Friday, October 28, 2016

Ranch Diary – August 10 through September 8, 2016

AUGUST 18 – It’s been a dry summer and we’ve had problems on our creek with irrigation water; a couple of neighbors have been using more water than their allotted portions and shortchanging the rest of us. Last week the Idaho Department of Water Resources sent a letter to all water users on our creek, stating that everyone must have lockable headgates by August 19th.

We welded additions to our headgates and made them lockable, and even put our own locks on until the watermaster can come around and put his lock on them, since someone has occasionally been tampering with our headgates.

Michael and Carolyn’s dog Fred was bitten by a rattlesnake last week. She suffered two bites: one on her nose and another on the side of her face. Fortunately all their dogs received the anti-venom vaccine this spring, or the swelling would have been worse and she might have suffocated. Even so, they had to give her dexamethasone and an antihistamine for several days to reduce the swelling. She’s doing fine now, but she looked pretty sad with her swollen, droopy face; she looked like a Saint Bernard on one side.

There’s been a family of cougars roaming our creek—two big females, and kittens. They’ve killed several deer on our upper place, and one evening some hunters were driving down the creek just before dark, and saw the two females stalking Classy (Carolyn’s mare) and the yearlings. The horses didn’t even know the cats were there, creeping up behind them. One of the cougars was just about to pounce on Classy, so one of the hunters shot at the cougar to scare it away, and the other hunter took photos. They later sent some of the photos to Carolyn.

Cougar stalking Classy

Last week Michael hauled our 3-year-old bull (Thunderbull) to the sale at Butte, Montana. We have to wait awhile to sell the other bull, after treating him for foot rot, so we’ll send him to a sale in September.

Michael and Carolyn hauled their young bull down to our corral and we put him with our yearling bull to spend the winter here again.
They found their missing calf, the one they feared was dead. He had a broken shoulder and wasn’t able to walk much, and was living in a patch of brush up on the hillside. Carolyn got him down off the hill, but his mother is the mean cow that tried to knock Carolyn down in the ditch this spring. As Carolyn was bringing the calf down to the field across the creek to join the cow herd, his mama tried to charge at her 4-wheeler.

On Thursday Andrea and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s appointment with her pain doctor and to meet with Andrea’s lawyer to prepare for the custody trial and to take Mark’s deposition. Lynn brought Charlie home from his drivers’ education class that morning. Sam and Dani had breakfast here and then we rode to check the 320 gates and fences. We trotted along the way, wherever the trail was relatively flat and not too steep.

Sam and Breezy
Sammy and Dani trotting up to the 320 acre pasture
Those girls enjoy riding, and also enjoy getting up into the mountains to check our upper pastures; we always see wildlife and it’s always a fun experience.

riding through the 320

When we rode up Baker Creek through the timber, we had to move a fallen tree off the top trail. I held their horses while they pushed it around and down off the bank.

Later that afternoon, after we got home, I checked the cows in our back field, and discovered that the fence getting worse between our field and Alfonso’s field. The deer going through it and trees falling down on it have compromised it. We moved the cows on Saturday to heifer hill, then Andrea and I rode around our Cheney Creek fence and propped up several bad spots and put in staples where the wires have been knocked off. There is a stray bull in there, from the neighboring range, and 3 more bulls above the fence. These bulls were left behind by those range users when they moved their cattle to their next pasture.

That evening I heard a rattlesnake in the tall grass by Sprout’s pen when I did chores but I couldn’t get to it quickly enough to kill it. The snake went through the tall patch of stinging nettle and down through the brush toward the creek.

Sunday Robbie worked on our old jeep and also changed the oil in Andrea’s pickup. Andrea and I rode Shiloh and Dottie more than 3 hours –up the ridge to the 320 to check all those fences and gates--and then went out the ridge gate and around to big salt ground on high range and down Baker creek. Halfway down Baker Creek we found a big calf of Millers that had been freshly killed by wolves. The head and front end hadn’t been touched yet, and the blood was still fresh in the ribcage and the contents of the rumen were still moist and fresh, but the hindquarters had been nearly all eaten.

calf killed in Baker Creek by wolves
hindquarters mostly eaten
As we rode on down the creek we found a smaller calf’s carcass. It was killed about a quarter mile below the first dead calf, just above our 320.

smaller calf killed by wolves in Baker Creek

Andrea sent the photos from her phone to our neighbor Mike Davis who hunts wolves and cougars. He thought it looked like a wolf kill, and told us to call the Fish and Game Department.
Mike told us that a rancher about 9 miles from us, Joe Caywood, lost several cows early this spring, killed by a pack of wolves. After those losses were confirmed to be wolf kills, the government trapper (Eric Simonson) hunted that pack from the air and killed 6 of them, but 3 wolves got away. Perhaps they are the ones that are now killing livestock in our area. This is probably what happened to Miller’s cow that we found dead on the low range earlier this summer; she had struggled downhill, leaving a drag trail behind her, as would have happened if the wolves hamstrung her and were pulling her down as she tried to get away.
After our ride, I trimmed and smoothed Shiloh’s feet with a rasp so she won’t chip and break them, traveling through the rocks. She is still doing fine barefoot, thanks to her tough, hard feet.
Andrea and I rode again on Monday, and checked on the dead calves in Baker Creek. The big calf was nearly all eaten by then, and what was left of the carcass had been rolled over a log and down the hill.

calf carcass after 2nd day of wolves eating on it

We made a loop down through Basco and discovered that the water trough was not working (and I took pictures of it) – just like the Baker Creek troughs. Once again, Millers and Alfonso’s cattle are very short of water on the range, just like last year. They haven’t been checking on or maintaining their water sources.

Andrea riding Shiloh in Basco area 
Basco trough not working at all

Our weather has been hot again and the creek is lower. Gary shut down our water again, but Alfonso is still using some at night illegally. Gary and Cindy Yenter (the Idaho Department of Water Resources person who is Gary’s boss) came out and put locks on everyone’s lockable headgates but Alfonso’s aren’t lockable yet.

Robbie, Nick and Michael have been going to the woods the past several days, getting firewood.

Rubbie and Veggie ran out of grass on their little pasture, so Tuesday I moved those old grey horses to the back yard to graze.

Veggie & Rubbie in the back yard

I also fixed Willow’s water tub. We have to keep it up off the ground on a big tire so she can’t paw it, but she has been straddling the tub to scratch on it. We had to move the tire and tub into a corner and snap the tub to the fence so she can’t itch her tummy on it and knock it off the tire!

That evening Rubbie was squealing at Rishiam in the adjacent pen, and trying to get through the fake hotwire barrier we put between the old greys and the fence. Lynn and I went out at dark and put a real hot wire along the top of the fake one so Rubbie won’t crash through it to try to fight Rishiam. As I was coming back to the house in the dark, I heard a rattlesnake in the tall grass. It went under the old water tank we’ve used in the past as a vegetable garden. Lynn went to get a flashlight, and about that time Andrea and Robbie came down to our house to help us. They found the snake with the flashlight and Andrea killed it with a shovel—before it had a chance to bite the horses.

Yesterday was very hot. I reset Ed’s front shoes then did 5 interviews later that day, then Andrea and I made a short ride over the low range on Shiloh and Dottie, getting Shiloh settled in enough for Sam to ride.

Today it was 95 degrees. Watermaster Gary thinks we are stealing water because our place is green, not taking into consideration the fact we got our hay cut and harvested very early so we could water the fields again before the creek got short of water, and the fact that Andrea has been doing a very diligent job of irrigating.

We rode Shiloh and Dottie again this afternoon for 3 hours. We up Baker creek and checked on the wolf kills. There’s nothing left now but a few bones. We made another loop around the high range, checking to see if there were any more problems, but we didn’t see any more dead cattle.

Andrea riding Shiloh checking high range

AUGUST 30 – Last week I put new front shoes on Dottie; her old ones were worn out.

Andrea changed water every day and took Dani to cross-country practice and Charlie to driver’s education classes.

We caught one of the raccoon that’s been chasing the cats off and eating their food. We caught him in a live trap, and transported him a few miles away. Hopefully he won’t come back here to steal cat food!

Raccoon in trap

Andrea took her kids on a camping trip. It was their last chance this summer, before school starts. Lynn changed some of our irrigation water the 2 days Andrea was gone. He can’t hike very much anymore with his bad back and hip problems, so he rode the 4-wheeler.

Lynn on 4-wheeler

Dani’s best friend Sekoya went with them and had fun on the camping trip. I took a photo of the two girls and dogs when they came home.

girls & dogs

A tree fell over the power line along the road below our ranch on Saturday evening and we were without power several hours.

The old grey horses grazed down the back yard, so we moved them to the hold pen next to Shiloh so they can graze it, and moved our cows into the field below heifer hill. The cows are always easy to move; we just call them, open the gate, and get out of the way! They are enjoying the new green pasture.

Lynn calling the cows 
Lynn opening the gate
cows coming through the gate into new pasture
cows enjoying the new pasture

We are still short of irrigation water, and Alfonso’s headgates are still not lockable and he is still using extra water (that he’s not entitled to) at night.

Last Monday Andrea and I rode with the girls 3 ½ hours to check fences and gates on the 320. I took a photo as we rode up the ridge to the 320.

Andrea on Shiloh, and girls riding Breezy & Ed to the 320
Then we rode up into high range. The girls wanted to see the location where the wolves killed the calves. We rode up Baker Creek and we showed the girls where the dead calves had been, but by that late date there was no more evidence; the wolves had eaten and/or dragged off everything.

Girls riding up Baker creek on high range
going up Baker creek
When we were coming home through the middle range, Breezy tripped coming down one of the steep trails and the hillside bank gave way. She tripped, somersaulted, and for an instant (as she and Sam both hit the ground) it looked like she was going to roll right over Sam. But that mare used all her strength to do a contorted twist and bring her front end around the other way, to keep from crushing her young rider. Sam’s leg was badly bruised from hitting the ground, but Andrea assessed her leg, comforted Sam, and was able to help Sam get back on the horse. We rode slowly home (3 miles), with Sam dangling that leg (unable to keep her foot in the stirrup because it was too painful). Breezy walked very slowly and carefully, and didn’t try to trot like she usually does on the way home, so as not to jar Sam. She seemed to know that Sam was hurting.

Sam coming home on Breezy - leg dangling

After we got home, Andrea had to hurry to town to take Charlie to his graduation from the driver’s education course (he can now drive on his own with a licensed adult in the car) and took Sam to the ER at the hospital to have her leg checked. Fortunately it was just badly bruised and not broken. When she got home we put ice and DMSO on it to keep down the swelling.

Sam’s leg was doing better by the next day; we all went to a neighbor’s wedding. It was a very nice outdoor wedding. Emily took the wedding photos and Sam took a video for the groom’s uncle who was doing the service. We all enjoyed a barbeque afterward.

Wednesday Sam and Dani helped me clean house. Our friends from Canada, Pete and Bev Wiebe, got here by early afternoon. We visited awhile with them and then had a birthday dinner for Charlie. He’s 15 now!

The next day Andrea and girls and I took Bev for a ride. She hadn’t been on a horse for many years and wanted to ride, so we took her up the ridge to the 320.

taking Bev for a ride
heading up the ridge to the 320
When we got to the little meadow in Baker Creek we had a picnic – letting our horses graze in the meadow by the creek while we ate. Andrea had made peanut butter and honey sandwiches for all of us, so we enjoyed sandwiches and cheese sticks.

picnic with Bev

Pete and Lynn drove up the creek so Pete could see what our upper country looks like. This is the first time Pete and Bev have come to visit in the summer. The snow has always been too deep in winter to drive up in the mountains to show them the country.

Friday afternoon Pete replaced some of our burned-out lightbulbs. Andrea cooked a big spaghetti dinner for all of us at her house, and we had Michael and Carolyn come too. Pete and Bev had never met them.
Saturday they left early to drive all the way home to Kelowna BC.

This past weekend Robbie, Nick and Michael have been cutting and hauling more firewood to several people who want to buy wood for winter, but had a fix a flat tire on the wood trailer.
We moved our cows to the field by Andrea’s house. We’ve been rotating them around the various pastures, hoping to make the green feed last until we sell the calves.

It is really smoky today, with many fires around the region. Andrea and Carolyn left early this morning to drive to Idaho Falls for Andrea’s appointment with her pain doctor and to have cortisone injections into her neck and back.

We ran out of green pasture for the greys, and put them in their winter pens to start feeding them hay again. They both have bad teeth so I have to select the finest grass hay in my stack, something that’s easy to chew. I’m feeding Veggie a little alfalfa along with the grass hay.

SEPTEMBER 8 – Andrea took it easy for a few days after her cortisone shots to try not to overdo and strain her back. Lynn changed some of the water for her, though it’s difficult for him to get around.

Robbie helped Lynn unhook the baler and put the hay fork back on the tractor. Michael hauled 2 loads of barley straw (big square bales) on our flatbed trailer from a neighbor who wanted to sell what was left of his straw. We may be getting some barley hay from him, too, if it tests at a safe level for nitrates.

Last week Andrea’s kids had orientation and are getting ready to start school again. On Thursday Andrea and Carolyn drove to Mud Lake to watch Dani’s track meet and cross country run—the first competition of the season for these young runners.

That afternoon strong winds and lightning started several fires above our ranch in heavy timber between Sal Mountain and K Mountain—above the head of Cheney Creek. Several helicopters worked all afternoon and evening flying buckets of water from the Lemhi River to dump on the fires, and smoke jumpers were lowered into that area by helicopter. We could still see the flames after dark. The smoke was thick--too smoky to open our windows to cool off the house that night. The helicopters dumped more water on it Friday. By Friday evening the fires were nearly under control, and by Saturday they were successfully halted.

Veggie has become very lame and stiff so I started giving him bute every day (pills dissolved in water and molasses and squirted into his mouth) and he’s walking better again. I hope I can keep him comfortable and happy through another winter but that may be a difficult goal, at his age (he was 30 this past spring).

I spent a little time with him last week, and also took photos of some of the other horses, including Willow and Dottie.


We haven’t had time this year to ride 4-year-old Willow and continue her training, so her training program will have to be postponed until next spring. We’ve been too busy this summer with all the crazy things going on, including the custody battle.

This fall we’ve been preparing for the custody trial (Mark is taking Andrea to court, wanting to have the kids for more time; he’s thinking that Andrea would then have to pay him child support). Carolyn has been putting in a lot of hours and work helping Andrea prepare for the case.

It started raining late Sunday night and rained most of the night—the first good rain we’ve had in many weeks. This helped our dry, dry hill pastures and the areas in our fields that have been short on irrigation water.

Andrea and Robbie went that afternoon to the Blackfoot Fair and drove home late that night – in a blizzard!

With all the rain the creek came up even more (it had been up for 4 days, with the cooler weather) and Gary finally adjusted our headgates to allow us our full 70 inches again—so we can hopefully water more of our dry spots.

School started Tuesday. That afternoon Andrea and I made a fast ride on Sprout and Dottie to check the 320 fences and gates. The range cows on the outside are starving, but they haven’t got in yet. Those poor cows look terrible. Alfonso and Millers don’t seem to realize that the only way to effectively use the range and not abuse it or the cows is to keep the troughs working and to ride frequently to make sure things are taken care of, and to encourage the cows to use ALL the grazing areas and not just beat out parts of it and eat those areas into the ground. It didn’t help that they let their cows into the high range two weeks ahead of schedule and now they’ve run out of grass.

Yesterday, after Andrea came home from taking kids to bus she started irrigating along the ditch below our house, then heard our cows all start bellowing. She saw them running down off the hill to the field across the creek. She hurried to our house, grabbed the 22 rifle that we keep inside the door and rushed over there – just in time to see a big wolf going through the field. She got a couple shots at him but he ran off. As she was hiking up to check on a few cows that were still on the hill, another wolf came around the hill, following the first one, and it appeared so suddenly that she didn’t’ have a chance to try to shoot it.

With so many predators around, we have seen several deer kills, in our fields. One little family of mule deer (a doe with 2 fawns and a younger doe with a single) is living in our barnyard, yard and horse pasture. Perhaps they feel safer here by our house.

deer in pasture by the house

After Andrea finished irrigating that morning, and we moved the cows from that field across the creek (they were all ganged at the gate wanting to get out of there, after the wolves went through) and brought them to the field below the lane—the last bit of good green pasture. We hope it will last them at least a week or more, and then we will wean the calves and preg-check the cows.

Right now we’re madly preparing for the custody battle –trial dates Sept 13 & 14.