Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Diary from Sky Range Ranch - December 10 through January 9, 2020

DECEMBER 19 – This past 10 days we’ve had cold weather, so we are glad the cows are down from the 320-acre mountain pasture. They were grazing for a while but then the snow got too deep and we had to start feeding hay. We fed the weaned heifers their first big bale of alfalfa hay (in a round bale feeder) on December 10, and started feeding the other cows a bit later.

I was glad I’d taken the shoes off Ed, Dottie and Willow. Andrea helped me get the hind shoes off Willow. Even though those shoes had been on a long time, they were still hard to pull off, and her feet were hard to trim. Andrea and I took turns holding her and working on her feet. There was still some tall green grass down alongside the second day pens by the calving barn, that wasn’t deeply covered with snow yet, and we let her graze there—which pacified her while we spent so much time struggling with her feet!

Stan brought his wood-splitter when he and Andrea came back from California and he spent a couple of days splitting the pile of aspen and cottonwood that Jim had sawed up last summer, down in the post pile pasture, and made several trips with our old feed truck hauling it up to Andrea’s house and to our house. It will help augment our diminishing pile of fir. Even though the fir burns hotter and lasts longer (much better for really cold weather and for holding a fire all night) the aspen and cottonwood will help fill in and help keep us from running out of wood this winter. We also bought several cords of pine. Two cords were delivered to Andrea’s house and Stan split that wood also, while he was here.

Michael and his fence crew (Nick and Colter) started the fence repair project to strengthen the old fence between our fields and the Gooch place--where Alfonso’s cows and horses keep reaching through and over the fence because they are often short of feed on his side. The wire have been stretched (and some broken) and many fence posts pushed out of line or broken off, so we are fixing that fence so nothing can get through it. Nick and Colter sawed out several patches of brush in the fence line so they could get to the fence to set new posts between all of the old ones. Michael brought the skid steer and a load of posts and they started setting posts. With all the cold weather there was several inches of frost, but the ground was not too frozen to drive the posts with Michael’s jack-hammer hydraulic pounder.

They also set new posts all along the fence line between the swamp pasture and the big field above the house. We built that fence in 1967 and it was also getting old and tired, with some posts rotted off. I took photos a few days later—of the posts they set along that
old fence, and the new brace they built.
new posts in old fence
new brace
They set a few posts in our corral where the old ones were getting wobbly, and some really tall posts along the runway to our squeeze chute. The old posts were rotting off and one of these days the cows were going to break them off—the poor old runway needed reinforcements.
new posts in corral
new tall posts for runway to chute
Andrea, Stan and Emily went to the kids’ Christmas concert at the school. Sam and Charlie played in the Jazz band, and all three kids were in the legacy choir this year. Lynn and I would like to have heard them sing and play, but we weren’t feeling quite up to going anywhere that evening, so we stayed home and took care of baby Christopher.

Last Thursday was an important day for Emily; she took her tests and passed them, and is now a Certified Nurse Assistant. All her efforts and long days (at classes and late nights working at her job) have paid off, and she’s accomplished the first step toward becoming a Registered Nurse.

It snowed more that day and put an end to any grazing, so Lynn and I put a bale of my horse hay on his 4-wheeler and lured the young cows out of the lower back field and up the lane below the barnyard. The ice flow across that lane (from a spring in the brush behind the bull corral) was treacherous because it was covered with snow and the cows couldn’t see it. I led most of them up along the ditch, luring them with a handful of hay, to encourage them to cross it farther up, where they only had to step across the frozen ditch. Most of them followed me, but one tried to come up the lane instead and she fell down on the snow-covered ice flow. Then she wasn’t brave enough to come at all and I had to go down around her and make her follow the herd, and I fell down on the ice, as well. Fortunately I landed on my “good” hip and leg (not the still-healing bruised leg from my horse crash in October) and didn’t hit my head on the ice, so I was fine.

After we got those young cows up through the barnyard and past my hay shed and through the little pasture above the house, we led them up the field where we’d put a bale feeder earlier, and fed them the little bale in their feeder. Andrea checked the creek later that afternoon and broke the ice where those cows have to go for water.

The next day we had even more snow and I plugged in the tractor early that morning. We were able to start it by mid-afternoon, and Lynn and I took a big bale to those young cows to put in their feeder. Andrea and Stan took salt and mineral to both groups of cows. I took photos of some of the horses, and Lynn’s favorite cat Edna.
Willow in her pen
Good Old Ed
Lynn's favorite cat, Edna
Sunday was a lot colder (8 degrees that morning) and never got above 21 degrees that day. Andrea and Stan took 2 little bales, on 4-wheelers, to the cows in the field by Andrea’s house. With the snow and cold, they can no longer graze enough and it was time to feed hay. Even though I plugged in the tractor early that morning, it still wouldn’t start by afternoon, and we had to put the battery charger on it. After an hour, it did start, and we were able to take 2 big bales of straw up for those cows to put along the brush where they like to sleep (to give them some bedding so they don’t have to sleep in the deep snow) and they can also eat some of the straw. It has a little grain in it and they were enjoying rooting around in the straw to find the grain. We also took a bedding bale to the young cows (and put it along the brush in their field where they like to sleep) and the weaned heifers.

We need to find some alfalfa hay for the older cows; we don’t quite have enough hay to make it through the entire winter, and if we can get a few big square alfalfa bales we can feed them a little bit every day (for their protein requirements) along with a little bit of grass hay, and they can eat straw to fill in their roughage requirement. They need a lot of fibrous forage in cold weather, since the fermentation breakdown/digestion in the rumen creates usable energy and a lot of body heat. In the meantime, until we locate some alfalfa, we bought a couple tubs of protein supplement to encourage them to eat more straw. We have quite a bit of straw left over from last year (and bedding straw from several years back) so this will stretch our hay supply.

Jim came home for a while after finishing his summer-fall job as manager of a ranch in Colorado, and helped us clean out our chimney. It’s hard for us old folks to navigate on a slippery roof anymore!

Thursday afternoon while Em was at work, Andrea left Christopher with us while she went to town. We fed him supper and entertained him until she picked him up later to take him home again. He loves to “play” the piano, so Lynn took a photo of him and me playing a duet.
Christopher playing piano with me
Sam stopped by on her way home from play practice and I took a photo of her and Christopher playing the piano. He loves to make “music” and has a great time.
Sam and Christopher playing a duet
A few days ago the bulls smashed one side of their big round bale feeder. It’s the older style feeder that doesn’t fold smaller as they use up the hay, and it’s totally ruined unless someone can cut the bent pieces and reposition them and re-weld them together with reinforcement. We probably won’t try to deal with that this winter, however, so we had to replace that feeder. We fed them little bales in their in-fence feeding area for a few days until the extreme cold weather moderated a bit, and then last night plugged in the tractor so we could feed them a big bale today. Fortunately we bought a sturdy new feeder for straw for the cows, and don’t really need the other bale feeder for that group since we’ll be feeding alfalfa and little bales off the truck. So we “borrowed” the old feeder from the cow group (Andrea and I tipped it over and dragged it down with her 4-wheeler) and put it in the bull pen for their new big bale, and took the ruined feeder out with the tractor. We also took a new big bale to the young cows, and another to the heifers.

While we had the tractor running, Lynn loaded Stan’s wood-splitter back into his pickup, so he can take it back home with him when he leaves again for California. While Andrea and Lynn took more bedding bales of straw up to the field for the cows, Stan helped me load the feed truck with little bales to stack by the bull pen, and I put a tarp over it. It’s really handy to have extra hay there for them, or to take on the 4-wheeler up to the cows until we can buy some big alfalfa bales.

DECEMBER 30 – We had some warm afternoons for a few days, then more cold weather. I sent out Christmas cards and letters and made personalized T-shirts (drawing horses or cartoons on them) for family members for Christmas—and photo albums for the grandkids. We had an early Christmas celebration (dinner and a few gifts) last Friday evening before Christmas, since Stan had to leave Sunday to drive back to California to get there in time for Christmas with his kids and grandkids.

Stan gave Charlie a car horn for his truck, Sam a camera, and Dani a karaoke machine, and we enjoyed listening to Dani and Sam sing several duets. We stayed up way too late, but it was a lot of fun.

Stan made it to California just ahead of major snowstorms, before Donner Pass got closed. It snowed here the day before Christmas and all through that night. The UPS truck delivered some packages here on Christmas Eve and then couldn’t make it up our driveway and had to back down again. Lynn told the driver to go across the bridge into our barnyard and get a longer run at it so he’d have more speed and momentum when he got to the top of the hill, and that time he made it up the driveway without spinning out before he got to the top.

By Christmas morning we had a lot of new snow. The heifers were almost out of hay in their feeder but we didn’t want to start the tractor, so I got the calf sled out of the calving barn and took 1 ½ bales of my horse hay with the sled to feed them. It was a lot easier pulling the sled than trying to pull the little cart/wagon!

The stove in our kitchen was smoking so badly that morning that it set off the smoke alarm and we had to open the windows. Apparently we didn’t get the chimney completely cleaned out when Jim helped us, so we let that fire go out until we could clean it more fully. We took a few more gifts up to Andrea’s house and had another Christmas get-together before her kids had to go to their dad’s place that afternoon. It was another fun time, and baby Christopher was wearing a Santa suit that his grandpa Jim gave him.
Christopher in his Santa suit
Little Santa
Here comes Santa!
It was a fun get-together and baby Christopher enjoyed opening gifts. At not quite 9 months old, he figured it out pretty fast, and enjoyed unwrapping the little package his small T-shirt was in—and had fun playing with the box. At his age the packaging was more interesting than the gifts.
Christopher opening gift
what's in here?
opening gifts
a little help from mom
On some of his presents he needed a little help from mom to get the wrapping off. He also had fun playing with his auntie Sam and auntie Dani.
Christopher & Dani
Sam & Christopher
playing with Sam
good buddies
He also sat on my lap awhile but wanted to help me take pictures.
on great-grandma's lap
can I take a picture...
When he sat on Lynn’s lap, he whisked a hanky out of Lynn’s shirt pocket and then turned around with it, to try to keep it for himself so Lynn wouldn’t know it was gone, but Em snapped a photo as he did it…
on Lynn's lap
Then he took a walk around the livingroom with great-grandpa Lynn, and spent some time checking out everyone else’s gifts. He was especially fascinated with the new windshield scraper that the real Santa Clause brought.
taking a walk around with Lynn
checking out the new windshield scraper
Before it got dark I took a picture from Andrea’s living-room window, looking down on our field and hay stacks.
view from Andrea's window
After they all opened gifts and had snacks, the kids left to drive out to their dad’s place for the rest of the Christmas vacation, and Jim left to start his long drive back to New York to spend some time with his brother.

The next day was very cold and we were glad we plugged in our tractor the night before, so it would start—so we could take big bales to each group of cows (a bale of 2nd cutting alfalfa to the young heifers, a bale of alfalfa/grass mix to the young cows, and a bale of straw to the older cows). Andrea fed the older cows a little bale of grass hay with her 4-wheeler.

Bob Minor came that afternoon and got up on the roof and helped Lynn clean our chimney more completely, and this time we got all of the obstruction out of it. It was nice to be able to start that stove again, with the cold weather! It got down to 10 degrees that night, with a high of 18 degrees the next day.

Young Heather sent photos of little Joseph enjoying Christmas in Saskatchewan, and some of his presents (a new cowboy hat, guitar).
Joseph and Grandpa John- with new hat and guitar
Joseph on Christmas day with daddy Gregory and Grandma Barb
Michael and Carolyn left the day after Christmas to drive up to Saskatchewan to visit young Heather and Gregory and little Joseph (who is 2 ½ years old now). They went as far as Havre and stayed overnight, to cross the border the next morning. We sent a few belated Christmas gifts with them, for our little Canadian family, since it costs so much to mail anything to Canada.

We’ve had several days of really cold weather, so Andrea has been feeding the cows a couple little bales of grass hay (with her 4-wheeler) each day, to augment their straw and protein supplement. She also had to break ice on the creek where they drink, and break ice on the bull’s waterhole in their pen.

Today it was still cold, and lightly snowing. We had the tractor plugged in since last night so it would start this morning, and took 2 more big bales of straw to the older cows for bedding, and a new round bale to the bulls (their feeder was empty).

This evening we had a big pot of chili and invited grandson Nick to eat supper with us (since his folks are in Canada; he stayed home to do their chores). Andrea and baby Christopher joined us; Emily was at work and Andrea’s kids are still out at their dad’s place until tomorrow evening. So we four (and Christopher) had dinner here and a good visit, and played Tripoley—which is something Nick wanted to do. We hadn’t played Tripoley since we used to get together for games with him and his sister and his folks when he and young Heather were still in high school. So we had a good time playing, and baby Christopher sat in his high chair and ate crackers and watched us.

JANUARY 9 – Lynn went to town for mail and groceries (and to pay a few bills) a week ago Monday and at one of his stops his pickup door would not shut. He finally got it shut and didn’t dare open it again—and just kept scooting in and out of the passenger door at his next stops. He had to take the pickup back to town the next day to get the door fixed.

Meanwhile, that Monday evening Nick came down to join us for supper again. Andrea’s kids came back from Mark’s (along with one of Dani’s friends) and I fed them supper, too. Then Dani and her friend went home to feed the dogs and cats. Andrea and Sam and little Christopher stayed awhile (Em had to work, so Andrea was tending Christopher) and we played Tripoley again. It was a lot of fun, and again Christopher was fascinated watching us play. Afterward Nick went up to Andrea’s house and hauled a couple little bales of hay for her to feed the cows the next day. It got cold that night—down to 8 degrees.

On New Years Eve Andrea, Sam, Dani and Christopher joined us after supper and we played Tripoley again. Dani had never played it, and enjoyed learning the game. It was snowing hard by the time they left to go home, and still snowing when Em drove home from work at midnight. Her little car has good tires, but the snow was almost too deep for her to make it up their driveway.

By morning (New Years day) we had 6 inches of new snow on top of the old snow (about 8 or 9 inches altogether). At chore time I took some horse hay out to the heifers with the sled. Andrea, Sam and Dani came down after breakfast. Sam cleaned house for me and Andrea and Dani took two bales of hay to the cows while Lynn and I took a big bale with the tractor to the young cows, then got a big bale for the heifers—and dumped and rinsed out their water tank.

Andrea and Dani took the tarps off the straw stack and little bale stack in the stack yard and helped Lynn put the blade on the tractor. While Andrea and Lynn took a big straw bale up to the cows, Dani helped me sweep snow off the feed truck and get a load of hay from my hay shed to haul down to replenish the little stack by Sprout and Shiloh’s pens—the stack I keep robbing off to feed the heifers when they run out of hay in their bale feeder. We tarped that hay, then took the truck around to the stack yard to load 20 bales to take up to Andrea’s house. They stacked it up behind her house, to be a handy place for taking a couple bales each day to feed the cows in that field, with a 4-wheeler.

Lynn plowed snow for a couple hours, plowing our driveway and Andrea’s, and cleared a path up through the field where we take straw to the cows with the tractor. Nick used the skid steer up at his house to clear their driveway; Michael and Carolyn got home that evening from Canada and were glad they could make it up their driveway.

The next evening after school Andrea and kids got their snowmobile running and had fun roaring around in the deep snow in our lower back field.

Last Saturday I did chores early (before daylight) and fed Shiloh first so she’d have time to eat her breakfast before Michael came down to take her shoes off. Her feet are so hard they are difficult to trim and he offered to help me but hadn’t had time this fall. By now her feet were very long and with shoes on the snow builds up in her feet and makes ice balls which makes for very slippery footing. The weather was supposed to get bad later in the day so we opted to take her shoes off first thing that morning.

The packed snow in the driveway was too slippery for her to stand on and the snow everywhere else was 8 or 9 inches deep. The only place with bare ground and good footing was where Lynn parks his pickup; the little spot underneath his pickup didn’t get snowed on. So we moved the pickup and I held Shiloh there on the dry dirt for Michael to take her shoes off and trim her feet. Carolyn came with him, and handed him tools while I held the horse.

Even though it was cold that early in the morning, with a little breeze, it worked out ok and we got the shoes off. By late morning the wind had kicked up to about 40 miles per hour and we had a blizzard, so we were lucky we got that job accomplished early in the day.

I sent our little child’s saddle home with Michael and Carolyn, to take with them later when they go back to Canada to help out when young Heather has her baby (Joseph is going to have a baby brother!) The little saddle will be just right for Joseph to start riding this summer. He will be 3 years old by then and the stirrups will fit because he has long legs for his age. He’s been riding already—bareback and with a big saddle, but the child’s saddle will be safer for him because he’ll actually have stirrups that fit him.

That saddle has a long history. My parents bought it for my little sister when she was 5 years old (in 1960) and she rode it until she was 12. Here’s a photo of our old mare Nosey with the little saddle, and a photo of my little sister riding Scrappy with that saddle—the black mare my dad bought from Lynn when I was in junior high school.
our old mare Nosey
Heidi riding Scrappy
Then my kids (Michael and Andrea) both learned to ride with that saddle, starting with Michael when he was 3 years old. He rode it for several years. Here are photos of him riding my old mare Khamette, using that little saddle.
Michael on Khamette, ready to go riding range with me
Michael on Khamette
Michael graduated to a youth saddle my parents bought for him, so his little sister Andrea could start riding the little saddle, and she rode it until she was 10 years old.
Andrea age 9 on Brownie
Then a neighbor gave Andrea his old saddle, and she is still using it. The little saddle was retired for awhile, and then when Michael and Carolyn’s first child (Heather Carrie) started riding horses, we gave the little saddle to them. Young Heather rode it for several years, riding range with us on Carolyn’s old horse Molly, and then her little brother Nick used it. He rode Molly out on the range, and also in classes at the county fair—doing very well in the trail class competition at a very young age.
Young Heather riding Carolyn's mare Molly with the little saddle
Nick helping gather cows on Molly
Nick age 7 and Molly in trail class
Nick outgrew the saddle eventually and passed it on down to Andrea’s oldest daughter, Emily, who started riding when she was 7. She learned to ride on old Veggie, my retired cowhorse who was a grandson of good old Khamette—the mare her mama learned to ride on.
Em & Veggie
Em practicing riding veg solo
Andrea’s younger kids (Charlie, Sam and then Dani) all started learning to ride with that saddle and it got quite a few more miles for several years. They also started riding old Veggie. Here are photos of Sam riding Veggie with the little saddle, and Dani on Veggie, led from my horse. They all started out being led from my horse, until they were experienced enough to handle the old horse themselves and keep him under control when he wanted to hurry home.
Sam on Veggie
Sam checking cows on Veggie
Dani riding Veg
Now it’s time to pass this good old saddle along to the next generation, which will make 4 generations of kids starting out their riding careers with that little saddle!

The day after the blizzard, our weather got cold again (down to 15 degrees) and stayed cold all day. The cows were nearly out of protein supplement--only a tiny bit left in their tubs, so we gave them 4 little bales of hay to augment their straw. We have some alfalfa hay located (big square bales we can feed off the feed truck, a little bit each day) but are waiting for Michael to get a chance to haul it here for us.

Monday we started the tractor again to take big bales around for all the groups, and more straw for the cows. We plan to use up the whole stack of old straw this year; it’s several years old and the mice have riddled the bales (making tunnels through them) to eat the grain that was left in the straw. Those bales won’t hold together another year. It’s a little tricky trying to move them, even now. When we pick them up with the tractor it’s a bit precarious, hoping they’ll hold together, and the mice run out in every direction. It was comical watching one mouse run after the bale when Lynn picked it up with the times on the loader, and backed away from the stack; the mouse ran right after the bale, trying to catch up with its departing home—burrowing under the snow to follow the bale!

Andrea went to town that day to get new tires put on her car; the old ones are worn out and have no traction for snow and slippery roads. Then she and Dani left soon after school to drive to Rexburg to stay overnight—so they could get to Dani’s dental appointment in Rigby early the next morning. She had that appointment with the orthodontist who adjusts her braces, and then went to another appointment in Idaho Falls to have her wisdom teeth taken out. She was pretty miserable after that surgery, but was able to sleep on the way home; they got home just after dark.

While they were gone, Lynn and I fed the cows some little bales with the 4-wheeler, then he took more salt and mineral to the heifers and young cows. The weather moderated, so we didn’t have to break ice on the creek.

I took photos that day of some of the horses, including Ed taking a nap in the snow, and my hay shed. It’s certainly nice having a roof over my horse hay so it doesn’t spoil with all the moisture from rain and snow.
Ed napping in the snow
hay shed
When I came back around by the house to go across the creek, Lynn’s favorite cat Edna was sitting on his 4-wheeler ready to go for a ride.
Edna on Lynn's 4-wheeler
After I hiked across the creek to take some other photos and came back again, both of his favorite cats were on the 4-wheeler, and then Edna jumped off and left the driving to our old “fencing cat” –so named in earlier years because she loved to accompany the fencing crew rebuilding fences one winter around our barnyard. We joked about the fencing cat pretending to be an Arctic Cat.
both cats driving
fencing cat pretending to be an arctic cat
Yesterday morning we had to start a fire at 3 a.m. in the kitchen stove; the pellet stove in the living room quit working. After Andrea fed the cows a couple bales of hay mid-morning, she came down to help Lynn take the pellet stove apart to try to get the jammed pellets out of it and figure out what was wrong. They worked on it several hours and got it working again, but then it quit early this morning. We’re hoping we don’t have to replace that stove!

Granddaughter Heather sent more photos of Joseph helping grandpa John celebrate his 74th birthday.
Grandpa John's birthday in mid-January