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.