Wednesday, June 20, 2012


APRIL 23, 2011 – Last week Andrea, Lynn and Rick worked on the new fence nearly every day. On Wednesday it started to snow. They were soon soaked and cold, and had to quit for the day. It was snowing hard by afternoon. Maggie (a 9 year old cow) was calving, and we put her in the barn to calve. She had a nice bull calf. She’s had 7 heifers and we were hoping she’d have another heifer because we’re short on heifer calves this year. We need to start increasing our small herd again, but most of our calves are bulls!

By Saturday we had all the posts set for ¾ mile of new fence, and Andrea helped Lynn make braces. Rick helped finish the last of the braces a few days ago, and they started stringing and stretching wire. It’s a race to get the fence finished before the range cows are turned out (May 1). We don’t want them to get into our fields.

Sunday evening, just at dark, our neighbor Gordon Binning called to tell us a wolf was bothering the yearlings on the upper place; the cattle were all jammed against the fence. It was too dark to get a good shot at the wolf, but Gordon shot at it, just to scare it away. The next day Michael and Carolyn checked all the yearlings to make sure they were ok. Emily and I rode past the upper fields and checked on them, too.

Early Tuesday morning, our smallest young cow (a 2nd calver) had her calf, out in the orchard. She calved quickly, between my spotlight checks. Even though it was cold and windy, the calf managed to nurse before he got too chilled.

Andrea brought Dani out several times last week, picking her up late morning after kindergarten, and on the nicest day we took her for a ride (her first ride on Veggie this year). I rode Rubbie, Andrea rode Ed, and I led Veggie from my horse.

Yesterday I put front shoes on Rubbie. Her feet aren’t as tough as Veggie’s. He can go all summer being ridden without shoes, but Rubbie’s feet get chipped and tender if I ride her more than a couple times without shoes.

The past several mornings have been cold and we’ve had more snow. Yesterday evening LillyAnn started calving and we put her in the barn. She had a heifer calf and was very aggressive when we went into her stall to iodine the navel cord. Lynn had to fend her off with a stick.

This weekend granddaughter Heather is home for Easter. Two of her HAB (Human Animal Bond) classmates came with her, and one of their professors. They were interested in seeing how ranch horses live and work, so Michael, Carolyn and Heather took them for rides on our ranch and range. They rode down to our place this afternoon (I was planning to go for a short ride with them out over our low range) but they had to wait a few minutes because our last cow was calving. Magrat (3 year old daughter of Maggie) was having a large calf and I wanted to make sure we didn’t have to pull it. Lynn, Andrea and Rick were up on the hill working on the fence, and I was the only one here watching the cow. She finally had the calf, and I quickly saddled Rubbie and went for a short ride with Heather and her classmates.

MAY 8 – The next day, Lynn, Andrea and Rick worked on the fence again and finished stretching the wire. On Monday Andrea helped Lynn put posts and wire in the gullies—so the calves can’t go under the fence in those low spots. That week Lynn, Andrea and Rick finished putting in all the stays (2 metal stays between posts) before the range cows started pressing the fence.

Emily rode with me that day, out across the low range, and when we came back from our ride we rode up along the new fence to say Hi to Andrea, Lynn and Rick, and check on the fence progress.

Dani came out several times with Andrea, and enjoyed hiking up in the field with me to see the calves. She named several of them, and is learning to tell them all apart. She likes to stand out there in the field, waiting patiently for the calves to come up and sniff her fingers. The cows are getting used to seeing her and are not worried about her being out there with their calves. Dani also likes to talk to the yearling heifers and they come up to the fence to sniff her hand.

Last week Andrea started harrowing our fields, and John Jacovak brought his excavator to start digging at the site for Andrea’s new house. He made good progress the first day, then hit a solid rock shelf and had to move farther away from that huge rock. The ground under the house site is mostly clay, so we’ll have to haul in rocks before we put in the foundation. Fortunately, we have a hillside of rock/shale on our upper place, along the road. John brought his dump truck, took his excavator up to our “rock” hill, and spent several days hauling rocks to the house site.

Andrea brought Dani with her on Wednesday and while Andrea finished harrowing I took Dani for a long ride on Veggie, making a loop over the low range. Dani practiced holding her reins properly so she won’t bump Veggie’s mouth with the bit. She also practiced trotting, learning how to post up and down in rhythm with Veggie—instead of bouncing. She’s developing good balance.

Rick came out the next day and helped Lynn put culvert headgates in a couple of our ditches. The warm weather is melting the high snow on the mountains, and our creek is running a lot of water. We need the headgates in place before the creek floods too much.

When Lynn drove up the creek yesterday he saw cattle on our high range, above the upper place. He went back with binoculars and realized they were yearlings, so he told Michael. They had more wolf problems. The day before, some of their yearlings crashed through the pole panels at the creek water hole and many were on the wrong side of the creek in another field. Others ran through the wire fence on the upper end of the field and got out on the road. Apparently 13 of those went on up the road, through an open gate, and out to the range. That afternoon Michael and Carolyn gathered them back down to the field.

MAY 20 – We’ve had more rain, snow and cold weather. A few days ago we had to scrape snow off the windshield of the feed truck. But we’ve also had some warm afternoons; the leaves are finally appearing on the trees—and grass is growing. The creek is dangerously high, flooding across all the low areas of our fields. Lynn has been making ditches in several places to get the water back to the creek. He made ditches through our main corral so the water can’t flood down through it and make our lane too wet for John to haul rocks. He created ditches in our haystack yard to take the floodwater back to the creek. Then he spent a couple days working on the wild meadow ditch on the upper place, hauling rocks with the backhoe to a washed-out section, and cleaning the rest of the ditch with tractor and blade.

We managed to brand and vaccinate our calves, vaccinate the cows, and vaccinate and tag the yearling heifers just before the corral got too muddy. We’d planned to do it a few days earlier, but we had more than an inch of rain that day and had to postpone.

Our new neighbor, Alfonzo (who is renting the Gooch place and lower fields that we—and then Michael—leased for 40 years) put a large group of cows in the lower fields for a few weeks before he put them on the range, and left 10 of them there after he turned out his cows. There’s not much grass in those fields, after being heavily grazed, and his cows are reaching through the fences. The fence between our two places, which we built 44 years ago, is old and tired, so Andrea helped Lynn set 29 new wood posts (with our tractor and post-pounder) in the weakest areas, built some new braces, and re-stretched the wires. Dani and I hiked down in the field to look at their progress. That afternoon they set 16 new posts in the sagging fence above heifer hill, on our upper boundary.

The grass has finally grown enough that we put Chance (granddaughter Heather’s old horse) in the pens below the calving barn to graze, and Molly (Carolyn’s old horse) up in the ditch pasture. Even though Chance’s teeth are so bad he can’t chew hay, he’s able to graze green grass. I dewormed and vaccinated all our horses.

On Monday Andrea came out early morning and we rode Rubbie and Breezie over the low range to check gates and fix fence, and on the way home Rubbie was hurrying down a rocky hill to cross a gully, and twisted her left hind leg. She was immediately very lame, not putting any weight on that leg at all. I led her the rest of the way home, a couple miles, and put DMSO on her stifle joint when we got home.
She was so lame I put her in a small pen, instead of in her regular pen with Veggie—so she won’t have to move around. Her fetlock joint started to swell, so she apparently injured both joints. Our vet came to examine her, and there’s nothing broken, but it may take awhile for the pulled/sprained joints to heal. I’m still putting DMSO on those joints, and giving her “bute” orally, to help reduce the pain and inflammation. Today, 4 days after the injury, she is still very lame, but putting some weight on that leg.

Yesterday Andrea helped Lynn put an electric fence across the field below our house. Today we’ll put our cows down there, on the side that gets too boggy to cut for hay, and we’ll let them graze it. They will be happy to finally have some grass and we can quit feeding hay! It’s been a very long, long winter and slow spring.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


MARCH 25, 2011 – We had a lot of wet, stormy weather last week. We left Cub Cake and her new calf in the open-front barn a couple days so they’d be out of the wet snow and wind, then put them in one of the outdoor pens where there’s a windbreak. Last weekend Andrea’s friend Rick helped Lynn replace 2 heavy panels with metal gates. It’s nice to have swinging gates into those 2 fields; we no longer have to break our backs trying to open and close those old pole panels!On Wednesday Rosalee (a 4 year old cow) calved about 3 a.m. in the maternity pen. Her calf had nursed and was fairly dry by daylight when we moved them to one of the side pens. Later that morning we moved the cows down from the field above the house and sorted a few more (that look like they’ll be calving soon) into the maternity pen, and put the rest below the lane again.
Lynn plugged the tractor in that morning, and by afternoon it started, so we could put a big bale into the cows’ feeder, and also took 2 more bales up to Michael and Carolyn’s horses in the swamp pasture. He was able to move their other feeder down out of the boggy area to dry ground without getting stuck. While we were feeding those horses, we noticed that Molly (Carolyn’s old mare that’s about 30 years old) has lost a lot of weight recently. The other horses chase her away from the feeders. So Lynn and I caught her and brought her down to the main corral where we can feed her separately and give her some grain. We put an old tire in the corral for her hay, so it won’t get tromped into the mud.
Chance(granddaughter Heather’s old horse that we’ve been feeding pellets) is living in the backyard, and was delighted to see Molly again—just across the creek in the corral. He nickered at her all day and all night, that first night she was there. Those 2 old horses have been buddies for many years. Chance has really bad teeth and can’t chew hay (all he can do is wad it around in his mouth and spit it out), and it takes him a long time to eat pellets. He still craves more roughage, however, so I started cutting up some our finest grass hay into inch-long pieces, with scissors. It only takes about 10 minutes to fill a 2-gallon bucket with “chopped” hay and he can eat it. Today Lynn put two strands of electric fence along the side of our field above the house, so the calves can’t get to the ditchbank to eat gravel, and also can’t stick their heads through the elk panel along that fence. We’ve had calves get their heads caught in those panels, and we don’t want that risk.
APRIL 2 – We ran out of hay and bought a trailer load of big bales from a friend up at Leadore. It’s nice hay—a mix of grass and alfalfa—and he delivered it for us.
Last week we had another snowstorm, and I was glad to see that all the calves up in the field were using the calf-houses. They stayed warm and dry through the blizzard. They came out of their houses in the morning and had fun running and bucking in the new snow—rather than being cold and miserable.
Last Sunday Andrea and Rick took Andrea’s kids to a pond to fish, but there was still a lot of slushy ice. One of their dogs tried to run out on the ice and fell in. Emily jumped in to try to save the dog, and was immediately in deep water up to her neck. It was very cold and she panicked and came back out again. Rick took off his shoes and coat and went into the pond to grab the dog.

On Monday, Andrea left Sammy and Dani here with us when she drove to Idaho Falls for doctor appointments—to see the ear-nose-throat specialist again, and the pain management doctor. Rishira (our oldest cow, age 15) calved that afternoon and the little girls were delighted. They spent a lot of time at the window watching the new baby trying to get up and nurse. I had to run out once and rescue the little heifer when she staggered and flopped down in a mud puddle. I dragged her back to dry ground, and when she eventually got her “sea legs” I helped her nurse the cow. Rishira’s udder is saggy and it’s hard for a newborn to get onto those teats! The girls wanted to name the new calf Mary, so now she is Merry Mary. We started calling her Merry Mary Quite Contrary. Dani couldn’t quite say it so the name became Merry Mary Conscontrary.

Wednesday afternoon Buffalo Girl (Emily’s pet cow) calved and we put her in the barn to calve because it was raining hard. It’s sure nice to have a good barn, even though we’re no longer calving in January! The pair was still in the barn the next day when Lynn brought the 2 little girls out from town to stay with us for a couple days. They helped do chores, feeding and watering the horses, and climbed up in my haystack shed with their favorite cat.

They were also delighted to be able to pet Buffalo Girl’s new calf in the barn. Later that day we put the pair out into a pen, and the girls enjoyed watching the calf bucking and running around the pen. The first thing Dani did the next morning when she woke up was run to the window to look out at the cows in the maternity pen to see if any more were calving.

With warmer, rainy weather, more of the snow is melting, and the creek is higher. Our neighbor had water in the ditch above us and it was flooding down across heifer hill. Lynn had to create a new turn-out spot in the ditch at our fenceline, and dam it off so the water can run back to the creek instead of flooding the field.

APRIL 13 – Michael finished his night calving job at the ranch near Leadore and is starting to catch up on his sleep. It was a hectic calving season, calving out more than 700 cows and a lot of heifers. More than half of them calved at night, with Michael being the only person on the night shift. He had some interesting experiences, pulled a lot of calves, and had to deal with some mean mamas.
Lynn started our old backhoe last week and cleared manure and old hay away from the fence in our hold pen so we can drive through there without getting stuck; it’s been boggy since the snow melted. While he had the backhoe running, he loaded 2 truckloads, a pickup and a trailer load of manure for neighbors with gardens.
Last Friday Michael, Carolyn and Nick rounded up their 11 horses from our swamp pasture. They hauled 6 of them up the creek to turn out on one of the back fields on our upper place, and then hauled the other 5—the ones they need to start riding for working cattle--to our upper corral.

We started working on the new fence along the southeast side of our lower place, hoping we can get it finished before the neighbors turn cows out on the range adjacent to us. We had to tear out some of the old fence by Andrea’s old trailer house, where we will soon start building her new house. When we surveyed our property line last fall—to make sure the new house would be within our boundaries, we discovered that the old fence was not on line, and that we actually own about 20 acres out on the hillside—which has been used as public range for the past 130 years. Since we have to build a new fence anyway, we decided to put it in the proper place.

Lynn, Andrea, and her friend Rick spent much of last week setting posts (in spite of several snowstorms and 3 inches of new snow on Saturday), and the kids came out on Saturday and Sunday. The girls helped me bake applesauce cake, cook lunch and supper, and do all the chores. They enjoyed feeding the cats and seeing the new calves.

Emily, Sammy and Dani helped me feed the yearling heifers, bringing the wheelbarrow full of hay through the maternity pen and into the heifers’ pasture. Emily also enjoyed walking up into the field with the cows and calves to see her old pet, Buffalo Girl, that she helped feed on a bottle (8 years ago when Emily was 5 years old).

Yesterday Rick helped Lynn work on the fence again, setting more steel posts and some wood posts for braces. I trimmed Rubbie and Veggie’s feet, so we can soon start riding them again. In spite of the snowstorms, some days are feeling like spring.