Hoten Holler!


December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

21 December – Sunny and 29°F – Super Windy

The first day of winter!

We are still here in the camper but we are pleased with the work that is being done on the house. The texture is almost complete, they should be done today.  The painter is supposed to be here and working behind him, so hopefully we will have the house painted by this weekend.

Yesterday we spent the entire day in Rapid. We spent a long time at Lowe’s looking at lights and a little time at Menard’s doing the same thing.  We had lunch and then went to the commissary to do our grocery shopping for the month.  We also went by Creative Marblecast to look at the sinks again, since we are having a hard time deciding what color we want in the bathrooms.

We stopped in Custer on the way home to fill up propane bottles and get some movies from the library. We don’t have cable TV, and finally got ourselves a TV/DVD player so we have something to do when it gets dark at 4PM.  It feels much like a deployment when you watch a lot of movies in your down time.

We arrived back here after dark and tackled the enormous task of unloading groceries into a tiny camper fridge and freezer. Fortunately, it is still below freezing outside so we put what we couldn’t fit in the freezer in a cooler out there.  We have been trying to do a big shopping trip for groceries only once per month, and supplementing perishables with little trips here and there to Custer or Hot Springs.  When we go to the commissary we really load up on canned and dry goods.

The limited grocery trips and the very limited cooking area require some creative cooking and meal planning. I have even considered auditioning for the Next Food Network Star show.  They always have these aspiring chefs with interesting points of view like:  Farm to Table, Creole Cooking, Family Style Cooking, Gluten Free, etc.  My point of view would be cooking in a camper.  Dave said I could call my show “The Campered Chef”.  I would only cook meals on a 2- burner gas range, the oven is too small and burns everything.  I would also have about 3 square feet for all preparation and dishes. Everything would be served on paper plates.  I would limit the ingredients list to what is in the cabinet, leading to some interesting recipes toward the end of the month!  The judges would say things like, “I would not pay to eat this in a restaurant.”  Or, “The presentation is messy.  It looks like you just dumped it out of a pot into a bowl.”  And I would say, “Yes, but I made it all in the camper with limited space and limited grocery choices….. and it’s cold and we’re hungry so we aren’t picky!”

The Campered Chef Kitchen


Seriously, Dave and I have been eating pretty well. He is an excellent chef, but it has been too cold to use the grill and we have been coming up with some pretty good dinners despite the circumstances.  For Christmas, we have traditionally made a very fancy meal of things we wouldn’t normally make.  Favorites from the past have included a standing rib roast, lobster, bananas foster, crab bisque, crème brule, and one year we had elk stew.  I seriously doubt this year we will be making anything you have to light on fire, and we are in fact struggling for determining the menu.  Suggestions?  What are people in real houses having for Christmas this year?

We are sincerely wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas. 2016 has been an exciting and eventful year for us and we are very grateful to all of our friends and family for the love and support – AND for not having us hauled off to the looney bin for chasing this crazy dream!

View from the west porch
A Christmas Yeti on Stagecoach Springs

Let it Snow….

16 December 2016 – Snow, more snow, and a high of 11°F

And 17 December 2016 – Sunny, high of 0°, low was negative 17 last night – Brrrr

Winter has truly arrived, and it seems to be about a week early. The snow started in the wee hours of this Friday morning, and has been going all day. It is beautiful!christmascard

We are bracing for the bitter cold this evening, but we are so completely happy to have a functioning bathroom in the house now! This is a huge improvement and morale boost as we have been without running water in the camper for 2 weeks.

It is not fancy yet, and Reef will have to pull the toilet when the texture and paint guys come this weekend, but it was really nice to take a hot shower and it is super nice to not sit on a port-a-potty in the freezing cold. Thank you, Todd, and Martin for making this happen!

The house is moving along. The sheet rock and taping was completed this week.  They are going to put texture on the walls this weekend and the paint goes on Monday.  The cabinets and all appliances are coming on the 28th and the flooring will go in as well.  After that, there are a few projects, tile for the shower and slate for the wood-burning stove base, installation of the stove and chimney, vent in the kitchen, railing for the decks and loft, completion of the plumbing for the other bathrooms, door and window trim, light fixtures, etc. We have made most of the decisions already, however, we have to pick out lights still and I think that may be it? We really hope so.

Today we enjoyed the snow and went on a morning tromp up to the mail box to drop some letters. The snow was a few inches deep already, but it was really pretty and there was not a lot of wind. We were bundled up pretty good so we weren’t really cold except for the parts of our faces that were exposed.  About half way up the road we experienced some numbness in our cheeks and lips, we began to slur a little as it was almost too cold to fully pronounce even common syllables. By the time we reached the mail boxes our faces were both frozen with the same strange expressions.  Dave and I have named this phenomenon “South Dakota Botox.” It is when your winter hat is pushed way down on your forehead so your eyes are squinty, and your hoody is tied so tight that it pushes your cheeks up, enhancing the squinting even more.  Then your mouth freezes in a grimace because your nose is running continuously but you still need to breathe. You are forced to grit your teeth and try to breathe through a thin smile. It is like you have botox gone bad and your happy face is the same as your angry face, and your scared face and your sad face!   When you experience South Dakota Botox and you try to talk (or sing Christmas Carols as is my tradition when going to the mail box) you sound funny. “We wiss ew a mewwy kissmiss, and a haiyyeeew ewrw earrr!”

We defrosted when we got back to the camper and decided to brush the snow off the solar panels. By the time the snow was cleared off the panels, it was snowing even harder and they were covered with a thin dusting again. It was a good effort anyway, although it will have to be repeated when (if) it stops snowing.

After lunch, we called Cowboy and Linda to see if they needed any help prepping their ranch and animals for the frigid cold evening ahead. They said they were all good, but Cowboy inquired if we had signed up for our burn permit to burn the slash piles we had collected earlier this fall.  Pilot Dave had done so, and we were anticipating it might take a long while to burn the large piles so we thought it was too late in the day to start.  Cowboy said it wouldn’t take long at all and came over to hang out while we burned them.  The first pile, south of the house, would not stay lit. It was too green.  It’s strange how flammable Christmas trees are, but we could not get this giant pile of slash to light.  We went to the pile we had made north of the house and that one lit up like the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen!

The heat coming off of that fire was wonderful, especially after such a cold day and we stood there and watched it burn for about 45 minutes. Cowboy and Linda invited us over for chili and if Linda is cooking, we aren’t saying “no.”  She made the most amazing chili and cornbread and we thoroughly enjoyed being in their warm house for supper.

We went home and hunkered down in the happy camper for the night. When we woke in the morning we were so happy to feel that the heat held in the camper, and even happier that we could take a hot shower in the house!  We did notice, however, that there is ice on the inside of our closets in the camper.  When you reach in for a fresh sweatshirt or pair of pants, you have to peel it off the sides of the closet and defrost it before you can wear it.  It is REALLY cold outside!

17 December 2016

Today we have been running around all morning. Pilot Dave tended the burnt slash pile and threw what debris was left in the ashes, then he tried again to light the southern pile but that baby will not burn!  I swept all the snow off the solar panels, and Dave changed the oil in the generator.  We both shoveled decks and walkways.  Then we went to Cowboy and Linda’s to see if they wanted help clearing Stagecoach Springs.  They were the first and only people here for a long time and Cowboy has always cleared this private road.  He had his tractor and plow going when we got there but had a problem with the snow blower.  Pilot Dave and he worked on it and got it running again, while Linda and I fed calves and cleaned frozen cow poop out of the shed and stalls.

It is currently 3 in the afternoon, and the temperature is hovering right around 0°, but the sun is shining and the wind is not blowing. The ponderosa pines are all covered in snow and the countryside looks exactly like a Christmas card.  The only thing missing is a horse with some bells on it….hint hint Santa Clause!  The solar panels and batteries are powering everything and we are warm sitting here in the little camper.  We are pretty tired from all the chores we did today.  Cold weather is hard work!

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