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Michael takes an off-farm job for the winter

NOVEMBER 1

Last week Lynn and Michael finished setting the posts to rebuild the side of our big corral. Rick and Andrea helped nail up the poles. Michael used the backhoe to alter the main gatepost so the gate would swing completely around in both directions, to make it easier to sort cattle.

They also used some of the old pole panels (salvaged last year when we rebuilt the second-day pens by the calving barn) to create a better fence along the lane to the lower pasture. Thick brush, fallen-down trees and wildlife traffic had obliterated most of the old fence. Now we will be able to let Michael’s small herd of cattle use that part of our lower pasture without risk of them getting out.

Andrea went to town on Thursday and bought a lot of instant dinners (the kind that keep at room temperature, to be warmed up in a microwave). These are for Michael to take with him to North Dakota. Friday Michael helped me take the shoes of Ed and Breezy and trimmed their feet, and spent the rest of that day getting ready for his trip.

Saturday he left early in the morning and drove all day, and made it to Crosby, North Dakota in the middle of the night. After an orientation/training session, he started driving a water truck in the oil fields. He is working for Chris Bird, our local tire shop owner who has several trucks on that job and needed another driver. Michael has been living in his truck, and sleeping at odd hours when he gets a chance. These trucks are kept running as much as possible.

He hopes to work there all winter, to earn enough money to make some payments to the bank. We’ll help Carolyn take care of their cattle while he is gone. He gets to come home occasionally, and plans to get their calves trucked to market and some hay hauled when he has time off in December.

Andrea and I have been working with the young fillies nearly every day, leading them up and down the road, and over the low range pasture, getting them used to many things.

We sent the open four-year-old cow to the sale at Idaho Falls a couple days ago. The prices are down a bit, however. The recent government dairy buy-out flooded the market with cull dairy cows, and this had an adverse affect on our beef market.

NOVEMBER 7

Sammy and Dani hiked along with us on Friday when Andrea and I led the fillies up the road. They enjoy helping with the fillies when they aren’t in school. They skip along and sing and chatter, and this helps get the young horses accustomed to more things. Sammy likes to brush Spotty Dottie, and lead her around in the barnyard.

The yearling heifer that was living with Michael’s cows and calves on our lower field disappeared. Lynn has been checking on them periodically and last Wednesday he didn’t see her. She wasn’t with the other cattle. He looked in the brush but couldn’t find her. He looked again the next day, but found nothing. We thought she might have gotten sick during the wet weather and had gone off in the bushes, but there’s no sign of her. She’s still missing so we don’t know if she went through the fence into the neighbour’s place or died. We haven’t seen any magpies or smelled anything dead. We are thinking she either left our field or died or got killed and was totally eaten. We worry about wolves, since there have been several seen in our area periodically.

We’ve talked to Michael a few times on the phone. He doesn’t have much chance to rest. They’ve been keeping him really busy hauling water, and a few loads of pipe, with only a few hours’ sleep most nights.

NOVEMBER 16

Last week we celebrated Dani’s 8th birthday with a party for her at one of the pizza places in town. She invited a few of her friends for pizza, cake and ice cream. It was snowing hard that evening when we drove to town (making it hard to see the road) and still snowing the next day. Rick and Andrea went up on the mountain to get a load of firewood for one of Rick’s wood customers, and took Sammy and Dani with them to go sledding. There’s two feet of snow up there, and they had to chain up the truck. The girls had fun sledding and made snowmen. Rick and Andrea built a big fire so they could warm themselves and dry out their gloves.

There was a big snowstorm in North Dakota also. We talked to Michael on the phone for a while, when he was snowed in and waiting for the parking area to be plowed. The next day the roads were plowed, but he got stuck in a snowdrift and had to shovel for several hours, moving his truck a few feet at a time. A farmer in the adjacent field, feeding cattle, saw his predicament and brought a tractor and loader to help. The farmer was unable to pull the truck with the tractor, so he used the loader to plow through the rest of the snowdrift so Michael could get unstuck,and probably saved him three more hours of shovelling.

We had cold weather for a few days and now it has warmed up a little and most of our snow is settling. Andrea and I are leading the fillies again, most days, but we’ve been staying on the main road because the trails over the hill are pretty slippery. †

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