Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Early Spring (February-March) 2010

Continuing updates on our family and life on the ranch

FEBRUARY 18, 2010 – A week ago Michael and Carolyn had another set of twins and had a tough time getting them born alive. The cow was taking too long in early labor so they suspected a problem, and checked her. The first twin was breech—nothing entering the birth canal but the calf’s tail—and difficult to reach the legs. By the time they got that calf out it was nearly dead because the placenta had started to detach. It took several minutes to revive him. The second twin was simply backward and easier to pull. They took the “slow” calf to the house to warm and dry it and give it colostrum. They now have several spare calves in case they need to graft one on a cow that loses a calf. The next morning they had another difficult delivery—a calf with both front legs turned back, but Michael was able to get the calf safely born.
Granddaughter Heather was home from college for a 3-day weekend, and enjoyed helping her folks with calving. They really appreciated her help; they had 30 calves during a 30-hour period, bringing their calf number to nearly 200.
On Sunday Michael loaded 8 more big bales of 2nd cutting alfalfa on the flatbed truck for us. This winter Lynn and I have been feeding some big round bales—grass hay to the cows and alfalfa bales to the heifers, using two different pickups. By setting the bales on their ends, there’s room on the flatbed for Lynn to go round and round, unrolling the hay and pitching it off. The last part of the bale we push off the pickup and unroll it down a hill. Most of the bale cores unroll very nicely that way.

On Monday Michael and Carolyn had another difficult calving. They now have more than 240 calves, with only a couple losses. Yesterday they had another set of twins to deliver, and when Michael reached in to check the cow, he said, “Oh, good! It’s only breech!” After some of the horrendous challenges they’ve had, a breech calf was easy!
I finally went to the doctor to check my knee. It’s still painful, after falling down while running through the rocks to head off the cows when we brought them home from the 320-acre pasture on November 14. An x-ray showed the bones are ok, so the doctor wants to do an MRI to check for soft-tissue injury.
MARCH 2 – Last Friday I went to town for the MRI on my knee. The doctor said there’s torn cartilage and it won’t get better. But it also won’t get worse. If pain gets unbearable he can do surgery to clean up the torn cartilage, which might help reduce inflammation, but I don’t want surgery because that would mean not being able to bend the knee at all for several weeks as it recovers. We’ll soon be calving and I don’t want to be laid up. I can live with it the way it is—being careful to not bend it tightly because that’s when it’s really painful.
My brother came to visit from Boise, and while he was here we drove up the creek to visit Emily Binning—our good friend and neighbor who is dying of cancer. We had a nice visit with her, but didn’t stay very long, so as not to tire her. She is enjoying visits with friends. She has outlived the doctor’s predictions by twice as long as expected, but she’s becoming very frail.
Sunday we brought our cows down from the field and sorted off 24 to sell to Michael and Carolyn—12 young cows and 12 pregnant heifers. Their banker wants them to build up their herd again. Even though we bred our cows to calve in April, these will fit with their late group and will breed back earlier for them next year.
Today we forgot to latch the gate when we drove out of the field below the house after feeding the heifers, and mid-morning the heifers came trooping up through the barnyard, across the driveway, through the calving pen and up to my horse haystack. They made a mess of broken bales, but at least they didn’t go out to the range!
MARCH 18 – The “heifer escape” was a good practice lesson for them on coming out of their field. The next Sunday we brought them into the barnyard instead of feeding them—and they came eagerly when we opened the gate. We took them to the corral and sorted off the oldest and biggest ones we’re selling to Michael and Carolyn. We deloused the others and took them back to the field below the lane to feed them. Michael and Carolyn came with their trailer to haul the 8 heifers to the Maurer place.
Last week Lynn put a new battery in his 4-wheeler so he could get it started. It’s been parked all winter in our second-day barn and we need to get it out of there when we start calving. Also, our weather is turning warmer; he’ll need to use the 4-wheeler to start irrigating. Snow is rapidly leaving the fields and grass is starting to grow.
Our good friend June had a stroke a couple weeks ago and was in the hospital in Hamilton, Montana. She was doing a little better a few days later, and Andrea drove over to see her. Then she had another stroke, and could not recover. She was brought back to Salmon to spend her last days in a hospice room at the local care center, and died peacefully this past Monday. She will be greatly missed.
When Lynn was loading some small bales onto our pickup, one tumbled off the stack and hit his head and shoulder, hurting his shoulder. He put DMSO on it to ease the inflammation and pain but was unable to raise his arm for several days. Granddaughter Heather was home from college for spring break, and she came the next morning to help us feed our cows. Thankfully Lynn’s shoulder is doing better now and he’s able to use it again, carefully. While granddaughter was home from college she helped her folks with their cattle and they branded calves Thursday and Friday while the weather was good. Then it snowed hard again on Saturday.
Yesterday we sorted off 2 of our 5 yearling bulls to sell to Michael and Carolyn and they came to get them.

MARCH 27 – Last week Andrea’s kids spent a day with us. Sammy and Dani had fun making crowns and headbands and all sorts of other creative projects. Dani made a long tail for herself and put stickers on her face for cat whiskers.

Emily learned how to make biscuits, and helped me do chores. We brought our cows down from the field and sorted off some that are about to calve. Emily enjoyed seeing her pet cow, Buffalo Girl, who is close to calving. That cow always likes to see Emily, and walks up to have her head scratched. Ever since Emily was 5 years old and Buffalo Girl was an orphan calf, they’ve had a special relationship. The cow tolerates Lynn and me, but is more bonded with Emily and is very trusting--and not pushy, like some pet cows. There’s just a quiet communication between Em and her cow.

The day after we sorted our herd to put some in the maternity pen, Lilly suddenly developed a larger udder. I noticed this new development the next morning when we went up to the field to feed the rest of the cows, and eased her over to the gate. We brought her down through the field, to put in the maternity pen, too. On Monday we took a big straw bale into the barn on the jeep and spread it into 5 stalls so we’re ready in case weather is bad. On Tuesday afternoon Lilly calved—a red bull calf—but the day was warm and we let her calve in an outdoor pen.
The next day the weather changed—cold, windy and snowing—so we moved Lilly and calf to our “second day barn”. It’s basically a 3-sided shed that gives protection from wind and rain or snow. Lynn had just taken all the “stored” things out of that barn, and the four-wheeler (parked in there all winter).
More cows up in the field are looking like they’ll calve soon, so this morning we brought them all down and put several in the maternity pen and the rest in the pasture next to it—much more handy to get them in when their time comes to calve.

Outie (a 4 year old) started labor yesterday evening and we put her in the barn, with Buffalo Girl in the next aisle to keep her company. Outie calved outdoors for her first calf, and last year (with her second calf) the weather was bad and we put her in the barn. She was horribly nervous, trying to climb the walls. She was more at ease this time, with Buffalo Girl for company. She calved quickly, and the calf was up and nursing within 30 minutes. Buffalo Girl calved today, a nice bull calf, and Emily named him Buffalo Bill.
APRIL 4 – Michael and Carolyn are trying to build their herd back up, after selling everything they could reasonably cull two years ago, when hay prices were so high and they chose to not buy any. This year, hay is priced about 1/3 what it cost in 2008. Their banker insists they get more cows, so we’re selling them more of ours, and the rest of our yearling heifers. Now we’ll have even fewer cows to calve out; Lynn and I are ready to slow down and we don’t mind letting Michael and Carolyn have more of our herd.
On Thursday Andrea and kids left early in the morning to drive to Salt Lake for her checkup at the burn center. The roads were good most of the way, but there was 5 inches of fresh snow in Salt Lake. As soon as her checkup was over, they got out of Salt Lake’s nasty roads and traffic and drove partway home, to stay the night at Pocatello at a motel. The doctors in Salt Lake were not happy with the graft surgery; the skin is healing well, but shrinking up again and negating the progress that was gained in “releasing” the contracture that is pulling on her arm, shoulder and spine.
On Friday Cub Cake (daughter of Cubby, granddaughter of Cinnabear) started calving at 2 a.m. so we put her in the calving pen by the house where we could watch her under the yardlight. It was a very cold, windy night and we were glad she waited till morning to calve. She calved just as the sun was coming up, and licked the calf dry very quickly, so it didn’t need to be in the barn. She had a red heifer named Sugar Bear. Andrea and kids stopped by that afternoon on their way home from to Salt Lake, and Emily got to see Buffalo Girl and her calf.
Emily Binning (our good friend and neighbor) died and was buried on a hillside on their property. A few days later they held a memorial service at one of the local churches. Emily had tape-recorded her own life sketch and it was a joy to hear her voice, telling about her life, her eagerness to go “home” to be with Jesus, and some of the exciting adventures she and her husband experienced during their years as missionaries in many countries.
We were glad to have known her, and to have been friends/neighbors for more than 40 years. At this point in our lives we get continual reminders that life is precious and fragile and that we should be grateful for every day, and its blessings—and to show our friends and family how much we love them. When we are young we take so many things for granted and don’t realize how precious and wonderful these relationships are.
Easter Sunday was a busy day. My nephew Matt Smith came last night to stay with Andrea and then visit his grandmother (my mom) this morning at the nursing home. I stopped in to see mom, too, then Lynn and I went to church with Andrea and kids, then stopped by her house to visit with Matt awhile. This evening we had a late supper for Michael and Carolyn and kids after all their chores, feeding and calving tasks. Granddaughter Heather is home from college for 3 days (going back tomorrow) and her birthday is next week. We had an early birthday celebration for their whole family, since all their birthdays are in April.
APRIL 15 – The day Michael and Carolyn took Heather back to college in Montana it started to snow. They hit a terrible blizzard on their way home, just before midnight, with 8 inches of new snow. The road was obliterated and they couldn’t see from one roadside reflector to the next so they crept along at slow speed trying to stay on the road. It took them more than 2 hours to travel 30 miles. We got only 3 inches of snow here, but it was a nasty blizzard. Nick was doing their chores and checking cows after school that evening and found a cow that had just calved. He managed to get the pair in from the field and into the barn just as it started snowing and blowing.
A week ago our old gentle cow Maggie calved, a nice big red heifer. Weather was nice for a while, then we had another storm. Lynn and I went to town to watch Charlie’s school program, and the rain hit just as we were leaving to come home. We hurried home, with strong winds threatening to blow the car off the road. We put Maggie and her new calf in the barn before they got drenched with rain. Calving this time of year, we usually figure it won’t be bad weather, but we are glad we have a barn!

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