Wednesday, October 15, 2014

JUNE 2014

JUNE 4 – Rocket, the calf that was so sick, was much better the 2nd day after Michael gave her the IV fluid and a few days later we put her and her mama back with the herd.  The last evening we went to the barn to check on the calf, Lynn’s cats followed us, and one of them climbed up on top of the tractor cab to take a nap.

Andrea and I have been riding Sprout and Dottie nearly every day.  Last Thursday when we were riding up the road we stopped to talk with young Heather while she was working with some horses she’s training.  Then Carolyn hollered out the door to tell us she’d had a phone call from Lynn to say that the neighbors were bringing a herd of cows up the road to their upper pasture, and would be traveling right through Michael and Carolyn’s cows.  So we trotted up around the hill and gathered all those cows and calves into the corral until the herd went by.  The neighbors put their cows on the 160-acre pasture next to ours, and didn’t fix their torn-down fence onto the road.  If their cattle (and bull) get out on the road they could come down and mix with Michael’s cows, and Michael doesn’t want his cows bred this early (to calve in late February) so Lynn took 2 old pole panels up there with the tractor and put them across the hole in the fence.
That evening we did chores early and went to the kids’ music concert at school.  Sam had a trumpet solo in her band performance, and Charlie’s group did very well.  He’s the only trombone in his group.

Last Saturday we moved the cows and calves from the field above the house and put the heifers with them (from the field below the barn) and put them all up in the lower end of the swamp pasture—finally off hay!  They are glad for the grass.

The next day Andrea’s friend Robbie helped Lynn set a railroad tie on the fence line where the neighbors need to rebuild their fence, to mark the survey corner at the old falling-down corral.  Andrea, Emily and I rode—Emily’s first ride since she broke her leg in February.

On Monday the neighbors came up to rebuild the fence braces and Lynn helped them for awhile. Andrea and I rode to check the fence between our 320 and the middle range, and patched a few bad places and shut a couple gates between the middle range and high range.
On Thursday we made a short, fast ride, then Andrea took Emily to town to meet up with the people who drove her to Hamilton, Montana, to fly into a remote dude ranch/hunting lodge (Running Creek Ranch) in the Selway Wilderness where her dad is working.  Em has a summer job there helping take care of the place, mow grass on the airstrip, etc.  Emily sent us some photos she took there.


This Sunday Michael, Carolyn, Nick, Robbie and Andrea helped us vaccinate and deworm the cows and brand, vaccinate, castrate and deworm the calves.  The dewormer will also kill any flies on them for a few weeks.  It was a really easy branding for Lynn and me; the rest of the crew did most of the work!
We left the pairs in the hold pen for an hour afterward to mother up and recuperate (a few of the little bulls were still bleeding a little from their castration) while we put up a 2-strand electric fence across the lower field to divide off the swampy part that we can’t hay.  We then moved the cattle down into that part; the grass has grown rapidly and should last more than a week.  Then Andrea and Robbie went up to the 320 and helped Michael, Carolyn and Nick set 5 posts and make 2 new braces where the fence is starting to fall down.  I hiked through the cows and calves that evening at chore time to check on them, and the little steers all seemed to be doing ok after their castration.  Some were lying in the tall grass and a little hard to find!  I’ve continued to check on them morning and evening and by this evening they are all feeling much better.
We took a few minutes that afternoon to work with Willow and tie her for awhile, and Dani brushed her.

On Monday Andrea helped Michael, Carolyn and kids gather their cows and calves and brand and vaccinate them—and take them up to the 320-acre pasture.  Andrea rode with them around the fence and checked the ridge gates after they moved the cows.
Young Heather is renting a little house downtown and Andrea and Carolyn helped her move some of her things down there.  Andrea mowed her lawn for her, and found a few extra household items for her that she’s been storing and doesn’t need.
This morning Michael reset Dottie’s shoes and reshod Sprout’s front feet.  Andrea went up to their house to get instructions on how to do all their chores (feeding dogs, horse, bull, etc.) while they are gone for a few days to a wedding in North Dakota.

JUNE 17 – Last week Andrea and I rode nearly every day, putting more miles on Dottie and Sprout, checking fences, etc.  Dottie is coming along in her training but needs a lot more riding before she’s dependable enough for Sam to start riding her.
Now that school is out, Sam and Dani have been riding with us—Dani riding Ed and Sam on Breezy.  This has been the first time Sam has ridden Breezy since she had surgery last December to remove her eye.  That mare is doing fine with one eye and she and Sam are getting along fine.

A week ago Alfonzo and Millers moved their cattle from the low range to the middle range pasture but they missed some.  Last Monday Michael put new hind shoes on Sprout and then Andrea, the girls and I made a brief ride, found a couple pairs that got missed (one cow had a fairly young calf, born in the last few days) and moved them to the middle range.  Michael spent that afternoon with the backhoe fixing the boggy place in Andrea’s road, making a ditch to drain off the water and hauling more rock onto that soft spot in the road.
On Tuesday he reset Ed’s shoes, then Andrea and girls and I rode again.  This time we rode up toward the 320 and found a dozen pairs that got missed, and took them around the hill and into the middle range gate by Baker Creek.  Andrea went on ahead to open the gate and head the cows, while the girls and I brought the cows down the steep hill along the fence.  They are good little cowgirls and enjoyed being able to help us move the cows.

The next day Andrea helped Lynn take the water troughs up to our little hill pasture above the house, and pump water from the ditch across the road (using a plastic pipe through the culvert under the road).  Then Andrea and the girls and I got the cows in from the field below the lane and took them up the road to the hill pasture.

Michael went back to North Dakota to his truck driving job.  The girls and Andrea and I rode through the cows to check them, and on out onto the range to check the middle range gate on the jeep road.  The girls are both able to get their horses ready to ride, and Dani has been practicing cleaning Ed’s feet.

Saturday Andrea drove Carolyn and Nick to Indianola where Nick was competing in a 6 mile run.  The race was a fundraiser for the families of fallen firefighters.  Nick placed first, but gave his prize money to the second place finisher.  That morning Lynn and I pumped for the cows, to refill their water tanks, but had a little trouble at first because the pump wouldn’t start.  We finally got it working and filled the tanks.
Yesterday it rained a little.  It was the first rain we’ve had in awhile.  It was cold and we started a fire in the stove, first time since spring.  It rained again last night.

Today Sam had surgery to repair a hernia at her navel area that she’s had since she was a baby.  It was a tiny hole, but over the years some fat has come through it and made a painful bulge.  The surgeon removed the fat and stitched up the hole.  She has to take it easy for a few weeks and not lift anything, and won’t be able to ride for awhile.  

The power was off for several hours this morning—all the people in this area on this side of town.  We ate breakfast by candlelight!  This afternoon we drove up on the hill pasture with the 4-wheeler to check on the cows and see how long that grass will last, and heard wolves howling on the high range.
JULY 1 – Dani rode with Andrea and me a few days ago, just before a storm and it was very windy.

Rubbie and Veggie (age 27 and 28) are fully retired this year and we are no longer riding them.  We put them on pasture together a couple weeks ago.  Neither one of them can eat hay as readily as they used to.  Veggie has been on grass all summer, in pens near Rubbie (they are very unhappy if they are apart from one another so he has to be where he can see her), but now they are together and can hopefully spend their last days together.  Andrea and I trimmed their feet, and put fly repellent on them.
Andrea and I have been making some longer rides on the range, checking water troughs, etc.  We told John Miller about one trough that wasn’t working, and he rode out a few days later and fixed it.  These longer rides have been good for Dottie; she’s settling in a bit more and not so grumpy and headstrong on the way home (if she has to follow other horses).  We made a really long ride last Monday with Dani, up into the high range, and shut some gates—and saw two cow elk. 

The next day Carolyn and Heather rode down here and led an extra horse, and Charlie rode with us on a short ride.  Charlie really enjoys riding their old gelding, Gus.  Andrea killed a big rattlesnake on that ride, and Charlie wanted the rattles.

Dani took hunter safety class (3 full days of study, tests and then some shooting practice on the 3rd day) and passed it with high scores.  All of Andrea’s kids have now gone through hunter safety and are looking forward to being able to hunt this fall.
I’ve been working on my next book, called “Horse Tales”, which will be published in October.  These are stories of some of our horses—and all their unique personalities and our various experiences and adventures with them—from the time I got my first horse when I was 9 years old.  I had some of the stories written already but have been busy writing the rest of them.  It’s been a fun project, bringing back lots of interesting memories!
Lynn and Andrea planted their tomato sets, cabbages and squash in his trough gardens again, in the back yard.  We had to cover them one night; the temperature dropped below freezing.
Dani rode with us and helped move the cows and calves back down from the hill
pasture.  We put them in the little “post pile pasture” where the grass was so tall that it lasted from nearly a week.  Then we moved them up through the corral, put fly tags in the cows’ ears, sorted off the yearling heifers, and put the heifers and ThunderBull (Freddy’s yearling bull) in the horse pasture and orchard.  We put the big bull (Zorro Lightning Face) with the cows—in the upper swamp pasture.
Range cows have been coming through the fence on the upper place.  On Thursday Nick and Carolyn rode and chased them out, and again the next day.  It rained hard that afternoon. 

On Saturday Andrea, Lynn and Emily’s friend Justin drove to Connor, Montana and then 65 miles to the trail head to hike about 8 miles into the Selway wilderness area, on a trail along the Selway River.  They took backpacks and packed groceries into the Running Creek Ranch (a privately owned dude ranch, hunting camp and airstrip) where Emily and her dad are working this summer caretaking the place, mowing the airstrip, etc.  It took them until 11 p.m. to get there and Lynn was really tired. 

While they were gone, Andrea’s friend Robbie came to work on the old pickup that Michael and Carolyn are giving him (trading for some fence-building help) and got it running. While he was here he noticed that our bull and some cows had gotten out of the swamp pasture, and helped me get them back in. The old wire gate at the top of that pasture had been left open! On Sunday he helped Carolyn and Nick take steel posts up the mountain on the upper place and fix the bad spot where the range cows have been getting in up there.

Andrea, Lynn, Emily and Justin hiked out of the back country on Sunday and it took all day to get home. They had an exciting episode when Lynn fell in one of the creeks while crossing it on a narrow log. His walking stick slipped off the log and he tumbled backward into the water. They helped him get out, and poured the water out of his shoes, and fortunately he had a change of clothes—in Andrea’s backpack! It’s a good thing he didn’t fall in that creek the day before, on his way in, since he was carrying a backpack filled with paper towels and toilet paper.

The main reason they hiked into that remote area was to help pack in supplies and groceries, and so that Em wouldn’t be hiking out by herself (she has a week off from her job). It’s a dangerous trail, and there are wolves in that area, so we didn’t want her hiking alone, without a gun. Andrea will hike back in with her this coming weekend when she goes back again.

Yesterday Em went to the dentist. She’s had a bad tooth (one of her back molars), giving her a lot of pain. The dentist pulled it and put her on antibiotics because there was infection in it. He didn’t want to risk having the infection spread to the rest of her body, where it might gravitate to the repaired bone (the plate and pins in her leg) and cause a serious problem.

This morning Andrea and I will ride to the upper place and help Carolyn and Nick bring their cow herd down off the 320 to the upper corral so they can put their bull with them, and take them back up. The bull is a young one and doesn’t know the way and it will be a lot easier to get him up there to that pasture if we take him with some cows.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

MAY 2014

MAY 10 – Last week we put out more straw in and around the calf houses, to give the calves clean bedding.  The cows are also eating some of it.  This is probably the last straw we’ll have to put out for them this spring, we hope.
Dani was sick for several days with a high fever and cough.  She missed school but is doing better now.  Andrea took her to the doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic.
  Some friends from Oregon, Jerry and Silvia Wilcox, who run a carriage business (doing weddings and funerals with their horses and carriages/wagons, and using their draft teams on wagon train adventures) brought a horse to our Amish neighbors to be trained, and stopped to visit.  They’ll pick up the horse this fall after a summer’s work as part of a team, and it will be ready to join their other driving horses.


Granddaughter Heather has been working with the 2-year-old filly (Willow), doing more ground work, and is starting to ride her.  She’s been taking her around to the back corral and riding her around in it.


Young Heather also rode Dottie a few times for me, to get that young mare going again after a winter vacation.  She’s doing well, picking up where we left off in December.  Only one negative episode:  Heather was cantering Dottie in circles and figure eights up on heifer hill on their 4th ride, and Dottie slipped on a slick spot and fell flat.  Young Heather rolled clear and the mare didn’t fall on her, but when she got up she took off and ran home.  Heather hiked down from the field and got on her again and rode back up and finished the session with a good ride.
That afternoon we had another calf, leaving only 3 (one cow and two heifers) left to calve.  The next day Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed, and Andrea gently washed the dust and dirt out of Breezy’s eye socket.  It has healed very well after the eye removal in late December.


Andrea helped Lynn clean some debris out of the ditch above the house, then took Emily to the doctor for a check-up and x-rays to see if her leg has healed enough for her to start putting weight on it.
Last Friday Andrea and I made a long but fast ride on Ed and Sprout, for Sprout’s first ride this year.  She only tried a couple of times to buck a little, but not nearly as hard and nasty as she did last spring.  Andrea rode her several more days in a row, and the mare settled back into work quite nicely.  All the riding and cow-chasing they did last year paid off; Sprout is a bit more dependable now.

Andrea harrowed the field above the house, where the cows and calves are, and harrowed the horse pasture and orchard.  That finishes it up until we take the cows out of that little field to go to pasture—and then we’ll probably harrow that field again.
On Saturday Carolyn and Heather took their truck and trailer up to Mulkey’s place to help haul cattle to the range—an all-day project.  Andrea and Lynn brought their flatbed feed truck down here to load a couple more big bales of alfalfa for them.  Sammy helped me trim Veggie’s feet, holding him for me and letting him eat a little grass while I trimmed them.  The 28-year-old gelding hadn’t been trimmed since last fall, so his feet were getting pretty long.  Charlie went with Lynn on the 4-wheeler to irrigate.
Nick drove home from college in Iowa (a 2-day drive) and made it home day before yesterday evening.  His little pickup was having problems toward the end of his trip, as he came up the creek road.  Yesterday morning when he started to move the pickup to a flat spot by their house so he could jack it up and look underneath it, the tie rod fell off!  He was very lucky that it didn’t happen on the trip home; his guardian angel must have been looking after him!

Yesterday it rained off and on all day and last night it changed to snow.  We had 5 inches of new snow this morning.  Carolyn, Nick and Heather left at 4 a.m. this morning, in the dark, just before the rain changed to snow, to drive to Pocatello to go to Carolyn’s brother’s graduation (receiving his Master’s degree).  About 40 miles up the Lemhi River a bunch of deer ran across the road right in front of them and they hit one, breaking out a headlight and damaging the front of the car.  It was still drivable, so they just turned around and came home.  We were scheduled to do their chores for a couple of days, and feed their cows, but Carolyn called me at 6 a.m. when they got home, to let us know they weren’t going to be gone, after all.
In this crazy weather we are still getting up at nights to check the last 3 pregnant cows.  The older cow has had a big udder for more than a month and will hopefully calve soon.  The two heifers look like they’ll be a bit later.

MAY 20 – Last Sunday Andrea took the kids fishing.  That evening our last cow finally started calving.  By midnight there was a nasty wind blowing, and a bit of rain, so we put her in the barn right after she calved, pulling the calf to the barn in the calf sled.  Nice to have a calving barn even for bad weather in mid-May!   The next day we were able to put them back outside.

We decided we didn’t want to keep getting up at nights to check on the two heifers (one of them will calve fairly soon but the other one probably won’t calve for another couple weeks), so we sent them to the sale at Butte, Montana, along with a young bull we don’t need this year.  We had kept an extra bull in case Michael and Carolyn needed one, but they don’t need him so we sent him to the sale.  Prices are fairly good right now.  Carolyn and Nick brought their trailer down on Monday and we loaded the 2 heifers and the bull and hauled them to the community corral and scales at Carmen (the other side of town) to load on the semi.  Rusty Hamilton put a load together from ranchers around the valley, to go to the sale.  They sold fairly well.  Our bull weighed 1500 pounds and brought $1 per pound.  The two pregnant heifers brought $1775 apiece.  Now we can sleep again at night and not have to get up to check those heifers!

On Tuesday Andrea and I made a fast ride to check range gates and shut a couple that had been left open all winter.  The next day young Heather brought one of her horses down here and used him to give Willow her first ponying lesson, leading her around in the orchard

Then Andrea and I rode with Heather back up the creek as she headed home, then made a loop over the range again—on Dottie and Breezy.  Our range neighbor Alfonzo hasn’t fixed the broken gate post yet on the jeep road into the middle range.  He had a lot people help him brand, and turned his cows out on the range, but didn’t fix the gate—so Andrea and I tied it up with baling twines.  We don’t want his cows going into the middle range 3 weeks early, before the grass up there has a chance to grow.

On Saturday I trimmed Rubbie’s long feet, then Andrea, Dani and I rode (Dani’s first ride this year, on Ed) with Heather on a ponying/training ride for willow.  Heather has ponied Willow a few times around home, and this was a longer ride—leading her on a 2 mile loop around the low range.  We went along to open and shut the gates for her, and Dani enjoyed seeing how young Willow is coming along in her training.  We’ll keep ponying her a few times so she learns how to lead nicely from another horse, and learn how to navigate through the gullies and around the sagebrush and hillsides before she has to do it carrying a rider.

Yesterday morning when Andrea and I fed the cows we noticed a calf lying off by herself.  She didn’t get up and come with the others.  It was Rocket, named by Dani after she and I watched her birth, a month ago (she was born quickly and Dani said she “came out like a rocket”).

When Andrea walked over to check on her, we saw that she had diarrhea and didn’t want to get up.  She needed treatment immediately.  We went back to the barnyard and moved all the stored objects out of the “sick barn” including Andrea’s jeep—and had to use her car and jumper cables to get it started.

Then Lynn helped us bring the cow and calf in from the field.  The calf was so weak and wobbly that it took two of us to get her up, and she could barely stand, let alone walk.  Lynn went to get the calf sled while Andrea and I fended off the other cows (who all came running, thinking it might be their calf) and helped get the staggering calf to the gate.  Then we put the calf in the sled and pulled her to the barn, with mama following. 

It is very unusual to have a month-old calf this weak, so suddenly.  She wasn’t dehydrated, even though she was scouring.  She was slipping into toxic shock, probably due to toxins released by a bacterial gut infection.  Her gums were purple instead of healthy pink color.  We realized she needed IV fluids; the metabolic changes in her body from shock were shutting down her organs, including gut function, and she wouldn’t be able to absorb oral fluids very well.   We called Michael, who had just gotten home from North Dakota the night before, to come help give Rocket IV fluids.  While we waited for him, we gave Rocket an injection of Banamine (to help ease the gut pain and reduce any inflammation) and tubed her with fluids, electrolytes, and castor oil (to help stimulate the gut if it was shutting down, and to absorb the toxins).

Michael, Carolyn and Nick arrived soon after, and Michael was able to stick a needle into the jugular vein first try, without having to shave the calf’s neck.  We put 3 liters of IV fluids into her, and added some baking soda (bicarbonate—to reverse the acidosis) and dexamethasone (to help reverse the shock and keep her from leaking fluid out through the capillaries and losing blood pressure).  As we were finishing the 3rd liter, she finally urinated, which was what we were hoping to see.  This meant we had restored her fluid levels enough to prevent kidney damage, and her kidneys were still working—she could flush some of the toxins from her system that way.

We continued treatment through the day, giving her more fluids and electrolytes, and a kaolin-pectin mixture via stomach tube every 3 to 5 hours.  She was still too weak to stand, but by late evening she was stronger and gave more protest when we tubed her.  When we got up at 1 a.m. to tube her again, she was a lot stronger.  This morning when I went out at 5:30 a.m. to check on her, she had actually nursed her mother on one side, so we didn’t give her fluids at that time—just more kaolin-pectin via dose syringe.

She continues to improve and we didn’t need to tube her at all today.  Andrea and I simply treated her a few times with the kaolin-pectin by dose syringe—into the corner of her mouth to the back of her throat, a little at a time so she can swallow it without choking.  Her bowel movements are starting to firm up, so we may not need to continue treatment much longer.

This week I started working on my next book—a collection of stories about some of our favorite horses over the years.  It will be called Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch.  My publisher, A.J. Mangum (The Frontier Project) hopes to have it published by mid-October.  At that point it can be ordered through any book seller, or autographed copies can be purchased directly from me.

Meanwhile, a young doe has been coming into our yard every day to nibble the grass and I took photos of her through the window.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Late March-Early April 2014

MARCH 25 – A week ago Andrea took Emily to the doctor to have the stitches taken out of her leg, and a cast put on it.  She still has to stay off it for another 6 weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                Lynn went to town and bought a new headgate/culvert for one of our ditches that originates on the backside of the creek on the Gooch place.  We share that ditch with Alfonzo, and the headgate he put in last year (to replace the one we put in 30 years ago that was wearing out) was too small; we were never able to get enough water through the ditch to service his fields and ours and we were always short of water.

                Over the weekend Andrea’s kids enjoyed helping us feed the cows.  Several are getting ready to calve.  Andrea cleaned out all the old bedding and manure from the calving barn, and helped Lynn load hay on the feed truck and bring more bales around for the heifers.   The two calves born during the cold weather in February are a month old now, and the one we thawed out in the house has lost her ear tips.  Her feet are still sore; she spends a lot of time lying down.   But she’s lucky she didn’t lose her feet and they seem to be getting better.

On Sunday Andrea helped us bring the cows down from the fields above the house.  We fed them in the orchard and horse pasture and sorted off Michael and Carolyn’s cows.  After breakfast Carolyn and young Heather came down with their stock trailer.  We sorted their old slow cow into the calving pen and loaded her with the two pairs below the barn (the calves that were born during the cold weather in February) to haul to the upper place.  We put the cows in the front compartment and the calves in the back of the trailer.

Later that morning they hauled their horses down and trailed the rest of their cows to the upper place.  Hopefully the weather will warm up a little and more of the snow will melt off before they start calving.

Yesterday we all signed Emily’s cast and drew cartoons on it.  Lynn helped Andrea capture the rabbits that have been living in the camper shell on the back of our jeep, putting them in a kennel carrier.  Andrea took them to a friend who wants rabbits.

Today we brought a big bale of straw around on the old jeep and drove it into the barn, ready to spread in the stalls as soon as the dirt floor dries out a little more.  Even though we prefer to have the cows calve outside, April can be pretty nasty and it’s nice to have a barn during a blizzard!

APRIL 1 – A few days ago it started snowing and we decided to get the barn ready in case any cows calved.  We tried to start the jeep (in the barn with the bale of straw on it) but it was out of gas.  When Lynn poured gas in, it all ran out on the ground; the gas tank/line had come apart.  So we off-loaded the big bale of straw in that stall, pulled the jeep out of the barn with a tractor, and took the straw into all the stalls with the big calf sled.  That took a little longer than backing into each stall aisle with the jeep, but it worked.   We left a big bare spot in the stall where the jeep was parked—where the gas leaked out—so it can evaporate before we cover it up with straw.

                We had several days of cold, stormy weather.  On Thursday we moved all the rest of our cows down from the field into the horse pasture and orchard where they will be easier to watch, and moved their straw feeder into the horse pasture.  We had our first calf born that day (Cupie Doll had a nice bull calf), in the barn, during a snowstorm.

                The next day we started training the heifers to come into the calving pen for alfalfa hay.  On Saturday we put them in the little pen in front of the barn, and on Sunday we put some alfalfa in the barn and put them in for the first time.  The last couple of days they’ve headed right into the barn for their daily training session.  It will be really easy to get any of them in the barn if they calve during bad weather.

                Today Carolyn brought their truck down and Lynn loaded more straw bales for her.  Then Andrea helped Lynn put straw in our calf houses in the field above the house, after patching a big hole in the floor of one calf house.  Lynn built those calf shelters in 1968 and 1969, and the floor boards were rotting out.

               This evening Cub Cake started calving.  We first put her in the calving pen but the temperature dropped dramatically after dark, with a nasty wind, so we put her in the barn to calve.

APRIL 10 – Andrea has been staying here at nights to watch the cows so I can sleep, then I get up at 4 a.m. to watch them (checking on them as I type articles) and Andrea sleeps.  Emily is able to drive now even though she’s still on crutches, so she gets the kids up and takes them to the school bus in the mornings.

                Our friends Pete and Bev Wiebe from Canada arrived here last week to stay at Andrea’s house a couple days on their way home.  They spent part of the winter with the Mennonite Disaster Service doing various house-building projects in Texas for families that had lost their homes.  It was great to have a good visit with them.

                The second day they were here, I was doing chores early and saw 3 black wolves run down the hill from the road and across our field to the creek.  We learned later that horn hunters had seen them that same day, on our range.  They’ve been hanging around the area and have disturbed the elk.  A large group of elk stayed on the hillside above Michael’s house for 2 days and wouldn’t leave.  This was similar to what happened earlier this winter when a big group of elk came running down through the neighborhood and spent 3 days all huddled together in a field next to a subdivision.

                Andrea took Emily to the doctor that day to have her cast cut off.  She now wears a walking boot but is still supposed to use her crutches for a few more weeks and not put any weight on that leg.

                That afternoon Pete helped Lynn untarp the haystack to get a few more big alfalfa bales to haul around to the heifers and load the feed truck, and get another big bale of straw for the feeder in the horse pasture.  Bev helped me cook a big dinner for everyone that evening here at our house.

                We’d just finished eating when Lynn’s sister Jenelle called us, from the hospital, to tell us that their brother Will Thomas had suffered a massive heart attack.  Lynn, Andrea and Emily drove to town to the hospital, but Will passed away before they got there.  They stayed awhile with Jenelle and Nita (Will’s widow) and then drove Nita’s car home for her, and came home late.  Jenelle stayed with Nita so she wouldn’t be alone.  Pete and Bev took Andrea’s kids home from our place and got them to bed.

                The next morning we visited with Pete and Bev awhile before they had to leave for the last part of their journey home to British Columbia.  They were a wonderful source of support for us in this time of loss and grief.

                The weather finally warmed up and on Monday Andrea and I rode Breezy and Ed for the first time this year, to start getting those old mares back in shape and ready for the little girls to ride.  It was the first time we’ve ridden Breezy since her eye was removed last December. 

                It has healed nicely, and she is adapting very well to being sightless on that side.  Andrea had a good ride on her, and we rode again during the next several days.   Breezy handles herself very well on the trails and hillsides; a person just has to be aware that she can’t judge the slope on her blind side.  On our 3rd ride we found a newly shed elk horn (6 point) and Andrea carried it home on Breezy.

                Michael came home from North Dakota for a couple of weeks to take a break from his truck driving job, and was able to be here for his Uncle Will’s funeral on Tuesday.  Andrea picked up the kids at school, and took them.  Lynn and I were getting ready to leave, and noticed that Rosalee was calving.  We put her in the calving pen in front of the house, and I opted to stay home and watch her.  It’s easy to see the calving pen from our windows.

She had a big calf, and it was a good thing I was here, because she struggled to her feet with the calf hanging out, hiplocked.  It was a big, long calf, with its feet nearly touching the ground while its hindquarters were still stuck inside the cow.  I ran outside to the calving pen and grabbed onto the calf’s front legs.  Rosalee swung around and around and it was like crack-the-whip but I couldn’t get the calf to come out.  Fortunately he was able to start breathing, while hanging there.  Finally the cow stood still and I pulled and twisted the calf one way and then the other, several times, and it took all my strength to finally pop him loose.

                I named the calf WillyBill. I don’t think Lynn’s brother would have minded that I didn’t make it to his funeral.  He was a good stockman in his younger years and always took good care of his cattle.  I had the feeling that he was right there looking over my shoulder and approving as I delivered that hiplocked calf.  It was a nice funeral, and Andrea took photos when the family went to the cemetery—photos of her kids with Lynn, and Lynn’s nephew John (Will’s son).

                Our new Amish neighbors, renting the little house below us on the creek, have 2 little boys and are expecting another baby.  Andrea’s girls enjoy babysitting and playing with the little boys and helping Rosina.  Once a week Rosina has to go to town to the chiropractor (she has a very painful back) and either Andrea or Emily drives her to town and helps her do her grocery shopping.  These Amish families that have moved into our neighborhood use horses and buggies but can also ride with anyone who will drive them somewhere in a vehicle.

                Our first heifer calved yesterday (Buffalulu, a daughter of Buffalo Girl).  She had a nice heifer calf.  We’re nearly half done calving.   Today I put the pair out of the barn into one of the nearby pens.

                Today Andrea drove to Missoula for her doctor’s appointment to check her throat (she has some damage from the breathing tube when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU 15 years ago) and also has a problem with acid reflux so the doctor put her on medication for that.   Lynn got the kids from the bus, and then discovered that Sam left her trumpet on the bus and he drove to town to get it.  We fed the kids supper this evening and the girls enjoyed hiking with me up through the cows to see all the new calves.

APRIL 20 – We had sad news on Saturday; a good friend drowned that morning while trying to clean debris out of a springbox that discharged into the large ditch by his house.  The side of the springbox gave way and he fell into the ditch, where the force of the water sucked him into a culvert.  His wife tried to pull him out but could not.  She ran to the neighbor’s place to get help, and it took 2 men to pull him out of the ditch.   His death was a shock to our community.

Young Heather has been working with 15 green horses the past 4 months, helping get them trained and ready for the horse sale held last week.  They were horses of all ages—mainly broodmares, and a couple of recently gelded stallions--that the owner decided to break and sell.  Most of them were 6 to 12 years old and pretty set in their ways so they were more challenging to break than young horses.   They did fairly well at the sale, but the first one Heather started to saddle to ride into the sale ring that day was upset and nervous at all the noise and activity at the Fairgrounds and kicked her when she came up to him with the saddle.  Fortunately she was right next to him and didn’t get the full force of the kick or get kicked in the head.  As it was, he knocked her about 12 feet, hitting her in the ribs and belly with one foot and hit the saddle with the other.  She had cracked ribs and bruised muscles but still managed to ride him (and 8 more horses) through the sale ring.  She’s pretty sore still, but managing to do her chores and some riding.

                Andrea harrowed our fields the past few days.  Charlie and Dani rode with her in the tractor one day and Charlie enjoyed driving the tractor.  Last Saturday Maggie calved—a big bull calf.  Dani was upset because it was the weekend the kids were with their Dad and she didn’t get to see Maggie calve.  Maggie is her special pet.  Maggie is getting older and her udder is saggy, and Andrea had to help her big calf nurse.  


                Michael came down on Sunday and loaded manure in Jade and Anita’s trailer for their garden, then took our backhoe up in the field to clean silt out of one of our ditches, then he and Lynn went to the Gooch place and dug out the too-small culvert/headgate and put in the new one at the head of our ditch.

                We had a couple cows calving that night and it was very cold and windy so they had to calve in the barn.  It was down to zero by morning.

                I lost my twin cousin Kit this past Monday morning.  She and I were born the same day—February 13, 1944—and we shared a very special bond of friendship all our lives.  These past few years, however, she was in poor health with Parkinson’s disease and progressive dementia, and finally lost that battle, slipping away in her sleep.  She will be greatly missed, but always vibrant and alive in good memories.   Here’s a photo of her and me when we were about 6 years old.

                Wednesday it was still very cold but not windy for a change.  Michael has been shoeing all their horses, and that afternoon he came down and shod Ed and Breezy for me.

 We learned later that day that our neighbor Galen Kossler died that morning.  He was 85.  We had many good years working together with Kosslers as range neighbors ever since they moved here in 1974, until they sold their ranch a few years ago (and it resold last year to 3 Amish families).

                Thursday morning Michael put shoes on Sprout and Dottie, and trimmed Willow’s feet.  Then he went home to shoe their last horse before he goes back to North Dakota.  That night we had more rain.  All the new babies have learned how to get in the calf houses and out of the cold rain.

                My computer started to die last week and I have to leave it turned on all the time until I can get it replaced.  Lynn started irrigating the fields above our house.  Yesterday Dani helped me do chores and water the cows, and helped me sort out the cows that are most ready to calve.  We put them into the orchard where they are easier to see at night from the house (with spotlight and binoculars).  The cows are gentle and easy to handle and they all know Dani.  She’s very good at handling the cows quietly and tactfully, reading their body language and knowing just where to be, at the right time.  Whenever she comes to see the cows she picks a little grass along the driveway (it’s finally grown tall enough to pick!) to feed Maggie.

                Outie started calving early this morning and we put her in the calving pen.  Dani and Sammy came down to watch her calve—with a great view from the window, but she put it off all day.   Two more started calving—including Magdaleena (a heifer)—so we put them in the adjacent pen.  The heifer made progress faster and we put her in the barn to calve.  Dani helped me keep track of them all; she sat out by the barn and peeked in the back door, and came to tell me when the heifer started to get serious—lying down and pushing the feet out. 

                The heifer calved ok, and the calf got up and nursed.  By contrast, Outie put it off serious labor until dark.  We turned the yard light on (at the end of my hay shed) and it lit the calving pen enough that Sammy and Dani could watch her calve, when she finally did it at 10 p.m. – a big bull calf.

APRIL 29 – The night that Outie calved, the temperature dropped dramatically and the calf got chilled.  We ended up putting that pair in the barn at 2 a.m. after helping the calf nurse.  I worked madly the rest of the morning to get some articles finished and meet the deadlines before I had to give up my old computer.  Lynn took it in that afternoon to have its innards removed and put into a new computer.

                Young Heather came down that afternoon and worked with Willow (longeing and ground driving, saddling, etc.) in her pen.  She also put weight on the saddle in preparation for the first rides.

                 Heather then worked with Dottie and rode her for the first time this spring.  Dottie has had a vacation all winter, after her 5 months of riding/training last year.  Heather’s ribs and abdominal muscles were still sore from being kicked a couple weeks earlier, but doing better.

                Buffalo Girl calved that evening.  Now we only have 4 slowpokes left to calve.   Michael and Carolyn’s cows are more than half done calving.

                We went to Galen Kossler’s funeral last Tuesday.  The church was packed; he had a lot of friends.  The Amish neighbors (some of whom now live on the old Kossler ranch) came as a group and sang several hymns.

                It took 2 days for the computer folks to set up my new computer, and then they couldn’t get my e-mails transferred from the old one.  It took several more days and I basically lost a week in my writing.  I’m still having trouble figuring out how to use this new one!  Michael helped me get a couple things working again, before he went back to North Dakota last Thursday.

                We had some wet, cold days of wind and rain.  This brought on a few cases of scours in the calves.   We had to catch Buffalo Baby’s calf a couple days ago, and Buffalo Girl’s calf today, to treat with neomycin sulfate solution (a good oral liquid antibiotic).  Andrea sneaks up behind the calf and grabs a hind leg while I distract it.  If a person can treat with neomycin at the first sign of scours, before the calf gets dehydrated, one treatment usually halts the gut infection and we don’t have to administer fluid and electrolytes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Late February - Early March 2014

FEBRUARY 25 – Breezy is doing very well now, recovering from the surgery to remove her eye.  The padded face mask has helped keep the socket warmer in our very cold weather, and I’m sure she’s been a lot more comfortable with it covered.

After the rescued calf and her mama had been in the barn a week, and the calf seemed to be getting around ok on her frostbitten feet, Michael and Carolyn came down and shoveled the snow out of the windbreak corners of the pen below the barn.  They put hay down for bedding, and we put the pair down there.  They were happy to get out of the barn.  

It was nice to have Michael home from North Dakota for a few days, and he enjoyed a break from steady truck-driving in the severe winter weather. We had more snow and storms, but at least the weather was warmer than the day young Heather’s cow calved unexpectedly.  We thought that would be the only “surprise” calf, but on Valentine’s Day the skinniest little old cow of Michael and Carolyn’s was calving when we fed the cows that morning.  We called them, and they came down a couple hours later.  The old cow had calved by then, and Michael pulled the calf down through the two fields in a sled, with the little cow following.  We put them in the barn, out of the wind and snow.  It snowed hard all evening.

            That Sunday it quit snowing briefly.  Michael, Carolyn and Heather helped Lynn and me vaccinate and delouse the bulls and the yearlings, and tagged the yearling heifers (brisket tags) with their permanent cow numbers.  Then we put the little skinny cow and her new calf out of the barn, down in the pen with Heather’s pair.


           Those 2 calves were sired by the precocious bull calf last spring, but there won’t be any more of those surprises because the rest of those cows had barely calved when Michael and Carolyn weaned that little bull and took him out of the herd.  None of those cows would have had time to rebreed. The calf we rescued 3 weeks ago--with the frozen ears and feet--is losing the skin off her nose, and the ends of her ears, but she feels good.

            Andrea had some tests done on her throat; she has permanent damage from 14 years ago when she was intubated for so long in the burn ICU after her burn injuries—with the tube down her throat and trachea.  She has to go to a specialist for more tests.

            Lynn was supposed to have a treadmill stress test at the hospital last Thursday to check his heart, but the doctor who was supposed to come from Missoula wasn’t able to come, so it got postponed.   We had a lot of new snow and Michael and Carolyn are feeding their horses hay up on the wild meadow.

            The yard light in our barnyard and calving area quit working, so on Friday Michael helped Lynn replace it.  They put a long extension ladder up the pole and Lynn steadied it while Michael climbed up there to replace the light and timer.  I’m glad Michael was able to help him do this before he went back to North Dakota.  Lynn and I are not very steady on ladders anymore!

Jim and Andrea took Em to the state hockey tournament in Idaho Falls, the last games of the season.  Lynn stayed those nights at Andrea’s house with the other 3 kids and they had meals here and enjoyed helping us feed cows and do chores.  Emily’s team was doing well, but in the next to last game she and another girl were racing for the puck and Em slammed into the wall going full speed—and broke her leg.

The next day, we got about 8 more inches of new snow and Lynn had to plow our driveway and Andrea’s and Michael and Carolyn’s.  At least the roads from Idaho Falls weren’t too bad; Jim and Andrea made it home ok, with Em lying in the back seat with her leg elevated.  They got her situated at home with ice packs and crutches.  She has to keep it iced and elevated to get the swelling out of it before a cast can be put on.

MARCH 9 – Emily had another x-ray of her leg and found that she won’t be able to have a cast put on until after it is surgically repaired.  The tendons are pulled loose from the bone and the break is separating.

            Over the weekend the other kids helped us feed cows and enjoyed riding on the back of the feed truck.

            I’ve been working on the edits and page proofs of my next book, which will be coming out in April.  It’s called Good Horse, Bad Habits and is published by Trafalgar.  This book looks at ways to deal with bad behavior—discussing various tips on retraining problem horses.

            On Sunday Andrea helped us feed the cows and put new straw bales in their empty feeders.  She put more loose salt and mineral in their tub in the tire holder.

Then her friends Jade and Anita came out to the ranch.  Their kids played with Andrea’s kids while they helped us split more wood (with a borrowed wood splitter) for Carolyn and hauled it up to her house, then Andrea fed them supper.

            We had some warmer weather last week and the snow is melting and settling.  On Wednesday Emily had surgery on her leg to reattach the tendons and stabilize the fracture with a metal plate.  The surgery was several hours later than scheduled, and then took awhile, so Andrea wasn’t able to bring Em home until very late that night.  Lynn got the kids off the bus and we fed them summer and then took them home to bed.  Emily has to stay off the leg for 2 weeks, keep it iced and elevated, and then later will have the stitches taken out before a cast can be put on it.

            With the warmer weather there have been a lot of snow slides.  A huge slide closed the road between here and Missoula.  On Thursday water was running down our road and across the fields like rivers.  Water coming down a draw by the upper place nearly washed out the road; Lynn called the county road department and they brought a road grader up that evening and got the flood diverted and the next day brought a couple truck loads of gravel up to fix the wash-out.

            We’ve had Michael and Carolyn’s trailer parked here in the calving pen ever since we were trailer training all our horses last fall and early winter.  Those lessons halted when it got so icy that it was risky to be leading the horses back and forth.  The trailer froze into the ice and we just left it there.  Now it’s finally thawed out, and today Carolyn and Heather brought their truck down to get the trailer and take it home.  We’ll soon be calving and needed to have it out of the calving pen.

MARCH 18 – Andrea’s kids have 2 new puppies.  One of their friends had a litter they needed to give away.  These puppies are half border collie and half Brittany spaniel and they are very cute.  They will help entertain Emily while she is recuperating.

            Our holding pen has thawed out and was getting boggy, so Lynn moved the rest of the big straw bales (that were stacked there) into the hay stack yard.  We soon need to clean out the barn stalls where the two cows with surprise babies spent time, so we can put some new straw in the barn to get ready for calving.

            Saturday morning we fed the cows at the lower end of the field by the gate, and sorted off 5 that are starting to get udders.  We put them in the horse pasture and orchard where we can watch them.  Next Sunday Carolyn and Heather plan to take their herd to the upper place to calve.  The snow is melting off those fields, but yesterday we had another blizzard.  The wind made it a bit challenging to undo (and then redo) the tarp on our big hay stack to get a couple more big alfalfa bales to load on the feed truck.  The wind was so strong it caught our storm door when Lynn went outside, and slammed it against the house and broke it.

            We still have to put a tarp over our feed truck every night to keep the deer from eating the alfalfa hay.  We’ve had to sweep new snow off the tarp on the snowy mornings.

            I’ve been writing the life story for a rancher friend in Oregon who is 86 years old.  He wants to have it written up for his children and grandchildren.  I tape record our conversations on the phone as he tells me his adventures and stories about his life and then type them up.  It’s been a very interesting project.