Saturday, January 21, 2017

Missing heifer and septic system

I finally found my missing heifer this afternoon.  She had drowned in the river near where I had seen the cattle tracks in the snow.  Yesterday's temperature reached 40 degrees and more ice melted.  She must have been under the ice near the tracks when I looked earlier.

She shouldn't have drowned, but she did. The water level is not high right now and I don't think the area was to deep for her to keep her head above water.  If she walked ten feet towards the other shore she would be walking out of the water.  If she walked twenty or so feet downstream she would have been in knee deep water.

But I believe the heifer tried to get back from where she fell in.  If this was Spring, Summer or Fall she would have been able to.  But she couldn't pull herself back up onto the ice shelf over the water.

I believe the temperature the day the neighbor saw the cattle walk to the river was in the single digits.  That greatly shortened the time the heifer would be able to remain in the water.  If only she would have walked downstream.

I once saw a video and story about how to handle falling through the ice into a lake or river.  The dangerous part was getting out of the water.  The air temperature usually was colder than the water temperature.  If one couldn't quickly get out of the water they could either freeze to the ice or freeze to death from the part of the body out of the water, or both.

Other Winters here have had lots of snow, but no river ice.  Or if there was river ice, then not so much snow.   The combination of snow and ice rose above the barrier and allowed the cattle to go past it.

The ice shelf was flat.  I think another cow pushed the heifer into the river. I knew many of the other cows did not like her.  Kind of like true crime stories where a spouse pushed another off the cliff into the ocean below and then claimed they accidently slipped.    In the past I have called my cows racists; I guess I can add murderers too.  Who knows.. maybe they stood there and blocked her from climbing back onto the ice.

This was a perfect storm for the heifer.  If any one thing had not happened I think she would still be alive.

It is too late for the heifer but after I found her I added three more wires to the top of the metal fence posts to prevent the cattle from getting too far out to the river.  In the photo, from the heifer's location now, you can see how quickly the river gets shallow.

The other challenge I have right now is that one of my septic systems is not draining.   It is the old system that is now only for the kitchen, mud room, and washing machine.  Suddenly neither sink would drain.   I think the frost got down far enough to freeze the drainfield or the pipe from the house to the container, or both.

I opened the 'door' in the floor to the crawl space.  While not below freezing, it was plenty cold down there.  I am leaving the 'door' open in hopes of thawing the pipe out, if that is the problem.

I grew up in North Dakota and lived in Minnesota for many years, both places which have real Winters.  While this has been a colder than usual Winter for out here with plenty of snow, I didn't think this Winter has been all that bad.  Then I read that this has been the second coldest Winter on record for Kalispell.  I am surprised.  This certainly is not the second coldest Winter I ever experienced.  Not even close.  I guess I need to take this Winter more seriously.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Still missing

I counted the cattle again today.  Spice is still missing.

This morning I let the local livestock brand inspector know I am missing a heifer.  I also let the sheriff's department know in case someone sees Spice and calls. After talking with a few more neighbors about my missing heifer, I went to search for her again.

I walked through deep snow on both sides of the river upstream and downstream looking for tracks.  I only found a few deer tracks.  I looked down in the river where Spice may have fallen in.  Again, under cloudy skies, it was hard to see below the water surface unless looking straight down.

The temperature today got a little above freezing and I noticed the ice was less. I used a sledgehammer to break some of the ice where the cattle come to drink as I seen fresh tracks today.  If tapping with a sledgehammer would break the ice then a cow's weight would also. 

The only cattle tracks are located in the north pasture and corral.  None in the neighbor's property or my middle pasture or across the river.

So... still no idea of what happened to Spice and where she is.    Maybe aliens did take her.

Cow number #40 was in the corral drinking from the water trough when I returned from my search.  What excellent timing!  She is still limping badly.  I barely had to herd her to put her into the south part of the corral to be by herself.  I put out a whole bale of hay just for her, and as she ate from it I cleaned the manure from under the lean-to next to the barn and spread out a bale of straw for her to lay on and rest.  Now she doesn't have to walk far to get water to drink.

The spot



See how quickly the river gets shallow downstream.

Yesterday when walking to the river's edge to look for the missing heifer I saw an animal's head just above water a short distance upstream and along the ice.  Initially I thought it was the heifer's head barely coming out of the water.  Then I realized I was looking at a large beaver.  The beaver was lollygagging in the area as I watched.  As Donna came to the river I spoke to her.  Once I did the beaver quickly dove under the water with a loud noise and disappeared.

Below are a few signs of the beaver.  I noticed quite a number of other branches or trees chewed through as I walked upstream.

Overnight the beaver must have caught something and ate it here near where the cattle come to drink.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Missing heifer

I was feeding small bales of hay in the corral to the cattle this afternoon and I discovered Spice is missing.  I counted and recounted and recounted over and over and I always came up with one short.  I then figured out it was Spice.  

The last time I counted the cattle was six days ago on Thursday when the cattle were last in the corral to eat small hay bales.

I walked around the north pasture looking for her.  It has not snowed since I last saw her.  So I looked for tracks.  The only tracks away from the large hay bales and corral were a few that went down to the watering area at the river.  While the cattle drink from the water trough in the corral, the cattle being cattle, they sometimes want to drink from the river.

With all this cold weather the river is partially frozen.  The middle third of the river is open; each side of the river is iced over.  I found cattle tracks right up to the edge of the ice. I was surprised the ice held the cattle's weight.  I spoke with several neighbors asking if they saw Spice or anything unusual.  John saw three or four cattle walk to the river three days ago.  Other than that, nothing unusual.

No signs the ice broke under the cattle's weight.  But it could be possible, since most of the other cattle don't like Spice, one cow pushed Spice off the ice into the river.  This area is kind of deep but maybe only barely as deep as Spice is tall.  This deep area is not large.  The river quickly turns and as it does it gets shallow.  As shallow as to be only knee deep on me.  If Spice fell in the river she should be able to quickly get to a shallow area and then out of the river.

I walked along the river looking for signs of tracks. Donna came and helped look for tracks.  We walked the north pasture and halfway down the middle pasture.  No tracks on my side, either along the river or up in the pasture.

On the other side of the river there were one set of tracks in the snow.  I got my hip waders and walked across the river.  Those tracks were deer tracks.  I walked around a little more but did not see any more tracks.

By now it was starting to get dark so I quit.  I'll go out again tomorrow.

When we got back to the corral I let the cattle out so they could go to the large hay bales I set out earlier in the afternoon.  As the cattle walked out I noticed that #40 was limping badly.  She was favoring her front leg.  When I last fed them at 1 pm all cattle were fine.  Tomorrow I will have to try to get her back into the corral so as to limit her walking until her leg is better.

Going from unlucky 13 cows to 15 turns out to have been unlucky.  So much for making any money this year.  If Spice ends up dead, since I bought her I can write her on my taxes as a loss.  Since I raised Rose from a calf I could not count her death as a loss.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


It keeps getting colder.  Last night it was minus 11 degrees.  Officially at the airport it was minus 18.

The warmest it got today was around 4 degrees above zero.  But we had sun!  It looked warmer than it was.  Temperatures like this makes me think I am back in North Dakota or Minnesota and not western Montana where it usually doesn't get this cold during Winter, or if it does, for not as long.

Right now - and the night is still young! - it is minus 11 degrees.  I believe the overnight low is predicted to be around minus 20.

I let the fire in the wood stove go out overnight.  This morning it was 48 degrees inside the house.  Tomorrow morning I wonder how cold it will be in the house?

The cattle are doing fine.  They have plenty of hay to eat and water to drink.  Yesterday I added a few more straw bales for the cattle to lay on in the loafing shed, and today I added one more bale.  I think the cattle eat half of the straw.

This afternoon, when not eating, a number of cattle laid in the loafing shed in the sun.  They chewed their cud and looked fine.  A few cattle standing around the hay feeders, relaxing and not eating, had a little bit of white frost in the fur around their mouths and noses from their breath.

Daisy hasn't been outside all day.  This evening when I went outside to check on the cattle's water Daisy was eager to join me.  She got halfway out the door when the cold hit her.  She quickly backed up and stayed in the house.  She appears to be satisfied to sit by the windows to look at the weather.  She often keeps an eye on me when I go outside.  Now if I could only teach her to dial 911 if I have an accident.

I am going through a lot of firewood to stay warm.

Even so cold, the sun shines warm enough mid afternoon to melt the snow crumbs from where I scraped snow off the roof.

A shoveled path to shorten the walk to the large hay bales.

Waiting for Summer

The past few days I have shoveled some snow off the hay bales.  This is what I have left to do tomorrow as my fingers were frozen by the time I reached this point.

Snow between more rows of bales.  The bale on the right is quack grass.  The cattle do eat it.  I put out one bale of regular grass and one bale of quack grass.  Now that the cattle ate the regular hay they are now working on the quack grass.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Turkeys and the New Year

Happy New Year!

Saturday afternoon a flock of turkeys came into the corral and back yard.  They headed back into the corral then the pasture when I came out of the house.

It snowed overnight and the wind blew much of the day.  The wind has died down now.  A cold day with only 15 as a high. It is forecast to get colder this week.  Daisy and I spent most of the day inside my nice and warm house.  I did spend a few hours shoveling some of the snow off the driveway.  I also spread four more bales of straw for the cattle to lay on in the loafing shed.  Otherwise they are doing well.