|front of cereal box|
|back of cereal box|
The sides of the box had photos of our old milk cow, Baby Doll, and a calf named Bozo that had a broken jaw that we taped back together.
|sides of cereal box|
|Michael putting a big bale in the feeder on heifer hill|
|Michael taking the net wrap off the bale|
|Oreo cow and calf|
On Thursday Andrea and Sam drove to Idaho Falls, for a doctor appointment with a specialist for Sam (to try to figure out her severe headaches) and Andrea’s regular pain doctor appointment. Sam’s doctor started her on some medication that’s supposed to help with the headaches. While they were gone, Jim helped me feed the cows, and we were glad we got them fed early in the morning. By mid-day the weather changed to strong winds and a blizzard, with a several inches of new snow. I took photos of Ed and Dottie later that day in the new snow.
|Ed finishing her breakfast in the new snow|
|Dottie finishing breakfast|
FEBRUARY 6 – Last Monday was very busy. I wrote an article when I got up early, fed the horses before daylight and came back in to do two phone interviews for other articles, then went back out to break ice and water the horses and heifers and feed the little bulls. Lynn went to locate water for a well, for a new property owner on a ranch toward town.
I drove the feed truck up to the field, where Andrea hiked down to meet me from her house and we fed the cows. Then we pitched more of the old straw onto the feed truck and hauled it down to the brush for bedding. Then Andrea took a little hay on a sled, down to the creek, stringing a little trail of enticement to encourage the cows to start using the lower water hole where the ice shelf isn’t so thick and deep—where it’s easier for them to try to get a drink. I spent the rest of the day typing some interviews, after I took a photo of the Beaverhead Mountains across the valley, with a bit of sunlight glistening on their snowy tops.
|Beaverhead mountains - view from our back porch|
It got cold again that night, however, and I plugged in the tractor so it would start the next day to move hay. I plugged in the skid steer for Michael, but he and Nick were slow to get here that day. They lost Tiny (their oldest cowdog) during the night. She was almost 16 years old and had been in ill health for several months. They’d been keeping her in the house at night, but that night she had another stroke. Nick discovered her problem when he got up in the night to check on her. Tiny was his favorite dog and she had been a loyal companion and good cow dog—traveling many miles with family members when they were riding range and working cattle over the years. Here’s an old photo of Tiny and her brother helping young Heather move cattle on the high range, and the dogs resting at one of the water troughs while thirsty horses and riders get a drink.
They buried her in the “family cemetery” behind the house where other favorite old dogs and a couple of horses are buried. The frozen ground was a challenge, however; Nick spent 3 hours working on a burial hole before breakfast and finished it after they got their chores and feeding done. Nick and Michael came down to work on the fence late morning, about the time we were ready to take another big round bale to heifer hill. Jim took a bar up there to pry the feeders loose from the ice where water ran through them the day before, and thought it was too slippery to bring the tractor up the road. So Michael took the bale up through the field. Then he and Nick worked on the fence all afternoon and Lynn loaded 2 straw bales on their truck and took 2 big bales of alfalfa to the big bulls—where we can give them a little at a time in their feed manger to go with their grass hay. Then Lynn helped Andrea put sand on the ice at the water hole for the cows, so make the ice less slippery. Ice across the lower end of the field by Andrea’s house has made it challenging to drive the feed truck up there; it slides sideways down the slope. The main road was so slippery on Thursday that the Amish had trouble hauling a cabin that they built, bringing it down from Yoders place; their flatbed trailer and tractor slid off the road and they had to get another tractor to pull it back on. Friday it snowed, on top of the ice, making footing even more precarious. I took photos of the new snow on my hay shed, and of Willow eating out of her feeder in her snowy pen.
We used our tractor to put an old straw bale in the back pen for the bulls, to give them something dry to bed on rather than ice or mud. That night it warmed up and rained, making more floods and slippery ice. Andrea spent a couple hours chopping ice with the ax to make a channel for the water flooding down our driveway—so it won’t all go in the old barn and shop. We had more runoff again on Monday, so it was good to have a “ditch” through the ice to carry the water on past the shop. We’ve had several warm days, and most of the low snow has melted and some of the ice has softened up. The horse pens are muddy instead of icy, and some of the horses have been rolling in the mud. Here’s a photo of Shiloh covered with mud when she came to get a drink. I took a photo as I was watering her.
Michael and Nick worked on the fence again yesterday and today, and I fed them lunch. They are getting the side along the ditch and road finished and it’s looking good.
The young cows on heifer hill ran out of hay and their feeders were empty, so Andrea and I fed them a few flakes of hay off the big bales on the feed truck. We had a little snow last night and this morning but not enough to stop the fence project. Andrea went with Dani’s class at school on a field trip to go snowboarding and snowshoeing, so Lynn and I fed the cows. Here’s a photo of Andrea on show-shoes and some of the kids on skis for cross-country skiing, and Dani skiing.
This morning I did a washing and carried buckets of cold water from the bathroom to fill the washer for the rinse cycles, since the cold water intake on the washing machine no longer works. Eventually we’ll have to figure out how to fix it! By this afternoon Michael and Nick had the top end of the new fence finished enough (with the net wire on it) to put the young cows in the little field above it. They brought the 2 empty feeders down from heifer hill into that next section of pasture and left the gate open so the young cows could come down. Tomorrow we’ll put hay in their feeders and lock them down in that field between heifer hill and the cow-calf pasture that’s getting a new fence.
FEBRUARY 14 – A week ago Andrea called all the young cows down through the gate and into the field below heifer hill. Lynn took a big round bale of hay up there with a tractor to put in one of their feeders, and I brought Starfire from the pen below the barn and herded her up through the little pasture above the house to join her buddies. She’s fully recovered from her leg injury. The big round bales we bought have worked out well for the young heifers and the pregnant heifers, with a nice mix of grass and alfalfa. We are very disappointed in the big square alfalfa bales we bought from a different rancher; there’s not much alfalfa in his hay and it’s mostly weeds and a little overly-mature stemmy alfalfa. The cows don’t like it very well and it doesn’t contain enough protein to use any straw with it. Cattle need protein to feed the “gut bugs” that break down and digest straw (creating an energy source with the volatile fatty acids created). Our cows won’t eat any straw at all now because there’s practically nothing but roughage in the so-called alfalfa hay. We paid way too much for this hay, and are having to feed 4 times as much per day as planned, because it’s so low in protein that the cows won’t eat any straw. We’re feeding this hay to the older cows and our bulls. I took photos of the weedy hay on the feed truck, and the bales by the bull feeder, and the hay in their feeder. It’s nothing but weeds!
Michael and Nick kept working on the new fence up until the weekend, finishing another side of the pasture. They brought another load of poles, for rub rails along the netting so the cows can’t stretch and ruin the net wire by rubbing on it. With several days of warm weather the frost has started going out of the ground and Michael got his truck stuck (pulling the trailer load of poles) in the gateway just past my hay shed, heading out into that little pasture. But he anticipated that possibility and had Nick drive the skid steer up there first. It still has chains on, and Nick was able to pull Michael’s pickup on through the deep mud in the gateway. The blackbirds came back last week and so did Alfonso (from his winter months in Mexico) so maybe it is spring. He had a friend feeding his cows for him while he was gone, every other day. Thanks to a milder winter his cows don’t look as bad this year as they have some years in the past. On Saturday he moved his cows up the road to the Gooch place, and maybe weaned some of the calves; a lot of his cattle were bawling all night and the next day, and some were crawling through his fences into the pasture above heifer hill and trying to come down through our place. On Sunday Andrea, Robbie, Andrea’s kids (including Emily) went up Hughes Creek to get firewood. Our friend Russ helped them get some fire-killed trees down off the mountainside and they loaded a couple trailers with firewood and logs. Here are photos of Russ helping them, using his tractor, and helping saw up the logs.
The kids worked hard helping load, but also had fun clowning around, using the soot off the dead trees as war pain on their faces.
While hiking around in the woods, Dani found a big rock with a unique marking on it like a picture of a rabbit, so she posed with it and her sisters.
Sam and Dani both posed on tree stumps (after the guys sawed off the trees for firewood logs] for their mom to take photos of them. She also took a photo of Russ and his tractor loading the biggest log onto Robbie’s little trailer. Dani nicknamed that log “Precious”. She loves to name everything!
Here on the ranch that morning Michael brought his feed truck and we loaded a couple more big bales of straw for him. When Jim was taking the plastic netting away from the stack so we could get to the straw (which is stacked next to the big bales of alfalfa) he noticed wisps of smoke coming out of the stack. In the junction between the stacks where the old tarps had some holes in them, water ran down into the hay and it was wet and heating. One of the straw bales we loaded for Michael was singed and the alfalfa bale next to it was hot and smoking. We set it aside, well away from the stack, so it can cool down. Michael then hurried home so he could finish up an article he was working on, with a deadline the next day. I am pleased to see him doing more writing; he’s been selling articles to several farm and ranch publications. He had a couple articles in this month’s Nevada Rancher, one called Now is the time to tackle stock trailer maintenance and another one called A Tribute to the Programs that Promote Agriculture and the People Who Make it Possible. I thought it very fitting that he had two articles in that issue; it also contained my article called Four generations of writers from Withington Creek in which I told about my dad, myself, my son, and a couple grandkids being published writers. It all started many years ago! My writing career began early, thanks to my father. In grade school I wrote stories about horses and by 5th grade I was making my handwritten stories into little “books” with illustrations (I also loved to draw horses). I had my own little library with handmade booklets that I loaned to fellow students to read. Some of my stories were long and never-ending (like a series “to be continued”) as my vivid imagination kept inventing new adventures for my fantasy horses. When I was 12, my father suggested I write a shorter story to send to a magazine. Ironically the short piece I wrote was not about horses but about a family out for a picnic, encountering a bear (“The Picnic Adventure”). I typed that one, using the hunt and peck method on Dad’s old typewriter that he used for typing sermon notes. Dad sent my story to Trails for Juniors, the weekly magazine published for Sunday School kids. To my surprise, I received a nice response from the editor, and a check for $10. This beginner’s luck set my course for the future, when I realized I could actually get paid for doing something I loved. Over the next few years I sold more than a dozen illustrated stories and multiple cartoons to Trails for Juniors and other children’s magazines (Highlights for Children, Jack and Jill, Classmate, American Junior Red Cross News, etc.) and began writing a few articles for farm and livestock publications. I loved writing about horses! Here are photos of my first horse – taking my cousin for a ride, and then a few years later riding with my dad and brother, heading out from our barnyard to ride range and check cattle.
Horses and cattle were my passion and by then I had cattle of my own and was raising and training my own young horse. I was learning all I could about horses and cows, and sharing that knowledge in my articles. During my high school years I wrote many stories and articles, as a way to try to earn and save money for college. Some of my writing attempts were unsuccessful, of course, and I had lots of “reject” letters along with the acceptance letters and checks. The most exciting “sale” when I was in high school was to Farm Journal. I’d sent an article about our 5-H Wranglers (the 5th H stood for horses), the first 4-H horse club in Idaho. The editor bought it for $100, which was a lot of money in 1959, and the most I’d ever received for an article. Farm Journal sent a photographer to Salmon to take pictures of our club, and when the article came out the next year (Like Horses? Start a 4-H Club), my yearling filly Khamette and I were on the cover!
During college I continued to write for children’s magazines and a few more ag publications and horse magazines (Idaho Farmer, Western Livestock Reporter, Western Livestock Journal, Arabian Horse World, Western Stockman, Western Horseman) and an article about Quarter Horses to Westways. I had found a way to earn a little extra money, which came in handy during college years. When Lynn and I were married, we started buying the little ranch on Withington Creek from my parents, along with another ranch next to it. My writing became even more important as a way to help pay the bills as we struggled to get started with a herd of cows. This became my “off-farm job” that I could do at home in between taking care of cattle, training horses, and raising our two children. I had more purpose for my writing; it was more than a fun hobby that earned money. It became a necessity. It was also a perfect way to combine my passion for horses and cattle with teaching. My goal has always been to learn all I can about horses and cattle and share that knowledge. Meanwhile, I wrote my first book (A Horse in Your Life: A Guide for the New Owner) during the summer of 1964, between my sophomore and junior year of college, and it was published in 1965. I wrote several more books during those early years (Your Horse and You, 1970; Horses: Their Breeding, Care and Training, 1974; Horses: A Golden Exploring Earth Book, 1976; The Wild Horse Controversy, 1979; and Red Meat: The Original Health Food, 1983) but mainly wrote as many articles as possible to sell to horse and cattle publications. One year in the early 1970’s when we were desperately short of money and had to buy hay, I was asked to write 20 short booklets on various horse care topics for a horse course. That job helped us buy the hay and survive a tough year. Ranching was our passion but we had to find ways to survive!
|Heather & Lynn as young ranchers|
|Horse Tales book cover|
|Cow Tales book cover|
|Ranch Tales book cover|
My writing, for the past 52 years, has been intimately intertwined with ranching. It has helped support the ranch and the ranch inspired some of the subject matter I write about. In essence, my writing is just another “crop” from our ranch. I am grateful to my father for helping steer me onto this path, because he sent my first story for a chance at publication. He was also a writer; he sold several articles to church magazines. I think we inspired each other. After my first book was published, he started writing some inspirational books and eventually published 4 of them. His first one, By the River of No Return, published in 1967, was a collection of modern-day parables, using some of his outdoor experiences and the ranch as ways to help the reader understand the message. In his preface he said the book was the result of many happy hours at Sky Range Ranch, “our home in the mountains of central Idaho, situated in the valley of a small tributary of the famed Salmon River, better known as the ‘River of No Return.’ This wonderful, wild river cuts the state of Idaho in two with a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. It flows through a wilderness where there are no roads, and a boat trip down the river is not only a thrilling adventure but always a one-way trip [before the advent of jet-powered boats]. This one-way trip down the River of No Return is to me a symbol of life, for life is always a one-way trip. There can be no going back, but the future is always a challenge and a promise.” Chapter titles included Satellites and Saddle Horses, Raspberries by an Irrigation Ditch, Snow in the High Country, Hills and Valleys, He Makes Me Lie Down, Yellow Bells, With Wings like Eagles, The Grass is Greener, and Like a Shepherd. His book was hugely popular because it expressed profound truths about God and His love for us in very simple stories that people could easily relate to.
|Dad riding Nell|
His other books were also very popular. Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails was published in 1972 and some of the chapter titles include Snakes and Butterflies, Yardlights and Stars, To Corner a Toad, From Here to Jackson’s Strawstack, To Catch a Rat, Switchbacks on the Trail, Empty Creel, High Mountains in the Distance. His 3rd book, Sagebrush Seed, was published in 1977 and continued with more short lessons in life, portrayed in chapters with titles like Good Grass Grows; The Rifle on the Wall; Horse Bells; Cleaning Ditches; Without a Lead Rope; The Dogs of God; Beyond the First Range of Hills; Don’t Let it Spoil Your Supper; Carrots, Cow Parsnips and Water Hemlock; Today We Picked the Apricots; and Jump for a High Branch. The 4th one, The Open Gate, was published in 1989. Chapters included Fireweed and Ashes; In All Generations; Pruning Peach Trees; Prayer on the Run; When the Rocks Talk; Square Watermelons; Any Bush Will Do; The Turkey Trap; Chasing Donkeys; Fences, Frogs and Pollywogs; A Bucket of Muddy Water; and Little Tiger Cat.
|Dad in middle age|
|Dad in pulpit|
My dad’s sermons and books were an inspiration to many people, partly because he had a gift for expressing great truths in simple language. I like to think that I inherited some of that gift, putting complicated things into words anyone can understand. That’s the task of a writer, in my opinion, and that’s the advice I give budding young writers: make it simple. Never talk “above” your reader. I think this is especially true for ag writers because we often deal with technical stuff, whether it’s the medical problems of livestock or the how-to steps in machinery repair and maintenance, or a complicated irrigation system. Our job is to make it easy to understand and enjoyable in the process. I am pleased that the “writing bug” and ability to communicate through written words has continued through several generations here on Withington Creek. Michael started writing training manuals for workers at Micron Technology (a global company based in Boise, Idaho)—putting very technical material in understandable terms—when he worked there for several years after college, when he and Carolyn were first married.
|Michael & Carolyn|
But after he and Carolyn had kids they decided they’d had enough of city life and wanted to raise their kids on a ranch.
|Carolyn & little Heather|
|Young Heather training Spotty Dottie|
|Young Heather training young horse|
She continued training horses during her summers in college, when she was home at the ranch, training horses for local ranchers and a people from other states. Wanting to share her tips and advice on horse handling (valuable knowledge gleaned from her own experiences training and working with a wide variety of horses), she wrote her first book. She called it Basic Horsemanship: How to be Safe with Your Horse. The cover photo—a picture of her youngest cousin Dani with one of Heather’s horses--was taken by her cousin Emily. The book was published in 2015 by the Frontier Project. She hopes it will be useful to young horsemen and women, 4-H horse groups, etc.
Young Heather's book, basic-horsemanship
My youngest granddaughters (Andrea’s kids) also like to write. They enjoy writing stories for school, and Dani (now 13), had a poem published last year in a book of poetry written by kids across the nation. Before that (in October 2015, when she was not quite 11 years old) she wrote a story about her favorite cow, Maggie, and I included it as part of a story I wrote about that cow, for a livestock paper. So Dani became a published author, too, at an early age. I hope my grandkids continue writing.
Young Heather is launching into her own “off farm job she can do at home” with the beginning of a regular column for Grainews (a Canadian farm publication), telling about her experiences as a young farm wife and mother. This month marks a unique situation; the February 6 issue of Grainews contained her first column, along with my column (Rancher’s Diary—which I’ve been writing for that publication for 40 years) and an article by Michael. So we had 3 generations of us represented in that issue! Meanwhile, here at the ranch, Monday was cold and windy (12 degrees that morning, with a high of 28 degrees in the afternoon) but Michael and Nick brought a load of poles and worked on the fence again. At least this time they didn’t get the truck stuck in the mud going up to the field! The mud was VERY frozen. Jim helped me feed the cows while Andrea took one of Emily’s kittens to the vet; it has a broken leg. She also took Dani to the dentist. Dani has a couple of permanent teeth that are pushing her other teeth out of line; her mouth is too small and her teeth are too big. She now has an appointment with an orthodontist next week in Idaho Falls to have a couple teeth pulled to make room for the others. After play practice at school, Sam and Charlie stopped by to see their older sister Emily at work at the hospital while she was on her break, and Andrea took a photo of the 3 of them.
Yesterday was my birthday so I am feeling OLD! I got up at 3 a.m. and after checking the temperature (7 degrees) I went outside and plugged in the skid steer and the feed truck to make sure they would start ok later in the morning. Jim helped me feed the cows since Andrea had to go to town early to get Emily’s cat from the vet. Michael and Nick came down mid-morning and worked on the fence and I cooked lunch for them. They put more elk panels on the fence along the creek until it warmed up. That side of the fence must be deer and elk proof because it’s the back side of our stack yard on the other side of the creek and we need to keep the wildlife out of our hay stacks.
|Elk panels on the fence|
After lunch I hiked up through the fields to check on the heifers in the field above the house, since I haven’t seen them lately. They are fat, and enjoying their hay in the feeder. Looks like we’ll need to bring them another bale in a couple of days. I also checked their water hole to make sure those young cows could get down to the creek after the flooding washed the bank away and made it steeper. I took photos, but you can’t see the steep drop-off of the bank on this side.
|pregnant heifers at feeder|
Before they left for the day, they checked on the situation in our calving barn to see how many big tall posts to order. The old uprights holding the roof are starting to rot off at ground level because of the moisture every spring that subs up into the barn. They plan to dig down alongside those posts and set some sturdy short posts next to them, secured in concrete, and bolt them together. Just after they left to go home, Alfonso drove down the creek on his tractor. Lynn went up to the mailboxes a few minutes later to check the mail and saw Alfonso’s tractor off the road, down the hill upside down, through the fence. He rushed down there to make sure Alfonso wasn’t stuck underneath it, and came home to call Michael, then went back down there to see if he could find Alfonso. Michael and Carolyn came down to help, too. Luckily, Alfonso was only a bit banged and bruised; the cab on the tractor saved him. Even though it broke the windows out and tweaked things a bit, Alfonso had hung on for dear life and rode it out, then was able to get out and walk on down to his pickup and call a couple other neighbors. Jack Jakovac was coming up the creek with his backhoe and Sy Miller brought another tractor. Michael helped position and reposition chains on the upside down tractor and strategize the rescue; it took both machines pulling at different angles to right the wrecked tractor and pull it back up the bank onto the road. Being upside down, the tractor had lost its hydraulic fluid, so Lynn came home to call the oil/gas company before closing time, to have them set out some hydraulic oil for Alfonso, who drove to town to get it. Then Lynn helped him put it in the tractor. It seemed to run ok, so Alfonso was able to drive it home, just before dark. He was grateful for the neighborhood rescue effort, and we were glad that he wasn’t seriously injured. Today was a really nice day so I took my camera with me doing chores and took photos of Lynn’s favorite old cat, Edna, while she was helping me.
This cat always likes to accompany me while I’m feeding the horses, and waits at the gate when I go down in the field to check on the heifers. I took a photo of them eating at their feeder.
Some of them were at the water trough and one of them sniffed at Edna who was sitting on her side of the gate. The cat swiped at the heifer’s nose with a clawed paw and the heifer jumped back, then came right up to the cat again—and got swatted again. This time the heifer bellowed and blew snot at the cat, and Edna decided to leave her guard position at the gate. This evening as Andrea was taking the girls to town for play practice, they stopped by to show me the fancy hat that Sam made for one of the costumes, and here are photos her mom took of her modelling the hat.