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!