Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January 15 – February 4, 2015

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 cows.

Her 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 weekend.
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.

JANUARY 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.
On 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.

FEBRUARY 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 at home.
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 tournament.
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 children.
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.
And 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.


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  3. Wow! Those are such great photographs! It's nice to know that problems and issues with your vehicle and the fuel didn't get in the way of enjoying the beauty of your surroundings. There are lots of refueling services on standby anyways, should the fuel tanks be wonky and stuff. Anyways, here's to more pleasant sunsets ahead! Cheers!

    Abraham Yates @ Apache Oil Company