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Hoten Holler!

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December 2017

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

 

 

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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!

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Our Front Gate

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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!

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Snow!

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.

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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!

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Feeding Time!

 

 

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