Wednesday, February 5, 2014


NOVEMBER 1 – Last week when Andrea’s kids were taking showers getting ready for school, the pump quit working and they ran out of water.  Andrea took jugs of water from our house to have enough water to get through the day--for drinking water, toilet flushing, etc.  We called a pump repairman and he discovered that the starter unit had gone bad and had to be replaced.  Having water available in our homes is something we take for granted!

It’s been freezing hard at nights but not too cold during the days, so Andrea and I continued to ride Sprout and Dottie most days, getting more training rides on Dottie.  Some days we meet up with Carolyn and young Heather who is riding the horse she’s been training. 


Lynn put power service in our diesel tractors so the diesel won’t freeze up if the weather stays cold—in case we have to use a tractor to plow snow or load hay.

Last weekend Dani and Sam rode with Andrea and me for a couple hours.  Sam is doing very well now riding Breezy.  Old Veggie at age 27 is retired for the winter.


On Saturday our Amish neighbors invited Lynn to come up the creek where they were getting out their winter firewood with their draft horses, dragging the trees down the hill to the road.  They filled our pickup and a couple other neighbors’ pickups with firewood.  We took the load of wood up to Andrea’s house because she doesn’t have any wood yet for winter, and the kids helped unload and stack it next to the house.

We had such a bumper crop of tomatoes in our 2 little trough gardens in the back yard that we’ve given away a bunch of them to Carolyn, and some to Andrea to make salsa.  Andrea and Em made a lot of salsa when they got back from the World Burn Congress in Rhode Island.  We’ve frozen many packages of stewed tomatoes and are still eating on the last ones; we picked all the green ones in September before they froze and they keep ripening.


Sunday night the wind took all the leaves off the trees.  We had new snow on the mountains Monday morning.  The weather turned cold, so Lynn shut off the irrigation water that was still running down our ditch from the Gooch place above us, where Alfonzo is still trying to irrigate—with some ice building up across his fields.

Tuesday afternoon I did the chores and fed the horses early so we could get to town by 6 pm to attend the Salmon Idol singing contest at the high school.  Charlie entered the junior division and was the only boy amongst a dozen girls.  He chose to sing “I’m in a hurry and I don’t know why” (an old song performed by the group Alabama, and one that he’s heard since he was a baby).  He won third place for his performance and we were really proud of his courage to get up and sing in front of a big audience.  Andrea took a photo of him in his hat and tie just before he went on stage.

The next day Lynn took his chain saw up to help Carolyn and young Heather cut poles for the dog houses they are building—to make some better shelters for their old dogs this winter.  They’ve also been making steps up behind their house, putting in some nice rockwork around the steps.


Today 6 of us rode; Andrea took Charlie up to ride Gus (one of Carolyn’s horses) while Dani and Sam helped me get all our horses ready.  When Andrea got back, we rode up to meet Charlie and young Heather (riding Romeo—the horse she’s been training) and we all went for a ride several miles up the creek.  It was very cold in the canyon, since the sun doesn’t come up at all in some places during winter.  We rode about 3 miles in the deep shade, with several inches of ice on the puddles and slippery footing on the frozen road.  The kids enjoyed the ride, but decided they needed warmer footwear the next time we ride on a cold day!

NOVEMBER 7 – Last Saturday Charlie, Sam and Dani rode again with Andrea, Heather and me, and this time we stayed in the lower country and rode over the foothills—where the sun was shining. 



On Sunday it snowed and we didn’t ride.  Andrea and kids went to church but Lynn and I stayed home and got our 2 yearling heifers in from the field above the house where they’ve been living with Freddy (the old cow that’s regaining weight after her mysterious illness this summer) and our weaned heifers.  Our vet stopped by on his way home from preg-checking at one of the neighbor’s places, to check these heifers again.  They were both pregnant but will calve later than the others.  They probably got bred just before we took the bull out of the herd.  When the vet checked them last month it was too early to tell if they were pregnant or not.  We vaccinated them and put them up with the rest of the herd; we had planned to sell them if they’d been open.

That afternoon we went to town for Dani’s birthday party at the pizza place.  She’s 9 years old!  Our littlest granddaughter is growing up.


We skipped our training rides for a couple days of stormy weather then rode briefly on Tuesday with Carolyn and Heather.  The hillsides were frozen and slippery.  Andrea and I rode again yesterday out over the low range, and came around a hill and nearly ran into a big herd of elk—about 50 animals.  We hurried home and put the horses away, and then Andrea and Lynn drove our pickup to the end of the jeep road toward coyote flat.  Lynn drew an elk permit for the cow hunt but hadn’t tried to hunt because he didn’t want to waste several days looking for them.  Knowing where this herd was, he decided to try—so he and Andrea hiked a couple miles out over the flats, tracked the elk, then saw the herd a mile farther away.  The 50 had been joined by another group and there were more than 100 of them.  These are the elk that have been traveling back and forth into a neighbor’s alfalfa field at night and up into the mountains during the day.

There wasn’t much cover and they had to crawl most of that mile, so the elk wouldn’t see them.  It was starting to get dark by the time they got close enough to try a shot.  Lynn missed the first time, which spooked the elk, but also confused them because they weren’t sure which direction to run.  They milled around and came back toward Andrea and Lynn and this time he got a better shot and killed a young dry cow. 

It was dark as Andrea field dressed the elk with Lynn holding a cell phone for a bit of light (they hadn’t taken flashlights). 

Then they had to hike 3 miles home in the dark (overcast, with no moon), with only their cell phones for light.  It took them more than 3 hours to get home and they were exhausted.  Lynn and Andrea did a lot of hunting together, before her burn accident 13 years ago, but Lynn hasn’t hunted since.  It was a major effort for him now, at age 70.

The next challenge was getting the meat home.  The elk was on a hillside much closer to our neighbor’s place than ours, so we got permission from him to go up through his place.  Andrea and Lynn and a couple friends drove over there and hiked a half mile up to the elk to start skinning and cutting it for packing, and Carolyn and Heather hauled horses to the neighbor’s place, to ride up on the hill and pack the meat.  They were relieved to see that the only predators on site were ravens, eating the gut pile (they hadn’t started pecking on the carcass yet), and no wolves.  Carolyn and Heather made two trips up the hill with the pack horse to retrieve the meat. 



NOVEMBER 16 – Last Friday the kids rode with us again and we had a good ride over the low range, with Sam leading the way on Breezy.  Dani and I were following her, with Charlie behind us, followed by Andrea and Heather.

 Charlie loves riding Gus, and that big horse takes good care of him, not getting upset if Charlie is goofing around or not hanging onto the reins (just looped over the saddle horn). 


That day Charlie was trying acrobatic stunts on the way home.  He was leaning way out to the side as far as he could, pretending to be a trick rider.  Suddenly his saddle turned sideways and he plopped down on the ground.  He didn’t have far to fall because he went off the uphill side, and it didn’t hurt him a bit. 

But the sudden loss of ride--and the saddle practically under his belly--spooked Gus and he took off down the hill.  He probably had a fleeting memory of packing posts two years ago when we were building fence on the 160, when he got spooked and went bucking down the mountain with posts banging and he bucked them off and ran down to the gate with pack saddle under his belly.

He didn’t go far this time, however, and Heather grabbed him and reset the saddle, and Charlie climbed back on.  It didn’t scare Charlie a bit; he rode along on Gus with one leg cocked over the saddle horn, taking his boot off to get the dirt out of it!

Heather worked with Willow (the yearling filly) a few days this week, putting a big tarp over her back, held in place with a surcingle, teaching her to drive with two long lead ropes attached to the halter.  We’ll do groundwork with the filly periodically through the winter and maybe start riding her a little bit next summer.

Andrea spent several days cutting up the elk meat, and it’s now in the freezer.  We rode briefly every day, trying to make every day count—until Andrea started helping some friends with a roofing project.  I want to keep riding Dottie because she’s still a bit goofy (and sometimes gets mad and tries to buck when she has to follow other horses), and I don’t want to give her a lot of time off just yet.  I rode with Heather for a short ride on Tuesday (the first day Andrea was busy with the roofing project) and we had a good ride until the very end, when we came home about the same time Alfonzo was bringing his cows home up the road, from some pasture he’d leased a few miles away. 

We rode over the hill and saw the cows coming up the road, and got ahead of them so we could stand at our driveway and block the herd from coming down our driveway.  Dottie did fine, watching the cows, until they passed our driveway to go by us, and then she got goofy and jumped straight in the air and tried to buck a few times, and pranced and danced.  She’s been around cows before, but she doesn’t like big herds going by her.  I guess she needs a lot of training sessions with cows!

On Thursday we moved the weaned bull calves around to the main corral for winter; they ran out of grass in my horse pasture.  That afternoon Carolyn and Heather rounded up the two 2-year-old bulls they borrowed from us this summer, and hauled them home; they’ll live in the back corral this winter.  They rounded up their cows and calves to leave in the corral overnight, and got some little bales from us to feed them.

Andrea worked all week on the roof project (rebuilding the roof on a church).  They got half of it done this week and hope to get the other half next week.

Yesterday morning Carolyn and Heather sent their calves to the sale at Butte, Montana, sorting them off the cows at daylight.  We were glad it wasn’t raining or snowing, or the upper corrals would have been too slippery for the truck and trailer.  Then they vaccinated the cows they plan to keep.  They will be sending the others to a bred cow sale on Monday.

Sam rode with me on a short ride on Breezy while I rode Dottie.  Sam enjoyed riding with grandma, just the two of us, and she picked our route over the low range.  She likes our secret “Indian trail” that goes up a little draw parallel to Baker Creek.  When we got home, Charlie and Dani came down on the 4-wheeler and had a late lunch with us, and the 3 kids filled our woodbox while Lynn was still in town.  Carrying in the wood is hard on Lynn’s back so they decided to help grandpa.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Ms. Thomas. I recently saw your writing in the Small Farmer's Journal, and I am contacting you about contributing to The Old Farmer's Almanac. I can be reached at Please put my name in the subj line. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, in advance,
    Janice Stillman
    The Old Farmer's Almanac