Friday, January 11, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - November 15 through December 13, 2018

NOVEMBER 20 – This week has been cold, with most nights down to about 13 degrees, but thawing during the day. Andrea has been taking Dani in to the school for basketball practice early in the mornings in spite of the fact she’s sidelined due to her sprained ankle; all the kids still have to be there and support their team, and go with them to games. Wednesday morning Andrea drove her pickup to Hughes Creek and her friend Russ helped her cut, split and load some firewood. Andrea took photos of loading the truck, and the full load when she stopped at North Fork on her way home.
getting firewood
The next day she unloaded part of it here, part of it at her place, and took some to town for Emily. We also bought a load, so we’re getting closer to having enough firewood for the winter. Here are photos I took when she unloaded some at our place.
unloading wood
Lynn and I went to the new dermatologist who comes to Salmon periodically to see patients, and he froze off a bunch of precancerous lesions on my face and on Lynn’s face. It’s good to get rid of them before they get to be a real problem. That’s the price we pay for way too much sun exposure for so many years.
Thursday Jim took his pickup and trailer to Hughes Creek to get more firewood. Lynn and Andrea got our old feed truck running and brought a load of little bales from the stackyard to haul around by the bulls’ pen, since they were running out of hay, and Lynn and I got hay from my hayshed to haul over by Sprout and Shiloh’s pen. 

Andrea then took her pickup to Hughes Creek to get another load of wood, but while backing up the hill toward the cut-down trees she ran a sharp branch through the sidewall of a tire and ruined the tire. She and Jim tried to get the spare tire down off its holder but it had been there ever since she bought the pickup 15 years ago and the holder wouldn’t release. They finally had to borrow a tire from their friend Russ, and it went flat as soon as they put it on her pickup. Jim put some air in it from his little compressor in his pickup and Andrea was able to limp home with it, without any wood. The only wood they got that day was on Jim’s little trailer.
The next day Andrea hiked up to the 320 to check on the cows and they were all high on the mountain again and doing pretty well. She checked the water trough in Baker Creek to make sure the ice wasn’t getting too thick.

water trough
The next two nights were really cold, however, and we worried about their water situation, so yesterday Andrea and I both hiked up there to check on them, and check the water in Baker Creek.
checking cows on the 320
hiking to check cows
Some of the cows were still high, but 10 of them were down at the bottom and pretty empty (not much grass in that area), so after we broke the ice off the lower trough we left the gate open into the lower part of that pasture in case those cows want to drift into that side where there’s a little more grass. Andrea took a few photos; I didn’t take my camera because the weather was cold and my battery low, and it would have quit working. Here are photos of the cows on the lower end of the 320.
cows on lower end of 320
It was cold again last night (13 degrees) but the temperature got up to 35 degrees this afternoon. Lynn went to town for his physical therapy session at the hospital. His shoulder is getting a little stronger and less painful. On his way home he located a well site for some folks on Kirtley Creek. Andrea made another fast hike to the 320 to check on the cows. All of ours had found the open gate into the lower part, along with most of Michael’s cows. Most of the grass is gone on the high end now too, so maybe the rest of the cows will be coming into the low part before long.

NOVEMBER 25 – It was cold again for a few nights then warmed up a little and the ice didn’t get as thick on the water tubs and troughs. I’ve been feeding a little bale every morning and evening to the weaned heifers. Even though they still have some grass in their pasture, they are slow to start grazing on cold mornings when the grass is all frosty, and they really appreciate a little hay. They all come running now whenever they see me.

I’ve had several e-mails from granddaughter Heather in Canada, and she sent photos of young Joseph riding in the tractor with his daddy.
Joseph with Gregory in tractor
Joseph helping daddy auger post holes
They’ve also been pounding some posts where the frost is not too deep--trying to build a lot of new fences before the ground is too frozen. Here are photos Heather sent of Gregory pounding posts.
building fence
pounding posts
My nephew Matt Smith (my brother Rockwell’s son) and kids came Wednesday afternoon and stayed for supper. It was great to have a visit. It had been 2 years since we’ve seen Matt, and fun meeting his kids. His daughter Luna will soon be 13 and we hadn’t seen her since she was a toddler, and we’d never met his 9-year-old son Leo. They enjoyed meeting Andrea’s kids (their 2nd cousins) for the first time and stayed overnight with Andrea’s kids. Andrea took photos of them before they left the next day.
Matt & Kids
On Thanksgiving day Matt and his kids drove to Idaho Falls to join Rockwell and Bev and her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Lynn and I went to Andrea’s house for dinner. She had 15 people at her house, and we all brought food. I cooked one of her turkeys here in my oven, and Charlie came down to get it before dinner.
Andrea took photos of some of the crew lounging around before, during and after dinner. Here are photos of Emily with Andrea’s good friend Anita and small son Jesse, and oldest son Jeremy and Jeremy’s wife Madesta.
Em with Anita, Madesta, Jesse and Jeremy
Here are photos of Anita having dessert while visiting with Sam and Charlie, Grandma and Grandpa (us) with Grandpa is enjoying dessert, and a photo of Em (making a pouty face) and Jeremy.
Anita having dessert
Grandpa Lynn having dessert
Em & Jeremy
Friday Matt and kids were here in Salmon again briefly; they bought flowers at the grocery store and Andrea went with them to the cemetery. His kids had never seen where their great grandparents (my parents) are buried. Then they stopped by at the ranch again to say Hi before heading back to their home in Burien (near Seattle).

Yesterday it snowed a little. Andrea and I hiked up to 320 to check on the cows again. They were all in the lower part of the 320 so we shut the gate on the ridge and locked them in there, so they’d be easier to find when we brought them home. 

Today we brought them down to the fields. Lynn took the feed truck to the upper place, with a couple bales of hay on it, and parked by the gate into the upper corral. Andrea and girls and I went up there in her old Explorer (“Goldie”) and the girls stayed there with grandpa to head the cows into the corral. Michael and Carolyn drove 4-wheelers up through the 160 and into the 320 and started bringing the cows down, while Andrea and I hiked up from the bottom and opened the old wire gate along the way. We had the gates open by the time the cows started down out of the 320, and we followed them down to the road and down to the corral—where Lynn and the girls stopped them and turned the herd through the gate into the corral.

We sorted ours off, and brought them 2 miles down the road to our lower place. Lynn drove the feed truck to lead them, with Andrea on the back encouraging them to follow it (they could see the hay bales) while Dani and I hiked behind. Sam brought up the rear, driving the Explorer, to stop any traffic that might try to drive through the cows.
bringing cows home
heading up the hill past the wild meadow
coming up the road past the Wild Meadow
cows coming down the road toward the Gooch place
The trickiest part was getting past the Gooch place with all of Alfonso’s cows wanting to come join us. They are out of grass and hungry, and came rushing over to the fence. The fence is not very good along the road, so Andrea kept enticing our cows (making them think they were going to be fed) with wisps of hay off the truck, to keep their attention on coming down the road. We didn’t want our cows attracted to the mob of cows bawling at them through the fence. By the time we got to the big corner at the end of that field, Alfonso’s cows were about to crash through the fence so Dani stayed there a few minutes and yelled at them, deterring them until our cows could go on around the corner. At that point we let the pickup (that had come down the creek road and was following the herd for a short distance) come down through the herd and get past us, since there was no longer any danger of our cows trying to go through the fence to join Alfonso’s cows.

We put the cows into heifer hill and took them across that field, across the creek, and over to the back field by Andrea’s house, to join the young cows that stayed home all fall. There’s enough grass on that hillside to last a couple weeks of so for the whole herd, if it doesn’t snow under.

Then Andrea helped me load more hay to haul around to Sprout and Shiloh, from my hay shed, and got our tractor started. It started ok after being plugged in for 3 hours, and she put power service in the fuel tank (to help keep the diesel from freezing, now that the weather has gotten colder). Andrea and I dragged the round bale feeder out to the field below the lane where the weaned heifers are, and Lynn took a big round bale down there for them with the tractor. It was time to start feeding them the big bales (a mix of alfalfa and grass) and I won’t have to keep feeding them my horse hay.

Michael and Carolyn brought their feed truck down about the time we finished hauling that bale and putting air in one of the big tractor tires (it was a bit low), and Lynn loaded a big bale for them to take home for their horses. 

Most of their horse are out on pasture, but they have one old mare (Thelma) babysitting her yearling colt in the corral by their house—so they can halter break that colt. They tried to bring them down to the corral by their house yesterday after we moved the cows, leading Thelma, with the colt following, but just before they got down to the corral the colt turned around and ran all the way back up to the upper corral where he’d been living. They had to haul him down in the stock trailer, using their old gelding Captain to lure him into the trailer and they herded the two of them into it.

DECEMBER 2 – It got cold again. Charlie stopped by after school several days to fill our woodbox. I made turkey soup from some of the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers Andrea gave us. On Tuesday Andrea took her pickup to Hughes Creek and her friend Russ helped her saw up a tree and split it. She hauled a big load of split fir to add to our woodpile and Lynn and I put a tarp over it.
Granddaughter Heather sent some more photos, including one of young Joseph climbing up the ladder to the fuel tank—probably hoping to help his daddy put fuel in the tractor!
Joseph ready to fuel up the truck
Wednesday morning it warmed up enough to start raining but the rain quickly turned to snow and our driveway was very slippery. I gave the heifers a little of my horse hay because their pasture was snow-covered and they were discouraged—and they are not liking some of the hay in their feeder (part of it is moldy due to rain on that bale this fall—it was the only bale that didn’t fit under the tarps we put on that stack).
After lunch I took the shoes off Dottie—the three that were still on-- and trimmed her feet. Lynn held her for me. The snowy driveway wasn’t the best conditions for farrier work, with snow balling up under her feet and cold snow on my hands, but I figured I’d better get her shoes off before the weather gets any worse.
The next day Andrea got another load of wood from Hughes Creek, then went back to town for Dani’s last basketball game. Dani is still unable to play (with her sprained ankle) but cheers her team on. Andrea snapped a picture during the game.
Dani (number 14) at game
It snowed again on Friday, but let up by mid morning. When I gave the heifers a little hay that morning, I lured some of them in through the gate by the horse pens and was able to sort back a few, leaving just our lame heifer (Galaxy, daughter of Stars) and a couple extra to keep her company. I lured them with some hay into the second-day pens by the barn and fed them a little hay there to keep them happy for a few hours until the vet came to check the big lump that’s been developing in Galaxy’s right flank.

Before the vet arrived, Lynn helped me get all the gates ready and we brought those three heifers around to the main corral and locked them in the alley by the chute. I took photos of Galaxy’s big swelling.
Galaxy with a couple buddies in the corral
big swelling on Galaxy's right flank
When the vet got here we put her down the chute and into the headcatch. He poked a needle into the swelling to determine whether it was fluid or pus. It was pus—a big abscess—so he sliced it open and pushed the pus out of it. I went to the house to get some water and disinfectant for him to finish flushing it out, then we let her and her buddies go back to the field with the other heifers. Exercise will help keep the incision open for drainage.
Yesterday Sam came down early morning and helped me clean house for a while before chores, then I typed a few interviews and got a few more Christmas letters ready to mail. Lynn helped me continue cleaning house.

Today was cold but clear, which was nice because a gal from New York came out to meet our family and take a few videos of the ranch. Sam and Dani showed her the horses, and we took her up in the field to “meet” our cows, and then took a drive up the creek to see the beautiful scenery on the upper place.

DECEMBER 13 – More cold weather, with some nights below zero. We’ve been breaking ice on the creek where the cows drink. Charlie stopped by several times on his way home from school to fill our woodbox and carry some bags of pellets (for the pellet stove Lynn likes to have going during the night) in from the barn across the driveway.
One morning a pack of wolves (two adults and three younger ones) came across the highway near Baker and headed our direction. That same morning a cougar was in a tree next to Tammy Sager’s house, just down the road from us. Too many predators!
Jim made a nice cribbage “board” out of a deer antler, and I took photos of it. He is hoping that someone will want to purchase it as a Christmas gift.
antler cribbage board Jim made
Last Tuesday Lynn went with Andrea to Idaho Falls (for her pain doctor appointment) and while they were there they got a new trumpet for Sam (for an early Christmas gift) since her old one is wearing out, and a computer for Dani since she has to use a computer for school work. That evening after Sam came home from play practice after school she stopped here at our house and tried it out, to see what it sounds like.
Sam's new trumpet
Wednesday I plugged in the tractor early morning, so it would start by late afternoon, and we took another big round bales out to the heifers to put in their feeder. They are eating more hay during this cold weather.

This weekend we were going to put the chains on the tractor so it would be easier to get around on the ice and snow, but we didn’t plug it in long enough and it wouldn’t start. We left it plugged in overnight and it started ok the next morning. After Jim helped him put the chains on, Lynn used the tractor to bring a couple batches of little bales around from the haystack, for feeding the bulls in the back corral—probably enough to last them a couple weeks. The cows heard the tractor running and came down to the gate to see if maybe we were going to feed them. While they were all there and handy I hiked over to take a good look at them, since they were in the field just above the corral gate.
cows in field
So far they are doing ok and not losing weight, so we will leave them out there “working” and grazing the hillsides by Andrea’s house a bit longer. We don’t want to feed hay until we absolutely have to, or we will run out of hay before spring. At present we don’t have quite enough hay to see us through winter (Michael and Carolyn had to start feeding their cows already) so we called Phil Moulton to see if he has any hay left, and he will sell us another 30 tons. With good luck, that should get us through the winter.

On my way back from checking the cows, I took photos of the bulls eating hay in the back corral, and one of our cats sunning herself by the shed near the creek.
bulls eating hay
cat sunning herself on fence by shed
Andrea has been helping Emily pack up and get ready to move. The house she’s renting near town is going to be remodeled; the landlord wants it vacant by Dec. 15 for the remodel (and then will charge more rent), so we’ve rented a storage shed for Em’s furniture till she can find another place. 
In case she needs a place to stay for a while, Andrea has been cleaning out Emily’s old bedroom, which had a lot of things stored in it. Lynn helped move some of the stuff, and now the room is cleared out and ready if Em needs to some stay.
Grandpa helping move things out of Em's old room in Andrea's house
Em's room
The past few days we’ve had more snow, and the roads are very slippery—and so are the rooftops. Our friend Russ Kozack, who lives on Hughes Creek, was up on his roof Tuesday afternoon to clean his chimney, and slipped when he came back down, getting tangled in the ladder and falling to the ground. Fortunately he was able to call a neighbor, who came to his aid and called an ambulance. He was stabilized here at our local hospital and sent by life-flight to a bigger hospital in Missoula, Montana, where he is currently being treated for broken ribs and punctured lung. We’re hoping he’ll be ok.

Last night we went to the Christmas concert at the high school and it was awesome. The Jazz band that Sam and Charlie play in sounded like a professional band, and the chorus (with all three kids singing in some of the numbers) was spectacular. Andrea took some photos of the kids. Here is Dani in one of the songs.
Christmas concert - Dani
This morning it was quite cold (5 degrees). Charlie’s little truck is having a few problems (the 4-wheel drive isn’t working) so Andrea helped him put a bunch of cinder blocks in the back for traction—so he can make it up our steep driveway. Going to school this morning, he got up enough speed to make it up our driveway without spinning out, and plans to work on his truck this afternoon to try to get it more functional again.

If anyone wants some of my books, most of my horse and cattle “how to” books are available from Storey Publishing. I have some my other books on hand, if anyone wants signed copies from me. These include my book about Andrea’s fight to survive horrendous burn injuries the summer of 2000, and that unexpected detour we all took--a journey that profoundly affected our lives:

Beyond the Flames – A Family Touched by Fire. ($19 for paperback, or $25 for hardback, plus $4 postage).

For anyone interested in some of the adventures over the years with our cattle and horses, and stories about life on the ranch, here are some of my other 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)

I also have some of my father’s books left. They are now out of print and hard to find. These are collections of some of his best meditations and bits of spiritual wisdom, and include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb. These books by Don Ian Smith can be purchased for $12 each (plus $2 postage for one book, $3 postage for 2 to 4 books) or $50 for the whole set (and $4 postage).

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