Thursday, August 23, 2012

WINTER 2011-2012

NOVEMBER 26, 2011 – Lynn and Michael have been setting posts for the new fence boundary on our 160-acre pasture, hoping to get as many set as possible before the ground freezes more. On Monday they hauled steel posts in Michael’s pickup and got 40 set that day. I sent a lunch with them. On Tuesday Michael and Carolyn drove to Helena to convoy home with young Heather (coming home for Thanksgiving holiday) and hauled home the 3 horses they loaned to the HAB program for the fall semester.

Andrea is still in the process of moving, getting the rest of her furniture and boxes of belongings out of the old rental house in town, putting some things in the new house and storing the rest in her old trailer house until the carpenters are finished. The building inspector came this week and gave a temporary “occupancy” permit so she can start moving in. The kids have been sleeping on the floor in the old house in town and Andrea brings them out here for supper. She needed to get everything out of the old house so she can thoroughly clean it before the end of the month. Sam wasn’t feeling well (with fever and sore throat) for a few days, so she stayed here with me instead of going to school.

Wednesday, Andrea took Sam to the doctor. Lynn and Michael got 40 more posts set, after hauling some up the fence line with their 4-wheelers. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we had dinner at Andrea’s new house, even though she’s not moved in yet. She cooked the turkey and potatoes, and Lynn’s sister and sister-in-law and I brought the rest of the food. It was a “housewarming” celebration for the new house.
Yesterday it snowed. The weather cleared by afternoon, and Michael was able to haul wood posts (for braces) and barbed wire up to the fence project. Andrea and Rick brought more things out from town—and their dogs and cats--and worked until late at night cleaning the old house. They’ve spent several late nights on the cleaning project.

Today I rode with Michael and young Heather to pack wood posts and barbed wire up to the top of the fence where it’s too steep to take a vehicle. Michael came with the trailer to haul Ed to the upper place, saving time so I wouldn’t have to ride 3 miles up there and back. He put packsaddles on 2 of their horses.

Then we rode another mile up to a flat area in the 160-acre pasture, where he’d left the wood posts and rolls of wire.

I held the extra horses while Heather helped Michael load 4 wood posts on Gus (2 posts on each side) and 2 rolls of wire on Thelma.
We started up the hill through the sagebrush, with Heather and Michael leading the packhorses from their horses. Things were going well, even though Gus had never been packed before, until we went through some tall sage and Gus got tangled up in the brush. He tried to jump one of the bushes in his path. The posts clattered together and startled him. He pulled his lead rope out of Heather’s hand, and took off down the mountain—running and bucking. He lost the posts about halfway down, then galloped around the mountain toward home.

We rode back down to where he’d bucked off the posts, and I held Thelma (with the rolls of wire on her pack) while Michael and Heather went to find Gus. Fortunately he stopped at the gate and didn’t try to go through the fence. They readjusted his packsaddle (which had turned under his belly) and led him back up the hill. This time they only put 2 posts on him—one on each side. He stood wide-eyed and trembling, but didn’t move. And wouldn’t move when we tried to start back up the mountain. I followed along behind him on Ed, tapping him on the rump to encourage him—until he realized the posts weren’t going to hurt him.

We made 4 more trips up the precarious, snowy slope with posts, and the horses did fine. It got dark and cold before we were finished; we’d lost some time with the first adventure, but at least it ended successfully.

DECEMBER 11 – Lynn and Michael spent several more days setting posts, and the last ones were difficult, digging holes for the brace posts through the rocks and frost. We had cold weather (down to zero degrees).

Andrea got the old rental house completely cleaned and scrubbed, basement rooms repainted, carpets shampooed, etc. I sent supper home for her and the kids several evenings. Now she finally has time to work at getting everything into her new house—all the boxes and furniture that she stored in the shed and trailer. This past week the carpenters got her cabinets finished. We’re waiting for a stovepipe for the wood stove, hoping it comes soon so we can start heating her house with wood instead of expensive electricity.

We’ve been breaking ice for the cows to drink at the spring in their pasture, but the grass hasn’t snowed under yet. We’re only feeding hay to the 2 bull calves. The heifers and cows are still grazing, with a protein supplement.
Last Sunday we went to town early and watched one of Emily’s hockey games then went to church. This week Lynn and Michael have been setting posts for a fence around Andrea’s new house—to keep our cows out and her dogs in. We’ll graze that pasture in a few weeks (if it doesn’t snow under) and need a fence around her new house. There’s about 12 inches of frost in the ground. Michael used our rock drill to chip through frost and rocks to create postholes. The posts are all set now, ready for wire.

Andrea’s car window quit working (she couldn’t roll up the window) and she had to bring the kids home from their dance/gymnastics and hockey practice in the cold weather that night with no window. We loaned her our pickup to take the kids to the bus the next morning, and she took her car to town to be fixed.

Michael hauled the last of his yearlings to the sale, except for a few to butcher later, and hauled their 36 pregnant heifers home from rented pasture. He and Carolyn will be talking to their banker this week, to see if they can keep these heifers or must sell them. The heifers are due to start calving mid February.

DECEMBER 24 – We’ve had more cold weather, but Andrea’s kids have been enjoying the icy driveways. Their sleds coast all the way down to the bottom of our field.
Michael helped us build a fence around Andrea’s new house, and got it finished last week. We can now graze the cows in the field and hill pasture.

The carpenters brought stovepipe for Andrea’s chimney so we can finally hook up her wood stove, and save the cost of electricity for the heaters. The power bill was horribly high these last few months while the carpenters finished the house and while Andrea was moving in. Lynn took coals from our stove to give a good base for the fire in her new stove, so it would be easier to start the fire and keep it going.

Michael and Rick took more materials up to our 160-acre mountain pasture to finish building braces in that new fence. Nick and Heather got home from college a week ago, for Christmas vacation. They both helped for several days on the new fence, enabling us to get it finished quicker—before more snow and colder weather.

Tuesday morning Michael helped me take the shoes off Ed and Breezy and trim their feet. That afternoon our “fence crew” finished putting in stays and started working on the top fence between our property and the BLM range. It needed new posts and stays. They rebuilt the part that our neighbor Alfonzo took down a couple summers ago to bring his cows home from the range.

It snowed again, but Lynn and Rick were able to drive up there, with chains on the 4-wheeler, and hiked up the mountain to finish putting in the stays. So the 160-fence project is done, except for rebuilding a small section on the bottom end.

Friday evening one of Andrea’s cats, Patches, was up on the power pole next to her house, sitting on the transformer, afraid to come down. It was too high to use a ladder to try to rescue him, and unsafe, right next to the power lines. Emily spent several hours out there in the cold (below zero) and dark, trying to coax him down. At one point he came partway down, got scared, and went back up. A short while later he came back down on his own, and Em brought him in the house to warm him up.
Yesterday morning Lynn wrapped a sheet of tin around the base of the power pole so the cats can’t try to climb it.

Last week one of our neighbors caught an 80 pound female wolf in a coyote snare. Tracks nearby showed that a much larger wolf was with her when she got caught. This morning at 5 a.m. Andrea’s dogs barked frantically and when she stepped out on the deck and turned on the light there was a huge white/gray wolf just 20 feet away. She didn’t have her gun, and as soon as the wolf realized she was there, he ran off. We hope he doesn’t keep hanging around—he was much too close to kids, cats, dogs and cattle.

JANUARY 6 – On Christmas morning after chores, Lynn and I drove up to Andrea’s house to watch the kids opening their gifts, and had Christmas dinner there. It’s nice having them living here on the ranch!

A few days after Christmas the weather warmed up and it rained during the night, but changed to snow within a few hours. Our power went off and I had to shut down my computer and write a few cards and letters by candlelight instead of writing articles. We ate breakfast by candlelight.

Lynn, Rick and Andrea spent a couple days taking wire off the old boundary fence on the southwest side of our place and took out the posts—so it won’t be an obstacle for the cows grazing that hill pasture behind Andrea’s house (the extra 20 acres we gained by putting the fence on the actual property line this spring). Rick and Andrea also split a lot of our firewood, using Rick’s motorized wood-splitter.

Michael and Carolyn sold their pregnant heifers to 3 different buyers, who came on Friday to get them. Our roads were still icy so Michael had a truckload of sand hauled in, to sand the driveway at the upper corral, and sanded the creek road. With chains on their trucks, and sand for traction, Michael and the buyers were able to pull their trailer-loads of heifers up out of the loading area and safely down our road without mishap. It was a good thing they hauled the cattle that day, because it snowed several more inches that night and the roads were much worse.

With all the rain and snow lately, I’m glad I have a hay shed for my horse hay.

With more snow covering our fields, we started feeding hay to our heifers. They have been really good about grazing through several inches of snow, but this was too much. So we moved them to the field below the lane, where we could feed them easier and plug in the tank heater. Having warm water they will drink more (and eat better) on cold days, and I won’t have to keep breaking ice for them.

Michael helped Lynn get our old dump truck fixed (getting power to the 2nd axle) so it will have more traction and stability on our slippery road, and put chains on the tires. Then they took the backhoe up to our shale hill on the upper place and hauled loads of rock and some dirt down here to finish fixing the ditch heads and install more headgates along one of the ditches. Michael also hauled 10 loads of rock to put along the creek in our lower pasture where the creek was starting to make a new channel down through our field. It’s good to have that fixed before high water next spring!

Our cows have been bedding along the ditch in the field by Andrea’s house. We were afraid one of them might get upside down in the ditch, so Lynn started the tractor and took two big straw bales (the old rotten ones by our haystack) along the willows so the cows will bed there in the straw instead.

Today Heather and Nick drove back to Helena, and Nick will fly back to Iowa tomorrow, to start 2nd semester. It was nice having them home for 3 weeks!

JANUARY 18 – Last Monday Michael took the backhoe to the 160-acre mountain pasture and started rebuilding the road into it. There is a good deposit of rock and gravel (perfect for road-building and road surface) around the hill and we can haul it out of there for construction projects if we create a better road to accommodate a dump truck.

On Tuesday Lynn and Andrea drove to Idaho Falls for her monthly appointment with the pain management specialist, and Lynn had an appointment too, to try to find a way to deal with his back pain. The doctor gave him some new medication. Eventually he may need surgery, but he doesn’t want to do that until he tries some other options. He had another MRI on Friday, to see if there’s any more deterioration in his back since the last one a few years ago. We’ll know the results later this week. In the meantime, he hurt his back worse and is having a hard time walking.

On Wednesday he and Michael repaired a leaky valve on the backhoe; Michael ground off the old weld and Lynn re-welded it. Michael has been working on the new road and it’s looking good—he’s hoping to get it more functional before the next big snowstorm. Deep snow would make it harder to get up there with the backhoe.

We bought more protein for the cows; at this point they are still grazing on the hill pasture by Andrea’s house and we haven’t started feeding hay. We hope they can graze awhile longer (without more snow), at least until Lynn’s back is doing a little better, before we have to feed hay.

Andrea took Emily to Idaho Falls for her 3-day hockey tournament, and she made the winning points in a couple of their games.

After they came home, we had a birthday party for Sam (9 years old) Sunday evening. We’ll be having another birthday party for Em (14 years old) tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

FALL 2011

SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 – This past week we’ve had freezing temperatures and I had to start draining my water hose (for watering the horses). Andrea and Rick helped Lynn take down the old power pole for the yard lights next to our horse pens. The pole has been leaning for several years and we’d propped it with supporting poles, but a strong wind could blow it over and smash the fences. So we took it down—along with the old fence along that side of the horse pen. We’ll eventually hook the yard lights onto my hay shed. While the fence was out, a doe and her fawns came into that pen every day to eat some of the weeds. I took pictures of the fawns.

We need to rebuild the fence and use that pen for Veggie this winter. He’s 25 years old now and his teeth are wearing out. He eats slower than his 24-year-old sister (Rubbie) and she gets most of the hay. She gets too fat and he gets thin, so he’ll need to be in a pen by himself.

The carpenters are coming along on Andrea’s new house; this week they taped the inside walls, in preparation for painting. It will probably be a couple months before the house is finished, but Andrea keeps packing her things and hauling them up there to store in her old trailer house—so it will be easier to move when the time comes.

Our cows below heifer hill were running out of grass; Sunday we moved them to the field below our lane. Emily enjoyed seeing her old friend Buffalo Girl.

OCTOBER 7 – Last week Michael put new front shoes on Breezy and Ed for me. Their feet were getting long—not safe for chasing cows. Lynn took our backhoe up to the new house and moved more dirt, in preparation for pouring concrete for a sidewalk, then went to Leadore to locate water for a rancher who is putting in a water system for 250 cows.

The past two weekends, Andrea hauled more things out here, and the little kids took turns riding Veggie. Dani wanted to go for a longer ride, so one day I took her up the horse road, across our upper field, and down past the new house. She loves to ride.

Lynn spent 4 days hauling hay from a ranch near Leadore with our flatbed trailer. Hay is expensive this year. Good alfalfa hay is $225 or more per ton. We paid $175 per ton for this grass/alfalfa hay.

Michael and Carolyn drove to Helena to visit young Heather at college for a couple days. She was working there during fall break and unable to come home. Lynn did their chores while they were gone.

Andrea and I rode to the 320 pasture and checked on Michael and Carolyn’s yearlings, to make sure everything was ok (with hunting season and lots of hunters).

On Tuesday Andrea took 8-year-old Samantha to Salt Lake to a specialist, to try to figure out why she keeps having joint pain. The doctor thought her connective tissue might be too lax. This may be why she’s always straining the joints. The other kids stayed with us while Andrea was gone.

We finally got some rain, after more than 40 days of hot, dry weather. It rained for 3 days, with snow on the mountains. Today we started a fire in our wood stove, for the first time this fall.

OCTOBER 20 – We put a new metal gate in our chute corral, to replace the old board gate (that Lynn made 45 years ago) that a cow jumped over this spring and smashed.

We also took out the old pole gate into Snickers old pen that Lynn built in 1970 and replaced it with a metal gate. Andrea and Rick set a new gate post.

The gates and fences we built in earlier years are getting old and tired, like us! Andrea and Rick helped Lynn set new posts in the fence above the house and made new braces—and put a metal gate in place of the old pole panel that’s falling apart.

A week ago we preg-checked and vaccinated the cows (all of them were pregnant, to calve in April) and vaccinated and weaned the calves. We put the calves in the grassy pens by the calving barn, with their mothers in the field right through the fence. That’s an easy way to wean—on green grass, with their mamas nose-to-nose through the fence for security.

After 3 days the calves were essentially weaned and we put them in the horse pasture where there’s lush green grass. Sammy and Dani have been coming out to see the calves and were pleased that their favorite calves remembered them.

We had 2 more days of rain—and no longer have to worry about the irrigation water being short. This will help the dry spots in the fields, and our hill pastures. Michael and Carolyn’s yearlings are doing well on the 320—scattered out over the mountains grazing. They took horses and dogs to Preston, Idaho for 3 days to help Carolyn’s brother help a friend round up cattle. The friend had a serious horse accident earlier this year and needed help with the roundup.

Yesterday Andrea and Rick sawed up and hauled off the old crab-apple tree that blew down a few years ago in Fozzy’s old pen. We’ll rebuild the old fence. There are many projects to do before winter, but we’re started on several of them.

OCTOBER 30 – Earlier this month we hired a rancher with an excavator to help us rebuild the head of our ditch that serves this side of the creek (fields above and below our house, and one of the neighbor’s fields below our place). The creek washed out our headgate and diversion a few years back and we’ve had trouble getting enough water into that ditch. Now it won’t be a problem. Michael hauled several dump truck loads of rocks to put along the creek bank, so it won’t wash out again. Our dump truck is ancient, but it still hauls a lot of rocks.

Carolyn started working at one of the local veterinary clinics for a winter job. Last Saturday I rode with Michael to our 320 to help him gather their 45 yearlings to bring down to our upper fields, in preparation for selling them.

We found all but one heifer and rode back again to look for her. We found her carcass in Baker Creek—just the bones and a piece of hide. She was fine a few days earlier when Michael checked on them. We don’t know whether she was shot by hunters and they took the meat, or killed by a cougar or wolves (predators that can eat the carcass quickly).

The next day, Andrea and I moved our small herd of cows up there to graze, since there’s so much grass left on that pasture.

We rode again the following day to check on them, and the cows were all at the ridge gate trying to come home. They were spooky and nervous.

We herded them back up into Baker Creek and they were very upset when we tried to make them go past the bones, which had been strung around even more overnight.

We realized that whatever had been eating the carcass was coming back periodically and upsetting the cows. They were too scared to spend time grazing, or to go to Baker Creek for water. So that evening Lynn and Rick took the jeep up there and loaded the bones to haul away, hoping to deter the predator from coming back.
Andrea and I rode daily, checking the cows. It took them a few days to settle down, and they still went everywhere in one big group—not scattering out like they usually do—and going as a group to water just once a day. They must feel there’s safety in numbers!

Lynn and Rick finished rebuilding the pole fence for Veggie’s new pen. Andrea has been moving more things from her rented house in town, to store in her shed and trailer house next to the new house. Today Lynn and I drove the jeep to the 320 and took a tub of protein supplement to our cows. We carried a chain saw down into Baker Creek to saw out trees that had fallen over the main trail where the cows go in and out for water. Parts of the creek in the shady canyon have been freezing up on cold nights, but there’s a place where it stays open—where a spring comes out of the bank. We have a water trough there, and the cows can usually get a drink even in very cold weather.

NOVEMBER 12 – Michael helped us several days, fixing another ditch and headgate on the other side of our creek. Brush and trees had fallen over that ditch, so it took several days with chain saws and the backhoe to get it cleared out and the ditch rebuilt.

We’ve had cold weather, so Andrea and I rode every day to check the cows’ water on the 320-acre pasture. We took a short-handled shovel up there to break and scoop ice out of the water troughs.

Last Friday we sent our steer calves to the sale at Blackfoot Livestock Auction. They sold for $1.33 per pound and we were pleased with their weights. The larger ones averaged 647 pounds. The smallest steer weighed 520 pounds. Not bad, for April-born calves.

The next day we had more snow, which made it more challenging for Andrea and me to check cows. The snow packed into our horses’ feet, making ice balls, and slippery footing with no traction! Going around one hillside, Breezy slipped and fell down, but Andrea was able to dismount quickly, and didn’t get pinned underneath the horse.

Yesterday the weather forecast was for more snow and cold weather, so Andrea and I brought the cows down from the 320 to our lower field. The snow won’t be so deep down here, and hopefully they can continue to graze awhile longer before we have to feed hay. The weather was nasty today, so we were glad we rode yesterday to move the cows. Michael helped Lynn gather protein tubs off the 320, and it was really slippery driving up there in the snow.

NOVEMBER 21 – The carpenters are basically finished with Andrea’s house, the carpet has been laid and the cabinets in (not quite finished) but we have to wait for the plumping inspector, electrical inspector, etc. before she can have an “occupancy permit”.

Meanwhile, she’s been moving appliances, furniture, etc. into the new house because she needs to be out of the rental house soon and wants to get it all cleaned up—and leave it in better shape than when she moved into it 3 years ago.

Being in limbo between the two places, the kids have been sleeping on the floor at the old house, and I’ve been cooking supper for them here. It will be a lot easier once they can be in their new house.

Michael has been helping clean and rebuild part of the main ditch above and below our driveway, using our backhoe. He and Lynn hauled several dump truck loads of rocks to fill some bad washouts. Next summer the irrigating should be a lot easier! We’ve nearly got all the ditch work done, and plan to start some fencing projects. Lynn and Michael hope to put in a lot of steel posts before the ground is too frozen—starting today on a fence that needs to be rebuilt on our upper place.