Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Early Spring 2012 - Moving closer to present day—bringing readers up to date on what has been happening with our family since my book Beyond the Flames was published in 2004--this installment looks at early spring of 2012.

MARCH 29 – Last month I mentioned the inverter (tilt) table that Lynn uses to help his back and ease the pressure on his sciatic nerve. We’ve had several calls from people asking about this. There are many brands and models available at a variety of prices. Lynn paid $120 for his, which is probably less than a person would spend for two visits to a chiropractor!

In mid-March we had snowstorms and several inches of new snow.

Some of the cows were starting to develop udders so we brought them down from the field and sorted off the ones that were due to calve first. A week later, however, some of the rest were also showing udders, so we brought them all down. We don’t want any of them calving up there in the snow—with the coyotes and wolves! We had to put chains on the feed truck to get around in the snow and deep mud. Even though April calving is supposed to be easier than January, it looks like we’ll still have to put some cows in the barn to calve, so Michael helped Lynn put straw in our barn stalls. Michael, Lynn and Rick finished hanging new gates in the second day pens. They also set new posts and rehung the gates in the maternity pen; they are easy to open and close now.

Lynn is still having serious problems with his shoulder, so last week the doctor ordered an MRI to see how much damage there is. Part of the attachment is torn. We’re hoping he won’t need surgery.

Last fall an Idaho potato grower who bought a big ranch in Texas (and wants to grow potatoes there) asked Lynn to fly down there to locate water for wells. We were so busy with fencing projects that Lynn didn’t want to go. Last week, however, the farmer called again and talked Lynn into flying to Texas. Andrea and Emily drove him to Idaho Falls Monday evening, and he got on a private jet Tuesday morning. By that afternoon he was locating spots where they could drill wells. That area of Texas is really dry.

The farmer flew him back to Idaho Falls yesterday afternoon, and Andrea drove down to get him. He was really tired, and went to bed early. Then at 11 pm we heard a cow bawling and I looked out the window with the spotlight, and saw Cub Cake wandering around the maternity pen, bawling. We put her in the calving pen in front of the house, but it was so cold and windy that we decided to put her in the barn. She calved at 3 a.m. this morning—a nice bull calf. So we are officially started calving!

This afternoon Michael helped Lynn put up the yard light that we took down last summer when we took down the old rotten pole by the horse pens. They hooked it to the top of my hay shed. Andrea and Rick put a new floor in one of the calf houses that Lynn built in 1968. The old boards had rotted out. The little kids helped, and Dani picked handfuls of new green grass (which is just starting to grow!) to feed Maggie—the gentle old cow who eats it out of her hand.

APRIL 11 – Weather was still wet and cold for several days after we started calving, and the first calves didn’t get to go out to the field right away. We put straw in the shed barn across the creek, and used it for a second-day shelter for pairs after they came out of the calving barn.

Last Saturday we saw that our neighbor was preparing to move his cattle down to the field below our place, so we moved our yearling heifers around to the swamp pasture, where they won’t be adjacent to the neighbor’s cattle and bulls. We don’t want any cattle tempted to go through the fence. We don’t want our heifers bred this early, and also don’t want them to get trich. The neighbor had a problem with that disease last year, in his herd, and we he didn’t have all his bulls trich-tested. I called our heifers in from the field, and 7-year-old Dani helped follow them around to the swamp pasture. She loves to work with the cattle!

All the kids enjoyed “helping” during the week they were out of school for spring break, riding their bikes down here from Andrea’s new house. Dani was hoping to see a cow calve, since she didn’t get to see one born last year. She especially wanted to see Maggie give birth. She made us promise to get her up if Maggie started calving during the night. Dani had her clothes in a pile by her bed, ready to jump into at a moment’s notice. Maggie started calving on Easter Sunday morning, so Andrea brought Dani down at 5 a.m. Dani and I sat in the next stall in the barn, and watched Maggie calve. Later that day she and Sammy both sat in the stall with Maggie and the calf, and then Dani sat in the pen with Maggie and her calf (after we put them out of the barn), petting that calf. Maggie is so mellow and gentle, and she tolerates those little kids very nicely.

Dani has been helping us name most of the calves. She named one little heifer Shyterra, and was delighted that this calf would come up to the fence and sniff her hand. Emily enjoyed seeing Buffalo Girl (her old pet cow that we raised on a bottle); that cow always comes up to Emily to be petted.

Rishira (a 16-year-old cow) calved 15 days early—a very tiny bull calf. Andrea had to break the amnion sac that was still intact around his head and get him breathing; the placenta was detaching and coming out with the calf. He was very frail, so we put the pair in the barn, and had to help the calf nurse. He had trouble nursing, and we had to help him for several days, every 6 hours through the days and nights. He got pneumonia when he was only a day old, and we had to keep him on antibiotics for a week. Finally he is feeling better, and actually nursing without help.

Michael hauled more rocks with the dump truck to try to finish Andrea’s new road, then started working on two ditch heads on the upper place—clearing out a bunch of trees that blew down during a winter windstorm and hauling rocks to create a better spot for the headgate and weir we need to put in.

APRIL 23 – Last week Andrea took Sam to Pocatello for a dance competition, and Dani stayed with us. She enjoyed helping me do chores and feed the cows, and we put some of the cows with new calves up to the field. Michael did more work on the ditch, until the backhoe blew another hydraulic hose and he had to go to town to get a new hose. I went to the Salmon Select Horse Sale with granddaughter Heather and her roommate (they drove home from college for the weekend, to go to the sale), and bought a gentle young mare that will hopefully become a horse for Dani. Michael and Carolyn hauled the mare home in their trailer. Her name is Whatzit but we call her April because she was born April 15 (Michael’s birthday). We soon started calling her April Sprout and her nickname is now Sprout. Dani was excited about the new horse, and led her around and brushed her. Andrea rode the mare a couple of days and she seems pretty mellow. Dani rode her the next day, to the end of our lane and back, with Andrea walking alongside.

Last week Lynn started irrigating, and is enjoying how easy it is to turn the water on, with the headgates and improvements we made at each creek departure. We’ve had some warm weather, so the creek is rising.

Today Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me, and then took the dump truck and backhoe up to the upper place to try to finish fixing one of the ditch heads before the water gets too high. All of our cows have calved now, except one. We are still waiting on Freddy. We are hoping she has a heifer, because ¾ of the calves this year have been bulls!

May 1 – Last week I dewormed the horses and Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me. Andrea and I rode April Sprout a few times; the mare is still a bit green and inexperienced and needs more training.

Emily’s allergies and a bad cold suddenly escalated into pneumonia and she couldn’t breathe. Her oxygen level dropped dangerously low so she spent a few days in the hospital on IV antibiotics and oxygen. Andrea stayed with her during the nights, and Lynn took the other kids to the school bus in the mornings.

Lynn has been cleaning some of our ditches with tractor and blade, and getting more irrigation started. For several days we had cold rainy weather; then it dropped well below freezing for a few nights and slowed down the snow melt on our mountains, and the creek is no longer so terribly high.

On Saturday, Andrea came down to ride with me—and noticed that 2 of our heifers had gotten into the field above our cows and calves. We rode Breezy and Ed to round them up, and put all the heifers in my horse pasture until we can figure out where they went through the fence. Then we rode Sprout and Captain King (a horse we were trying, as a possible horse for the grandkids) on another training ride for Sprout. Captain King is spoiled and stubborn, however, and balked when we started up the driveway. When Andrea urged him forward, he bucked, then reared when she wouldn’t let him buck—and she had to spin him around to keep him from going over backward. She got him under control and we continued on our ride, but decided we don’t want that horse for the kids to ride! The next day we took Dani on her first real ride on Sprout—making a loop through the low range. When we got home, Andrea took Sammy for a ride on Breezy.

Yesterday was cold and rainy again. We’ve been watching Freddie at nights (our last cow to calve) because the weather has been so miserable. We want to be able to put her in the barn if necessary.

MAY 7 – After the ground dried out, Michael hauled more rock surfacing for Andrea’s driveway, and smoothed it out with the backhoe. Now it won’t get so slippery, deep and muddy when it rains.

The 4 grandkids were trying to guess which day Freddie would calve, and Dani won; her guess was May 3rd. Freddie went into early labor before midnight, but didn’t calve until afternoon. She had a black whiteface bull. On Friday night we went to the annual dance and gymnastics program and watched Dani and Sammy in their various dances and Charlie in the gymnastics.

Yesterday Michael put new front shoes on Sprout. She’s apparently had some bad experiences in her young life, and doesn’t like her feet handled, so Andrea and I have been picking up her feet a lot, trying to get her over her bad attitude. Michael was very patient while shoeing her, keeping each foot up for only a short time, and letting her put it down when she’d start to get nervous. She has to learn to trust us; she’s apparently been abused and is always expecting a fight. But with patience we got her front feet shod without resistance. We’ll do her hinds another day. Handling her feet in short increments works pretty well, and she’s becoming more at ease about it.

Yesterday afternoon our neighbor Alfonzo rounded up his cattle from the fields below us and took them up to the Gooch place to brand the calves. His corrals are flimsy, and partway through the afternoon 8 calves got out and came down through our fields, trying to get back to the lower place. We captured them in our corral and helped Alfonzo load them in a trailer to haul back to their mothers. Then he put his cattle back down below us again, but inadvertently separated several more pairs. That evening one old cow crashed through the wire gate into our field trying to go find her calf. We had to lock her in our calving pen and have Alfonzo come get her.

Young Heather got home from college in Montana, and this morning she, Michael and Carolyn left on their trip to Iowa to get Nick from college. It will take them 3 days to get there and 3 days to come back—and Lynn will do their chores while they are gone.

MAY 16 – Last week Lynn, Andrea and Rick spent a couple days working on the ditch on Lynn’s folks’ old place north of town, and I picked up the kids off the bus after school. They were eager to see Freddie’s young calf and thought he was cute, being the only whiteface calf this year. Dani enjoyed helping me do chores—feeding the horses and watering the cows. She loves to walk through the cows and calves, and pick grass to feed Maggie, who gently takes it out of her hand with her big rough tongue. It froze hard again for several nights, but now the weather is hot. Last Saturday we vaccinated the cows, calves, bulls, and yearling heifers, and put the heifers back up in the swamp pasture, now that we’ve fixed the fence where we thought they got out, and branded calves. Dani helped, by handing me syringes. While we got ready to brand the calves, she sat in the barn with them while we strung out the extension cords. The calves are so accustomed to her, they didn’t mind when she was helping gather and push the little bunches from the barn into the holding area by the calf table.

On Monday Michael put new hind shoes on Sprout and she was even more trusting (and less resistant) than when he did her fronts. She’s learning that we aren’t going to hurt her when we handle her feet. Later that day Michael and Lynn started hauling hay; we bought 50 tons for next winter, to make sure we’ll have enough. It’s last year’s hay, and reasonably priced at $130 per ton. It’s a nice mix of grass/alfalfa. They finished hauling it today. While they were hauling, Andrea and I made a long ride on Sprout and Ed to check range gates and part of the 320 fence—and repaired some places the elk knocked down. This afternoon Lynn and Michael put in a weir at the headgate of the uppermost ditch on our upper place. Now we have only one weir left to put in.