That afternoon Dani and I made a short ride on Shiloh and Dottie. A few range cows have been coming out of the middle range pasture and down through the low range and into Alfonso’s field below us and we found their tracks. We traced them back to a gate that had been left open, so we shut it.
|Dani riding Shiloh|
The next day, Andrea rode with us (Willow’s 26th ride this year) and we made another short ride, this time doing some training exercises for both Willow and Shiloh—trotting in circles and figure 8’s on a flat area on the low range with good footing. Shiloh doesn’t neck rein very well yet and is headstrong, so Dani is learning how to utilize leg pressure and body language to help cue Shiloh and not have to fight with her mouth. Those two (young rider and middle aged “green” horse) are starting to make a good team.
That afternoon the supply truck from Darby, Montana brought the roofing material for our roof repair projects. We need to reroof Andrea’s old trailer house (used mainly now for storage) and part of our house roof. We had some old tin left over from when we built a second calving barn in 1995 and that leftover tin was still in perfect condition for our re-roofing project but we needed to buy the tin for Andrea’s trailer house roof.
That night we had a major thunderstorm with lightning strikes very close to our house, knocking out the power for several hours. Thankfully the power was back on again the next morning in time for me to finish up a couple articles (with looming deadlines) and send them to my editors.
Emily had a special class all day, which she passed, and is now certified to dispense medications at her job at the assisted living center.
Andrea irrigated early that morning and discovered that Alfonso had been using all the water (during the night, again) in one of our ditches. Then Lynn babysat baby Christopher while Andrea helped me with Shiloh. Andrea held the mare while I put shoes on her front feet. After the rain we had during the night, her feet were a little softer and easier to trim and smooth up for the shoes.
Young Heather sent me photos from Canada of little Joseph helping his dad work on some of the machinery, getting ready for harvesting.
|Joseph ready to help his dad|
|Joseph helping Gregory|
Then she changed the irrigation water while Lynn and I took Jim’s horse trailer up the creek to bring the bull home that we loaned to Michael and Carolyn for the breeding season. They rounded up their cows and got them into the corral and I helped them sort off the bull. We got him loaded into the trailer and brought him home and put him with the other two bulls in the back corral. Then we washed out the trailer with our power washer so it would be clean again for whatever Jim needs to use it for.
The past three mornings Jade Wiscombe and his two boys put a new roof on Andrea’s trailer house—a tin roof that will last a long time and extend the life of that old trailer. They’ll start on our roof in a couple of days.
Andrea and I got the hot wire working on the temporary fence along the ditch above the house so we can put the heifers up there soon to graze the ditch bank. Yesterday we moved the main cow herd to the upper swamp pasture and then rode Willow and Dottie for a short ride and then I put hind shoes on Shiloh.
Today I trimmed and reset one of Ed’s shoes (her feet are getting really long) while I waited for Andrea to finish irrigating and then we rode again. She rode Willow and we came down Baker Creek on the low range.
|Andrea riding Willow down Baker Creek|
|riding up into the rock cliffs|
|Andrea and Willow in cliffs|
|checking out the rock formations|
AUGUST 27 – Jade and his boys put tin on the old roof on the south side of our house, including the valley between the dining room and the added-on living room. That valley has always leaked during rain or snow melt, ever since that new room was built in 1996. The shingles on the old part were worn out and it was time to replace them.
The first day they worked on the roof, the noise and activity was really scary for Rishiam in his nearby pen and he was on the verge of trying to jump out. Lynn and I made a taller extension of the post in the corner of his fence and put an electric wire above the fence (about a foot higher) so he wouldn’t attempt to jump it.
Andrea and I made a fast ride to the 320 (Willow’s 29th ride this year) to check fences and make sure the range cows haven’t been getting in. Those cows were nearly out of feed on the range and starting to press our fences.
|Andrea checking the upper end of the 320 pasture|
|Dani riding Shiloh on low range|
The next morning Stan and Sam walked up the ditch with Andrea (the ditch that comes down through the Gooch place to water the field by Andrea’s house) to see what happened to all our water. It was all going out onto Alfonso’s field above us. They had to do some adjusting of his water taps to send our share on down the ditch. Then they checked our ditch on the other side of the creek and discovered that Alfonso had taken all of our water in that one, as well, even though he has no legal right to use any of it in that ditch. Andrea took his dam out so the water would come on down to us.
Then we put another bandage/boot on Lida Rose’s foot; all the duct tape had worn off the previous bandage. It has lasted very well, however; that bandage had been on her foot for 10 days. The hoof horn is slowing growing down over the open area.
|Lida Rose's broken foot with hoof horn growing out over raw area|
After we got her bandage redone, we took Stan on a very short ride. He hadn’t ridden a horse since he was a kid, but he did very well with Shiloh.
It had to be a short ride because Andrea had to hurry home to take care of baby Christopher so Emily could go to work.
Last Sunday Andrea and Stan went up the ditch by her house and spent several hours shoveling sod to clean and widen it. Part of the reason we never get enough water down through it to our place is that it hasn’t been adequately cleaned for many years and the water just seeps out all along it into Alfonso’s field. We need to clean it every year or so with a tractor or small excavator. We have a ditch right-of-way through that place we can legally do that, but the widow who has 5 acres and a house beside that ditch doesn’t want machinery going through the ditch. To humor her and keep the peace (since we had to hire a lawyer the last time we cleaned it, because she and her husband threatened to sue us to stop us—and the lawyer told them we had a right to clean it) Andrea has been cleaning it by hand, with a shovel, a few hours at a time, which is a back-breaking job. By the time she and Stan spent part of the day working on the ditch, they didn’t have time nor energy to ride, so we skipped the training ride for Willow that day.
We rode again on Monday—a longer ride for Stan this time—and he saw more of our range country and enjoyed getting better acquainted with Shiloh. He’s had to learn how to use 4 reins (since that mare is still “green” and doesn’t neck rein very well—and is still in a snaffle bit as well as a curb) but he’s a fast learner. I took a photo of him and Andrea on our way home, coming along the new fence that Michael built last year.
|Andrea and Stan riding home|
Andrea, Dani and I made a short ride (Willow’s 33rd ride this year) and Dani rode Shiloh. She and that mare are bonding nicely, and when we got home and were ready to put the horses away, Dani jumped on Shiloh bareback to ride her up to her pen.
|Dani riding Shiloh with us|
|Lynn & Christopher|
|Christopher bouncing on my lap|
|Christopher & me|
|Christopher having a good bounce on great-grandma's lap|
The next day Jade and his boys finished our roof project. Now it won’t leak during every rainstorm!
Andrea and Stan changed our irrigation water that morning, then we took Stan on a longer ride to see more of the country—riding up through the high range and over the top of the mountain and down through the forks of Withington Creek. He rode Shiloh and Dani rode Ed. I’d given Ed bute the evening before, so her old joints wouldn’t be so stiff, and she made the long ride very nicely without being lame. I took photos as we went up the ridge to the 320.
|Stan riding Shiloh|
The next day was cool and windy, with a little rain, and we didn’t ride. The creek was up quite a bit for several days but part of our 2nd right is still shut off and it’s hard to get our fields watered. Stan rode with us again on Friday, but Saturday he helped Lynn take down the temporary electric fence we put in this summer to let our cows graze the ditch bank and upper end of the field by Andrea’s house (to keep them out of the main hayfield). Andrea and I rode that day and checked the cows on heifer hill, then made a loop across the low range and saw a mama bear with two cubs. I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough to take a photo of them before they took off, but I did take pictures of Andrea and Willow as we headed up over the ridge.
|Andrea riding Willow|
Yesterday was not so windy and we made a short ride with Stan on Shiloh and took him up Baker Creek to see the colorful rock formations.
|Stan riding Shiloh|
|riding up into the cliffs|
|up in the cliffs|
|Andrea taking a photo of Stan|
I received an e-mail from the water master last night telling us that the first right is short by 30 inches and that he was going to come up today and shut off more of our water. There is so much water in the creek running through our place, however, that we assume that some is being stolen before it gets to the weir on the first right. But I replied to the water master saying we could send our spring-water to the creek (some water that originates on our place, that we utilize to irrigate one little pasture) and also that he needs to stop the water that’s leaking past the unlocked headgate on Alfonso’s ditch that comes out of the creek in our pasture. With those two adjustments there would easily be another 30 inches. I also reminded the water master that ALL headgates are now supposed to be locked (so they can only be changed by the water master when he allots a certain amount of water for each ditch, and not adjusted by Alfonso putting more water in his ditch!)
We needed to take some photos to show that some of the headgates on the creek are not actually locked at this time, so Michael told me how to turn on the time/date stamp on my digital camera. This morning early we turned our spring water to the creek, and I was hiking down to see if Alfonso’s headgate was still leaking and unlocked (to take a photo of it), and found the water master there, actually trying to put a lock on it. He could see how much water was in the creek and that the Jack’s right shouldn’t be short, unless there are more “leaks” between our place and Jack’s place. A lot of water is “disappearing” in between—on Alfonso’s place. So the watermaster told me he wouldn’t cut our 2nd right any more at the moment (we’re already cut down, but should not be, with this much water in the creek). I said we would dam off the leaky headgate of Alfonsos, and also mentioned that there is a lot of water leaking past Jack’s headgate and it should be corrected also. When we went down later to dam off the leaky headgate, we discovered that the lock the watermaster put on it was not even functional! It was attached only to the upright and not to the faceplate—which means the faceplate could still be pulled up, to allow water to go down the ditch! So we took a photo of the phony “locked headgate”
|Alfonso's headgate with lock not working|
|chicken wire on poles|
|chicken wire protects fence from being chewed|
|Lida Rose walking towards me|
|Lida Rose eating from feeder|
SEPTEMBER 4 – We had a lot of really hot weather last week, though some mornings were quite cool (down to 37 degrees one morning).
Last Wednesday Stan changed the tires on Andrea’s 4-wheeler (the old ones were worn out). Andrea and I rode up to the 320 just to check the fences and make sure the range cattle weren’t getting in. We patched one place in the timber where the elk go through and stretch or break the wires, then noticed that Dottie was starting to lose a hind shoe. The nails were worn through and the shoe was shifting out of place. I had to pull it off so it wouldn’t catch on something and tear off. We rode back home down Baker Creek (less rocky than coming down the main ridge) being careful in the rocks so as not to break the sides of her bare foot. I took a few photos of Andrea and Willow while we were riding down through Baker Creek.
|Andrea and Willow riding down through 320|
|creek dammed off illegally|
After spending all morning dealing with the water problem, we finally were able to get on with our real jobs. I rode Dottie up to heifer hill to gather those cows and Andrea led them down the horse road with her 4-wheeler, Stan and Lynn headed them down the driveway and let the heifers out of their ditch pasture to join the herd, and we moved them down to the lower field.
The metal gate below the old barn fell off its hinges when we tried to shut it after we took the cows through that lane. It never has been very secure because the railroad tie gate post holding it was not tall enough. Stan made a creative post extension/gate hinge, welding a piece of metal to the hinge that could be bolted onto the post, and it now works beautifully. I took a few photos of his creative gate post extension and hinge.
|gate post extension & new gate hinge|
|gate post extension|
So even though it was late in the day, with no time to get their horses and have any daylight left, Michael and Carolyn tried to get those cattle out on 4-wheelers--and on foot where the hillsides were too steep to drive with a 4-wheeler. Those cows are wild and not very easy to handle. It got completely dark and they weren’t able to get them all out, but they managed to get about 50 pair kicked out the bottom onto the low range, and nearly 100 pair out the other bottom gate onto the road.
They were worn out, and very angry. When Michael hiked up the steep hill to the top end to get some of the cattle, he discovered that Alfonso and Millers had built a drift fence (out from our fence, and up the hill) to keep the cattle from coming around the end of Alfonso’s fence in the rock cliff. In years past, when we were running cattle on the range, our cattle were never that starved and thirsty and we were able to keep them out of the private ground with just a minimal fence through the rocks at the top of the cliffy area. But in the last few years, with Alfonso’s and Miller’s cattle running out of feed (and water troughs not working on the high range) the range cattle have torn down that old fence and have been coming down through those rocks and into the private ground (that Alfonso is leasing) adjacent to ours. At some point this fall Alfonso and Millers built a drift fence extending a little ways up from the property fence, creating a trap for the cows in a corner next to our fence. Our fence was really good along that stretch before the starving thirsty cows were trapped there, because we’d packed posts (steel posts and wood posts) up that steep hill on horses a few years ago and set those posts in the rocks and frozen ground to refurbish the old fence.
But our new fence was no match for desperate cows. They’d broken off one steel posts and bent over several others, and they all came down through the trashed fence into our 160-acre pasture. Michael tried to patch it as best he could with no tools—pushing some of the bent-over posts more upright and putting wires back together—and opened the gate those guys had made in their drift fence so that any more cows could continue going the route they’d become accustomed to, down into Alfonso’s pasture where they could get a drink at the creek and find a little grass.
To add to the problem of having all our fall pasture eaten in our 160-acre pasture, Alfonso drove up the road that evening and realized Michael and Carolyn were cleaning the stray cows out of that pasture, so he shut the cattle guard gate on the road. Some of the hungry cows coming down the road could not come on down, so they broke into Michael and Carolyn’s field with their cows. Michael and Carolyn tried to get them out but it was too dark to get them all, and they had to wait to do it with horses the next day (and lose another day of work on their custom fence job).
So Friday morning we called the BLM and told them what was happening, with the range denuded and no water for the cows, to the point that the cows broke through a really good fence to come into our 160 acres. Being the start of Labor Day weekend, however, no BLM employees would come assess the condition of the range until after the holiday.
Meanwhile, some of the cattle made it on down the road past Michael’s place, and went into Alfonso’s field on the Gooch place, so he called the Amish to come help him take them back to the range. They were taking them back up the road when Michael and Carolyn had just finished sorting the stray cows out of their own herd, and were shoeing a couple horses so they could go round up the rest of the cows that were still in the 160-acre pasture.
Andrea, Dani and I rode up there to help them—hurrying the 2 miles up the road from our place. Luckily I had given Ed some bute the night before, because Dani had expressed interest in riding her in case Stan could ride with us on Shiloh. Little did we know that we’d be chasing cows instead, but it worked out nicely because Ed is a great cowhorse and Shiloh is still just learning about chasing cows. Stan didn’t ride that day; he went with Lynn on 4-wheelers to help shut gates along the way for the Amish riders taking the cattle back up the road to put them on up Withington Creek—back to the range. Stan had a chance to meet Michael and Carolyn who were at their corrals and stack yard getting ready to shoe horses.
Andrea, Dani and I trotted on up to the 160 and gathered a dozen more stray pairs out of that pasture and brought them down and out the bottom gate, to join the huge herd that Alfonso and the Amish were about to take on up the creek. They had brought all the cattle up the road to Alfonso’s rented 160-acre pasture and were having a picnic barbecue lunch before taking them on up the creek. As we brought the strays down toward the creek out of our adjacent 160-acre pasture, we yelled at them to come block the road and head the cows the proper direction (if they wanted the cows to join their herd instead of going down the road). Alfonso didn’t bother to help us but John Miller ran down the road on foot to head the cows for us.
The herd we were bringing ran down to the little gate in the corner and made it through, except for one calf. He couldn’t see where the other cattle had gone and came back along the fence. We headed him back toward the gate but he still couldn’t see it and was scared and ran back past us and across the creek through the brush. Andrea and Dani rode back up and around to try to head him back again. It took several run-arounds through the brush—and Willow did a great job, figuring out what she was supposed to do, and Andrea was quite pleased with how well she did.
We got the calf back toward the gate and then John’s dog ran in there and chased the calf. After that, the calf was even more scared about going the proper direction. We kept yelling at Alfonso (who was ignoring the problem and putting all the cows through the gate into his pasture to join the big herd) to bring a cow or two back so the calf would see them and know where to go, but he didn’t listen. So Dani galloped out onto the road on Ed and got a few of the cattle herself, that hadn’t gone into the big herd yet, and brought them back down the road to our gate, to join the calf. Then we were able to get that scared, wild calf to go out the gate with those cows.
After all the dust settled, we talked briefly with John Miller, who was apologetic about the problem we had with the cattle breaking into our place. He offered to supply Michael with some fall pasture to make up for what the range cattle ate, but Michael didn’t accept his offer, knowing that Millers are short on fall pasture, too, on this dry year. John realized the drift fence caused the problem, and told us he will take some posts up that hill and repair our wrecked fence for us, and make sure the gate in the drift fence stays open so the cows can come on down into Alfonso’s place and not try to come into ours. John at least tries to be a good neighbor but Alfonso never has.
I had my camera in my saddlebag the day but didn’t get a chance to take photos during the wild cow roundup getting the rest of the strays out of our upper pasture. I did however, take a photo when we stopped on our way back down the road where Michael was shoeing one of his horses; I took a photo of the “glue” he squirts in under the hoof pads to make sure no sand, gravel or dirt work in underneath the pad. That horse has tender soles and stone bruises easily so he always shoes him with pads.
|Michael squirting glue under hoof pad|
The next day Andrea took Dani to town at 4 a.m. to get on the school bus to go with her volleyball team to a tournament several hours from here. Andrea and Stan left a bit later to drive to that school to watch Dani play. Charlie (who got home from his work camp the night before) came late morning to help Lynn unload the wood pellets that were still on the back of the truck, and put them in the old barn across the driveway from the house. Then he helped Lynn take a load of garbage from our house and Andrea’s house to take to the county dumpsters. Then Lynn changed part of the irrigation water, since Andrea was gone all day. It’s hard for him to get around with his bad hip and back, but he is able to do a little. He’s actually able to walk a bit more now, since he’s lost 10 pounds, and he hopes to lose 10 more.
When I did chores that evening I took another photo of Lida Rose and her bandaged foot. That bandage had been on quite a while but was still holding on—though it looked like it might start coming off the front of her foot soon.
Michael and Carolyn shod a couple more horses that day, and watched as more cattle came trickling down into Alfonso’s hill pasture. The cattle that were taken up the creek simply hiked over the mountain and down Baker Creek to come back into Alfonso’s place because there is no feed and very little water out on the range.
I received an e-mail message from Granddaughter Heather in Canada, with photos of some of their harvesting, and Joseph riding on a tractor with Grandpa John, and sleeping in the combine with mom.
|Joseph on tractor|
|Joseph helping Grandpa John|
|Joseph sleeping on the job|
|ultrasound picture of baby brother|
After breakfast Lynn held Dottie for me and I took off her worn-out front shoes and trimmed her long feet, and put new shoes on. That was enough for me for one day; I figured to do her other hind foot (the one that didn’t lose a shoe and get reshod) another day. Then we took a bale of hay to the bulls’ feeder, and Lynn changed the irrigation water.
The next evening (after it cooled down from a hot afternoon) Andrea and Stan came down on 4-wheelers and Andrea brought little Christopher with her, since Em was at work. I took photos of that little kid riding on the 4-wheeler with Andrea in a “front pack” harness.
|Christopher on 4-wheeler|
|Peaches' first ride out of the corral|
Peaches' 2nd ride out
Yesterday I reshod Dottie’s left hind, so now she has new shoes all round. Phil Moulton brought the first loads of hay that we are buying from him and stacked it in holding pen next to Shiloh’s pen.
Today was very hot—up to 98 degrees in the afternoon. Andrea didn’t change her irrigation water, just to make sure it would continue to get back to the creek to ensure that the first right would be filled and the watermaster wouldn’t have to cut down our use.
We checked Jack’s weir to make sure he had enough water (and he did) and then Andrea and Stan checked some of the other ditches on the creek and discovered that the watermaster never did lock some of the headgates and several others were not really locked. The lock was put only on the upright (not actually locking the faceplate to the weir) and that they could easily be pulled up. This might be the reason that we are sometimes short of water! Alfonso may be pulling up the headgates now and then on the ditches he is not supposed to be using.
They also discovered that a bunch of range cattle from the allotment next to our ranch had broken into Michael’s Cheney Creek pasture and then into the pasture that Michael is leasing from the neighbors between the upper place and Bob Louck’s 5 acres. This is pasture that Michael and Carolyn’s cows will need, and the range cows are eating it up. Michael and Carolyn were many miles from home, on a custom fencing job, but we were able to get in touch with Michael on his cell phone. He told us to call Bruce Mulkey (one of the ranchers whose cattle broke through the fences) but Bruce said he couldn’t come get them for a few days. By that time there would be no grass left for Michael’s cows, so Andrea, Stan and I rode up there to get those cows out.