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.