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|
|table -bottom shelf|
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|
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|
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|
|riding through the 320|
|Going up through the 320|
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|
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|
|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|
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.
|Jim's bluebird house|
|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|
|dead calf by tree|
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 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|
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|
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|
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.
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|
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.
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|
|Andrea tightening Willow's cinch|
|Andrea fixing broken wire in fence|
|moving the cows up around the 320 so they can go to Baker Creek|