Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Whew!  What a day!

There had been an ominous cloud in the northeast at dark, but there were still stars shining in the south.  By morning there was 8” of fresh snow.

The temperature was sitting right on 30 and there was only a slight breeze.  I put on both sets of tire chains before I pulled the pickup out of the quonset.  But traction wasn’t so much of an issue this morning as was visibility.  While such features as trees and fences were easily recognizable, the heavy blanket of snow covered all of the rocks and ditches, and the steady snow made navigation through the fields fraught with peril.

The West Boulder valley is aptly named – there are rocks everywhere.  The roads and trails through the fields wind around to miss the worst of the rocks, and these trails were now completely obscured.

I felt my way through the snow to feed the first bunch of cattle and found one big rock rounding the end of a ridge.  I knew it was somewhere nearby, and was going slow enough to stop quickly and alter course.

Even in the four-wheel-drive tractor the navigation was hazardous.  Returning from the stack with a wagon-load of straw I struck a 3-foot tall boulder while trying to follow the main road  back to the shop.  After spreading 1000 pounds of straw in the snow for the heavies I headed back out with the pickup for more hay. 

On the return trip however, I missed the road again and got buried in an old snowdrift.  The pickup was belly deep and the tires spun free even with chains.  I dug for awhile before walking the mile back to the shop for the tractor.

Even with the four-wheel-drive tractor it took a lot of rocking to finally extricate the pickup.

I put off most of the load of hay and was headed for another bunch of cattle when I ran off the road again – this time on a steep bank.  Again I had to walk back to the shop, and then all the way out to where I’d left the tractor after freeing the pickup from the snowbank.  Even afoot the visibility was so poor that it was hard to see the tracks of the tractor where the walking would be a little easier.

But after returning with the tractor I evaluated the position of the pickup and decided that it was too precarious to deal with in a snowstorm.  I went to the house and spent a half an hour digging out my good pickup and putting chains on it all the way around.

There was one new calf in the heavies, and I took the four-wheeler out to sled him into the shed.  The cow followed along easily. 

It wasn’t really cold, and the snow was heavy with moisture. By noon my gloves were soaked and my overalls were wet to the knees.

I’d only given the cattle a partial feeding in the morning so that the hay wouldn’t get covered by snow.  Afternoon I took the other pickup for another round of feed.

Two cows were calving and I ran them in the shed with the four-wheeler.  Neither of them were willing to leave the other cattle and it took a lot of running around afoot to get them started.  Once the they were headed in the right direction I was able to follow them most of the way with the ATV, until they headed off down the rocky ridge above the shed.  Then I was afoot again in the heavy wet snow strewn with rocks underneath.

Then I spread another of the 3’x4’x8’ bales of straw for the pair-bunch from the wagon behind the tractor.

The snow was ending and the sky getting brighter as I finished.  I was just starting supper when I realized that the furnace had quit.  Making the rounds of the house I turned up each of the baseboard heaters and wall units.  Then I shoveled across the deck to liberate the firewood stack.

It was after dark when I made a trip out to the shed to check on the last two cows calving.  Out on the county road I noticed the glare of headlights which did not seem to be moving.  Taking the pickup I headed out to see who might be in trouble.

It was a neighbor from about 7 miles west who was trying to get home.  By the time I arrived he had already shoveled himself out of a long drift that blocked the road and was heading back to take the long way around through Big Timber to get home to Little Mission Creek – about 45 miles out of his way.  Like most serious back-roads travelers, he was equipped with two sets of tire chains, a scoop shovel, and enough clothes to face the weather.

Wednesday morning brings sunshine.  It is 25 above and calm. The calves are all happily bedded in straw. Unless the wind comes up and starts the snow to drifting, it should be a pleasant day.

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