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Hoten Holler!

March Madness

19 March 2020 – Overcast and windy but 34 degrees

I reread my last post on the 3rd of March and at time the CoronaVirus News was just a whisper of background noise.  How things have changed in 16 days. Life is really no different here on the Holler.  We are self-quarantined most of the time anyway, working on the ranch and only going to town once or twice a month.  We always keep a stockpile of goods just to avoid extra trips for things like toilet paper or dog food. The small towns here in the Black Hills are always ghost towns in the winter months.  Most restaurants are only open from April to September and a lot of small business owners close up shop and head south.  Consequently, life here is  quiet and slow in the non-tourist season so it  feels like we are far removed from the crazy happenings in the rest of the world and just watching a science-fiction movie whenever we do turn on the news.

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Sunrise on the Holler

I know this is not like watching a movie for most of the country, and Dave and I have been in touch with family and friends that live in more populated areas (just about anywhere else).  The shutdown of businesses, schools, and normal life sounds extremely surreal.  All we can do is pray that people stay safe, be kind to each other, and don’t panic. This is still the greatest country in the world and we will beat this thing.

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Some deer grazing off the back porch

So what have you more social people been doing with all of your “stuck at home” time?  I have to brag about a good friend of mine who sent me a picture of teaching her kids how to build a fire.  They are working on survival skills at home and I thought that was a very neat idea.  I imagine not everyone is enjoying self-quarantine, but as a person who spends quite a lot of time in self imposed isolation due to geography and general hermit-crabby-ness, I have one piece of advice.  Do NOT sit around and watch or listen to the news all day.  You’ll go nuts.

Here in the ops-normal Holler, we have been busy with spring chores. We will be moving cows to different pastures once they calve and that requires fence inspection and mending.

We are still heating with wood and our wood shed is starting to look a lot less full than it was a few months ago.

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A lot of this that is left is still too green to burn.

We also have an area we call the “maternity ward” where we plan to put our pregnant cows as they start to look like they’re about to deliver, so we can keep a close eye on them.  Part of our life lately is trying to keep that area clean and picking up poop.  I read that cows can create 65 pounds of manure a day and after Dave and I hauled 7 tractor loads of poop out of the maternity ward, I believe it!

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Time to move the poo.
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A clean maternity ward….for now.

Thank goodness the bovines don’t use toilet paper or we would definitely be in trouble. They keep us busy feeding and checking on them. We are expecting the first calves mid-April, but one cow in particular already looks like she is getting milk in her bag.

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The Dirty Dozen.  Her bag is definitely bigger than everyone else so far.

We hope she holds off, it is still pretty early for her to calve. The other bred cows just look really big and slow right now, and the heifers that are not bred are loving spring.  They get in a lot of play fights, run around and headbutt each other, and for some strange reason they are particularly fond of sprinting up and down the side of the stock dam. They are crazy. They spent too much time this winter sitting around watching the news.

 

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Andie the heifer enjoying her dinner.

We  had a few spring blizzards which lead to busy days full of snow removal.  One day last weekend we had the most snow we’ve seen since we lived here, but the next day we were wearing short sleeves outside.  It’s likely winter isn’t done with us yet as April and sometimes May can be the snowiest months, but the 10 day forecast looks like 40s and 50s so we’ll take it!

We continue to feed the cows because it there isn’t anything for them to graze yet, and the barn is starting to look empty again as well.

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Rancher Dave sends a bale down the chute.

The blue birds and the turkeys have returned, and occasionally we have some geese flying north.  Sheriff Joe is quite pleased to see the turkeys are back, as one of his favorite activities is scaring them off.

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It looks like the good Sheriff forgot to wipe his feet!

The bees have been pretty active on the warmer days and while I am feeding them I won’t be completely convinced they survived the winter until I can open up the hive and see if the queen still lives and starts laying eggs. Long live the queen!

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The bees last fall

And that is about all there is to say for now. Dave and I are really wishing the very best to everyone out there in the strange and crazy world.

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Don’t forget to laugh.

 

Out on the Prairie

3 March 2020 – Sunny and snowing simultaneously….hovering around 35 degrees

So long, February!  I’d like to say we’ll miss ya, but likely we won’t.  It was not exceptionally cold or snowy last month, but it is that time of year when we are really starting to want warmer spring weather.  The forecast shows we may get our wish, however, it was forecast to be sunny and warm the last two days and it has been sunny but NOT warm.  The wind has been blowing, gusting up to 40 and while the sun is shining it keeps snowing. Some people brag about their weather, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a day.”  But we say, “How can you not like the weather?  It’s sunny and it’s snowing, and windy! We sometimes have all four seasons at once.”

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The herd in the south pasture braving the wind, snow, and sunshine

It seems like the wild life is waking up for spring.  There is a pack of four coyotes that have been hunting in our pastures.  We give them a warning shot if they get too close to the house, but we’re hoping they will take out the groundhogs or moles that have been digging out there.  As long as they leave the dog and cat alone, we think they are okay.  Yesterday morning, Dave and I watched them hunting mice or some other vermin. They work as a team and they seemed to round up a pretty good breakfast for themselves.  At night, they make a lot of noise, but sometimes we hear them during the day as well. Fortunately the Sheriff usually sticks close by when they start singing.

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Sheriff Joe hanging out in the barn stall while we do some work
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Maverick, the barn cat who gets to come in when it is too cold in the barn.

After the coyotes got their fill, a line of about 12 deer went marching right by the house.  If the apocalypse happens, I guess we won’t go hungry either.

Shortly thereafter, there was a giant bald eagle flying around the cows. Then, later in the day a loud, honking flock of geese did a low pass directly over the barn.  We are enjoying the return of the birds after the long winter and looking forward to seeing the first rocky mountain bluebirds and hearing the first meadowlarks.  Maybe all the critters are showing up because we have so much water in the stock dam.  Nothing brings out the riff-raff like a good watering hole.

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The stock dam is full of water….too bad it won’t last

Pretty soon we will be planting seeds and getting ready for the garden.  In April we will start disking and are planning on putting in barley for the hay crop this year.  We are only about 6 weeks away from calving and the ladies are looking big and tired.

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Fat and happy and very pregnant cows

Today, the fire is burning in the wood stove and while we have ventured out for chores, the wind and the snow are making us remember that we live in South Dakota and winter is just not through with us yet.  Hope everyone is staying warm and happy out there in the real world.

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A cold and sunny February morning

 

Hey, Joker

10  Feb 2020 – Sunny and 28 degrees, also snowing at the same time

Did anyone see the full moon this weekend?  Wow, it was really bright out here especially with just a little snow on the ground.  Nice job, Mother Nature!

We took a little road trip down to Lusk, Wyoming on Saturday to look at a potential bull to breed our cows and heifers this summer.  It was a beautiful drive and we saw tons of antelope running through the wide open Wyoming countryside.  All the hawks in Wyoming seemed to be out hunting that day, too, and we probably counted ten or more sitting on fence posts along the road. As we neared Lusk, the Laramie Mountains began to appear on the horizon.  Wyoming is just beautiful, well, not South Dakota beautiful, but close.

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Southeastern Wyoming
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Laramie Mountains in view
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Beautiful snow and clouds
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South Dakota sunrise 

We met the rancher we’ve been talking to about the bull rental and drove to his paddocks where he keeps his cows and his bulls.  We liked a couple of the boys and agreed to rent one contingent on him testing well for fertility in the spring.  All of his bulls have good demeanors and we also got to look over the bulls’ mothers who were also very mild-mannered and nice looking.  Hopefully this will work out for both parties and we at the very least have made a new rancher friend that isn’t really too far down the road.

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A bull that is likely too big for our heifers
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These two are just about right, Happy Valentines Day, girls!

Speaking of cows, did anyone watch the Academy Awards? We did not watch the show and have not watched it for as long as I can remember.  I’m pretty sure we haven’t even seen any of the movies that were nominated and/or awarded.  That being said, I do read the news and while I strive to stay away from politics on this blog I have to address the comments of Joaquin Phoenix regarding cows:

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then, we take her milk, that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal, and I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up.”

Okay, Joker.  I wouldn’t dream of criticizing your movie or acting method because A) I haven’t seen the movie and B) I don’t know anything about acting.  Can I ask you for the same courtesy?  It really irritates me when people rip on the livestock industry or the dairy industry.  I don’t know very much about dairy farming, but I have learned a ton about beef cattle in the last four years by ranching and being around beef cattle ranchers.  There is an ocean of information left for me to learn but I do know one thing for certain:  ranchers and farmers love and care for their animals.  In most cases, it is their livelihood and their paycheck depends on the health of their animals.  They would not be ranchers if they did not love their animals.  It is not a field where it is easy to get rich so most are not financially motivated to get rich, but love the lifestyle and want to sustain it.  That lifestyle includes TAKING GOOD CARE OF COWS!  Some of the most desirable tasks include:  feeding and watering every single day, cleaning manure out of stalls and paddocks and corrals to make sure the environment is healthy for the animals, staying awake all hours to ensure a mom can deliver her calf safely and helping when needed, humanely weaning calves from moms to take pressure off the mom and strengthen the calf.  Even the artificial insemination of cows should be considered humane as often the genetics of the bull will determine the size and positive health traits of the calves, protecting both the mother and future baby.

I know there can be a lot of negative press out there regarding ranching. It is not difficult to find videos of people abusing cows on the internet, but it is also not difficult to find cases of police being brutal, teachers being inappropriate, and even religious clergy and medical doctors misbehaving.  My point is that there are examples in every field of people acting poorly, but those bad examples should not define the rest of the people in that field.  I have met so many different ranchers since we’ve moved to South Dakota and every single one of them would do anything for their cows, and they do. I haven’t met a single evil money-grubbing hack sitting in the corner  just plotting the next moment to rip a calf off the mother’s teat and steal the milk for coffee, cereal, or profit.  Come on.  Really, come on, Joaquin.  Come to the ranch and we’ll show you just how spoiled the cows are.  Just bring your own tofu because we’re likely having burgers for lunch.

Okay, I’m done ranting and if you’re still reading, please don’t be afraid to stand up for the ranchers, farmers, and food producers that are feeding the world.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the herd seems healthy, fat and happy.  The Sheriff is still loving winter and the barn cat has decided he would like to spend the night in the mud room if the temperature drops below 20 degrees.  I am a sucker so he doesn’t usually meow for too long at the door before I let him in, even though I know he’ll start meowing again around 2AM to go back outside and go hunt up some mice from the barn.  It’s a real circus.  But it is our circus and we love it.

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Rancher Dave and Sheriff Joe heading out for morning chores

We hope everyone is surviving February out there in the real world.

 

Superbowl Monday

3 Feb 2020 – Snowing, Blowing and 15 degrees

Oh, January….where have you gone?  And why did you take all the warm days with you?  January lulled us to sleep and February snuck up behind us and smacked us in the head.  It is a real blizzard out there right now, but I guess that is to be expected here in the Dakotas.

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Hunny leads the herd into the cafeteria.  Bon Appetite, ladies!

We had been taking advantage of the warm January days, having coffee on the deck in the mornings, grilling out in the evenings. Even though we have been sitting outside in the sun, it has been cool enough to keep a stocking cap and winter coat on, but we were outside nonetheless.

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Salmon on the grill
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Dave enjoying coffee in the morning on the deck

We couldn’t sit still too long, though.  We went out several days to stock up on our firewood stores, and it looks like we did just in time.

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Woodshed loaded once more

One particular day we were cutting wood from a slash-pile in the National Forest, and the Sheriff was poking his nose in every hole he could find. Eventually, I called him and told him to quit being so nosy.  He came running over with a few porcupine quills in his nose.  He had found the dead critter and decided it would make a good snack, quills and all.  Fortunately, Dave was able to pull them out pretty quickly.  Sheriff Joe is such a tough dog; I don’t think he understands pain.  He never yelps or cries and he just sat there as Dave pulled the barbs out of his snout.  Then he ran right back to the porcupine carcass and had to get scolded to leave it alone.  Silly mutt.

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Sheriff Joe in the back seat…..slash pile in the background

The cows have been loving the warm weather.  We are planning ahead for the summer and trying to line up a bull to rent for July through September.  We sold our bull in the fall because we kept some of his heifers and we don’t want any inbreeding. We have been talking to a rancher just across the border in Wyoming about leasing a pure red angus bull that will be small enough to service our heifers and big enough to take care of our older girls as well. We invited him to come see the herd and make sure everyone looked healthy and that our facilities would be good for his bull.  We will take a trip in the next week or so to look at his bulls and maybe pick out who will be a good fit for our ladies.  These arranged marriages are a lot of work!  Anyway, he liked our place and it looks like we will be able to work something out for the summer.

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Two heifers at the lick and two lazy cows in the front.  All enjoying a warm January day.

It is amazing how much we have learned about cattle in the last few years.  It is also amazing how much we have discovered that we still have to learn.  One thing of interest is that you have to be pretty careful selecting a bull.  Just like people, bulls can get venereal disease and you have to have them tested before you put them in with your herd.  One bull is typically expected to service about 25 cows in a season, so I guess the V.D. isn’t too hard to understand.  The other thing you test them for is fertility.  That sounds like an interesting job, right? No thanks.  Well they go to the vet for that test and the vet tells the rancher what percentage of success (breeding) they can predict from the bull as a percentage.  For example, they will give a result like the bull is 82% fertile.  Other factors to consider are the size of the calves that the bull has historically produced.  If you are breeding a bull that throws large calves to smaller cows, you can expect some birthing trouble.  Another thing to think about is genetic traits, including general health, disposition, horns, and conformation.  It is a lot to take in, but ideally the more research we do the better the outcome for our herd in calving season. The bull we are looking at is a young virgin bull, so some of the factors like calf size will be unknown.  Again, we still have a lot to learn.

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Could this be a future match?

Meanwhile, we will take a big blizzardy snow day to stay indoors and catch up on some of that research, write a blog, do some tax preparation and maybe just read a good book.  This morning, the cattle are fed and the ice is broken on the stock tanks so they can get a drink.  The wood stove is burning and we will probably hide away inside until it is time for evening chores.  Thanks for reading….we hope everyone out there in the real world is enjoying the roaring 20s so far.  I know we are!

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Nobody misses a meal at the Holler.

 

Sun and Wind

19 Jan 2020 – Sunny and 41 degrees

Wow it is windy out there today! Sometimes we wonder if we should have went with windmills instead of solar power, but the sun is shining too so we’ve got that going for us. We have been working in the barn framing up some stalls.  Actually, Dave has been doing the planning, framing, and building and I am more like the assistant, getting him tools from time to time, holding the dumb end of the tape measure, starting the generator for the power tools, keeping the dog from chasing the cat.  Maybe I was doing a little bit of work, too.

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Corner of one barn stall

We also painted and put up some boards in our corral.  We have been using the movable cattle panels, but we are always trying to get a more permanent structure in place and that all takes time and money.  We started with these two sections, and when the weather warms up and we get back into summer working shape we will dig more holes, put in more posts, and string some more boards.  Our goal is to get the corral to be functional without having to move panels any time we change things.

This winter has been incredibly mild.  I’m almost scared to write that since we have quite a few months of winter in front of us, but wow, we have been in the high 30s and low 40s a lot more than we were the first two winters out here. We probably would have really appreciated this when we were in the camper, but we’ll take it  now. The forecast even has us in the high 40s for the next ten days so we plan on breaking out our shorts and flip-flops.  The cows are loving it, too, and have only come into the barn to sleep once or twice. They also have been discussing shorts, flip-flops and even Hawaiian shirts.

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Lucky enjoying her breakfast in the sunshine

Life is just a little easier when it isn’t completely frigid.  It is still pretty cold in the mornings and we usually have to break ice on the water tanks, but the ice isn’t that thick and it doesn’t take us that long. Instead we get to spend more chore time walking around the herd and making sure everyone is looking okay. This has made all the cows terrible pests. We cannot walk up to any of them without them running toward us and sniffing at all of our pockets to see if we might have some cake.  If we don’t give out cake, then they usually give an indignant snort and blow cow-boogers all over us, and then turn and walk away.  They are spoiled, fat, and happy I hope.

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The Dirty Dozen chowin’ down

We have also been gathering some firewood.  Even though the temperatures have been nice, there is still a bit of snow on the ground, especially in the wooded areas and that makes getting the wood a little harder.  Especially walking back and forth to the splitter in the snow.  I think the Olympics should really consider wood-gathering as a new sport.  The object would be to fill the trailer with wood that you cut, split and load in the least amount of time. Dave and I would most likely NOT qualify for the team, but we would be willing to let any contestants do their trial runs out here and fill the woodshed in the process. It’s gotta be more entertaining than the luge, right?  (Sorry any readers that are lugers…..I doubt there are any of you reading anyway.)

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The area we were gathering wood in the snow
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Most used trailer in South Dakota

The only critter out here that isn’t loving the warm weather is the Sheriff.  Joey can never get enough snow.  When we go out in the morning, his nose goes to the ground, then he bends down walking while rubbing his face across the snow.  The next two steps have him sliding on his side down the driveway and then he just lies on his back in the snow until we make him get up. It’s a bonus if he has a bone or a string to chew on, he would stay there all day.

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Joey’s version of a relaxing morning

That’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a pleasant winter too, and if not, remember there are only two more full moons before spring!

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View from the water tank in the morning

 

Got Snow?

28 December 2019 – 28 and snowing and snowing and snowing

Hey out there!  We had a beautiful and fantastic Christmas here at the Holler.  It was sunny and warm until about 5PM, then it started snowing.  Typical four-season day in South Dakota!

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Cows eating across the stock dam as Rancher Dave brings Babe home.

December was so mild and both Dave and I were wondering where those temperatures were 3 years ago when we were living in the camper?  It was 50 degrees on Christmas Eve so I decided to open the beehive and tell them Merry Christmas.  Just kidding, I felt like I had to open the beehive because every time I had checked it recently, the entrance reducer was knocked out of place.  Upon closer inspection it had clearly been chewed upon.

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Entrance reducer to the beehive with obvious teeth marks

We suspected a mouse caused the damage and this was confirmed by placing Dave’s game camera and a mouse trap in front of the hive.  Sure enough, there was a mouse that was burgling honey.  We caught him on camera and in the trap, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a nest in the hive.  Fortunately, the weather was mild so I put on my suit and tore the whole thing apart.  I did not find a mouse but the bees were not in the Christmas spirit and were quite angry about being disturbed so late in the season.  I put their house back together and said “Buon Natale!”  since they are Italian.

Dave smoked a standing rib roast on his smoker.  It was so dang good!  It was also pretty big so we will be eating leftovers for awhile.

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Amazing prime rib…yummmmm

Santa was pretty good to us. (Although he did NOT bring a horse…..Dave says I probably have to behave much better next year to make the “Nice List” and them maybe I’ll get a horse!) One of our favorite presents this year was made by a good friend in Florida.  Another friend that visited here brought him  (at his request) a stick of firewood from the Holler.  From this he handcrafted these homemade pens.

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Pens from Holler firewood! 

What a cool present!  Thanks so much!

The day after Christmas, we decided to take a ride through Custer State Park and see if they had any cool Christmas decorations at the State Game Lodge.  Unfortunately, the lodge was closed so we didn’t get to see any cool decorations, but we did take Joey for  hike and when we were driving we got to see some big-horn sheep!

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Not a reindeer….but pretty cool.

Today we are watching it snow.  We fed the cows this morning and there was hardly any snow on the ground.  As the morning progressed, it just keeps coming and they have all decided to mosey on up into the barn stall that we call the Taj Ma Holler.

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Valentine waiting outside the stall for supper, Hunny and Dozen staying in and nice and warm.

I think we probably have about 5 inches of snow so far, and it is quite beautiful, but it will make feeding in the evening all the more fun!  Also, we cannot keep the snow off the solar panels on a day like this, so we ran the generator to charge the batteries for about an hour this morning. I’ll probably scrape snow off the panels again after we feed this afternoon, although it won’t make much difference for power today.  It is just easier to keep up with rather than try to catch up with once they get a lot of snow accumulated on them.

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Snowy panels with the snow rake in the lower right hand corner.  No point to keep raking when it is still snowing!

Fortunately, we are staying warm in the house next to the wood stove.  We passed the winter solstice on the 21st so the days are getting longer!  This is a big deal when you live in the northern latitudes and we celebrated with a local South Dakota beer called “Pile O’ Dirt Porter”  in hand painted Christmas glasses that my Mom sent to us.

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Beautiful Christmas glasses…cheers, Mom!

We are looking forward to the new year.  This is probably the only time in life where instead of saying, “Hindsight is 20/20”  we can say “The future is 2020!” Ha ha! We have been invited to a friends for a Rocky Mountain Oyster party, so that will be a first for us. Other than that, we will probably be in bed by 9pm and up early for New Year’s Day.  Wild times on the Holler!

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Heifers at happy hour.

We hope everyone out there had a Merry Christmas and that we see some of y’all in 2020.  Stay warm and take care out there in the real world!

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Lucky says, “Happy New Year!”

 

Frosty Fun Times

14 December 2019 – Cloudy and 23

We got another coating of icing on all of the trees last night, but there isn’t very much snow on the ground and I think we will be just fine without a white Christmas!

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Ice-covered Holler

Holler activity has slowed way down in December, mostly because the days are so short.  The sun isn’t rising until 7:20 and it is already dark around 4:15.  Only one more week and the days will start to get longer again.  Time is really flying.

Meanwhile, we have been staying occupied moving corral panels.  After we had the cold storm at the end of November, we moved the corral panels back into the barnyard and set up the alleyway into the squeeze chute so we could run cows through there.  We had an appointment for the veterinarian to come out to preg-check our older cows, and to inoculate the whole herd.  Also, everybody got poured with dewormer.  Well not Dave or me, but all the cows.

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Setting up the corral
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Getting the girls lined up and ready to go

This was the first real trial for our corral and squeeze chute set up and it went splendidly.  The vets even said they thought it worked great and gave a few minor suggestions on narrowing the alley way, but overall they felt this was a very functional facility.  We are so grateful for the vet clinic we have here, and especially that they do ranch-calls. I think they had fun, too, because we have such a small operation and our cows are so docile.  We don’t use a prod to push them through the alley, instead we just wave cake in front of them and they walk right into the chute!

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Fatz getting her BANGS shot

This was my first time running the headgate on the squeeze chute.  The first calf that came through was Lucky, and I was ready….well, I thought I was.  I saw her walking into the chute and right when her nose came through the catch I pulled down on the lever as fast and hard as I could to operate the headgate.  I looked up and saw her bounding off into the corral.  I completely missed.  It reminded me of that feeling of when you try to hit a baseball and you swing as hard and fast as you can, expecting a home run, and all you get is WHIFFFFF.  The vets and Dave looked at me, not so much with disappointment, but something more like, “This is going to be a long day if she’s this bad.” The vet said, “Every time you miss one you have to buy a case of beer!”  I guess she really knows how to motivate people!

We chased Lucky back into the alleyway and once more she came ambling into the squeeze chute and I pulled the lever and BAM!  Caught her!  I didn’t miss another cow or calf.  (Don’t get too excited, there are only nine of them.)  The vet said I get the “Most Improved”  Award. I just didn’t want to give away all the beer.

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Preg Checking – make sure you don’t wear anything nice!
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An ultrasound of a calf

We were disappointed to learn that one of our cows, Valentine, is open this year.  It is impossible to tell if the bull just didn’t like her or if she had been pregnant and aborted for some other reason.  Dave and I thought she may have been open and in heat because one evening while we fed, all the cows came for dinner as is their routine.  Then, Valentine took off running to the west toward another ranch that has cows and a bull in its pasture.  This was very strange behavior.  Eventually, she came back to eat a little hay, and then she took off running in the same direction again.  It was just beginning to get dark and there was really no way she could go anywhere, so we finished our chores and left it up to her to work out her issues.

Once we got inside the warm house, the phone rang and it was our new neighbor.  They are in the process of moving to the Rock Ridge Ranch at the end of our road, but were not staying there at the time.  They did, however, have a video security camera installed that they could monitor from a different location.  The lady called to say, “I have an alarm going off at my house and when I looked at my camera, there was a wide-eyed white face cow looking in the window!”  Dave and I knew it was Valentine and said we would get her, although we weren’t quite sure how she would have gotten through the fence onto the neighbors’ property.  We put on our 400 layers of clothing and headed back out into the cold to find her.  Once she heard the diesel engine of the Mule, she came running down the road towards us and the rest of the herd.

Dave and I continued to the neighbors property and found a wooden post that had been knocked down and about a 3 foot gap in the fence where Valentine had squeezed through. We were pretty sure Valentine didn’t knock the pole down, but it was amazing that she found the one spot in the long fence to run through, and then come back through when she heard the Mule.  Anyway, we wired up the fence and called the neighbor to let them know there were no more creeping, peeping cows in their yard.

This strange behavior must have been indicative of Valentine being in heat, so we weren’t completely surprised when the vet said she was open. We are disappointed.  We decided to downsize our herd this year to ensure we wouldn’t have to buy extra hay, and were expecting 5 calves in the spring. One open cow is a 20% loss so that kind of stinks.  Still, we will give Valentine one more chance to get pregnant next year since she is such a nice girl and she had a beautiful baby this past April.  Maybe someone should have a talk with her and let her know that even bulls can detect desperateness and it is NOT attractive.

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Valentine after her crazy shenanigans looking for the bull.  It seems she thought she could use a mud-mask to improve her situation.  

After the vet visit, Dave and I moved all the panels back to the configuration where the girls can hide from the weather in the barn stall.  It has been pretty nice since then, and they haven’t even poked in there, which is also okay.  That means just less poop shoveling for us!

Dave has been busy manufacturing some cutting boards.  Last year he sent his mom a beautiful American Flag board, and both of his sisters liked it so much that he made them each one this year.  His goal was to get them out before Christmas.

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A beautiful hard-wood cutting board!

 

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A cutting board for law-enforcement family member….American flag with the thin blue line

Simple chores and feeding occupy our days now, but we are always planning and trying to improve our operation.  We know it won’t be long until we are spring planting, calving, and getting ready for haying again.  We are enjoying this mild December and getting ready for Christmas. This afternoon we have stew cooking on the wood stove and are getting ready to go out and bust ice in the water tanks again and do some afternoon feeding. The house is warm, the wood box is full, and the cows all seem fat and happy. We are really getting to appreciate some down time and the peacefulness of the season, and we are grateful for every single day.

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Decorations in the loft

Happy December, everyone!

 

The First and Last Day of November

30 November 2019 – 23 and sunny

I really dropped the ball for blogging this month.  Reading back, my last post was the first day of the month and here we are on the last. They look eerily similar!  We were suffering from the cold weather on the first  and this afternoon we are recovering from a “blizzard”.  I use the quotation marks because we were supposed to get up to 8 inches of snow and have 40mph winds, but really we got about 2 inches of snow and it was just a little breezy. As far as blizzards go, we’ll take it!

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Less snow than expected!

Despite what you may think, November was actually very mild.  Thus, the lack of blogging. We had many days in the upper 40s and a few in the 50s, lots of sunshine, and there was no reason to come inside and spend time on the computer.  Instead, Dave and I worked on some random projects around the ranch and tried to drink up every drop of sunshine we could.

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Cows grazing in November

We did resolve some issues this month.  The Horny Toad cow was hauled away by her owner and the Mayflowers were left to graze the northern pastures in peace.  Their demeanors really did seem to change after that crazy cow left and all seemed right with their world.  Meanwhile, the Brambleberry calves were as quiet as ever during weaning.  About two weeks ago, we opened up the gate and they reunited with the big cows.  The calves didn’t seem too concerned about re-meeting their mothers, except Andie, who tried to go right up to her Mom, Hunny.  Hunny wasn’t having it and gave Andie a few warning kicks. Andie decided that hay is better than milk since hay doesn’t involve a hoof to the face.

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The herd, reunited.

Here we are two weeks later and we have been watching closely and the calves seem to be successfully weaned so the moms are free to load up on calories for their next calves.  We will know for sure who is pregnant this week, as the vet is coming out to give the young calves some inoculations, pour everyone to prevent worms, and check the big girls to see if the bull did his job.

The past three days have been full of weather related anxiety.  On Wednesday, we woke up in a literal cloud.  The fog bank lingered until late Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t that cold but it was unusually humid for us and the east wind froze all of the moisture in the air on the east side of trees, the barbed wire, and  the cows!

The entire Holler was completely covered in ice and we were glad we weren’t traveling and that our families weren’t travelling for Thanksgiving.  We didn’t want to make a whole turkey for just Dave and I because we could never eat it all, so I bought a turkey breast  instead.  Dave pulled it out of the freezer to defrost it and said, “Did you mean to get a cajun turkey breast?”  I did not, but one consequence of refusing to wear reading glasses to the grocery store is that you often end up with the unexpected.  We had a great Thanksgiving, with the exception of that Cajun Turkey.  Sorry to any of you Creole-folk but who would add this flavor to their turkey? I understand a good cajun seasoning on shrimp and seafood, but this seems like a crime.  Even though we didn’t like the turkey breast, we concluded that every distasteful event can be reconciled with mashed potatoes and pecan pie.  Hooray for pie!

Speaking of turkeys, the wild ones that the Sheriff has been hunting seemed to all disappear the week of Thanksgiving.  Strangely, they showed back up in the corral today.  They must know Thanksgiving is over and we are sick of turkey. We are done with leftovers and having spaghetti tonight with a sauce made from tomatoes from this summer’s garden.

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Top shelf tomatoes for spaghetti sauce tonight!

On Black Friday, we scrambled to disassemble our corral and set up a giant stall inside the barn so the cows could have shelter from the oncoming blizzard. One day we will have more permanent structures in place so we won’t have to do this, but the ranch projects are all ongoing and the permanent stall build is definitely up there on the list.  Meanwhile, we worked all morning in anticipation of the “blizzard”.

We went to let all the cows into the corral area and as they walked past the open barn door, #112 who we call the “Dirty Dozen”  turned her head and looked inside the new stall.  It was as if a lightbulb came on in her head and she stopped and turned and stuck her head in the door.  Then she mooed over her shoulder as if to say, “Hey girls!  I mean, HAY girls!  Come check out the new digs!”  With that, she went into the big stall and all the other cows immediately followed her.  They all just hung around inside and decided that this was going to make a fantastic new bedroom.  It also was conveniently a fantastic new bathroom!

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Everyone line up for a picture.  

Dave and I were super happy that if they needed it, the cows could use the barn as shelter and that’s exactly what they did.  I went out after dark during the beginning of the snow and wind, and they were all inside enjoying their new hotel room.  We are calling it the Taj Ma Holler.

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The Sheriff keeping the cows in line.

We seemed to have survived the great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 2019 and while it is about to set, the sun is shining brightly and it is really beautiful outside. It seems quite appropriate that as we roll into December the Holler looks just like a Christmas Card.

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Home sweet home.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

Hey Winter, Ever Heard of Being Fashionably Late?

1 November 2019 – 31 and snowing, and sunny

I can hear some of you out there saying, “Well what did you expect when you moved to South Dakota?”  This is the answer to me talking (not crabbing or whining…yet) about the snow this early in the season.  I still am enjoying it, although snow this early makes everything a little more difficult.  It makes us wonder if we have enough wood in the shed, if we have enough hay for the cows, and if the bees have enough honey to make it until possibly mid-May.  It’s not like we have much choice in the matter so we will just plow forward and feed the cows when they need it and burn the wood when it’s cold.  The bees are another entity, and if it looks like spring will be delayed, I may start feeding them some sugar in late February.

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Heifers wanting some breakfast

In between snow we have had a few decent days. Dave did some amazing work on the head gate. This is going to be really useful when we have the vet out to give shots or if we need to do any minor medical treatment to any of our girls.

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BEFORE
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AFTER…..Nice job, Dave!

We took our remaining older cows to market.  It was hard seeing Marzee, Boohaa, and Domino go, but it had to be done.  Dave took this picture of them after off-loading at the market and he said to one of the Cowhand girls working there, “It’s normal for people to take pictures of their cows, right?”  She laughed at him and said sarcastically,  “Oh, yeah, perfectly normal.”

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Ugh.  Bye girls.  You are very good cows.

We moved our original cows and Hunny into the northern pasture to keep them away from their weaning babies in the Maternity Ward.  We call this older group of cows “The Mayflowers”  since they were all born in May of 2017.

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Cherry Bomb and Triple Sticks at the lick on the north

There was quite a bit of nice green grass still in this pasture when we put them out and the girls have settled in nicely.  We have been feeding them when there is snow on the ground, and we had some really cold October temperatures this week (negative 4 one morning) so we had to bust ice several times a day.

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Big chunks of ice, too big for October! Looks more like February.
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Rancher Dave getting the spud to bust the ice

This pasture is across the road from a neighbor’s pasture, who is leasing her land to another local rancher and his cows were super curious when we put the Mayflowers in across from them.  He has one cow that is very “rangey” or wild, in our opinion.  We call her Horny-Toad because she has big horns and she jumps fences. She also spooks very easily whenever we’re around and runs away from us bucking and kicking.  Sometimes she charges a little, but if we just stand our ground she runs away again.  She looks like the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull and she always jumps the fence whenever we are moving our cows.

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Anyone remember this old commercial?

This time was no exception.  When we put the Mayflowers in the northern pasture it took about three seconds for Horny Toad to jump out of her pasture and jump the fence into ours.  She immediately began picking a fight with our cows.  Our cows are really docile and kept running away from her. They looked at us as if to say, “Who is this lunatic in our house?”  They need to buck-up and push back at her, but they won’t.  I am actually quite happy they are the pacifists they are because Horny Toad could really hurt one of them with her horns.

Dave and I tried to push her back out several times, but she just keeps jumping the fence and coming back.  After it snowed, we called the rancher and asked him to get her out because we are already feeding early and we don’t need to feed his cow, too.  He obliged and came by the next day, and moved her back to her pasture where he put out additional hay and she stayed for two more days.  Then, this morning, she was back out on our North pasture, although separated by cross fence from our girls for now.  The rancher said he would come get her and take her away this weekend so we all (Dave, Me, Hunny, Trips, Dozen, Cherry Bomb, and Valentine) are  hoping she goes back to her place!

The four heifers in the corral are fattening up and still not mooing for their mamas.  We call this group of heifers the Brambleberries because they were all born in April and that’s what blooms in April.

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Rancher Dave feeding the Brambleberries

One snowy morning, The Sheriff and I went to check on the Brambleberries and when I walked around the barn I didn’t quite recognize what I saw in the corral.  I originally thought I saw some giant peacocks, but quickly realized that it was a rafter of turkeys.  (I had to look that up but that’s what you call a group of turkeys!) There were so many turkeys, it looked like the audition line for a Chantix commercial.

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Chantix Turkey

I could not believe the size of these birds, some seemed four feet tall.  As I was trying to wrap my brain around what sort of giant critters  were in the corral, the Sheriff immediately realized that these were not our heifers and he shot into action.  He dived under a corral panel and created his very own turkey tornado.  There must have been 30 or so birds and their giant, pterodactyl size wings blocked out the sun as they took flight behind the barn.  In the distance, I saw four black heifer behinds running up and over the hill to the other end of the pasture, frightened by the uproar. Still, not a single Moo.  Never a dull moment here on the Holler.

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Hey Turkeys…..look at my teeth!

Since then, the Sheriff has shown a  little more restraint around the turkeys.  It seems the turkeys always show up after we feed the cows and do the clean up of whatever hay is left.  Now, when we see them, the Sheriff goes into an immediate pointing position, ears up and tail held high in question mark position.  I say, “Joe, see the turkeys?”  I can feel the adrenaline emanating off of the poor dog.  Then I say “Get ‘em!”  And he is gone.  Instead of creating a tornado now, he goes into missile lock on whichever poor turkey catches his eye.  He chases the particular bird around and around, even after it takes flight. (Joey doesn’t actually take flight, but he goes into surface to air missile tracking.)  I think the Sheriff is dreaming of Thanksgiving.

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Sheriff Joe on alert for turkeys.

So that’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone out there in the real world has a great November.

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A coyote (right of the top of the tree) running in the snow

 

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