AUGUST 18 – Last week we had a lot of hot weather, in the 90’s. Lynn had an appointment with the heart doctor for another EKG and the doctor wants him to go to a specialist in Missoula for an angiogram to check his heart and maybe put in some more stents. Andrea is still working at the fire camp at Challis (that fire is still completely out of control and continuing to grow) so Lynn is trying to do the irrigation—changing the water in the ditches—while she is gone. Last Thursday he also made a trip past town (up the mountain behind town) to locate water for some folks who need a well.
Smoke continues to be an issue, drifting into our valley from several fires around us. We need some rain desperately but there is none in the forecast. A few days ago the fire on the other side of the mountains across from us blew up again, with a huge plume of smoke going thousands of feet into the air. I took photos of it from our back porch.
|new smoke - photos from back porch|
We are buying 50 tons of round bales from a neighbor across the valley—a mix of grass and alfalfa—to feed the weaned heifers and first-calvers this winter, and he brought several loads that day, and some more on Wednesday to put in our stackyard for Michael.
With Andrea still at the fire camp, Carolyn took Dani to her first volleyball meeting/signup and helped her with the forms and paperwork she needed, to participate in this sport.
We put new tires on “Luna”, the little white car, named by Emily when she was 2½ years old—when we bought it that summer to drive back and forth to Salt Lake, when Lynn was spending a lot of time there to be with Andrea when she was in the burn ICU. Family members took turns being there so there was always someone with her until she was out of danger and we knew she would survive. Our old car was not reliable for long trips, so we bought this little used car that was only 3 years old. Emily made a trip with us in Luna later that summer to see her mom (after 6 weeks apart), when Andrea was finally out of the ICU and stable enough to see her baby girl again. Now 18 years later, Emily is grown up and married. Her own car has some serious problems, so we loaned Luna to her to drive until she can get her own car fixed.
A few days ago we put a tarp on one end of the stack of round bales, and Lynn bought some more tarps to finish covering it. I got up on the stack with a ladder and spread out each tarp, while Lynn and Jim tied down all the sides and edges (we pre-tied long baling twines to all the grommets).
Carolyn has been helping Michael set posts (using the hydraulic post-pounder mounted on the skid steer) on a custom-fencing project, but Wednesday they got done early enough to ride that evening, and I rode with them. While I was riding up the road to the upper place to join them, I took another photo of the smoke across the valley.
|Michael & Carolyn's horses|
|Michael & Carolyn on Gus & Captain|
|Carolyn & Michael|
|Carolyn taking photos of the smoke plume|
Yesterday morning Jim took Sam to her job in town and took Dani to early morning volleyball practice, then Lynn and Charlie picked up both girls and drove to Challis to spend part of the day at the fire camp to see Andrea.
We had strong winds that day, blowing down trees, and blowing down Andrea’s shade awning at the fire camp. It blow down on top of Lynn and Dani, but luckily they didn’t get hit by the support poles. The wind accelerated many fires, and they are still out of control and consuming more acres daily. The storm was accompanied by lots of lightning, but very little rain.
Today Charlie and Sam helped Jim mow the lawn at Andrea’s place and pick up debris that had been strewn around by the wind. Dani helped me move the heifers from their ditch pasture down into the little water-hole pen where there’s some grass to graze. Then we got our horses saddled and moved the cows and calves from the pasture below the lane, up the horse road to heifer hill. The cows were eager to go to new pasture and trotted up the trail, leaving the calves behind. Dottie and I brought up the rear and followed the calves, who were a bit confused, not knowing where their mothers had gone.
|Dottie and me following the calves|
|Dani heading the herd|
|heading the last of the calves through the gate|
|cows grazing new pasture|
|cows spreading out over heifer hill|
SEPTEMBER 1 – Last Sunday the kids helped us reinforce an old falling-down jack fence—part of the fence around the little pen below the bull pen. We hauled some old wood panels over there and attached them to the fence, along with an old aluminum gate, and got the fence patched enough to be able to let the yearling bulls into that brushy pen to have some green grass to augment their hay. We also brought the 4 yearling heifers around to pens below the calving barn to let them graze that tall grass for a couple of days. Then Charlie helped Lynn irrigate, helping Lynn carry some of the heavier dams and move the big rocks in the ditch. That evening Jim and Sam cooked a really nice dinner for all of us at Andrea’s house.
The next day Charlie helped Lynn irrigate again, and Dani rode with me to check the cows and calves on heifer hill.
|checking cows on heifer hill|
|calves following Dani around|
Later that afternoon we had another storm, wind and lightning, but very little rain. At Challis, at the fire camp, they had some hail, but not enough moisture to slow down the fires. That evening I cooked a big dinner for all the kids and Jim, and Emily came out to the ranch to join us.
The next day I put up a temporary hot wire next to Sprout and Shiloh’s pens (where the round bales are stacked), to fence off the haystack, and let the heifers in there to graze down the grass. We are using the heifers to “mow” some of the ditch banks and barnyard areas while at the same time stretching our cow pastures farther by not having the heifers out with the cows.
Carolyn came down and went around the various fields with Lynn so he could show her where we are irrigating; she planned to change water for us while Lynn recuperates from his heart procedure. Dani came down later that day and held Ed for me while I put new hind shoes on Ed. She noticed some big tracks in the mud along the driveway; there was a bit of mud left from the tiny amount of rain the day before. The tracks were much bigger than coyote tracks but not quite like a wolf.
Lynn was really tired that day, and took two naps. That evening he got everything ready for his trip to Missoula to the doctor.
Since Andrea was still at fire camp and couldn’t drive him to Missoula, Jim took Lynn early the next morning out to Jenelle’s place when he took Sam to work the next morning, and Jenelle drove Lynn over to the Heart Institute in Missoula. She did some shopping while they were there, and Lynn had the heart procedure. This time the balloon and stent was put in through an artery in his wrist, instead of the groin, and that worked better. The doctor used one long stent to open up 2 separate blockages (one place was 50% blocked and the other was 70% blocked. This time the procedure only took about an hour instead of 6 hours, and he didn’t have as much bleeding afterward. The last time (in February 2013) the doctor put in 3 stents (and had to redo one that collapsed right after he placed it) and it was much more traumatic.
He was able to come home that same day, but it was late at night when they got back to Jenelle’s place so he stayed the night there and Jim went to get him the next morning. Lynn has to take it easy for a while, and wasn’t supposed to lift anything for a week, so Carolyn (sometimes with Michael’s help) changed our water every day.
Meanwhile, the day Lynn was in Missoula, Carolyn went to Dani’s volleyball practice and took both girls to buy school clothes and supplies. That morning I started to go outside (about mid-morning) and was surprised to see a cougar by our back porch! It just stared at me, and another one was about 10 yards away, on up the driveway. These big cats looked like yearlings, not quite full grown. I should have grabbed my camera, because the cougar just stood there, but instead my first thought was that it would be trying to eat our cats (they are often on the back porch, where I feed them).
So I yelled at the cougar and it just stood there, wide-eyed, staring at me. Finally after about the 3rd time I yelled at it, the cougar followed its sibling up the driveway and out to our field, right past the heifers. This explained the tracks we saw in the driveway the day before; these young cougars have probably been traveling through here frequently. I called the neighbors to warn them about these big cats, and Alfonso said he heard a fawn screaming in the middle of the night, being killed. Almost all of our whitetail fawns have disappeared.
Sam and Dani helped me put the heifers in the back yard to graze for a couple of days, and then we took a short ride over the low range. I took photos as we headed out over the hill, and as the girls paused at the top of the next ridge overlooking the low end of Baker Creek.
|heading out over the low range|
|Sam on Breezy|
|heading over the bentonite ridge|
|looking at one of the eroded holes in the ground|
|past some interesting rocks|
|down some cow trails|
Charlie’s trail crew has been working several days a week, but no longer camping out; the fire danger is too great. They come home again each night.
On Saturday a bull of Alfonso’s was coming down the road and trying to get in with our cows on heifer hill. Even though Lynn wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous yet, we drove up the road in the pickup and he drove while I got out and chased the bull back up the road. Lynn drove on ahead of the bull to block the next driveway with the pickup, so we could take the bull on up the road to Alfonso’s field and put him back in.
The next day, Lynn started hiking a little bit every day, trying to get his strength back. He is feeling much better already, with no more chest pain.
We’ve had some cooler weather lately, which will hopefully help keep the fires from getting worse. It’s also helped the creek; there’s a little more water now that it’s not so hot. We had a little bit of rain a few days ago, which also helped.
On Monday I hiked up along the horse road with a huge bunch of old baling twines and patched the falling-down fence where sagebrush has grown over it and the deer have been going through it. That fence is more than 60 years old (it was not new when we moved to this place in 1967) and on the list of to-do projects, to be rebuilt, but in the meantime it needed rejuvenation so the cows won’t go through it. I used up all my twines tying falling-down posts back upright—pulling them up to big sagebrush behind them—pulling barbed wire back up into place and tying the wires in place with proper spacing, making baling twine “netting” in the places where the wires were mashed down too far and two entwined in the brush to pull up into place. I created a lot of “fake fence”. Then I let the cows and calves down into that field, from heifer hill. The green regrowth on these hayfields doesn’t last the cows very many days; it’s still too short, and too “lush” and they go through it really fast. We have to keep moving the cattle to new pasture, and are hoping our pastures will last until we get the calves weaned and sold, so the cows can go up to the 320-acre hill pasture for a month or so this fall.
After I let the cows and calves down into this next field, I took the yearling heifers from their barnyard pen grazing (which was all eaten) and put them up with the cows and calves. They can all graze together now, until we pregnancy test and vaccinate them (and wean calves).
Michael and Carolyn are also running out of pasture for their cows and calves. Their irrigation water has been shut off since the creek went into regulation. The creek is up again now but the water master hasn’t turned any of their ditches back on. They came down here a couple days ago and got a pickup load of little bales from my hay shed to feed their horses. I’m trading them some horse hay for the shoeing Michael did for me earlier this summer, putting shoes on Shiloh.
Lynn has been doing a little more hiking, and doing the irrigating again on this place, until Andrea gets back. His arm is still very sore, where they put the balloon and stent through the artery, and the whole arm turned black and purple on the inside.
|Lynn's beautiful arm|
Nights are cooler, down to 36 degrees a couple nights ago. This past Wednesday Lynn drove to Challis to spell off Andrea for a few hours on her weed wash job so she could make a fast trip down here to watch Dani’s volleyball games. Michael and Carolyn went to see her games also.
My page proofs came (for the next edition of my book Storey’s Guide to Training Horses) so I am now madly trying to go through those and check at least 50 pages a day, making notes on any changes, and creating captions for the new photos.
Andrea has made a lot of new friends at the fire camp—fire fighters and support crew people from all over the West. She has given away and sold some of my books—Beyond the Flames: A Family Touched by Fire--the one I wrote after her burn accident. Many people are interested in the fact she is a burn survivor and want to read her story. Some of them want to share the book with other burn survivors they happen to know, realizing that Andrea’s story of courage and perseverance (and her determination to get her life back and keep doing things she wants to do) could be a source of encouragement.
For folks who have been reading my blog in recent years, not knowing the background of what our family went through in those tough years following her accident, they can go back to the earliest blogs (in the archives of this blog) that chronicle those details of our journey. It’s been an amazing journey, an incredible detour that opened the way to meeting countless wonderful people that we would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.
I have extra copies of that book (along with some of my horse and cattle books) if anyone wants to order them from me (they can call me at 208-756-2841).