Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ranch Diary: July 1 through August 10, 2016

[I didn’t take very many photos this past month, except at our granddaughter Heather’s wedding reception!!]

JULY 12, 2016 – Last week Andrea went to the hospital for an MRI on her neck and spine, which showed a serious bone spur in her neck and some narrowing—which may explain some of the nerve problems (numbness in her arms every morning) and pain. She goes to physical therapy twice a week, which helps, but may need to go to a spine specialist to figure out what can be done about the vertebra problems and bone spur.

Grandson Nick ran a cross-country race during Salmon River Days and came in second. He is now coaching the cross-country runners at the middle school and high school (as a volunteer) and has been hired as a track coach.

Lynn turned and baled hay on the field below the lane, until the baler broke down. Robbie was able to fix it a couple days later and we got that field baled and hauled. Then the next day we baled and hauled the field by Andrea’s house. We got done haying earlier this year than we have for several years, so we can now hopefully irrigate those fields and get some regrowth for fall pasture--before the creek drops too low and we run out of water.

Early Wednesday morning Robbie helped Andrea set several steel posts along the fence below our house where trees have fallen over it. They got that fixed before we had to move the cows back down to that pasture. Then he went to work (helping Michael and Nick build custom fences) and Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed to gather up the 3 range bulls that were hanging on our outside fence, trying to get in. They were obnoxious and didn’t want to go, and one of them threatened my horse briefly. The older one kept trying to run down the mountain the wrong way and we had to outrun him down through the rocks and sagebrush. We had to take them a couple miles, but eventually got them to their proper pasture.

That evening we moved the cows and bull to the pasture below the lane, since the range bulls are gone now (and our bull won’t try to go through a couple fences to fight them and they won’t be trying to get into our place to fight him), and moved the heifers and yearling bull to my horse pasture.

We’ve been having hot weather, up into the 90’s during the day. At least it cools off at night and we can open the windows and cool off the house.

On Friday Sam and Dani rode with Andrea and me on a short ride over the low range, and I took some photos of the girls riding Breezy and Ed.
We discovered a dead cow of John Miller’s that must have died while their cattle were out there in late May. We called to tell them about it, and they were not aware that she had died. Her orphan calf would have been about 3 months old when he lost his mom, and probably got moved to the middle range in June.

I cooked dinner for Andrea and kids that evening, and granddaughter Heather stopped by after dinner with a dress for Sam to try on. Heather’s wedding is the 23rd of July. Her best friend from college, Lexie, is supposed to be a bridesmaid, but she is in China teaching English, and having trouble getting her travel visa approved to come back to the U.S. for the wedding. If she isn’t able to make it, Sam will be a “standby” bridesmaid to fill in for Lexie.

On Saturday Nick ran in the extreme challenge 60 kilometer race along the continental divide (across the valley from our ranch, on the mountain range between Idaho and Montana). People from all over the world come here to run it. A man from France came in first, and Nick came in 9th which he felt very good about. The trail was very rugged and treacherous in places, along the top of some dramatic cliffs.

We had a thunderstorm the next day, and were glad it didn’t happen the day of the race. Lightning knocked out Michael and Carolyn’s phone and they had no phone service for a couple days. Their dog Baxter got scared by the Thunder and went up to Rocky’s place. He tried to call them to ask if this was their dog, but their phone wasn’t working. Baxter is one of the two old cowdogs that hid in the old Explorer during a lightning storm a few years ago, and “drove” it down off the hill where it rolled a few times and ended upside down, smashed, on the county road with the dogs still in it.

Today our new watermaster and his boss checked all the ditches on our creek and Gary learned how to read all the different weirs.

JULY 20 – Andrea helped Lynn and me put a tarp on my haystack—the part that sticks out past the hay shed. We moved the cows to our upper swamp pasture. The heifers are running out of grass, but have to keep them in the horse pasture a few more days with the young bull, so we are feeding them a little alfalfa hay to stretch their pasture.

Michael, Carolyn and young Heather have been working on all the preparations for the wedding this coming weekend. Michael leveled a place for pouring a cement patio on the shady side of their house, and Carolyn and Heather have done a lot of landscaping. They created some lovely flower beds, and covered the hill by their house with rockwork. Lynn went up there on Saturday and sanded their deck railing (to smooth off any old wood splinters) and sanded the wood blocks for the table centerpieces for the reception dinner. Heather came up with unique centerpieces symbolizing their combining forces—with a horse on one side and a tractor on the other.
On Sunday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to check the 320 fences, to make sure no range cows are getting in, since those cows have eaten all the grass on the middle range side of our place and are pressing the fence. We discovered that Alfonso had already put a bunch of his cattle into the high range (a couple weeks early) and they’ve already eaten out Baker Creek just above the 320.

We realized that his bulls now have no buffering pasture between them and Michael’s cows (and the bull we loaned Michael). Andrea and I rode around the mountain above our 320 and found a group of cows and a big bull on that salt ground just above our place – if they came around the fence they would be next to Michael’s cows and bull. The bulls would likely fight and tear the fence down, with risk of injuring one or both.

Andrea called Carolyn from the ridge above the 320 where there’s cell service and luckily caught them in the house taking a break from their landscaping work. We asked if they wanted us to bring their cattle down before the bulls created a problem. They were glad we were up there to remedy this crisis, and they drove up the creek on a 4-wheeler to open gates. We brought their cattle down out of the 320 to their field, after taking a few minutes to prop up some fence the elk pushed over.

Heather stopped by our place later that day to pick up a dozen empty milk jugs to freeze water in – to have some ice for their coolers. She and Carolyn drove to Montana on Monday to meet Gregory on his way down from Canada, and they bought all the produce for the barbecue and the reception dinner (to bring home in the coolers and store in our extra refrigerator space).

Andrea and I made a quick ride on Shiloh and Dottie. It was the 1st ride on Shiloh this year. We’ve just been too busy with everything else to get her back into working again. We still need to start working with Willow again, too, and continue her training.

The past few days we’ve been having water problems, with our neighbor Alfonso stealing water—not only taking more than his allotment out of the creek, but also using part of our water in the shared ditches. The creek is dropping, and water is getting shorter in supply. We’ve had a lot of hot weather – in the mid 90’s every afternoon, but cool nights (high 30’s to mid-40’s).

Yesterday morning Andrea was awakened at about 5 a.m. by her dogs barking frantically. She looked out the window and saw a big cougar right by her deck. She yelled at it and it and it went down through the field by our cows and calves. Later full daylight they looked at its tracks in the mud by the sprinklers and they were huge.

That afternoon our cows and calves were running around, bawling, but we didn’t find anything wrong. Then last night just before dark Cub Cake was bawling, trying to find her calf, so Andrea went to check, and found her calf across the creek, dull and weak and breathing fast. She could hardly get him to cross the creek. He was so weak and wobbly that he almost fell down going up the other bank.

I helped her sort that pair out of the herd and through the gate and brought them down to the corral and over to the barn. It was completely dark by then so we put them in the pen by the barn where we could plug in the light above the headcatch. We cornered him there and took his temperature. He had a fever of 105 degrees. We gave him antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory medication, and left him and his mom in the second day pen pens where there is grass and some shade/shelter. We figured that he might have pneumonia, from the stress of such hot days and cold nights. This morning he’s feeling better, drinking water and grazing a little, and has nursed his mom a little.

We had our vet, Dr. Cope, come out this afternoon to check the calf and to also check our yearling bull. We worried that he might not be fertile. He has bred every heifer, but the first 3 that he bred have cycled again. We decided to have him checked, and if he’s not fertile we will put the heifers in with the cows and the older bull. Cope took a semen sample to test, and said the yearling has live sperm but his sperm count isn’t great. His assessment was that the yearling should be able to settle a cow, so we’ll leave him with his group of heifers and hope that those “returns” were just a fluke.

While Cope was collecting a semen sample, the side of our squeeze chute broke. The chute is old (we bought it in 1979) and the bottom parts have become corroded from rust and manure. It was awkward trying to finish the collection with the whole side of the chute flopping loose (and the bull just caught by the head). We’ll have to fix it before we can use the chute again, and it’s probably a blessing it broke now, rather than in the middle of preg-checking our cows later this fall.

We had Cope look at our sick calf while he was here, and he was puzzled at how the calf could have been so sick last night and so perky and normal this morning. He suspected it might have been heat stress (from the hot day yesterday and maybe some additional stress with the cougar and the cattle running around and upset) with possibly a touch of early pneumonia that responded quickly to our treatment last night. At any rate, the calf is doing much better today.

This evening we had another challenging situation. Alfonso diverted ALL of our water out of the ditch by Andrea’s house and she didn’t realize it until she got home late this afternoon. Not only had we been shortchanged on our allotted water for irrigating that field, but the lack of water in the ditch nearly burned up her little pump that she was using to water her yard. She left a phone message for Alfonso, and we also called the watermaster, so he could explain again to Alfonso that he cannot legally use the water that comes through our ditch.

JULY 30 – We kept Cub Cake and her calf in the pens by the barn a few days just to make sure he was doing ok, and then put them back with the herd.

We’ve had more water problems. Alfonso is using much more than the allotted rights on the place he is leasing from Colstons, and Jack (at the mouth of the creek) was short for his right, so the watermaster adjusted everyone’s headgates and shut off the 4th right (our upper place, which is Michael and Carolyn’s place). There would have been enough in the creek for everyone, however, if Alfonso hadn’t been using more than his share.

This past weekend was special, with the wedding of our oldest granddaughter to Gregory Eppich, a young grain farmer in Saskatchewan. Last Thursday Lynn took our barbeque and all our plastic chairs up to Michael’s place, and the guys hauled Andrea’s picnic table up there. Most of the Canadian guests had arrived (many of them were staying in motels and Gregory’s parents and Carolyn’s mom staying at their house). Carolyn’s brothers and their families camping there.

Friday morning Sam and Dani helped me clean house and then we moved our heifer group to the field above the house. That afternoon we all went up to the barbeque at Michael and Carolyn’s house. It was nice to meet Gregory’s family and we enjoyed visiting with his parents, sisters and relatives. We also got a peek at the wedding cake, made by Carolyn’s brother’s wife. The top of the cake as adorned with a wedding couple sitting on a little tractor.
Saturday we all went to the wedding at the little Catholic Church downtown, and afterward there were some family pictures taken outside the church—the bride and groom with their parents (Carolyn and Michael, and Barb and John Eppich).
And a photo of Gregory and Heather with her grandparents (Lynn and me, and Carolyn’s mom Irene)

Here are a couple more photos of the bride and groom right after the wedding, taken at a friend’s ranch:
Lynn and I came home to do chores after the wedding, then went back to town for the reception. The dinner was really nice (many friends pitched in to help make the dinner) and the slide show was a lot of fun. They’d put together a bunch of old pictures taken when Heather and Gregory were growing up—showing both of them at various stages of their lives through childhood—plus photos him on the farm in Canada and her riding horses here on the ranch. The final photos were some that Emily took earlier this summer when Gregory was here—neat photos of the two of them together in scenic settings here on the creek.

After the dinner, speeches and toasts, they cleared away the tables for a dance. The two little flower girls (Gregory’s nieces, who are cousins the same age) spread rose petals along the floor.
Before the dance, Gregory’s sister Theresa, and his good friend and neighbor Leon entertained everyone with a humorous song they had “rewritten” about marriage and John Deere tractors. Here are photos of the singing, and the listeners.
Then Heather and Gregory had their first dance, as man and wife, and they were a very handsome couple!
This was followed by several special relative dances, starting with the bride and her father, the groom and his mother, Heather and her new father-in-law, Gregory and Carolyn, etc. Michael gave a little speech before his dance with Heather, telling how everything had come full circle, starting when he carried her around when she was baby/toddler singing to her in the middle of the night to help her fall asleep, and now dancing with her at her wedding.
Michael told about Heather’s early love of horses, and how he used to sing her the Ian Tyson song "Adelita Rose," about all the pretty little horses. So that’s the song that they played for the father/daughter dance for this wedding, and it was very touching. Michael sang along softly with the Ian Tyson music, singing the lullaby he used to sing to his little daughter:

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
You know she is my sunshine wherever she goes
Lie-lie-lie lay-lay-lay
Lie-lie-lie lay-lay-lay
She is my sunshine wherever she goes.

Adelita Rose stay in your own little bed tonight
For the sake of your Momma and me.
We gotta get some sleep
Tomorrow's gonna come early.

We don't wanna hear any sound at all
Don't wanna hear little feet coming down the hall
Got to sleep, dream of all the pretty little horses.
The blacks and bays and the dapples and grays,
The red tail hawk on the summer days
The gravel road winding down to the river

And watch that pony or goodness knows
He's gonna step on your baby toes
Go to sleep, dream of those
Pretty little horses.
Then everyone danced—and it was delightful watching everyone enjoying themselves. The little flower girls were dancing with each other,
…and the bride dancing with her uncles, and all of us just savoring the joy of this occasion. Here’s a photo of Heather dancing with her uncle Brian, along with the flower girls dancing around them.
All the little kids were having a blast, dancing around with everyone else. One of Gregory’s nieces (Maria who is not quite 3 years old) stole the show, dancing around and around by herself through the whole time. I captured her happy face a few times in my camera as she went whizzing by.
The bride danced with nearly everyone, including the flower girls.
Andrea danced with her kids, and I was able to snap photos of her dancing with Charlie and with Samantha.
I got to dance with my grandsons, and my son, and we just all had a wonderful time. Here’s a photo Andrea snapped of me and Charlie.
I also had the honor of dancing with Gregory, my new grandson-in-law!
My brother Rocky was talked into dancing by Samantha.
Grandson Nick gave his 4-year-old cousin a good time out on the dance floor.
Near the end of it all, I caught a few candid shots, including Gregory and his new father-in-law Michael having some kind of discussion.
At one point Michael and Carolyn actually had a chance to dance with each other.
After the dance, Heather and Gregory cut their wedding cake, and everyone enjoyed a piece of that wonderful creation.
Sunday morning, Michael and Carolyn hosted a brunch for everyone at their place, with Michael cooking pancakes. It was a nice chance to visit again with the Canadians before they had to leave for home. Just as it all started, however, happy spirits were dampened by a phone call from Judy Skinner (good friend of Michael and Carolyn—ranchers across the valley from us) to say that Jim had been in a 4-wheeler accident, so Carolyn and Heather rushed over there to help Judy. Jim was life-flighted to a hospital in Missoula Montana. He was very lucky, we found out later, with no internal injuries. They did surgery on his shattered arm, but they said he would soon be back home again.

Later that day we visited with Leon and his wife and daughter (the farmers who neighbor with Gregory) who stayed 2 nights with Andrea. Then Gregory’s aunt Norma and uncle Neal came down to visit us, and then Gregory’s parents, Barb and John. It was nice to get to know them better.

That evening Lynn and I moved our cows to their next pasture--an easy job that mainly consists of calling them, opening the gate, and getting out of the way as they pour through it! Leon and family came down to our place again that evening to see the horses and Dani also wanted to show them her favorite heifers, so we walked out in the pasture above the house and the heifers all grouped around us to eat grass out of our hands.

Monday and Tuesday nearly all the Canadian guests were leaving to drive back to Saskatchewan. There was a brief thundershower Tuesday afternoon but not much rain. Lightning started a big fire the other side of town on Napoleon Ridge. That evening Heather and Gregory brought back our chairs and barbeque grill and visited a bit, then went over to see Jim Skinner, who had just got home from the hospital.

Gregory left for Canada the next morning and Heather will be leaving in a few days to finish up a few things. She won’t be coming home again for quite awhile; she has to stay at least 2 years without leaving Canada, to gain her citizenship.

Wednesday morning Andrea and I rode with the girls briefly. That evening Dani and her friend Sekowa started cross-country practice with their 6th grade team, with Nick as their coach.

Thursday morning, the watermaster came out here adjusting water. Right after Gary left, Alfonso took water out of one of our ditches again, and raised the headgate on another ditch on the Gooch place to take more than his allotted share, so Gary had to come back and readjust it, and tell him AGAIN that he can’t take water out of our ditch.

We moved the cows down to back field across the creek. It has enough regrowth, after haying, that it might last them a couple weeks.

Friday Andrea and I rode 4 hours and checked 320 fence along the top (Alfonso and Millers moved the rest of their cows to the high range that morning) and we patched a couple places where the elk had broken the wires going over the fence.

This evening Andrea and Robbie helped Lynn take apart the broken chute and load up the two sides in Andrea’s pickup—and took them to Vern England to weld and fix. He’s the excellent welder who very creatively reconstructed our wrecked flatbed trailer several years ago when it and the tractor slid off an icy road and rolled down a hill.

AUGUST 10 – Last week we moved the heifers again, putting them on new pasture. It’s a juggling act, rotating them around, and the cows in their group, hoping to have enough irrigation water to keep the fields green and growing so there will be regrowth to come back and graze again as we rotate around.

Vern England got the broken pieces of our chute welded back together, and Lynn and Andrea went over to get them. A couple days later Robbie put them on the chute and it works again. It’s a good thing we got it fixed because we had to use it to treat one of our bulls with a second dose of antibiotics for foot rot. This is the big bull we loaned to Michael and Carolyn this year. They discovered he was lame so they put him into their upper corral and into their old chute. They treated him with a long-acting injectable antibiotic (oxytetracycline) and sulfa boluses, then hauled him down to our corral.

We rounded up our big bull the same day (it was time to take the bulls out of the cows, to make sure our calving season ends in early May next year) and we put him in the back corral with a cow and calf to keep him company so he wouldn’t try to jump out. We rounded up the heifers and took the yearling bull out of their group, to put with the lame bull to keep him company. We had planned to sell both of the older bulls; Michael was going to haul them to a sale this week. But now we’ll have to wait a month on the lame bull until he is fully recovered and no longer has any antibiotic residue in his body. He can live in the corral for awhile with the yearling bull.

It’s been a streak of bad luck lately. The reason Michael and Carolyn discovered that the bull was lame was because they were looking for a calf that disappeared. They didn’t find the calf, so Andrea and Carolyn went back again the next day and searched through the brush. They saw 3 coyotes in that field, and Carolyn has seen them several times in that area. Now we are thinking something happened to that calf and the coyotes ate him.

Michael is recovering from an accident with his 4-wheeler when it tipped over on a steep hill when he was hauling posts, on a fencing job. He wrenched his knee severely while attempting to get away from it so it wouldn’t crush him.

Robbie had a bit of bad luck when he was working on his pickup a few evenings ago, putting a newer engine in it. He was underneath it and the strap holding the engine broke, and it fell on his chest. It’s a good thing he (and Michael) are pretty tough! They are both sore, but fortunately neither one of them was seriously injured in their mishaps.

We are still having water problems. The creek was too low during several hot days to fill all the rights so the 3rd and 4th rights are now shut off and our 2nd rights are cut in half. Two of our neighbors are irrigating at night, however, and turning their ditches back off in the morning, which makes the flow erratic and the water even shorter. One of them tried to make it look like we were stealing water, by turning on one of our ditches in the middle of the night. We are hoping that by next year everyone will be forced to have lockable headgates. We’ve been pushing for this for the past 3 years, but there are a couple users on the creek who DON’T want headgates locked, for obvious reasons. Lynn and Robbie welded some angle iron on one of our headgates, with holes in it for adjustments. We plan to put locks on all of our headgates, and at least that will keep other people from tampering with ours.

Dani is enjoying track practice, running several nights a week, and Charlie started drivers’ education class last week. He will be 15 year old this month, and is eager to get his driver’s license.
The kids came home Thursday night from a week at their dad’s place and they are happy to be home. They all had supper here, then the girls helped me lead Rubbie and Veggie back to their ditch bank pasture. I had them behind the barn for about a week, eating the grass so it would be all cleaned up (and not a fire hazard) for parking the haying equipment there. On Friday Lynn cleaned hay out of baler and swather and parked them behind the calving barn until next year.

Saturday we had thunderstorms that started several more forest fires. Between showers, Lynn located a water well for some people on the other side of town, and Andrea and Robbie helped me put the big bull through the chute and give him more antibiotic injections. He’s still a bit lame, but walking better—putting weight on that hind foot. We’re hoping he won’t need any more medication.

After the thunderstorm we had strong winds that blew branches off the elm tree by our house. On the other side of town, a burst of wind blew one rancher’s hay shed apart and blew it clear out of his barnyard and onto the highway. Fortunately no one was hurt.