Thursday, August 31, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - June 21 through July 22, 2017

JULY 1 – We had hot, windy weather but didn’t get started with haying quite as soon as we’d hoped. It took awhile to get all the machinery ready.

Andrea and I made a long ride on Sprout and Dottie last Wednesday after I trimmed Willow’s feet. We checked some of the troughs on the range and Andrea got Crawley trough working again; the spring-box had plugged up again. I held her horse while she took off the spring-box lid and unplugged the holes so water could run into the spring-box.
Andrea uncovering the spring-box so she can unplug the intake holes
Then we rode on up the ridge and I took another photo from the ridge above Crawley, looking out over the valley.
Andrea on ridge above Crawley trough
A couple days later we rode up Baker Creek on the high range and were pleased to see that the little creek is still running a strong trickle in spite of the hot weather, and the grass in the canyon is still green. Many years by now it’s fairly dry.
Andrea riding up Baker Creek on high range

It was so wet this spring that there are wild iris growing in one of the meadows in Baker Creek and they are blooming now.
riding past a patch of wild iris
We stopped at the trough near the head of Baker Creek (the lower Cat trough) and Sprout got a drink. We were pleased to see that our pipe/splice fix from two years ago is still holding together and that trough is still working!
Sprout drinking at Lower Cat trough
Then we took a swing through upper Basco before going back into the middle range to come home. I took a photo of Andrea as we headed down toward the Basco Trough but when we got down to that trough we discovered that the in-pipe was split and no water was going into the trough. 
Upper Basco

The next day was cooler and very windy; it only got up to 70 degrees. Andrea turned off a couple of our ditches to start drying up those fields for cutting hay. That evening she and Robbie went to town to watch Dani’s soccer game. Dani has enjoyed playing soccer this year; she’s the only left-footed kicker on their team and she makes a fair share of the team’s goal points.
Dani playing soccer

On Friday Dani’s friend Sekoya was here for the day and helped us move our cows down to the field from the hill pasture. Dani rode Ed, I rode Dottie, and the rest of the crew (Andrea, Lynn, Charlie and Sekoya) were “foot soldiers” going up the road on 4-wheelers to head the cows the right direction when they came down off the mountain, and going ahead of them to block various “wrong directions” on the way home. Our cows move very easily, but the calves don’t always know the way if it’s somewhere they’ve never been before.

After we got them moved and the horses unsaddled, Dani jumped on Ed bareback to ride her back to her pen. Dani is pleased that she’s now tall enough to swing up onto Ed’s back just holding onto her mane.
Dani riding bareback on Ed

Charlie and Robbie changed the oil in the swather and got it ready to go. Andrea and the girls put up a fake hot wire across the stackyard and we put Buffalo Girl and calf and George and his mom in the upper end of the stackyard to eat the tall grass before we stack hay in there.

Saturday I checked on the cows in their pasture and patched the fence in the brush by the creek, where trees had fallen over it and mashed it down. I put a few branches in the hole and tied them there with twine until we can fix the fence for real. We don’t want our cows crawling through into the neighbor’s field.

Lynn put air in the swather tires that morning and cut the hay on heifer hill and the field below it. Charlie drove up to Rocky’s place for the ham radio gathering, and enjoyed talking to people all around the country. He has his own radio now.

Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down—to bring the yearling bull we bought from them and to haul their 2-year-old bull home (that we wintered here in the corral with our 2-year-old bull). Their bull didn’t want to go into the alleyway to get in the trailer, and ran by us several times. Michael finally had to let their yearling bull out of the trailer (that came along as company for our yearling bull) and then load the two together. The yearling he hauled here for us was not happy in the back corral with our 2-year-old bull and crashed over the jackfence into a side pen. Andrea and I patched the fence and the little bull settled down with his new buddy.

The next few days were hot (good hay-drying weather). We had to work on the little John Deere tractor (the one we turn hay with) to get it started. Robbie and Lynn worked on it and Andrea and kids helped me move the rest of my hay out of the hay shed so we can put new hay in it. We made a stack over by Sprout and Shiloh’s pen and by Willow and Breezy’s pen, and tarped those stacks. 
Tarped stack by Sprout's pen
Tarped stacks by Willow and Breezy's pens

The kids also helped bring the water troughs home from the hill pasture on the flatbed truck, and the girls helped me get the tall grass away from the hot wire along the horse pasture and field next to it so we could turn that hot wire back on again without it shorting out. We put the cows in the field above the horse pasture and turned the bull out with them, and put the 10 heifers in the orchard and put the yearling bull out with them.

Monday Dottie wasn’t feeling well—a little dull and not eating much hay. I took her temperature but it was normal. She wasn’t colicky, just dull. I put her in the front yard to eat grass but she only nibbled at it—not her usual greedy self at all. She wasn’t passing much manure, and what she did pass was firm and dry. I had our vet come out to check her because I was afraid she was impacted. She still had good gut sounds, however, and the vet thought maybe she had ulcers—and ordered some ulcer medication, but also took some blood tests.

Andrea baled heifer hill that evening, just ahead of a rain storm, and Robbie took the stackwagon up there and got it hauled. The last load wasn’t a full load so we just parked the stackwagon under my hayshed. We had a hard rain and some terrible wind. It blew some of the windrows away on the field below heifer hill, and piled the hay against the fence.

I put Dottie in the calving pen in front of the house for two nights, under the yard light, so I could watch her. She didn’t eat much, was periodically uncomfortable, but never down and out colicky. Her blood test results were all normal, but she didn’t have much appetite, wasn’t passing very much manure, and was eating dirt. She finally started passing manure normally by the 3rd day and then was back to normal. I gave her ulcer medication for 4 days, but by then she seemed to be doing fine again. I’m not really sure what ailed her, but it was good to see her feeling well and eating with her usual vigor.
Dottie feeling better - eating her hay again

Some of the bales we hauled from heifer hill were damp and we didn’t put them in my haystack because they would heat up and might burn the stack. We opened them up so they could dry out instead of heating, and not mold, and I’ll feed those first. 

We had more rain showers on Wednesday so we weren’t able to turn or bale hay. By yesterday afternoon the hay had dried out enough again to turn it (so it would dry more fully) and today Andrea got it all baled. Lynn turned the hay in the field below the lane, in hopes we can bale it tomorrow.

JULY 13 – Last week we baled and hauled the rest of our hay, filling my hay shed and stacking the rest of it in the stackyard across the creek (to feed the cows next winter). Robbie worked on the stackwagon a little more and put more teeth in the baler. We managed to get through this haying season without any major machinery breakdowns. All of our equipment is getting old (like us!). We bought the stackwagon (used) nearly 20 years ago and all of our tractors are more than 40 years old.

When Robbie took the stackwagon down to the back field to start hauling hay (while Andrea was finishing the baling), he got stuck; there’s a muddy area where you pull into the field. But since it wasn’t loaded with hay yet (which would have been several more tons of weight) and only one front tire was down in the mud, Lynn was able to pull it out with the little tractor (with the turner rake on it) and we didn’t have to use the big tractor Andrea was baling with.

Some of the hay from the field below the lane was a little wet when we baled it, so we opened up those bales over by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens, and I will feed those before I start feeding the tarped stacks or hay from my hay shed. 
wet bales opened up and spread out to dry
We finished the haying Thursday evening. Andrea was baling the last of it and Robbie hauled it (and Lynn stacked it in my hay shed). I cooked a big supper for the whole family and got chores done, and Charlie brought the girls home from their week with their dad, since everyone here was too busy to go to town to get them. It’s handy that Charlie has a pickup and a driver’s license! Emily stopped here on her way home from work and joined us for supper.

Friday it got up to 95 degrees, with threat of thundershowers. Sam and Lynn helped me tarp the two loads of hay sticking out from under my shed. 
tarped hay at the end of the shed

We moved the heifers and yearling bull to a new pasture and put the cows and their bull down to the pasture part of the field below the lane.

Saturday was very hot, with thunderstorms and lightning. This made it more risky for the 199 marathon runners doing the 50 K and about 100 runners doing the 100 K run along the continental divide across the valley from us. This is the most rugged terrain of any marathon in the world, and people from all over the world come to try it. With the heat this year, and high altitude, many of them didn’t finish. Local people helped with the check points along the ridge; Andrea, Robbie and the girls helped with the first checkpoint for the 50 K run (manned by the cross-country/track team and coaches). Grandson Nick had been preparing all spring and summer to run in it again (like he did last year) but he fell several times and hurt his feet and legs (suffering from tendonitis) and had to pull out of the run.

Here at the ranch we had a lot of lighting, rain and horrible wind that afternoon. The wind really tested our tarping job on my little haystacks. I’m glad we had them tarped or the top bales would have been soaked.

Heather and Gregory sent us a cute photo of baby Joseph wearing one of the little shirts Andrea gave him.
Baby Joseph

Sunday morning about 25 range cow pairs came over the hill and headed down into Alfonso’s hayfield but he saw them in time to head them off. Then he saddled his horse and took them back to the range. The gate in Baker Creek (between low range and middle range) was open and they’d come down through it, and came home.

Robbie and Michael put a new weir in one of our ditches and cemented it in so that it will work properly and not wash out or shift (and read wrong) like it has in the past. Nick was laid up for a couple days with his tendonitis and micro-fractures in his feet, so Michael used the backhoe to do the digging to install the weir.

With the hot weather our creek is steadily dropping, but we are trying to keep juggling and adjusting the water so that the 1st right (Jack), at the mouth of the creek doesn’t get short and call for water. Last year, with the manipulations by Bob Loucks (who did everything he could to get our water shut off or cut down early—putting our creek into regulation earlier than it ever had been, for no reason) the water master came out many times, and cost us all a lot of money. Alfonso decided to try to work with us this year instead of against us, cooperating on the use of our shared ditches. That way we can try to keep the water going longer, and not have the water master come out as much. He and Andrea also decided to not have a lateral water master on our shared ditches (which will also save money). So far, we’re getting by ok, trying to work together, and Jack hasn’t been short of water yet.

On Monday Nick started helping Michael and Robbie again on their custom fencing projects, even though his feet are still very sore. It’s just going to take a lot of time for them to heal.

We have a young doe with a fawn and an older doe with twin fawns living here 
and they often wander through the yard and barnyard. I snapped this photo as the mom and two babies went past the house and across the bridge.
doe & fawns

Emily has been busy making plans for her wedding; she and Sam and Dani went to Idaho Falls on Monday to get some of the things she needed. The girls are going to be in the wedding party as bridesmaid and flower girl. 

That afternoon Michael and Carolyn moved their cows down from the 320-acre mountain pasture, bringing them down to the green fields on the upper place. There’s still grass on the mountain, but it’s drying out and no longer high enough protein content so it was time to bring the cattle down. The calves will gain more weight (and the cows will milk better) on the green feed. This year their fields are still green because they haven’t had to shut off their irrigation water yet. Last year Bob Loucks, with his manipulations trying to shut their water off, had succeeded in making them turn off their water early, and their fields were dry—which cost a lot of money in lost weight gain on their calves. Mr. Loucks hurt himself by doing that, however, because his trespass water development (up into our place, to add more water to the system that supplies his house water a quarter mile away) also dried up; there was no sub-water coming into his system from our place. He’s also never understood that if we keep the irrigation water going at the top of the creek (our upper place) it is reused multiple times on down the creek and also helps keep the groundwater “full” so the creek doesn’t drop so fast in late summer.

On Tuesday Charlie’s best friend Cayson was here for the day, and the two of them moved the electric fence along the ditch pasture—taking out the steel posts and moving the fence out into the cut part of the field so the tall grass won’t short out the fence. Now we’ll be ready to put the cows back there when they run out of grass below the lane.

Today Andrea made 4 big pans of lasagna for Emily’s wedding dinner and put them in our freezer. Robbie, Nick and Michael started working on one of Alfonso’s ditches that needs a new headgate and weir. Then Robbie helped Art Turner (who owns the 15 acre piece that Loucks rents for horse pasture, who comes here for a month each summer with his camper trailer) with his well pump. It quit working last week and Robbie and Andrea helped him pull it up out of the well. He got a new one and Robbie helped him install it, and now Art and his wife have water again.

Andrea helped create a hot wire fence so we could put Buffalo Girl, George’s mom and their calves in the tall grass behind the barn, to eat that down before we park all our haying equipment back there again for winter.

I made a special card for Emily for her wedding gift, using a couple of old photos of her when she was not quite 3 years old.

JULY 22 – Last Saturday we moved the cows to new pasture and Jim brought his trailer out here to park it near the shop he created in the old trailer house. He’s moved back here from the job he had in Kentucky and will be staying with Emily and Robert or at Andrea’s house, and working here in his shop.

Andrea found a huge rattlesnake in one of our ditches when she was irrigating. We have lots of snakes this year.

On Sunday when our Amish neighbors were hurrying down the road to go to church at the Amish place around the hill, their buggy wheel came off, so one of the guys came to get some bolts from us to fix the wheel.

Robbie helped Michael finish the cement base for the new headgate and weir they put in for Alfonso’s ditch below our place.

Carolyn put together a spreadsheet showing how much the water master cost per trip out here (how expensive Gary was last year compared with the former watermasters during the past 3 years). Gary came up the creek last week-- the first time this year-- checking weirs for no reason; the creek is not short of water yet—there is plenty for Jack’s 1st right-- but Jack and Bob are eager to put us in regulation.

It was a sad day last week when Michael and Carolyn had to put down their old dog Tuff. He was 13 years old and dying of cancer. Tuff was one of their best cowdogs through the years and was just a pup in 2003 when he and his littermate Tiny helped rescue all their cows off the range just ahead of a terrible fire.

Here’s a photo taken several years ago of Baxter (Tuff’s younger brother) and Tuffy following granddaughter Heather’s horse on a range ride.
Baxter & Tuffy

Monday evening Mike Boyott came by from Tennessee to visit us. He is a professional photographer and took photos here at our ranch in the early 1980’s for the New Holland News cover and my article on calving.

Sam and Dani have been helping Emily make decorations for the wedding. 

Tuesday night a cow was bawling just before we went to bed. Andrea and I hiked up to the swamp pasture with flashlights to see what the problem was and found that Rosalee had a big udder. We brought her and her calf down to corral thinking the calf might be sick, but he was bawling too (very hungry). The next morning in the daylight we could see that the cow had mud caked on her udder from going through the deep bogs, and her udder was sore. She wouldn’t let him suckle. So we put her in the headcatch, washed off the thick mud, milked her out, and put vaseline on her teats but she still wouldn’t let him nurse. By the next morning, however, her udder wasn’t so sore. The calf had nursed and all was good, so we let them back up with the other cows and moved the herd to the next pasture.

Ned and Pam got here that evening from Texas. They flew to Salt Lake the night before, then rented a car and drove here, staying with Andrea for several days. That evening we all had dinner at Andrea’s place.

Charlie went up to Michael and Carolyn’s to get instructions for feeding the dogs and house-sitting at night while they and Nick are gone to Canada. They left early yesterday morning and will be gone a few days visiting Heather and Gregory and celebrating their first wedding anniversary. 

Yesterday Andrea helped us move the heifers and bull to the post pile pasture and put Buffalo Girl and calf and George and his mama on the ditchbank pasture above the horse pasture. Pam and Ned helped Andrea and Sam make a bunch of salads and desserts for Emily’s wedding dinner. Lynn and I made a huge potato salad. Robbie, Charlie and Jim loaded up 22 bales of hay from our stackyard and took them to Kolemans to create benches (with boards over them) for the outdoor wedding, then they all went to the Elks Hall in the evening to decorate it for the wedding dinner.

Emily’s friend Audra (best friends since they were in kindergarten, and they played hockey together for many years) came for the wedding to be her maid of honor, and then learned that her boyfriend Tristan had been in a serious accident. He was a truck driver, and his truck got broadsided by a big milk tanker truck—and Tristan was life-flighted to a hospital in Boise. Audra left immediately to drive to Boise to be with him, but he died before she got there. Yesterday she drove back here, bravely going ahead with her promise to Emily to be her maid of honor.

Today was Emily’s wedding and we were grateful for good weather. Even though it was hot, it was not windy, and there were no lightning storms like we’ve had many afternoons lately. The decorations were lovely and Em was dazzling in her beautiful dress. Jim walked her down the grassy “aisle” and Emily’s friend Jeremy did the wedding ceremony.
Jim bringing Em down the aisle 
Em & Robert

Here’s another photo of the newly married couple, and Jeremy, who married them, and Audra, the maid of honor:

Here are candid shots of grandpa Lynn giving Em a hug, and a proud papa (Jim).

Em & grandpa
Jim & Em

After the wedding, Lynn and I hurried home to do chores and heat up one of the big frozen lasagna pans from our freezer, and took a lot of the food in our pickup for the dinner that evening at the Elks Hall. Pam and Ned helped with the food preparations in the kitchen. 

Here are photos taken just before the dinner, of Emily and Robert, and Emily and her dad, Jim.
Robert & Emily
Emily & her dad

It was a lovely wedding, a wonderful dinner, with dancing afterward. Here are photos of Em and Robert on their first dance, and photos of Em dancing with her dad:
Em & Robert dancing
Em & Robert
Em dancing with her dad
Jim & his daughter Em

Partway through the dancing they cut their cake:
the cake, made by good friend Anita
Robert & Em cutting the cake

Lynn and I brought home leftover food to put in our refrigerator, and brought Charlie home to house-sit at Michael’s place. Everyone was exhausted, but grateful for a wonderful day.