Hoten Holler!


May 2016

Finishing Touches on Water Hydrant



Sunny, Calm, Warm, Rainy, Cold, Windy

Today we put the finishing touches on our water hydrant.  Although the 6′ hydrant was connected and buried along side a treated timber we needed some way to keep the cows from using it as a scratching post.  So we dug three holes in a triangle around the hydrant to a depth of about 2′.  Then we put in 8′ treated timber poles, threw in some rock and dirt, tamped the rock and dirt until sturdy.  To add more stability we added two runs of cross boards connecting the three poles.  When we cut off the excess poles we added those in an “X” pattern on top. This ain’t going anywhere!

When we went back up to the High Lonesome for some extra wood screws, Cowboy Dave came across this sign and asked if we should put it on the hydrant.  He added the “S”, fitting if you know Jenny.





Water Situation Update

Saturday, 21 May 2016, Foggy, Cold and 64°F – barely!

It was so cold and foggy this morning.  We had planned to take advantage of the official opening weekend at Custer State Park and drive through and see what was happening.  We drove South on 87, up through the mountains where we could see nothing from the scenic overlooks because of the fog.  Actually, we were in the clouds and it was eerie and awesome.  As we descended through the southern part of the park on the Wildlife Loop, we could see much better and spotted many bison, antelopes, and some very friendly wild burros.

We were feeling quite adventurous and decided to leave the main road and head south on one of the dirt roads that is much less traveled.  What a treat, we saw so many more buffalo including many Mom and baby pairs right in the road.  We followed the road up a very steep hill and were rewarded with one of the best views either of us has ever seen.  360° of nothing but wilderness, rolling hills and the silhouettes of buffalo on the ridge lines; not another car or human in sight. These pictures do not do the scenery justice, if any of you readers ever get here in person we will have to show you this spot!

After goofing off on the park back roads, we headed down to Hoten Holler to see if we could get the hydrant hooked up, finally.  Reef jumped in the hole and it had dried enough that he was able to shovel out most of the mud and reach the hose.  We used Dawn Dishwashing Soap to lube up the barb and the water line and Reef hammered the fitting into the hose.  He clamped the hose and turned on the water and it works!  We spent the next couple hours packing rocks into the hole and shoveling dirt back in.  This was work, but not as hard as shoveling the dirt out. Hotens – 2, Black Hills Rural Water – 3.  We are gaining.

This hydrant is one of the first of many projects on our homestead list.  Next big project:  barbed wire fence around the driveway and home area.  Of course we finished the day by visiting the High Lonesome where we drank a few beers on the porch and celebrated our victory!

A Trip to the Vet and a History Lesson

May 20th Sunny and in the 70’s

We had made plans to be at Cowboy Dave and Linda’s at noon to help with loading five 4 month old calves for a trip to the vet.  When we arrived Cowboy was doing some repair to the trailer, the light bar on the top had come loose from one end and needed to have the hole drilled out and a new rivet installed.  Reef climbed up on the side of the trailer using the spare tire as a platform to work and fixed the light.  Next we needed to get the young calves that had recently been separated from their mothers into the trailer; this was not all that difficult for us with the setup that Cowboy Dave has built.  The mother cows and the calves were quite unhappy about being separated, and they made sure everyone knew it.  They mooed and hollered, crying for each other.  It was pretty sad, and even though we explained to them it was just temporary, they continued their loud protest.  Linda packed us a cooler for snacks and drinks and we were off to the vet in Edgemont.

Ahead of schedule, Cowboy Dave said, “I want to show you something.  Instead of taking Hwy 18 15 miles into Edgemont, we are going to take this dirt road 17 miles to get there.”  So off we went down Pilger Mountain Road, a gravel winding route that took us through the southern end of the Red Canyon.  The views in South Dakota change so quickly.  One minute you are driving through the green farm and ranch land of the Southern Hills, the next you are up over a ridge and into a canyon with red rock on all sides.  Towering canyon walls with abandon mine shafts and shelf roads box in the road that runs by a stream.  There are “cattle at large” throughout the canyon, and it feels like you wandered back in time to the late 1800s.  There are several old buildings, a livery station, old home sites, abandoned shacks that housed settlers, ranchers, and Americans in search of freedom and fortune (like us only 150 years ago!)


Cowboy Dave pointed out the site of the Metz family massacre in 1875.  The canyon is hour glass shaped and at the pinch point, a family that was leaving the Black Hills, fortune in tow, was murdered.  It was reported to be Indians, but later discovered that there were boot prints in the mud indicating it was probably outlaws.  See the link below to read more about this site:


17 miles later we arrived at the Cheyenne River Animal Hospital, where we unloaded the calfies into the paddock.  Reef ran the squeeze gate to direct the calves into the chute.  One by one the little calves were funneled through the chute, trapped and treated.  All the calves were inoculated with the bangs vaccine, protecting them against brucellosis and officially allowing them to be transported anywhere, even across state lines.  They were given a pesticide treatment along their backs to prevent parasites and protect against ticks and their ears were “fly-tagged” providing additional protection against pests.  We were told the ear tag works so well at keeping flies away that the older cows will often go and stand over the head of the calves to take advantage and get the flies away from their bellies!


Dr. “Steffie” or Dr. Stephanie Stevens did the work while mentoring two young aspiring veterinary students.  She is a great doctor, efficient and careful, and she commented on how healthy and great Cowboy Dave’s calves looked.  Then, Cowboy Dave stepped up to brand his calves. He used an electric branding iron which heats up to a very hot temperature very quickly.  It is his personal brand, which reads SR but on the side.  It stands for “Stage Route Layover” so the sideways brand represents the “lay-over”.  Cool! Cowboy Dave quickly and as kindly as possible did the branding for four of the calves and Reef got to put his cowboy skills to the test and brand one of the little heifers, too.  Good job, Reef!

We loaded the five calves back in the trailer and headed back up the road to the High Lonesome.  Cowboy Dave’s plan was to leave the calves in the trailer and let the Mom Cows out of the corral.  He said they would want to see their babies and he would take advantage of that need to lead the cows back to the pasture.  Cowboy Dave sure knows his cows; he let the Mom Cows out and they went right to the back of the trailer.  He drove the trailer down the road toward the pasture, and Reef rode “outrider” in the Mule with Hercules and Arrow along for moral support.  The outrider is supposed to herd back any renegade cows that decide to stop following where they are supposed to go.  Jen and Linda rode in the “drag” position, bringing up the rear in the Tundra, putting some pressure on the cows from the back to keep them moving forward. It’s called the drag position because it is a drag eating all the dust from the round up!   It was a fairly easy round up, all those cows wanted was their babies and they were running and mooing the entire ¾ mile stretch.  Once released from the trailer, the newly branded babies went right to their mamas and started milking. Cows have very strong family ties.



Return of the Dragon!

19 May 2016 – Sunny – Finally! – 72°F

Thursday was a beautiful day in Custer, finally, the weather we have been waiting for!  It looks like it will be good for the next 10 days too so we are pretty happy about that. 

We recruited the help of our fellow work campers, Bill and Bill, and drove to our storage unit in Rapid City to retrieve Dave’s smoker, the Kamado Joe, a.k.a. “Dragon.” Dave has been wanting to grill something since we arrived 6 weeks ago, and has been denied the opportunity due to lack of equipment.  Cooking in this small kitchen has become torture to him and he wanted his smoker, so we went and got it!  Thanks to the kind Bills, the four of us were able to load it up into the back of the Tundra and drive it back up the hill to the campground.  We unloaded it into our camp yard and Dave proceeded to grill some hotdogs for lunch.

After a lazy afternoon sitting in the sun, Dave cranked up the dragon to about 450° and baked a sweet potato for an hour.  He then cranked it up even hotter and threw on a ribeye steak.   We had what we call “Death Row Dinner” which is what we would order if it were our last meal.  Salad, sweet potato, ribeye and wine.  



This morning, he is at it again.  He is making artisan bread in a dutch oven….if you’re worried about us up here, I promise we are not starving!


Barbed Wire and Beer

12 May 2016 – Sunny (WINDY) 63°F

Today we went out to the property to meet the water guys and get our water turned on….finally.  Unfortunately, they had already done that after some miscommunication and our hydrant hole is now full of mud.  Black Hills Rural Water – 2, Hotens – 0.  Now we are waiting for it to quit snowing (yes snowing!) so we can get back there and dig some more in that danged hole!

We also met with Todd (builder) and the solar guys and discussed where the battery bank would go and how they would trench for the conduit for the solar panels to the battery storage.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I wish I would have taken some pictures!  More to come.

After all the “business” was taken care of, we went over to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s to see if they needed help with anything.  We spent the afternoon stringing barbed wire between his pasture and the National Forrest.

We had begun this project last week, tearing down the old barbed wire fence and learning all sorts of new tricks from Cowboy Dave.   I am so happy to now have received some tutelage in the use of fencing tools.  (Pilot Dave has done this type of work before.)  I learned to use a fence post jack, a fencing tool, a post cannon, (actually Pilot Dave did all of the post cannon work), and a fence stretcher.  Last week we had jacked the posts and taken down the old barbed wire….some of it was single strand which Cowboy Dave pointed out has not been manufactured since the late 1800’s.  There is some history out here in the hills!  So we rolled that wire and he kept it as an antique.  We salvaged the multi-strand wire and reused it when we moved the fence.

The two Dave’s built an “H” which was two big logs that were driven into the ground with braces in between.  The H provides stability and tension for the barbed wire in the corners.  Then Pilot Dave used the post cannon and drove all the posts into the ground (sometimes into the rock!).  This was good exercise, and Cowboy Dave was happy to have Pilot Dave’s help!  We attached the wire to the H and the last post pulled it tight, and began hanging it on the t-posts all the way to the end.  We did 3 wires and have one to go, but about 4pm, Cowboy Dave said, “Is it time to go drink beer?”  And everyone knows the answer to that question.

So back up to the High Lonesome homestead we went and had a few Keystone Lights on the porch with our wonderful friends and their two sweet dogs.  Shortly thereafter, our other new friend, Matt, showed up with his 5 dogs!  Yes, 5 dogs….I’m in heaven!  Then, another friend showed up whom we had not yet met.  This man, Chad, had a rough week as his parents’ home burned to the ground on Tuesday and his girlfriend broke her back in a separate incident and was in the hospital.  Cowboy Dave and Matt had rushed to Chad’s folks’ place to help fight the fire but it was too windy and they were too late.  Chad said they were having a massive cleanup effort this Saturday and we volunteered to go help. 

So these are some things we have observed about the people in the rural Black Hills.  Neighbors are good to each other.  They want to help new friends succeed in their ventures into farming/ranching. They want to help old friends when things don’t go well.  They take advantage of the sunny days by getting up early, working hard all day and then drinking cold beer in the late afternoon sun.  No one ever pulls out their smart phone during conversation, in fact they rarely use cell phones. They love their dogs.  They love their guns.  They love their freedom.  We love it here.

A sneak peak of the inside

view from entry
Entry view

Todd showed us yesterday a computer program that depicts what the inside of our house will look like.  No, the walls are not going to be green.


kitchen pic
Standing in the great room looking toward the kitchen
barn door
Barn door for the pantry/mudroom
This is the Timber-Frame design.  The loft will have a cantilever.


Ours will be on a smaller scale than this but the Hammer-Beams opens up the view from the loft.

Water Hydrant

Okay, so we have rural water to the property.  Two water lines actually, one designated for the house and the other for livestock.  The water company, (a name that shall not be mentioned), trenches the 1″ pipe along the road and then about 50′ or so into our property.  The pipe is buried about 6′ down.  Then they install a meter connected to a post in the ground and leave about 10′ of the pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Since we are already paying for the water, even though we have not used a single gallon yet, (I’m hitting the keys very hard now),  we are going to install a 6′ frost free water hydrant so we can use the water we are already paying for.  If you’ve never installed a 6′ hydrant, and I don’t know why you would, let me tell you, digging a six foot hole is a great workout!  Just ask Jen, I’m tired just watching! We hope to finish tomorrow before the rain fills up the hole.


Update: 5-7-16

Added the elbow to the hydrant and put gravel in the bottom of the hole for the drain, then we cut the 1″ pipe and added two clamps to attach the pipe to the brass elbow.  Before attaching the pipe to the hydrant we wanted to turn on the water line to flush it out in case any dirt or debris was in the line so we didn’t clog up the hydrant.  The water company, has installed a “special” valve near the road that turns on and off the water supply so we were not able to flush the line today.  We will have to call them out to the site on Monday to turn on the water, I can’t wait to spend some quality time with them!




Driveway Update

We went out today to do some work on the water hydrant, (a post later), and Greg our excavator, had made some major progress on our road.  Later, Todd showed up and the four of us went to the Hitch Rail in Pringle for supper, (thanks Todd).   Greg’s wife drove in from Hermosa and showed up shortly after we arrived, we had such a great time getting to know them, what a great couple!



More progress today, 5-7-16


Excavator Day

4 May 2016-Sunny in the 70’s

Yesterday, Todd stopped by the campground and showed us the building and waste water permits. Later that evening we met him at the build site to stake out the house.  This morning Greg (the guy with the big toys) showed up before 7 and started on our approach, road, and digging out the basement.  We stayed around for most of the day but we didn’t want to hover or be in the way, so we hung out some with Cowboy Dave and Linda. Can’t wait to get back there tomorrow and see what it looks like!

At Cowboy Dave’s, Jen helped Linda plant some onions in her garden.   Then, Cowboy Dave gave us both a lesson in shoring up a fence line.  Jen used pliers and a post jack to pull the old barbed wire fence from the ground, while Pilot Dave went to town with the post cannon, pounding t-posts into the new location.  Now we have an idea of how to do a 3-wire fence but are still polishing our techniques and working on our efficiency!  It was a good lesson in hard farm work, and we are both sore tonight.  I’m sure we will sleep well!





Update:  5-7-16


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