Wednesday, February 27, 2013


NOVEMBER 26 – Andrea and I have been working with the young fillies every day, leading them, tying them, and feeding the weanling (Willow) a little grain and alfalfa pellets. Since she is still growing, she needs more nutrition than her older sister, especially during cold weather.

On weekends the grandkids like to help with the fillies. The cats like to help, too.

Last week our neighbor Alfonzo branded, vaccinated and weaned some of his late calves. Two riders from the Miller family (one of our new Amish neighbors from the 3 families that bought the Maurer place around the hill from us) came over the hills to help with the branding. One young man rode through our place, unsure of how to get to Alfonzo’s place from the back side. His 17-year-old sister came along later, following his horse’s tracks in the mud, but she couldn’t close the tight wire gate. We saw her up on the hill struggling with the gate, so Lynn drove up there on his 4-wheeler and helped her shut it. He showed her an easier gate (out of the old Gooch place that Alfonzo is leasing) for the next time they come riding across the hills.

Last Tuesday Lynn took a box of supplies to town to send to Michael in North Dakota—his prescription medicines and warm socks from Carolyn, and 2 more boxes of Adapt energy drinks. Those help keep him awake and alert when he’s driving truck nearly 24 hours a day.

We had rain and mud, and then the weather changed to snow and cold. The ice rink in town is solidly frozen and the kids are finally playing hockey. Charlie is doing hockey this year, and Emily is helping him practice.

We started feeding our cows on Heifer Hill (and 10 pair of Michael’s cows on our lower pasture) a liquid protein/mineral supplement to augment their dry pasture. Granddaughter Heather came home briefly from Carroll College for Thanksgiving. Lynn and I ate homemade pizza with her and Carolyn. Andrea and kids had dinner with Rick’s family. Yesterday we had another Thanksgiving dinner at Andrea’s house—inviting Lynn’s sister Jenelle and Emily’s dad Jim, who came from Montana.

DECEMBER 10 – A week ago we butchered Rishira, Andrea’s 17-year-old cow. She’s had 16 calves but wasn’t pregnant this fall. Andrea and Lynn were skinning her (with the carcass hanging from the tractor loader) when our up-the-creek neighbor Gordon Binning phoned to tell us that Michael and Carolyn’s horses were in his place. A tree had fallen down across the fence, smashing it down, and the horses walked over it. Carolyn was at work at the vet clinic in town so Lynn and I drove up there and helped Gordon put the horses back into their proper pasture. We rescued one mare that was trapped in the thick brush along the fence.

A couple days later Lynn helped Carolyn move the horses to our 160-acre mountain pasture, where they can paw through the snow to grass. He and Carolyn set steel posts and fixed Gordon’s fence where the tree knocked it down.

Andrea cut and wrapped meat for several days. We ordered an electric meat grinder and after it arrived Andrea got all the hamburger ground. The buckets of meat chunks stayed cold in her little travel trailer; she had to bring them in the house to thaw before she could grind the meat.

On Saturday Alfonzo hired another neighbor with a backhoe and finally got a weir put into the ditch that waters his lower fields. This will make it easier to measure water use next summer when the creek gets low.

On Sunday Lynn and I watched one of Emily’s hockey tournament games after church. Their little team won a couple of games this weekend. Emily is becoming an excellent hockey player.

The motor in Rick’s old wood-hauling pickup blew up so Andrea towed his pickup home with her truck. Lynn used our tractor and loader to help Rick take the motor out and put a different motor (from one of Michael’s old pickups) into it. Rick worked on it a few days and got it running again. He used 2 of our old post-hole oven barrels set on top of one another for a stove to warm his hands in the cold weather.
Michael drove home from North Dakota. He’ll have 12 days off from his truck driving job, hoping to get some urgent projects done at home. The roads were bad, with storms and ice. Coming through Montana he hit a patch of ice and went off the road. Fortunately the car didn’t roll; it just tore a tire off. Michael was able to change the tire and drive home, getting here at 4 a.m. yesterday morning.

With the cold windy weather Lynn helped Andrea made a windbreak shelter for her dogs. This afternoon Michael helped Lynn clean up the battery terminals on our big tractor so it will start better. They’ll be using it to haul hay.

DECEMBER 17 – On Tuesday Michael loaded our tractor on our flatbed trailer and hauled it north of town where he’s been pasturing cattle on Michael Phillips’ place. He bought some hay from him and we helped haul it home. Lynn borrowed another trailer, but it had a damaged spring and it broke during the first trip and we couldn’t use it for any more loads.

The next day Michael and Carolyn gathered their cattle off that pasture. Bringing them along the slippery road to sort and load at Jenelle’s corral, one old cow slipped and fell down the 20-foot bank, and landed upside down against the fence. She was on her back for 45 minutes while they went to get a tractor. They pulled her back up onto the road with a horse and the tractor—with a chain around her front end and rope around her hind feet. The cow was able to get up and they got her to the corral and into a trailer with a load of calves.

With friends, they made 2 trips with 4 trailers to haul their cows and calves home to our upper place. It snowed 4 inches before noon and our creek road was slippery in spite of being sanded earlier that morning. One of the loaded trailers nearly went off the edge of the road when the pickup tires spun out. The driver had to back up into the snowy edge of the road to get enough traction to get up the grade. They got the cows and calves safely hauled, and then Michael hauled yearlings to the sale at Butte, Montana.

The cow that fell down the bank was able to walk off the trailer but collapsed out in the field and couldn’t get up. They decided to butcher her and Andrea offered to do it because Michael and Carolyn didn’t have time.

Friday morning Michael hauled another load of hay, unloaded it at the upper place with his tractor, and used the tractor to put the carcass of the crippled cow on our flatbed feed truck after Andrea shot her. He went for the last load of hay while Lynn and Andrea gutted and skinned the cow at our place. They discovered that the cow had a broken hip.

It started snowing again after Michael went back to get our tractor—after hauling the last load of hay. He planned to use the tractor here at our house to load alfalfa bales to take up the creek--to mix with the grass hay for his cows. But as Andrea and Lynn were hurrying to cover the hanging cow carcass with sheets and a tarp during the snowstorm, I got a phone call from Michael.

The tractor and trailer had slid off the same slippery road where the cow fell off, but thankfully off the other side, which wasn’t such a huge drop-off. Fortunately the trailer popped off the hitch as it twisted over the bank, and didn’t drag the pickup down with it! The flatbed trailer was totally wrecked, with our big tractor still chained to it, still running, with one side of the cab smashed in. Michael carefully crawled down into cab and shut it off.

We called a wrecker and Lynn drove out there, but it was dark by then and everyone decided to wait until morning. In the daylight, with a wrecker and another tractor they were able to flip the flatbed trailer off our tractor and pull it up onto the road, then carefully pulled the tractor back over onto its wheels and pulled it up, too.

The wrecker towed the tractor to a repair shop. Hopefully the motor isn’t ruined (all the oil ran out of it). We are thankful that Michael and granddaughter Heather are safe. The tailgate was torn off the pickup and the hitch in the bed was destroyed, but the pickup didn’t go over the bank upside down.

Without that tractor to load our hay for feeding this winter, and with Carolyn having to feed their cows by herself (Michael will be in North Dakota), driving their tractor up and down their steep and slippery driveway to plug in every night, we decided to combine forces. Michael and Carolyn brought their cattle down to our place yesterday (to be preg-checked and vaccinated this morning), and will keep their cattle here this winter. We’ll all work together to get the cows fed—thankful that our family is still intact and only a cow, vehicles, tractor and flat-bed trailer have been damaged by the slippery roads!

Monday, February 11, 2013

FALL 2012

SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 – Andrea and Emily had an inspiring and exciting time at the World Burn Congress in Milwaukee, Wisconsin earlier this month. They made many new friends and got very little sleep, spending most of their time visiting with other burn survivors and their families. Emily quickly got over being shy, realizing that most of the young people she met were more insecure than she was, and she enjoyed helping a few of them feel more at ease.

While they were gone that week, Lynn and I took care of the other kids. The 2 little girls had coughs and a fever so we took them to the doctor and got prescriptions for treating their respiratory infections.

Michael spent a day cleaning out all the old manure (many years accumulation!) from all our horse pens, so they’ll go into the winter without being a boggy mess.

We rebandaged Sprout’s foot several times this month, using a poultice and keeping the foot in a boot to keep the bandage clean and dry. Then we kept it in the boot awhile longer after the abscess cleared up, to protect the big hole in her sole until it fills in a little more with new horn growth.

Sammy and Dani were feeling better by the weekend, and helped us move our cattle from the field below the lane up to Heifer Hill. We didn’t want the girls to be outside very long, however, because the air is still very smoky from all the fires. We’ve had 2 months of thick smoke in our valley.

Right after Andrea and Em got home from Wisconsin my cousin Ned and his wife Pam (from Texas) came to stay a few days, on their way to his 50th college class reunion in Oregon. They stayed at Andrea’s house and ate meals at our house, and we had a good visit.

We brought the cattle down from Heifer Hill, sorted off the heifer calves into the grassy pen below the barn to wean (with their mothers right through the fence in the adjacent field) and left the steers with their mothers overnight in the orchard. Michael came with his trailer the next morning and we sorted off the steers to haul to the sale at Butte, Montana.

We left all the cows in the field below the lane for a few days until they quit bawling for their calves, then took them back to Heifer Hill—and put the weaned heifers in the orchard and horse pasture where there’s still some green grass.

Lynn and Michael took our tractor and post-pounder out to Michael Phillips’ place north of town and spent several days setting posts and building jack fence across the swampy part by the river—finishing the division fence on that property. Michael will be able to take his yearlings down there for fall pasture—trading fence work for pasture rent.

OCTOBER 8 – We actually had some rain last week. It cleared the air for a couple days, and then the smoke drifted back in; the big fire north of town is still burning.

Last Saturday Jason Beyeler hauled 2 Morgan fillies out here for us, the ones we looked at a few weeks ago at his place. We’re buying a dark chestnut weanling that will eventually be Dani’s horse, and a palomino 2-year-old for Sammy and me. The weanling hasn’t had much handling and was very shy. The 2 fillies will live together in the big pen where we kept Veggie last winter, when he was separate from Rubbie for the first time in their lives. We separated them so he wouldn’t lose weight—since his teeth were getting bad and he couldn’t eat hay as fast as Rubbie. This year they both eat slower (at age 25 and 26) and Veggie is able to eat his share, so we’re letting them live together again.

Emily spent an hour in the pen with the 2 fillies after we turned them loose, feeding them grass. Eventually Em was able to get close enough to pet them both. The next morning Dani and Sammy came down to see their “surprise” and were delighted with the new horses. They named the young one Willow and the palomino Spotty Dottie because of her dappled color. We have to patiently corner Willow to catch her, using the bigger filly to help block her escape.

The next day, Willow had a big glob of pus in the corner of her left eye. We had a vet come out and look at the eye. She had an infection, but the eye itself was ok. We had to put antibiotic ointment into the eye morning and evening for a week. The filly didn’t like to be cornered and caught so we left a halter on her for a few days, making it easy to just snap a lead rope onto it. After she got accustomed to being caught without a fuss, we removed the halter. The eye infection cleared up after a week of treatment.

Andrea and I have been handling both fillies every day, leading them, picking up feet, etc. Willow was reluctant to lead at first, so we used a rump rope “come along” and she is now leading nicely. The older filly is already trained to tie up, and we’ll gradually train the weanling to tie.

Michael took his swather out to the University Ranch south of town and cut 100 acres (3rd cutting) of alfalfa—putting it in windrows for their weaned calves to eat this fall. They’ve had problems in the past with cattle bloating when pasturing that field so they decided to cut it and windrow-graze it instead. Michael cut all night and got done by morning—just ahead of a cold spell that would have frozen the plants and diminished their nutrient quality.

We’ve been covering our little trough gardens every night, but knowing it was going to freeze harder Lynn and Andrea picked the rest of the tomatoes and cabbages.

The past several days Michael has been helping Lynn fix corral gates—the ones that no longer work properly because the frost keeps pushing the posts up out of the ground. Michael dug new post holes with the backhoe and hauled rocks to pack in around the new posts. We now have functional gates again!

Yesterday Sprout lay too close to the fence and rolled into it, sticking a hind leg under the netting and was caught there, on her back. Lynn looked out the window and saw her stuck, so we ran out to her pen and were able to pull her back away from the fence to get her leg free. We were glad she’s gentle and trusting; she didn’t try to struggle or fight when we were pulling her and flipping her over. After we rescued Sprout, we put a row of old tires along that side of the fence where she likes to sleep—so she can’t roll into the fence again.

Yesterday we put the cows in the swamp pasture above the corral, and today we brought them down to the corral at daylight and the vet came out to preg check. It’s nice to have gates that work! We vaccinated the cows and the weaned heifers. We didn’t preg check Rishira (she’s 16 years old and we plan to butcher her) or DingleBelle—the 4-year-old cow that was bulling a few days ago (we will sell her). The rest were pregnant.

OCTOBER 25 – Michael and Carolyn have been taking protein supplement to their cows and calves on the 320 and 160-acre mountain pasture to encourage them to graze the dry feed, but they ran out of grass last week. They took a few pairs out to the rented pasture north of town and brought 13 pairs down here to graze our little field across the creek.

We met our new neighbors—the 3 Amish families that bought the Maurer place around the hill from us. We’re looking forward to getting better acquainted with them.

Michael used the backhoe to tear out the falling-down side of our main corral and clean up a pile of old boards and junk behind it. He and Lynn set new posts along that side and hope to make a new hold pen in the area we cleaned out. We also had to dig a trench through the corral and put in a drain pipe, so the spring-water on the back side of the corrals won’t keep flooding the corrals. We repaired the old fence in the bull corral before Michael brought back the 3 bulls he and Carolyn borrowed this summer.

One day a couple weeks ago it wasn’t very smoky and we took Sam and Dani for a ride. It turned out to be our last ride for this year. With the very dry conditions, the dust was bad, and we came home covered with dust.

The smoke finally cleared up after some rain (and snow on the mountains). The big fire north of town is finally under control after burning more than 500,000 acres.

Andrea and I drove 800 miles to California to see my twin cousin, Kit Moser. Kit has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, in failing health. I wanted to see her again while she still knows who I am.

We had a good visit (as good as could be expected) with her and her husband. Now I am trying to catch up on all my writing and other projects, taking shoes off the horses for winter, etc.

Andrea and I are working with the fillies every day, making up for the 5 days we were gone. Yesterday we led them a couple miles, out into the low range pasture. Lynn took a photo of us as we were leading them back home.

NOVEMBER 1 – Last week Lynn and Michael finished setting posts to rebuild the side of our big corral. Andrea helped nail up poles.

They also used some of the old pole panels (salvaged last year when we rebuilt the pens by the calving barn) to create a better fence along the lane to the lower pasture. Thick brush, fallen-down trees and wildlife travel had obliterated the old fence. Now we can let Michael’s small herd of cattle use that part of our lower pasture without risk of them getting out.

Andrea went to town on Thursday and bought a lot of instant dinners (the kind that keep at room temperature, to be warmed up in a microwave) for Michael to take with him to North Dakota. On Friday Michael helped me take shoes off Ed and Breezy and trimmed their feet, and spent the rest of that day getting ready for his trip.
On Saturday he left early morning and drove all day, and made it to Crosby, North Dakota in the middle of the night. After an orientation/training session on Sunday, he started driving a water truck on Monday, in the oil fields. He is working for Chris Bird, our local tire shop owner who has several trucks on that job, needing another driver. Michael hopes to work there all winter, to earn enough money to make some payments to the bank. We’ll help Carolyn take care of their cattle while he’s gone. He gets to come home occasionally, and plans to get their calves trucked to market and some hay hauled when he has a couple weeks off in December.

Andrea and I have been working with the young fillies nearly every day, leading them up the road, down the road and over the low range pasture—getting them used to many things. We’ve had rain and it’s no longer dry and dusty; the mud was deep and slippery on one of our hikes over the hill. We are thankful to finally have some moisture. The horrendous forest fire north of town is finally out.

Yesterday I dewormed most of the horses and today Andrea and I dewormed the rest of them. When we bought them, the two fillies were not very cooperative about having their mouths handled. For the past several days we’ve been putting our fingers (dipped in molasses) into the corner of Willow and Spotty Dottie’s mouths, to get them used to having something put into their mouths. The molasses tastes good so they didn’t resist. This made it a lot easier to administer the oral syringes of paste dewormer today.

NOVEMBER 7 – Sammy and Dani hiked along with us on Friday when Andrea and I led the fillies up the road. They enjoy helping with the fillies when they aren’t in school. They skip along and sing and chatter, and this helps get the young horses accustomed to more things. Sammy likes to brush Spotty Dottie, and lead her around in the barnyard. Emily sometimes helps lead Spotty Dottie on our longer walks.

The yearling heifer that was living with Michael’s cows and calves on our lower field disappeared. Lynn has been checking on them periodically and last Wednesday he didn’t see her. He looked in the brush but couldn’t find her. He looked again the next day, but found nothing. She might have gotten sick during the wet weather, and maybe she went off in the bushes, but there’s no sign of her. She’s still missing so we don’t know if she went through the fence into the neighbor’s place or died. We haven’t seen any magpies or smelled anything dead, however, so we are thinking she either left our field or died or got killed and totally eaten. We worry about wolves, since there have been several in our area.

We’ve talked to Michael a few times on the phone. He’s been busy hauling water, and a few loads of pipe. He’s had several problems with his truck, however, and had to fix the brakes and some of the wiring.

NOVEMBER 16 – Last week we celebrated Dani’s 8th birthday with a party at one of the pizza places in town. She invited a few of her friends for pizza, cake and ice cream. It was snowing hard that evening when we drove to town (making it hard to see the road) and still snowing the next day. Rick and Andrea went up on the mountain to get a load of firewood for one of Rick’s wood customers, and took Sammy and Dani with them to go sledding. There’s 2 feet of snow up there, and they had to chain up the truck. The girls had fun sledding and made snowmen. Rick and Andrea built a big fire so they could warm themselves and dry out their gloves.

There was a big snowstorm in North Dakota. We talked to Michael on the phone awhile when he was snowed in and waiting for the parking area to be plowed. The next day the roads were plowed but he got stuck in a snowdrift and had to shovel for several hours, moving his truck a few feet at a time. A farmer in the adjacent field, feeding cattle, saw his predicament and brought a tractor and loader to help. The farmer was unable to pull the truck with the tractor, so he used the loader to plow through the rest of the snowdrift so Michael could get unstuck—which saved 3 more hours of shoveling.

We had cold weather for a few days and now it has warmed up a little and most of our snow is settling. Andrea and I are leading the fillies again, most days, but we’ve been staying on the main road because the trails over the hill are slippery.