Friday, April 26, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch diary - February 14 through March 20, 2019

FEBRUARY 27 – We’ve had a streak of cold weather, rarely getting above freezing during the day, and very cold at night. The snow that came a few days ago has never melted. Our barnyard is still white with snow.
woodpile covered with snow
snowy loading
snowy barnyard
On days we have to use the tractor for moving hay around to the cows’ feeders we plug it in the day before, and also put a tarp over the motor to try to stop with wind, and help insulate the motor. I usually go out and plug in the feed truck early in the mornings (4 or 5 a.m.) when I get up to type articles.

Last weekend Charlie carried in more bags of wood pellets for our pellet stove. We run that one at night to help keep that end of the house warmer, and the wood stove during the day. The old wood stove holds a fire into the night and still has hot coals in the morning to help get it going again when I get up early and put wood in it.

Charlie and Sam have been going to play practice after school and on weekends. Sam is in the play and Charlie does all the sound and music. The kids are doing the musical “Newsies” this year.

Charlie and Sam also played in the Jazz band for the annual Swing Dance on Feb. 16; the band played nearly 20 musical numbers and also had several soloists. Charlie sang an old James Dean song and only had a couple days to practice it but did a great job. We didn’t go to it but Andrea showed us the video (with sound) that she took with her phone.

Michael’s Dodge truck has been in the shop for more than a week with a serious problem (waiting for a rebuilt injector pump) so he’s been unable to haul posts and poles to fencing jobs. It’s really put a crimp in his work.

This past Friday morning it was 10 below zero. We’ve been breaking ice every day on the creek for the cows to drink, and in the back pen for the bulls.
hard to keep the creek open for the cattle to drink
 There are more icicles hanging from our roof; I took this photo out the window one cold morning.
Even though we had the tractor plugged in all night it was still too cold to try to start it that morning. The young cows above the house were out of hay in their feeder so Lynn and I took one of my horse hay bales to them with the 4-wheeler, and another bale at noon, and one that evening at chore time. That kept them fed until we could start the tractor the next day to take a big round bale to their feeder.

Saturday was not as cold—13 degrees for a low, and up into the 20’s by afternoon. We were able to start the tractor and take some big bales around to the cows and one for the heifers.
getting a bale for the heifers
Michael, Carolyn and Nick vaccinated their cows that day, giving them their pre-calving vaccinations and delouse them. It took several hours to dig out the gates (more than 2 feet of snow in the corrals) and chop loose the tailgate of their old squeeze chute that was frozen down in the ice. It was mid-afternoon by the time they were able to get their cows in, and they finished vaccinating late afternoon in a snowstorm. It was their last chance to get them done before Carolyn’s surgery on Tuesday, and they got it accomplished. We’ve been needing to get the cows vaccinated, but the weather has not been good—either very cold or snowing. They were lucky to get theirs done; it snowed 6 more inches that evening.

Here’s a photo of the new snow, taken from our window the next day.
new snow

We were going to vaccinate and delouse our cows that next day but even though it was sunny, the cows were still wet from the snow, and the pour-on delousing product doesn’t work if they are wet. The temperature was a bit warmer, however, so we were able to start our tractor and take hay to the cows and another straw bale up to the cows by Andrea’s house. She helped us take the bales around. Here are photos of Andrea opening the gate above the house and Lynn taking the bale up to the young cows.
Andrea opening gate
Lynn taking bale to field above house
Andrea helped Lynn put the blade on the tractor and he plowed our driveways. I cooked a big dinner for the kids when they got home that evening from their dad’s place, and Emily came out for dinner, too.
The past couple days the weather warmed up, above freezing, but we had more snow.
more snow
There was no school on Monday because of the snow. Yesterday was thawing again and the roads were very slick and treacherous. So was the icy creek bank where the cows have to go down into the creek for water. Andrea put some dirt over the ice to give the cows a bit more traction.

Nick, Justin and George (the two guys that help Michael and Nick with the custom fencing) worked a few hours on the jack fence they are building at the lower end of our swamp pasture, to replace the old falling down wire fence they took out. Michael left a trailer load of fencing materials and the work trailer in our swamp pasture (in an area where he plowed snow away with the skid steer) to be handy for their fencing job.
work trailer and fencing materials

Lynn and I took a big bale to the young cows but had a hard time getting the net wrap off the bale when we put it in their feeder. It was frozen to one whole side of the bale. I had to climb up on the bale and cut it loose, and Lynn used the tines on the hay fork to help pry it up while I cut it off. There was still a big hunk of frozen hay stuck to the net wrap, so we loaded the frozen hay onto the tractor to haul back to the barnyard; we didn’t want to leave it in the field where the cows might eat the net wrap. We always take it all off because it can kill a cow, plugging the stomach, if they eat it.

Carolyn went in to the hospital early that morning for her hernia surgery—a procedure that needed to be done several years ago. She’d put it off until they had medical insurance again; they had no medical insurance at all during the Obamacare mess. The surgery took longer than anticipated; there were actually two hernias fairly close together, and part of her large intestine had begun to adhere to the abdominal wall. It took the surgeon several hours to carefully separate it off and then repair the two hernias with a lot of mesh. It was supposed to be a quick procedure, and she was supposed to be able to come home that evening, but with those complications she was barely waking up from surgery by 5 p.m. and wasn’t doing very well. She lost a lot of blood and was almost to the point of needing transfusions. She was also having serious pain problems so they kept her overnight. Michael stayed in the hospital with her. Andrea and Dani took Carolyn some flowers and brought Michael a hamburger.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent photos of little Joseph having lunch. He’s really growing! He will be two years old the end of April. It’s been so cold up there (30 below zero) that Joseph hasn’t been able to go outdoors for several weeks.
Joseph eating
Today the driveway was slippery and the kids were a little late leaving for school. Charlie was going a little too fast when he came through the barnyard and slid around the corner by our bridge, sliding off the road and into the gate post. Luckily he hit it square on (with the reinforced box over the winch on the front of his truck) and it didn’t damage his truck or hurt the kids. His truck just broke off the fence post and bent it over, along with that panel of pole fence, breaking off the next post as well. He can help us fix it later this spring, before we need that gate to be able to shut when we brand the calves.

Carolyn was still not doing very well today in the hospital, having a lot of pain, and her gut was still not working. Finally this evening there were a few gut sounds, but they kept her in the hospital another night, and Michael stayed with her.

MARCH 8 – Nick and crew worked a few more days on our jack fence and it’s nearly finished. Their day got cut short the first day, however, by another snowstorm.

Carolyn was still having a struggle with pain and low oxygen levels (and fluid in her lungs), having several breathing treatments, but by evening the nurses felt that her oxygen levels were improved enough that she could go home. Michael brought her home but stayed up most of the night periodically checking on her, helping her get up, helping her breathe, making sure she didn’t pass out from low oxygen.

During all the cold weather this winter we’ve gone through a lot of firewood and it’s hard to keep the woodbox full. Every time Lynn or I come in from chores, we grab a couple sticks of wood to put in the stove. Here’s Lynn bringing in some wood, helped by one of our old barnyard cats.
Lynn and cat bringing in the wood
With the new snow, Lynn had to plow our driveways again. Then the temperature went down to zero again on Friday, but it was a clear day and we decided to go ahead and vaccinate our cows. With the sunshine and no wind, at 20 degrees it wasn’t too bad. Andrea had to go to town early for physical therapy (she has therapy twice a week for her neck and shoulder) but Dani helped us get the cows down from the field. Lynn drove the feed truck, I lured them like I was going to feed the hay, and Dani hiked along behind them to make sure they all came down out of the field following the truck. The snow is still nearly 2 feet deep, and the cows haven’t been leaving the main feed trail.

We got them down to the corral and by that time Andrea got back from physical therapy and helped us get them into the chute alley. Dani pushed them into the chute, Andrea caught their heads and deloused them, and I vaccinated. It wore us out, hiking around in snow that was up to our knees, but we got that group done, and took them back up to the field and fed them.

Next we got the young cows in from their field above the house, and got them vaccinated and deloused and took them back to their field. Then we got the two bulls in from the back pen and did them, and finally brought the young heifers in from the field below the lane and deloused them. By that time we were exhausted from trudging through the deep snow.

Saturday was a little warmer and we started the tractor and took new bales and more straw to all the feeders. Andrea helped us take the net wrap off the bales.
Andrea taking net wrap off bale
Carolyn had a better night that night and was starting to do a little better on her breathing and had a little less pain.

Sunday was windy and cold, and the snow drifted. There were huge drifts across the field and Andrea’s driveway. We’d been having trouble getting up there with the feed truck on several occasions, having to get up a lot of speed to make it through the drifts, but that day was worse and we couldn’t make it. Lynn had to back down a ways and try a different route, where the wind had blown some of the snow off. We were afraid we’d have to feed the cows on this lower end in the deep snow, but we managed to roar through the shallower drifts and get up to their feed trail without getting stuck.

Michael was running out of hay for his cows (he’d intended to haul more hay quicker, but his truck wasn’t functional) so he brought his tractor down to get a big bale from our stackyard. While he had his tractor here (with 4-wheel drive) he used a big straw bale from our stack and pushed it around like a big broom to brush the snow drifts out of our trail up to the field. That made it easier to get through there with our truck the next day. The piled up snow was still there for many days even after the weather warmed up; they took a long time to melt.
piles of snow where Michael plowed a trail up through the field
His truck finally was fixed by Monday and he was able to bring it home, and start hauling fencing materials again. Tuesday he brought the skid steer down here and plowed more snow along our driveway, to make the turns wider so he could get in and out with the truck and trailer. It was cold that morning (zero) but we had our tractor plugged in overnight and used it that morning to take a big bale to our young cows. We had a little problem getting that bale out of our stack, however, because it was frozen solidly to the one beside it, and it pulled the net wrap off and unrolled part of the bale. We very carefully took what was left of it up through the field with the tractor and it didn’t come apart any more. Lynn got it set into the feeder ok without it falling apart, and the cows went right to eating it.
bale safely in feeder
cows eating
Andrea went early that morning to Idaho Falls with Dani –for Dani’s appointment with the neurology specialist (trying to figure out her eye problems) and Andrea’s appointment with the pain doctor (and more injections in her neck and shoulder). The results of Dani’s MRI were good. The optic nerve seems to be ok. Now she’ll be going to an eye specialist to try to figure out some correctional glasses.

That was also the day for Nyck’s kidney transplant surgery in Salt Lake. Nyck is the grandson of Bev, my brother Rockwell’s wife. Nyck has had kidney problems since he was born, and eventually had to be on dialysis the last few years, but finally was able to get a transplant; his sister Sadera donated one of her kidneys. Both kids came through the surgery ok and the doctors think it went well.

Yesterday was a little warmer. I was able to get up on the haystack and remove most of the hay that had rolled down over the lower bale, and cut the net wrap loose (that came off the bale we hauled to the young cows). Michael brought his truck and trailer with a bunch of rolled up net wire (recycled from fence projects) for Nick to put on the jack fence in the swamp pasture.

I took my camera out with me when I did chores that morning, and took a few photos, including Willow eating hay from her slow feeder “lunch box” that I always put her hay in.
Willow eating out of her lunchbox
I also took photos of Lynn’s favorite cat, Edna, drinking out of the heifers’ water tank. She balances very carefully when the water level isn’t very high, to reach down for a drink without falling into the tank.
Edna drinking from the heifers tank
Edna after her morning drink
That afternoon Lynn and I went to the water district meeting, but only a few people showed up. We waited for more than 40 minutes for our neighbor Bob Loucks (the secretary treasurer); he forgot there was a water meeting. As it turned out, we didn’t accomplish much. We don’t know if we’ll have a water master this year or not. While we were in town, however, we got the mail and groceries.

Today was cold again. Andrea had physical therapy early so Lynn and I fed the cows, and then when she got home she helped us get the tarp off the end of the big bale stack and chop some ice out of the dips so we could remove the tarp. We took a bale to the young cows and a bale to the heifers, and then she helped him take another bale of straw up to the older cows’ feeder. Michael brought the flatbed trailer down just as they got done hauling the straw, and used our tractor to load hay, and hauled two loads of big bales to the upper place for his cows.

I did chores early this evening, and Lynn and I went in to town to see the kids’ play (Newsies). Andrea bought our tickets, as a belated anniversary gift (our 53rd wedding anniversary was March 5) and we enjoyed watching the play with her, Dani and Emily. The kids did a great job with their singing, dancing and acrobatics. Sam was one of the newspaper boys, and Charlie did a great job with the sound. I took this photo of Charlie at his “sound” station, next to his music teacher Jon Anderson.
Charlie and Mr. Anderson
The play runs for another week, and the seats are all sold out, for all their performances. Here are a few photos I took when Lynn and I watched the play.

the Newsies play

MARCH 20 – Last week we had more cold weather (down to 6 degrees one night, and a couple more snowstorms). Winter just keeps hanging on!
The day after Michael hauled hay up to his place, we gathered up the part of a bale that spilled when he was loading; some of the bales were frozen together and pulled the net wrap off when he moved them, and one bale unrolled a bit. Andrea, Lynn and I used pitchforks and forked it onto the feed truck (which was empty that morning after feeding the cows) and unloaded the loose hay by the bull corral, to feed to them [The bulls enjoyed that nice green hay for several days and I took photos of Lynn pitching some of it into their feeder].
feeding the bulls
Lynn pitching hay to bulls

Then we used the tractor and loaded another big alfalfa bale on the truck for the cows, and some little grass bales to mix with the alfalfa for the next several days. We also put gas in the truck; it had been 4 weeks since we gassed it up, and it was nearly empty. We were glad we didn’t run out of gas up in the field, feeding the cows!

The next day, Michael brought his skid steer down here and pushed the snowdrift away from the gate area at the end of the new jackfence in the swamp pasture (so Nick and his crew could rehang the gate after setting a new gate post). He also pushed the deep snow away from our calving barn, so that when it melts it won’t all run into the barn, and cleared snow out of the pen below the barn. He dumped all that snow over the fence below that pen, and the piles of snow are taller than the fence. We’ll be calving soon, and the snow in the pens was much too deep for baby calves.

Here are photos of the cleaned out areas and all the snow dumped over the fence in the lower pen below the barn.
snow scraped away from the barn
snow scraped away along the barn and pens
snow scraped away and dumped over the fence
Sunday evening I cooked dinner for Andrea and the kids (for when the kids came back from their dad’s place). Later that evening Lynn and I had started watching an old movie (“The Oxbow Incident” that we’d recorded from the TV) when we got a phone call from the local locksmith, who has a ham radio, to tell us that my brother Rockwell had slid off the road and was stuck in a snowdrift. Rocky has been working long hours at the radio station helping get their equipment moved and set up in their new location, and was driving home late and tired on our slippery road. He got a little too far off the track and his jeep was stuck in the deep snow on the hill side of the road along our upper place. There’s no cell service there, so he used his ham radio to call his friend Steve, who then tried to phone Michael and Carolyn (whose house was close by) but they’d apparently already gone to bed. So Steve called us, and Lynn drove up there with our pickup and pulled Rocky’s jeep out of the snowbank.

Last Monday Nick and crew finished the jackfences in the swamp pasture and I took a photo of the upper one that divides the swamp pasture into 2 sections.

new jackfence dividing swamp pasture
The also put netting on the jackfence (so baby calves or coyotes can’t ever crawl through it), and hung the gate. It sure looks better than the old falling-down fence that used to be there. Here are pictures of the new fence at the lower end of that pasture.
new jackfence
new jackfence & netting
Lynn and I took some loose salt and mineral to the young heifers (their mineral feeder was about empty) and the next day took more salt and mineral to both groups of cows. We don’t want them short on mineral just before calving. Our region is very short on copper and unless the cattle get a mineral supplement they can end up deficient—which can result in multiple problems (infertility, brittle bones, etc.)

On Wednesday Alfonso took his cattle up past our place to the Gooch place, where he sorted off some fall-born calves to wean, and left them in the makeshift corral, and brought the herd back down the road to the fields below us. The cows without their calves tried to come through our fence to get back to their calves, and once again we were glad that Michael and Nick rebuilt that fence a few years ago—with a tall and sturdy fence that the cattle can’t get through or over. We no longer have Alfonso’s cows coming through into our place every time he weans calves. But his corral on the Gooch place isn’t very functional, and as usual, several calves crawled out of it the next morning and trotted back down the road past our place to get back to their mothers. The fence along the road side of Alfonso’s lower fields is not very good, so the calves had no problem getting back to their moms. So Alfonso had to rope those calves and haul them back up to his corral on the Gooch place.

Granddaughter Heather sent more photos of Joseph. Their weather is still cold, but warmed up enough that their little guy could finally able to get out of the house—all bundled up, and sitting on one of their horses.
Joseph ready to ride
Last Thursday and Friday Michael and Carolyn spent several hours in town trying to get financing for a good used truck that they located. The old Dodge truck that Michael has been using in his fencing business, pulling our flatbed trailer hauling posts and poles, the skid steer, etc. has more than 300,000 miles on it and had a major breakdown that needed fixed. It’s working again now, but probably won’t be dependable for pulling heavy loads, so they’d been looking for a good used truck that has more life left in it. Now that they’ve found one, they needed to figure out a way to finance it. Michael has several fencing jobs lined up for this spring but can’t get started on them until he has a dependable truck.

On Saturday Michael drove the skid steer back to the upper place (it’s been here since he used it to clear the snow away from our barn and lower pen) to plow snow on the wild meadow where his cows will soon be calving. The snow is still 2 feet deep up there and the cows need a dry place for bedding and calving.

Our two old cats like to help us do chores and are always waiting for us on the porch when we come out. Here’s Lynn greeting Edna and the “fencing cat” and a photo of Edna surveying the snowy pens for a possible foolhardy mouse.
Lynn petting Edna
Lynn and fencing cat

Edna hoping to find a mouse in spite of the snow
Saturday was also the last night of the school play, with the after-play party for the cast and crew, and the next day Andrea spent most of the day helping clean up the theater. The kids are exhausted after putting on the play, but they all did a great job.

Lynn and I took another big round bale to the young cows on Sunday, and had to chop the net wrap off with an ax; the side of the bale was frozen.

Tuesday morning Alfonso’s horses got out of the Gooch place and went up the road to Michael and Carolyn’s stackyard where they spent the night and ruined two big round bales. He needs to start shutting the gates from his field, so the horses won’t get out and go wandering.

Michael and Carolyn were able to get financing for the used truck they are buying, so they picked it up yesterday. Today they are using it to haul their post pounder back over to Montana to be fixed again. Another seal went out of it, but it’s still under warranty.

Heather and Gregory just started calving, and have several new calves. They sent us more photos of Joseph, this time out in the barnyard by the windbreaks, looking at some of their new calves.
Joseph getting acquainted with new calves
Joseph trying to catch up with calves
Joseph & calf checking each other out
Our cows will start calving soon, and Emily will be having her baby very soon. We are not sure which will come first at our place--a new calf or a new great-grandson.