OCTOBER 24, 2009 – We took care of Andrea’s girls when she went to Salt Lake last week for some tests for Charlie and for assessment of severe graft contractures on her arms. The shortened scar tissue has pulled the little finger of her right hand off to the side, and a thick scar on her upper arm has pulled her shoulder and spine out of line. She’s finally reached a point of pain and disability that she can’t put off corrective surgery any longer. It’s scheduled for December 15. She’ll have to stay in the burn ICU several days after the surgery, since it will involve more grafting to cover the areas after surgical removal of the contractures. We’ll take care of her 4 kids during that time, and help her awhile, since she won’t have use of that arm and it will need frequent wound care. Eventually she’ll have the other arm repaired, also, but not until the first one heals.
Our calves were supposed to be shipped last week but the buyer postponed; the calves won’t go on the trucks until October 28. We weren’t happy about the delay because the weather is getting worse. Michael and Carolyn had their cattle all gathered onto the Maurer place, with enough good pasture to last until the calves were sold, but with this delay they’re scrambling to figure out enough feed for their herd. They’re patching fences and paneling off the back road and haystacks so they can utilize all the available pasture on that place. Lynn used our big tractor to load jackfence panels (from our field below the house) onto our flatbed trailer, to haul over to Maurers to help make an instant portable fence.
After entering the internet world of blogging with my every-other-week installments on Storey’s website: http://insidestorey.blogspot.com ) my other book publisher, Oak Tree Press, set up this site to tell about my book Beyond the Flames and how I came to write it. I periodically update it with new installments, too—trying to tell what has happened between when my book was published (in 2004) and the present time.
On Monday we moved heifers to the field below our lane; they ran out of grass in the pasture above the house. I have them trained to come when I call (I gave them hay hand-outs from my wheelbarrow when we weaned them) and it was easy to move them—we just opened the gate and called them in from the pasture.
Our cows on the 320-acre mountain pasture are still doing well but grass is very dry and mature. We bought tubs of protein supplement and Lynn took those up in the jeep. This will help keep the cows eating that rough feed so they can stay there longer—if it doesn’t snow under too soon.
NOVEMBER 3 – We had a storm the day after Lynn took the lick tubs to the 320—rain that turned to snow. We were glad he got up there with when he did; there’s no way he could have driven up there again for several days. The storm hit just before we shipped our steer calves. It was still windy and nasty the day we rounded them up. Lynn wasn’t feeling well that day (a stomach “bug” and diarrhea—probably the same thing Andrea’s kids had; they all missed school for part of a week) so we it took us awhile. We lured the cows in with the feed truck, sorted off 3 pair (2 red steers and a small one that won’t go on the load) and put them in the post pile pasture. One of the biggest steers was dull, with ears down, so we put him in the chute and took his temperature. It was 104 degrees F. We gave him injections of antibiotic and Banamine and left him and his mama in a different corral—and called Michael to tell him there’d be one less steer than planned, for the load of calves. We fed them hay in the hold pen that evening, and put Shiny (the orphan steer) in the pen by our house.
Early the next morning we got the cattle in before daylight, sorted off the steers in the dark, and were ready to load them when Michael came with his trailer. I used a bottle of milk-replacer to lure Shiny around to the corral. He was weaned a month ago, but he still followed my bottle in the dark, and nearly knocked me down in his eagerness to suck it. When we loaded them in the trailer Shiny was the first to jump in, leading the others.
Our steers helped fill one of Michael’s loads and weighed well (ours averaged 588 pounds) considering they’re only 6 months old and one was raised on a bottle. The stormy weather nearly halted their departure to a feedlot in Oklahoma, however. The 3 truckers debated whether to go or not, with roads closed in Wyoming due to heavy snow. They finally took an alternative route, but ran into bad roads and had to off-load the calves for a couple of days in a big hayfield until roads were open again.
We kept the steers’ mothers in the pasture above the corrals a few days until they quit bawling. The big steer that was sick (Ursala’s calf) was feeling better by the next day but we still gave him another round of antibiotics on Friday, and moved him and his mom to my horse pasture.
We sent the 3 other steers on a trailer load of calves to the auction at Blackfoot. We’ll send Ursala’s steer later.
Yesterday Andrea rode with me—we took the cows (now over the weaning of their calves) to the upper place.
Yesterday evening I became very ill—with vomiting and diarrhea--probably the same “bug” Lynn had earlier. I didn’t get much sleep last night but I’m feeling better today, but not eating anything except broth.
NOVEMBER 12 – I was weak and wobbly for several days, unable to eat much. It took a week to get back to normal. Lynn brought some big round bales (first cutting alfalfa) from Maurer’s place to feed our bull calves, and Michael hauled 8 big bales on his big truck. We may have to start feeding the heifer calves. They still have grass, but it’s snowing this morning and may cover the grass. If it snows much we’ll have to bring the cows down from the 320.
Michael and Carolyn brought their cows from the Maurer place last week, putting some on the lower fields and some on the Gooch place. We’ll be pasturing the upper place with our cows till they eat it all or it snows under. Last Saturday Lynn took the tractor up there, unstacked the big straw bales in the old stack yard and gathered the strings. These are some old bales Michael and Carolyn never used, and the strings are too rotten to move the bales without breaking. We’ll eventually let our cows into that big stackyard to clean up the grass and old straw.
I took shoes off Rubbie this week and trimmed her feet, and later take off Breezy’s shoes.
We weaned Ursala’s steer 5 days ago, leaving him on one side of the orchard fence (in my horse pasture) and the cow on the other. I feed them next to each other through the fence and they are both happy--no bawling at all.
This morning we put them together briefly to move them around to the corral so we could load him onto a trailer that’s taking calves to the auction in Blackfoot, and he didn’t even try to nurse his mother. He’s happily weaned, and ready to go. Michael will pick up the cow later today with his trailer and haul her to the upper place to join our other cows.
NOVEMBER 21 – It was snowing hard last week when Duwayne Hamilton (who hauls cattle to the auctions in southern Idaho) came to pick up our weaned steer—the one that was sick the day we sold our calves last month. Lynn plowed our driveway, to make sure the truck and trailer could make it back out again. Later that morning Michael came with his trailer to haul the cow (the mother of the weaned steer) to our upper place. We put her with the cows on the wild meadow—the mothers of the calves we sold earlier.
The next day, Lynn drove the 4-wheeler to the 320 to check on the other cows (the pregnant heifers, and the mothers of our heifers and bull calves we weaned in September). The snow was so deep he barely made it to the top of that mountain pasture, and most of the grass is covered. The protein supplement tubs were almost all gone. We decided to bring the cows home the next day, since weather predictions indicated more snow, and colder weather.
That next afternoon we drove the jeep to the upper place, and hiked a mile up to the ridge—no sign of cows. We hiked down into Baker Creek and found 5 young cows and herded them up the creek to the top trough, then out through the timber, on our little jeep road, onto the upper ridge.
We met a few cows along the way, and took them all to the ridge. Since we were still short a dozen, I held the herd there, talking to them, while Lynn trudged on around the hill through the deep snow to find the others. After we had them all gathered, he hiked down the ridge, calling them, and they followed. I brought up the rear. The sun was going down as we got to the gate at the bottom of the ridge, and let the cows into the lower part of the 320 acre pasture.
From that point on it got harder. At that lower elevation, on the south-facing slope where snow was less deep, grass was showing, and the cows immediately spread out to graze on the hillsides—no longer interested in following Lynn. We had to drive them the last mile down to the field, which took a lot more effort to turn them down the hill. At 65, I’m not as agile as I used to be. Running through the rocks I tripped and fell down a couple times—landing on my right knee each time. We finally got the cows to the field just before dark. That evening I put DMSO on my swollen knee, and several times the next day, to reduce the swelling. Our cows usually follow us very nicely, but they were hungry that evening. I needed my horse!
On Tuesday Lynn took salt and mineral to the cows in our jeep; they are still happily grazing on the upper place. There’s lots of feed there and the snow isn’t as deep.
Andrea and her friend Rick made several trips to the woods with her pickup and a small trailer, to get firewood. A couple days ago they had a flat tire on their way home, and had to get a new tire—and barely made it home in time to go to work. Andrea enjoys being a waitress at the restaurant, and her friend Rick is one of the cooks.
DECEMBER 2 – We’ve had more snow and cold weather—and a cougar on the upper place. Last week the cows were upset and all ganged down at the bottom of the lowest field, so Lynn called them to the old stackyard and let them in—where they happily started eating the old straw bales. Later that week we got more protein supplement for them; they’ll do nicely on the straw and dry grass that’s left on the fields, and a little protein.
For Thanksgiving we went to the restaurant where Andrea works. The family that owns it closed for Thanksgiving and had a big dinner for their whole family, and invited Andrea and her kids and us to join them.
Weather has been colder (down to 6 below zero); the cows on the upper place haven’t been grazing much in the early mornings. Those fields are in a canyon and the sun doesn’t come up till about 9 am, so they stand in the sun awhile to get warm before they start grazing. So we’re feeding them a few bales of grass hay in the mornings, just to get them going quicker, so they won’t be losing weight. Michael and Carolyn had to start feeding their cows some alfalfa to augment their pasture.
DECEMBER 14 – We’ve had a couple weeks of cold weather, down to 15 below zero. and nasty wind for several days. Lynn started a fire in our other wood stove, and we had to leave our water dripping at night so the pipes won’t freeze. He bought several bags of pelleted insulation and poured it around our water pipes under the bathroom floor. We’ve been chopping ice in the creek for the cows on the upper place; the water holes freeze solid every night. Heifers in the field below the lane are no longer grazing, so we give them a little grass hay in the evening to augment their alfalfa.
The cows on the upper place ran out of protein supplement so we started feeding them a little alfalfa, to encourage them to graze more. We’d like them to use the rest of the grass before it all snows under. They’ve eaten all the straw bales in the stackyard.
The prolonged cold has created serious ice problems on the creek. It flooded across the lower fields and Michael’s cows can no longer get across the creek. There are only a few areas for feeding. He decided to move that group to the Maurer ranch, but had to bring them up through our place and across our bridge and then down the road, since they couldn’t get across the creek on the lower fields.
Yesterday it was warmer, above freezing. The ice on the creek is still very thick, however, and it’s hard to create water holes that will stay open. When we went to feed on the upper place, one young cow (Buffalo Chips) was missing. We heard her bawling from across the creek. She ran back and forth along the brush, wanting to come back, but afraid to cross the ice. We found tracks where she’d gone across, by the water hole. She probably got pushed and shoved when the cows were drinking, and ended up on the ice and went on across.
We didn’t want her to fall down trying to get back across. During the past 35 years we’ve had two cows get paralyzed, with hind legs spraddled out on ice. So we skipped church and focused on the cow problem. Lynn shoveled dirt and gravel into the jeep from one of the steep banks along our road (where it wasn’t frozen) to put on the ice, to make a path across it. By the time he got back up there with the dirt, however, Buffalo Chips had gotten brave and crossed on her own—seeing the other cows eating alfalfa hay and not wanting to be left out. That solved our problem, and we decided to bring the whole herd down to the lower place. We went back up with the feed truck and Lynn led them 3 miles down the road with the truck and I hiked along behind. We put the cows in the hayfield below the barns, that hasn’t been grazed yet this fall. The snow is not as deep as on the upper place, so they were VERY happy.
Andrea and her friend Rick left yesterday afternoon to drive to Salt Lake. Her graft repair surgery will be tomorrow. We hope it all goes well. Jim (Emily’s dad) came up from Nevada to stay at Andrea’s house and take care of all the kids for part of this week, and we will help, too, since Andrea will be gone about a week.