Snow!

It’s been a cold, snowy winter so far. A couple of days ago we got about 10 inches (or 3 feet according to Rick) of fresh powder on top of the 8 inches already on the ground. It is absolutely beautiful if I must say so myself.

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Very pretty but also very hard to maneuver around. Since the critters have to be cared for every day no matter what the weather is, we do have to be outside. As long as you have the right clothes, boots, gloves, scarf and hat it is not bad; especially if you are working – that does keep you warm.

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alx-and-calvesRick and Alex do most of the heavy work around here – someone has to stand by and take pictures of them – so they stay pretty warm they tell me. The cattle do fine as long as they have plenty of feed, water and shelter. After the fresh, powdery snow we’ve had really cold (for us) temperatures – I think 10 degrees is our low so far – so most everything is frozen. I don’t think we will miss the snow when it is gone, but I will enjoy looking at the pictures.

Happenings

Well, you wouldn’t know it by the blog lately, but there really has been a lot happening around here. I’ll try to get you all caught up!

As you might guess living this far north in the mountains, weather is a big factor for us every winter. Right after Thanksgiving we had snow, not a lot just a light dusting really.

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It was really beautiful, the mountain tops were white, the sky was a beautiful clear blue and the air was crisp and clean.

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The cattle have to be fed every day, snow or not. Rick and Alex put on their warmer layers and carry on.

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After the snow, we had rain and lots of it. One of our summer grazing pastures just down the road from us flooded. You can see our red round hay bale feeder is still out in the field. The summer pastures were flooded and then it got COLD. That is ice you see in the field below. One of our neighbors who grew up on the east coast tried ice skating. I heard he did pretty well.

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This is gate we drove in and out of to load the cattle and bring them home just about two weeks before the flood and ice. Aren’t we glad all the cattle were home high and dry?

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Next, when it was really cold, the power went out. The high that day was 19 degrees and with the windchill it felt a lot colder. No power = no heat (other than our wood stove in the house) which means water lines freeze. Frozen water lines are not fun. Happily the lines in the house were fine, it was only the outside hosebibs and cattle water that were frozen.

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We added some heat tape and insulation on our most exposed hose bib and started up the generator. After a few hours the water lines thawed and water started flowing again.

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The next day the power came back on and everything was back to normal around here.

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After a few days of below freezing temperatures the storm passed and the weather warmed up. I think everyone appreciated the warmer weather.

Waterline

When they finished fencing the grazing paddocks at the new land, Rick and Alex turned their attention back to our place. Before winter, they need to have the water and electrical lines run all the way out to the “North 40” pasture. As it seems with most any project we have, this involves a lot of hard work. It goes like this: digging lines in lots of rocks, clearing and grading the ditch, sanding the ditch, installing the water line and electrical conduit, sanding the lines, backfilling the ditch and grading it smooth. They started at the very far end of the run and are working back towards the main electrical  and water lines.

 Rick and Alex installed a hose bib is at the end of the run in what will be the North 40 pasture – fencing that pasture is next year’s project.

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 This is the line dug – using our favorite neighbor’s tractor with backhoe – lots  and lots of rocks.

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 After Rick dug the line they laid out the pipe and conduit, with Grizzly watching.

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 Next they put sand in the bottom of the ditch. This will cushion the pipe and conduit and protect it from the rocks. This was a big enough project the first time, we certainly don’t want to have to dig it up and fix leaks or breaks because the pipe got crushed by rocks. And we have a LOT of rocks. And Molly and Grizzly are right there where the guys are working – they never stray very far.

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After the sand is down, they install the pipe and conduit. This is actually the easiest part of the process.

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Then more sand on top of the pipe and conduit – again to protect the lines from the rocks. That is Alex standing in the ditch directing Rick where to dump the sand. Roger and Melanie’s tractor made this job possible. Thanks Roger and Melanie!

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Alex spreads the sand to cover both lines.

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 You can see the exposed pipe at the top of the picture where it hasn’t been covered with sand yet.

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 Grizzly keeps a close watch on the workmanship.

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And finally it is time to backfill the ditch with our rocky, rocky soil.

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After the ditch is completely covered, there are still lots of rocks on the surface that will have to be cleared away. This is the ditch to one of the water troughs which is set in cement with the lines stubbed up in the center – you can tell this project got put on hold for quite a while to build fences by the foliage growing in the stub out.

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 Here is the insulated water trough set on top of the cement with the gravel ready to spread around.

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And part of the water line is done.

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New Pasture – Part 1

Back in April we leased an additional 80 acres of new pasture, just across the river from our place. It has been neglected and overgrown and the fencing was not in good shape, but it has lots of potential.  So, the long process of turning this old homestead into great pasture for our cattle began. Rick started by dragging the first 30 acres.

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Dragging the harrow over the field breaks up any manure clumps, loosens the compacted grasses and soil, reduces weeds and encourages new grass growth.

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He dragged the whole field  – which has a lovely view of the snow-capped mountains to the north – then applied 1/2 ton per acre of granulated lime. Our soil is very acidic so adding lime to the soil brings the pH up. The spreader is the yellow funnel-shaped thing on the back of the tractor.

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Next was trenching for the water and electric lines. They covered up the trenches before I got to take any pictures (they are working on a deadline and don’t stop for photo ops), but you can see the bare spots running through the field to each water trough.

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After that came clearing the overgrown vegetation so they could build fences. Some of the overgrowth was so high you could barely see the tractor.

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The trees in the fence line had to be trimmed up so they could work underneath.

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There is an old fence in that grass somewhere. Around here if you don’t keep it trimmed it will soon be consumed by vegetation.

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And then it was time to build fences. Lots and lots of fences. Which required many, many T posts – about 80 per paddock.

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So Rick and Alex pulled strings to lay out the fence lines and started driving T posts.

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They have also cemented in over eighty wooden corner and brace posts. Luckily the soil in that field is not nearly as rocky as ours, so the auger on the tractor drills the holes for the wood posts pretty well.

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The guys figured out they needed ten individual grazing paddocks of about 2 1/2 to 3 acres each to sustain our herd this summer. We rotate them through so the cattle are always on fresh grass and each rotation lasts about six days – give or take. So they started in one corner and fenced paddock #1 and moved the cattle in.

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Then they had six days before the next paddock had to be ready so the cattle could be moved onto fresh grass. It takes the two of them approximately five days to drill the post holes, cement in the corner and brace posts, drive the T posts, install the clips, pull the wire, hang the gates, set the water trough, hook up the water line and install the float on each paddock – if there are no problems and you have all the materials. So they worked hard to stay one paddock ahead of the cattle.

one ahed of the cattle

And the fencing race was on.

TO BE CONTINUED