Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - August 20 through September 5, 2017

AUGUST 26 – We’ve had a lot more hot, dry weather and the creek is dropping every day.  We’re now down to just part of our water right, in using only one ditch.

Jim has been working long hours in his shop and finished the lovely two-shelf entry table he was making, and Andrea took photos of it.
Jim's entry table
entry table
table -bottom shelf
table top
He is hoping to sell the antler lamps and furniture that he creates.  Anyone interested in his antler lamps and tables can contact him at 775-346-0054 (cell phone).

Now that they’ve finished the boundary fence on our lower place (much of it jack fence, so posts won’t loosen in the wet ground)….
jack fence boundary
 …our family fencing crew can tackle some of our internal fences that are old and deteriorating.

On Monday Michael and Nick rented the hydraulic post pounder from Sy Miller again, and set all the posts for the new fence between the lower back field and the little pasture by the creek.  The old fence they tore out was one we built in 1967 and most of the old posts were rotting off.

That was the day of the total solar eclipse.  Lynn washed off the face-screen of one of his welding helmets and he, Michael and Nick used it to safely watch the eclipse.
Lynn watching eclipse with welding helmet
Andrea, Robbie and kids were still camping at Lone Pine and stayed one more night so they could watch the eclipse; it was a total eclipse where they were camping, whereas it was only about a 97% eclipse here at the ranch.  It didn’t get completely dark, but the light was dim and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees for a short time.

Afterward, the traffic on the highway all afternoon was nearly bumper to bumper; thousands of people came to our remote area to watch the eclipse.

The next day Andrea, Dani and I rode out through Gooch’s Basin to go up the ridge to the 320 and out onto the high range, for Willow’s 11th ride (and first ride this year with 2 extra horses).
Andrea on Willow and Dani on Ed, starting up the ridge
We rode up through our 320-acre pasture and checked to make sure no range cattle had gotten in.  We hope to save that grass for our own cows after we sell their calves.  Here are photos of Andrea and Dani riding through the 320.
riding through the 320
Going up through the 320
We went on up into the high range and continued up Baker Creek a ways and there were too many cattle in there; the grass is all eaten.  The folks who use the range now (since we sold our range permit) don’t ride often enough to monitor the range and the cattle, and the range and the cattle have all suffered.

We gently moved the lowest cows a little farther up the creek, in hopes they might go out on the hills above—where there’s a little more grass.  This was Willow’s first experience following cows.  Here are photos of Andrea and Dani moving the low cows up, showing how little grass is left on that part of the range.
moving cattle up Baker Creek
Andrea & Dani moving cows
We then rode out through the timber to the ridge and came down into the south side of the 320 and down the road.

Phil Moulton brought the first loads of hay we are buying from him, and stacked it in the hold pen next to Shiloh and Sprout.  It will be handy there again, for feeding the heifers this winter.
the hay Phil hauled to us
round bales stacked

On Wednesday Nick and Robbie put poles along the bottom of the net wire on Willow’s pen, to keep the wire from curving up where Willow has tried to push through to eat grass on the other side of the fence.  They also moved the hot wire that was on Breezy’s side of the fence so that it sticks out on Willow’s side as well.  Now both horses can reach under it far enough to keep the grass trimmed clear away (not growing up tall on Breezy’s side and temping Willow to try to reach it through the netting) and yet they won’t rub on the fence.
hot wire on both sides & pole on bottom of the net wire
While I was taking a photo of the fence, Willow came to see what I was doing, so I took a photo of her, too.
That afternoon Andrea and I rode for 2 hours (Willow’s 12th ride)—a fast ride across the low range over Coyote Flat and up into the middle range and up the 2nd gully.  We stopped to let the horses drink at the water trough partway up that gully.  Here’s a photo of that trough, and Willow learning how to drink out of it.
trough in 2nd gully
Willow is learning how to drink out of troughs on the range
We went on up the 2nd gully, which is a steady climb…
Andrea riding Willow on up the 2nd gully
Then as we came on up toward the bear trough (named because our neighbor Galen Kossler years ago found a bear taking a cool-off bath in the trough) we discovered that a bear had very recently been eating chokecherries in the grove of chokecherry trees halfway between the two troughs.  Branches and trees were broken down, and many piles of fresh bear poop were evidence of the recent feast.  The evidence was so fresh (leaves still drifting down off the broken trees) that we decided not to go on up the draw—in case the bear was still around and just ahead of us.  Instead we went back out on the open hillsides and over to Crawley trough and back to the low range and home.  Willow is starting to get in shape; she made that trip fairly easily and we did a lot of trotting where it wasn’t too steep.

That evening we had an early birthday party for Charlie and had a pot-luck dinner at Andrea’s house.  His birthday wasn’t until the next day, but the kids had to go back to their dad that day, so we celebrated a day early.  He got some school clothes and a couple “gift certificates” from us—for a future tank of gas for his pickup, and a future “mystery” surprise gift that I ordered, which hasn’t arrived yet.

Yesterday Nick and Robbie rebuilt the old broken jack fence in the bull pen.  Over the last few years the bulls have rubbed on it and fought and pushed each other into it, and since the poles were getting old (built in 1993) some of them had broken.
new fence in bull pen

We didn’t ride yesterday (too many other things to catch up on) so today Andrea and I took Willow and Dottie for a short loop up the ridge and around to the salt ground across Baker Creek (for Willow’s 13th ride) where we met Alfonso with a pack horse, packing more salt to the high range.   Then we hurried home so Andrea could drive to Rexburg to watch Dani’s cross-country meet.  Lynn went to town to do the town errands and meet up with Edna and Ed (his older sister and her husband) who were driving through Salmon.  They also met up with sister Jenelle and all had lunch together in town, and had a good visit.

AUGUST 31 – Last Saturday Jim finished the fancy bluebird house he was building, and I took photos of it when Jim brought it in to show us.
bluebird house
Jim's bluebird house
It has a handy door for cleaning it out, with door latch made of antler, and Jim did some meticulous decoration above the bird hole, using turquoise.
Jim unlatching the door that opens for cleaning the inside
turquoise above the door hole

Andrea and I made a short ride on the low range that afternoon—Willow’s 14th ride—and when we went down off the ridge to the Baker grove we spooked a cow elk.  She apparently thought we would ride right on by (because she could obviously hear us talking as we approached); she didn’t move out of the brush where she was hiding.  But when we started across the bottom end of the grove, to cross the trickle of Baker Creek in the gully, we were coming right toward her—which she didn’t expect.  She burst out of the bushes, crashing through the trees, which startled our horses—especially Willow, who has never seen an elk up close.  Willow jumped and looked around, bug-eyed, then stood there trembling and watching the elk—who paused to look at us and then trotted over the hill.  Once she realized the elk was leaving, Willow settled down and just watched with intense curiosity as we followed the same trail and then went down the jeep road to finish our short loop.

On Sunday Andrea and her dogs changed the irrigation water early, then she and Robbie put several of the old small bales in the bulls’ feeder.  That afternoon Andrea and I rode Dottie and Willow and went up Baker Creek on the high range.  This was Willow’s 15th ride and her longest ride so far (4 ½ hours).  On our way through the 320 we found a calf of Alfonso’s in our pasture, and a bull hanging down on the gate.  We got the calf out our place and took it and the bull farther up the creek to join up with other range cattle, and pushed that group a little higher.
Willow following a few cows and calves up Baker Creek
As we went on up Baker Creek we discovered a dead calf (belonging to John Miller) that looked like it had been run into a big tree.  The hindquarters and brand were already eaten.  The ear tag was still intact and that’s how we know it was Miller’s calf.
dead calf by tree
We don’t know if it was killed by wolves or a cougar, or if it simply staggered into the tree and died from respiratory disease.  Several calves out there are coughing and having respiratory problems—probably from all the dust and smoke, and the stress of hot days and cold nights (perfect weather for pneumonia).

We rode a little farther up the creek, and found another dead calf, right in the creek, only about 30 feet from where a calf was killed last year by wolves.  This calf was freshly dead, still limp and not stiffened up yet, and we couldn’t see any signs of trauma.  It may have died of pneumonia rather than killed by predators.   I held Willow while Andrea checked it more closely, and picked up the head to read the ear tag.  It belonged to John Miller, too.
second dead calf
We rode on up the creek and out to the ridge to check the Cat Hole trough at the top of the ridge.  There were thirsty cattle around it, and no water; the pipe into the trough was only dripping.  It looks like that spring isn’t running enough now to keep ahead of the cows or else the flow has cut down because the float at the trough got broken off and the valve sticks shut.  These new troughs that got put in last year by the BLM and the range users have a very poor design for our type of springs.  There’s less to go wrong if you don’t have to depend on a float.  Our water developments always worked nicely without a float.

We rode over the top and Andrea led Willow down the steep hill to Peach Pit trough, which isn’t working at all because the cattle have broken the plastic pipe that goes into the trough.  Again, there were a bunch of thirsty cows hanging around the trough.  I wish those guys would ride often enough to check troughs, find the problems and fix them before the cattle have to suffer from lack of water!

We rode down Withington Creek and found no cows in that canyon, but lots of tracks and horse tracks.  Millers and Alfonso had pushed them out the day before, and over the top into Baker Creek, which overloaded Baker Creek (where there’s not enough feed or water).  This is a shame, because there is a lot of grass on the Withington Creek side of the mountain.

We got home late and fed the horses late.  I called John Miller to tell him about the dead calves, and mentioned to him it might be wise to put some protein supplement up Withington Creek.  The grass is so dry this year that the protein level is much too low, and the early-season grass the Forest Service planted after the 2003 fire is worthless after it dries out.  It’s like straw, with very little food value, and the cows don’t even want to eat it.  They just want to come home.  On a dry year like this one, a protein supplement would make a big difference and those cows and calves wouldn’t be losing weight.

That evening I took photos (through the window) of a young mule deer fawn in our front yard.  The fawns are still pretty small for this time of year and still have spots.
fawn in yard
mule deer fawn

Monday was hot again, up to 86 degrees.  Robbie and Nick have been working on my brother Rocky’s fence along the road by his new house.  Andrea went to Idaho Falls to her first appointment with the new pain doctor (her old one retired).  This new doctor has never had a burn survivor patient before, and was intrigued by some of her problems with contracted scar tissue and hopes to try to help her.

Tuesday the temperature was up to 90 degrees.  We checked on the cows, and since they were running out of grass on the back field, we let them into post pile pasture.  I had just started typing another article (to meet one of my deadlines for a horse magazine) and the power went off for 2 hours (big disadvantage of a computer compared to my good old typewriter in years past!)  I called it in, since it seemed to be only our creek, and the power company guys came out to find the problem.  This time of year it’s usually due to huge flocks of blackbirds as they eat the chokecherries, group up in preparation for migrating south, and land on the power lines.  When several hundred birds take off, the wires flap and hit each other and short out, blowing the breaker fuse down at the mouth of the creek.

Andrea and I rode 4 hours that afternoon, Willow’s 16th ride.  We went to Baker Creek again and killed a big rattlesnake in the 320.  The dead calves are nearly all gone, eaten by predators, and the cows were a little spooky (maybe leery of the cougar or wolves that have been eating on the calves). We rode up through the timber and I took a photo of Andrea and Willow.
Willow heading up through the timber
We rode over into Basco basin and discovered that trough wasn’t working either.  The pipe was broken off and the water running out on the ground instead of into the trough.  This probably happened right after the cattle were all jammed in there when the Amish and Alfonso moved them all into the high range from the middle range in one day.  With only one water source it couldn’t handle that many cattle and the thirsty cows ganged around the trough and probably broke the pipe.

I held Willow and Andrea fixed it.  She used my leatherman knife to cut the plastic pipe and use a different elbow from an old piece that was there, put it together and got it running into the trough again.  Then she put a lot of poles, boards, and rocks on the eroded area where the cows have been stepping on the horizontal pipe on the ground, so they won’t break it.  I took photos of her piling rocks, etc. over the pipe to protect it, after fixing the trough.
Andrea fixing Basco trough
piling stuff on pipe to protect it
We spent about an hour there, fixing the trough, then came home through middle range and were late with chores.

Earlier that day Michael hauled Miller’s mini excavator up the creek and let them go through our 320—and showed them how to go across the top to get around the steep draws and timber.  Yesterday they drove it on up there to work on Witteborg spring, which is only a few drips, but they were hoping to dig it out enough to capture all the water in a springbox and pipe it down to a tank for their range cattle.  They wanted to do it last year, but we advised them not to, because there’s not enough water there to service a trough, but the BLM manager wanted them to do it.  We felt it was foolish to try to develop a poor spring that would only be an enticement to thirsty cows to hang there in that corner by our 320 instead of going on around to Baker Creek—where there is a really GOOD spring that we developed a long time ago, but which they’ve allowed the old trough to rust out and it doesn’t hold water anymore.  It needs to be replaced, and that spring would water more than 100 cows, like it always used to do.

On our way home we saw another dead calf—that very recently died—on the hillside below that spring.  This one belonged to Alfonso, and it looked like it may have died of pneumonia.

Early this morning my brother Rocky called to say he saw another dead animal just above the cattle-guard on the road by his house.  Michael and Carolyn drove up there to check on it and saw that it also belonged to Alfonso, and probably died of pneumonia.  This has been a really bad year for those cattle out on the range, especially this fall with hot days, cold nights, lots of smoke, and all the dust from dry conditions.  The dust and smoke irritate the respiratory passages, and the stress from temperature extremes hinders the immune system.  This makes those calves more vulnerable to respiratory infections.

We had a similar situation one really dry year during the 1980’s when we had daytime temps up to 90 degrees, dropping into the low 40’s or high 30’s at night.  Three of our biggest steer calves got pneumonia out on the range that year, but Andrea and I were riding every day and we discovered them when they first got sick.  We were able to gently bring them down off the mountain to our upper corrals and treat them—and we saved them all.

This afternoon we moved our cows into the field by Andrea’s house.  We have only a couple more green pastures and are hoping they last long enough for the cows and calves; we don’t want to run out of good green forage before we sell the calves.  After that, the cows can do fine on drier pastures, when they aren’t producing milk.

Andrea and Robbie drove to Mud Lake to watch Dani’s cross-country meet.  She did well, coming in with the first group of runners (in the first 20, out of more than 120 runners).

SEPTEMBER 5 – On Friday Michael, Nick and Robbie tore out all the old falling-down fence between heifer hill and the field below it, so they can start rebuilding that fence.  It was built in 1967 and had been patched in a few places, but was basically worn out and some of the posts were broken off.  Cows are hard on a fence, rubbing on it, and we’ve also had herds of elk crashing over it and knocking posts over.

After she finished irrigating, Andrea and I made a short, fast ride over the low range—Willow’s 18th ride.  We just made a loop down through the bentonite dunes, across Baker Creek (totally dry now) and up the old jeep road and home.
Andrea on Willow going through dunes
Willow is starting to get in better shape and doesn’t wear out as readily, and her respiration rate doesn’t stay so high so long after exerting (climbing hills or doing a long fast trot).  She’s starting to become a real horse!

We had to get home quickly so Andrea wouldn’t be late to get to town for an MRI on her shoulder.  The new pain doctor she went to last month wants to figure out all the problems with that shoulder (damage from the burn injury and the contractures from skin grafts that have pulled everything out of place) to see if there’s anything that could be done to relieve some of those problems and pain.  She won’t know the results of the MRI for a few days.

On Saturday it was hot again (90 degrees).  Michael used the backhoe to repair the creek bank next to the field below heifer hill, where high water keeps eating away the bank, undermining our fence and threatening to remove the base of support for the power pole that carries the power line over to Andrea’s house.   He created a more gradual bank so create a watering area for cows when they are in the field below heifer hill and used the extra dirt and rocks to bulk up the area of the bank that has been washing away.
repaired bank
That morning, before it got too hot, Jim helped Lynn take out all the steel posts that we used for the temporary electric fence to divide the field below Andrea’s house.  That fence enabled the cows to graze the portion below the ditch and not get into the hayfield.  Now that the hay is harvested and the grass has grown back a little, we let the cows have the whole field to graze, and took the fence out.

Andrea and I had planned to do another ride (since Willow needs a lot more training rides this fall before we have to quit for winter and bad weather), but Andrea sliced her finger while irrigating, pulling debris out of the ditch.  A stiff, sharp blade of dry grass caught her grafted finger and sliced deeply through the skin at the joint.  It was bleeding profusely so she used her shirt to wrap tightly like a tourniquet to slow the blood flow until she could get home, clean it up, and have Sam help her super-glue the separated skin back together at the finger joint.  Not wanting to risk tearing it open again, we didn’t ride (since she still needs both hands and four reins on Willow).  That young mare will have several days off while the finger heals and while Andrea is gone for a few days.  She and Robbie and the kids left later that afternoon to drive down to his folks’ place near Idaho Falls, where they stayed overnight and then took the kids to the State Fair at Blackfoot the next day.

On their way to Robbie’s folks place they were delayed a bit, stopping to help a guy along the highway who had run out of gas.  They took him a can of gas and then had to help him start his truck again; he’d run the battery down with his flashing lights.

That afternoon a couple of Miller’s cows came through the bad fence along the county road by Rocky’s house.  Miller’s and Alfonso’s range cattle are coming down into Alfonso’s leased hill pasture next to Rocky’s place, and are trying to come on home.  The two cows that came through the fence traveled down the road to Michael’s place, and went into his yard.  Michael and Carolyn took them back up, and Alfonso put a pole through the worst of the hole to make a temporary patch in the fence.

Jim caught the pack rat that was creating havoc and bad smell in the old trailer house he uses for a shop.  He had tried poison, and several kinds of traps, with no luck, so he bought a small cage trap and put an apple core inside it—and the rat was tempted to go inside.  Jim brought the cage over by our house to show us the rat.  Here’s a photo of the rat, and of one of our cats intently watching it in the cage.
cat watching rat in cage
pack rat in cage
We reset that trap in Lynn’s old shop, across the driveway from our house.  There’s been a pack rat in there for a long time and Lynn gave up on trying to catch or kill it, but that night it took the bait and got caught in the cage trap.

Sunday was very smoky and it stayed smoky all night.  Michael put new hind shoes on Dottie and Sprout.  I’ll put their new front shoes on later.  The old shoes were worn out and their feet were getting long; it was definitely time for new shoes.

On Monday Michael and Nick rented the post pounder from Millers again and set all the posts for the new fence between heifer hill and the fence below it, and yesterday Nick and Robbie put on the wire—until they ran out of staples.  They hope to finish that fence today.  Here’s part of the new fence.
new fence
Monday morning we had visitors from Minnesota—Bob Cheney and his daughter Carey.  Bob is the grandson of Laura Cheney who was originally a Bartlett.  Her parents homesteaded part of our upper place in the early 1900’s, and there is still evidence of the old root cellar, some old lilac bushes, and the cabin foundation (the cabin itself was later moved to the lower part of the ranch my dad bought).  Laura married a Cheney (they homesteaded the little ranch adjacent and below the Bartlett homestead) and planted the maple trees that still stand along the ditch at upper end of that place.  Cheney Creek, the little stream that comes through the south side of our upper place was named for the Cheneys who homesteaded part of the ranch my dad bought in 1955 from Ida Witteborg.  One of the Cheneys also homesteaded what is now our 320 acre mountain pasture.

We first met Laura Cheney and her son in the late 1960’s when they came out to see the old homestead, and then later her grandson and great granddaughter came to see the place and we showed them around.  They wanted to come back again, so it was nice to see them again and have a visit.  We showed them the old abstract of title that includes the original homestead papers that stated Arthur Cheney was granted title to the land (from the Forest Service) in February of 1916.

Yesterday was the first day of school for the kids and Charlie drove them to school in the old Velma truck he restored.  It’s nice that he now has a driver’s license and can drive to the bus or to school!  Andrea and I rode Willow and Dottie 3 ½ hours for Willow’s 19th ride and went up through the 320 and into the high range.  We encountered 2 rattlesnakes but didn’t stop to kill them because they were in thick sagebrush.

The range cattle are losing weight because they’ve eaten all the grass in Baker Creek and are not grazing much on the mountain between Baker Creek and Withington Creek; the grass is completely dry, with no protein—like eating straw.  They are also short of water. The new trough Millers and Alfonso put in next to our 320 isn’t working; they dug out the old spring with Miller’s excavator, but it didn’t have enough water to service a trough.  Some cows were there trying to get a drink but there was no water.
cow trying to drink
empty trough
While we were there Andrea tightened her cinch on her saddle, and fixed a broken wire in our fence, tying the broken pieces together with baling twine.
Andrea tightening Willow's cinch
Andrea fixing broken wire in fence
Then we drove the group of very thirsty cows back up around to go to Baker Creek so they could get a drink.
moving the cows up around the 320 so they can go to Baker Creek

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - July 22 through August 20, 2017

JULY 31 – I’ve been letting Ed graze for an hour or so each morning above my haystack, to eat down the grass that regrew there. A fake “hot” wire (baling twine fence) keeps her out of the haystack. Here’s a photo of Ed in the area she’s keeping mowed, with Willow in the background eating hay out of her slow-feeder.
Ed mowing the grass above haystack
Willow eating from slow feeder

This past week has been hot, up to 90 degrees, and the creek is dropping. We’re rationing irrigation water and sharing some with Alfonso (who rents the Colston fields above us and below us) so we won’t need to have the creek in regulation yet. Alfonso is as disgusted as we are with the high cost of the watermaster (and the excessive amount we got charged for water last year), and realizes we need to work together to prevent a repeat of last year. He’s finally realizing that the shenanigans of neighbor Bob Loucks (who selected this watermaster) and Jack (the neighbor downstream with the first right) have hurt us all. Bob insisted on putting the creek into regulation June 22nd last year, a month earlier than ever, in the history of this creek, just so he could make the upper place (Michael and Carolyn) shut off. This year we’ve thwarted his vendetta by working with Alfonso to regulate the water on Alfonso’s place and ours (to supply enough water downstream to Jack, the neighbor with the first right), and have averted an arbitrary cut-off. We’ve stretched the irrigation out longer than usual and this has angered and frustrated the two manipulators who wanted to put the creek in regulation quicker.

Pam and Ned stayed a couple days longer, after Emily’s wedding, and helped us get everything cleaned up and taken care of. They also had time to rest a little, and visit, which was really nice. Michael, Carolyn and Nick had a good visit in Canada with Heather and Gregory and little Joseph who is now almost 3 months old.
Gregory & little Monkey
They put a new roof on Gregory’s parents’ house while they were there. They started home Monday, but had a serious tire problem; several lug bolts broke and the wheel almost came off. Fortunately they discovered it in time (the tire was shimmying) and didn’t have a wreck. They called Gregory who came with a trailer and hauled their car back to his farm while his dad went to the nearest town for parts. They were able to fix it and started out again the next day, getting home Tuesday evening.

The cows in the upper swamp pasture were out of grass by Tuesday; we moved them to the next pasture. Michael brought the backhoe and worked on the head of Alfonso’s ditch that comes out of our lower pasture, to put in a new headgate for him.

That afternoon we had a horrific rainstorm for 20 minutes. It washed rocks and gravel down the gullies and made deep ruts in our driveway. The rock and gravel that came down from our hill pasture nearly buried the fence, and washed a big pile down onto the country road. It came down through the culvert under the road and filled up our ditch and spewed gravel down across the field.
rocks & gravel that came down the draw
rocks piled against the fence
gravel came clear down across the road
We had to dig out the ditch the next day, before we could get water through it again. The flooding left huge pools of water in the horse pens; Andrea had to dig some channels for the water to flow out and drain those pools.

On Thursday we went for a short ride with the girls (Sam and Dani haven’t had much chance to ride this summer) and ran into two rattlesnakes along the trail, which Andrea killed. After we got home from our ride and unsaddled the horses I snapped photos of Dani cleaning the rocks out of Dani’s feet.
Sam & Dani riding with us
Dani cleaning Ed's feet

Michael and Carolyn treated their bull for foot rot. Then Michael started tearing the backhoe apart to get at the hydraulic leak that needs to be fixed. It’s been leaking for more than a year, and we’ve just kept buying more hydraulic oil to add to it, but after working on the ditch for Alfonso the leak got much worse. He got the old metal line out and was putting in two new rubber ones (there was another line that was about to break) but had to order a new part. Then he finished putting it back together—before he started on a major project to fix another ditch for Alfonso that serves the backside of the old Gooch place. Bob Loucks helped Alfonso put in a couple different headgates and weirs in that ditch during the past 5 years but they both washed out and the creek made a huge deep channel down the ditch. Michael did a major repair on the creek channel and ditch, and concreted the headgate in place so it should last a lot longer this time.

Friday Andrea, Robbie and Emily drove to a little town called Declo, near Burley, for Tristan’s funeral (Audra’s boyfriend who was killed in a truck accident). Emily stayed to help Audra pack, and then came back home the next day with Audra.

On Saturday we brought the cows down from the swamp pasture, sorted off the bull to put in the back corral, brought the heifers up from the post pile pasture and sorted off the yearling bull to put with the big bull, then took the cows and heifers up the road to the heifer hill pasture. After we left them in the pasture Andrea and I rode on up to our 320-acre pasture and checked the fence and made sure there were no range cows in there, then made a loop through the high range. There were two pairs of Alfonsos already in there (one cow had a 2-week old new calf) but the grass in there is a lot better than last year. Millers and Alfonso put their cattle in there a month too early last year, and ran out of grass.

We checked troughs and were glad to see that Alfonso fixed the broken pipe on the Basco trough so it’s actually working again. We came home through the middle range and checked troughs. Coming through the timber at High Camp we saw a young bear (cinnamon phase black bear) with two very small cubs. The little black one ran up a tree and we took photos of him and his mama.
mama bear
mama bear

There’s no grass left in the high part of the middle range but still quite a bit of grass on the lower half, and some of the cows have moved back down there, so they ought to be fine until they get moved to the high range.

That afternoon Robbie and Jim helped Lynn put the hay fork back on the tractor and Lynn took a big round bale (one of the two we have left from last winter) to the bulls in the back pen, to put in their feeder.

Yesterday Andrea and I rode again, this time on the lower part of the middle range, to check on things for Alfonso. She rode up the third (far) draw and I went up the second draw, and discovered a very thin, lame calf of Alfonso’s with a huge fetlock joint. We called Alfonso to tell him about the calf.

After we rode, we brought Willow out of her pen and started working with her, putting a saddle on her for the first time this year. We didn’t have time to do anything with her last year, and she’s had a vacation from training since Andrea rode her 25 times as a 3 year old. Now she’s 5 years old--big and bold and headstrong--and it’s time to finish her training.

Granddaughter Heather sent photos of baby Joseph who is now 3 months old.
Joseph 3 months old
Gregory and Joseph - 3 months

Today was very hot again. Jack (who has the 1st right at the mouth of the creek) was short of water this morning so Michael and Carolyn spent most of the day going up and down the creek and adjusting all our water so that we all cut down a little, to send more on down to Jack to fill his right. If we can keep juggling water so Jack has enough, we can keep Gary (watermaster) from coming out and locking all the headgates.

Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie and Andrea ponied (led) Willow out over the low range. We’re going to go back to all the basics briefly to get this young mare back into the habit of regular handling so she’ll transition smoothly into being ridden again to continue her training. Breezy was the best choice for leading Willow, since she’s more mellow and tolerant than Sprout, and less likely to kick Willow.
Andrea ponying Willow
After we got back from that short loop we rode Sprout and Dottie to show Alfonso where his lame calf was. We rode over to the 2nd gully and there was the poor skinny calf, exactly where he was when I saw him yesterday. He’s definitely been orphaned, and can’t travel very well.
lame calf with swollen fetlock joint
We started moving him slowly down to the main trail, with Andrea on foot pushing him along and me leading her horse (and Alfonso leading his horse) but soon realized he would never make it far enough to get a vehicle to him on the low range to load him up and haul him home.
Andrea trying to encourage the calf to walk
So Andrea used her cell phone to call Bodenhammers, the ranchers who have the range pasture adjoining the middle range, and asked permission to bring the calf home through their place. They granted us permission, so Alfonso rode home --and we called Lynn to tell him to meet up with Alfonso so they could drive around through the back road and up through that range pasture, because Lynn knows the way. Andrea and I began the slow task of trying to get the calf down through the gate and partway down though that range. The calf couldn’t walk very well with the lame leg, and was very hot. Andrea poured her water bottles over him to try to cool him off, and he went a little farther, then lay down. She rode half a mile to a water trough to fill her bottles again, and came back to pour more water over him. He rallied a bit and went a little farther, then collapsed again. I stayed with the calf while Andrea rode down through the sagebrush to meet up with Lynn and Alfonso to guide them to where we were.

Before they arrived, however, Alan Bodenhammer and his hired man came up over the hill in an ATV. Andrea met up with them and brought them to where I was waiting with the calf. We had to get the calf across a deep gully to get him to the ATV, and even though he was able to walk down into the gully he lay down and wouldn’t walk up the other side. So they had to drag him up it. Then they backed the ATV up to the calf, tipped the tilt bed, rolled him onto it and tipped it back down. They tied his legs together so he couldn’t try to get up and lurch out. Andrea rode in the back with the calf to keep him still and calm, and I led Sprout.

About that time Lynn and Alfonso got there with our old jeep. We all went down out of there—the ATV with Andrea and the calf, me riding Dottie and leading Spout at a trot, following the ATV, and our jeep following along behind. We brought the calf about a mile down to the back road, where we off-loaded him into the back of our jeep. Lynn and Alfonso took the calf to his place, and Andrea and I rode up the back road through the little town of Baker and up the creek road to our place. Alfonso put the calf in a shady area by his camp and gave him some water. We hope the calf will survive.

AUGUST 8 – Weather continues hot and this past week we’ve had a lot of smoke drifting into our valley from multiple fires. There are terrible fires over the mountains from us in Montana, and several in southern Idaho. We’re also getting smoke from some of the Canadian fires.

Speaking of Canada, granddaughter Heather sent more photos this week –of their cows, and baby Monkey riding with his mama, hanging out with mom, and sleeping.
Canadian cows
monkey riding
mom & kid
monkey & hat
sleepy monkey

On Tuesday Andrea and I rode Breezy and Dottie and took Willow for her 2nd ponying session, up the road this time. She’s settling in fairly well to be led from another horse (since she was ponied a few times during her earlier training before we started riding her).
Willow's 2nd leading session, heading up the road
We only made a short ride, however, since I had to get home before 10 a.m. Lynn and I had an appointment with the dermatologist to have more precancerous lesions removed (frozen off with liquid nitrogen) from various areas on our faces.

That afternoon Mark called Andrea to mention that he was taking Sam to a doctor because she’d been bumped on the head a few days earlier and was still having headaches. She had a concussion and needs to take it easy for a few days.

Wednesday we ponied Willow again and led her on a much longer loop over the low range, where she had to go through more sagebrush and climb a few hills.
Willow's 3rd session
out on the low range
Lynn checked the water on the lower place to make sure Jack still had enough, and looked at the lame calf at Alfonso’s camp. The calf seemed to be doing better and Alfonso said it is sucking a bottle now.

The next day we ponied Willow even farther, this time with a saddle on.

Willow with saddle on
leading Willow with saddle

Alfonso made a long ride and checked the high range fences and shut gates into the adjoining range, preparing to move cattle to the high range. He wants us to help him move some of the cows. That evening I cooked a big pot of chili and some corn bread to feed the kids when they got home from Mark’s place. Emily, Audra and Jim joined us for supper.

Friday Lynn went to town early for his appointment with the heart doctor, and it went very well.

I got the horses ready to ride, soon after Lynn left to go to town. Dani, Andrea and I rode for 5 hours to move the low cows up higher, while Alfonso packed salt to the high range. The Amish couldn’t help with cattle moving except on Saturday and wanted to do it all at once instead of in small groups, so Alfonso wanted us to help--moving some of the low cows up—so they wouldn’t have to go so far on Saturday. Some of his cows have young calves, born out there on the range, and if they have to go very far in a big mob they get separated from their mothers and also get too tired on a long drive uphill in the hot weather. The way the Amish move cattle, with lots of riders and dogs--and taking them too far, too fast, trying to do it all in one day--is really hard on the cattle.

So Andrea, Dani and I tackled the job of moving them up in small groups on Friday, slowly and patiently. We started at the first gully, heading about a dozen pairs up that canyon and letting them drift on up, on their own, then went around to the 2nd gully where we picked up about 25 pair. I took them up that canyon while Andrea and Dani went around to the 3rd gully to gather any in that area.

Dottie and I took our time, letting the cattle string out up the draw at their own pace, just bringing up the rear to make sure the calves (that kept stopping in the draw to drink water) kept coming. When we got up to the water trough partway up that canyon we let the herd drink there until they last ones’ thirst was satisfied.
letting the cows drink at the trough in the 2nd gully
We worked our way slowly up through the brush, picking up a few more pairs along the way, and eventually got to the bear trough where the cattle drank again. The leaders
headed on up through the brushy draw and I rode out toward the salt ground to see if I could see any sign of Andrea and Dani, and met a herd of cows coming over that ridge. Dani was bringing them from that area; she and Andrea had gathered about a dozen that Dani brought on up that tributary draw while Andrea went back to the 3rd gully to gather cattle strung out in that basin. Here are photos of Dani bringing her group of cattle up to the ridge, where I met her.
Dani bringing a group of cows
Dani's group of cows coming up to the ridge
After she got the cattle up over the ridge, Dani got off and re-adjusted her saddle because it had slipped back too far while climbing up the mountain.
Dani readjusting her saddle
We took her cows to the Bear trough, where they drank their fill of water. After they drank, Dani let Ed get a drink.
cows drinking at bear trough
Dani lets Ed drink at bear trough
Then we pushed her group on up into the brushy draw to join up with the cows I’d brought. We slowly worked the cattle up that draw, letting them take their time. With no dogs, no pushing, no yelling, the cattle moved up the two canyons without stress and were not very hot or tired when we finally left them in shady areas at the heads of those two draws. Hopefully most of them would stay in those areas, at that elevation, and be easier to move on up (another half mile up the mountain) to the high range the next day when the Amish moved them.

It was quite smoky the day we moved cows, and even smokier on Saturday. Dani was congested from all the smoke so she didn’t ride with Andrea and me when we took Willow for a fast ponying ride, saddled and bridled this time. We put Lynn’s old saddle on her that day because it’s heavier—to get her used to carrying more weight again. This is an old saddle Lynn’s father had custom made by Hamley Saddlery in 1922.
Willow wearing old Hamley saddle

Fifteen riders went out over the middle range to move cattle to the high range but we didn’t go with them, not wanting to be a part of that chaos (a lot of people riding out there just for the fun of a roundup, not knowing the range, nor how to move cattle). Alfonso wanted us to wait and ride with him Sunday to “pick up the pieces” and gather the cattle the Amish missed.

We went down to his camp Saturday evening to check on the calf with the swollen leg. He wasn’t doing very well and I took his temperature. He had a fever of 104.4 and his lungs were rattling; he had pneumonia. He was weak and couldn’t get up. Also he was very thirsty. Alfonso brought him a bucket of water from the creek and the calf drank a lot. We came home and got some medication for the calf but the prognosis didn’t look very good. He died the next day. Apparently the joint infection (probably from snakebite) went systemic and it was too late to reverse it, but at least we tried.

That evening we had a mule deer doe and fawns in our back yard. I took photos through the window of one of the fawns trying to nibble vines growing on the fence.
fawn nibbling vine
fawn in back yard

Sunday Andrea, Dani and I rode for nearly 6 hours to help Alfonso find the cows that got missed. We split up to cover a lot of country. Dani and I rode up the 2nd gully but there were no cattle in that area, so we went out through the rugged country between the 1st and 2nd gully and then found 2 pair near the Crawley trough. We brought them about a mile (to the bear trough and then up a steep ridge) to the designated meeting area by the green trough bed-ground. We waited there with the cattle for half an hour until Alfonso showed up (he found nothing in the 3rd gully) and then Andrea arrived with no cows either. She had checked all the area around two-pipe trough. So we took the two pair on up the mountain to High Camp trough in the timber, where we found 9 more pairs and a bull, and moved them all through the timber to the high range.
moving the cows through timber past High Camp trough
Dani helping move the cows
we picked up a bull and more cows in the timber
After we moved them to the high range we ate lunch at Basco trough. There were too many cows there and not enough water. This is the problem with moving all the cattle in one day and dumping them into an area with only one trough. We always moved small groups over a period of several days (making sure all the cows had their calves) and then they weren’t all trying to drink from the only water source at once. The Amish and Alfonso haven’t figured that out yet, even though we tried to give them some tips about using the range, when they first came here. Some of these cattle will go thirsty until they climb on over the hill into Baker Creek.

On our way home we went around to Baker Creek and down to the middle range. We found 2 more cows on our way home down the other side of the mountain and brought them up through the gate to the high range. We found another pair and extra calf at the lower end of the middle range pasture in Baker Creek. Those will have to wait until another day. Our horses were tired, so we just came on home from there.

Heather sent more photos from Canada—of little Monkey and his dog Dude.
Dude packing a water bucket
Dude and Monkey taking a nap
Monkey trying to crawl

Yesterday was hot again. Michael and Carolyn brought their yearling bull down to our place, to live with our two bulls until next year’s breeding season. They are going to sell their older bull; he’s become too aggressive and dangerous. They also took their 4 yearling steers and one cull cow (that lost her calf this spring) to the community corral at Carmen where Rusty Hamilton loaded a semi-truck with neighborhood cattle to take to the sale at Butte, Montana. Michael wanted to take the bull, but he first has to get over the withdrawal period after the antibiotics he received as treatment for foot rot.

That afternoon Andrea rode Willow for the first time this year; we made a short ride onto the low range. The young mare did very well, considering she was only ridden a few times as a 3-year-old (2 years ago) and had no handling last year at all. We will try to pick up where we left off on her training.
Andrea's 1st ride on Willow this year

Michael and Nick brought a load of posts and poles yesterday and started work early today (at 6 a.m. while it’s still cool) and Robbie joined them, to start sawing out trees to rebuild some more of the old falling-down boundary fence on the lower end of our place. Trees keep falling down over the fence and it’s hard to keep it functional. They will be also be making a jackfence along most of that back field since some areas are too boggy to hold a regular fence. Michael used the backhoe to take out the worst of the brush, to clear a path for the new fence. He used a rented skid steer to take posts and poles on down into the field, but had a flat tire on it mid-day. Lynn gave him and the tire a ride to town to fix the tire.

Andrea changed water then held Dottie for me to put new shoes on her front feet. Then we made another ride—Willow’s 2nd ride of the year. We went down the road and through the field to take pictures of the new jackfence, then rode over the hill to make a loop on the low range. Willow did very well.
new jackfence

AUGUST 14 – Last Wednesday Michael and Nick set all the new posts for the new fence that will have barbed-wire; the rest of the fence will be jack fence. Here are photos of the posts they set, and the sections of jack fence that they’ve already finished.
posts set
jackfece across swale
jack fence

I reset Ed’s front shoes. Her feet were getting very long and I don’t want her tripping and stumbling with Dani riding her. That afternoon Lynn, Andrea, Carolyn, the watermaster (Gary) and Cindy from Idaho Dept. of Water Resources looked at the new weir on our #8 ditch that brings water to Alfonso’s field above ours, and to our upper field next to Andrea’s house. They determined that it is reading wrong (it was made wrong) so we’ll have to put a new measuring stick on it, which Lynn will pick up at Cindy’s office on his next trip to town. Andrea and I rode Willow again, another loop over the low range (for her 3rd ride) and she had to climb a few hills. We are planning to make lots of short daily rides to start getting her in better shape for longer rides.
Willow's 3rd ride

That evening I hiked down to our back field and took photos of the jack fence at the bottom of the field, and the section of fence with wire on it--that the guys have finished--and on my way back took a photo of our ancient barn with a vine growing over the end of it.
jack fence
new barbed-wire fence
old barn

The next day Robbie helped on the fencing project and they got it finished on that lower field—and now just have the boundary fence below the post pile pasture to finish.

I reshod Ed’s hind feet, so she’ll probably be fine for the rest of Dani’s riding this fall. Then Andrea and I made her 4th ride on Willow. It’s good for Dottie, too, to be ridden every day because she behaves a lot better when she doesn’t have much time off. On this ride we went up the road, out through Gooch’s Basin, and down into Baker Creek. Willow doesn’t mind weaving through tall sagebrush or crossing the little stream.
Andrea and Willow heading up the road
Willow's 4th ride
heading for Baker Creek
crossing Baker Creek
Each time we ride, we handle Willow’s feet before and after the ride. Andrea has been placing an old shoe over the foot and tapping on it, to get Willow used to the sound and feel of it so she’ll be at ease when I shoe her. Her feet are very hard and so far she hasn’t become tender traveling through rocky terrain. This is a good thing, because it’s giving us more time to get her accustomed to being handled and ridden, and having her feet handled regularly—so she won’t be so challenging to shoe. She’s always been a little stubborn and pushy, not very nice about having her feet handled or trimmed (wanting to take her foot away too soon); this extra work with her feet has been good for her. Also, with the riding, she is adjusting to a routine, and is a little tired when she comes home, more willing to stand nicely and behave herself while her feet are handled.

On Friday Robbie helped Michael work on the fence. Then Michael smoothed out our driveway—all the ruts and gravel from the flash flood we had a couple weeks ago—with the skid steer. Andrea and I made a longer ride on Willow, out over the range.
Willow's 5th ride

Saturday morning Em and Robert left to drive to Tacoma, Washington, to go to Fox Island for a week, for a belated honeymoon. Em has always wanted to go back there again, ever since our trip with Andrea and the kids in 2007 for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fox Island property (my grandparents Noah and Lila Moser bought it in 1907 and built a small cabin on the property) and the 90th birthday of my aunt Marjorie. On that trip the kids (who were very young then) enjoyed finding crabs and seashells on the beach and going out in the rowboat with my cousin’s daughter. Emily made another visit to Fox Island a few years later when she and Andrea went to Tenino for the funeral of my cousin Ned’s wife Amy. Emily always wanted to go back, and chose that spot for her honeymoon with Robert.

Saturday afternoon Lynn and Andrea helped Alfonso put a dam in the creek to try to get enough water in one of his ditches, then Andrea and I made a short ride in the fields on Willow. We rode up the back field, crossed the bridge, then went down through the front fields to check the cows, and then make a short loop over the range. Here are photos of Willow on that ride:
heading for the bridge
Willow crossing the bridge
riding down through the field to check the cows

We made another short ride yesterday –it was cool and windy, and Willow was nervous and goofy. We did a longer ride today (her 8th ride), to give her more work and get her a little tired so she’d be more settled down, and we also handled her feet a bit longer than usual, in preparation for shoeing. She’s starting to get a little tender-footed in the rocks, so it’s time to get her shod.

AUGUST 20 – Last Tuesday the guys worked on the fence again. Andrea and I rode again—Willow’s longest ride so far this year—up into the middle range, climbing more hills. She was a little tired afterward, and it was a good time to put her first shoes on.
Willow's longest ride
Willow's 9th ride - climbing more hills
Her feet are very hard so it’s a good thing they didn’t need much trimming because they were difficult to rasp, to smooth up for the shoes. Andrea held her for me, and bribed her a little while I nailed the shoes on, feeding her handfuls of green grass. Andrea had filled a couple buckets with lush green grass she’d picked ahead of time, and hand-fed some to Willow. That young mare is such a greedy glutton that she was totally focused on the yummy grass and didn’t try to take a foot away from me. Lynn took photos of me shoeing her while Andrea bribed her.
shoeing Willow
me putting a front shoe on Willow while Andrea feeds her grass
I got the front shoes on very quickly and easily, and then we used the same strategy the next day to put her hind shoes on. We didn’t have time to ride that day, but even though Willow wasn’t tired from a ride, she stood nicely for the shoeing while she gobbled the grass Andrea fed her.

Coyotes were howling, yipping and carrying on during the night, and the next day we found a dead doe above house. It looked like the coyotes had run her into the fence and she broke her neck. Andrea and Robbie took the body over the hill so the coyotes wouldn’t be attracted back to it and kill her orphan fawn.

With all the hot weather our creek has really dropped. On Thursday Gary the watermaster came out and put locks on all the headgates, but he didn’t realize we’d fixed the measuring device on the #8 weir and that it now reads correctly, so he set it wrong, and we were short of water for 3 days.

We moved our cows from the field above the house and put them down on the lower field where the guys have finished the new fence. Andrea called them down through the little ditch-bank pasture to the driveway, and I followed them. The cows are always easy to move, always happy for new green grass. Andrea has done a good job of irrigating in spite of water shortage the past several weeks, and there’s a fair bit of regrowth on that field after we took the hay off in early July. I took photos as we brought the cows down through the barnyard and put them out in the field.
moving the cows
cows enjoying new pasture
After we moved the cows Andrea and I made a short ride on Willow and Dottie to try out Willow’s new shoes. We were able to trot up the road and out over the low range for a quick ride without her being “gimpy” stepping on rocks.

Andrea got the kids home that evening from Mark, and the next morning she and Robbie and the kids took her camp trailer and went to Lone Pine for a few days; this was the kids’ last chance for a campout before school starts.

Em and Robbie drove home from Fox Island that day. They had a good time there, staying at the cabin, and Emily took a lot of photos..

Jim ate supper with us two of the evenings while Andrea, Robbie and kids were gone. He’s been house-sitting and feeding the dogs and cats, and Lynn has been changing the irrigation water. Jim has been working in the shop, making lamps, tables, etc. and has been working on a fancy bluebird house.
Bluebird house construction
Jim building bluebird house

Yesterday I checked on the cows in the lower field while Lynn irrigated. Many of the cows and calves were lounging around in the shade when we went down there, but became curious and hiked up to the ditch to see what Lynn was doing. I took photos of them checking him out, and photos of some of the cows and calves.
cattle lounging in shade
cattle checking out the irrigator
cattle helping Lynn irrigate
Panda (first calver) and her baby

Andrea and kids are having a good time on their camp trip – fishing, visiting with the family that lives there, and trekking to see some old Indian caves. They decided to stay one more day and watch the eclipse of the sun tomorrow before they come home (it’s a total eclipse at that location; it will be only about 97% total here at our ranch).

The creek has dropped a lot in the past few days. Today Gary came out to shut off the 3rd and 4th rights completely (the old Gooch place and the upper place). Now only the 1st and 2nd rights have irrigation water. Lynn patiently showed him how to correctly read the #8 weir and he apologized for having shortchanged us on our water the past 3 days. That’s the only ditch we have running, so we don’t want it to be short.

Jim cleared the big rocks out of our horse trail (that were pushed down off the bank by the road-grader over the past few years) and sawed out the big sagebrush that were starting to overgrow the trail. Now it will be easier to travel that trail with our horses or a herd of cattle.

*** For more stories about adventures with cattle, you might like my book Cow Tales: More True Stories from an Idaho Ranch. This book is part of a series that includes Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, and Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters. These are $24.95 each. 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.