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Hoten Holler!

Catching Up

12 May 2020 – Rain/Snow and 40 degrees!

In between calving and bull virility testing, Dave and I have been working to get things going here on the Holler. A few posts ago I mentioned that our redneck disk broke down and was unsalvageable.  Interestingly enough, the man that removed all the rocks from our barnyard had a contact in Rapid City that deals in used farm equipment.  Dave contacted him and he had a used 12 foot tandem disk that he thought might work for us.

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The new disk

Dave went to look at the disk and liked it, however it was too big to fit on a trailer, and while it could be towed behind a tractor or truck, it needed new tires.  The guy put different tires on it and Dave brought it home. This was quite an adventure for rancher Dave.  The disk, as mentioned before, is 12 feet wide (as advertised, but more on this later) and that is quite a wide load to pull up the mountain.  Additionally, as the disk hooked onto a drawbar on the back of the truck, it was not made for this type of travel. At about 20mph it would start violently vibrating back and forth. Traffic was backing up behind Dave as he slowly crawled up the hill with the wide disk in tow. The road from Rapid is also pretty twisty and narrow in some places so it took him about four hours to get home.  When he turned to come into Stagecoach Springs, he questioned whether the disk would fit through the entrance to our road.

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Just slightly wider than the road, and definitely wider than the entrance

I drove up in the Mule to meet him and brought the tape measure.  We realized our entrance is exactly 12 feet 5 inches wide at the narrowest point.  The “12 Foot Disk”  measured about 13 feet, 6 inches.  Rats!

Fortunately, there were a couple of options open to us.  We considered bringing the tractor up to  the entrance and lifting the disk over the fences.  We also realized a neighbor to the east of us has a wide gate entrance to her pasture, and we have a 16 foot gate between our properties.  We decided to go with this route and after contacting her, she said that would be no problem at all. Dave drove the disk 2 miles east to her property and through her gate.  Then he proceeded cross-country, over rocks and through trees and up the hill to the point where her pasture finally meets the gate in ours.  The terrain was pretty rough and about half way through his journey we decided it would be better to get the tractor and pull the disk rather than put all that wear and tear on the truck.

So about 6 hours after leaving rapid city, we finally got the new/old disk onto the Holler.  We were really hoping it would work as it seems this is its new permanent home, unless we decide to widen the entrance to the road.

The next day, Dave put the hydraulic cylinder on the disk and there were several problems with the fittings.  Fortunately, Dave knows a great welder in Custer so he took the required parts to him, which he found a fix for on the spot.  A few hours later we had the disk hooked up and running and Dave was able to complete disking our southern field.

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Getting it done
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Nice job!

The disk worked so well, we decided to rip up some more pasture in the northern fields. Dave completed all the disking, I did the planting and we split the harrowing duties.  We finished the hay crop work on Saturday, just in time for some snow and rain on Monday!  Hooray!

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Planting view from the tractor

We still have one field to work, but the cows are in that pasture until the 1st of June.  Once we move them elsewhere, we will plant a crop in that field that we can harvest later.  Our goal is to produce enough hay to feed the herd all winter.  We were successful this year, and while we are still feeding a bale or two a day because of the cold temperatures, we have enough hay to last through the 2nd of June. The calves are grazing more and more and we are cutting back on the feeding, but when there is snow, we like to make sure they have enough to eat.  I really hope we aren’t feeding in June! The point is our hay crop mostly determines the size of our herd, but we do have options to buy hay if we don’t harvest enough of our own.  We do like the idea of being independent, though, and are doing all we can to make use of this land.

We are also trying to get the garden and the lawn up to speed.  Since construction four years ago, there are parts of the yard that have not recovered.  We have planted grass seed, but it has only taken to some places, and some spots are so rocky and sandy it doesn’t appear we will ever have grass there.  Dave has been getting some good soil out of one of the ditches and putting it on the bare spots in what should be the lawn.  Hopefully this will lead to some growth. Also, he used the ditch dirt to cover up the rocky barnyard cliffs.  We are going to put out some grass seed and wildflower seeds on this bank.

I have harvested some asparagus out of the garden, but it doesn’t appear to be doing so good after the freezing temps we have had for the last few days.  It will get warm again, though, (right?) so hopefully we can get the vegetable garden up and running.  The greenhouse has been good for some seeds, but I can’t transplant anything out in the snow, so hopefully the beets, peppers, and lettuce can hang on a little longer in there.

The weeks are just flying by.  Dave and I were having a glass of wine on the porch this weekend and he said, “I can’t believe we are only about six weeks away from the summer solstice, and then the days will start getting shorter again.”  I said, “I wish you hadn’t said that, Dave.”  But he is right, and spring and summer are the busiest times for us, so that does make the calendar seem like it is turning quickly.  It’s a good thing though, to go to bed tired knowing that you got some good work done during the day, and to wake up in the morning knowing that you still have a lot to do.

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Nothing like a porch nap after a long day ranching

 

Mothers’ Day!

11 May 2020 – Rain/Snow and 30 degrees!

I know Mothers’ Day was yesterday, and to all the mom Hoten Holler Follerers I hope you had a great day, especially to my mom, who is just completely awesome!  I was hoping that she and Dad could visit for Mother’s Day but I think they’re glad they didn’t because we are getting snow!

And in honor of our adorable mother cows, here are some gratuitous baby pictures.

We are so happy to be finished with calving season, and so far everyone is doing great!  Since we have two bulls and two heifers, we are calling them the Mixed Doubles.  (Note the moms are all members of the 2017 class we call Mayflowers, and the heifers that will get bred this summer are members of the 2019 class we call the Brambleberries.  We name things, it’s how we roll.)

The remaining babies came all within one week, which was great.  Hunny started on the 29th by sneaking out her calf in between the 4AM and 6AM check.  When Dave went out at six, she was already cleaning up the little girl.  She’s #9 so we named her for Dallas Cowboys #9 Tony Romo, but we’re spelling it TONI because she’s such a cute little girl.  She was up and nursing pretty quickly.  Hunny is an experienced mom with Toni being her fourth.  She cleaned off her baby and headed off to the woods for some privacy and bonding.

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Hunny and Toni Romo #9 at their family photo shoot

On the 3rd of May, Triple Sticks snuck out her calf between the 10AM and 12PM cow check.  This is her 2nd baby, a little girl, #10 that we are calling Bo Derek. I checked on Trips at 10AM and she was off by herself from the herd, a tell-tale sign of impending birth, but when she heard me in the Mule she came down out of the woods and right up to me looking for cow-cake. I looked her all over, and while her bag was big, it had been big for over a week.  I thought she would probably calve that day, but not immediately.  She must have watched me drive away and immediately laid down and had her baby because when I went back at noon, Bo Derek was cleaned off and already up and nursing.  I initially thought it was someone else’s calf nursing on her but then I saw the other two babies laying right there next to the new mom while she nursed her baby.  She must have been babysitting when she calved.  Cow multitasking, hmmmmm.

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Trips giving Bo Derek some lunch

I took the Mule back to get Dave and we went to watch the new mom and baby for a bit to make sure everyone looked good and healthy.  When we got back to the pasture, we parked about 30 yards away to give the new mom some space.  Almost immediately, the Dirty Dozen who is the mother of Henry the 8th, came marching toward us and stopped right in front of us and gave us a big, loud MOOOOOO!  It was like she was saying, “People, please.  This cow just had a baby!  Give her some privacy already!”  Then she collected her calf and stormed off into the trees. She’s somewhat MOOOODY.

Finally, on the 4th of May, Cherry Bomb had her baby around 11 AM.  We saw her at the 10AM check acting very peculiar, walking backwards, mooing and licking her belly.  We stayed and about an hour later she laid down and gave birth to a little bull calf we named Apollo 11.  He is the only calf with a white face and he is so dang cute.  He has white fuzzy eyebrows that remind me of Santa Clause.  It took him about 20 minutes to stand up and he was nursing about 30 minutes after that.

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Apollo 11 at two days old saying hello to me!

Dave and I are so happy that all the moms did so well, and the babies seem to be doing great.  They put on about 2.5lbs a day, so a week after birth they are all really thickening up as they have put on about 17lbs a piece.  They are so fun to watch, especially at dawn and dusk.  They get really energized and run around in circles, bucking and kicking and occasionally having a headbutting match with each other.  Better than anything on Netflix!

In other cow news, Dave and I drove down to Edgemont to meet a gentleman we are planning to lease a bull from in July.  He was taking the bull to the vet to get virility tested and make sure he was a good candidate for our heifers and cows.  He passed the test with flying colors, although he will probably need some counseling after that whole ordeal!  We look forward to welcoming him to the Holler in July.

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Moscow the bull getting tested

Thanks for indulging me and my calf stories.  I finally feel like we are catching up on sleep around here and am grateful every day I see those babies out there in the herd.  I know things are still crazy out there in the real world, and I hope the cow stories can provide a peaceful break from quarantine boredom and frustration.  As I said before, things really haven’t changed too much here!

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Gotta love South Dakota!!!

 

 

Ranch Follies

28 April 2020 – Sunny, windy and 57

I really wish I was posting pictures of baby calves today, but we are still waiting! The three remaining bred cows look very uncomfortable and all have started to fill up their bags with milk, but morning, day and night there is no calving action. The weather has been just perfect, so they are probably waiting for a May snowstorm. Anyway, there is no news on the baby front.

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Hunny looking big and miserable, waiting to deliver.

In between checking on cows, Dave and I have been busy disking, planting and harrowing our hay crop.

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Broadcasting the seeds
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Unhooking the disk, filling up the broadcaster’s hopper
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Phone poles strapped to the disk to weigh it down.  
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Dragging the harrow over the planted seeds to cover them with dirt.

We were nearly complete when our antique/redneck disk went kaput! The thing is so old and will not take any grease, so it was truly a matter of time before it died. On one of the last fields, Dave was disking and I was nearby. I could hear the thing really start to sing, metal on metal. I couldn’t tell if it was dust or smoke coming out of the disk, but Dave shut down shortly after that and said it smelled like it was burning up. He parked it and we have one small field left to plant. If we cannot get a replacement disk this year we will just let the grass grow and harvest grass hay from there, but we’re on the hunt for a used disk that we will definitely need next year.

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RIP Redneck disk.  You turned over a lot of rough soil in your life!

We also had a gentleman come and pick up all the big rocks that were still piled in the barnyard. I know some people don’t like Craig’s List, but we put an ad up for free rocks and he happened to need rocks for building his driveway and an approach to his house. He came out with a skid-steer and a trailer and after about ten trips, he went away with free rocks for his project and we have a really nice looking barnyard!

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Quite a few rocks remained after the excavation for the barn.
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New Craig’s List friend hauling away rocks.

The next few days, Dave will use the tractor to get fill dirt out of one of the ditches. He’ll put this dirt on top of the remaining rocks and ideally we will get some grass growing up there.

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A few of the rocks remain, but with some fill dirt I hope next year to seed this wall with wild flowers and cover it with compost to help them grow.  

In light of all the craziness in the world, here are some short ranch follies that will hopefully make you laugh.

Nothing happens quickly on the ranch and there is no such thing as instant gratification so we are constantly working to get things set up so they are more efficient. One of the future projects is to have a better way to get water to the barnyard. Currently we are using runoff from the barn roof which works great if there is rain or snow, but if there is not we have to run 3 hoses from the house up the hill into the barnyard water tanks. This is kind of a pain, especially if there is snow and ice. We cannot leave the hoses hooked up in the cold temps because they will freeze and cause all sorts of problems. A few weeks ago, Dave had hooked up the hoses and was filling the barn tanks. He was distracted working on something else and I noticed that the tanks were almost full, so I walked down the hill to turn off the water and disconnect the hose. I really thought I was helping him out, but when he returned to the water tank a few minutes later, it was completely empty. When I unhooked the hose at the bottom of the hill, the suction and gravity sucked all the water out of the tank. Sorry, Dave! So he had to start all over. Ooops!

Last year, after a long day of baling hay, we were driving in the Mule back to the garage. While one person is in the tractor baling, the other person helps out a little by using a leaf rake to pull the hay out of the corners and into a wind row. We were both tired from working in the heat all day and put the rake in a vertical position in the back of the Mule, the top of the rake extending over the top of the Mule. As we pulled into the garage, we were congratulating ourselves on how much baling and work we had accomplished that day when we heard a loud CRACK! The top of the rake hit the top of the garage door as we drove into park.  The roof ripped the top off the rake  and the rest of the handle remained in the Mule. Now we have a rake that will work for a very short person and a long handle for nothing. Ooops!

This winter, during bad weather, we would let the cows sleep in the barn. To make sure they were under cover we would lead them into the corral and close the gate. One morning after a bit of snow, Dave and I plowed a lane to feed and put out the hay, but the cows did not come to breakfast. This was odd because they normally hear the Mule and come running. We tried calling them, “Hay Ladies!” and shaking the cake bucket which always works. Still, there were no cows. We drove the Mule back to the barn from the feeding area and all the cows were there lined up behind the closed corral gate, looking at us as if we were the biggest morons for calling them to breakfast when they were locked up. Ooops!

Finally, one day a few summers ago, Dave had to go to town for some appointment and I noticed that the stock tank in the field was running low. Keep in mind, I did not grow up on a farm and there are several tasks on the ranch that were still pretty new to me. Running water is easy, but this water tank was in a distant pasture, and required loading water in a separate tank that was on the trailer, and hauling the trailer to the field. I was quite proud of myself for getting the trailer hooked up to the truck, loading it with water and hauling it to the field and filling the stock tank. This is not a big deal now, but at the time I had very little experience driving a truck and trailer and maneuvering it into position to drain into the stock tank. When Dave came home I bragged about how far I had come, being able to do all of these tasks by myself. As we were sitting on the deck discussing the day, some of the cows began to appear walking up the hill from the pasture where I had filled the stock tank. All of the pride in my task vanished quickly as I realized I had left the pasture gate open. Ooops! At least it only took us about an hour to get everyone back in the pasture.

Hopefully some of these stories make you laugh. I know things are getting kind of mundane out there in the real world, but it is spring and things will get better soon. Stay safe out there, and don’t forget to have a few laughs, even if it is at yourself!

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Henry the 8th says hello!

And We Thought March Was Mad

11 April 2020 – Overcast and windy but 37 degrees

It is that time of year where we are just about sick of winter.  Of course, April is also one of the snowiest months here in the Black Hills.  It seems that we get a blizzard every ten days or so, and then it gets into the 50s and 60s for a few days.  Everything gets muddy and sloppy and when it finally dries up, here comes the next blizzard.  That is the case today.  We are expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight, and yesterday we were working outside in short sleeves.

I fear I sound like I’m complaining.  These temperature swings are not all bad, and the warm days are so greatly appreciated after a giant dump of snow.  If we didn’t have any critters, I don’t think I would mind at all because the snow is quite beautiful.  BUT we do have critters and they are all trying to have babies!

Fortunately, the Dirty Dozen (#112), the girl we were following around in late March decided to calve on one of the warmest days.  It was about 60 degrees and mid afternoon when she walked away from the herd, laid down in the woods, and delivered her baby in about five minutes. We were extremely grateful to see the baby get up on his feet in 30 minutes and began to nurse shortly after that.  Dozen is a great mom, and her milk bag is huge so the baby has no problem getting his fill.

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Dirty Dozen and her baby bull, Henry

Last year, we had a hard time with all the 1st calf heifers.  Dozen had a female calf last year and it died at 1 day old from pneumonia.  The vet did a necropsy and said the baby’s stomach was full of milk, so Dozen had been feeding her.  The baby died anyway and we ended up quarantining all the babies and moms that had been in contact with her. Another 1st calf heifer wasn’t producing very much milk, so we worked with Dozen to help nurse that calf, and she was more than willing to help.  At the end of the day, I think all of the calves born to our heifers ended up nursing on Dozen.  She seems to really like babies!  Anyway, the calving season last year was a huge pain, and it was so sad, and it turned us into Nervous Nellies for the calving season this year.  I’m sure most experienced ranchers would probably laugh at all the fuss and worry we have been doing, but we just really want to take good care of everyone and for them to thrive.

Dozen’s calf this year is two weeks early by the gestation calendar, so we are acting like extreme helicopter parents, checking on this baby bull every 2-3 hours.  He is 3 days old today and nursing very well. He has been tearing around like a race car in the mornings and evenings, and it is really fun to watch.  It’s as if he is showing off to the rest of the herd, “Look how fast I can run!”  Then he wears himself out and Dozen parks him in the tall grass to sleep the rest of the day.  Yesterday, after she parked him and wandered off to graze, Dave and I snuck up and tagged his ear.

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Nice Bling, Henry!

He is the 8th calf born to the herd so we named him Henry the 8th. We thought he might holler when we tagged him, as calves often do, but he didn’t make a peep so his mom didn’t come running to check on him.  We saw her going back to him later in the day and she sniffed him all over, especially his new ear tag.  I think she was mad he got an earring without her permission. Kids today!

Due to the impending blizzard conditions this evening, we have been preparing the barn with an extra stall for Dozen and Henry, so Henry doesn’t get stepped on by all the other cows trying to shelter from the storm. Dave added boards to the bottom of the panels to prevent him from squirting out into the main stall area.  He also has an extra panel handy in case one of the other ladies decides to calve during the bad weather. If that happens, she will have her own little area as well.  We are calling the stalls the Princess Suite and the Royal Deluxe.  Oh, Dave also added LED lights so we can keep an eye on everyone at night.

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A nice area for mom and baby
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Boards at the bottom to keep baby from squirting out

Next thing you know the cows will be demanding turn-down service and mints on their pillows.

In other news, we have enjoyed working outside on the last few warm days.  We built a platform and assembled this greenhouse.

The platform was a lot easier than assembling the greenhouse.  It was supposed to take 6 hours but I think it took us twice as long, considering the convoluted directions.  At least that’s my excuse.  Regardless, it seems to have turned out well and if it wasn’t going to be 6 degrees tomorrow night I would already have planted some things in there.  So the plants I have started will remain on the kitchen counter until the next warm weather.

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Beets and Peppers

We are ready for this snow to come and go, and once that happens we will begin disking and planting hay crops.  We are also hoping nobody else has a baby until the snow is gone, but that is never up to us.  As always, we are far removed from the real world and crazy things that are happening out there.  I hope everyone that is reading this is staying safe, staying sane, and that you all have a very Happy and Blessed Easter!

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Sherriff Joe on night patrol during the Super Moon

 

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

 

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