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Icy roads bad news for both man and beast

NOVEMBER 26

Andrea and I have been working with the young fillies every day, leading them, tying them, and feeding the weanling (Willow) a little grain and alfalfa pellets.

Last week our neighbour Alfonzo branded, vaccinated and weaned some late calves and two of the Miller family (one of our new Amish neighbours from the three families that bought the Maurer place) rode over the hills to help.

One young man rode through our place and his 17-year-old sister came along later, following his horse’s tracks in the mud, but she couldn’t close the tight wire gate. We saw her up on the hill struggling with the gate, so Lynn drove up there on his four-wheeler and helped her shut it. He showed her a better gate (out of the old Gooch place that Alfonzo is leasing) that would be easier the next time they come riding across the hills.

Last Tuesday Lynn took a box of things to town to send to Michael in North Dakota — his prescription medicines and warm socks that Carolyn was sending, and two more boxes of Adapt energy drinks. Those help keep him awake and alert when he’s driving truck nearly 24 hours a day.

We had rain and mud, and then it changed to snow and cold. The ice rink in town is solidly frozen and the kids are playing hockey. Charlie is doing hockey this year, and Emily is helping him practise.

We started feeding our cows (and 10 pair of Michael’s on our lower pasture) a liquid protein/mineral supplement to augment their dry pasture. Granddaughter Heather came home briefly from Carroll College for Thanksgiving, and Lynn and I ate homemade pizza with her and Carolyn (Andrea and kids had dinner with Rick’s family). Yesterday we had another Thanksgiving dinner at Andrea’s house with Lynn’s sister Jenelle and Emily’s dad Jim, who came from Montana.

DECEMBER 10

A week ago we butchered Rishira, Andrea’s 17-year-old cow. She’s had 16 calves but was open this fall. Andrea and Lynn were gutting and skinning her (hung from the tractor loader) when our up-the-creek neighbour Gordon Binning phoned to tell us that Michael and Carolyn’s horses were in his place. A tree had fallen down across the fence and they’d walked over it. Carolyn was at work at the vet clinic in town so Lynn and I drove up there and helped Gordon put the horses back into their proper pasture, and rescued one mare that was trapped in the thick brush along the fence.

A couple of days later Lynn helped Carolyn move the horses to our 160-acre mountain pasture, where they can paw through the snow to grass. He and Carolyn set steel posts and fixed Gordon’s fence where the tree knocked it down.

Andrea cut and wrapped meat for several days. We ordered an electric meat grinder and after it arrived Andrea got all the hamburger ground. The buckets of meat chunks stayed cold in her little travel trailer; she had to bring them in the house to thaw before she could grind the meat.

On Saturday Alfonzo hired another neighbour with a backhoe and finally got a weir put into the ditch that waters his lower fields. This will make it easier to measure water use next summer when the creek gets low.

On Sunday Lynn and I watched one of Emily’s hockey tournament games after church. Their little team won a couple of games this weekend. Emily is becoming an excellent hockey player.

Michael drove home from North Dakota. He’ll have 12 days off from his truck-driving job, hoping to get some urgent projects done at home. The road was bad, with storms and ice. Coming through Montana he hit a patch of ice and went off the road. Fortunately the car didn’t roll; it just tore a tire off. Michael was able to change the tire and drive home, getting here at 4 a.m. yesterday morning.

With the cold windy weather Lynn helped Andrea made a windbreak shelter for her dogs. This afternoon Michael helped Lynn clean battery terminals on our big tractor so it will start better. They’ll be using it to haul hay.

DECEMBER 17

Tuesday Michael loaded our tractor on the flatbed trailer and hauled it north of town where he’s been pasturing cattle (and bought hay from Michael Phillips). Lynn borrowed another trailer, but during the first trip the borrowed trailer broke a spring and we couldn’t use it anymore.

The next day Michael and Carolyn gathered their cattle off that pasture. Bringing them along the slippery road to sort and load at Jenelle’s corral, one old cow slipped and fell down the 20-foot bank, and was upside down against the fence. She was on her back for 45 minutes while they went to get a tractor, and pulled her back up onto the road with a horse and the tractor — with a chain around her front end and rope around her hind feet. She was able to get up and they got her to the corral and into a trailer with a load of calves.

With friends, they made two trips with four trailers to haul cows and calves home to our upper place. It snowed four inches before noon and our creek road was slippery in spite of being sanded earlier that morning. One of the loaded trailers nearly went off the edge of the road when the pickup spun out. The driver had to back up into the snowy edge to get enough traction to get up the grade. They got the cows and calves safely hauled, then Michael hauled yearlings to the sale at Butte, Montana.

The cow that fell down the bank was able to walk off the trailer but collapsed out in the field and couldn’t get up. They decided to butcher her and Andrea offered to do it because Michael and Carolyn didn’t have time.

Friday morning Michael hauled another load of hay, unloaded it at the upper place with his tractor, and used the tractor to put the carcass of the crippled cow on our flatbed feed truck after Andrea shot her. He went for the last load of hay while Lynn and Andrea gutted and skinned the cow at our place. She had a broken hip.

It started snowing again after Michael went back to get our tractor after hauling the last load of hay. He planned to use the tractor here to load alfalfa bales to mix with grass hay for his cows. But as Andrea and Lynn were hurrying to cover the hanging cow carcass with sheets and a tarp during the snowstorm, I got a phone call from Michael.

The tractor and trailer had slid off the same slippery road where the cow fell off, but thankfully off the other side, which wasn’t such a huge drop-off. Fortunately the trailer popped off the hitch as it twisted over the bank, and didn’t drag the pickup down with it! The trailer was totally wrecked, with the tractor still chained to it, still running, with the cab smashed in. Michael carefully crawled down into it and shut it off.

We called a wrecker and Lynn drove out there, but it was dark by then and they decided to wait until morning. In the daylight, with a wrecker and another tractor they were able to flip the trailer off the tractor and pull it up onto the road, then carefully pulled the tractor back over onto its wheels and pulled it up, too. The wrecker towed the tractor to a repair shop. Hopefully the motor isn’t ruined (all the oil ran out of it). We are thankful that Michael and granddaughter are safe. The tailgate was torn off and the hitch in the bed was damaged, but the pickup didn’t go over the bank upside down.

Without that tractor to load our hay for feeding this winter, and with Carolyn having to feed their cows by herself (Michael will be in North Dakota), driving their tractor up and down their steep and slippery driveway to plug in every night, we decided to combine forces. They brought their cattle down to our place yesterday (to be preg checked and vaccinated this morning), and will wean the calves here in our corrals, and keep their cattle here this winter. We’ll all work together to get the cows fed — thankful that our family is still intact and only a cow, vehicles, tractor and trailer have been damaged by the slippery roads! †

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