Monday, March 28, 2016

Ranch Diary: February 14 through March 14, 2016


FEBRUARY 23, 2016 – Last Tuesday Michael, Nick and Robbie worked on the fence project to replace the old falling-down fence along our lane. Michael used the backhoe to dig out the rest of the brush, chokecherry trees and old fence posts. Lynn went to town that afternoon for a doctor appointment to have his hip checked. The doctor wants him to have an MRI to try to figure out the problem.

The next day Andrea, Carolyn and Dani left early in the morning to drive to Pocatello for Dani’s appointment with Dr. Christensen, the psychologist who has been evaluating Charlie and his progress (working with Charlie’s high-functioning autism) over the years. The custody evaluator (in the court battle between Mark and Andrea) wanted Dani evaluated regarding her social adjustment and recent problems in school. Dani has been having a hard time dealing with the stress of the on-going custody battle, which has been going on for more than a year now, ever since Mark re-opened the custody case wanting to take the kids away from Andrea. This mess has been very hard on everyone emotionally, especially the children.

Robbie helped me feed the cows that morning, and then helped Michael and Nick work on the fence. They got the rest of the new posts set before lunch. Lynn got the other kids off the bus after school and I fed them all supper, since it was late evening before Andrea, Carolyn and Dani got back home from their trip.

It rained in the night and the next couple days were very windy. The weather was terrible on Thursday, with wind, rain and hail, and the guys decided not to work on the fence. Andrea took Dani to the doctor to have the staples removed from her head gash, which has now healed fairly well. This was the deep gash from the icicle falling on her head, out at her dad’s place a few weeks ago—an injury that was belatedly treated/stapled at the ER, the night Andrea got the kids back from Mark (and took Dani to the hospital), since Mark didn’t take the child to a doctor.

With all the rain, our snow is melting and flooding everywhere. Andrea and Robbie spent several hours shoveling and ditching the water that was washing out Andrea’s driveway. The storm abated a little by Friday and the guys worked on the new fence again, putting the net wire on it.

 

They got that project finished, and started sawing out the brush in Fozzy’s old pen by the creek, so we can refurbish the fence around it and move Sprout into that pen. It’s a lot bigger and she’ll have more room, and some trees for shade. We can then move Rishiam into Sprout’s pen and free up the pen where he’s been living for a year and a half. We need his pen again for calving.

On Saturday Lynn got a phone call from a guy who needed a well site located, so he drove out to that place, near the airport, to water witch. On his way down the creek, he saw one of Alfonzo’s cows stuck on her back, unable to get up. He was about to try to go find Alfonzo, then Alfonzo showed up with his horse to rope the cow and pull her upright again so she wouldn’t suffocate.

The next day Sam got up early and went to church with her cousin Heather. Andrea and Robbie helped me feed, then started the tractor and took more big bales around to various groups for their feeders, and reloaded the feed truck. The heifers were glad to have new hay in their feeder.

 
Michael and Carolyn drove their truck down for some more big bales of alfalfa, and brought us 2 more big bales of oat hay.

Yesterday the kids didn’t quite get ready for school in time and missed the bus so Andrea drove them clear to school while Robbie helped me feed the cows. I cooked a big lunch for my fence crew again. They burned the big pile of brush/trees they sawed out of the creek pen, and started re-establishing the hot wire around the old jack-fence. 



 
Sprout will need the hot wire to keep her from chewing on the wood fence. The fire was still smoldering that evening but it was down to ashes and coals, and it wasn’t windy, so we figured it was safe to leave it. By this morning the remains of the brush pile were all burned up.

It’s been cold the past few mornings, and down to 8 degrees again this morning. The guys finished restoring the old electric wire around the creek pen, and rehung the gate, and I fed them lunch again. Andrea helped me trim Rubbie and Veggie’s long feet. They hadn’t been trimmed since early winter and their toes were much too long. I took photos of their long feet before we started trimming.



In the afternoon Lynn drove to town for his MRI. The technicians were able to view both hips at once, so he didn’t have to make two trips through the machine. On his way home he picked up stays (for the new fence between our place and Alfonzo’s cattle) and also bought electric wire insulators for the refurbished creek pen. The guys finished that pen this afternoon, and hung a new gate in the driveway fence.


Then they rehung one of the gates in Sprout’s old pen so it would be higher off the ground and not be so difficult to open when there’s snow on the ground. 

MARCH 5 – Last week our second load of oat/barley hay arrived, and Michael unloaded the truck at the upper stackyard with his tractor. The muddy conditions made it difficult for the big truck to get back out of the stackyard but Michael was able to pull it partway and then push it the rest of the way out to the county road with his tractor.

 The next day we worked cows. Michael and Carolyn vaccinated theirs early in the morning, luring them into the corral with their feed truck. They were finally able to get Alfonzo’s wild heifer captured and loaded into their stock trailer. She came into their field last fall when Alfonzo and his friends were rounding up his cattle off the range, ramming and jamming them in a big mob through the upper road pasture, and pushed her through the fence into the neighboring range. She crawled through that fence to come in with Michael and Carolyn’s cattle because she didn’t want to be all by herself. A few days later Alfonzo came back up there with his horse and tried to get her out but she was too wild and he gave up. Michael and Carolyn told him they would bring her home the next time they had their cattle in the corral. She refused to cross the creek, however, after it iced over last fall, and stayed by herself on that side for a while even though the other cattle went back and forth.

She was wild and goofy and they simply let her live with their cattle all winter, eating hay. This was the first opportunity to capture her, on the day they put the whole herd into the corral to vaccinate the cows with their pre-calving shots. But knowing how wild Alfonzo’s heifer is, and realizing she would try to crash the fence or jump out, the first thing they did was herd her and another cow into the trailer. The old gentle cow led the heifer into the trailer and then turned around and came back out, enabling them to slam the door and contain the wild heifer. After they vaccinated their cows, they hauled the heifer home to Alfonzo’s place.

Meanwhile, we rounded up our two groups of cows at feeding time, luring them down to the corrals with the feed truck. Dani helped follow the herds in from the fields. We were ready to vaccinate them by the time Michael, Carolyn, Nick and young Heather finished with theirs and came down to help us. Dani helped Nick and Heather push the cattle through the chute and Nick gave her some pointers on where to position herself, to encourage a cow to move forward in the chute.

After vaccinating our two groups and letting them back out into their respective pastures, we lured the 17 yearlings in from their field, with a little hay in the sled, and brought them around to the corral. We vaccinated, deloused, and tagged the heifers, giving them their permanent brisket tag numbers, dehorned the two that had horns. Andrea took pictures of Michael tagging Panda Bear and dehorning her.



We took that group back to their field, and then vaccinated the two yearling bulls from the back corral. We got it all finished by lunch time and I fed everyone lunch.



Michael, Robbie and Nick put the stays in our new fence at the lower end of the heifer pasture—the property boundary fence between us and Willard Colston’s place. We told Willard in January that we were rebuilding it and that he would be responsible for his half of the expense. We recently sent him an itemized list of the cost, and a bill for his half. Idaho state law says that adjoining property owners share the labor/costs of their mutual boundary fence. Willard responded by saying he would not pay it because he didn’t think a new fence was necessary. We had told him earlier that the old fence (built in 1967) was no longer adequate; we’d patched in many times over the years but some of the old posts were rotted off. Then during the past 5 years of Alfonzo leasing Willard’s place, Alfonzo’s cattle pressed it very hard, reaching through it to eat grass on our side when they were short on feed, and one of his cows jumped over it. We had a bigger problem with Alfonzo leaving his bulls next to our heifer pasture, with risk of bulls coming through/over the fence to try to breed our heifers. A good neighbor does NOT put bulls next to someone else’s open heifers! For multiple reasons, it was time to build a new fence—with or without Willard’s blessing or participation.

For the past month and a half, Alfonzo has been feeding his cows (and bulls with them) next to our heifer pasture, and a few days ago when I was walking through our heifers I took a photo of him feeding right below our new fence. Even though we also put a hot wire along our side to keep our heifers farther away, we can now rest easier knowing that Alfonzo’s bulls can’t come through our new fence.


On Saturday Andrea and Robbie used the chain saw and brush nippers to cut off all the little stumps that were left in the new pen after cutting down the brush, to make sure nothing sharp would injure a horse’s foot. Then they put Sprout into that creek pen, and moved Rishiam into Sprout’s old pen. Now we have our extra “calving pen” available again. I took photos of Andrea leading Sprout around to show her the new pen, taking her down across the creek, and Breezy watching her new “neighbor”. Breezy is still doing well with one eye—wearing her protective face mask to shield her good eye from too much sun.




It snowed off and on that day, and we were glad we did all the cattle work the day before when it was sunny and nice.

 We had several days of snowstorms and colder weather again, then melting snow and mud. Andrea had to move some of the big bales (with the tractor) to a different area of the stackyard because they were in water, and had to do it early one morning while the mud was a little frozen, so she wouldn’t get the tractor stuck.

Michael, Nick and Robbie worked on a couple more fence projects, finishing up one end of our second-day pens near the calving barn, and tearing out the old falling down fence in the hold pen at the end of our running chute, in the corral—to rebuild it.

Then we had terrible wind and blizzard Tuesday night, with new snow. The wind blew some empty water tubs across the lane, blew hay (laid out for the horses’ morning feed) a hundred yard, ripped and blew the tarp off the heifer hay that was stacked below the lane. We had more floodwater coming down the draw behind Andrea’s house when the snow melted, so Andrea and Robbie spent several hours shoveling and diverting it.

 Michael has been really miserable these last few days with an abscessed wisdom tooth. It needs to be pulled, but the dentist put him on antibiotics for a week before it can be pulled. He took a couple days off from fencing because he’s been in such pain.

Our smallest yearling heifer, Raindrop, was lame with foot rot, so we brought her in and pushed her into the chute with one of her buddies, and gave her injections of antibiotics. She’s walking better today. Andrea took another new bale down to the heifer feeder.


The past 2 days we’ve been cleaning house and getting ready for guests. Pete and Bev Wiebe are driving home to Canada after spending part of winter in South Carolina with the Mennonite Disaster relief group, helping rebuild homes. They planned to come through here and spend a few days with us before continuing their trip home to British Columbia. Yesterday Sam and Dani helped Lynn and me clean house (and Andrea worked on cleaning her house), while the guys finished setting the posts and hanging the new gates that go across our driveway. I took photos of them – open and closed.



 
These replace the old wood panel and broken aluminum gate that we drug across the driveway to block it every time we moved cattle back and forth from the calving pen to the barn and from the maternity pen to the field below the lane. I fed the guys lunch but Michael was somewhat limited on what he could eat, with his tooth really bothering him.

Today we were finishing up the house cleaning, expecting Pete and Bev to arrive this afternoon. Then this morning we got an e-mail from them just as they were leaving Salt Lake City, to let us know they were sick with a bad flu bug and had decided to drive straight home and not risk bringing sickness to us.

We continued cleaning house however (getting rid of piles of old magazines and newspapers) and after chores this evening we went up to Andrea’s house. She had prepared a big lasagna dinner in expectation of having Pete and Bev and all of us, but instead we just had a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary (this was the 50th anniversary for Lynn and me). It was a nice evening, enjoying family around us, reflecting back over the many years here on Withington Creek—through good times and adversities—grateful for our wonderful family. Andrea’s friend Anita had baked a special cake for us.



MARCH 14 – Last Sunday morning was warm, 38 degrees. The snow continued melting, without a freeze to slow down the thaw. When Andrea, Robbie and I fed the cows that morning there was water coming into the irrigation ditch from the big draw behind Andrea’s house, overflowing into the lane by the creek and starting to wash it out. We had a shovel in the feed truck and spend a few minutes diverting it, then after we fed the cows Andrea and Robbie walked down the ditch at the bottom of the field to divert the water to the creek so it wouldn’t wash out the ditch. By midday there was a lot of water running down the draws on the other side of the canyon and filling the ditches along the Gooch place. The water was coming on down into our ditch and flooding across heifer hill. There was so much water that if left unchecked would create a gully across our field. Andrea, kids and Robbie had gone to town for a friend’s birthday party and Lynn headed off to try to fight the flood. I called Nick, who came down and met him at heifer hill, to help him put in a dam and divert the water down to the creek so it wouldn’t wash across our field or come on down into the next field.

On Monday Michael, Nick and Robbie finished rebuilding the fence in the little crowd pen at the end of our running chute, setting the gate posts in concrete and hanging a metal gate there to replace the old broken wood panel. I took a photo of their completed project, and while I was over there at the corral I also took a photo of one of our bulls—Thunderbull (coming 3 year old, son of Old Freddy).


 
I cooked lunch for the fence crew. Andrea brought more big bales around for the heifers with the tractor and tried to smooth out the deep ruts in our driveway. The mud is bad this spring! That night it snowed again, and we’ve had a little rain off and on, so it will take a while to dry out the mud.

Michael, Nick and Robbie had planned to start a custom fence job near Baker the next day, but postponed due to bad weather and Michael’s painful tooth. He’s now on a stronger antibiotic to try to clear up the infection (he had an earache and fever). On Wednesday the dentist pulled it, but he’s still been very miserable and unable to eat—trying to subsist on a liquid diet and still work on the custom fencing job. He’s doing a little better by today.

Some of our cows are starting to show more udder; it will soon be time to bring them down from the field to the maternity pen. They are due to start calving the first of April. Yesterday evening Dani and Andrea walked up through the big group by Andrea’s house to look at them.

They all had supper at our house after Andrea got the kids back from Mark. I was finishing chores as they got here, and Sam and Dani helped me feed the heifers with the new cart that Robbie made. He bolted one of our hay sleds (the one with the metal bottom) to a little 4-wheeled cart. It’s a lot easier to pull than a sled, now that the snow has melted, and holds more than any of our wheelbarrows. Andrea took photos of the kids helping feed with the new “cart” and on our way back to the house I took photos of one of our old cats.



 
The old gray horses stayed fat this winter, thanks to the alfalfa hay, which was easy for them to eat, with their bad teeth. Now they are starting to shed their long winter hair. Yesterday I took photos of their scruffy look, with patches of long hair missing.


They have just about made it through another winter! Veggie is 30 this spring and Rubbie is 29. We hope they’ll have another good summer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Diary from Sky Range Ranch: January 18 through February 14, 2016

JANUARY 25, 2016 – Last Saturday we had a bad snowstorm. Alfonzo’s cattle in the fields below our place had not been fed for several days, and that afternoon a couple of his yearlings crawled through a fence into the field next to our heifers, trying to find something to eat. Our heifers were curious and ran down to the fence to try to socialize with those yearlings, then ran around like a bunch of silly teenagers, during the storm.

That evening after chores Lynn and I drove up the creek to Rocky and Bev’s new place for their housewarming, and enjoyed visiting with their friends who braved the snowy roads. We nearly got our pickup stuck in deep snow along the edge of the road by their driveway when we pulled off the road to park. We stayed late and had a good visit with Rocky, Bev and Aaron.

Sunday morning when I fed the heifers Deerling (Dani’s favorite heifer) was very sick. She was moving slowly, with her head and neck forward, in respiratory distress, and was unable to eat. When Andrea came down to help feed the cows, we lured a few of the heifers and Deerling into the pens by the barn and put Deerling in the headcatch to take her temperature. It was 105 degrees. So we treated her with antibiotics and some Banamine (anti-inflammatory medication that would help her lungs and bring down her fever) and squirted DMSO into her throat (to reduce swelling in her airways). We left her in the pen next to the field, where she could be by herself yet still see her buddies right through the gate and not be too stressed at being separate. Andrea and Robbie shoveled the deep snow out of one corner of the pen and gave her some grass hay for bedding. Later that morning she started feeling a little better (thanks to the Banamine) and was nibbling on her alfalfa hay.
 Andrea and Robbie loaded the feed truck, took big bales out to the cows’ feeders, brought more hay around for the heifers, and some bedding for the heifers so they’d have someplace to sleep other than the deep snow. They put the bedding in the corner next to Deerling’s pen so she’d have her buddies nearby for company and not be so upset at being alone. The storm wasn’t quite over, so Andrea and Robbie put a piece of plywood over the windbreak corner in that pen, so Deerling would have shelter. Sam and Dani petted her under the roof the next day.
 The snowstorm continued through the next day. There was no school, so Charlie spent the day with Emily at her job (at the music store) and Sam helped Andrea make a bigger roof for Deerling. It quit snowing for a while that afternoon so we took that opportunity to give Deerling her next treatments. We cornered her in the pen, rather than stress her by putting her in the headcatch again. Robbie and Andrea held her in the gate corner while I gave her another injection of Banamine, and then we cornered her under her roof and they held onto her while I squirted another dose of DMSO (mixed with warm water) into her throat. She was breathing much better.

After we finished, Dani petted and comforted Deerling, to reassure her pet that we didn’t mean to upset her or hurt her!
It was so stormy the next day that Michael, Nick and Robbie took a day off from fencing even though they were nearly done with the portion of fence they’re rebuilding in the bull corral. That evening when we did chores, Deerling was out with the other heifers. They’d fiddled with the chain on the gate and got it unhooked! She was out, and a bunch of them were in the pen, eating her hay! So we brought her back in and put one of her buddies in the headcatch chute with her and gave her the next round of antibiotics.

Emily joined us for dinner on Sunday night and we gave her some early birthday gifts. She’s now 18! Hard to believe it’s been 18 years since that girl was born—on a cold, stormy January day just like we’re having now. Some of her friends had a party for her downtown. Here are photos of Em and her Dad, and Andrea, taken on Em’s birthday.

On Tuesday Andrea went to physical therapy for her shoulder, took Dani to the doctor (she has a fever and swollen lymph node in her neck) and Lynn went to the doctor to have his hip checked. The doctor ordered a bunch of tests—to try to figure out if it’s his hip socket or arthritis in the joint.

Michael, Nick and Robbie finished setting the gate posts in the corral, and hung the gates. I fed them lunch. Deerling was doing better, eating more like normal.

The next day Dani stayed home from school again, and Andrea wasn’t feeling well so Robbie started to take the other kids to the bus in his pickup, but ran out of gas at the end of our driveway. He jogged back home and got his car. The kids helped him push the pickup out of the way and he took them clear to school—since they missed the bus.

Michael and Robbie drove to Howe to look at some oat/barley hay that a farmer there has for sale, and took core samples to test the bales for nitrates. We are running out of grass hay and need to buy something to mix with our alfalfa to get us through the rest of the winter. Andrea and I put Deerling and a buddy in the headcatch again, gave her more antibiotics and took her temperature. It was down to 102.8 which is much better than it was, but still above normal. She’s doing better, and eating more hay.

That evening Em hit a young deer on the highway on her way home from work; it jumped out in front of her car, and went over the hood, mashing it down and breaking a headlight. She was able to drive on home, but now her hood won’t open, and her turn signals don’t work.

On Thursday I cooked lunch again for the fence crew, and Andrea helped me give Deerling her last round of antibiotic injections. Her temperature was down to 102 degrees and she’s feeling good, so we let her back out with the other heifers. Lynn went to town for blood tests and hip x-rays.

Jim has been creating more antler art and chandeliers, in preparation for the art show he’ll be attending soon. He has made some beautiful pieces in his little shop across the creek (the old trailer house that Michael and Carolyn used for several years when they were calving their cows here). He created some interesting and beautiful wall lamps using burr wood and antlers.


He also made some table lamps, including one that has burr wood as a stand, with Cape buffalo horns coming out of it. And for fun he made a “flower pot” full of antler flowers with turquoise centers.

Alfonzo came home from Mexico (a few days earlier than last year) and fed his cows next to our fence—right across the creek from our heifers. They all ran down there again to try to socialize. We’d plan to repair the old fence between our heifer field and the Colston place (which Alfonzo is leasing) before he got home (this was the next fence project on our list, while Michael and Nick are helping us) because we knew Alfonzo would put all his cows in the little field below us as soon as he got home. Since he never takes his bulls out of the herd, this puts our heifers at risk because the bulls might try to come through the fence to breed them. We realized we need to do more than just patch that fence so Michael and Nick measured it to see how many posts it would take to rebuild it—taller and stronger.

The next day (Friday) Michael brought his truck down to get more hay for his cows, and after loading the hay he used our tractor and blade to plow a “road” through the deep snow in our field—down to the lower fence and along it, to make it easier to get materials down there to work on it. He also plowed a path across the field, partway down. After lunch we locked up the heifers temporarily in the big pen below the barn, while Michael, Nick and Robbie set steel posts and put up a 2-strand electric fence across our field. This will keep the heifers from going down to the lower end, and keep them away from the fence while it’s being rebuilt, and away from Alfonzo’s bulls! We’re tired of worrying about that problem, since Alfonzo never tries to be a good neighbor, doesn’t lock up his bulls, and doesn’t care whether his bulls go through the fence into our place.

The one good thing about him being back from Mexico is that he is feeding his starving cows every day (though not enough). Those poor cows are not having to go 3 and 4 days between feedings like they did when the Amish neighbors were feeding them for Alfonzo. Some of those cows are so skinny that they will never catch up before they calve. Another skinny cow died today, down by his haystack.
These past few days our “fence crew” has been setting posts for the new fence (putting it next to the old one, which we will leave in place), thawing the frozen ground for each new batch overnight, using our half barrel “ovens” to contain the little fires. With the main corral fence finished now (and the bulls back in that corral) they can concentrate on this fencing project. It takes a bit longer to set posts in the winter, having to thaw out the ground for the post holes, but this fence can’t wait. Our young heifers are all starting to cycle now, and we don’t want Alfonzo’s bulls in with them.

FEBRUARY 3 – We had another stretch of cold weather, down to zero. With all the snow (2 feet deep now in the fields) and cold, it makes chores and feeding a little more time consuming, chopping ice on the creek for the cows’ water, breaking ice out of the horse tubs every morning. Our “fence crew” is making progress on the new fence between us and Alfonzo’s cattle. He crammed them all into the little field right next to us, feeding them there. Some of his cows are calving, and he’s lost several calves during this cold weather. No one who manages his cows this poorly should have them calving this time of year!

Michael and Nick took time out from their post hole thawing to finish hanging a gate in the back pen, then we moved the two yearling bulls (from the pen next to my horse pasture) around to that pen, where they can drink from the little stream at the back (chopped hole in the ice) and be fed in the fenceline feeder. One less chore for me!

On Saturday we had 4 inches of new snow. It had settled by the time we went to feed the cows, but there was some still on the trees and Andrea took a photo as we drove across the bridge on heifer hill to go feed the cows. They came out of the brush when we went to feed them.


Andrea put up another hot wire for Breezy, who has been chewing on her fence. On Sunday we had more snow so Lynn plowed our driveways (again) and Andrea plowed our feed trails and the route we take through the upper fields between the young cows and the older group. Even with chains on the feed truck it’s hard to get through all that snow and we have to keep our travel route plowed. After so many years of not enough snowpack (drought conditions) this year is making up for it with plenty of snow! Andrea also brought a big straw bale around for the heifers to bed on, since their old bedding was deeply covered by new snow.

That evening Lynn went in to town to pick up the kids from Mark, since Andrea wasn’t quite finished with the tractor work. Mark’s girlfriend gave him a note to give to Andrea, saying that Dani had a small lump on her head from being hit with a falling icicle that afternoon. When he and the kids arrived home for supper here, and Andrea read the note and we checked Dani’s head, it wasn’t just a lump; it was a deep gash! Dani didn’t feel good, her head hurt, and it looked pretty serious. So Andrea took her to the ER (which Mark and Dawn should have done that afternoon right after it happened). The child had a concussion and needed several staples to close up the gash. The ER doctor first took x-rays to make sure there were no loose bone fragments in the deep gash.

After Andrea brought her home she slept with Dani and woke her up and checked on her periodically through the night, as instructed by the ER doctor. The next morning Robbie took the other kids to the bus and helped me with all the feeding and breaking ice (temperature was down to zero again), and Andrea stayed with Dani—and took her back in to the doctor for another checkup (for her head, and a respiratory infection). The doctor checked on the staples in her head.
One of our neighbors slid off the road down toward the highway and her car got stuck in the deep snow. Andrea saw her walking home (on her way to town to take Dani to the doctor) and called us. Lynn drove down there, and he and Jim pulled her car out of the snow drift.

Michael got another batch of posts, and he and Nick and Robbie worked all day on the fence. The test results came back from the hay samples, showing that the nitrate levels were safe to feed, so we will be buying a couple loads of the oat/barley hay.

Andrea finished the baby blanket she was making for one of Emily’s friend’s new baby.
Yesterday and today Dani stayed with us (and slept a lot, recovering from her head injury) while Andrea and Carolyn went to Idaho Falls--to go to Andrea’s appointment with her pain doctor and to meet with Andrea’s lawyer. They stayed overnight in a motel and then went to court early this morning for a 3-hour trial for Mark. He was found in contempt of court by the judge—for not trying at all, these past 6 years, to take her name off his house mortgage as instructed in the original divorce decree. Instead of taking her name off it, he borrowed more money on that loan, didn’t make the payments, and allowed it this last fall to roll over into a 30-year mortgage with Andrea’s name still on it, tying up her credit for 30 years! The judge gave him 60 days to either sell or refinance his house to get her name off it, or go to jail.

Robbie took the other kids to the bus, Dani rested here, and Lynn went in to town mid-morning to pick Sam up at school and take her to her appointment for an ultrasound on her abdomen (to try to figure out the cause of her abdominal pain). Andrea and Carolyn got home from Idaho Falls late afternoon. This evening Michael and Carolyn and Andrea talked to the kids to explain to them why their dad had to go to court, so they would understand the situation and know the truth, before they have to spend the next weekend with Mark and Dawn and have to endure abusive repercussions (Mark blaming Andrea for all his problems).

FEBRUARY 14 – Michael, Nick and Robbie have spent the past 10 days working on the new fence and it’s now finished except for putting in the stays between the posts.

The deep snow has been a challenge; one of our other neighbors (Gordon Binning) drove too close to the edge of the road last week and got stuck in the snow. My brother Rocky pulled him out.

The snow has also been a challenge for the wildlife. A group of elk have been coming into the Gooch place above us, eating the wasted hay in Alfonzo’s stackyard (where his starving cows kept getting into it earlier this winter and left some torn-up bales). Two cow elk have been coming down every night to eat on Alfonzo’s haystack along the road from his lower field (where he stacked hay last summer on the side of the road). He bought some alfalfa hay recently and stacked it there, too, and the elk spend the night there. During the day they are bedded on the ridge above it.
Charlie and Sam have been playing in the high school pep band at all the basketball games. It’s a very small band but the kids do a great job and sound very professional. Michael, Carolyn and Nick went to their game last week—the first time they’ve been to a high school basketball game since their own kids were in high school sports. Andrea took photos of the band playing—Sam with her trumpet and Charlie on the trombone.
Last weekend when the kids were home they went snowmobiling and sledding in our back field; Robbie pulled them around on the big inner tube and they had a lot of fun. The snow is still really deep in that field where we haven’t had any cattle this winter.
Dani didn’t take part in the snowmobiling/tubing; she was visiting a friend. Her head is healing, but the gash will take a long time to close up and will leave a big scar. When the doctor looked at it again—after the swelling went down--she realized that it needed twice as many staples. It should have been attended to immediately after the accident, before the tissue around it swelled so much.

On Monday Michael plowed snow at the upper stackyard, and on Tuesday our first load of oat/barley hay arrived. The county sanded the icy road so the big truck could make it up our creek without spinning out on the hills. Michael unloaded the truck with his tractor, and then brought a couple big bales down to us on his feed truck. We started feeding it the next day, feeding it along with the alfalfa. At first we simply fed it strung out on the ground, but the cows wasted some, bedding on it. So the next day we started putting it in their feeders, and now they aren’t wasting any of it.
           

Robbie has been helping feed the cows, and also helps me sometimes with the evening chores, pulling the big sled full of alfalfa hay for the heifers.

We feed the heifers some alfalfa morning and evening, to supplement the big round bale in the feeder. With good grass hay always available in their feeder, and the supplemental alfalfa (for extra protein) they are growing nicely. They spend a lot of time along the electric fence, however, wishing they could get down to the bottom of the field to check out Alfonzo’s cattle that are jammed into the field below us. They come trooping up the plowed trail each evening to come to their alfalfa when we feed them.

The steer we couldn’t sell last fall, Cinnamon Bear--who had a broken leg as a baby--has been living with the heifers this winter, and he’s getting big. The lump on his hind leg is smaller and hardly noticeable anymore. He’s not lame, and if the lump reduces more as he grows, we may be able to sell him next summer. If it’s still visible (which would be an excuse for a buyer to pay less money than what he’s worth) we will eat him instead.
This winter has been colder and snowier than we’ve had for several years. Our area is above average for snow, for a change, especially in the mountains, which should mean more irrigation water next summer. The kids have had a lot of fun sledding this year. Dani and Sam have enjoyed sledding down their driveway, clear to our barnyard, and sometimes come down here to help with evening chores on the weekends. Then they can have Andrea and Robbie pull them back home with the 4-wheeler.

Today, however, the weather is warmer, above freezing. The snow is settling and it looks like we might have rain instead of snow. Maybe spring is on the way?