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Cold temps and health issues part of a busy month

JANUARY 27

We had a couple weeks of cold weather (-25 C every night). The old cow with the frozen calf we thawed out is enjoying life in a pen by the barn, where she gets pampered with all the hay she can eat, and some good alfalfa. Her calf, which we named Popsicle, is not very lively; it gets up to nurse but spends most of its time sleeping in the deep bedding, trying to keep warm. Popsicle has been dull and grinding her teeth, so for a couple days we gave her Kaopectate to coat and sooth the gut. She’s doing better now, and eating hay, even though she’s only two weeks old.

Chores take longer every morning, breaking ice on the creek for the cows and in the bull pen, and getting ice out of all the horse tubs. In the cold weather two of my plastic tubs were so brittle they broke when I was thumping the ice out, and I had to replace them. In the cold weather Breezy and the two fillies have been chewing up the pole fence between them — where they could reach between the electric wires and get to the poles — and one night they chewed a pole completely in two. Rick helped Lynn put a new pole there, and rearranged the electric wires so the horses can’t reach the fence.

Andrea took Emily to her hockey tournament at Sun Valley and we took care of the other kids. Dani went with Lynn and me up to Michael and Carolyn’s house to take the blankets off their two old horses (Molly and Chance) and put wood in their stove. On the days Carolyn works, she has to leave before daylight, and in this cold weather that’s too early to take the blankets off. When Andrea and Emily got back from the hockey trip we had a belated birthday celebration for Sam (who just turned 10) and Emily (15).

I was asked to write one of the chapters for a new book on wolves in North America. That book will be coming out later this year, so I’ve been trying to write a little on that chapter every day in between my other article deadlines and chores.

I had a doctor appointment on Tuesday for a checkup and pneumonia shot, and the doctor also tried to freeze off some big plantar warts (on the balls of both feet) that I’ve had for 40 years. Even heavily bandaged and with double socks, it’s painful to walk!

The last couple days the weather has been warmer. Rick and Andrea chopped through the thick creek ice in Fozzy’s pen and re-established his water hole. They also dug out some gravel to spread on the slippery bank so he will be brave enough to step down to the creek. The ice was almost a foot thick and I’d given up on keeping that water hole open during our two weeks of cold weather and was carrying him water in buckets.

FEBRUARY 8

For a few nights during the cold, stormy weather we continued to put Popsicle and her mother in the barn at nights. With the deep snow, elk are coming into our neighbour’s alfalfa stack every night.

Michael drove home from North Dakota last Tuesday, and got here at 3 a.m. The day after he got home, another cow calved, in their herd in our lower field, but the weather was warmer and the calf is doing fine. Michael is trying to get caught up on all the urgent things that need to be done during these few days he’s home.

Last week our big tractor was finally ready to come home, after several weeks of repair. The total cost of fixing it after the wreck was more than $8,000, so we borrowed money to pay that bill.

Michael bought more hay for their cows, and borrowed a flatbed trailer to haul it. He used our tractor to load hay. He and Carolyn hauled several loads to the upper stackyard. While Michael was home we were also able to borrow a friend’s heavy-duty transport trailer and hauled our wrecked flatbed trailer to be fixed. Even though it was “totalled” in the wreck, a friend who is an expert welder thought he could straighten the twisted frame and tongue.

Two days ago Michael and Carolyn brought their cows and calves up to our corrals and fed them in the hold pen so they could be sorted and hauled the next morning. The county truck sanded our road so it wouldn’t be so slippery. Early yesterday morning they hauled three loads of cull cows and last summer’s calves down to a neighbor’s place to put on a semi-truck to haul to the sale at Butte.

That afternoon they vaccinated their remaining cows and calves, and Andrea helped. This morning Michael and Carolyn hauled those cows and calves to the upper place, putting the big herd in the field above the corrals and the three cows with young calves in the Wild Meadow. They were able to vaccinate the old gentle cow and Popsicle right in the pen by the barn before they took that pair around to the corral to load up. It was good to see that little calf finally feeling well enough to run and buck when they went to the main corral.

FEBRUARY 18

Michael left early Monday morning to drive back to North Dakota for his job driving trucks.

Michael bought some alfalfa hay in big square bales, and the rancher delivered it on Monday. Lynn unloaded it in our barnyard. Fortunately we didn’t have any new snow and the hay trucks were able to drive back up our driveway. We will trade some hay with Michael, since our round bales work better in his bale processor, and these new square bales can be fed more easily off our feed truck.

On Tuesday Lynn and I both went to see the doctor — me for another freeze treatment on the plantar warts (I’m hobbling around with sore feet again) and Lynn to ask about stronger medication for his asthma attacks in the mornings. Ever since our cold weather, he gets a sudden tightness in his throat that shuts off his breathing, and a pain in his chest and left shoulder. The inhaler he uses for asthma (prescribed last fall after his breathing became impaired from the thick smoke we breathed all summer) helps a little, but not enough.

The doctor was concerned that this was more than just a respiratory problem. She scheduled an appointment for him to see a heart specialist in Missoula, for a test where they put a dye in the heart and send a probe up through an artery in the groin, to go inside the heart and take a look.

On Wednesday we talked to Michael briefly on the phone while he was driving truck in North Dakota. In the afternoon Lynn went to town for mail and groceries, and his new asthma medication, and on the way home he got our flatbed trailer. It looks as good as new. The welder used an ingenious way to straighten out all the warps and twists. He also used some reinforcing metal and says it’s stronger than it was before.

Early Thursday morning Andrea drove Lynn to St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula. Rick helped me feed our cows that morning. Lynn’s heart procedure lasted all afternoon. The doctor put stents in the major blocked arteries to open them up. The first stent collapsed (and Lynn had a minor heart attack when that happened) and the doctor redid it, and put in two more.

Lynn was dizzy and nauseated afterward, so they kept him in the hospital overnight. He also had a large blood clot where blood leaked from the artery they’d used for getting up into the heart. There were clamps on it to keep it contained.

Yesterday morning I talked to Lynn on the phone and he felt much better. The blood clot had dissolved, and the doctor released him. Andrea called about an hour later. She started to bring him home, but they hadn’t gotten very far when Lynn suddenly became very sick and dizzy again. She took him back to the hospital, and they put him on IV fluids and gave him more anti-nausea medication.

Rick helped me feed our cows again this morning, and when we talked to Andrea on the phone she said they would be coming home today. So hopefully all goes well and Lynn will actually make it home today. †

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