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Hoten Holler!

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

 

Spring Has Sprung!

28 April 2018 – Sunny with highs in the upper 60’s

Nature has really done some showing off for us in the last eight days.  I just reread the previous blog post and it is amazing how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

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The Herd….Fat and Happy

 

Everything is greening up here like you would not believe! The days are getting longer and the weather is perfect for springtime ranch work! This week we have been cross-fencing the northern pasture.  This is always fun in South Dakota because there are really very few rocks…..ha ha ha ha ha…..actually, it is almost all rocks and pounding in T-posts and augering the holes for the H’s has been challenging.

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Team DaveX2 looking for a spot without any rocks
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Fence in progress

 

Still, the fencing team persevered and the progress is definitely noticeable.

 

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Laser straight!

 

The bees have really been venturing out of the hive, too.  There are little white flowers and other blooms popping up all over.  I am so grateful they seemed to have survived the winter in tact.  The weather is not supposed to be as warm next week, so likely I’ll open the hive and check for a queen the following week.  I wanted them to enjoy the warm days this week with little disruption.

The calves are really enjoying the spring weather, too.  They are so full of energy, bucking and kicking, and running. They are really curious about us, too, but they are obedient to their mothers’ warnings…..”Don’t get too close.”

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Dude trying to get in on Chips’ lunch from Frita

 

And just like that, April is almost gone!  May plans include more fencing, some landscaping, getting the garden up and running, and possibly some relaxation before haying season.

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Hercules is exhausted after a hard day fencing!

 

Happy Spring, everyone!

Spring is Coming….Right?

20 April 2018 – Cloudy and 40 with snow showers in the forecast

The Holler is showing all the signs of spring, but Old Man Winter just won’t go away.  We have little sprouts of green grass all over the pastures, the blue birds and the meadowlarks have returned, the tulips are trying to come up, and the bees have ventured out of the hive on several warm days this week.  Still, we have to head out for morning chores in our snow pants and parkas because the dawn temperatures are pretty low and the wind makes it feel even colder.

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Tulip trying to peek up through the frost

 

The past two weeks have been really busy, so I’m giving advanced warning about the length of this blog post.  We have been disking, harrowing, and planting with unwavering faith that the growing season must begin soon.

The days fly by when you are in the field all day, but it feels great to come into a warm house at night and be tired from all the work.  It also feels great to look at the field you just plowed and planted and believe….really believe….that it is going to produce some good hay.  You gotta have patience out here on the ranch.

The bovines have been busy, too.  Last week, Cowboy Dave had made a trip out of town to see an old friend.  Linda remained and was keeping a close eye on Frita, a cow who looked imminently close to calving.  On Saturday morning she called to say Frita was having her baby. Dave and I went over to the High Lonesome and met Linda in the pasture to watch Frita go through her paces.

You may wonder why we make such a big deal about watching these cows give birth. In all likelihood they would be just fine, or even better off if we minded our own business.  But the counterargument is that if there is a problem, those dang cows refuse to grab a cell phone to call or text for help. We think they have trouble dialing because the numbers are too small for their big hooves.  Calves can be anywhere from 50-75 lbs so there are many things that could go wrong that would require our assistance.  A breech position calf would require a person to help reposition the calf in the birth canal.  A very large calf may require pulling.  A calf that is born and not breathing immediately, or one that won’t eat right away are both situations that would require a human assist.  Not that Pilot Dave or I have done any of these things before, but Cowboy and Linda have, and we are trying to learn everything we can to be the best stewards of these animals that we can be.

Back to Frita – we watched her in obvious labor pains for nearly two hours, but then she got up and walked back to rejoin the herd.  We decided to give her some space and time, and when Dave and I started heading up the driveway back to the Holler, I caught a glimpse of her going up over a hill by herself again.  I said I wanted to stay and see if I could keep an eye on her for awhile.  Dave went back to get some chores done on the Holler and Linda went back to the ranch house on the High Lonesome to get on with her day.  I hiked a short distance up over the hill with my field glasses and I could just see Frita in the distance lying under a tree.  I spotted her with the glasses and realized she was calving!  This was probably only 5 minutes after Dave and Linda had left, so I called them from my cell phone (since Frita refused to use hers!) and they came back to the pasture about two minutes after the baby was born.

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Frita has her baby in the only dry spot

 

We got a little closer and watched as the little calf struggled to his feet and started nursing.  Phew!  Another healthy calf.  Later that day we took Frita some hay and got a better look.  It is a little bull, and we decided to refer to him as Chips – Frita Chips….like Frito Chips. This is Cowboy and Linda’s bull, so they will obviously name him as they please, but with so many calves running around, Dave and I like to give them a name so we know who is who.

Cowboy Dave returned the following day and was pleased about the healthy addition to his herd.  We decided that we would move calves to one of the northern pastures because it is already mid-April and we needed to move them out of the current pasture to prepare the field and let the alfalfa and grass start growing. First, we had to catch Heidi and Chips and tag them while we could still use the paddock gates to keep the frantic mothers at bay. First thing Monday morning, we got the calves tagged.  It was relatively uneventful, as the two Dave’s are getting pretty good at grabbing the little calves and getting right down to business as Linda and I try to distract the Moms with cake and hay.

Next, we rounded everyone up and herded them along the fence that borders the National Forest toward the northern pasture.  The cows are pretty good about this, but of course, there is always one troublemaker.  Puzzle’s calf, Heidi, decided to crawl under the barbed wire and take off on her own into the National Forest.  While Linda worked the gates and Cowboy drove the cows onward with his mule, Pilot Dave and I tried to get that little dogie back to the herd. She was only six days old, but she could run!  A horse would have been very helpful at this point, but since the horses remain on the “Future Purchases List”, Pilot Dave and I ran all over hell’s half acre trying to push Heidi back toward the herd.  Finally, after a lot of exercise, we got her out of the forest and on the right side of the fence, but of course, she turned the wrong way and headed south back to the place everyone had just left.  Heidi, Come Back!!!  Cowboy Dave and Linda returned to the chase on their mule and eventually we got her headed the right way.  She was reunited with her mother, who didn’t seem too concerned that her daughter had been running around like a wild child.  Lady, get control of your kid!

Next, Pilot Dave and I hooked up the round feeder ring to Babe and delivered it to the northern pasture.  It was a slow process, manipulating the big ring and tractor through all the fences and gates, but Dave has gotten pretty good on the tractor.

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Dave maneuvers Babe and the feeder ring through the pasture gate

 

Yesterday, Pilot Dave and I checked cows in the morning. Everybody looked good and all the calfies were running around, jumping and bucking and feeling good.  We gave Honey and Muzzle the once-over because they are the two remaining pregnant ladies.  They looked normal, well, normal in the pregnant cow sense. We left them in the pasture intending to check everyone again around noon.

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Lilly and Hugo enjoying the sunshine
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T-bone and Heidi with Honey looking over them

 

We are out of hay and since the weather hasn’t been warm enough to produce sufficient grazing grass, Cowboy Dave took his trailer south to Edgemont to pick up some round bales from the feed store. Meanwhile, Pilot Dave and I took our trailer north to Custer to pick up a disk and an auger that were in the shop being welded.  We all met back on Stagecoach Springs to continue the daily chores.

Pilot Dave drove Babe up to the northern pasture to get the big bale of hay off of Cowboy Dave’s tractor. This was just another incident where we are so grateful to have a big tractor, and I am so happy that I married a good tractor driver!

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That’s a big bale of hay!
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Pilot Dave’s view from the cockpit of Babe.

 

I went and got Linda in the mule and we decided to do the mid-day cow check.  As we approached the pasture we could see Honey way off by herself under a tree.  As we got closer, we could see what looked like a big red rock next to her, but as we got even closer we realized it was a calf!

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Honey’s new baby!

 

 

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Still wet behind the ears.
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Honey enjoys a meal after calving.

 

Honey gave birth to a beautiful little bull.  He is the Hoten Holler’s second calf so he gets the #2 ear tag if we can catch him today. He looked healthy and was already up and nursing, so we returned to the task at hand, getting the big bale into the feeder.

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Cowboy Dave trying to train Mar-zee to jump through the hoop.  Next week we light the hoop on fire and then we’ll be ready for the circus.
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Moving the feed ring over the hay bale.

The day was only half done, though, so the two Dave’s finished up the disking and planting over at the High Lonesome.

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Back to disking the High Lonesome

Out here, you literally have to make hay while the sun shines.  Although we are done with the snow, we hope we get some precipitation today to get the oats off to a good start.

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Valentine wants to give Dave a smooch.

 

 

 

 

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