Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ranch Diary - May 11 through June 21, 2015

MAY 21 – We had rain last week; the weather has been cold and wet. The field above the house where the cows and calves were living was muddy for quite awhile and Buffalo Girl’s calf got foot rot. We brought her and Gilbert, in from the field last Wednesday and gave him antibiotics to treat his swollen hind foot. Dani helps with the cows and calves every chance she gets, and likes to walk among them to keep them gentle.
Andrea and Robbie have been helping Lynn change irrigation water and clean out more ditches. There’s plenty of water right now in the creek from snowmelt on the mountain, but our neighbor above us still tries to use everything in the two ditches that we share! Several times we’ve had to walk up the ditches and readjust his dams to get our share of the water again. We need to get our fields well irrigated this spring before the creek gets too low in mid-summer.

The cows were hungry for green grass, and tired of hay. We kept them on hay in the little field above the house until we had pasture tall enough to put them on. There’s a good net-wire fence around that little field but they were reaching under it as far as they could, to eat the taller grass outside the fence, and Mary Mary Quite Contrary’s calf Spotrick got through the fence last Saturday.  I put him back through a hole the cows had made, and laced up the hole with baling twine.

So the next day (Sunday) we moved the cows and calves to the lower end of the swamp pasture above the corrals. They are glad to be out on grass and we are glad to not be feeding hay!  We didn’t quite run out of hay. We’re still feeding the 10 heifers some alfalfa hay (along with their pasture) until we can get them vaccinated, tagged, and put out with the cows.

Lynn used our tractor and blade to scrape the silt off Andrea’s upper driveway—from the runoff in March that flooded down along her road.  

Michael and Nick finished a fencing project that afternoon; they built a fence for a man who lives 8 miles up the valley.  He needed a new fence to keep the range cows out of his property. Every year when the ranchers turn their cows out on the range nearby, some of the cows get into his place because the old fence was falling down. Michael and Nick got new fence finished just in time—on the day the cows went to the range. One old cow who always got through the fence came over the hill and paced around the new fence twice before she gave up and went back over the hill.

Our last cow was overdue 5 days from her projected calving date, and finally went into labor Monday morning. I had to go to the eye doctor that morning (with a serious eye infection) so Andrea stayed here and watched the cow till Lynn and I got back from town. The cow started active labor late afternoon. When the calf’s feet appeared, they were huge, and we assumed it was a big bull calf, and thought we might have to pull it. But she calved ok without help, and when Andrea and I dipped the navel stump in iodine we were surprised to see that it was a heifer calf.

By the time it nursed, Dani was home from school and wanted to help us move the pair to a pen by the barn. The calf was still pretty so Dani helped push her along. Dani and Sam named the calf Butterfly Eyebrow because one of the white marks above her eyes looks like a butterfly. We’re calling her Butterflybrow for short. Dani loves the cattle and often pretends she’s a cow. A few days ago she found some ear tags and a cow tag in the old toy box at our house, and used tape to attach them to herself, going around on all fours and mooing like a cow!
Later she helped us put the cows and calves in the upper end of the swamp pasture where there’s more grass. We are saving the lower part of that pasture (which is fenced off from the creek) in case the creek comes up higher and we have to move them into a safe place where the calves won’t be at risk for drowning. Those pastures are boggy right now, and we have two more calves with foot rot.  This morning Lynn and I sorted out Rosalie and her calf (Zorrarose) and Cupie Doll and her calf (Panda Bear) and brought them down to the corral to treat their calves for foot rot.

Today Dani’s class at school had a field trip to see the Big Hole Battlefield in Montana. Andrea and Robbie went along with the class to help with the field trip. This is Andrea’s birthday; she’s 45 today.  Lynn and I silently celebrated the fact that we have a 45-year-old daughter and 3 very special grandchildren that would not exist if Andrea had perished in the fire 15 years ago this summer. We have much to be thankful for.

MAY 31 – Michael wrote an article for Progressive Forage Grower magazine, published this month.  He hopes to start doing more writing again. Perhaps the publication of his daughter Heather Carrie’s first book will encourage him to do more writing!  Her book, Basic Horsemanship: How to Stay Safe with Your Horse, just came out and is now available through the publisher (The Frontier Project), Amazon.com and other booksellers.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.  Emily’s photos are on the front and back covers.
Young Heather hasn’t seen the book yet; she is presently in Canada visiting her friend Gregory on his grain farm. 

Last Sunday we brought the cows and calves down from the swamp pasture and brought the heifers from the horse pasture. Michael, Carolyn and Nick helped us vaccinate, deworm and tag the 10 heifers—putting new ear tags in theirs and brisket tags on our heifers (their permanent numbers).  Then they hauled their heifers to the upper place. We vaccinated our cows and bulls, then branded and vaccinated our calves. Dani helped, and enjoyed lounging around with the calves in the shade of the shed as they waited to be branded.
Cub Cake’s calf was lame on a hind leg when we let him out of the calf chute after branding him, and we think he may have cracked a leg bone getting it caught in the chute. So we left him and his mama in the back pen with another cow and calf and didn’t put them up in the field with the rest of the cows.

On Monday I let Rubbie and Veggie out into the barnyard area next to their pens to let them graze.  They are eager for green grass. In the warmer weather Veggie is no longer so stiff and lame, and his arthritic joints will also do better if he’s moving around more. Out on pasture with his old buddy he won’t be needing “bute” every day. I let the two old horses adjust to the change in diet gradually, grazing briefly the first day, and longer the next, until by the 4th day they could stay out fulltime on the grass.

Dani has been helping me do chores when she gets home from school, and enjoys interacting with the cattle and horses. She helped move the cattle back to the upper part of the swamp pasture, and likes to check off the cows and calves in the pasture daily and make sure they are all doing ok.

On Thursday Andrea went with Dani’s class on their field trip to go fishing. I helped Lynn nail another pole on the fence in the back corral where frost heaves have raised the fence a bit, leaving too much space where calves might possibly crawl under the lowest pole. Andrea helped Lynn change irrigation water when she got home from town, then took clothes for Sam and Charlie to change into after school for their band and vocal concert. Lynn and I did chores early and went to hear their concert.  Sam had a trumpet solo in her band group, and she and Charlie both got several special awards for their accomplishments this year in band and chorus.

Michael and Carolyn had a busy day, hauling horses to the vet at Challis (70 miles away)—one for dental surgery, and their mare and foal, for correctional surgery on the foal’s front legs. When they came home they had a problem with the hydraulic steering on their tractor. Michael and Nick went to town for parts and spent the evening fixing it.

On Friday Nick started digging post holes and setting more posts in the fence between our 160-acre hill pasture and the neighboring one. This is a new fence that we built only 3 years ago, but the neighbor’s cattle have pushed it so hard reaching through for grass (when they ran out of feed on their side the past 2 years) that they loosened the wires and pushed some of the steel posts crooked. Then last fall they sorted their range cattle in the bottom corner and rammed and jammed them against the fence so hard that they knocked wires off and bent some of the steel posts. We are now putting wood posts in every space between steel posts and tightening the wires. We’ll have to completely rebuild the fence on the bottom end and plan to put poles on that section.

This weekend Andrea and Robbie put steel posts down across the field below the lane and put up an electric fence to divide it. We will graze the wet area on the lower end that we can’t cut for hay; it takes too long to get it dry enough to not sink into the mud with the haying equipment.

JUNE 11 – We’ve had lightning storms but not much rain. Weather turned hot and dry. Last Tuesday Andrea and Dani helped move the cattle to the field below the lane.

Michael and Nick set more posts in the fence along our 160 pasture and Andrea went to Dani’s school program. Then the kids went to their “end of school party” at the school. They had their last day of school the next day, and had to go to their dad’s place that evening. Things are a bit tense, since Mark re-opened the divorce case and is trying to get full custody of the 3 kids instead of the current shared custody (he gets them every other week during summer, every other weekend during the school year, and alternating years on various holidays). Things were working fairly well this way, until this past December when Mark’s new girlfriend moved in with him. The kids don’t mind spending part of the time with their dad but they don’t like the girlfriend.

On Friday Michael and Nick built a weir for our ditch that serves the field on Heifer Hill so we can measure how much water we are actually getting to our field. This is a ditch we share with our neighbor Alfonzo above us; he can have half of it as long as there is plenty of water in the creek, but after the creek gets low, this ditch is our water because our place has a prior water right. We’ve had problems because he keeps taking more than his half and we need a way to show how much is actually getting to our place.

Saturday Michael and Nick made an adjustment to the corral on the upper place; they created a little chute with panels, to funnel calves to a branding table. On Sunday Michael, Carolyn and Nick rounded up their cows and calves on the 160-acre pasture and brought them down to that corral to brand and vaccinate. We drove up there to see the bull calf we’ll be buying from them when he is weaned this fall.
Then we helped guard a bad spot in the fence to keep their bull from jumping in with the cows, and helped sort some of the cows. They ran the cows through their running chute to vaccinate and deworm.
Then they branded and vaccinated the calves. Nick pushed them one by one into the little chute to the calf table, where Michael branded and Carolyn vaccinated them. They kept two calves as bulls (and didn’t castrate them)—one for them and one for us. 
Then they took the cows and calves back to the 160-acre hill pasture. They’ll stay there a few more weeks until they put the bull in with them.

Lynn helped Andrea clip the long hair off her dogs for summer; they’ve been miserably hot in this warmer weather.

On Monday we moved the cows and calves down to the old “post pile pasture” for a few days. The grass there is as tall as their shoulders. We keep rotating them around the ranch, letting the grazed pastures regrow. That afternoon Andrea and I rode Ed and Breezy, and that evening we let Cub Cake and her calf (with the healing leg) into the grassy pen next to the corral they’ve been living in. He is walking on that leg pretty well now.

Tuesday morning early (while it was still cool) Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me and we rode them later that day, getting them ready for the little girls to ride them again. Lynn’s back is really bothering him; he overdid working on some fence-fixing in the post pile pasture.

John Miller hauled 18 heifers and a bull to the 160-acre hill pasture adjacent to ours (which he is sub-leasing from Alfonso for the summer), so there is now a bull right through the fence from Michael’s cows and heifers. They were nose-to-nose when Lynn drove up there to talk to the carpenters working on my brother’s new house (we are buying some hay from one of them), so he chased Michael’s herd up away from the fence and put a lot of staples in that part of the fence. This is the part that got so badly damaged last fall when the neighbors sorted their cattle against it, and it needs rebuilt.

Later that day, one of John’s heifers crawled through another fence (next to the road) and came down the road. She went into Michael’s barnyard, and then when Nick chased her out she went on down the road, past our place, and into Alfonzo’s field through his open gate. She went across his fields, through the fence on the far side, over the hill and back home to John’s place!

Yesterday morning Michael put shoes on Dottie for me. Andrea and I rode Sprout and Dottie up the creek and herded John’s cattle up out of the creek bottom and up the draw so they would go up on the mountain to graze. Later that afternoon Michael put shoes on Sprout, just ahead of a thunderstorm.

This evening the kids got home from spending a week with Mark and they were delighted and excited to be home. Dani hiked down to the post pile pasture with me to check on the cows and calves and was able to pet Mini-Mag—her favorite calf.

JUNE 21 – Last week Sam and Dani rode with us several times while they were home. The day that Alfonzo and Millers moved their range cattle (from the low range pasture to the middle range) they missed 17 cows and their calves on the upper end of that pasture. We came across several small groups of cattle during our ride and gathered them. Sam and Dani were good help moving those cattle to the middle range.

With those cattle gone from the low range, we could move our cows and calves to the little hill pasture above our house. We didn’t want to move them up there until there were no bulls adjacent to them, since we don’t want any of our cows bred quite this early. Andrea and Robbie helped Lynn haul our water troughs up there, and pumped water for the cows (from our ditch across the road), and on Saturday we moved them up there. Dani caught and saddled Ed and rode with us to move the cows.
That evening Michael went up the creek to check on his cows and found Miller’s bull trying to get over the fence to breed one of Michael’s heifers, so he chased the bull away from the fence, with the help of his dog, and moved his herd of cattle out of our 160-acre pasture, up to the 320. He hadn’t planned to go into that 320-acre pasture until he puts his bull with his cows, but this crisis forced an early change. Rebuilding that part of the fence, between us and Alfonzo’s pasture, with poles instead of wires, is now a high priority. We talked with John Miller and he will help dig the post holes with his tractor and auger and will furnish some of the poles for it.

Last Monday Andrea and Lynn went to pump water for the cows on our hill pasture and the ditch was drying up. Our neighbor Alfonzo had taken all the water again! They had to go up the ditch and adjust the dam he put across it. We have to fill the water troughs every other day while the cows are in that pasture.

On Wednesday Charlie wanted to ride with us, so he rode Breezy and we made a short loop out over the low range. This was Charlie’s first ride this year and he enjoyed getting out in the hills, seeing the wildlife (including antelope), and the cactus in bloom.

Emily passed her 3rd test (math) for her GED and hopes to take the last test (science) later this week. When she passes it, she will be the first student from her age group to get her GED, graduating from high school a year ahead of her class.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ranch Diary – April 20 through May 10, 2015

APRIL 28 – A couple weeks ago Emily bought her first car—a 1994 Pontiac that needs a little fixing. She found it on-line, in Rigby, a 3 hour drive from here. Andrea and Robbie borrowed a friend’s car carrier and went to get it last week. They left after Robbie got home from work (he works at a ranch south of town) and were nearly home by midnight, but came upon a wrecked semi blocking the back road—just before they got to our creek road. The semi was delivering stove-making materials to one of the Amish families that life around the hill from us, and didn’t make the corner. The trailer was tipped nearly over, into a ditch, and the tractor part was tipped over off the other side of the road.

There was no way past it, so Andrea had to turn her truck and trailer around (a bit tricky) and go back to the highway. The state patrolman directed them to detour through a private lane—but they had to take a locked gate off its hinges to get through. So they finally got home at 3 a.m. The road was blocked all night; there wasn’t a wrecker in Salmon big enough to handle the semi. They had to wait for two wreckers to come from Idaho Falls.
Last Monday the guys who built Andrea’s house 3 years ago came up and put new shingles on the roof where severe winds had taken the shingles off. That day Charlie’s singing group from school went to Rexburg to a singing contest. Charlie is doing very well with his music—both in band with his trombone, and in chorus. His teacher thinks he has a lot of talent and could have a career in music.
Robbie has been changing sprinkler pipes on a ranch that has some goats. Andrea’s kids enjoy going out there sometimes after school to see the baby goats, and pet the ones that are being raised on bottles.

On Tuesday we had 3 cows calving. LillyAnn calved first—a little red heifer calf. It was up and nursing within 30 minutes. Cupie Doll had a big black brockle-faced heifer that Dani named Panda Bear because of the big black spots on her eyes, and her black “lipstick” making a permanent smile. Dani helped me do chores that evening after Lynn brought her home from the bus. She helped me move that pair from the calving pen to the second-day pens below the barn, to make room for the next calving cow. Panda Bear was still a little unsteady on her feet and Dani enjoyed pushing her from behind to get her to go across the driveway. Then Dani rode in the tractor with her mom for awhile as Andrea finished the harrowing.
That night Lilly Annie (LillyAnn’s daughter) was restless and in early labor—and calved the next morning—a black heifer calf. The heifers are way ahead of the bull calves this year, and with only a few cows left to calve there is no way they will be able to catch up!
On Friday it rained and snowed all day. Charlie and Dani helped us dump and move a water trough from the maternity pen (since there are were only 3 cows left there) to the field above the house. We need an extra trough up there to water all the cows with calves. The weather has been cold at nights, down to 26 degrees, but getting warmer during the day, so the grass is trying to grow.
Andrea and Em drove to Idaho Falls on Saturday for a doctor’s appointment. That morning our last red cow started calving, but she didn’t progress in labor. Finally that afternoon, the feet started to show, but the amnion sac was filled with very dark fluid and we knew the calf was in trouble. If the calf is stressed too much during birth, he passes his first bowel movements, into the amniotic fluid that surrounds him.
We’d already called Michael, to help us check the cow in case it was a breech calf or some other abnormal position that needed correction, so we put her in the headcatch and Michael reached in and discovered that the legs were back at the elbows (feet and head all jammed together rather than the feet extended in front of the head), making it impossible for the calf to come through the birth canal very easily. He had to pull the legs out to proper position and then pulled the calf. It was a red bull calf, and covered thickly with meconium (that material he’d pooped out). His mama had to lick all of that off. But he was still alive, in spite of being too long in the birth process. Now we just have 2 cows left to calve, and they look like they’ll be awhile.

MAY 5 – Last Wednesday Andrea helped Lynn put up a temporary electric fence along the south side of the pasture where the cows and calves are—to keep the calves from eating gravel along the ditchbank and also keep them away from the elk panels on that side of the field (the backside of the stackyard). On year we had a calf reach through those and get its head caught, so we don’t want to have that risk.
Lynn cleaned more of our ditches with tractor and blade.

On Saturday our friend from north Idaho (who was here for a few days looking for elk horns in the mountains) helped him shovel and rake debris out of a couple ditches. We finally got some of our ditches turned on at the creek so we can start irrigating.
Dani likes to stop here after school when Lynn brings the kids home from the bus, and she helps me with evening chores, feeding the horses and heifers. She also likes to pick grass for the cows. They are still on hay in the little field above the house until the grass grows a little taller in our other pastures. They are very hungry for green grass, so they eagerly come to eat grass out of Dani’s hands. She’s determined to make pets out of ALL of them! She fills a bucket with green grass that she picks along the edges of the barnyard, and doles it out to her favorite cows.

On Sunday Michael and Carolyn moved their cows from the fields on the upper place, herding them up to our mountain pasture. They still have 3 cows left to calve, but they need to get that group away from the creek—which will soon be at high water stage. They don’t want any calves drowning, trying to cross the creek.
We are still waiting for 2 last slowpokes in our herd. The heifer, Buffalope, is most ready (she’s due to calve in about a week) so now I am putting her in the calving pen at nights, under the lights from the hay shed, so I can see her easier at night.
Michael had an article published in this month’s Progressive Forage Grower magazine, and has another assignment to write an article for a summer issue. He hopes to start doing more writing again.
Right now, however, he and Carolyn, Andrea and Em are getting ready for their trip tomorrow—to drive to Oskaloosa, Iowa for Nick’s graduation from William Penn University. Today Andrea and Carolyn drove to Idaho Falls to pick up a van to rent, for the trip. While in Idaho Falls, Andrea had her monthly appointment with her pain doctor, and also dropped off some documents with her lawyer, pertaining to the custody case that Mark is pursuing in his attempt to get full custody of Dani, Sam and Charlie. On their way home from Idaho Falls with the rented van, Andrea and Carolyn picked up Carolyn’s mom Irene Allen at Arco. She will be going with them to Nick’s graduation in Iowa.

MAY 10 – Early Wednesday morning Michael and Carolyn and Irene came down to pick up Andrea and Emily and they started their trip. Lynn took Andrea’s kids to the school bus an hour later. The travelers made it as far as Rapid City, South Dakota (by 11 p.m. that night) to stop for the night, and continued on to Oskaloosa on Thursday.
At chore time later that morning we took a photo of Dani’s two favorite calves—Mini Mag and Panda Bear.

Our last heifer, Buffalope, started calving Wednesday morning and we put her in the calving pen just before lunch. One foot started showing—just the tip of the toes. Within 20 minutes that leg was sticking out almost to the knee, and the calf’s nose was showing, but the other leg was not there. Lynn and I got all the gates ready to bring Buffalope across the driveway to the headcatch in front of the barn, so we could restrain her and go fishing for the other leg. But in the meantime Buffalope got up and down a few more times, the calf went back in, and the next time she lay down to strain, both feet were there. So we just left her alone and she soon gave birth to a red heifer calf.
It was on its feet within 30 minutes, and within a couple hours it had nursed adequately, so we moved the pair to the pen below the barn where there’s a windbreak on one side and brush along the other two sides. The weather had become stormy, starting to rain before evening. Brush in the far corner of that pen overhangs the pen, making a sort of roof, and that’s where the new mama and her baby spent the night. We had a gentle rain all night long.
On Thursday Lynn took Andrea’s kids to the school bus, and picked them up again after school. Dani stopped off here and helped me do chores and feed the cow and calf below the barn. She named the new calf Raindrop. This calf is uniquely colored. She’s all red, except for some black hairs on top of her head making her look like she has a wig, and a couple inches of black coloring at the tip of her tail! The next day, both Sam and Dani helped with chores, and helped us catch and tag Raindrop. They also went up in the field to look at their favorite calves and feed grass to the cows.

Saturday was Nick’s graduation. It started at 10 a.m and lasted until 1 p.m with 310 seniors graduating. As soon as it was over, Michael and Carolyn, her mom, and Andrea and Em loaded up all his stuff in his pickup and headed home. Em rode with Nick in the pickup.

 That afternoon Sam and Dani came down from their house early and helped me trim Veg and Rubbie’s feet before chores. They picked grass for those two old horses, which kept them both very happy as I trimmed their feet. With their stiff, painful joints, it’s hard for them to hold a hind leg up very long or very much off the ground. The grass treat helped their grumpy attitudes and they were not very hard to trim.
After we did chores we checked on all the babies up in the field, and Dani showed Sam her new pet. One of the calves has become very bold and comes up to Dani to have her head and back scratched. She’s a great-granddaughter of Maggie, Dani’s favorite old cow that we had to sell last fall. When this calf was born, Dani named her Mini-Mag, and it looks like she’ll be a replacement for Maggie as Dani’s best pet. At first she was timid and wouldn’t let Dani touch her (when this photo was taken), but now she’s more friendly.

 After chores, the girls helped me make pizza (biscuit dough, covered with browned hamburger, cheese, tomato sauce, sliced olives and slices of hot dogs) and Charlie hiked down to join us for summer. Robbie got home from work in time to eat with us, and took the kids home after supper. Then Lynn and I stayed up late, periodically talking with Andrea as we tracked their slow progress through a terrible rainstorm and wind. It started raining when they left the college and got worse as them went through part of Nebraska, changing to snow when they got into South Dakota. The road was treacherous and they counted 6 vehicles (including 2 semis) that had slid off the freeway. Nick’s pickup didn’t have enough traction and slid around a few times but Nick managed to keep it on the road. Their rented van doesn’t have very good tires for winter travel and it was a slow and treacherous trip, finally getting to Rapid City at 1:30 a.m. to spend the night.
This morning (Sunday) they had more than a foot of new snow in the motel parking lot. The snow plows were trying to keep the freeway clear, however, so they headed on home, with fog, rain/snow and poor visibility, but at least it was daylight.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ranch diary – March 20 through April 19, 2015

MARCH 30 – I’ve been working on my next book, Cow Tales from an Idaho Ranch, writing chapters about some of the memorable experiences with various cattle we’ve raised—some humorous, some challenging.  It’s been fun recalling those adventures, and finding old photos to illustrate those chapters.
            Andrea’s kids have enjoyed helping with evening chores after school—feeding the horses and the yearling heifers.  Dani likes to help load the wheelbarrow and take the alfalfa hay out for the heifers.
            Our old black cat (the one that always had her kittens in the cab of the dump truck, before we had her spayed) likes to hang out around the big bales of hay I feed the heifers and the old horses, and catch mice there.  She always “helps” us do chores, and sometimes sits by the gate when we feed the heifers.  One day when a heifer decided to come through the open gate instead of following the loaded wheelbarrow, the cat stood her ground and hit the heifer in the nose with her claws when the heifer tried to come through!  She thinks she’s Lynn’s special cat and always goes with him around the barnyard.
            Last weekend Michael and Carolyn brought their truck and trailer and hauled their cows to the upper place, to calve up there.  We sorted our cows and put the ones closest to calving in our maternity pen and horse pasture, and left the later-calving cows in the fields above the house.   On Sunday Andrea and I rode Ed and Breezy for the first time this year—after their winter “vacation”—and we also caught Dottie and Rishiam and brushed them.  I saddled Dottie and led her around the barnyard.  The next day, I led Dottie down the road a ways, then Andrea and I rode Ed and Sprout, for Sprout’s first ride of the season.  
            I trimmed Veggie’s long feet.  He’s doing a little better (not so stiff) now that I’m giving him bute every evening, dissolving the pills in warm water and giving it to him with a little molasses mixed in.
Twinkle Twinkle, the sick pregnant heifer, started eating a little better.  Then on Tuesday she calved—nearly 3 weeks ahead of her due date.  The calf was alive, which we were relieved to see, in spite of the mom’s high fever a week earlier.   She simply calved a little prematurely, but the calf is ok, a little heifer.  Andrea’s kids were out of school for spring break and they enjoyed seeing the first new baby of the year, and helping with chores and feeding.  Dani named the new calf Surprise.
Later that day Sam and Dani helped me clean house, and Charlie helped Lynn put some netting along the gate on one of the second-day pens below the barn, so that when we moved the mama and new baby into that pen the tiny calf wouldn’t be able to crawl through or under the gate and get out into the field with the yearling heifers.  We had some wind and snow off and on that day, but the little calf managed to nurse mama and had shelter in that pen with its windbreaks.
Sam and Dani cleared off the stairway to the little attic room and took their bean bag bed up there.  They enjoyed sleeping in their own little “hideaway” room upstairs during their spring break, and helping with the chores and cattle during the days.
On Wednesday I rode Dottie on her first ride of the year, and Andrea rode along on Breezy. Then we rode Ed and Sprout on a longer ride.  In the evening Andrea and kids went to the upper place, where Emily took photos of the other kids posing with one of young Heather’s horses.  She got several good shots, for Heather to select from to choose a cover photo for her first book, which will be published later this summer.
The next day Andrea and I took Sam and Dani for their first ride (on Breezy and Ed) with us.  Then they helped us do chores and put the other 3 heifers in the barn for the first time.  We are feeding them a little alfalfa hay in the barn, to get them at ease with going into the barn—in case we have to put any of them into the barn to calve.  With the crazy weather we’ve been having (wind and occasional blizzards) it’s nice to have a barn!
On Friday we had visitors from Canada.  The editor of Cattlemen’s Corner in Grainews, Lee Hart, and his wife stopped by on their way home from a vacation.  It was fun to meet Lee for the first time (after writing monthly columns for Grainews for more than 30 years, and working with Lee for about 8 years).  He and his wife ate lunch with us and we had a nice visit.  Emily took a photo of Lee and me.
            After they left, Andrea, Sam and Dani and I went for another ride after I trimmed Breezy’s feet a little bit so she wouldn’t be tripping on long toes.  All went well until we were heading home, and then Sprout was misbehaving a little.  That wasn’t much of a problem until she tripped, going through some sagebrush, and nearly fell clear down, pulling Andrea forward.  About the time Andrea was quite forward over her neck, Sprout leaped back up to try to start bucking, and the top of her head connected with Andrea’s chin, cutting it open.  The blow to the bottom of her chin was severe enough that she started to black out, and wobbled a bit, but managed to keep Sprout from bucking.  Her chin was bleeding severely, so when we got home her friend Robbie took her to the hospital to have stitches.  Her chin was very swollen for a few days.
            Saturday we had a hard rain and strong winds that lasted a few hours.  Michael and Carolyn were helping a neighbor, Bruce Mulkey, brand calves that morning, and they’d just gotten the cattle rounded up and into the corral when the storm hit.  They put their horses back into the trailer and waited out the storm until it let up.  After the calves dried out that afternoon they went ahead and did the branding and vaccinating.
            Yesterday our friends from Canada, Pete and Bev Wiebe, stopped here to visit on their way home from working all winter with the Mennonite Disaster Service in Florida and the Southwest, rebuilding homes for people who lost their homes to flooding.  They ate supper with us, and spent the night at Andrea’s house, and this morning came down here to watch our second calf being born.  Bev had never seen a calf born, so she was excited that Merilena waited until daylight to give birth.  Merilena is a first-calf heifer, and we were delighted that she had the calf very quickly and easily.  Dani named the little heifer Starfire.  The next morning, before they left, Pete and Bev took photos of the calf and its mama in our windbreak pens.
APRIL 10 – The past 2 weeks Dani has been helping me with evening chores after Lynn brings the kids home from the school bus.  She likes to help feed the horses (she gives old Veggie his grain) and sort the cows for evening.  At night we lock the most-likely-to-calve cows in the small maternity pen where we can see them under the yard light, and if any of them start to calve we put them in the calving pen—where we can turn on the lights on the hay shed.
            Lynn and Robbie put a little straw in the barn in case we need to put a cow in there to calve (if it’s snowing!), and Andrea and Robbie replaced several burned-out light bulbs in the barn.  Andrea and I cleaned out the old bedding in the two calf houses up in the field and put some hay in for bedding, and put the first calves and their mamas up there.
Andrea checks on the cows during the first part of the night, then I get up about 3 or 4 a.m. and type (finishing up the Cow Tales book chapters, and writing articles) and check on them until daylight.
Last Saturday Em’s dad Jim Daine brought his mule to stay in one of our corrals until he can take her with him to his trail-clearing job in Montana.  In the meantime, Jim is staying at Andrea’s house.  He rode his mule (Reba) on a couple of long rides in the mountains behind our ranch, looking for elk horns.
Saturday afternoon Carolyn called, as she was hurrying home from her job at the vet clinic.  Michael had called her, to tell her that her old mare, Thelma, was foaling, and needing help.  He had gone to their upper fields to get something and noticed the mare was foaling—she had the feet out, but no head.  He hurried to get a halter, and led the mare a half mile down to their round pen by their house.  The foal went back into the uterus and was able to reposition, and Thelma was trying to lie down by the time he got her to the corral.  She started straining again, and this time the head was there, and she was pushing the foal out.  She didn’t lie down, and he had to try to catch the foal and break its fall as it was born.
The foal was alive, but a little wobbly at first because the umbilical cord broke too soon (with the mare standing up to give birth).  Then the next challenge was to help the sassy little critter nurse!  She refused to nurse the mare, and young Heather had to milk the mare and feed the foal from a bottle.  Every time they tried to get her on a teat, she refused; all she wanted was the bottle!  By evening, everyone was exhausted, but finally, just before dark, the stubborn little filly figured it out and started nursing Thelma.
            At 4 a.m. the next morning (Easter Sunday), Thelma woke them up, whinnying, because her baby had shimmied out of the pen, underneath the bottom rail, and was wandering around outside the pen.  They got her back in.  It snowed later that morning, and they created a 3-sided shelter for the foal with tarps.
            It snowed all day.  Michael brought a skid-loader down to our place and cleaned out a couple of our deepest horse pens (Sprout’s and Breezy’s).  The new little calves up in the field have all learned how to get into their calf houses, and out of the storm.
            This weekend is the annual Salmon Select Horse Sale.  Emily will be taking care of her dad’s table (where he will display some of his antler lamps) and plans to have some of my horse books there, too, in case anyone wants to buy one.

APRIL 20 – The horse sale went well.  Young Heather sold a couple of the horses she’s been training, including a gray mare named Angel. She showed Angel in the trail class before the sale, and Angel did very well.  Heather also rode another mare through the ring for a man who wants her to train a group of horses for him. 
            We’ve had a bunch of calves the past 10 days.  Dani named most of them.  As examples, Emerald had a heifer that Dani named Geminy Cricket, and Rosalie had a nice heifer that Dani named Zorrarose (the sire’s name was Zorro).  Magrat had a heifer that Dani named Malillamae.  Buffalo Baby’s calf got named Buffaloona.  Buffalulu had a bull calf named Buffalo Biffer.  As you can tell by some of the names, several of these calves are closely related; their mothers are daughters of dear old Buffalo Girl, who was Emily’s pet cow, raised on a bottle after her mama died.  Buffalo Girl is a family pet and the kids enjoy picking grass for her.  Dani fed her some grass in the maternity pen, a few days before she calved.
            It was very cold and windy the night that Magrat calved, and since we didn’t put her in the barn, we helped her calf nurse before it got too chilled, and then moved the pair to a windbreak pen.
The next night Buffalo Girl started calving, and we put her in the barn—not only because it was cold, but because she always needs a little help during the first hour of motherhood.  She bellows and roots her calf around too vigorously and won’t let it get up, so we have to intervene, so she won’t hurt it.  After it’s up and nursing she’s fine.
            This year Sammy, Dani, Andrea and Emily sat out in the barn with her, quietly watching from the next stall.  After she calved, Andrea, Emily and I protected the calf and helped him get up, and helped him nurse.  He was a large fellow, and it was all Em and I could do to hold up his hind end while Andrea guided his front end to a teat.  Buffalo Girl is Emily’s pet and was actually calmer this year than in previous calvings, maybe because Em was there to help.  After we assisted Gilbert in his first nursing, Buffalo Girl had settled down and was a normal mom.  The kids all enjoyed petting that calf the next day, and again after we put that pair up in the field with the other cows.
            Andrea didn’t get much sleep the night Buffalo Girl calved.  By the time we finished helping the calf nurse, it was 1 a.m. and Andrea had to get up early and take Charlie to a doctor appointment in Pocatello. 
That morning Magdalena had a heifer that Dani named MiniMag, but we were lucky to save that one.  I saw the cow calving just before daylight, with the water sac and amnion sac protruding, but no feet.  Lynn and I put her in the barn, in the stall next to Buffalo Girl, because it was a very cold, windy morning.  I kept checking on her during chores and feeding, but nothing was happening.  Then the next time I checked, there was placenta coming out, hanging clear to the ground. 
            This was a serious emergency!  The calf’s “envelope” and lifeline were detaching from the uterus and it would soon die.  So Lynn and I put her in the headcatch to check her.  The calf’s feet were coming through the birth canal, but the head hadn’t started through yet and the cow wasn’t dilated enough.  We attached chains to the legs and started to pull.  Andrea stopped briefly on her way out the driveway, heading for Pocatello with Charlie, but she’d called Michael and Carolyn and left a message for them, saying we had a calving emergency.  Michael was heading off to work, but Carolyn came down to help us.  With her added strength we got the calf delivered before it died.  We’re not sure why it was detaching, unless it just took too long for the calf to get into proper position for birth.  The little brockle-faced heifer seems to be fine.
            We had another calf the next night.  Cub Cake was finally calving, and she had a huge bull calf that Andrea and Robbie pulled.  The bull we used last summer (Lightning Zorro) sires bigger calves than the bull we used the previous years, and we’re having a few more calving problems than normal.  This makes it all the more important to be watching the cows at night, in case any need help.
            Dani named Cub Cake’s calf Cinnamon Bear (he’s golden red) and the kids all got a chance to see him the next day.
  Then Mary Mary Quite Contrary had a black bull calf with one little white spot on his face (so his name is Spotrick). 

 Our most recent calf is a big black brockle-faced bull, born just before midnight last night.  He needed a bit of help to be born; Andrea and Robbie pulled him, too, but he’s doing fine today.
            Meanwhile, Andrea has been harrowing the fields with the big tractor, scattering all the manure piles and wasted straw (from the feeders) around the field, before we start irrigating.  The straw the cows didn’t eat, and the manure, serve as excellent fertilizer.  We try to feed on the areas that need more organic matter to increase the soil fertility, and thus don’t have to buy any chemical fertilizers.  The natural stuff is best.
            Michael brought the backhoe down from his place (where he’d been smoothing more areas for additional horse pens for young Heather—for the horses she will be training this spring and summer) and cleaned one of our ditches that was filled with silt from all the snow melt run-off last month.  We have several more ditches to clean before we can start irrigating the fields.