Friday, December 29, 2017

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - November 18 through December 18, 2017

DECEMBER 1, 2017 – We had our Thanksgiving dinner early, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, while Andrea’s kids were home (they spent Thanksgiving this year with their Dad). Bob and Jane Miner, long-time family friends, came also, so we had a full table. Andrea had all her kids there; Emily and Robert were able to come. Andrea took a photo of her three girls –Dani, Sam and Emily
three sisters at Thanksgiving
We had a few days of warm weather, up in the 40’s during the afternoon, with some rain (and snow on the mountains), but now it’s cold again. Andrea and I made a couple of rides to the 320 to check on the cows.
Andrea and Sprout on 320
Grandma and Dottie on 320
While we were there, she broke ice again on the little trough, and threw out the ice so the cows could drink.
getting the ice out of the trough
Andrea flipping ice out of the water
A week ago Monday, Michael and Carolyn went up to the 320 on their 4-wheelers and let the cows down into the road pasture along our upper fields. They opened the gates into the wild meadow so the cows can go in there and get to the creek for water. They brought down the 2 protein tubs that still had some protein in them, so the cows can finish eating those. Andrea and I moved our yearling heifers from heifer hill to the upper swamp pasture where there’s a little more grass.

Michael and Nick measured the little field above the house where we need to rebuild the old fence (the posts we set nearly 50 years ago are rotting off). After we moved the weaned heifers out of that field, Michael and Nick started tearing out the old fence, rolling up the old net wire. We will re-use the old netting later, on some jack fences.

Charlie split more wood for us and the girls helped move the weaned heifers down to the field below the lane, and helped Andrea rinse and fill their water tank, before they went out to their Dad’s place for Thanksgiving and the weekend.

On Thanksgiving Day I took Willow’s shoes off. We won’t be riding her any more this year, and her feet are getting long—and the shoes are worn out. The next day I took Ed’s shoes off. The only horses now that still have shoes on are Sprout and Dottie, because we may ride them a few more times to check the cows on the road pasture on the upper place.

We had rain and a horrible wind that took shingles off Andrea’s roof and more of the old roofing off our old barn/shop. The next day Andrea and Robbie went to town and bought more shingles, and some rolled roofing for the shop. Robbie put new shingles on Andrea’s roof to replace the ones that blew off, then he and Lynn started putting new roofing on our old shop, into the dark. The next day (Sunday) Andrea, Lynn and Robbie finished putting rolled roofing on the shop, until they ran out of rolls.
Robbie, Lynn & Andrea putting on new roofing
putting new rolled roofing on the old shop


Andrea putting tar on the rolled roofing
Michael and Nick cut and split more aspen from our upper place, and brought a pickup load to us and a load to Andrea. This will help augment our wood piles and maybe we’ll have enough to make it through the winter! We had more strong wind a couple nights ago. It scattered some of the hay I had in piles to feed the horses, but the new roof on the shop held on. On Tuesday Michael brought his skid steer down here, and he and Nick took out more of the old fence, and I fed them lunch. Nick has a bad cold and cough, however, and was wasn’t feeling very well. Michael left the skid steer down here, for me to plug in early the next morning, so it would start.

The next morning (yesterday) was cold (15 degrees) and one of Michael’s heifers was dull and not eating. I’ve been feeding the heifers some of my horse hay every morning, but in this cold weather they are not grazing enough and their pasture is about gone. It’s time to give them more hay. So as soon as Michael started the skid steer to go to work on our fence project, we plugged in our tractor. By afternoon we were able to start the tractor and take a big round bale of hay out to the heifers to put in their feeder.

Nick was too sick to work, so Andrea helped Michael all day on the fence project, taking down the old elk panels along the creek side of the pasture. Those were put on the fence about 30 years ago to keep the elk out of the stackyard across the creek. The old posts were rotting off and leaning, and the fence and elk panels have been tipping over into the brush. The only thing holding up that stretch of fence was the brush and trees.
taking out the old fence
Michael working on fence


This morning Michael’s heifer was still dull and not eating much, so when Michael came down to work on the fence he helped us put her in the headcatch by the calving barn. I took her temperature and it was 104.5 degrees, so we gave her antibiotics and Banamine. The Banamine is a good anti-inflammatory medication to help ease her pain and fever. By afternoon she was eating again.

Andrea helped Michael all day on the fence tear-down project again.
Michael sawing out tree that grew up though elk panel
Andrea helping take down old fence
Michael & Andrea taking out old fence
At chore time this evening I noticed that one of our heifers was also dull and not eating, so we got her in and treated her, too.


DECEMBER 9 – I’ve been working on book revisions for my 3 books that Storey wants to update for new editions: Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. This will be the 4th edition of the Beef Cattle book and Raising Horses book, and 3rd edition of Training Horses.

The day after we treated the 2 sick heifers they were doing much better, and so far none of the other heifers have gotten sick. They are enjoying their big bale—having hay to eat all the time and never going hungry—and their heated water. They drink more in the winter with the warmer water, and I don’t have to chop ice out of their tank!

A few days ago I took some photos, including one of Willow enjoying the sunshine, napping on the high spot in her pen.
Willow resting
Nick has been sick with a bad respiratory infection and hasn’t been able to help Michael on the fence project, so Andrea has been helping him. Last Saturday they sawed out more trees along the creek side, to make sure none will fall down on the new fence we’ll be building, and pulled the trees out of the fence line.
dragging trees
sawed-out trees, ready to be cut up
Robbie helped Lynn put on 2 more rolls of roofing on the shop. That was just in time, because it snowed that night and the next morning.

The kids got home from their weekend with Mark and all had dinner here at our house (our Sunday evening tradition on the weekends they come home).

Monday Michael and Andrea worked on the fence project again, piling and cleaning up the brush and trees (sawed into log lengths) to haul down to the post pile pasture where we will burn the brush later and cut the bigger logs into firewood next year after the wood dries out.
hauling the brush
We started treating Shiloh’s left eye again; it’s infected, weeping, and the eyelids are swollen. Carolyn helped me and Andrea put antibiotic ointment into her eye. Shiloh doesn’t like it, and it’s easier to do with 3 of us, especially since Carolyn is taller and can reach the eye when Shiloh puts her head up high to try to avoid the medication!

On Tuesday Andrea helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye (we have to do it daily for about 10 days) and also helped me loosen up the frozen top of the big bale in the heifers feeder so they can eat it. We also hauled 15 bales around for Sprout and Shiloh from my hay shed, so I won’t have to keep bringing their hay in a wheelbarrow.

Michael skipped a couple days working on the fence project because it was so cold, and then Andrea helped him again on Thursday. First he used the skid steer loader tines to break the frozen top and pick up the remaining core of the heifers’ big bale and tip it over so they can reach it better in their feeder. Then Andrea helped him load and haul the rest of the brush piles out of the field above the house. Now all that’s left are the logs that we’ll eventually use for firewood.
unloading the brush
piling the brush in lower pasture to burn later
It’s been really cold and damp the past few days, with an air inversion and fog, with low-hanging clouds. Without sunshine, the days are nearly as cold as the nights. We’ve been putting the tube of eye ointment for Shiloh in hot water when we take it outside, so the ointment will come out of the tube easier and not be so solid. Michael didn’t work on the fence project; it was too cold.

Today was frosty and cold again. Michael helped Lynn drill a hole through our house wall so we can put a cord through it and be able to plug in a vehicle, tractor or the skid steer here by the house, in case we need to have two outfits plugged in at once. The extension cord from the barn won’t service more than one.
skid steer plugged in


DECEMBER 18 – We had 2 weeks of cold, damp weather with lows at night hovering about 10 degrees (down to 4 degrees one night) and daytime highs in the mid to low teens. Some days were just too cold to do much work on the fence project. I took photos of the frost on the trees along the lane, and the frosty young bulls in the orchard.
frosty lane
frosty bulls
Last Sunday a week ago was a challenging day. Early that morning I was working on several articles (deadlines looming) and the letter o on my computer keyboard quit working. When Michael came down to help us take a new big bale to the heifers’ feeder with the tractor (and to help me doctor Shiloh’s eye—which we were still doing every day), he brought a keyboard he no longer needed but it was incompatible with my computer. Fortunately my brother had another one--that he brought later that day--and I was able to type again! Using a zero for an o doesn’t work!!

That wasn’t the end of the day’s problems. The long hose that I use for watering the heifers was frozen (I didn’t get it drained quite well enough the day before) and I had to bring it into the house to thaw out. That was minor compared to other water problems and their consequences; the steady cold weather caused the creek to freeze over and Andrea broke ice for the heifers in the swamp pasture. She’d already chopped ice away from one of the ditch headgates at the creek so she could put dirt in around the headgate to seal it off solidly so it won’t leak this winter and create an ice flow across the field. Then on her way down the creek she broke another water hole for the heifers—and fell through the ice (in a deep spot, and went over her boot) and landed crooked on that foot. Her ankle was seriously painful and she was afraid it might be broken. She went home to get dry clothes but instead of icing it she just wrapped it and had Charlie help her fill buckets with dirt to take to the ditch head and shut off the leaking water.

She then put ice and DMSO on her ankle and elevated it, and had a miserable night, and went in to the clinic Monday morning to have it checked. In spite of the ice on it all night, her ankle was too swollen to tell anything from an x-ray, so the doctor told her to come back in a week to have it checked again. She was fitted with a walking boot as a brace, but was supposed to stay off it as much as possible for a few days.

She wasn’t able to help Michael finish clearing the piles of tree logs out of the field above the house (and Nick was still too sick to help) so Michael did the rest of it himself with just the skid steer—working a few hours a day until he got too chilled-- for a couple of days, in the bitter cold. He also helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye, and helped Lynn put the battery charger on our pickup because it wouldn’t start. The cold weather may have damaged the battery. When Lynn went to town that day to do a lot of town errands he had to leave the pickup running everywhere he went.

The cold damp air (with no sunshine) created thick frost on everything. I took photos of frost on the trees and horse pens.
frosty elm tree
frosty pens
The frost was so thick on the net wire that you could hardly see the horses in their pens. Here’s Breezy eating her morning had, and Rishiam in his frosty pen.

Breezy's pen



Rishiam in his frosty pen
The next day was really cold, and Michael came down to break ice on the water holes (since Andrea can’t) and helped me doctor Shiloh’s eye. He spent an hour and a half hauling away the rest of the log piles with the skid steer. We also started putting medication in the heifers water tank (daily for 5 days) to treat them for coccidiosis. Most of them have loose manure (like pea soup) and we need to get them over this infection!

Charlie filled our woodbox when he came home from school on Tuesday. We are going through a lot of wood in this cold weather.

I took photos of Willow in the frost, with frost on her mane and whiskers, and her frosty pen by my hay shed.
frosty Willow
Willow's frosty pen & hay shed

Willow's frosty pen and water tub
Wednesday it warmed up, with a high of 24 degrees, and snowed a little. We picked a lull in the weather that afternoon to treat Shiloh’s eye. She doesn’t like the medication being put in, on a good day, and we didn’t want to try to do it in a snowstorm! With the warmer weather (24 degrees instead of low teens) I did a couple loads of washing, knowing that the drain line from the washer wouldn’t freeze.
Sam was sick (with a high fever Tuesday night) but felt a little better that day and insisted on going to school, and singing that evening in the school Christmas program because she had the lead part in a trio the choir was doing.
On Thursday Lynn took the pickup to town to get new tires. With snowy roads the old tires are not safe; they were worn out last winter and we barely made it through the winter with them, but they have no traction left and are NOT safe for going through another winter.
Emily cut her own hair, getting rid of her long lovely curls. Short hair is easier to handle in her cleaning job at the hospital, and it also looks pretty cute.
Emily's new haircut


Michael didn’t work on the fence for a couple days, waiting for the posts he ordered from a local supplier who had to cut and treat them. Some of the posts were finished by Friday so he went to get those, and he and Nick set those (47 posts) in the fence line across the top of the little field. They rented Sy Miller’s hydraulic post pounder, which makes it a lot easier and faster. We were worried about frost after all the cold weather, wondering if we could drive the posts, but there were only a few places the frost was too thick. There were some areas where it was 12 inches deep, but most places it was only 3 inches deep, which was fairly easy for driving the posts. We’re using very tall posts, to make a fence that the cows won’t be able mash down and the deer and elk will be hesitant to jump over. This may help keep the elk out of my hay shed below that field, if we have another winter like last year, when the elk came down here to eat our hay and got into my shed.
new posts along the top boundary of the field
When they finished that afternoon, Michael helped me treat Shiloh’s eye one last time. It had been looking better for several days (we treated it for 11 days) and we hope it is safe now to quit treating it.
Friday the temperature got up to 32 degrees. It would have been a good day for driving posts but there weren’t any more ready yet. Michael spent a couple hours sawing sagebrush out of what will be the new fence line on the west side of the field, since we are moving the fence several yards that direction, so he’d be ready to drive posts there.
Saturday Michael and Nick spent a couple hours hauling off the huge pile of sagebrush. Michael used the skid steer to gently lift up the ancient manure spreader from its resting place where it was parked for more than 40 years along the ditchbank with the sagebrush growing up around it. The new fence will be going there, and we needed to move it. He was able to get it loose from its resting place, and that afternoon Michael carried it up to his house with the skid steer. Carolyn is going to use it as a lawn ornament and plant flowers in it.
Heather and Gregory sent us photos of little Joseph, who is 8 ½ months old. Here are photos of him in his crib, wanting to get out and try to walk around.
Joseph in his crib
Joseph in his crib
He is already trying to walk, and holds onto the furniture to walk around. His mom has a little harness for him to keep him contained, so he can’t get too far out of sight or fall down. He went shopping with mom the other day, and when they went into a tack shop he enjoyed sitting in a saddle.
Joseph trying to walk and dance
Joseph trying out a saddle
Yesterday was cold (4 degrees in the morning) but got up to 20 degrees in the afternoon. Andrea and Robbie drove to Missoula to get Jim at the airport; he was flying home from New Jersey where he’s spent several weeks doing some carpentry work for his twin sister. They didn’t get home from Missoula until 9 p.m. Charlie brought his sisters home (they spent the weekend with their dad) but they didn’t stay for supper here as they usually do; they were all very sick. So we just sent some supper home with them.

We treated Shiloh’s eye with antibiotic ointment for 11 days and it cleared up nicely, so we stopped treating it, with our last treatment on Thursday. It looked normal again, for several days, and then yesterday evening the lower lid was swollen again and she was holding the eye half shut. Discouraging! I hope we don’t have to go through another round of treatment—which neither she nor us would enjoy very much.

This morning Michael got more posts, so he and Nick laid them out along the creek side of the pasture (where they tore out the old fence and sawed out a lot of trees).
posts laid out along fence line
Then they spent the rest of the day setting posts, and got most of them driven. Here are photos of the skid steer with hydraulic post pounder, setting some of the tall posts. We’ll put the elk panels back on this part of the fence when we get it built, to keep the deer and elk from getting into the stackyard right across the creek.
Nick & Michael pounding posts
pounding posts
I’ve had several book orders already for my “Tales” books (Horse Tales, Cow Tales, Ranch Tales) as people start thinking about Christmas gifts. They make a good read any time of year for folks who like animals and true stories about animals. Details about these books are posted at the end of previous blogs. I also have some of my late father’s books on hand, if anyone would like those.

Best wishes to everyone for the coming New Year!