Monday, April 22, 2013


Late Winter (February-March) 2013

FEBRUARY 23 – Last Saturday Rick and Sam came down on the 4-wheeler to help me feed the cows. Sam enjoyed riding around in the feed truck. Rick fed the bulls on their way home. Lynn was doing better that morning, so the heart doctor in Missoula released him from the hospital mid-day, and Andrea drove him home. They got back to Salmon just before the pharmacy closed and were able to pick up his new prescriptions. I cooked a big supper and fed everyone here, and Lynn went to bed early. He was very tired.

He had some chest pain in the night but it eased off, and he slept almost all day Sunday. Andrea, Rick and kids went to church, and later that day Andrea used the tractor to load another big square bale onto our feed truck, and brought a couple big bales around for the heifers.

On Monday there was no school, so Charlie came down early with Andrea, and practiced driving the feed truck for his first time. It was very cold that morning, which made his first attempt more challenging, with the snow still deep and crusted. Charlie had to go a little faster than he should have, to avoid getting stuck in the deep snow. Andrea and I were feeding the big bale off the back, so we had it to hang onto when the truck lurched through the snow.

It reminded me of when our kids were small and used to drive the jeep for Lynn to feed; he had to be very agile and balance himself through the bumps and lurches, and try to land on his feet when the kid popped the clutch and threw him off the back of the jeep. We were a lot more limber back in those days! Our current feed truck (a 1973 Chevrolet) is an automatic, which makes it a little easier for a young driver. Charlie actually did very well driving it, considering the challenging conditions.

We talked awhile on the phone with Michael later that day. He’s been driving truck in North Dakota in some horrible weather and bad roads. In the afternoon Lynn took a short walk to the end of our driveway and back. He’s supposed to walk every day.

On Wednesday we let Lynn drive the feed truck. He was becoming restless and frustrated not being able to help with chores and feeding. But he’s not supposed to lift anything heavy or do strenuous things for awhile yet.

Thursday Andrea took Lynn to town to have a checkup with his doctor here, and helped Lynn do all the town errands and get the groceries. When they got home, Andrea started the tractor and took a big bale up to Carolyn’s place on our feed truck for their old horses, and Carolyn unloaded it with their tractor. Then Andrea loaded more hay on our truck.

Afterward, we noticed that our neighbor Alfonzo had put all his cattle in the little field right below our place, so Andrea and I quickly moved our heifers because Alfonzo still has bulls with his cows. We didn’t want bulls right through the fence from our heifers or the bulls might try to come through the fence. We don’t want the heifers bred this early in the year. Andrea and I called the heifers; they followed us out of the field (our gentle heifers lead better than they drive). We put them into the orchard and horse pasture.

That afternoon Lynn and I went to visit our new Amish neighbors and get better acquainted, and take them a couple sets of my dad’s books. They had found one of his old books in the local library and wanted to buy a set for themselves and one set for a relative. Dad’s little books of short sermons (he called them “meditations from the high country”) have been very popular ever since they were first published many years ago. He used simple stories from the ranch and from his many other experiences to illustrate God’s love. A few years before my father died, I helped him get those 4 books reprinted (By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, and The Open Gate), and I still have a batch of these books available for people who want them.

Carolyn has been sick a few days with a nasty infection she picked up at the vet clinic where she works—after helping treat several young calves that were brought in with serious diarrhea. In spite of intensive care, the vet couldn’t save those calves. The young man who works there cleaning kennels also got sick, and was so ill he had to be in the hospital for IV fluids. Yesterday Carolyn needed to go to town to pick up Michael’s prescription medications to send to him, but still didn’t feel well enough to leave home. So Andrea got the medications for her—and packaged them up to send with one of the other truck drivers who is heading back to North Dakota today.

Rick and Andrea are still helping us feed cows, though Lynn drives the truck and is hiking a little farther every day. Today Rick and Andrea also went up to Carolyn’s house and hauled a bunch of wood for her and stacked it by the house.

MARCH 3 – Our neighbor Alfonzo finally moved his cattle (and bulls) out of the little field next to ours, so it was safe to put our heifers back in their winter place with the heated water tank. Andrea and Rick are still feeding our cows, and Lynn drives the truck. Last weekend Emily came down and drove the truck, then helped with the fillies. She caught Dottie, fed Dottie her “treat” (a few pellets) and worked with her a little.

Then Andrea and Em led Willow and Dottie for a short walk up to the end of the driveway and back. We need to start leading them again, now that the road not so icy—and get back to their lessons. After the leading, Em held Dottie for me while I trimmed her feet.

Last Monday Lynn drove the tractor for the first time since his heart procedure, to load the big bales. He also brought another big bale around for the bulls in the corral.

Carolyn talked to Michael a few days ago and told us he’d had some wild experiences with the bad roads in North Dakota. One shortcut the dispatcher told him to take was not much more than a jeep track, and very slippery, steep, and narrow, but he managed to get safely down that hill.

Andrea took Emily to the doctor on Friday and discovered that Em is borderline diabetic. She’ll have to start watching her diet and also get some regular exercise besides hockey (which is only a winter sport, here).

That afternoon Emily and a friend, Andrea and I took the fillies for a long walk down the road and back, more than a mile. Yesterday we all went for a hike again and took the fillies even farther. Willow and Dottie are feeling silly and frisky and need to get back into some regular lessons and good manners again.

I was watching Breezy most of the day. She seemed a little dull, lying around a lot. When I fed her in the evening she wasn’t interested in eating. She took a few bites of hay, and lay down again. By dark she was no better, and still hadn’t touched her hay. Andrea and I gave her an injection of Banamine (an anti-inflammatory drug that is helpful to relieve the pain of colic) and put her in the side pen next to the house where I could watch her during the night--and turned on the light at this end of my hay shed. It shines into the 2 calving pens by the house.

Breezy was feeling better within 20 minutes after the injection, and began eating hay. I checked on her several times during the night and she was fine. This morning I put her back in her own pen, and she had no more episodes of discomfort.

Today was very windy, so we didn’t lead the fillies, and Lynn didn’t take his daily walk; he just hiked to the end of the driveway this evening while I fed the horses.

MARCH 12 – Last week Michael and other truckers in North Dakota were stranded at their truck yard by a blizzard, with 4-foot snowdrifts. The man trying to plow them out made one pass by the trucks but the snow immediately blew right back in and filled that slot. So Michael stayed in his truck all night with the motor running; it was too cold to shut it off or it would never start again. He hoped he wouldn’t run out of diesel before they got plowed out. The wind quit the next day, so they were able to plow the yard and get the trucks free.

Andrea and I took the fillies for longer daily hikes last week. We went down the road a couple miles and back, then up the road 1 ½ miles and back. We thought the mud had dried up enough in the jeep track to the low range to lead them over that hill, so one day we tried to go up that “road” but didn’t get very far. It was wetter and deeper than we thought—with gooey mud sticking to our boots. The snow is still too deep to leave the road, so we’ll have to wait for warmer weather to venture over the hills again like we were doing last fall.

Last Wednesday Andrea took Sam to the doctor to get her knees checked again—they’ve been swollen and painful off and on—but we still don’t know what’s causing the problem. Lynn took two of the kids’ saddles to Jeff Minor for repairs before the kids start riding again this spring.

On Saturday Andrea and I took the fillies on another long walk up the road, then we trimmed Rubbie’s and Veggie’s long feet when we got home. Those old horses’ feet hadn’t been trimmed since last fall. I trimmed off the extra hoof growth with the hoof nippers and Andrea smoothed them with the rasp.

Our weather warmed up yesterday--it was the first time it hasn’t dropped well below freezing at night. The snow is settling, and if it stays warm we may have some run-off and flooding. Lynn checked the ditch above our calving pasture and maternity pen (the old orchard) to make sure the little headgates he put in last year were shut off. We don’t want those pens and pasture flooding just before we put the cows in there for calving! Our little herd is due to start calving in early April, but the bull we’ve been using sires calves with short gestation. His calves last year came a week to 10 days early, on average, so we will probably be sorting out the heavies to bring down here in another week or so.

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