Hoten Holler!


December 2019

Got Snow?

28 December 2019 – 28 and snowing and snowing and snowing

Hey out there!  We had a beautiful and fantastic Christmas here at the Holler.  It was sunny and warm until about 5PM, then it started snowing.  Typical four-season day in South Dakota!

Cows eating across the stock dam as Rancher Dave brings Babe home.

December was so mild and both Dave and I were wondering where those temperatures were 3 years ago when we were living in the camper?  It was 50 degrees on Christmas Eve so I decided to open the beehive and tell them Merry Christmas.  Just kidding, I felt like I had to open the beehive because every time I had checked it recently, the entrance reducer was knocked out of place.  Upon closer inspection it had clearly been chewed upon.

Entrance reducer to the beehive with obvious teeth marks

We suspected a mouse caused the damage and this was confirmed by placing Dave’s game camera and a mouse trap in front of the hive.  Sure enough, there was a mouse that was burgling honey.  We caught him on camera and in the trap, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a nest in the hive.  Fortunately, the weather was mild so I put on my suit and tore the whole thing apart.  I did not find a mouse but the bees were not in the Christmas spirit and were quite angry about being disturbed so late in the season.  I put their house back together and said “Buon Natale!”  since they are Italian.

Dave smoked a standing rib roast on his smoker.  It was so dang good!  It was also pretty big so we will be eating leftovers for awhile.

Amazing prime rib…yummmmm

Santa was pretty good to us. (Although he did NOT bring a horse…..Dave says I probably have to behave much better next year to make the “Nice List” and them maybe I’ll get a horse!) One of our favorite presents this year was made by a good friend in Florida.  Another friend that visited here brought him  (at his request) a stick of firewood from the Holler.  From this he handcrafted these homemade pens.

Pens from Holler firewood! 

What a cool present!  Thanks so much!

The day after Christmas, we decided to take a ride through Custer State Park and see if they had any cool Christmas decorations at the State Game Lodge.  Unfortunately, the lodge was closed so we didn’t get to see any cool decorations, but we did take Joey for  hike and when we were driving we got to see some big-horn sheep!

Not a reindeer….but pretty cool.

Today we are watching it snow.  We fed the cows this morning and there was hardly any snow on the ground.  As the morning progressed, it just keeps coming and they have all decided to mosey on up into the barn stall that we call the Taj Ma Holler.

Valentine waiting outside the stall for supper, Hunny and Dozen staying in and nice and warm.

I think we probably have about 5 inches of snow so far, and it is quite beautiful, but it will make feeding in the evening all the more fun!  Also, we cannot keep the snow off the solar panels on a day like this, so we ran the generator to charge the batteries for about an hour this morning. I’ll probably scrape snow off the panels again after we feed this afternoon, although it won’t make much difference for power today.  It is just easier to keep up with rather than try to catch up with once they get a lot of snow accumulated on them.

Snowy panels with the snow rake in the lower right hand corner.  No point to keep raking when it is still snowing!

Fortunately, we are staying warm in the house next to the wood stove.  We passed the winter solstice on the 21st so the days are getting longer!  This is a big deal when you live in the northern latitudes and we celebrated with a local South Dakota beer called “Pile O’ Dirt Porter”  in hand painted Christmas glasses that my Mom sent to us.

Beautiful Christmas glasses…cheers, Mom!

We are looking forward to the new year.  This is probably the only time in life where instead of saying, “Hindsight is 20/20”  we can say “The future is 2020!” Ha ha! We have been invited to a friends for a Rocky Mountain Oyster party, so that will be a first for us. Other than that, we will probably be in bed by 9pm and up early for New Year’s Day.  Wild times on the Holler!

Heifers at happy hour.

We hope everyone out there had a Merry Christmas and that we see some of y’all in 2020.  Stay warm and take care out there in the real world!

Lucky says, “Happy New Year!”


Frosty Fun Times

14 December 2019 – Cloudy and 23

We got another coating of icing on all of the trees last night, but there isn’t very much snow on the ground and I think we will be just fine without a white Christmas!

Ice-covered Holler

Holler activity has slowed way down in December, mostly because the days are so short.  The sun isn’t rising until 7:20 and it is already dark around 4:15.  Only one more week and the days will start to get longer again.  Time is really flying.

Meanwhile, we have been staying occupied moving corral panels.  After we had the cold storm at the end of November, we moved the corral panels back into the barnyard and set up the alleyway into the squeeze chute so we could run cows through there.  We had an appointment for the veterinarian to come out to preg-check our older cows, and to inoculate the whole herd.  Also, everybody got poured with dewormer.  Well not Dave or me, but all the cows.

Setting up the corral
Getting the girls lined up and ready to go

This was the first real trial for our corral and squeeze chute set up and it went splendidly.  The vets even said they thought it worked great and gave a few minor suggestions on narrowing the alley way, but overall they felt this was a very functional facility.  We are so grateful for the vet clinic we have here, and especially that they do ranch-calls. I think they had fun, too, because we have such a small operation and our cows are so docile.  We don’t use a prod to push them through the alley, instead we just wave cake in front of them and they walk right into the chute!

Fatz getting her BANGS shot

This was my first time running the headgate on the squeeze chute.  The first calf that came through was Lucky, and I was ready….well, I thought I was.  I saw her walking into the chute and right when her nose came through the catch I pulled down on the lever as fast and hard as I could to operate the headgate.  I looked up and saw her bounding off into the corral.  I completely missed.  It reminded me of that feeling of when you try to hit a baseball and you swing as hard and fast as you can, expecting a home run, and all you get is WHIFFFFF.  The vets and Dave looked at me, not so much with disappointment, but something more like, “This is going to be a long day if she’s this bad.” The vet said, “Every time you miss one you have to buy a case of beer!”  I guess she really knows how to motivate people!

We chased Lucky back into the alleyway and once more she came ambling into the squeeze chute and I pulled the lever and BAM!  Caught her!  I didn’t miss another cow or calf.  (Don’t get too excited, there are only nine of them.)  The vet said I get the “Most Improved”  Award. I just didn’t want to give away all the beer.

Preg Checking – make sure you don’t wear anything nice!
An ultrasound of a calf

We were disappointed to learn that one of our cows, Valentine, is open this year.  It is impossible to tell if the bull just didn’t like her or if she had been pregnant and aborted for some other reason.  Dave and I thought she may have been open and in heat because one evening while we fed, all the cows came for dinner as is their routine.  Then, Valentine took off running to the west toward another ranch that has cows and a bull in its pasture.  This was very strange behavior.  Eventually, she came back to eat a little hay, and then she took off running in the same direction again.  It was just beginning to get dark and there was really no way she could go anywhere, so we finished our chores and left it up to her to work out her issues.

Once we got inside the warm house, the phone rang and it was our new neighbor.  They are in the process of moving to the Rock Ridge Ranch at the end of our road, but were not staying there at the time.  They did, however, have a video security camera installed that they could monitor from a different location.  The lady called to say, “I have an alarm going off at my house and when I looked at my camera, there was a wide-eyed white face cow looking in the window!”  Dave and I knew it was Valentine and said we would get her, although we weren’t quite sure how she would have gotten through the fence onto the neighbors’ property.  We put on our 400 layers of clothing and headed back out into the cold to find her.  Once she heard the diesel engine of the Mule, she came running down the road towards us and the rest of the herd.

Dave and I continued to the neighbors property and found a wooden post that had been knocked down and about a 3 foot gap in the fence where Valentine had squeezed through. We were pretty sure Valentine didn’t knock the pole down, but it was amazing that she found the one spot in the long fence to run through, and then come back through when she heard the Mule.  Anyway, we wired up the fence and called the neighbor to let them know there were no more creeping, peeping cows in their yard.

This strange behavior must have been indicative of Valentine being in heat, so we weren’t completely surprised when the vet said she was open. We are disappointed.  We decided to downsize our herd this year to ensure we wouldn’t have to buy extra hay, and were expecting 5 calves in the spring. One open cow is a 20% loss so that kind of stinks.  Still, we will give Valentine one more chance to get pregnant next year since she is such a nice girl and she had a beautiful baby this past April.  Maybe someone should have a talk with her and let her know that even bulls can detect desperateness and it is NOT attractive.

Valentine after her crazy shenanigans looking for the bull.  It seems she thought she could use a mud-mask to improve her situation.  

After the vet visit, Dave and I moved all the panels back to the configuration where the girls can hide from the weather in the barn stall.  It has been pretty nice since then, and they haven’t even poked in there, which is also okay.  That means just less poop shoveling for us!

Dave has been busy manufacturing some cutting boards.  Last year he sent his mom a beautiful American Flag board, and both of his sisters liked it so much that he made them each one this year.  His goal was to get them out before Christmas.

A beautiful hard-wood cutting board!


A cutting board for law-enforcement family member….American flag with the thin blue line

Simple chores and feeding occupy our days now, but we are always planning and trying to improve our operation.  We know it won’t be long until we are spring planting, calving, and getting ready for haying again.  We are enjoying this mild December and getting ready for Christmas. This afternoon we have stew cooking on the wood stove and are getting ready to go out and bust ice in the water tanks again and do some afternoon feeding. The house is warm, the wood box is full, and the cows all seem fat and happy. We are really getting to appreciate some down time and the peacefulness of the season, and we are grateful for every single day.

Decorations in the loft

Happy December, everyone!


The First and Last Day of November

30 November 2019 – 23 and sunny

I really dropped the ball for blogging this month.  Reading back, my last post was the first day of the month and here we are on the last. They look eerily similar!  We were suffering from the cold weather on the first  and this afternoon we are recovering from a “blizzard”.  I use the quotation marks because we were supposed to get up to 8 inches of snow and have 40mph winds, but really we got about 2 inches of snow and it was just a little breezy. As far as blizzards go, we’ll take it!

Less snow than expected!

Despite what you may think, November was actually very mild.  Thus, the lack of blogging. We had many days in the upper 40s and a few in the 50s, lots of sunshine, and there was no reason to come inside and spend time on the computer.  Instead, Dave and I worked on some random projects around the ranch and tried to drink up every drop of sunshine we could.

Cows grazing in November

We did resolve some issues this month.  The Horny Toad cow was hauled away by her owner and the Mayflowers were left to graze the northern pastures in peace.  Their demeanors really did seem to change after that crazy cow left and all seemed right with their world.  Meanwhile, the Brambleberry calves were as quiet as ever during weaning.  About two weeks ago, we opened up the gate and they reunited with the big cows.  The calves didn’t seem too concerned about re-meeting their mothers, except Andie, who tried to go right up to her Mom, Hunny.  Hunny wasn’t having it and gave Andie a few warning kicks. Andie decided that hay is better than milk since hay doesn’t involve a hoof to the face.

The herd, reunited.

Here we are two weeks later and we have been watching closely and the calves seem to be successfully weaned so the moms are free to load up on calories for their next calves.  We will know for sure who is pregnant this week, as the vet is coming out to give the young calves some inoculations, pour everyone to prevent worms, and check the big girls to see if the bull did his job.

The past three days have been full of weather related anxiety.  On Wednesday, we woke up in a literal cloud.  The fog bank lingered until late Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t that cold but it was unusually humid for us and the east wind froze all of the moisture in the air on the east side of trees, the barbed wire, and  the cows!

The entire Holler was completely covered in ice and we were glad we weren’t traveling and that our families weren’t travelling for Thanksgiving.  We didn’t want to make a whole turkey for just Dave and I because we could never eat it all, so I bought a turkey breast  instead.  Dave pulled it out of the freezer to defrost it and said, “Did you mean to get a cajun turkey breast?”  I did not, but one consequence of refusing to wear reading glasses to the grocery store is that you often end up with the unexpected.  We had a great Thanksgiving, with the exception of that Cajun Turkey.  Sorry to any of you Creole-folk but who would add this flavor to their turkey? I understand a good cajun seasoning on shrimp and seafood, but this seems like a crime.  Even though we didn’t like the turkey breast, we concluded that every distasteful event can be reconciled with mashed potatoes and pecan pie.  Hooray for pie!

Speaking of turkeys, the wild ones that the Sheriff has been hunting seemed to all disappear the week of Thanksgiving.  Strangely, they showed back up in the corral today.  They must know Thanksgiving is over and we are sick of turkey. We are done with leftovers and having spaghetti tonight with a sauce made from tomatoes from this summer’s garden.


Top shelf tomatoes for spaghetti sauce tonight!

On Black Friday, we scrambled to disassemble our corral and set up a giant stall inside the barn so the cows could have shelter from the oncoming blizzard. One day we will have more permanent structures in place so we won’t have to do this, but the ranch projects are all ongoing and the permanent stall build is definitely up there on the list.  Meanwhile, we worked all morning in anticipation of the “blizzard”.

We went to let all the cows into the corral area and as they walked past the open barn door, #112 who we call the “Dirty Dozen”  turned her head and looked inside the new stall.  It was as if a lightbulb came on in her head and she stopped and turned and stuck her head in the door.  Then she mooed over her shoulder as if to say, “Hey girls!  I mean, HAY girls!  Come check out the new digs!”  With that, she went into the big stall and all the other cows immediately followed her.  They all just hung around inside and decided that this was going to make a fantastic new bedroom.  It also was conveniently a fantastic new bathroom!

Everyone line up for a picture.  

Dave and I were super happy that if they needed it, the cows could use the barn as shelter and that’s exactly what they did.  I went out after dark during the beginning of the snow and wind, and they were all inside enjoying their new hotel room.  We are calling it the Taj Ma Holler.

The Sheriff keeping the cows in line.

We seemed to have survived the great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 2019 and while it is about to set, the sun is shining brightly and it is really beautiful outside. It seems quite appropriate that as we roll into December the Holler looks just like a Christmas Card.

Home sweet home.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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