Friday, November 2, 2018

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – September 2 through September 28, 2018

SEPTEMBER 10 – More cool weather, down in the 30’s at night and not more than 80 degrees by afternoon. I worked daily on page proofs for the next edition of Storey’s Guide to Training Horses and got the proofs sent back on time.

A week ago I hiked through the cows below heifer hill to check on their pasture and it looked like they still had enough grass for a few more days. They came running when they saw me, however, thinking I might move them to a new pasture, and the calves crowded around me as I checked on them, so I took a few photos.
cows came running when I hiked through their pasture
calves ganged around me
I decided to sneak out a different way than go back down to the gate, so they wouldn’t think I was moving them. I hiked up to the top end of the pasture, across the ditch, and went out on the horse road to come home.

Michael and Carolyn spent last weekend on a horseback camping trip with Carolyn’s brothers and some friends, taking pack horses into some rugged country up Antelope Creek, near Mackay, Idaho. They took a lot of photos, and sent some to us.
pack trip to Antelope
pack trip - trail marker
pack trip - camp spot
They had a good time and saw a lot of beautiful country, including several lakes. One lake was so deep that when Carolyn’s brother rode his horse into it to let the horse get a drink, the horse was instantly submerged; water immediately came up over the saddle and her brother got soaked! Here are more photos of some of the scenery they saw, including one of the lakes and a small pond.
pack trip - lake
pack trip - mountain meadow
pack trip - pond
Emily came out here for supper last Sunday and took some more copies of my book Beyond the Flames to take with her the next day when she went to Challis, to give to Andrea, since Andrea had run out of copies to give to some of her firefighter friends that she met on this job. Emily spent the afternoon and evening there at the camp (and stayed overnight) to do Andrea’s job and spell her off so Andrea could come home and pick up the kids from Mark Monday evening, spend the night at home, and take the kids to school (first day of school) the next morning. I cooked supper for all of us when Andrea brought the kids home Sunday evening after Dani’s volleyball practice. The kids had supper here again the next evening after school and practice.

Wednesday night we had a horrible wind that tore the grommets out of two of the big tarps over our round bale stack, blowing those tarps over the other side of the stack.

The next day I had a phone call from a woman whose brother was badly burned earlier this year. One of her friends (that Andrea is acquainted with through a burn survivor chat room online) gave her a copy of my book Beyond the Flames, and it was a help to her in dealing with all the trauma of dealing with a severe burn injury and taking care of a burn survivor. She wanted to get more copies of the book to provide to families at the burn center where her brother was—to be a source of encouragement. She got in touch with Andrea, and then called me, and I sent her several books.

Friday morning Jim took Sam to her job in town and Charlie helped Lynn irrigate. Lynn has trouble with some of the heavy rocks and dams, after straining his elbow a couple weeks ago, and Charlie is a lot of help. After lunch Lynn and the kids drove to Challis to spend the day there so they could visit with Andrea in between her weed wash jobs as vehicles come and go from the fire. Even with the cooler weather, it seems there is still no end in sight for getting that big fire under control.

This weekend Michael and Carolyn hauled their horses to Preston, Idaho and spent a couple days helping Carolyn’s brother and friends round up and move some range cattle.

Saturday Charlie, Sam and Dani helped Lynn and me take down the temporary fence along the ditch below the field by Andrea’s house. We rolled up the wires and hauled the step-in posts and rolls of wire back down to the barn in Jim’s truck. Then Sam worked on her greenhouse garden, Charlie went out to his dad’s place to work on his pickup truck, and Dani rode with me for 3 hours to check the grass and fences on the 320.
Dani riding Ed up through the 320
We rode up through the south side of the 320 and then went out the gate by Witteborg Trough onto the range. The new trough the Amish put in last fall was working this spring, but now is not running any water and there were about 30 thirsty cows there, so we took them around to Baker Creek and checked our fences again to make sure no range cows can get into our place. When we came down into Baker Creek above our 320 we found a freshly killed calf of Alfonso’s. It hadn’t been dead very long but the face was all eaten away, and some of the belly and one hind leg; it looked like a wolf kill.
Alfonso's calf killed by wolves
Yesterday (Sunday) the kids and Jim helped me put the two big tarps back on our haystack (that blew off in the windstorm a few days earlier). The grommets were torn out but we tied twines to those edges and also put twine “ropes” across the top every 5 feet to help hold it down in future wind storms.
tarps tied back on the stack
Then Sam and Dani both rode with me, up Baker Creek on the low range, where we saw a huge, beautiful red-orange fox with a white bushy tail. The tail was more than half white (not just the tip—almost the whole tail). We went on up into the middle range and Dani opened and shut the gate for us. I didn’t have my camera out quick enough to get a photo of the fox, but took photos as we went up to the gate and through it.
girls riding up through low range
Dani shutting the gate
We rode up to a good crossing, crossed Baker Creek and went up the other side, appreciating the cleared-out trail where it used to be overgrown with brush and hazardous to get through.
going up Baker Creek on middle range
crossing Baker Creek
starting up the other side of Baker Creek
We rode on up Baker Creek on the middle range, on the outside of the 320 on the town side, and our horses had to step over a lot of fallen trees; they keep blowing down during wind storms. I patched the 320 fence where a tree blew down across the fence and the trail along the fence. After we stepped our horses over that tree, Dani held my horse while I patched the fence with baling twines.We rode on up Baker Creek on the middle range, on the outside of the 320 on the town side, and our horses had to step over a lot of fallen trees; they keep blowing down during wind storms. I patched the 320 fence where a tree blew down across the fence and the trail along the fence. After we stepped our horses over that tree, Dani held my horse while I patched the fence with baling twines.
going up Baker Creek
Breezy stepping over down tree
After we left the creek bottom we started up the big draw on the middle range, and took the trail between some huge rocks. Dani took her foot out of the stirrup to avoid hitting one of the rocks as she went by it.
up through the rocks
Dani dodging rock
It was a hot day and the horses were hot (and Breezy out of shape, not being ridden much this year) so we took our time going up the steep hill to Withington Trough (on the top end of the middle range). We paused briefly to let the horses rest by some tall Basin sage bushes that were taller than the horses. Basin sagebrush only grows where there is deep, good soil—like in the valley bottoms--and most of it was removed in the early days when settlers plowed up the bottom lands for farming. There are still some patches of it out on the rangelands, however, in places where the soil is nice and deep and not just rocky.
Sam by tall sagebrush
resting the horses by tall sage
After we got up to Withington Trough we let the horses have a drink, and then rode around the hill to the high range gate. On our way to that gate, Sam and Dani took photos with their cell phones, and Dani sent photos to Andrea (at fire camp) to have her mom guess where we were. Andrea messaged back; she guessed immediately that we were on the middle range right outside the high end of the 320.
Dani sending photos with her phone
We went on into the high range and saw there was no grass left at all in Baker Creek, and most of the cows were very skinny. The Amish and Alfonso have still not fixed the big trough in Baker Creek that used to water more than 100 range cows daily. The trough has rusted out and no longer holds water and has been that way now for about 4 years. Coming back down to the 320 we found that the dead calf had been eaten on quite a bit more overnight, and the carcass had been dragged down into the creek. We came home through the 320. The grass is still a bit green in our pasture and I took a photo of the girls as we came down Baker Creek.
coming back down Baker Creek through the 320
When we got home from our ride I fed the girls homemade pizza.

Today Lynn and I took another big round bale with the tractor to the back pen for the two young bulls. This afternoon he went to town to get mail and groceries and to check on “Luna” (the little white car we loaned Emily). It quit on her and wouldn’t start. We may need to have a mechanic help us figure it out.

SEPTEMBER 20 – We had to get Luna hauled to the repair shop and the mechanics figured out the problem; there was something wrong with the shifter and that’s why it wouldn’t start. We eventually got it repaired and Em has a car to drive again.

Dani’s volleyball team had several more games at various schools—winning some and losing some. Here’s a photo of Dani in her volleyball uniform.
Dani volleyball
A couple days ago Lynn and Emily went to Challis to spell off Andrea for a couple hours so she could go watch Dani’s team play at the Challis high school, where they beat both the Challis and Mackay teams.

We were short of water in our ditches for about a week and finally called the watermaster, who came out and adjusted the water on Alfonso’s 3rd right (he was using more than his right, and our 2nd right was short) so now we’re able to get a little farther with the irrigation water. Several of our fields are still very dry. We need rain….

It’s been cooler, freezing some nights, so Jim has been covering Sam’s greenhouse garden by Andrea’s house. It is still producing lots of green peppers, and there are a bunch of green tomatoes.

Speaking of gardens, young Heather sent us a photo of young Joseph sitting among some of the big pumpkins they grew. He’s happily eating an ear of corn he picked from the garden.
good lunch
Alfonso called us late Thursday evening to tell us he saw the 2 cougars again, in his field right above Andrea’s house—next to by our cows and calves. He said those young cougars are very bold, and not afraid of people.

On Saturday Alfonso and Millers brought most of their cattle home from the range, bringing them down the road past our upper place. They didn’t shut the gate into Michael and Carolyn’s stack yard, however, and as the cattle trickled down the road for several hours unsupervised, about 25 cows went into the stack yard and were eating the hay bales, doing quite a bit of damage before Michael came along to chase them out.

On the bright side, the wild yearling bull of Alfonso’s that has been living in the wild meadow (ever since he jumped into our upper place about 3 weeks ago) ran along the fence and got out (the Amish opened the gate at the bottom end of the wild meadow) and went home with the range cows. Michael and Carolyn tried to get that snorty bull out when it first got into their field, but it was wild and ornery. They finally did get the bull out onto the road, and heading down the road, then it ran right back over Michael to crash back through the fence to get into the field again. They figured they would have to put some of their cows with him to get him into the corral to haul home to Alfonso—when they rounded up their cows to vaccinate—but the bull solved the problem by going back out on his own.

The cowboys sorted Alfonso’s cattle into the Gooch place and let Miller’s cattle come on down the road. As those cattle trickled past our place, some tried to come down our lane, so Lynn shut our gates. He also spent some time guarding Alfonso’s hay stack (next to the road) so the cows wouldn’t eat up Alfonso’s hay. Some friends of Alfonso were stationed by the lower place, with instructions to hold the cattle there in a group (Miller’s cattle) so they could be taken across the fields and over the hill to Miller’s place. They’d been told the sort would only take a couple hours, but they’d been there for 5 hours, well into the afternoon, so Lynn took them sandwiches and water and they were very grateful.

The next day, Sunday, we were scheduled to preg check and vaccinate the cows and wean the calves. Our vet was supposed to go to a meeting in Washington D.C. the week before, flying back home on Saturday. He wasn’t sure if he’d get back, because the hurricane coming up from North Carolina was supposed to hit Washington D.C. about then, but his meeting was cancelled because of the storm, so he was here to preg check our cows and Bangs vaccinate the heifer calves.

Sunday morning Lynn and I brought our cows and calves in from the field above the corrals, then Lynn went to town to get Dani, who wanted to help us. Her dad allowed her to come home a few hours early (it was his weekend); he brought her to town so Lynn could pick her up. Dani helped me sort the cows away from the calves, and we also sorted the heifer calves from the steers—so we would be ready when the vet got here. Emily drove up to Challis that morning to take her mom’s place at the fire camp weed wash crew so Andrea could come here and help with the cattle and be here to pick up the other kids from Mark that evening.

Our vet was going to come about noon (he had another ranch to go to before he came here) but ended up having to preg check at two different places before he arrived. Michael, Nick and Carolyn helped us run the steer calves through the chute to vaccinate them and put in their nose flaps for weaning. Then we waited an hour for the vet to arrive before we could do the heifers (the vet has to give the brucellosis-Bangs—vaccine) and preg-check the cows. Dani helped put the cows down the alleyway and here’s a photo snapped while she was waiting to move the next cow into the squeeze chute.
Andrea took photos while we were doing the cows; here’s a photo of all of us as we waited for Cope as he palpated a cow, to tell us whether she was pregnant or not.
working cattle
Here are photos of Michael preparing to catch the next cow, and Michael catching a cow in the chute.
Michael preparing to catch the next cow
Michael catching a cow for Cope to preg check
We got them all done, and ALL the cows and yearling heifers were pregnant this year. Andrea and Dani took the pregnant yearlings down to the post pile pasture while we finished up the cows. Here’s a photo of the cows and calves as we got done—the calves with their nose flaps, and unable to nurse.
calves after we put in the nose flaps
Dani helped me take cattle to the field above the house, and then she and Andrea went up to the upper place to help work their cows. They got their cows preg-checked, vaccinated, and the calves vaccinated and nose-flaps installed just before Andrea had to hurry to town to go get the other kids from Mark.

Meanwhile, I had a big pot of chili simmering, and some fruit salad made, and fed them all dinner for when they got back.

That night it froze again, but the adverse weather wasn’t hard on the weaning calves because they had their mamas for comfort even though they can’t nurse. The nose flaps work really well for low-stress weaning! The cows were disgruntled because the calves weren’t able to nurse, and the calves were frustrated, not being able to get a teat in their mouth, but they were still together.

The next day I checked on them and they all still had their flaps and no one was “cheating” and I took a few photos of the calves with their flaps.
calf wondering why he can't get the teat in his mouth
able to eat grass but can't nurse
nose flap - weaning with mom for comfort
A couple days ago Michael and Carolyn brought their flatbed truck down at evening chore time and got another load of bales from my horse stack, to feed their horses. They don’t have any decent horse hay, and they are feeding the cows and calves the last of the old round bales from last year that are a bit moldy. Not having any irrigation water for more than a month, their fields are completely dry and the calves will be losing weight unless the cows and calves have some feed.

Yesterday at morning chores I hiked up to check on the cows and calves (the calves still have all their flaps) and encountered a huge coyote. He ran for the gate, since he knew that was the only place he could get through the fence; we haven’t put netting on the gate yet.

Today Andrea finally got to come home from the fire camp. The fire is enough under control now that the camp has demobilized and everyone went home. Andrea and Bob Minor (running the weed wash) were among the last to leave, having to stay until all the vehicles coming off the fire were washed. When Andrea left, she came straight out here, picked up Lynn at the highway at Baker, and drove to Leadore so she and Lynn could watch Dani’s volleyball games there.

SEPTEMBER 28 – Last week we had more freezing weather. Last Friday was cold but Andrea and I went for a ride anyway (her first ride in nearly 7 weeks, before she went to fire camp). It was too cold and windy to ride Willow (still green, and only a few rides this year before Andrea left) so she rode Shiloh and we made a fast ride up to the 320 to check on the condition of the grass and the fences, before taking our cows up there. On our way up the ridge she send messages to her kids.
Andrea on Shiloh going up ridge to 320
coming back down Baker Creek in the 320
We had to hurry back, to be in time for a phone interview I needed to do, and she and Lynn irrigated and got the water changed. As they were coming back down the road from heifer hill, all our cows in the field below there were running and bawling, and very upset. We weren’t sure what alarmed them --maybe a bear or the cougars?

The next day the cows were upset again and when I went out to do morning chores Breezy was buzzed up and too nervous to eat her hay—just running back and forth in her pen. We decided to go ahead and take the nose flaps out of the calves, before some of them knocked their flaps out by running into each other when the herd was stampeding around. The cows eagerly came in from the field (wanting to get away from whatever was scaring them up in the brush in the field above theirs).

Andrea was gone all day to watch Dani’s final volleyball tournament at Ririe, so Jim helped us sort the cows away from the calves. We put the cows back up in the field and the calves in the pen next to the calving barn, and put them through the headcatch by the barn and took out their nose flaps. Then we put the steer calves in the horse pasture (right through the fence from their mamas) and the heifer calves below the lane in good pasture. Now the cows won’t be stampeding around; they are attracted to their calves down at this end, through the fence, and will probably just stay there and graze.

Over the weekend young Heather sent us photos of Joseph—helping his dad (Gregory) and Grandpa John, eating another ear of corn in the pickup, and taking a nap after a busy day. He’s been riding around in the combines, helping mama and grandpa harvest the grain.
Joseph helping daddy
Joseph & grandpa Eppich
sleepy Joseph
On Sunday Michael and Carolyn hauled their cull cows to the sale yard in Montana, to be sold in the sale this week. Cattle prices are off a bit from what they were earlier, but that’s always how it is in the fall when we have to sell the cull cows and our calves.

It was stormy off and on that day but Andrea and I rode for several hours. She rode Sprout that day, to see if that mare was sound again after several months off. Sprout didn’t show any lameness so we rode on up into the middle range. We went clear to the Bear Trough and let the horses drink.
Andrea riding Sprout
drinking at the Bear Trough
It started to rain on us a few times, but not much. Andrea wore her chaps in case we got wet, but we didn’t get very wet. We still need more rain! We hurried home through the middle range.
middle range
coming home
When we got home she went to town to help Emily on a house cleaning job and got the kids from Mark that evening. We all had dinner at her house; she made lasagna (some that she made the day before and heated up for our dinner) and I took a fruit salad. It was great to all be together again for dinner. It rained a little that evening when we were coming home, but still not enough to do much good for the dry grass on our mountain pastures.

On Monday the internet and phones were not working; I wasn’t able to call a couple people that I needed do talk with, to do phone interviews for articles, and had to wait and do it the next day. Apparently lightning hit the sub-station along the underground phone line out in the desert between here and Idaho Falls, and all of our valley was without internet (except for the servers via satellite) and long-distance phone service, and no way to call from land lines to cell phones. Amazing how much we depend on technology and take it for granted these days.

Jim has been working on several more lamps, and one of them has some lovely insets where he made tiny deer tracks from turquoise.
lamp insert
deer print with turquoise
He also made a nice entry table with some unique pieces of wood. Here are photos of the table.
entry table
That morning I was going to put new shoes on Sprout but she was a bit stiff and sore from her ride the day before so I simply took off her old front shoes and we’ll wait to see if she gets better quickly or just gets time off until next spring.

Tuesday morning Andrea and Lynn drove to Missoula for his checkup with the heart doctor. He is doing fine after his procedure last month and the new stent is working properly. The old ones are still in place and still doing their job, too.

Wednesday we brought the cows in from the field above the house and sorted off the first-calvers to leave down here in the fields this fall, and put them with the yearling heifers in the back field. We also kept our oldest cow (LillyAnn) home. Andrea took this photo as we were putting that group into the back field, with LillyAnn following the young cows out to the field.
Taking LillyAnn & young cows to back field
That afternoon Michael and Carolyn brought their trailer down and hauled the older cows up to the upper place and put them in the upper corral, and got their horses ready while Andrea and I were trotting the 2 ½ miles up the road on Shiloh and Dottie to join them. When we got there, we headed up through their field to go get the cows, and took this photo of Michael and Carolyn.
 Michael & Carolyn heading out to go gather their cows
We helped them gather their cows from their field across the creek, sorted off their old granny cow that they plan to butcher, and then we took their cows and our little group of cows up to the 320 for fall pasture. Michael was riding Gus and Carolyn was riding Clifford, the younger horse that has been in training this summer. Here are photos of them following the cows as we started up through the bottom part of the 320.
Carolyn on Clifford & Michael on Gus -following cows
Andrea leading cows up the jeep road, Michael following
Andrea went ahead of the cows on Shiloh, calling them, and led them up the jeep road to the gate into the Baker Creek side of the 320, opened the gate and they headed for Baker Creek where there’s shade and water. That morning was cold (26 degrees) but by afternoon when we were taking the cows up to the ridge in the 320 to take them to Baker Creek, it had gotten pretty warm. Even though we let the cows string out and go their own speed (following Andrea, who rode on ahead to open all the gate) the cows were huffing and puffing by the time we put them through the ridge gate. They headed down into Baker Creek, and we headed home.
Andrea opened the gate and let them start into the Baker Creek pasture
cows going through the gate and heading over the ridge to go to Baker Creek
moving cows over the ridge to the gate
Michael and Carolyn went back the way we’d come, to shut gates and put their horses away and hurry off to a fencing job. Andrea and I hurried down the ridge—the most direct route to our place—since she had to get to town by the time school let out, to meet up with Dani for dance tryouts—for the school play. The nice thing about Shiloh is that she really likes to go and is not a bit lazy, and a person can get up and down these mountains pretty fast.

Yesterday morning we took some photos of Andrea with Shiloh, to try to get one good enough for possible use on the dedication page of the new edition to my book Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Here are a couple that we took.
Andrea & Shiloh
Then we made a fast ride to the 320 to check on the cows we’d put up there the day before. We trotted up Baker Creek and didn’t see any cows until we got nearly up to the top. One of the photos I took as we hurried up the creek –showing Andrea and Shiloh trotting up through the little meadow—is the one we actually chose to send to Storey for the dedication page of my training book.
going up Baker Creek to check on cows
trotting through meadow
hurrying up Baker Creek
As we approached the 2nd crossing the horses started snorting and sniffing; they smelled something dead. Andrea looked in the bushes toward the creek and saw the remains of an elk fawn, killed a little earlier.
Shiloh smells something dead
The cows seemed a little restless and spooky—all in one big group at the top salt ground when we found them, except for a few that were coming up Baker Creek to go to the water trough. They were too nervous to drink, however, and kept right on going, to join their buddies out on the salt ground. We’re not sure whether a bear, or wolves, or hunters had been going through them, but they were definitely on high alert.
cows were all grouped and on high alert
cows trailing in to water
We counted them, saw that they were all there, and went back down into Baker Creek to head home. On our way down the creek we talked to Jim (who was hunting—but he hadn’t spooked the cows; they were already boogered before he went up there).
Jim hiking through to go Elk hunting
We didn’t have much time; Andrea had to be home in time to go to the school and pick up Sam to take her to the chiropractor. We trotted most of the way home.
hurrying home
Later that afternoon I helped Lynn take another big round bale to the bull’s feeder in the back pen, and he also loaded a bale on Michael’s truck, to take up to the upper place for his weaned calves. Lynn also went to town for the mail and groceries, and got several blocks of salt for the cows on the 320.

Today Jim took the salt up to the cows with his 4-wheeler. Charlie trimmed some sagebrush and chokecherry bushes away from Shiloh’s gate (the brush had grown a lot this summer, making it harder to open) and Dani rode with Andrea and me to check the cows on the 320. This time the cows were more settled, and spreading out to graze. We checked the top gate and rode up through the high range made a loop into Baker Creek then came back down through the 320.
heading up the ridge
High range
Dani & Ed on High Range
Alfonso and Millers are still short a few cows that are still out on the range so we looked for tracks in Baker Creek but didn’t see any.

If anyone wants to read some of our past adventures with horses and critters, they can order my latest books (Horse Tales; Cow Tales; or Ranch Tales) directly from me. They make great Christmas gifts for anyone who likes animals!

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