Thursday, September 25, 2014

Late March-Early April 2014

MARCH 25 – A week ago Andrea took Emily to the doctor to have the stitches taken out of her leg, and a cast put on it.  She still has to stay off it for another 6 weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                Lynn went to town and bought a new headgate/culvert for one of our ditches that originates on the backside of the creek on the Gooch place.  We share that ditch with Alfonzo, and the headgate he put in last year (to replace the one we put in 30 years ago that was wearing out) was too small; we were never able to get enough water through the ditch to service his fields and ours and we were always short of water.

                Over the weekend Andrea’s kids enjoyed helping us feed the cows.  Several are getting ready to calve.  Andrea cleaned out all the old bedding and manure from the calving barn, and helped Lynn load hay on the feed truck and bring more bales around for the heifers.   The two calves born during the cold weather in February are a month old now, and the one we thawed out in the house has lost her ear tips.  Her feet are still sore; she spends a lot of time lying down.   But she’s lucky she didn’t lose her feet and they seem to be getting better.

On Sunday Andrea helped us bring the cows down from the fields above the house.  We fed them in the orchard and horse pasture and sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s cows.  After breakfast Carolyn and young Heather came down with their stock trailer.  We sorted their old slow cow into the calving pen and loaded her with the two pairs below the barn (the calves that were born during the cold weather in February) to haul to the upper place.  We put the cows in the front compartment and the calves in the back of the trailer.

Later that morning they hauled their horses down and trailed the rest of their cows to the upper place.  Hopefully the weather will warm up a little and more of the snow will melt off before they start calving.

Yesterday we all signed Emily’s cast and drew cartoons on it.  Lynn helped Andrea capture the rabbits that have been living in the camper shell on the back of our jeep, putting them in a kennel carrier.  Andrea took them to a friend who wants rabbits.

Today we brought a big bale of straw around on the old jeep and drove it into the barn, ready to spread in the stalls as soon as the dirt floor dries out a little more.  Even though we prefer to have the cows calve outside, April can be pretty nasty and it’s nice to have a barn during a blizzard!

APRIL 1 – A few days ago it started snowing and we decided to get the barn ready in case any cows calved.  We tried to start the jeep (in the barn with the bale of straw on it) but it was out of gas.  When Lynn poured gas in, it all ran out on the ground; the gas tank/line had come apart.  So we off-loaded the big bale of straw in that stall, pulled the jeep out of the barn with a tractor, and took the straw into all the stalls with the big calf sled.  That took a little longer than backing into each stall aisle with the jeep, but it worked.   We left a big bare spot in the stall where the jeep was parked—where the gas leaked out—so it can evaporate before we cover it up with straw.

                We had several days of cold, stormy weather.  On Thursday we moved all the rest of our cows down from the field into the horse pasture and orchard where they will be easier to watch, and moved their straw feeder into the horse pasture.  We had our first calf born that day (Cupie Doll had a nice bull calf), in the barn, during a snowstorm.

                The next day we started training the heifers to come into the calving pen for alfalfa hay.  On Saturday we put them in the little pen in front of the barn, and on Sunday we put some alfalfa in the barn and put them in for the first time.  The last couple of days they’ve headed right into the barn for their daily training session.  It will be really easy to get any of them in the barn if they calve during bad weather.

                Today Carolyn brought their truck down and Lynn loaded more straw bales for her.  Then Andrea helped Lynn put straw in our calf houses in the field above the house, after patching a big hole in the floor of one calf house.  Lynn built those calf shelters in 1968 and 1969, and the floor boards were rotting out.

               This evening Cub Cake started calving.  We first put her in the calving pen but the temperature dropped dramatically after dark, with a nasty wind, so we put her in the barn to calve.

APRIL 10 – Andrea has been staying here at nights to watch the cows so I can sleep, then I get up at 4 a.m. to watch them (checking on them as I type articles) and Andrea sleeps.  Emily is able to drive now even though she’s still on crutches, so she gets the kids up and takes them to the school bus in the mornings.

                Our friends Pete and Bev Wiebe from Canada arrived here last week to stay at Andrea’s house a couple days on their way home.  They spent part of the winter with the Mennonite Disaster Service doing various house-building projects in Texas for families that had lost their homes.  It was great to have a good visit with them.

                The second day they were here, I was doing chores early and saw 3 black wolves run down the hill from the road and across our field to the creek.  We learned later that horn hunters had seen them that same day, on our range.  They’ve been hanging around the area and have disturbed the elk.  A large group of elk stayed on the hillside above Michael’s house for 2 days and wouldn’t leave.  This was similar to what happened earlier this winter when a big group of elk came running down through the neighborhood and spent 3 days all huddled together in a field next to a subdivision.

                Andrea took Emily to the doctor that day to have her cast cut off.  She now wears a walking boot but is still supposed to use her crutches for a few more weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                That afternoon Pete helped Lynn untarp the haystack to get a few more big alfalfa bales to haul around to the heifers and load the feed truck, and get another big bale of straw for the feeder in the horse pasture.  Bev helped me cook a big dinner for everyone that evening here at our house.

                We’d just finished eating when Lynn’s sister Jenelle called us, from the hospital, to tell us that their brother Will Thomas had suffered a massive heart attack.  Lynn, Andrea and Emily drove to town to the hospital, but Will passed away before they got there.  They stayed awhile with Jenelle and Nita (Will’s widow) and then drove Nita’s car home for her, and came home late.  Jenelle stayed with Nita so she wouldn’t be alone.  Pete and Bev took Andrea’s kids home from our place and got them to bed.

                The next morning we visited with Pete and Bev awhile before they had to leave for the last part of their journey home to British Columbia.  They were a wonderful source of support for us in this time of loss and grief.

                The weather finally warmed up and on Monday Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed for the first time this year, to start getting those old mares back in shape and ready for the little girls to ride.  It was the first time we’ve ridden Breezy since her eye was removed last December. 

                It has healed nicely, and she is adapting very well to being sightless on that side.  Andrea had a good ride on her, and we rode again during the next several days.   Breezy handles herself very well on the trails and hillsides; a person just has to be aware that she can’t judge the slope on her blind side.  On our 3rd ride we found a newly shed elk horn (6 point) and Andrea carried it home on Breezy.

                Michael came home from North Dakota for a couple of weeks to take a break from his truck driving job, and was able to be here for his Uncle Will’s funeral on Tuesday.  Andrea picked up the kids at school, and took them.  Lynn and I were getting ready to leave, and noticed that Rosalee was calving.  We put her in the calving pen in front of the house, and I opted to stay home and watch her.  It’s easy to see the calving pen from our windows.

She had a big calf, and it was a good thing I was here, because she struggled to her feet with the calf hanging out, hiplocked.  It was a big, long calf, with its feet nearly touching the ground while its hindquarters were still stuck inside the cow.  I ran outside to the calving pen and grabbed onto the calf’s front legs.  Rosalee swung around and around and it was like crack-the-whip but I couldn’t get the calf to come out.  Fortunately he was able to start breathing, while hanging there.  Finally the cow stood still and I pulled and twisted the calf one way and then the other, several times, and it took all my strength to finally pop him loose.

                I named the calf WillyBill. I don’t think Lynn’s brother would have minded that I didn’t make it to his funeral.  He was a good stockman in his younger years and always took good care of his cattle.  I had the feeling that he was right there looking over my shoulder and approving as I delivered that hiplocked calf.  It was a nice funeral, and Andrea took photos when the family went to the cemetery—photos of her kids with Lynn, and Lynn’s nephew John (Will’s son).

                Our new Amish neighbors, renting the little house below us on the creek, have 2 little boys and are expecting another baby.  Andrea’s girls enjoy babysitting and playing with the little boys and helping Rosina.  Once a week Rosina has to go to town to the chiropractor (she has a very painful back) and either Andrea or Emily drives her to town and helps her do her grocery shopping.  These Amish families that have moved into our neighborhood use horses and buggies but can also ride with anyone who will drive them somewhere in a vehicle.

                Our first heifer calved yesterday (Buffalulu, a daughter of Buffalo Girl).  She had a nice heifer calf.  We’re nearly half done calving.   Today I put the pair out of the barn into one of the nearby pens.

                Today Andrea drove to Missoula for her doctor’s appointment to check her throat (she has some damage from the breathing tube when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU 15 years ago) and also has a problem with acid reflux so the doctor put her on medication for that.   Lynn got the kids from the bus, and then discovered that Sam left her trumpet on the bus and he drove to town to get it.  We fed the kids supper this evening and the girls enjoyed hiking with me up through the cows to see all the new calves.

APRIL 20 – We had sad news on Saturday; a good friend drowned that morning while trying to clean debris out of a springbox that discharged into the large ditch by his house.  The side of the springbox gave way and he fell into the ditch, where the force of the water sucked him into a culvert.  His wife tried to pull him out but could not.  She ran to the neighbor’s place to get help, and it took 2 men to pull him out of the ditch.   His death was a shock to our community.

Young Heather has been working with 15 green horses the past 4 months, helping get them trained and ready for the horse sale held last week.  They were horses of all ages—mainly broodmares, and a couple of recently gelded stallions--that the owner decided to break and sell.  Most of them were 6 to 12 years old and pretty set in their ways so they were more challenging to break than young horses.   They did fairly well at the sale, but the first one Heather started to saddle to ride into the sale ring that day was upset and nervous at all the noise and activity at the Fairgrounds and kicked her when she came up to him with the saddle.  Fortunately she was right next to him and didn’t get the full force of the kick or get kicked in the head.  As it was, he knocked her about 12 feet, hitting her in the ribs and belly with one foot and hit the saddle with the other.  She had cracked ribs and bruised muscles but still managed to ride him (and 8 more horses) through the sale ring.  She’s pretty sore still, but managing to do her chores and some riding.

                Andrea harrowed our fields the past few days.  Charlie and Dani rode with her in the tractor one day and Charlie enjoyed driving the tractor.  Last Saturday Maggie calved—a big bull calf.  Dani was upset because it was the weekend the kids were with their Dad and she didn’t get to see Maggie calve.  Maggie is her special pet.  Maggie is getting older and her udder is saggy, and Andrea had to help her big calf nurse.  


                Michael came down on Sunday and loaded manure in Jade and Anita’s trailer for their garden, then took our backhoe up in the field to clean silt out of one of our ditches, then he and Lynn went to the Gooch place and dug out the too-small culvert/headgate and put in the new one at the head of our ditch.

                We had a couple cows calving that night and it was very cold and windy so they had to calve in the barn.  It was down to zero by morning.

                I lost my twin cousin Kit this past Monday morning.  She and I were born the same day—February 13, 1944—and we shared a very special bond of friendship all our lives.  These past few years, however, she was in poor health with Parkinson’s disease and progressive dementia, and finally lost that battle, slipping away in her sleep.  She will be greatly missed, but always vibrant and alive in good memories.   Here’s a photo of her and me when we were about 6 years old.

                Wednesday it was still very cold but not windy for a change.  Michael has been shoeing all their horses, and that afternoon he came down and shod Ed and Breezy for me.

 We learned later that day that our neighbor Galen Kossler died that morning.  He was 85.  We had many good years working together with Kosslers as range neighbors ever since they moved here in 1974, until they sold their ranch a few years ago (and it resold last year to 3 Amish families).

                Thursday morning Michael put shoes on Sprout and Dottie, and trimmed Willow’s feet.  Then he went home to shoe their last horse before he goes back to North Dakota.  That night we had more rain.  All the new babies have learned how to get in the calf houses and out of the cold rain.

                My computer started to die last week and I have to leave it turned on all the time until I can get it replaced.  Lynn started irrigating the fields above our house.  Yesterday Dani helped me do chores and water the cows, and helped me sort out the cows that are most ready to calve.  We put them into the orchard where they are easier to see at night from the house (with spotlight and binoculars).  The cows are gentle and easy to handle and they all know Dani.  She’s very good at handling the cows quietly and tactfully, reading their body language and knowing just where to be, at the right time.  Whenever she comes to see the cows she picks a little grass along the driveway (it’s finally grown tall enough to pick!) to feed Maggie.

                Outie started calving early this morning and we put her in the calving pen.  Dani and Sammy came down to watch her calve—with a great view from the window, but she put it off all day.   Two more started calving—including Magdaleena (a heifer)—so we put them in the adjacent pen.  The heifer made progress faster and we put her in the barn to calve.  Dani helped me keep track of them all; she sat out by the barn and peeked in the back door, and came to tell me when the heifer started to get serious—lying down and pushing the feet out. 

                The heifer calved ok, and the calf got up and nursed.  By contrast, Outie put it off serious labor until dark.  We turned the yard light on (at the end of my hay shed) and it lit the calving pen enough that Sammy and Dani could watch her calve, when she finally did it at 10 p.m. – a big bull calf.

APRIL 29 – The night that Outie calved, the temperature dropped dramatically and the calf got chilled.  We ended up putting that pair in the barn at 2 a.m. after helping the calf nurse.  I worked madly the rest of the morning to get some articles finished and meet the deadlines before I had to give up my old computer.  Lynn took it in that afternoon to have its innards removed and put into a new computer.

                Young Heather came down that afternoon and worked with Willow (longeing and ground driving, saddling, etc.) in her pen.  She also put weight on the saddle in preparation for the first rides.

                 Heather then worked with Dottie and rode her for the first time this spring.  Dottie has had a vacation all winter, after her 5 months of riding/training last year.  Heather’s ribs and abdominal muscles were still sore from being kicked a couple weeks earlier, but doing better.

                Buffalo Girl calved that evening.  Now we only have 4 slowpokes left to calve.   Michael and Carolyn’s cows are more than half done calving.

                We went to Galen Kossler’s funeral last Tuesday.  The church was packed; he had a lot of friends.  The Amish neighbors (some of whom now live on the old Kossler ranch) came as a group and sang several hymns.

                It took 2 days for the computer folks to set up my new computer, and then they couldn’t get my e-mails transferred from the old one.  It took several more days and I basically lost a week in my writing.  I’m still having trouble figuring out how to use this new one!  Michael helped me get a couple things working again, before he went back to North Dakota last Thursday.

                We had some wet, cold days of wind and rain.  This brought on a few cases of scours in the calves.   We had to catch Buffalo Baby’s calf a couple days ago, and Buffalo Girl’s calf today, to treat with neomycin sulfate solution (a good oral liquid antibiotic).  Andrea sneaks up behind the calf and grabs a hind leg while I distract it.  If a person can treat with neomycin at the first sign of scours, before the calf gets dehydrated, one treatment usually halts the gut infection and we don’t have to administer fluid and electrolytes.