Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cowboy wannabee

I knew it was going too smoothly.  Apart from waking up at 0dark30 (0445),  today had been perfect.  The pickup was gassed and ready to go with the trailer all attached.  I was on the road by 0700 with two insulated mugs of french press coffee (real cowboy like coffee with cream and sugar)!  I followed the instructions the lady from Thomas Dexter ranch gave me over the phone with no wrong turns.  At one point it was such a beautiful day you could see all five major mountains in the cascade range on HWY 97.  It took a couple of hours to get the cattle.  She had another customer present and he was even greener than me.  She had me back the trailer up to the corral which I did with no external directions and only jockeying the trailer twice.  She even commented on my great trailer driving.  I am getting better but I think luck played no small part.

Dexter cows in our back barn lot.  These are one year old.

 I had to stop in Biggs Junction to get fuel both directions.  The next 100 miles had one Podunk gas station.  Fuel costs seemed to be my biggest expense.  I am at 330 miles now and have filled the pickup gas tank three times.  I will end up with 1/2 tank left by the time I get home but fuel will have cost $200 for 400 miles.  No wonder everyone wants to buy local.

I was 60 miles west of Pendleton and on schedule to be home by 1615 when the trailer started to shimmy.  I thought it was the road.  It got worse when I sped up.  Luckily, I spotted the rest stop sign in a few miles and pulled over. I checked the pickup tires (ok) and moved onto the trailer.  The passenger side rear tire (dual axle trailer) has a huge chunk missing out of the tread (1/3 tire).  I am sure it was causing the shimmy.  I now regret not grabbing my speed handle (tire changing wrench shaped like a cross).  Luckily after digging around in the pickup cab junk pile, I came across a very large crescent wrench (or "adjustable wrench" as my father would say).  I manage to break the nuts loose but when I am looking at the front tire next to it I see lots of metal radials.  The spare tire is split down the middle and there is only one.  The only jack I could find is the one that is standard for the pickup and it won't lift the trailer off the ground so I can change out the tire.  Not too mention that I would still run the risk of the other tire blowing up at any moment.  I just gave up and called Annmarie to get me Les Schwab's phone number.  I called the Hermiston store and had them bring two new trailer tires out.  It was only 75 minutes from the time I called until they showed up.  Pretty dang quick.  The guy had both tires changed and back on the trailer in 15 minutes.  It took almost as long to do the paperwork as it did to do the job.  I wrote this blog while waiting for the tire guy.  All this was a paltry $320. 

Magpie nest.


Annmarie and I did go out this morning to check on the magpie baby.  It had not managed to find its way back into the tree.  I caught it and Annmarie held it while I fished out a ladder and climbed up the ladder to put the magpie back into the tree.  When I was almost to the top of the ladder the magpie jumped out of my hand and onto the tree.  It was fine when we left this morning. 

Magpie baby we put back in the tree.
The cows did fine and are now in the barn lot.  They survived their ordeal.  The Dexter lady did give me a few more facts.  Adults weigh in around 750 pounds.  They take over two years to get their full growth.  These cows only weigh about 300# each.  She isolates the young cows from age 6 months to 14 months so they don't get pregnant early.  She runs the bull with the heifers year round.  Gestation is 9 months and most of these cows will throw single babies.  You can milk them if you tame them down.  She typically slaughters steers at age 2.5 years.  A carcass weight is minimum of 50% to as high as 65% of live weight (this is very good).