Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - May 27 through June 20, 2017

JUNE 5Last Saturday Andrea, Robbie, Sam and Dani drove to Hamer, Idaho to help Robbie’s dad truck cattle to summer range. Robbie drove one semi and Andrea drove a pickup pulling the loading chute. The girls enjoyed helping hold the cows and calves in a group after unloading, to make sure the pairs were all mothered up before letting them scatter to the hills. After they unloaded the cattle at Antelope, the girls and Andrea posed for this photo with a big roll of old barbed-wire they found at that site.
Andrea & girls with barbed wire roll

Charlie spent the day working on the old Velma truck, washing it and starting to polish it up so it looks like new again.

Michael drove down and got the backhoe, cleaned the buildup of old hay and manure away from the fence/feed rack in the bull’s pen and took a scoop of old manure back up to their house in the backhoe bucket for Carolyn’s garden.


On Sunday Andrea and the girls and I made a short ride. While we were getting the horses brushed and ready, Lynn’s old cat made herself comfortable on the lawn chair with Andrea’s bridle.


Edna (aka the Dump Truck Cat) napping on the chair

This was the girl’s first ride this year on Ed and Breezy. We made a loop around the low range and paused on the bentonite ridge overlooking lower Baker Creek and I took a photo of the girls on their horses.

Dani and Sam on Ed and Breezy
That afternoon Charlie helped Robbie make some jacks and drag some poles around to the swamp pasture crossfence. We need to build a few sections of jackfence to replace the falling-down fence on this end, where one of the heifers jumped over it the day before, to get in with the cows and calves. They also gathered up some steel posts to rebuild the electric fence along the ditch above the swamp pasture so we can graze that strip next with the cows and calves.

On Monday (Memorial Day) Lynn, Andrea and kids went to town to meet up with Lynn’s sister Jenelle and nephew Craig Hillis for breakfast/lunch and then they all went up to the cemetery to put flowers on family graves. I stayed home and worked on several articles with deadlines, put a hot wire around the last few bales of hay in the hold pen next to Sprout and Shiloh’s pens, and let Gemini Cricket and George out there to eat grass for a few days. It will be good to see if they can manage in a larger area—to see if George can catch up with mama when he gets hungry—since the cow is still a little indifferent and probably won’t keep very good track of him.
 

That afternoon Sam and Dani helped me, and took turns holding Dottie while I put front shoes on her. Later that afternoon Michael came home from a fence project on 4th of July Creek and shod Sprout, put hind shoes on Dottie, and trimmed Shiloh’s feet.
 

Robbie and Charlie built several sections of jackfence on the lower end of the crossfence in the swamp pasture while Andrea and Sam started putting up the hot wire along the ditch pasture.
 

On Wednesday Andrea and I sorted out #113 (the heifer that jumped in with the cows) and Sugar Bear (the young dry cow that lost her premature calf in February) and put them with the heifers in the top half of the swamp pasture. Then we let the herd of cows and calves up into the ditch bank pasture, and hope it will last them for several days of grazing. Andrea picked some of the tall grass along the hot wire so it won’t short out.
 

That afternoon was Sam’s 8th grade graduation, but as Andrea started out to drive to town she realized her car had a very low rear tire, so she stopped here in the barnyard to use our air compressor and put more air in that tire.
 

Thursday was the last day of school. Here’s a photo of Sam and Dani that morning getting ready for their final day, and a photo of Charlie’s truck. He drove it to school that day and Andrea took a photo of him with the truck, Sam and Emily.
girls on their last day of school
Charlie’s truck

Andrea gathered up all the things the kids needed for their first week with their dad (they alternate weeks during the summer). Charlie worked on his pickup after school and drove it out to his dad’s place that evening. He wants to keep working on it and his dad is going to help him put a different motor in it so it will run better, until he can get the original motor rebuilt.

Charlie hauling the motor for his pickup

That evening we had a hard rain, hailstorm and lightning. The cows were all huddled and crowded at the top of the ditch pasture trying to find shelter. Andrea was afraid they might shove one another into the deep ditch at that end so she herded them back down to the swamp pasture and locked them there—so the calves could go into the calf houses to get out of the pouring rain and the cows could go into the trees.

The next morning I let them back out to the ditch pasture. Then Lynn and I made a huge batch of potato salad (to use up the last of the potatoes we had in the back room, from the 3 bags we got last fall). Emily stopped by on her way home from work to get some to take home; she loves potato salad!


Andrea and Robbie went to Idaho Falls that day for her pain doctor appointment, then hurried back, in time to attend the high school graduation, since Charlie and the Jazz Band were playing the music for the ceremony. Here are photos of Charlie with his trombone case, and the kids with a friend at graduation.

Charlie and his trombone
kids at graduation

Saturday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie up the ridge to the 320 to check the fence along the ridge, to make sure no range cattle can get into that hill pasture. Andrea fixed a section of broken wires at the end of the old jack fence. She took photos of Dottie and me riding up there.
me and Dottie checking fence

We rode again yesterday, just a short fast ride over the low range, to start getting our horses in better shape. We met Alfonso riding out with a pack horse and salt, heading out to take salt to the middle range in preparation for moving his and Miller’s cows to the middle range. He told us he was going to check the water troughs and gates and leave the gates open for the cows to start going into the middle pasture. We told him we would be glad to help move cows, especially after the girls get home from their week at their dad’s place, because they want to help, too. 

riding on low range
We had a thunderstorm that afternoon and were glad we’d made our ride in the morning. It rained a LOT last night. This has been one of the cooler, wetter years. It stopped raining this morning, however, so after Andrea finished irrigating, she and I rode again. Alfonso stopped by as we were leaving, and mentioned he lost his coat yesterday when he was riding on the middle range. He got caught in that thunderstorm and realized he’d lost his coat when he decided to put it on—so he got pretty cold. We told him we would look for it when we ride up there to check our boundary fence around the 320.
 

We rode a couple hours and moved a few cows for him, then hurried home so Lynn and I could make it to town in time for our appointment with a new doctor. The doctor we went to for many years changed her focus and is just working in the hospital now instead of the clinic, so we had to get a new doctor in order to have prescriptions refilled.


JUNE 13We had warmer weather for a few days, up to 85 and 88 degrees. A week ago I put front shoes on Ed, and then the next day put on hind shoes. I don’t have the endurance (at age 73) that I used to have, and it’s easier to just do two shoes per day! At least Ed is easy to shoe and behaves very well, except that the arthritis in her hocks makes it to where she doesn’t like to hold up a hind foot for very long at a time.

Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie 5 hours last Tuesday and moved all the cattle out of the little basin at the top end of the low range, next to our 320 and 160 acre pasture, and put them into Baker Creek on the middle range. Then we checked that part of our 320 fence (a mile long) and patched it in a couple places where trees had fallen down over it in Baker Creek. 

riding up along the 320 fence

As we rode up Baker Creek we looked for the coat that Alfonso lost, but didn’t see it.

When we got home we took another big round bale of hay to the bulls in the back corral, and moved the cows from the lower swamp/ditch pasture to the pasture below the lane. We put George and his mother out with them—the first time they’ve been with the herd. Hopefully George can keep track of her now in a group; she’s a better mother than she was earlier! I checked on them the next morning and they seem to be doing ok.


Alfonso had hoped to get the rest of the range cows moved that day with help from the Amish but they couldn’t ride until Saturday. The cows were getting short of feed, however, and needed to be moved. Also, we can’t put our cows on the little hill pasture above our house until the cattle are gone from the low range, because we can’t risk having one of their bulls try to go through the fence to breed one of our cows; we don’t put our bulls with our cows until the end of June, because we don’t want to calve before April. So Thursday Andrea and I made a short, fast ride on Sprout and Dottie and gathered 15 pair on the lower part of the range and moved them to the middle range. Robbie patched the big trough that we use for watering cows on the hill pasture. That evening the kids got back from their week with their dad.
 

Friday the girls rode with us to help us gather the rest of the low range cows. 


girls helping move cows

We didn’t find any in the low country but gathered quite a few from the ridge above our hill pasture, Gooch’s Basin and the Baker Grove. It helped having several riders so we could split up and cover more territory. We cut back one cow with a brand new calf, so that young baby wouldn’t have to travel so far. We ended up with a group of about 60 pairs that we took around to the jeep road gate into the middle range.

moving cattle to middle range
After we got them through the gate we let them spread out and graze and mother up. I took a photo of the girls on their horses waiting and watching the cattle.
watching the cattle

On our way back to Baker Creek we met up with Alfonso leading his pack horse to take more salt to the middle range. He also had a chain saw to clear some of the fallen trees off the trail in Baker Creek. He wanted to cook us a picnic, in gratitude for us helping move his cows, so we took time for that; he made a campfire to roast ears of corn and heat up some fried chicken. We let our horses graze and enjoyed a hot lunch, then Alfonso rode on up Baker Creek to work on the down trees.

On our way home Andrea and the girls and I went up along the 320 fence and found 5 more pair and brought them back down to the gate into the middle range. One of Alfonso’s calves was very sick, however, and not nursing its mother. That evening I called Alfonso and left him a message about his sick calf. On our way home that afternoon after moving the cattle, Dani found a deer antler and brought it home.

That evening it started raining. Saturday morning was cool and rainy. We were glad we’d moved the range cows the day before. Robbie helped Lynn start our little pump (it is always hard to start after not using it for a year) and then went to help Michael build fence. Andrea and kids helped Lynn take several water troughs, hoses, pipe (to go through the culvert under the road) etc. in the jeep and flatbed truck up the road, and pumped water from our ditch to fill the 3 troughs at the bottom of our hill pasture. I finished typing an article then got Sprout and Dottie ready to ride, to move cows.

When the crew got back from pumping, we got the cows in from the field below the lane, sorted off Buffalo Girl and Gemini Cricket and their calves (to leave home to graze the pens by the barn) and took the rest of the herd up the road to the hill pasture. Hopefully it will last them a week or so. Buffalo Girl is old and slow and we decided to leave her home so she wouldn’t have to climb around on that steep pasture, and we also left George and his mom home so he wouldn’t have to try to keep track of her in such a big pasture.

The Amish rode that day to gather the rest of the cattle on the low range but they only found 5 pair that we’d missed. That evening we watched the Belmont race on television, rooting for Patch (the one-eyed horse). We were delighted when he came in third! He’s missing his left eye, just like Breezy.


On Sunday the girls rode with Andrea and me on a short ride to check the cows on the hill pasture and then made a short loop around the low range, but didn’t see any more cows left out there.

Grandma and girls riding on low range
Sam on Breezy

Lynn took some salt to our cows on the hill pasture.
 

Yesterday was cool, with predictions for a lot of rain that afternoon, so the kids helped Lynn and Andrea pump for the cows (to refill their water troughs) before it started raining. They finished just as it started to rain—and it rained hard all afternoon and all night; we had a total of about 2 inches of rain by this morning and it continued to rain all day. We are glad we got the cattle moved before all this rain!


JUNE 20Wefinally got the trespass water development resolved. Last year in early June, Michael and Carolyn were looking through the brush at the lower end of their place (the part my dad owned originally, that Lynn and I bought and are now leasing to Michael and Carolyn and which they will someday own). They were searching for a missing cow that had a new calf somewhere hidden. In their search they came across an upright white pipe (standing about 3 feet above ground) about 50 feet from the property line. It had no lid and they looked down into it to find it was probably 4 feet down into the ground, collecting water into a buried pipe. They realized it was an extension of our neighbor’s water system, and had been put up into our property without our knowledge or permission.
 

Lynn and I started ranching here on Withington Creek, on a ranch downstream from my parent’s place and were leasing their place. When they moved to Boise, they sold off a couple small parcels (one of which included their house) before we bought the rest of their ranch. The subdivision between their house and the spring my father developed and piped down to the house had an easement for that spring and water line. The rest of the ranch, which we purchased from my parents, did not include an easement because the spring and water system were not on our land. When Michael and Carolyn discovered the trespass water development that our neighbor Bob Loucks installed, we did not want the potential liability and encumbrance on our property, and insisted that it be removed. He refused, and hired a lawyer, and had a restraining order put in place so that we could not remove it until the issue could be resolved in court.
 

Therefore we had to hire a lawyer, also. Loucks claimed that the extension of his water system into our place was in the “original footprint” of my father’s water development, but we could readily show that it was not. In 1955 when my parents bought the ranch, my father tapped into a spring coming out of the hillside—water that would never be contaminated by surface water, and it had a steady flow of about 3 gallons per minute. In 1961 when we built our house on the ranch (to live there year round instead of just summers in an old cabin) he put in a 1000 gallon storage tank below the spring, to collect the water to have enough for home use, and the water came gravity flow ¼ mile in a buried pipeline we installed when I was growing up.
 

Loucks had to replace the old storage tank in June of 2006, and in doing so he discovered an abundance of surface water coming from the direction of our property. Without asking us, he dug a line up into our place to collect some of that water, to add to his house system. He had so much water, that time of year (due to plenty of surface water from our irrigation) that he put in a 600 gallon collection tank instead of a 1000 gallon tank like my father had. He had so much extra water during the summer that he was using it to water his horse pasture and garden.
 

He didn’t want to give up that extra water (even though it was coming from sub-water from irrigation and might not be the best to drink). He may have realized there was a possibility he couldn’t win in court (because he was trespassing and this was not part of the original spring) but he still wanted that water. His lawyer wanted to settle out of court and come to some kind of agreement for an easement to make his trespass legal. The two lawyers agreed upon a mediator to try to resolve this.
 

In preparation for the mediation, our lawyer came Tuesday evening and we showed him the location of the original spring, the new system Loucks added to it on our property, and tremendous amount of water (about 25 gallons per minute) running out of one of the overflows (picking up sub water from our field above it) which is a lot more than the 3 gallons per minute from the original spring my dad developed in the hillside.
water gushing from Loucks water tank overflow
Even though Loucks trespassed, developed an additional water system illegally to add to his water system, is stealing water that should go back to the creek for legitimate irrigation use downstream (and threatened to sue us if we try to remove his trespass development), we decided to end this crazy battle. We can’t afford to spend money going to court (which would probably cost about $30,000) to prove that he is a thief and should remove his trespass water system. All we want is assurance that we won’t be liable and he can’t sue us if he (or his heirs or any future owner of his place) gets hurt on our property by tripping over a log, falling down in the rocks, or gets trampled by a bull or angry mama cow with a new calf, or any other reason--or if anyone in his household gets sick from drinking the surface water he’s collecting from our cattle pasture. 

We forgave him his greed for more water, allowed him an easement for the water line he put up into our place, and talked to the lawyers about ways to avoid possible future problems. Our lawyer and the mediator said that if Loucks insists on wanting surface water in his house water system, that’s his own problem and we can’t be held liable. So our lawyer will write an easement for the trespass system, absolving us or our heirs or any future owners of our property (in case Michael and Carolyn sell off a piece in that area for a home site) from any future liability, for any reason (contamination of the water from a septic tank, weed spray, fertilizer, whatever). Thus we are protected, and Loucks can drink surface water (the irrigation runoff from a cow pasture) as he wishes. It is a relief to have this problem resolved. Loucks can think he won, and that’s fine. We simply want assurance that his trespass won’t impact us or Michael and Carolyn adversely in the future.
 

Friday was cool and cloudy. Robbie and Andrea helped Lynn pump water for the hill pasture and I finally finished the revisions for my book (Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle) for the new 4th edition that will come out next year. Andrea and I put up an electric fence in the back yard and moved Buffalo Girl, Gemini Cricket and their calves into that tall grass to eat it down for a few days. Here’s a photo taken from the dining room window, of the cows and their calves lounging in the back yard.
cows and calves in yard

Charlie has been getting the old Velma truck polished up nicely. He drove it to town and out to his dad’s place when the kids went there for their week with their dad. On Saturday, Charlie took the old Velma truck to the annual car show and many people looked at it. Here’s a photo of Grandpa Lynn checking out the refurbished old pickup.
Lynn and Charlie’s truck
Charlie also drove it in the parade of old cars, and the girls rode in the back. Here are the girls getting ready for the parade.
Girls getting ready for parade


Yesterday Granddaughter Heather sent photos of baby Joseph Michael “Monkey” to show how much he has grown in just 7 weeks. Here are some of those photos.

“Monkey” Joseph
Since Lynn and I probably won’t make it up to Canada for a while to see him, we’ll have to be content with pictures! We are the ones who stay home and take care of the critters, and do everyone else’s chores when they are gone somewhere.

Another bit of news: granddaughter Emily will be getting married in July, so she is busy making wedding plans! It will be an outdoor wedding, so we are hoping for nice weather.



Postscript: For interesting stories about calving, baby calves and other adventures with cattle, you might like my book Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch. This book is part of a 3-book series that includes Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, and Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters. These books are $24.95 each (plus $3 postage). Autographed copies can be ordered from me at 208-756-2841 or hsmiththomas@centurytel.net or P.O. Box 215, Salmon, ID 83467, with a discount when all three books are purchased ($70 for all three books, plus $5 postage).