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Tire and computer problems hold up production

JANUARY 25

Last week the weather was cold (-18 C). We had to break ice in the creek waterholes for the cows. The two holes I’d been keeping open in Fozzy’s pen got so thick with ice we carried water in buckets for a couple of days until we got the holes chopped open again.

Michael spent a few more days working on the road into the 160-acre mountain pasture, until the backhoe got a flat front tire. He took the tire to town to be fixed. The next day he started working on the road again and one of the big rear tires developed a leak. He took it off and hauled it to town to have a boot put in so it would hold air long enough to drive the backhoe down off the mountain. We had to order a new tire.

We had a 14th birthday party for Emily at Andrea’s new house last week. Andrea’s fragile skin (grafted) over one knee peeled off after a slight scrape a few days ago. She ended up with an infection and had to be on antibiotics again. Her grafted skin tears open very easily.

In spite of her swollen, painful knee, she drove Emily to Sun Valley last Friday for her hockey tournament. The roads were bad, with new snow. It snowed four feet on the passes that night, so Andrea was glad she went the day before. Our little team played well in their four games Saturday and Sunday and won two, with Emily making several goals.

Monday, Michael helped Lynn take the blade off our big tractor and put it on the smallest John Deere so we could clean the barn (something we’d planned to do much earlier than this!) We got the old straw cleaned out and then put the blade back on the big tractor, in case we have to plow snow this winter.

We worked on several other projects while waiting for the new backhoe tire. Yesterday morning Lynn and Michael cut tin for several new headgates and got them installed in the ditch above the house. That afternoon they started digging postholes to rebuild the falling down second-day pens next to the calving barn. Lynn took a big straw bale to the cows in the field by Andrea’s house, and gave them a new tub of protein supplement. They are still grazing that field and hillside; we haven’t started feeding them any hay.

Today Rick helped work on the second-day pens, too, and Lynn used the tractor to pull the old netting upright, to hook it to the new posts. Then they put poles along the top. When it’s finished, these pens will be sturdier and than when built the first time.

FEBRUARY 4

Last week Michael and Rick worked several days digging postholes and setting new posts in the pens, and put the plywood back on the fence for windbreaks. The ground on the other side of the pens was too frozen to dig postholes, so Lynn and Michael created some “ovens” to thaw the spots for the holes. Lynn cut vent openings in several old metal protein tubs and we used those to contain a fire over each spot. The fires smolder all night. By morning the ground underneath each metal tub was fully thawed for digging the postholes.

Last Friday Michael helped us vaccinate (pre-calving vaccines) and delouse the cows, vaccinate and delouse the bulls, and vaccinate, delouse and tag the yearling heifers, putting in their brisket tags. These tags work well as permanent identification; they stay in for the life of the cow and don’t pull out.

Rick drove up the creek Saturday afternoon to get a load of firewood, and on his way home his pickup got stuck in the icy creek crossing about five miles above the ranch — just before dark. He started walking down the road and met a neighbour driving up to check coyote traps. The neighbour pulled Rick’s loaded pickup out of the creek and then got his own truck stuck in the snow. So Rick had to pull him out of the snowbank. Andrea and Lynn had just started up the creek in our pickup to check on Rick, since it was long after dark by that time. They stopped along the way to put chains on, when Rick and the neighbour came driving down.

Monday morning we had a fierce blizzard, but it didn’t last. By afternoon it cleared off and Lynn took our flatbed trailer down to RJ Hoffman’s place and bought a load of big straw bales from him. We need some good straw for barn bedding, in case we need to use the barn when cows calve in April. These past few years April weather has been worse than January-February, with lots of snowstorms.

Thursday Andrea drove to Idaho Falls with Charlie for his appointment with a child psychologist who works with autistic children. He will ensure that Charlie gets the help he needs from state programs that work with autistic kids. Weather was nasty on their drive home — with wind, snow and poor visibility. It took six hours to come home instead of three.

FEBRUARY 12

Last Sunday my computer had serious problems and I had to turn it off and couldn’t finish the articles I was writing. Lynn took it to town the next morning to Steve Dahl — a friend who repairs computers. It had several things wrong with it and they worked on it for more than a day.

Lynn and I took another protein tub to the cows and checked on them; they are still grazing — thanks to mild weather and not much snow. We haven’t started feeding hay yet.

My computer had more problems after we got it home, and Lynn had to take it back to town for more repairs. It has had some glitches when I turn it on, so Steve is refurbishing a used computer for me and will put my data in it.

Rick helped Michael a few more days and they built several new pole panels for dividers in our second-day pens, and hung some metal gates. Now it’s all finished except for a few more metal gates we’ll need to buy. These pens will outlast us now, and will be handy for sorting as well as for pairs after calving. The old panels that were salvageable got hauled down along a stretch of bad fence toward the post pile pasture. We’ll use them to reinforce that fence.

Andrea went to the hospital on Wednesday for a biopsy of her thyroid gland. One side of it has been small and hard for several years and the doctor wants to see what’s wrong. Hopefully we’ll have the results back this week.

In the meantime, she took Emily to another hockey tournament Friday, at McCall (a long drive). They got through some mountain passes just ahead of a snow slide that closed the road. They plan to drive home a different way — the long way around — because it’s snowing again and there will probably be more snow slides.

The new backhoe tire finally came, and Michael got the backhoe working again. He worked the past two days on the road into the 160-acre pasture and got the new section joined up with the old Jeep track (that goes on up to the 320-acre pasture) at the top of the first hill. Eventually we’ll create a new road on around the hill to an outcropping of shale rock that we may market someday for road surfacing. †

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