Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ranch Diary – April 20 through May 10, 2015

APRIL 28 – A couple weeks ago Emily bought her first car—a 1994 Pontiac that needs a little fixing. She found it on-line, in Rigby, a 3 hour drive from here. Andrea and Robbie borrowed a friend’s car carrier and went to get it last week. They left after Robbie got home from work (he works at a ranch south of town) and were nearly home by midnight, but came upon a wrecked semi blocking the back road—just before they got to our creek road. The semi was delivering stove-making materials to one of the Amish families that life around the hill from us, and didn’t make the corner. The trailer was tipped nearly over, into a ditch, and the tractor part was tipped over off the other side of the road.

There was no way past it, so Andrea had to turn her truck and trailer around (a bit tricky) and go back to the highway. The state patrolman directed them to detour through a private lane—but they had to take a locked gate off its hinges to get through. So they finally got home at 3 a.m. The road was blocked all night; there wasn’t a wrecker in Salmon big enough to handle the semi. They had to wait for two wreckers to come from Idaho Falls.
Last Monday the guys who built Andrea’s house 3 years ago came up and put new shingles on the roof where severe winds had taken the shingles off. That day Charlie’s singing group from school went to Rexburg to a singing contest. Charlie is doing very well with his music—both in band with his trombone, and in chorus. His teacher thinks he has a lot of talent and could have a career in music.
Robbie has been changing sprinkler pipes on a ranch that has some goats. Andrea’s kids enjoy going out there sometimes after school to see the baby goats, and pet the ones that are being raised on bottles.

On Tuesday we had 3 cows calving. LillyAnn calved first—a little red heifer calf. It was up and nursing within 30 minutes. Cupie Doll had a big black brockle-faced heifer that Dani named Panda Bear because of the big black spots on her eyes, and her black “lipstick” making a permanent smile. Dani helped me do chores that evening after Lynn brought her home from the bus. She helped me move that pair from the calving pen to the second-day pens below the barn, to make room for the next calving cow. Panda Bear was still a little unsteady on her feet and Dani enjoyed pushing her from behind to get her to go across the driveway. Then Dani rode in the tractor with her mom for awhile as Andrea finished the harrowing.
That night Lilly Annie (LillyAnn’s daughter) was restless and in early labor—and calved the next morning—a black heifer calf. The heifers are way ahead of the bull calves this year, and with only a few cows left to calve there is no way they will be able to catch up!
On Friday it rained and snowed all day. Charlie and Dani helped us dump and move a water trough from the maternity pen (since there are were only 3 cows left there) to the field above the house. We need an extra trough up there to water all the cows with calves. The weather has been cold at nights, down to 26 degrees, but getting warmer during the day, so the grass is trying to grow.
Andrea and Em drove to Idaho Falls on Saturday for a doctor’s appointment. That morning our last red cow started calving, but she didn’t progress in labor. Finally that afternoon, the feet started to show, but the amnion sac was filled with very dark fluid and we knew the calf was in trouble. If the calf is stressed too much during birth, he passes his first bowel movements, into the amniotic fluid that surrounds him.
We’d already called Michael, to help us check the cow in case it was a breech calf or some other abnormal position that needed correction, so we put her in the headcatch and Michael reached in and discovered that the legs were back at the elbows (feet and head all jammed together rather than the feet extended in front of the head), making it impossible for the calf to come through the birth canal very easily. He had to pull the legs out to proper position and then pulled the calf. It was a red bull calf, and covered thickly with meconium (that material he’d pooped out). His mama had to lick all of that off. But he was still alive, in spite of being too long in the birth process. Now we just have 2 cows left to calve, and they look like they’ll be awhile.

MAY 5 – Last Wednesday Andrea helped Lynn put up a temporary electric fence along the south side of the pasture where the cows and calves are—to keep the calves from eating gravel along the ditchbank and also keep them away from the elk panels on that side of the field (the backside of the stackyard). On year we had a calf reach through those and get its head caught, so we don’t want to have that risk.
Lynn cleaned more of our ditches with tractor and blade.

On Saturday our friend from north Idaho (who was here for a few days looking for elk horns in the mountains) helped him shovel and rake debris out of a couple ditches. We finally got some of our ditches turned on at the creek so we can start irrigating.
Dani likes to stop here after school when Lynn brings the kids home from the bus, and she helps me with evening chores, feeding the horses and heifers. She also likes to pick grass for the cows. They are still on hay in the little field above the house until the grass grows a little taller in our other pastures. They are very hungry for green grass, so they eagerly come to eat grass out of Dani’s hands. She’s determined to make pets out of ALL of them! She fills a bucket with green grass that she picks along the edges of the barnyard, and doles it out to her favorite cows.

On Sunday Michael and Carolyn moved their cows from the fields on the upper place, herding them up to our mountain pasture. They still have 3 cows left to calve, but they need to get that group away from the creek—which will soon be at high water stage. They don’t want any calves drowning, trying to cross the creek.
We are still waiting for 2 last slowpokes in our herd. The heifer, Buffalope, is most ready (she’s due to calve in about a week) so now I am putting her in the calving pen at nights, under the lights from the hay shed, so I can see her easier at night.
Michael had an article published in this month’s Progressive Forage Grower magazine, and has another assignment to write an article for a summer issue. He hopes to start doing more writing again.
Right now, however, he and Carolyn, Andrea and Em are getting ready for their trip tomorrow—to drive to Oskaloosa, Iowa for Nick’s graduation from William Penn University. Today Andrea and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls to pick up a van to rent, for the trip. While in Idaho Falls, Andrea had her monthly appointment with her pain doctor, and also dropped off some documents with her lawyer, pertaining to the custody case that Mark is pursuing in his attempt to get full custody of Dani, Sam and Charlie. On their way home from Idaho Falls with the rented van, Andrea and Carolyn picked up Carolyn’s mom Irene Allen at Arco. She will be going with them to Nick’s graduation in Iowa.

MAY 10 – Early Wednesday morning Michael and Carolyn and Irene came down to pick up Andrea and Emily and they started their trip. Lynn took Andrea’s kids to the school bus an hour later. The travelers made it as far as Rapid City, South Dakota (by 11 p.m. that night) to stop for the night, and continued on to Oskaloosa on Thursday.
At chore time later that morning we took a photo of Dani’s two favorite calves—Mini Mag and Panda Bear.

Our last heifer, Buffalope, started calving Wednesday morning and we put her in the calving pen just before lunch. One foot started showing—just the tip of the toes. Within 20 minutes that leg was sticking out almost to the knee, and the calf’s nose was showing, but the other leg was not there. Lynn and I got all the gates ready to bring Buffalope across the driveway to the headcatch in front of the barn, so we could restrain her and go fishing for the other leg. But in the meantime Buffalope got up and down a few more times, the calf went back in, and the next time she lay down to strain, both feet were there. So we just left her alone and she soon gave birth to a red heifer calf.
It was on its feet within 30 minutes, and within a couple hours it had nursed adequately, so we moved the pair to the pen below the barn where there’s a windbreak on one side and brush along the other two sides. The weather had become stormy, starting to rain before evening. Brush in the far corner of that pen overhangs the pen, making a sort of roof, and that’s where the new mama and her baby spent the night. We had a gentle rain all night long.
On Thursday Lynn took Andrea’s kids to the school bus, and picked them up again after school. Dani stopped off here and helped me do chores and feed the cow and calf below the barn. She named the new calf Raindrop. This calf is uniquely colored. She’s all red, except for some black hairs on top of her head making her look like she has a wig, and a couple inches of black coloring at the tip of her tail! The next day, both Sam and Dani helped with chores, and helped us catch and tag Raindrop. They also went up in the field to look at their favorite calves and feed grass to the cows.

Saturday was Nick’s graduation. It started at 10 a.m and lasted until 1 p.m with 310 seniors graduating. As soon as it was over, Michael and Carolyn, her mom, and Andrea and Em loaded up all his stuff in his pickup and headed home. Em rode with Nick in the pickup.

 That afternoon Sam and Dani came down from their house early and helped me trim Veg and Rubbie’s feet before chores. They picked grass for those two old horses, which kept them both very happy as I trimmed their feet. With their stiff, painful joints, it’s hard for them to hold a hind leg up very long or very much off the ground. The grass treat helped their grumpy attitudes and they were not very hard to trim.
After we did chores we checked on all the babies up in the field, and Dani showed Sam her new pet. One of the calves has become very bold and comes up to Dani to have her head and back scratched. She’s a great-granddaughter of Maggie, Dani’s favorite old cow that we had to sell last fall. When this calf was born, Dani named her Mini-Mag, and it looks like she’ll be a replacement for Maggie as Dani’s best pet. At first she was timid and wouldn’t let Dani touch her (when this photo was taken), but now she’s more friendly.

 After chores, the girls helped me make pizza (biscuit dough, covered with browned hamburger, cheese, tomato sauce, sliced olives and slices of hot dogs) and Charlie hiked down to join us for summer. Robbie got home from work in time to eat with us, and took the kids home after supper. Then Lynn and I stayed up late, periodically talking with Andrea as we tracked their slow progress through a terrible rainstorm and wind. It started raining when they left the college and got worse as them went through part of Nebraska, changing to snow when they got into South Dakota. The road was treacherous and they counted 6 vehicles (including 2 semis) that had slid off the freeway. Nick’s pickup didn’t have enough traction and slid around a few times but Nick managed to keep it on the road. Their rented van doesn’t have very good tires for winter travel and it was a slow and treacherous trip, finally getting to Rapid City at 1:30 a.m. to spend the night.
This morning (Sunday) they had more than a foot of new snow in the motel parking lot. The snow plows were trying to keep the freeway clear, however, so they headed on home, with fog, rain/snow and poor visibility, but at least it was daylight.