JANUARY 18 – On Friday Andrea helped Lynn feed the cows while I did phone interviews for articles I’m writing for a horse magazine. I’m still recovering from the bad respiratory “bug” and don’t have much voice yet, but at least I don’t have to just whisper!
After Lynn and Andrea took the tarp
off the hay (we have to cover the truck every night, to keep the deer
from eating on the hay and pulling it out of the bales and wasting some)
she took a picture of Lynn as they got into the truck to go feed the
friend Robbie changed the oil in her car, since it has gone too many
miles since the last oil change. That afternoon they took Dani to Sun
Valley for Dani’s hockey tournament this weekend.
With all the
kids in hockey, playing on different teams, it’s been a challenge to
get them to all of their various tournaments. Some of them play in
different towns on the same weekend, or one of the kids will have games
here at home while one or two others go to different towns. Andrea
often has to find rides for them with other team members on the weekends
when she is taking one of them a different direction, since their dad
refuses to take them to tournaments even when he has the kids for that
Gas and motel expenses for these frequent trips is a
challenge, so Lynn and I help out all we can, with money for gas and
lodging. They take food along, so they don’t have to buy meals. One
nice thing this year about the Sun Valley trips is that Andrea and kids
have been able to stay in a room furnished by the Seventh Day Adventist
Church, for a small donation, making those trips less expensive. Dani
had a lot of fun on this trip, getting acquainted with the pastor and
his wife and two young girls. She also played enthusiastically in their
hockey games. Their team lost most of their games, but tied the last
one, and Dani was proud to be able to make the final goal—the point that
tied the game. On the way home Andrea took photos of the sunset.
Here at home it was cold (down to 2 degrees yesterday morning).
Jasper, one of the dogs tethered near the heifers (in our efforts to
keep the deer from eating so much of their hay) broke his cable and was
chasing the heifers, so we had to patch it back together and Lynn went
to town for a new dog tether. The deer are getting very bold, and come
to eat with the heifers in spite of the dogs. When I went to do chores
that evening there were 7 deer lounging around in the field waiting for
me to feed the hay. They come right back when we chase them away, and
as soon as it starts to get dark even more of them come to eat the
heifer’s hay. They’ve also been jumping into Veggie’s pen again and
eating all of his alfalfa hay, and tearing down the electric fence.
Emily came by and helped Lynn carry wood. With the cold weather we
have to fill the wood box nearly every day. I finished an article I’m
writing, giving tips on how to deal with broken legs in calves (for a
cattle magazine). I sent photos from a professor I interviewed, showing
how to create a splint, and also photos of Peggy Sue (a calf we had in
2005) in the barn with her mother Rishira, with a cast on her leg. The
cow stepped on the calf’s leg soon after she was born, and broke it, but
it healed nicely.
Today Michael and young Heather came down to our place after they
finished feeding their horses, and helped us take 2 more big bales of
straw up to the cows. With all the ice, it’s getting harder to get
around with our big tractor; Michael had trouble getting away from the
straw stack with the bales. We’ll have to put chains on the tractor
before we give the cows more straw in a few days.
26 – Michael spent several days working on Andrea’s old car—the Eagle
she bought from our neighbors when she was still in high school in the
mid 1980’s and drove thousands of miles. She’s getting it running
again, to have a spare vehicle for Em to drive to work and hockey
practice. Em has a fulltime job, is working on her GED, and also takes
the kids to hockey practice in the evenings on days that Andrea can’t.
Sam and Em both had birthdays this month; Em turned 17 and Sam is 12.
These kids are growing up fast! We gave Em a box of camera lenses that
someone was selling inexpensively. They won’t all fit her camera, but
the big one—that she really wanted—will probably fit with an adapter.
She’s been taking lots of photos, and had some really nice photo books
created, showcasing some of her best pictures.
We couldn’t find
our tractor chains; we haven’t used them for several years and don’t
know where they ended up. Michael’s tractor chains were easier to
locate, but frozen in the ice. He chopped them out of the ice and
helped Lynn put them on our tractor. This made it a lot easier to load
the hay and straw bales without getting stuck. It was down to zero for a
few nights, so we were also chopping ice for the cows.
Friday Em went to her hockey tournament in Missoula, Montana with a
teammate, Lynn took Charlie and Dani to the hockey rink here (for
practice and games and to meet up with their dad since it’s his weekend)
and Andrea took Sam (and one of her teammates) to her tournament in Sun
Valley because Mark wouldn’t take her.
This weekend was a
great experience for Sam and her friend; they had good games and a lot
of fun. They enjoyed seeing the snow sculpture created each year (with a
chain saw, from packed snow) by a fellow at Sun Valley, and posed next
to it. Andrea also took pictures of Sam and two teammates.
They stayed again at the room provided by the Seventh Day Adventists,
and the pastor and his wife fed them dinner. The pastor had a guitar
and taught Sam some more chords, since she wants to learn how to play.
3 – Last week Michael worked on Andrea’s pickup, and also helped Lynn
build a new fence along the ditch next to the lane to the calving barn.
After putting in the new culvert last fall and cleaning out that ditch,
it’s really deep and we don’t want calves falling into it when we’re
taking them to and from the barn.
Last Wednesday I was
interviewed for a podcast on off-farm income, discussing how I’ve used
writing as a way to help make ends meet here on the ranch for the past
48 years. Writing articles and books has been my off-farm job I can do
Andrea helped Lynn feed cows that morning. It was very
foggy, and at first they could hardly see the cows. Then she took
photos as the fog started to lift, and tried to take pictures of a “fog
rainbow” that was really unique.
The young cows (heifers and 2nd calvers) are not competing very well
with the older cows that push them away from the hay piles, and are
losing a little weight. We decided to move the young cows to heifer
hill where they can be fed separately, to make sure they get their share
of the alfalfa hay.
We needed another feeder for them—for the
big straw bales—and couldn’t afford the price of a new one (nearly
$500). Michael chopped and pried one of his old round bale feeders out
of the ice on the upper place and brought it down with his tractor, and
we put it on heifer hill. Then we brought all the cows down Sunday
morning, and put them through the chute. Michael and Carolyn gave them
their pre-calving vaccinations and another round of delouse pour-on,
then we sorted off the heifers and a few of the skinniest young cows and
took them to heifer hill. Sam didn’t have a hockey tournament that
weekend, so she enjoyed helping us sort the cows and move them. Andrea
wasn’t here to help because she’d taken Charlie to his hockey
Meanwhile, three days before that, Andrea had been
notified that Mark is reopening the divorce case and wants full custody
of Charlie, Sam and Dani. This was an emotional blow to Andrea and to
all of us, because we thought things were working fairly well with their
shared custody. The kids have been able to spend time with both
parents. It seems that the big issue for Mark is his reluctance to pay
child support; he thinks he will be better off if he has custody of the
kids and Andrea has to pay him child support!
The kids don’t
want to be fulltime with him, however, because they want to be with
their mom and older sister Emily, and they enjoy the wide family circle
here on the creek—interacting with grandma and grandpa, their uncle
Michael and aunt Carolyn, and their older cousins Heather and Nick when
they are home. The kids also don’t want to give up their experiences
here on the ranch, riding horses and helping take care of the cattle and
enjoying their favorite pet cows. So it looks like another court
battle, and we will try to help Andrea keep shared custody of her
The day after she got served the papers, she took
Charlie to his hockey tournament in Wyoming, and Dani went with friends
to her tournament in Idaho Falls (again, Mark wouldn’t take either
child). Emily had a hockey tournament here, so Lynn, Sam, Michael and
Carolyn went to watch some of her games and cheer for her team.
speaking of teams, the nice thing about having all of our family here
on the creek is that we are all a team—and enjoy helping each other.
Lynn and I are “battery back-up” for getting kids off the bus, juggling
trips to town for their activities, helping Dani with homework. Michael
and Carolyn and family, and Andrea and kids help us with the ranch
projects and things that are getting harder for Lynn and me to do. It’s
a blessing having our family all here together, and we want to be able
to keep it together.