Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 1-15, 2015

JANUARY 7, 2015 – We’ve had a week of really cold weather and I’m still sick. On New Year’s Day Andrea and Robbie fed my horses for me so I wouldn’t have to go outside (9 below zero), and they helped Lynn feed the cows and heifers and break ice on the creek for the cows. Our feed truck hasn’t been running very well so Robbie put new spark plugs in it, which made a big difference. Andrea got a few more small bales of grass hay on her pickup for the heifers, to feed with their alfalfa. Our high for the day was zero. Emily took the kids to town for their hockey practice that evening, and took a photo of Charlie waiting to play.

 The next day was a little warmer, only down to 6 below zero that morning. Andrea and Emily left early in the morning to drive to Kalispell, Montana for her hockey tournament, and Dani went with them. The roads were slippery and they had to go pretty slow on the last part of the trip, barely making it in time for Emily’s first game. They played several games that weekend—against the Kalispell team, Whitefish, a Canadian team from Lethbridge, Alberta, and a team from Seattle, Washington—and won them all, in spite of being short on players. They only had enough players to be a team, and when one of their teammates injured her knee in the 3rd game they had to “borrow” a player from the Kalispell team to be able to finish the tournament. Andrea took photos of Em playing, and a photo afterward of Em, Dani, and their goalie.


That weekend Sam had a tournament here at home, so Robbie took her to those games, since Andrea was in Kalispell with Emily. Robbie also helped Lynn and me do chores and break ice for the cows. Michael and Nick came down and put out 2 more big bales of straw with the tractor. We had stormy weather and more snow, and the roads were bad when Andrea and Em drove home from Kalispell, so we were glad they made it home safely Sunday evening. We had so much new snow here at Salmon that school was cancelled on Monday.
I had an encouraging message from my publisher of Horse Tales; he said the book did well during December, with people buying it for Christmas, and he hopes it will continue to have strong sales as more people learn about it. He gave me the go-ahead to do another book, on Cow Tales, and I hope to start writing it very soon.
I’m starting to feel a little better, and have been helping Lynn feed the cows again, and took a few photos when we fed yesterday.
 But for several days I had to do all my phone interviews (interviewing people for the articles I was writing) in a whisper. I’m starting to get my voice back again, and not coughing so much, which makes it easier to do the interviews. I’m also able to sleep a little better, which helps.
The whitetail deer are really plaguing us. The dogs are keeping them out of the haystack but now more of them are eating alfalfa hay with the heifers. Some of them are so bold that they just lie around in the field and wait for us to feed the heifers, then come
eat their hay. Emily took a few photos of several young deer with the heifers. She is taking a lot of pictures these days and I am using some of her photos for this diary.
[photos 6, 7 & 8 – deer and heifers]

About 20 to 30 deer are coming into the field in the evening right after we feed the heifers, eating their alfalfa hay. They ate so much of their hay the past several nights that the heifers were pretty empty and hungry by morning. The deer also jumped into Veggie’s pen and ate all his alfalfa hay. This isn’t going to work! Poor old Veggie (29 years old this year) has bad teeth and it takes him all day to eat his morning feeding, and all night to finish his evening meal. If the deer eat it, he won’t get enough to eat and will be losing more weight.

Lynn started shooting fire-cracker shells at the deer to scare them away, but they come right back. He went out there several times in the night and the deer were back eating the hay again every time. So we called the Fish and Game and asked what we could do to try to remedy this problem.
Three of their wildlife people came out this morning and assessed the situation. They didn’t have a solution for the deer eating our heifers and horses’ alfalfa, but they brought some strong plastic netting material that we could wrap around our haystack to protect it—something the deer can’t eat through. We wrapped it around the stack, so now we won’t need Andrea’s dogs tied at each end of the stack to protect it.

JANUARY 15 – The day we wrapped haystack, we moved the dogs to a new location—putting their little houses by the fence in the field where the heifers are, and staked them there. A few deer still sneak up around them, but they’ve been able to bark and scare most of the deer away that used to come right through that area to eat the heifer’s hay.
[photos 12 & 13 - dogs guarding the field]

We had several foggy, cold days this past week but at least the temperatures were no longer below zero. One night the power went off at 8 p.m. and was off for more than 3 hours—affecting about 800 people in our valley. We were about to go to bed anyway, so we just used flashlights to put wood in the stoves, and were glad we had wood stoves for heat!
Nick left early Friday morning to drive back to Oskaloosa, Iowa to finish his final semester at William Penn University. He had relatively good roads, and cold weather. We sent a full gas can with him, in case he got stranded somewhere; he could at least keep his engine running and not run out of gas, and be able to stay warm. But the roads weren’t that bad and he didn’t need to use the emergency fuel. He drove more than halfway that day and made it clear across South Dakota, spent a few hours sleeping at a motel, and made it the rest of them way in time to be there for track practice on Saturday.
In the meantime, granddaughter Heather was on her way back from another visit to friends on the wheat farm in Saskatchewan, and got home Friday night. That weekend Charlie’s hockey team had a tournament here, and Emily took pictures of him skating.

On Saturday Michael and young Heather came down to help us put more straw out for the cows and Heather brought a bucket of horse pellets for me to try for Veggie. He has trouble eating very much hay, with his bad teeth, and when the deer jump into his pen and clean up his alfalfa, he doesn’t get enough to eat. These are tiny pellets, easy to chew, and contain a lot of calories and nutrition. Young Heather bought a lot of bags of these to feed her old pregnant mare, Classy, and thought they might help Veggie.
That evening, I fed him a small amount in a rubber tub and he tasted them and nosed them around and kept trying to pick up the tub with his teeth and dump it (I had to stand there and keep him from flipping the tub over). The next morning I gave him some more, and he seemed to like them a little better—ate more of the handful I gave him—but still tried to dump the tub. By the third time, he decided he liked them. Now I am giving him 2 cups of pellets twice a day, and sticking his tub down firmly into an old tire so he can’t pick it up with his teeth and dump it. He always liked to play with tubs (with his teeth and feet) so I can’t leave one in his pen, just take it in there to feed him and take it out when he’s finished. He can eat it while we are loading up hay right there for the heifers, so that works nicely.

Now that he is willingly eating the pellets, I started mixing some joint medication (containing glucosamine, also in tasty pellet form) in with his easy meal, in hopes it might help his painful arthritis. He does fine in the summer, but his leg joints get stiff and painful in cold weather.
Michael spent a couple days fixing vehicles. He helped Lynn take 2 of the old worn-out tires off the feed truck (tires that had slow leaks and were always going flat) and put on some newer ones, and worked on Andrea’s car to get it to run better. Yesterday Lynn and Andrea fixed the electric fence around Veggie and Rubbie’s pens that the deer tore down, so now the heifers can’t lean through into Veggie’s pen and rub/press down the net wire. It’s hard to keep the fences working with all the wildlife going through them!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

December 2014

DECEMBER 14 – Andrea has been catching Rishiam every day that she has time, and handling his feet, rasping the nail clinches so she can get the shoes off more easily (since he has a bad phobia about nippers and any pulling on the shoe). Some days she leads him down the road a ways to try to help loosen the shoes, and lets him graze along the driveway while she works on his feet. Last week she was finally able to pull of his front shoes while he was grazing, and a few days ago she got his left hind shoe off.
Sammy and Dani had their first hockey tournament last weekend, here, and won all their games. Dani made her first goal. On Sunday Lynn and I went to town to watch one of their games before church, and took photos of each of them as they played.

Michael finished splitting all of their wood and brought the wood splitter down to start splitting the rest of ours. Heather got home from Canada last Sunday and said it’s a lot warmer down here right now than where she was visiting (west of Saskatoon). We are really grateful for the warmer weather because our cows are very happily grazing on the 320; every day that they can stay up there is one day less of feeding hay!
Last Tuesday Lynn and Andrea went up on the 4-wheeler to check on the cows, since we hadn’t gone up there for a while, and the cows were doing fine, but some elk hunters were shooting right above them. The elk ran down into the timber on our place, in amongst our cows, and the hunters were coming right after them. Lynn and Andrea were afraid they might come on down and shoot at the elk in our place—where the cows were scattered all through the timber with the elk—so Andrea hiked up through there and spooked the elk back out. The elk ran back toward the hunters, who shot one. So Andrea did everyone a favor—chased the elk back to the hunters, and kept the hunters from possibly shooting one of our cows accidentally in the timber on our place.
The whitetail deer are congregating in our fields and eating on our haystacks at night. We have to keep all the alfalfa hay covered with tarps, but they are still able to get at the lower edges of our big stack. The deer are small and don’t eat a lot—except when there are 20 or more and they start to make a mess of things as well as eat.
On Wednesday Lynn drove his 4-wheeler back up to the 320 to check on the cows again and make sure they are all ok after the hunting activity. He didn’t get far enough to see all the cows, however. Halfway up the ridge toward Preacher’s Spring something went wrong with the 4-wheeler and it wouldn’t go. Luckily he had his cell phone with him, and had cell service on the ridge, and called home. Andrea started up there with our other little 4-wheeler, but by that time Michael had gotten home from doing his chores and I called and told him about Lynn’s predicament. He drove up there and was able to help Lynn get his 4-wheeler home. It had no power on the rear wheels. It could go downhill ok, but not uphill, and Michael had to pull it up the hills with his 4-wheeler.
The next day Michael helped Lynn take it apart and ascertain what was wrong with it. Lynn went to town to order the new parts and we can hopefully get it fixed this week. Meanwhile Lynn will have to use the little old red 4-wheeler that Andrea and kids have been using for driving back and forth between their place and ours.
I’ve been doing lots of interviews for articles and trying to meet several urgent deadlines before Christmas. It’s always interesting doing the various assignments for
numerous magazines, writing about everything from cattle diseases and grazing strategies to equine hoof problems to broodmare care to ranch stories.
One of the most interesting interviews I did this week was with a young man and his family in South Dakota, telling about their incredible life-changing journey following his serious accident and traumatic brain injury 11 years ago. Rodney was a senior in high school, active in FFA and high school rodeo, training young horses. His mother sent me photos, including one of Rodney with some of the horses he was training in high school.


The young horse he was riding that October evening in 2003 must have spooked at something. It flipped over a barbed-wire fence, down an embankment, and was lying there, nearly on top of the unconscious young man when his father and brother found him later that night. The first miracle was that the horse had not moved. It would have crushed him if it had struggled and rolled on over him, but just as important, the body heat from the horse kept him from dying of hypothermia that cold October night. After being shocked back to life by the ambulance crew, Rodney was air-lifted to the hospital in Sioux Falls, and spent a month unconscious in the ICU with his parents at his side.
Many more miracles followed after he woke up, as Rodney struggled with rehab to regain his ability to move talk and walk. He insisted on riding a horse again within less than a week of coming home from the hospital, before he was able to walk—and the horse was the best physical therapy of all. Today Rodney team ropes again with his family. Even though his speech is slow, he expresses himself well, and travels around the country giving inspirational talks about his accident--and his faith. It is stories like these that make my writing job a delight! Here are photos of Rodney telling his amazing story, and talking with people about his miracles.


This weekend Emily had a hockey tournament in McCall. Her team played hard and won some of their games. On Friday Michael brought the backhoe down and worked all afternoon finishing some of the cleanup from the earlier project when we put the new culvert across the driveway. He got all the brush and debris away from the ditch below the new culvert so we can build a fence along it, and put lined the ditch above the culvert with rocks so it won’t wash out.
[photo 6 – hauling out the brush with the backhoe]


Lynn drove the other 4-wheeler up to the 320 and saw most of the cows but some of them were grazing in the timber and he didn’t see all of them. The weather was really warm and the snow was all gone—until yesterday. It started snowing early morning and by daylight we had 4 inches of new snow here, and deeper on the mountains. The cows will have more trouble grazing and we may have to bring them home. Nick got safely home from college on Saturday, after a 2-day drive on bad roads. It’s good to have him home for awhile!
Yesterday a cougar killed a deer in our neighbor’s field a mile below us. One of our other neighbors tried to track it with hounds but didn’t have any luck. We’re hoping it doesn’t hang around here very long.

DECEMBER 22 – Last Sunday Michael and Carolyn drove 4-wheelers up to the 320 to check on the cows and were able to see all of them—scattered all over the mountainsides and through the timber. The snow is getting deep again up there, but the cows were still rooting down through it to get at the grass. Michael’s 4-wheeler had trouble getting up the steeper hills and he and Carolyn had to push it up the steepest part of the ridge.
The next day it was colder. When I went out to feed the horses that morning, Sprout was lame, not wanting to put any weight on her right front foot. We couldn’t tell for sure whether she hurt the foot or the leg above it. We don’t know whether she banged it on the gate while bucking around and goofing off, or stepped on something sharp in her pen, or strained the leg stepping in one of deep holes in the frozen mud. Andrea washed the foot and leg and put DMSO on the leg above the hoof. That evening Andrea and Robbie drove up the creek and got a Christmas tree.
It was even colder the next day, and we decided it was time to bring the cows home and start feeding them hay. Michael had taken the shoes off their horses, so snow wouldn’t ball up so badly in their feet. He, Nick and Heather rode to the 320, and Carolyn went up on a 4-wheeler, and they gathered the cows to bring them home. It took several hours because the cows were still widely scattered, and a couple of them ran back up Baker Creek rather than wanting to come down.
Lynn and I got all the gates ready down here—and moved the bulls out of the main corral so the cows could go through it up to the field be Andrea’s house—then drove up the creek shutting all the gates into neighbor’s fields and lanes along the way. Then we came back down and waited at this end, to head the cows down our driveway when they came. There is still some grass in the pasture where we put them; we may not have to start feeding hay for a few days.

Andrea took Emily to her doctor appointment to have her leg checked. The bone she broke playing hockey last year is healing and growing down over the metal plate and screws and the doctor thought it was doing ok. Later in the afternoon Andrea washed up Sprout’s leg again and applied more DMSO to help relieve the pain and inflammation; she is still very lame. That evening we went to the kids’ Christmas concert at school. Charlie played the trombone in his band group, and Sam played her trumpet. Charlie sang a solo with his choir group.
On Wednesday we started feeding the weaned heifers; they’ve been nosing through the snow to grass but the snow is pretty frozen now and it’s harder for them to get enough to eat. They are happy for the hay. The new parts came for the 4-wheeler and Lynn picked them up in town. Michael put it back together and it runs fine.
We had several inches of new snow, and I took photos of the heifers and the horses that morning—including young Willow enjoying a roll in the fresh snow.

The creek road was very slippery with fresh snow on top of the ice, and Emily ran off the road down toward Baker, sliding into the ditch. A friend came along and was able to drive the car back up onto the road for her. She went to town for one her GED tests and passed it. She has 3 more tests to take and then she’ll have her GED.
With the colder weather we had to break a lot of ice out of the heifers’ water tubs, so we moved them to the field below our barn, where we can plug in the heated water trough. They appreciate the warmer water, and we don’t have to chop ice every morning.
I took photos of Pig and her friend. Pig is the heifer we rescued last February when she was born at 25 below zero, thawing her out in the house. She ended up with short ears (they froze) but is now the biggest heifer in the group.


Sprout is starting to put more weight on her lame foot; it seems to be healing. Andrea put DMSO on it a few more times and now she doesn’t need to anymore.
Lynn caught the bad cold that has been going around town and school, and has a really bad cough. Yesterday he was so sick and miserable that he didn’t go outside to do his chores until about noon. Andrea came down and filled our wood box for us, and got some more little bales of hay on her truck, for the bulls.
She and Robbie left late afternoon to drive to Idaho Falls for her pain doctor appointment early this morning. The roads are bad and they didn’t want to gamble on being slow getting there this morning. She finished the appointment and they were just heading down the street to go to the pharmacy when her car quit running. She was able to coast through an intersection and into a gas station. Robbie discovered that the fuel pump had gone out. They were able to borrow his mom’s car to do the rest of the things they had to do in Idaho Falls, then borrowed his dad’s pickup to go get a car carrier trailer from his grandfather, near Blackfoot. They finally got the car loaded late this evening, and will spend the night at a motel before heading home in the morning.
Meanwhile, Lynn was too sick today to do any of his chores. Michael and Nick came down and helped, and also figured out where the deer are getting into the stackyard (in spite of all the elk panels around it). The tracks showed that they’ve been going under the fence at the creek. So Michael and Nick put poles across that spot to try to keep them out, since they are making huge holes in our haystack.

DECEMBER 31 – Andrea and Robbie made it home with her car, we ordered a new fuel pump, and Robbie was able to get the gas tank off her car and put in the new pump. I sent out the rest of our Christmas letters and finished making personalized T-shirts for all the family (drawing horses on most of them, and cartoon characters on Lynn’s and Charlie’s). I wrapped gifts for the grandkids, using the colorful comic strip section of our Sunday newspapers; these serve a dual purpose (not having to buy wrapping paper, and the kids love to save the paper and read the “funnies”).
Two days before Christmas I started getting sick. Lynn and the grandkids shared their respiratory “bug” with me. Then that night the chimney in the livingroom started smoking, plugged with soot. The smoke in the house was so thick that it woke me up at midnight. We opened all the windows and used fans for a couple hours to get the smoke out of the house. Fortunately it wasn’t a very cold night! The next day, Christmas Eve, Robbie got up on the roof and used a long plastic pipe to knock the soot out of the chimney so we could start using that stove again.
I had a bad cough and fever that day and didn’t get much done—went to bed early and spent 12 hours in bed. Lynn helped me do my chores on Christmas day and we spent most of the day resting. Our Christmas dinner consisted of boiled egg and homemade
bread. We felt well enough that evening, however, to go up to Andrea’s house to watch her kids open their gifts.


I also took photos of Andrea and Lynn, and Sammy with her horse T-shirt from grandma. They were all having a great time, and it was fun to be a part of it.

The day after Christmas Michael and Nick brought their flatbed pickup and helped Lynn take a couple feeders and two big bales of straw up to the field for the cows. The pasture is about gone, and the new snow buried the grass that’s left, so it was time to start feeding the cows. Michael loaded two big bales of alfalfa on our feed truck and fed the cows some alfalfa to eat with their straw. The combination makes a balanced diet and the protein in the alfalfa feeds the rumen “bugs” so they can ferment and break down the straw to create energy. The heat of digestion also helps keep the cows warm in cold weather, so it makes a good winter diet.
I was so sick I didn’t get much done for several days, and was coughing so badly by Saturday afternoon (coughing up thick brown crud) that Lynn took me to our doctor, who lives 3 miles from us, across the highway at Baker. Suzanne listened to my lungs, etc. and prescribed an antibiotic, prednisone to help ease the swelling and inflammation in my throat and windpipe, and medication to ease the cough. Andrea drove to town to pick up the prescriptions before the pharmacy closed that evening.
These past few days she and Robbie have been coming down to help me do chores in the morning, and with it so cold lately (down to 12 below zero, and a wind making it even colder) I stayed in a couple mornings and just let them feed the horses and heifers and break ice out of the horse’s tubs.
Andrea and Lynn fed the hay to the cows, and on the warmest afternoon Sammy and Dani brought their sleds down here to sled down our driveway.

We’re having a lot of trouble with whitetail deer getting into our alfalfa. These deer are nothing like our native mule deer that winter in the hills. The whitetail started moving into our valley about 20 years ago, and are now thicker than rabbits. We have to tarp the hay on our feed truck at night and keep a tarp on hay we’re feeding the heifers, or the deer eat huge holes in the bales. They found another way to get into our stackyard in spite of putting poles across the creek where they had a regular freeway. So on Sunday Andrea and Robbie brought their two young dogs down to the stackyard and tied them at each end of the stack. They made a doghouse for each of them, and they are now guarding the hay from the deer. Jasper patrols one end of the haystack and Olive guards the other end.


With the sub-zero weather and deep snow, Michael and Carolyn brought their horses down from the 160-acre mountain pasture yesterday, and put them in the fields on the upper place, where they can feed them a little hay.
Yesterday Michael and Nick came down and helped move the feeders and put out more bales of straw. Nick chopped ice on the creek to open up water holes for the cows, and the bulls in the corral. It was sure nice to have help that day, because Lynn had to go to town to have his eye checked. The previous day, he suddenly had a big brown “floater” in that eye. The eye doctor said it was a small piece of detached retina, but nothing serious at this point.
I’ve lost my voice completely, from the sore throat and coughing. Andrea took me to the ER today because there were no openings at the clinic. They x-rayed my lungs and took blood tests, and determined that at this point it’s still just severe bronchitis—probably from the influenza strain that wasn’t in the flu shots this year—and put me on 5 more days of prednisone to help ease the pain and inflammation. It’s been interesting trying to do phone interviews with no voice (for the various articles I have to write for several horse and cattle magazines), but I can still whisper. And since the people I interview have to do most of the talking, it works!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ranch Diary: November 7 - December, 2014

NOVEMBER 13 – Saturday was colder—down to 22 degrees.  Two of the heifers managed to crawl into the calf houses (where they sheltered this spring as babies), even though they are too big for the doorway!  One of them was able to get out on her own but I had to shoosh the other one out because she thought she was stuck.  Andrea and Dani came down at noon and we rode to the 320 to check the cows.  Dani helped us move the low ones back up the ridge to the high grass.   
Then we rode down Baker Creek to check on the water.  It’s running more than usual this fall, and even though the ground was frozen solid in that shady canyon, the little creek was still open and accessible for the cattle to drink. 
On Sunday we didn’t ride; Andrea and kids and Robbie drove to Idaho Falls for his niece’s birthday party.  Lynn and I went to church, and visited with friends afterward, including our new neighbor, Kera, that we just met.  She’s the daughter of a good friend who lived a couple miles down the road from us—who died suddenly last winter of a heart attack.  He left his house to his daughter, and she recently moved here.   
Weather turned cold and windy that evening by the time Andrea and kids got home that night—with blowing snow on Gilmore Pass.  Monday was cold and windy all day, with some snow, so we didn’t ride.  Andrea and Robbie drained the hose and emptied water troughs at the upper corral so they wouldn’t freeze up.  Michael and Carolyn were on the road, coming all the way from Iowa where they’d visited awhile with Nick at his college.  The artic storm moving down across the country was hitting the Dakotas and Montana so they chose a more southerly route to come home, through Wyoming and up to Idaho.  Instead of stopping at a motel they drove straight through, hoping to beat the worst of the storm.  They drove for 22 hours and got here at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, exhausted after driving through wind and bad weather. 
It was 12 degrees here that morning and never got much warmer.  Later in the day after they’d rested and caught up with chores Michael and Carolyn drove their little truck up to the 320 and checked on the cows and the water situation.  With all the wind and cold, Baker Creek froze up, so they opened the gate and brought the cows down to the lower half of that pasture, with southern exposure and more sunshine where they could use the water trough next to the 160 acre pasture.   

A few years ago we dug out that spring with the backhoe and put in a deeper spring-box to collect more of the water, and buried the pipe to the trough.  The water comes out of the ground fairly warm (55 degrees) and the pipe doesn’t freeze.  We have to take ice off the top of the trough in really cold weather, but the water keeps running. 
It got down to zero that night (probably the equivalent of 10 to 15 below zero with the wind), so yesterday Michael and Carolyn were busy trying to get a few more things taken care of—taking shoes off some of their horses and moving the horses to a better winter pasture, and taking panels out of the creek at their water hole before they freeze in solid.  Lynn drove his 4-wheeler up to the 320 (bundled up against the bitter wind) to break ice on the water trough for the cows.   

There is still a lot of feed in that pasture and the cows were still happily grazing.  They are on the sunny side of the mountain instead of the shady, frozen canyon, with they have some places to get out of the wind.  The water trough had a small open area where warm water comes into it, but the ice was 2 inches thick on the rest, so Lynn broke it into pieces and shoveled it out.  Michael and Carolyn’s horses on the other side of the fence also use this trough, but don’t use it as much when there’s snow, preferring to eat snow. 
On his way home he stopped to check on the builders at Rocky’s house site who were pouring concrete for the back wall of the basement—and covering it with straw to keep it from freezing as it set up. 
This morning it was 4 below zero, but the wind stopped, and it was much more pleasant doing chores and breaking ice out of all the horse tubs and for the weaned heifers.  What a difference the wind makes!   When Lynn drove up to the 320 this afternoon he didn’t get as cold, and the ice was only 1.25 inches thick on the water trough.  This afternoon it warmed up to 16 degrees, but a snowstorm is coming in.  If it snows very much we’ll have to bring the cows down. 
Michael, Carolyn, Andrea and Robbie drove their pickups up the creek today to get some firewood.  We have a lot of pine wood hauled and split but no fir to mix with it.  The fir produces more heat and holds a fire longer in the stove.  During cold weather it’s nice to have some fir, so they are hoping to get a few loads before we get a lot of snow.  At this point the jeep road up the creek is bare, but will get treacherous if it snows. 

NOVEMBER 23 – We had cold weather for about a week (below zero F) and worried that we have to bring the cows home from the 320-acre mountain pasture.  Even though Michael and Carolyn let them through the gate into the lower end—where the snow wasn’t as deep—Lynn had to drive up there every day with the 4-wheeler to break ice on the trough, and most of the grass was snowed under. 
After one snowstorm the cows were all down by the bottom gate, wanting to come home, and Lynn could see that they hadn’t been up to the water trough for 2 days—no tracks in the snow since he’d broken the ice the day before.  He drove down to the lower gate to check on them and they were just waiting there and not grazing.   
So that afternoon Andrea and I went up there on the 4-wheeler and Carolyn joined us on hers, and we drove up there to chase the cows back up.  We were bundled up with coveralls and scarves on our faces in the cold.  When we got up to the trough, the cows had climbed up to it from the lower gate and were drinking.   


That saved us some time and effort to bring them up to that level; we only had to herd them on up to the top of the next basin.  We made sure they all had a chance to get a drink, then started herding them up, on foot.  After we got them started, Andrea skirted around the herd and got ahead of them and called them, and they followed her up the hill.   

There was more grass above the cross-fence, even though the snow is deeper, so she opened the gate and led them on up into that part, below Preacher’s Spring.  Carolyn and I brought up the rear, and once the cows were all through the gate and starting to graze—rooting down through the snow to the grass—Andrea slipped back around the herd and we hiked back down the mountain.  We left that gate open so they could come back down the water trough, since Baker Creek was probably still frozen. 
A couple days later, all but 4 cows were back down again, discouraged by the deep snow and cold weather.  I went up with Lynn that day on the 4-wheeler to break ice on the trough, to move the cows back up again in case they were down.  

 After getting all the ice off the trough, we drove down to the bottom gate where the cows were standing around, hoping for hayLynn called the cows and led them back up the mountain with his 4-wheeler and I followed them.  
We let them drink at the trough, then took them on up through the next gate again.  He was able to drive his 4-wheeler partway up there, and hiked the rest of the way, calling them.  After they got up into the better grass they spread out again, grazing. 
On our way home we saw the Power Company putting up poles for my brother’s new house, putting in the power line to the house site.  The building contractors were finally able to put in the foundation and pour the concrete, but the rest of the construction will have to wait until warmer weather in spring. 
The next day Andrea helped us and we herded the cows back up again.  When they come down for water they haven’t been climbing back up to the good grass. 
During the coldest weather Andrea helped me with morning chores for a week, breaking ice out of the horse tubs and the heifer’s water tubs.  Any water left in their tubs at night froze solid, so it was a chore to break ice daily before we could water them.   
The creek here at home had thick ice on it.  Our neighbor Alfonzo was trying to get a couple of his ditches shut off before he went south to Mexico for the winter so there wouldn’t be ice flows down over his fields.  He hadn’t shut the headgates clear down this fall, and they were frozen in place, with water leaking underneath.  He thought he could pile some gravel against them from the creek channel but everything was frozen. So he had Sy Miller bring their tractor/loader up to move some dirt, but it got stuck in the creek.  They came to our place to ask if we could take our tractor up to pull it out, but we weren’t able to help.  In this cold weather our tractor would have to be plugged in for at least 8 hours before it would start, and we’d also need chains on the tires to get around.  They were able to find another neighbor with a backhoe that would start. 
They still weren’t able to get the ditch shut off, and it was going to create an ice flow and flood another neighbor.  Alfonzo had to leave to go to Mexico, so Lynn offered to take a look at it and realized that the problem was simply water leaking under the headgate.  All we needed to do was bar down through the frozen mud and remove the obstruction.  Lynn started on that project, then the next day Michael finished the job, getting all the frozen gravel out from under the stuck headgate.  He brought dry dirt down in his pickup, and shoveled it in above the headgate and packed it down, and got the water stopped. 
Michael, Carolyn and young Heather spent several days hauling hay (small bales) that Heather bought for her horses and for the horses she’ll be training next summer.  They had to get one stack hauled right away—purchased from some people on the other side of town—because the elk were coming down every night and eating it.  The snow and cold weather have brought the elk down out of the mountains and into many people’s haystacks.  Andrea and Robbie helped them haul a few loads on Andrea’s pickup. 
They also spent several days cutting and hauling more firewood from up the creek.   With Andrea and Robbie helping, they were able to saw and load enough wood in an afternoon to fill 3 pickups.  After several days’ hauling, we all have enough wood to see us through the winter. 
With this cold weather, deep snow, and frozen water troughs, the missing bull that Alfonzo wasn’t able to find decided to come home off the range.  He showed up in the field below our place after the 3rd day of bad weather. 
Emily had an elk tag and a late-season deer tag, and went hunting several days with her dad, but they didn’t get close enough to the elk for her to shoot one.  She did get her deer, however, in the field next to Andrea’s house.  She’s a good shot, like her mom. 
On Thursday the weather moderated and the temperature actually got above freezing during the day.  Lynn and I realized that some of the places in Baker Creek where the water springs back out of the ground would be free of ice and the cattle would be better off in that part of the 320-acre pasture again (and we wouldn’t have to keep chasing them up to better grass).   
When we found them all down at the lower gate that day, we took them back to Baker Creek (Lynn leading them with the 4-wheeler and me bringing up the stragglers on foot) and shut the gate so they couldn’t come back to the lower Basin.  They will be better off up there now that they can drink again in Baker Creek.  Even though the snow is deep, there’s a lot more grass.  The cattle can hike in and out of Baker Creek to water. 

On Friday the editor of our local paper interviewed me, to do an article about my new book Horse Tales.  She wrote a nice review and told me she enjoyed reading it.  I am glad the book came out before Christmas; it solved the question of what to give to family and special friends this year! 
Anyone who wants an autographed copy can order one from me (see details on earlier blogs, or call 208-756-2841, or email hsmiththomas@centurytel.net).   

I also have copies of some of my other horse books and cattle books, and my book Beyond the Flames, if someone wants autographed copies.  I also have some of my Dad’s books to sell (his series of Meditations from the High Country, which include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb, along with his historical novel Murder on the Middle Fork). 
Yesterday the weather started warming up and rained a little instead of snow.  We’re glad we stuck it out through the cold weather and didn’t bring the cows home to start feeding hay.  If we have some moderate weather they might be able to stay on the 320 for several more weeks.  We didn’t check them that day, however, because it was too slippery to drive up there safely on the 4-wheeler. 
The rain stopped for a few hours yesterday afternoon so Michael came down and helped me take the shoes off Sprout, Ed and Dottie for winter.  He did Dottie last, and she waited her turn tied to the fence. 

Just as he was finishing Dottie’s hind feet, another storm blew in, with strong wind gusts, and she got nervous, but he was able to finish trimming her. 
Andrea took Emily to her hockey tournament this weekend in Idaho Falls, and we fed the other kids meals here.  Lynn stayed with them at her house those nights.  Today he and I drove up to the 320 again on his 4-wheeler and checked the ice along Baker Creek.  There are several places now that are ice-free, where the cattle can drink. 

DECEMBER 3 – Our weather warmed up and the snow settled.  The cows are happily grazing again, rooting down through the soft snow to the green regrowth that’s about 5 inches tall.  This will add enough protein to their diet to augment the tall dry grass.  Even though we got several more storms and new snow, it keeps settling and isn’t very deep. 
Last Monday Andrea caught Rishiam again—first time since her last ride on him November 8 when the weather turned bad.  She worked with his feet a little, rasping the clinches off the nails in preparation to try to get his shoes off.  He’s still not very cooperative about having his feet handled, but she plans to work with him a lot this winter to try to get him more trusting. 

Last Wednesday Michael and Carolyn hauled the last load of horse hay for Heather.  She is in Canada for a couple of weeks visiting her friend Gregory (who has a grain farm in Saskatchewan) and his parents. 
The next day Robbie went with Lynn on the 4-wheeler to check the cows on the 320 and they were all spread out grazing and doing well.  Andrea and I worked with the horses, handling Rishiam’s feet and rasping them a little bit to trim them. 

Then she left him tied awhile as we worked with 3-year-old Willow and trimmed her feet.  That evening we had Thanksgiving dinner at Andrea’s place. 
We finally located some straw to buy (to mix with the alfalfa hay for the cows this winter).  We thought we had some located earlier this fall, but that deal didn’t materialize, so we asked Andy Wagoner—the rancher near Lone Pine who sells us alfalfa hay—if he knew of any straw.  He found some that he’d be able to haul to us soon, and we hoped to get it accomplished while our driveway was thawed out and not too icy for his son Heath to get in and out of here safely with his big truck, and not have to put chains on it. 
Another big storm was predicted for the weekend, so Andy and Heath brought our straw on Friday.  The roads were perfect, with no ice/snow, our driveway was bare for the first time in a month, and there was still enough frost in the ground for him to turn the big truck around in the hold pen near our stackyard without sinking in and getting stuck.  Michael brought his 4-wheel-drive tractor down here to unload it, and they went back for a second trip.  We got it unloaded just before dark, and before the storm hit. 
We had several inches of new snow, but the weather stayed warm and it soon settled.  That first day of the storm, however, Alfonzo’s cows broke into his haystack on the Gooch place.  We called Millers (who are tending Alfonzo’s cows while he is in Mexico this winter) to let them know.  A couple of the Miller boys came up and patched the stackyard fence. 
We borrowed a wood splitter and Robbie and Andrea used it to split part of our wood and some of Michael’s.  Andrea finished cutting up Emily’s deer and grinding part of it into hamburger. On Monday Lynn drove his 4-wheeler up on the 320 to check on the cows and they are still spread out and doing well.  I finished writing our Christmas letter, early this year instead of late!