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.

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