Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - April 24 through May 16, 2019

MAY 1 – A week ago today Andrea and kids (Sam, Charlie and Dani) left at 5:30 a.m. to get on the bus at school for the kids’ music trip; their chorus was traveling to compete with several other schools, and Andrea was one of the parent chaperones for the trip.

It rained a little, but Nick and Justin worked on the fence along the horse road and got all the stays put in. The fence was essentially finished except for one small gap that needed a gate, which Michael was going to purchase and bring the next day.

Lynn took the tractor and harrow down to the back field and harrowed that field, and had just come back into the house when Alfonso and John and Sy Miller brought all of Alfonso’s cows and calves up the road past our place. They failed to come shut our driveway gate or tell us they were moving cows (or we could have shut the gate), and several cows ran down our driveway. Some went roaring up past my horse hay shed and some went down below the lane in the little barnyard next to the field where our heifers are, and where some hay is stacked. We happened to look out the window and saw some cows running through the calving pen and up by my hay shed, so I ran outside, climbed into Willow’s pen and ran through her pen to chase those cows back to the driveway.

Meanwhile, John Miller rode his horse down into the hold pen by our heifers to try to get some cows and calves out of that area. They all ran out but two, so I went into the second-day pens to get one calf that had run behind the gate instead of back out to the driveway. The other calf made it out the gate. As John was trying to herd the wayward calf back toward the gate, it ran the wrong direction and crashed into the gate by the heifers, then squeezed under the gate and into the field with the heifers.

Up on the road, the main herd was going past our place, but the cows were out in front and a bunch of calves in the back didn’t know where their mothers went. Alfonso has never learned how to move cattle in a low-stress manner and they don’t stay paired up. So a lot of calves were turning back and trying to go back where they came from, and some dropped down off the steep bank and were going along the horse road. One of them found the gap in the fence (where the new gate had not yet been installed) and ran in there and into our heifer hill field. That calf came running down through our field and ended up next to our cows and calves. Fortunately we have a really good new fence around that pasture and no cattle can get through it!

This was the third time this spring that Alfonso and John had a mess with their cattle moving, with some cattle coming down our driveway and into our barnyard. As John left to go help the other cowboys get the rest of the herd up to the Gooch place, he said he would come back with Alfonso later to rope those two wayward calves and haul them up to where they needed to be.

The last thing we wanted was a wild rodeo amongst our heifers (which have become very mellow and easy to handle, this past winter), so Lynn and I decided to get the heifers in from the field and corral the calf ourselves, without the heifers becoming spooked and wild with someone riding around through them trying to rope a wild calf. I called the group of heifers up through the gate into our hold pen, but the wild calf did not come with them, and chose to stay down by the fence at the bottom of the field. We put our heifers in the little pen in front of the barn, so they wouldn’t be out there running around when Alfonso came back to try to rope his calf.

It was taking a long time for him to come back (we saw him haul a bale of hay up the creek on his pickup instead), so Lynn and I decided to try to get the stray calves ourselves. The one pacing the fence above our cows (just like the wild cow of Alfonso’s did, that came down into our place last month) might be easiest, so I hiked up the ditch bank and opened the little wire gate into that skinny pasture along the horse road while Lynn drove up the road with his 4-wheeler and came down through our field to herd the calf. It ran past him the first time he tried to herd it along the fence to the gate, but he sped up around it with the 4-wheeler and got it turned back around and heading along the fence again. This time it found the gate and came down the ditch and out the gate I’d opened at the bottom end—and ran on down the road to Alfonso’s lower place where it had come from.

Since Alfonso still hadn’t come back with his horse, we decided to try to get the other calf out of our heifer field. With the heifers safely out of the way, in the pen by the barn, Lynn went down in that field with his 4-wheeler and after some false starts and the calf running the wrong way, he gently hazed the calf up to the gate. It was very bumpy in the swampy side of the field (that we always pasture instead of cutting hay) and rough on the 4-wheeler, but probably safer than trying to run around through those humpty bumps on a horse and possibly fall down and get a broken leg.

Lynn got that calf up through the gate and shut it, and then had to stay there and guard the gate while I tried to get the calf out through the next gate and back onto the driveway. The calf had a bad case of scours (another reason we don’t want his cattle mixing with ours, possibly bringing some new disease) but it was still very lively; it kept trying to crash back through/under the gate to go back into our field, and Lynn had to beat it away with a stick to keep it from getting back under the gate. Alfonso’s cattle are very wild and crazy, but it’s partly due to the way he handles them. We prefer to have our cattle gentle and trusting and easy to handle.

I finally got the calf back out onto the driveway and up to the main road, just as Alfonso and John were starting to pull into the driveway with Alfonso’s truck and horse trailer, with their horses. They saw me bringing the calf and backed out of the way so the calf could go on down the road to Alfonso’s lower fields. I told them we got both calves out and they didn’t need to try to rope them (which may have saved a bad horse wreck in our field’s bad footing), and to PLEASE shut our gates (or tell us, and we would shut them) the next time they move cows past our place! When we take cattle up and down the road (from our lower place to the upper place and vice versa) we always shut our neighbors’ gates along the way. It saves time and problems. This little fiasco took a couple hours’ extra time to resolve, and Alfonso still had several calves that went back to his lower fields without their mothers. We knew those cows would crawl out through his bad fences on the Gooch place to come back down, so we left our driveway gates shut all night.

The next day was cold (24 degrees that morning). Alfonso’s cows did come down for their calves, and at dawn I saw Alfonso taking 4 pairs back up the road. Andrea left early that morning with Dani to take her to Idaho Falls for her appointment with the orthodontist to adjust her braces.

Meanwhile, granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us photos of her new filly that was born the night before.

new foal
new filly
Granddaughter Heather's new foal
Michael and Justin brought the new gate to put in the gap in the new fence along the horse road, and set a bunch of posts with the post-pounder to shore up the falling down fence around our stackyard across the creek. Eventually we will get all our old fences tuned up to where they will last longer.

Friday was warmer but raining and windy. Michael and Justin built a jack fence at the top of the ditch pasture where they had to tear out the old fence, and Michael used his skid steer to repair the ditch just above it, where it nearly washed out last spring when Alfonso put too much water in it trying to get more water down to his field below us. The bank is very fragile at that spot and if we lose the side out of the ditch it will take a major repair.

new jack fence across ditch
Saturday was very cold again, so I plugged in the feed truck and tractor at chore time so they would start better when we needed to feed the cows. After we fed the cows a few little bales, Lynn, Andrea and Emily went to the fire school to get their fire cards so they can work on any fires this year. That took all morning, and when they got home Andrea helped us take a couple big round bales up to the cows’ feeders. Then she and Lynn rolled out a big roll of plastic dam material to cover the new spillway out of the ditch that Michael repaired, and tacked it down with spikes that Lynn bent (making hooks) with his big hammer on the anvil. Those spikes, and a bunch of dirt along the edges to weight it down and make sure it won’t ever shift, should keep it in place to protect the ground underneath it so it can’t erode away when water comes down that spillway to the lower ditch.
new spillway out of ditch
plastic dam material covering spillway
Sunday was windy and cold all day, too, and I plugged the tractor in again that morning. The wind had destroyed the remaining tarps over what’s left of our stack of big round bales, so Andrea helped me take those shredded tarps off (before the pieces blow all over the ranch). Lynn used the tractor to blade some more of the deep straw off the horse pasture where we had the straw feeder for the cows before they calved. Michael and Carolyn brought their truck and trailer down and gathered up more of the old fence and torn-out sagebrush along the new fence, and got most of the debris cleaned up.

We’ve had a fire again in the stove these cold mornings, and Jim filled our wood-box again. That evening I cooked supper for the kids when they came home from their weekend with their dad, and Emily (and baby Christopher) and Jim joined us. I took a couple photos of Em holding Christopher on our messy couch.
baby Christopher
Em & baby
The next day Nick and Justin cleaned up the rest of the fence debris and also used the skid steer to clean out our calving barn and haul the old bedding out to the heifer’s field. Those barn stalls will be more ready for next year!

That day was our great-grandson Joseph’s birthday. He’s 2 years old now. Granddaughter Heather (in Canada) sent us photos of Joseph enjoying his birthday cake—Gregory presenting Joseph with his special cake, and Joseph delightedly contemplating it, then devouring and demolishing it.
Gregory giving Joseph his cake
Joseph admiring his cake
Yum yum! Cake almost gone!
Yesterday was cold again. It’s been freezing hard every night and the grass isn’t growing much at all. Andrea has been really chilled (freezing her hands) trying to do the irrigation, but we have to keep changing water; we still haven’t gotten over all of our fields with water yet and the wind is drying everything out. After she got her hands warmed up from changing water she helped us lock the heifers in front of the barn again (I was able to call them in from the field) and we put up a hot wire enclosure at the top end of their field and put their bale feeder on a high spot. We fed them a new big bale and let them back out. Our heifers grew up with hot wires but Michael’s didn’t, but they are smart and didn’t even touch it. They could “smell” and sense the electricity without having to touch their noses to it. Now they can stay in this smaller area and the field can grow. They were eating down the new grass faster than it could grow!

Today was really cold, down to 16 degrees this morning. I started a fire in our stove when I got up. Our neighbor John Jakovac turned his cattle out on the range this morning and drove them up along our fence. He always turns his cows out early, even if it’s a slow spring and the grass isn’t ready yet. Since those cows will be pressing our fence trying to get into our fields, Andrea hiked along it to see if there was much damage over winter from wildlife going through it. She only found one fence clip missing and one metal stay bent up, which is very minor damage, considering more than 100 head of elk went through that fence one day after they ended up on the hill above her house.

Dani had a checkup with the bone/joint specialist today to evaluate her knee. It is healing. She won’t need surgery, but needs to keep the leg brace on awhile longer.

MAY 9 – The first part of the week it was cool and windy and still freezing hard at night, but we had a couple days that actually got up to 60 degrees in the afternoon.

Willow’s feet have been getting really long; they hadn’t been trimmed since last fall and one of her front feet was starting to split. So last Thursday Andrea held her for me and pampered her with a little green grass (it took about 30 minutes to find enough new grass tall enough to pick and put in a bucket!) while I trimmed her front feet. Her hinds were not so bad; I will trim them another day. We need to get all the horses’ feet trimmed before we start riding again.

All the light bulbs in the ceiling lamps in our livingroom have now burned out, except for a couple on the far side. We are basically in the dark if we try to watch a movie on television in the evening. Jim brought in our stepladder and since he is taller and a little more agile than us old folks, he helped us change out the old bulbs and put in new ones. Then he helped me take new salt blocks to some of the horses and one to the heifers; they were running out of salt.

Andrea sent me a couple photos she took this week at her house, of Em and baby, and also one of Charlie holding his little nephew. Here are some of those pictures.
Em & Christopher
Charlie and new nephew Christopher
The cold, windy weather resulted in a few cows getting chapped teats. When they are wet from being nursed, the teats are more vulnerable to chapping and cracking. One cow’s teats were so sore that she wasn’t letting her calf nurse—kicking the calf. But the calf was determined, and kept trying, and was able to get a little milk, sometimes nursing from behind so she wouldn’t get kicked so hard. It took a few days for the teats to heal enough that the calf was able to nurse out the udder completely.

Sometimes in the past (when we were calving in January) we’d have a cow or two that got such sore teats that she wouldn’t let her calf nurse at all, and we’d bring the pair in and put hobbles on the cow (made from baling twine). Then she couldn’t kick the calf. We’d leave the pair in a small pen where the calf could easily catch up with mama, and be able to nurse without being kicked—until the teats healed.

Some of the other range neighbors took their cows out to the range a few days ago and pushed/jammed them up the hill along our fence. They jammed and crammed them so hard that one calf got pushed through our fence. One cowboy got off his horse and went over the fence and tried to chase the calf back through it on foot. They went over the hill out of our sight and we weren’t sure if he got the calf out; we just saw him get back on his horse and gallop after the rest of the herd.

The next day, however, we saw that the calf was still in, pacing the fence and bawling. The mama had come back to find him and was pacing the fence on the outside. So Andrea hiked up the hill and got the calf back through the fence. I guess those cowboys didn’t care about that calf!

With all the cool weather this spring, the horses have been slow to shed out. Here’s Ed napping in her pen on a sunny afternoon, still wearing her winter coat.
Ed still has winter hair
We’ve been having trouble getting several of our fields watered this spring, even though there is plenty of water in the creek and our high water is starting. Our neighbor Alfonso has been using almost all the water in two of our ditches (because they come through his place first). It’s been frustrating to Andrea, trying madly to get our fields watered, when the neighbor takes all the water. There’s plenty right now to share, and we have the prior right to the water, but this has always been a problem. Even when he “shares” the water, he turns more of it onto his field at night so it never gets down to our place. We may have to tell him that we won’t send water on down to his lower field until he sends us our share of the water on our other ditches.

Emily started working again at her old job at the school, cleaning classrooms at night. She works from 6 pm. until midnight. Andrea takes care of baby Christopher while Em is working. That kid is almost 6 weeks old now, and really growing.

On Wednesday Andrea drove to Idaho Falls for her appointment with her pain doctor. The doctor will set up a date to have another MRI on her neck, this time looking at some of the vertebra farther down. The bone spurs are pressing in on the nerves and she may have to go to a neurosurgeon to get the problem resolved.

Today was cold again. Jim left early this morning to drive to Colorado to his new job. He will be managing a ranch property for a fellow who recently bought a place in the mountains. He will be fixing a lot of fences, doing repairs, planting some apple trees and caretaking the place this summer and fall.

MAY 16 – Dani went to her 8th grade formal dance last week, and here are photos of her in her prom dress. She stopped by after the dance to show us her dress.
Dani's dress for 8th grade Formal
Dani after Formal dance
Saturday was the warmest day we’d had this spring, up 72 degrees by afternoon. Andrea had the kids that weekend, for Mother’s Day, so on Saturday we had their help and branded the calves. One of their friends was staying with them, and he helped, too. When they came down that morning, we carried some panels into the little corral by the creek where we sort cattle, to fence off the spot where Michael’s bull crashed under the fence a couple years ago. There’s not only a hole in the fence, but the creek is trying to take a new channel down around the old bridge, and the bank is caving away, so we didn’t want a cow or calf falling into that hole.

While Andrea and the boys were patching that area with panels, Sam and I got the cows and calves in from the field. Our cows are fairly easy to gather; we just call them and open the gate. They were eager to come into the lane by my hay shed because there’s a little green grass there; their little pasture is eaten down and they are eager for green grass instead of hay. The calves were a bit timid, however, having never come back through that gate, so while Sam called the cows in through the gate I quietly encouraged the calves to follow them. Eventually I got them all through the gate and put them in the calving pen corral until we were ready to take them to the sorting pen.

Then the kids helped me and Andrea sort off the cows into the main corral, holding back the calves. Then we put the calves in the front stall of the old “sick barn” which is right next to the little chute and calf table where we brand. While Lynn strung out the electric cords (for the branding iron and clippers) Andrea and the kids and I put the cows through the main chute and vaccinated them. Dani insisted on doing her old job of pushing the cows along the runway to the chute, in spite of being on crutches. Charlie ran the head catch, and his friend Jack ran the tailgate and squeeze.

Dani ready to move the cows down the runway
Dani pushing a cow into the squeeze chute
Charlie had never run the headcatch before, but he did a good job catching the cows as they came through, and Jack closed the tailgate.
Charlie catching the head and Jack closing the tailgate
Sam and I vaccinated the cows. Sam was learning how to use the multi-dose syringe gun, and she gave the 8-way clostridial vaccine which includes redwater, blackleg, malignant edema, blacks disease and several perfringens types. Here are photos of her taking down a bar on the side of the chute to make more room for giving the vaccination, and injecting the cow.
Sam lowering a bar so she can have room to vaccinate
Sam vaccinating
Sam learning how to use the syringe gun
Sam giving the 8-way clostridial vaccine
I gave each cow her lepto shot and the modified live virus vaccine (BVD, IBR, PI3) after Sam gave her injection, and then the boys let the cow out of the chute.
me giving the lepto and live virus IBR-BVD vaccines
Charlie and Jack letting a cow out of the chute
Andrea helped Dani push some of the more reluctant cows up the alley to the squeeze chute. Dani was a little handicapped with her leg in a full brace, but she didn’t let it slow her down much. She often just put aside her crutches and just hopped along.

After we finished vaccinating the cows, we branded the calves. Sam and Jack brought the calves in small groups out of the sick barn to the calf table chute, Andrea pushed them into the calf table, I head-caught them, Charlie tipped the table, and Lynn clipped the area for the brand. Here are photos of Lynn clipping calves, with various crew members helping hold the calf still.
Lynn clipping
Lynn clipping a calf; Andrea holding leg
Lynn clipping, Charlie & Dani holding
Dani and I vaccinated the calves. It was Dani’s first experience, learning how to vaccinate and how to use the syringe gut. She gave the 8-way vaccine and I gave the modified-live virus vaccine. Here are photos of Dani giving shots, and Sam and Jack are in the background at one point, getting another group of calves into the little alley to the calf table.
Dani learning how to vaccinate
Dani vaccinating; Sam & Jack in background getting more calves in
Dani giving the 8-way vaccine
After Lynn clipped each calf, Charlie held the tail straight up (which keeps a calf from kicking) and Andrea branded. We made a good team. Since the little bull calves were already banded (soon after birth) we didn’t have to castrate, and this year for the first time we also didn’t have to dehorn. Usually we have a few calves with horns, but not this year. So that saved time, and was also less stress on the calves.
Andrea branding & Charlie holding tail
We got them back with their mamas and up to the field, and I fed everyone chili and corn bread. Emily came down to join us for lunch and Christopher napped on grandpa’s bed during lunch.
Christopher napping while we ate lunch
Then the kids went back home and Andrea stayed to help us take big bales to the heifers and the cows/calves. It was good to get those calves branded; they were all getting pretty big!

One of the calves had diarrhea and squirted all over the calf table when we were branding him. Before we let him out of the headcatch we gave him a dose of liquid neomycin sulfate solution to help combat the intestinal infection. Here’s a photo I took of him later. He still has pasty diarrhea all over his hind end but isn’t sick anymore.
calf with diarrea
The next day was hot again, up to 75 degrees. The calves aren’t used to the warmer weather because we had such a cold spring. They were lying around panting and trying to find a little shade. It was even hotter the next two days. Finally the grass is starting to grow!

On Monday Lynn went with his sister Jenelle to Idaho Falls. She had a dental appointment and he went along to keep her company. Andrea spent most of the day shoveling, cleaning out the ditch above our house so it won’t overflow when we put a little more water in it. When Lynn and Jenelle got back from Idaho Falls we gave Jenelle some DMSO for her sick calf that she’s been treating for diphtheria. The swelling in its throat makes it hard for it to breathe, and a DMSO gargle (with a little water) will reduce the swelling and inflammation.

The next day Lynn helped Andrea irrigate and get a little more water coming down our ditch next to her house. Alfonso had a lot of water in the ditch but none of it getting down to our place. I trimmed Dottie’s feet. They were very long and needed trimmed before I start riding her. That afternoon it got up to 80 degrees, but was partly cloudy.

It was cooler the next morning and I took my camera when we fed cows. I took some photos of the cows and calves lounging by the water tanks waiting for the feed truck while I opened the gate.
cows & calves by water troughs
lounging by water tanks
After we fed the cows I took photos of some of the cows and calves eating hay. The calves are no longer uncomfortable from their new brands.
cows & calves eating hay
Yesterday at chore time when I watered the cows I noticed that LillyAnnie had a big udder and was worried about her calf. He hadn’t nursed for a while, and had very bad scours. After Lynn and I fed the cows, Andrea helped us get that pair in from the field. Andrea and I gently herded the sick calf and his mom down to the gate and Lynn guarded the gate so no extra cows or calves would come through. We took that pair to the little pen in front of the barn, where we could put the calf in the runway to the headcatch, so we could get hands on him in the small area. We gave him some oral electrolytes and a liquid antibiotic. We left him and his mom in the pen next to the barn (between the 2nd day pens and the lower bigger pen) where there’s some grass. We could keep an eye on him there to see if he needed any more treatment before we put them back out to the field.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - March 21 through April 24, 2019

MARCH 30 – I’ve had a really bad cold and cough (ended up with bronchitis) for the past 2 weeks but finally starting to feel better. It zapped my strength and endurance and made it more difficult to get through the day’s chores and feeding cows and the start of calving. 

Last week Andrea had a plumbing problem at her house; one of the shower faucets broke 
and wouldn’t turn off, so she had to turn off all the water—which is a bit awkward for a household with kids. She was able to get a new part for it and that evening her friend Jade came out and fixed it.

Andrea’s old mare Breezy is showing her age. She grew really long hair this winter and is slow to shed out—and now rubbing her hair off on the fences. I took a few photos of her “woolly bear hair” while she was eating her breakfast.
Breezy starting to shed her long hair
Our cows were getting very close to calving—many with big udders—so last Thursday Andrea helped us get the round bale feeder down from the field below heifer hill and lead the young cows down to the horse pasture, next to the maternity pen, where we can see them from the house. We fed them a new bale in there.

The next day Dani helped bring the older cows down from the field by Andrea’s house. Lynn drove the feed truck, I sat on the back and called the cows, like I was going to feed them, while Andrea and Dani hiked along behind the herd to bring the stragglers. Then she helped us put some hay in the barn and we gave the heifers their first lesson about going into the calving barn, using a couple of 2nd calvers to help show them the way. A couple heifers were reluctant to go in, but with a little gentle persuasion they all went in, and enjoyed eating the good hay. We left them in for 30 minutes to eat. By the second day’s lesson they all went in voluntarily. After 5 days of trips to the barn they are “barn trained” and will always be easy to put into the barn to calve.

Michael and Nick set new posts along the top and driveway side of the maternity pen; they are going to rebuild those sections of fence. They hauled the posts up through that pen with the skid steer and unloaded them, stringing them along the old fence.
hauling posts up through the maternity pen
unloading posts
Michael & Nick unloading and stringing posts along the old fence
The old fence needs replaced; the poles are rotting and falling apart and some of the posts are rotting off. They will take out the old fence after they get the new one installed just inside it. They put the post pounder on the skid steer after they strung out the new posts.
putting post pounder on skid steer
Then they set the first post partway up the fence line, just inside the old fence.
setting the first post
Then they set a post in the top corner, so they could sight in all the other posts form those two. That hydraulic post pounder can set a post in about 2 or 3 minutes, and these posts all went in really easy since the ground is no longer frozen and there weren’t very many big rocks.
setting post in top corner
We had a week of warm weather, up into the 50’s during the afternoons, and the snow is settling, which will be better for the baby calves than the 18 inches we’ve had for so long. On Sunday Michael brought a load of poles down for our new fence and unloaded them in the maternity pen with his skid steer, then cleared the pile of snow away from the fence corner by the calving pen. Friends and family had a baby shower for Emily at Jade and Anita’s house, but I didn’t go because of my bad cold and cough. Andrea and kids and Emily stopped here briefly on their way home that evening and we gave them the baby gifts we would have given her at the shower.

It rained hard that evening and all through the night, melting more of our snow. We put some bedding in one barn stall, using some of the coarser bales from my horse hay stack, so we’d be ready in case a cow calves during the nasty weather.

Michael used the skid steer to string out the poles along the top and sides of the maternity pen for building the new fence and started putting them on—getting the top side finished and a few poles up on the side next to the driveway. The next day Nick and Justin worked on the fence and finished putting up the poles, then started sawing out sagebrush along the old fence above that pen. We are going to rebuild about half a mile of old fence along the fields. That old fence has been falling down for several years, patched and tied up to big sagebrush to keep it somewhat functional. It’s the original fence that was here when my family came to this creek in 1953 (except of this end of it which we rebuilt with pole fence about 45 years ago), and some of the sagebrush that grew along the original fence was 12 to 15 feet tall. Here are photos taken a few years ago when Andrea was bringing cows home along the horse road, showing the tall sagebrush along the old fence.
bringing cows home along horse road
We’ve been sorting the cows in the evening, putting the ones most likely to calve into the maternity pen where we can see them at night from the house with a spotlight and binoculars. It’s been raining a lot and we don’t want any of them calving out there in the slop. The snow is nearly all melted and everything is wet and muddy.

Andrea took Emily to the doctor on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; she was starting to dilate. It looked like a race to see whether she or one of the cows would give birth first, but the cows won. Malulamae (daughter of Magrat and granddaughter of Maggie—Dani’s old pet cow) started labor Thursday afternoon. We put her in the barn at chore time and she had a nice bull calf.

Yesterday was rainy and foggy. It was so foggy during the night that I couldn’t see the cows in the maternity pen from the window and had to walk out there a couple of times to check on them to see if any were calving. That morning we put Malulamae and calf out of the barn into one of the side pens with a lot of bedding so the calf would have a dry place to sleep. Andrea checked the cows for me a couple times during the night.

Jim got home from his job in California earlier that evening, hoping to get here before Emily had her baby. It was good timing. Em went into labor early afternoon and had the baby by 8 p.m. this evening. Little Christopher Alexander was not very little! He weighs 9.8 pounds. Em is exhausted but that little guy is doing fine—after a precarious start. He was born with the cord wrapped around his neck and was quite blue, but the doctor and nurses resolved that problem and got him breathing fairly quickly.

APRIL 7 – This past week was cold, freezing hard at night. We had a few more calves born. Emily and baby Christopher are doing well. Here are some photos of the baby the day he was born.
baby Christopher
Andrea & Em giving baby his first bath
very tired Emily & new baby
All the kids came to see the new baby and got to hold him, so here are more photos of that new little nephew.
Dani & baby Christopher
Sammy & Christopher
sleepy baby Christopher
Andrea stayed there in the hospital again the second night, to help Emily with the baby. Here are a few more photos.
Andrea & baby Christopher
Emily & baby Christopher
Grandma Andrea
There is still some snow on the upper place where Michael and Carolyn’s cows are calving, so last Sunday they came down with their truck and used our tractor to load a couple old straw bales to take up there for bedding.

It’s nice having Jim home from his California job. He’s enjoying his grandson, and also helping us out a bit. He stays here for a few hours each night and watches the calving cows so I can get some sleep. On Monday he helped us tag and band several of the new calves. Michael and Nick worked that day taking out more of the old fence along the lower end of the horse road so they can set new posts and rebuild the fence. They hauled off the old posts and poles.

Andrea brought Emily and baby home that afternoon, and their friends Jade and Anita brought supper out for them. Later that evening Andrea and Dani came down to help Lynn unload the salt blocks he’d gotten in town that day for the cows, and Dani got to see some of the new calves.
new babies
one of the oldest calves
Early the next morning I was taking a cow and her 2-day old calf out to the field from the pen below the barn about the time Charlie and the girls were driving through the barnyard to go to school. They usually go a bit later, and I thought I had time to move the cow (with the double gates across the driveway closed, to keep them from going up the driveway instead of to the pens and hay shed alley toward the field) but that day they were early. When they came to the closed gates they didn’t notice that I was bringing a cow and calf from the lower pen, and they left the double gates open. When the cow and calf got to the driveway there was nothing to stop them from heading up the driveway. I was a little ways behind them when that calf shot up the driveway and I had to really sprint to catch that little bugger and get him turned around. It’s a good thing this old grandma can still run! Anyway, I got him snagged before he and his mom went to the open range, and turned around. Then he darted up into the slot between the fence and the swung-open gate and I had to untangle him from some old wagon wheels that have been leaning against that fence for decades. I finally got him and his mom up to the field.

Later that morning Lynn and I took some bales of coarse hay to the pen below the barn to scatter in the sheltered corners for bedding, hauling them on the 4-wheeler, and put a couple of the cows with new calves down there. This gives the calves a little more time to get organized (with clean, dry places to sleep, out of the wind) before they go out to the field.

Michael, Nick and Justin worked that day taking out more of the old fence along the horse road and heifer hill, then Nick and Justin finished putting rails on the new orchard (maternity ward pen) fence and set a new gate post.
new fence between maternity pen and driveway
Michael brought multiple loads of dirt/gravel (from cleaning out the horse road) with his skid steer to put in the deep boggy mud-hole in the gateway between the maternity pen and the horse pasture, where the cows have been sinking in (to their bellies) when they walk through it. With all the snow/moisture, the mud got really bad, and we can’t drive through there with the feed truck, so Michael hauled enough dry material in there to fix that problem. This is a lot easier on the cows for going back and forth. We let them out into the horse pasture during the day and sort the most-likely-to-calve individuals into the maternity pen for night, where we can watch them easier.

That evening Bob and Jane Minor came to visit Andrea and Em and see the new baby. They are like part of our family; when Andrea had her burn accident 19 years ago and spent most of that summer in the Intermountain Burn ICU in Salt Lake, Bob spent a lot of time there; we all made sure someone was with Andrea continually—which made a huge difference in her survival. Bob and Jane have always been “adopted grandparents” for Emily (who was only 2 years old when her mama was burned), and now she’s grown up with a child of her own. Here’s a photo of Bob holding that special baby.
Bob holding baby Christopher
The next day Nick and Justin set a lot of posts by hand along the top of the horse road by heifer hill—in the narrow trail where the skid steer can’t go for pounding posts. Lynn and I put more cows and calves up in the field and put some hay in the calf houses for bedding. Those calf houses provide a lot of shelter for the calves when it’s windy or raining/snowing. Some of them tried it out that afternoon when we had a thunderstorm (first thunderstorm of this spring) and hard rain.

With the warmer weather (up to 60 degrees a couple afternoons) and rain, the snow is gone from these lower fields, and melting fast on the upper place where Michael and Carolyn’s cows have started calving.

Lynn stopped by Andrea’s house that day, and she took photos of him holding his young great-grandson.
Lynn & baby Christopher
Thursday afternoon Alfonso (with John Miller helping him) were moving a bunch of Alfonso’s cows from his lower place, taking them up to the Gooch place, and some of the cows came down our lane and into the barnyard by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens, and ate on my bales of horse hay. If only they’d let us know they’d be moving cows, we’d have gladly helped them or at least shut our driveway gates so the cows couldn’t get into our barnyard and haystacks.

Michael brought a trailer load of poles to unload here for more of the fencing project, and Andrea took Emily and baby to town for the baby’s checkup. They stopped by here and I took a picture of that little kid.
baby Christopher 10 days old
On their way home that evening Andrea took photos of me holding that young fellow in Great Grandma’s cluttered house.
Great grandma & kid
Christopher at Great grandma's cluttered house
me & Christopher
Dani had a track meet at Challis and had a serious accident doing the hurdles; some friends brought her back to Salmon and she was taken to the ER for x-rays on her leg. She broke the bone at the top of her knee and also sprained her ankle. This is her dad’s weekend for the kids, so Andrea took crutches in for her. She had an MRI the next day to more fully assess the damage. She now has to keep it fully immobilized in a leg brace from hip to foot.

Nick and Justin worked on the fence again yesterday, and we had a couple more cows calving. Jim watches the cows for a few hours during the night so I can get some sleep. Yesterday one of the young cows calved out in the horse pasture and everything would have been fine except all the other cows were ganged around the new baby and an older cow (LillyAnnie) was trying to steal the calf—licking it and shoving the real mom away from it. Michael had just arrived with the trailer to move the rest of the fencing materials out of the swamp pasture, and he saw me trying to referee the cows. So he and Lynn brought the calf sled and we hauled the new baby out of the horse pasture and put him and the new mom into the barn. That was probably the best place for them anyway, since it was really windy that day. The old cow (baby-snatcher) we put in the calving pen, and sure enough, she calved later that afternoon. She just wanted a baby quicker--without the labor!

Today we tagged the new babies and put them in pens and took the older ones and their mamas up to the field.

APRIL 15 – This past week Andrea took Dani to school the first few days because it was so hard for Dani to get in and out of Charlie’s pickup with her leg brace, and there wasn’t much room for keeping her leg straight.

Baby Christopher has really grown and gained weight; here are photos of him at 9 days of age.
big boy
sleepy boy
waking up
Our first heifer to calve (Cupie Doll’s heifer) calved last Monday. She was in early labor a long time and we watched her for several hours in the calving pen (just outside our front windows) before putting her in the barn. The nice thing about training our heifers to go in the barn (before they calve) is that they very willingly go into the barn if we need to put them in there.

She took a while calving; the calf was a little big for her, but she finally had him ok on her own without us having to pull him. She was a good mama and her calf was up and nursing in a short time. Here are photos of that heifer and her baby a few days later after we put them up in the field.
heifer & baby
our first calf heifer to calve with her bull calf
That same afternoon, right after the heifer calved, ZorraRose calved (her third calf)—another nice bull calf. At this point we have more bull calves than heifer calves. Michael and Carolyn’s herd are just the opposite; they’ve had mostly heifer calves.

That night it rained all night, and the next day. We were glad we had a barn for the newest mamas and babies. Wednesday it was very cold and windy all day. We plugged in the tractor that morning to make sure it would start later in the day when we needed to put big round bales in the feeders for the yearling heifers and in the field above the house for the cows with calves. Andrea took Em and baby Christopher to town for the baby’s checkup. He’s really grown and gained weight in his first 2 weeks.
growing boy
losing my binky!
That afternoon we had a couple cows calving, and another heifer. I sat out in the barn watching the cows calve, and the heifer. The heifer was taking quite a while. One cow had her calf swiftly and the sac was still over its head so I had to clear that away and get the fluid away from the calf’s nose and start it breathing. By that time I could see that the heifer had a problem; there was only one foot emerging. The heifer was down and straining hard and I was able to sneak up behind her and feel into the birth canal and uterus; the head was right there, but the other leg was bent back and not coming.

So I went to the house and got Lynn and Jim and we started to try to get the calf pushed back into the uterus far enough to get the leg straightened out. It was very difficult, with the heifer straining and pushing against us. Andrea was in town getting the girls after Sam’s talent show practice but she’d called Charlie (at home) and he came down to help us. Charlie and I were pushing the heifer’s tail up firmly over her back (a trick that puts a bit of pressure on some nerves and helps prevent hard straining) while Jim and Lynn each had an arm in the birth canal—one of them pushing the calf back and the other manipulating the turned-back leg. By that time Andrea got home and helped us, too. Lynn finally got the leg straightened out and Andrea (with her smaller hands) was able to reach in and get chains on both legs. Then the three guys pulled the calf while Andrea and I stretched the heifer’s vulva. It was a hard bull, but with all of us working at it we got that calf out alive—a big bull calf. We were exhausted, but glad that he survived such a difficult birth. We were able to get him breathing fairly quickly.

The heifer was exhausted, too and we let her lie there awhile; she didn’t want to get up. We went back out 20 minutes later and encouraged her to get up. It’s not good for the mama to lie there too long after a difficult birth; there’s more risk of uterine prolapse and also the pressure on certain nerves can tend to paralyze one or both hind legs. Its best if the cow can get up fairly soon.

In spite of her ordeal, the little cow was very interested in her baby, mooing at him and licking him, and he was able to get up and nurse ok.

The next day was clear and not raining/muddy so the guys were able to work on the fence again, setting more posts along the horse road, this time with the skid steer and post pounder, and got a lot of them set. Several more cows calved; by the end of that day we only had 6 left to calve.
LillyAnn & new calf
one of the young bull calves
Magrat's grandson
On Friday Andrea and the girls drove to Idaho Falls for Dani’s appointment with the eye doctor, who has figured out her vision problems and will be prescribing some corrective glasses. Michael and Justin set the last of the posts along the horse road. Jim put some fresh bedding in the barn stalls, using some of my horse hay (the coarser hay that makes wonderful bedding).

We got an e-mail from granddaughter Heather in Canada, with a photo of her young son (not quite 2 years old) after he finished enjoying a big piece of cake. Heather’s birthday cake had blueberries on top, and after eating most of his piece, Joseph did a lot of body artwork with the rest of it!
Joseph enjoyed his piece of mom's birthday cake
Late that afternoon Alfonso stopped by to tell us that one of his cows had gotten out of his corral on the Gooch place. She’d come down the road and into our field (since the new fence along the horse road is not yet finished) and was coming down next to our cows and calves. He told us she was wild and mean and dangerous—and not to try to get her back out. He and John Miller hauled her calf down the road and put him down over the steep bank and down to the horse road, and put him through the old fence (the part that the guys hadn’t had time to take out yet. The calf got back with its mother and the two of them stayed there next to our cows all night. Alfonso finally came back the next afternoon with his horse, and was able to get that wild cow out of our field—through the little gate into our ditch bank pasture that Lynn had already opened for him. Eventually he was able to get that pair on down the road to his own place.

Yesterday was cold, windy and snowing. We only had 4 cows left in the maternity pen to watch and none of them calved. It was Carolyn’s birthday yesterday, and Michael’s birthday today. I picked out some old photos and made cards for them. For Michael’s card I chose an old picture that Lynn took when I was carrying Michael around in a backpack as I was hiking through the pregnant cows to check them—exactly this same time of year, when Michael was a year old.
baby Micheal went with me to check cows
This afternoon Panda was calving, and very upset and devious. She didn’t want to come in from the horse pasture and I had to get fairly aggressive with her, and then she didn’t want to go in the barn; she was really on the fight. She finally got over being mad by the time she calved, which was a good thing, because she calved standing up—with the calf dumped on its head with the head doubled back underneath it’s upside down body. I had to rush into that stall and grab the calf by a hind leg and straighten it out so it could start breathing. Panda was mellowed by then and just started licking the calf rather than charging at me, so I was able to get the calf breathing. Here’s a photo of that mama after we put them up in the field with the other pairs.
Dani went up to the field on her crutches
Now we have only 3 cows left to calve, and one of them is a heifer.

This afternoon Andrea and Dani stopped by after Andrea brought Dani home from school, and we hiked up to the field to see the cows and calves. Dani hobbled up there on her crutches, and the cows and calves were very curious about her.
Panda & calf
Dani on crutches
The cows knew who she was but the calve thought she was pretty funny. Some of them came up to her to check out this weird person with 4 legs.
Dani & curious calves
Dani trying to entice a calf closer
Dani & calves
While we were up there, Andrea picked a little green grass (through the fence where it hadn’t been eaten down by the cows) to feed to some of her favorite cows, who eagerly came up to her to get a taste of grass.
Andrea feeding grass to LillyAnn
Andrea feeding grass to cows

APRIL 20 Last Tuesday our last heifer (Panda’s daughter) calved, but it was a challenging birth. She started early labor about 3 a.m. and I put her in the calving pen with one of the young cows for company, but she didn’t show much signs of active labor until mid-morning when Lynn and I put her in the barn.

We kept checking on the heifer between our other chores—taking more big bales to the cows and heifers, and reloading the feed truck with little bales. Finally by afternoon I stayed in the barn watching the heifer, to make sure things were actually progressing or if we had another malpresentation to correct. At last the calf’s feet emerged, but then there was no more progress. We could see that the feet were big, so it was a big calf. About the time we decided we needed to help her, Jim got back from Montana (he’d been over there for a couple of days visiting friends), which was a good thing. Andrea sneaked up behind the laboring heifer and was able to get chains on the calf’ feet, and then Lynn, Jim and I helped pull it.

It was an extremely difficult pull and we almost needed the mechanical calf puller. We got the calf partway out and no farther and it looked like we were going to lose him because his ribcage wasn’t clear out yet (unable to expand) so he could not start to breath. In desperation we finally got him out, and he was still alive, and we were able to get him breathing. The heifer just lay there, flat out, exhausted. Lynn lay there on his back next to her, exhausted. We are getting too old for this!

We let the heifer lie there awhile (but encouraged her to pick up her head), and when we checked back a little later she’d gotten up ok and was licking the calf. He was such a big clumsy fellow, however, that he didn’t get up. Andrea had to take Em and baby to town for a checkup with the doctor, so when the calf was 2 hours old Lynn and I got him up. He was so big and heavy it was all the two of us could to get him on his feet, and then steady him for a while until he got his strength and balance. His mama loved him and was very patient as I tried to help him get to the udder, but he was just too tired and uncoordinated to suck much. He did get a taste, however, before he collapsed again to rest, and when I checked back later he was up again and nursing just fine.

We were fortunate to get him born alive. The young bull we used on the heifers (one of the two that we bought from Alfonso when they were calves) sired nice calves but they were much too big. We will use him on the cows this year, and find another bull to go with the heifers. Here’s a photo of the first heifer’s calf born—the only one that didn’t need assistance.
the only heifer's calf born unassisted, with one of his buddies behind him
The next day one of the 2nd calvers went into labor at 2 a.m. and Jim put her in the barn. She calved quickly and easily at 4:20 a.m. and had a heifer calf. Later that morning we let both of the new mamas and their babies out of the barn, and Lynn helped me tag a couple of the newest calves (we’d put them out the day before). Michael, Nick and Justin worked on the fence and got a lot of the wire on it. Jim used a cart and pitched the last of the straw bale into it (making several trips) from the horse pasture—where we took that feeder out, to use in the pasture for the cows and calves, and hauled the straw to the calf houses just above the fence. Andrea emptied the water tank in the maternity pen and we carried it up to the field above the house for the cows and calves; there are so many of them out there now that they need 2 water tanks, so I don’t have to keep filling the small one several times a day. Lynn took the harrow up to the field by Andrea’s house with the tractor, so we can start harrowing that field and spreading the manure piles around, and the leftover straw from feeding the cows.

The last cow—by herself in the maternity pen—was restless all day; by afternoon it was obvious that she was in early labor. Lynn and I put her in the barn at chore time that evening and she calved after supper. It was a nice big bull calf. We were done calving! Here’s a photo of that last baby, after we put him and his mom out in the field.
last calf born
It was an incredibly short calving season this year—only 3 weeks from the first calf until the last one. Usually there are one or two that end up a little later and we have to watch them for another week or so, but this year they all calved in a tight group. We ended up with almost twice as many bull calves as heifer calves, but that’s ok. The steers are worth more, and we don’t need to keep very many heifers.
Maggie's granddaughter
Thursday Lynn got the little John Deere tractor ready to use for harrowing; the battery was dead so he had to put the battery-charger on it for a while. He started harrowing the field by Andrea’s house where we fed the cows all winter. Michael and Justin set a bunch of new posts in the old fence between the swamp pasture and the hillside, and also set new posts by the sick barn and calf table (where we brand the calves) where Charlie ran into the fence this past winter and broke off a couple posts when the driveway was slippery.

That afternoon Andrea took a photo of Jim and his grandson enjoying a quiet moment while Emily took a nap.
Jim & his grandson
Jim enjoying a moment with Christopher
The next day was really warm, up to 76 degrees—the warmest day so far this spring. The grass is starting to grow and the trees are budding. Andrea helped us tag and band the last calf born. We noticed that the big calf (the one we had to pull) was very hot and breathing really fast, and decided to take his temperature to see if he had pneumonia. He didn’t like being held still while I took his temperature, and Lynn was having trouble holding him. Andrea came around from the other pen (where she’d been applying more iodine to the calf we’d just tagged because his navel stump was still moist and hadn’t dried up yet) to help Lynn hold the calf. She started rubbing the underside of the calf’s neck and he immediately relaxed and loved the rubbing, and started licking her arm. She rubbed and he licked, and he stood still until I was finished taking his temperature. He was a little warm (his temp was 103 degrees; normal for a calf is 101.5 degrees) but not that abnormal for a young calf—especially a black one soaking up the heat on a hot day. He did not seem sick so we didn’t give him any antibiotics.

Saturday morning we had a thunderstorm at 6 a.m. but not much rain. It was just cool and windy all day. Here are photos taken that morning of Andrea helping baby nap so Em could get some rest, and a photo of Em and baby Christopher both trying to take a nap.
Grandma Andrea & sleepy kid
Em & baby
Lynn finished harrowing the field by Andrea’s house and used the big tractor and blade to scatter more of the straw piles around. That evening Andrea went to help with the prom dinner and dance, as one of the chaperones. Charlie and Sam both went to the prom.

Easter Sunday morning we had a lot of rain and it was cold and windy all day. We had dinner here that evening for Andrea and kids, Jim, Emily and baby. Here’s the mob of us in my cluttered dining room.
family dinner
Emily’s little guy is really growing! He slept through dinner in his car-seat carrier on our cluttered couch.
Baby Christopher asleep in his car seat on our couch
After dinner Dani went out to see the calves and her horses, hobbling around on her crutches. She sat out on the big tire (that holds the mineral/salt tub) and the cows and calves ganged around her.
Dani out with cows & calves
cows watching Dani
After she sat there awhile some of the curious calves came up closer to check her out and see what she was doing.
patiently waiting
curious calves
Then she got up and took a few photos with her phone, getting pictures of some of her favorite calves.
Dani taking photos of calves
Then she picked grass for some of the horses and went into Ed’s pen to pet her. It will be a tough summer for Dani, not being able to ride until her leg is healed.
Dani petting Ed
Yesterday was Nick’s birthday and today is Jim’s birthday. April is a big month for family birthdays (all of Michael and Carolyn’s family including their grandchild Joseph). Nick and Justin put up the rails on this end of the fence along the horse road and got this end completely finished, then put stays in the wire fence and got it finished, too, except for one place where we’ll be putting a gate.
pole fence on this end of the horse road - finished
pole fence along lower end of horse road
pole fence along horse road
wire fence along horse road just before the stays were put in
I took photos of the finished fence, and also a couple photos of the finished fence around the maternity pen by our house. The new fence was put inside the old one (which has now been taken down and hauled off) and the 100-year-old freight wagon that was sitting inside the fence is now on the outside of the new fence.
new fence up the land
new fence for maternity pen
new fence with old freight wagons on outside
Lynn and I put our last heifer and calf out to the field. She’s the one that had such a hard birth, and we kept her and her big bull calf in the second day pens for a few days. Here are some photos of her and that baby early that morning before we took them out to the field. I snapped only photo as she was licking her calf and he was trying to lick her.
big calf that we had to pull
young mama licking her baby and him licking her
the big calf we pulled
Carolyn had her 8-week checkup after her hernia surgery. All is healing well, but she still has to be careful to not lift anything that weighs more than 15 pounds.

Lynn and I moved the feeders and took 2 more big bales of hay to the cows and calves above the house, and also took a new bale to the yearling heifers. We moved their feeder closer to the gate so we can fence off the hayfield side of that pasture and keep them on the creek side (that gets boggy in summer and we can’t put up hay on it), to let the field side start growing. They are grazing the new green grass faster than it grows!

Lynn brought the harrow around from the field by Andrea’s house yesterday evening and harrowed the field where the yearling heifers are, then harrowed the maternity pen and horse pasture.

Today I took photos at sunrise, of the trees along the creek below our house, with their tiny new leaves showing a hint of green, and a photo of sunrise at my hay shed, with K Mountain in the background—and still snow on that mountain.
sunrise and trees with tiny new leaves
sunrise at my hay shed - still snow on K Mountain
Lynn used the tractor and blade to break up and spread the thick piles of straw in the horse pasture (where the straw feeder was), then Andrea harrowed the two fields above the pasture where the cows and calves are. Alfonso has already started irrigating on the back side; he turned the ditch on a week ago without giving us a chance to clean it, so it’s been flooding down across our lower field. Lynn tried to clean that ditch this afternoon and got stuck in the bog and just about didn’t get the tractor out.

Today Em took photos of Andrea & baby Christopher who is no 3 ½ weeks old.
Andrea entertaining Christopher
baby & his favorite binky
Also this afternoon Allan Probst brought a big dump truck load of rocks to put in along the creek bank above the house where high water nearly took out the whole bank (and a power pole) last spring. The creek is already coming up now, with the warmer weather, so we are glad to get the rocks in there this year before major high water.