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Dave and Jenny

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Home sweet home.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

Hey Winter, Ever Heard of Being Fashionably Late?

1 November 2019 – 31 and snowing, and sunny

I can hear some of you out there saying, “Well what did you expect when you moved to South Dakota?”  This is the answer to me talking (not crabbing or whining…yet) about the snow this early in the season.  I still am enjoying it, although snow this early makes everything a little more difficult.  It makes us wonder if we have enough wood in the shed, if we have enough hay for the cows, and if the bees have enough honey to make it until possibly mid-May.  It’s not like we have much choice in the matter so we will just plow forward and feed the cows when they need it and burn the wood when it’s cold.  The bees are another entity, and if it looks like spring will be delayed, I may start feeding them some sugar in late February.

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Heifers wanting some breakfast

In between snow we have had a few decent days. Dave did some amazing work on the head gate. This is going to be really useful when we have the vet out to give shots or if we need to do any minor medical treatment to any of our girls.

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BEFORE
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AFTER…..Nice job, Dave!

We took our remaining older cows to market.  It was hard seeing Marzee, Boohaa, and Domino go, but it had to be done.  Dave took this picture of them after off-loading at the market and he said to one of the Cowhand girls working there, “It’s normal for people to take pictures of their cows, right?”  She laughed at him and said sarcastically,  “Oh, yeah, perfectly normal.”

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Ugh.  Bye girls.  You are very good cows.

We moved our original cows and Hunny into the northern pasture to keep them away from their weaning babies in the Maternity Ward.  We call this older group of cows “The Mayflowers”  since they were all born in May of 2017.

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Cherry Bomb and Triple Sticks at the lick on the north

There was quite a bit of nice green grass still in this pasture when we put them out and the girls have settled in nicely.  We have been feeding them when there is snow on the ground, and we had some really cold October temperatures this week (negative 4 one morning) so we had to bust ice several times a day.

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Big chunks of ice, too big for October! Looks more like February.
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Rancher Dave getting the spud to bust the ice

This pasture is across the road from a neighbor’s pasture, who is leasing her land to another local rancher and his cows were super curious when we put the Mayflowers in across from them.  He has one cow that is very “rangey” or wild, in our opinion.  We call her Horny-Toad because she has big horns and she jumps fences. She also spooks very easily whenever we’re around and runs away from us bucking and kicking.  Sometimes she charges a little, but if we just stand our ground she runs away again.  She looks like the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull and she always jumps the fence whenever we are moving our cows.

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Anyone remember this old commercial?

This time was no exception.  When we put the Mayflowers in the northern pasture it took about three seconds for Horny Toad to jump out of her pasture and jump the fence into ours.  She immediately began picking a fight with our cows.  Our cows are really docile and kept running away from her. They looked at us as if to say, “Who is this lunatic in our house?”  They need to buck-up and push back at her, but they won’t.  I am actually quite happy they are the pacifists they are because Horny Toad could really hurt one of them with her horns.

Dave and I tried to push her back out several times, but she just keeps jumping the fence and coming back.  After it snowed, we called the rancher and asked him to get her out because we are already feeding early and we don’t need to feed his cow, too.  He obliged and came by the next day, and moved her back to her pasture where he put out additional hay and she stayed for two more days.  Then, this morning, she was back out on our North pasture, although separated by cross fence from our girls for now.  The rancher said he would come get her and take her away this weekend so we all (Dave, Me, Hunny, Trips, Dozen, Cherry Bomb, and Valentine) are  hoping she goes back to her place!

The four heifers in the corral are fattening up and still not mooing for their mamas.  We call this group of heifers the Brambleberries because they were all born in April and that’s what blooms in April.

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Rancher Dave feeding the Brambleberries

One snowy morning, The Sheriff and I went to check on the Brambleberries and when I walked around the barn I didn’t quite recognize what I saw in the corral.  I originally thought I saw some giant peacocks, but quickly realized that it was a rafter of turkeys.  (I had to look that up but that’s what you call a group of turkeys!) There were so many turkeys, it looked like the audition line for a Chantix commercial.

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Chantix Turkey

I could not believe the size of these birds, some seemed four feet tall.  As I was trying to wrap my brain around what sort of giant critters  were in the corral, the Sheriff immediately realized that these were not our heifers and he shot into action.  He dived under a corral panel and created his very own turkey tornado.  There must have been 30 or so birds and their giant, pterodactyl size wings blocked out the sun as they took flight behind the barn.  In the distance, I saw four black heifer behinds running up and over the hill to the other end of the pasture, frightened by the uproar. Still, not a single Moo.  Never a dull moment here on the Holler.

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Hey Turkeys…..look at my teeth!

Since then, the Sheriff has shown a  little more restraint around the turkeys.  It seems the turkeys always show up after we feed the cows and do the clean up of whatever hay is left.  Now, when we see them, the Sheriff goes into an immediate pointing position, ears up and tail held high in question mark position.  I say, “Joe, see the turkeys?”  I can feel the adrenaline emanating off of the poor dog.  Then I say “Get ‘em!”  And he is gone.  Instead of creating a tornado now, he goes into missile lock on whichever poor turkey catches his eye.  He chases the particular bird around and around, even after it takes flight. (Joey doesn’t actually take flight, but he goes into surface to air missile tracking.)  I think the Sheriff is dreaming of Thanksgiving.

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Sheriff Joe on alert for turkeys.

So that’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone out there in the real world has a great November.

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A coyote (right of the top of the tree) running in the snow

 

October Snow……Again

20 October 2019 – 34 and snowing

We have some wacky mountain weather going on here.  This morning, the sun was shining and Dave and I worked outside wearing jeans and sweatshirts.  I went running this afternoon and ended up in short sleeves.  About one hour after I returned, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and now it is snowing and blowing.

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It looks like the white thumb of death just north of us!

Fortunately, it is supposed to go back into the 40s tomorrow with lots of sunshine, and 50s for a few days after that.  Since my last post, the weather has been really nice and we have been outside enjoying every last drop of it. We finally finished building our corral. Dave and I agree that this was one of the most complicated projects we have completed since we moved here.  First, we had to decide where to put the corral.  We debated about terrain, wind direction, proximity to the house, access for a trailer and all sorts of details.  We settled on the east side of the barn.

Second, we weren’t sure about the best way to set up the panels and the head gate. We consulted with friends, family, books and the internet to come up with a system that would allow us to separate cows and calves, and result in an alley to run them through the squeeze chute or into a calf table.  Also, we wanted to build in an accessible way to load cattle into a trailer.  We debated and debated, drew our ideas on paper, moved panels and moved them again. This is the corral.

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Rough sketch
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Reality

Third, we completed the “barn yard” by clearing out some of the large rocks and boulders and putting down gravel.  Now the corral is accessible with alleyways on the north and south side of the barn.  We can also drive the tractor through the barn to get back there and clean out manure.  Once more, Dave and I are happy for the snow to have a break from moving rocks!  Anyway, we are super excited about completing this project and will keep you posted about the functionality of the corral.

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South side alley
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East side sans rocks and with new gravel

After we separated out Shiner, the steer, and sent him to the market with the neighbor, we moved the four heifers we intend to keep into the new corral.

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Andie, Cupid, Fatz and Lucky

These four girls, all born in April, are as quiet as little church mice.  We haven’t heard Moo-One from any of them. They are really warming up to us, though.  Of course there is always one piggy in the group and this group’s piggy is Fatz.  She is already eating cake out of our hands and I joke that she is Dave’s new girlfriend.  She follows him around constantly nosing him to see what he’s up to…..or if he has any cake in his pocket.

Our plan is to keep these girls in the corral tonight so they are secure during this little snow storm.  Tomorrow we will release them into a pasture that we fenced off this summer, which we are calling the Maternity Ward.  We wanted a pasture close to our house.  We also wanted it to be about two acres so next spring we can move the pregnant cows in, leaving them just enough room to graze while limiting their wandering space so we can check on them when we expect calving.  The extra fenced off pasture will prove to be helpful in the fall, too.  We are keeping these four young heifers here while they are being weaned from their moms.  The big ladies are being kept in a pasture at least two fences away to prevent them from breaking through the fence and finding their kids.  This will need to go on for at least a few more weeks until the moms lose their milk and the babies stay off teat.

In addition to taking care of our facilities, we helped our neighbor separate his calves for market.  He has a much bigger operation than us and we ended up working nearly 300 calves.

It is always fun to participate in this neighbor’s operations because we learn a lot and we end up very grateful that we only have a handful of cows.  We do appreciate the cowboy lifestyle and enjoy watching them round up their herd on horseback.  Maybe one day we can participate in that part too.

Everyone here is doing well.  The Sheriff recovered from the pulled out toenail and has returned to his mischievous self.  He cannot stay out of the dirt.

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Sheriff Joe in the gravel pile

This dog loves, loves, loves getting as dirty as he possibly can.  I try to brush him or towel him off before he comes in, but he has very long fur and when he stands in the sunlight wagging his tail, he looks like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.  I think I could rent him out for Halloween parties as a fog machine.  Except instead of fog, it would be a dust machine and his wagging tail would just create and blow dust all around the venue.

Okay, that’s about it this week from the Holler.  We’re in for the evening by the stove watching the snow blow around and looking forward to tomorrow and a few more days of sunny warm weather.  We hope everyone is having a great October!

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October sunrise

 

October Snow

12 October 2019 – sunny and 26 with snow on the ground

We had the typical 10th of October snow storm.

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View from the deck on Thursday morning

It was quite a drastic change in temperatures as the high on Tuesday was in the 70s and then it snowed and dropped to 14 degrees Wednesday night.  The Sheriff seemed to be the only one that was really happy about the snow.

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Sheriff Joe Loves the Snow!

It isn’t all that bad, though.  We were able to get some bales of hay out for the cows and as we had been expecting the weather to change, we wrapped the beehive in tar paper.  Because of the rapid change in temps, we decided to bring Maverick, the cat, in from the barn for the night.  I brought him into the mudroom a few nights last winter that were bitterly cold and he meowed the whole time.  This time, however, he was super quiet and slept the whole night.  He did seem ready to get back to the barn the next day.

Speaking of animals, Maverick has been taunting the Sheriff quite a bit.

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Want to come down and play?

It all came to a big head when Sheriff Joe decided to go after the dang cat and while sprinting across some rocks, Joe tore out his toenail.  He didn’t stop, however, until Maverick was stuck up a tree. I think Maverick was singing that Bob Marley tune while he hid out in the tree,  “I Shot the Sheriff!”.   Hoten Holler drama.  Anyway, Joe has been pouting ever since because his toe hurts and maybe his ego too?

Dave and I enjoyed the warm weather earlier in the week with a visit from my Mom and Dad.  We put them to work and split some wood with the new splitter.

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Ranch Transportation
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The whole family splitting wood

We got to have some fun, too. Dave went to help a neighbor with his cattle round up, and Mom, Dad, and I got a front row seat from the truck.  It is really neat to see the real cowboy stuff that happens in this country.

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Neighbors round-up on horses and using ATVs and Trucks

We were also happy the elk returned for a visit both nights they were here.  They had left for about a week and we thought they were gone for the season, but they decided to come back so Mom and Dad could watch and hear them.

It was so great to see my folks, but they left (fled) just ahead of the snow storm.  Today is supposed to get into the upper 40s but the wind is howling and it is pretty miserable working conditions outside.  We are supposed to climb back into the 50s next week which will be nice, and hopefully the right conditions for taking calves to market.

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Shiner is #4 with the white face.  All the calves are getting big!

 

We have decided to keep the four heifers, Andie, Cupid, Fatz and Lucky.  The steer, Shiner, will be going with a neighbor’s calves.  We loved this little guy, if you remember he was the really listless one that we didn’t think was going to make it. It turns out he is just lazy, and has turned out to be really big and healthy.  Still, we aren’t in the business of keeping pet steers, so off he goes.

The following week we will be sending some of the older girls to the auction.  Also, Boohaa, one of our original cows  is going. She has been exposed to a bull for a full year and hasn’t gotten pregnant. She is a real sweet girl, but again, that’s not part of the business plan. This isn’t the fun part of raising cows, but it has to be done and we tell ourselves that they all had a good life here on the Holler where they were spoiled with beautiful green fields, shelter from the snow, and lots and lots of cake and head scratches.  Also, if we were made of hay I’m sure they would have no problem eating us or sending us to auction.

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Marzee and Shiner in the background

Well, that’s it for this week.  Stay warm out there and we’ll try to do the same!

 

Long Shadows

29 September 2019 – raining, windy and 41 degrees

It’s the perfect day to stay inside and write a blog.  It is cold, rainy, and pretty miserable outside.  Dave built the first fire in the wood stove of the season and he, the Sheriff, and I are taking a lazy Saturday morning inside where it is warm and dry.  We did manage to sneak out for a quick morning walk but it looks like we will be housebound for the rest of the morning.  That’s okay with us, because we have been working a lot outside this week, trying to put posts in the rocky barnyard to set up a corral for our herd.

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One telephone post….hole dug, filled and set with concrete.  About 2 hours work.  Phewww.

We got these corral panels from a seller off of Craig’s List.

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Coral panels are portable fence.  It makes more sense for our rocky ground than setting tons of posts.

We are hoping to organize our corral so we can have a place to load cows and a separate alley to send them through the squeeze chute.  Our ground is so hard and rocky that every post we put in takes a lot of effort and time to dig the holes.  We have a new neighbor that has lent us his jack-hammer.  He also asked us to take 28 telephone poles off of his hands.  He wasn’t going to use them and didn’t want to dump them, so we moved them to our place and are using them for the corral as well.

We are also consulting with another local rancher and friend.  Yesterday, I put together some garden goodies and some honey and Dave went over to the Spring Valley Ranch and dropped off the box for the rancher and his wife.  He told them, “I’m bribing you to see if you can come over and help us plan our corral.”  They were super excited about the goody box and the rancher will come by this week and discuss our plans.  He also asked us for some help with his fall roundup next month.  We really like the community support of the ranching community.

We have been busy fixing fences almost every day since the elk have become much more rambunctious as the rut continues.  It really is quite beautiful to hear them bugle us to sleep in the evenings.  The last few years we haven’t had near the elk activity as this year.  We’ve seen them almost every day for a month, and nearly every morning we wake up to loud bugles and elk right in our backyard.

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Breakfast!

As I posted last time, the only drawback to getting to see these wild creatures every day is that they are destructive, taking out trees and barbed wire wherever they decide to go.  I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

A lot of people ask us if we can shoot one, but unfortunately the answer is no unless we get an elk tag.  There are ranchers with much bigger operations than ours that have enough acreage to get a “reclamation tag” where they can harvest an elk to repay themselves for damage to their property.  We do not have enough land to qualify for this, and in South Dakota, you have to apply for a regular hunting tag in a lottery.  It is pretty tough to get one, we hear.  I think the elk have heard this as well and consequently decided to continue to hang out on the Holler.

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The elk keep getting closer to the house.

In other ranch news, we moved the wood box back to the front porch in anticipation of colder weather.

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Moving the wood box back to the porch….a sign of impending snow!

Also, we decided to invest in a wood splitter.  Dave says when he was growing up, he didn’t know what a wood splitter was.  If someone mentioned “the wood splitter”, he thought they were talking about him and his axe.

We discussed the fact that splitting wood by hand is fantastic exercise…..if you’re in your twenties.  But in your 50’s, splitting wood by hand is a fantastic way to injure yourself.  The machine arrived yesterday and Dave assembled it.  We are champing at the bit to get out there and put it to use, but dang it…it’s raining!  Ha ha.

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Joe took up residence in the crate the splitter arrived in.  He is splitting his own wood (sticks) in there.

We had a fantastic September, but the weather is changing and the temperatures are starting to drop.  The mornings and evenings are beautiful, and the shadows are growing longer.  One year ago today we had the first snow of the season.  We’re sad to see summer go, but getting ready for another winter and actually looking forward to a few down days.  Happy rainy Saturday from the Holler!

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Sheriff Joe making sure the calves don’t get out of line.

 

Fall Harvest

19 September 2019 – sunny and 75

Autumn harvest season has arrived.  We have been busy on the Holler putting things up.  First we put up the hay.

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A barn full of square bales.  It’s the cow’s version of the Golden Corral.

Then we had about a million cucumbers so we put up pickles.

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One of many batches of pickles in process

The bees really went to town this summer and we have been spending several days harvesting and putting up honey.

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South Dakota Liquid Gold

Now, it is starting to get a little cold in the evenings, but the tomatoes are coming in like crazy.  Every day for the last week I have picked about 15 tomatoes, and it looks like there will be at least 3-4 more days of picking that many.

Dave and I made salsa.

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Super Fresh Salsa

We canned and put up more tomatoes. After finally getting the tomatoes canned I found the most amazing thing on the counter in the spot where they had all been sitting.  Counter space!  I hardly recognized my own kitchen.

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Endless tomatoes

Nothing tastes better than a late summer tomato.  We have been eating so many tomato sandwiches it’s kind of getting old.

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A change up to the mater sandwich….Caprese salad and a glass of Franzia!

Dave has given me a new nick-name:  The Mater Queen of So. Dak.  I think this enormous tomato would have won a prize at the state fair, so I’ll embrace the new title.

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That tomato is almost as big as that cow!

We have done so much canning this year that we decided if we get snowed in this winter we will probably not bother plowing out.  Instead we will stay in and eat pickles, tomatoes and honey.

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We’re starting our own grocery store.

We have also been gathering firewood.  Here is the pile that we will split and stack that we hope will keep us warm for a few nights…ha ha.

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Trailer full of wood
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This looks like a cool fall day project

Another fall task has been putting up the haying equipment for the winter.  Dave and I spent quite a bit of time reorganizing the barn lot and Dave did a lot of greasing and maintaining on the mower, baler, rake etc.  We think the barnyard cleaned up pretty nice.

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All the equipment in a neat little row

And finally, we have been entertained mornings and evenings with tons of elk.  In past years, we have heard and seen a few herds, especially in the fall rut.  This year, the elk have decided that our south pasture is the best new nightclub in South Dakota.  Nearly every evening, right around sundown, the bugling begins.  In the low light, you can only make out the giant forms of the herd in the distance, but you can hear them bugle and snort.  It continues late into the wee hours of the morning and tapers off around 3AM.  Then, right before sunup, the bugling begins again and we get a good look at the herd.

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Evenings at the South Pasture Nightclub
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Elk

We also get a good look at whatever damage they have done to our trees.

I wonder who was responsible for the death of these trees?

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Game-cam images
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He’s a big bull, and it looks like he’s been fighting because one of his antlers is broken.

This morning, there were about 25 cows and at least one big bull shutting down the south pasture night club.  They decided to head east and jump the barbed wire fence.  As they ran it sounded like a herd of horses running, except the rhythm of their hoof-falls was a little different than horses. How can I explain this in writing?  I’ll try by explaining that running horses sound like the beat of the William Tell Overture or the Lone Ranger theme song.

“Da da DAA da da DAA da da DAA dum dum”

The elk sound more like a car on a bumpy road.

“Ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca…..”

Okay, if you read that out loud you may  get the idea.  I wouldn’t recommend reading it out loud if you’re at work or somewhere in public.  You might get some strange looks. Back to this morning, we saw the elk start running east and heard their trampling feet:

Ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca…..

One by one they began to jump the barbed wire fence and then we heard:

Ducca ducca ducca ducca TWANG!!!!!

Dave and I looked at each other over our coffee cups and he said, “I guess we’ll be fixing fence today.”  Never a dull moment out here on the Holler

That’s about it for this time.  We are working outside today, enjoying the unusually warm autumn weather. We are hoping for a long, mild autumn, but in reality we could be less than 1 week from the first snow flying.  We better get out there and split that firewood!

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How is your September?  Hmmmmm?

 

Squirrels and Turkey and Elk – Oh My!

30 August 2019 – raining and 47 degrees

Yep, it’s raining again so I am taking advantage of the weather and blogging this morning.  We have mostly caught up on haying.  We spent yesterday finishing a couple areas that are difficult to maneuver the tractor in and trying a second cutting in some lush areas in the south pasture.

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Mowing the stock dam

Overall, we had a stellar haying season, putting up well over 1500 bales.  When it stops raining and we bale the stock dam and the second cutting we will be DONE and Dave and I have vowed that we will do something to celebrate.  We will probably just go to the local bar in Pringle (The Hitch Rail) and have a burger and a beer, but it will be a celebratory supper nonetheless.

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Mowing in the clover
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Lots of bales

We were fortunate to have some help for a week this month.  Dave’s good friend from the Coast Guard, Mike, came to visit and “experience” ranch life.  He got to check and water cows, put fence posts in the ground, jackhammer some rocks, drive the tractor, cut and haul slash, and of course he got to rake, bale, and load hay into the barn.

Mike said it was so fun for him, like going to a Dude Ranch and that he really enjoyed the work.  We said, “Tell all your friends about haying season next year!”  Ha ha.  Anyway, we were extremely grateful for the help and we accomplished a lot while he was here.

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Thanks, Mike!  We hope you come back!

And it wasn’t a complete working vacation for him.  Dave took him through Custer State Park where they got stuck in “buffalo” traffic.  They toured the Needles Highway and went to some brew pubs in Custer.  Most evenings we drank wine and fired some rounds off the back deck.  One evening, while we were eating dinner, a herd of about 30 elk decided they would go to the oat buffet in the southern field.  As the sun set, we enjoyed watching these magnificent creatures and listened to their haunting bugles and elk noises.  It was a great South Dakota experience.

Of course, we saw tons of deer and turkeys enjoying the Holler while Mike was here, too. When you come to the Holler,  you’re going to experience some wild life! Not that we’re that wild, usually we are in bed by 9PM.  Sad.

Yesterday, while checking cows, Sheriff Joe decided to leap out of the Mule and pursue an offending jack rabbit.  The jack was huge and the Sheriff didn’t stand a chance as the rabbit shifted into high gear and ran east, possibly all the way to East River. (That’s South Dakota speak for east of the Missouri)  Upon returning from checking cows, I was working in the garden and nearly stepped on a snake!  Yikes!  Later, Dave and I were putting fence posts in the ground and we heard a strange pounding noise coming from the direction of the house.  The Sheriff and I went up to investigate and discovered a squirrel had fallen into one of our rain barrels.  The little guy was throwing himself against the sides in an attempt to escape.  I distracted the Sheriff by throwing a stick which completely worked.  In his absence, I tipped the barrel over and the squirrel ran out and up the nearest tree.  He then began angrily chatting at me, as if it was my fault he had been stuck. Ungrateful rodent.

In between all the crazy projects, we have put up more pickles.  Three cucumber plants yielded 25 jars of pickles this year, and that doesn’t include the cucumbers we have been eating in salads and giving away to neighbors.  Now the peppers and tomatoes are starting to come in so we also canned some of Dave’s famous corn relish.

The last two days we have also harvested honey from the bees.  There were three medium boxes full of capped honey and we harvested two full ones and left part of the third for the bees to ensure they have enough honey to make it through the winter.

We haven’t figured out how much we will actually get to bottle yet, because it takes awhile for the sticky stuff to run through the filter and get out all the wax and bee parts.  So far, it looks a lot like last year’s honey and the basement smells like flowers!  It is also a giant sticky mess which we will probably tackle today if it keeps raining.

One last thing, I forgot to write about in July.  Dave and I were having coffee one morning and we heard what sounded like a tornado, or giant gust of wind off the west deck.  We quickly discovered that a giant hot air balloon was about to land in our back yard!  We watched the beautiful balloon go down in a field just across the road.  I ran to get the Mule so we could see if they were okay, and Dave yelled to the pilot, “Are you okay?”  He yelled back that everyone was good.  We drove down and discovered they had taken off from Custer and were surprised by 30 knot winds that took them on a wild ride a lot further than they intended to go.

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Never a dull moment on the Holler

Despite the velocity and the distance, the balloon crew arrived in vans almost immediately and picked up the passengers and the pilot.  They packed up the balloon and they were gone, nearly as quickly as they had arrived.  Of course we didn’t let them leave without asking if they wanted to pick up hay bales.  Maybe that’s why they left so quickly.

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Balloon Landing
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The chase crew arrives – notice the square hay bales just begging to be picked up across the road!

Well that is it for August.  It definitely is starting to look and feel like autumn.  September promises to be just as busy for us as we continue the paddock fencing project and we will have to separate and wean calves from their moms. We haven’t even begun to gather firewood for the winter.  It’s all good but it is all going so fast!  Happy Labor Day Weekend, everybody.  We hope summer 2019 was as fun for you as it was for us.

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It stopped raining.  Time to get back to work!

 

Hay for Days…….

11 August 2019 – cloudy and highs in the upper 70s

Hey out there!  We’re still alive, but we have been working outside all summer and that hasn’t left much time for blogging.  I will try to do better but the amount of work we still have to complete before the snow flies is a little overwhelming.  We keep trying to get all of our hay cut and baled and loaded.  It has been hot and rainy (unusual for here) so the hay keeps growing and rain daily means it has been too wet to cut.  When we get two dry days in a row, we mow the hay, and then it rains again so we have to let it dry another day before we rake and bale.

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Dave mowing one of the pastures

We are slowly getting through the haying season, but it just doesn’t want to end.  We still have the north pastures to mow and bale, and our neighbor’s yard.  Then, it looks like we might get a second cut in some of the southern pastures!  Meanwhile, the hay loft is slowly filling up with hay.

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Putting hay in the loft, one pallet (9bales) at a time

To make our lives easier, we stack bales on pallets and let the tractor do the work lifting it into the loft.  We use a pallet jack in the loft to position the pallets of hay.  Over 1000 bales of hay moved so far this summer and possibly another few hundred to go has led Dave and me to believe we need to invest in a round baler. This point was not so subtly emphasized by our UPS driver who said to me, “You’re still picking up those idiot cubes?”  His point was that square bales are a pain, and while in small quantities they are useful, picking them up and stacking them is a lot of work. Anyone out there got a round baler for sale?

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A loft full of “idiot cubes”

In the midst of haying season, I abandoned the ranch and went to the Grand Canyon to pursue a bucket list trip with my brother, Scott.  We hiked the whole canyon, north rim to the south rim in two days.  It was 24 miles of incomparable beauty and stifling hot temperatures.  As one hiker said, “Both God and the Devil live in the canyon.”

It was a great trip and while Scott and I were both worn out at the end, it was an incredible journey and we had a great time.  We ended up sore and tired but thankfully neither of us suffered from any blisters, heat exhaustion or any other injuries.

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View from the South Rim

The canyon was great, but I was ready to get back to the Holler and to my favorite rancher and of course, the Sheriff.  We were back at work the next day picking up hay bales.

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One of many loads of hay
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Sheriff Joe was happy to see me

Summer is coming to a rapid close and we still have a lot to do, including finishing the hay.  We are also trying to get in a new fence around the paddock.  We haven’t even begun to gather firewood.  Meanwhile, the garden is producing lots of goodies, and Dave and I canned 20 jars of pickles this week. Don’t worry, we won’t eat them all but they usually go into goodie baskets for guests and family.

Soon the tomatoes should be ready for canning. Like last year , the peppers didn’t do so good, but I still plan on canning some salsa. The bees are going gangbusters and we should be harvesting Hoten Holler Honey in the next few weeks.

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Bees prepping for their morning sorties

The calves are getting huge and after the hay is up, it won’t be long before they get weaned off of their mothers.  The bull has been in with the cows since mid-July and we are hoping he has been doing his duties.  It appears he is a little worn out, too.

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Koozy, the bull laying down amongst his harem

Tonight, it is raining again which means we won’t be able to do anything with hay until mid day tomorrow at the earliest.  Dave and I are watching the storms roll in and Sheriff Joe is passed out on the floor after a long day of chasing butterflies.  Life is good on the ranch.

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A beautiful August day

 

Flying By

21 June 2019 – Sunny and forecast to be 60

Happy First Day of Summer! This is my favorite season and I am really looking forward to some warm weather and some hot working days. It feels like we skipped spring altogether because of the late May blizzard and the cool temperatures we have had in June so far.  Still, the oats are growing, the calves are growing, the weeds are growing!!!  Spring flew by!

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Happy and Fat Cows

We woke up this morning to four bull elk in our back yard.  Got to love South Dakota!

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Elk like oats for breakfast.

My sister and her son and my Mom came to visit last week.  We had fun driving the tractor, shooting guns off the deck, checking cows, and doing some touring.  We went to Keystone where my nephew got to go into a gold mine and pan for gold.  We all had ice cream and enjoyed the boardwalk. We also went to Sylvan Lake and hiked the mile around it.  My Mom did great, despite some very rocky and steep trails.

 

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Family at the Lake
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Hiking the rocks
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Needles Highway

The weather was perfect and we drove along the Needles Highway on the way home. We went to the infamous Hitchrail for a burger for supper.

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Two Iowa girls in a tractor

Of course you can’t come to the Holler without doing a little ranch labor.  We put the crew to work at building an H for a gate we’re putting in between our pasture and our neighbors.  My sister especially liked breaking rocks out of the post hole using the 30 pound spud.

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Spudding the hole

My nephew and Mom did a great job picking up rocks to fill in around the post and again, my sister enjoyed tamping the rocks back into the hole using the spud, her new best friend. I offered to let her take the spud home with her but she graciously declined.

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She left the spud here for me.

Their hard work helped us get a good start on this H.  Dave and I dug the post holes for the H on the other side this week, and today we finished the wire gate.

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The new wire gate.  Nice H’s on both sides.

Thanks for the help, family!  We’ll try to find something more fun for you to do when you come back.  Throw hay bales, maybe?  Anyway, their visit flew by!

Dave and I have been busy just keeping up with the yard and weeds, cleaning up the barn, maintaining equipment and of course, checking the cows.  Our herd is grazing on the neighbors very large pastures while we grow oats, so checking cows takes a bit more time.  We spend the early mornings driving around looking for them.  When we do finally find them, I have a list and take “roll call” so we can make sure everyone and their babies are present and accounted for.

Three days ago, we found everyone except for one of Cowboy’s girls that was STILL expecting.  After driving around another 15 minutes or so we saw some of the neighbor’s herd.  Rancher Dave shut down the Mule and I hiked down into a ravine where I heard some strange mooing.  Sure enough, there was Diamond with a brand new little heifer calf that was still steaming.  She must have just been born and she was a big bright eyed girl.

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Diamond and her baby in the ravine

I stayed to make sure she would get up and nurse while Rancher Dave went back to the Holler to call Cowboy and Linda and let them know they had a new calf on the ground.  About 15 minutes later, I heard a Mule (Cowboy and Linda have one as well) and I ran up the ravine to show them where the new baby was hidden.  I must have been 30 feet from them and I was yelling and waving my shirt over my head, but they didn’t hear me over the Diesel engine and went flying by!  Another ten minutes went by and I heard them coming back on the other end of the ravine.  I ran down to the bottom but it was pretty tree covered so again, they didn’t see me, and again they went flying by!  Finally, Rancher Dave came back and they saw his Mule and followed him to put eyes on their newest herd member. Never a dull moment out here.

Switching gears, I have been doing a lot of running and hiking to train for an upcoming bucket list trip.  My brother and I are going to hike the Grand Canyon, North Rim to South Rim, in August.  The time of year isn’t ideal, but somehow we secured reservations at the very hard-to-get dorms at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. See the link below for some fun information about the place.

Phantom Ranch

The only dates we could get were in August, so we will brave the heat and do this once in a lifetime trip. It is 24 miles of hiking so I have been trying to put in some miles. The other morning I was running on a trail near the Holler.  I heard something go flying by my head and saw it was a diving black bird.  Then it came back to reattack.  If anyone was watching me from a distance they must have thought I was having a seizure or was being possessed by some evil dancing spirit as I tried to shoo the crazy bird away from my head.  The bird followed me for about a quarter mile, swooping and attacking the whole time. I thought about picking up a handful of rocks to defend myself but eventually it left me alone.  The only thing I could think was that I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and that bird had some sort of vendetta against Sesame Street and mistook me for Big Bird. Things flying by….ha ha!

This week I also hiked to the top of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rockies in the continental US.  It was a beautiful day and a tough hike, but I wasn’t hurting too bad the next day so I feel like I’m making some progress in my training.

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Harney Peak.  You can see the lookout tower on the top which was 1700 feet up.

That’s about it for now on the Holler.  We are looking forward to cutting, raking and baling hay in the next few weeks.  The oats are getting tall and the alfalfa looks like it could bloom at any minute.

We are expecting some normal summer weather, high 80’s, in the next week and that will really make things grow.  We are about to get really busy, and I’m sure we will blink and say, “Wow, summer really is flying by!” And shortly after that, “Look at all that snow flying by!”

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The Sheriff conducting some concealed surveillance in the tall grass

 

 

Have a great summer, everybody!

 

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