Merry Christmas! There is not a lot of news to report from the Holler for the second half of December, but we wanted to wish all the Hollerer Follerers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We have been enjoying a really warm December, but it appears that all that will change tomorrow as we are expecting snow on Christmas Day. What more could anyone wish for?
We are planning a quiet and peaceful day. We will feed and bust ice in the morning and follow it up with a Rancher’s Special Christmas Breakfast of Egg Benedict. Then we are going to take it easy until afternoon chores. Cowboy Dave and Linda have invited us to Christmas dinner and we are looking forward to showing them the “2018 Review” which is a movie we make of all the things that have been accomplished on Stagecoach Springs throughout the year. It is really just slides set to music, but we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of progress to show. This year we hayed over 50 acres. We put up over 1000 bales of hay into the barn that was also built this year. We filled the wood sheds. We cut and dragged slash. We watched our herd deliver 7 healthy calves. We plowed snow, we fed cattle, we chopped ice, we picked up rocks, we harvested honey, we made jelly and salsa and all sorts of things from the garden. We had great times with visiting family and friends. We drank a few Keystones and glasses of wine. We made trips to North Carolina, Montana and Iowa. We got a puppy, kittens, and expanded the beehives. We built fences. You can imagine there are quite a few pictures in the” 2018 Review” movie.
Tonight we sit here with happy hearts enjoying the Christmas tree and a nice warm fire in the stove. From our house to everyone out there we hope your Christmas is merry and bright and we thank you for reading about our adventures this year. God Bless!
9 December 2018 – Sunny and Highs in the upper 30’s
I know we aren’t the only ones with snow right now. Here is a friendly reminder to go slow, keep your feet underneath you, and keep your tires on the road! The warmer temperatures and the melting snow have made our whole world one big icy challenge.
The first step out the door in the morning is onto a slippery, icy, deck. I generally am looking down at my feet to make sure I don’t trip. Yesterday, I was looking down and Sheriff Joe was right next to me. I saw him lower his head into his hunting position, and his tail came up to a nearly vertical point. I looked up and about 15 feet in front of me was a beautiful buck with a huge rack of antlers. He stared right at me for a split second and then the Sheriff ran him off. I love mornings.
Next, I shuffled through the ice, Tim Conway style, up to the barn and made sure Maverick, the cat, got fed and watered. Dave loaded hay in the Mule and warmed it up so we could go feed the cows. The Mule has been in four wheel drive a lot because every time we try to go up a hill we end up spinning out. We bought it used and think it still has the original tires, so we have ordered some replacements to ease our commute!
When we feed, even the cows are being careful in the slippery field. Normally they will run towards the feed wagon (the Mule), but they know to be more cautious in the winter and tread very lightly. It’s kind of cool to watch a 1600lb cow walking as gently and slowly as possible. It is similar to watching a very large ballet dancer. Maybe I’ll buy them some tutus.
Our chores have become slightly more complicated because we have two new editions to our herd. They are actually older ladies, but one of our neighbors gave us a bred cow as a barter for some fence work we did for her, and Cowboy and Linda purchased the other cow from her. Meet Brandy and Domino!
Unfortunately, even though they are all adults, the cows act like rotten grade school children when a new kid shows up at school. They all gang up on the new cows and there is a lot of brawling, head butting, and kicking up dirt and snow. It’s pretty awful to watch, but all we can do is yell at them to stop, or whack them with a stick so they will separate. Poor Brandy and Domino have been spending most of the day looking wistfully at their old pasture across the way, but they did figure out the Mule means food and have started coming down to the plowed area of the pasture when we feed. They have been holding their own and getting in on the food and cake in between the bar room brawls. I hope they can all adjust soon.
One of the casualties of all the fighting was poor Honey, our cow that had recently been to the vet for an ear problem. Her ear was healing nicely, but lately it began to look like she had been rubbing it or itching it with her hind leg. It was bleeding and scabby again. The first morning we introduced the new cows to the herd, Rancher Dave, Cowboy, Linda, and I watched the cows feed in the morning and tried to prevent too much fighting. As we were watching, we saw Puzzle, one of our old cows, take a really cheap shot and headbutt Honey right in the bad ear.
Honey’s ear shot blood all over her face and Puzzle’s. It was like that horrible scene in Rocky where his eye bursts open. Honey looked like it hurt her pretty badly, and she kept dropping her head and shaking her ears. We decided we would have to take her back to the vet. Fortunately, our vets here are really exceptional and even though it was a Saturday and short notice, they decided to squeeze us in….or literally, squeeze Honey in the chute!
They shaved, cleaned, and disinfected her ear, pulled the tag out, and gave her an antibiotic. We were really glad we took her in because she had a slight fever indicating the ear might be infected. Poor Honey!
Now back to the Ice-Capades. Our dirt road is private, and the maintenance is up to the people living here, so Rancher Dave does the plowing and Cowboy Dave does the snow blowing when needed. We don’t have that much snow on the ground and our road didn’t even require plowing this time. Still, it is slick in some spots and from the Holler to the county road is uphill the whole way.
The county road is also dirt and is maintained by the county. They usually get out and plow it right away, which they did this year, but so far they have not put down any salt or sand. It reminds me of that amusement park ride, the Alpine Slide. From the top of our road to pavement it is all downhill and it feels like you’re driving on the roughest washboard covered in ice. Wheeeee!
Okay, not wheeee! More like Whoa! Cowboy and Rancher Dave hooked up the cattle trailer to the truck and had no problems getting up our hill, but once they hit the Alpine Slide they had to slow way down, keep in in four-wheel drive, and hang on tight all the way to the neighbors. They made it safely, loaded up the two bred cows, and proceeded back up the mountain to our road. Driving on ice is challenging enough, but it adds another level of excitement when you’re pulling a large trailer. Why not up the ante and load that trailer with two 1500 lb pregnant cows? We create our own fun out here in the country.
Fortunately, they made it back safely. Unfortunately, Rancher Dave and I got to make the same trip to the main road with Honey loaded up for the vet the next day. Again, it was an easy trip to the county road and a white knuckled, slow as we could go, slip and slide down the Alpine Slide. Coming up from the main road is worse because it is so icy, you cannot really slow down too much or you wheels will just spin and you won’t make it up the hill. I was really glad Rancher Dave was driving but we all made it safely. We unloaded Honey into a corral at the High Lonesome with two of the nicer, younger cows for company. We decided we are going to keep her out of the boxing ring while her ear heals. Next we hosed out the trailer and got everything put away just in time for afternoon feeding.
That evening, Rancher Dave and I were sitting on the sofa drinking some fancy boxed wine and he said to me, “Everything today was difficult. The fighting cows, the injured cow, the trip to the vet, and even the chores were hard to get done because of all the ice!” I agreed, it was a stressful and tiring day. Then he said, “But you know what, there is nothing I would rather be doing.” I agreed with this too, and about 15 minutes later he was sound asleep on the couch.
And by the way, Honey’s ear is doing just great. The very next morning you couldn’t even tell she had a wound, it just looked like someone shaved her ear. Cow’s and their stupid party tricks; wait until someone passes out and shave their ear. Classic. Everyone be safe out there in the ice and snow!
It is the perfect December day here on the Holler. We are in the middle of a big snowstorm, expecting 3-5 inches before tomorrow, and believe it or not, we are pretty happy about the snow. We have been waiting and waiting to put down the nitrogen fertilizer we bought in October. The fertilizer experts said to put it down right before a big snow, that way it won’t just evaporate and the moisture will maximize its purpose. We got done fertilizing all of our fields and the fields over at the High Lonesome on Thursday and it started snowing Friday night. The timing was perfect, so we’re happy about the snow. More on this later.
Thanksgiving was really nice. It was about 65 degrees here, but we weren’t around to enjoy it. We took advantage of the warm weather and sun and road-tripped back to Iowa where we got to have Thanksgiving with my parents and my brother. It is difficult for us to get away in the winter because our house is off-grid and solar powered. If it snows while we are away, there is no one here to start the generator (although this is supposed to happen automatically, we are still suspicious of this feature) and no one here to scrape the snow off the solar panels. Also, the cows need feeding and watering, and if it is bitterly cold the ice has to be broken off the water tank. Fortunately, the weather was nice so the cows had plenty to eat and drink and the batteries in the house remained charged thanks to the sunshine. It was really nice to see my folks and we ate and ate and ate. You gotta love Thanksgiving, especially if you love pie.
Mom and Dad
Dad and me, trying to get the Sheriff to pose
We had a great time in Iowa, but we were happy to return to the Holler. There is no place like home, and Rancher Dave and I have really transformed into country people. We are pretty uncomfortable in the city with the traffic and the noise, and Sheriff Joe is definitely a ranch dog. He had to be leashed during our trip because he doesn’t have any sense about traffic, cars, and he has no understanding of other people’s yards and fences. He likes wide open spaces, cows, and mule rides. So do I.
We bought my brother’s pick-up and I drove it back. We had been searching for a little ranch truck that we can also run back and forth to town in and take some of the burden off of Truck Norris (our Toyota and only vehicle since we left Florida). Coincidentally, my brother was having a hard time selling his truck because it has a manual transmission. Apparently, no one can drive a stick shift any more, or they don’t want to because it makes it too hard to text and drive. Ha ha. I guess we are old school now and think it is pretty cool to drive a stick-shift. It turned out to be a good deal for all of us, so thanks, Bill! We love this little truck and have already had it back and forth to town a couple of times. It’s doing great in the snow, and proving to be a valuable ranch-hand.
Now, back to putting down nitrogen. The fertilization process would have went really smoothly if it weren’t for the dang cows. They are so MOOOOODY! Our herd is spoiled rotten, and they have become so accustomed to being fed cake that sometimes we can barely get the mule out of the driveway without being stampeded by those hungry bovines. They have become quite the pests and I have even started threatening them about making them into burgers and often tell them they would be more likeable covered in cheese and stuffed in a sesame seed bun. On a day where they get really pushy, I like to sing Jimmy Buffet’s “Chesseburger in Paradise”. They don’t care.
Cows trying to get a selfie with Rancher Dave
Get out here and feed us cake!
Dirty Dozen chowing down
Boohaa chowing down
Koozy the bull, following the truck for cake
Cherry Bomb chowing down
Rancher Dave giving his girls a scratch on the head
Marzee coming for some cake
Rancher Dave wanted to make sure the broadcaster was set to the proper rate so we put down the proper amount of nitrogen. This would require a test run in one of the small fields and also require him to hold a steady speed in Babe, the tractor. Sheriff Joe and I were supposed to follow along in the mule and indicate how far the fertilizer was throwing out of the spreader, but as soon as we started the mule, those crazy cows came running. They were rudely pushing about in front of Babe, preventing Dave from driving a steady speed. They were rushing toward Joey and me, and we couldn’t even walk across the pasture to show Dave where the fertilizer was broadcasting. Finally, we decided to give them some cake in another pasture and get them out of the way.
But NO! Those greedy girls ate all the cake and came running back to the field we were trying to work. We had to give them two bales of hay to occupy their time so they would leave us alone. Eventually, we figured out the proper setting on the broadcaster and went to work. The next day, we tricked the cows and fenced them into a pasture over at the High Lonesome so they would be out of our way.
Putting down fertilizer is pretty straightforward once you figure out the setting on the equipment and the speed you need to drive the tractor. The problem is that none of our fields are perfectly square so it is easy to lose track of where you have been already. Our good friend, Jeff, provided the remedy to this by introducing Rancher Dave to the MYTRACKS app. Dave put this app on his phone and was able to real-time track where he had been in the field. It also provided the speed as Babe has a tach but no speedometer. Look out Elon Musk, we’re pretty high-tech out here.
Dave fertilizing the field
Nearly perfect pattern, nice job Rancher Dave
I got to do the driving on day 2, and this app made my job super easy. Of course, it looks like I did some drunken bowties in the middle of the field, and my excuse was that somebody texted me while I was working. I had to try to navigate my way back to the MYTRACKS app while driving Babe and this is the poor result.
I guess I shouldn’t make fun of people texting and driving any more.
Today, we got up right before sunrise. It was already snowing so I threw my snowpants on over my pajamas and went up to the barn to check on Maverick, the cat, and give him some food. I dusted snow off the beehives so the bees could go in and out. I scraped some snow and ice off the solar panels while Rancher Dave loaded the mule with hay. We fed the cows and by the time we got back to the house, the solar panels were covered in snow again. Dave went in the house to start the generator because it appears this will be one of those rare days where our batteries won’t get charged by the sun. Just because it was so beautiful outside and I was already wearing my snow gear, I decided to give the panels one more snow scraping.
I was nearly done and I turned around, looking for Sheriff Joe. I spotted him almost immediately as he was only about 50 yards from me. I was instantly shocked to see him in the international “dog play” position, with his front paws down on the ground and rear in the air, and NOSE TO NOSE with a coyote! The coyote was also in the play position. Alarm bells started going off in my head as I recalled story after story about coyotes sending out a scout to play with a dog, only to lure it back to the pack where it will surely be killed. I started yelling bloody murder, “Joey! No! Come! Get over here!” and “Dave, get the gun!” I was kicking myself because I had just leapt out of bed this morning and was unarmed. I didn’t even have my knife, although I’m not sure what I would have done with either weapon.
Dave couldn’t hear me because the generator was running, so instinctively I kept yelling and ran towards Joey and the “playful” coyote. I think Joe could tell I was upset and he came sprinting back to me, but the coyote just sat there and looked at us. I grabbed Joe’s collar and we ran to the porch and I said, “Dave, come kill this coyote!” Dave was on it, and threw on his coat and boots, grabbed his rifle and went out to the back deck. The coyote was long gone. We love animals, and are not keen on killing them, but after the disappearance of our cat, Goose, and the attempted abduction of Joey, we have decided it is open season on wiley coyotes, especially when they are brazen enough to come so close to the house with people outside and the generator making a lot of noise.
I’m sitting here now, looking out at the beautiful, gently falling snow and thanking the Good Lord that my dog didn’t get killed or attacked this morning. Dave is out scraping the panels again and shoveling snow off the deck. The cows are done eating and have headed back to the trees for shelter. I have a pot full of pinto beans and conecuh sausage cooking on the wood stove. It really looks like a Christmas Card outside and since it is the first of December, I think I’ll go dig out the Christmas decorations. We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a good weekend. Happy December!