Hoten Holler!

Hey Baby!

15 March 2018 – Sunny and highs in the upper 40’s

Tuesday morning, Dave and I went out to do chores, feed the cows, break the ice so they could drink, and muck the stalls.  We take a good look at all the pregnant ladies.  “Look up their address” as Linda says.  We check their milk bags and their back ends to see if there are any signs of impending birth.  Tuesday was not a typical morning because we only were able to find 13 of the 14 cows.  Marzee, the biggest cow you have ever seen, was nowhere to be found. 

Dave rounded up the other 13 and started feeding by putting bales in the southern feed ring and cutting off the strings.  To divide and conquer, I went out in the woods to try to find Marzee.  I started out in the Mule, but the snow got too deep and I got stuck, so I finished my sector search on foot.  It was hard walking in snow up to my knees in some places, but I covered the entire southern pasture on the High Lonesome.  I looked behind every rock and tree, and no Marzee.  How does one lose a 1700 lb. cow?

Large Marzee

When I finally arrived back at the corral and got the Mule unstuck, Dave had located Marzee.  She had wandered off to the north side of the High Lonesome and came waddling up to the fence when she heard Dave putting out feed.  We were really happy to see her, not that she could have gotten out anywhere, but it was very strange that she was not with the rest of the herd.  She walked by and WOW was her milk bag big!  It looked like someone had blown up a surgical glove to the size of a beach ball.  She also had some mucus coming out her backside, which is a sure sign of imminent calving. 

We kept an eye on Marzee all day, but she wasn’t acting strange or heading off on her own.  After evening chores, we thought maybe she would wait another day.  Dave and I came back to the Holler and had supper.  As the sun sank low, we could see the herd wander out of the woods in the southern pasture to enjoy the last warm rays of daylight.  We counted, and only got to 13 again!  I grabbed the field glasses and sure enough, everyone was there except for Marzee.

We got back in the mule and headed over to the High Lonesome, looking for that enormous cow.  She had found a nice secluded spot in the woods and was lying under a tree. When she heard the Mule, she got up and waddled off, but this time her tail was pointed straight out behind her, another sign that she was about to calve. 

Marzee is a really sweet and gentle girl, so she didn’t complain when we rounded her up and put her in a shed in the corral.  We wanted to be able to keep an eye on her in case of any complications, and we wanted her to have her own quiet space away from the herd for birthing.  We stood there and watched her for over an hour.  She kept pacing, standing up, laying down, breathing heavy and she was clearly in discomfort.  Dave and I decided to go home and give her some space and check her every hour.  So we went home and were fixing to head back about an hour later when Cowboy Dave called and said she just calved.  Dang, we missed it!  But Yeah!  A BABY! So we headed back over to the High Lonesome and could see her cute little baby bull.

Marzee and her brand new baby!


Marzee was exhausted. After licking the little guy clean, she laid back down in the shed.  This is not normal, as typically a Mom will stand there and let her baby try to nurse. It is really important to a calf’s health that it starts nursing within a few hours of birth because it needs the colostrum from its mother’s milk to help the immune system.  If a calf doesn’t get it in a few hours, its chances for survival diminish considerably.  The little guy was on his feet and stumbling around, but since Marzee was laying down, he could not find a teat to start nursing.  Cowboy Dave and Pilot Dave got in the shed and prodded Marzee up onto her feet.  The bull was still stumbling around and trying to find a teat, but by this time he was exhausted so he laid down.

The two Dave’s got back in the shed and got him up on his feet, but then Marzee laid down again.  This all happened within a couple of hours of the birth, and now the calf was not nursing and not even standing up.  Linda went to her calving supplies and grabbed a syringe of Nursemate ASAP, which is a shot of vitamins and appetite stimulate to help a calf that is struggling to nurse.  Cowboy Dave distracted Marzee with some cake while Pilot Dave grabbed the little bull and shoved the syringe in his mouth to administer the good stuff.  The baby loved it and jumped up and started walking around and trying to find which end of his mother he could nurse.  This continued for another 30-45 minutes, but he was unsuccessful and Marzee decided to lay down again!  Then the bull laid down again.  We were approaching 1030PM, about 2.5 hours after birth and the little calf had yet to get any colostrum or milk in his system. 

We decided to leave them alone for an hour, and if we didn’t witness any nursing when we came back to look, we would give that baby some colostrum supplement through a bottle. Pilot Dave and I went back to the Holler and Cowboy and Linda retreated inside their house to warm up and rest a bit.  Just before midnight, Pilot Dave heated up some water and mixed up the colostrum supplement.  I put it in the giant baby bottle and we wrapped it in towels and put it in a cooler to keep it warm as we went back to check on Marzee and calf. 

Back in the Mule, and back to the High Lonesome, Dave and I discussed our plan of action. We would entice Marzee back on her feet and out of the shed with cake, at which point we would isolate the calf in the shed, grab him and force feed him with the bottle. 

We were so pleased when we got back to the shed to hear some slurping/sucking noise and when we shined the flashlight in there, Marzee was standing and baby was nursing!  Hooray.  He was absolutely pigging out.  We were so happy to see nature take its course, and we also were kicking ourselves for being such nervous first-time cow-parents.  Marzee looked at us with an expression that said, “I got this!  Get out of here ya nutjobs!”  So we left them alone and went back to the Holler, again.  We finally got to bed around 1:30AM, but we fell asleep relieved and excited about the new member of our herd.

The next day, last year’s calves were really curious about the new little bull.


After a short introduction, we decided to keep Marzee and the little guy separate from the rest of the herd so he could figure out who his Momma is, what she sounds and smells like and what her different Moos mean. 

The little bull got really strong, really quickly.  Late in the afternoon, we lured Marzee away from him with cake, once again, and grabbed him to put in an ear tag and band his testicles.  Just like that, our bull is now a steer!

He’s Number One!


He didn’t even cry or moo, but as Pilot Dave and I were working on him in the shed, Marzee ditched the idea of cake and came over to the fence and started yelling at us and giving us the what for.  Her normally gentle lowing became extremely loud and low-pitched threatening moo that we could feel resonating through our boots!  She did not want us messing with her baby.  Several short minutes later, they were reunited and she sniffed him all over, especially the strange new earring.


Marzee and Baby, (poor Marzee still looks pregnant!)


The new calf is our first calf.  He is also the first baby sired by Toothless, the bull we had last summer.  Hence, we decided to name him “Toothless – Baby ONE” – and we will call him T-BONE.

Marzee and T-BONE day one.


Close En-COW-nters

7 March 2018 – Sunny and 35°

Once again, another month has slipped by.  My brother told me, “February is the longest, shortest month.”  And I must agree.  It seemed pretty long, especially when the temperature would not creep out of the teens, yet it went by so danged fast! 

We had one day that reached nearly 50 degrees, and we have water front property as a result! Before we built our house, our neighbors, Cowboy and Linda, had told us that often in the Spring we would have a huge run-off of snow melt and that there would turn into a river running through our property.  We didn’t see that last year, but watching it develop this year was pretty cool.  The water flow began early in the evening as just little pools developed here and there.  Then the pools joined up, and pretty soon there was a flowing stream.  By morning, you could hear rushing water from our porch.  We talked about going rafting down the thing, but you would have to duck at the pasture’s edge or you may lose your head to the barbed wire.

We had some cow drama in February.  We helped our neighbor, Ned, round up his large herd to bring them closer to his barn for calving.  When we went out to the field to round them up, there was one large, pregnant cow laying in the middle of the ice.  Her back feet were sticking straight out behind her and when she saw us approach she attempted to stand but was unable.  She kept crawling on her front legs but her back legs kept slipping on ice and eventually she became too tired to even try to move.

Ned went and got his tractor, and someone else brought a trailer and after about an hour of trying to get straps under the big girl, we finally got her hoisted into the trailer bed.

Cow on the ground with tractor lifting her
Cow on the trailer

We drove her back to Ned’s barn and set her in some warm hay.  She still wouldn’t stand but she did have an appetite and kept eating her bedding.  Ned was not hopeful about her recovery.  He spoke with the vet and had figured she had either pulled her back leg muscles or broke her back from falling.  This was really discouraging because she was about 8 months pregnant and really a sweet and gentle cow.  He determined to give her some pain killers and see how she made it through the night.

The next day, she was still laying in the barn.  Ned and his crew hooked her back up to the straps to try to give her a chance to stand and hoisted her into a standing position.  She was wobbly at first, but after a little time passed, she was able to support herself!  Eventually, she was walking around and eating.  We decided to call her Grace because it really is quite a miracle that she survived that whole ordeal…..and also we are being a little sarcastic about her “graceful” ability to walk on ice.

Grace standing up and feeling better!


We also had some cow drama over at the High Lonesome when our cow, Marzee, decided she might want to have her calf on the warm weather day.  She was laying around in the shed, which was the only dry spot in sight.  Her breathing was labored, no pun intended, and when we looked at her milk bag it really looked full.  We call this “bagging up” and it usually happens just prior to birth as the cow’s milk comes in to feed the impending baby.

Poor big ol’ Marzee looks like she will have twins!


We followed Marzee around for two days, trying to round her up and get her in the pen each night because the ground was soaked from the melting snow.  Despite the warm daytime temps the night temperatures were still in the single digits, so in the evening, Dave and I would put on our 21 pieces of chore clothing and go try to find her and push her back into the corral.  Fortunately, she is a really gentle and sweet girl and will basically go whichever way you want.

On the 3rd day, Marzee looked back to normal.  Her bag was normal size (relatively) and she wasn’t heaving anymore.  Do cows have false labor?  I’m guessing they might, but also realizing that I really don’t know very much about cows or calving. We are getting quite the education out here on the range.

Dave’s latest project has been building shelves in the garage so he can have a work area and we can get more organized.IMG_3793

We picked up a load of cottonwood and had a load of pine delivered so we can be sure to be warm for whatever is left for winter.

A big pile of wood for splitting
Out with the splitter again!

Dave and I spent a day splitting and stacking…..phew!  That wood really keeps you warm.

That is about all that is new from the Holler.  We are looking forward to spring and Dave even saw a blue bird today!  Pretty soon the meadowlarks will be out there singing and the bees will be buzzing, and Pilot Dave and I will be busy catching up with all the things that have been put on hold by the snow that has been here since mid-December.  Today, the sun is shining and we are going to spend the day outside.

Another full moon on March 1


Everybody’s Gotta Eat!

16 Feb 2018 – Sunny and 32°

Fickle February!  One day the sun is shining and it feels positively spring-like.  The next it snows, and the wind blows, and you cannot imagine feeling any colder.  Monday was one of those really cold days.  The wind chill was MINUS 18 and it was snowing sideways. The wind was howling out of the east and it blew all the snow in South Dakota across Stagecoach Springs.  Fortunately, Dave hooked up a heater to Babe, the tractor, and was able to get the road open.  We needed to get out because we had promised one of our neighbors across the way that we would help him feed his 200+ head of cattle.  And even when it is cold out, cows gotta eat!

Our friends Ned and Doris normally have some help but the help had other obligations this week and Ned asked if we might be able to lend a hand.  We headed over to the Spring Valley Ranch where Ned had a flatbed truck loaded with six giant 900lb round hay bales.

He also had two giant Case tractors ready to go.  One tractor, that is not four-wheel drive, was pulling a processor.  For those of you who don’t know, a processor is a big piece of machinery that you put a giant hay bale into, and it grinds it up and spits it out in neat little rows so the cows can easily access it.

The “Beast” Case 4×4 Tractor


The other big 2WD Case pulling the processor


The other tractor, which is a four-wheel drive beast, was used for unloading bales off of the flatbed and onto the processor.  Pilot Dave drove this tractor.  I drove the smaller flatbed truck which had another giant bale on it and was used to feed Ned’s horses.

We lined up our convoy and headed out to find the herd. 

There they are!  They look hungry


They were waiting and hungry, and the process went as follows.

First, a giant bale was unloaded from the flatbed.  Dave and I cut the strings of twine off of the bale, which is not as easy as it sounds because the bales have been sitting in snow and the strings are frozen into the hay.  You really have to get in there with your knife and stab at the strings and hay like you are a crazed serial killer.   Then you pull as hard as you can to get the strings out from under the frost and ice.  After fighting with the strings and the ice, we have decided to invent edible bale string and let the cows take care of it.  Maybe some long Twizzlers would work although I doubt anyone would let us try to load a spool of Twizzlers into their baler. I bet the cows wouldn’t complain.


Meanwhile, Ned took the big Case tractor with the loader and plowed a long section of pasture so he had a place that was fairly clear of snow to feed. Next the giant string-free bale was loaded into the processor and was processed and delivered to the cows.

During the entire process, the curious and hungry cows were constantly surrounding us and trying to get their noses into whichever bale we were working on. Not to mention, the wind was howling out of the east and the sky was spitting cold ice pellets and snow.  This was just another glamorous day in ranching life.  As hard as it may be to believe, when you start working you almost completely forget how cold it is!

Then we repeated the process until all the bales were shredded and all the cows were eating in a row. We took the final bale up to the horses.

Horses getting fed
Mike, the Clydesdale/Shire cross.
Chocolate, a great ranch horse, waiting for breakfast


After feeding, we headed back to the ranch, and struggled a bit getting the tractors and truck up the steep hill.  Eventually, Ned plowed a little track around the hill so we could get all the equipment back to the barn.

The 2WD didn’t quite make it up the hill, and slid backward off the road!


Doris  cooked us up some chicken and wild rice soup for lunch and it was so nice sitting in the warm house after the cold morning feeding, which had taken about three hours. 

When we got back to Hoten Holler, the wind had shifted and now all the snow had drifted in from the west side of the road.  Dave and Babe headed back out to clear the road again.

That night, Dave and I were discussing cattle operations.  200 cows is a lot and feeding them is quite the process.  They also go through a ton of water.  We laughed about our little operation feeding square bales off the back of the Mule.  When calving starts in a few weeks, we are anticipating 8 calves, while Ned has had 18 delivered in one evening!  Ranching takes some work, especially on that scale.  Still, it is really quite fun and it keeps people young.  Ned and Doris are in their 80’s and they are outside working cattle, hopping in and out of tractors, running water, and ranching every day.  I hope that if I get to live to be in my 80’s that people will say, “That’s a lot of work, especially for someone your age!”  But I probably won’t be able to hear them, anyway.

We helped the neighbors all week, but we didn’t neglect our girls over at the High Lonesome.  They are all looking fat and happy.

We are expecting calves in about 30 days now.  We are also expecting a foot of snow this weekend so we hope that no one decides to give birth early.  Happy February, everyone!


A lovely South Dakota day!


The Winter Olympics – South Dakota not South Korea

9 February 2018 – Snowing, high of 6°F

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony was today in Pyeongchang,  South Korea, and they are reporting it to be very cold.  Since it is also very cold here, and also because we have about 10 inches of snow and it is still snowing, we decided we could host our own Winter Olympics.


While we may have the same weather as Korea, our Olympics differ because there will be only one country represented (USA) and only two team members participating (Pilot Dave and myself).

Our team uniforms consist of long thermal underwear, Carhartt bibs and snowpants, Coast Guard Issue 15-pound snow parka, Carhartt snow cap, waterproof gloves, wool socks, and while Dave opts for Cabela’s hunting boots, I could never survive without my Bogs mudders rated to -40°!


Most of the events in our Olympics are team sports.  They include Snow-Clearing, Ice-Breaking, Stall-Mucking, Tractor-Driving, and the ever-popular Wood-Hauling.

Dave won the gold medal simultaneously for two of the events, Tractor-Driving and Snow-Removal as he spent about 3 hours plowing Stagecoach Springs and all the driveways.  I definitely got the silver in Snow-Removal for raking snow off the solar panel.

The Wood-Hauling medal is still up for grabs.  This is the winter’s longest event and it appears we may run out of wood before we run out of cold weather.   That will add an entirely different dimension to the sport as we will have to either pick up logs from the multiple piles around the northern pasture that we just cut in the fall, or we may have to buy a truckload from one of our friends.  Either way, there will be some wood-splitting involved.

We will Share the top spot on the podium for stall-mucking and ice-breaking.  Speaking of podiums, we don’t have one but we have a Poo-dium which is the mountain of cow manure we have removed from the stalls thus far this winter.  Even if we win an event, we don’t feel much like climbing up on the poo-dium to receive a medal.

Dave in front of the “poo-dium” during morning chores


Unlike the official Winter Olympics, we compete for our gold-medal award winning wine, and instead of silver medals we go for Silver Bullets (Coors)!  Just kidding, we aren’t fancy and prefer Franzia and Keystone Light.

The herd of cattle serves as the judges. They are not impartial and definitely the heifers love Dave the most. Not Fair.

Following the games, neither one of us expect to be on the Wheaties box, but we wouldn’t be surprised to get a sponsorship from Bogs or Carhartt, or more likely, Keystone or Franzia! Stay warm out there!

The food train – headed to eat, not to be eaten…..yet!


January Wrap-Up

3 February 2018 – Cloudy and 33 with 3 – 5 inches of snow in the forecast

I cannot believe we are already into February?  What happened to January?  Well, here’s what happened. January was cold, then warm, then cold.  There was snow, sunshine, and more snow. It warmed up enough that I could wash the truck. The next day, I realized it was a waste of time.

We had a magnificent snowfall of around 8 inches.  We had to use the snow rake and clear the solar panels.

Since we had enough snow, Tractor Dave decided this would be a good opportunity for me to learn to plow the road.

Jenny plowing the road

It is harder than you might think because if you get the blade too low, you mess up the gravel and the road can become really rough.  Gravel isn’t cheap to replace at about $250 a load, so when plowing, you really don’t want to create any holes or rough patches.  On the other hand, if you don’t get the blade low enough to scrape up the snow you are basically just burning diesel fuel.  The snow plow’s blade can be rotated up and down, right and left, as well as elevated in relation to the ground, and it is difficult to find the best position to clear the road.  Our dirt road is crowned in some places, level in others, and there are multiple hills and valleys, which only complicates the plowing process. 

A close-up of the plow


After 2.5 hours in the (thankfully) heated cab, Stagecoach Springs was open for business. I really enjoyed plowing and I think Dave and I are going to have to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who gets to scoop up what we have coming today. Funny, we never have this argument over scooping poop out of the stalls, though.

Clearing the road


In other news, the Black Hills Stock Show has been going on in Rapid City over the last 2 weeks.  I spent an entire day walking around checking it out and I could have easily spent a week looking at all they had going on.  There were tons of vendors that were marketing a wide variety of goods including western furniture, art, cattle feed, tack, prairie dog exterminators, pesticides, seed for alfalfa, tractor equipment, trailers, ATVs, feeders, stock tanks and the ever-popular bull semen! Artificially inseminating cows is big business.  Some of the events included rodeos, cattle shows, horse riding clinics, and all sorts of seminars for ranchers. It was so western, so cowboy, and so much fun.  Everyone was wearing boots and hats, and you could just tell that all those cowpokes were the real thing.  I barely saw a single person looking at a smart phone.

I really liked walking through the prep area for the Hereford bull show.  This part of the stock show is basically a beauty pageant for cattle, and the prize winners take home some big money and bragging rights for the quality of their bovines!  The best part is most of the ranchers showing are young kids in 4H.  I saw two kids, probably 9-10 years old, hanging out in the stall next to their bulls and eating lunch.  The bull decided to do his business and as soon as he pooped, the little girl jumped up and ran to get a pitch fork and cleaned up after him.  No one told her to, she didn’t complain, and then she went right back to eating lunch.  Ranch kids have initiative, that is for sure.

A beautiful Hereford getting groomed for the show
Some bulls laying around before the show, notice the fans keeping them cool.  Spoiled!


Our cows are getting bigger.  The May-Flower heifers are still super friendly and the one we call Black Cherry especially likes Dave to scratch her head.  That will be pretty interesting when she gets to be about 1600 pounds! 

Dave giving Black Cherry a face rub


The other cows are about 50 days out from calving.  They are LARGE and IN CHARGE!  They can put away some groceries and go through many gallons of water too. We stay busy feeding and watering them, but it is still so much fun for us. We have been battling with ice in the pastures and the corrals.  The pregnant cows know it is slippery and they walk like old ladies across the slick spots.  We try to route them around the icy patches because if one of them wipes out it will be a big deal trying to get her back on her feet!

We applied for a brand for our cows.  The process of getting a brand is pretty complicated if you are looking for something specific.  Originally, we wanted three H’s for Hoten Holler Homestead, but the lady at the brand office said that anything with double or triple letters is nearly impossible because they are already taken, and the H’s are even more difficult because they can be read as I’s if rotated.  She said if we design a new brand it takes 6 months for them to approve, if they approve it.  However, there are expired brands to choose from that we could have approval for in two weeks if we found one we liked.  We chose this one.

I over-cropped.  We will be branding Cattle on the right hip, not Cats.


It is an H with an inverted R, or in brand-speak, a CRAZY R.  It will go on the right hip of the cows and it stands for Hoten Ranch.  Or, Hoten CRAZY Ranch if you prefer.

And here we are in February.  The days are starting to get longer and we are planning for spring projects, primarily disking the fields, planting oats or alfalfa, ordering a branding iron, and getting started on a barn. Once again, as I wrap this up, it is starting to snow.

Arrow likes to help with chores, especially the feeding of round bales.

Mother Nature’s Head Fake

9 January 2018 – Sunny and 55°

Oh yeah, that’s right, the thermometer says 55!  It is a warm, soupy, muddy mess out there but we are loving the warmer temperatures.  The forecast, however, is not quite so warm and friendly. It looks like snow again tomorrow and back to the big ZERO degrees by Friday. It is early January here in the Dakotas, so it is more than expected. Still, we are loving the warmth today.

We aren’t the only ones.  The cows have found some grassy spots between the melting patches of snow and are preceding to eat all day. I guess their New Year’s Resolutions didn’t take either.

I was super excited to see some actual living bees yesterday!  It has been quite some time since I saw any of the girls flying around.  I have noticed piles of dead bees in the snow, but from all I read this is to be expected in deep winter.  Bees are pretty hygienic and they don’t like dead bodies in their house, so when it warms up they toss them out.  The bee corpses are easily spotted in the snow, and for a novice like myself, it is quite disconcerting.  So again, I was actually jumping for joy when I saw quite a few live bees hanging outside the hive yesterday!  I really hope they make it through the winter.

In other news, we added two more heifers and two bred cows to our herd.

This is an older picture of Honey (red cow on the left) and Mar-Zee (big nose in the camera).  These are the two bred cows we purchased.  We also brought the white face heifers (not pictured) #111, #112 who we named Triple Sticks and Dirty Dozen.


Nothing really changes for them; we are still working in conjunction with Cowboy Dave and Linda over at the High Lonesome Ranch, and the herd will stay together. But we are excited to see what we can make happen over the next few years with our ranch.  The big project this year will be barn-building and corral building so eventually we can have our own facilities for cattle.

I am finishing this post on the 10th of January in the early afternoon. Tractor Dave and I swapped out the bucket on the tractor for the snow plow to be ready for the next round of winter. We hold some sort of superstitious belief that if we have the tractor set up to plow snow, we probably won’t need it.

We have both retreated inside because it is starting to snow.

The weather-guy decided to use my phone number in his forecast! Jenny-Jenny!  This isn’t really our forecast, just something I saw on the internet that I thought would make you laugh too.
The super moon, or Wolf Moon, setting on New Year’s Day in the morning over the Holler.


Fast Away the Old Year Passes

31 December 2017 – Snowing and 13° below zero

Yep, it’s still cold and it’s still snowing.

It has been a bitterly cold week on the Holler, and thanks to all the work we did cutting and splitting firewood, we are warm and toasty in the house.  Chores remain on the schedule and Pilot Dave and I have decided that feeding and busting water and scooping manure are not a big deal until the temperatures dive below zero. That zero-degree mark is the distinct difference between being able to stay warm in 20 layers of clothing, and losing all feelings in your face. But the cows gotta eat, and really, how many facial expressions do you need for mucking stalls? The bovines are all covered in snow and frost, but they don’t really seem to mind the cold weather.

The cold temperatures make everything a little more difficult.  Dave has been trying to run Babe, the tractor, every day whether he is plowing the road or not, just to keep the fluids moving and keep things warm.  Thank goodness and knock on wood, Babe has started every time.  A few days ago, shortly after starting, Babe just quit due to the cold temps and gelled diesel in the fuel lines.  We had an emergency intervention and poured in some diesel additive.  Then Dave plugged in a space heater and covered the fuel pump and filter side with a blanket held with a clamp.  Simultaneously, he also plugged in the block heater.

Don’t forget we are a solar powered house, and while we are experiencing just under 9 hours of daylight now, we have had some really cloudy and non-solar friendly days.  So, to compensate for the power required for the space heater and block heater we ran our propane generator.  We remain solutions oriented.  After about two hours, Babe started up and continued to run.  Pilot Dave (or Tractor Dave) proceeded to plow the driveway, Stagecoach Springs, the neighbors’ driveways etc.  He is really happy to have an enclosed cab on that tractor! This is NOT convertible weather.

IMG_5048 (2)
Tractor Dave, warm in his cab, after digging out the neighborhood.

Since we have a snow on the ground and the winds have died down, we set out one day this week to burn some of our slash piles.  The day we did this, it was 20 degrees, which felt like heaven!  The piles were dry and it didn’t take long to get them going. They sounded like a jet engine when they took off and flames were shooting into the sky.  It was so warm next to the burning piles, we had to back up quite a bit to cool off.

After they burned to the ground, we scraped any fuels away from the bottom of the piles and covered them with snow.  That evening, an eerie fog descended upon the Holler and from the southern windows of the house, we could barely see trees, fence, or anything.  BUT we did see a flame in the area of one of our piles.  We kept watching and then we saw what looked like two flames!  Now that we are completely fire paranoid, we suited up in our 20 layers of clothes and carefully drove through the dense fog in the mule to see if our pile was still burning. It was, but it was clearly not going anywhere.  It was just one little hot spot surrounded by snow. The fog has a strange way of distorting light over distances and the flame was about the size of a small candle.  Just to be safe, we buried that sucker in more snow. By the time we got back to the house, it had started snowing again and we finally relaxed about our burn piles. Never a dull moment around here!

And so, 2017 ends on a frigidly cold note, but the sun is coming out now and we are expecting to make it all the way to minus one degree today.

The good news is tomorrow’s temps will be in the teens and then 30’s for the rest of the week.  We will likely be wearing shorts and flip-flops.  For New Year’s Eve, we will likely be in bed at 9PM, but celebrate our annual New Year Tradition of watching the sun come up on the 1st. Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy New Year!


Baby, It’s Cold Outside

23 December 2017 – Cloudy and a high of 10°…Brrrrrr

Winter is here!  We have about four inches of snow on the ground and it is frickin’ freezin’ out there.  It looks like we are not going to get any warmer than the low 20’s for the next 10 days.  At least there is only one night in the forecast where we are supposed to dip below zero, but we’ll see.

Cows walking up the fence line for breakfast


We have been busy with chores and have branched out of our hermit-crabiness and attended some Christmas activities and parties. Typically, the days are as follows. The routine has been to get up and have coffee and breakfast and wait, and wait, and wait for the sun to come up (around 7:18AM).  Once that happens we put on 10 to 20 layers of clothing and head outside to scrape snow off the solar panels. Next, we shovel a place in the chicken run so the chickens can walk outside and we pour hot water onto their frozen water dish.  Sometimes, I make them warm oatmeal for breakfast. (Don’t judge me, we usually have fresh eggs for breakfast so I’m just returning the favor.)  Next, while Dave warms up the Mule I go and scoop the snow off the front of the beehive so if the little buzzers ever decide to come out their entrance/exit is not blocked.  (I tried to get a picture of this, but my phone literally froze and would not work!)

Once the Mule is warmed up we kick it into four-wheel drive and go over to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s to feed the cows.  They eat about 20lbs of hay per cow per day, so that is 280lbs for all fourteen.  That means four bales in the morning and three bales in the late afternoon.  We believe all the cows are pregnant and they eat every last scrap of hay we put out for them. They also don’t seem to have any sentimentality for their heifer offspring, and often we have to try to split them off to ensure the young girls can get some food and not get run over by the big fat cows. We also try to avoid getting run over by the big fat cows; they seem to be always very hungry and once they hear the Mule engine they come running as fast as they can.  It can be pretty exciting seeing a 1600-lb big, snorting, wooly mammoth made of beef charging at you in the snow while you are holding her breakfast.

One of the large cows, Marzee, getting ready to head-butt the little heifer out of her food pile.  Pilot Dave and Arrow trying to supervise the situation.
Snow makes everyone HUNGRY

After feeding, we head to the barn and load up the evening hay rations, break the ice in the water tanks, and scoop out any poop in the loafing shed and barn corral.  One good thing about the bitter cold weather is that it makes scooping poop a lot easier than when it is hot….ewwwww.  We repeat the whole routine in the evening. I may have mentioned we are doing winter chores in exchange for two heifers. It is really not that much work, but all of these things need to be accomplished daily.



Frozen water tank.  2017’s Ice-Bucket Challenge!


Dave and I are really enjoying the farm life.  It is always fun to check up on the animals and get some fresh outdoor air first thing in the morning.  It’s also nice to come into a warm house in the evening after making sure everyone is fed, cooped up, and ready for the cold nights. Then we generally have something for supper that has been cooking on the wood stove all day.  Tonight, we are having baked potatoes that I put on the stove in a Dutch Oven with a little water in the bottom.  We are topping the taters with left-over chili that was also cooked on the stovetop.  Don’t worry, Moms, we are having a big salad too, so we are getting our veggies.  Don’t worry pilots, we are also having some wine with dinner.  It is Saturday night, after all.  Wild times on the Holler.

While we are enjoying the work, winter makes everything a little more difficult.  We worry a lot about the chickens being warm enough, but they are winter-hardy breeds so we hope they will be okay.  We also have been burning through quite a bit of wood in the stove, which means about once a week we are filling up the wood box on the porch.  Yesterday, the Mule was full of wood we needed to unload into the box, so Dave parked it in front of the porch thinking we would unload it prior to going out for evening chores.  Well, the sun came out just long enough to heat the roof of the house and a giant avalanche of snow slid off right onto the back of the Mule.

We had to dig the wood out from under the snow drift.  It reminded us of last year when we didn’t have a wood shed and we had to keep wood under a tarp which was constantly covered with snow as well. 

Dave has also been spending the days plowing the snow off of Stagecoach Springs.  The neighbors seem pretty happy we moved here! Again, no pictures due to frozen phone.

The Fire Department radio has quieted down a bit, (knock on wood), and the state fire fighters finally got the fire out in the State Park.  We drove through there a few days ago and it actually doesn’t look too bad.  It is obvious there was a fire but a lot of it seems to have burnt out the grass and underbrush and most of the trees look like they are in pretty good shape.  God Bless the Fire Fighters!

We are looking forward to a quiet Christmas.  Cowboy and Linda asked us to come for Christmas dinner, but other than that, it will be another typical winter day.  It is supposed to be extremely cold on the 25th and even if we don’t get any more snow, we foresee a white Christmas.  I think we might go sledding!

So that’s the update from the Holler.  Dave and I want to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas.  Cheers!

Our Front Gate

The Holler Homestead from Cowboy and Linda’s Drive





Let It Snow

16 December 2017 – Snowing and 36°F

We are so happy to be inside a warm house this December, enjoying the fire burning in the wood stove and watching it snow outside. It sure beats camper living in the winter. We are truly grateful for the snow. We most definitely need the moisture!


Since I last wrote, Dave and I joined the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department. We haven’t been trained on anything yet, and have been completing the required federal wild land fire fighter training on the internet. We also got issued some gear and a radio so we can hear what is going on emergency-wise in the local area. Although we are not qualified to do any actual fire fighting, we can go to the station and help get the trucks out the door or refuel them when they come back etc.


Well, that radio they issued us has been going off non-stop since 3AM Monday morning.

We have had some extremely windy days here in the Black Hills, gusts up to 60kts in Rapid City and in the high 40’s up here in the mountains. Add the high winds to the extremely dry grass and trees and you have a recipe for disaster.  On Monday morning, 3AM, a tree blew down into a power line and started a fire north of the city of Custer. We got up and went to the station and basically held open doors and offered support to the fire fighters that went to put out the fire. That fire only burned about 12 acres and the crews returned to the station around 7PM that evening.

In addition to the fire north of Custer, on the same day, another tree fell on a power line in Custer State Park and that fire grew rapidly to about 3000 acres by Tuesday. By Tuesday night, the gusty winds caused that fire to really blow up and the local authorities called for “All hands on deck” for firefighting in the park. The Argyle Fire Department isn’t that big and they needed to have at least 2 people in every truck. Since most of their assets had deployed the day before to Custer, they asked Dave to ride along for training and to be body #2 in one of the trucks. He got his first fire fighting exposure to what quickly grew to be the third largest wild fire in the history of the Black Hills…..57,000 + acres!

Fortunately, Dave rode along in the water Tender truck, and was used primarily to refill other brush trucks. He did say it was quite exciting at times being in the middle of a forest fire in the dark! I took Dave to the station at 7PM Tuesday night and I picked him up on Wednesday morning at 10AM.

Article on the Legion Lake Fire

By Wednesday morning, the authorities had called in fire fighting assets from all over the state, Colorado, and Nebraska. The winds raged on the fire continued to grow and spread beyond the park. They evacuated two small towns on the east side of the park, but fortunately they were able to protect all the structures so far. It is now Saturday and they are saying the fire is 80% contained. We are so happy it is snowing and hope that it will really help those firefighters that are still on scene. God Bless those guys!

Since Dave was out partying all night at the wild fire, I rode with Cowboy Dave on Wednesday to take our heifers and one of his heifers to the vet in Edgemont.
Our girls needed a 7-way booster shot and to be poured to protect against worms and flies. Cowboy’s heifer needed a shot and he wanted to get her pregnancy checked since she was pretty young and had been exposed to a bull late in the summer. Fortunately, she was not pregnant so he doesn’t have to worry about a young, small cow having a baby that is too big for her.
Our trip was uneventful. Our heifers, which we refer to as The Mayflowers (all born in May) are so tame. Normally you would have to round up cows and push them into the trailer, but these girls are so spoiled and used to eating cake they just came running when I called them and hopped right in the trailer. They are very food motivated.

The Mayflowers all have white faces

Cowboy and I were discussing how economical the vet is for large animals. He looked at his bill and said, “Would you put your arm up a cow’s behind for $3.85?” That is apparently the going rate for a preg-check. I said I would charge at least five bucks, plus tip. Ha ha.

Meanwhile, Pilot Dave got caught up on some well-deserved sleep and then went right back to work.

This is our new bench for the mud room. I love it!

We also cut down a tree for our Christmas this year. We picked one that will need to be removed anyway when we put in a barn this spring.IMG_3373IMG_4944
It kinda looks more like a Christmas Shrub, but Fa La La anyway.

And that’s about it from the Holler. It’s about time to go scrape the snow off the solar panels and fill up the wood box. We hope all of you readers are doing well and having a happy December. Stay safe out there and thank a firefighter if you see one!

Feeding Time!



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