What a crazy spring we’ve had! It doesn’t seem like summer yet. We are still feeding hay. Lynn put a new starter on the feed truck and got it working again. The grass is slow growing in the cool weather, but is finally coming nice and thick—from all the rain. Michael and Carolyn turned cows out on the range a few days later than usual but the range grass should be good this year. They borrowed our four bulls—three to turn out on the range and one to use as a heifer bull—since their bulls are worn out from the first six weeks of breeding and they need some spare bulls to finish up the breeding season. We won’t need a bull until later this month.
Michael, Carolyn and young Heather went to the state track meet in Boise to watch Nick run. It was a cold, rainy day and everyone got soaking wet. We’ve had more than a week of heavy rain. On Saturday (May 22) it started to snow and snowed all night—making roads treacherous as the kids drove home from Boise; they didn’t get home till midnight. At 2 a. m I was wakened by a loud crash. A huge branch broke out of our elm tree and hit the house roof. Power lines broke at 4:30 a. m. By morning we had more than 10 inches of new snow, and no electricity for about 12 hours. A tree was down across the road below our ranch, so we didn’t go to church. We spent the morning taking broken branches off fences above our house.
On Wednesday Michael hauled 15 more pairs to our upper place to pasture for summer, but it’s not summer yet. It’s muddier now than in early spring; we’re having trouble driving into the field above our house to feed our cows. Today will be our last day of feeding; tomorrow we’ll move them to pasture above the corrals. The horses are standing in ankle-deep mud in their pens. Young Heather’s mare Classy had her foal a couple nights ago, and Michael carried it into the barn to get out of the wet weather.
Weather cleared up for a couple days in early June and Nick helped us brand and vaccinate our calves. That afternoon he helped Lynn fix the headgate for one of our ditches. It started raining again the next day.
Michael and Nick brought several trailer loads of yearling heifers (and one of our young bulls) to put on pasture below our house. We decided to pasture a couple more of our fields this year since we won’t need much hay after selling more cows to Michael and Carolyn. They need more pasture, so this will work nicely.
The grass is growing swiftly now, and I’ve been letting Breezy and Snickers graze around my hay shed and horse pens to mow it down before we stack hay there later. We vaccinated the horses a couple weeks ago—later than usual, because mosquitoes weren’t out yet.
I had our neighbour Jeff Minor come shoe Rubbie for me (I hate to stop shoeing my horses, but it’s hard on my back now) and trim Veggie’s feet. Veggie is getting “scratches” (infection around the heel and pastern areas) from standing in deep mud for several weeks. His left hind pastern was swollen and sore so we’ve been washing it and treating it (with a mixture of DMSO and nitrofurozone ointment) once a day to combat infection and relieve the swelling. The swelling is gone now and he’s no longer lame, but I’ll keep treating it until his pen isn’t muddy.
Last weekend it didn’t rain, so on Saturday we drove over to the Maurer place and took photos of young Heather and her filly. She works with that sassy foal every day and independent little “Tornado” is starting to lead and respond to the halter.
That next Sunday afternoon I rode with Heather, Michael and Carolyn to help them gather and move the rest of their cattle to the middle range pasture. We discovered one of their calves caught in a water tank; he was probably pushed in when cattle crowded around it, and couldn’t get out. It looked like he’d been there more than a day. Michael got into the tank and lifted the calf up over the poles to get it out.
More rain this past week—and snow on the upper place. On Friday Nick helped Lynn saw a tree off the fence in our lower field and patch the fence, and then we moved the 30 heifers to that field. The last few days it’s been so cold we’ve had a fire in our wood stove to keep warm!
Three weeks ago we borrowed a bull from Michael and Carolyn to put with our cows, since we sold or loaned them all six of our bulls earlier this spring. The bull Michael brought us was one they’d rested for a month after an injury, but he seems to be fine now.
High water washed out one of our ditch heads. Lynn tried to put a dam in but the water was too deep, swift and treacherous, so he took 12 big straw bales up there to put in the creek and Michael used our backhoe to set them in the creek.
I rode again with Michael, Carolyn and kids to check gates and troughs on the high range, and troughs Michael fixed on the middle range, to make sure they were still working. Rubbie had a sore eye (holding it shut) so I had the vet come look at it. She had a scratch on the cornea so we’ve been putting medication into the eye twice a day. She was doing better by last week, and I rode her to lead Veggie for Charlie, Sammy and Dani to ride—making three trips over the hill to the low range, about two miles for each child.
Michael brought two of their horses to pasture in our barnyard and we can use one of them, a mare named Ed, for grandkids to ride. Emily rode her on Tuesday and got along fine. Ed is shorter than Veggie, and Em was able to brush, saddle her, and mount by herself without help.
This past week has been unlucky for vehicles. We had a thunderstorm a week ago, with strong wind. Two of Michael and Carolyn’s cow dogs crawled into their old Explorer (the spare vehicle they drive to their leased ranches). One window was broken out, and the dogs got in it to get out of the storm. They probably cowered down under the dashboard—afraid of the lightning and thunder—and pressed on the clutch, putting it out of gear. The wind got it rolling; it left the parking area and went down the hill, where it hit a big rock and turned sideways, taking the rock with it, and rolled over a few times before plummeting over the embankment down to the county road where it landed on its top. It caved in the top and totalled the vehicle. The dogs survived with minor injuries, since they were small enough to be protected by the seats when the roof smashed down. A full box of horseshoe nails and some new horseshoes got tossed around inside the vehicle; the dogs endured a shower of sharp missiles and thudding horseshoes as the car rolled over and over.
Then two days ago we got a frantic phone call from Carolyn asking Lynn to bring his big tractor and log chain. Nick had left for track practice and got out of his pickup to shut their driveway gate. They keep the gate shut because two of their old horses are grazing the pasture around their house. While he was shutting the gate, the parking brake failed and the pickup rolled down the driveway, across the main road and through the fence—and into the neighbour’s pond. Nick had to drive a different vehicle to track practice. Lynn drove our tractor up there (two miles) and he and Carolyn were able to hook onto the back bumper of the pickup to pull it out. The back axle and entire front end of the pickup were under water. The motor is probably ruined; it was full of water and had moss on top of it. They plan to put the motor from the wrecked explorer (that the dogs drove over the cliff) in Nick’s pickup. Meanwhile, we’ll loan Nick our 31-year old car that we haven’t been driving. It just needs a new battery. Nick can drive it to track practice the rest of the summer or until they get his pickup fixed.
Monday, July 5, was the 10th anniversary of Andrea’s burn accident. Hard to believe this much time has passed, yet in some ways it seems like only yesterday. The publisher of my book Beyond the Flames recently posted my current blog (on the website she set up for me last year: www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com), with my thoughts about this milestone, and recollections about the other fire we had in 2003 that burned part of our cattle range. This summer the grass is lush and green—and lots of it, and we hope we won’t have hot, dry weather and risk of fires later on.
HeatherSmithThomasrancheswithherhusband LynnnearSalmon,Idaho.Contactherat 208-756-2841.