer are nesting in our fields, and Emily took photos of some newly hatched killdeer chicks.

We had some rain and snow on Monday—so much nasty weather that Michael, Nick and Robbie had to quit working on their fencing project (the other side of town) by early afternoon; they got soaked and cold. Yesterday was cold and windy again but it didn’t rain so they resumed their fencing. Andrea hiked around the swamp pasture fence to see if there were any repairs needed before we put the heifers in there, and shut the top gate. She and Robbie put a bunch of staples in that evening, where the deer have been going through the fence in several places. 

This morning I put some of my horse hay in the heifers’ feeder, since they’ve run out of the last big bale, and their alfalfa. After Andrea got home from town (taking the kids to school and Sam to the doctor for a check-up on her broken elbow—which is healing very nicely) she helped us move the heifers to pasture. We brought them through the pens by the barn and sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s heifers—to keep in the lane by the barn where there’s some grass, until they can be hauled up to the upper place. Then we took our group around to the swamp pasture above our corrals. The grass has grown enough now for grazing, and the heifers are eager for green grass instead of hay!  

Lynn got the kids off the bus, and Dani was exhausted after her first day back at school. She went home and took a nap.

This evening, about the time I was getting ready to go to bed, I heard cows bawling in the field above the house, so I went out there to check on them and make sure everything was ok. The heifers had crossed the creek and come down along the fence above that field, where the cows could see them, and they were bawling at the heifers. But one of the calves was up the field above, right next to the heifers, and I wondered how he could have gotten through the net-wire fence. Then I noticed that the gate between the two fields was wide open! The only thing keeping the whole herd from escaping into the hayfield was the electric fence on this side of the gate. The calf must have crawled under the hot wire and gone out the gate. So I chased him back in and shut the gate, and then it took a little time to encourage him to go back underneath the hot wire to his mom, because he didn’t want to get shocked again! 

MAY 18 – We had a few nights last week that got quite cold (down to 24 degrees one night), and froze all the apple blossoms. It took a few nights for Andrea to catch up on her sleep after being up so many nights while Dani was sick, but Dani is doing a lot better now. Last Thursday Lynn went to town for his physical therapy, got the mail and groceries, and picked up the vaccine for our cows and calves at the vet clinic.

That afternoon we had another kid emergency; after school Charlie was waiting to get on the bus to come home, and a new kid (a bully) was teasing him and messing with his backpack. Charlie told him to quit, and tried to push the kid away, and the kid retaliated by shoving Charlie so hard it knocked him down backward, hitting his head on the concrete. It knocked him out for a few seconds but he got up and insisted on getting on the bus to come home—even when one of the teachers thought he should stay and be checked out. The teacher called Andrea, who was in town for her physical therapy, who called Lynn (who was stopping on his way home from town to pick up Charlie off the bus). Charlie was still a little unsteady, with a twitch in his right eye, so Emily (who was heading home from work at that same time) took Charlie back to town so Andrea could take him to the ER and have his head checked. He had a nasty bump and probably a mild concussion, but seemed to be ok.

Our weather continued cold and windy with a bit of rain now and then. On Saturday our neighbor Alfonso had about 30 people up at the Gooch place to help him brand calves. They had a big social get-together mid-day before they started getting the cattle in, and that afternoon it was raining hard before they finished branding. Michael and Carolyn had planned to brand their calves on Sunday and take their herd to pasture on the 160, (and brand ours next Sunday) but it rained all day Sunday so the branding got postponed. Calves can’t be branded if they are wet. It would scald the tissues and create a more serious burn. Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down and hauled their heifers home, to put with their cows and calves. The heifers have all grown very well over winter, and hopefully they will all breed this summer.

Our cows are unhappy because the heifers went to pasture and the cows are jealous; they are tired of eating hay. A few of the cows were reaching through the fence in a few places--between the net wire and the barbed wires on top, and squashing down the net wire—so I pulled it back into place and tied it up more securely.

Monday it was still rainy, but Michael and crew worked on a couple of their fencing projects anyway. Then yesterday it was clear, so Michael called early that morning and told us they’d decided to go ahead and brand, and get ours done, too, while the weather was good. They want to take their herd to the hill pasture in a few days, and just try to get both herds branded first.

So Lynn helped me feed the cows, Robbie and Andrea moved a few stored things out of the front stall of the little barn next to our calf chute, and then they went up to help Michael and Carolyn vaccinate their cows and brand their calves.

We planned to do ours right afterward, and Carolyn asked Lynn if he could go to town to pick up some more dewormer for the cows, so he did that while I cooked a big pot of chili for our lunch, and got a few gates ready. Then Lynn and I moved the yearling bulls to a side corral, and the big bulls to the back pen, so we’d have the main corral free. Then as soon as the branding/vaccinating was finished on the upper place and the whole crew came down, we got the cows and calves in from the field above the house, sorted off the calves into the little barn, and vaccinated the cows. Lynn and Robbie strung out the extension cords and got things ready for branding while Michael and Carolyn were vaccinating and deworming the cows.

Andrea hiked up in the swamp pasture and called the 13 yearlings down to the corral (they followed her all the way down) and we vaccinated them and put them back up to their pasture. Then we vaccinated the bulls, and branded/vaccinated the calves. Michael did the branding this year, and dehorned the handful (4 calves) that needed dehorned, since Lynn didn’t feel physically up to doing it, with his painful back. Lynn sat on a lawn chair and let the rest of us do the various tasks. 

Nick pushed the calves into the calf table.

Carolyn vaccinated the calves
Michael did the clipping
We always clip the area to be branded, so the branding iron doesn’t have to burn through a lot of hair. This makes a better brand and doesn’t hurt the calf as much, because the iron doesn’t have to stay on as long.
Here’s what the finished brand looks like.

Most of our calves had no horns; there were only 4 that needed to be dehorned, and Michael did the dehorning.

Everything went well, and we put the cows and calves back up in the field above the house. Afterward everyone had lunch here, and even though it was rather plain fare (a big pot of chili, with brownie for dessert), it was a nice “birthday dinner” for Lynn, having family here. He’s now 73. He said the best birthday present was having so much good help to do our branding! 

Today the calves all seem ok after their branding and vaccinating, and the weather is still fairly nice (though it might rain this evening). We’ll give the calves another day to recover and then move the herd out to pasture.