The Holler has been a hub of activity for the last few weeks. We decided to wash and water seal the deck.
We cut our neighbor’s yard since she had a lot of natural grass hay in one of her pastures. Normally she gets about 300 bales out of this pasture, but she was happy to get 86 bales this year. It made load up pretty easy for us and we were done before 9AM!
We have been starting a lean-to project to provide the cows some extra shelter from the wind and snow we can surely count on in a few short months.
This will be a better place for the cows if the weather is nasty because we won’t have to stuff them into the barn, and more importantly, Dave and I won’t have to shovel poop out of the barn. We expect to be able to drive the tractor right in and scoop out the poop from the lean-to. Anyone need compost?
We are first-generation ranchers, which means all of the infrastructure and systems that many ranchers inherit from their folks do not/did not exist here. Moving onto raw land means all projects belong to us. This is good and bad. It would be nice to have some things already completed like this lean-to, or some irrigation lines to move collected water into the cistern. On the other hand, we are responsible for all the projects here. If something works, that’s because of us but if it doesn’t, that is also on us. We are learning, year after year, and constantly trying to improve things. It is a life-long process but it is also a life-good process and we enjoy brainstorming to come up with a list of projects that will make our ranch run smoother.
One thing we didn’t plan on was the return of the Black Plague.
That is the same dang bull that comes back year after year. He was here in May and we moved our girls to a different pasture. He has been in the National Forest and we thought there would be plenty of cows out there to keep him busy. Nonetheless, he found one of our girls irresistible and Dave and I watched helplessly as he leaped over a four-wire fence like a deer. Then he proceeded to mount one of our heifers and she went immediately to the ground.
Fortunately, she did not get hurt and we are hoping she did not get bred by him. She is older now than when he broke in in May so we are trying to breed her to the leased heifer-bull, Moscow. The Plague, however, was not having any of that and fortunately Moscow is a lover, not a fighter. He just stood out of the Plague’s way and I don’t blame him.
We were fed up with this jumping bull, and after about a week of trying we were finally able to make some contact with the owner. We said we would buy the bull (intending to take him to town). He said if we take him to market to just send him the check so Dave and I were completely excited at the prospect of getting rid of this nuisance. We contacted some friends that have horses and are experienced cattle ranchers. We determined the date based on the bull sale at the local cattle market, and then we moved our cattle panels and trailer up to the pasture where he was hanging out with our herd.
We were all set with equipment, help, and a plan to catch that bugger. The morning we were supposed to execute the plan we drove up to the pasture to check on things. That stinkin’ bull was GONE! He jumped out of our pasture and we could see him way off in the distance walking behind a herd of range cattle headed up into the forest. There is pretty much no way we could round him up out there so we called off the help.
While we are hoping he stays away, if he comes back Dave and I will do our best to catch and load him, but not at the risk of injury or death! Or at least trying to minimize that risk. We know the local ranchers with range permits round up their herds on the 1st of September so we anticipate he will be part of that group. Hopefully he will be taken to market then. We’ll see what happens, but we are hoping that all of our cows are bred now and he will have no reason to come back. GIT OUTTA HERE YA DIRTY STINKIN PLAGUE!!
We decided we were long overdue for putting up a flagpole in our barnyard, so we dug a hole (this is a trend for us, constantly digging) and put up our big, beautiful flag. God Bless America!
We have also been getting a little bit of rain here and there. We think we may be able to save a little of the sudan-grass hay we put in one of the pastures.
We have lined up some hay to purchase from another guy about an hour away, so we should be able to keep all the cows this year and sell the calves at market.
The garden seems to have rebounded a bit after the hail storm and while I doubt we’ll have the haul we did last year, we may get some tomatoes and cucumbers. The corn looks pretty good too! I’m wondering if the lack of production can be blamed on the hail storm or the lack of honey bees, since my hive died.
The good news is we will stay busy for the rest of the summer with one large task looming on our list. Firewood. Ugh, I like getting firewood but I hate thinking about building a fire already. It seems like summer just got here! At least one big furry dog will be happy when the snow starts flying.
We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world. Keep it free out there!
Last time I was crabbing about no rain. That very evening, Dave and I were sitting on the back porch laughing as all the storm clouds built up and went right around us, as has been the pattern for the summer. There really was nothing left to do but laugh, and Mother Nature must have felt we were mocking her. Suddenly a giant cloud began building to the Southwest, and it was moving pretty quickly and we were its bullseye. As the storm came nearer, the wind picked up and Dave said, “That cloud is green.” All my midwestern people recognize this is never a good sign.
We hustled around putting up lawn chairs and closing up the greenhouse in anticipation of a big storm and I’m glad we did. The wind in front of the cloud was insane, it was blowing so hard all the trees were leaning over. Then the hail began. The stones were not big, but they were being propelled by the wind and pummeling the house. There was so much hail coming down so fast it looked like the roof was vomiting. We still had piles of hail on our porch the next morning. It was loud too, as we have a tin roof. Dave positioned himself at the front door and watched helplessly as he thought the greenhouse would blow away. I stayed looking out the back at the poor garden and the poor cows, who headed for the hills and disappeared behind the dark sheets of rain and hail.
Dave said he saw the cat sprint out of the barn and run and hide under the porch. I cannot imagine how loud the wind and hail was in the barn, but it must have been enough that poor Maverick thought he had better run for his life. After about 20 minutes the hail let up and it was just pouring rain so I thought I would stick my head out and see if I could find the cat. As it rained the porch area began to flood and I could hear Maverick howling his head off as he was stuck in the rising waters under the porch. I ran outside in my flip flops and tried to fish him out but he would not come. I was standing in about 5 inches of water and I thought I would try to get him out the other side of the porch but as I changed positions Dave yelled out the door, “There he goes!” And I caught sight of him running toward the woodshed. I sloshed over there in ankle high water and was able to catch him, wrap him in a towel and run through the pouring rain back inside the house. He was really making a lot of noise meowing and complaining, but he didn’t try to escape my grasp. When we got inside, he looked so pathetic, all soaking wet. I’m sure I also looked pathetic, all soaking wet! I put him in the mudroom and toweled him off and now he is my new best friend.
The rain didn’t let up until after dark, and the next morning Dave and I went outside to survey the damage. Fortunately none of our buildings were damaged and I feel like we really dodged that bullet because that was one wicked storm! There were casualties, however, especially the garden. The cucumbers were decimated, the corn looked like someone had taken a weed-whacker to it, and the tomato plants were all laying on their sides. The potato plants which were previously as tall as my chin, were also flattened. We walked north to the field where we had hoped to salvage some of our remaining barley and it also was flattened and laying down.
I guess this isn’t the year to grow things on the Holler. But at least we got some much needed rain and hopefully it will promote some growth in the grazing fields. By some miracle the greenhouse stayed standing with no damage.
The Sheriff was quite happy with the storm. I really do count my blessings with this dog. He is a cool customer and the thunder and hail does not bother him one bit. He also is great about riding in the truck and doesn’t whine or drool but he just sticks his head out the window watching the world go by. He is a very easy going dog. One thing he liked about the rain storm was that it filled up his stock dam with water.
He has been going swimming every day since and he loves it. If I don’t take him out there, he sneaks off and comes back soaking wet. This is always followed by a victory roll in the dirt which makes him a mud-puppy indeed!
After the storm, the drama on the Holler did not let up. Yesterday morning at around 5AM we heard the bull making a lot of noise. Dave jumped out of bed and saw our neighbor’s cows hanging out by the gate next to our herd. Our neighbor has downsized her herd (2 cows and 1 calf) so we agreed to let her cows in with the bull so she can get them bred. Dave saw them down by the gate and said he was going to run down there and let them in. I said sleepily from under the covers, “Do you need help?” and he said no and that I should go back to sleep. Oh, my sweet husband.
I heard him drive down in the Mule and I could not go back to sleep, feeling guilty that I should have gone with him. It is always hard to move cows through a gate with just one person. I got up and threw on my jeans and watched him from the back window. He was doing great, using cake to move the neighbor’s cows through the first gate despite our cows crowding him wanting cake. Then he called me on the radio and said, “I think Harley prolapsed.” Harley is our neighbor’s favorite pet cow and it appeared she had a vaginal prolapse which can occur in a pregnant cow before calving.
GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW WARNING:
Dave decided it would not be a good situation to let her cows in with our herd because there is always fighting when new cows arrive, and poor Harley clearly needed some medical attention. He moved the neighbor’s cows to a smaller pasture so we could have easier access to Harley and he came back to the house.
We called the neighbor but only got voicemail. We called the vet to see if this was an urgent life-threatening situation, but again it was around 5:30 AM so we got their emergency pager number instead of a person. We discussed our options and decided that if it were our cow we would catch her and load her up immediately and take her to the vet. So we began loading up cattle panels on the tractor and we hooked up our trailer to the truck. During this time, the neighbor called and said she was on her way and agreed we should take Harley in to the vet. The vet also called while we were managing the cow-moving logistics and said they would make room in their schedule for whenever we could get there.
So we drove the tractor with the panels and the truck with the trailer to the pasture where Dave had secluded Harley and company. Harley was clearly hurting and did not want anything to do with us, but we were able to set up the panels in the corner and push her into the trailer. Dave and the neighbor went off to the vet and I cleaned up what I could by myself with them gone.
The vets took care of Harley, cleaning her parts and pushing her prolapse back inside of her. Then they laced her up to keep her insides on the inside of her. The repositioning apparently is not an easy task as the vets would push and the cow would try to push against them so she kept prolapsing, but the vets eventually won and were able to lace her up tight. They said she did not have an unborn calf, which led us all to believe that she may have had a calf out in a field somewhere or she had aborted, causing her to prolapse. The strange thing is she was not exposed to a bull in the timeframe that would have her calving now, but we have seen this movie before where a cow calved and we could not explain who the daddy might be. We also know there are roving bulls out here so maybe that is what happened.
Regardless, the neighbor’s property is many, many acres of hills, forests and valleys and if Harley calved out there it would be nearly impossible to find the baby. Dave and the neighbor took Harley back to her corral after deciding it was too dangerous for her to be in with a new herd and especially a bull. Harley was not happy about being alone and the neighbor let her out on her large acreage in the hopes that if there was a calf the Momma would find it and possibly save it. This morning, Harley showed up at our gate again without a calf so we’re fairly certain if she did calve it did not survive.
While Dave and the neighbor were at the vet, I saw the neighbor’s remaining cow and calf hanging out by the gate and I pushed them into our pasture so the cow could be exposed to the bull. Of course, there was a lot of fighting initially as every one of our cows had to explain to the poor new girl that they were higher than her in the pecking order. The new girl, who the neighbor calls Wooly Bear, did not back down from a fight so there was a lot of snorting and grunting and kicking up dust well into the afternoon. If you’ve ever seen a movie with scenes from the prison yard, you can imagine what it is like when a new cow goes in with an existing herd. Cow Drama.
Today, things have settled significantly. The herd all seems to be getting along but I feel so bad for Harley stuck on the other side of the fence. Her old companion, Wooly Bear slept next to her by the fence last night. I know people think animals do not have feelings, but I truly believe they have a routine and they do not like change. But, like people, they will adjust although sometimes against their will.
If that isn’t enough excitement for you, I have one more little story. This morning I was doing the usual chores and was getting ready to walk down to what remains of the garden to water plants. I started walking down the hill in our yard, about ten feet from our porch and I heard the strangest noise behind me. It sounded like an automatic sprinkler coming on, just a very quick hissing sound. Joey was behind me so I thought maybe he had some toy or made some weird noise and I turned around and realized I was standing about 6 feet from a fat coiled up prairie rattlesnake. Joey was on the opposite side of the snake and I very calmly commanded him to move away and get on the porch. Dave was in the house so I very calmly yelled, “Oh Dave, could you please come out here for a second?”
Okay, that’s not what happened at all….I completely freaked out. I HATE snakes and I literally almost stepped on this venomous critter. My dog was on the opposite side of it and I started screaming bloody murder. “Joey! Get Away! Leave it leave it leave it! AHHHHH!!!!” It must have really startled Dave because he came running out of the house and said, “What’s wrong?” All I could say/scream was “SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE!!!”
If it hasn’t been revealed in all the blogs up to this point, I would like to say that Dave is a much cooler customer than I will ever be. He jumped off the porch, grabbed Joey’s collar and hauled him inside. Then he returned with his .410 shotgun and blew the snake’s head off. My hero.
I know that snakes are good for the environment, but there is no way I can feel bad about killing a poisonous snake that is that close to my front door so save it if you’re mad about the snake slaughter. It’s dead and if another rattler shows up here it is getting the same treatment. Sorry, not sorry.
So that’s it for the last few exciting days. We did get a nice rainstorm again early Thursday morning so hopefully this pattern will continue without the hail and wind. And we are definitely grateful for the rain although it is probably what is driving the snakes out of their holes. We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world and keeping yourselves safe and free! Happy Monday!
I meant to blog on the fourth but I was too busy doing nothing which was just spectacular. Dave and I intentionally took a relaxing day off and the only work we did was water the cows and the garden. So Happy Belated Independence Day! I hope you celebrated your freedom and the birthday of the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
Dave and I got a special treat on the evening of July 3rd. President Trump was holding his rally at Mount Rushmore, and while we did not attend, we got our own private airshow in our back yard. We were sitting on the porch and noticed three B-1s flying in a circle overhead. This went on for sometime and we figured they would be doing the fly-by to open the Mt. Rushmore ceremony. Then, three F-16s showed up and also began circling right over our yard. THEN the Blue Angels showed up and also circled over our house for about 20 minutes. It was Awesome. What a cool thing to see right from your back porch!
It has been hot here, and dry. I don’t think we’ve had any significant rain since May and consequently our barley crop turned brown, and began to shrivel up. In the hopes that we might salvage some hay, we went ahead and mowed some of the fields. We tried to rake and bale and in a field where we got 153 bales last year, we were able to piece together 10. Ugh. If we keep all the cows that would be about a day and a half of feed next winter.
Dusty job raking when there’s hardly any hay
Pathetic Hay Season
Pathetic row of hay
Needless to say, we are a little more than disappointed, but that is part of the ranching/farming life. It’s a continuous sine wave where one day you’re riding high and the next you’re way down in the dumps. But who knows what tomorrow will bring? We could still use some rain, everything is drying up and while we have made up our mind that we will just buy hay this year, we are hoping the pastures can support the herd for the summer.
In more exciting news, we went and picked up the bull we are leasing for the next two months.
This is Moscow (that’s what the owner named him, not sure why but we like it and hope he’s not a Russian spy). We met the owner in Edgemont and swapped him from his trailer into ours. That gentleman bull did not even make the smallest mess in our trailer so we appreciate that too! When we brought him to the pasture with our cows, the cows were over the hill in the far corner. He got out of the trailer and immediately picked up their scent. He began walking in circles trying to determine where all the cows were and then he started to get a little frustrated, pawing at the dirt and grunting.
Meanwhile, Dave started calling the cows, and yes they do come when he calls because they love him and think it means he has cake. Moscow heard them mooing as they came up over the crest of the hill he called back to them in that crazy high pitch sound that only bulls can make. Valentine, the one cow that was open all year came sprinting down the hill. She was so excited there was a bull in the pasture. Of course when one cow starts running they all start running and poor Moscow was a little intimidated I think. He stopped and stood completely still, completely nervous and scared of the group of lonely ladies surrounding him like he was Elvis and they were a fan-crazed group of teenagers. That didn’t last long, however, and almost immediately he embraced his rock star status and the whole herd went back over the hill together, most likely looking for some privacy! I’m pretty sure I heard some Marvin Gaye playing over there.
We were really happy that no one decided to fight and we have observed him doing his job several times so hopefully everyone will get bred and have healthy babies next spring.
Shifting gears, I have bad news about the bee colony. I opened the hive in late May and they were thriving. There were eggs (indicating an active queen), brood, and lots of pollen and uncapped honey. About two weeks after that I noticed a dramatic decrease in bee activity and a giant pile of dead bees in front of the hive. I put on my bee suit to investigate and discovered that almost all the bees were dead. There were no longer any eggs or even brood or honey stores. The colony is dead or gone, but the big pile of dead bees leaves me to believe they didn’t swarm and leave. I’m not sure what happened but am still doing some research to try to determine what killed them. It is too late this year to get new bees but I will try again next year. It’s sad, but again, that is the roller coaster that is ranch living.
On the positive side, the garden seems to be doing well, the cows are fat and happy, the dog is hot and unhappy except in the morning and evening, and the cat remains healthy and crazy. So as far as Hoten Holler life goes, all is pretty good. We hope everyone out there in the real world enjoyed the Fourth of July and is keeping happy and free. God Bless America!
I cannot believe it has been nearly a month since my last blog. We also haven’t had any rain since the last post, and we are hoping and praying we get some today because our beautiful green barley is starting to look a little thirsty!
It has been a really busy month for us. We decided to cross fence and close in the south pasture and put in two gates to make sure we had access from the north and south side and we could get our haying equipment in and out.
Babe hauling the gate
Rancher Dave drilling some holes
A finished gate and fence line
If we ever do get any more rain and we actually get to cut some hay this summer, we decided it would be much easier if we had an extra little run-around tractor. This will save so much time preventing us from having to come back to the barnyard and swap out implements every time we switch tasks from cutting to raking to baling to hauling. We found this old gem on Craig’s List and are excited to see what it can do.
As is our tradition, we had to name the tractor so we’re calling it Sprout. It is a John Deere 3010, and so far my Dad, who is a red tractor guy all the way, has not disowned us for buying a Deere. This tractor was made sometime between 1960-1963 and it is gas, not diesel. It has functional hydraulics and a good PTO so it should really help us streamline our process during haying. At the very least Dave and I can both be working at the same time.
We finished shoring up our corral just in time for some visitors.
My sister, her son, her best friend and her best friend’s daughter came to stay and help with the annual round-up. We have the vet come out and innocculate the calves, pour the cows to protect against worms and parasites, and brand and castrate the babies. Our guests had fun and they all helped immensely, so we felt the day went rather smoothly and were grateful for their help.
We didn’t make the guests work the whole time they were here, they did get to visit Sylvan Lake, Devil’s Tower, go to a rodeo in Wyoming, and of course they went to see the Big Heads at Mount Rushmore.
Fun was had by all and we hated to see them go, but I think they had fun and enjoyed the fresh air and wide open spaces.
Better than a carseat in the back?
Dave and I kept the herd nearby in the maternity ward for the last couple of days. We like to keep an eye on the babies after branding and castration in case someone develops an infection or a problem. They all looked pretty good this morning, so we marched them back up the road to the big pasture we’re leasing. I think they were happy to get out into a bigger area.
Now that the round-up is over we can disk and plant the very last field, which is the maternity ward. The next big event will be the arrival of the bull (which we moved up to the beginning of July). I’m sure Valentine will be ready and waiting for him right by the gate!
Of course the next big ranch event is haying, but again, we need rain! As we wait for the crop to grow we will be busy prepping and greasing hay equipment, killing noxious weeds, and taking care of the lawn and garden.
That’s about it from the Holler. We hope everyone is having a good summer out there in the real world, despite all of the unrest and bad news. Keep safe and keep yourselves free!
All kinds of craziness is going on out there in the real world, rioting, looting, pandemics. All kinds of craziness has been going on here at the Holler as well. The weekend before Memorial Day, we moved our cows from our northern pasture up the road to a neighbor’s pasture we are leasing. We did this so we could plant and hay our northern pasture. Fortunately, my parents were visiting and they got to join in the fun.
It went very smoothly, and though a few cows decided to stop and chow on the fresh green grass on the roadside, Mom and Dad kept calling them with the cake bucket and Dave and I ran “outrigger” herding them up the road from behind. Then we moved the lick barrels and water tanks to the new pasture.
It was great to see my parents, and while they were here, we continued to disk, plant and harrow the northern pasture. My folks went home on Thursday and Dave and I continued tackling some of our other large projects. We put some more posts in the barn corral and painted some boards for the alley. It is really starting to come together, although every inch of post digging is hard-fought due to the rocky terrain. South Dakota Rocks!
The Sunday before Memorial Day, we were feeling pretty good about our plans for rotating cattle, haying, and getting more of our infrastructure complete and THEN this guy shows up!
This bull has been wandering around here for the last three years. We previously referred to him as “O.J. Simpson” but now we are going to call him the Black Plague. He is huge, probably close to 2000lbs. He is usually in a foul mood, and he has an affinity for our cows although he lives a few miles away he always finds himself here. We saw him Sunday night growling and grunting and howling, making all the typical romantic bull noises while pacing outside the five strand barbed-wire fence that contained our herd.
This is a problem this year because we have yearling heifers. We have arranged to lease a bull in July when they will be old enough to breed. The bull we are leasing is a “heifer bull” who is small enough to not hurt them and will hopefully throw smaller calves so they will have easier first time births next spring.
We are desperately trying to keep the Black Plague bull away because he could break one of the heifers legs or backs if he tries to breed them. They are currently too young to breed anyway, and if he breeds them now we will be calving in February which we really do not want to do! As a temporary fix, Dave and I led our herd away from the big bull to the opposite corner of the pasture, hoping none of our girls were in heat and he would move on down the road.
You may ask, “Why is there a random bull roaming around in South Dakota?” And we would answer, “We don’t know! But it is total B.S.!” Because South Dakota is a “Fence-out” state, it basically means if you don’t want at-large cattle on your property it is your responsibility to fence them out.
As mentioned, the pasture the herd is in is completely fenced in (or out) but the Black Plague Bull has demonstrated that he will not be stopped by a barbed wire fence when he is looking for love. On Memorial Day morning at 5AM the neighbor called to tell us that that bull was in the pasture with our herd. Dang! Dave and I drove up to that pasture in the Mule and there he was, grazing right in the middle of our girls. Fortunately, all of our cows looked calm and relaxed and nobody seemed too interested in the bull so we believe and hope that no one got bred or was in heat.
We decided that we needed to do something to protect our herd. Early Monday morning, Dave and I tried our hands as bull-fighters, or more like rodeo clowns. Our cows are so bucket-broke that it is easy to lead them anywhere using cow cake so we easily sorted our girls out of the pasture through one giant gate. The problem was that the four young calfies decided they would rather hang out with their new big uncle, the Black Plague. All we could do was take turns trying to distract the bull away from the gate while one of us ran around trying to scoot the calves through. They were uncooperative, of course, and the Black Plague seemed to be getting more and more irritated with our antics. He began pawing the ground and grunting, snorting and seemingly blowing smoke and fire out of his nostrils! It was quite frightening because we knew he had no problem going through the fence. Finally, Dave had had enough and took off his coat and threw it over the bulls giant head. Then he jumped on his back and rode him right out of the pasture which took just a little longer than eight seconds. Yee-haw! Just kidding, about the coat and the bull-riding, but we did have some intense and exciting moments trying to work around this big angry beast.
About 45 minutes later and a lot of running, sweating, and yelling, we were able to get all the calves out the gate and leave the big bull in the pasture. Dave led the herd down the road to another pasture south of our house and I ran behind as outrigger, making sure everyone kept heading the right direction. I could hear the Black Plague running behind me but on the other side of the fence. He was snorting and grunting and I was praying he would not bust down that fence to follow the herd as I really had nowhere to go to get out of the way. Thankfully he gave up when the herd disappeared over a hill and he has since wandered off into the National Forest.
We are now keeping our herd in a separate pasture that we had planned on grazing in July, but it is really the only thing we know to do to keep them safe from the bull for now. There are several ranchers that will be letting their large herds out on the open range to graze on the 1st of June, and we hope that thousands of other cows will be a good distraction for the Black Plague and he will leave our herd alone.
Meanwhile, the barley we planted has been growing and the fields are really greening up.
There is a lot of bee activity which I hope continues throughout the summer. I opened the hive and was happy to see there were eggs so the queen is still doing her job. The garden is planted and the greenhouse is full of peppers plants so we are definitely ready for summer.
The next project is to fence in our south pasture so we will have more alternatives for grazing and moving cows. As usual, the biggest obstacle is the rocky terrain but we’ve faced down that beast before. One summer we won’t have any more fence to build and I bet Dave and I will look at each other and say, “What should we do now?” But that will not be for several summers so we will continue to dig post holes, pound t-posts and string wire. What are you doing to work out lately?
Rancher Dave putting in T-posts
Post hole diggin in SoDak
That is about it for May. We hope everyone is doing well out there and staying safe and more importantly staying free and living their life without fear and dread. God Bless! Oh by the way, if you’re looking for a way to entertain the children in your life, my brother wrote and illustrated a new children’s book. Here’s the link, it is available on Amazon and it is a very fun book for young kids with lots of rhyming and cute pictures.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Henry the 8th
Hunny and Toni Romo #9
Bo Derek – she’s a 10
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
In between checking on cows, Dave and I have been busy disking, planting and harrowing our hay crop.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Base of the platform
Attaching the frame
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.
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!