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First Signs Of Spring Ahead


A couple of weeks ago Andrea’s kids came out to go sledding. Our driveway is covered with ice, and steep enough to make an excellent sled run. The kids were excited about using our “old-fashioned” wooden sleds with runners — that Grandpa Lynn found in the barn. They can speed down the hill a lot faster with those than on their own plastic sleds. The “runner” sleds can whiz clear past the house and across the bridge. They had so much fun sledding on Saturday that they came out to do it again Sunday afternoon.

The two little girls were getting a cold, however, and shared it with me. I ended up with bronchitis, fever and a horrible cough. The doctor put me on antibiotics and I’m just now starting to feel a little better and getting caught up on some of my work — and trying to meet deadlines on articles for several magazines.

That week Lynn took two more big bales up to the feeders in our swamp pasture for Michael and Carolyn’s horses. Nick helped, opening and guarding the gates. He helped us again a couple days later when we vaccinated our cows. I was still sick and it made it a lot easier having Nick push the cows through the chute; Lynn caught their heads and deloused them, and all I had to do was vaccinate — giving their pre-calving vaccines. One of the young cows is starting to develop an udder and it was time to get them vaccinated.

We moved granddaughter Heather’s old horse, Chance, to the back yard so we could put that young cow in the maternity pen where Chance has been living all winter. We moved the yearling heifers to my horse pasture, so we could put the rest of the herd in the field below the lane after we vaccinated them. We lured them down from the upper field with the feed truck and had them in the corral when Nick arrived. He helped Lynn shovel the deep snow away from the gates by the chute so we could open them. We were glad we got the cows vaccinated and deloused that day; it snowed the next day. They would have been too wet to use the pour-on delouser.

Tuesday Michael and Carolyn went to the sale at Butte, Montana and bought 17 more yearlings — a trailer load — and hauled them home. Michael didn’t get any sleep that day; he’s doing the night calving for a big ranch near Leadore, and usually feeds their calves in the early morning when he gets home. That day they drove to the sale as soon as he finished feeding, and by the time they hauled the calves home it was nearly time to drive to Leadore again for his night job. Our weather has been cold (down to -25 C) and windy the last few days, with more snow.

Lynn’s mom, Virginia, did fairly well for a while after her surgery (removing her lower leg) in Missoula, then had some complications. She didn’t want to eat, and seemed to lose her will to live, sleeping a lot. Last week they took out her feeding tube. She was quietly fading away, but without pain — the doctors kept her on morphine in her IV drip. This morning Lynn’s sister Ann (who has been staying with Virginia in the hospital) called to tell us that Virginia passed away about 5:30 a.m.


Virginia was cremated and Lynn’s younger sisters brought her ashes back from Missoula last week. The family will have a memorial service for her in May, when the weather is nicer, to make it easier for family members who have to travel to get here.

Andrea drove to Idaho Falls last week for her appointment with a pain specialist (trying to find ways to relieve the constant pain from her old burn injuries and contractures) and the nose and throat specialist. The pain problem is still a frustrating and unresolved issue, but the good news is that her lungs are doing much better than they were six months ago.

My latest book,The Cattle Health Handbook(Storey Publishing) will have a second printing soon, so the publisher asked me to look through it and see if anything needs to be updated. I spent several days working on that project.

Our weather continues to be cold, windy and stormy. A few days ago we had three more inches of new snow. We were glad the roads weren’t too bad on the day young Heather drove home from Helena; she has a week for spring break. She’s really glad to be home, to see her horses. She and Carolyn went for a ride over the low range on one of the nicer afternoons; Heather rode one of the young horses she started training last year.

She’s also been very busy helping her folks. They spent several days working on the corral on the upper place so they can use it to vaccinate their yearlings. They also fixed fences so that when they get the rest of the yearlings they plan to buy, they can put them in the field above the corral. The Wild Meadow is getting crowded, and there are not very many clean places left to feed.

Michael is using a feed processor that chops and mixes the hay. That way he can mix alfalfa hay with some two-year-old grass hay, and the calves eat it fairly well. They are also getting a liquid protein supplement.

Andrea and kids and Rick drove to Sun Valley on Saturday for Emily’s final hockey tournament. The roads were snowy and we are glad Andrea has four-wheel drive and new tires.

We’ve been checking on the little red cow at nights because the weather has been so cold and stormy. She’d have to go in the barn to calve. We were very glad she chose to calve during the daytime, this afternoon. It was a fairly nice day, not too cold or windy, and the calf was up and nursing within 45 minutes. Lynn went to town for mail and groceries after she calved, and our two youngest granddaughters, Sammy and Dani came home with him, eager to see the new calf. It started to snow about the time they got here, however, so we put the cow and calf in the barn.


We put the cow and new calf back outside the next day, but our weather got bad by evening and they needed shelter again. Lynn got his fourwheeler, garden tiller and a few other things out of the open-front barn across the creek, and we put the pair in there to be out of the snow and wind.

We had warm afternoons last week and the snow on our low hills started to melt, with water running down every draw and even our driveway. Lynn diverted some of the flood, but it had already run across our lower field and flooded the bale feeder. The water was several feet deep in the swale across the creek, coming across the field and pasture where Michael’s horses are — flooding their bale feeders. There was no way we could get a tractor up there to move them.

A couple days later the temperature dropped to -10 C, with no more run-off. We took advantage of the frozen mud to drive into the horse pasture with more hay, and moved the emptiest feeder to higher ground. Day before yesterday we finally had another cold morning, so we moved the other feeder to a corner of the pasture in an area that won’t ever flood. We have to drive through an old wooden panel to get there, however, and it’s a heavy one to open.

Yesterday Lynn went to town with our flatbed trailer and bought two metal gates (to replace that wooden panel and the heavy one we have to open between the two fields above the house), a culvert for one of our ditches where we need to make a new driveway, and a headgate culvert for the ditch on the upper place that flooded earlier this winter.

Michael and Carolyn went to the sale at Blackfoot this week and bought 53 more yearlings. The next day they hauled them home in two stock trailers and put them in the field above the corral on the upper place.

When our cows ran out of hay in the feeder below the lane we had to move them to the field above the house (and sorted off another cow that’s ready to calve). Due to the flooding last week, the area around the feeder is a mudhole and we can’t get to it with the tractor without getting stuck. So we moved the cows instead, and are currently feeding them big round bales from our flatbed pickup. Tuesday morning it finally froze enough that Lynn could get out there with the tractor and moved the feeder out of the mud and put it on higher ground. We’ll be moving the cows back down there in a week or so when we need to sort off more of them to put in the maternity pen.

Andrea and Rick brought another pickup load of boxes to store at Andrea’s old house and shed. Andrea has been packing up a lot of things in preparation for moving out here this summer. As soon as the ground dries up enough, we’ll start the groundwork for her new house, which will be situated back into the hill (with a daylight basement) not very far from her old trailer house. She and the kids are very eager to move!

HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithher husbandLynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contact herat208-756-2841

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