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May 2020

Running With/From the Bull

30 May 2020 – Rainy but 67 and sun later today

All kinds of craziness is going on out there in the real world, rioting, looting, pandemics.  All kinds of craziness has been going on here at the Holler as well.  The weekend before Memorial Day, we moved our cows from our northern pasture up the road to a neighbor’s pasture we are leasing.  We did this so we could plant and hay our northern pasture.  Fortunately, my parents were visiting and they got to join in the fun.

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Martin Van Buren, Mom, and Dad in Rapid City
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Mom and Dad drove the Mule up the road shaking the cake bucket. We chased from behind.

It went very smoothly, and though a few cows decided to stop and chow on the fresh green grass on the roadside, Mom and Dad kept calling them with the cake bucket and Dave and I ran “outrigger” herding them up the road from behind.  Then we moved the lick barrels and water tanks to the new pasture.

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Herd settling into their new digs
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Moving the water tanks

It was great to see my parents, and while they were here, we continued to disk, plant and harrow the northern pasture. My folks went home on Thursday and Dave and I continued tackling some of our other large projects.  We put some more posts in the barn corral and painted some boards for the alley. It is really starting to come together, although every inch of post digging is hard-fought due to the rocky terrain.  South Dakota Rocks!

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View from inside the corral
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We are looking forward to testing its functionality at round-up

The Sunday before Memorial Day, we were feeling pretty good about our plans for rotating cattle, haying, and getting more of our infrastructure complete and THEN this guy shows up!

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The Black Plague

This bull has been wandering around here for the last three years.  We previously referred to him as “O.J. Simpson” but now we are going to call him the Black Plague.  He is huge, probably close to 2000lbs.  He is usually in a foul mood, and he has an affinity for our cows although he lives a few miles away he always finds himself here. We saw him Sunday night growling and grunting and howling, making all the typical romantic bull noises while pacing outside the five strand barbed-wire fence that contained our herd.

This is a problem this year because we have yearling heifers.  We have arranged to lease a bull in July when they will be old enough to breed.  The bull we are leasing is a “heifer bull” who is small enough to not hurt them and will hopefully throw smaller calves so they will have easier first time births next spring.

We are desperately trying to keep the Black Plague bull away because he could break one of the heifers legs or backs if he tries to breed them.  They are currently too young to breed anyway, and if he breeds them now we will be calving in February which we really do not want to do! As a temporary fix, Dave and I led our herd away from the big bull to the opposite corner of the pasture, hoping none of our girls were in heat and he would move on down the road.

You may ask, “Why is there a random bull roaming around in South Dakota?” And we would answer, “We don’t know! But it is total B.S.!” Because South Dakota is a “Fence-out” state, it basically means if you don’t want at-large cattle on your property it is your responsibility to fence them out.

As mentioned, the pasture the herd is in is completely fenced in (or out) but the Black Plague Bull has demonstrated that he will not be stopped by a barbed wire fence when he is looking for love.  On Memorial Day morning at 5AM the neighbor called to tell us that that bull was in the pasture with our herd.  Dang!  Dave and I drove up to that pasture in the Mule and there he was, grazing right in the middle of our girls.  Fortunately, all of our cows looked calm and relaxed and nobody seemed too interested in the bull so we believe and hope that no one got bred or was in heat.

We decided that we needed to do something to protect our herd.  Early Monday morning, Dave and I tried our hands as bull-fighters, or more like rodeo clowns.  Our cows are so bucket-broke that it is easy to lead them anywhere using cow cake so we easily sorted our girls out of the pasture through one giant gate.  The problem was that the four young calfies decided they would rather hang out with their new big uncle, the Black Plague. All we could do was take turns trying to distract the bull away from the gate while one of us ran around trying to scoot the calves through.  They were uncooperative, of course, and the Black Plague seemed to be getting more and more irritated with our antics. He began pawing the ground and grunting, snorting and seemingly blowing smoke and fire out of his nostrils!  It was quite frightening because we knew he had no problem going through the fence. Finally, Dave had had enough and took off his coat and threw it over the bulls giant head.  Then he jumped on his back and rode him right out of the pasture which took just a little longer than eight seconds. Yee-haw! Just kidding, about the coat and the bull-riding, but we did have some intense and exciting moments trying to work around this big angry beast.

About 45 minutes later and a lot of running, sweating, and yelling, we were able to get all the calves out the gate and leave the big bull in the pasture. Dave led the herd down the road to another pasture south of our house and I ran behind as outrigger, making sure everyone kept heading the right direction.  I could hear the Black Plague running behind me but on the other side of the fence.  He was snorting and grunting and I was praying he would not bust down that fence to follow the herd as I really had nowhere to go to get out of the way.  Thankfully he gave up when the herd disappeared over a hill and he has since wandered off into the National Forest.

We are now keeping our herd in a separate pasture that we had planned on grazing in July, but it is really the only thing we know to do to keep them safe from the bull for now.  There are several ranchers that will be letting their large herds out on the open range to graze on the 1st of June, and we hope that thousands of other cows will be a good distraction for the Black Plague and he will leave our herd alone.

Meanwhile, the barley we planted has been growing and the fields are really greening up.

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Fields of Barley

There is a lot of bee activity which I hope continues throughout the summer.  I opened the hive and was happy to see there were eggs so the queen is still doing her job. The garden is planted and the greenhouse is full of peppers plants so we are definitely ready for summer.

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Garden looks pretty sad right now, but warm weather coming soon!

The next project is to fence in our south pasture so we will have more alternatives for grazing and moving cows.  As usual, the biggest obstacle is the rocky terrain but we’ve faced down that beast before.  One summer we won’t have any more fence to build and I bet Dave and I will look at each other and say, “What should we do now?”  But that will not be for several summers so we will continue to dig post holes, pound t-posts and string wire.  What are you doing to work out lately?

That is about it for May.  We hope everyone is doing well out there and staying safe and more importantly staying free and living their life without fear and dread. God Bless! Oh by the way, if you’re looking for a way to entertain the children in your life, my brother wrote and illustrated a new children’s book.  Here’s the link, it is available on Amazon and it is a very fun book for young kids with lots of rhyming and cute pictures.

Book by my brother Bill!

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Maybe she will read us that book?

Catching Up

12 May 2020 – Rain/Snow and 40 degrees!

In between calving and bull virility testing, Dave and I have been working to get things going here on the Holler. A few posts ago I mentioned that our redneck disk broke down and was unsalvageable.  Interestingly enough, the man that removed all the rocks from our barnyard had a contact in Rapid City that deals in used farm equipment.  Dave contacted him and he had a used 12 foot tandem disk that he thought might work for us.

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The new disk

Dave went to look at the disk and liked it, however it was too big to fit on a trailer, and while it could be towed behind a tractor or truck, it needed new tires.  The guy put different tires on it and Dave brought it home. This was quite an adventure for rancher Dave.  The disk, as mentioned before, is 12 feet wide (as advertised, but more on this later) and that is quite a wide load to pull up the mountain.  Additionally, as the disk hooked onto a drawbar on the back of the truck, it was not made for this type of travel. At about 20mph it would start violently vibrating back and forth. Traffic was backing up behind Dave as he slowly crawled up the hill with the wide disk in tow. The road from Rapid is also pretty twisty and narrow in some places so it took him about four hours to get home.  When he turned to come into Stagecoach Springs, he questioned whether the disk would fit through the entrance to our road.

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Just slightly wider than the road, and definitely wider than the entrance

I drove up in the Mule to meet him and brought the tape measure.  We realized our entrance is exactly 12 feet 5 inches wide at the narrowest point.  The “12 Foot Disk”  measured about 13 feet, 6 inches.  Rats!

Fortunately, there were a couple of options open to us.  We considered bringing the tractor up to  the entrance and lifting the disk over the fences.  We also realized a neighbor to the east of us has a wide gate entrance to her pasture, and we have a 16 foot gate between our properties.  We decided to go with this route and after contacting her, she said that would be no problem at all. Dave drove the disk 2 miles east to her property and through her gate.  Then he proceeded cross-country, over rocks and through trees and up the hill to the point where her pasture finally meets the gate in ours.  The terrain was pretty rough and about half way through his journey we decided it would be better to get the tractor and pull the disk rather than put all that wear and tear on the truck.

So about 6 hours after leaving rapid city, we finally got the new/old disk onto the Holler.  We were really hoping it would work as it seems this is its new permanent home, unless we decide to widen the entrance to the road.

The next day, Dave put the hydraulic cylinder on the disk and there were several problems with the fittings.  Fortunately, Dave knows a great welder in Custer so he took the required parts to him, which he found a fix for on the spot.  A few hours later we had the disk hooked up and running and Dave was able to complete disking our southern field.

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Getting it done
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Nice job!

The disk worked so well, we decided to rip up some more pasture in the northern fields. Dave completed all the disking, I did the planting and we split the harrowing duties.  We finished the hay crop work on Saturday, just in time for some snow and rain on Monday!  Hooray!

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Planting view from the tractor

We still have one field to work, but the cows are in that pasture until the 1st of June.  Once we move them elsewhere, we will plant a crop in that field that we can harvest later.  Our goal is to produce enough hay to feed the herd all winter.  We were successful this year, and while we are still feeding a bale or two a day because of the cold temperatures, we have enough hay to last through the 2nd of June. The calves are grazing more and more and we are cutting back on the feeding, but when there is snow, we like to make sure they have enough to eat.  I really hope we aren’t feeding in June! The point is our hay crop mostly determines the size of our herd, but we do have options to buy hay if we don’t harvest enough of our own.  We do like the idea of being independent, though, and are doing all we can to make use of this land.

We are also trying to get the garden and the lawn up to speed.  Since construction four years ago, there are parts of the yard that have not recovered.  We have planted grass seed, but it has only taken to some places, and some spots are so rocky and sandy it doesn’t appear we will ever have grass there.  Dave has been getting some good soil out of one of the ditches and putting it on the bare spots in what should be the lawn.  Hopefully this will lead to some growth. Also, he used the ditch dirt to cover up the rocky barnyard cliffs.  We are going to put out some grass seed and wildflower seeds on this bank.

I have harvested some asparagus out of the garden, but it doesn’t appear to be doing so good after the freezing temps we have had for the last few days.  It will get warm again, though, (right?) so hopefully we can get the vegetable garden up and running.  The greenhouse has been good for some seeds, but I can’t transplant anything out in the snow, so hopefully the beets, peppers, and lettuce can hang on a little longer in there.

The weeks are just flying by.  Dave and I were having a glass of wine on the porch this weekend and he said, “I can’t believe we are only about six weeks away from the summer solstice, and then the days will start getting shorter again.”  I said, “I wish you hadn’t said that, Dave.”  But he is right, and spring and summer are the busiest times for us, so that does make the calendar seem like it is turning quickly.  It’s a good thing though, to go to bed tired knowing that you got some good work done during the day, and to wake up in the morning knowing that you still have a lot to do.

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Nothing like a porch nap after a long day ranching

 

Mothers’ Day!

11 May 2020 – Rain/Snow and 30 degrees!

I know Mothers’ Day was yesterday, and to all the mom Hoten Holler Follerers I hope you had a great day, especially to my mom, who is just completely awesome!  I was hoping that she and Dad could visit for Mother’s Day but I think they’re glad they didn’t because we are getting snow!

And in honor of our adorable mother cows, here are some gratuitous baby pictures.

We are so happy to be finished with calving season, and so far everyone is doing great!  Since we have two bulls and two heifers, we are calling them the Mixed Doubles.  (Note the moms are all members of the 2017 class we call Mayflowers, and the heifers that will get bred this summer are members of the 2019 class we call the Brambleberries.  We name things, it’s how we roll.)

The remaining babies came all within one week, which was great.  Hunny started on the 29th by sneaking out her calf in between the 4AM and 6AM check.  When Dave went out at six, she was already cleaning up the little girl.  She’s #9 so we named her for Dallas Cowboys #9 Tony Romo, but we’re spelling it TONI because she’s such a cute little girl.  She was up and nursing pretty quickly.  Hunny is an experienced mom with Toni being her fourth.  She cleaned off her baby and headed off to the woods for some privacy and bonding.

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Hunny and Toni Romo #9 at their family photo shoot

On the 3rd of May, Triple Sticks snuck out her calf between the 10AM and 12PM cow check.  This is her 2nd baby, a little girl, #10 that we are calling Bo Derek. I checked on Trips at 10AM and she was off by herself from the herd, a tell-tale sign of impending birth, but when she heard me in the Mule she came down out of the woods and right up to me looking for cow-cake. I looked her all over, and while her bag was big, it had been big for over a week.  I thought she would probably calve that day, but not immediately.  She must have watched me drive away and immediately laid down and had her baby because when I went back at noon, Bo Derek was cleaned off and already up and nursing.  I initially thought it was someone else’s calf nursing on her but then I saw the other two babies laying right there next to the new mom while she nursed her baby.  She must have been babysitting when she calved.  Cow multitasking, hmmmmm.

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Trips giving Bo Derek some lunch

I took the Mule back to get Dave and we went to watch the new mom and baby for a bit to make sure everyone looked good and healthy.  When we got back to the pasture, we parked about 30 yards away to give the new mom some space.  Almost immediately, the Dirty Dozen who is the mother of Henry the 8th, came marching toward us and stopped right in front of us and gave us a big, loud MOOOOOO!  It was like she was saying, “People, please.  This cow just had a baby!  Give her some privacy already!”  Then she collected her calf and stormed off into the trees. She’s somewhat MOOOODY.

Finally, on the 4th of May, Cherry Bomb had her baby around 11 AM.  We saw her at the 10AM check acting very peculiar, walking backwards, mooing and licking her belly.  We stayed and about an hour later she laid down and gave birth to a little bull calf we named Apollo 11.  He is the only calf with a white face and he is so dang cute.  He has white fuzzy eyebrows that remind me of Santa Clause.  It took him about 20 minutes to stand up and he was nursing about 30 minutes after that.

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Apollo 11 at two days old saying hello to me!

Dave and I are so happy that all the moms did so well, and the babies seem to be doing great.  They put on about 2.5lbs a day, so a week after birth they are all really thickening up as they have put on about 17lbs a piece.  They are so fun to watch, especially at dawn and dusk.  They get really energized and run around in circles, bucking and kicking and occasionally having a headbutting match with each other.  Better than anything on Netflix!

In other cow news, Dave and I drove down to Edgemont to meet a gentleman we are planning to lease a bull from in July.  He was taking the bull to the vet to get virility tested and make sure he was a good candidate for our heifers and cows.  He passed the test with flying colors, although he will probably need some counseling after that whole ordeal!  We look forward to welcoming him to the Holler in July.

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Moscow the bull getting tested

Thanks for indulging me and my calf stories.  I finally feel like we are catching up on sleep around here and am grateful every day I see those babies out there in the herd.  I know things are still crazy out there in the real world, and I hope the cow stories can provide a peaceful break from quarantine boredom and frustration.  As I said before, things really haven’t changed too much here!

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Gotta love South Dakota!!!

 

 

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