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Ranchers’s Diary: Bit of a rodeo while fencing

NOVEMBER 26

Lynn and Michael have been setting posts for the new fence boundary on our 160-acre pasture, hoping to get as many set as possible before the ground freezes more. Monday they hauled steel posts up there in Michael’s pickup and got 40 set that day. I sent a lunch with them. Tuesday Michael and Carolyn drove to Helena to convoy home with young Heather (coming home from college for Thanksgiving holiday) and hauled home the three horses they loaned to the HAB program for the fall semester.

Andrea is still moving, getting the rest of her furniture and other items out of the old rental house in town, putting some things in the new house and storing the rest in the old trailer house until the carpenters are finished. The building inspector came this week and gave a temporary “occupancy” permit so she can start moving in. The kids were sleeping on the floor in the old house in town and Andrea was bringing them out here for supper. She needed to get everything out of the old house so she can thoroughly clean it before the end of the month. Sam wasn’t feeling well (with fever and sore throat) for a few days, so she stayed here with me instead of going to school.

Wednesday, Andrea took Sam to the doctor. Lynn and Michael hauled more posts to the 160, and got 40 more set, after hauling some up the fence line with their four-wheelers. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we had dinner at Andrea’s new house, even though she’s not moved in yet. She cooked the turkey and potatoes, and Lynn’s sister and sister-in-law and I brought the rest of the food. It was a “housewarming” celebration for the new house.

Yesterday it snowed. The weather cleared by afternoon, and Michael was able to haul wood posts (for braces) and barbed wire to the fence project. Andrea and Rick brought more things out from town (including their dogs and cats) and worked until late at night cleaning the old house. They’ve spent several late nights cleaning it.

Today I rode with Michael and young Heather to pack wood posts and barbed wire up to the top of the fence where it’s too steep to take a vehicle. Michael came with the trailer to haul Ed to the upper place, saving time so I wouldn’t have to ride three miles up there and back. He put packsaddles on two of their horses and we rode another mile up into the 160-acre pasture, where he’d left the wood posts and rolls of wire. I held the extra horses while Heather helped Michael load four posts on Gus (two posts on each side) and two rolls of wire on Thelma.

We started up the hill through the sagebrush, with Heather and Michael leading the packhorses from their horses. Things were going well, even though Gus had never been packed before, until we went through some tall sage and Gus got tangled up in the brush. He tried to jump one of the bushes in his path. The posts clattered together and scared him. He pulled his lead rope out of Heather’s hand, and took off down the mountain, running and bucking. He lost the posts about halfway down, then galloped around the mountain toward home.

We rode back down to where he’d bucked off the posts, and I held Thelma (with the rolls of wire) while Michael and Heather went to find Gus. Fortunately he stopped at the gate and didn’t try to go through the fence. They readjusted his packsaddle (which had turned under his belly) and led him back. This time they only put two posts on him, one on each side. He stood wide-eyed and trembling, but didn’t move. And wouldn’t move when we tried to start back up the mountain. I followed along behind him on Ed, tapping him on the rump to encourage him, until he realized the posts weren’t going to hurt him. We made tour more trips up the precarious, snowy slope with posts, and the horses did fine. It got dark and cold before we quite finished; we’d lost quite a bit of time with the first adventure, but at least it ended successfully.

DECEMBER 11

Lynn and Michael spent several more days setting posts, and the last ones were difficult, digging holes for the brace posts through the rocks and frost. We had cold weather (down to -18 C).

Andrea got the old rental house completely cleaned and scrubbed,basementrooms repainted, and carpets shampooed. I sent supper home for her and the kids several evenings. Now she finally has time to work at getting everything into her new house that she stored in the shed and trailer. This past week the carpenters finally got her cabinets finished. We’re waiting for a stovepipe for the wood stove, hoping it comes soon so we can start heating her house with wood instead of expensive electricity.

With cold weather, we’ve been breaking ice for the cows to drink at the spring in their pasture, but the grass hasn’t snowed under yet. We’re only feeding hay to the two bull calves. The heifers and cows are still grazing, with a protein supplement.

Last Sunday we went to town early and watched one of Emily’s hockey games then went to church. This week Lynn and Michael have been setting posts for a fence around Andrea’s new house — to keep our cows out and her dogs in. We’ll graze that pasture in a few weeks (if it doesn’t snow under) and need a fence around her new house. There’s about 12 inches of frost in the ground. Michael used our rock drill to chip through frost and rocks on the worst postholes. The posts are all set now, ready for wire.

Andrea’s car window quit working (couldn’t roll up) and she had to bring the kids home from their dance/gymnastics and hockey practice in the cold weather that night with no window. We loaned her our pickup to take the kids to the bus the next morning, and then she took her car to town to be fixed.

Michael hauled the last of his yearlings to the sale, except for a couple to butcher later, and hauled their 36 pregnant heifers home from rented pasture. He and Carolyn will be talking to their banker this week, to see if they can keep these heifers or must sell them. The heifers are due to start calving mid February. †

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