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Taking new horses for a test drive

MAY 1

Last week I dewormed the horses and Michael put shoes on Ed and Breezy for me. Andrea and I rode April Sprout (Dani’s new horse) a few times; the mare is still green and inexperienced and needs more training.

Emily’s allergies and a bad cold suddenly escalated into pneumonia and she couldn’t breathe (and her oxygen level dropped dangerously low) so she spent a few days in the hospital on IV antibiotics and oxygen. Andrea stayed with her during the nights, and Lynn took the other kids to the school bus in the mornings.

Michael hauled several more dump truck loads of rocks to fix the ditch head on the upper place that was washing out with the high water, and also worked on the new ditch head by Andrea’s driveway where the creek was threatening to take it out. Then he hauled more rocks for Andrea’s new driveway and several loads of rocks to reinforce the ditch bank above our haystack yard where it flooded last year.

Lynn has been cleaning some of our ditches with tractor and blade, and getting more irrigation started. For several days we had cold rainy weather; then it dropped well below freezing for a few nights and slowed down the snow melt on our mountains, and the creek is no longer so terribly high.

On Saturday Lynn went with Rick to deliver a load of firewood, and Andrea came down to ride with me — and noticed that two of our heifers had gotten into the field above our cows and calves. We rode Breezy and Ed to round them up, and put all the heifers in my horse pasture until we can figure out where they went through the fence.

Then we rode April Sprout and Captain King (a borrowed horse we were trying, as a possible horse for the grandkids) on another training ride for Sprout. Captain King is spoiled and stubborn, however, and balked when we started up the driveway. When Andrea urged him forward, he bucked, then reared when she wouldn’t let him buck her off — and she had to spin him round and round to keep him from going over backward. She got him under control and we continued on our ride, but decided we don’t want that horse for the kids to ride!

The next day we took Dani on her first real ride on Sprout — making a loop through the low range. When we got home, Andrea took Sammy for a ride on Breezy.

Yesterday was cold and rainy again. We’ve been watching Freddie at nights (our last cow to calve) because the weather has been so miserable. We wanted to be able to put her in the barn if necessary. Today it was too wet for Michael to haul more rocks, until the road to our rock pit dried out in the afternoon.

MAY 7

Michael hauled more rock surfacing for Andrea’s driveway, and smoothed it out with the backhoe, now it won’t get so slippery, deep and muddy when it rains.

The four grandkids were trying to guess which day Freddie would calve, and Dani won; her guess was May 3rd. Freddie went into early labour before midnight, but didn’t calve until afternoon. I put her into our calving pen but then it started to rain and hail, so we put her in the barn — she had a black whiteface bull. The kids were hoping for a heifer, but 3/4 of our calves this year have been bulls!

We figured out where the heifers got through the fence (the creek washed out part of the fence along the bank) so Rick helped Lynn fix it. On Friday night we went to the annual dance and gymnastics program and watched Dani and Sammy in their various dances and Charlie in the gymnastics.

Yesterday Michael put new front shoes on April Sprout. She’s apparently had some bad experiences in her young life, and doesn’t like her feet handled, so Andrea and I have been picking up her feet a lot. Michael was very patient, shoeing her, keeping each foot up for only a short time, and letting her put it down when she’d start to get nervous. She has to learn to trust us; she’s been abused and is always expecting a fight. But with patience we got her front feet shod without resistance. We’ll do her hinds another day. Handling her feet in short increments works, and she’s becoming more at ease about it.

Yesterday afternoon our neighbour Alfonzo rounded up his cattle from the fields below us and took them up to the Gooch place to brand the calves. His corrals are flimsy, and partway through the afternoon eight calves got out and came down through our fields, trying to get back to the lower place. We captured them in our corral and helped Alfonzo load them in a trailer to haul back to their mothers. Then he put his cattle back down below us again, but separated several more pairs, and that evening one old cow crashed through the wire gate into our field trying to go find her calf. We had to lock her in our calving pen and have Alfonzo come get her.

Young Heather got home from college in Montana, and this morning she, Michael and Carolyn left on their trip to Iowa to get Nick from college. It will take them three days to get there and three days to come back — and Lynn will do their chores while they are gone.

MAY 16

Last week we harrowed the orchard and field above the house. Lynn, Andrea and Rick spent a couple days working on the ditch on Lynn’s folks’ old place, and I picked up the kids from the bus after school. They were eager to see Freddie’s young calf and thought he was cute, being the only whiteface calf this year. Dani enjoyed helping me do chores — feeding the horses and watering the cows. She loves to walk through the cows and calves, and pick grass to feed Maggie, who gently takes it out of her hand with her big rough tongue.

It froze hard again for several nights, but now the weather is hot. Last Saturday we vaccinated the cows, calves, bulls, and yearling heifers (and put the heifers back up in the swamp pasture, now that we’ve fixed the fence), and branded calves. Dani helped, by handing me syringes. While we got ready to brand the calves, she sat in the barn with them while we strung out the extension cords. The calves are so accustomed to her, they didn’t mind when she was helping gather and push the little bunches from the barn into the holding area by the calf table.

Monday Michael put new hind shoes on April Sprout and she was even more trusting (and less resistant) than when he did her fronts. She’s learning that we aren’t going to hurt her when we handle her feet. Later that day Michael and Lynn started hauling hay; we bought 50 tons for next winter, to make sure we’ll have enough. It’s last year’s hay, and reasonably priced at $130 per ton. It’s a nice mix of grass/alfalfa. They finished hauling it today. While they were hauling, Andrea and I made a long ride on Sprout and Ed to check range gates and part of the 320 fence — and repaired some places the elk knocked down. This afternoon Lynn and Michael put in a weir at the headgate of the uppermost ditch on our upper place. Now we have only one weir left to install. †

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