November 30, 2009 GMT
Montana Ranch Nov 2009

November started snow free and a bit warmer than most of October although hardly an Indian summer. I spent a day at the main ranch watching the weaning. A bunch of cattle were rounded up with the aid of ATVs then the calves were separated. The calves were branded, vaccinated and if necessary de-horned. Finally, never to meet again, the calves were turned out into one pasture while their mothers were put into another. Not a good day for the calves!

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Branding A Calf

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Weaning Calf

Keith the carpenter has been building a traditional log cabin, working here four or five days a week. He has now completed the outside and wonít be back until the spring to start fitting out the inside. This means I am here on my own pretty much all the time from now on. It was good to have the company and to have the opportunity to help out on building the cabin. The original idea of spending a winter alone in a remote cabin is now a reality.

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Keith Working On Log Cabin

In the middle of the month it snowed for 24 hours leaving two foot of snow on the ground. This had me snowed in for a week.

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Snow On The New Cabin

Once the snow cleared I took the front wheel into the local bike shop to get a new tyre fitted. The bike is now in winter storage in the ranch workshop. Iím slowly cleaning and checking it over but everything seems fine. I may fit a larger screen. The bike still has the standard screen which isnít too bad for my height but a taller screen should deflect more bugs away from the visor.

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Bike In Winter Storage

The 26th was Thanksgiving. As the day approached I was concerned for the welfare of three wild turkeys that come and feed around the cabin. However Iím pleased to report that they survived this festivity at least. I had been kindly invited to spend the day with Nath, Sara and their family. We shared a great meal prepared by Sara and it was good to spend time with a family again. Thanksgiving is a bit like Christmas without the presents, crackers and hats. We all ate too much turkey and then fell asleep in front of the TV!

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The Wild Turkeys Survived Thanksgiving

There has been something living underneath the porch for the last three weeks. I first noticed fresh diggings and filled the hole with rocks. The next day some of the rocks had been moved to clear the hole again. As the rocks weighed a pound or more it had to be something a reasonable size that had taken up residence.

I set a trap and most days the bait was gone without springing the trap. By examining some leftover bait (I deserve a cub scout badge for wilderness intuition here) I found small teeth marks and assumed mice were eating the bait and werenít heavy enough to spring the trap. Sometimes the trap would be sprung but there would be no bait or animal inside. Again I assumed mice got the bait and escaped through the mesh as the trap was for larger animals. After three weeks of this I became accustomed to the idea that I was feeding the wildlife rather than trapping it.

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Trap Through Telescope

If by some miracle I actually caught anything I had planned to take it to the farthest corner of the ranch and let it go. Today I found a live skunk in the trap. I have never smelt a skunk but numerous people have told me how bad it is if it sprays you so I am reluctant to go near it.

There are a number of rifles and boxes of ammunition lying around thanks to the Ďfreedom to bear armsí bit of the American constitution. I have obviously been terrified to handle a gun or ammunition up till now. However I thought if I could figure out how to use a gun I could shoot the skunk. I carried a rifle outside and holding the round metal end away from me (I think this is correct) fiddled with the mechanism and a used bullet case thing jumped out with a resounding crack. After changing my underwear I found a box of bullets the same size as the one that jumped out and figured out how to put one in the rifle.

Aiming at the ground which I thought would be a big enough target I squeezed the trigger. There was a gentle click and the ground survived unscathed. I reloaded and pulled the trigger several times with the same results until I suspected the ground was mocking my attempts to fill it full of lead. I looked for anything that might be a safety catch as I have seen them do that in the movies but without success. I finally gave up on the idea of shooting the skunk, where to be honest I was far more likely to injure myself than the skunk. I now have the problem of what to do with a live smelly skunk caught in a trap. I bet Ray Mears would know what to do!

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Mule Deer During The Mid Month Snow

The month ended as it started. Not too cold with patches of snow. Temperatures have been around 0C (32F) but occasionally rose to 13C (55F) with plenty of sunshine and blue skies. It has been warm enough to sit out on the porch some afternoons. Colder night time temperatures has left the pond frozen solid and the snow dry.

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High Pasture At End Of Month

The elk which were regular visitors disappeared at the start of the hunting season. I have been told they head for remote hills at the first sign of hunters. The hunting season finished at the end of November so hopefully the elk will be back soon.

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Mid Month Sunset

Posted by at 06:24 PM GMT

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