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?