JANUARY 27, 2011 – Last week Lynn and I took another big bale of hay to the cows above the house.
While we were up there, I hiked through the deep snow and across the creek into the upper swamp pasture to check Michael and Carolyn’s horses, and their water. With the cold weather, the water holes have been freezing over, and Lynn has been chopping ice.
In spite of the deep snow and cold weather, Andrea and Rick have made several trips up the creek to get loads of firewood to sell. With the cold winter, many people need more firewood and Rich has had lots of orders for wood. The frozen snow up there is about 2 feet deep, but they’ve managed to keep a “trail” open on the jeep road, and can get up there with the jeep chained up on all 4 tires.
We’ve been feeding alfalfa and grass hay to granddaughter Heather’s young filly, Tornado, and a little alfalfa to her 30-year-old gelding, Chance, along with his senior feed and alfalfa pellets. His teeth are so bad he can’t chew hay, but he likes to sort through it and eat the leaves. Then I gather up the stems at the next feeding and put them through the fence for Snickers, who can eat them.
The big bale of alfalfa that I use for Chance and Tornado was sitting on our flatbed truck, parked below the driveway. The deer started coming in at night to eat it, so we moved the truck into the calving pen by the house and shut all the gates; the deer are more reluctant to jump into that pen.
We went to granddaughter Samantha’s birthday party (7 years old!) at the hockey rink, where she and her friends were skating and sledding. Emily’s 13th birthday was a few days later, and we took gifts and cake to the hockey rink after practice that evening, where she shared cake and ice cream with her hockey team.
After a long siege of cold weather we had some warm days, and the creek started flooding down one of our ditches where the dam washed out. It was flooding Gordon Binning’s cellar, so Lynn and Nick went to the head of the ditch and chopped enough ice to put in a new dam, then siphoned 6 inches of water out of Gordon’s cellar with a hose.
Our weather got cold again (better conditions for hauling hay—not so slippery) and Michael hauled one of our tractors over to the place he leased on Sandy Creek, and plowed a trail to that haystack, leaving the tractor there for loading hay. Lynn helped Michael and Carolyn for several days (hauling with 2 flatbed trucks and the flatbed trailer). They brought those bales home to our upper stackyard, to feed their yearlings.
Sunday evening, after coming back from Mark’s place for the weekend, little Dani had a bad cough and a fever. Andrea took her to the doctor Monday morning but the doctor thought it was just a cold. By that night she could hardly breathe, and Andrea stayed up all night with her, using a nebulizer to help keep her airways open. She took Dani to another doctor Tuesday morning, who diagnosed pneumonia. Dani’s blood oxygen level was dangerously low. They put her in the hospital for 3 days, on oxygen and IV fluids, antibiotics and breathing treatments. Andrea stayed with Dani the first night in the hospital, and Mark stayed with her the second night. This morning she was doing better and the doctor let Andrea bring her home again.
FEBRUARY 8 – Last week was really cold again, but the road conditions were good for hauling the last of the hay from Sandy Creek. Lynn had to break ice on the creek again for the bulls and cows. Hiking up through the field to the creek he discovered a huge snowball. When the weather was warmer, the cows had been rooting under the snow for grass. The snow must have been just the right temperature to stick together, and one of the cows must have pushed this big snowball down the hill to the fence.
Nick ran another cross-country race (5000 meters) in Missoula, Montana—a race with 170 runners--and came in first. This is the second race he’s won in Missoula, and we are really proud of him.
Lynn plowed a trail through the snow in the field behind our house so Andrea could drive up there with her truck and take more things to her old trailer house to store them. We will be building a bigger house up there for her and the kids this spring and summer, and she’s packing some of her things and getting them moved.
Michael worked several days helping weigh bulls for some purebred breeders in preparation for their spring bull sales. Now he’s starting another job, night-calving for a big ranch 50 miles up the valley. It’s a long drive back and forth. He doesn’t get much sleep during the day, feeding their yearlings and doing his other chores. He and Carolyn bought 49 more weaned calves at a sale in Dillon and plan to get more at another sale.
This past weekend we had friends staying here from Canada. Pete and Bev Wiebe recently spent two weeks in Panama helping build houses, and before that, Pete was in Haiti helping rebuild an orphanage destroyed by the earthquake. They usually go south every winter to work on various projects--rebuilding homes destroyed by fires, hurricanes, etc.--and we enjoy having them stop here on their way. We met them after Andrea’s burn accident in July 2000. Pete is a burn survivor and he contacted us that summer to give us hope and encouragement. The weekend they were here, we all went to see some of Emily’s hockey games. The Salmon team won 2 games and tied their 3rd game, and Emily made the winning shots.
FEBRUARY 18 – This past week has been traumatic. Lynn’s younger sister Jenelle had to take their 88-year-old mom, Virginia, to the hospital in Missoula. She’s had a serious infection in her foot, and the doctors discovered that the main artery down her leg is collapsed. The only options were to bring her back home to die, or amputate the leg above the knee. They chose amputation.
The surgery went well, but she’s had some complications. They put in a feeding tube the second day after surgery because she wasn’t eating well, and it was in the wrong place—and she aspirated fluid into her lungs. She’s also had a small stroke and isn’t doing as well as she was the first couple of days.
Meanwhile, we had a tragedy here, involving young Heather’s filly, Tornado. Last Saturday night was windy—with strong gusts that sounded like a freight train. Tornado was running around in her pen, and hit the fence, but we didn’t know it until the next morning. At first light I looked out the window and saw her lying flat on the ground. I opened the window and yelled, but she barely raised her head and plopped it right back down. Lynn and I ran out there to try to roll her upright, but she wouldn’t budge. I called Michael and Carolyn.
We couldn’t get her up, so Carolyn called the vet, who determined that the filly had seriously injured her neck. We could see where she hit the fence—with such force that her feet shoved a big log (at the bottom of the netting) about a foot into the next pen. The diamond mesh netting has some give, but she probably hit it just wrong and popped her neck. The vet told us it was hopeless to try to save her, and Carolyn called Heather (at college in Montana) and let her make the decision to put her down. The filly had suffered enough, in the hours she laid there on the ground. We all wept, not only for the filly, but in compassion for Heather’s loss. This was the first foal she’d raised of her own, and she’d spent a lot of time, effort and love this summer with Tornado and her early training.
FEBRUARY 27 – A couple weeks ago Andrea’s kids came out to the ranch to go sledding. Our driveway is covered with ice, and it’s steep enough to make an excellent sled run. The kids were excited about using our “old fashioned” wooden sleds--with runners--that Grandpa Lynn found in the barn. They can speed down the hill a lot faster than their plastic sleds. The “runner” sleds can whiz past the house and across the bridge. They had so much fun sledding on Saturday that they came out again Sunday afternoon.
The two little girls were getting a cold, however, and shared it with me. I ended up with bronchitis, fever and a horrible cough. The doctor put me on antibiotics and I’m just now starting to feel a little better and getting caught up on some of my work--trying to meet deadlines on articles for several magazines.
That week Lynn took 2 more big bales up to the feeders in our swamp pasture for Michael and Carolyn’s horses. Nick helped, opening and guarding the gates. He helped us again a couple days later when we vaccinated our cows. I was still sick and it was a lot easier having Nick push the cows through the chute. Lynn caught their heads and deloused them, and all I had to do was vaccinate—giving their pre-calving vaccines.
Nick helped Lynn shovel the deep snow away from the gates by the chute so we could open them. We were glad we got the cows vaccinated and deloused that day; it snowed the next day.
On Tuesday Michael and Carolyn went to the sale at Butte, Montana and bought 17 more yearlings—a trailer load—and hauled them home. Michael didn’t get any sleep that day; he’s still doing night calving for a big ranch near Leadore, and usually feeds their calves in the early morning when he gets home. That day they drove to the sale as soon as he finished feeding, and by the time they hauled the calves home it was time to drive to Leadore again for his night job.
Lynn’s mom, Virginia, did fairly well for a while after her surgery (removing her lower leg) in Missoula, then had complications. She didn’t want to eat, and seemed to lose her will to live, sleeping a lot. Last week they took out her feeding tube. She was quietly fading away, but without pain—the doctors kept her on morphine in her IV drip. This morning Lynn’s sister Ann (who has been staying with Virginia in the hospital) called to tell us that Virginia passed away at 5:30 a.m.
MARCH 9 – Virginia was cremated and Lynn’s younger sisters brought her ashes back from Missoula last week. The family will have a memorial service in May, when the weather is nicer.
Andrea drove to Idaho Falls last week for her appointment with a pain specialist (trying to find ways to relieve the constant pain from old burn injuries and contractures) and the nose and throat specialist. The pain problem is still a frustrating and unresolved issue, but the good news is that her lungs are doing much better than 6 months ago.
My latest book, The Cattle Health Handbook (Storey Publishing) will have a 2nd printing soon, so the publisher asked me to look through it and see if anything needs to be updated. I spent several days working on that project.
Our weather continues to be cold, windy and stormy. A few days ago we had 3 more inches of new snow. We were glad the roads weren’t too bad on the day young Heather drove home from Helena; she has a week for spring break. She’s glad to be home, to see her horses. Her old horse Chance enjoyed having her rub his neck
She and Carolyn went for a ride over the low range on one of the nicer afternoons; Heather rode one of the young horses she started training last year.
She and her folks spent several days working on the corral on the upper place so they can use it to vaccinate their yearlings. They also fixed fences so that when they get the rest of the yearlings they plan to buy, they can put them in the field above the corral. The Wild Meadow is getting crowded.
Michael is using a feed processor that chops and mixes the hay. That way he can mix alfalfa hay with some 2-year-old grass hay, and the calves eat it fairly well.
Andrea and kids and Rick drove to Sun Valley on Saturday, for Emily’s final hockey tournament. The roads were snowy and we are glad Andrea has 4-wheel drive and new tires.
We’ve been checking on the little red cow at nights because the weather has been so cold and stormy. We’re glad she chose to calve during the daytime, this afternoon. It was a fairly nice day, not too cold or windy, and the calf was up and nursing within 45 minutes. Lynn went to town for mail and groceries after she calved, and our two youngest granddaughters, Sammy and Dani came home with him, eager to see the new calf. It started to snow about the time they got here, however, so we put the cow and calf in the barn.
MARCH 17 – We had warm afternoons last week and the snow on our low hills started to melt, with water running down every draw and down our driveway. Lynn diverted some of the flood, but it had already run down across our lower field and flooded the bale feeder. The water was several feet deep in the swale across the creek, coming down across the field and pasture where Michael’s horses are—flooding their bale feeders. There was no way we could get a tractor up there to move them.
A couple days later the temperature dropped well below freezing, with no more run-off. We took advantage of the frozen mud to drive into the horse pasture with more hay, and moved the emptiest feeder to higher ground. Day before yesterday we finally had another cold morning, so we moved the other feeder to an area that won’t flood.
Michael and Carolyn went to the sale at Blackfoot and bought 53 more yearlings. The next day they hauled them home in two stock trailers and put them in the field above the corral on the upper place.
Andrea and Rick brought another pickup load of boxes to store at Andrea’s old house and shed. Andrea has been packing up a lot of things in preparation for moving. As soon as the ground dries up enough, we’ll start the groundwork for her new house, which will be situated back into the hill (with a daylight basement) not very far from her old trailer house. She and the kids are very eager to move!