Sunday, March 9, 2014

November - December 2013

NOVEMBER 22 – Last Saturday weather was mild and Andrea brought Sam down to help us get the horses ready to ride and Lynn took Charlie and Dani up to ride Carolyn’s horses (Gus and Thelma).  Granddaughter Heather helped them get those horses saddled, and she rode Romeo, the horse she’s training. 

We’re giving Ed the winter off because she gets too frisky and goofy when she’s only ridden occasionally, and we don’t want Dani to become scared of her.  They’ve made such a good team.  We’ll just have Dani start riding Ed again next spring after Andrea or I have written her a few times.

Andrea (on Sprout), Sam on Breezy, and me on Dottie rode up the creek to meet up with Carolyn, Heather and the other two kids.  We went for a ride over the low range.  It got windy and threatened to snow, so we cut it short and made it home to our place before the storm hit.

But Carolyn, Heather, Dani and Charlie had to ride 3 more miles back up the creek to put their horses away.  The blizzard hit them just before they got there, with snow hitting them in the face.  We were glad they wore heavy coats and warm hats!

That afternoon Andrea drove to Idaho Falls (170 miles) for her appointment with her pain doctor and refill her pain meds, and while she was there she bought hockey gear for the kids—since all 4 of her kids are playing hockey this year.  I fed the kids supper that night, since Andrea was very late getting home.

On Sunday Andrea and I made a short ride on Sprout and Dottie in the wind, still trying to ride every day that we can.  When we got back, I took off Dottie’s front shoes, since they are worn out and her feet are getting long.  The worn-out shoes had no traction and were dangerous on slippery, frozen ground or ice.  I’ll take her hinds off at a later date.  For several days I rode with Carolyn and Heather; Andrea was busy the rest of the week helping some friends put a new roof on a local church.

Carolyn and Heather sorted their cows, keeping some and sending the rest to a bred cow sale at Butte, Montana.  They are selling those to pay off the loan on their cows.  Bred cows have been worth quite a bit so they hoped the cows would bring a good price, but that particular day there weren’t very many buyers at the sale and most of their cows were sold at cull cow prices, which left them a bit short for paying the loan.  We helped them make up the difference and they can pay us back later.

Monday morning Heather came down and worked with Willow for awhile, teaching her to drive in long lines, and doing more ground work with her.  We may start riding her a little next summer when she’s two.

Tuesday afternoon our vet come out and checked Breezy’s left eye.  The back corner (white part of the eye) has been red and irritated for quite awhile (we had a vet look at it a couple years ago), but now there’s a growth in that corner and we are afraid it’s cancerous. 

The vet took a scraping of the growth to check under a microscope, and found mostly epithelial cells (normal tissue), a lot of bacterial cells and only a couple cancerous type cells.  She prescribed an antibacterial ointment, to put into the eye twice daily for two weeks, and then will check it again.  We’re hoping it’s not a malignant growth because that would mean the eye would have to be removed.

Breezy doesn’t like having the ointment put in under her eyelid and it takes two of us to do it—to have enough hands to hold the eyelids open and put the ointment in.  These last couple days the weather has been cold; the ointment wouldn’t come out of the tube.  I have to put it in a bottle of hot water when I take it outside to medicate the eye.

This afternoon we moved Freddy and the 4 weaned heifers to the field below the lane, where we can plug in the tank heater—and not have to break ice out of their water trough every day.  It was too cold to ride today, so Dottie got a day off from training.

DECEMBER 1 – Last Saturday it was still cold, but Heather and I rode our two trainees for a short loop over the low range.  Dotty was grumpy and frisky in the cold weather but I was able to keep her from bucking.  That evening Alfonzo brought all his cows down to the lower fields (weaning his calves and leaving them in the corral at the Gooch place) so the cows were all trying to come back through the fence between us.  He still has bulls with his cows, so we didn’t want them right next to Freddy (since she’s not pregnant and might come in heat).  To avoid the risk of having bulls crash through the fence, I lured Freddy with a flake of hay and led her up to the corral below the barn.  Now she’ll have to be fed hay until we butcher her.  The 4 heifers will probably be ok in that field because they are too young to be breeding yet, and won’t attract the bulls.

The next morning, some of Alfonzo’s cows (after trying all night to get through our fence) crashed over his fence along the road—which is in worse shape than our fence—and trooped back up the road to the Gooch place to try to get back to their calves.  Later that morning Alfonzo and his son brought 7 of those cows down again (including one that had a small calf with her, that apparently crawled out of the corral to join her), and a couple hours later brought 2 more back down. They put some steel posts in the broken-down fence.

Andrea, Carolyn, Heather and I rode that afternoon, making a long loop over the low range, since Dottie needs more miles to settle down her goofy attitude on these cold days.  As we came back over the ridge to come home we saw 3 cows of Alfonzo’s trying to get out again, crashing the newly fixed fence.  One cow got stuck in the fence and struggled and bellowed, and flipped over backward.  She tried again, and made it over the fence.  Apparently 8 or 9 cows went right back up to their calves, and this time Alfonzo gave up and left them up on the Gooch place.  This was a relief to us.  We don’t like our place being used as a buffer zone for his weaning—with his cows trying to come through our fences.

Carolyn sent a package to Michael in North Dakota by Fed-Ex, to deliver to the truck shop where he’s located.  He’d run out of prescription meds, including his blood pressure pills, since his job demanded him staying longer back there than originally planned—and wasn’t able to come home for Thanksgiving.  The package arrived the day before Thanksgiving, as planned, but was delivered to the wrong place, and wasn’t located until a week later.  It sat outside during that time and the medication froze—reducing the effectiveness of the blood pressure pills.

Andrea and crew kept working on the church roof and finally finished it the day before Thanksgiving.  Those days I rode with Carolyn and Heather.  On Wednesday Dani rode with us, on Thelma—Carolyn’s old horse—and Sam rode Breezy.  After our ride the two little girls filled our woodbox, to help Grandpa, since he’d taken Andrea’s snow tires to town to be put on her car while she was at work.

When Lynn got home he started his tractor and brought 2 big square bales around to my stack yard—to augment my dwindling hay.  He also took a bale below the lane, so we can start feeding Freddy (until we get a chance to butcher her) and our young heifers in the adjacent field if the snow covers their pasture.  We put tarps over those big bales to protect them from snow and rain.

We had Thanksgiving dinner here for Andrea and Emily (the other kids were at their Dad’s) and Carolyn and Heather.  Michael wasn’t able to come home, nor Nick (too far, from college in Iowa) but they will both be home for Christmas.

The next day Andrea rode with Carolyn, Heather and me, glad to be done with the roofing project.  Our plan is to keep riding Sprout and Dottie as much as possible this winter.

Today it rained and we didn’t ride.  I started feeding our heifers a little bit of hay, just to get them used to coming to me.  This evening we had a second Thanksgiving dinner up at Andrea’s place after her kids got home from their Dad’s, and invited Carolyn and Heather to join us.

DECEMBER 10 – Last Monday it was rainy off and on but Andrea and I managed to make a short ride between storms.  It turned out to be our last ride of the year.

When we got back, I took off Breezy’s shoes for winter, and then it started to snow.  I still need to get Ed’s shoes off, and we need to either take off Sprout’s shoes or reshoe her, depending on whether we can keep riding through winter as planned.  Our weather became suddenly very cold (below zero) and we haven’t ridden now for more than a week, so I’m not sure if we can continue riding and training Dottie and Sprout.

Lynn was supposed to go to Missoula for a checkup (heart doctor) last Tuesday but postponed because of snowstorms and bad roads.  He’s rescheduled for this Thursday.  It got so cold that it became impossible to put ointment in Breezy’s eye morning and evening, so we quit.  It had been nearly 2 weeks of treatment anyway, and the vet is coming out again to check her eye.

With the snow and cold weather I started feeding our heifers a little alfalfa hay.  We haven’t started feeding the cows yet; they still have some rough feed left.  We bought a little protein supplement to encourage them to keep grazing, and hope we won’t have to start feeding hay for a few more weeks—unless the last of our grass snows under. The creek froze over and Lynn is chopping ice daily on their water holes.

Carolyn and Heather took the shoes off the rest of the horses they’ve been riding, and turned them out on pasture for winter.  They brought Mr. Peabody (the orphan twin calf they raised on a bottle) down from the upper corral so he wouldn’t be all by himself up there.  Heather led him down the mile down the road to the corrals by their house, using one of her mom’s old show halters with a chain under the chin, and he was broke to lead by the time they got down to the house.  After Michael gets home from North Dakota for Christmas they plan to castrate that big calf, and then he can live with our heifers for winter.

Heather has been doing chores for Suzanne Nebeker—one of our local doctors who lives across the valley from us.  She has horses, and raises and shows Tennessee Walkers.  This past week she went to Salt Lake City, Utah for surgery and will be gone awhile, so Heather has been taking care of her horses.  Thursday afternoon when Heather went over there to feed the horses she discovered a herd of elk had gone through the pens and pastures and scared the horses.  The elk were still there—about 30 of them in a frightened group—huddled in a fence corner in a neighbor’s field.

One of Suzanne’s mares had jumped over a fence and injured herself and couldn’t get up.  She was lying on the ground and very cold.  Heather had a wool horse blanket in her car and put it over the mare and called her mom and the vet.  Carolyn, the vet and a couple neighbors worked with the mare into the night, building a shelter of panels and straw around her and covering her with blankets.  The vet gave her fluid and medication to ease the pain and inflammation.  After the mare warmed up she tried to get up, but her hind legs wouldn’t work.  The injury seemed to be in her pelvis.

She made it through the night and was perky the next morning, eating and drinking, but shortly after noon she suddenly died.  The vet came back out and thought that she probably split her pelvis in the accident, and in one of her later attempts to get up the bones shifted and severed an artery and she quickly bled to death.  It was a terrible tragedy—a sad end for a very nice (and valuable) mare.

The elk are still in the neighborhood.  They spent 3 days huddled in the neighboring field—a plowed field—with nothing to eat.  We are assuming wolves drove them down out of the high country (a pack of 6 wolves left tracks across the road only a few miles above the neighborhood where Suzanne’s horses are).

Friday morning Emily and Andrea drove to Bozeman, Montana for Em’s hockey tournament.

The weather was bitterly cold (40 below zero) just over the hill from us in Montana.  Andrea and Emily got back home Sunday evening.  We moved our cows to Heifer Hill and the little field below it that still has some grass, and Andrea helped Lynn move their protein tubs.  Three of the yearlings wouldn’t cross the bridge and didn’t want to cross the creek ice, but Lynn and Andrea were finally able to herd them across the creek.

Carolyn and Heather came down to get a pickup load of firewood.  We’ve been burning a lot of wood these days to keep our houses warm.  This morning it’s not quite so cold—it didn’t go below zero last night.  It’s supposed to storm again, so we’re hoping the roads won’t be too nasty for Nick driving home from college (from Iowa) tomorrow.