Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ranch Diary - May 11 through June 21, 2015

MAY 21 – We had rain last week; the weather has been cold and wet. The field above the house where the cows and calves were living was muddy for quite awhile and Buffalo Girl’s calf got foot rot. We brought her and Gilbert, in from the field last Wednesday and gave him antibiotics to treat his swollen hind foot. Dani helps with the cows and calves every chance she gets, and likes to walk among them to keep them gentle.
Andrea and Robbie have been helping Lynn change irrigation water and clean out more ditches. There’s plenty of water right now in the creek from snowmelt on the mountain, but our neighbor above us still tries to use everything in the two ditches that we share! Several times we’ve had to walk up the ditches and readjust his dams to get our share of the water again. We need to get our fields well irrigated this spring before the creek gets too low in mid-summer.

The cows were hungry for green grass, and tired of hay. We kept them on hay in the little field above the house until we had pasture tall enough to put them on. There’s a good net-wire fence around that little field but they were reaching under it as far as they could, to eat the taller grass outside the fence, and Mary Mary Quite Contrary’s calf Spotrick got through the fence last Saturday.  I put him back through a hole the cows had made, and laced up the hole with baling twine.

So the next day (Sunday) we moved the cows and calves to the lower end of the swamp pasture above the corrals. They are glad to be out on grass and we are glad to not be feeding hay!  We didn’t quite run out of hay. We’re still feeding the 10 heifers some alfalfa hay (along with their pasture) until we can get them vaccinated, tagged, and put out with the cows.

Lynn used our tractor and blade to scrape the silt off Andrea’s upper driveway—from the runoff in March that flooded down along her road.  

Michael and Nick finished a fencing project that afternoon; they built a fence for a man who lives 8 miles up the valley.  He needed a new fence to keep the range cows out of his property. Every year when the ranchers turn their cows out on the range nearby, some of the cows get into his place because the old fence was falling down. Michael and Nick got new fence finished just in time—on the day the cows went to the range. One old cow who always got through the fence came over the hill and paced around the new fence twice before she gave up and went back over the hill.

Our last cow was overdue 5 days from her projected calving date, and finally went into labor Monday morning. I had to go to the eye doctor that morning (with a serious eye infection) so Andrea stayed here and watched the cow till Lynn and I got back from town. The cow started active labor late afternoon. When the calf’s feet appeared, they were huge, and we assumed it was a big bull calf, and thought we might have to pull it. But she calved ok without help, and when Andrea and I dipped the navel stump in iodine we were surprised to see that it was a heifer calf.

By the time it nursed, Dani was home from school and wanted to help us move the pair to a pen by the barn. The calf was still pretty so Dani helped push her along. Dani and Sam named the calf Butterfly Eyebrow because one of the white marks above her eyes looks like a butterfly. We’re calling her Butterflybrow for short. Dani loves the cattle and often pretends she’s a cow. A few days ago she found some ear tags and a cow tag in the old toy box at our house, and used tape to attach them to herself, going around on all fours and mooing like a cow!
Later she helped us put the cows and calves in the upper end of the swamp pasture where there’s more grass. We are saving the lower part of that pasture (which is fenced off from the creek) in case the creek comes up higher and we have to move them into a safe place where the calves won’t be at risk for drowning. Those pastures are boggy right now, and we have two more calves with foot rot.  This morning Lynn and I sorted out Rosalie and her calf (Zorrarose) and Cupie Doll and her calf (Panda Bear) and brought them down to the corral to treat their calves for foot rot.

Today Dani’s class at school had a field trip to see the Big Hole Battlefield in Montana. Andrea and Robbie went along with the class to help with the field trip. This is Andrea’s birthday; she’s 45 today.  Lynn and I silently celebrated the fact that we have a 45-year-old daughter and 3 very special grandchildren that would not exist if Andrea had perished in the fire 15 years ago this summer. We have much to be thankful for.

MAY 31 – Michael wrote an article for Progressive Forage Grower magazine, published this month.  He hopes to start doing more writing again. Perhaps the publication of his daughter Heather Carrie’s first book will encourage him to do more writing!  Her book, Basic Horsemanship: How to Stay Safe with Your Horse, just came out and is now available through the publisher (The Frontier Project), Amazon.com and other booksellers.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.  Emily’s photos are on the front and back covers.
Young Heather hasn’t seen the book yet; she is presently in Canada visiting her friend Gregory on his grain farm. 

Last Sunday we brought the cows and calves down from the swamp pasture and brought the heifers from the horse pasture. Michael, Carolyn and Nick helped us vaccinate, deworm and tag the 10 heifers—putting new ear tags in theirs and brisket tags on our heifers (their permanent numbers).  Then they hauled their heifers to the upper place. We vaccinated our cows and bulls, then branded and vaccinated our calves. Dani helped, and enjoyed lounging around with the calves in the shade of the shed as they waited to be branded.
Cub Cake’s calf was lame on a hind leg when we let him out of the calf chute after branding him, and we think he may have cracked a leg bone getting it caught in the chute. So we left him and his mama in the back pen with another cow and calf and didn’t put them up in the field with the rest of the cows.

On Monday I let Rubbie and Veggie out into the barnyard area next to their pens to let them graze.  They are eager for green grass. In the warmer weather Veggie is no longer so stiff and lame, and his arthritic joints will also do better if he’s moving around more. Out on pasture with his old buddy he won’t be needing “bute” every day. I let the two old horses adjust to the change in diet gradually, grazing briefly the first day, and longer the next, until by the 4th day they could stay out fulltime on the grass.

Dani has been helping me do chores when she gets home from school, and enjoys interacting with the cattle and horses. She helped move the cattle back to the upper part of the swamp pasture, and likes to check off the cows and calves in the pasture daily and make sure they are all doing ok.

On Thursday Andrea went with Dani’s class on their field trip to go fishing. I helped Lynn nail another pole on the fence in the back corral where frost heaves have raised the fence a bit, leaving too much space where calves might possibly crawl under the lowest pole. Andrea helped Lynn change irrigation water when she got home from town, then took clothes for Sam and Charlie to change into after school for their band and vocal concert. Lynn and I did chores early and went to hear their concert.  Sam had a trumpet solo in her band group, and she and Charlie both got several special awards for their accomplishments this year in band and chorus.

Michael and Carolyn had a busy day, hauling horses to the vet at Challis (70 miles away)—one for dental surgery, and their mare and foal, for correctional surgery on the foal’s front legs. When they came home they had a problem with the hydraulic steering on their tractor. Michael and Nick went to town for parts and spent the evening fixing it.

On Friday Nick started digging post holes and setting more posts in the fence between our 160-acre hill pasture and the neighboring one. This is a new fence that we built only 3 years ago, but the neighbor’s cattle have pushed it so hard reaching through for grass (when they ran out of feed on their side the past 2 years) that they loosened the wires and pushed some of the steel posts crooked. Then last fall they sorted their range cattle in the bottom corner and rammed and jammed them against the fence so hard that they knocked wires off and bent some of the steel posts. We are now putting wood posts in every space between steel posts and tightening the wires. We’ll have to completely rebuild the fence on the bottom end and plan to put poles on that section.

This weekend Andrea and Robbie put steel posts down across the field below the lane and put up an electric fence to divide it. We will graze the wet area on the lower end that we can’t cut for hay; it takes too long to get it dry enough to not sink into the mud with the haying equipment.

JUNE 11 – We’ve had lightning storms but not much rain. Weather turned hot and dry. Last Tuesday Andrea and Dani helped move the cattle to the field below the lane.

Michael and Nick set more posts in the fence along our 160 pasture and Andrea went to Dani’s school program. Then the kids went to their “end of school party” at the school. They had their last day of school the next day, and had to go to their dad’s place that evening. Things are a bit tense, since Mark re-opened the divorce case and is trying to get full custody of the 3 kids instead of the current shared custody (he gets them every other week during summer, every other weekend during the school year, and alternating years on various holidays). Things were working fairly well this way, until this past December when Mark’s new girlfriend moved in with him. The kids don’t mind spending part of the time with their dad but they don’t like the girlfriend.

On Friday Michael and Nick built a weir for our ditch that serves the field on Heifer Hill so we can measure how much water we are actually getting to our field. This is a ditch we share with our neighbor Alfonzo above us; he can have half of it as long as there is plenty of water in the creek, but after the creek gets low, this ditch is our water because our place has a prior water right. We’ve had problems because he keeps taking more than his half and we need a way to show how much is actually getting to our place.

Saturday Michael and Nick made an adjustment to the corral on the upper place; they created a little chute with panels, to funnel calves to a branding table. On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and Nick rounded up their cows and calves on the 160-acre pasture and brought them down to that corral to brand and vaccinate. We drove up there to see the bull calf we’ll be buying from them when he is weaned this fall.
Then we helped guard a bad spot in the fence to keep their bull from jumping in with the cows, and helped sort some of the cows. They ran the cows through their running chute to vaccinate and deworm.
Then they branded and vaccinated the calves. Nick pushed them one by one into the little chute to the calf table, where Michael branded and Carolyn vaccinated them. They kept two calves as bulls (and didn’t castrate them)—one for them and one for us. 
Then they took the cows and calves back to the 160-acre hill pasture. They’ll stay there a few more weeks until they put the bull in with them.

Lynn helped Andrea clip the long hair off her dogs for summer; they’ve been miserably hot in this warmer weather.

On Monday we moved the cows and calves down to the old “post pile pasture” for a few days. The grass there is as tall as their shoulders. We keep rotating them around the ranch, letting the grazed pastures regrow. That afternoon Andrea and I rode Ed and Breezy, and that evening we let Cub Cake and her calf (with the healing leg) into the grassy pen next to the corral they’ve been living in. He is walking on that leg pretty well now.

Tuesday morning early (while it was still cool) Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me and we rode them later that day, getting them ready for the little girls to ride them again. Lynn’s back is really bothering him; he overdid working on some fence-fixing in the post pile pasture.

John Miller hauled 18 heifers and a bull to the 160-acre hill pasture adjacent to ours (which he is sub-leasing from Alfonso for the summer), so there is now a bull right through the fence from Michael’s cows and heifers. They were nose-to-nose when Lynn drove up there to talk to the carpenters working on my brother’s new house (we are buying some hay from one of them), so he chased Michael’s herd up away from the fence and put a lot of staples in that part of the fence. This is the part that got so badly damaged last fall when the neighbors sorted their cattle against it, and it needs rebuilt.

Later that day, one of John’s heifers crawled through another fence (next to the road) and came down the road. She went into Michael’s barnyard, and then when Nick chased her out she went on down the road, past our place, and into Alfonzo’s field through his open gate. She went across his fields, through the fence on the far side, over the hill and back home to John’s place!

Yesterday morning Michael put shoes on Dottie for me. Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie up the creek and herded John’s cattle up out of the creek bottom and up the draw so they would go up on the mountain to graze. Later that afternoon Michael put shoes on Sprout, just ahead of a thunderstorm.

This evening the kids got home from spending a week with Mark and they were delighted and excited to be home. Dani hiked down to the post pile pasture with me to check on the cows and calves and was able to pet Mini-Mag—her favorite calf.

JUNE 21 – Last week Sam and Dani rode with us several times while they were home. The day that Alfonzo and Millers moved their range cattle (from the low range pasture to the middle range) they missed 17 cows and their calves on the upper end of that pasture. We came across several small groups of cattle during our ride and gathered them. Sam and Dani were good help moving those cattle to the middle range.

With those cattle gone from the low range, we could move our cows and calves to the little hill pasture above our house. We didn’t want to move them up there until there were no bulls adjacent to them, since we don’t want any of our cows bred quite this early. Andrea and Robbie helped Lynn haul our water troughs up there, and pumped water for the cows (from our ditch across the road), and on Saturday we moved them up there. Dani caught and saddled Ed and rode with us to move the cows.
That evening Michael went up the creek to check on his cows and found Miller’s bull trying to get over the fence to breed one of Michael’s heifers, so he chased the bull away from the fence, with the help of his dog, and moved his herd of cattle out of our 160-acre pasture, up to the 320. He hadn’t planned to go into that 320-acre pasture until he puts his bull with his cows, but this crisis forced an early change. Rebuilding that part of the fence, between us and Alfonzo’s pasture, with poles instead of wires, is now a high priority. We talked with John Miller and he will help dig the post holes with his tractor and auger and will furnish some of the poles for it.

Last Monday Andrea and Lynn went to pump water for the cows on our hill pasture and the ditch was drying up. Our neighbor Alfonzo had taken all the water again! They had to go up the ditch and adjust the dam he put across it. We have to fill the water troughs every other day while the cows are in that pasture.

On Wednesday Charlie wanted to ride with us, so he rode Breezy and we made a short loop out over the low range. This was Charlie’s first ride this year and he enjoyed getting out in the hills, seeing the wildlife (including antelope), and the cactus in bloom.

Emily passed her 3rd test (math) for her GED and hopes to take the last test (science) later this week. When she passes it, she will be the first student from her age group to get her GED, graduating from high school a year ahead of her class.