Hoten Holler!


November 2016

The First Thanksgiving

27 November 2016

Partly Cloudy, High 47°F

We are wishing and hoping that all you Hoten-Holler Foller-ers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and a relaxing four-day weekend.  Thanksgiving is such a wonderful American tradition: the whole premise of giving thanks, eating until you need to switch to sweat pants, the family, the football, and especially the time off.  This is an awesome time of year, and we have a ton to be thankful for here in South Dakota.

We were happy to see all the progress on the house the week of Thanksgiving.  Sheet rock arrived and was unloaded.  The tongue and groove ceiling in the entry way was completed.  The guys worked hard until sundown on Wednesday.  Thanks to Todd and crew!

Thanksgiving was cold. There really is no way for us to leave and travel to see family, as we are kind of stuck here making sure the camper doesn’t freeze and the batteries for the solar power don’t freeze.  We decided to make the most of it. We had a relaxing morning, then we went to work splitting and stacking wood.  Reef fired up the smoker and cooked up a frenched-pork roast and baked potatoes.  I made some spinach/artichoke dip and corn casserole.  We moved our patio table into the house and decided to have our first Thanksgiving inside.  It was about 49° in the house, but we ate in there anyway, and it was awesome!

The two things we really missed were family and pie.  We decided we will definitely have family here next year if we can get anyone to come.  Since we missed out on pie, we have given ourselves a pass to have pie any time the opportunity arises all year. “Well, I really shouldn’t have pie, but I didn’t get any at Thanksgiving, so serve it on up!”  We really strive to be quite logical, especially when pie is involved.

We spent the rest of the weekend completing several projects that were on our list. We finished staining the timber frames on the west side of the house.  Thanks to Todd, our builder, we were able to use the tele-hand to reach the high spots.  Dave and I had no desire to put a ladder up to the highest peak, as the ground is quite sloped and the peak is pretty high off the ground.   We pulled the tele-hand to the north side, extended the arm, and I climbed up in the basket and stained the high parts.  Dave didn’t slack off by any means; to complete the inside of the porch he had to stand on a ladder leaning out against the beams, and this was quite precarious.  We just took our time and we think the result is beautiful. Plus, neither of us fell and cracked open our melons, so again, something else to be thankful for!

The other big task we completed was pulling out the rickety old cattle guard that went over Stagecoach Springs Road.  That thing has become exceedingly hazardous because some of the welds in the bars have broken.  You really had to slow way down to cross, and  more than one person has complained about it.  Cowboy Dave even put up a sign saying, “Cross at your own Risk!”  While the daunting old thing caused great concern to all crossing drivers, it served no real purpose as the cows would transit it fearlessly.  We decided it was time for it to go!

Pilot Dave used the bobcat to haul up several loads of rock from our build site.  There is no shortage of rock around here!  Then Cowboy Dave brought up his tractor to join in.  The two Dave’s chained up the heavy old cattle guard and pulled it out of the ground.  Cowboy Dave used his tractor to remove the timbers that framed the box in which it had sat.  Pilot Dave picked up and dumped loads of rock into the hole in the ground.  Cowboy Dave used his tractor fill in dirt and gravel on top.  They make quite a team, the two Daves!


Then our neighbor Sheri and her son Allen showed up with a huge loader and a big load of dirt.  They filled the hole with the dirt and hooked up the cattle guard and hauled it away.  Team DaveX2 worked to smooth out the gravel and now instead of a dangerous and scary cattle guard we have a smooth road.  I bet the UPS guy will be really happy, he won’t even have to slow down!

Meanwhile, the days are clicking away out here on Hoten Holler.  Granted, we only have about 9.5 hours of daylight right now, but it seems like the time is flying.  There is always something to do and it is usually fun or at least rewarding.  We are surrounded by some really great people and entertained constantly by some really silly cows.  We say we are living RFD-TV in HD, on widescreen and in stereo. We are both healthy and getting our fair share of fresh air and exercise.  Every day we are watching our house go up and watching the sun go down, counting our blessings, and thanking God for the weather which has been so mild. We sincerely wish all of you a belated Happy Thanksgiving!   


Outside Progress

17 November 2016 – Winter Storm Warning, Watch, now Advisory

36°F high, snow in the forecast

Maybe our good weather streak has come to an end, as the meteorologists are going bananas over the Winter Storm Warning, which downgraded to a Watch, and then an Advisory in the last few hours.  Regardless of diminishing chances of snow (which we could use because it’s so danged dry!), the temps have definitely dropped.  Yesterday I went running in shorts and a T-shirt, today we are wearing several layers and hiding inside the camper.  ‘Tis the season!

We are super excited to see all the progress the construction crew completed this week on the outside of the house.  The roof is on, the siding complete, soffit and fascia are done!  It looks amazing.front

Dave and I also did some work on the house.  We decided we wanted to stain the timber frames that support the deck.  We also took advantage of the last few days of warm weather and went to work.img_0996

We are counting our blessings this week as we see the progress unfold.  We have had some fun with neighbors working cows and learning the ranch lessons we will need once we get our own cows.  Other than that, we have been prepping the camper for the plummeting temps, draining tanks, insulating what we can, and preparing to conserve energy in case it remains cloudy.

Update – 20 November 2016

Highs in the mid 50’s

It turns out the forecasters and the cows were right about the snow and the temperature drop.  We ended up with a little over an inch of snow on Thursday, but it was really snowing a lot at one point, we could barely see across the road!  Then it got down to 16° on Thursday night.  Brrrrrrr.

Todd and his crew have been hard at it, even working on Saturday.  They put in the steps that go up to the loft and a lot of other ventilation/insulation work.  Thanks, guys!img_0992

Yesterday, Pilot Dave and I went and cut up some bug trees and got two pickup loads of firewood.  Amazing how firewood keeps you warm at least twice; once when you are cutting and stacking it, and twice when you burn it.firewood

Today we are both a little sore, but we are treating ourselves and going out to breakfast in Hot Springs.  There is a little diner there called Dale’s, where it is so very old school country.  They serve coffee in the old white ceramic coffee mugs, and they make really good diner food.  Last time we had biscuits and sausage gravy.  The first time we ate there was in 2013 on one of our trips to look at property and it was full of cowboys and ranchers.  When we walked in, they all looked at us like we were from another planet, as Dale’s is a small town local diner and full of regulars, not tourists.  Maybe they won’t look at us that way today since we are now locals, and it is no longer tourist season! 

Raise the Roof

11 November 2016 – Sunny with a high of 57°F

First of all, let me say thank you to all the veteran’s and families of veterans that have given so much to our great nation. God Bless America, and God Bless all of you!

Todd and crew have been busy this week putting up the roof.  There are no glass ceilings here, just heavy brown rigid metal.  We think it looks pretty awesome and it should hold up to the hail that seems to accompany every single thunder storm!

We are not complaining about weather by any means….it has been so warm and sunny that we have been fine wearing short sleeves for most of the day.  When the sun goes down, at about 4:30, it cools off immediately.  Man, we are loving it here.  Some sunrise pics for your enjoyment.

We are also happy now that there is an abundance of bovines  dining in the area outside our perimeter fence.  Yesterday, our neighbor Sheri came by and said it was that time of year to open the gate and let the cows out to our property.  We are leasing that land to her for grazing and have been awaiting the arrival of the herd.  Her son, Allen, brought over a water tank and put it under the hydrant Dave and I put in last spring.  We filled the tank and he put out some salt licks for the critters.  Also, he and Sheri went around and told the neighbors to close up their gates unless they wanted cows in their front yards.

Look out behind you, Dave!!


One funny thing about South Dakota is that you are expected to fence cattle out, rather than fence them in.  If you don’t want cows on your patio or cow pie in your driveway, you are responsible for putting a fence around your house.  They found their way over the hill and across the pasture to their new digs last night, and this morning we awoke to a different sounding alarm clock, “Moo – Moo – Moo – Moo – Moo!”  but this one does not have a snooze alarm.  Ha ha.

We also went over to Sheri’s to see Patrick, the orphan we got to bottle feed this summer.  He is just about ready to be released out into the herd, and he has gotten big and wooly! He’s got his full-blown winter coat on, as do all the cows.  They probably know something about the weather that we do not, and maybe they could go to work for the weather channel.  Mooooo-ve over Al Roker!

Patrick all grown up and wooly!


Meanwhile, we are doing good, staying busy doing this and that, not wanting to start any new big projects until the house is done.  Pilot Dave has been cooking for the construction crew and I get to do the taste testing.  Here are the ribs he did yesterday. 

Well, we hope all is well out there in the real world.  We’ll keep you posted on the Hoten Holler happenings. 


A Minor Change in Plans

4 November – Sunny and highs in the 70’s

We had planned to put an outbuilding/carport to park the camper in so we could survive the harsh winter winds and snows – at least until we can move into the house.  We were expecting to put it in the area which we put down gravel and leveled and cleared out all the rocks.  The building was supposed to be here two weeks ago, but the company called at 4:30 PM on a Friday afternoon and left a message to let us know it wouldn’t be here until this Thursday.  We called back and of course they were gone for the evening.  That Monday we called and said “Why the delay?”  They said, it looks like your scheduled building install date has been pushed back.  Quite helpful, huh? 

We figured we would just wait until this week as we were really left with no other choice.  Thursday morning arrived and they had said they would be here between 7AM and noon.  At 11:30 they called and said, “Sorry, they aren’t going to make it there today.”  Dave told them to give us a refund and after some hemming and hawing and a promise for a discount, and that they would be here on Friday morning we agreed to give them one more try.

Well, they showed up Friday morning and said, “We cannot put a building here because it is too rocky.”  They did not have the equipment to drill holes for cement anchors and tried to talk us into using cheap rock anchors but with no guarantee of wind limits. Long story long, we told them never mind.  At this point we are kind of hosed as far as putting in a building.  All the local builders require 10-12 weeks to schedule an outbuilding – the same amount of time we waited for this nonexistent one – so we might as hunker down until the house is finished.

 All of this drama led us to the conclusion that we should at least move the camper into the leveled-out spot which we had cleared.  At least the rock shelf will give us a windbreak and we will be out of the dirt/dust bowl.

We packed up all the breakable stuff and took it out of the camper, and then hooked up to Truck Norris and dragged Happy Camper over the rough terrain up the hill to the level spot that will someday be a garage/outbuilding.  We had two incidents of bad luck:

1.        The camper jack broke.  Once the camper was hooked onto the truck hitch, the jack disconnected and would not go up or down. It also would not support any weight.

2.       We discovered that our power cord had melted on the male end.  It would no longer work or support the load required for running electricity to the camper.

Since we strive to be solutions oriented, we came up with the following fixes.  We used a car jack to lift the camper tongue off of the truck hitch and supported it with a stump and blocks until we can take it apart to fix it.  We used a different extension cord and are limiting what we run for power until we can get a replacement cord….no hot water heater and microwave running at the same time anymore. 

To protect against the cold we insulated the base of the camper with hay bales.  While the poor camper looks like the dog car from Dumb and Dumber, we are confident it will make a difference once the weather turns.  We can only hope no one leaves the gate open in case the cows come in and eat our insulation!

These are the problems of living in a camper off grid.  They are not big problems and we are so grateful for the good weather, the good friends and neighbors we have for support, and for having a roof over our heads.  Once we get in the house, we probably won’t know what to do with all the room, a real toilet, and not feeling like we are living on a boat when the wind blows.  We are up to the challenge, so we say since we have had 70 degree weather for the last few weeks.

Here are some updated pics of the house with the awesome siding.  We are hoping the roof goes on this week, as well as some stairs to the loft and other things.  Our builder and crew are awesome and even worked this Saturday.

Siding, Plumbing and Wiring….Oh My!

26 October 2016, Sunny and high of 69°F

It has been awhile since we posted anything, again, lack of internet makes it difficult to communicate from the bunker!  We are still in the camper but we are seeing some good progress on the house.

Here are some pictures of the siding.  It is called LP Smartside in Canyon. We had a tough time picking out the color, as we had boxes of samples to look at.  We spent some time driving around and looking at houses, holding the little sample up from a distance and trying to determine what color we liked and what it would look like on a large structure.  One day in Custer, we drove by a beautiful house and Dave and I both loved it immediately.  We thought, “What the heck?”  and went to the door and said, “Excuse us, but would you mind telling us what type/color is the siding on your house?”  The lady there was very accommodating and proud of her beautiful home and gave us the name of the company where she had bought the siding.  We called them and told them her address and got the specs on the type, color, etc.

The west facing deck timber frames are up, as well as the front porch.

GENPRO came out and wired the house for electricity.  Martin the plumber came and put in the pipes for the water.

Dave and I finally painted the cistern.  The hardest part was climbing down in the hole, but once inside it wasn’t too claustrophobia inducing.  The fumes were not bad and we got two coats of sealant on in two days. 

We cleared the rubble around the area where the outbuilding will go.  Dave and I started to do it with shovels and realized it would probably take us until 2017.  We decided the skid steer was the way to go.

We have also been limbing trees and dragging slash.  By cutting the limbs on the bottom of the Ponderosa Pine trees, you ensure they can grow taller and stay healthier.  We have quite a few trees that have never been pruned so Dave went to work with his chainsaw and I went to work dragging the limbs into piles.  We will eventually haul all the piles to one area and burn the slash.  The rule in our county is that you cannot burn big slash piles until you have four inches of snow on the ground for four days or longer.  I’m hoping that will be after we get into the house!

We are having a spectacular autumn as far as weather goes.  For all of you Floridians, it was warmer here  than in Milton yesterday morning!! Ha ha….I need to get my digs in about the weather while I can.

We’re closer to Pringle than Custer….and warmer than Milton, Mount Airy, and Eagan!!  Ha ha!


EEK! A Mouse!!!


25 October 2016, Partly cloudy with highs in the lower 60’s

Anyone that has ever lived in the country can attest to the problem of unwanted houseguests…aka…mice.  I thought we could preempt this problem by doing some research.  I read on the internet (so it must be true!) that Irish Spring soap will keep mice at bay.  I put an open bar of the stinky green soap in every compartment I felt could be compromised, and all summer we never had a problem. We also had the to live with the pungent odor of the Irish Spring.  Every time Dave would open the storage compartment he would say, “Smells like a leprechaun in here!”

Shortly after moving out of the campground and away from civilization, we began hearing little scratching noises at night.  Sure enough, we found a hole where the sink water pipe exits the camper and there was definite evidence of intruders! To add insult to injury, we went around and looked at all the bars of Irish Spring and every one had little teeth marks in them; clearly mice think Irish Spring is a delicacy!

That night we loaded up a mouse trap and caught the culprit.  We sealed up the hole with some screen and felt that we had solved our problem.  Several weeks later, more scratching and more evidence of mice!  We found another hole where the heater enters the camper and sealed that one with screen as well.  We also threw a trap in there for good measure and we have caught more than one mouse.

We have tried peppermint packets as deterrent.  These also ended up with little teeth marks….hmmmm. We tried dryer sheets, but haven’t seen any effect.  At least the mice we catch smell Downy Fresh! The problem is likely due to the following:

1.        We live in the country – all neighbors here say this is just part of country living.

2.       We have surrounded the camper with hay bales for insulation – what could be more inviting for mice?

3.       No cat – this will change when we have a real house. 

We definitely appreciate all the feedback on the blog.  We got some interesting advice about picking out commodes!  Again, we are soliciting any suggestions about keeping the mice away!


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