Small Farmer's Journal

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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Typical Range Ride
Typical Range Ride

Heather Smith Thomas checking cows on a young horse in training. Photo courtesy Heather Smith Thomas.

Typical Range Ride

Excerpted from Ranch Tales, by Heather Smith Thomas of Salmon, ID
Published by The Frontier Project Inc. – www.ajmangum.com

Our cattle ranch lies at the foot of the mountains where our cows spent their summers for fifty years. During those years I rode almost every day to check the cattle, making sure gates were shut, and all the water troughs working. We live in dry country, and when they are on summer pasture in the mountains, cattle depend on a few small streams for water, along with some small seeps that we piped into water troughs. Sometimes a springbox gets plugged with mud from a summer thundershower and needs to be cleaned out or the pipe into the water trough gets plugged, or broken by cattle traffic if the dirt over it washes away in a cloudburst thunderstorm. Sometimes gates get left open and cows wander onto the wrong range, and then those cows must be located and herded back to their proper pastures.

Sometimes a cow or calf gets sick and needs to be brought home for medical treatment. If we ride out there often, we know what’s going on and can attend to any problems. On summer range you don’t want to risk having a trough non-functional for long, for instance, or cattle in that area might have no water. I always enjoyed my daily rides out there to check on things and monitor the grass and the cattle. Each ride is a special experience.

I head up the steep trail through the rocks and sagebrush behind our house. The smell of dewy sage fills my nostrils as my horse brushes the shrubs along the trail, and a horned lark flits up from her nest on the ground as we go by. A mother grouse bursts into the air and does her broken-wing act (her strategy to lead a predator away from her babies, who are scattering out through the grass).

My horse breathes deeply as she climbs the crest of the hill, then pauses, snorting, as a group of antelope leap to their feet from the swale where they were bedded, and bolt across our path. My mare snorts again as she detects their strong, musky scent. They disappear over the hill in a puff of dust, and we continue along the trail.

We soon head down into the Baker Creek canyon, approaching a brushy draw where a small trough collects spring water. A herd of cow elk with calves have been drinking there, and they mill about for a moment when they see me, the cows and calves talking to one another with their high-pitched “eep-eep.” Then they stick their heads in the air and march up out of the draw, disgusted at having their morning interrupted.

We descend into Baker Creek and up the rocky trail into the timber, dodging overhanging fir branches. A golden eagle soars above the canyon, and a pine squirrel scolds us from the tree overhead, knocking fir cones down into the trail. Colorful Indian paintbrush (red, orange, pale cream) and blue lupine dot the grassy clearing ahead. We reach the wire gate in the range fence, and I get off to open it and lead my mare through.

In the meadow beyond, some of our cattle are bedded down chewing their cuds. They are used to seeing me and my horse, and don’t bother to get up as I ride through them, weaving my way between napping calves. One calf is up nursing his mother, slurping noisily at the udder. I make sure they are all healthy, then continue up the trail to check another water trough.

The day is warm and my horse takes a long, grateful drink while I fix the over-flow pipe that has been obstructed with fir needles. This spring comes directly out of the rocky canyon wall and the water is icy cold, and more pure and clean than boggy springs where the elk like to wallow, so I quench my thirst at the renewed flow through the pipe into the trough.

It’s a steep climb into the next little creek drainage, but we wind our way in a roundabout fashion, stopping at each group of cows to check on them. When we get over the mountain and head down the other side, there is another trough in a grassy clearing, and here I let my horse graze for a moment as I eat a sandwich from my jacket pocket. My jacket, tied to the back of my saddle, holds not only my lunch, but also a pocketful of baling twine for emergency fence repairs. I can always tie a broken wire back together or tie wires back up to a post if the elk have knocked them off. In another pocket my jacket holds small binoculars for checking on cattle a long ways away.

After this quick lunch, my horse and I travel through more timber, startling two big mule deer bucks who leap gracefully over the fence and out of sight. We go around the mountain through an outcropping of rocks, my horse carefully picking her way in the precarious footing. I have to go another mile to check the gate in the back corner fence between our range and the Forest Service allotment. There’s a jeep track that comes up that side of the mountain and into our range, and I check this gate often; sometimes folks neglect to shut it after driving through. While on the backside of the mountain I find a group of yearling heifers. They are several miles from where I saw them yesterday. This is the wandering age. These heifers won’t have calves until next year, and are footloose and fancy free. Like a group of teenagers, they are always interested in seeing what’s just out of sight, traveling over the next horizon, not wanting to miss out on anything exciting.

I am glad to find Boogie Woogie (daughter of Shimmy, sister of Tango; yes, all our cattle are named) because I need to check on her eye. She was showing early signs of pinkeye the last time I saw her, but today the eye looks like it is getting better, so maybe I won’t have to bring her home for treatment. I’d rather not have to bring her home; bringing an unwilling critter home from the range can be a tough challenge, even with a good cow horse. Yearlings are sassy, as well as inexperienced in being herded, and about the only way to get one of them home is to bring along a babysitter cow, too. The older cow is more likely to be somewhat cooperative (with more respect for the horse, not trying to outrun us and hide in the brush) and the yearling would tend to stay with the cow.

Yearlings are true groupies; they never like to be by themselves. I head back along the fence to check the side gate in the timber, and find a freshly knocked- down broken-off post where a herd of elk went through. They usually jump the fences, but sometimes they are lazy and knock them over. I’m glad I discovered this hole in the fence before the heifers did, or they’d all be in the neighbors’ range.

Sometimes it can take days or even weeks of riding to find cattle when they stray into the wrong range – because it’s a large area, with lots of timber where cattle can be hard to see – so we like to make sure the fences stay in good shape. I prop the post back up and splice the broken top wire with my handy baling twine. This will hold the fence together until my husband or son-in-law can bring a new post to set. He can probably bring it up the ridge on his four-wheeler and only have to carry it a quarter of a mile down the steep hill through the timber, to the fence.

On my way back over the ridge that serves as the dividing point between Baker Creek and Withington Creek, I check on another water trough, served by a spring my father helped develop nearly sixty years ago. This is an amazing spring, to be located on such a high ridge. A person wonders how any underground water channel could be this far above other water sources. The topmost part of Baker Creek bubbles out of an even larger spring, just under the crest of this ridge.

There are cattle bedded down around the grassy area near this trough, having climbed up here to drink after their morning grazing on nearby mountain slopes. They are full and content, lying in this high spot to take their midday siesta and chew their cuds, enjoying a bit of breeze on this high point.

It’s hot by the time my horse and I start back to lower country, and her feet stir up little clouds of dust. The sweet smell of syringa (the blooming bushes along the creek, Idaho’s state flower) delightfully mixes with the smell of horse sweat as we cross the little stream, where Baker Creek meanders through our lower range pasture. As a kid, I always wished there could be a Kool-Aid flavor that tasted as sweet and good as the smell of syringa. After we cross the little creek, my mare spooks as a coyote pup sticks his head up over an old log to look at us. The sudden movement startles her, but once she realizes what he is, she relaxes and heads down the trail, quickening her pace as she thinks about home. Both of us are pleased with our ride. She’s happy to be heading back to her pasture buddies, and I have enjoyed this peaceful interlude with nature’s creatures while doing my daily tasks.

Footnote: Lemhi county is 93 percent public land (Forest Service and BLM), and includes three mountain ranges and several deep river canyons. One of them, the Middle- fork of the Salmon River, is deeper than the Grand Canyon of Colorado. Our county borders the Frank Church Wilderness Area, one of the first wildernesses established after passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, and the largest in Idaho. In our county, the Lemhi River Valley and Salmon River valley are about the only agricultural land where hay is raised for winter feed, for the herds of cattle that pasture on the surrounding mountains (public land) that make up the majority of the landscape. Our ranch lies up against the Lemhi Range of mountains, and our summer pasture was home to bison in earlier times. It was also the summer hunting grounds of a local tribe of Shoshone Indians when Lewis and Clark came throughour valley 210 years ago.

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

by:
from issue:

Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

McCormick-Deering All Steel Corn Sheller

McCormick-Deering All-Steel Corn Sheller

from issue:

To obtain the best results in shelling, the machine should be run so that the crank makes about forty-five (45) revolutions per minute or the pulley shaft one hundred and seventy-five (175) revolutions per minute. When driving with belt be sure that this speed is maintained, as any speed in excess of this will have a tendency to cause the shelled corn to pass out with the cobs. The ears should be fed into the sheller point first.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Plans for an Old Style Wooden Stanchion Floor

by:
from issue:

The basic needs that we are addressing here are as follows: To create a sunny, airy (not drafty), dry, convenient, accessible place to bring in our cow or cows, with or without calves, to be comfortably and easily secured for milking and other purposes such as vet checks, AI breeding, etc. where both you and your cow feel secure and content. A place that is functional, clean, warm and inviting in every way.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

by:
from issue:

For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Champion No.4 Mower Reaper

The Champion No. 4 Combined Mower and Self-Raking Reaper

by:
from issue:

The project for the winter of 2010 was a Champion No. 4 mower made sometime around 1878 by the Champion Machine Works of Springfield, Ohio. The machine was designed primarily as a mower yet for an additional charge a reaping attachment could be added. The mower was in remarkably good condition for its age. After cleaning dirt from gears and oiling, we put the machine on blocks and found that none of the parts were frozen and everything moved.

McD Lime Spreader

Parts lists and illustrations are included in this comprehensive overview

Homemade Beet Grinder

Homemade Beet Grinder

by:
from issue:

This is my small beet grinder I built about 6 years ago. It has done nearly daily duty for that time. The beet fodder is added to my goat and rabbit rations which are largely homemade. Adding the pulp to the grain rations has aided me in having goat milk throughout the winter months. My beets are the Colossal Red Mangels. Many grow up to 2 feet long. I cut off enough for a day’s feed and grind it up each morning. Beets oxidize like cut apples. Fresh is best!

McCormick-Deering Tractor Disc Harrow No. 10-A

McCormick-Deering Tractor Disc Harrow No. 10-A

Small to mid-sized disc-harrows are a most useful tillage implement. Some farmers consider them indispensable. Discs such as the McD 10-A may be used with either tractors or big hitches of work horses. This tool will cut both plowed and unplowed ground. Ahead of the moldboard plow, the disc harrow is a valuable tool to cut up and free tough sod. When employed in tandem with spring tooth harrows, a great deal of work can be accomplished in much less time.

Planet Jr Two Horse Equipment

Planet Jr. Two-Horse Equipment

from issue:

This information on Planet Jr. two horse equipment is from an old booklet which had been shared with us by Dave McCoy, a horse-logger from our parts: “Think of the saving made in cultivating perfectly two rows of potatoes, beans, corn or any crop planted in rows not over 44 inches apart, at a single passage. This means double work at a single cost, for the arrangement of the fourteen teeth is such that all the ground is well tilled and no open furrows are left next to the row, while one man attends easily to the work, with one team.”

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

400 Hen Laying House

400-Hen Laying House

by: ,
from issue:

One of the hardest problems in successful poultry keeping is to maintain the vigor and health of the flock. Housing has particular bearing on this problem. If the laying-house is poorly lighted, has insufficient ventilation, or is overcrowded, the health of the fowls will be affected. The purpose of housing is to increase productiveness. In order to accomplish this the fowls must be comfortable.

Timber Wagon

Timber Wagon: The ÖSTERBY SMEDJA SV5 Forwarder

New equipment for draft horse use in silviculture (growing trees) is commercialized in Sweden at present by five companies, mainly specialized in forwarders and logging arches. This equipment is primarily adapted to the needs of forest enterprises in Scandinavia. Thus the forwarders are designed for short and small wood, for loading via hydraulic crane or an electric winch, or for manual loading without tools. This equipment is also adapted to the local topographical conditions. The rocky forests require strong off-road capabilities.

New Idea Manure Spreaders

New Idea Manure Spreaders

from issue:

There is no fixed method of loading. The best results are usually obtained by starting to load at the front end, especially in long straw manure. To get good results do not pile any manure into the cylinders. The height of the load depends upon the condition of the manure, the condition and nature of the field. Do not put on extra side boards. Be satisfied with the capacity of the machine and do not abuse it. Overloading will be the cause of loss of time sooner or later.

McCormick-Deering Primrose Cream Separator

McCormick-Deering Primrose Cream Separator

from issue:

When the milk has been poured into the supply can, and machine has attained its speed, the faucet should be fully opened. The milk will then flow through the regulating cover, down the feed tube and into the bowl, where separation of cream from the milk takes place. The skim milk passes from bowl to skim-milk cover and out into receiver; the cream enters cream cover, thence to receiver.

Cockshutt Plow Found in Alberta

Cockshutt Plow Found in Alberta!

Dale Befus introduced me to a plow I had not set eyes on before, most unusual affair though Dale assures me not uncommon in Alberta, this implement is a beam-hung riding plow (wheels hang from the beam) as versus the frame-hung units (where the beam hangs under the wheel-supported frame).

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT