Saturday, August 23, 2014

Winter 2014 December - January

I apologize for getting so far behind again with this diary of our lives here on the ranch.  I will try to catch up in the next few months.

DECEMBER 20, 2013 – A week ago last Tuesday the vet came out and took a biopsy of the growth on Breezy’s left eye.  The results came back as cancer, so the eye will have to come out.  We thought it might be a good idea to help her adjust ahead of time to being blind on that side, so Carolyn sewed two layers of denim onto the left side of a mesh fly mask, and we put it on Breezy.  She seems to be adjusting pretty well.

        Our very cold weather finally moderated a little.  When Lynn broke a bigger hole in the ice for the bulls to drink, in the spring in our back corral, the ice was more than a foot thick. The roads were good when Michael and Nick came home.  They met in South Dakota—Nick coming from college in Iowa and Michael from his truck driving job in North Dakota—and convoyed the rest of the way home together.  They made it home late last Thursday night.  Andrea took Lynn to his doctor appointment in Missoula, Montana that day for a checkup.  It will soon be a year since he had the stents put in his heart.
        All of Andrea’s kids are playing on hockey teams this winter.  The little girls had their first home tournament last weekend.



        The weather finally warmed up enough to butcher Freddy—the cow that almost died last summer.  She regained her lost weight and looked really good, and we’d planned to butcher her last month.  Then the weather got too cold.  We didn’t want Andrea’s hands to freeze while field-dressing that old cow.  So Sunday afternoon after the kids’ hockey games, Andrea and Lynn butchered the cow.  Michael and Nick helped; it took twice as long as normal to get the guts out of the carcass; there were multiple adhesions.  She must have had peritonitis last summer when she was so ill.  We left the carcass hanging on the tractor in the barnyard to cool out, and covered it with tarps to keep the magpies off.
        Whitetail deer have been coming into our haystack at night—about 20 of them--and eating a lot of the alfalfa hay.  Lynn put more elk panels around the spots they are getting in.  The weather got very cold again for a few days.  We haven’t started feeding hay yet; we need to stretch our little bit of pasture as long as possible so make sure our hay will last all winter.  With the cold weather we needed to encourage the cows to keep grazing the old dry grass, so we bought some protein supplement and more mineral mix.   
        Tuesday night we went to the school music concert.  Charlie plays trombone in the middle school band and Samantha started playing trumpet this year in the beginner’s band.  It was a nice program.
        A couple days ago Michael took the shoes off Sprout and Ed, and the hind shoes off Dottie (I’d already removed her fronts a month ago).  We won’t be riding any more this winter, with the ice and cold weather.  Today Andrea and girls went up the creek with Michael and Nick to get Christmas trees, and the girls enjoyed playing in the snow and making snow angels.

        This afternoon Andrea cleaned out a space in Dani’s room for Michael and Nick to hide a new chair that they are buying for Carolyn for Christmas—so it will truly be a surprise.   They will come pick it up on Christmas day.

JANUARY 1 – Last week we met the new Amish neighbors from Indiana who are renting the little house a mile below our place, and took them Christmas gifts.  They have two little boys age 2 and 4.  We also took gifts around to the other 2 Amish families on Maurer’s old place.  One of John Miller’s boys broke his ankle playing hockey and had to have surgery the day after Christmas to put the main bone back together.
        A couple days before Christmas we started leading Breezy around a little to get her used to being handled blind on that side. 

        Michael brought their stock trailer and parked it in our calving pen where we could work with several of the horses to get them used to going in it.  Breezy hasn’t been in a trailer since she arrived here nearly 18 years ago as a green 4-year-old.  We wanted to make sure we could get her into a trailer to take her to the vet clinic for her eye removal. 

        The first day, I simply let Breezy (and the two fillies) eat some alfalfa hay from a big tub at the back of the trailer.  Dottie and Willow haven’t had much experience with trailers, either, except when they came here as a weanling and two year old.  Dottie was suspicious of the trailer at first.  When it was Willow’s turn to eat out of the tub at the back, she wasn’t that interested in the food; she was curious about the trailer and decided to hop right in.  She’s a very bold young filly!  Over the next few days we gave all of them some trailer lessons, and put Breezy in with Ed, who is an experienced traveler. 

Christmas morning Nick and Heather picked up the chair for Carolyn on their way back from doing the neighbor’s chores, and dropped off a desk for Charlie for Christmas—one that they didn’t need anymore.   It was wrapped in blankets so it would be a surprise for Charlie.  Andrea had wrapped the big chair box in Christmas paper, so Carolyn wouldn’t know what it was until she opened it.  Nick and Heather managed to get it into their house and surprise her.  After chores Lynn and I went up to Andrea’s house to watch her kids open their gifts.  That evening we had dinner at our place.

After Christmas we continued the trailer loading lessons for the horses.  Old Veggie (who will be 28 this spring) is the only reluctant one.  He’s never ridden in a trailer.  But he is finally getting in now (with his sister Rubbie) and is comfortable standing in there to eat alfalfa hay. 


Emily went with friends to her hockey tournament in Kalispell, Montana.  On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and kids brought their small herd of cows down the road from the upper place, leading them down with the pickup with hay in it, and following them on 4-wheelers.  We put them with our cows, and started feeding hay to the combined group.  We were pleased that they didn’t fight very much and seem to be getting along just fine.  We’re glad our little bit of fall pasture lasted this long and didn’t snow under too deeply.

 On Monday we put a horse blanket on Breezy briefly for the first time in her life, to get her used to it.  Yesterday we did our chores and feeding early.  Breezy didn’t get to have any food before her surgery, however.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather came at 9:30 and we loaded Ed and Breezy in the trailer and took them to town to the vet clinic. 

 We left Ed in a corral at the back and took Breezy into the padded stall where the vet put her under general anesthesia and removed her left eye.  Breezy was waking up just as the vet finished stitching the lids back together, and lurched to her feet before the vet could put the bandage on.  But she managed to get the mesh and bandage in place after Breezy staggered and fell against the wall and was immobile for a few moments.

After Breezy was fully awake we put her padded eye cover back on, and the horse blanket, to help keep her warm on the way home.  She was drenched with sweat from the drugs and the stress.  We were thankful the weather moderated (barely freezing, rather than so bitterly cold).  She eagerly hopped in the trailer as I put Ed in, and rode home ok.  We kept the blanket on her after we put her in her pen, and tried to towel her neck and belly dry.  It started snowing hard by mid-afternoon and we took her into the barn, but she became very nervous in the barn and we had to take her out after about an hour.  Fortunately the snowstorm was letting up a bit, and she didn’t get too cold.  We put her in our side pen by the house, under the yard light, so I could check on her through the night.  This morning she seems to be doing ok so I put her back in her own pen.

JANUARY 14 – We kept Breezy on antibiotics (given twice a day orally) for a week, and on Banamine (to help relieve pain and swelling) twice daily for 5 days.  Andrea or one of the girls held the flashlight for me to give her the injections and medication late at night.  We changed her eye bandage daily for nearly a week, until there was no longer any oozing from the incision.  That area is very painful and sensitive so we had to be careful to not touch her face very much.


        While Michael was home he borrowed our flatbed trailer and hauled several more loads of hay for Heather—small bales that she bought from a neighbor.  This will be her year’s supply of hay for her horse training program.
        A couple weeks ago Lynn borrowed a wood splitter.  He and Andrea and kids split several pickup loads of firewood and took it up to Michael and Carolyn’s house.  That evening we had everyone here for supper before Michael and Nick went back (to North Dakota and Iowa).
        The day before Michael left, he and the kids brought their orphan calf, Peabody, down here in the trailer, to live with our heifers for the winter.  Peabody was the twin whose mother abandoned him, and they raised him on a bottle.  They weaned him off milk replacer a couple months ago, but he was still enjoying a bottle of warm water at feeding time.  After he came down here and no longer had his bottle, he was upset and forlorn—pacing the fences and bawling, and not wanting to socialize with the heifers at all—it was like he was being weaned from a mother cow!
        The little kids enjoyed sledding on our slippery, icy driveway the weekend before they went back to school after Christmas vacation.  With our old-fashioned runner sleds they could whiz down the slope from the old root cellar clear across the bridge past the house.


         The frozen cow carcass was hanging on our tractor loader for a couple of weeks, but we needed the tractor to load the big alfalfa bales to feed the cows.  So Andrea, Emily and Lynn sawed off the front quarters to take up to Andrea’s house.  She had to let the meat thaw for a whole day before she could cut and wrap it.  She did the hindquarters a few days later, then ground all the hamburger. 

It’s nice to have our tractor available for use again!  We are feeding the cows about 10 pounds of alfalfa hay per day, and letting them eat some year-old barley straw (big bales in feeders) free choice to provide the roughage they need.  When we ran out of old bales we borrowed a few bales of straw from our new neighbor John Miller until we can have another load of big bales delivered here.  The deer eat on our alfalfa hay on the truck at night so we had to start putting a big tarp over the hay. 

 A few days ago I trimmed Willow’s feet.  Young Heather has been working with her again the past few days, refreshing her memory on lessons with driving, longeing, etc.  It’s just been awhile since we’ve done much with her except a few trailer loading lessons and the filly is needs to go back to school and be reminded of her manners! 
Heather is also working with a group of horses that the owner wants broke to ride before the horse sale in April.  She started that project yesterday, working with those horses a ranch that has an indoor training arena.
This past weekend Andrea took Sam and Dani to Sun Valley for their first “away” hockey tournament. 


        While they were gone Charlie and Em ate with us, and played games here after supper.  Charlie helped Heather every morning, driving the pickup for her to feed horses on the upper place.

        The past few days were warm and windy; some of the ice on the driveway is melting.  Breezy’s eye seems to be doing fine, but she’s had gastric discomfort the past couple of days and isn’t eating very well.  We hope she doesn’t have ulcers from all the medication she was on for the week after her eye surgery.  I started giving her some ulcer medication yesterday.