5/5/21

Calving season!

Seems like we have been busy, I missed a couple of these columns or what ever it is you call what I write in here and they publish.. but my schedule has been hectic. And now branding season has started. Always enjoyable to get together with neighbors and see what everybody is up to. Kind of like Facebook only way better!

We evidently used a heifer bull who wasn’t a very good heifer bull last summer. Some of these two year olds are needing a lot of help. We only have one left and when she calves we are either going to get drunk to celebrate or drunk to drown our sorrow!!! I don’t remember the last time I  had to help this many heifers calve! One thing about it, we are getting pretty good at pulling them out!

Not complaining.. heck, it would do no good anyway.. just thinking out loud. On the plus side, it has been great weather. A little dry to suit most people, but it sure makes it nice for the baby calves.

I have been getting some riding on my young horse who needs a little more education. I got him as a yearling from Vern and Laurie Ward and he has just been great. As a 2 year old I sent him to a young neighbor couple who specialize in starting young horses and when I got him home, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep riding him as I wanted, and he was pretty little to pack an old, fat man around, so made a deal with a young neighbor girl and she rode hm a little thru’ most of the summer. Both parties did a great job and he is a nice horse. Matter of fact, I liked him so well, we went back last fall and got two more from Vern and Laurie. I say both their names, but really only got to see Laurie.. that dang Vern stays busy!

Speaking of horses, have you kept up with the horse market? Seems like everybody must want one as they are sure bringing some good money and if you want a team to drive you better have some deep pockets. I am not sure if Covid had anything to do with it or what, but they are pricey. It’s about time these folks who raise some good ones got paid what they are really worth.. makes it a little tough on the checkbook if you want one, but what I notice, they are still quite a bit cheaper than them four wheelers and side by sides, most have went to. Those things are handy, but I done see any of them that can do what a horse can, and they don’t run on grass and hay like a horse!

Here is hoping your having a great spring and your calving is all done or close to it!

4/15/21

Ah., spring time…a time of wonderful weather, balmy, sunny, calm.. but not in Mudville! Or much of this country, very often, either. The calendar tells us it’s spring, but those of us who have lived here very long know that we can have spring blizzards. And dust storms. 

Yes, it can be very nice. But we usually get wind and some snow and hopefully rain. And we all could use some moisture! And it’s coming. We don’t know when or how much, but we are one day closer.

Many have been calving. We are just getting started. We have some first calf heifers and evidently one of the bulls we used last year is throwing some bigger calves. And one tonight, was in there backwards! Not sure what causes that and at times a cow can have a backwards calf. I know on one occasion as I was feeding, I saw a cow with the feet pointed skyward from the calf who was trying to escape the womb…As soon as I got done, I caught a horse and rode to get her in, only to find she had him on her own and she was licking him off and he was fine. Others have told me similar instances.

This evening as I was feeding (we have the cattle in close because of the beautiful weather, Haha!) and as I was feeding I saw a first calf heifer, two feet sticking out, bottoms of the feet pointed skyward…so I hurried and saddled a horse (sure was glad I had one in the corral!) and rode out to bring her in.. she resisted, but seeing as I was on a big, stout, cow eating booger and I had a rope, me and ol’ Pilgrim won the battle. Got her in the shed and as luck would have it, reinforcements had shown up in the form of Chance and Ryan and some grand kids. A good thing too because she was on the fight  (and who wouldn’t be with a big calf trying to come out backwards) and we got her necked to a gentle post in the shed and got the calf pulled. He was big and pulled hard. Oh the joy of calving heifers!

At last check she was still not in a mood to be trifled with and the calf was alive. Hopefully he will be up and sucked when I go check early in the morning.

Here is hoping we get some warm rains and lots of it in the next 90 days or so.

I hope everyone had a happy and Blessed Easter. We did, all the kids and grandkids and a couple extras were here. Such nice weather too!

Cindy and I hauled some cull bulls to the sale barn today and then when we got home I got a call from a male grandson, asking if I was done sorting bulls. I said I was and had hauled them. He said he wanted to help. So I told him I was sorry, but I was going to go tear out and roll up some old fence if he wanted to help do that. You bet! He is 7 and thinks getting to help Grampa is a big deal. So I went and got him and then we stopped and got Gramma and we all went up and went to work. I helped them get started taking the wire off and then I went to rolling the wire up, afoot… there is an art to it.

I remember many years ago when a neighbor moved back to the family ranch and he was going to run sheep so needed to add wire to the 3 strand fence. There was a large farm out on the gumbo and they let him have the wire off the existing fences, for removing it. Several of us went and helped him for a few days. Man, he could almost trot and roll up barbed wire. It was amazing.. we started out side by side and it wasn’t long and he was a long ways ahead of me. And it wasn’t that I had never done it, but he had made it into an art form! Every time I roll up wire I think of that.

I suppose in this day and age, rolling wire by hand is probably scorned on. After all, we have wire rollers that you can buy and it rolls it up. Or you can roll it up on a pipe with a loader mounted post hole digger. Chance and his kids tore out quite a bit of fence for some people a couple summers ago and then rebuilt with all new material. They didn’t want the old wire so he just rolled it up on pipes and I guess they hauled it in and sold it for scrap price. 

Different times! Not long ago I would have tore it down, rolled it up by hand and then brought it home to use. But they were in too much of a hurry to save it or any of the posts. Wanted everything new.

I am a believer in two wire barbed wire fences. When you have those, you will never over graze. As the cattle will just crawl out and go where the feed is better!

Here’s hoping your getting all your spring work done while we have this lovely weather!

Wind!

Wow! If you need any fresh air, there is a lot going by. Just reach out and grab some. I am just grateful there isn’t a foot or two of snow laying around for it to play with. Tho’ it sure would fill some creeks and make run off to fill water holes. But it wouldn’t be much fun until it was done.

Seems like we get our fair share of wind around these parts. And many people complain about it. But doesn’t seem like to many do much about it. Well, I guess that isn’t quite true…we plant trees and build wind breaks. And we sure are grateful for them on these windy days.

I wonder about them old timers who first came to this country, many years ago, from east of here…… I don’t think they got the kinds of wind we do. Can you imagine them old time cowboys out on round up in the spring, having to be out in it all day and most of the night? I have sure been to some branding in the spring where it was so windy you could barely swing a rope and when you threw it to catch hind feet on a calf, you had to allow for windage. I am pretty sure I have a kink in my neck from pulling my hat down to keep it on, on windy days.

We used to have four windmills to pump water. Only two are left. One got crumpled by the wind and laid down. Another wasn’t used much so we took the head off and moved it to another mill. The two that are still standing, only one works. The other needs a new head.  For those who don’t know, that is the part that turns round and round and pumps the water. This one, is old and worn out and just clicks… when cattle prices get better, we have plans to get a new one and put up.

The one that isn’t working is about 30 feet tall. Dad and a neighbor put it together and pulled it up after building it. While it was laying on it’s side on the ground, the neighbor mentioned to Dad that they ought to figure out a way to put the oil in it, before they pulled it erect, as they were both bothered by heights. Dad told him that “it sure didn’t look very tall, they would be alright”. He said when they pulled it up he was sure amazed how much it grew! They had to get another neighbor who wasn’t bothered by heights to come put the oil in it!

Here is hoping your anvil don’t blow away!

3/15/21

Snow! We got some.. nothing like the folks down around Cheyenne and Colorado. We might have had 4 inches. Wet! Good stuff! I feel for those who were calving thru’ this where they got hit harder.  It is kind of muddy around here, but I much prefer mud over frozen hard dirt and snow!

We hooked up the team and have been feeding grain with them. The younger of the two hasn’t

had much training so it has been interesting. Seems like I could never get anyone to go along with me when ever I wanted to drive her, before. But Chance got interested and has been helping and learning. These maybe ain’t the best to learn on, but it is kind of like learning to cowboy, kind of sink or swim!

Years ago when I got my first team, my Dad had a fit. “I spent my whole life switching my fathers equipment over from teams to tractors and your switching them all back!”, he said. But he was sure right there when I hooked and drove them and told me what I was doing wrong. I started the first one alongside an older saddle horse I had driven. Just used a stone boat at first. Got her going pretty good one winter and then the next winter started her mate.. she was kind of snotty so I put a set of trip ropes on her and let her loose in the corral and taught her what the word Whoa, meant. Never had to spill her, just stopped her when I said it. Then Dad and I hooked her to my other mare who had some experience and had a set of trip on her. Dad sat on the corner of the hay wagon and held the rope to the trips.. away we went! Got pretty wild and pretty rapid a few times, but he never touched her trips. 

After awhile she settled down and things went pretty smooth. He then told me when I asked  why he’d never took ahold of her feet with them trips, that he didn’t like to trip them, as then they got to where they were afraid to get out and pull. Kind of glad he didn’t, explain that until afterwards! I sure would have been more nervous! 

As to runaways he would say, “Where they gonna run? Let them run. They will stop after awhile!” 

Wow! 

He sure din’t have as much imagination as I did! 

I find myself looking back to those times with my son and this less trained mare… and I agree more with him now. As long as you can kind of point them, let them run. If they want to keep it up.. maybe encourage them until they don’t want to then go some more.. they soon learn running isn’t all that much fun. 

I like teams. The best part about teams? I have never had one buck me off! I can’t say that for saddle horses! The price that fuel is getting, I am thinking more people are going to get interested in teams, to save some fuel.If you decide you want a team, let me know. I might be able to find you one. Can’t say how well trained they will be, tho’!

3/8/21

Sure been great weather. Hard to complain. Tho’ I do hear some are worrying about whether we will. Get enough moisture this spring. I remember doing the same, many years ago and my Dad telling me, “It always has rained. It will again” And he was born in 1914 and lived thru’ the dirty thirties. And they knew what it was like to be dry.

One time he and another old timer were visiting about the thirties and the years they got some rain. Dad told of helping a neighbor lamb one spring in the thirties. Said they didn’t see the sun for a month. Red Owl creek ran bank full for a month. They had no lambing shed, just sheep tepees. He said the little lambs would get about so big ad die, just from being wet all the time. And then it quit raining and as he put it, “It was just like turning off a water tap. No more for a long, long time.”

Of course it eventually rained And they both recalled there were years in the thirties when it did rain somewhat but the grass hopper ate everything that grew. And when everything was gone, they all just rose up in the air and flew away. Must have been something to see.

We had hoppers last year and they were not as bad as I had seen them in the past but they were bad.. I sure hope they aren’t this year. And I too, hope it gets to sending some moisture. Warm gentle rains later on is my order. But I will take what we get, as I have found we might as well. Because that is what we are going to get. And nothing we can do about it.

Can you imagine being the guy in charge of rain and snow. Come fall and your getting orders for snow from snowmobilers and skiers. Others are ordering dry and warm. Then you get into spring and one guy wants rain, another wants snow and the guy who is calving is wanting dry and warm! And then spring planting… one guy is trying to get everything seeded and he still wants warm and dry, another has his seeded and wants rain to make it grow and some where there is another who is still calving and wants warm ad dry. Then the calving gets caught up and you think, whew!!! I can rest up awhile.. send some rain.. but no, there are people wanting to get branded and they don’t want rained out! And some guy is wanting to be the first one in his neighbor hood to cut and put up some hay!!!!

I tell you, it wouldn’t be a fun job. Cussed one second and praised the nest! Probably about as bad as being God. And we all know how people talk to and about Him!

I hope you get just as much moisture as you want and at the time off your choosing… me? I will take heart in another thing Dad always said. “God will provide us with just as much moisture as we need. And evidently, some years we don’t need as much!”

2/28/21


We got snow! Wow!

  Okay, maybe not wow. But some people seem to be pretty excited about it.I guess if your a skier or don’t have to deal with it all day long, or a kid, but then I repeat myself…, you might get excited about snow. I don’t mind it. What we have won’t stick around too long and it will hep settle the dust. It will soften up the grass my cows are grazing. It makes every thing pretty again. 

If I was feeding hay with a team, and could use a bobsled to do so, I probably would like it better. I really enjoyed feeding with a bobsled. The way it just slipped so easily over the snow and so quiet! All you heard was the soften clip clop of the horses feet and the sleigh bells ringing. ( I always had sleigh bells. An old rancher wrote one time, just the sound of them helped warm the temps up 10 or 20 degrees and I found out he was right!) 

Of course, where I live, we seldom got to use a bobsled much. Too windy. It usually blew the snow into drifts and bare on the flats… so you seldom had good enough snow to pull a sled, every where you needed to go. I do remember one winter that was pretty snowy, cold and tough. I fed with a bobsled every day for 90 days. Seems like winter started at Thanksgiving with lots of snow and wind and kept it up all winter until mid April. ( As I wrote that last line I see it came up as MUD April… yeah, pretty much!)

I miss feeding with a team. Sure these tractors and pickups have cabs and heaters, but when you were young, you never noticed the cold so much and you just put on enough layers that it din’t bother as much. And I only had to drive about a mile, at the farthest to get to the hay stacks and cattle. The only place I couldn’t get warm or protect were my cheek bones. Can’t even get whiskers to grow on there…always wished I had one of them helmets like the Astronauts  used.. but then my team probably would have run off from fear!

Another advantage to a team, was in the spring I was in awful good shape. At first from pitching hay and even after I started feeding big round bales and made a bale wagon. I still had to get off and on the wagon to load each bale and run two winches. It helped to keep you warm. My only complaint was I needed suspenders in the spring as my pants were pretty loose fitting, especially after I switched from long handles to brief underwear!

Well, I suppose by the time you read this, most of this snow will be gone. But South Dakota being South Dakota, I am betting there will be more before May 15th! 

Keep your snow shovel handy!

2/22/21

The weather is sure nicer than last time I wrote. Sure helps out on the feed situation here. I want it to stay like this until spring and then get real nice!

Them poor folks down south who aren’t as used to extreme cold and snow sure suffered. And it sure proved we can not solely rely on Windmills and Solar panels for all our electrical needs! Whether some like it or not, we need coal and natural gas and propane also.

I saw some who said that we need to make all of the electricity going into the US Capitol buildings solely solar and windmills. If so, I bet them folks down there who are supposedly running this country, would have set up and took notice!

I am older so remember when I used to feed with a team and lots of days below zero and the wind blowing, while I was pitching hay, at first and then later with a bale wagon to feed big round bales. I dressed for it so it wasn’t all that bad. Kind of like jumping into the water at the first of summer, the water was cold, but after the shock wore off, you got used to it!

Better than Dad. He always said when he was a kid growing up in the teens (he was born in 1914) that when they wanted to take a bath in winter they’d have to go chop a hole in the ice on the dam and then chase all the polar bears away, then take a bath! I believed him for awhile… then noticed there weren’t no polar bears around these parts anymore.

I am sure glad somebody invented hot running water in a house and indoor plumbing! The first school I went to just had outdoor toilets so I know about using them when it is cold out! But it sure built character, I guess. I notice most of the people my age who live around these parts sure are characters, anyway!

Heres hoping the nice weather lasts and we get lots of warm spring rain.

Burrr er!

One thing about this country, when it decides to change the weather, it isn’t fooling around! Wow! As I write this, it is still pretty cold and from what I read it has slipped clear down south and them folks are getting a taste of what we usually face every winter. Oh well, fair is fair, we get a taste every summer that they get then!

I saw a video a year or so back of a rig to feed grain and cubes to livestock. Made from a wide tired and the center where the rim would be, blocked, with iron or steel and a pipe thru’ the middle. It hooks up to a bale unroller and there is a small door to load it with. To use it you just set it down and drive along and as the wheel turns it spills out cubes or grain when the hole gets to the bottom and then quits dropping any out, as the hole rotates to the top again. It looked pretty slick so we made one.

We found a fairly wide tire and about 3 and a half feet tall. We cut a fairly large flap that you push down inside and block open to put the feed into the tire. In side that flap we cut a smaller hole for the grain to come out of. After you finish filling your grain, you pull the flap up and closed and it will stay shut. It works as slick as I thought it would. My son, Chance has no faith in any ideas I come up with so he was skeptical if it would work and reserved judgement until he saw it for himself. After seeing how well it worked, he even gave me credit for a good thing we could make ourselves!

We have been using it last winter and this winter and the only thing we would do different is use a wider tire. I was out feeding with it this morning and watching the cows come to feed. There are several that run along and try and take a bite on the run, and not really getting much to eat. The rest just calmly stay at a pile and eat at it until it is gone. Then move on to another pile. Until all the feed is gone.

It seems to me, the ones who stay calm and just go about their business, so to speak, get more and at a much easier rate. The ones who run along trying to get the most, probably don’t.

Kind of reminds me of some people and how they go thru’ life. Some just keep at the job at hand, calmly and stay with it, working steadily. Others are always running to the next pile, thinking they are get more. 

People are funny critters, as Baxter Black observed. Hope by the time you read this it is much warm