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Mirror KB Ranch

Tales of the Twin Wranglers  

March 2008

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March 26, 2008

We'd intended to throw out a howdy on Easter but didn't get 'round to it....so we hope you had a Happy Easter.  Here at the Mirror KB, Easter Sunday was pretty much routine. Early in the mornin' when we were out doin' our chores we noticed that the horses' in the east pasture were actin' a bit apprehensive 'bout somethin' over in the east river pasture. 

With heads held high, the horses were lined up like fence posts, an' stared off toward the river.  They didn't hold still for long. One nervous horse begins to mill around....maybe in an attempt to see better, or to put a little more distance between themselves an' the perceived monster.  Once one horse moves, they all join in on the dance, then they'd stop, with full attention back toward the river. There are only a few things that make our horses react this way...a bear, mountain lion, or a moose.

We fix our eyes in the direction the horses are lookin', but can't see anything 'cept the alder an' brush that lines the crick, separatin' the east pasture from the east river section. During the summer months, any glimpse through the growth of alder is hampered by leaves but it's still winter here so we're able to get a somewhat better view of the world beyond the crick.

The horses keep on with their jitterbug sort of dance so we crease our brows an' scan the country. "There! Something just trotted over toward the pond. No, now it's headed back in the other direction. Wait, it turned 'round again an'is headed back toward the pond an' there's another smaller one trailin' behind." The form flashin' through the brush was too large for a bear or mountain lion. It's a moose cow with her yearlin' calf.

Speakin' of moose, on Monday, Patty, an old school friend of ours drove up from the Bitterroot country to check on a job in Kalispell. Instead of makin' the long round trip back  to her home in one day she side-passed over our way to stay over for the night. It was great as it gave the three of us a chance to catch up with one another.

Nope, our friend is nothin' like a moose, but she did bring us some moose meat to put in our freezer. Last fall, her husband, Greg an' two huntin' partners came up for a visit with a moose permit in hand. Just a few moments after day light on openin' day, Greg bagged himself a good sized bull moose. Leavin' his huntin' buddies to take care of his moose he came an' fetched us to help pack the monster out of the woods an' load it into his truck.

Anyway, it was fun chattin' with Patty of old times an' then tossin' out ideas of how we could all get rich. Course we've come to the conclusion that throwin' out the ideas on how to get rich is the easy part, actually makin' it happen is goin' to be a tad bit harder. But hey, she's a life coach so if she says it's possible then all we have to do is put in a little effort then train our minds to reflect on what we want, an' think on it in a positive manner. Look out world...by the end of this year we're goin' to have so much money stashed under our mattresses that we'll need a ladder to climb into our bunks at night!

Sage, our 4 an' a half month old English Shepherd was thrilled to have company so much so that she could barely contain any form of manners not to mention dignity.  Fact is, she can be as wild as a hot skillet of popcorn.  Just to prove that Sage is really quite a smart little pup, we threw out a series of commands which she happily performed for Patty.

When Sage was only 9 weeks old she was already sittin' an' shakin' hands on command. Now she not only sits an' shakes, but will lie down, come, fetch, bring it, stay, wait, whoa, an' will lay flat out - dead - when we shoot her with a finger, "bang!" Course to be truthful, she doesn't perform all of these correctly, 100 % of the time, but she has pretty well mastered sit, shake an' down.  She'd be doin' a whole lot better if we would spend more time on lessons instead of just playin' with her.


Shake hands







March 20, 2008

Here it is, the first day of spring, but 'round these here parts it looks more like winter.  Fact is the past couple of days we've been gettin' a smatterin' of night time snow so that each mornin' we wake to fresh whiteness. Course as the daytime temperatures soar into the upper 30's sometimes even makin' it up to 40 degrees, the brand new snow melts away, only to leave us again with the old crusted snow of the previous months. It was snowing today as we started on our hike out to get the mail, but soon gave way to a few brief moments of wonderful sunshine. Once we were back at the house more snow began to fall, brought in with a healthy breeze from the south.

As it seems we're still in the midst of winter, the elk continue to come in to snitch hay from the horses. Sometimes they turn up for mornin' feed, but typically bed down somewhere nearby an' wait for hay to be fed out again in the late afternoon. The other day while we fed hay out to the horses in the east pasture we viewed 14 elk nappin' up on Kenelty Mountain. They spotted us so rose from their day beds, then snaked their way down a trail passin' through open timber an' drop out of sight as they crossed the Fisher River. They reappeared on the west bank, jumped a fence line an' galloped through the northeast field, then hopped the next fence to enter the east pasture.

Watchin' 'em up on the Mountain, they looked so amazin'ly wild an' beautiful, but somethin' changes in their appearance when they run up to eat our hay. They're still beautiful, yet they lose that romantic manifestation of wildness that is truly them.

This evenin' when we went out to feed the stock we found a small herd of 14 elk bedded down in the east pasture waitin' for us to bring 'em dinner. We took the below photo, then drove the tractor out an' hayed the horses. The elk then eased to their feet an' joined the horses at the hay. As we drove back toward the barnyard we noticed one cow was limpin' pretty badly on a hind leg. Poor thing, we sure hope she does okay. Later we counted as many as 30 elk feedin' on hay in the various pastures.

elk bedded down in pasture

Elk sacked out in the snow in the east pasture



March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hope the day brought you a bit of good luck.

As usual we're ridin' drag on the happenin's 'round here. So let's see, Saturday night 'round about 2:30 a.m. our power went off. Haven't a clue why since we weren't dealt the kind of weather that usually brings such an event on, but in any case our power wasn't restored until some time 'round noon on Sunday.  It frustrates us that we've come to rely on electricity so much! 

We couldn't watch the mornin' news on TV, or fire up our computers to check the email. With no power, the pellet furnace was dead an' the house was beginnin' to chill off a might.  No worries, we just figured we'd build a roarin' fire in the livin' room wood burnin' stove. But darn it, we'd been procrastinatin' at gettin' in more firewood so had used up all of our cut an' split firewood just the other day. Still we were able to build a meager fire out of cut up old fence posts an' rails, but we sure needed to get to bringin' in more firewood, an' soon!

Durin' the summer an' fall months we spend some of our time out in the forests cuttin' deadwood into four foot logs, then stack 'em in our barnyard. Prior to switchin' our wood burnin' furnace over to a pellet furnace, we needed to cut somethin' in the neighborhood of 15 cords of wood to get through our cold Montana winters. We no longer need quite that much wood.

Anyway, after takin' care of our regular mornin' feedin' chores, we sharpened the chainsaw, then went to work cuttin' the logs into 18 inch pieces. Once we had a fair number of logs cut up we split the wood then stacked it on the west side of the house.  It took us near on to three hours to get in a sufficient amount of wood.

Most folks look at us an' wonder how in the world two little wranglers like us manage such a chore, an' we're often asked if we use a log splitter. We answer, "Well of course  we do!...a maul an' a wedge."  When dad is here at the ranch he also helps out with the spittin', but again folks are amazed that a man his age can still wield a maul like he does.

splitting firewood

Kim splittin' a log

We'll need to heat the house for at least another two, maybe two an' a half months, an' the way Ol' Man Winter is draggin' his feet it might even be longer. 

We've been gettin' spurts of snow, a little sunshine, then more snow for the last two days, an' the breeze reelin' up the valley made our high temperatures in the 30's seem much colder. Yet we felt that we could leave Lady an' her newborn calf out to pasture with the rest of the cows. She's doin' fine, but today we did become concerned 'bout little Flurry.

This mornin' we couldn't find her when we first went out to feed the cows, but then spotted her hunkered down sleepin' at the base of a huge cottonwood tree. Relieved, we went about our chores, then headed into town to ship off a T-shirt order from Canada. Then this evenin' when we went to feed the cows she was curled up in the same exact place an' we thought that Lady's bag looked much like a balloon ready to bust so we were a tad bit concerned that the calf was ill so wasn't nursin' like she should.

After puttin' the hay out for the cows we walked over to check on Flurry.  She appeared alert though wasn't frightened of us when we approached. Squattin' down on our boot heels we stroked her coat an' cooed over her like a couple school girls.  Lady caught sight of us cuddlin' with her calf so sauntered over to make sure her baby was okay, at which time the little heifer rose to her feet an' marched right over to her mama an' went to nursin'. Whew, guess we were concerned for no reason.


March 16, 2008

We've been a might busy so haven't had much time to ride in for a chat. The past few days we've worked on photo submissions to magazines and are also in the midst of puttin' a query together with sample images for a few calendar companies.

Yesterday after takin' care of our mornin' feedin' chores we soon grew aware that Lady, our purebred Hereford cow was ready to calve. She mingled at the hay with the rest of the cows for awhile, but soon wandered off toward the slough an' tall cottonwood trees. Come time we wanted to hike out to get the mail - a two mile roundtrip jaunt - we detoured down to check on Lady first, but no calf yet an' she looked as though she was plannin' to hold off a while longer.

Sage loves our hikes out to get the mail. There are so many interestin' smells to track an' neat sticks, pine cones, an' such to pick up an' play with. We also like to carry an old tennis ball with us. On our return hike back home we'll bring out the ball to play with.  As we walk we'll toss the ball back an' forth between us - a good exercise for Kari to adjust to the use of only one eye...besides we like to play too. Sage keeps an eye on the ball so that when one of us tosses it ahead of us she'll be ready to take chase.

She hasn't quite grasped the idea that she's always s'pose to bring the ball back to us. Sometimes she does, then other times heads to either side of the lane, climbs the snow bank, drops the ball an' lays down. We'll call to her to "bring it" but the little rascal more often than not, turns a deaf ear to us. On one such occasion Sage chose to climb the bank of snow in a particularly tricky spot. The bank is quite narrow at this point as a stream meanders along side the road for a short distance. There's a good sized drop from the road down to the stream that is pert near choked by a thick growth of brush an' trees.

"Sage, don't drop the ball...come, Sage, bring it," we echoed one another. Dang, she dropped it!  "Get the ball, Sage." Sage peered down the slope, the ball hadn't gone too far so she wiggled through the brush an' slid down the snow an' ice, grabbed the ball in her mouth an' headed back up toward the road. We saw the ball sittin' precariously between her teeth. Oh gosh, hurry Sage bring it before you drop it. Dang, to late, she dropped it again, an' this time the ball rolled farther down the slope toward the stream.

"Get the ball, Sage."  Obediently she turned 'round an' worked her way back through the brush to get the ball. Once again she headed back up toward the road but dropped the ball as she ran into a knot of brush, the ball slipped from her mouth an' tumbled back down the slope. Of course each time she dropped the ball it rolled closer to the steam an' farther away from us.

We could tell that Sage was becomin' frustrated so Kari volunteered to fetch the ball. Beatin' a path through, an' over the brush while at the same time holdin' on to the brush so's to avoid a fast slide down the slope an' into the stream, Kari worked her way down to the ball, then began the scramble back up. Findin' the icy slope to be as slick as cow snot, Kari found it difficult to hold on to the ball an' climb back up, so gave the ball to Sage to carry.  Traversin' back up the slope, Sage soon lost her grip on the ball, an' just as before, the ball headed right back in the direction of the stream.

After retrievin' the ball yet again, Kari thought better of givin' it to Sage, an' wisely tossed the ball up to Kim. Then with Sage in the lead, they clawed their way toward the road. When Sage ran into the thick tangle of brush she became stymied, but with a directional shove from behind from Kari she made it back up to the road, however only briefly.

A moment after pushin' Sage to the top of the snow berm, the icy toe hold Kari had proved not to be all that good, an' with a yip Kari skidded back down the slope toward the stream. Sage hearin' Kari's distress call, shot like an arrow back over the snow bank, "I'll save you!," an' crashed headlong into Kari. This sent 'em both perilously close to an icy bath. After a good laugh over Sage's blunderin' save, she an' Kari challenged the slope once again, an' this time made it safely back up onto the road.

Back home Lady still hadn't had her calf. Finally late in the afternoon, durin' a small snow flurry, the calf made its entrance into the world...a black baldy heifer which we've named, Flurry.


March 12, 2008

Though it hasn't been pleasant outside these past couple of days we've seen signs that, spring is near to hand.  The honk of Canada Geese float over the valley as they search for open ground to alight upon. The pastures are still blanketed in snow so the geese either move on or settle down at the river. The Killdeer have returned, as well as a few Robins. Think we may have even heard a Red Winged Black Bird's trillin' call while we were takin' care of our afternoon feedin' chores the other day. 

With the weather not so friendly outside we've been spendin' our time inside when possible. The other day we baked bread. We grew up on homemade bread. Mom used to make 8 loaves at a time. She'd leave one out to use an' freeze the rest, to be taken out an' thawed as needed. We're not nearly as industrious as she was. Two loaves at a time eats up enough of the day as it is. When mom made her 8 loaves she'd pert near work on it all day long.  Besides we don't really like to cook or bake. But since we like to eat we're forced to spend a certain amount of time in the kitchen.

One of the hobby farm magazines is in need of photos of homemade bread, so we decided to spend the day takin' photos of each step of the process. So's not to bore our readers with all the photos that we took, we'll just show a shot of the finished product. Oh, sorry dad, we already ate the end crust on the fresh loaf of bread. Maybe we'll save it for you next time. Just maybe.

fresh homemade bread

Homemade bread fresh out of the oven

The nasty weather we've been havin has intensified the past two days.  When we checked the thermometer at high noon yesterday, it read 40 degrees, but the lack of a bright sun along with a misty rain an' a strong breeze that was bullyin' its way down the valley nearly sent, the Robins an' Killdeer packin'. Actually, maybe it did. This mornin' while we worked, little snow flakes fell intermittently.  The Killdeer were no where to be seen or heard.

It was so nippy out this mornin' that when we put hay out for the cows, the calves were bouncin' with joy to have a cozy pile of hay to snuggle up in.  They leaped an' bounded in circles 'round an' 'round the piles of hay. "Maa"...the calves' mooed. Then they jumped into the middle of a pile of hay an' lay down.

calf in hay

The calves were soon put out, when their mamas' atrocious appetites for the tasty green stuff had prompted 'em to eat the hay right out from under their sleepy calves.

We should have worked at cuttin' firewood for the wood heatin' stove in the livin' room, but we didn't. Instead we worked on a photo submission to one of the equine publications, an' then beat our brains to pulp tryin' to figure out how many days we actually have left of the hay in our barnyard stack.  If we're right with what numbers we came up with, it appears as though we're goin' to have to buy another 8 tons in order to get all of our stock through 'till green up, plus keep the bull corralled up 'til June when we can turn him back out to pasture with the cows.

This winter has been longer 'n a wagon track, an' it looks like it's goin' to drag on a while yet.


March 8, 2008

The past few days haven't been all that eventful.  Yesterday after takin' care of the usual mornin' chores we rushed to fill an order from our web site of casual ridin' apparel then gave Sage a bath. This nutty little pup is crazy 'bout water so we have no problems in givin' her a bath. It's keepin' her out of our own bath water that's the real challenge.

Anyway, Sage had an appointment with the vet in town for her second 'round of puppy shots so we drove in a bit early to take care of a few other town chores, an' then stopped for a hamburger at McDonalds. 

Everyone at the vet hospital fancies our gregarious little pup an' she in turn adores everyone, four legged or two.  Last time we had her at the vet (believe it was only about one month ago) she weighed almost 16 pounds....she's just a week shy of bein' 4 months old now an' has gained another 9 pounds!  Dr. Griffith gently pointed out that we need to watch that baby fat, so it looks like we'll have to cut out those trips to McDonalds. Yeah right!

Though Sage is still just a young squirt she's already workin' pretty hard here at the ranch. The wild turkeys require her talent as a herdin' dog - to keep 'em off the front porch.  She also thinks that it's her job to scold Hoot when he jumps the fence, an' comes up to nose 'round the cabin or the hay stack. While these duties are very important for a young English Shepherd to become skilled at, her chief job right now is to keep us on an even keel.  In other words she is our stress therapist.

Dad, the buggy boss of this outfit is familiar with how important all of our critters are to us, an' particularly knows what a significant job Sage has, so he's designed the below business card for us to hand out for Sage.

Sage's business card

Thanks dad, we think you did a terrific job on the card an' if Sage could read, she'd think so too. While we're ridin' this trail we just want to rein in a moment to throw dad a special, belated Birthday  wish.....May each day's ride bring you the joy of many new adventures, then as dusk falls upon the land, that the moon an' the night riders watch over you, an' forever keep you safe.

Happy  (83rd) Birthday dad! We hope you had a good one an' that you'll be 'round for a whole lot more!!


March 5, 2008

The other mornin' when we went out to take care of our chores, we found ourselves in the midst of a jailbreak.  The east herd of horses had broken through their 3 rail fence, an' were friskin'  'round the yard like a bunch a kids just let out of school. Our usual routine puts the east herd last in lineup for gettin' fed their hay, but we decided it might be more advantageous to get this rowdy group fed first this time. Otherwise they'd be all bunched up 'round the hay stack while we worked to load the tractor, an' sure as shootin' we'd be fightin' for space like a pile of pups squabble over their mama's teats.

When we got the wayward horses rounded up an' back in their pasture with hay to pacify 'em, we were able to feed hay out to the rest of the pastures. Then we returned to the east pasture to jury rig a temporary fence in hopes it will hold 'em a while.  At least 'till we can dig out the stack of fence rails that are buried well beneath the frozen snow.

An adult Bald Eagle flew over us while we worked. In it's talons it grasp a branch of some kind. Watchin' it we wondered if it was buildin' a new nest, or if it would take the branch to the nest high in the dead cottonwood tree at the south end of the ranch.  We struggled to focus our eyes on the eagle as it flew up river, its size growin' smaller as distance came between us. The eagle, who was now not much more than a speck, circled then swooped in low as it lurched into the nest of the cottonwood.  Looks like he an' his mate plan to use the ranch nest again this year.

Along with the horse, the Bald Eagle is our totem animal. The eagle asks us to draw upon courage for we may then soar through life's difficulties. It offers us hope, an' counsels us to live.....to actively take part in the countless adventures that our journey through life thrusts upon us. Our lives are relatively short so eagle also reminds us to follow our heart's desires.

When ever we spot an eagle flyin' over us, no matter what we're doin,' we stop to gaze skyward. Though bound to the the earth, we gain a sense of freedom as we watch the eagle float on air. 

The other day we took our pup, Sage, for a hike up on our west ridge.  Takin' along our cameras we had hopes of gettin' a few good shots of Sage. She's almost 4 months old now an' growin' up so darn fast.  Part way up the ridge we stopped to take pictures of Sage playin' with a small rock.

Sage plays with a rock

Sage with rock in hand - er, mouth

Sage chases a rock

Takin' a dive for a dropped rock

At one point our pup suddenly, sat down an' directed her nose skyward. At first we thought she'd caught scent of somethin', but then realized that she had quit her game to study an' eagle as it winged its way over the tree tops. 

Sage watches an eagle

Sage stops to study an Eagle

 Sorta makes us wonder if the eagle is Sage's totem animal too....or was she simply pointin' it out to us.?



March 2, 2008

Spring is near on us, for yesterday we crossed the border in to March an' it sure as heck came in as ornery as a grumpy old bull.  The frisky breeze that was tumblin' in from the south had a vicious nip to it an' was as painful as a Polar Bear's bite. The sky was overcast an' a light flurry of snow accompanied the wind as we fed mornin' hay out to all the stock.  While we  cast hay out for the cows the sun squeezed out through a break in the clouds. 

With our minds on our job we hadn't noticed the sun's emergence an' may not have noted it at all had it not been for Icy, the little heifer calf.  Headin' back to the stack of hay in the barnyard we looked back an' there was Icy with her nose raised toward the sky, her tongue lappin' at the sunshine as though she was tastin' it. Or maybe she was kissin' the sunshine.  Hmmm, maybe we should "kiss up" to the sun ourselves. It just might encourage it to show itself a bit more.  Dang,  we are so ready for spring!

As much as we want spring to get here, we find that early spring is somewhat repulsive.  Before the sun has warmed the soil enough to spur the pasture grasses into fresh growth this place pretty much looks like crap.  All over the place.... in pastures, corrals, an' barnyard there's nothin' but horse manure, cow dung, elk scat or turkey droppin's.  We've got more (au-natural) fertilizer 'round here than we know what to do with!

Well, enough of that dirty talk.

Onoki is gettin' antsy to rejoin the rest of the cows, so we decided that today we'd better tag an' band her bull calf before turnin' 'em out to pasture. When bandin' bull calves we like to be sure we get both testicles, so we initially use a string to lasso their jewels prior to usin' the rubber bandin' ring.

While searchin' 'round the house for the string we became aware that Sage was tryin' to get into one of the cat litter boxes.  We've got the kind that has a top on it so the cats have a little privacy while usin' it.  Okay, to tell the truth that's not the real reason we have the hooded kind of litter boxes.  Actually it's because we have had many dogs that have had the disgustin' habit of pickin' cat feces out of litter boxes. 

Now seein' as how Sage is still on the small side of dog-hood, she had managed to squirm half way under the lip of the cover an' into the litter box.  A command of "get out of there" fell on deaf ears as she persisted in her quest. When all but her hind-end, an' that curly little tail of hers was swallowed within the cavern, Kari crept up behind her an' goosed her in the behind.  Faster 'n a bronco can switch ends, Sage's tail vanished into the cave of the litter box, then out popped her head.  We couldn't help but chuckle at the look of utter surprise on our mischievous puppy's face.

Once we recovered from our laugh over Sage's antics an' also found the piece of string we'd been searchin' for, we headed out to wrestle with the calf - whom we've decided to name Drift since we had to plow through a great distance of snow to get to him an' his mama.  Anyway, we had no problems grapplin' with the calf so it all turned out to be a fairly easy job.  First, Kari clamped a blue tag in his right ear with the number "38," then constrained him while Kim meticulously checked to make sure that both of his jewels were there an' descended, then banded him. He put up a bit of a tussle, but nothin' more than a mere squabble. 

But workin' at the south end of a calf certainly has its perils. During the elastication operation the calf, who was a tad bit perturbed, pooped.  Cow dung is much like a magnet so it was of no surprise that Kim nibble-footed right into it.


Read the February 2008 Tales of the Twin Wranglers

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Libby, MT 59923-7982


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