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Mirror KB Ranch

Tales of the Twin Wranglers  

February 2009

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February 21, 2009

Apparently the word has spread - amongst the elk - that winter feed is plentiful at the Mirror KB, as the total number of elk keeps on climbin'. We now often have over 40  elk comin' in for hay. Our horses do a fair job of holdin' their own with the huge number of elk. Most of the horses will charge the elk an' even try to bite 'em if they move in to snitch a mouthful of hay.  However we do have a few horses that show no aggressive tendencies toward the elk an' so will allow the elk to eat with 'em. 

Now the cows are a whole 'nother thing in that they're much too docile so the more aggressive elk end up chasin' the cows away from the hay. That means that if the elk come in real early we have to spook  'em away just to give the cows a fair chance to eat.

elk get into the haystack

Unfortunately the elk have figured out where all the alfalfa hay is comin' from so now a good number of 'em are feedin' right off the stack of hay in the barnyard. No matter how well we think we've got the hay protected with hay tarps an' old tires by the next mornin' we find that the elk have managed to pull it all apart. They have even ripped up one tarp an' in just a matter of a couple of days they've managed to eat half of a 4x3x8 foot bale of alfalfa hay.

Most of the elk are cows with calves, but as you can see, we do have a few bull elk in the group. Recently one mornin' we watched two of the bulls havin' a great time sparrin' with one another while they waited for breakfast to be served. The bull on the left is a 4x3 an' his opponent is a young spike.

bull elk

Back to the subject of cows - not the elk, but the bovine kind.  Early yesterday evenin' we'd noticed that Onoki - our Hereford/Lowline Angus cross cow had skipped evenin' feed an' went off on her own to chew her cud where the cows generally bed down for the night.  This made us wonder if she was preparin' to calve.  Our thoughts were confirmed this mornin' 'round 4:30 am when we got up to let the dogs out for a quick call to duty.  At the time all was quiet, but when we went back to bed, our heads barely hit the pillows when we heard a cow moo from off across the north pasture.

We wrestled with the thought of havin' to leave our warm beds once again, but the distant lowing soon pulled us out from under the blankets.  Stars glittered the night sky so we knew it was goin' to be a tad bit nippy.  In fact it was a frosty14 degrees so we slipped into our jeans an' flannel shirts then pulled on our insulated work duds an' snow boots. With flashlights in hand the two of us - along with the two dogs - trekked out across the pasture. At the far end of the field, under a big Douglas Fir tree we found Onoki.  Next to her stood a healthy still damp black-baldy bull calf.  The rest of the herd was stationed nearby. After makin' sure that mama cow an' calf were both in good shape we headed back to bed with hopes to snag a few more winks of sleep before it was time to get up for the day.

This mornin' we were anxious to check on our new calf so after we fed hay out to everyone else, we took a couple pads of hay out to Onoki at the fir tree. Both mama an' baby were doin' fine an' though the night had been chilly, the mornin' sunshine was already warmin' up the day.  Later, after lunch, we took the Kubota tractor an' went out to bring mama an' baby back to the barn. Though everything looks fine we feel more at ease to have the calf closer to home for the first few days, so together we hustled the calve into the bucket of the tractor, then while Kari held onto the calf, Kim slowly drove back to the barn.  Mama cow followed closely to keep an eye on her offspring.

Other cow news is that this past week, we sold a yearlin' steer to a fella from over in the Kalispell area. He plans to finish a couple steers each year so said that he'd be interested in purchasin' one or two steers from us next year.  So, it looks like we might have this newest calf already spoken for.


February 12, 2009

Life here at the Mirror KB is routine....but that doesn't mean that it's monotonous. On Sunday - since we didn't have the need to go fetch our mail we decided it was a good day for a hike an' a picnic.  After slappin' a bite of steak - that was left over from dinner the night before - between a couple pieces of bread an' cuttin' up a few extra morsels for the dogs, we hiked out across the pump house pasture where we stopped to take a few photos of the cattails that stab up from the ice covered pond. 

Otter fetching cattail

Otter, Fetch the cattail!

Otter with cattail

"Yuck!.. now I have cotton mouth!"

Then we swung southeast 'till we came to the bank of the Fisher River. There we dropped our packs an' relaxed for a time while we padded our bellies an' took a few snapshots of the dogs. Don't rightly know why, but while the river is in such a rush to make it to the ocean, it provides us with the opposite sense of peace - it only motivates us to relax an' not to hurry through life.

Anyway, presently we headed north along the river where we stopped to photograph a massive tree branch that had fallen into the river an' was now festooned with ice.  From the snowy bank of the river we lay down on our bellies to get the shots that we wanted.  Otter kept busy chewin' on a bone he'd found, while Sage investigated the woods behind us, then with an annoyed look on her face she settled down to wait for us to lose our interest in the ice covered branch. "Good gosh guys, how many shots do you need of that silly piece of wood?"  So then we turned our cameras on Sage for a few quick shots before headin' on down river.  At the north end of the ranch property line we swung away from the river an' headed out across the northeast field, then up through the cow pasture to the backdoor of our log ranch house.....it had been a wonderful day to break out of our usual routine an' spend a little extra time to enjoy our surroundin's.

river ice cycles

Ice cycles cling to a tree branch as river water swirls below.

English Shepherd

"Oh brother, put those ridiculous contraptions
back in your packs an' lets get on with the hike!"

Oh!....Before we rein out, we want to mention the elk stampede that we witnessed a couple of days ago. Unfortunately we didn't have our cameras handy to snap the scene as it sure was a spectacular sight.

We had previously fed out one load of hay to the eleven horses in the south pasture an' were headed out with our second tractor load.  As usual, the resident herd of wild elk - of about 35 - mingled amongst the horses in an attempt to snatch what hay they could. We're not sure what caused it, but what transpired next was simply amazin'!

It may have been the flock of wild turkeys messin' round in the brush, though we don't know for certain, but what ever the cause, a couple of the elk on the east fringe of the feeding ground bolted toward the rest of the herd. As they darted by the nearest horse, the horse spooked an' joined in the westward dash.

Set in motion, like a line of dominoes the wave of elk an' horses swept toward the west ridge, increasin' in size as it over took elk an' horse alike.  Within seconds elk an' horses were but one single mass flowin' together in a closely packed herd. It was so excitin' to watch. Then, as if a wedge had cut through the mass of animals, the horses split off in one direction while the elk broke away in an opposite course of travel. With horses an' elk separated, each group nervously milled to a stop.

The elk were quick to take advantage of the situation.  While the uneasy horses stood back, the elk made a swift assault on the unguarded piles of hay, but as we arrived with the tractor - loaded with more hay - the horses began to calm down an' reclaimed most all of the hay.


February 6, 2009

In another five days we will have made a circuit of one full year ridin' this blog/diary trail. It's been quite a ride for us an' have found that it ain't so easy to stay forked in the saddle - so to speak - an' keep up with all the goin's on here at the Mirror KB.  Some months we put in a sizeable crop of words while others months were so dry of words that the trail grew dusty.  All in all it was a fair ride so we've decided to saddle up for another ride.  Hope you can come along.

So anyway, toward the end of January we had a short spell of sub zero temperatures, then gusty winds barreled up through the valley, an' not only played havoc with our hay tarps, it also took out our power for a day.  So far February's manners has been a whole lot friendlier.  With a few  full days of sunshine, along with temperatures that climbed up to a lofty 40 degrees, it has started us dreamin' 'bout spring.  But then, today the sunshine faded behind grey clouds an' though our outdoor thermometer read 30 degrees it was rainin'.  Not enough for a desert rat to get a healthy drink, but  just enough to add a new sheen of ice to everything.

Even though our early February weather had us ruminatin' on spring, we know that winter is merely takin' a short rest....so with that in mind, an' with the realization that our supply of furnace pellets as well as our stack of firewood on the west porch had both been nearly depleted, we figured it was a good time to replenish them before winter hit again. This meant that we had to plow a wide area in the backyard so that we would be able to maneuver the pickup close enough to the chute - at the back of the house - of which we would use to deliver the bagged pellets into the basement. We plowed another trail to the west porch where we could stack the firewood.

The next day dogs an' the two of us drove to town, took care of regular chores, shipped off a couple of orders for t-shirts an' such then back on the way out of town we stopped  an' purchased a ton of wood pellets for the basement furnace.  Back at the ranch  we rushed to unload the 50 bags of pellets with hopes that we'd have time for a short break before it was time to feed the livestock. From the bed of the pickup truck, Kari dropped the 40 pound bags into the basement chute while Kim stacked....an' we managed to get the job done in good time so that we had a half hour to kick back.

splitting wood

Kari uses a wedge to split a large log

The followin' day we plowed a small area next to our stockpile of dry logs, then worked at splittin' firewood with our mauls an' wedges.  We've had several folks offer us the use of their automatic log splitters, but we prefer to do the job usin' muscle power. 

In spite of the number of times when our wedges are swallowed by stubborn logs that refuse to split, we never wish for a log splitter. Doin' the job under our own power is hard work, but it provides us with more satisfaction, an' a real feelin' of accomplishment.

The dogs of course like to help out where they can.  Below Otter sits on the Kubota bucket platform an' keeps an' eye out for firewood thieves while Sage picks up kindlin'. If you believe that she puts it in the tractor, well, think again.



Kim splits a smaller log with the maul


Sage picking wood


Ride the  January  2009 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  December 2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  November 2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  October  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

Ride the  Aug-Sept  2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

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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