Oh yeah, that’s right, the thermometer says 55! It is a warm, soupy, muddy mess out there but we are loving the warmer temperatures. The forecast, however, is not quite so warm and friendly. It looks like snow again tomorrow and back to the big ZERO degrees by Friday. It is early January here in the Dakotas, so it is more than expected. Still, we are loving the warmth today.
Melting snow from the porch
Muddy drive and side yard
Muddy and stinky cattle yard
We aren’t the only ones. The cows have found some grassy spots between the melting patches of snow and are preceding to eat all day. I guess their New Year’s Resolutions didn’t take either.
Cows grazing in the melted areas
Waiting to be let out to feed
Walking toward the feeder
I was super excited to see some actual living bees yesterday! It has been quite some time since I saw any of the girls flying around. I have noticed piles of dead bees in the snow, but from all I read this is to be expected in deep winter. Bees are pretty hygienic and they don’t like dead bodies in their house, so when it warms up they toss them out. The bee corpses are easily spotted in the snow, and for a novice like myself, it is quite disconcerting. So again, I was actually jumping for joy when I saw quite a few live bees hanging outside the hive yesterday! I really hope they make it through the winter.
In other news, we added two more heifers and two bred cows to our herd.
Nothing really changes for them; we are still working in conjunction with Cowboy Dave and Linda over at the High Lonesome Ranch, and the herd will stay together. But we are excited to see what we can make happen over the next few years with our ranch. The big project this year will be barn-building and corral building so eventually we can have our own facilities for cattle.
I am finishing this post on the 10th of January in the early afternoon. Tractor Dave and I swapped out the bucket on the tractor for the snow plow to be ready for the next round of winter. We hold some sort of superstitious belief that if we have the tractor set up to plow snow, we probably won’t need it.
Tractor Dave driving to hook up the snow plow
The hook- up process
Bring on the Snow!!!
We have both retreated inside because it is starting to snow.
Beautiful fluffy snow on the tree in the front yard
Gate down the driveway
It has been a bitterly cold week on the Holler, and thanks to all the work we did cutting and splitting firewood, we are warm and toasty in the house. Chores remain on the schedule and Pilot Dave and I have decided that feeding and busting water and scooping manure are not a big deal until the temperatures dive below zero. That zero-degree mark is the distinct difference between being able to stay warm in 20 layers of clothing, and losing all feelings in your face. But the cows gotta eat, and really, how many facial expressions do you need for mucking stalls? The bovines are all covered in snow and frost, but they don’t really seem to mind the cold weather.
Dave doing chores on Christmas in his Santa Hat
Me and my glamorous chore outfit
The cold temperatures make everything a little more difficult. Dave has been trying to run Babe, the tractor, every day whether he is plowing the road or not, just to keep the fluids moving and keep things warm. Thank goodness and knock on wood, Babe has started every time. A few days ago, shortly after starting, Babe just quit due to the cold temps and gelled diesel in the fuel lines. We had an emergency intervention and poured in some diesel additive. Then Dave plugged in a space heater and covered the fuel pump and filter side with a blanket held with a clamp. Simultaneously, he also plugged in the block heater.
Space heater under Babe
Warm up cave built to get the diesel un-gelled
Don’t forget we are a solar powered house, and while we are experiencing just under 9 hours of daylight now, we have had some really cloudy and non-solar friendly days. So, to compensate for the power required for the space heater and block heater we ran our propane generator. We remain solutions oriented. After about two hours, Babe started up and continued to run. Pilot Dave (or Tractor Dave) proceeded to plow the driveway, Stagecoach Springs, the neighbors’ driveways etc. He is really happy to have an enclosed cab on that tractor! This is NOT convertible weather.
Since we have a snow on the ground and the winds have died down, we set out one day this week to burn some of our slash piles. The day we did this, it was 20 degrees, which felt like heaven! The piles were dry and it didn’t take long to get them going. They sounded like a jet engine when they took off and flames were shooting into the sky. It was so warm next to the burning piles, we had to back up quite a bit to cool off.
Lightin’ the fire
Burnin it up
Shooting rocket flames on the Holler
After they burned to the ground, we scraped any fuels away from the bottom of the piles and covered them with snow. That evening, an eerie fog descended upon the Holler and from the southern windows of the house, we could barely see trees, fence, or anything. BUT we did see a flame in the area of one of our piles. We kept watching and then we saw what looked like two flames! Now that we are completely fire paranoid, we suited up in our 20 layers of clothes and carefully drove through the dense fog in the mule to see if our pile was still burning. It was, but it was clearly not going anywhere. It was just one little hot spot surrounded by snow. The fog has a strange way of distorting light over distances and the flame was about the size of a small candle. Just to be safe, we buried that sucker in more snow. By the time we got back to the house, it had started snowing again and we finally relaxed about our burn piles. Never a dull moment around here!
And so, 2017 ends on a frigidly cold note, but the sun is coming out now and we are expecting to make it all the way to minus one degree today.
Dave can’t believe the sun is out!
Beautiful sun on the Holler
The good news is tomorrow’s temps will be in the teens and then 30’s for the rest of the week. We will likely be wearing shorts and flip-flops. For New Year’s Eve, we will likely be in bed at 9PM, but celebrate our annual New Year Tradition of watching the sun come up on the 1st. Happy New Year, everyone!
23 December 2017 – Cloudy and a high of 10°…Brrrrrr
Winter is here! We have about four inches of snow on the ground and it is frickin’ freezin’ out there. It looks like we are not going to get any warmer than the low 20’s for the next 10 days. At least there is only one night in the forecast where we are supposed to dip below zero, but we’ll see.
We have been busy with chores and have branched out of our hermit-crabiness and attended some Christmas activities and parties. Typically, the days are as follows. The routine has been to get up and have coffee and breakfast and wait, and wait, and wait for the sun to come up (around 7:18AM). Once that happens we put on 10 to 20 layers of clothing and head outside to scrape snow off the solar panels. Next, we shovel a place in the chicken run so the chickens can walk outside and we pour hot water onto their frozen water dish. Sometimes, I make them warm oatmeal for breakfast. (Don’t judge me, we usually have fresh eggs for breakfast so I’m just returning the favor.) Next, while Dave warms up the Mule I go and scoop the snow off the front of the beehive so if the little buzzers ever decide to come out their entrance/exit is not blocked. (I tried to get a picture of this, but my phone literally froze and would not work!)
Once the Mule is warmed up we kick it into four-wheel drive and go over to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s to feed the cows. They eat about 20lbs of hay per cow per day, so that is 280lbs for all fourteen. That means four bales in the morning and three bales in the late afternoon. We believe all the cows are pregnant and they eat every last scrap of hay we put out for them. They also don’t seem to have any sentimentality for their heifer offspring, and often we have to try to split them off to ensure the young girls can get some food and not get run over by the big fat cows. We also try to avoid getting run over by the big fat cows; they seem to be always very hungry and once they hear the Mule engine they come running as fast as they can. It can be pretty exciting seeing a 1600-lb big, snorting, wooly mammoth made of beef charging at you in the snow while you are holding her breakfast.
After feeding, we head to the barn and load up the evening hay rations, break the ice in the water tanks, and scoop out any poop in the loafing shed and barn corral. One good thing about the bitter cold weather is that it makes scooping poop a lot easier than when it is hot….ewwwww. We repeat the whole routine in the evening. I may have mentioned we are doing winter chores in exchange for two heifers. It is really not that much work, but all of these things need to be accomplished daily.
Dave and I are really enjoying the farm life. It is always fun to check up on the animals and get some fresh outdoor air first thing in the morning. It’s also nice to come into a warm house in the evening after making sure everyone is fed, cooped up, and ready for the cold nights. Then we generally have something for supper that has been cooking on the wood stove all day. Tonight, we are having baked potatoes that I put on the stove in a Dutch Oven with a little water in the bottom. We are topping the taters with left-over chili that was also cooked on the stovetop. Don’t worry, Moms, we are having a big salad too, so we are getting our veggies. Don’t worry pilots, we are also having some wine with dinner. It is Saturday night, after all. Wild times on the Holler.
While we are enjoying the work, winter makes everything a little more difficult. We worry a lot about the chickens being warm enough, but they are winter-hardy breeds so we hope they will be okay. We also have been burning through quite a bit of wood in the stove, which means about once a week we are filling up the wood box on the porch. Yesterday, the Mule was full of wood we needed to unload into the box, so Dave parked it in front of the porch thinking we would unload it prior to going out for evening chores. Well, the sun came out just long enough to heat the roof of the house and a giant avalanche of snow slid off right onto the back of the Mule.
Dave looks on at the avalanche covered wood in disgust
Get the shovels, we need wood in the house!
We had to dig the wood out from under the snow drift. It reminded us of last year when we didn’t have a wood shed and we had to keep wood under a tarp which was constantly covered with snow as well.
Dave has also been spending the days plowing the snow off of Stagecoach Springs. The neighbors seem pretty happy we moved here! Again, no pictures due to frozen phone.
The Fire Department radio has quieted down a bit, (knock on wood), and the state fire fighters finally got the fire out in the State Park. We drove through there a few days ago and it actually doesn’t look too bad. It is obvious there was a fire but a lot of it seems to have burnt out the grass and underbrush and most of the trees look like they are in pretty good shape. God Bless the Fire Fighters!
We are looking forward to a quiet Christmas. Cowboy and Linda asked us to come for Christmas dinner, but other than that, it will be another typical winter day. It is supposed to be extremely cold on the 25th and even if we don’t get any more snow, we foresee a white Christmas. I think we might go sledding!
So that’s the update from the Holler. Dave and I want to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas. Cheers!
We are so happy to be inside a warm house this December, enjoying the fire burning in the wood stove and watching it snow outside. It sure beats camper living in the winter. We are truly grateful for the snow. We most definitely need the moisture!
Since I last wrote, Dave and I joined the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department. We haven’t been trained on anything yet, and have been completing the required federal wild land fire fighter training on the internet. We also got issued some gear and a radio so we can hear what is going on emergency-wise in the local area. Although we are not qualified to do any actual fire fighting, we can go to the station and help get the trucks out the door or refuel them when they come back etc.
Well, that radio they issued us has been going off non-stop since 3AM Monday morning.
We have had some extremely windy days here in the Black Hills, gusts up to 60kts in Rapid City and in the high 40’s up here in the mountains. Add the high winds to the extremely dry grass and trees and you have a recipe for disaster. On Monday morning, 3AM, a tree blew down into a power line and started a fire north of the city of Custer. We got up and went to the station and basically held open doors and offered support to the fire fighters that went to put out the fire. That fire only burned about 12 acres and the crews returned to the station around 7PM that evening.
In addition to the fire north of Custer, on the same day, another tree fell on a power line in Custer State Park and that fire grew rapidly to about 3000 acres by Tuesday. By Tuesday night, the gusty winds caused that fire to really blow up and the local authorities called for “All hands on deck” for firefighting in the park. The Argyle Fire Department isn’t that big and they needed to have at least 2 people in every truck. Since most of their assets had deployed the day before to Custer, they asked Dave to ride along for training and to be body #2 in one of the trucks. He got his first fire fighting exposure to what quickly grew to be the third largest wild fire in the history of the Black Hills…..57,000 + acres!
View of the fire from the top of Stagecoach Springs Rd
Inside the park
Another view in the park
Firefighters gettin’ it done
Fortunately, Dave rode along in the water Tender truck, and was used primarily to refill other brush trucks. He did say it was quite exciting at times being in the middle of a forest fire in the dark! I took Dave to the station at 7PM Tuesday night and I picked him up on Wednesday morning at 10AM.
By Wednesday morning, the authorities had called in fire fighting assets from all over the state, Colorado, and Nebraska. The winds raged on the fire continued to grow and spread beyond the park. They evacuated two small towns on the east side of the park, but fortunately they were able to protect all the structures so far. It is now Saturday and they are saying the fire is 80% contained. We are so happy it is snowing and hope that it will really help those firefighters that are still on scene. God Bless those guys!
Since Dave was out partying all night at the wild fire, I rode with Cowboy Dave on Wednesday to take our heifers and one of his heifers to the vet in Edgemont.
Our girls needed a 7-way booster shot and to be poured to protect against worms and flies. Cowboy’s heifer needed a shot and he wanted to get her pregnancy checked since she was pretty young and had been exposed to a bull late in the summer. Fortunately, she was not pregnant so he doesn’t have to worry about a young, small cow having a baby that is too big for her.
Our trip was uneventful. Our heifers, which we refer to as The Mayflowers (all born in May) are so tame. Normally you would have to round up cows and push them into the trailer, but these girls are so spoiled and used to eating cake they just came running when I called them and hopped right in the trailer. They are very food motivated.
Cowboy and I were discussing how economical the vet is for large animals. He looked at his bill and said, “Would you put your arm up a cow’s behind for $3.85?” That is apparently the going rate for a preg-check. I said I would charge at least five bucks, plus tip. Ha ha.
Meanwhile, Pilot Dave got caught up on some well-deserved sleep and then went right back to work.
Scraping the bark
Letting it dry
A place to take off your boots!
This is our new bench for the mud room. I love it!
We also cut down a tree for our Christmas this year. We picked one that will need to be removed anyway when we put in a barn this spring.
It kinda looks more like a Christmas Shrub, but Fa La La anyway.
And that’s about it from the Holler. It’s about time to go scrape the snow off the solar panels and fill up the wood box. We hope all of you readers are doing well and having a happy December. Stay safe out there and thank a firefighter if you see one!
It had been a full month since the Mayflowers (the 5 calves from this spring) had been corralled to wean them from their mothers. Cowboy Dave said a month should be plenty to ensure nobody tries to go back to milking off of their mother, so we decided to release the calves out into the pasture where the moms have been grazing for the last month.
Cowboy brought down three bales of hay to the pasture and some cake. The 9 cows were all grazing up the road in the northern fields, and he put the hay in the south field at the end of his driveway. That way the calves could just go down the driveway, and the moms could just come down the road and they could have a big hay social right south of our house.
Pilot Dave and I spread the hay around the intended pasture, and took our mule back up to Cowboy’s corral. Linda and our friend Matt were waiting there, and we said we were ready so they opened the gates to release the calves.
The calves were so excited, they took off running, bucking, and kicking. It has been a month since they have been free on pasture land and I think they forgot how to run. Plus, they have all put on quite a bit of weight and are bigger than they realize. One of them was running so fast she lost her balance and fell over as if sliding into homeplate. No matter, she recovered quickly and all the calves ran down the drive to the new pasture.
Meanwhile, the mother cows heard the commotion and came running down the road to meet them. We were all quite happy to see that after an initial greeting, everyone went for the hors d’oeuvres (hay and cake). Not one calf tried to go back to milking off its mother, and the moms seemed to really not be that interested in their babies anymore.
Calves released to pasture
Reunion of moms and babies
Dairy Queen on the left and Dirty Dozen on the right
Social hour at the Holler
It only took a few minutes, however, for the calves to find their new and favorite guardian: Pilot Dave. They went up to him to get their heads scratched. They are so spoiled.
The reunion was successful and uneventful in everyone’s eyes, and now we are quite happy to see the whole herd back together grazing every morning out on the Holler.
Thanksgiving was really nice, too. We just had dinner here, but unlike last year, we had walls and it was not 40 degrees inside!
After the holiday, it was back to more farm work. Pilot Dave is trying to fix an old disk that he found in the junk yard and use it to pull behind the tractor. He rigged some weights on it and it was heavy enough to disk up the area we plan to plant oats or alfalfa in the spring.
Fortunately, Rocket Man returned the tractor so Dave could get to work!
The weather has been really warm, with record highs set on Thanksgiving Day. The chickens were enjoying the sunshine and decided to dig an enormous hole and take a dirt bath.
Lovey and MaryAnn taking a dirt bath
Islanders digging the sand
Smithy enjoying the sunshine
About five minutes after taking this picture, I was in the basement doing some laundry and I heard a loud thud. I looked out the back door and saw nothing but feathers and I thought, “Oh NO! Not again!” But I opened the door and saw Arrow, Cowboy and Linda’s dog, standing there looking at me and looking very guilty. I said, “Arrow! What did you do?” And she came over to me like the good girl that she is. I grabbed her collar and I heard Cowboy Dave on his mule coming up the driveway so I told her, “Arrow, go kennel up!” She knew she was in trouble so she ran to Cowboy’s mule and jumped in the back.
I set about looking for the chickens. The two islanders and Smithy were hiding under the porch but I couldn’t find Farrah Fawcett. I finally came upon her hiding under the propane tank and I had to drag her by her tail out from under there. She had obviously been mistaken for a squeaky toy by Arrow, her feathers were slimy and drooled on and very disheveled. BUT she did not have any blood or puncture wounds. I pulled on her wings and looked at her feet and eyes and she was just messy, but nothing was injured as far as I could tell. Poor little Farrah Fawcett! Terrified little chicken!
I let Cowboy know that everyone was okay and not to get too mad at Arrow. She didn’t kill anyone and she was just doing what dogs do, but I know she was in trouble for running over here by herself, which she is not allowed to do and has never done before today. Maybe the wind was right and it smelled just like KFC….irresistible!
November is coming to a close, and it has definitely been an exciting one around here. Let’s hope for a less eventful December. Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone!
We have had a busy week on the Holler.We are trying to get to a point where we don’t have to buy any hay for cattle next year.Like all things in the country, nothing happens instantly, so we are planning ahead.Dave called around and reached the Warne Chemical company in Rapid City.He asked their experts for recommendations for fertilizing our property so we can maximize hay production next year. They recommended we put down some nitrogen fertilizer and they said now is the perfect time.Apparently, the colder temperatures help the fertilizer take better to the ground and the moisture throughout the winter (SNOW) will really work the good stuff into the soil.
We took a road trip to Rapid and loaded up 20 bags of the stuff, ten for us and ten for Cowboy Dave.Yesterday, we put the broadcaster on the back of Cowboy’s tractor and proceeded to spread the fertilizer over the areas we are planning to hay next year.
It was a cold day but the snow held off until the guys were done.
20 November 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 50’s
As I was writing the “Sweet November” 18 November post, Pilot Dave was outside shooting a batch of ammo that he had reloaded.I had the radio on and I couldn’t hear him, but then I heard the basement door open and he was yelling, “Call 911!Help!Fire!!”
I grabbed the phone and tried to get my boots on and grab some buckets.I looked out the window and I couldn’t see any fire, but I called 911 as I was running out the door and I could see the smoke and flames on the north side of our stock dam.The wind was blowing big time and by the time I got off the phone, the fire had spread up through the trees and over the hill.
Dave was trying to stamp out the flames closest to our structures with a shovel and with his feet.Everything was too far away from the house to hook up a hose but I grabbed the hoses in case the wind shifted towards us.The fire was travelling rapidly through the grass to the east and there literally was nothing we could do but watch it and wait for the fire department.
It was the most sickening, horrific feeling watching the flames spread up through the field onto our neighbor Sheri’s property.She showed up about five minutes later and I told her the fire department was on the way.She left to open the gate on her southern property in case the fire spread in that direction and her cows needed to get out. Meanwhile, Dave and I were running around trying to stamp out what we could.
The local phone/internet company just happened to be on our road putting in high speed internet wire and they had a DitchWitch accompanied by a large water truck.They brought the water truck over and began dousing the flames, but it was way beyond their containment ability at this point.
The Sheriff showed up and about ten minutes later we had four fire engines driving across the stock dam and cutting the barbed wire between our property and Sheri’s to chase the flames off to the east.It was such a relief to see the fire trucks and they contained the fire in no time, but remained on site for about 4.5 hours to ensure total suppression.
The fire trucks came from three local volunteer fire departments, Pringle, Argyle, and Custer.There were also some state resources on site although in the chaos I didn’t really talk to any of them.The volunteers were absolutely great.One of them said when he heard the call on the radio, he initially thought, “Some idiot is out burning slash piles.”But when he heard it was from target shooting he said, “I’m completely cool with that.Accidents happen.”The Sheriff talked to Dave to get information for his police report, and Dave asked if he was going to get a ticket.The Sheriff said he couldn’t ticket him for an accident. We love that South Dakotans are so cool about guns.
Around 7PM the last fire truck rolled away and Dave and I went inside to warm up.We were both exhausted from running around like crazy trying to contain the fire.We were both also experiencing a huge adrenaline crash.Still, we rallied and after eating something, we took the mule out in the dark and strung cargo straps across the cut barbed wire to keep the cows separated.Then we drove through the burnt area to make sure there weren’t any smoldering embers that might catch overnight.
We spent a restless night; each of us unable to completely relax and getting up multiple times to look out to see if there was any smoke or flames.Fortunately, the temperatures fell into the low 20s and everything frosted over.In the morning, we did our chores for the calves and then we fixed the barbed wire fence by splicing and stretching the original wires.We checked out the burned area and everything smelled burnt but there was no more smoke or fire.
The initial assessment was 10 acres, but the revised assessment was 17 acres.
Most of the burn area is on Sheri’s property, and we had her over and said we would buy hay to make up for the pasture that burned or whatever she needed.She said, “Don’t be ridiculous, that grass is going to be so green this spring.”And she was so understanding and nice about the whole event.Again, we love South Dakotans.
The Argyle Volunteer Fire Department has been out here for the last two days, and will come one more time to ensure the fire is really done.They were so helpful and nice to us, and we are obviously grateful to all the firefighters (and the Internet guys) that put out the flames.Ironically, Dave and I had discussed going to the Volunteer Fire Dept. meeting last month but it was a snowy, cold night and we said, “We’ll catch the next one.”Well, you can bet we will be going to the next meeting on 30 November and joining in the department too!
Now we’re heading into Thanksgiving week.We are having Cowboy and Linda over for an early dinner and hope to watch some football.We were talking about doing some shooting that afternoon, but I don’t think that is on the agenda for a little while.Meanwhile, we have a whole bunch to be thankful for this year, especially the fact that no one got hurt, no structures were damaged, and we didn’t take out the Black Hills National Forest.
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone, and keep the fire extinguishers handy!
12 November 17 – Sunny and highs in the upper 40’s
We seemed to have made it through the cloudy days and the sun is shining again on the Holler.
The snow has mostly melted and while we are still breaking ice off of the water tanks in the mornings, the chores have become a muddy, poopy mess.
All the animals seem to be enjoying the warm-up, though.The cows are back to grazing and we have cut back on the supplemental hay as there is plenty of grass left for them to get.The calfies are still eating creep and should be reunited with the rest of the herd in the next 10 days or so.Since they are getting old enough, Dave and I decided to take them out for shots, I mean their six month vaccinations!
First we hooked up the truck to the trailer.Then we corralled the calves and put a little gentle pressure on them to load up.They were so sweet and easy going, and they got in the trailer in no time.
Loading up in the trailer
Is this where you want us to go?
All 5 present and accounted for.
Loaded and ready to go
We wanted to be sure the mother cows would not chase us up the road and across the cattle guard, so Cowboy Dave and Linda lured the rest of the herd away from the road with cow cake.Those cows are definitely in love with cow cake and one shake of the bucket brought them all stampeding across the pasture and down over a hill where they couldn’t see or hear the trailer loaded up with their babies.
Linda luring the moms away from the road
A cow running next to the mule
Oh, Cake! What babies?
Then, when the moms were not looking, we drove up the road with their babies and snuck out for the trip to the vet.The babies barely even mooed in the trailer; I think they were scared.
Dave and I made it to Edgemont without incident.We unloaded the calves in the vet’s corral and we had to push them one by one into the shoot where they received their vaccines. Most of the girls were easy to move around, but the last two heifers refused to go through the shoot.The vet had to get out the “hot stick” and give them a little electric buzz to get them moving.
The state of South Dakota and most states require cattle to be inoculated with a “BANGS” vaccine.This is to prevent brucellosis which is a super contagious and deadly disease.They administer it to young calves not less than 2 months because their immune system is not ready for it until that time.
We were quite amazed that everyone was vaccinated and reloaded onto the trailer in about 45 minutes.Even more amazing is that it only cost $34 for five heifers.Cows are definitely cheaper than dogs when it comes to vet visits!
We drove back home and unloaded the calves back into the corral.Then we grabbed the hose and spent more time hosing out all the poo from the trailer than it took to even go to the vet.The calves were exhausted from their big adventure and one even decided to lay down to eat.
The rest were rewarded with some creep and they were hungry!
And that was an exciting Friday here in the Southern Black Hills.
On Saturday, after morning chores, our friend Matt came out to do some welding work on the tractor implements.These rings were added to the snow plow and grapple to keep the hydraulic hoses from getting squished during operation.
While the guys were working on the tractor, the nosey bovines decided they would have to come hang out and see what was going on.
Pilot Dave and I then took the rest of the afternoon off and went to Hill City to celebrate Veterans’ Day.We had a flight of beer at the Miner Brewing Company, and we brought home a growler of their seasonal spiced ale called “Light Weight Sweater.”Personally, I don’t think the name is too compelling, but the beer is really good!
Then we went to the Hill City Diner for a late lunch. Due to the time change, it is getting dark around 4:30 so late lunch turned into early dinner.Dang daylight standard time!It has me falling asleep around 8PM and this morning I am writing this at 4:30 AM!
Anyway, we are really grateful that our trip to the vet with a trailer load of heifers was successful.We are also really grateful to live in the United States……God Bless all the veterans and their families.
November hasn’t been a whole lot of fun on the Holler so far.For the first time since we have been operating off of solar power (over 14 months) we have had five consistently cloudy days.While we still have power, we are worried about the drain on the system’s batteries.
Quick Simple Explanation:The solar panels take in energy from the sun and charge the battery bank.The batteries provide power for all the needs of the homestead, but once they charge to 100% the sun provides the power directly.This allows for us to have electricity at night provided by the charged batteries. As advertised, the batteries can last for 48 hours with 100% charge and no sun. The batteries are intended to last 7-10 years and are by far the most expensive part of the solar power system.The best way to decrease the battery life is to run the charge down to a low percentage.
Additionally, we have a propane powered generator that should charge the batteries in the case of low sun days. Needless to say, we have been running the generator quite a bit the last few days.
I am definitely oversimplifying the system, but the gist of the situation is that while we have been quite literally living in a fog, the batteries have been providing the majority of our power.Plus, an icy snow left a white sheet of ice on the panels preventing us from sweeping them clear and allowing the little bit of sun available to charge up the batteries.
We are kicking ourselves a bit because we have been so cocky about how great the solar power is.Well, it has been great except for about 5 days!And we aren’t living without power. We also have heat from the wood stove and use propane for cooking and the water heater.We are just being ultra-conservative while we wait and wait for the sun to come back out!So enough complaining, these are minor problems and I think I see the sun trying to peek through the clouds.
Sadly, we also lost another chicken this week.We were at home, getting dressed and ready to head out the door when Dave looked out the window and saw a golden eagle swoop down onto Ginger, one of our favorite girls and our most prolific egg layer.Dave ran out and the eagle flew away, but she was already dead.Fortunately, it happened very quickly and we doubt she even knew what happened.As a result, we have been debating keeping the remaining four chickens cooped up again, but they are so used to free ranging it seems cruel to keep them in the run. We also think they may try to kill each other if confined since they are used to more space.The continual question:Is it better to be free and happy or contained and secure? We are discussing an expanded chicken run, but right now the ground is frozen and will make post driving nearly impossible. Ugh, poor Ginger!
On a positive note, we are really enjoying our winter chores.Every morning, we get up and let the chickens out of the coop, break the ice off of their waterer and fill up their feed.We check the beehive and make sure there is some thawed water on hand for them as well.Then we head out to feed several bales of hay to the cows. The cows can hardly wait for breakfast, especially since there is snow cover on the ground now. Right about the time we are getting ready to feed them, they come out of the woods and head toward the house and start mooing. “BREAKFAST!!!!! Get out here people!”
Then we start up the Mule and they get crazy because they know it is the hay wagon.They act like a bunch of little kids when they hear the ice cream truck coming down the street! They chase us up to the water tank where we distribute the hay and some cake as quickly as we can so we don’t get mauled. Lately we have also had to break ice up on the tank so they can get a drink.
The calves are still separated from the cows, so we head over the High Lonesome Ranch to muck the stall and feed the babies and fill up their water.They also get crazy when they hear us coming and while Dave fills up the creep feeder he has to be really careful not to get kicked.The corral they are eating in is a disgusting manure pile, despite our best efforts, so it would literally stink if he got kicked or fell down in that muddy mess!
While Dave feeds, I muck the stall.Then we fill up the water and we grab more bales of hay for the evening feeding of the cows. We repeat the whole drill just before sunset, and occasionally have a Keystone at the High Lonesome with Cowboy Dave and Linda.
Despite the power problems and the chicken murders, we are making the most of winter so far.The key is to dress in LOTS of layers, and to have a great pair of mud boots!
26 October 2017 – Highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the teens tonight!
Hey out there! And HAY out there! It has been awhile since I’ve written. Things have been busy on the Holler and to be honest, we have been spending as much time outdoors as possible enjoying the autumn weather. The last thing I have wanted to do is waste these beautiful days indoors on the computer, especially since winter is coming. It is coming tonight!
Pilot Dave and I have been busy doing some landscaping projects around the house, especially since he got the front of the tractor (Babe) re-rigged with hydraulic connections. Now Babe can operate a snow plow, a grapple, and any other implement that can go on the front.
Remote hydraulics on the rear.
Bob-Tach couplers attached to the loader.
Hydraulic couplers mounted to the loader.
Dave has been leveling out some of the rock piles left over from construction.I have been lining the road to the future barn with rocks. That’s what I do now, pick up rocks. I bet you thought I was going to write “Pick up rock stars” but that was the old me ….ha ha! Plus there are no rock stars in South Dakota. (Except for Pilot Dave, of course!)
Leveled area in front of house
Chickens photobombing another level area
Leveled area in front of wood shed
Rocks on the road
There is always limbing and slash dragging to do. It’s always nice when the cows come around to supervise.
We have been prepping for colder weather by adding some insulation to the chicken coop and wrapping tar paper around the beehive.
There is always fence to mend. We fixed some wire on the northeastern H after what appeared to be elk broke it down. We assume it was elk because we saw two different herds for several evenings up on the hill on the opposite side of the H. I tried to get a picture but the distance and the low-light were unfavorable for my I-Phone camera. Here’s the best I could do.
We also mended the northern neighbor’s fence because her cattle kept breaking out to hang out with Cowboy Dave’s cattle in our northern pasture. It’s where all the cool calves hang out apparently. We added some T-posts and stretched the wire so they weren’t able to escape and mingle with the calves on the wrong side of the fence.
This morning, we fixed the southern neighbor’s fence. He had called a truck to pump out his septic system and they cut through some wire to find an easy place to approach his tank. We were releasing the cows back out on our property and needed to ensure they didn’t wander up to his house, so in the 30 knot winds and 30 degree temperatures, Dave and I went up and stretched and spliced five wires back together. We’re getting the hang of this fencing stuff!
Pilot Dave working on the fence
Not pretty but functional!
On the rainy/windy days this month, Dave put his carpenter skills to work and completed this awesome coatrack for the mud room.
Coat rack built from scrap lumber
Putting it all together
Gotta love the railroad spikes!
I sewed up some carpet remnants from the build and made some throw rugs.
The last few days, we have started doing cattle chores for Cowboy Dave. We are doing winter feeding and watering for him and Linda in exchange for some heifers. Two days ago, we separated the calves from their moms so they could be weaned. The cow-calf separation operation was really easy by luring the moms using cow-cake. We chased the whole herd up the pasture toward the corral. The moms came running through the corral and we closed them off in the opposite pasture. The babies were following as quickly as they could but we shut the corral gates around them and now they are isolated from their moms. This is important because the moms are all pregnant again and they don’t need to be nursing the calfies anymore. They need to conserve their energy and calories for their future babies, and the calves need to get off the sauce, I mean milk.
At first the moms just went into the new pasture and started grazing, happy to be in a new place. We filled a feeder with “creep” for the babies, which is just supplemental feed for calves, and they went right for it. One of the little heifers even jumped right into the creep feeder and we had to scare her out. We also put a bale of oats harvested from our field into the troughs and they liked that too. (We will be putting HAY out there for the rest of the winter.)
Calvies eating oats
Getting more comfortable and spreading out
But then, one of the moms realized there were no babies around and started BAWLING, “MOOOOOOO! MOOOOOIIIEEEEEEEE! MOOOOOOO! MOO! MOO!” And then the babies started bawling. And then all the cows and babies were bawling. Then Cowboy Dave, Linda, Pilot Dave and I all started bawling! Just kidding about the people, but listening to the cattle crying was very sad. But it is necessary. We will reunite them all when the moms’ milk dries up in about 3 weeks and when the babies will lose interest. Meanwhile, it has been quite noisy around here for the past few days!
The big news is that we have made our first cattle purchase. We bought these three heifers and will be adding to the herd several more next year.
Overall, it has been a busy and successful October. We hope everyone is doing good out there in civilization. Dave and I are dressing up as Jolly Ranchers for Halloween this year, same costumes we wear every day!