Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - October 17 through November 13, 2019

OCTOBER 28 – A week ago Wednesday I did chores early, in the dark, and got ready to go to Missoula to the doctor. Lynn was quite dizzy when he got up that morning and had to be careful walking around. Andrea and I left at 7 a.m. and got to Missoula in plenty of time. She dropped me off at the clinic and had time to go to Walmart to get some supplies (cheaper there than in Salmon) and got back in time to go in with me for the appointment with the specialist who looked at my CT scans that were taken the day of my horse crash.

My eye focus is about the same (still seeing double if I look up or down, but perfectly normal directly in front and to the side). The doctor in Missoula said the pressure on the eye and tissues around it—pushing back against the socket when my face slammed down on the ground/into the mud, with the horse rolling over me—is what broke the back of the eye socket. Since my vision is mostly normal, he did not think it would be wise to try for surgical repair, since that would be risky (back behind my eye) and might damage the optic nerve, so we’ll just let it heal as best it can. When we got back home late that afternoon, we picked up Dani from school.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us some photos taken when she and little Joseph were helping Gregory, and photos of Joseph riding in the tractor with his daddy to move some bales.
Heather Eppich & Joseph
Joseph helping his daddy move hay
The morning after our trip to the doctor in Missoula, I did a phone interview after chores, then Andrea came and helped us bring the calves in from the field below the lane and sort them. Lynn was dizzy again, and had to be really careful in everything he did.

I’m glad our calves are gentle and trust us, and glad that I’d fed them a little hay on one of the really cold, snowy days the week before. They all came to me and followed me through the gate into the hold pen, which was much easier for us and less stressful for them than trying to round them up and chase them in. We were able to get them into the smaller second-day pens without much trouble, and sorted out the 5 heifers we’ll be keeping—putting them back down in the field, and the sale calves into the orchard across the driveway. Those calves would go to a special calf sale on Friday.

Then we brought the cull cows in from the field above the corral, to put in the corral, and the brand inspector came to look at them and the calves we were going to sell. At chore time that evening Lynn and I fed the calves some hay, so they wouldn’t be so empty the next morning to go to the sale. The rancher we buy hay from, Phil Moulton, offered to haul them to Montana for us, since Michael and Carolyn’s trailer is still down river on their fencing project. They finished down there, late that evening, but hadn’t had time to bring their equipment and trailer home, or clean it out—since that’s what they were camping in.

It rained that night, and the weather was windy and cold, but it didn’t snow until after we got the cattle loaded and on their way the next day. We had a bit of a problem getting them on their way, however. Lynn was still really dizzy. He’d planned to go with Phil to take the cattle to the auction near Butte, Montana, but decided not to risk traveling in that condition.

We weren’t sure we could get the cattle loaded very easily (with my bum leg—still swollen and painful from my horse wreck) and him being dizzy. Even though Andrea and Dani would be helping us, we asked Michael and Carolyn if they could help, too, since they’d gotten home from down river late the night before.

Before daylight, I got the calves in from the orchard, into the calving pen, and when Andrea and Dani arrived we took them across the creek to the lane where we load trailers. Phil arrived early, and we put 3 of the cows in with the 15 calves, and Michael and Carolyn got her in time to help load them. The old cows went into the trailer ok and eventually we got all the calves in, too.

It was a tight fit, however, and after Phil went up our steep driveway (with the cattle jamming back against the door) the pin at the bottom of the back doors popped up. When Phil stopped at Baker to check on things before heading onto the highway, he saw that the doors were bulging open at the bottom and one critter had a leg down through between the doors and the trailer floor. So he called us on his cell phone to say he was coming back up the creek and needed to unload and take off one of the cows.

We dreaded having to reload those animals, since it had been a difficult push to load them the first time. We couldn’t have done it without the extra help from Michael and Carolyn, and they’d gone back home. When Phil arrived and backed up to the loading lane again, luckily one of our good old calm cows was standing at the back door, ready to come out, and all we had to do was open it a little bit and let her step out of the trailer, and quickly shut the door again, without having to unload all those calves.

Then we had to make sure the pin at the bottom of the door didn’t pop up again, and used a battery-powered drill to make holes to put a wire through and secure the pin. By that time, we’d lost an hour of travel time for Phil, and he didn’t get there until after the sale started. The calves didn’t sell until nearly the end of the sale, so they were in the corral most of the day without feed or water and were pretty “shrunk” by the time they did sell. They brought average price (which was a lot lower than average prices last year), but weighed more than we thought they would, which was one consolation. The two cows would be held there a few more days, to be sold at the regular sale the next Tuesday. Phil got back at 7 p.m. and brought us the calf check, and I paid him for the hay we purchased from him this fall. We still owe a small balance, but will pay that after we sell the other cull cows later.

It snowed that afternoon, and again the next day; with 5 inches of new snow. Lynn was still dizzy for several more days, and went to the doctor that next Monday. His blood pressure was a bit low so the doctor had him quit taking one of his medications, and the dizziness resolved.

Then the weather moderated (up to 50 degrees this last Tuesday and our low snow melted. That afternoon Andrea and I went to the 320 on her 4-wheeler and parked it on the ridge by the cross fence gate.
Andrea left the 4-wheeler on the ridge
We climbed over the gate and hiked up Baker Creek to check on our cows. I took some photos as we hiked along the old jeep road down into Baker Creek. Andrea checked the hillside across the canyon, looking for cows, and to see if there was much ice on the lower water trough.
Andrea hiking into Baker Creek
Andrea checking the hillside across Baker Creek looking for the cows
There was a fair amount of snow and the trails and side-hills were slippery. My left leg was still quite painful to lift very much so I used a couple of walking sticks to help steady myself on the 1.5 mile hike. The ice wasn’t very bad in Baker Creek; the cows wouldn’t have much trouble finding places to drink.

There weren’t any cattle in Baker Creek however and we hiked clear to the top and out to the ridge, then partway around toward Preacher’s Spring before we found them. They seemed to be doing ok and there was still plenty of grass that wasn’t snowed under.
hiking up the trail out of Baker Creek and out to the ridge
Andrea checking the upper end of the 320, looking for cows
The next few days were fairly warm and the snow settled even more.

On Friday Lynn and I took care of baby Christopher while Em was at work—while Andrea and Dani went up to the 320 and checked on the cows again. It took a while to find them because the snow had melted on the shady side of the mountain and the cows were able to graze in the timber. Andrea took a photo of Dani having lunch at the lower water trough.
Dani having lunch at trough
That night was stormy and the wind blew all night—and blew down a huge branch off the elm tree in our front yard. Fortunately it missed the house and didn’t damage our roof. It blew so hard that it took the black plastic off one end of our haystack, exposing one row (8 big bales), but our ropes and tie-downs held on the rest of the stack. That afternoon Lynn and Andrea shut off a couple of our ditches more securely (packing dirt in around the head-gates) to make sure they don’t leak during winter and create ice flows in our fields. We wanted to get this job done while it was still possible to get bucket-loads of dirt before it froze up.

I took care of Christopher for awhile, since Emily was at work, and I took photos of him in his stroller.
Christopher in his stroller checking out our messy house
Yesterday it got cold—down to 13 degrees with a high of 30 degrees. Lynn hiked down to check on the young cows in the lower back field, and then used our 4-wheeler to drag the big branches out of our front yard. I made a big pot of chili and fed Andrea’s kids supper when they got home from the weekend with their dad.

Today was even colder—10 degrees this morning, with a high of 20 degrees this afternoon. I plugged the tractor in early this morning so it would start late this afternoon to take a new big bale of hay to the bulls. Our pickup is leaking antifreeze—and needs a new water pump. Andrea brought her old Explorer down here for us to drive to town to my doctor’s appointment. The doctor wants to schedule an Echo exam to check my heart. While we were in town we both got our flu shots.

NOVEMBER 13 – We had a week of cold weather, down toward zero several nights (and one night 5 below zero) and a little more snow. Winter came early! Andrea checked the cow’s water several times on the 320 and broke ice on the lower water trough, but the cows have been staying fairly high and drinking at the top end in Baker Creek where a spring comes out of the hill and doesn’t freeze up until it gets toward the creek.

We had to abandon the water trough in the field above the house for the 4 cows that we were going to sell; the ice built up in it too much. I hauled 4 plastic tubs up there with the wheelbarrow and we watered the cows in those; it’s much easier to dump the ice out of them.

We had our pickup towed to town to a mechanic who put in a new water pump and checked the thermostat and changed the oil. It’s great to have it back again, since we gave our other car to Emily to drive to work.

Charlie, Sam and Dani all participated this year in the Salmon Idol singing contest. Charlie and Sam both sang, and all three performed in the Legacy Choir.
Charlie singing
Sam at Salmon Idol
all 3 kids singing in Legacy Choir
Friday November 1st Andrea took Dani to Idaho Falls for her orthodontist appointment to adjust her braces, and we took care of Christopher while Emily was at work and her nursing class.

The weather started moderating a little and was up to 30 degrees the next afternoon when Andrea and Dani went to the 320 to check on the cows and break ice. Last Sunday it got up to 38 degrees, but I still had to plug in the tractor so it would start that afternoon. Lynn used it to load on old mowing machine that a fellow wanted to buy from us. Emily bought a load of firewood and had it delivered here that afternoon. We’ll have to split it, and can divide it up between our house and Andrea’s. We’ll need to get quite a bit more wood, however, to have enough for winter.

That evening we had a birthday dinner at Andrea’s house for Dani, who is now 15 years old. It was a simple potluck with pizza and snacks; Lynn and I made a big potato salad and jello salad to take up there.

Last Monday Lynn went back to the doctor for a checkup. His blood pressure is staying normal without the blood pressure medication, and he hasn’t had any more dizziness, so the doctor told him to just continue on without the medication.

Tuesday afternoon got up to 50 degrees and Lynn chopped the ice out of the water tank above the house. For this past week the nighttime temperatures have been down around 20 degrees but it’s been thawing every afternoon—much more pleasant, and easier on the cattle than the zero weather we had earlier.

Wednesday night after Emily got home from work she and Andrea and Christopher headed for Salt Lake City, to be there on time Thursday for Christopher’s appointment at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. Andrea took a photo while they were there at the hospital.
Em & Christopher
The doctor there checked his feet and hips and took x-rays. The x-rays revealed what we already suspected about his little left foot—he’s missing the final bone in the three tiny middle toes. His hip joints aren’t fully formed yet; the head of the bones that fit into the sockets are not complete. The doctor wants to see him again in 6 months. While they were in Salt Lake they visited old friends and staff at the Burn Center.

A cougar has been hanging around, killing deer. It was perched on the jackfence in our swamp pasture the next night when Emily came home from work at midnight. We hope it will leave our cattle and horses alone!

Emily and baby Christopher, and Charlie and his girlfriend ate supper with us, and I took photos of Andrea feeding him. At 7 month’s old, he’s very eager to eat real food like the big people.
Christopher eating dinner with us
Andrea feeding Christopher
Christopher wants to eat it all at once
Sunday was warm, up to 50 degrees. Michael, Carolyn and Nick put their cattle through the chute on the upper place and vaccinated their cows and calves, and Andrea helped them. Dr. Cope preg-checked the cows and bangs vaccinated the heifer calves. A few more were open than usual, partly due to lack of good pasture this summer and fall because the watermaster shut off their irrigation water at least 3 weeks too soon. There was still adequate water in the creek (and Alfonso’s water wasn’t even being regulated—with face plates not in the head-gates and ditches running wide open), and that discrimination cost Michael and Carolyn a lot, in lost production on their cattle (some open cows, and less weight on their calves).

They weaned their calves and will take them to the sale in about a week. Monday morning they loaded their cull cows—the open ones and a few really old ones—to haul to the auction yard near Butte, Montana, to sell on Tuesday. The roads were really bad going over the mountains, with snow on top of ice, which made their trip slower and more risky, pulling a trailer. Our 4 cull cows (that we’d hoped to sell earlier when the market was still better—but didn’t have a ride for them to the sale) we got in from the field Sunday evening, waiting to go on a second trip with Michael and Carolyn.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - September 25 through October 17, 2019

OCTOBER 1 – Last Wednesday was a really hectic day. I got up early and typed an interview for an article before chores, then Andrea and Stan came down to our place after breakfast and helped Lynn and me put black plastic over our big haystack of round bales. Using one big roll of plastic was a little easier than using multiple big tarps, but was still a challenge because the wind was blowing and making it difficult to hold it in place until we got it securely tied down. Also there were no grommets (like a tarp would have) to tie to, and we couldn’t just put holes in the plastic for our strings, or they would tear out. We made “ears” by tying a small rock into folds at the edge, to make a lump to hold the baling twines, so they would not pull off the slick black plastic. Thus we were able to tie the plastic securely to the sides of the stack all round, and added long twines over the top at each valley between those top bales. It was a little tricky to keep from sliding around or falling off the stack—especially in the wind—so Andrea took her shoes off to have better traction with her bare feet.

Then we put small tarps over the last load of round bales that Phil Moulton hauled the day before to our main stackyard. That was a lot easier!

After lunch Andrea took the big dam out of the creek at our #7 ditch headgate. We are done irrigating for the year, and need to have the watermaster take the locks off the headgates so we can shut them all securely before winter. We don’t want ice flows over our fields from leaking ditches.

That afternoon Andrea and I rode Willow and Dottie to the Gooch place to look for Michael and Carolyn’s missing cows. When they moved their cows a few days earlier to the Wild Meadow from their leased pasture, they were short 2 pair and didn’t have time to look for them because they had to leave that afternoon to take a trailer load of fencing materials to their custom fencing job down the river to Colson Creek and would be gone a week.

The most likely place their missing cattle might be would be in the Gooch place; they could have easily gone through the bad fence between their leased pasture and Alfonso’s pasture on the Gooch place. So we rode up the back side of the Gooch place checking through Alfonso’s cattle (and saw a few stray range cows in there), went up briefly into Cheney Creek (no cattle in there—just bare ground and not much grass because the range cattle had gotten in earlier and eaten it all.
riding in the Cheney Creek pasture
We then rode down the front side of the Gooch place—and found both pairs of Michael’s. The next challenge was to sort them out of Alfonso’s cows. His cattle are wild and spooky and were all leaving the area while we tried to gently and slowly get the two pairs of Michael’s together. They were at two different ends of the field, with other cattle. We had to bring one pair up along a cross-fence and through a gate into the front part of the field so we could get the two pairs together, and then head them toward the gate out onto the road--that Andrea had hurriedly opened.

We got the two pairs together but the older cow (one that Michael is leasing from another rancher) was trying hard to run the wrong direction to go with the departing cows of Alfonso’s. Dottie and I galloped back and forth to stop that cow’s wild charges in the wrong direction, and then the young cow and her calf took off back down the field, heading for the gate in the cross-fence. Andrea galloped after her on Willow, who is still very green when it comes to chasing wild cows, and also a bit clumsy. Andrea was reluctant to let her gallop at full speed through the humpty-bump boggy pasture, but realized she would never beat the cow to the gate—so she let Willow run. It was the first time she’d ever let her run full speed and that mare put on a blaze of speed and got to the gate ahead of the cow and turned her before she could get through it.

We eventually got the two pairs back together and out the gate onto the road and Andrea was ecstatic to realize that Willow CAN outrun a cow, likes to chase cattle, and can stop and turn quickly, and has more agility (picking up her feet better and not so clumsy) when going full speed than when just trudging along at a walk or trot. There’s hope for that mare yet, as a cowhorse. Once we had those pairs out on the road they behaved nicely and we took them on up the road another mile to the upper place, and put them into the Wild Meadow with their buddies.

While we were doing that, my cousin Naida West and her friend Joe arrived for a visit (on their way back to California from a trip to Montana) and Lynn visited with them until we got home. It was fun to see Naida; she’s one of my favorite cousins and I hadn’t seen her for many years.

That evening I called our cows and calves down from the field by Andrea’s house and locked them in the hold pen and main corral for overnight so they’d be easy to get in the next morning for preg-checking. I cooked a big pot of chili and fed Andrea’s kids supper. On their way home after dark, driving through the corrals, the kids saw a bear cub that darted ahead of them and went through the gate into the stackyard. Probably its mama is the bear that’s been living there in the creek bottom eating chokecherries, wild apples and cleaning up the entrails from our butchering.

The next morning Andrea and Stan came down early and we got the cows and calves sorted before the vet arrived to preg check the cows. Stan helped push cows up the alley to the squeeze chute and we vaccinated them. All of them were pregnant but one, but we’re going to sell several of the older cows as well as the one open cow. After we got the cows finished, we put the calves through the chute for their vaccinations (and Dr. Cope gave the heifers their brucellosis vaccination) and Andrea put in the nose flaps. Here are a couple photos of her putting in the nose flaps, for weaning.
Andrea putting in nose flap
Here are photos of one of the steer calves with his nose flap, and one of the heifer calves (Pandemonium, daughter of Panda).
nose flap in Pandemonium (Panda's calf)
Then we put them all the cows and calves in the little pasture above the house, where there’s good grass for the calves during their weaning. They still have mama for company but they can’t nurse because the nose flaps keep them from getting a teat in their mouth. We vaccinated the bulls, and had lunch, then Andrea and Stan helped Lynn unhook the tractor from the baler so he could hook up the swather and put it away for winter.

Friday morning Andrea and Stan left to drive to California. She will spend two weeks with him and get to meet his kids and family and see some places she’s never been before. Lynn and I took another big bale to the bulls in the back pen; they’d run out of hay. Then Emily dropped off Christopher for us to take care of when she went to work that afternoon. He enjoyed swinging in the archway between living-room and dining room. All our grandkids enjoyed that swing when they were little, and now it is entertaining the next generation.
Christopher in his swing
Lynn pushing Christopher's swing
faster, faster!
Saturday was windy and cold. We tended Christopher again when Em went to work. It started raining that afternoon and changed to snow by Sunday morning. Lynn left early that morning with his sister Jenelle to drive to Billings, Montana for their sister Edna’s husband’s funeral. The roads were terrible for the first part of their journey, with a lot of snow, and they were only able to go about 35 mph. The roads got better the farther east they went and they made it to Billings in time to meet with the family and enjoy some visiting. The funeral yesterday was really nice, and the get-together and dinner afterward, then Lynn and Jenelle convoyed back to Missoula, Montana that evening with their sister Ann and her son, trying to get partway home before the next bad storm hit. They stayed overnight in a motel there and came on home today.

I took photos around our barnyard of the new snow that weekend. It was certainly a plunge into winter at the end of September!
snow in the barnyard
I took care of Christopher while Em was at work those two days while Lynn was gone, and put him in his playpen while I was outside doing chores. He’s starting to crawl now (at 6 months of age) and it’s not safe to leave him anywhere he can move around! Yesterday morning we had 5 inches of new snow here, on top of what we already had (8 inches on the upper place).

I took photos of some of the horses and haystacks.
Dottie waiting for supper
snowy hay
hay safe under the black plastic
It was cold this morning (26 degrees) so the snow didn’t melt very much. Our calves were wet, cold and miserable. It was terrible weather for weaning, but they still had mom for comfort—which eased their stress--and none of them got sick. I took photos of some of the cows and calves in the snow, including Pandemonium (Panda’s heifer calf) with her nose flap. The phones weren’t working today; we couldn’t call anyone’s cell phones and couldn’t call long distance so I had to cancel several phone interviews I was scheduled to do.
cool calf
cows & calves in snow
cows & their weaning calves

OCTOBER 10 – The day after Lynn got home from Billings, he and I took our cows and calves to the corral and separated them. We put the calves down the chute and took off their nose flaps, then took them to the pens by the calving barn and sorted them—putting the keeper heifers in the field below the barn and the calves we’ll be selling in the orchard. Then we put all their mothers in the field by Andrea’s house. After not being nursed for 5 days, the cows are starting to dry up their milk, and are not so disparate to get back to their calves.

The next few nights were cold, well below freezing, but the afternoons were warm enough to start melting the snow, so the calves are able to graze in their pastures. Christopher and I both have colds. Lynn and I have been taking care of him during the afternoons and evenings Emily works, since Andrea was still in California with Stan. We made a space for him to safely crawl/roll around in our livingroom, fenced off with pillows that at this point he can’t crawl over, and he has fun in his play area.
Christopher playing in his floor space fenced around with pillows
Christopher in our living room
I took photos of him the next couple days, too, when Em came to pick him up and take him back home. Lynn bought him some jeans but the legs were too long and the waist too small, so he had to exchange them for bigger ones (for a 4- year-old kid!) and roll up the legs to fit him.
Christopher in his rolled up jeans
Christopher bundled up and ready to go out to the car
Saturday morning one of the Amish young men called us to say that several of them had been hunting elk and that one of them had shot an elk behind Bodenhamer’s ranch (on the other side of the low range) and it came toward our place. He thought it would go up toward our 320-acre mountain pasture and asked if they could go in there to look for it. I told him that Michael’s horses were in part of that pasture. Then John Miller’s son Sy called to say they’d tracked the elk (by blood trail) and it had come through our lower hill pasture and across the road and into our Heifer Hill field. They wanted permission to go look for it down in the brush along the creek. They also wanted a ride up to our place since they’d gone down to Millers to call us. So Lynn drove down to Millers ranch and brought them and their bicycles up to our field and they hiked down to the creek to look for the elk.

Just before dark we got a call from a Fish and Game officer to say that he needed to come pick up an illegal elk. Apparently when Sy and the other Amish boys finally caught up with the wounded elk—which by then had gone across the creek into the field with our cows—they discovered it was not a cow elk, but a bull. The season was only open for cow elk in a special hunt (to reduce the elk herds that are coming into private property and eating crops). So rather than kill it and have to pay a big fine, Sy and the boys had gone back home to call the Fish and Game.

They all came back to our place after dark, and Lynn took them across to that field through our barnyard, where they could drive without getting stuck in the swamp pasture where the elk was—and the Fish and Game officer shot the elk. Lynn loaned them some long ropes so they could drag the carcass across the bog without trying to drive to it and get stuck in the mud.

Sunday night I made another big pot of chili and some corn bread and had all of Andrea’s kids (and some of their friends) here for dinner, including Emily and baby Christopher.

Monday and Tuesday were warmer and the rest of our snow on the fields melted. Lynn and I took another big bale of hay to the bulls with the tractor on Monday, and the next day we moved the steers from the orchard and horse pasture and put them down with our keeper heifers in the field below the lane. We’d hoped to sell the steers by now, but Michael and Carolyn are still down river working on their big fencing job and there’s no way they’ll be able to take our calves to the sale anytime soon. There’s more grass in the bigger field (that we’d been saving for fall pasture for the heifers, to hopefully last the heifers into November) so we just put all the calves there for awhile until we can get the steers sold.

By that evening it started raining and during the night turned to snow. It was a nasty, windy storm, and blew a big branch off our elm tree in the front yard; it barely missed the roof. By morning we had 5 inches of new snow.

Stan and Andrea started their drive home that day and stayed overnight at Elko, Nevada, finishing their trip today, arriving late evening. Today was cold (22 degrees this morning, with a high of 32 degrees this afternoon) so it looks like the snow won’t be melting any time soon. I had to break ice off the calves’ water trough.

This morning Nick was able to get Michael and Carolyn’s horses out of the lower segment of the 320-acre pasture and put them back in the 160-acre pasture where they will spend the winter. Now we can take the cows to the 320.

OCTOBER 17 – Last Friday was quite cold (10 degrees that morning) and the 5 inches of snow was challenging for our calves to graze the frozen grass, so I took a wheelbarrow load of my horse hay out for them to give them a little encouragement. Our calves are fairly gentle and even though they are not used to having someone feed them, most of them were curious enough to come check out the hay and were eating it. I broke the thick ice out of their water tank. We need to hook up their tank heater!

We’d hoped to move our cows to the 320 that day, but there wasn’t enough time after we got all the morning chores accomplished. Andrea and Stan went to the kids’ football game that evening (Sam and Charlie were playing in the pep band) and Lynn and I took care of Christopher here, since Em was working and it was too cold to take him to the game.

Saturday was a bit warmer (18 degrees in the morning and up to 50 degrees by mid-afternoon). Now that I had help (with Andrea home from California, and Dani here for the weekend and not at Mark’s place) we were finally able to take some cows to the 320 for fall pasture. They were running out of grass in the field by Andrea’s house. After breakfast I called the cows down to the hold pen, and put them in the corral. Lynn and I sorted them into 3 groups. We took the 6 cows we plan to sell and put them in the field above the house; there is still a little grass there after having the pairs there for a week during nose-flap weaning. We put the young cows (pregnant heifers and the ones that just weaned off their first calves) in the back lower field where there is still a little grass. The rest of the cows can be on the 320 until snow gets too deep up there.

Andrea and Dani came down after we had the cows sorted, and we got our horses ready to ride. Dani rode Ed (who hadn’t been ridden for over a month) and Andrea rode Willow. We knew it would be a challenge taking the cows up the road to the 320, having to go along the Gooch place with the fence flat in several places. We’ve hauled them to the upper place, the past few years, and then taken them and Michael’s cows on up to the 320. But Michael and Carolyn were still down river on their fence job and their stock trailer is what they are camping in.

So, we gambled on being able to get our herd of cows past all the bad fences without losing any into Alfonso’s fields. It was interesting, because the younger cows in our group have never been on the 320, didn’t know where they were going, and weren’t happy about leaving some of their buddies at home. The whole herd got spooked and flighty when we went past one bloody place on the road where hunters had apparently shot, gutted or loaded up a deer. Some cows wanted to turn back and run home, and all the way along the Gooch place some were trying to go off the road and along the bad fence to go in with Alfonso’s cows. Dottie and I had to hustle along the steep bank and up and down it to try to keep the cows on the road while Andrea and Dani pushed the herd along and tried to keep them all together.

We made it all the way past the fields and neighbor’s open gates and past Michael’s cows on the upper place, and thought we had the worst of it behind us when we got them up through the wire gate out of our upper road pasture and headed across a small area of BLM land to get to our 320-acre mountain pasture. That’s when things got a bit challenging, with bad footing (slippery mud on the trail and 6 inches of snow on the hillsides) and a couple of young cows who were determined to cut back and go home.

First, one of them left the herd that we were taking up the trail, and crossed over the big gully. Dani went across on Ed, hoping Ed wouldn’t slip in the snow. She managed to turn the cow around and head her back up country, to eventually get back across the gully and join the herd.

Then I started to go up past the cattle to go open the gate into the 320 and another young cow left the herd on the other side and ran up the hill. Dani started after her but the cow had a head start and the hillside was slippery, so Andrea took off after the cow, too, trying get ahead of the cow—and they all went over the hill, heading back down toward the gate we’d come through, which we’d left open, knowing we would be coming back home this way. I realized that they might not be able to beat the cow to the open gate, so I galloped back down the muddy, slippery trail on Dottie to try to get to the gate ahead of the cow if she came back over the hill. She did, and was running hard toward the gate, but Dottie and I were just about there, too, and left the trail to head off the cow.

We headed the cow away from the gate, but Dottie tripped in the sagebrush and went head over heels at full speed, slamming me into the mud and rolling over the top of me. My face was flat in the mud and I heard bones crunch and knew she’d broken my nose and some face bones as she rolled on over me. Andrea and Willow were right behind me—we’d come together at the same moment to head the cow away from the gate-- and Andrea was afraid Willow was going to run over me, but she managed to stop. Andrea baled off and told me to not try to get up, but I was already staggering to my feet.

The cow had gone down along the fence into the gully (unable to go through the gate) and Dottie had gotten up off the ground and went through the gate but didn’t try to run off. Dani was pretty upset and weeping, after watching me crash, but went to get Dottie, talking softly to her and getting hold of her reins so she wouldn’t go any farther.

Andrea wanted to just get me home right then, but this was not a good place to leave the cows—out on the BLM range. We had to get them on up to our 320 pasture. I insisted that I could ride, and got back on my horse, though my nose was streaming blood (the broken nose was gushing and I was spitting out lots of blood) and my eyes were unable to focus together. I was able to see, but a totally different picture with each eye. I had to keep one eye shut the rest of the time. Andrea took a photo of me, back on my horse, with the blood streaming down my face.
smashed face after horse wreck
By the time I got back on Dottie and we started back up the trail to follow the cows, our herd had already gone quite a ways and were almost to the 320 gate, so we sent Dani up there to get around them and open the gate for them, while Andrea and I followed the herd. We didn’t worry about the wayward cow that had run down along the fence into the gully. I figured she’d eventually come back to the gate and go through it and end up down on the road by the field next to Michael’s cows and we’d just put her in with them on our way home.

We were following the cows up through the bottom part of the 320, to take them up the jeep road to the gate on top of the saddle—to put them through the crossfence. About that time I heard our herd-quitter cow bawling, sounding closer than if she’d gone through the gate and down to the field. Realizing that maybe she’d followed us, I sent Dani down to open the 320 gate and check (since we’d shut that gate, to make sure we didn’t lose anybody else if any other cows decided to run back down).

The young cow did follow the herd and was waiting at the gate when Dani got down there. The cow probably didn’t even go back up along the fence to the open wire gate she’d tried to run through; she probably just went up the draw following our herd, knowing she’d been left behind. So we were lucky, and had our herd all back together again. We took them up the steep jeep road and through the crossfence gate into the Baker Creek side of the 320 where there is still a lot of good grass. It’s the only part of our upper pasture that the range cows didn’t break into this fall!

I hadn’t taken any photos on our trek from the ranch, since we were too busy just trying to keep the cattle going the right direction. As we got to the top of the hill to the crossfence gate, I dug my camera out of my saddlebag and was relieved that it still worked and wasn’t smashed, and I took photos of Dani following the cows.
Dani following the herd up the hill
By the time we got them through the gate, my nose wasn’t bleeding so badly, but my eyes were still messed up and seeing double, and my left leg was becoming very painful. I took a few more photos as Dani headed the cows over the hill and toward Baker Creek.
putting cows through the gate
cows heading down into Baker Creek from the crossfence gate
I knew my leg wasn’t broken, but it was badly bruised and swelling up. The calf muscle was painful and it was getting harder to keep my foot in the stirrup because the Achilles tendon was also becoming very sore and the ankle quite stiff. On the way home down the mountain I had to leave my foot out of the stirrup with that leg dangling, trying to keep the calf muscle from bumping the stirrup leathers. It was a little easier when we got back down to the road where the ground was not so steep. It was still several more miles to ride home, and I was ready to get off my horse by the time we got there!

Dani unsaddled Dottie for me and put her back in her pen while I went in the house and cleaned up my face gently (covered with mud and blood) and put DMSO on my swollen leg. I also dissolved a couple bute tablets in water (not for me!) for Andrea to give to Ed, so that old mare wouldn’t be too stiff and sore the next day from her gallant exertions for Dani chasing cows.

Stan had been taking care of Christopher when Em went to work that afternoon, and Lynn had planned on helping, but a friend from north Idaho who was hunting in our area came by with a deer he’d shot and wanted to hang somewhere at our place, so Lynn had taken him up to Andrea’s place to hang it in our new meat room. They’d just finished doing that when we got home on our horses.

Andrea and Lynn insisted that I get checked at the hospital, so Stan drove us (and baby Christopher) to town in his pickup and I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening in the ER. I got to meet Dr. Anne Healy, the new young doctor that Em goes to with Christopher for his baby checkups. She’s very nice and very thorough. She checked me all over and insisted that I have a CT scan on my face and head, and wanted x-rays of my leg. I knew that none of my leg bones were broken (and they were not) but knew that I’d broken my nose and maybe my left cheek bone. I wasn’t worried about the nose; it’s been broken twice before--many years ago, by a mare that always threw her head up when she jumped over sagebrush when chasing a cow. She actually did me a favor breaking my nose because it left scar tissue in those nasal passages and I no longer had the frequent and horrific nosebleeds that plagued me my whole life up to that point.

Anyway I was very fortunate that only my face had some broken bones; my arms, legs, back, ribs, head etc. were fine. I was really lucky, and glad that Dottie is a very small horse; when she rolled over the top of me she didn’t crush anything but my face! Dr. Healy was worried about the eye-socket fracture, however, and thought that might be why I was having double vision (because the socket is involved with muscles that control eye movement), even though I was able to see a little better by that time. I could focus both eyes together except when looking at something higher than right in front of me.

Dr. Healy called a specialist in Missoula, Montana and sent the CT scan images to him—and he made a special trip to his office to view them. He wanted to see me to have a closer check on the damage. So I had to make an appointment for Wednesday.

While Lynn and I waited in the ER, Andrea and Stan did the town errands. The grandkids
all came in to check on me. Later Charlie and Sam went home to water the cows and calves and fill our wood-box, and Andrea left her car for us to come home in. She and Dani fed my horses and started the fire in our stove (it had gone out). It was after dark by the time the doctor released me from the ER and Lynn and I came home. I was weak and wobbly by that time (no much to eat for quite a while) and my blood pressure was still low (it was REALLY low when they first checked it at the ED). I don’t know how much blood I actually lost, but I was woozy and getting sick to my stomach by the time we got home from our ride. I had to drink some milk and gulp down a little stew broth before they took me to the hospital (which helped my stomach). Fortunately I’d made a big pot of stew the day before, planning to have something for the crew to eat when we got back from moving the cows. Stan and Lynn had some for their lunch after we took the cows up the road, and Lynn and I had some for supper that night.

I put a lot more DMSO on my leg (which was very swollen and sore) and went to bed early, and wasn’t too miserable, though I did get up in the night and take Advil and put more DMSO on my leg—especially the knee, since those bones were aching severely. Sunday morning I got up early as usual and was able to type an interview and finish an article even though my eyes were still giving me problems, but doing better than the day before. The DMSO helped reduce the leg pain and swelling, and walking around doing chores that morning helped limber up my very stiff leg. I was able to actually walk (though short-strided) rather than hobble. Lynn insisted on going out to help with my chores but I was able to manage pretty well.

Later that morning Andrea and Stan took blocks of salt to the 320, and up the ridge on two 4-wheelers, and were glad to see that our cows had gone partway up Baker Creek. Hearing the 4-wheelers, the cows went on up to the top and found the salt Andrea dropped off (one block at the top gate in Baker Creek and the other block out on the ridge toward Preacher’s Spring). There’s still quite a bit of snow on the north-facing slope in the timber, but the south side of the 320 has bared off and the cows won’t have any trouble grazing until the next deep snow.

Stan had to go back to California Monday, so Sunday afternoon Andrea helped him gather and load up some things she wanted to send with him, including an antique hutch and coffee table, and several boxes of old horseshoes (ones we’ve pulled off our horses over the years). He makes beautiful yard decorations with old horseshoes.

Michael and Carolyn got home late Sunday evening from a long week building fence down river, and spent Monday doing laundry, getting groceries, going to the chiropractor (it was a brutal week for them) and getting ready to go back down there again that afternoon to try to finish the job before the end of this week.

I was pretty stiff and sore that day but doing better, and able to type a few more articles and do my chores. Lynn helped Andrea shut off ditch #9 for winter, so it won’t make an ice flow on heifer hill. It was shut off earlier (we hadn’t used it for a couple months, with the creek short of water and part of our water right shut off) but after the watermaster took the locks off Alfonso must have started using it illegally, because that ditch was running again these past couple weeks.

Tuesday my leg was less stiff and sore, though still hard to bend the knee very much. The DMSO has really helped, and walking around twice a day doing chores also helps limber up the stiff tendons and muscles. Lynn and Andrea got an extension cord and ran it from the calving barn across the pens and over to the water tank’s heating element (for the calves in the field below the lane) so we can keep the water from freezing over. At evening chores I laid out hay for all the horses so I could feed them in the dark early the next morning before Andrea and I went to Missoula for my appointment with the specialist to examine my facial injuries.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - September 5 through Sept 25, 2019

SEPTEMBER 12 – We had a few hot days early this past week then the weather cooled off. A week ago we put Lida Rose in the chute again and redid her bandage on her foot. The hoof is continuing to grow down over the exposed raw tissue; it’s grown about an inch and a half in the past 3 months and is looking good.
Andrea cutting old bandage off
broken hoof is healing well
I trimmed her extra-long good toe; it has grown too long, being bandaged for 3 months without any wear on it. The bandage will also stay on longer without having to be so long in front to cover the too-long good toe.
hoof is more balanced after I trimmed the long toe
A couple days later we decided that even though the broken toes growing and would eventually be solid, sound and healthy again, it’s probably going to take too long to have it all healed up (without having to periodically bandage it) before winter. We don’t want her to have to walk around in mud or deep snow with just a bandage to protect it, so we may have to butcher that heifer. She has grown a lot in the past 3 months and is in good shape, so she would be fine to butcher, but we need a good place to hang and cool the carcass. This time of year the weather can be cool but it also can be hot. A few years ago when Dani shot her first elk in late September, the weather was so hot that we couldn’t get the meat cooled out enough, and it ruined.

So, we decided to go ahead and build a meat room/cool room where we could keep a carcass cool in summer and warm in winter—if we have to someday butcher something in the winter. We’ve had problems in the past, trying to cut up a solidly frozen carcass when we had to butcher a cow in cold weather. 

Andrea had a small shed near her house that she decided to convert into the new meat room. It needed a real door, and better insulation. She and her friend Stan cleared out all the things that had been stored in there, and started the remodeling project. Lynn helped, and supplied some lumber and tools. We bought more materials and some insulation to put in the walls and ceiling. The project is now well along, but the race is on, to see if we can get it finished before the current bandage comes off Lida Rose’s foot—because we don’t want to have to put her in the chute again for re-bandaging.

Meanwhile, Andrea took Sam to the doctor (she was complaining of abdominal pain) and discovered she had a bladder infection, so she is now on antibiotics. Lynn had his checkup with the heart doctor (it’s been a year since his second stent procedure) and he is doing well.

Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us some photos of their garden harvest, which Joseph enjoyed helping pick. He’s a very good “helper” at age 2 ½ years old.
Joseph & garden bounty
bounty from Joseph's garden
We had some rain a week ago—the first real rain we’ve had for a while—which will help our very dry conditions and augment our tiny bit of irrigation water. We bought some tarps to put on our haystacks but haven’t had a chance to put them on yet; it rained before we got the tarps on and now the stacks need to dry out!

Andrea has a bad cold, and between all the things that are going on, working on the meat room project, etc. we haven’t ridden the horses all week. We moved the cows from the lower back field and put them up on the field below heifer hill, but we didn’t need horses for that; the cows will follow us anywhere, knowing they are going to new pasture.

Michael and Carolyn are trying to find time to get their filly Clarice “Peaches” started, and made a longer ride this past weekend—out into the middle range pasture. There is no grass left out on the range; Alfonso’s and Miller’s cows have eaten it all.

On Sunday it rained a little again and was cool all day. Monday I took advantage of the mud making Sprout’s feet softer and trimmed her feet. We only rode her a few times this spring, because of her stiff knee, and didn’t put shoes on her. By now her feet had grown too long and were starting to splay and break a little. It was time to trim them.

Monday night was quite cool; there was frost on everything Tuesday morning but my hoses didn’t freeze. Later that day Lynn went to the clinic for an echocardiogram, a test on his heart to check its function. The results were ok.

Yesterday the guys who have cattle out on the range next to us on the south side of the ranch gathered all the cows that had drifted home (including the ones we chased out of Michael’s place earlier) and pushed them back up above our Cheney Creek pasture and dumped them there, rather than take them clear back to the range pasture they are supposed to be in this time of year. Some of those cows came right back down into our Cheney Creek pasture, pushing over the fence that Michael fixed earlier.

Today Lynn and Stan finished making the forms for the concrete footings for the front wall of the meat house and Andrea went to town for more materials. This afternoon Alfonso and John Miller brought about 15 cows (and their calves) down the road from the Gooch place –some of the stray range cows that went into Alfonso’s field last week about the same time some went into our Cheney Creek pasture. Those cattle, just like Miller’s and Alfonso’s cattle on our old range on the other side, are out of grass and going through every fence they can get through to find something to eat.

Today I hiked up to the field above the house to check on those cows and calves and took some photos of the cows and calves. The calves are really growing fast and some are getting quite large.
cows & calves
One of our calves in that field has pinkeye and we’ll need to treat it soon. I took photos of her eye, trying to show how cloudy it is, but the eye is so sore that she is holding it shut. Sunlight hurts it, and the eye is watering.
calf with pinkeye

SEPTEMBER 19 – Last week the weather was hot again for a few days, up to 80 degrees. On Friday morning Andrea took Sam to the doctor again for another checkup; Sam is still on antibiotics for her bladder and kidney problem. Then Andrea helped Lynn and Stan pour concrete for the meat house foundation. Afterward she and Stan drove up to the 320 in her little jeep to make sure no range cattle had gotten into that pasture. They drove on up through the high range and were appalled at the lack of grass and how skinny the cows are; Alfonso and Millers should have taken those cows home a couple weeks ago or earlier (before they broke into our 160-acre pasture).

On Saturday Millers and Alfonso did start rounding up, bringing cattle down to the Gooch place, sorting off Millers and taking those on down the road and around to their place (Kosslers old place). Now we won’t have to worry so much about having stray cows break into the 320, but we still have problems on the other side of us. That evening about 120 cows broke into our Cheney Creek pasture—some of the same ones that were in there earlier, plus a lot more—because Mulkeys, Snooks and Jakovac simply pushed them up again instead of letting them go home. Michael and Carolyn saw the mob of cows in their pasture when they came home that evening, late and tired, after working on a fencing project all day, and hiked over there on foot to try to get those cows out. The cows kept running the wrong way, and they only got part of them out. They came across a lot of fresh bear poop in the brush and trees along the creek where bears had been eating chokecherries, and Carolyn was a little apprehensive crashing around through the brush, not too sure whether she would run into a bear. It got too dark to continue chasing cows so they had to give up.

The next morning at dawn when I went outside to do chores, the hill on this side of the Cheney Creek pasture (that I can see from our house) was black with cows and I counted more than 70 head. Michael and Carolyn had more time that day to get those cows out (on Sunday) and rode their horses—and managed to get most of them out. Then they went on another training ride with their filly, up into the Forks of Withington Creek, and saw a few cattle that Alfonso and Millers missed on their roundup. They hadn’t been up there for a while and were appalled at how every blade of grass and all the weeds had been eaten and the hungry cows had even eaten leaves off the trees as high as they could reach.

Andrea’s kids came from their dad’s place Sunday night (he had them for that weekend) and Dani was very sick with a high fever. It spiked even higher during the night and Andrea was up most of the night trying to get her fever back down—and took her to the doctor the next day and then to the ER for some tests. Her spleen is enlarged and her white blood count really low. The next day they admitted her to the hospital and had her on IVs and breathing treatments and got her temperature down a bit.

We moved the cows to the upper swamp pasture, and sorted out Cupie Doll and her calf (Cupricious) that has pinkeye. We brought that pair down to the little pen by the calving barn, put the calf in the headcatch, and gave her an injection of antibiotics. We also squirted a topical pinkeye antibiotic into that eye.
cloudy eye
Andrea squirting antibiotic into the eye
Since the painful, damaged eye needed protection from sunlight and anything that might bump it we also glued a patch over her eye to protect it from flies, sunlight and trauma (since she can’t see very well on that side). Lynn and Andrea applied a special glue to the edges of the eye patch.
putting glue around the edges of the patch
Then pressed they pressed it onto that side of the calf’s face firmly, so it would adhere to the surrounding hair and secure the patch. This is a very strong, long-lasting glue that will keep the eye patch on until the eye heals.
pressing the eye patch onto the calf's face
holding the eye patch in place and making sure the glue sticks
eye patch now securely glued on
Then we put Cupricious and her mom up through the main corral and on up to the swamp pasture to rejoin the herd.

Tuesday it started raining a little. Lynn and Stan finished building the doors for the meat room and got it finished, and put the air conditioner in its slot and turned it on. Andrea stayed in the hospital that night with Dani.
the finished meat room
Yesterday was cool and windy all day. I let the cows through the gate into the big field by Andrea’s house. Hopefully it will have enough grass to last until we preg-check the cows next week. Andrea brought Dani home from the hospital; she’s doing better but needs a lot of rest. I took care of Christopher all afternoon and evening when Emily went to work, and Lynn and Stan helped Andrea butcher and skin the heifer.

They used the tractor loader to lift her up for skinning and gutting. We were amazed at how big she was for being not quite 1½ years old; she grew a lot in the 3-plus months that we were bandaging her broken foot. She had plenty of fat even though she never had any grain; we simply fed her good hay through all that time. Our cattle are very efficient on grass and hay, and don’t need grain to finish nicely.
Lida rose carcass
Lynn, Andrea and Stan quartered the carcass and hauled it up to the new meat room and got the quarters hung inside—just before a major rainstorm. Here are photos of some of the quarters hanging in the new meat room.
quarters hanging in the meat house
The temperature in the cool room didn’t get as low as we’d hoped (just a little below 50 degrees) but that was low enough to adequately cool out the meat quarters. We may eventually have to get some kind of refrigeration unit for use during really hot weather, rather than depending on the air conditioner, but it worked well enough for now.

Andrea took Dani in for more tests and treatments today, but she is doing a little better. This evening it rained hard; we’re glad we have the heifer butchered and the meat safely in a sheltered, cool place.

SEPTEMBER 25 – Last Friday morning Andrea took Dani for another breathing treatment and she’s gradually been doing better.

The meat cooled out nicely in our new meat house and Andrea started cutting and wrapping that afternoon. Stan helped her bring the quarters into her kitchen. They used a 4-wheeler to transport the quarters to the house.
Stan helping Andrea with the meat
preparing to bring quarters into the house for cutting up
preparing to use the 4-wheeler to transport a quarter from the meat room to the house
Stan learned how to process meat, and they got one front quarter done that day. Lynn went to town for physical therapy; he’s been going twice a week for physical therapy on his hip and the therapist has been using acupuncture with electrical stimulation as well as special exercises, and he has less pain. We’ve also been using some CBD ointment on his back and hip and that seems to help, too.

While he was in town he got more freezer bags for Andrea, to put the meat in, and helped for a while with the cutting and wrapping. The next day he and Andrea and Stan finished processing another quarter.
cutting up meat
Stan helped trim some of the meat for grinding into hamburger
On Sunday they finished the hind quarters. Our relatively empty freezers are full again!
cutting meat
Andrea working on meat
I babysat Christopher when Emily went to work that afternoon, and put him in the baby swing (that we can hang from the archway between the dining room and living room) while I went outside to do chores. The swing is a safe place to leave him briefly because he is buckled in and he loves to swing. He’s just about ready to crawl, and scoots backward pretty well. Here are a couple photos of Christopher enjoying his swing (taken a few days later). All our grandkids enjoyed that swing when they were little.
Christopher swinging
On Monday Michael and Carolyn put their cows in the wild meadow and gopher meadow, with some protein tubs to augment the dry pasture. The green feed is all gone (thanks to not being able to irrigate since early June—with the watermaster shutting off their ditches too early, and unnecessarily, since there was still more than enough water in the creek to service the 1st right). They don’t want their cows losing weight or the calves not gaining/growing like they should. When they moved their cattle out of the little leased pasture below their place, however, they were short two pair—that might have gone through the bad fence into Alfonso’s field. They didn’t have time to go look for those cattle, however, since they had to get a bunch of materials purchased and loaded on the flatbed trailer and head down river to work on a huge custom fencing job.

That evening Lynn and I went to Andrea’s place for dinner.

Yesterday Andrea and Stan went to Idaho Falls. Phil Moulton hauled hay to the upper place for Michael and Carolyn and brought the last load of hay for us. Lynn and I put tarps on one of the haystacks in the stackyard, but it got too windy to put tarps on the other stack. The hay had nearly dried out after the last rain but we didn’t want to wait to start tarping the hay because it’s supposed to rain again this evening and possible snow by the weekend. Hopefully we can get the big stack covered (if it doesn’t get too windy) with Andrea and Stan to help us.

When we were putting the tarps on yesterday we noticed that the gut pile from our butchering was completely gone, and a bear had dragged the hide into the brush near the creek. The bear apparently tried to take the hide over the fence, but it got hung up and was draped over the fence. When I looked at what was left of the now non-existent gut pile, I found Stan’s pocket knife. The bear ate everything but the fold-up knife that Stan lost when he was helping butcher and skin Lida Rose.