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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

 

Lots to Do and Not A Lot of Spring Left to Do It

9 June 2019 – Sunny and forecast to be 65 (but it was 33 this morning!)

It has really greened up on the Holler since my last post.

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Looking at the house from the South Pasture.  The oats are really green and about one beer can high.

The calfies are getting BIG!  Especially the ones that were born in early April.

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The big calves, and in the front with the white face is Moonshine aka Shiner.  He was the one that was so sick and we thought might not make it, but he is a tough guy now!

And here is the newest edition to the herd.  Smudge had a cute little bull and Linda is calling him June Bug.

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JuneBug and Mama-Smudge giving me a look that says, “Not too close!”

Our calves are spread too far out in age to hold a single roundup, so we elected to drive the first 10 to the vet for branding, castrations and inoculations.  We had already moved the herd to the pasture we call the “Hide Out”  so we had to drive them back to the High Lonesome where we have the ability to separate and load the calves.

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Moms outside the corral and babies inside ready to be loaded up for the vet.

Our herd is pretty gentle and we really didn’t have much trouble doing this.  Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave took the babies to the vet and Linda and I stayed behind listening to the Mamas pitch a fit for about 3 hours.  They did NOT want to lose track of their babies.

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There goes the trailer full of calves.

The vets did a great job, and the two Daves did the branding.

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Shiner in the calf table
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Rancher Dave giving Andie a brand

They all reunited later that afternoon as Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave drove the trailer of babies back to the hideout.  The moms heard their babies mooing and ran after the trailer back into that pasture.

Other than moving cows around too many times, we have been busy working on farm equipment and keeping up with the landscaping.  At the last post we had nearly a foot of snow, but here we are the 2nd week of June and we have already mowed the lawn twice in one week!

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Trying to get the mower guides in line so we can get the blade back in it.

The garden is planted (VERY LATE) and we are hoping that there is still season enough left to get some good tomatoes and peppers.  It’s pretty cool still, so the lettuce seems to be doing the best so far.  I’ve also got some flowers going in this cool planter Dave built for me.

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I love yellow flowers around the red barn.  Cyclone colors!

The bees don’t seem to be thriving like they were at this time last year.  There are plenty of wildflowers for them to visit, but when I opened the hive, there were just not that many bees in there.  I don’t hold high hopes for a lot of honey this year, but the things I don’t know about bees could fill up the Grand Canyon.

And so it goes, the spring is almost gone and we will be cutting oats in the very near future.  Then we will be baling and stacking hay.  By the way, we got the hay loft in the barn completed.

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Hay loft complete.  The idea is to drive the tractor up to it with a pallet of hay for stacking.  We still need a staircase, though!

And before I go, I wanted to write a blog on D-Day, but we were busy and it didn’t get done.  Let me just say how grateful I am to be an American and for my freedom.  Thank you to all the veterans, and especially to those brave men that stormed Normandy 75 years ago.  The only thing we can say is Thank You.

flag of u s a standing near tomb

 

It Ain’t Over Yet

22 May 2019 – SNOWING AND 32 DEGREES

Hey out there!  It’s Throw-back Tuesday.  Here’s a picture of winter on the Holler.

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May 22 2019

Oh wait, that picture is from today.  That’s right.  We are in the middle of a late spring blizzard.  We already have eight inches of snow on the ground and are forecast to get at least eight more tonight.  Winter just won’t quit. We did have a little taste of spring last week with a few days in the upper 70s and low 80s.  Stupidly, I washed and put away all of our winter gear.  Mother Nature must have taken this as a taunt and now I’m paying for it.

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At least the Sheriff is happy about the snow

But that is just how it goes.  Mountain weather in the springtime.  Meanwhile, the cows are still requiring hay because they can’t forage through all this white stuff.  The woodshed is definitely a lot more empty than we expected it to be by now.  Also, I am praying the one remaining beehive survives this bout of cold and moisture.  The moisture should be very good for all the oats we planted, though.

Since I last wrote, two more calves have been born.  Puzzle had her baby, a bull named Riddle. And of course, in the middle of the snow storm yesterday Freida decided to calf.  She also had a bull named Freddy Prinze.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a good picture of either of them yet because the Moms have been hiding out from the snow storm.

One warm day last week I went for a hike down Sunday Gulch near Sylvan Lake.  I had read on a trail review that it was rated “difficult” and I assumed that meant it was really steep.  I was up for the challenge but now realize now that “difficult” means very rocky with lots of streams to cross and boulders to climb.

 

Add a lot of melting snow and running water to these obstacles and it made for a really adventurous hike. The trail is a big loop with the two trailheads beginning at the lake.  I hiked it in a clockwise direction and I didn’t see a soul until I neared the end back at the lake.  When I got to the trail end which would have been the counter-clockwise trailhead, I had to climb under a barrier that said, “TRAIL CLOSED”.  That’s me, the accidental rebel.

Today, Rancher Dave, Sheriff Joe and I are holed up in the house watching the snow.  We’ll venture out a few times to check on cows and to fill up the wood tote so we can keep the stove going.  Fortunately, the days are getting really long so our solar power is doing great.  We had to scrape snow off of the panels this morning, but it is not cold enough for the snow to stick to them now so we aren’t worried about power.

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Clearing the panels
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The woodshed is far more empty than we expected

Coming up, we are looking forward to some warmer weather and a chance to get back to work.  We have to do some mower repairs, some corral repairs to get ready for round-up, and before you know it we will be cutting and baling hay. I’m just hoping we don’t have to shovel snow off of it first!

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….And two days after the snow!

 

Sun and Water

21 March 2019 – Sunny and highs in the upper 50’s…  WOO HOO!

Everyone on the Holler is in a good mood.  The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and there is water everywhere.  We have water in the stock dam which would be really great if it held all year.  We have a river running through our front yard and another in the northern pasture.

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So much water in the stock dam. If only it would last all summer!
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A river running through the northern pasture.
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Sheriff Joe hunting in the snow next to the stock dam.

 

The cows are fat and happy.  They have been soaking in the sunshine in the afternoon and laying in the fields.

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Fat and Happy Cows relaxing in the warmer weather.
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Patsy off laying by herself….is she getting ready to calve or just annoyed with all the other ladies?

The bees are buzzing.  Despite my doom and gloom attitude of once again believing they did not survive the winter, both hives have been exhibiting a lot of activity since the temperatures have warmed up.  I was worried several weeks ago when there was so much snow on the ground and the temperatures had been so low.  When it finally warmed a bit, I went to check the exterior of the hives and it looked like someone had vacuumed all the bees out, killed them and dumped them in the snow.

I am assuming they had just been hiding so long from the cold that they had to take advantage of the warm day and dump out all the dead.  I really hope that we have some good foraging for them this summer. In about 6 weeks I will begin planting things, including some plants especially for them.

None of the cows have had their calves yet, and we are truly grateful that no one decided to give birth during the bomb cyclone that went just south of us.  We really just had a lot of wind and a little snow, but the wet and windy conditions aren’t good for new babies.

The Stagecoach Springs gang has a pool going on which cow will be the first to calve.  The ante is a six pack of beer.  I bet on Rosie today….so if she doesn’t calve today then I’m out a six pack. Linda and Rancher Dave picked Marzee on the 23rd and 27th respectively.  Cowboy has his beer on Rosie but not until the 27th.  Rosie did look pretty fat and happy this morning but does not appear to be bagging up yet so it is not looking good for my beer bet. I still may have a shot at the bonus beer which is a bet on the sex of the calves.

The barn is nearly out of hay.  Maverick is quite ticked that his furniture is all gone, but I think he is enjoying the warmer weather as well.

The only one that isn’t happy about the melting snow is the Sheriff.  He will go out and find the only patch of snow left and roll all over it.  Then he will lay there and refuse to move.  He loves winter!  I think he is considering moving to Alaska for the summer.

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Sheriff Joe finds one of the remaining spots of snow to cool himself.

That’s about it for March so far.  We hope everyone out there is enjoying spring as much as we are!

 

 

Hey! What About Autumn?

28 September 2018 – Snow (wait, what?) Snow and 31 degrees

Last week it was hot.  This week it is not.

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September Snow

It seems we went directly from summer to winter. But next week is forecast to be much more typical fall temperatures, highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.  That’s about perfect weather, but Mother Nature’s little swipe at us last night didn’t sit too well with most of the critters on the Holler.  The cows came out of the woods this morning and were extremely loud and rude, crabbily mooing at the house until Rancher Dave went out and fed them some bales.

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Rancher Dave putting bales in the feeder

The bees are probably in shock.  Fortunately, I did get all the honey supers off the hive and the mite treatments out, so they should be all set for winter. Goose is warm in the barn and Maverick is over at the High Lonesome, where he spends about every other night.  That little punk digs his way out of the barn at night and sometimes hunts over there or steals the cat food Linda puts out for her barn kitties.

The Sheriff, for one, is very excited about the snow.  He hasn’t seen snow yet in his life and he went out first thing this morning and growled and barked at his surroundings.  Shortly after discovering that the white stuff wouldn’t kill him, he tried to eat as much of it as he could.  Then he went bananas.  He started sprinting around in circles, rolling and jumping in the snow.  He acted like a little kid that heard he got a snow day off from school.

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Blurry picture of a crazy dog

In other news, the Hoten Holler ranch made its first cattle sales last week. Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave loaded up the spring calves and took them to the cattle auction in St. Onge, South Dakota.

 

 

We had two steers for sale, T-BONE and Dude.  Cowboy and Linda had 2 heifers, Lilly and Heidi, and one steer, Chips.  They kept Hugo, Patsy’s calf, as a bull and plan to replace Koozy with him in a couple of years.

 

Both Dave and I thought it would be hard to sell these calves since we have known them since their births.  We told ourselves that these steers have had it made out here all spring and summer on the Holler.  They have been so spoiled to live in these beautiful hills with no shortage of food or water and plenty of supplemental treats from the garden and cake and creep.  They have been handled gently and well cared for, but it was time for them to go.  We also reminded ourselves that if we were made of hay or grass, they would have no problem eating us!

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave smoke a celebratory cigar in honor of the calve sales

The sale of the calves was bitter-sweet, but now we can move forward to the next cycle of life in the cattle business.  We are hoping that we have 14 bred cows this fall that should calve in late April or early May. In between now and then, we will take the best care we can of the cows (and the two bulls) and make sure they are spoiled, fat, and happy.

Speaking of spoiled, fat, and happy, I have a pot of chili cooking on the wood stove for supper. It’s warm and cozy in the house and it feels like a perfect winter day…..except it’s September!!!

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Chili on the stove and Sheriff Joe warms himself after a morning of crazy running through the snow.

 

The Lazy Days of Summer

25 August 2018 – Sunny and 86 degrees

The weekly blog post has fallen completely off of my weekly to-do list.  Probably because Dave and I have just been sitting around eating bon-bons, watching our stories on the TV, and drinking wine while the sun sets.  Ha ha, I wish!  We FINALLY got done haying the second week of August (just over a 1,000 bales for us) and over 300 bales for the neighbor, Sheri.

We separated calves from mama cows and sent the bull and the older ladies up to a northern pasture. The calves are penned up over at the High Lonesome, where Cowboy and Linda have the facilities and fence to keep them from their moms.  The first week, the babies bawled and bawled so much that the mamas broke out the northern pasture three times and came back to find their kids.  So we rounded them up and sent them north again and again.  Finally, they decided they weren’t going to get to see their babies anymore and stayed put.  The calves decided they like living the high-life at the High Lonesome, since Pilot Dave feeds them a bucket of creep twice a day and makes sure they have hay and water.

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The mamas and the bull up in the north pasture’s pond
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The calvies having creep for breakfast

I am pretty sure I wrote this last year, but creep is a supplement to help wean the calves from milk and onto grass.  It basically looks like grain and they love it. So we will keep them on creep for another week or so and then they should be good with grass.  These calves are all going to auction in October, so rather than reunite them with the herd, we plan to just keep them separate and make our lives easier when it is time for them to go.  I don’t want to think about it.

Other than calve creeping and watering, we have been working on putting a fence around the barn.  Once that is complete, the herd (minus calves) can come over to the Holler and graze our pastures. We thought that building a fence around the barn would be about a ten day project, and I’m sure you can guess why it has taken us over 2 weeks…..that’s right, ROCKS.IMG_6995

In typical South Dakota style, some fence posts went right in the ground, and others required Pilot Dave and I to pound, chisel, dig, and even rent a jack-hammer.  When Dave went in to get the jack-hammer, the guy at the hardware store said, “Last time, you told me not ever to rent this to you again!”  After a day of pounding away, we remembered why.

Dave and I were discussing how we feel like we are tired all the time, but we both feel stronger than when we first moved out here.  In 2016, I could barely hold the jackhammer up, but this summer, I actually got in there and worked on quite a few holes.  He said it didn’t seem as tough as the first time for him either.  Ranching makes you thick! (Or thick-headed!)

So after getting the corner posts in and lined up, we went to work lining up T-posts, then stringing wire, stretching wire, tying off wire, and clipping wire to the posts.  We are done with that part this afternoon and enjoying a cold Keystone for our work.  The only thing left is to hang the gates, and we will do that after a quick trip to Rapid to buy them on Tuesday.

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Northwestern corner of the barnyard
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Southwestern corner with the barn in the back

We decided with all the hay in the barn and the impending fall weather, it was time to get some barn cats to keep the mice out of the hay.  This morning, Linda and I went to the humane society and picked out two potential mousers.

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The (Grey) Goose

Goose is really sweet, social, and friendly.  She does have a feisty side and will bat at you if you come at her a little too quickly.  We hope this means she will hunt.  Maverick is really stand-offish and shy. That’s why I haven’t got a picture of him yet. We let him in the barn and in half a second he disappeared into the hay bales and we haven’t seen him since.  I’m hoping he will warm up to us, or not.  As long as he can find his food, water, and get some mice it is all good!  The plan is to keep them in the barn for 4-5 days while they figure out it is safe, they have beds to sleep in, food and water, and a target rich environment.  Then they will be outdoor/barn kitties.  Happy hunting!

And finally, sometime over a week ago, I harvested honey from the bees.  Both hives are going strong and I saw evidence of queens in each.  I left the new colony all the honey they have made (which I’m estimating is around 70lbs) since they will need it this winter.  I harvested a little over 2 gallons from the original hive as the two deep supers I think have about 70-80 lbs of honey for them this winter.

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Filtered honey dripping into jars
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The bright yellow stuff going into the filter

This harvest, the honey was more yellow, not as perfumey, and just a little sweeter than last.  I think they got more nectar from wild flowers as the sweet clover is almost all gone. Either way, those magnificent little bees just keep working away!  I will open the hive only two more times before winter; once to put in a mite treatment, and another to take the mite treatment out.  Then the hives get wrapped in tar-paper and we will wish them luck.

Oh and one more thing.  Remember the giant piles of rocks left from the barn excavation?IMG_5328

Dave put an ad on Craig’s List and wrote, “Free rocks!”  and about 10 days later, a gentleman called and said he was putting in a driveway and needed the rocks for a base.  We said, “Come and get ‘em!”  And he came for 11 loads of rocks, using his own Bobcat and dump trailer to load and haul them away.  Hooray for Craig’s List!

That’s the August wrap-up.  We hope everyone is doing good out there in the real world! And P.S. at the time of this post I have seen Maverick the Cat.  I went up to the barn and hung out drinking my morning coffee and the little guy got brave enough to come out and say Hi.  Then Goose smacked him around a bit and he ran back into the hay bales.  Cat Drama!

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Sheriff Joe takes a nap after a hard afternoon of fencing.

 

Oh Bee-Have!!!

28 July 2018 – Overcast, rainy,  and highs in the mid 60’s

July has been crazy. It seems like we are working all day, every day, as haying season just keeps slogging along. This is an unusually humid summer in the Black Hills, and the weather really is the main factor when baling and putting up hay.  If you bale wet hay, it can cause all kinds of problems for cattle.  If it is clover hay (which we have in abundance this year) it can mold and create the same chemical used in blood thinners, such as warfarin.  Obviously, this is not great for cows, especially if they are pregnant. Another potential problem with wet hay is that the moisture can cause a little growth inside the tight bales, and this friction can be enough to start a fire. This is not something we want to deal with in the new barn!

The result of the hot and humid weather is that we can’t start baling usually until late in the afternoon, when the wind has picked up and humidity has dropped.  So most mornings, Dave and I have kept busy moving rocks from around the barn.

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Rocks from the construction site

Or we have been getting firewood.

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A neighbor decided he was done with firewood and said, come and get all you want.  We are on load #3 here, with one more to go.  

Or we have been herding cows from pasture to pasture.

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Cherry Bomb in the morning

Or we have been weeding the garden.

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Lots of lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes.  Peppers, not so much.

Oh yeah, and we also have been catching rebellious bees.

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A big swarm of bees!

One morning, after working in the barn, I was walking back to the house around 10AM and I heard a noise that was comparable to a freight train.  I looked up at the trees in front of the beehive and I saw a giant, black cyclone of bees!  The bees were swarming. After they swarmed, they landed on a branch in a nearby tree, about 7 feet off the ground.

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Another view of the bees.

This was quite alarming to me.  As a novice beekeeper, I thought my bees were gone for sure.  I immediately called one of my bee-friends and she gave me some advice.  She asked if I wanted to keep the bees, and I said YES!  She said I could catch them in a box, and then rehome them in a new hive.  The problem is that I didn’t have an extra hive just laying around, but she said I could keep them in the box for a few hours, long enough to drive to Rapid and pick up a new empty beehive.

So here is what went down. (Unfortunately there are no pictures of this as there was a big sense of urgency to get the bees caught.  Also, there were no other random photographers on the Holler that wanted to get close to the bees!) I got a big cardboard box and a step ladder and placed them out by the tree with the swarm.  My friend had told me that the swarm rarely stings as they are not protecting brood or honey, only looking for new digs, so they would not be very aggressive.  Regardless, I put my whole bee suit on and headed out to catch the swarm.

I placed the box as best I could judge under the ball of bees. Then I climbed the ladder and grabbed the branch the bees were lodging upon.  I jerked it downward as hard and fast as I possibly could and a very large portion of the bees fell into the box.  It sounded like someone dumped a box of marbles in the box and I was super excited about accomplishing this…..for about a half a second.  Then, all the bees that were jerked out of the tree flew into the air in a tidal wave of angry buzzing!  They went back to the branch, and I repeated the process of jerking on it three or four times until I felt the majority of the bees were in the box. I closed the lid and changed out of my bee suit and made a bee-line (haha) to Rapid City where I picked up a new hive at the local supply store.

I imagine some of you reading this are wondering why the bees swarmed in the first place.  In my minimal experience, I am not really sure, but everything I read indicates that the hive was overcrowded.  This is really a good thing, as it indicates the colony is quite healthy.  The hive becomes so full of bees it is uncomfortable, so the queen takes most of the bees out in search of new living quarters.  I should have realized this was about to happen, as I noticed some swarm cells in my previous hive inspection.  The colony prepares for the queen to depart by preparing to make a new queen for the remaining bees, and they make distinctive, peanut-shaped swarm cells in which to hatch a new queen.  I could go on and on about all the things I really don’t know about bees, but this would be the never-ending blog post.  I have to quote one of the favorite things I heard from a beekeeper when discussing colony behavior, which is, “I doubt the bees are reading the same books we are!”

I returned from Rapid City and re-donned the bee suit.  I picked up the box of bees, which I estimate weighed 15 pounds or so, and did all I could to dump them into a new hive. I set the cardboard box next to the hive and hoped they would all find their way into their new home.

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Captured swarm next to the new hive.

The next morning, I went out to check the progress, and those dang bees all moved out of the hive and back into the cardboard box!  What the heck? Obviously they can’t stay in a cardboard box for a South Dakota winter, so  I visited the bee guru, aka. YouTube.  I discovered a solution to get them back into the hive.

I made a ramp from the box of bees to the hive using a piece of cardboard.  Then, I took a bed sheet and tucked the corners up into the hive entrance. Next, I dumped the box of bees onto the bed sheet.  Believe it or not, the bees sent out some scouts that walked right up the ramp into the hive and after about 30 minutes, all the bees were out of the box and in the hive.  Thank you, all wise and knowing YouTube!

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The bed sheet shows the bees the way home.
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And into the hive they go!

So that was enough drama to make a bee movie… ha ha.  The next week I wanted to check the status of the original hive and I was hoping to harvest a ton of honey since honey crowding can be a condition that causes the bees to swarm.  Unfortunately, I only had about 4.5 frames of honey capped and available to harvest.  Dave and I garnered about ¾ of a gallon, which was six pints and some change.

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Rancher Dave scrapes the wax from the top of the frames.
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Fresh honey ready to be spun off in the centrifuge.
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Honey!
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Super clear and pure clover honey.

It is the clearest and most delicious and fresh honey, I am told.  Personally, I don’t care for honey but I haven’t been able to train these bees to make chocolate or wine.

To end all the bee drama,  two weeks later I opened both hives.  They both appear to be doing great.  The new hive, which I am referring to as B-plus, has tons of bees and obvious signs of eggs and larvae. I added a new deep super and another medium super to give them some space.  They are also busy making honey so they can make it through the all too fast approaching winter.

The original bee hive, which I am referring to as B-minus, had no clear signs of a queen, but tons of honey.  There were also a ton of bees, so I gave them another medium super. I dug through every single frame to see if I needed to add a new queen, but I was so excited on the 2nd to last frame in the bottom box, where I spotted the new queen. All hail the queen!

If both hives survive the winter, I will have been lucky enough to gain a second colony for free! The lesson I  learned is not to immediately assume the worst when unexpected things happen.  I saw the bees swarm and I immediately cursed it as a bad thing, but it  turned out to be a really great thing.  Actually, the swarm was an outstanding event that pushed me way out of my comfort level and left me with a new colony of bees.  Life is good!

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B-minus in the back and B-plus in the front.  Hopefully more honey this summer.  If not, I hope they both survive next winter.

 

Christmas in July

10 July 2018 – HOT and sunny, highs in the mid 90’s

Last week, Linda and I were looking at the new bull, Koozy, and the other ladies he had been paddocked with for company.  We put him in with the two “open” cows and an 1.5 year old heifer.  This was because the cows with calves need to stay away for awhile, and the yearling heifers need to also hold off on breeding as they continue to grow for a couple weeks.  Plus, we don’t want a bunch of heifers calving in March as the weather can be pretty snowy and cold. Anyway, Linda said, “Look at Muzzle’s bag!”  Muzzle is one of the cows that we thought was open.  Muzzle’s bag was blown up and her teats were pointing straight out.  She was full of milk and that could only mean one thing.  Muzzle was about to calve!

This is a strange event for Stagecoach Springs.  The bull was not in with Muzzle or any of our cows nine months ago (cows gestation is 283 days, nine months). This would have been the end of last September, and the range cows, and bulls that border our properties were also gone.  Somehow, Muzzle got pregnant at the end of September….hmmm….I think she snuck out and went to the bar one night! Either that or the new bull works really fast!

On the 7th of July, Muzzle gave birth to a little bull calf.  He is beautiful with a white face, like Muzzle, and a red coat, unlike Muzzle.  Whoever the baby-daddy is, he sure made a cute little calf.

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Muzzle and her new baby

 

I said it was “immaculate cow-ception”.  Christmas in July.  Rancher Dave said we should name him “Mack” for im-”mack”-ulate conception.  Clearly we have been getting too much sun lately.  Linda and Cowboy liked the name and were quite pleased that they have another member to add to their herd.  A July calf is not ideal, but he should be big enough and weaned and ready to go to auction by November.  Meanwhile, he gets to live his young life in paradise. And Muzzle will be starring in the next episode of “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”

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Time for breakfast
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Post breakfast nap in the paddock

 

Yesterday, Monday, at 6AM, Rancher Dave, Sheriff Joe and I headed up to the north pasture in the truck with a trailer full of empty pallets.  We began driving through the pasture dropping off pallets in locations to stack the bales of hay we had baled the evening before.  Cowboy Dave showed up shortly after in his tractor and as he drove the tractor around, Rancher Dave and I stacked bales on the pallets so we can easily move them into the barn when it is complete.

 

154 bales later, we were done with the north pasture.  We stacked the pallets close together and put tarps over them in case it rains before we can put them up.

At 8 AM, we headed over to the high lonesome, hooked up the cattle trailer and moved the bull and Dairy Queen out of the paddock and up to the middle pasture, which we are calling Pebble Beach because after haying it looks like a golf course.

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Dairy Queen and the bull checking out their new digs

 

We decided to move the cows and the bull from the paddock up to the field, first because the haying is complete, and second, because they have been inundated by flies in the paddock. With a new baby, the flies can cause quite a problem as the big cows are constantly stomping and  kicking and could injure him.  Also, flies can cause problems to his exposed umbilical cord and his eyes.  Up on Pebble beach they can graze, they have tons of shade, and they can catch a nice breeze to keep the flies away.  Next, we went back to the paddock and loaded up Rose, leaving Muzzle and Mack behind because we didn’t want little Mack to get squished in the trailer.

Then, we separated momma and baby and the two Daves went to work on the calf.  Rancher Dave tackled him, I held his head and Cowboy Dave tagged his ear and banded his you know whats.   Mack is no longer a bull, but a steer.

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Rancher Dave tackles Mack and Cowboy Dave gets his gloves on ready to work that calf

 

We then moved Muzzle and Mack up to Pebble Beach.  We will round up the rest of our herd and move them all up there next week sometime. We then had to move a water tank up for them and fill it with water.  Logistics are maddening!

Typical Monday morning…..then we had lunch.

That afternoon, the two Daves decided that it wasn’t quite hot enough to guarantee someone had a heat stroke, so they would go ahead and mow the southern pasture. They finished up around 4PM.

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View from the back porch of the southern pasture while the men mow

It looks like some good hay and we will let it dry today and rake and bale tomorrow, hopefully, if it doesn’t rain.

 

In between typical Monday ranching shenanigans, we had two loads of gravel delivered for the inside of the barn.  We are hoping the barn will be done today so in between typical Wednesday and Thursday ranch shenanigans we can start spreading it on the barn floor and then start moving hay in there.  Then we can continue with the typical weekend ranch shenanigans.

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More barn progress…..is it time to get barn cats yet?

 

On the docket for next week will be more haying.  We are actually going to get two cuts out of Cowboys field at the High Lonesome.  This is incredible for South Dakota but it looks like the nitrogen fertilizer and the many days of rain in June really paid off this year. Then we will cut and bale our neighbor Sheri’s yard and pasture. When we finally get done with haying this year, it will be time to shovel snow!

We will also be rounding up our cows from a neighboring pasture and putting them in with the bull.  That will mean we won’t have babies (except possibly Rose and Diary Queen who are with him now) until the 28th of April.  That is unless we have any more July surprises. I am planning on trying to extract honey for the first time in the next couple of weeks.  The bees have been really busy!

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Bees cooling off on the porch

 

The garden is in full bloom as well. This is the part where I am kinda holding my breath hoping there isn’t a giant hail storm or an infestation of bugs or who knows what.  I really am hoping to get a lot of tomatoes, onions, and peppers for salsa.  I want to can pickles again this year and I am really looking forward to a lot of potatoes.  Every day I give bags of lettuce away, and Rancher Dave is getting really tired of eating a salad with every meal.  The lettuce won’t last much longer with the heat and then we’ll have to find something else to eat.

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The garden

 

The days are flying by, as they typically do when there are lots of things to get done.  Hopefully everyone out there in reals-ville is having a great summer. As I write this, Rancher Dave just came in and said it is hot enough that the mowed hay from yesterday is dry and ready to rake and bale, so I guess it’s time to throw on the old hay clothes and get out there and get something done.

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The Sheriff gets tired during hay season!
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View of the barn and the house from Stagecoach Springs

 

Home Sweet Home

13 June 2018 – Cloudy and 53 but warming to mid 80’s

We are nearly two weeks into June and wondering, where does the time go?  Since the round-up, Dave and I have been busy preparing for winter.  Yes, it is June, but that’s how ranch life goes. We literally have to make hay while the sun shines.  And get firewood while the sun shines.  This doesn’t really feel like a job, though.  The long winter really helps you appreciate the warm weather and sunshine, and nothing beats working on your own stuff outside in the sunshine.

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Working the fields

 

We had a great visit with my brother, Bill.  He only stayed for a couple days, so we made sure he worked the whole time….ha ha! Last year, Dave limbed and stacked a ton of rounds and we let them season in the sun since then.  While Bill was here, we drove around the Holler and loaded them all up restacked them in the wood shed.

That is a lot of wood, and it would have taken Dave and I three times as long without Bill’s help!  Thanks, brother!

Next up, the barn plans are going into motion.  The gentleman we hired to clear the lot for the barn showed up with his heavy equipment and went straight to work.  He cleared the large area for the barn and believe it or not, found nothing but rocks!

There is no way we could have cleared this area on our own.  That big equipment really made the difference, not to mention the expertise of the operator. The barn will start going up on the 18th.  More on this in the near future.

Last weekend, my Mom turned 80 years old!  All of her kids decided to surprise her and show up at her house in Iowa so she could be surrounded by family.  She was definitely surprised and happy.  It was great to see my whole family together, too!

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I can only hope I look as pretty as my Mom if I make it to 80.  She really is a rock star!  Dad is lookin’ pretty nice, too.
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Mom making cookies with her Grandson

 

After spending the weekend in Iowa, I drove back to the Holler and I have to say there is no place like home.  When you’re out here in the country every day, you become accustomed to the quiet, the fresh air, and the lack of traffic.  It only takes a short trip to a city to realize how much I like the country.  One big difference is the traffic.  Out here I don’t sit at traffic lights.  I do have to wait for the occasional herd of cattle or flock of turkeys to get out of the road, but somehow my road rage is much more manageable.

I returned to the Holler just in time for haying season.  While I was gone, Cowboy Dave mowed one of his fields.  Yesterday, he used the tractor-pulled rake to make some big windrows.  In the afternoon, after the hay had a chance to dry out, Rancher Dave and I went out and raked in the corners to make sure the baler could pick up all the hay it could get.

We baled one small field and were slightly disappointed that we only exceeded last year’s production by three bales….that was until we tried lifting those bales.. Last year we averaged about 45-50 lbs. per bale, but this year these bales are between 60 and 70lbs.

It seems all the fertilizer and moisture are paying off so far!

On the agenda this week:  more cutting, baling, and stacking. I’m also planning on opening the beehive today to see if the ladies are ready for another super (bee box with frames) to expand into.  They fill up their lower boxes with honey and are forced to move up through the hive to continue to produce more brood and young bees.  This year, the sweet clover is blooming which gives the bees a lot of potential for gathering nectar and producing honey.  I’m hoping to harvest some of the gold stuff!

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Yellow sweet clover blooming in the field
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Busy Bees in the hive.

 

That is the mid-June update. We hope everyone is having a great summer out there! Don’t forget to spend some time at the swimming hole!

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Joey’s first swimming lesson from Hercules and Arrow

 

 

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J.C. Brae

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