Tuesday, September 4, 2012

LATE WINTER (February-March 2012)

JANUARY 25, 2012 – Last week the weather was cold (about 5 below zero) and we had to break ice on the creek for the cows. The two holes I’d been keeping open in Fozzy’s pen got so thick with ice that we carried water to him in buckets for a couple days until we could get the holes chopped open again.

Michael spent a few more days working on the road into our 160-acre mountain pasture, until the backhoe got a flat front tire. He took the tire to town to get it fixed. The next day he started working on the road again and one of the big rear tires developed a leak. He took it off and hauled it to town to have a boot put in—so it would hold air long enough to drive the backhoe down off the mountain. We had to order a new tire.

We had a birthday party for Emily (14 years old!) at Andrea’s new house last week.

Andrea’s fragile skin (grafted) over one knee peeled off after a slight scrape a few days ago, and she ended up with an infection and had to be on antibiotics again. Her grafted skin tears open very easily. In spite of her swollen, painful knee, she drove Emily to Sun Valley last Friday for her hockey tournament. The roads were bad, with new snow. It snowed 4 feet on the passes that night, so Andrea was glad she went over the day before. Emily took a picture of their car covered with snow the next morning.

Our little team played well in their 4 games Saturday and Sunday and won two, with Emily making several goals.

On Monday Michael helped Lynn take the blade off our big tractor and put it on the smallest John Deere so we could clean the barn (something we’d planned to do much earlier than this!) We got the old straw cleaned out and then put the blade back on the big tractor, in case we have to plow snow this winter.

We worked on several projects while waiting for the new backhoe tire. Yesterday morning Lynn and Michael cut tin for several new headgates and got them installed in the ditch above the house. That afternoon they started digging post holes to rebuild the falling-down 2nd day pens next to the calving barn. Lynn took a big straw bale up to the cows in the field by Andrea’s house, and gave them a new tub of protein supplement. They are still grazing that field and hillside; we haven’t started feeding them any hay.

Today Rick helped work on the 2nd day pens, too, and Lynn used the tractor to pull the old netting upright, to hook it to the new posts. Then they put poles along the top. When it’s finished, these pens will be sturdier than when we built them the first time.

FEBRUARY 4 – Last week Michael and Rick worked several days digging post holes and setting new posts in the pens, and put the plywood back on the fence for windbreaks. The ground on the other side of the pens was too frozen to dig post holes, so Lynn and Michael created some “ovens” to thaw out the spots for the holes. Lynn cut vent openings in several old metal protein tubs and we used those to contain a fire over each spot, letting the fires smolder all night. By morning the ground underneath each metal tub was fully thawed for digging the post holes.

Last Friday Michael helped us vaccinate (pre-calving vaccines) and delouse the cows, vaccinate and delouse the bulls, and vaccinate, delouse and tag the yearling heifers, putting in their brisket tags. These tags work well for their permanent identification; they stay in for the life of the cow and don’t pull out.

Rick drove up the creek Saturday afternoon to get a load of firewood, and on his way home his pickup got stuck in the icy creek crossing about 5 miles above the ranch—just before dark. He started walking down the road and met a neighbor driving up there to check coyote traps. The neighbor pulled Rick’s loaded pickup out of the creek and then got his own truck stuck in the snow. So Rick had to pull him out of the snowbank. Andrea and Lynn had just started up the creek in our pickup to check on Rick, since it was long after dark by that time. They stopped along the way to put chains on, when Rick and the neighbor came driving back down.

On Monday morning we had a fierce blizzard, but it didn’t last. By afternoon it cleared off and Lynn took our flatbed trailer down to RJ Hoffman’s place and bought a load of big straw bales from him. We need some good straw for barn bedding, in case we need to use the barn when our cows calve in April. These past few years April weather has been worse than January-February, with lots of snowstorms.

On Thursday Andrea drove to Idaho Falls with Charlie for his appointment with a child psychologist who works with autistic children. He will ensure that Charlie gets the help he needs from state programs that work with autistic kids. Weather was nasty on their drive home—with wind, snow and poor visibility. It took them 6 hours to come home instead of 3.

FEBRUARY 12 – Last Sunday my computer had serious problems and I had to turn it off and couldn’t finish the articles I was writing. Lynn took it to town the next morning to Steve Dahl—a friend who repairs computers. It had several things wrong with it and they worked on it for more than a day.

My computer had more problems after we got it home, and Lynn had to take it back to town for more repairs. It’s had some glitches when I turn it on, so Steve is refurbishing a used computer for me and will put my data in it.

Rick helped Michael a few more days and they built several new pole panels for dividers in our 2nd day pens, and hung some metal gates.

Now it’s all finished except for a few more metal gates we’ll need to buy. These pens will outlast us, now, and will be handy for sorting as well as for pairs after calving. The old panels that were salvageable got hauled down along a stretch of bad fence toward the post pile pasture. We’ll use them to reinforce that fence.

Andrea went to the hospital on Wednesday for a biopsy of her thyroid gland. One side of it has been small and hard for several years and the doctor wants to see what’s wrong with it. Hopefully we’ll have the results back this week.
In the meantime, she took Emily to another hockey tournament on Friday, at McCall (a long drive). They got through some mountain passes just ahead of a snow slide that closed the road. They plan to drive home a different way—the long way around—because it’s snowing again and there will probably be more snow slides.

The new backhoe tire finally came, and Michael got the backhoe working again. He worked the past 2 days on the road into the 160-acre pasture and got the new section joined up with the old jeep track at the top of the first hill. Eventually we’ll create a new road on around the hill to some shale rock that we can use for road surfacing.

FEBRUARY 24 – After more computer problems, our friend Steve Dahl decided that my old computer was hopeless and he refurbished a newer computer for me. I’m still getting used to it (because it does things a bit different than my old one) and catching up on article deadlines.

The good thing about the computer problem is that when Lynn took my old one into town the 2nd time for Steve to work on, Steve talked him into trying his inverter table, to see if it would help his bad back and pinched sciatic nerve. Lynn has had back pain for a long time—and pain/numbness in his left leg for several years due to pressure on the sciatic nerve. Steve has had sciatic problems for 30 years, but using the inverter table (hanging upside down for 20 minutes a day) has helped, to where he only needs to stretch his back about once a month, and his sciatic pain is gone.

Steve loaned Lynn his inverter table for a week, and Lynn was amazed at how much it helps. After the second day, he no longer had any pain in his leg, for the first time in about 5 years. He stopped taking pain pills, and cancelled his appointment with the doctor who wanted to give him another cortisone injection into his back. We ordered our own inverter table, and Lynn uses it for 20 minutes every morning, hanging not quite upside down—and reads a book while he’s hanging. This stretches his spine (like traction, only a lot easier!) and takes pressure off the compressed/damaged disks in his back that were hurting the sciatic nerve.

Michael did more work on the road into our 160 acre pasture with the backhoe so he can take the dump truck up there. He’s been hauling loads of rock, to create a solid roadbed for the new road to Andrea’s house—so vehicles won’t get stuck in the mud during wet weather or spring thaw.

Last Saturday it was snowing hard all morning and too slippery to get up the new road with the dump truck, even with chains on, so Michael brought the backhoe down here and spent that day smoothing out the rocks he’d hauled, working on the new road, and started widening it, to make it safer. It was too narrow and steep for winter driving. With the backhoe he’s taking some of the steep bank behind her house (widening that area) and using that material to widen the road—and slanting it toward the hill instead of the field, so vehicles won’t go sailing off it in the wintertime.

Andrea and Rick helped us round up the cows, and we gave the pregnant heifers their pre-calving booster shot. These last few days have been stormy, but Michael was able to keep working on the road with the backhoe, even in a blizzard. We ran out of diesel (using the backhoe and dump truck so much this winter) and had our barrel filled again; the cost of diesel is horrendous!

MARCH 6 – We had more snow last week and finally started feeding our cows. They’ve done very well this winter with supplemental protein, grazing the big hill behind Andrea’s house. But that grass is about gone now. With snow covering what’s left, it was time to start feeding hay.

Last Monday Andrea, Rick and Dani came down here late afternoon, and Dani helped me do chores while Rick and Andrea helped Lynn put the fence back together in the field above the house (where we took it apart last fall, to clean the ditch). Dani enjoyed helping me feed the heifers, and seeing her favorite one (Mary Mary Quite Contrary). When we finished chores, Dani helped me make a calving calendar, writing the names of the cows on their expected due dates. We have breeding dates/due dates on almost every cow this year. Dani is very interested in the cows, and wants to know when the calves will be born. She made her own copy of the calving calendar to take home.

We moved the cows into the fields above our house, where there’s some grass left from last fall, and where it will be easier to feed them every day. We’re feeding a little alfalfa to augment the old grass.

A few days ago I forgot to turn off the hose when I was filling the heifers’ water tank while I did chores, and didn’t remember it until later, after the well ran dry and the pump ran out of water! Fortunately it didn’t hurt the pump. The water ran down the field, and melted the heifers’ salt block.

Rick helped Lynn clean up the old panels, posts and wire from our pen rebuilding project by the barn. The next day Rick and Andrea went up the creek and got a load of firewood for Michael and Carolyn. Dani and Sammy went with them, and helped load some of the wood as Rick split it. Young Heather was home from college for a week, for Spring Break. Sammy and Dani enjoyed visiting with her while Rick and Andrea unloaded the wood.

Michael was hauling more rocks, loading the dump truck with the backhoe, until the other big tire went flat. Lynn helped him take it off and haul it to town to have a boot put in it, and we ordered another backhoe tire.

Rick, Andrea and Lynn hung the rest of the gates in the new 2nd day pens by the calving barn, and Dani helped. She used a big wrench to turn the nuts onto the bolts for the hinges. Afterward, she helped me do chores so she could see the heifers again.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, so Lynn and I finally used the gift certificate (for dinner at a local restaurant) that was given to us by elk hunters last fall who camped here at our place.

MARCH 16 – Last week Michael had to work on the dump truck brakes, and found that it had been running all this time with just one brake. After he got the brakes fixed, it’s like a new truck! He also went up to Leadore two mornings, to IV a calf for one of his rancher friends. The calf had scours and got chilled in a snowstorm, and was too weak and dehydrated to benefit from oral fluids. The IV fluids helped, and the calf recovered.

On Saturday our friends Pete and Bev Wiebe from British Columbia came to visit, on their way home from a series of trips—to Africa, and then several weeks spent in the southern part of the U.S. helping build houses for people who lost their homes in hurricanes. They enjoy helping other people and have made this a major part of their lives. We always look forward to visiting with them when they stop here for a few days on their way to or from these journeys. This trip they were delighted to see Andrea’s new house, and we celebrated Pete’s birthday Sunday night with dinner and a cake that Emily baked.

On Monday Lynn and Michael set railroad ties for gate posts, and hung new gates across the 160 road. Tuesday it was windy (and blew one of our neighbor’s sheds apart). Michael had planned to put a new fan belt on the backhoe but it was much too windy (blowing dirt around) so he waited until the next day to fix it.
Now we need to finish up a couple ditch projects before high water. We’ll also be bringing the cows in soon to the calving pasture. They will all be calving in April.