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Hoten Holler!

Hotens on Ice

9 December 2018 – Sunny and Highs in the upper 30’s

I know we aren’t the only ones with snow right now.  Here is a friendly reminder to go slow, keep your feet underneath you, and keep your tires on the road!  The warmer temperatures and the melting snow have made our whole world one big icy challenge.

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Ice and snow everywhere we go

The first step out the door in the morning is onto a slippery, icy, deck.  I generally am looking down at my feet to make sure I don’t trip.  Yesterday, I was looking down and Sheriff Joe was right next to me.  I saw him lower his head into his hunting position, and his tail came up to a nearly vertical point.  I looked up and about 15 feet in front of me was a beautiful buck with a huge rack of antlers.  He stared right at me for a split second and then the Sheriff ran him off. I love mornings.

Next, I shuffled through the ice, Tim Conway style, up to the barn and made sure Maverick, the cat, got fed and watered.  Dave loaded hay in the Mule and warmed it up so we could go feed the cows. The Mule has been in  four wheel drive a lot because every time we try to go up a hill we end up spinning out.  We bought it used and think it still has the original tires, so we have ordered some replacements to ease our commute!

When we feed, even the cows are being careful in the slippery field.  Normally they will run towards the feed wagon (the Mule), but they know to be more cautious in the winter and tread very lightly.  It’s kind of cool to watch a 1600lb cow walking as gently and slowly as possible. It is similar to watching a very large ballet dancer.  Maybe I’ll buy them some tutus.

Our chores have become slightly more complicated because we have two new editions to our herd.  They are actually older ladies, but one of our neighbors gave us a bred cow as a barter for some fence work we did for her, and Cowboy and Linda purchased the other cow from her.  Meet Brandy and Domino!

Unfortunately, even though they are all adults, the cows act like rotten grade school children when a new kid shows up at school.  They all gang up on the new cows and there is a lot of brawling, head butting, and kicking up dirt and snow.  It’s pretty awful to watch, but all we can do is yell at them to stop, or whack them with a stick so they will separate.  Poor Brandy and Domino have been spending most of the day looking wistfully at their old pasture across the way, but they did figure out the Mule means food and have started coming down to the plowed area of the pasture when we feed.  They have been holding their own and getting in on the food and cake in between the bar room brawls.  I hope they can all adjust soon.

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Brandy and Domino missing their old home across the fence.
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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave trying to bounce out any rowdy cows that start fights at breakfast.

One of the casualties of all the fighting was poor Honey, our cow that had recently been to the vet for an ear problem.  Her ear was healing nicely, but lately it began to look like she had been rubbing it or itching it with her hind leg.  It was bleeding and scabby again. The first morning we introduced the new cows to the herd, Rancher Dave, Cowboy, Linda, and I watched the cows feed in the morning and tried to prevent too much fighting.  As we were watching, we saw Puzzle, one of our old cows, take a really cheap shot and headbutt Honey right in the bad ear.

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The boxing ring

Honey’s ear shot blood all over her face and Puzzle’s.  It was like that horrible scene in Rocky where his eye bursts open.  Honey looked like it hurt her pretty badly, and she kept dropping her head and shaking her ears.  We decided we would have to take her back to the vet.  Fortunately, our vets here are really exceptional and even though it was a Saturday and short notice, they decided to squeeze us in….or literally, squeeze Honey in the chute!

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Dr. Olivia gives Honey a shave so she can treat her ear

They shaved, cleaned, and disinfected her ear, pulled the tag out, and gave her an antibiotic.  We were really glad we took her in because she had a slight fever indicating the ear might be infected. Poor Honey!

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Honey’s infected ear…note all the blood that the vet cleaned out of it on the bottom of the chute.

Now back to the Ice-Capades.  Our dirt road is private, and the maintenance is up to the people living here, so Rancher Dave does the plowing and Cowboy Dave does the snow blowing when needed.  We don’t have that much snow on the ground and our road didn’t even require plowing this time.  Still, it is slick in some spots and from the Holler to the county road is uphill the whole way.

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Looking north up our road.  The Holler is on the right and the High Lonesome on the left.  It is about .6 miles to the top of the hill from our driveway.

The county road is also dirt and is maintained by the county.  They usually get out and plow it right away, which they did this year, but so far they have not put down any salt or sand.  It reminds me of that amusement park ride, the Alpine Slide.  From the top of our road to pavement it is all downhill and it feels like you’re driving on the roughest washboard covered in ice. Wheeeee!

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Staring down the Alpine Slide

Okay, not wheeee!  More like Whoa!  Cowboy and Rancher Dave hooked up the cattle trailer to the truck and had no problems getting up our hill, but once they hit the Alpine Slide they had to slow way down, keep in in four-wheel drive, and hang on tight all the way to the neighbors.  They made it safely, loaded up the two bred cows, and proceeded back up the mountain to our road.  Driving on ice is challenging enough, but it adds another level of excitement when you’re pulling a large trailer.  Why not up the ante and load that trailer with two 1500 lb pregnant cows?  We create our own fun out here in the country.

Fortunately, they made it back safely.  Unfortunately, Rancher Dave and I got to make the same trip to the main road with Honey loaded up for the vet the next day.  Again, it was an easy trip to the county road and a white knuckled, slow as we could go, slip and slide down the Alpine Slide.  Coming up from the main road is worse because it is so icy, you cannot really slow down too much or you wheels will just spin and you won’t make it up the hill.  I was really glad Rancher Dave was driving but we all made it safely.  We unloaded Honey into a corral at the High Lonesome with two of the nicer, younger cows for company.  We decided we are going to keep her out of the boxing ring while her ear heals. Next we hosed out the trailer and got everything put away just in time for afternoon feeding.

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Valentine at the afternoon feeding

That evening, Rancher Dave and I were sitting on the sofa drinking some fancy boxed wine and he said to me, “Everything today was difficult.  The fighting cows, the injured cow, the trip to the vet, and even the chores were hard to get done because of all the ice!” I agreed, it was a stressful and tiring day.  Then he said, “But you know what, there is nothing I would rather be doing.”  I agreed with this too, and about 15 minutes later he was sound asleep on the couch.

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Why is everyone so sleepy?

And by the way, Honey’s ear is doing just great.  The very next morning you couldn’t even tell she had a wound, it just looked like someone shaved her ear.  Cow’s and their stupid  party tricks; wait until someone passes out and shave their ear.  Classic.  Everyone be safe out there in the ice and snow!

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You can’t even tell her right ear was injured.  God Bless our animal doctor!

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

1 December 2018 – Snowing and a high of 35

It is the perfect December day here on the Holler. We are in the middle of a big snowstorm, expecting 3-5 inches before tomorrow, and believe it or not, we are pretty happy about the snow. We have been waiting and waiting to put down the nitrogen fertilizer we bought in October. The fertilizer experts said to put it down right before a big snow, that way it won’t just evaporate and the moisture will maximize its purpose. We got done fertilizing all of our fields and the fields over at the High Lonesome on Thursday and it started snowing Friday night. The timing was perfect, so we’re happy about the snow. More on this later.

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Beautiful snow – view from the barn
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Cows looking for food

Thanksgiving was really nice. It was about 65 degrees here, but we weren’t around to enjoy it. We took advantage of the warm weather and sun and road-tripped back to Iowa where we got to have Thanksgiving with my parents and my brother. It is difficult for us to get away in the winter because our house is off-grid and solar powered. If it snows while we are away, there is no one here to start the generator (although this is supposed to happen automatically, we are still suspicious of this feature) and no one here to scrape the snow off the solar panels. Also, the cows need feeding and watering, and if it is bitterly cold the ice has to be broken off the water tank. Fortunately, the weather was nice so the cows had plenty to eat and drink and the batteries in the house remained charged thanks to the sunshine. It was really nice to see my folks and we ate and ate and ate. You gotta love Thanksgiving, especially if you love pie.

 


We had a great time in Iowa, but we were happy to return to the Holler. There is no place like home, and Rancher Dave and I have really transformed into country people. We are pretty uncomfortable in the city with the traffic and the noise, and Sheriff Joe is definitely a ranch dog. He had to be leashed during our trip because he doesn’t have any sense about traffic, cars, and he has no understanding of other people’s yards and fences. He likes wide open spaces, cows, and mule rides. So do I.

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Joey’s ears flapping in the wind in the mule

We bought my brother’s pick-up and I drove it back. We had been searching for a little ranch truck that we can also run back and forth to town in and take some of the burden off of Truck Norris (our Toyota and only vehicle since we left Florida). Coincidentally, my brother was having a hard time selling his truck because it has a manual transmission. Apparently, no one can drive a stick shift any more, or they don’t want to because it makes it too hard to text and drive. Ha ha. I guess we are old school now and think it is pretty cool to drive a stick-shift. It turned out to be a good deal for all of us, so thanks, Bill! We love this little truck and have already had it back and forth to town a couple of times. It’s doing great in the snow, and proving to be a valuable ranch-hand.

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My new ride.  We named it Tonto (because we name everything).

Now, back to putting down nitrogen. The fertilization process would have went really smoothly if it weren’t for the dang cows. They are so MOOOOODY! Our herd is spoiled rotten, and they have become so accustomed to being fed cake that sometimes we can barely get the mule out of the driveway without being stampeded by those hungry bovines. They have become quite the pests and I have even started threatening them about making them into burgers and often tell them they would be more likeable covered in cheese and stuffed in a sesame seed bun. On a day where they get really pushy, I like to sing Jimmy Buffet’s “Chesseburger in Paradise”. They don’t care.

 

Rancher Dave wanted to make sure the broadcaster was set to the proper rate so we put down the proper amount of nitrogen. This would require a test run in one of the small fields and also require him to hold a steady speed in Babe, the tractor. Sheriff Joe and I were supposed to follow along in the mule and indicate how far the fertilizer was throwing out of the spreader, but as soon as we started the mule, those crazy cows came running. They were rudely pushing about in front of Babe, preventing Dave from driving a steady speed. They were rushing toward Joey and me, and we couldn’t even walk across the pasture to show Dave where the fertilizer was broadcasting. Finally, we decided to give them some cake in another pasture and get them out of the way.

But NO! Those greedy girls ate all the cake and came running back to the field we were trying to work. We had to give them two bales of hay to occupy their time so they would leave us alone. Eventually, we figured out the proper setting on the broadcaster and went to work. The next day, we tricked the cows and fenced them into a pasture over at the High Lonesome so they would be out of our way.

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Babe with the broadcaster attached, spreading nitrogen

Putting down fertilizer is pretty straightforward once you figure out the setting on the equipment and the speed you need to drive the tractor. The problem is that none of our fields are perfectly square so it is easy to lose track of where you have been already. Our good friend, Jeff, provided the remedy to this by introducing Rancher Dave to the MYTRACKS app. Dave put this app on his phone and was able to real-time track where he had been in the field. It also provided the speed as Babe has a tach but no speedometer. Look out Elon Musk, we’re pretty high-tech out here.

 

I got to do the driving on day 2, and this app made my job super easy. Of course, it looks like I did some drunken bowties in the middle of the field, and my excuse was that somebody texted me while I was working. I had to try to navigate my way back to the MYTRACKS app while driving Babe and this is the poor result.

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DON’T TEXT AND FERTILIZE!

I guess I shouldn’t make fun of people texting and driving any more.

Today, we got up right before sunrise. It was already snowing so I threw my snowpants on over my pajamas and went up to the barn to check on Maverick, the cat, and give him some food. I dusted snow off the beehives so the bees could go in and out. I scraped some snow and ice off the solar panels while Rancher Dave loaded the mule with hay. We fed the cows and by the time we got back to the house, the solar panels were covered in snow again. Dave went in the house to start the generator because it appears this will be one of those rare days where our batteries won’t get charged by the sun. Just because it was so beautiful outside and I was already wearing my snow gear, I decided to give the panels one more snow scraping.

I was nearly done and I turned around, looking for Sheriff Joe. I spotted him almost immediately as he was only about 50 yards from me. I was instantly shocked to see him in the international “dog play” position, with his front paws down on the ground and rear in the air, and NOSE TO NOSE with a coyote! The coyote was also in the play position. Alarm bells started going off in my head as I recalled story after story about coyotes sending out a scout to play with a dog, only to lure it back to the pack where it will surely be killed. I started yelling bloody murder, “Joey! No! Come! Get over here!” and “Dave, get the gun!” I was kicking myself because I had just leapt out of bed this morning and was unarmed. I didn’t even have my knife, although I’m not sure what I would have done with either weapon.

Dave couldn’t hear me because the generator was running, so instinctively I kept yelling and ran towards Joey and the “playful” coyote. I think Joe could tell I was upset and he came sprinting back to me, but the coyote just sat there and looked at us. I grabbed Joe’s collar and we ran to the porch and I said, “Dave, come kill this coyote!” Dave was on it, and threw on his coat and boots, grabbed his rifle and went out to the back deck. The coyote was long gone. We love animals, and are not keen on killing them, but after the disappearance of our cat, Goose, and the attempted abduction of Joey, we have decided it is open season on wiley coyotes, especially when they are brazen enough to come so close to the house with people outside and the generator making a lot of noise.

I’m sitting here now, looking out at the beautiful, gently falling snow and thanking the Good Lord that my dog didn’t get killed or attacked this morning. Dave is out scraping the panels again and shoveling snow off the deck. The cows are done eating and have headed back to the trees for shelter. I have a pot full of pinto beans and conecuh sausage cooking on the wood stove. It really looks like a Christmas Card outside and since it is the first of December, I think I’ll go dig out the Christmas decorations. We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a good weekend. Happy December!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 23

It has been an incredible November here in South Dakota. We have had several days in a row that were almost 50 degrees, and if the forecast is correct, we are expecting 50’s next week as well! Today, we woke up to a little dusting of snow and temperatures in the low teens, but we cannot complain as the wood stove is cranking and the house is warm. Also, we have been working outside a lot, taking advantage of the warm weather and are grateful for an “indoor day” to get caught up on other projects.

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Snow on the Holler

We have been working on cleaning, fixing, and prepping some of the haying equipment for winter storage. This year, all of the machinery can fit in the barn and that really extends the life of all things mechanical. Dave had to pull out the old mower blade, and that took several hours of pushing and pulling. He was not deterred.

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Rancher Dave sitting in the hard gravel working on the mower
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He got the blade out!

I worked on cleaning up an old calf table. It was pretty worn and rusty so I thought I would spray paint it with Rustoleum. This was not a good idea considering the gusty winds. I went through a can of paint in about 5 minutes. Instead, I found some of the rust-proof paint we used to paint the trailer last summer and that worked out pretty nicely.

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Before
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After

This calf table is missing one of the handles, but if we can rig one up, we will be all set for round up next year and we won’t have to borrow one. If the bull did his duties and all goes well, we will be expecting seven calves in April, and Cowboy and Linda will also be expecting six in April. Muzzle should be delivering in July again this year since she got off cycle somehow last year. So the roundup will be twice as big as last year. Any volunteers are welcome!

Dave was going to teach me to change the oil in the generator that is the backup for our solar power. It runs a test cycle every week and we have used it off and on when we have a run of cloudy days that aren’t solar-power friendly. As we began to take everything apart, Cowboy Dave and his dogs showed up in the southern pasture in his Kawasaki Mule. Joey decided that it looked like they were having more fun than Dave and I changing the oil and so he scooted off through the barbed wire across the field and up the hill to join the party. I don’t want him running off, even if it is just to see his friends, so I went through the gate, across the field and up the hill to get him and scold him. By the time we returned to the generator, Dave had changed the oil. Jen’s training: incomplete.

It was also time to change the oil in our Mule, so we did that on one of the warm days as well.

We have been waiting for some moisture in the forecast so we can put down nitrogen for fertilizer. We have had the broadcaster on Babe all month, but we just haven’t had the right weather to fertilize yet, so we took the broadcaster off the tractor so we could move the mower Then, we put the broadcaster back on Babe so we will be ready to go when the weather dictates. We also helped Cowboy Dave put his snowblower on his tractor, Bob, likely ensuring we won’t have any significant snow all winter, right?

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Broadcaster on Babe
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Snowblower on Bob

Putting implements on tractors and taking them off is not a huge deal, but it does take some time, depending on how many connections, cotter pins, etc. are involved.  It requires some teamwork and coordination and our overall operations are improving. We are hoping all the equipment is good to go for winter, now. It is a lot easier doing some of these outdoor tasks when it is sunny and 50 than when it is snowing and 10 degrees.  Dave was happy that even though it was in the low teens this morning, Babe, the tractor, started right up in the barn. He got to work picking up some of the slash we have been dragging near the stock dam.

It is our 3rd November here in South Dakota, and really only the 2nd of having somewhat of a normal existence as ranchers since we were in the camper the 1st year. The rhythm of the seasons is starting to feel more comfortable. We are feeling much more prepared for winter than last year and definitely more than the first year we were out here. This blog is starting to get a little routine, more chasing cows, dragging slash, fixing equipment, stacking wood etc. Still, I really enjoy documenting our life here. If you would have told us ten years ago what we would be doing we would have said you were crazy. It turns out that we have never felt more at home. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A cold winter day, even for cows
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Maverick getting some sun on the hay bales in the barn

 

Dust Bunnies and Barn Cats

7 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 35

Anyone who has ever lived in the country, especially on a dirt road will understand the never-ending war on dust.  When we built this house, all of our neighbors said, “Don’t get a lot of carpet.  It’s impossible to keep clean.”  So we didn’t, and instead went with this dark flooring.

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Beautiful dark floor….impossible to keep clean!

I can still hear the words of warning from one of my past co-workers, Cindy, who said, “Don’t get dark floors.  They will always look dirty!”  Obviously, I didn’t listen and Cindy, if you’re out there, you were absolutely right.  The thing is, I love the look of these dark floors, especially when they are clean.  The problem is (and believe me this is NOT something I would describe as a problem in any other context) we live on a dirt road, have a dirt driveway, our yard, while filling in with some grass, is still mostly dirt from construction.  Add to that our mostly outdoor activities, which leads to muddy, dirty boots in and out of the house all day.  Oh, don’t forget the super fuzzy and dirt- loving Sheriff, or rather, Joe Dirt.!  The cumulative result of these factors is a very dirty/dusty looking floor.

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Sheriff helping in the garden
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Joe Dirt

It seems I am constantly sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. I admit it has become somewhat of a neurosis, but when I see dusty paw prints or dust bunnies, I become a bit of a crazy lady and make a mad dash for the broom….. or my Halloween ride!  Dave is a complete team player, mostly taking off his boots when coming in the house and he even went so far to build me a mop/broom station for organization.

Two days ago he again proved to be the MVP on the Holler.  He went to get the mail and came back and said, “Look what I got ya!”  And I was more than super excited to see it was a robotic vacuum cleaner!  This is something I would have never bought for myself, but Dave is always solutions oriented and probably also tired of me crabbing about the dirty floors.

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My super new robot vacuum….I’m Jenny Jetson!  Love it!

So here is my product review.  This vacuum sucks.  And that is awesome for a vacuum whose only job is to suck.  It is smart enough to work its way around the room, it can go over hard floor and carpet, it’s slim enough to fit under the sofas and bedroom furniture, and when its battery starts running low, it finds its way back to the charging station.  Win, win, win!  Thanks, Dave!  We do have to keep an eye on Joey, because he is quite interested in the thing and would probably like nothing better than to jump on it and tear it to pieces.  Don’t do it, Joey!

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What kind of toy is this?   Hmmmmm?

We have been busy here, and despite the cold temperatures and wind, we built a fence for our neighbor, Sheri.

That was about a 3 day project, building H’s one day, 80 T-posts the next, and hanging wire on the third.  We’ve become pretty efficient with the fence tool and post cannon, but we still get pretty sore from fence building.

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I’m driving Babe back from the fence build.  The Sheriff  usually rides shotgun with me and doesn’t like when I drive something without him! 

I have sad news on the animal front regarding Goose the cat.  Goose went missing about 3 weeks ago and while most country folks don’t think that is that long for a barn cat to wander, I feel like she must’ve gotten eaten by a coyote or a hawk.  We see and hear coyotes almost every day and they also have to eat. Goose was pretty little and not so smart, poor thing.  Maverick has always been more athletic, easily evading Joey and the neighbor dogs and shooting up a tree when necessary.  He seems much happier without Goose, but Dave and I are sad and hopeful that either she still might return or that she met a quick ending. Another piece of country advice:  Don’t get too attached to barn cats.

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Come back, Goose!  or RIP Goose! 

Finally, we had a fun night out last night.  As is our new tradition, we spend election Tuesday evening with our dear friends, Cowboy and Linda, and drive 6 miles to the Pringle Fire Hall and cast our ballots.  Then we walk literally around the building into the Hitch Rail Bar and Grill and have a delicious cheeseburger and some beers.  Then we go vote again….just kidding.  As we were driving there early yesterday evening, we saw an enormous bald eagle soaring along the highway.  What a cool thing to see when heading to exercise your civic duty!

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The HitchRail Bar with the Red Tower of the Pringle Volunteer Fire Dept and polling station just behind.

November has set in and things have slowed.  Temps are dipping into the teens in the evenings and the days are cool but fortunately there has been a lot of sunshine and not a lot of that cold, white, fluffy stuff we won’t mention by name. We aren’t feeding cows yet, but they are all fat and contentedly laying around by mid-morning with full bellies from the grazing that remains in the pastures. Days are short, but sweet and we are looking forward to a fun, productive November, and also some dust-free floors!!!

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave pushing Rose, the cow, out of the High Lonesome Driveway.  WHO LET THE COWS OUT? 

 

We Didn’t Have the Winning Ticket

27 October 2018 – Sunny, windy and highs in the 60s

I have to say that I am not immune to Lotto-fever.  Normally, I won’t buy a ticket, but when the jackpot is $1.6 billion dollars I figure it is worth a shot.  Not that I wouldn’t be happy with a mere $1.6 million dollars, but a girl’s gotta have her standards.  We did not have the winning ticket, so I guess if we want to be billionaires we will have to go back to work for about 500 years.

Despite our pitiful luck in choosing lotto numbers, we have a lot of luck in other areas, so we are counting our blessings.  First, we are having a really nice October. Any evidence of the early snowstorm is long gone.

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Cows in the south pasture headed for the water tank

We have been enjoying some really nice temperatures during this “Elizabeth Warren” Summer (or Indian Summer).  Ha ha. Several days in a row, it has been nice enough to go for a swim.

 

Rancher Dave and I have been working outside, mostly prepping equipment for winter. There is always something that needs the oil changed, Zerks greased, tires inflated etc. We also have been clearing tumbleweeds.  This is an especially fun job when the wind is 20 gusting to 30 knots.

 

The cows have been mostly low maintenance until Wednesday. Cowboy Dave noticed that Honey had a big bloody mass on her ear. Rancher Dave and Cowboy separated her (along with Muzzle for company and Muzzle’s baby, Mac) from the other cows and  our whole crew worked until we finally got her into the corral.  She went in the chute, but she refused to go in the head gate.  We prodded and poked her but she would absolutely NOT move forward.

Linda set to work washing her ear from over the top of the chute. She used warm soap and water and a washcloth and was able to get most of the blood off of her ear.  We used multiple tools, scissors and pliers to pull hair and debris out of her ear, which was not easy because she was not contained by a head gate. Honey is really a nice cow and it seemed like she knew we were trying to help her.  Linda was quiet and patient and eventually used some pliers and pulled out a giant mass of cactus bristles that were covered in blood and hair.  After she removed that, we were able to get a close enough look and see that the fly tag we had put on her ear in the spring was squished way up into her ear canal.  Rancher Dave cut the back side of the ear tag and Linda was able to reach in and pull the tag out. Teamwork.

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Linda, the cow-whisperer

Honey seemed relieved, but she didn’t like the next part of the process which included flooding her ear with hydrogen peroxide.  We finally got her all cleaned up, at least the best that we could do and let her back out with Muzzle and Mac. During the process, I called the vet in case we needed to bring her in and they gave me a tentative appointment for Thursday.  After we got her ear clean, we decided we would probably take her anyway, because her ear was obviously infected and smelled really bad.  It actually worked out pretty well because the calf, Mac, hadn’t had any of his shots yet so the guys took Honey and Mac to the vet.  Honey got cleaned up and an antibiotic, Mac got his shots and branded.

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Honey at the vet – actually in the head gate
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Little Mac at the Vet

Here we are staring down the barrel at November already.  Although we didn’t win the lottery, it kinda feels like we did because we are both healthy, most of the animals around here are doing great, we have good friends, nice weather, cold Keystones, and no complaints really. What would we have done with all that money, anyway?  We already live in paradise.

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Sunrise on the Holler
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Sunset on the Holler

 

We Refuse to Get Out the Winter Gear

We Refuse To Get Out the Winter Gear

9 October 2018 – Cloudy, snow showers, 30 degrees

After the snow at the end of September, we had a light reprieve with some nice weather days so we could get ready for MORE SNOW. So far, the temperatures haven’t been too bad and Dave and I are leaving the parkas, snow pants, and heavy duty gloves in the basement. Winter gear is kind of like Christmas music. If you put it on too early, you get sick of it before it’s time for it to go away. Instead, we have been feeding in the morning (just a little hay as most of the snow has been melting by the afternoon) in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops. Just kidding. We are sticking with a hoodie, a heavy jacket and light gloves.

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Rancher Dave and Joey with a mule full of hay
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Attempted selfie while driving with Joey in the back seat, Rancher Dave calling cows from the tailgate and Puzzle and Frita following behind

Like I said, we did have a few nice days to scramble in preparation for a week of snow. The two Dave’s put tin on a shed roof over at the High Lonesome, so the spoiled cows can have another place to shelter from the wet snow.

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Tin Roof! Note the High Lonesome sign in the upper right.

We moved the cows over to the High Lonesome, which has become no big deal. The cows will do anything for cake so it really is just a matter of shaking a bucket and they will come running.

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Cow calling 101: “Hey-BAHHH,  Hey -Bahhhh, , Hup, Hup, Hup!” Rattle the bucket, here come the cows.

We finally got the barn kitties to the vet for shots. It wasn’t easy because Maverick keeps leaving and moving into the High Lonesome barn. Linda has caught him and brought him back but he just keeps going back. I’m not sure why; they have two barn cats that he fights with and they also have two dogs that chase him. I’m feeding him the same food she feeds over there, so I’m thinking he just doesn’t like Goose. Goose is a crabby old lady, so I can see why he might not want to stick around all day, but he should come back at night. Ugh, Cats! Personally, I think dogs are so much smarter.

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Maverick eating at home instead of mooching off the neighbors.  I couldn’t get him and Goose to pose together.

(Funny side story for any old salty pilot readers: Our vet clinic has a new vet and I’m thinking she might be 26 or 27 years old. Anyway, she treated our cats and said, “Oh, Maverick and Goose! That’s so funny! I just watched the old Maverick movie on TV the other day.” Dave and I thought this was a funny comment because she referred to the movie as “the old Maverick movie” and not Top Gun. It made us feel old to think that Top Gun is so old. I guess if you say, “I feel the need, the need for speed!” to someone under thirty they may think you are talking about drugs, or on drugs, or just old and senile. Sigh.)

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An OLD Classic

Speaking of dogs, the Sheriff is doing great. He has developed a bad habit of sneaking up on the cows and once he gets about five feet away, he becomes the Tasmanian devil, barking and growling and taking great delight in their surprise and irritation. I think he may have some cattle dog in him, but he is also really tall so I worry he might get kicked. This would probably keep him from terrorizing the cattle, but I don’t want him to get hurt. So, I bought a shock collar and the very first time he wore it I set it to the vibrate only setting to see if he would respond. He did great and I thought, “This is great! I won’t even have to zap him.” Then, as we were walking home, he went crazily running through the tall grass and the snow in the southern pasture. When he emerged, the shock collar was GONE! Somehow he got out of it and after an extensive search operation I was unable to recover the thing. I guess he really didn’t want to be trained that way so we are trying some other options, like a long leash and Pupperoni for successful recall. Ugh, Dogs! Maybe the cats are much smarter.

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Arrow and Joey holding down the trailer while the men put up a roof.

So that’s about it on this end. Same old stuff, chase cows, shovel snow, feed hay, fill water, haul wood. We are praying for all our dear friends on the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Michael is headed that way. Y’all know what to do, but stay safe and don’t take any chances. I guess every place has its weather issues. Take care, Floridians!

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Ice hanging off the Stagecoach Springs Road Sign

Hey! What About Autumn?

28 September 2018 – Snow (wait, what?) Snow and 31 degrees

Last week it was hot.  This week it is not.

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September Snow

It seems we went directly from summer to winter. But next week is forecast to be much more typical fall temperatures, highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.  That’s about perfect weather, but Mother Nature’s little swipe at us last night didn’t sit too well with most of the critters on the Holler.  The cows came out of the woods this morning and were extremely loud and rude, crabbily mooing at the house until Rancher Dave went out and fed them some bales.

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Rancher Dave putting bales in the feeder

The bees are probably in shock.  Fortunately, I did get all the honey supers off the hive and the mite treatments out, so they should be all set for winter. Goose is warm in the barn and Maverick is over at the High Lonesome, where he spends about every other night.  That little punk digs his way out of the barn at night and sometimes hunts over there or steals the cat food Linda puts out for her barn kitties.

The Sheriff, for one, is very excited about the snow.  He hasn’t seen snow yet in his life and he went out first thing this morning and growled and barked at his surroundings.  Shortly after discovering that the white stuff wouldn’t kill him, he tried to eat as much of it as he could.  Then he went bananas.  He started sprinting around in circles, rolling and jumping in the snow.  He acted like a little kid that heard he got a snow day off from school.

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Blurry picture of a crazy dog

In other news, the Hoten Holler ranch made its first cattle sales last week. Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave loaded up the spring calves and took them to the cattle auction in St. Onge, South Dakota.

 

 

We had two steers for sale, T-BONE and Dude.  Cowboy and Linda had 2 heifers, Lilly and Heidi, and one steer, Chips.  They kept Hugo, Patsy’s calf, as a bull and plan to replace Koozy with him in a couple of years.

 

Both Dave and I thought it would be hard to sell these calves since we have known them since their births.  We told ourselves that these steers have had it made out here all spring and summer on the Holler.  They have been so spoiled to live in these beautiful hills with no shortage of food or water and plenty of supplemental treats from the garden and cake and creep.  They have been handled gently and well cared for, but it was time for them to go.  We also reminded ourselves that if we were made of hay or grass, they would have no problem eating us!

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave smoke a celebratory cigar in honor of the calve sales

The sale of the calves was bitter-sweet, but now we can move forward to the next cycle of life in the cattle business.  We are hoping that we have 14 bred cows this fall that should calve in late April or early May. In between now and then, we will take the best care we can of the cows (and the two bulls) and make sure they are spoiled, fat, and happy.

Speaking of spoiled, fat, and happy, I have a pot of chili cooking on the wood stove for supper. It’s warm and cozy in the house and it feels like a perfect winter day…..except it’s September!!!

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Chili on the stove and Sheriff Joe warms himself after a morning of crazy running through the snow.

 

Shorter Days and Restless Nights

19 September 2018 – Foggy and 57 degrees

It has been somewhat of a stressful weekend here on the Holler.  This follows a really nice week of travels and leisure.  Dave and I looked at each other last week and he said, “The wood shed is full, all the hay is in the barn.  The fences are all up except for the gates into the barnyard.  Let’s go somewhere for a couple days.”  We settled on Billings, Montana.  So off we went for a 3-day vacation.  The drive through Wyoming and along the Big Horn Mountains was spectacular. We had perfect traveling weather and Joey just rode along happily in the back seat of the truck, occasionally sitting up to check out the scenery.

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Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming

We stopped just North of Gary Owen, MT (I wonder why Gary got a town named after him) and went to the National Cemetary and the site of Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn.  It was really a beautiful cemetery and Dave and I both appreciated being there on September 11th.

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Flag at half staff on September 11th, Little Big Horn National Cemetery

After visiting the cemetery, we drove through the battlefield and saw the monument to Custer’s Last Stand as well as multiple US Soldier markers and Native American markers. Dave and I really enjoy these historical sites, and we always try to educate ourselves before we get there.  This time we watched a couple of National Geographic videos on Amazon about the battle, and it really helped us appreciate what we were looking at.

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Zoom in to see all the grave markers along the trail.  A beautiful day to explore the battlefield.

We continued to Billings and enjoyed some big-city cuisine including delicious New York style pizza the first night and German food the next.  During the day we hiked along the Yellowstone River and explored the downtown Billings Brewery district.

 

It was great to just get away and not feel the weight of the endless list of tasks that need to be completed here at home. On the way home, however,  we stopped and picked up the gates we needed to enclose the barn. We returned home on Thursday night and were so happy to be back on the Holler.  It is really difficult to explain how un-citified we are now, and although we’ve only been here two and a half years, we have become completely intolerant of traffic, crowds, city noise, and having to keep the dog on a leash. Nothing in Billings could compete with the freedom, peace, and quiet of home so we were happy we went, but happier to be back.

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A Northern Flicker on the southern deck

Then the weekend came and things got a little hectic.  Friday, we installed the gates to prepare for the Cows to be let out in our pasture. Rancher Dave has gotten pretty adept at hanging gates, which is harder than it sounds.  You have to make sure they are centered, level, and when there are two that meet in the middle, they have to match up so they don’t overlap or leave too big of a gap.  I think he planned and executed pretty well.

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Enclosing the barnyard
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Notice how level the gates are and how nicely they meet up.  Not easy, unless you’re Rancher Dave.

Friday night, poor Joey showed up with a golf ball sized sac on the right size of his throat. We thought he got stung by a yellow jacket because of the size and speed of which the lump came up, and by Saturday morning it was the size of a tennis ball and as hard as a rock.  I gave him some Benedryl, still believing he had some sort of sting, but he just vomited it up and started to seem really lethargic and sad.  Of course, dogs only get sick on the weekend in between normal vet office hours.  By Sunday morning Joe had a mass the size of a softball sticking out of his neck, just under his ear.  He was really listless, obviously sick, and Joey can do sad eyes really well.  Poor puppy!  While debating a trip to the emergency vet, the fire department pager went off.

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Joey’s swollen throat

It was definitely my turn to respond, so I spent all of Sunday “fighting” a wildfire.  I actually did drag some hoses, dig some trench, and put some water on fire, but fortunately it wasn’t that big of a fire and the winds weren’t too strong so we contained it relatively quickly.  The time-suck of fire fighting is the “mop-up” phase where you have to make sure the fire is completely out.

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Mop-up

Returning home Sunday evening, Dave and I determined Joe was looking about the same but needed to go to the vet first thing Monday morning.  We have an incredible Vet Clinic about 24 miles south of here in the town of Edgemont, and they are always busy but said to bring him in and they would work him into the schedule.  Joey has an infected abcess and now has three holes in his jaw to drain out the pus and blood.  Oh the glamorous side of ranching!  He got sent home with the cone of shame on his head and some strong antibiotics.

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Sad Face
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Still swollen on the right side and punished with the cone of shame.

He has had a rough couple of days, but this morning he is back to his normal happy puppy self. His face is still swollen, he looks like he got into a boxing match.  Despite the cone, he wants to run and chase rabbits and is continually dragging the cone through the dirt and grass making it nearly impossible to keep his neck clean as his abcess drains.  We are so pleased that he didn’t have some rare fast growing tumor and that he should make a full recovery. Also completely grateful for the amazing vets and staff at the Cheyenne River Animal Hospital.

Meanwhile, back at the barn……I went to check on the cats the morning before we took Joey to the vet and I found Goose, but no Maverick.  I was really worried all day because Maverick has been digging his way out under the barn door and exploring at night AND we hear coyotes every night!  When we returned from the vet, there was still no sign of Maverick and Goose was looking worried and lonely. Linda put my mind at ease a little, because she believed there was a strange new critter living in her barn.  Her barn cats were throwing a fit and she could hear some cat noises, and she thought it might be Maverick.  We went to bed for another restless night of worrying about a sick dog and an eaten cat, only to find in the morning that Maverick had returned. Hooray for the little devil. Maybe he just wanted to make friends with the neighbor cats.

Finally, on Monday, we rounded up all the cows from the neighbor’s northern pasture and drove them down Stagecoach Springs to the Holler.  They seemed to know exactly where to go and when we opened the gates, they began kicking and bucking and running after the Mule, and then around the Mule, and in front of the Mule.  We were smack dab in the middle of a stampede, dust, cow manure, snorting heifers, kicking cows and all the fun stuff that comes with them.  Typical Monday.

 

Today, Dave loaded up the wood box and put it on the front porch.  Summer is almost over and the last two years, we have had a sprinkling of snow by the 10th of October.

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Rancher Dave doesn’t look too excited about winter

The days are getting shorter, the nights are cooling off, and the elk are bugling at dusk and dawn.  Despite a few worry-filled days, things seemed to have settled down and worked out for the best. I’m sitting here writing this with Joey’s cone-head on my feet as he snores away.  I know the two kitties are safe and sound in the barn and I can see 15 cows in my yard, happily munching away on what is left of forageable grass.  Rancher Dave is settled in for the night, watching Youtube videos for his next wood-working project. It’s not cold enough for a fire in the wood stove, but there is just a hint of chill in the air. I am so relieved that my dog and cats are okay, and a little mad at myself for worrying so much about them. I guess sometimes I just need to remind myself in the words of that great poet, Kenny Chesney, “Everythings gonna be alright!”  Cheers, everyone!

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Happy cows on the Happy Holler

 

Garden Goodies

7 September 2018 – Sunny and highs in the low 80’s

I bet all you people down south have already harvested your tomatoes, but up here where the growing season is SHORT, the tomatoes are just coming in.  I’m super excited, nothing tastes better than a tomato on Dave’s homemade artisan bread with some Duke’s mayo.

The garden was pretty productive this summer.  We did get some sugar snap peas, which I froze and have been using in stir-fry and salads.

We got around 20-25lbs of potatoes.  This is Friday, so tonight we will have the traditional “Death-Row Dinner” which will consist of a rib-eye, a fresh baked potato from the garden and a salad.  Don’t forget the Franzia!

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Counter full of taters

We had 3 cucumber plants and harvested enough to make 14 jars of pickles.

 

In between the haying, picking up rocks, and fence building, two of my neighbors were picking fruit from their trees.  Linda had two choke-cherry trees full of beautiful, dark red cherries.  We picked them and she taught me to make jelly.

Sheri brought over two giant buckets of crab-apples.  Using my newly acquired, mad, jelly making skills, I attempted to make crab-apple jelly too.  It didn’t turn out as good as the choke-cherry jelly, but it is still pretty good.

We have some butternut squash coming in now, too.

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Anyone for squash?

We have been eating quite a few poblano peppers in chilie rellenos, enchiladas, soups, etc.  We also have harvested a ton of jalapenos.

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Delicious peppers

And I have enough onions to make the whole state of South Dakota cry.  Now if the dang maters would just ripen up we could can some salsa.  Last year we ate all the salsa we made (and what we didn’t give away) until we ran out in March.  Then it was back to the store-bought stuff which just isn’t as fun.

The other cool thing about the end of gardening season is sharing with neighbors.  Linda is picking more corn than they can eat so we are reaping the benefits of that in exchange for some cucumbers and honey.  Sheri has been supplying us with zuchini and squash, also in exchange for honey.  Every time someone pulls into the driveway it is like a special visit from the farmer’s market.  Keep your Blue Apron and Hello Fresh delivery services….we’ll take the South Dakota food share program!

That’s it for the harvest news.  We also had some fun catching the bull and sending him to Sheri’s to take care of her ladies. Rancher Dave, Cowboy Dave and I loaded up some cattle panels in the trailer, went to the pasture and set them up in a circle with an opening on one side leading into the trailer.  We herded the girls and the bull into the circle and started leading the ladies out with cake.  The bull finally figured out that he was the only one left in the circle and he got a little upset.  Rancher Dave was not afraid and told him to get his big bull butt in the trailer, so he did.

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Rancher Dave directs Koozy, the bull, into the trailer as Cowboy monitors the situation.

Then the two Dave’s took Koozy, the bull, off to the neighbors to meet some new girls.  We are hoping he got all of our girls pregnant and if so, we should be expecting 14 calves from the herd in April and May.  (Seven of ours and seven of Cowboy’s and Linda’s.)  So if anyone wants to visit in the spring, be prepared for some sleepless nights!  And if the bull didn’t do his job completely, he will come back to the herd in October and have a chance to “clean-up”.  (That is a real rancher term, I’m not being silly.)  If he gets anyone pregnant in October that will mean July calves, which aren’t ideal because you have to feed them part of the winter. Still, it is better than having open cows.  Oh, the things I’ve learned in two years!

One final note about the barn cats.  They are doing great.

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Maverick (left) and Goose (right) hanging out in the barn.

Neither of them has ventured too far from the barn, even though I leave the door open for them all day.  They are afraid of Sheriff Joe, and haven’t figured out that if they just give him one or two good swats he will likely let them be.  Still, they are happy to see us every morning and any time we are in the barn.  If you sit down, Goose will immediately jump in your lap and start purring.  Maverick is a little stand-offish, but if you bring treats he warms right up.  I haven’t seen any signs of mice either, so cheers to the kitties.

The days are getting shorter and the nights are a little cooler.  We are loving the change of seasons and feel much more ready for winter than we did last year.  But, if summer wants to hang on for just a little longer, we’d be okay with that!

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Triple Sticks, the heifer, in the North pasture….she’s been eating!

 

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