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Hoten Holler!

The Barn Door is Open!

4 August 2018 – Sunny and highs in the low 80s

Please excuse the title of this post, I couldn’t resist.  Anyway:  Woohoo!  We have a barn!

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Barn under construction in late June
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The big red barn

The barn was actually completed mid-July, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it because we have been busy filling it up with stuff.  After the building was complete, we had several loads of gravel brought in.  Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave used Cowboy’s tractor (since it is a little more maneuverable than Babe) to spread the gravel inside.

 

This all happened at the same time we were still haying, so we immediately began stacking hay in the barn.

 

We also have been using it to store equipment, and are especially happy that our tractor, Babe, has a sheltered place to stay.  The intense South Dakota sun, and the frequent hail storms can really do a number on equipment that is constantly outside, so we are hoping to prolong the life of our tractor.

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Bob and Babe protected from the elements

We are planning on putting up a hay loft.  The builders engineered it and put in four support beams, but in the interest of time and money, we have elected to do this ourselves. Clearly, we have a lot of free time…ha ha ha ha ha!  Once haying is finally done and autumn sets in we will get to work on the hay loft, stalls, equipment racks etc.

The other big barn project is all the rocks that were displaced for construction.  Does anyone want any?  Really, come and get them, they are FREE ROCKS!  And they rock.  (Sorry, again I have been spending too much time in the sun.) Rancher Dave and I have been slowing digging out and picking up the big boulders, primarily with the use of Babe.  Our ultimate goal is to have gravel around all sides where we can drive a truck and hopefully have enough space in the front to turn around or back a trailer.  We have mostly completed the front side.

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Moving more rocks
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The front nearly complete with gravel and the road back to the house

We also completed a road from the house to the barn. It’s kind of ironic that we have all these rocks and we keep purchasing more rocks in the form of gravel.

We are really happy to have so much space to store hay. Speaking of hay, we were hoping to get 1000 square bales out of our properties this season.  Last year we got around 600, and this year we got exactly 1002!  Goal accomplished.  We need about 1050 to feed our cows for the winter, so we will end up buying some round bales anyway, but not nearly what we bought last year.  Also, it is good to have a contact you can buy hay from and the best way to keep that contact is to buy hay each year, so we really don’t mind buying a little.  Hay is a lot cheaper now than it will be in April.

Our haying season is not complete yet.  We are having the wettest summer on record in Custer, and it just keeps prolonging our work.  We did complete our fields and all of Cowboy Dave’s property, including a second cut of his alfalfa.  This is almost unheard of in these parts.

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Jeff driving Babe and baling the 2nd alfalfa cut
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Kana loads the hay onto the wagon

Notice we had some extra help doing Cowboy’s field.  Our good friends, Jeff and Kana, came all the way from Florida to visit the Black Hills and we put them to work.  Jeff did some baling, and Kana drove Cowboy’s tractor to stack hay bales.  Rancher Dave and I sat around and drank beer.  Just kidding.  We really did have quite an efficient operation going with two extra people, we baled and stacked and loaded all the bales in about 90 minutes.

We didn’t ask our friends to work the whole time.  While we weren’t haying, they enjoyed Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood Rodeo, Devil’s Tower, horseback riding, and of course the Red Canyon and a burger in the booming town of Edgemont.  We had a great time while they were here and we were sad to see them go.  I hope they come back, especially during next haying season….ha ha!

 

Back to haying season.  While we have completed this side of the neighborhood, we still have two fields to complete for our neighbor Sherri.  She is the owner of the mower and baler, and in exchange for their use, we use our tractor and Cowboy’s tractor to hay her yard and one pasture. We are on hold for haying her fields due to rain!  It will get done, though, and we will have a big post-haying season glass of wine to celebrate. Or maybe we will have one tonight, in hopes it gets done soon.

Everything is happening all at once. In the next couple of weeks, we hope to complete Sherri’s haying, clean and put up the haying equipment for the season.  Also, we will be harvesting more honey.  We have another load of firewood to pick up from our friend who wants to get rid of it.  The garden is going to need some attention too.  I canned pickles this week, but I will be doing more real soon. I also picked, cleaned, blanched and preserved sugar snap peas. The tomatoes are starting to come in and I am hoping to make some salsa sometime in the next two weeks as well. The peppers are starting to come in and Rancher Dave will be using the hot ones to make his famous corn relish. Linda has picked buckets of chokecherries off her trees and she is going to teach me how to make chokecherry jelly. I better stop writing and get to work.

Happy August, everyone!

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The Holler with the barn
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The Sheriff supervising the gravel smoothing activity from a comfortable hay bale.

 

Oh Bee-Have!!!

28 July 2018 – Overcast, rainy,  and highs in the mid 60’s

July has been crazy. It seems like we are working all day, every day, as haying season just keeps slogging along. This is an unusually humid summer in the Black Hills, and the weather really is the main factor when baling and putting up hay.  If you bale wet hay, it can cause all kinds of problems for cattle.  If it is clover hay (which we have in abundance this year) it can mold and create the same chemical used in blood thinners, such as warfarin.  Obviously, this is not great for cows, especially if they are pregnant. Another potential problem with wet hay is that the moisture can cause a little growth inside the tight bales, and this friction can be enough to start a fire. This is not something we want to deal with in the new barn!

The result of the hot and humid weather is that we can’t start baling usually until late in the afternoon, when the wind has picked up and humidity has dropped.  So most mornings, Dave and I have kept busy moving rocks from around the barn.

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Rocks from the construction site

Or we have been getting firewood.

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A neighbor decided he was done with firewood and said, come and get all you want.  We are on load #3 here, with one more to go.  

Or we have been herding cows from pasture to pasture.

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Cherry Bomb in the morning

Or we have been weeding the garden.

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Lots of lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes.  Peppers, not so much.

Oh yeah, and we also have been catching rebellious bees.

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A big swarm of bees!

One morning, after working in the barn, I was walking back to the house around 10AM and I heard a noise that was comparable to a freight train.  I looked up at the trees in front of the beehive and I saw a giant, black cyclone of bees!  The bees were swarming. After they swarmed, they landed on a branch in a nearby tree, about 7 feet off the ground.

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Another view of the bees.

This was quite alarming to me.  As a novice beekeeper, I thought my bees were gone for sure.  I immediately called one of my bee-friends and she gave me some advice.  She asked if I wanted to keep the bees, and I said YES!  She said I could catch them in a box, and then rehome them in a new hive.  The problem is that I didn’t have an extra hive just laying around, but she said I could keep them in the box for a few hours, long enough to drive to Rapid and pick up a new empty beehive.

So here is what went down. (Unfortunately there are no pictures of this as there was a big sense of urgency to get the bees caught.  Also, there were no other random photographers on the Holler that wanted to get close to the bees!) I got a big cardboard box and a step ladder and placed them out by the tree with the swarm.  My friend had told me that the swarm rarely stings as they are not protecting brood or honey, only looking for new digs, so they would not be very aggressive.  Regardless, I put my whole bee suit on and headed out to catch the swarm.

I placed the box as best I could judge under the ball of bees. Then I climbed the ladder and grabbed the branch the bees were lodging upon.  I jerked it downward as hard and fast as I possibly could and a very large portion of the bees fell into the box.  It sounded like someone dumped a box of marbles in the box and I was super excited about accomplishing this…..for about a half a second.  Then, all the bees that were jerked out of the tree flew into the air in a tidal wave of angry buzzing!  They went back to the branch, and I repeated the process of jerking on it three or four times until I felt the majority of the bees were in the box. I closed the lid and changed out of my bee suit and made a bee-line (haha) to Rapid City where I picked up a new hive at the local supply store.

I imagine some of you reading this are wondering why the bees swarmed in the first place.  In my minimal experience, I am not really sure, but everything I read indicates that the hive was overcrowded.  This is really a good thing, as it indicates the colony is quite healthy.  The hive becomes so full of bees it is uncomfortable, so the queen takes most of the bees out in search of new living quarters.  I should have realized this was about to happen, as I noticed some swarm cells in my previous hive inspection.  The colony prepares for the queen to depart by preparing to make a new queen for the remaining bees, and they make distinctive, peanut-shaped swarm cells in which to hatch a new queen.  I could go on and on about all the things I really don’t know about bees, but this would be the never-ending blog post.  I have to quote one of the favorite things I heard from a beekeeper when discussing colony behavior, which is, “I doubt the bees are reading the same books we are!”

I returned from Rapid City and re-donned the bee suit.  I picked up the box of bees, which I estimate weighed 15 pounds or so, and did all I could to dump them into a new hive. I set the cardboard box next to the hive and hoped they would all find their way into their new home.

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Captured swarm next to the new hive.

The next morning, I went out to check the progress, and those dang bees all moved out of the hive and back into the cardboard box!  What the heck? Obviously they can’t stay in a cardboard box for a South Dakota winter, so  I visited the bee guru, aka. YouTube.  I discovered a solution to get them back into the hive.

I made a ramp from the box of bees to the hive using a piece of cardboard.  Then, I took a bed sheet and tucked the corners up into the hive entrance. Next, I dumped the box of bees onto the bed sheet.  Believe it or not, the bees sent out some scouts that walked right up the ramp into the hive and after about 30 minutes, all the bees were out of the box and in the hive.  Thank you, all wise and knowing YouTube!

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The bed sheet shows the bees the way home.
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And into the hive they go!

So that was enough drama to make a bee movie… ha ha.  The next week I wanted to check the status of the original hive and I was hoping to harvest a ton of honey since honey crowding can be a condition that causes the bees to swarm.  Unfortunately, I only had about 4.5 frames of honey capped and available to harvest.  Dave and I garnered about ¾ of a gallon, which was six pints and some change.

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Rancher Dave scrapes the wax from the top of the frames.
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Fresh honey ready to be spun off in the centrifuge.
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Honey!
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Super clear and pure clover honey.

It is the clearest and most delicious and fresh honey, I am told.  Personally, I don’t care for honey but I haven’t been able to train these bees to make chocolate or wine.

To end all the bee drama,  two weeks later I opened both hives.  They both appear to be doing great.  The new hive, which I am referring to as B-plus, has tons of bees and obvious signs of eggs and larvae. I added a new deep super and another medium super to give them some space.  They are also busy making honey so they can make it through the all too fast approaching winter.

The original bee hive, which I am referring to as B-minus, had no clear signs of a queen, but tons of honey.  There were also a ton of bees, so I gave them another medium super. I dug through every single frame to see if I needed to add a new queen, but I was so excited on the 2nd to last frame in the bottom box, where I spotted the new queen. All hail the queen!

If both hives survive the winter, I will have been lucky enough to gain a second colony for free! The lesson I  learned is not to immediately assume the worst when unexpected things happen.  I saw the bees swarm and I immediately cursed it as a bad thing, but it  turned out to be a really great thing.  Actually, the swarm was an outstanding event that pushed me way out of my comfort level and left me with a new colony of bees.  Life is good!

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B-minus in the back and B-plus in the front.  Hopefully more honey this summer.  If not, I hope they both survive next winter.

 

Christmas in July

10 July 2018 – HOT and sunny, highs in the mid 90’s

Last week, Linda and I were looking at the new bull, Koozy, and the other ladies he had been paddocked with for company.  We put him in with the two “open” cows and an 1.5 year old heifer.  This was because the cows with calves need to stay away for awhile, and the yearling heifers need to also hold off on breeding as they continue to grow for a couple weeks.  Plus, we don’t want a bunch of heifers calving in March as the weather can be pretty snowy and cold. Anyway, Linda said, “Look at Muzzle’s bag!”  Muzzle is one of the cows that we thought was open.  Muzzle’s bag was blown up and her teats were pointing straight out.  She was full of milk and that could only mean one thing.  Muzzle was about to calve!

This is a strange event for Stagecoach Springs.  The bull was not in with Muzzle or any of our cows nine months ago (cows gestation is 283 days, nine months). This would have been the end of last September, and the range cows, and bulls that border our properties were also gone.  Somehow, Muzzle got pregnant at the end of September….hmmm….I think she snuck out and went to the bar one night! Either that or the new bull works really fast!

On the 7th of July, Muzzle gave birth to a little bull calf.  He is beautiful with a white face, like Muzzle, and a red coat, unlike Muzzle.  Whoever the baby-daddy is, he sure made a cute little calf.

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Muzzle and her new baby

 

I said it was “immaculate cow-ception”.  Christmas in July.  Rancher Dave said we should name him “Mack” for im-”mack”-ulate conception.  Clearly we have been getting too much sun lately.  Linda and Cowboy liked the name and were quite pleased that they have another member to add to their herd.  A July calf is not ideal, but he should be big enough and weaned and ready to go to auction by November.  Meanwhile, he gets to live his young life in paradise. And Muzzle will be starring in the next episode of “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”

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Time for breakfast
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Post breakfast nap in the paddock

 

Yesterday, Monday, at 6AM, Rancher Dave, Sheriff Joe and I headed up to the north pasture in the truck with a trailer full of empty pallets.  We began driving through the pasture dropping off pallets in locations to stack the bales of hay we had baled the evening before.  Cowboy Dave showed up shortly after in his tractor and as he drove the tractor around, Rancher Dave and I stacked bales on the pallets so we can easily move them into the barn when it is complete.

 

154 bales later, we were done with the north pasture.  We stacked the pallets close together and put tarps over them in case it rains before we can put them up.

At 8 AM, we headed over to the high lonesome, hooked up the cattle trailer and moved the bull and Dairy Queen out of the paddock and up to the middle pasture, which we are calling Pebble Beach because after haying it looks like a golf course.

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Dairy Queen and the bull checking out their new digs

 

We decided to move the cows and the bull from the paddock up to the field, first because the haying is complete, and second, because they have been inundated by flies in the paddock. With a new baby, the flies can cause quite a problem as the big cows are constantly stomping and  kicking and could injure him.  Also, flies can cause problems to his exposed umbilical cord and his eyes.  Up on Pebble beach they can graze, they have tons of shade, and they can catch a nice breeze to keep the flies away.  Next, we went back to the paddock and loaded up Rose, leaving Muzzle and Mack behind because we didn’t want little Mack to get squished in the trailer.

Then, we separated momma and baby and the two Daves went to work on the calf.  Rancher Dave tackled him, I held his head and Cowboy Dave tagged his ear and banded his you know whats.   Mack is no longer a bull, but a steer.

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Rancher Dave tackles Mack and Cowboy Dave gets his gloves on ready to work that calf

 

We then moved Muzzle and Mack up to Pebble Beach.  We will round up the rest of our herd and move them all up there next week sometime. We then had to move a water tank up for them and fill it with water.  Logistics are maddening!

Typical Monday morning…..then we had lunch.

That afternoon, the two Daves decided that it wasn’t quite hot enough to guarantee someone had a heat stroke, so they would go ahead and mow the southern pasture. They finished up around 4PM.

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View from the back porch of the southern pasture while the men mow

It looks like some good hay and we will let it dry today and rake and bale tomorrow, hopefully, if it doesn’t rain.

 

In between typical Monday ranching shenanigans, we had two loads of gravel delivered for the inside of the barn.  We are hoping the barn will be done today so in between typical Wednesday and Thursday ranch shenanigans we can start spreading it on the barn floor and then start moving hay in there.  Then we can continue with the typical weekend ranch shenanigans.

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More barn progress…..is it time to get barn cats yet?

 

On the docket for next week will be more haying.  We are actually going to get two cuts out of Cowboys field at the High Lonesome.  This is incredible for South Dakota but it looks like the nitrogen fertilizer and the many days of rain in June really paid off this year. Then we will cut and bale our neighbor Sheri’s yard and pasture. When we finally get done with haying this year, it will be time to shovel snow!

We will also be rounding up our cows from a neighboring pasture and putting them in with the bull.  That will mean we won’t have babies (except possibly Rose and Diary Queen who are with him now) until the 28th of April.  That is unless we have any more July surprises. I am planning on trying to extract honey for the first time in the next couple of weeks.  The bees have been really busy!

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Bees cooling off on the porch

 

The garden is in full bloom as well. This is the part where I am kinda holding my breath hoping there isn’t a giant hail storm or an infestation of bugs or who knows what.  I really am hoping to get a lot of tomatoes, onions, and peppers for salsa.  I want to can pickles again this year and I am really looking forward to a lot of potatoes.  Every day I give bags of lettuce away, and Rancher Dave is getting really tired of eating a salad with every meal.  The lettuce won’t last much longer with the heat and then we’ll have to find something else to eat.

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The garden

 

The days are flying by, as they typically do when there are lots of things to get done.  Hopefully everyone out there in reals-ville is having a great summer. As I write this, Rancher Dave just came in and said it is hot enough that the mowed hay from yesterday is dry and ready to rake and bale, so I guess it’s time to throw on the old hay clothes and get out there and get something done.

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The Sheriff gets tired during hay season!
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View of the barn and the house from Stagecoach Springs

 

Oh, Bull!!!

28 June 2018 – HOT and sunny – 86 degrees

It has finally stopped raining, but we haven’t been haying because it is supposed to rain again Saturday.  Consequently, everything is growing like crazy! I think it looks like something out of a fairy tale.

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Field full of sweet clover, smells as nice as it looks!

 

We are expecting more rain Saturday, and then a dry out for the next week.  Our plan is to let the ground dry and start cutting on Tuesday. Let the cuttings dry for a couple days, rake and bale by the end of the week.  We have a betting pool going to determine how many bales we might get this year.  We’re hoping to outdo our performance last year because we put down nitrogen in the fall, and the unusual amount of rain has really helped things grow.

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Haying is going to be some real work this year!  If you look close enough, you can see the top of the fence we built.

 

In other news, we took delivery of our bull this week.  We sorted out two mature cows, and the 1.5 year old heifer (Dairy Queen) so he could have some company. We are holding off putting him in with the other heifers because we would like them to be just a little bigger before they get bred.  We did think he needed some company since there are plenty of range cows in the National Forest and we don’t want him to pull what the old bull, Red Butz, did two years ago and bust out of the corral to see those lovely range ladies. Also, there are several bulls out on the range now and we don’t need to see how well he can fight. We’re hoping he’s a lover, not a fighter!

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Koozy the Bull.

 

He walked right off the trailer and after everyone sniffed him over, he started eating grass and acted like he has been here his whole life.  We should put on some Marvin Gaye music and light some candles, he needs to go to work!

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Well, Hello Rose!  I’m your new boyfriend.

 

He is an Angus Bull from the lineage “Kosi”.  Like horses, these fancy bulls all have fancy names if they are registered.  Read any cattleman’s newspaper and you see names like:  Young Gun, Bushwacker, Bodacious, Prime Time, etc.  Since this bull comes from the “Kosi” line, we’re going to call him Koozy, like the device that keeps the beer can cold.  We like Koozy and we like cold beer!

Other additions to the Holler are the beginnings of the barn.

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As of Saturday afternoon…..

 

The builders were a bit stymied by all the rocks, but they build in the Black Hills so they just kept digging and digging.  It currently looks like a bomb went off, but we are assured it will look better once the building goes up.

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Glad we aren’t digging this with a shovel!
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Got rocks?

 

In between haying days,  we will be celebrating Independence Day just like last year.  We’ll go to the parade in Custer and then have a cook-out for some friends at the Holler. We really hope everyone has a great Independence Day.  It is my favorite holiday because I love my country, freedom, the flag, the anthem, and all things USA. God Bless America!

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The Sheriff on a stake-out in the tall grass.

 

 

Hay Day From Hay-Dees

18 June 2018 – Raining and 49 degrees

This morning, I said to Tractor Dave, “If it was ten degrees cooler, we could have snow!”  He said to bite my tongue.  While it is untypically cool today, we did have some really hot mid 90-degree weather earlier this week, and of course, those were the days we decided it was dry enough to bale hay.

 

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Bwahahahahaha…..

 

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One wagon load of hay

It was really hot working out there.  Dave said it was even ridiculously hot inside Babe, despite the air conditioner.  He was sitting there under all that glass. Joey was dying in the heat in his thick black coat and I poured cold water on him about every 30 minutes.  He is not quite four months old and hasn’t figured out how to sit still in the shade!  Linda and I were burning up in the hot sun, but we knew we were expecting rain and we had to get the hay in the barn. We just kept raking and stacking while the men were baling and stacking!

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Linda rakes in the corners that the baler can’t reach
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The two Dave’s stacking hay

This year we thought we would try to make it easier on ourselves in the bale-stacking process.  We put pallets all over the field and loaded the bales onto the pallets.  Then Cowboy Dave used his tractor and loaded the pallets onto the hay wagon.  Last year we moved each individual bale multiple times, but this year, we just took the hay wagon up to the barn at the High Lonesome, and used the tractor to lift the bales into the hay loft.  I credit my brilliant husband for his ideas in hay efficiency.

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A pallet of hay on the wagon

Late in the hot afternoon, we were finally done moving bales up to the barn.  Funny how we picked the hottest day of the year so far to do all the hard work!  We had a few cold Keystones to reward ourselves. The next day, it was about 20 degrees cooler, and we took advantage of the cool weather to finish moving the hay into the hayloft.

Then I got a lesson in baling.

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I got to pick up the scraps missed from the first baling.

 

Later, we did get the forecasted rain.  It has been raining all weekend and we are happy about that.  Not only is it great for the remaining crops in the field, but we get a little break from haying!  We will continue when things dry out again, although that looks like it won’t be for a few days.

In other news, the barn project will begin sometime this week, weather dependent. We are also dog-sitting for Vito.  Joey and Vito ( the dog mafia)  are full of energy and play and wrestle and run continuously.  This goes on for about two hours at a time, and then everyone passes out from exhaustion.

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Joe chasing Vito through the field
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Vito and Joey resting up for the next wrestling match

The house is a muddy mess and smells like wet, dirty dogs.  That is country living though!   The weather drives our schedule and we just try to keep up.  Every day is completely different and beautiful in its own way.  You just have to appreciate the sunshine and the rain!

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The field after haying – beautiful!

 

Home Sweet Home

13 June 2018 – Cloudy and 53 but warming to mid 80’s

We are nearly two weeks into June and wondering, where does the time go?  Since the round-up, Dave and I have been busy preparing for winter.  Yes, it is June, but that’s how ranch life goes. We literally have to make hay while the sun shines.  And get firewood while the sun shines.  This doesn’t really feel like a job, though.  The long winter really helps you appreciate the warm weather and sunshine, and nothing beats working on your own stuff outside in the sunshine.

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Working the fields

 

We had a great visit with my brother, Bill.  He only stayed for a couple days, so we made sure he worked the whole time….ha ha! Last year, Dave limbed and stacked a ton of rounds and we let them season in the sun since then.  While Bill was here, we drove around the Holler and loaded them all up restacked them in the wood shed.

That is a lot of wood, and it would have taken Dave and I three times as long without Bill’s help!  Thanks, brother!

Next up, the barn plans are going into motion.  The gentleman we hired to clear the lot for the barn showed up with his heavy equipment and went straight to work.  He cleared the large area for the barn and believe it or not, found nothing but rocks!

There is no way we could have cleared this area on our own.  That big equipment really made the difference, not to mention the expertise of the operator. The barn will start going up on the 18th.  More on this in the near future.

Last weekend, my Mom turned 80 years old!  All of her kids decided to surprise her and show up at her house in Iowa so she could be surrounded by family.  She was definitely surprised and happy.  It was great to see my whole family together, too!

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I can only hope I look as pretty as my Mom if I make it to 80.  She really is a rock star!  Dad is lookin’ pretty nice, too.
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Mom making cookies with her Grandson

 

After spending the weekend in Iowa, I drove back to the Holler and I have to say there is no place like home.  When you’re out here in the country every day, you become accustomed to the quiet, the fresh air, and the lack of traffic.  It only takes a short trip to a city to realize how much I like the country.  One big difference is the traffic.  Out here I don’t sit at traffic lights.  I do have to wait for the occasional herd of cattle or flock of turkeys to get out of the road, but somehow my road rage is much more manageable.

I returned to the Holler just in time for haying season.  While I was gone, Cowboy Dave mowed one of his fields.  Yesterday, he used the tractor-pulled rake to make some big windrows.  In the afternoon, after the hay had a chance to dry out, Rancher Dave and I went out and raked in the corners to make sure the baler could pick up all the hay it could get.

We baled one small field and were slightly disappointed that we only exceeded last year’s production by three bales….that was until we tried lifting those bales.. Last year we averaged about 45-50 lbs. per bale, but this year these bales are between 60 and 70lbs.

It seems all the fertilizer and moisture are paying off so far!

On the agenda this week:  more cutting, baling, and stacking. I’m also planning on opening the beehive today to see if the ladies are ready for another super (bee box with frames) to expand into.  They fill up their lower boxes with honey and are forced to move up through the hive to continue to produce more brood and young bees.  This year, the sweet clover is blooming which gives the bees a lot of potential for gathering nectar and producing honey.  I’m hoping to harvest some of the gold stuff!

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Yellow sweet clover blooming in the field
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Busy Bees in the hive.

 

That is the mid-June update. We hope everyone is having a great summer out there! Don’t forget to spend some time at the swimming hole!

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Joey’s first swimming lesson from Hercules and Arrow

 

 

“Don’t Try to Understand ‘Em, Just Rope ‘Em, Throw, and Brand ‘Em”

5 June 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 80’s

Last week was really busy here on the Holler, and over at the High Lonesome.  On Memorial Day, we began getting ready for our round-up.  We have a small herd, but the cattle all need to be worked to ensure they stay healthy and happy.

We had intended to use a neighbor’s corral because the cows wouldn’t have to move that far and they already had a chute, head gate, and calf table that they said we could use. The weather had other plans and we had about 3 days of heavy rains.  While the rain is really needed and great for oat and alfalfa growing, it made that neighbor’s corral impossible to work due to the deep mud and muck.

Our alternative plan was to borrow a calf table from our friend, Ned, and set up over in the High Lonesome corral, which was still muddy but workable when we put down some pallets, plywood, and pine shavings.  We strive to be solutions oriented.

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Cowboy Dave surveying the set-up for working cows

 

 

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Alley way to the calf table in the mud, before the pallets and pine shavings.

 

So after gathering all the parts and pieces, we went about setting up over at Cowboy Dave and Linda’s.  While the guys used the tractors to set up the calf table and alley, Linda and I cleaned off some of the equipment.  I used their hose to wash off some of the gate pieces, and I hadn’t anticipated how strong the water pressure was.  Lucky me. When I set out to spray one of the most manure-laden pieces of the gate, the powerful water pressure ricocheted all the poop right back in my face and all over my shirt and jeans.  It was disgusting and I was happy I at least was wearing sunglasses and didn’t have my mouth open.  Covered in crap, I ran over to give Pilot Dave a hug and he ran away.  Cowboy Dave said it was because he didn’t like my new cologne, “Corral #5”.  Ha ha!

Then, we all went to go round up the cows and bring them back to the correct pasture. They seemed excited to be coming back home.

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Bringing the herd home

 

The day of the roundup, the vet was going to show up around noon so we spent the morning sorting cows.  We separated all the new calves from their mothers and put them in a pen.  The calves did not seem to care but WOW, those moms were pretty unhappy.  We could barely hear each other over all the mooing.

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Six babies in the pen

 

The vet showed up with her assistant and we got to work.  Linda worked the gates, Cowboy and I pushed individual calves through the alley, and Pilot Dave worked with the vet to catch them in the calf table.

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Looking through the alley at the back of a calf in the table

 

I have to brag a little (and I know he’ll protest) about Pilot Dave.  He is really evolving into Rancher Dave.  He ran the calf table. He branded all six calves.  He tied off the legs of the two bulls that needed castrating.  (This is done to hold the leg out of the way while the vet goes about her business.) He held a calf’s head completely still while the vet de-horned the little guy and used the branding iron to cauterize the wound.  He worked side by side with the vet and her assistant to get everyone done and he looked like he’d been doing it his whole life.

The calf working went pretty smoothly, but the cows were a little more difficult.  They did not want to go through the alley so we all had to team up and push and prod and entice with cake.  All the girls got fly tags, they were poured with de-wormer, and the heifers were given Preg-guard shots in preparation for summer breeding.

 

The actual vet visit took about two hours and we were all beat afterward.

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Arrow rests in my lap after the round-up
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The Sheriff takes a nap.  Working cows is exhausting!

 

As tired as we were, we drank a few Keystones in the shade and congratulated ourselves on a successful roundup.  No one got hurt, we accomplished all we needed to, and we all felt pretty proud of ourselves for a job well done.  While we are still trying to feel out our way here in the Wild West, we feel like we have come a long way for a couple of city slickers.  And, our cows weren’t too mad afterward either.

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Look at that nice brand – a High Lonesome calf
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Another nice brand on T-Bone – a Hoten Holler calf
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Cows still love Dave, as long as he brings the cake!

 

Ranch Happenings

23 May 2018 – Rainy with a forecast of sun and 78 degrees!

It is impossible to describe how quickly things have greened up around here. One thing you can say about the South Dakota weather is that is definitely dynamic!

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View of the Holler in the morning
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Double rainbow after evening rainstorm

Dave and I are so happy to be sleeping with the windows open, and waking up to look out at green grass instead of snow.  We have had a lot of work to do this spring, and the list of things to do never ends, but the weather has been just perfect for working outside so we are taking advantage.

Some things we have been working on include planting the garden.

Last year we had some success and are hoping that the compost we put down this winter will make this year’s garden even better.  The dream list includes lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions.

I opened the beehive to see if there were any glaring problems.  The girls were pretty docile and I was able to see they definitely still have a queen. There were eggs, healthy looking larvae, and already some capped frames of honey.  I am so grateful they survived the long, cold winter!

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Busy Bees!

 

Dave helped out our neighbor, Ned, with cattle round up.  This is the time of year when the ranchers separate all the new-born calfies from the mommas and give them the required shots, castrate them if required, and brand them.  OUCH!

 

Ned had two calf tables going and Pilot Dave was ear-tagging all afternoon; he became quite the expert as he tagged over 150 calves. For all you non-ranching Hoten Holler Follerers, a calf table is pictured below.  The calf is herded up an alley and caught around the neck in the table.  The table then can be flipped on the side so the rancher can brand, give shots, ear tag, and have easy access to the back end to accomplish castration.

 

My parents came to visit, as I asked them to come for Mother’s Day but the weather was nasty that weekend, so they came the next. We had one day of really nice weather and one where it was in the 40’s and rainy. Still, we went out to check the herd and my Dad made friends with some of the cows.

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Dad meets Puzzle

Yesterday, we went to our neighbor, Sheri’s, and worked on the corral, alleyway and head gate.  We will be holding our own round-up on the 30th, and since we do not have the infrastructure here on the Holler, we will be running our herd through her corral.  We will be doing the standard ranch stuff as well; shots, branding, castration (for Dude since we didn’t catch him and get him banded at birth), and pouring the cows for fly and worm protection.

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Rancher Dave fixing the head gate
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Cowboy Dave shoring up the alleyway

We also received our branding iron yesterday, and Dave couldn’t wait to try it out. Joey and I are glad he tried it on a piece of wood and not one of us!

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Hoten Ranch Brand

Speaking of Sheriff Joe, he has really settled into ranch life.  He loves riding in the mule and checking cows and fence.  He has made fast friends with neighbor dogs, Herc and Arrow, and Sheri’s dogs Kiki and Ellie.  I’m hoping not to jinx myself by saying he is housebroken, as he hasn’t had any problems inside for about 10 days.  He is growing and eats and sleeps a lot.  He likes to chew but hates getting in trouble, so if he is chewing on something he is not supposed to, a quick “NO!”  will send him onto something else.  He is a really good puppy.  I keep waiting for the evil puppy side to show up, but so far he is quite sweet.  Dave and I refer to him as “Discount Puppy”  or “Jeb Bush”  because he is LOW ENERGY.

 

Today’s plans include drilling some holes for a fence we are fixing for a neighbor.  We may make a trip to Hot Springs to the Black Hills Meat Market to pick up a brisket for Memorial Day.  If the garden is not too wet, I will try to get a few more things planted there.  The yard needs weed-whacking and mowing.  The list of things to do never really ends, but we can see the slow progress of everything we do and we are really loving the ranch life.  Happy Wednesday, everybody!

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Toothless the bull and baby-daddy for all the calves born this spring

 

 

A New Ranch-hand

7 May 2018 – Sunny and 79 degrees!

We have a new hire at the Holler.  Meet the newest ranch-hand Sheriff Joe. (We call him Joey!)

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Joey!

It has been a few years since we had a dog and over 10 years since we had a puppy and we had forgotten how much fun they are.  So far, Joey has been pretty good with the potty training and he already knows sit.  “Stay” is not quite clear to him yet.  He also thinks it is pretty cool to be wide awake at 4 AM after sleeping all afternoon.  He can get away with anything now because he is so dang cute.

In other news, we completed the fence in the northern pasture.IMG_5837

We also had a big MOOOving day as we wrangled the herd from a leased neighbors pasture to another pasture to the south. Fortunately, our docile girls (and now some boys) didn’t cause any trouble and went right where they were supposed to go.

 

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Cows in the Southern Pasture after MOOOOving
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Linda, Cowboy, and Pilot Dave enjoying a Keystone after the big move.

 

The weather is just about perfect now, and the herd seems to love their new digs.  This morning, they were all hanging out all fat and happy.

This afternoon, we helped our neighbor, Ned, do some cattle round up so the vet could preg-check about 50 or so of his cows.  It was really fun, and Joey did great as well.  Dave did most of the rounding up and squeeze chute operation.  I got to use the hot-shot cattle prod to force the girls into the head gate.

 

The vet was great.  He would say, “This one’s open”  meaning not pregnant, or “This one will calve about the first week of June.”  He would say, “This one is between 120-150 days pregnant.”  And he even asked Ned if one of the cows had been a twin.  Ned didn’t know as she was not born at his ranch but was purchased elsewhere.  I was wondering how the heck the vet could tell if a cow had been a twin.  I learned that if a cow has twins and one calf  is a bull and one calf is a heifer, the heifer can end up infertile.  The term is a free-martin.  Cattle ranching really has a language all its own!

That about wraps it up for Monday.  We hope everyone out there is enjoying May so far.  We are loving it after the crazy long winter.

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Perfect South Dakota Saturday Night

 

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