Friday, October 16, 2015

Ranch Diary: July 12 through August 24, 2015

Still trying to catch up this blog after our busy summer!

JULY 24 – Lynn was weak and wobbly for a few days after he came back from the hospital in Missoula, so Michael drove the stack-wagon and put some of our hay into my hay shed. Last week Andrea, Dani and I rode to check the 320 fences and make sure no range cows have gotten in. Dani was wearing her new cowboy hat and I took a photo of her as we went up through the timber, and we also saw a young doe resting in the shade.

 The range cows are short on feed in that corner of the range next to our 320-acre pasture, and have been pressing our fence pretty hard, so we try to keep checking our fences.
That evening Andrea, Robbie and Dani hauled several pickup loads of loose hay off the field above the house—the windrows that were too big and damp to bale the evening that the baler broke. They put it in the “sick barn” shed and we can use it later for hay or as bedding for the calving barn. Here’s a photo of Dani riding on top of one of the loads of hay, coming in from the field.

Last Tuesday young Heather started working with Willow again (the 3-year-old Morgan filly that will eventually be Dani’s horse). She did a little ground work with her then got on and rode her briefly around in her pen. The next day she rode her around in the field above the house—the first time she’s ever been ridden outside her pen. Last year when she did some initial rides it was all in her big pen. Dani is eager to have Willow trained so that someday she can ride that filly. She likes to lead and brush her.

Later that day Andrea and Dani and Sammy rode with me and we gathered up 7 range cows and 9 calves that have been hanging on our lower fence on the back side, trying to get into the field. These were cattle that got missed when our range neighbors moved their cattle to the next pasture. We took those cows several miles and put them into another range pasture where they would have more feed and water. Sam and Dani did a great job on Breezy and Ed helping move those cattle.

 On Thursday young Heather took Willow on a longer ride, out onto the low range, and I went along with her on Ed as a “baby sitter” horse. Willow did very well. She has been riding her nearly every day since, and I’ve been going along with her on Dottie. Willow is coming along nicely in training. Here’s are photos of Willow on her third and fifth rides.

 So far she hasn’t needed shoes; she has very tough, hard feet. I simply smooth the edges with a rasp after every ride (partly for foot handling training and partly to keep them from chipping and splitting as she travels through all the rocks on our rides).

Last Thursday Robbie helped Andrea irrigate (she’s doing it all now, since it’s hard for Lynn to do it). Then they baled the hay on Heifer Hill, and Lynn stacked it that evening. On Sunday Lynn cut our last field, and we were able to get it baled on Tuesday. Lynn stacked it that evening, so now we are done haying! We put tarps on the portion that sticks out from under my hay shed, and plan to tarp the other hay (for the cows) in our stackyard across the creek. Here’s a photo of my winter hay supply, tucked in my hay shed, with tarps over the portion sticking out.

 We’ve had more water problems, with Alfonzo taking more than his share from our shared ditches, and we also discovered that he’s been using two illegal ditches (with no headgates) on the place below us, and the ranch below that (with the 1st water right) was short of water. The water master called the Idaho Department of Water Resources for advice on how to deal with these problems.

Yesterday evening the kids got back home from their week with Mark and were very glad to be home. We all had supper here and then Sam and Dani helped me lead Rubbie and Veggie to a new pasture to graze.

I’ve been letting those old horses graze various pens and areas around the barnyard to “mow” the grass. They are so honest about fences that we can put up baling twine “fake” electric fences to partition off certain areas for them to graze.

This morning Heather and I made a short ride on Willow and Dottie (Willow’s 9th ride out in the hills).

Then Andrea and the girls came down to our place and we made a fast ride up to the 320 and back to check fences and make sure no cattle had gotten into that pasture. Sam and Dani enjoyed the chance to ride Breezy and Ed again, and especially enjoyed trotting nearly all the way home down the ridges.

 Emily took her final test and passed it, and now has her GED, finishing school a year ahead of her classmates. We’re proud of her for having a full-time job this year and going ahead with her schooling to finish her high school education.

AUGUST 14 – Two and a half weeks ago we actually had a good rain—rather than a quick lightning storm. It rained off and on all day, and we got about an inch of moisture to help our irrigation and dry spots in our fields and pastures. Between showers Andrea and Dani helped us move the cows to a new pasture but it started raining again as we finished, and we all got drenched.

One cow was quite lame, possible straining a hip while walking through a deep bog in the pasture they came out of. We held her and her calf back when we went through the corrals, and put her in the back pen where she won’t have to walk very much. We gave her an injection of dexamethasone to decrease the inflammation and pain and she started walking better. A few days ago we put her back out with the herd.

Dani rode with Andrea and me on a long ride to check fences and gates, and make sure the range cows hadn’t gotten in. They’ve eaten all the grass in lower Baker Creek and next to our fence. Since most of the troughs on the middle range didn’t get repaired this year (Alfonzo and the Amish family didn’t maintain them like we used to do when we ran cattle out there), the cattle congregated in the few area with water, and overgrazed those areas. I took a photo of the contrast showing the grass on our side of the fence, and the grass on the range where the cattle overused it.

 It was a cold day, threatening rain, so Andrea rode Sprout instead of young Willow, because that filly has never been ridden in the rain. We all dressed warm and it was a good ride.

Two weeks ago Andrea and Carolyn went to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s doctor appointments; her pain doctor put multiple cortisone shots into her back and neck. Sam and Dani rode with me for nearly 5 hours. We checked the 320-acre pasture (no cows had gotten in yet) and we let the horses drink at the one trough that was actually working. Then we made a loop up through the high range and ate our lunch near the Basco trough, coming home through the middle range.

 The next day Heather and I made a loop through the low range on Willow and Dottie—Willow’s 12th ride out in the hills. Willow is doing nicely, crossing Baker creek (the little stream that’s almost dry this time of year), and going up and down the mountainsides. We also keep seeing lots of cottontail rabbits along the Baker Grove (a large patch of trees and brush along one portion of the creek. Here are photos of Willow crossing the little creek, and watching a rabbit hopping into the brush.   

 The next morning Heather left early to drive to Saskatchewan to visit her friend Gregory for 2 weeks and attend his youngest sister’s wedding. Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie for 4 hours and checked fences—and tied a bunch of sagebrush across the path down through the big rocks on the northwest side of the 320 where there’s no fence. We used to have a lot of brush piled in there to keep the range cattle from coming down through those big rocks, but it’s all been taken out. Eventually we’ll carry some poles up there to make a real barrier, but for now the sagebrush will create an obstacle.

The next day Andrea rode Willow for the first time and we made a big loop around the low range. She’s now ridden Willow 8 times (20 rides total for Willow during the past few weeks) and the filly is coming along very well.

 Andrea and Robbie set some steel posts and put up a hot wire along the lower end of the field by Andrea’s house—the portion we didn’t cut for hay—and we let the cows graze that for a few days. Then last Monday Michael and Carolyn got worried that their bull wasn’t breeding; several cows that should have settled earlier have come back into heat. So we loaned them our spare bull (that we’ve had in the corral) and they hauled their bull to the auction sale in Montana.

Lynn’ favorite cat likes to lounge around on the back porch waiting for him to come outside, and this morning she was napping on the new Bar-BQ that Lynn won as a door prize at the auto parts store. Maybe she was waiting for us to cook her dinner!

 The kids got back home from their dad’s house last Thursday and again were glad to be home. Sam hurt her ankle on the trampoline at her dad’s place the previous Friday night and it hurt so badly that she was sure she’d sprained or broken it, but Mark would not take her to the doctor to have it checked. His live-in girlfriend thought Sam was just being a wimp and wouldn’t let her wrap it—and told her to just grin and bear it and walk on it. It was still swollen and painful when they came home Thursday night. Sam had sent numerous text messages to Andrea telling about the painful ankle, but Andrea couldn’t do anything about it because Mark won’t let her have any contact with the kids when they are at his house. So Andrea made an appointment for Sam to see a doctor the morning after the kids got home.

Andrea and Robbie had to leave early that the morning to drive to Bozeman, Montana, to pick up a new trumpet for Sam that a college student was selling at a reasonable price, so Lynn took Sam to the doctor. The ankle was x-rayed and the doctor thought there was a hairline fracture in one of the growth plates, and said she should not have been walking on it at all—and was appalled that Mark had not brought Sam in to have it checked soon after the accident. She put the ankle in a brace and Sam is on crutches until another checkup. It continues to be swollen and painful.

 On Friday I rode with Michael and Carolyn to the 320 to check fences. Michael rode a young mare he got this spring. She has some problems and a bad history (and an unusual “ear tooth” that had to be removed so she could tolerate a bridle) and was given to Michael, but she also has a lot of potential to be a good horse. He was pleased at how she did after she finally settled down.

She handles nicely on the ground, but turns into a bomb about to explode when you get on her. She was apparently raced or barrel raced as a filly and thinks that she needs to go fast with a rider and won’t stand still. But after we rode to the top of the 320 in a very short time, she was tired enough to settle down and realize that she didn’t need to rush everywhere. She even stood still for Michael to get off, reset the saddle and tighten the cinch (with Carolyn on Gus, nearby) before coming back down the mountain. She did nicely on the way home.

 On Saturday, with all the hot weather we’ve had, the creek has dropped more and there isn’t enough to service all the water rights. The upper place had to be shut off, and then a few days later part of the 3rd right on the old Gooch place. With water this short we have to carefully monitor the flows and the water master is checking to make sure Alfonzo isn’t taking more than his allotted amount.

We moved the cows to a new pasture and took the bull out. He can live in the corral with a couple heifers to keep him company (so he won’t try to jump out) until Michael and Carolyn no longer need our other bull—and then both of those bulls can spend the rest of the fall and winter together in the corral.

Alfonzo and the Amish moved their cows to the high range, but neglected to fix some of the water troughs (just like they didn’t fix all the troughs on the middle range pasture) and their cows are short on water. Some will have to go over the mountain into Withington Creek to get water. We took photos of some non-working troughs, and some of the thirsty cows trying to drink from a couple of troughs where the springboxes are plugged up and the pipes are just trickling—with not enough water for the cattle.

 These past few days Michael and Nick built a new fence (net wire topped with a pole) to divide Rubbie and Veggie’s old pen. We will use one side for Rubbie and Veg and put our new horse in the other side. Shiloh is an Arab-Morgan mare that young Heather trained for her college professor in Helena 5 years ago, and kept her here one summer on the ranch getting her conditioned for an endurance ride. Now her professor is giving her to Heather, but she doesn’t have enough use for the mare and is giving Shiloh to us—so we’ll have a spare horse when all the kids want to ride.
My next book, Cow Tales—More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, was recently published and can be ordered from the publisher or any book seller. I am also selling autographed copies ($25 per book plus $4 postage). If anyone wants an autographed copy of Cow Tales, or my book Horse Tales, they can contact me at 208-756-2841 or P.O. Box 215, Salmon, ID 83457, or by e-mail at

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