Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ranch Diary: October 25 to November 16, 2015

OCTOBER 25 – We’ve had a little rain, the past 10 days, and some cold weather. Last week it got down to 21 degrees, which is our coldest night so far. Before that, things were still pretty green. On one of our rides to check cows, Dani and I rode up Baker Creek and I took photos of some of the old aspen trees with bear claw marks on the trunk.

Dani has also been helping gentle the heifer calves in the field above the house, walking through them, and letting them come up to her. Ours know her already, but Michael’s four heifers are a bit timid and suspicious, so it’s good for them to get used to people walking amongst them.


Last Tuesday Andrea took Sam for her doctor’s appointment and an MRI to check her ankle. It showed that the fracture in the growth plate has healed, but there is still a problem with a bone in her foot, and her heel—that were not obvious in the x-rays. The doctor said she needs to be on crutches again for 6 to 8 weeks. She had a dental appointment after the MRI, and had four teeth filled. She didn’t want her mouth numbed, so that kid endured four fillings without any painkiller! Andrea picked up the other kids after school, and also met up with Emily in town.

All the kids had deer tags and wanted to hunt. Last year the only one that had any success was Emily. We have a lot of deer on our creek, especially whitetail (about 30 to 40 of them in our fields all summer, and eating our haystacks in winter) so we need to harvest a few. Our freezers are practically empty (we haven’t butchered a cow for a couple years) so it’s time to do some serious hunting. 

Some of the whitetails are so tame they practically live in our yard, like these fawns and their mother that I took photos of from my window.


Michael got a mule deer on the upper place and Andrea started cutting it up to grind into hamburger for them (she’s the best butcher in the family) and then Thursday evening after school she took Charlie to our 160-acre mountain pasture and he shot a mule deer.

Thursday evening at chore time I noticed that one of Michael’s heifers was in the wrong pasture; the heifers have been reaching under the net wire and stretching it, and she must have crawled under it. After Lynn and I brought her around through the horse pasture and back to her buddies in the field above the house, we took a couple of poles up there with the 4-wheeler. We laid the poles on the ground and tied the net wire down to the poles, so the heifers can’t crawl through that spot. 

On Friday Dani rode with me to the 320 to check the cows, since we hadn’t made it up there for several days. A dozen were down in the bottom corner, thinking it might be time to come home (with the cold weather) so we moved them back up to the top. There’s still some grass on the high part that they need to use before it snows under.


On our way up the ridge, moving the cows, we could see across the canyon on the far side of that pasture—and saw a lone cow standing next to the range fence. It seemed strange that one cow would be off by herself, especially on that hillside that’s been grazed off. So after we got the cows to the top of the 320 and checked the top ridge gate, we went to check on her.

By that time we’d seen all the other cows, and realized that it was Buffalo Baby (a daughter of Buffalo Girl) who was over there by herself. We could no longer see her, and suspected she might have lain down behind some sagebrush. We rode down into the canyon and across Baker Creek (where I had to patch some fence that had either been cut by humans, or the wires broken by elk), and then we rode up to that far hillside.

We found Buffalo Baby lying down in tall sagebrush, and saw that she had lost weight. When we made her stand up, it was obvious that she was very lame, with a swollen right hind foot—a bad case of foot rot. We were very fortunate that she’d been standing up as we came up the opposite ridge, or we never would have seen her, and wouldn’t have known where to look for her.

Dani and I slowly herded her down off the steep mountain, along the fence. She probably hadn’t gone to water for a couple days or so, nor grazed much. When we got her down to Baker Creek she drank and drank, for more than 10 minutes. Then we slowly moved her up out of the creek bottom and over the ridge.

It took a while to bring her the mile and a half down to the corral on our upper place. We put her in the corral and then trotted another mile down to Michael and Carolyn’s house and told Carolyn we’d put Buffalo Baby in the corral. We needed to hurry home because it was almost time for Andrea to take Dani and the other kids to Mark for his weekend with them. Carolyn said that she and Nick would doctor the cow for us that evening. They put her in the chute and give her antibiotic boluses and injections.

Yesterday Emily went hunting up the creek on the 4-wheeler, and shot a whitetail deer. She brought it home on the 4-wheeler, so now Andrea has another deer to cut up to put in our freezers.

I defrosted both of our freezers while they were so empty—putting everything into one and defrosting the other, then putting everything into the other.

That afternoon I reset Dottie’s other front shoe (her foot was getting too long and needed trimmed), to more evenly match the one I had to reshoe a couple weeks ago when she lost a shoe. Lynn and I drove up the creek and checked on Buffalo Baby, and she’s already walking better. She’ll stay in the corral a few days (being fed hay) so we can give her some additional treatments.

NOVEMBER 1 – Last Sunday Emily rode with me to the 320 to check the cows, and she rode Sprout. We moved a few low ones back up the ridge to higher country again.

Andrea spent the day grinding hamburger, and sent about 70 pounds of meat home with Carolyn since she and Michael were completely out of hamburger. I cooked supper and we fed everyone after Andrea and Robbie went to town to get the kids from Mark.

Sam and Charlie mentioned that they’d told their dad that they are going on a special school trip (which falls on his weekend) and wrote it on his calendar. A small group of students from our school’s music program will be going to Boise to see a professional performance of the Broadway play “42nd Street” and Sam and Charlie are part of that group of 14 students. They were afraid their dad would refuse to let them go, so they just announced to him that they are going.

On Tuesday Robbie and Lynn took down the temporary fence dividing the field below the lane, taking out the steel posts and rolling up the electric fence. We won’t need that field split when we put the heifers down there for winter. We also started shutting off our ditches so they won’t make ice flows across the fields.

That evening the sun was highlighting the mountains across the valley so I took a photo from the back porch.

On Friday Andrea finally got caught up enough with the meat processing to ride with me and we checked the cows again on the 320, and got the top trough in Baker Creek working better again (the spring box was plugged up). By now there is a lot of water in Baker Creek, however, so the cows aren’t short of water even if that trough quits running. Up on the ridge we paused to check a group of cattle, and heard an elk bugling in Baker Creek. Sprout was all ears, listening, and then LilliAnnie rubbed on Sprout’s head and chest, wanting to fight the horse.


Yesterday we had more rain. Lynn was able to bring a couple big alfalfa bales from the haystack, with the tractor, for Rubbie and Veggie, before it started raining very much, and we got a tarp over it them. Those two old horses (nearly 29 and 30 years old) have such bad teeth that they can’t eat grass hay very well unless it is very fine, so I’ve been feeding them some leafy alfalfa and they are managing to eat enough of that to keep up their weight.

Andrea, Robbie and kids came down after supper to show us their Halloween costumes; they were headed in to town for the kids to go trick-or-treating to a few friend’s places.

It warmed up and rained part of the night, with a strong wind. Andrea stayed up late and finished boning out Emily’s deer to put the meat on ice (for later grinding); it was too warm for it to continue hanging by the shed.

NOVEMBER 8 – Last Monday it was cool and rainy all day. I did the GI tract
“cleanout” in preparation for a colonoscopy on Tuesday. Lynn and I were both supposed to have colonoscopies this summer (5 years since the last ones) but he had his when he was flown to Missoula in July for emergency medical treatment for his GI hemorrhage. I put mine off until now. Andrea did my horse chores for me Monday evening because I was unable to leave the house.

Tuesday morning it was snowing, but I managed to do my chores quickly and easily because I had the hay all laid out. Andrea helped me finish up (and watered the horses) when she got back from taking the kids to the school bus. My colonoscopy went well, I think, but the doctor was too busy to give me the results afterward; I won’t know how it went until my appointment with the doctor next week.

Dani had a birthday party in town Tuesday evening (11 years old!) but I was too weak and wobbly to go to it. We just wished her a happy birthday and gave her our gift when Andrea and kids stopped by briefly on their way to town.

 On Wednesday we had several inches of new snow. When I did chores that morning I discovered that Willow had wallowed down the electric fence in the corner of her pen and was on the wrong side of it, eating grass and fallen crab apples. The fence had shorted out somewhere and when it’s not working, Willow is very bold and leans over it or tries to go through it. We have that corner of her pen fenced off, by the crab apple tree, so that she won’t eat a bunch of apples and get a bellyache.

Andrea and Robbie got back from taking the kids to the school bus about the time I was finishing feeding the other horses, so they helped me extricate Willow from the mess of hot wires, patch the fence back up (tighter and higher than it was before, with more strands of electrified tape) so she won’t try to go over it again. While I watered the horses they searched along the pasture where the young bulls are, and found where the hot wire was shorting out against a steel post. After fixing that situation, the electric fence was working again, and maybe Willow will leave it alone. I took photos of her eating her hay after we got her rescued, and the new snow on my haystack and pens.

Charlie and Sam practiced with their chorus group all day, in preparation for a concert that evening. Several school from central eastern Idaho sent busloads of kids to Salmon for this event. Usually our kids (the ones chosen to sing in the multi-school concert) go to one of the other schools to participate—with a four-hour bus ride to get there. This time Salmon hosted the event, and all the music groups came here. Lynn and I went to the concert at the high school that evening and it was an incredible presentation of some difficult songs. The kids (and the instructor/conductors) did a fantastic job. Andrea took photos of the kids before the concert, with some of their friends, and a photo of their group singing.


Michael and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls that day with Nick, where he rented a car to drive back to his old college in Iowa, to participate with the track team in their regionals track/cross country meet. The roads were snowy and slick, but they made it OK.

With all the new snow, the grass at the top end of the 320 is snowed under, and the north-facing slope is slippery and treacherous. Carolyn went up there on her 4-wheeler on Thursday and let the cows into the lower section where the snow is not so deep. The new green regrowth from all our fall rains is 2 to 3 inches tall and the cows are enjoying it. When she drove up there, however, 35 elk were in that pasture, eating the green regrowth! So it was time to let our cows in there before the elk it all. The cows all came when she called them, and it was easy to move them through the gate into that lower part.

When I went out to do chores that morning the sunrise was spectacular, with a bit of clear sky between snowstorms.

Andrea took Emily to Idaho Falls for her appointment with the dental surgeon who will be removing her impacted wisdom teeth later this month. It was snowing again and the roads were very bad and slippery on their way home.

Mark called Andrea to tell her he was taking the kids on Friday to an appointment he’d set up with the custody evaluator in Idaho Falls, and Andrea told him that Sam and Charlie were going on a special music trip to Boise on Friday and coming home Saturday evening. Mark then had his attorney write a letter to Andrea’s attorney stating that Andrea “refused to allow the appointment” so Andrea’s attorney had to respond, to tell Mark’s attorney that his client was fully aware that the two older children were attending a school function in Boise and that the children had put the event on Mark’s calendar.

Sam and Charlie went on the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the musical—it was a great experience for those 14 kids who went down there. They got back Saturday evening and Andrea assumed Mark would pick them up off the bus, since it was his weekend to have them, but she met the bus anyway, to take home some of the things Sam and Charlie took along on the trip. They waited and waited, and Mark never showed up. Finally Andrea had Sam call him on her cell phone and Mark was very rude when he answered, thinking it was Andrea. When Sam told him they were back from the trip, he changed his tune and was surprised, because he thought they wouldn’t be back until Sunday—even though all of them had told him differently. Apparently he does not listen to his children!

We had more snow this weekend. I took photos of the bull calves in the orchard.

 On Friday Lynn and I went to the memorial service for one of my high school classmates, Ed Smith. Ed lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, but managed to keep up that battle and have some good times for much longer than the doctors originally expected. On Saturday a group of us classmates got together and shared some great memories. 

The past few days we’ve had cold weather – down to 14 degrees. With the grass snow covered and the weather this cold, I started feeding the weaned heifers (16 heifers and one steer) in the field above the house, taking a little hay out in my wheelbarrow and scattering it around. They still have some grass but the hay gave them encouragement, and was useful for training purposes, getting some of the timid ones more eager to come to me. Now they will be easier to move to the next pasture in a few days because I’ll be able to call and lead them, and they will follow me.


Today Lynn and Andrea went up to the 320 on our 4-wheeler to take another block of salt to the cows and check on their water. The spring is running half a pipe into the trough, and it’s not freezing yet. The cows are grazing happily in spite of the snow. I cooked a big dinner and fed everyone this evening when Andrea picked up her kids from Mark. The kids always enjoy this get-together after coming home from their dad’s place.

NOVEMBER 16 – Last Monday morning after feeding the horses, I moved the heifers to their new pasture below the driveway. They were eager for my “lure” of hay and followed me through the gate and into the lane by my haystack. Andrea and Robbie got back from taking the kids to the school bus just in time to help head them across the driveway and down to the field. There’s enough green grass there to feed them another month or so unless the snow gets deeper.

We had a heavy wet snow Monday night, when Nick was driving back home from the track meet in Iowa, but he made it almost all the way before he stopped to sleep awhile. It was still snowing Tuesday morning when Michael and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls to meet him and return the rental car he drove, and bring him home.

Emily drove the old Eagle to work that day because it has 4-wheel drive, and her little car was having trouble in the snow. Our power went off that morning for an hour and we cooked lunch on our wood stove.

The weather warmed up later in the week; most of the snow melted off the field below the lane so the heifers are happily grazing. Dani went down there to talk to them and make sure her most favorite one (Deerling) would still come up to be petted.

Andrea took Sam to her doctor appointment Wednesday, for another x-ray. The main fracture has healed, but there’s still a problem with her heel bone, so she’ll have to be on crutches another 3 weeks. She’s quite athletic and agile on her crutches, having been on them for several months now—even going on a hike up Panther Creek with Andrea and Robbie before it snowed.

Young Heather drove back from Canada and got home Wednesday night. Her roads were pretty good.

On Thursday Andrea took the kids to the court house instead of to school, to deliver them to Mark to take for his appointment for them with the custody evaluator in Idaho Falls. Andrea picked them up again late that evening. They missed a lot of tests at school that day (that they’ll have to make up next week) and have a lot of homework.

With the snow and frozen, slippery mountainsides, John Miller decided not to leave his draft horses on the 160-acre pasture next to ours (the pasture he’s sub-leasing from Alfonzo) and brought the horses home. John rode one, led two others, and the rest were following along as a herd.

They were hungry, trying to graze along the way, and some of them went into a neighbor’s driveway. Lynn happened along about that time, driving back from Rocky’s new house, and herded them out of the driveway so John wouldn’t have to go back for those.

On Friday Dani rode with Andrea and me to check the water trough and the cows on the 320. Andrea cleaned a little debris out of the overflow pipe, but it was working fairly well. The cows were all happily grazing up on the mountainsides.

The whitetail deer have been getting into our haystacks every night, making great holes along the sides of the alfalfa bales. Robbie put plastic “deer wrap” around one of the stacks on Friday, and yesterday Andrea and Lynn helped him wrap up the other stack. We have about 30 to 35 deer ganging up at the haystack this year. Some of them go through our barnyard and horse pens daily, and aren’t a bit afraid of people unless we get close to them.

Saturday and Sunday Dani and Sam had friends sleep over. Dani’s little friend likes horses, so Dani saddled Ed and they both rode her around in the field above the lane. Dani likes to practice trotting in circles and figure 8’s.

Andrea and I dewormed all the horses on Saturday, except Rishiam. I ran out of dewormer and will have to buy some more for him.

Emily had surgery early this morning at the hospital in Idaho Falls to remove her wisdom teeth. She and Andrea drove over there last night and stayed in a motel near the hospital. Her wisdom teeth are adversely affecting the jaw bones and making her jaw very sore. Andrea brought her home right afterward and Em slept all the way home.

Today I had a doctor’s appointment to finally get the results of my colonoscopy two weeks ago. No major problems.

The proofs for my next book, Ranch Tales – Stories of Cats, Dog and Other Crazy Critters, arrived last week for me to check over. This book will be available very soon, in time for people to order for Christmas gifts. If anyone wants to order autographed copies from me, they can contact me by phone, mail or e-mail (208-756-2841 or P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467, or The price will be the same as my other “Tales” books (Horse Tales, Cow Tales) at $24.95 plus shipping.

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