Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ranch Diary: November 17 to December 14, 2015

NOVEMBER 27 Michael, Nick and Robbie have been putting in a water line for the horse pens at Michael’s place, but had some challenges with big rocks, and accidentally cut the water line to the house--and had to fix it, too. But now they have heated water tubs for the horses in their pens.

Emily had a rough week after her wisdom teeth were removed, but she continued working in spite of pain from the surgery.

Andrea went up to the 320-acre pasture on her 4-wheeler to check ice on the water trough last Tuesday and to check cows. They were nearly out of grass, except for some that’s deeply snow-covered on the north slopes, so she let them into the adjacent 160-acre hill pasture. There were 40 deer in there eating the green regrowth, pawing through the snow. Our cows might as well get to eat some of it before it’s all gone. The cows can have access to the water trough in the fenceline that supplies both pastures.

The next day we noticed a lone bull of Alfonzos on lower place, trying to come up through the fence and get in with our heifers. We wondered why he showed up there; maybe he was fighting with some of Alfonzo’s other bulls and jumped in there when they brought a bunch of cows and bulls up the road a few days earlier. A few days later Alfonzo tried to bring the bull up the road on foot to put on Gooch place with his other cattle, but the bull charged back past him and went back into the field below our heifers. Alfonzo just left him there and didn’t try to anything else with him—and left the next day to go to Mexico for the winter. He goes every winter, leaving neighbors to take care of his cattle.

Andrea’s kids went to hockey practice a few nights, then Andrea realized they can’t do hockey this year. Andrea doesn’t have the time nor money for hockey trips, with the custody battle and lawyer expenses—which we are all trying to help with.

Sam and Charlie are getting really good on the trumpet and trombone, playing in the pep band for basketball games at the high school.

Last Thursday it snowed all day and the roads were very slippery, and treacherous going to town and to the school bus. The storm continued through that evening and we ended up with several inches of new snow.

Friday morning the kids had to get up at 4 a.m. because Andrea had to take them to Idaho Falls to meet with the parenting evaluator (for the custody case), and Emily had a checkup with the dental surgeon.

Our good friend and former pastor Stillman Bond came to visit, and loaned us the September 1957 issue of LOOK magazine, which he found in the church archives. It had an article on Methodism, and many photos of my father (as a “modern day circuit rider” tending his congregation in far-flung regions of our county, when I was a child). We had a good visit with Stillman, and gave him a couple of my new books for Christmas.

On Saturday the temperature dropped below zero. Andrea helped me do chores and break ice for the horses. We started feeding the heifers a little alfalfa hay even though they still have some grass in their pasture. Alfonzo’s bull was pressing on the fence, wanting to come through it.

Andrea went with Lynn and me to 320 on his 4-wheeler to break ice on water trough so the cows could drink. There was 2 inches of ice that we broke and scooped out with a shovel. The battery was dead on the 4-wheeler; Lynn had to pull start it and was going to just leave it running while we were up there, but he forgot—and turned it off. It was even more difficult to pull-start it again, but it was either that or walk home!

After we got home, Andrea and I rode Ed and Sprout to move Alfonzo’s bull. He will be trying even harder now to get in with our heifers because we are feeding them, and he is hungry. I rode Ed because Dottie is still not very experienced with difficult cattle. Carolyn came down on her 4-wheeler, and granddaughter Heather rode down on her horse Danny. We started to bring the bull up through field to take him out on the road (to go up to the Gooch place, to put him with Alfonzo’s other cattle) but he charged at our horses. Alfonzo makes his cattle wild and mean by the way he mishandles them.

Not wanting to get anyone hurt, we gave up trying to herd the bull, and got some of Alfonzo’s cows from the Gooch place to bring down and put with the bull, and then we were able to take them all back up the road together, and put them back in the Gooch place. The sun had gone down by the time we finished, and it was getting very cold.

On Sunday afternoon Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to the 160/320 to break ice again on the trough (2 inches thick again) and scooped out all the ice with a shovel and rake.

 Afterward Andrea didn’t want snow/ice on her boots (to make them slippery in her stirrups) so she scraped her feet on the pole fence to get the ice off the bottom of her boots, then got on Sprout from the fence!
It was sundown and cold by the time we got home. We quickly did chores, then I cooked dinner for the whole family and kids after they got back from Mark's.

The weather was cold for several days. Andrea and I rode up to the 160 each day to break ice. One day we noticed a new big hole in Alfonzo’s fence along the road, next to his gate into the Gooch place, and stopped to fix it before his cows got out. Earlier this year he had set some new posts and leaned the old, falling down fence against the new posts, but the wires were never stapled onto posts. His cows had knocked some of the wires clear off and made a big hole. His cows are very hungry because they ran out of grass on the Gooch place several weeks ago and no one is feeding them yet, so they are trying to get out.

It was warm for a couple days, and melting snow on top of the ice was very slippery. Our tractor was spinning out a lot when we got big bales off the stack for our heifers and bulls. Jim (Emily’s dad) helped Lynn put chains on the tractor so it won’t be so hard next time. Jim will be staying at Andrea’s house for a couple months, until he flies to Florida to build a big antler chandelier for a client, and then goes back to work again for the outfitter/hunting guide in Montana. Andrea and Robbie will help him clean out and fix up the old trailer house here in our barnyard (that Michael & Carolyn used as a calving camp in earlier years) for him to use as a shop this winter, to build the lamps and chandeliers that he sells.

That evening we had an early Thanksgiving, before the kids had to go out to Mark’s place for the Thanksgiving holiday. Andrea cooked a turkey and we had a really nice dinner at her place.

The kids had a lot of fun, and we all enjoyed it.

The next day we had 4 inches of fresh snow on top of what we already had, but the cows are still out grazing on the 160.

Two cow elk stayer for several days the hill behind Andrea’s house. Dani helped us feed heifers Wednesday evening, and enjoyed pulling one of the sleds full of alfalfa, and helping scatter the hay.

With the deep snow we’ve started feeding them twice a day. Dani always likes to pet her favorite heifer, Deerling, every time she helps feed.

Our driveways are slippery again. Em’s little car spun out on her way home, and she didn’t make it up the last hill to Andrea’s house. She had to back down Andrea’s driveway and leave her car in our barnyard.

Yesterday it was 4 below zero, with high of 17 degrees. Lynn put an elk panel across the corner of Breezy’s pen where the deer are crawling through into the stackyard to try to get into our alfalfa bales. It was windy and cold for riding, so Andrea and I drove up the creek, parked the pickup at the bottom of the 160, and hiked up to the trough to break ice.

Robbie got our feed truck running again, and brought a few little bales of grass hay around to feed to the heifers along with their alfalfa, since their pasture is snowed under. This morning it was 9 below zero, with a high of 12 above, and we decided it was time to bring the cows down to our fields, where the grass isn’t completely snowed under yet, and it will be easier to break ice for them at the creek instead of having to go clear up to the 160 every day. Michael and Carolyn want to put their cows on the wild meadow and road pasture (to water at the creek in the wild meadow), so they needed to move their horses out of the wild meadow. Michael and Nick were working on a custom fencing job that day, so Carolyn and Heather took shoes off their horses and trimmed feet, moved their horses to different fields, and then Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed up to meet them at their corral. We gathered the cows off the 160 and bought them down.

Then we sorted them in the corral, leaving their cows (to graze their upper fields and roadside hill pasture that hasn’t been grazed at all this year). Andrea and I brought ours down the road to our place, and made it past the Gooch place without Alfonzo’s cows jumping out (they tried to get out and come with us).
We put ours in the heifer hill pasture where there is still some grass that hasn’t completely snowed under.

DECEMBER 4 – We had several nights below zero, with a high of only 10 to 12 degrees in the daytime. Andrea helped me break ice for all the horses, and broke ice on the creek for the cows (on heifer hill) and bulls in the corral. She checked the water for the two old cows in the lower field, but they are still able to drink from a spring that’s not freezing over very much. The heifers in the field below the lane are appreciating their heated water tank; they drink more water than they would otherwise on a cold day/night and its one less chore not having to break ice for them.

Emily and her dad (Jim) went hunting a couple times, trying for an elk during the muzzle-loader season, but didn’t get close enough to shoot any. Andrea and Lynn took salt to our cows on heifer hill and Andrea patched the fence along the horse road where the deer have knocked out a lot of staples. I cooked another big dinner for the whole family Sunday night, when the kids got back from Mark’s place. They all love roast beef, potatoes and gravy!

Sam didn’t have as big an appetite as usual, however, and mentioned that she’d had pain in her lower abdomen the past 3 days when she was out at Mark’s, and that she hadn’t been eating very much, and just lying around resting because of the pain. Mark and Dawn didn’t pay any heed to her complaints, however, and told her to just eat a few antacid Tums. Sam was miserable for 3 days.

Andrea tried to make a doctor appointment for Sam the next morning, but because of the location of the pain (and possible appendicitis) she was told to just take Sam to the ER. The ER doctor did a CT scan and also gave Sam an IV dye to check things out. Her appendix seems OK but the poor kid has a possible ovary problem, and also has gallstones! She may have to be careful what she eats. The thing that worries us is that Mark and Dawn don’t seem to have much concern about the children’s health problems; they are irresponsible guardians. Andrea spent 6 hours with Sam in the ER as the doctor did all the tests and finally determined what was causing the pain. He gave her a few suggestions on things to do to help ease the pain.

We got new tires for Em’s car, with good traction, so now she can make it up and down the driveway even in snowy, icy conditions to get to and from her job. Jim split the cost of the tires with us.

Every chance she gets, Dani helps us with chores. She likes to walk among the heifers and get them used to her, and pets her favorite heifer again.
I wrote our family Christmas letter and started mailing it to friends. I didn’t have as much time this year to make cards, so most people will simply get letters.

On Wednesday Andrea took Sam to the doctor again to have her foot checked, with another x-ray. The bone in her heel is slow to mend and she has to be on crutches for ANOTHER three weeks.

Jim has the old trailer house functional now as a shop, with the chimney cleaned out and the stove working. Andrea helped him string a power cord across the creek from our barn, so he has electricity for light and for his saws and equipment for working on the antlers and wood he uses to create lamps, chandeliers, etc. Jim and Robbie borrowed a trailer from a friend and hauled some tools and other things out here from his storage shed in town, so he’s now able to work on his projects. He has several to complete before the next trade show he plans to attend.

Alfonzo’s starving cows have done poorly in the sub-zero weather, with no feed. We called John Miller, the Amish neighbor around the hill who helps Alfonzo sometimes, and asked what the plan was for those cows. John told us that several neighbors were going to take turns feeding them this winter while Alfonzo is in Mexico. We told John the cows were in bad shape, bawling at every vehicle driving past on the road, hoping for food. So the Amish brought their little tractor up a few days ago and fed a few big bales of hay from the stackyard on the Gooch place, but the cows are only being fed every other day or so. A couple days after they started feeding hay, one of the skinny old cows just lay down in the feed trail and died. The cows also broke into the haystack and are eating on it.

This afternoon Dani rode with Andrea and me to check our cows on heifer hill, and we were glad the horses have good shoes and good traction on the slippery snow.

Then we rode on up to the Gooch place to check our ditch (to make sure there’s no water leaking into it from the creek, to create an ice flow) and to check our weir and make sure Alfonzo’s cows haven’t trampled it (since it’s right behind the haystack they are ganged around). While we were there we took photos of the dead cow and some of the emaciated cattle. Those poor cows needed to have some hay long before now; the skinny ones were losing even more weight all through the sub-zero weather. He has some skinny crippled cows that can hardy get around.

DECEMBER 14 – We’ve had several more snowstorms the past 10 days. The cows grazed all the tall feed on heifer hill and were happily enjoying the short green regrowth until it snowed under on December 5. Andrea and I moved them to the field by her house the next morning. She walked ahead and called them, and they followed her, and I followed the cows. Some of them were hesitant to cross the bridge, and the last 4 refused to walk over it, and went alongside it, across the creek, instead. They fell through the ice and were in water up to their bellies, but managed to flounder on through it and up the far bank. They were enjoying the little bit of green regrowth on that new field--rooting through the snow to eat it--and quite a bit of rough feed around the edges.

Rocky and Bev (my brother and his wife) have now moved into their new house on the upper end of the ranch. There is still some work to be done on finishing it, but it was functional enough for them to move in. Last Saturday they had a group of friends with pickups and trailers haul a lot of their furniture and other things from their storage shed in town.

That Sunday I cooked another big dinner for Andrea and kids, Robbie and Jim, for when the kids got home again from Mark’s house. The next day the weather warmed up and we got a little rain instead of snow. Robbie helped Michael and Nick finish a fencing project just before the weather turned nasty.

It changed to snow by evening and the roads were treacherous again. By Tuesday morning there was ice on everything. Highway 93 South was blocked for several hours by a wreck, and it was too slippery for the buses to run, so school was closed that day. Jim spent the morning shoving dirt onto our driveway and Andrea’s so it would be safe to drive in and out. She often drives her 4-wheeler down here (instead of her car) to help me do chores, because the 4-wheeler has chains on it. Lynn’s black cat loves to sit on her 4-wheelr while we feed the heifers.
Then our weather warmed up and it was windy and thawing on Wednesday, with rain and snow blizzards off and on through the day. It cleared off by late afternoon, and the Amish neighbors brought Alfonzo’s cows down the road past our place and put them on the lower fields just below ours. We’re hoping Alfonzo’s bulls won’t try to get in with our heifers!

The next day it snowed again, with slick roads and treacherous footing around the barnyard with snow on top of ice. Andrea and Robbie spread sand in the places where we walk around to do chores, so no one will fall down. Andrea moved the two cows from our lower back field (the ones that were too old to spend the fall on the 320) and moved them up with the main herd. We don’t want them attracting Alfonzo’s starving cows through the fence into our place.

On Friday (no school) Andrea and Robbie took kids, dogs and sleds up the creek to get a Christmas tree, and they had a lot of fun sledding.

Even Sam got to sled a bit; they pulled her sled, and she didn’t have to walk very much on her crutches in the snow.

On Saturday they put up their little tree in the playroom, and Dani decorated it. She was quite proud of her beautiful project.

Sunday (yesterday) we had nasty weather again, and decided we need to give the heifers more grass hay because their pasture will probably be snowed under the rest of the winter. Lynn, Andrea and Robbie brought a big bale feeder around to that field, and today we put a big bale in it for them to work on whenever they wish—without so much of the hay being laid on, pooped in, and wasted. Then we can feed them a little less alfalfa—and maybe the deer won’t eat so much of the alfalfa! The deer are coming into that field and eating with the heifers, but they only want the alfalfa and won’t bother their grass hay. We also started feeding our cows today (two weeks earlier than last year) because we had several inches of new snow this morning on top of what we already had. Even though they still have grass left in the field by Andrea’s house, it is deeply snowed under and the cows are discouraged! It’s time to feed them.

Meanwhile, my new book, Ranch Tales, is now published. The press release (shown below) has a nice photo of the front cover. Anyone who wants to order one can contact the publisher, me, or any bookseller.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ranch Diary: October 25 to November 16, 2015

OCTOBER 25 – We’ve had a little rain, the past 10 days, and some cold weather. Last week it got down to 21 degrees, which is our coldest night so far. Before that, things were still pretty green. On one of our rides to check cows, Dani and I rode up Baker Creek and I took photos of some of the old aspen trees with bear claw marks on the trunk.

Dani has also been helping gentle the heifer calves in the field above the house, walking through them, and letting them come up to her. Ours know her already, but Michael’s four heifers are a bit timid and suspicious, so it’s good for them to get used to people walking amongst them.


Last Tuesday Andrea took Sam for her doctor’s appointment and an MRI to check her ankle. It showed that the fracture in the growth plate has healed, but there is still a problem with a bone in her foot, and her heel—that were not obvious in the x-rays. The doctor said she needs to be on crutches again for 6 to 8 weeks. She had a dental appointment after the MRI, and had four teeth filled. She didn’t want her mouth numbed, so that kid endured four fillings without any painkiller! Andrea picked up the other kids after school, and also met up with Emily in town.

All the kids had deer tags and wanted to hunt. Last year the only one that had any success was Emily. We have a lot of deer on our creek, especially whitetail (about 30 to 40 of them in our fields all summer, and eating our haystacks in winter) so we need to harvest a few. Our freezers are practically empty (we haven’t butchered a cow for a couple years) so it’s time to do some serious hunting. 

Some of the whitetails are so tame they practically live in our yard, like these fawns and their mother that I took photos of from my window.


Michael got a mule deer on the upper place and Andrea started cutting it up to grind into hamburger for them (she’s the best butcher in the family) and then Thursday evening after school she took Charlie to our 160-acre mountain pasture and he shot a mule deer.

Thursday evening at chore time I noticed that one of Michael’s heifers was in the wrong pasture; the heifers have been reaching under the net wire and stretching it, and she must have crawled under it. After Lynn and I brought her around through the horse pasture and back to her buddies in the field above the house, we took a couple of poles up there with the 4-wheeler. We laid the poles on the ground and tied the net wire down to the poles, so the heifers can’t crawl through that spot. 

On Friday Dani rode with me to the 320 to check the cows, since we hadn’t made it up there for several days. A dozen were down in the bottom corner, thinking it might be time to come home (with the cold weather) so we moved them back up to the top. There’s still some grass on the high part that they need to use before it snows under.


On our way up the ridge, moving the cows, we could see across the canyon on the far side of that pasture—and saw a lone cow standing next to the range fence. It seemed strange that one cow would be off by herself, especially on that hillside that’s been grazed off. So after we got the cows to the top of the 320 and checked the top ridge gate, we went to check on her.

By that time we’d seen all the other cows, and realized that it was Buffalo Baby (a daughter of Buffalo Girl) who was over there by herself. We could no longer see her, and suspected she might have lain down behind some sagebrush. We rode down into the canyon and across Baker Creek (where I had to patch some fence that had either been cut by humans, or the wires broken by elk), and then we rode up to that far hillside.

We found Buffalo Baby lying down in tall sagebrush, and saw that she had lost weight. When we made her stand up, it was obvious that she was very lame, with a swollen right hind foot—a bad case of foot rot. We were very fortunate that she’d been standing up as we came up the opposite ridge, or we never would have seen her, and wouldn’t have known where to look for her.

Dani and I slowly herded her down off the steep mountain, along the fence. She probably hadn’t gone to water for a couple days or so, nor grazed much. When we got her down to Baker Creek she drank and drank, for more than 10 minutes. Then we slowly moved her up out of the creek bottom and over the ridge.

It took a while to bring her the mile and a half down to the corral on our upper place. We put her in the corral and then trotted another mile down to Michael and Carolyn’s house and told Carolyn we’d put Buffalo Baby in the corral. We needed to hurry home because it was almost time for Andrea to take Dani and the other kids to Mark for his weekend with them. Carolyn said that she and Nick would doctor the cow for us that evening. They put her in the chute and give her antibiotic boluses and injections.

Yesterday Emily went hunting up the creek on the 4-wheeler, and shot a whitetail deer. She brought it home on the 4-wheeler, so now Andrea has another deer to cut up to put in our freezers.

I defrosted both of our freezers while they were so empty—putting everything into one and defrosting the other, then putting everything into the other.

That afternoon I reset Dottie’s other front shoe (her foot was getting too long and needed trimmed), to more evenly match the one I had to reshoe a couple weeks ago when she lost a shoe. Lynn and I drove up the creek and checked on Buffalo Baby, and she’s already walking better. She’ll stay in the corral a few days (being fed hay) so we can give her some additional treatments.

NOVEMBER 1 – Last Sunday Emily rode with me to the 320 to check the cows, and she rode Sprout. We moved a few low ones back up the ridge to higher country again.

Andrea spent the day grinding hamburger, and sent about 70 pounds of meat home with Carolyn since she and Michael were completely out of hamburger. I cooked supper and we fed everyone after Andrea and Robbie went to town to get the kids from Mark.

Sam and Charlie mentioned that they’d told their dad that they are going on a special school trip (which falls on his weekend) and wrote it on his calendar. A small group of students from our school’s music program will be going to Boise to see a professional performance of the Broadway play “42nd Street” and Sam and Charlie are part of that group of 14 students. They were afraid their dad would refuse to let them go, so they just announced to him that they are going.

On Tuesday Robbie and Lynn took down the temporary fence dividing the field below the lane, taking out the steel posts and rolling up the electric fence. We won’t need that field split when we put the heifers down there for winter. We also started shutting off our ditches so they won’t make ice flows across the fields.

That evening the sun was highlighting the mountains across the valley so I took a photo from the back porch.

On Friday Andrea finally got caught up enough with the meat processing to ride with me and we checked the cows again on the 320, and got the top trough in Baker Creek working better again (the spring box was plugged up). By now there is a lot of water in Baker Creek, however, so the cows aren’t short of water even if that trough quits running. Up on the ridge we paused to check a group of cattle, and heard an elk bugling in Baker Creek. Sprout was all ears, listening, and then LilliAnnie rubbed on Sprout’s head and chest, wanting to fight the horse.


Yesterday we had more rain. Lynn was able to bring a couple big alfalfa bales from the haystack, with the tractor, for Rubbie and Veggie, before it started raining very much, and we got a tarp over it them. Those two old horses (nearly 29 and 30 years old) have such bad teeth that they can’t eat grass hay very well unless it is very fine, so I’ve been feeding them some leafy alfalfa and they are managing to eat enough of that to keep up their weight.

Andrea, Robbie and kids came down after supper to show us their Halloween costumes; they were headed in to town for the kids to go trick-or-treating to a few friend’s places.

It warmed up and rained part of the night, with a strong wind. Andrea stayed up late and finished boning out Emily’s deer to put the meat on ice (for later grinding); it was too warm for it to continue hanging by the shed.

NOVEMBER 8 – Last Monday it was cool and rainy all day. I did the GI tract
“cleanout” in preparation for a colonoscopy on Tuesday. Lynn and I were both supposed to have colonoscopies this summer (5 years since the last ones) but he had his when he was flown to Missoula in July for emergency medical treatment for his GI hemorrhage. I put mine off until now. Andrea did my horse chores for me Monday evening because I was unable to leave the house.

Tuesday morning it was snowing, but I managed to do my chores quickly and easily because I had the hay all laid out. Andrea helped me finish up (and watered the horses) when she got back from taking the kids to the school bus. My colonoscopy went well, I think, but the doctor was too busy to give me the results afterward; I won’t know how it went until my appointment with the doctor next week.

Dani had a birthday party in town Tuesday evening (11 years old!) but I was too weak and wobbly to go to it. We just wished her a happy birthday and gave her our gift when Andrea and kids stopped by briefly on their way to town.

 On Wednesday we had several inches of new snow. When I did chores that morning I discovered that Willow had wallowed down the electric fence in the corner of her pen and was on the wrong side of it, eating grass and fallen crab apples. The fence had shorted out somewhere and when it’s not working, Willow is very bold and leans over it or tries to go through it. We have that corner of her pen fenced off, by the crab apple tree, so that she won’t eat a bunch of apples and get a bellyache.

Andrea and Robbie got back from taking the kids to the school bus about the time I was finishing feeding the other horses, so they helped me extricate Willow from the mess of hot wires, patch the fence back up (tighter and higher than it was before, with more strands of electrified tape) so she won’t try to go over it again. While I watered the horses they searched along the pasture where the young bulls are, and found where the hot wire was shorting out against a steel post. After fixing that situation, the electric fence was working again, and maybe Willow will leave it alone. I took photos of her eating her hay after we got her rescued, and the new snow on my haystack and pens.

Charlie and Sam practiced with their chorus group all day, in preparation for a concert that evening. Several school from central eastern Idaho sent busloads of kids to Salmon for this event. Usually our kids (the ones chosen to sing in the multi-school concert) go to one of the other schools to participate—with a four-hour bus ride to get there. This time Salmon hosted the event, and all the music groups came here. Lynn and I went to the concert at the high school that evening and it was an incredible presentation of some difficult songs. The kids (and the instructor/conductors) did a fantastic job. Andrea took photos of the kids before the concert, with some of their friends, and a photo of their group singing.


Michael and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls that day with Nick, where he rented a car to drive back to his old college in Iowa, to participate with the track team in their regionals track/cross country meet. The roads were snowy and slick, but they made it OK.

With all the new snow, the grass at the top end of the 320 is snowed under, and the north-facing slope is slippery and treacherous. Carolyn went up there on her 4-wheeler on Thursday and let the cows into the lower section where the snow is not so deep. The new green regrowth from all our fall rains is 2 to 3 inches tall and the cows are enjoying it. When she drove up there, however, 35 elk were in that pasture, eating the green regrowth! So it was time to let our cows in there before the elk it all. The cows all came when she called them, and it was easy to move them through the gate into that lower part.

When I went out to do chores that morning the sunrise was spectacular, with a bit of clear sky between snowstorms.

Andrea took Emily to Idaho Falls for her appointment with the dental surgeon who will be removing her impacted wisdom teeth later this month. It was snowing again and the roads were very bad and slippery on their way home.

Mark called Andrea to tell her he was taking the kids on Friday to an appointment he’d set up with the custody evaluator in Idaho Falls, and Andrea told him that Sam and Charlie were going on a special music trip to Boise on Friday and coming home Saturday evening. Mark then had his attorney write a letter to Andrea’s attorney stating that Andrea “refused to allow the appointment” so Andrea’s attorney had to respond, to tell Mark’s attorney that his client was fully aware that the two older children were attending a school function in Boise and that the children had put the event on Mark’s calendar.

Sam and Charlie went on the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the musical—it was a great experience for those 14 kids who went down there. They got back Saturday evening and Andrea assumed Mark would pick them up off the bus, since it was his weekend to have them, but she met the bus anyway, to take home some of the things Sam and Charlie took along on the trip. They waited and waited, and Mark never showed up. Finally Andrea had Sam call him on her cell phone and Mark was very rude when he answered, thinking it was Andrea. When Sam told him they were back from the trip, he changed his tune and was surprised, because he thought they wouldn’t be back until Sunday—even though all of them had told him differently. Apparently he does not listen to his children!

We had more snow this weekend. I took photos of the bull calves in the orchard.

 On Friday Lynn and I went to the memorial service for one of my high school classmates, Ed Smith. Ed lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, but managed to keep up that battle and have some good times for much longer than the doctors originally expected. On Saturday a group of us classmates got together and shared some great memories. 

The past few days we’ve had cold weather – down to 14 degrees. With the grass snow covered and the weather this cold, I started feeding the weaned heifers (16 heifers and one steer) in the field above the house, taking a little hay out in my wheelbarrow and scattering it around. They still have some grass but the hay gave them encouragement, and was useful for training purposes, getting some of the timid ones more eager to come to me. Now they will be easier to move to the next pasture in a few days because I’ll be able to call and lead them, and they will follow me.


Today Lynn and Andrea went up to the 320 on our 4-wheeler to take another block of salt to the cows and check on their water. The spring is running half a pipe into the trough, and it’s not freezing yet. The cows are grazing happily in spite of the snow. I cooked a big dinner and fed everyone this evening when Andrea picked up her kids from Mark. The kids always enjoy this get-together after coming home from their dad’s place.

NOVEMBER 16 – Last Monday morning after feeding the horses, I moved the heifers to their new pasture below the driveway. They were eager for my “lure” of hay and followed me through the gate and into the lane by my haystack. Andrea and Robbie got back from taking the kids to the school bus just in time to help head them across the driveway and down to the field. There’s enough green grass there to feed them another month or so unless the snow gets deeper.

We had a heavy wet snow Monday night, when Nick was driving back home from the track meet in Iowa, but he made it almost all the way before he stopped to sleep awhile. It was still snowing Tuesday morning when Michael and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls to meet him and return the rental car he drove, and bring him home.

Emily drove the old Eagle to work that day because it has 4-wheel drive, and her little car was having trouble in the snow. Our power went off that morning for an hour and we cooked lunch on our wood stove.

The weather warmed up later in the week; most of the snow melted off the field below the lane so the heifers are happily grazing. Dani went down there to talk to them and make sure her most favorite one (Deerling) would still come up to be petted.

Andrea took Sam to her doctor appointment Wednesday, for another x-ray. The main fracture has healed, but there’s still a problem with her heel bone, so she’ll have to be on crutches another 3 weeks. She’s quite athletic and agile on her crutches, having been on them for several months now—even going on a hike up Panther Creek with Andrea and Robbie before it snowed.

Young Heather drove back from Canada and got home Wednesday night. Her roads were pretty good.

On Thursday Andrea took the kids to the court house instead of to school, to deliver them to Mark to take for his appointment for them with the custody evaluator in Idaho Falls. Andrea picked them up again late that evening. They missed a lot of tests at school that day (that they’ll have to make up next week) and have a lot of homework.

With the snow and frozen, slippery mountainsides, John Miller decided not to leave his draft horses on the 160-acre pasture next to ours (the pasture he’s sub-leasing from Alfonzo) and brought the horses home. John rode one, led two others, and the rest were following along as a herd.

They were hungry, trying to graze along the way, and some of them went into a neighbor’s driveway. Lynn happened along about that time, driving back from Rocky’s new house, and herded them out of the driveway so John wouldn’t have to go back for those.

On Friday Dani rode with Andrea and me to check the water trough and the cows on the 320. Andrea cleaned a little debris out of the overflow pipe, but it was working fairly well. The cows were all happily grazing up on the mountainsides.

The whitetail deer have been getting into our haystacks every night, making great holes along the sides of the alfalfa bales. Robbie put plastic “deer wrap” around one of the stacks on Friday, and yesterday Andrea and Lynn helped him wrap up the other stack. We have about 30 to 35 deer ganging up at the haystack this year. Some of them go through our barnyard and horse pens daily, and aren’t a bit afraid of people unless we get close to them.

Saturday and Sunday Dani and Sam had friends sleep over. Dani’s little friend likes horses, so Dani saddled Ed and they both rode her around in the field above the lane. Dani likes to practice trotting in circles and figure 8’s.

Andrea and I dewormed all the horses on Saturday, except Rishiam. I ran out of dewormer and will have to buy some more for him.

Emily had surgery early this morning at the hospital in Idaho Falls to remove her wisdom teeth. She and Andrea drove over there last night and stayed in a motel near the hospital. Her wisdom teeth are adversely affecting the jaw bones and making her jaw very sore. Andrea brought her home right afterward and Em slept all the way home.

Today I had a doctor’s appointment to finally get the results of my colonoscopy two weeks ago. No major problems.

The proofs for my next book, Ranch Tales – Stories of Cats, Dog and Other Crazy Critters, arrived last week for me to check over. This book will be available very soon, in time for people to order for Christmas gifts. If anyone wants to order autographed copies from me, they can contact me by phone, mail or e-mail (208-756-2841 or P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467, or hsmiththomas@centurytel.net). The price will be the same as my other “Tales” books (Horse Tales, Cow Tales) at $24.95 plus shipping.