On the Ranch Journal
Whoopin' & hollarin' into the New Year, and Blasts from the Past...
|January 1 - 15 Degrees
January 2 - Milk Separator
January 3 - Scoop
January 4 - The Old Hen
Janaury 5 - Old Beech Nut
January 7 - Snow
January 8 - Stuck on the 4-Wheeler
January 9 - Planning the Garden
January 10 - A Proper Snowstorm Party
Janaury 11 - 10" of New Snow
January 15 - Swamp Cowherd
January 18 - Winter Coming in for a Landing
January 19 - Mystery in the Dark Corner of the Barn
January 20 - Daniel, 100 Years!
January 22 - 8 Below Zero
January 23 - The Blue Balloon
January 24 - Dog's Play
January 25 - Thanks to the Local Lumberyard Folks
January 26 - Bale Feeder Parts
January 27 - 15 Below Zero
January 28 - The Blue Spruce
January 30 - 1000 lbs vs 118
Saturday, January 1 - The weather appears to be changing. It's much colder this morning with the mercury hovering around 15 degrees below zero. Later in the day, though, it clouded over, warmed up, and even spit a little snow.
Sunday, January 2 - Our neighbors from Florida gave us an old Montgomery Ward milk separator. The motor needs greased and coaxed into turning faster and the bird poop and cobwebs have gotta go, but I'm confident that we can get the "old girl" back on her feet. Our two milk cows will calve in the early spring, so we're anxious to try out this "blast from the past." Somehow, though, it doesn't seem too wise on our part. Milking is a bit of a chore in itself, and now we're actually planning to make a bigger mess in a machine that has at least a "hundred" working parts, all of which need washed every time you run a batch of milk through it. My mom and grandma used to separate the milk after each milking - the thick, amber cream ran one direction while the watery "blue john" streamed out the other spout. They then would put me to work washing all those little parts. The pile of separating disks - numbering like a deck of cards and just as slick to handle - was the trickiest part because they had to be kept in a precise order or the machine would throw milk in every direction. Come spring, I'll let you know how it all works out (or not)!
Monday, January 3 - I coaxed the 30-plus year old Scoop into the corral today to give him a little extra care: grain, hay, and visiting. Though he still feels frisky, I worry, because he seems to be growing thinner with each passing week. We'll get his mouth floated (filed) soon, so he can grind and utilize his vittles better.
Tuesday, January 4 - I turned Sunny in with Scoop so he would have a buddy, and so that the colt would be close and handy to break to lead in a few days.
Rudy and John are doing some more "architecting" out at the calving shed. Progress is steady. Roof going up. Work on schedule.
One of the older hens had some grain and food scraps building up in her "cheek", so Rudy and I had to perform a little operation to tweeze the fermenting, smelly pusses out of the pocket it had created. We had to be very careful not to rip her lips and make 'em bleed, because blood can turn poultry into frenzied piranhas, and they would have pecked the old hen to pieces. The poor little hen looked just like a baseball pitcher chewing plug tobacco, and she squawked and protested her firm desire to keep this snack storage system. But I told her, "Trust me, you're in the bottom of the ninth; the bases are loaded with three strikes against you, if you don't let us fix the old bat!"
Wednesday, January 5 - Happy 49th Anniversary to the folks! Rudy and John tightened a hydraulic hose fitting in an almost inaccessible spot on the John Deere tractor, then cut out doors in the calving shed. One inch of new snow fell last night. Cold and breezy. Wind clouds whipped at the Wyoming Mountain Range all day long. I went for supplies in town and picked up a truckload of horse and hen grain. Old "Beech Nut" - able to eat better and still cackling away...
Friday, January 7 - This past week shy snowstorms made half-hearted attempts to change Sublette County's worn-out suit of brown into something crisp and fresh and white. Didn't quite get 'er done (Yet!). The weatherman says repeated attempts to put the "icing on the cake" will occur between January 10 - 16. Even with the lack of snow and the pastures still storing plenty of late grass, we started feeding hay to the main cowherd, anyhow. The swamp grass, alone, just isn't packing much punch or nutrients this season. Husband Rudy, Son John, The Boss, Nephew Toby, and some neighbors from my hometown of Daniel - Robert, Jason, and Greg - snowmachined up Horse Creek onto Bald Mountain to see what's in store for next summer's irrigating season. Didn't look promising...(Yet!)
Saturday, January 8 - The Boss helped our neighbors drive their cows cross-country to Pinedale, 15 miles away, where they'll feed out some year-old hay. They then will return the mammas to the Daniel Valley for calving season. Rudy and I did the chores around the barnyard, then I jumped on the four-wheeler and Rudy climbed into the John Deere and we headed out, somewhat in the same direction, to feed the cows. Have you ever heard of anyone getting stuck on a four-wheeler in a mere two inches of snow? Well, dang it. It happens! Happened to me this morning. All across the open flats, during our recent drought days, wind puffs had tirelessly moved and rearranged the thin covering of winter white, sweeping it into ditches and into piles along the meadows' edges. These hard-packed, "snowstone" drifts are stout enough to hold up a woman, but not her cross-country machine. So it happens - along comes a mechanical rider, such as I, who gently breaks from the softness of the protected willows and buckbrush, and chooses the rock and roll shortcut route of the always-late wife. By whippin' over and under, I just knew that the dogs and I could beat the impatient, cow-feeder husband to the haystack, open the waterholes and gates and be waiting, poised and prim, when he arrived. But it's a fact of life that on these lovely, serene mornings Murphy's Law WILL kick in, and WILL high-center your weighty backside or stick your helpless front end in or on something - like two inches of reshuffled snow - miles from home or haystack, and uphill both ways. Yep, sometimes it happens.
Sunday, January 9 - As I write to you on this silent Sunday afternoon, fuzzy snow is slightly falling and a frail curtain descends upon the sleeping valley. Quietly crawling and curling along the foothills like a ghost in a dirty gray sheet, the dry cloud shudders, attempting to drop even the slightest bit of moisture upon the bleak land. And me, well, here I sit by the fire dreaming of planting a garden. "A garden?" You ask. "In the dead of winter and with barely enough moisture to freeze a teardrop on a cheek?" Yes, a garden! So I shall plan for it, and so I shall do it. I have some leftover radish seeds stored in the vet fridge, a little glass terrarium somewhere, and a warm sunny spot on a south-facing windowsill. And I have some rich manure-dirt in an old bucket on my porch, kept close at hand to pepper new life into my little, plant jungle. Will radishes even sprout in the rationed light of wintertime? I've decided not to ask a soul about that. I do not wish to find that they, or I, cannot.
Monday, January 10 - Late last night a feisty blizzard was spooked out of the sagebrush hills and ran roughshod with the wild wind across the dark valley. Amazingly, by daybreak Ma Nature had remembered how to throw a proper snowstorm party and dumped about six inches of new snow as she danced and twirled about. By high noon it was still snowing, but the wind had slowed to only a stutter. I shoveled off the dog kennel roof to lighten the load, filled the wood boxes; and fed the Chickadees. I can hear them tweeting and flittering in the willows near the house. At dusk, I hauled a bag of cat chow to the barn. Something has the cats on edge tonight - as if there's a stranger lurking in the dark corners of the hayloft. I'll bring my flashlight next trip and check it out. I fed Sunny and Scoop another go-round of hay, counted the sheep, filled the salt tubs, then went lookin' for more mischief. All afternoon long, Rudy and John again found their calling out at The Old Calving Shed.
Tuesday, January 11 - And still it snows and blows, but life and livestock feeding goes on in Sublette County. Must have about 10 inches to a foot of new snow scootin' around in the wind. Getting harder to drive the pickup to the calf shed project and harder still workin' in the storm - knee-high drifts, slick rafters, snow-filled nail buckets, wind rattlin' plywood, numb fingers...
Saturday, January 15 - We rounded up the swamp cowherd and trailed them down-country a couple of miles to Horse Creek where we'll be handing out a full feed of hay each day. The bales in that field will last till about the first week in March, then we'll bring the old girls back to the home meadow for calving season, scheduled to begin about April 1.
Tuesday, January 18 - The recent moisture-laden snowfall (4 inches and still snowing) has certainly helped our snowmobile industry, the Summer of 2000 irrigators, our newly-opened White Pine Ski Resort, the high school cross-country ski team, and homemade ice cream makers and snowman sculptors. But as winter comes in for a landing, it hasn't yet been too windy or cold for most folks and is causing only minor setbacks for the wildlife, professional drivers and commuters, our livestock feeders, and other outdoor industries - gas and oil, construction, and home builders. Even the snow depths on Dry Beaver and Buck Creek, northwest of Merna, haven't halted the tree harvesting operation in that area. Logging trucks loaded with tall timber are still rolling by the ranch nearly every day.
Speaking of homemade ice cream, is there anyone out there who still makes this rich, tantalizing treat? All you need is a wooden-sided, hand-crank bucket and a metal canister, a bag of rock (sheep) salt, and a pile of snow and icicles to pack around the canister. Then fill the canister with my grandma Noble's never-fail ice cream recipe: "In a saucepan dump 2 cups sugar; 1 rounded tablespoon of flour; 3 cups milk; a pinch of salt; and some vanilla. Bring to a boil and simmer. Cool. Add cream to fill freezer. Crank, slowly, till done."
To weight down the process, so it doesn't slip and slide about in the snow while you rhythmically huff and puff and crank on the handle, you'll need a volunteer kid who's willing to sit patiently atop the bucket - anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour - or until the ice cream is properly seasoned. When all is said and done, I promise you, it'll be well worth the time and effort.
Wednesday, January 19 - The new day dawned crystal clear and warm with nary a breath of wind. Icicles are melting from the roof eaves and the new snowfall is sticky and heavy upon my overshoes as I break new trails to all my routine stops. Mild evenings are urging the whiteness to melt gently, bathing the air with that special scent of willow bark - reminiscent of a midsummer's rain. Tropical as it seems, we still need a wood fire each evening to warm the chill. If the outside temperature ever drops below zero (and it will), a hard crust will freeze upon the snow's surface, causing the wildlife to have a tough time foraging for their vittles.
I solved the "mystery in the dark corner of the barn" from last week's visit with you. Turns out that an unwelcome intruder to the barn cats' "condo" had really put 'em on edge. Nope, it wasn't a raccoon or any other vicious varmint, for that matter. It was just a scrawny, black and white Manx kitten with bright yellow eyes. A pretty, little fellow and pretty starved, too. The little survivor must have straggled in when Winter exhaled its last blast of icy breath. Now, here he is, hungry enough to eat the south side out of a northbound skunk. Judging by the smell of him that's exactly what he must have tried somewhere beneath the floorboards of the old homestead buildings. Yes sir, he was one scared and hungry wildcat!
Finally, I cornered him behind a hay bale, and with one hand hypnotically hovering in front of him, I kept his eyes averted and grabbed him up by the nape of the neck with my other hand. I stuck him between my vest and my coat, zipped him up, and took him to the house to fix a decent meal of meat scrapes and milk. Once, and only once, as he wolfed down the food, did he mistake my finger for a juicy tidbit! K-e-e-runch! And just like that I had four, uniform, puncture marks on my pinky finger and blood dripping everywhere. Whoa! I resisted the strong urge to drop him right where we stood in the middle of my kitchen, with two dogs drooling at my feet.
When the tiny rascal finally filled the hungry hollow, I bedded him down for the night, with dessert, in my little orphan barn. Tomorrow, I'll feed him and pet him, get him fattened up and tamed down a bit, then either return him to the barn or try to convince a nice somebody that they just can't live without a sweet, little kitten.
Thursday, January 20 - The entire Green River/Horse Creek Valley is getting geared up to celebrate Daniel, Wyoming's 100th birthday on February 1, 2000. Some of the community's citizens are putting together a two-volume book about the folks who first settled our area, and plans are in the works for an old-fashioned Box Supper and Dance (February 12) with music by the family band - Legend - (Husband Rudy will be playing the "squeeze box" - accordian). The celebration will happen at our old 1920's schoolhouse and will honor our little town; it's residents - both past and present; and the publication of the new history book. We're all excited about these upcoming events!
Lately, I've been wondering about a magpie that's been hanging out in a nearby willow bush, just waiting to steal dog pellets from the kennel. He appears to be in top form, but when he opens his black beak to cackle a melodic chirp, instead, hits the airwaves. Pleasant sound for a change, but quite strange for a magpie. Also, I've seen a small, redheaded woodpecker trying his darndest to carve out a home in our big transformer pole. A woodpecker living in Sublette County during the winter months is practically unheard of, but this happy guy seems to know exactly what he's doing, despite the naysayers.
January 22-27, 2000
Saturday, January 22 This past week has been much like those "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" - those dog days of late summer when you actually have much to do, but nothing really exciting happens when you finally do get around to doing it. So it goes, that, squarely in the middle of the winter season, about February to be exact, folks get fretful and begin to stir from their boring hibernation mode, saying, "I've sure got cabin fever!" We haven't even had any severe weather this winter, but everyone (me too!) is craving green grass, in the worst kind of way.
Actually, the weather has been near-perfect by Wyoming standards, although it did bottom out at 8 below zero this morning. Most days, the sky remains clear and sapphire-blue with only intermittent storms flittering by. A neighbor once said that Sublette County is the only place that gets three feet of snow - one inch at a time.
The cattle are fat and sassy, and the feedin' job is rollin' right along. However, because of the warm days and cool nights, and the fluctuation in the high and low pressure systems that skip through the valleys, the Horse Creek waterholes keep overflowing, making a slushy, slippery mess.
The ice along the stream banks didn't ever freeze solid, earlier, before it snowed up and the wind blew drifts over the banks. The result is much like throwing a down comforter over the water's edge to keep it toasty warm. Now, as the water rises and falls, it has an escape route where it may run at will - like a wild ice skater - across the flowing ice.
Speaking of skating, when we were little kids (and even now), I loved to ice skate on the mirror-smooth creek. I could glide for miles it seemed, on those twisting, curling ribbons of time-altered liquid. Some days, though, this breezeway was rotten with layer upon layer of "eggshell" ice that would give way beneath the thin blade of an ice skate. Or maybe the frozen creek would trip up my fun with a halfway exposed willow branch. Inevitably, if I was really "carrying the mail" when I entered this zone of clattery bangs, my "graceful" forward motion would turn aerial as I was slung across the ice, landing on bony knees and pointy elbows or in a perfect sit/spin-head/whack combination. 10! 9.9! 9.9! And 10! Oh, eat your heart out, Dorothy Hamill!
Rural ice skating - nothing else can compare, except of course, that when you're done playing on the creek, you can kick down through the snow to bare earth, break some dry willow sticks, and start a crackling campfire to roast marshmallows, hot chocolate, and strips of wild game meat on a "willer stick."
Sunday, January 23 Must have been an unfettered air current, originating in some distant place, that gently coursed its way across our corner of the county today. This morning, husband Rudy found a mysterious, wayward, blue balloon, still fully inflated, and skipping lightly across the snow near the cows' feedground on Horse Creek - far, far away from any birthday party we'd heard of.
Monday, January 24 This afternoon, we hung gates out at the calving shed, and using a bolt cutter, we cut lengths of chain for gate loops. Rudy's hard work is paying off, though, as the facility is looking good and soon will be finished. We ran out of plywood, though, and couldn't finish the roof. I'll get another load tomorrow.
While we worked, the dogs dug through the snow and spooked up a couple of juicy mice. Then, as darkness settled in, they wandered to the edge of the old crib and sat mesmerized, listening to the coyotes' lonesome howl. Good lessons in watching these dogs. They can make fun out of nothing at all.
Tuesday, January 25 Went for supplies in Pinedale and tried to get more plywood from Dew Lumber - our local lumberyard. They had only seven sheets left, and I needed 25, but we loaded 'em in the pickup, anyhow, and I hit the road again. Their delivery truck will be making a run to Salt Lake City on Thursday or Friday. Mr. Dew has been hauling his own supplies from that distant town nearly 250 miles away, at least once a week, for well over 30 years. We surely appreciate these kinds of businesses being in our little area. They are very dedicated to pleasing customers, and at a reasonable price to boot. Sublette County could not maintain its current lifestyles without these hardworking folks. Our hats are always tipped to them, and we thank 'em.
Wednesday, January 26 This morning, a wheel bearing in the rented bale feeder was squealing and doomed to go out at any time. Rudy limped the machine back to the house after finishing the day's feed job, and the boss headed to town for parts. Luckily, he was able to buy a bearing for the odd-sized thing. Still need another bearing for the other side for maintenance purposes, but one is all they had in stock. Our parts' man promised he'd have another one in "as quick as possible." I expect it will be here "yesterday." Now, this is exactly what I'm talking about. We can't do without 'em.
Thursday, January 27 Fifteen below zero. At first light, the wind went to whistling like granny's teapot, and by nightfall was still tootin' right along. Cold, too! In no time a'tall, it found all my bare spots and started gnawing away at the raw flesh. Must be a dandy windchill factor hidden somewhere in this gale, but I really don't want to know what it is.
Well, I'd better close for now and get this in the "mail". Take care and I'll "see" you next week!
Friday, January 28 Bending under the drooping boughs of the 100-year old blue spruce, I kicked through the snow looking for pinecones. This beautiful tree grows on the banks of a stream that we call The Miller Ditch (dry, during the winter months). It was named after the family to which it carries irrigating and stock water each spring, summer, and fall. All the cones I am finding are for a friend, who makes Christmas wreathes every year. Lucy said she's excited to get a headstart on her Christmas 2000 project.
Through all these years, this mammoth tree has been very special to my family and me. Much like the Statue of Liberty watching the shores of our country, "our gal" seems to be keeping a constant vigil over the ranch and the valley beyond. She is stately and elegant, dressed in her rustling skirt of deep green. Each year she bears many basketfuls of pine-scented, amber-colored cones, and each time the wind blows, she sighs, then shares her delicate decorations with the earth below.
She has lived on this ranch since before we moved here in 1957, when I was only three. The homesteader, Dr. John Montrose, had planted her as a seedling for his young daughter around the turn of the century. Now, nearly fully-grown and elderly, she towers above even the ancient, river cottonwoods and can be seen for many miles up and down the valley. She's one of a kind and all alone in the valley except for a few, naturally growing Water Spruce in the nearby swamp - and us.
Sunday, January 30 Super Bowl Day! The short-lived cold snap has moderated. Thank Heavens! It had dropped 25 steps below the zero mark, one morning. We're not used to that abuse this winter.
This morning, during the first of my twice-daily trip along the chore path, I decided to turn old Scoop and Sunny into the bull lot so they could run and buck and loosen up a bit after being cooped up in the corral. Each morning, I've been giving Scoop a gallon of alfalfa pellets and all the hay he can eat. This ration has helped to keep the meat on his 30-year old frame. And he spends each night in the barn with Sunny, pampered and coddled - away from sharp tooth of winter.
I dumped two, separate piles of pellets - a big pile for the old horse and a handful or two for the "teenage" horse - then started tying the pole gate open. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Sunny loping toward me alongside the wooden chute. He was feeling especially frisky, with the frosty morning and the unchecked freedom of a bigger exercise area. When he reached me, he suddenly swapped directions and cut through the three-foot gap between Scoop's backside and me.
Well, Scoop wouldn't hurt even a mosquito, but since he is particularly possessive about his treats, he let both hind hooves fly in an effort to warn the busybody colt. Pow, snap, crunch! The sound of pain and hooves meeting flesh echoed through the morning air like a rifle shot.
Indeed, the colt had successfully made his jump to a safe zone. But me...well, for a few seconds I wasn't sure what "eighteen wheeler" had hit me. Scoop just looked back over his shoulder as if to say, "Oops! Sorry 'bout that!" then turned back and happily continued munching on his pellets. Yep, his well-aimed hooves had squarely hit me - one nailed me just below the hip and one in the stomach. Bruce Lee would have been real proud of Scoop's "jump reverse, double mule kick." A real board-breaker - but 1000 pounds against 118 is not a fair fight by my definition.
I clung to the gate like it was my best buddy, trying to catch my breath and waiting for the nausea and sharp pain to disappear. Since no one was within earshot range, I then figured I'd better try out my bum leg to determine the damage. It didn't appear to be broken, so I dragged on through my chores, then headed back to the house to "lick my wounds." We spend many hours and lots of breath telling kids that ANY horse can and will kick, and then...
Hey, it was a great Super Bowl, yes?!
New calving shed
|The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles
northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be
reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted,
Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt.
No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer.
Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.