JULY 5, 2013 – We had several days of cool, rainy weather last week after we scattered the cows out on the middle range pasture, and they stayed scattered, doing very well for awhile. Granddaughter Heather rode with Andrea and me one day to check on the cattle and gates.
As we were going up through our 320-acre pasture, we nearly stumbled over a pair of elk calves hidden in the sagebrush. One of them jumped up and took off immediately, but the other one lay low, thinking we couldn’t see him—until Heather’s horse took a step closer. Then he, too, bolted away.
We skipped Dottie’s lessons while it was cold and rainy and her pen was wet and slippery. Andrea caught Willow a few times and brought her out of her pen to let her eat grass and be brushed, and I trimmed her feet. I hadn’t trimmed her feet since winter and they were getting too long.
Andrea and I took time to re-locate some of the salt blocks that our range neighbor Alfonzo put out on the middle pasture. He put them in odd places where the cows might never find them, and on steep hillsides where the cows were rolling them down into the creek bottoms in their attempts to lick salt. We carried those blocks to the traditional salt grounds in areas where the cows need to be—we’ve always used the salt to entice them into areas that need to be grazed. On one long haul Andrea tied her sweatshirt around a block and tied it to her saddle, and I led Sprout while Andrea carried the smaller block by hand. Another day we rode up to the top of Mill Mountain and put the fence back together. Every year we have to fix it; hunters take it apart every fall. We led our horses down the other side, down the elk trails through the rocks and thick mahogany brush.
After the weather cleared up again, our Amish neighbors started haying, using their draft horses to pull their swather, rake and baler. Lynn took photos of them using the horses for haying.
Heather and Nick drove 4-wheelers up into our 320 to haul several bundles of steel posts up to the Baker Creek side. They spent a couple days fixing some of the bad spots in the fence where elk have been going over it. The fence was leaning and about to fall down. We don’t want range cattle getting into that pasture; we need it for Michael and Carolyn’s cows later this summer.
Last Thursday we brought the cows into the corral, sorted off the 4 yearling heifers and put them with the little yearling bull in the orchard and horse pasture, and put the 4-year-old bull out with the cows in the lower swamp pasture. Sam and Dani helped us move the cows, and Sam tripped in the rocks and skinned her knee and elbow. A few of grandma’s Bandaids fixed her up nicely.
We started working with Dottie again, after skipping her lessons for a week. Heather got on her again and I led her around in circles. The second time, Dottie was a little nervous and she jumped around a little, but didn’t buck, and soon settled down and Heather was able to ride her in circles around her pen as I led her. The following days she did very well and soon Heather was riding her solo around the pen without me leading or longeing her. Within a few more days she was able to start doing a little trotting in circles, with me at the center of the circle holding the lead rope. After her first bit of panic, Dottie settled into it and by the next day didn’t need me anymore.
Last week Lynn drove his 4-wheeler up the creek to our high range to check the gates on the road, and discovered about 40 pair of the neighbor’s cows in our high pasture; they’d come down through some open gates. The next day Andrea and I rode up there and moved the cows back out. The cows were easy to herd, but it was hard to get around the fallen trees in several places we needed to go. The old trails up the creek bottom have been obliterated by downed trees. The dead ones, killed by the terrible fire we had 10 years ago, keep blowing down over the trails and fences.
We managed to get the cows out and shut the gates, but the fence is flat in several spots, mashed by fallen trees. We tried to take the cows over into Mulkey Creek where they belong, and had trouble getting them down those trails through the timber—more fallen trees obstructing the trails. We got them part way down that creek, and then climbed out of Mulkey Creek (leading our horses up the steepest part of the mountain) and back onto our own range.
We made a place for Molly and Chance to graze above our stackyard; there was a lot of grass there going to waste. There isn’t a very good access to the creek, so Heather is hauling water for them.
Last Sunday Andrea and I rode to check the range after giving Sam and Dani a short ride on Veggie and Ed. We went up into the high range and discovered that the windstorm and/or lightning strike had felled a huge tree across the trail up through the timber above the 320. We had to make an awkward detour through the trees, to get past it. When we came back through the middle range after driving some high cows back down, we checked the troughs that John and his family recently worked on. Lynn had told him how to get one of those pipelines working again—by digging it down farther to prevent an airlock. It was still working nicely; they got it repaired successfully. We also found the binoculars that John told us his friend left hanging in a tree by the other spring box they’d worked on. Andrea carried them home, and Lynn took them over to John’s place that evening.
Andrea and her friend Mike took his 4-wheeler up on the range that same evening and sawed out several trees that have fallen over the main trails through the timber in the middle range.
Our weather turned very hot and dry—up into the 90’s—which is quite hot for our part of the country. On Monday Andrea and I rode to the upper place to meet Carolyn, Heather and Nick and help them bring their cows down from the south half of the 320 pasture. One of their last 2 pregnant cows had just calved the day before, and we had to find that new baby before we brought the herd. He was barely able to travel that far and was hot and tired when we got them down to the upper corral. We let them rest while Carolyn, Nick and Lynn took their stock trailer down to our place and loaded up our 2 young bulls (2-year-olds) and hauled them up to the corral. Dani came up to the corral with Lynn and Mike on the 4-wheelers, and she waited with us, sitting on Sprout, while Andrea helped Heather sort out 3 yearlings to leave in the corral.
When we unloaded the bulls we put them with the cows and took the herd across the fields and over the hill to the Cheney Creek pasture. The new baby got tired on the way, so we left him and his mama in Gopher meadow. On our way home I let Dani ride Ed and I rode with Lynn on his 4-wheeler.
On our various rides recently, we saw the cow elk a couple time, with the twin calves, in Baker Creek in our 320. The twins are really growing and have now lost their spots.
Yesterday, Lynn and I helped Carolyn, Heather and Nick dehorn, band and brand one of their little yearlings, and deloused both of them.
They didn’t brand or castrate Opie. He is the twin that almost died last year when his mother abandoned him and the magpies ate his umbilical cord and pecked his belly open. He was nearly dead when Carolyn found him, and she and Michael stitched him up. Part of his sheath was completely gone, however and they had to leave an opening for him to urinate. He still just dribbles urine, but has managed to survive and grow and stay healthy. They will eventually have to butcher him, but in the meantime he’s having a good life and growing bigger. Carolyn and kids hauled the two yearlings up to the wild meadow in their stock trailer and turned them out with the other yearlings.
Today is the anniversary of Andrea’s burn accident 13 years ago. Last year we celebrated this day with a picnic ride with her kids. This year the 3 youngest kids are with their dad this week, so we will have a celebration later, when they come home.
JULY 13 – Heather is making nice progress with Dottie. Last week we started taking her around to the new corral Michael built for us when he tore down the falling-down round corral that was built more than 100 years ago. The new corral isn’t round, but it’s bigger than Dottie’s pen and has better footing for training horses. Heather has been riding her there, working on walking, trotting, turning, stopping, and general flexibility. She’d been using just a halter with reins and then started using a bridle a couple days ago, giving cues with both the halter and snaffle reins to start making the transition. Now she is riding her to and from the corral, always doing something more and different each day.
Last Saturday Andrea and I rode 4 hours to check the range troughs; some of the springs are running less water in this hot weather, and lower Baker Creek is drying up. There were 40 cows trying to drink at Withington trough (which only runs a trickle and can only water about a dozen cow per day at most), so we moved that group of cows over the hill and down to some other areas with more water.
Lynn hooked up the swather to our big John Deere tractor and started cutting hay. He was able to cut heifer hill and the field below it. He turned off the rest of our irrigation water to start drying out the other fields so he can cut them, too. Sunday evening we went up to my brother’s campsite for a picnic supper.
Monday was a full day. Andrea took Emily to town for her driver’s education class, went to the dentist for a temporary covering over a broken tooth and scheduled an appointment for a root canal and crown. She got home about noon and we rode Sprout and Ed for our usual cow-checking. Lynn started cutting the big field of hay above the corrals and discovered a hydraulic line was leaking, and had to fix it.
There were too many cows at Withington trough again, with no water, so we herded them over the mountain and down to the Bear trough area. Some of them didn’t want to go the right direction. When we got down toward the brush above that trough a bunch of them ran into the brush to go the wrong way. Andrea galloped Sprout to head them off and chase them out of the brush while I was chasing the wayward cows on the other side of the herd.
I heard her holler from the brush, saying she was in trouble, so I galloped around the hill to come see what was wrong. She’d run into a sharp tree branch that had stabbed a couple inches into her thigh, clear to the bone, and broken off. It was spurting blood and she had her hand pressed over the gash to slow the bleeding.
While she held pressure on it, we dug out the bandages in her saddle bag and I got 3 dishtowels (that I use for scarves in cold, wet weather) from my saddle bag. I got a big square bandage ready to slap onto the wound the instant she removed her hand, and we wrapped and tied the scarves around her leg to hold the bandage in place and put pressure on the area to help stop the bleeding. Then we rode home, cleaned it up a little, and she went to town to the ER at the hospital—where she had to wait several hours. The ER doctor flushed and suctioned out a lot of wood fragments and tree bark, and put some internal dissolvable stitches into the flesh (since her graft skin is fragile and wouldn’t hold stitches very well).
She asked about antibiotics but the ER doctor thought it wouldn’t be necessary, and by Tuesday night the leg was hot and red and she had a fever. So Wednesday she went to the clinic and the doctor there didn’t like the looks of it and immediately put her on an antibiotic—and checked her again yesterday to flush it out some more.
They also took an x-ray to see if there were any fragments left in the wound, and to see if the puncture damaged the bone (which was the only thing that stopped the branch from going clear through her leg). The x-rays were encouraging; the bone seems ok and there were no obvious foreign bodies.
The only things that showed up were a fairly large number of staples that are still in her flesh from the graft surgeries 13 years ago. After the grafted skin “takes”, the staples holding it in place are removed, but there are always some that end up under the skin and get missed—and over time they tend to migrate around through the tissues. Over the years Andrea has had numerous staples removed when they showed up in bad places, like under a tendon or pressing into a blood vessel.
Tuesday evening Lynn finished cutting hay above the corrals and started baling the hay on heifer hill and the field below it—until he had a flat tire on the tractor. We moved the last few bales out of my hay shed, to make room for new hay. When Andrea went to the doctor on Wednesday she picked up several more boxes of baling twine.
Grandson Nick came down that morning and helped Lynn change the tire on the tractor; fortunately we had a spare, because the old tire was ruined and we had to order a new one. Nick ate lunch with us. When Lynn went out after lunch to bale hay again, the tractor wouldn’t start. It’s had some problems before, but not this serious. We had to call Jake, the tractor repair person who fixed that same tractor after it was badly damaged in the trailer tip-over wreck.
While we waited for him to come out to fix it, we moved our herd of cows from the little pasture above the house—since we’ll need to drive through there with the loads of hay from the fields above it. As the cows were coming down through the gate (coming eagerly because they knew they were going to a new pasture), Freddy was still up in the pasture. She’s usually front and center when we move the herd, so this was unusual. I walked up there to bring her to the gate, and she seemed a bit dull. I had to make her hurry to catch up with the herd that had already left the field. When she trotted she made a grunting noise. Her udder was empty; she’d gone dry.
So when we moved the herd through the barnyard and corrals to take them to a different pasture across the creek, we held Freddy and her calf back, and kept them in the corral for observation. Her calf was bawling and hungry. Freddy was not interested in food, just picking at the hay we gave her. For a cow that isn’t eating, she was very full.
She was worse the next morning—dull and lethargic—and still very full. She made soft grunting/burping noises when I made her walk to the chute so we could take her temperature. It was 102.8 which isn’t a high fever, but more than a degree above normal. So we treated her with LA-200 (long-acting oxytetracycline) and also gave her Banamine (an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces fever) in hopes it might help her feel better and start eating again. Our vet was unable to come look at her until late that afternoon, and by that time she was feeling much better (thanks to the Banamine), acting like her normal self, chewing her cud. He checked her for mastitis and hardware disease, but she seemed fine. His guess was that she had temporary indigestion from something she ate. That would explain why she wasn’t chewing her cud and was full of gas.
We kept her in the corral overnight for observation, but she was eating a little better again and seemed normal, and had some milk again for her calf, so we turned them back out in the field again the next morning.
Meanwhile we were still having haying challenges. Jake got the tractor problem figured out and it started again. Lynn was able to finish baling the field below heifer hill—almost. The baler quit working just before he got done. He couldn’t get it figured out, so he hauled a load of hay on the stackwagon. They didn’t load very well, being a little smaller and lighter than normal, and trying to load them on a hillside. By the time he got the stacker loaded, it was late evening, so he didn’t unload it in my hay shed, but waited until morning when he wasn’t so tired. When he tried to back it into the shed the next day to unload, the bales started falling off it. When he pulled forward, more fell off, and he finally just had to dump the rest in a pile.
Nick came down to help him try to fix the baler. But it only worked a short while and quit making bales again. Andrea and her friend Mike helped me load the dumped bales in the jeep and take them around to stack by my horse pens—to get them out of the way--and Nick helped us finish loading, hauling and stacking them. Since we had to wait for Jake to come again and look at the baler (and Jake didn’t make it out here that day), Lynn got another load of hay and was able to get it safely unloaded in my hay shed without mishap.
Yesterday he hauled more hay while he was waiting for Jake, and got all the hay off those 2 fields except for the last windrow that isn’t baled yet. Andrea rowed the bales to make it easier. Jake finally came late afternoon, worked on the baler a couple hours, and got it working again. So Lynn baled hay until dark, to finish the field across the creek. He also baled the little bit of hay left on this side, and picked those bales up in the jeep in the dark—using a flashlight—so he could turn the irrigation water back onto that field before the creek drops any more. Our creek is really low and we need to get some the fields watered again (after haying) to grow fall pasture for the cows. He finally got done last night at 11 p.m.
Today young Heather had a good session with Dottie, riding her around the barnyard, corrals, and up into the little pasture above the corrals.
Then Andrea and I rode with John Miller for 6 ½ hours to show him the high range—the larkspur that needs to be chopped before the cows go to that pasture, and all the water troughs, fences and gates. There are several troughs and fences that need fixed. Some of the troughs are rusting out and need to be replaced, and more trees have fallen down over the fences in the old burned area. It will be a major project to fix the fences.
Lynn tried to haul more hay, and had another problem with the stackwagon, dumping part of the hay. He laboriously restacked those bales onto the wagon and got it unloaded. That wore him out so he didn’t try to haul any more hay. It was another “bad hay” day. The next load tried to tip sideways but we were able to prop it and then push the top tiers back into place with the 4-wheeler and a long pole.
We finally got all the hay off that field, and hope to cut the two lower fields tomorrow.