Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Summer: June - Early July 2010

JUNE 21 – Weather cleared up for a couple days in early June and Nick helped us brand and vaccinate our calves. That afternoon he helped Lynn fix the headgate for one of our ditches. Michael and Nick brought several trailer loads of yearling heifers (and a young bull) to put on pasture below our house. We decided to pasture some of our fields this year since we won’t need much hay after selling more cows to Michael and Carolyn. They need more pasture, so this will work nicely. With all the wet weather, the grass is growing swiftly and we have poppies blooming in our front yard because we haven’t taken time to mow it.

I’ve been letting Breezy and Snickers graze by my hay shed and horse pens to mow the grass before we stack hay there. It will be less of a fire hazard if there’s no tall grass around the hay shed. We vaccinated the horses a couple weeks ago—later than usual, because mosquitoes weren’t out yet. Last week Emily was here at the ranch and caught several of the wild young kittens and hopes to gentle them down.

When Michael, Carolyn and young Heather stopped by one morning, Heather had their new pup with them. Her name is Fred and she is destined to be a cowdog.

Veggie has “scratches” (infection around the heel and pastern areas of his feet) from standing in deep mud for several weeks. His left hind pastern was swollen and sore so we’ve been washing it and treating it (with a mixture of DMSO and nitrofurozone ointment) daily to combat infection and relieve the swelling. He’s no longer lame, but I’ll keep treating it until his pen isn’t muddy.

Last Saturday we drove over to the Maurer place and took photos of young Heather and her filly. She works with that sassy, independent foal every day. Little “Tornado” is learning to lead and respond to the halter.

Sunday afternoon I rode with Heather, Michael and Carolyn to help them gather and move the rest of their cattle to the middle range pasture. We discovered one of their calves caught in a water tank; he was probably pushed in when cattle crowded around it, and he couldn’t get out. It looked like he’d been there for several days. Michael got into the tank and lifted the calf up over the poles to get him out.

More rain this past week—and snow on the upper place. On Friday Nick helped Lynn saw a tree off the fence in our lower field and patch the fence, and then we moved the 30 heifers to that field. The last few days it’s been so cold we’ve had a fire in our wood stove to keep warm!

JULY 8 – Three weeks ago we borrowed a bull from Michael and Carolyn to put with our cows, since we loaned them all 6 of our bulls earlier this spring. The bull Michael brought us was one they’d rested for a month after an injury, but he seems fine now.
High water washed out one of our ditch heads. Lynn tried to put a dam in the creek but the water was too deep, swift and treacherous, so he took 12 big straw bales up there and Michael used our backhoe to set them in the creek.
I rode again with Michael, Carolyn and kids to check gates and troughs on the high range, and the troughs Michael fixed on the middle range, to make sure they were still working.

Rubbie had a sore eye (holding it shut) so I had the vet come look at it. She had a scratch on the cornea so we’ve been putting medication into the eye twice a day. She was doing better by last week, and I rode her when Andrea’s kids came out to the ranch. I led Veggie for Charlie, Sammy and Dani to ride—making 3 trips over the hill to the low range, about 2 miles for each child.

Michael brought 2 of their horses to pasture in our barnyard and we can use one of them, a mare named Ed, for grandkids to ride. Emily rode her on Tuesday and went with me to check cows on the Middle Range pasture. Ed is shorter than Veggie, and Em was able to brush, saddle her, and mount by herself without help.

This past week has been unlucky for vehicles. We had a thunderstorm a week ago, with strong wind. Two of Michael and Carolyn’s cow dogs crawled into their old Explorer (the spare vehicle they drive back and forth to their leased ranches). One window was broken out, and the dogs got in to get out of the storm. They probably cowered down under the dashboard—afraid of the lightning and thunder--and pressed on the clutch, putting it out of gear. The wind got it rolling; it left the parking area and went down the hill, where it hit a big rock and turned sideways, taking the rock with it, and rolled over a few times before plummeting over the embankment down to the county road where it landed on its top. It caved in the top and totaled the vehicle.
The dogs survived with minor injuries, since they were small enough to be protected by the seats when the roof smashed down. A full box of horseshoe nails and some new horseshoes got tossed around inside the vehicle; the dogs endured a shower of sharp missiles and thudding horseshoes as the car rolled over and over. The dogs stayed in the wrecked car until Michael and Carolyn discovered the situation and coaxed them out. Then Michael had to move the car out of the middle of the road, using our backhoe to carry it to a wide spot above their lane.

Then 2 days ago we got a frantic phone call from Carolyn asking Lynn to bring his big tractor and log chain. Nick had left for track practice and got out of his pickup to shut their driveway gate. They keep the gate shut because 2 of their old horses are grazing the pasture around their house. While he was shutting the gate, the parking brake failed and the pickup rolled down the driveway, across the main road and through the fence—and into the neighbor’s pond. Nick had to drive a different vehicle to track practice. Lynn drove our tractor up there (2 miles) and he and Carolyn were able to hook onto the back bumper of the pickup to pull it out. The back axle and entire front end of the pickup were under water. The motor is probably ruined; it was full of water. They plan to put the motor from the wrecked explorer (that the dogs drove over the cliff) in Nick’s pickup. Meanwhile, we’ll loan Nick our 31 year old car that we haven’t been driving. It just needs a new battery. Nick can drive it to track practice the rest of the summer or until they get his pickup fixed.

Monday, July 5, was the 10th anniversary of Andrea’s burn accident. Hard to believe this much time has passed, yet in some ways it seems like only yesterday. Lynn and I had some sober thoughts about this milestone, and recollections about the other fire in 2003 that burned part of our cattle range. This summer the grass is lush and green—and lots of it, and we hope we won’t have hot dry weather and risk of fires later on.

Andrea rode with me yesterday (on Breezie) to check cows on the Middle Range, and we stopped at the bottom of the 2nd Canyon while Andrea took photos of a deer (a young buck with horns still in the velvet) on the hillside.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spring 2010

Spring (April-May) 2010

APRIL 25, 2010 – We had warm weather last week but now it’s cold and freezing. We sawed up the rest of our log-length firewood, and even though we’re still having a fire in the stove every day, it looks like we’ll have some wood left over, for a start toward next winter.
Michael and Carolyn branded more of their calves last week, and the 31 yearling heifers they bought. We’ve had stormy weather but they picked a day the cattle weren’t wet.
Lynn has been turning on some of our ditches to start irrigating. Even though it’s been rainy off and on, the wind keeps drying things out, and cold weather slowed the grass growth. We need some moisture and better growing weather.
Our grandson Nick (a junior in high school) did well at his track meet last weekend, placing first in the 400 and 800 meter races, and helping his team finish first in the relay race. We hope he does well at the district meet next month.
Michael and Carolyn borrowed our tractor and loader to haul big round bales from their stackyard on the lower place. They need to get all that hay moved down to the Maurer place before the creek rises and the ground gets too wet to cross the creek with their big truck. We loaned them our flatbed trailer so they can haul our tractor over to Sandy Creek and bring their hay from that place. They are still feeding hay, and had to buy a few more semi-loads to supplement their dwindling supply, because the grass hasn’t grown much yet this spring.

Yesterday they rounded up their yearling heifers to put a few of them through the chute to take out porcupine quills.

They’re also treating a calf for diphtheria; they’ve had several bad cases of diphtheria in baby calves this spring (caused by the same bacteria that cause foot rot), and have saved most of them. They lost one of the calves, however, and grafted the last “extra” twin onto its mother.
They now have just 3 cows left to calve. We are still waiting for our last cow to calve.

MAY 9 – Michael and Carolyn probably won’t lease the Gooch place and lower place this year. Even though they’ve leased it for the past 11 years (and we leased it for 29 years before that), the landlord (who lives in Maine) keeps raising the rent and they can no longer afford it. Ever since they started leasing it, they’ve been paying more than it’s worth (the landlord raised the rent when they started). A bigger problem is that the terms of their lease include a 3 percent increase each year (which is unheard of in agricultural leases) so by now it is priced half again what it is actually worth.
The landlord didn’t believe them when they said their banker thought it was priced too high, and had an independent consultant look at the figures (the number of acres of pasture and hay ground, and what the ranch has produced for the past 10 years in hay and how many cattle it pastures). When the consultant confirmed that the rent was indeed overpriced (and would not be attractive to other leasers because it has no corrals or facilities), the landlord still would not come down in price. So Michael and Carolyn decided to rent some other pasture and try to get by this year without the Gooch place and lower fields. Now the landlord is trying to find a renter, but so far no one else has wanted to rent it. Time will tell whether the landlord finds a renter or whether the place will sit idle this year.
We’ll let Michael and Carolyn use our upper place, the 160 and 320-acre mountain pastures, and our range permit this year, since they will be short on pasture.
Last Sunday we stopped at Andrea’s place on our way home from church, to see the goose that “adopted” one of their dogs. It’s a wild Canadian goose that was hanging around their place for several weeks. It showed up with two other geese in the field next to the house. When the other two left, the lone goose came into their yard and with the dogs and started eating their dog food. Two of the dogs were afraid of the goose but the younger dog and goose became inseparable, and it was the strangest friendship I’ve ever seen. The goose preened the dog, picking bugs out of its fur. The goose became tame enough to eat food out of Emily’s hands. The kids were fascinated by their new “pet” until it finally left a few days ago.

The last 3 cows at Michael and Carolyn’s place calved. Even though the weather has been cold they put those 3 out with a small group of cows and calves and were not watching them at night. We had some blizzards and cold wind, but those cows were accustomed to calving in a barn and went into a loafing shed to calve, so their calves weren’t too chilled.
Our last cow, Rishira, has been ready to calve for more than a week. I was checking her several times during the nights—so we could put her in the barn if she started calving. Wednesday night we had a terrible blizzard and 4 inches of new snow the next morning. It felt like winter instead of early May. It reminded me of when my first foal, Khamette, was born 51 years ago on May 5th, in 6 inches of new snow!
Michael and Carolyn drove to Helena in the snow on Thursday to bring Heather home from her first year of college. She was eager for summer vacation, though it hardly seems like summer yet. On Friday we had a visit with Heather while she and Michael were here with their big truck to load up 8 of our round bales. We won’t need all our hay, with our smaller herd.
Friday night Andrea brought Charlie out here after the kids’ dance and gymnastics program. Rishira was in early labor so we put her in our calving pen under the yardlight where we could watch her from the window. I checked on her all night but she didn’t do anything. Lynn and Charlie got up at 3 a.m to drive 200 miles to Blackfoot for Charlie’s Boy Scout Jamberal (100th year celebration for the boy scouts, with more than 7500 boy scouts). I continued watching Rishira, who put off actual labor until daylight. Even though it got down to 20 degrees that night, the wind quit and the temperature got warmer at sunup, so I didn’t have to put Rishira in the barn. She had a red bull calf.
Lynn and Charlie got home at 5 pm after their day with the Boy Scouts, and we hurried to town for the 2nd night of the kids’ dance and gymnastics program. Today we are recuperating from our long day. When we tried to feed the cows this morning, however, we had a set-back. We pulled out in the field with the feed truck and turned off the motor while we took the strings off the big round bale—and then the truck wouldn’t start. We unwrapped some of the hay and scattered it around by hand, then had to pull the truck back out of the field with the jeep.
MAY 19 – We fed hay with the jeep (backing it up to the feed truck and forking hay onto the jeep) until Lynn could put a new starter on the feed truck. The truck is a 1973 model that we bought in 1978.
On Sunday (after they turned some cattle out on our low range) Michael and Carolyn took a few cows over to our Cheney Creek pasture. It should hold them until the other pastures grow taller. They moved the cows before the creek gets too high to safely cross with young calves.
Nick did well at the district track meet, and goes to the state competition this weekend. The kids have only 1 more week of school. Danielle had tooth surgery last Friday and has a sore mouth, so she skipped a few days of school.
She, Sammy and Charlie have been staying with us a few days while Andrea went to Salt Lake for an appointment with a lung specialist. Dani especially liked playing with the cats and taming some of the new kittens.

The doctor here was concerned about Andrea’s breathing problems and sent her to the specialist in Salt Lake. The lung specialist said she has a lot of scarring in her lungs and airways—damage from the fire, and also from the several times she’s had serious pneumonia, in the burn ICU and in following years. She was in the hospital for a week with a collapsed right lung, a year after the fire, for instance.
She did very poorly on the breathing test because her air passages are so narrow. The specialist put her on several new medications to see if those might help, and wants to see her again in about a month. Andrea says she thinks the medicine is helping a little. Recovery is never complete, for a burn survivor.
While the kids were staying here with us, they enjoyed helping grandma and grandpa and seeing the cows and baby calves, and feeding the horses. Dani made friends with Maggie, one of our gentle old cows, and fed her some grass through the gate.

MAY 31 – What a crazy spring we’ve had! It doesn’t seem like summer yet. We are still feeding hay. Lynn put a new starter on the feed truck and got it working again. The grass is slow growing in the cool weather, but is finally coming nice and thick--from all the rain. Michael and Carolyn turned cows out on the range a few days later than usual but the range grass should be good this year. They borrowed our 4 bulls—3 to turn out on the range and one to use as a heifer bull—since their own bulls are worn out from the first 6 weeks of breeding and they need some spare bulls to finish up the breeding season. We won’t need a bull until later this month.
We’ve had more than a week of heavy rain. On Saturday (May 22) it started to snow and snowed all night—making roads treacherous as the kids drove home from Nick’s track meet in Boise; they didn’t get home till midnight.
At 2 a.m I was wakened by a loud crash. A huge branch broke out of our elm tree and hit the house roof. Power lines broke at 4:30 a.m. By morning we had more than 10 inches of new snow, and no electricity for about 12 hours. A tree was down across the road below our ranch, so we didn’t go to church. We spent the morning taking broken branches off fences above our house, after feeding the cows. Lynn had to brush the snow off our truck windshield with a broom before we could feed them.

One of the trees by the gate was broken down by the snow, and when I went up to open the gate a magpie was sitting on one of the few perches that wasn’t completely covered.

On Wednesday Michael hauled 15 more pairs to our upper place to pasture for summer, but it’s not summer yet. It’s muddier now than in early spring; we’re having trouble driving into the field above our house to feed our cows. Today will be our last day of feeding; tomorrow we’ll move the cows and calves to pasture above the corrals.
The horses are standing in ankle-deep mud in their pens. Young Heather’s mare Classy had her foal a couple nights ago, and Michael carried it into the barn to get out of the wet weather. It will probably have to stay in the barn at nights until the weather gets better.