Sam and Charlie have been playing in the pep band at all the basketball games at the high school. They are both doing very well with their music.
Lynn and I attended Ron Kruger’s funeral; he was a good friend and the husband of one of my favorite high school classmates. Ron died suddenly last week with a massive stroke. He will be greatly missed.
Last Sunday Michael put new hind shoes on Dottie and Sprout. I had put new front shoes on them a few weeks ago but they needed their hind feet trimmed and reshod; their hind feet were getting long and the shoes were worn out.
That afternoon, before deer season closed, Em drove up the creek and shot her deer. Andrea helped her gut it out, hang and skin it.
|Em & her deer|
Monday morning I discovered that the heifers above the house have no water and had probably been thirsty for more than a day—ever since Gary (the watermaster) decided to let Alfonso have more water on the Gooch place above us (3rd right) even though our 2nd right was still short. Alfonso diverted a lot of water out of the creek and our ditches below that diversion cut down, and the ditch to the field for the heifers stopped running. We called Gary and told him we needed water in that ditch. When he came out that afternoon he found that Alfonso had 40-plus inches of water coming out of his ditch instead of the 10 inches Gary had allowed him, so he shut that ditch down a bit. This left more water to come down the creek and into our ditch for the heifers.
That afternoon Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to the 320 to check our cows and they were spread out nicely. We checked the various gates to make sure they were still closed, since it’s still hunting season.
|Andrea & Sprout|
The daytime temperatures have been up to 60 degrees, which makes it nice for the cattle; Baker Creek isn’t freezing up yet, so at least they are able to get a drink nearly anywhere along that tiny stream.
On Wednesday Lynn, Andrea and Carolyn took 4-wheelers up to the top trough to fix the problem. They took a couple tanks of compressed air with them, and blew the dead toads out of the pipeline, and got the water running again. That evening Andrea cut and wrapped Em’s deer.
Thursday Andrea and I made a fast ride to the 320 and checked the top trough, and got a few leaves out of the spring-box so it won’t plug up again. We also moved a few of the low cows back up to the top of that pasture where there’s more feed left.
|Andrea & Sprout moving cows up Baker Creek|
|moving cows up Baker Creek|
|Sprout watching elk|
After supper that evening we got a phone call from Carolyn telling us she’d called 911 to have the Sheriff come out. Their nearest neighbor, Tom Peets, has been opening their gate at night, at the cattle guard. He put a note in their mailbox a few weeks ago telling them they should leave the gate open for the convenience of the Amish who drive up and down the road with their buggies. The gate must be left closed, however, because sometimes Michael has cattle grazing that pasture, and it also serves as a security block if horses or cattle get out of the fields and come down the road. It the gate is closed, they won’t go on down the road and get into the neighbors’ yards or fields, or go clear down to the highway and cause an accident.
So Michael and Carolyn have kept closing the gate and Tom Peets keeps opening it. Tom doesn’t have any reason to use the gate (he doesn’t go through it with a horse) and the Amish understand why gates need to be closed, and they don’t have a problem with it. But Tom has taken it upon himself to try to make Michael keep the gate open. That evening he called and threatened to pound Michael into a pulp and Michael told him to just meet him at the gate. Carolyn called 911 and 2 deputies came out, but Michael and Nick had already met up with Tom at the gate and told him it was none of his business and that the gate has to be kept shut. The deputies also explained to Tom that the gate does need to be kept shut, since it is a property boundary and keeps livestock from going on down the road.
Yesterday Andrea made jerky (from the elk meat her friends Jade and Anita gave her) and also cleaned the leaves out of the ditch in the field above our house. We had a big windstorm the night before that blew a lot of leaves off the trees, and the fallen leaves plugged the ditch. We need that ditch running awhile longer, to water the heifers.
Today another neighbor, Alan Bodenhamer, called us with his cell phone from above our 320. He was elk hunting and wounded a bull elk that he thought might drift down into our place. He was asking permission to hike in there and look for it, and maybe go in there with horses to get it out. We told him that would be ok, and that if he needed to come through our gates we’d be up there to let him through the locked gates. Sam and Dani rode with us that afternoon to the 320 to check our cows. Andrea and I took photos as we all rode up the ridge.
|girls riding Oct. 30|
|Andrea taking photos as we rode to 320|
|girls riding to 320|
|going through gate into 320|
|Andrea checking Ed's shoe|
|going up Baker Creek we heard a shot|
|going on up Baker Creek after we heard the shot|
|Sam snacking while we wait on the ridge|
We dewormed the 4 horses when we got home from our ride, and will deworm the rest of them soon—to have them dewormed before winter (deworming this time of year kills any worms in their GI tract and also any bot larvae). It’s raining tonight.
NOVEMBER 7 – Last Monday Michael, Nick and Robbie brought us another load of firewood; we’ll have enough now for us and Andrea for the winter.
Sammy, Dani and Charlie came by to trick or treat and we took photos.
|Halloween kids with grandma & grandpa|
Wednesday we moved the 6 sale cows and Buffalo Girl from the field by Andrea’s house to the little field above our house, where there’s more green grass left. The grass is nearly all gone where they’ve been grazing.
That evening was Dani’s birthday party at a game arcade in town. We bought several pizzas, Andrea bought cake and ice cream, and Dani invited most of the kids in her 6th grade class and a few other friends. The kids had a lot of fun playing various games.
|Dani & birthday cake|
|Dani sampling cake|
We’ve had some cold weather—several nights down toward 20 degrees. On his way to go help Michael and Nick on a fencing job, Robbie discovered a freshly killed deer along the highway. There are so many deer hit by cars that the Fish & Game Department now allows people to salvage them, as long as they report the incident. Robbie gathered up the road kill and brought it home, and headed back to work. Lynn and Andrea gutted, skinned and hung it up. This will help make up for one of the deer that the kids didn’t get a chance to shoot (since they were at their dad’s place during the weekends of deer hunting).
Friday afternoon Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie to the 320 to check cows. They are still doing ok, but everything is frozen in Baker Creek. There is no sunshine in most of that canyon now—the sun never gets above the rim of the canyon from mid-November until mid-February—so Baker Creek is frozen. But the top trough is still running so the cows still have water.
While going up Baker Creek to check the trough, we saw more than 80 elk just outside the 320—the most elk we’ve ever seen on our side of the valley in one bunch. We took a few photos of them, though there were too many—too strung out—to get them all in the picture.
|part of the elk herd|
|another part of the big herd|
Andrea took more pictures with her camera as we came back down on the ridge.
|Andrea taking photos of elk|
We dewormed Willow and Shiloh when we got home from our ride that day.
Saturday was very cold. I fed the weaned heifers a little hay that morning; their pasture is getting shorter and they were bawling; they didn’t want to eat frosty grass and they were very eager for the hay.
With the cold weather, I gave Veg extra bute that evening, to try to ease his painful arthritis.
|giving Veggie bute|
Yesterday we put him down –after Andrea and I picked him some green grass (we found a little that was still green) and we took photos of him.
|Andrea & Veggie|
He had a long, good life, but it was time to let go and release him from his pain. Even though we love our animals and keep them going as long as we can, when quality of life diminishes to this point, it’s kinder to let them go. As someone once said, when considering timely euthanasia, it is better a week too soon than a day too late. Veggie won’t have to suffer the misery that Rubbie did, in her last few hours. It’s best to put him down now, rather than in the agony of colic, or after going out some cold morning to find him down on the frozen ground unable to get up.
Those two old horses had full lives and we miss them; they are the last of our babies that we raised. Veggie’s mother was Andrea’s first horse, and his grandmother was my first foal (Khamette) born in 1959. Andrea’s mare Khamir had Veggie when Khamir was 13 and Andrea was 16; Andrea helped me train little Veggie when he was a foal, giving him leading lessons.
|Khamir's 1st foal - Veggie as a newborn baby|
|Veggie & Andrea when Veggie was a baby--first leading lesson|
|Andrea & 30-year-old Veggie|
|Andrea saying goodbye to an old friend|
That evening Andrea went to town to get the kids from Mark and we had supper here when they got back. Our friends Walter and Jodi from Durango, Colorado arrived late afternoon and had supper with us. They are staying at Andrea’s house a few days.
Today was warmer. It barely froze last night, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees this afternoon. Andrea took Charlie and Sam to school at 4 a.m. to get on the choir buses to go on their chorus trip. She went along on Sam’s bus as one of the parent chaperones. Kids from several schools practiced together all day and then put on a concert this evening.
|combined school chorus at concert|
This morning I lured the heifers in from field above our house with a little hay, and moved them to the field below lane. They’ve become very gentle and trusting, easy to handle. I can call them and they follow me anywhere. Later this morning Walter helped Lynn rinse out and fill the water tank for the heifers and get a load of hay for the bulls in the back corral, and some hay for the feeder in the front corral for when we bring the 6 cows in that we’ll be sending to the bred cow sale.
Carolyn went to the 320 on her 4-wheeler and opened all the gates into the lower/middle part of the 320 to let the cows into that part. They’ll still have access to the top section and the Baker Creek side, but the grass is nearly gone there and it was time to let them into the lower part.
This evening we talked to a local rancher who has some hay for sale, and he may have enough for what we’ll need this winter. Even though it’s more expensive than the hay at Mud Lake, there will be less freight to pay, so it averages out.
NOVEMBER 14 – We’ve had cold nights, but fairly warm in the afternoons. We’ve enjoyed having Walter and Jodi here and the kids have had a lot of fun with them. Jodi and Andrea took the kids to town and Andrea snapped this photo.
|kids & Jodi checking out some Christmas attire|
Also I was glad she was home that day because Sprout was sick. When I went out to do chores that morning Spout was dull and didn’t want to eat her hay. She seemed to have some mild gut pain. She’d been eating weeds in that pen, and maybe something she ate was toxic.
I went back to the house to get some Banamine to give her and discovered that the bottle was nearly empty after treating Rubbie for colic a couple months ago. I called Carolyn, who brought down their bottle, and we gave Sprout a dose. I put her in the calving pen in front of the house where I could watch her closely all day from my window as I typed interviews and articles. After we moved her to the calving pen, Andrea and Carolyn helped me relocate the electric fence at the top of Rubbies old pen, to fence off the chokecherry tree (the frosted, wilted leaves can be toxic) and what might be left of the nightshade roots after we picked a bunch of those weeds in that area. None of the horses like to eat them but they are poisonous. We weren’t sure what Sprout (or Rubbie) might have eaten.
Carolyn went to town that afternoon to take her dog Fred to the vet clinic for her annual rabies shot, and got me another bottle of Banamine for future emergencies.
In the calving pen that day, Sprout remained dull and only picked at a little hay, and grazed some grass off and on. She still wasn’t her normal self, but she wasn’t as uncomfortable as when I found her sick that morning. Her heart rate was normal and there were gut sounds when we listened to her abdomen with a stethoscope, so at least her GI tract wasn’t shut down. She didn’t pass any manure, however, until mid-day, and then again in the evening just after I took her temperature. At least she was never again so uncomfortable and I didn’t have to give her any more Banamine. I kept her in that pen during the night, however, since we have a yard light on the end of the hay shed next to that pen, and I could see her out the window. That way I was able to monitor her during the night and make sure she didn’t get colicky again.
Lynn, Walter and Jodi got home at 7 p.m. that evening. The arthritis doctor was very thorough and gave Lynn a different prescription for his pain, and wanted more x-rays of Lynn’s hips.
The next morning Sprout was doing better and she had passed twice as much manure during the night as she had the whole day before. She was a lot perkier, so I moved her back to her pen next to Shiloh.
|Sprout feeling better|
By evening Sprout was eating hay better and feeling more like her old self again. We all had supper at Andrea’s house; she made a big batch of Lasagna. Emily came out, too, and her dad Jim (who was out of the hills briefly from his job as a hunting guide). Andrea sent some of the leftovers home with Emily, and took a photo of Em with Jodi and Walter before she left.
|Em with Jodi and Walter|
That morning I lured the cows down from the field by heifer hill, and Lynn and I sorted off Buffalo Girl. She’s Emily’s old pet cow that we’ll need to butcher later this fall, rather than send to the sale—butchering her will be a kinder fate for a pet cow because she wouldn’t understand all the strangers prodding her around at a sale facility. We put her in the field below the lane with the heifers, and put the 6 young pregnant cows (that we’ll be selling) in the main corral where the brand inspector could look at them that afternoon.
Dani didn’t have school that day, due to parent-teacher conferences at the middle school, so she was able to ride with us to check cows on the 320. Jodi rode Breezy, Dani rode Ed, and Andrea rode Sprout, since it would be a very easy, leisurely ride and some gentle exercise might be just fine for Sprout. We adjusted the stirrups on Sam’s saddle to fit Jodie and started up the horse road (our trail below the main road) and Jodi realized that one of her stirrups had a problem. Andrea fixed it for her while I held Sprout.
|fixing Jodi's stirrup|
|Dani helping check cows on 320|
|Michael & Carolyn's horses|
Andrea then took Dani to town to meet up with the other kids after school and give them their things for the weekend at their Dad’s place.
On Friday Lynn went to town for his hip x-rays, and Andrea went to one of the new doctors here (the physical therapist set up an appointment), to check out her neck and back. The doctor will be sending her to a specialist.
That afternoon I took the hind shoes off Ed and trimmed her long feet, and then Andrea, Walter and Jodi helped me put the 6 young cows through the chute and pull/cut off the burrs stuck to their heads, shoulders, tails, etc. We don’t want to send burrs with them to the sale; no one wants to bring burdock onto their ranch if they don’t already have this nasty weed!
The heifers are getting short on grass in the field below the lane. Even though it was growing back nicely after Andrea’s final irrigation down there, the big herd of whitetail deer that have moved in for winter have been grazing there every night and have decimated the green regrowth in that pasture. So Lynn started the tractor that afternoon and we put a big round bale (grass/alfalfa hay) in their feeder and they were thoroughly enjoying that feast.
Buffalo Girl is mean to the heifers, however, shoving them away from the feeder, so we put her in the orchard and horse pasture by herself.
Michael and Carolyn took their young dog Abbey with them on this road trip to haul the cows.
Walter and Jodi left to drive back to Colorado; we enjoyed having them here this past week, and they enjoyed helping with some of the ranch chores. Jodi would love to have taken a cow back home with her!
Saturday afternoon the watermaster came out (as we requested) to shut off our # 7 ditch since we are done irrigating for this year and no longer need water in that ditch for the cows and heifers that were drinking out of it; the heifers are now in another field and the 6 cows went to the sale. We also asked to have the locks taken off the headgates since no one is irrigating anymore and the headgates need to be shut down completely so there won’t be problems with water leaking past them and ice flows over our fields. Ice on the fields makes it dangerous for the cows, since they slip and fall down.
Now we’re looking toward Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas. Anyone interested in my latest books for Christmas gifts, see below:
If anyone would like to order some of Heather’s “critter stories” books as Christmas gifts, here’s information about her three most recent books and she’d be glad to provide autographed copies.
Ranch Series by Heather Smith Thomas
Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (the original book in this series) is a collection of 22 stories about the horses that helped define the author’s life in Idaho ranch country. Press release stated: “Horse Tales is a unique memoir infused with the brand of wisdom that can be acquired only through an existence built around livestock and the land. Thomas centers each story around a specific animal, along the way sharing lessons on life, family and stockmanship.” 282 pages, paperback. $24.95
Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch (325 pages; $24.95) was published in July 2015. The press release from the publisher states: “Following the success of her acclaimed nonfiction collection Horse Tales…Cow Tales is an entertaining and compelling line-up of autobiographical essays detailing her family’s adventures raising cattle in the challenging ranch country outside Salmon, Idaho. In the tradition of James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small), each story centers on a particular animal or aspect of animal husbandry, offering insight into the resourcefulness required to manage a cattle herd, and a heart-warming look at human-animal bonding.”
Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters, the third book in this series, was published December, 2015 (273 pages, $24.95) and consists of stories about memorable ranch animals and wildlife. “Each humorous, heartwarming and insightful tale is centered on the unique bond that forms between people and the animals—livestock, pets and wildlife—that populate a working ranch.”
Order any of these books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher: The Frontier Project Inc. (phone: 719-237-0243) email@example.com
Signed copies are available from Heather Thomas, Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467 (208-756-2841) firstname.lastname@example.org [price: $24.95 plus $3 postage – Idaho residents add 6% sales tax. For all three books - $70 plus $7 shipping]
If anyone would like to order some very special inspirational books as Christmas gifts, I also have some of my father’s books [the late Don Ian Smith]. His series Meditations from the High Country includes:
By the River of No Return - $12
Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails - $12
Sagebrush Seed - $12
The Open Gate - $12
Short People Need a Tree to Climb - $12.
When ordering one book, add $3 postage; for several books, add an additional $1 per book for postage. You can buy all 5 at a discount, for a total of $50 instead of $60–plus $7 for postage.