|Jim's bluebird house|
Andrea split wood (with the borrowed wood splitter) and stacked some split wood at the end of the house where it will be easier to bring in for the stove.
On Friday while the feed truck was empty Andrea hauled more little grass bales around from the stackyard to stack by the bull pen and Lynn used the tractor to load big bales on the truck, and move the straw bale the cows won’t eat. Andrea and I tied it back together and moved the feeder, and Lynn took the old bale down to the brush where we scattered it for bedding. Here’s a photo taken later, of the straw bedding in the brush for the cows, and deer in the foreground eating some of the hay we’d fed the cows.
|straw in the bushes, deer eating hay|
|weedy alfalfa hay|
Saturday night it started raining, and by Sunday morning it had changed to snow. It was windy and snowstorms off and on all day, but between storms Lynn managed to change the oil in our old feed truck, with Robbie’s help. It got colder that night, down to 5 degrees, and the water pipes in Emily’s house in town froze up.
The high for the day was only 20 degrees. We had to break ice on the creek for the cows to water, and in the back pen for the bulls. We finished feeding and breaking ice in time to go to town that afternoon to try to figure out the C-pap machine for me. Medicare no longer pays for oxygen use at night, so my doctor wants me to use a C-pap to improve my oxygen intake. I don’t snore or sleep with my mouth open (like most people who need a C-pap) but when I’m asleep I breathe very shallowly and infrequently and my oxygen level drops. My mom had the same problem—just barely breathing when she was asleep. I’ve been on night oxygen for several years to try to help with that situation. We set up the machine for me when we got home from town.
That evening I made pizza to feed the kids when they got home from Mark’s place, and that night I tried to use the C-pap. It worked for a little while but it was hard to get to sleep because when the air pressure went higher it leaked around the face piece and also forced so much air into my nose that it came into my throat and out my mouth. It became so uncomfortable (making me burp up the air that had been forced down my throat) that I had to turn it off.
The next day, Tuesday, was still cold and got up to a high of 20 degrees. Michael brought his tractor down for diesel and used his tractor to move bales around (a new bale for the heifers and one for the young cows, plus a bale of straw for the young cows to bed on, and moved the straw bale out of the feeder for the old cows –we tied it together again like the other one—down to the brush for bedding because they wouldn’t eat it, either).
Michael took 2 bales of straw home to his cows.
I tried the C-pap again but just briefly; I actually got to sleep that time, but it soon woke me up when it went to higher pressure, forcing air down my throat. So I had to shut it off again.
Today was cold (8 degrees this morning, with a high of 26 degrees this afternoon). Andrea and Carolyn left early this morning to drive to Idaho Falls to take Dani to an orthodontist to assess her teeth problems. Lynn and I fed the cows, and he hiked down the creek to break ice on the water holes.
|Lynn and I fed the cows|
|cows eating their breakfast|
Alfonso stopped by to get some warm water from us, to mix with a bag of powdered colostrum substitute. He needed to bottle feed a newborn calf that got too cold in the night and was unable to nurse its mother. Alfonso was able to save that cold calf, but had worse bad luck yesterday when his milk cow got on her back in a ditch and died—leaving her 3 month old calf that now has to be raised on a bottle.
This evening Lynn went up to Andrea’s house to help Charlie start the fire after Charlie and Sam got home from school. Andrea, Carolyn and Dani got home just before dark from Idaho Falls.
MARCH 5 – We’ve had a lot of cold weather this past week—cold and windy. We had to break ice nearly every day for the cows and bulls. On Friday Michael and Nick worked on the fence in spite of the cold weather, and hung a new gate in the fence above the house. I fed them lunch.
I’m still having problems with the C-pap machine, in spite of changing masks and hose. Friday night it put so much air down my throat that I was burping and had indigestion. I took it off and was still so uncomfortable and full of air that I threw up.
Sam has been having problems with her eyes and doing jerky movements in her sleep. Andrea took her to the doctor here but they couldn’t figure out what was causing this, so Andrea took her back to the neurologist in Idaho Falls on Monday. He suspected it was related to the 2 concussions she’s had in the past several months.
The cold water intake on our washing machine is still not working so I brought in a hose to fill it for the rinse cycle, and no longer have to carry buckets of water from bathroom.
Every day when we feed the cows in the field by Andrea’s house the deer come to eat, too. We’ve had on average about 25 deer eating with the cows. I took photos one morning as we drove up to the field to feed; some of the deer were waiting by the brush, ready to come to the new hay as soon as we fed. I captured one young deer diligently biting at an itch (probably lice!)
some of the deer waiting for us to feed the cows
Tuesday was cold, 6 below zero. I got up early and plugged in the tractor and the feed truck. When Andrea and I went to feed cows the truck barely started and we discovered that the engine heater wasn’t working. Bob Miner came by to get the parts Andrea picked up for him in Idaho Falls and he looked at it, and Andrea crawled under and checked the wires to the engine. They looked a little loose so she tightened them and then the engine heater worked again. We got more little bales from the stackyard to feed the bulls, and some of my good horse hay for the young bulls, then she broke ice on the creek for the cows and in the back pen (at their spring) for the bulls.
Lynn brought home a ton of wood pellets (for the pellet stove in the livingroom) the day before, and Nick helped him unload all of those sacks of pellets into the barn across the driveway from the house. We mainly burn wood in the old stove in the kitchen, but on cold nights Lynn likes to run the pellet stove in the other room. Then he doesn’t have to carry wood all the way in there. The pellet stove is handier to fill at night. Charlie use the borrowed wood splitter that evening after school to split a few more of the big blocks they brought home a few weeks ago.
Emily’s cat had kittens, and Andrea took a picture of them when she stopped by Em’s house.
|Em's new kittens|
He came an hour later to get them, and told us he’d forgot to shut the gate out of the Gooch field where the horses were living. He caught a couple of them, to ride one and lead the other (and the rest would follow), to take them back up to the Gooch place, leaving his pickup here to come back for later. He had a little trouble getting on, however. I held the one horse while he led the other one up to a big tire by our driveway and used it as a mounting block to get on the horse bareback, but the horse was nervous and moving around and Alfonso overshot the horse and fell off on the other side. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, and managed to get on the horse ok on his second try.
It took me two days to clean up all the hay bales they stirred around. I fed some of it to my horses, but had to discard a lot that they pooped and peed on. I discovered later that the horses had first gone up the creek when they got out, going clear up to Michael’s stackyard and tearing up some of his hay and fighting with Michael’s big old gelding, Captain, through the barbed-wire fence. Captain had a few cuts and scrapes from the barbed wire, but nothing serious. Then the horses had come all the way down to our place (2 miles) to come into my haystack.
Wednesday afternoon Nick worked here a couple hours fixing some broken poles in the bull pen and reinforcing the jackfence he and Robbie build there last summer. He also helped Andrea split some of the biggest blocks of firewood; she split a lot of it that afternoon and Charlie split a little more when he got home from school.
Andrea went to town to help with play practice; she’s been going in every day after school to help make the kid’s costumes and the stage sets, getting ready for the school play—the Elton John/Tim Rice musical Aida. Both Sam and Dani are in it this year. Here’s a photo of the poster for the play.
|poster for the play|
It was horribly windy that afternoon and evening. Charlie tried to split a little more wood but got wood chips in his eye. I flushed his eye with eye drops and he postponed the wood splitting until a better day.
The storm changed to snow in the night and we had several inches of new snow by Friday morning. As I stepped out the door to go do chores I saw a bunch of deer eating the big bales on the feed truck, and grabbed my camera.
|deer eating hay on truck|
|deer leaving and heading for the bridge|
The next day was very cold but the guys worked in the barn again. Charlie helped Michael and Nick get all the old straw out of the barn, forking it into the bucket of the skid steer and taking it out to the field below the lane for the heifers to bed on. The old bedding needed cleaned out of the barn before we start calving, and also it was good to get all the flammable material out of there before the guys started sawing, grinding and drilling, in case any sparks or hot metal fell into the straw. I fed them all lunch, and in the afternoon Charlie split some more wood.
Yesterday (Sunday) Robbie got Andrea’s old snowmobile running and they took the kids sledding that afternoon.
|Charlie on snowmobile|
|new post next to old one|
MARCH 13 – Michael and Nick worked on the barn again for several days this past week and I fed them lunch those days. It’s looking good. They have all the new support posts set now, and they are also fixing some of the broken partition panels.
|new post to reinforce old one|
|fixing broken panel|
Tuesday night was the first night of the school play, the musical Aida, and the kids did great. Dani and Sam have multiple roles. In several scenes they are part of the group of Nubians that were captured by the Radames, captain of the Egyptian army. Here are photos of Dani and Sam in their Nubian costumes.
|Dani as a Nubian in play|
|Dani & Sam as Nubians|
|Dani in costume|
|Sam in one of her costumes|
|Sam & other cast members - the wedding group|
|Dani (center - orange shirt) with other middle school cast members|
|the whole cast|
Cindy told her to take it up with the advisory board (one of which was the party who didn’t get charged for their water use and we got charged instead). So Carolyn sent a note to the advisory board explaining the situation and stating that she had the actual use records to prove that an error was made. The advisory board chairman (Jack Jacovak) sent Carolyn an e-mail dismissing the complaint and ragging her for waiting until now to say there was an error. Bob Loucks sent a nasty e-mail to everyone in our water district saying that one of the users was “raising hell and thinks they are being overcharged”.
So Carolyn wrote to IDWR asking how to file a formal complaint with the state, and at that point Cindy admitted that she herself had made the error. At our annual water meeting on Thursday Cindy made a long speech trying to placate Bob and the advisory board and finally stating that she didn’t check Bob’s erroneous figures and a mistake was made. After some discussion the group made a resolution that in future the report would be filed in a more timely fashion, BEFORE the deadline, and also that the secretary will send everyone the readings weekly so that any user will have a chance to correct errors. At this point in time we still don’t have a watermaster for the coming irrigation season. The one we had for 2 years, who was totally controlled by Loucks and Jacovak, refused to do it again, so we’re waiting to see who they come up with next to be their puppet.
On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and Nick vaccinated and deloused their cows. They had planned to give the cows their pre-calving vaccines much earlier, but there was too much ice across the little field below their corral and it would have been impossible to safely get the cows into the corral. The ice has finally melted enough and roughened up enough that they could get the cows to the corral without them falling down.
Sunday evening I fed Andrea and kids dinner after the kids got home from the weekend with their dad. They stopped first at Emily’s place, however, and Em gave Charlie and Robbie haircuts. Andrea took a photo of their improved looks! She also took pictures of Emily and her siblings
|Dani, Em & Charlie & dogs|
|Em & siblings|
Yesterday we took a feeder around to the horse pasture and put a round bale in it, in preparation for bringing the young cows (first calvers) down here to calve. Dani and Charlie came down here after school; Charlie split wood for a little while and Dani brought the calving calendar she made –with all the cows’ names and due dates—to put on our wall. Dani is now as tall as Sam, and nearly as tall as Charlie. Here’s a photo of Dani and Charlie goofing around, with Dani wearing high heels and trying to be as tall as her brother.
|Dani wanting to be as tall as Charlie|
I got the horse pasture gates ready and was hiking up through the field above the house to open that gate to let the heifers down and Andrea drove her 4-wheeler down from the top, through heifer hill, to start calling and leading the heifers down. But as soon as she came down to their field, and as I walked up from the field below, we could both see that one heifer was already calving. She was lying down, straining hard in labor, and then got up with her tail kinked out. Another hour and she would have calved right there, up in the field.
We brought the group down to the horse pasture and then eased Doll Baby (the calving heifer) on down through the orchard and into the calving pen where we could observe her from the house. We told Michael and Nick that we had a heifer calving, so they hurried to get finished with what they were working on in the barn and I fed them lunch as we watched the heifer progress in labor. She was 28 days ahead of her due date and we were hoping there wasn’t something wrong, to cause her to calve so early.
She calved quickly and easily, a tiny heifer calf. Andrea got the sac off its head and got it breathing, but it had breathed in some fluid and her breathing was very rattling. The young mama loved her baby and licked and licked, but the calf was slow to get up.
|Doll Baby and new calf|
Andrea had to go to town to help with the play and do the actors’ makeup, but Charlie stopped by after school and helped me take a couple small bales of grass hay to the barn stall that was finished and ready, and we bedded it down with hay; the weather forecast was for rain and we thought we’d probably have to put the pair in the barn.
Andrea got home at 6 p.m. and I’d done chores early so we warmed another bottle to try to feed the calf again. She wouldn’t suck this time, and was very cold, lying on the wet ground. So Andrea carried her to the barn with mama following. The calf was so small she fit into a bucket. We got the pair in the barn and got the calf tucked into the hay bedding and hoped she would warm up.
|Doll Baby's calf in barn|
We rewarmed the bottle and tried again to feed her but she wouldn’t suck. So we fed her via nasogastric tube. She was breathing rapidly in spite of being cold and I suspected she had pneumonia—and gave her a small shot of antibiotic.
Andrea went back to town to finish helping with the play, and she and the girls checked on the calf when they came home late, after the play. She still seemed weak, so a couple hours later I warmed some more colostrum and Andrea and I fed her again by tube, but she didn’t seem to be getting any stronger.
MARCH 22 – When I got up early that next morning to plug in the tractor and skid steer, I went out to the barn to check on the calf, and she was dead. Perhaps she would have had a chance to live if we’d brought her in the house soon after she was born, to give her intensive care, but it seemed like her lungs were not very strong. She was so tiny and immature. We don’t know why she was coming ahead of schedule, but she probably wasn’t quite ready for the world yet.
A few hours later, at chore time, I put the young cow out of the barn and back in the calving pen, and she bawled and bawled all day for her calf. Andrea helped me feed the cows and bulls, and we off-loaded the end of an alfalfa bale into the barn stall to use for training the other heifers (to feed them some alfalfa in the barn). Michael and Nick worked on finishing the swinging gate they made for the biggest aisle, so we’ll have an easy gate there for splitting that aisle rather than the old heavy panel we had to drag around, for all those years.
|half of the double swinging gate|
By the next morning the rain had changed to snow. The guys worked on the barn again and Andrea and I fed the cows. After lunch Lynn went to locate water for a rancher the other side of town. The nasty weather lasted through Saturday. Sunday was a little nicer and I took photos when Andrea and I fed the cows in the field below her house –one view looking down the creek toward our house, another view looking up the creek, and also a photo of the deer sneaking away toward the brush.
|view from field looking down at our house|
|view from field- looking up the creek|
|deer sneaking away toward the brush|
By Saturday the young cows had eaten all the bale in their feeder and it was time to feed them again. Rather than put in another big bale we decided to bring the other cows down from the field by Andrea’s house and put them in the horse pasture, too (since some of them are getting quite a lot of udder, and we don’t want one of them calving up there in the field with all the coyotes), and feed them all together as one group.
Andrea and I drove up to the field with the feed truck and lured the cows down into the hold pen, with Andrea stringing a little hay along to encourage them to follow us. But after they came down into the hold pen they decided they didn’t want to come into the corral, and since we had no one following them (to shut the hold pen gate) they went back up to the field. We decided to let them just wait for their food and think about it, and drove over to the horse pasture to feed the young cows. By the time we came back to the barnyard with the feed truck the older cows were not feeling so smug, realizing they didn’t get fed. They started trooping back down to the hold pen.
Andrea and I hiked up this of the creek, through the field above the house, where the cows couldn’t see us (with all the trees between them and us) and we slipped across the creek and came down behind them. By then they’d all gone into the corral to eat the little bit of hay we’d left there, and we had them captured. It was all very easy and simple, waiting until it was their idea to come down again. We took them over to join the young cows in the horse pasture, where they got their breakfast.
The mud is really deep where we drive through the gate above my haystack now to feed the cows, with the frost going out of the ground and all the moisture from the rain and snow we’ve had. We barely made it up through there with the feed truck to go around to the horse pasture. It was snowing hard again by the time we got the cows moved, so that evening Robbie put chains on the truck.
Michael and Nick used the skid steer to clean the last of the rocks and gravel (from their post hole digging) out of the calving barn, made the panels between the aisles into swinging gates with hinges, and now the barn is ready for use.
|after cast party|
|charades at cast party - Sam on floor|
Then Robbie and Andrea had an emergency call from Emily that evening. Her car quit running, so they went to town to see if Robbie could fix it. While they were gone, a pipe in Andrea’s downstairs bathroom started leaking, so Sam turned off the pump so it wouldn’t keep flooding. All kinds of things to fix! Robbie wasn’t able to fix Em’s car but hopes he figured out what was wrong, and ordered some parts.
Monday morning I started training the heifers to go in the barn. Since they were already separate of the other cows (locked overnight in the orchard) I simply called them down into the calving pen, lured with a little hay. They come really well when I call them, knowing they are going to be fed. Then Lynn helped me get them across the driveway to the barn pen. They followed me and we locked them in there, but they didn’t want to go in the barn. We had one 4 year old cow with them and she marched right into the barn and started eating alfalfa, but it took a few minutes for the heifers to get brave enough to go in there. Once they did, however, they stayed inside that barn aisle to eat. We left them in there during breakfast then took them back to the horse pasture, and Andrea helped me feed the whole group.
Then she took the tarp off the woodpile, planning to split some more of the wood, when Dani called here from the school. She ran into the wall during some kind of running exercise in P.E. and hurt her elbow. So Andrea had to hurry off to town and take her in for x-rays. It was badly swollen and sprained, but not broken. Andrea stayed in town to help the kids finish cleaning up the theater that was used for the school play. Michael and Nick brought some poles to put along the top of the horse pasture fence, so now that fence project is finished. That evening Lynn helped me sort the heifers into the orchard for the night.
Tuesday morning after chores I called the heifers into the calving pen and led them to the barn myself; they came eagerly that time without anyone needing to follow, and they all went in without hesitation. Now it will be a lot easier, some dark stormy night, to get a calving heifer into the barn.
Andrea helped Lynn and me take a big round bale out to the little heifers and haul more little bales around for our spare stack (to add some grass hay to the big alfalfa bales we’re feeding the cows) and reload the feed truck.
|our stack of spare bales|
Wednesday I put the heifers in the barn again. These few times will be something they remember for the rest of their lives; they’ll associate the barn with something good and won’t ever be hesitant to go in there if we need them to. Now the hard part is getting them to go back to the pasture! They like eating hay in the barn.
Andrea helped me feed the cows and we managed to get through the deep mud again, thanks to the chains on the feed truck. With all the weight of two big alfalfa bales it sinks in pretty deep. After we fed, she put a few more little bales on the truck to augment the “alfalfa” for the next feeding.
|Andrea loading little bales onto feed truck|
***Stories about life on the ranch with our critters are found in my books: Horse Tales; True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, Cow Tales; More Stories from an Idaho Ranch, & Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.
Signed copies can be purchased for $24.95 each (or $70 for all three books) plus postage ($3 per book, or $7 for all three books)
Book orders can be made by phone (208-756-2841) or mail (Heather Thomas, P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467)