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Mirror KB Ranch

Tales of the Twin Wranglers  

August & September 2008

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September 30, 2008

Our weather has been rather fair....a few days of rain showers an' then partly sunny days with temperatures in the 50s an' low 60s, then mostly sunny toppin' out in the up 60's an' lower 70's. A bit of a breeze most days keeps it feelin' cool.

Bow hunters are out an' about so one damp day we hiked along our road an' replaced old huntin' signs that had seen better days an' add new ones where others have gone missin' altogether.  Don't get us wrong, we aren't against huntin'....we grew up on venison an' are still partial to it along with moose an' antelope.  We just have a very low opinion 'bout trophy hunters or those that are too dadgum lazy to hunt off road....an' those who don't respect private property are lower 'n a snake's belly.

Besides postin' new signs we've kept busy workin' on a photo submission for one of the equine magazines as well as cuttin' up old fence posts an' rails that will be used in the kitchen stove or as starter wood for our two heating stoves. Also have had to repair fences a number of times where the bull an' cows have broken out.

The other day as we prepared to head into town, we saw that the bull an' two pair, along with a yearlin' heifer were out in the south pasture so we jumped on two of our horses bareback an' hazed the little group to the north pasture. The rest of the herd is still in the pump house pasture.  After gettin' to town we realized that our dusty back pockets as well as shed horse hair all the way down to our boots confirmed that we'd recently been on the back of a horse. Oh well, we're not ones to dress up just to go to town.

Today after workin' on some fence for a bit we saddled up Flicka an' Banner then ponied Whisper out to fetch the mail. On our way home we met some folks we know from the Back Country Horsemen. They stopped an' chatted a bit an' asked us 'bout how the trails were for ridin'.  As we parted we agreed to take 'em out on some of our trails some time.

When we got back home we rode off to investigate a bawlin' cow.  Though we'd set Whisper free to graze she tagged along with us.  Ridin' through the barnyard we could see that the bull an' two calves had crawled through the fence an' were grazin' along the crick in the east pasture, so we rounded 'em up an' pushed 'em back through the gate to their north pasture.  We'll need to tighten the wires that separate the north an' east pastures, at this point we're not very concerned if the cows get through the fence there.  They'll likely not stray too far an' besides, it gives us a chance to work our horses on cows once in a while. After dinner we worked at replacin' a few broken fence rails in the fence line between the north an' west pasture.


September 21, 2008

A rainy Sunday here at the Mirror KB so we're spendin' a bit more time inside to catch up on indoor projects. We'd rather be out cuttin' firewood or ridin' but the pastures are in great need of this moisture so we're content to work indoors...though we'll probably slip on our rain gear an' get outside to do somethin'...we become restless when indoors all day long.

The northwest corner of Montana is on the verge of autumn color.  The forest undergrowth is slightly ahead in color when compared to the variety of deciduous trees that grow along the ranch streams  - though even they are quickly transforming.  The other day the dogs an' the two of us took a hike up the west ridge, just to enjoy the change of season.

Sage an' Otter pose in the autumn colors of the woodland undergrowth

Kim shares a silly joke with Sage..Otter is not amused


Besides takin' the hike, an' replacin' a couple rotten fence posts in the south an' north river pastures,  we pretty much spent the past five days workin' at cuttin' more firewood. One day we worked on a Douglass Fir tree that had fallen over a couple years ago in the very north west corner of the cow pasture.  While the two of us were busy removin' limbs an' cuttin' the tree into three logs that would make it easier to skid, the dogs went to work investigatin' the area.

Pretty soon we noticed that both dogs were actin' a tad bit like a pair of crazy cows who'd been feedin' on loco weed.  With heads held low like they were feelin' a might sheepish for doin' somethin' wrong, they were dodgin' this way an' then that. Otter tucked tail an' headed for home while Sage halted her erratic sprint to sit down an' chew at her tail. It didn't seem to solve much so she was quickly back the fitful dash all the while snappin' at the sky. 

We soon determined the the dogs had stirred up a nest of ground hornets an' we wondered when the hornets would turn their retaliation on to us as well. It wasn't long  - as we'd only managed to skid one section of the tree out to open pasture when Kari got stung twice  - one on each elbow.  The dogs were none too disappointed when with flailin' hats we abandoned the job an' headed for the ranch house!

The next day or so we decided to get more firewood, but we weren't all too anxious to go back to retrieve the wood that the hornets had chased us away from.  Instead we settled on headin' up the west ridge an' chose to leave the other day's cut log for a crisp cold mornin' when the hornets will be too frosty an' sluggish to attack us an' the dogs with much less gusto.


September 16, 2008

The cows an' bull are so far behavin' themselves now that we've moved 'em to the pumphouse pasture. With the new pickin's of grass they're stayin' put, at least for now.  Just as an added precaution we used a large rock to weight down a section of wire fence where the crick flows through - cuttin' the pasture into two fields. 

Over the past few days we've worked at gettin' more firewood. This time we tackled two fir trees that had fallen down a couple years ago in the east river pasture.  One was a nice sized tree, not too big to handle with the tractor, but the other was a monster. The diameter of it's trunk was 22 inches. We had to cut it into 5 foot logs just so we could snake 'em out a the woods with a chain hitched to the back of the tractor.

Sage an' Otter lent a paw where they could. Sage's approach to givin' us a hand, was to scold the log with a threatenin' bark. When that didn't work, she'd try to give the log a serious prod with her teeth. Otter's method was to climb up onto each log as we fought at gettin' the chain fastened around it. Time an' again we'd make him get down off a log so's we could try rockin' it one way or t'other,  but afore we had a chance to reposition ourselves to where we could scuffle with the log, he'd be back up on top a it...lookiin' down at us an' wagin' his tail. "Wha-cha guys doin' huh?  Wha-cha guys doin'?"

Once we managed to pull the logs out of the woods, we were able to use the tractor's front bucket an' tines to load the logs into Ol' Red the dump truck, then dumped the load of logs in the barnyard where we were able to work at cuttin' the logs into stove length an' stacked it in our wood pile.

Though we've kept busy with our usual late summer chores we manage to fork a couple of horses pert near every day. Our rides vary in length an' intensity.  When we ride the two horses that are in their mid-twenties we try to avoid ridin' the steep trails  - which they had easily packed us up in their younger days.  They're both if pretty good shape, but we still worry about 'em so stick to the shorter easy jaunts, or use 'em to fetch the mail home.

We also like to take the young green broke horses out on our mail runs. It gives 'em a variety of sights an' sounds to experience. One of us will ride a seasoned horse while the other forks a green mount. The older horse will hopefully give the youngster some security an' demonstrate how to react to the world beyond the safety of their pasture.  The ride out to the mail box is a two mile round trip, but in that short ride the young horse can be exposed to such an assortment of sights an' sounds....from wild turkeys, deer, an' vehicles,  to ducks takin' flight off of the crick that meanders along the road and of course the antics of our two dogs who do their very best to unnerve even the experienced horses.

Then of course we try to get out to enjoy the longer rugged trails once in a while too. On Sunday since there was no mail to ride out to get we reined our two mounts north an' took one of our favorite trails - what we call the river loop ride. Its a beautiful ride winding through a forest of Douglas Fir, Tamarack, Pine, an' Spruce. At times the trees open up to give us a scenic view of the Fisher River about 100 feet below.  The trail soon takes us down to the river an' we cross it, then we rein our horses south to follow a forest road that parallels the river - though we can no longer see the river through the trees. In due course we arrive at our northeast corner of our ranch property, where we ride through a stand of large Cottonwood trees before we again across the Fisher River.  Now all we have to do is ride traverse the northeast river pasture.... an' we're back at the cabin.

Ridin' up a forest trail

Kim rides Lakota up a forest trail

Ridin' across the river

Solo splashes through the Fisher River with Kari in the saddle




September 11, 2008

Life at the Mirror KB is slowin' down like a tired ol' race horse. Though the cows still have stuff to graze on in their pasture they've been crawlin' through fences an' when they couldn't crawl through they barreled through or under - as the case was with our bull.  Last week after we'd repaired the huge hole in the fence down by the river we'd checked the entire north fence line an' new that there were a couple of places that the smaller young stuff could wriggle through, particularly along the section where a seasonal stream flows.

Well, this week we decided to tighten all the wires an' plant a few new metal posts along the section of the seasonal stream.  While we worked on the fence, we heard somethin' rustlin' 'round in in the tall orchard grass a few feet away in the neighbor's field.  Horses an' cows don't particularly care for this kind of grass but will eat it if the availability of better grasses is low. At first we thought the noise was just the dogs chasin' one another through the tall stand of grass, but we soon became suspicious when we realized that both dogs were sacked out in the shade on our side of the fence.

Moments later the rustlin' grew louder, an' all of a sudden the black head of a bull poked out from the dense growth. Dang, obviously Sota the bull wasn't with his herd of cows who were peacefully grazin' in the field near the river. While we'd spotted the cows, we hadn't taken time to count heads to make sure they were all there....we'd just assumed that the bull was with 'em.  "Sota, you bad bull," we called out to him.  He seemed to know he was in trouble so he came right over to where we were workin'.  Without any hesitation he ambled down into the rocky dry wash, then as he began to climb up the opposite side he smartly slung his wide head beneath the bottom wire an' emerged up out of the wash on our side of the fence. Once he was back in his own field he kicked up his heels an' stampeded off for his cows. At times we think of cows as bein' dumb, but in reality their just good at cleverly playin' stupid.

A day or so later Sota broke a fence rail to get into the west pasture so we decided it was time to give the cows a new place to feed for awhile, so we moved 'em to the pumphouse pasture where they could find plenty of green stuff growin' along the crick an' pond, plus they can wade across the crick to graze in the east half of the pasture where Song - the blind mare doesn't wander.

Besides the fence work this past week, we also have been workin' at cuttin' up all the logs that we'd skidded down off the west ridge. Today we finished cuttin' 'em all into stove length sizes an' stacked 'em in the barnyard.  We've probably got enough wood to get us through the winter though just in case we don't, particularly if we aren't able to use the wood pellet furnace as much as we'd like to, we figured we'd try to get just a bit more wood.

 Last Saturday the neighbor to the south of us had a ranch auction. His wife passed away awhile back an' since he's not in the best of health himself he's decided to sell the ranch an' move into town. We attended the auction for a short while but didn't buy anything. What we'd have liked to purchase was too much for us to spend an' what we could have afforded we didn't want. We saw the neighbor on the north side of us drive home with one of the farm implements....it looked like the baler, though it could have been the conditioner as well.

So far the ranch itself hasn't sold.  Wish we could buy it but of course can't afford to without sellin' our own place - which we'd never want to do. We just hope that who ever buys the ranch turns out to be as good a neighbor as the previous couple.


September 3, 2008

Over a month has slipped by us since we'd last thrown a loop in to this here blog, but it certainly didn't get by us unnoticed. The only reason we didn't throw a loop into this here blog/diary is that we've been busier than a horse's tail in fly season.  Ruth an' dad wandered in on August 3rd for a three week stay, then our Seattle kinfolk slipped their city hobbles an' strayed in - in the dead of night - a few days later .

We always enjoy their visits. Uncle Gordon is a great cook an' generally takes over chuckwagon duties when he's here. That give us more time to spend with Tim an' Jon, our two young cousins.  If we weren't all enjoyin' the river we were a horseback, or target shootin' with the 22 rifles.  One day we palmed our 45s - that were loaded with blanks - an' shot water balloons off the fence.  Another day, while Jon an' Linda played in the river, Gordon, Tim an' the two of us tried our hands at skeet shootin'.  We've come to the sad realization that if we had to shoot birds on the fly to survive we'd all go hungry for we all failed quite miserably at the sport, though Tim did manage to wing one a the clay pigeons on his last shot. The boys, also enjoyed catchin' frogs in the ranch streams an' drivin' our 1947 Willys Jeep out the forest road.

Jon shooting our 45s with blanks at water balloons

Jon blasts a water balloon off the top of a round pen post

Tim shooting the 410

Tim sights down the 410 lookin' for a clay pigeon

our cousins ride their mounts across the Fishser River

Tim an' Jon rein their mounts across the Fisher River


Before our visitors raised dust as they headed home, we set 'em to work to help us find the source of a perplexin' puddle of water that mysteriously appeared down by the cabin. Usin' the backhoe we took turns diggin' into the earth an' soon found that a leak in the pipe leadin' from the well to the house was the reason for the puddle. We were sure glad dad was home since he's always so good at fixin' stuff like this.

Anyway, before we were done, we ended up havin' to dig a couple more long trenches to lay new water lines - one to the corrals, an' one to the little log cabin we use to store our boat an' fishin' gear.  With dad's help an' expertise the job went quite well an' we managed to finish it up just a day or so before he an' Ruth headed back to Delaware.

After everyone had gone on their way, the two of us set to work cuttin' firewood. With the ATV finally fixed so that it will kick to life - even on cold mornin's - we have been workin' up on the west ridge. Though we intended to cut firewood we first spent a good deal of time clearin' out the trails. Once the trails were clear we tackled a gang of seasoned trees that had fallen two winters ago.

That's Kari with Sage on the stack of logs we'd skidded down off the ridge. Our next chore is to sharpen the chainsaws once again so that we can cut each log into stove length size, then we'll stack it in the barnyard where it'll be handy for us to split as we need it this coming winter.

pile of logs


pile of logs for firewood

Here's Kim sittin' on the pile of logs with Sage. Both Sage an' Otter sure did their share of work runnin' up an' down the ridge followin' us on the ATV. We could only skid down two to three logs at a time due to their size an' weight...even usin' the log skid that dad had invented an' designed to be pulled behind ATV's

But before we can get back to our firewood we have more urgent chores to take care of.  Late the other day we began to wonder where the cows were since we hadn't spotted 'em grazin' in their regular haunts. We even checked the east horse pasture since a few of 'em often crawl through the fence to graze with the horses. This time we couldn't even find Lady, the big ol' Herefod cow that moves 'bout as fast a snail climbin' up a greased pole, an' never attempts to slip through a fence. Amblin' through an open gate is the only time she'll make a break from her pasture, but then of course she's not really breakin' out.

So we hiked off across the cow pasture searchin' for the cows. It was Lady we spotted first. She was nibblin' grass down by the river. Right then we knew we had a major hole in the fence if even Lady was out! As we neared the northeast corner of the pasture we could see a good sized portion of the fence was laid out on the ground....with two broken post and a corner post with a four foot gate  pulled clean out of the ground.

With the help of the two dogs we rounded up the wayward herd who were well scattered down river busily grazin' fresh grass.  We easily got 'em all back into their pasture through the gapin' hole but continued to herd 'em a good distance farther, then rushed back to home to get the tractor an' fencin' equipment.  We knew it was goin' to be a tough job considerin' that we had to plant new corner posts an' tie 'em together before we could restring the wire, then also re-hang the gate an' daylight wasn't goin' to last any longer than a grasshopper would in a yard full of hungry chickens. Darkness over took us shortly before we finished the job so had to use the headlight on the tractor to drive in the last of the fence staples.

The next mornin' we went back an' tightened the wires a bit more then went along the entire north line checkin' for more places the cows might try to climb through.  Yesterday we found all the cows an' calves were still in our pasture but Sota the bull was missin'. Eventually we found him grazin' in the neighbors field. Once we got him back with the cows we rechecked the north fence line an' found where he'd gone through, well actually under.

The fence line is on the edge of a ditch that the neighbors had dug in an attempt to divert the crick that flows through our place. This bein' so the bull was able to slip part way under the fence as he descended into the ditch...but since he's too large to actually get under the fence all the way something had to give an' it was our fence posts, They simply lifted right up out of the ground as he squirmed - well, bulled his way under the bottom wire.

So we have more fence work to do. On top of all this we found that the little drinkin' pond in the cow pasture has gone bone dry. We'd noticed that crick was still runnin' through the pasture but did note that it didn't have as much spunk to it as usual, so what water that flows  into the cow pasture hangs up at the cattail slough. We're guessin' that the crick escapin' 'round the water gate in the south pasture again. It often erodes a trench (with the help of horse hooves crossin' the crick in that particular area) an' breaks out of its banks to flow around the water gate an' back to the stream that cuts through the middle of the pump house pasture.  At any rate we'll check it out today an' hopefully fix the problem with a few well place sandbags.



August 1, 2008

This past week - the last few days of July, we've been hoppin' from one type chore to another like a bronco skips 'round a corral tryin'  to relieve himself of a rider. We pulled weeds or used the weed whacker 'round about in the corrals, picked up cow pies an' horse manure from around the barnyard an' lawn (left by our lawn mowers) an' then we harrowed the west pasture, south corral, an' the north end of the south pasture. Also worked in a few hours to put together a photo submission for one of the equine publications we work with. Then of course we usually manage to prevail upon a couple horses to give us a daily ride, even if it's simply to journey out to fetch the mail an' newspaper at the highway - one mile distance.

Wednesday turned out to be a tough day as we had to bury the last of our Border Collies.  Quiver, was 15 years old an' along with her heart murmur she'd become quite blind an' was so arthritic that she spent very little time on her feet. We used an' old collar as a belt around her flank to help her gain her feet so that she could wander 'round the yard to relieve herself. All in all quality of life had spiraled down to the point that we felt it was time to say our goodbyes.  Quiver is now at rest beside her mother, father, an' brother in our modest graveyard by the grove of aspen trees in the west pasture.

It's a terrible decision to have to make. We wrestled with it, knowin' that though it was in all probability the decent thing to do, we have a strong aversion to "playin' God".  How do we know that our dog was ready to leave this world? Animals, unlike we humans, don't often fret over things. No matter how decrepit they become they tend to greet each day with a wag of their tail, seemin'ly happy enough to just be alive an' with their people.  It just worries us that we're makin' the decision not to put our pets out of their misery, but are putting 'em out our own misery.  It's a tough call, but we made it an' will now have to except it an' live with it.

Yesterday mornin' Otter, Sage, an' us took a long hike along our ranch streams an' ponds in a pretext of checkin' 'em out to see what sort of flow they have after havin' more than 30 days of any significant rain.  In truth we used the trek to replenish our spirits. The peacefulness of the ranch, enjoyin' what nature has to offer us gives us a mental boost. Then of course the dogs, particularly Sage, in her adventurous ways, is always able to make us laugh at their silly antics.

Otter swimming

Otter playin' like he's...well, an otter

Sage swimming

Sage muddies up a shallow pond retrievin' a small stick


Our trek started out crossin' over the two streams that flow through the east horse pasture, then we looped 'round the pump house pond an' then headed over to the streams an' ponds at the south end of the ranch. While we found that in general the flow rate of water through the ranch is good, a series of ponds in the south end of the ranch are in drastic need of revitalization due the fact that a major beaver dam has been washed away in spring flooding an' we see no sign that the beavers are plannin' to rebuild it. Guess if we expect to recover the ponds as they once were, we'll have to build our own dam.

Before turnin' to follow the stream that flows north toward home, we lingered awhile to snap a few photos of the south herd of horses.  Two of the horses, Hoot an' his sire Kiowa, became curious so wandered over to see what we were up to.

two Appaloosas


Ride the  July  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  June  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  May  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  April  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  March 2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the February 2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

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