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Get that Bull a Cigar!

10 April 2019 – Freezing rain and 24 degrees

It appears our bomb-cyclone-avoiding luck has run out.  We are sitting in the middle of a nasty winter storm today, complete with freezing rain, snow, and 40mph winds. The snow isn’t really sticking so it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures, but it is fairly unpleasant outside for April.

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Cows eating on a cold day

Despite the weather, Rancher Dave is out in Babe, the tractor, disking up the fields.  He said it is actually the perfect temperature for disking since the ground is kind of wet, but the dirt is too cold to clump up on the disks.  He is pretty cozy in the tractor cab and said he even has to keep one of the windows cracked to prevent from getting too warm.

We had such fantastic luck with oats last year that we decided to plant more this year.  Rancher Dave called the seed store in Rapid and went down there to buy a pallet of Goliath Oats.  When he got there, he paid the guy and went down to the warehouse to pick up the pallet.  Unfortunately, they had made a mistake and didn’t have any oats in the warehouse!  They made it right and delivered the pallet to our barn to make up for the trouble.  This all happened on April Fool’s Day so Rancher Dave thought he could pull a good joke on me about the whole debacle.  When he got home from Rapid I saw his truck coming up the drive so I went to put on my boots and work gloves so I could help him unload.  When I got up to the barnyard, I saw him standing next to the empty trailer with his head in his hands and he said, “I lost the pallet!  It must have fallen off somewhere between here and Rapid!”  Normally I would not fall for these shenanigans but I was completely caught off guard that day.  I said, “Oh no!  I’ll go call the Highway Patrol and see if they’ve seen it!”  My fear was that it would have killed someone if they hit a giant pallet full of oats, and also my mind began racing about how in the heck we would reload it if we did find it.  Then Dave said, “April Fools!” Ha ha…nice one Dave.  Just remember paybacks are hell!  So my plotting begins,  Bwahahahahaha.

We were hoping to get the oats in the ground before this big round of moisture, but they were just delivered yesterday afternoon, so it will have to wait.  Last year we got them planted on the 16th of April so we aren’t too late yet.

Meanwhile, calving season has commenced.  On the 5th of April, and exactly on schedule, Dairy Queen calved a cute little bull which we named BlackJack.  He is the 21st cow we have out here now thus the name.

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Dairy Queen and BlackJack

DQ is a fantastic first-time mom and is constantly licking and grooming the little guy.  He is super strong already and every morning goes zooming and kicking around the pasture.

Three days later, Rosie calved a little bull in the wee hours of the morning.  This is her 5th baby and she snuck off in the early AM to give birth by herself.  He brings the herd total to 22 so we named him “Catch 22.”

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Rose and Catch

We have separated the new moms and babies from the rest of the herd for a couple of days, and now that the weather is so awful, they are in one of the barn corrals where they have some shelter from the freezing rain.  We also corralled Honey because she really looks like she could have her baby at any moment.  The rest of the herd has access to a big loafing shed and another covered pen.  We are really hoping no one decides to calve until Friday when the wind and moisture will subside and the warmer temperatures will return. According to our records, no one else should calve until the 24th because they weren’t exposed to our bull before that.  There were a few “traveling salesmen” bulls that wandered through our pastures last spring, and if anyone calves in the next few days the timing could mean that one of those bulls was the responsible party.  We did have Rosie and Dairy Queen in with our bull, Koozy, when we first bought him last summer, so we know for sure that Black Jack and Catch are his kids. Nice job, Koozy! Get that bull a cigar!

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Catch trying to catch some Z’s

Time keeps speeding by and we can hardly believe we are already in the middle of April..  I wanted to write a blog post on the 31st of March because it was the three year anniversary of the day that Dave and I left Florida with the U-haul full of our things and headed out toward our new lives here in the Black Hills!. I missed the date because the weather was too nice to be inside writing a blog.  Dave and I did celebrate with a fancy box of wine.  We are both amazed at the amount of things we have learned and experienced in just three short years, and our only regret is we didn’t start this adventure sooner.  We can’t wait to see what will happen in the next three years. I’m sure it will go by in the blink of an eye, and I can tell you I am already looking forward to the next April Fool’s Day.  Look out, Dave!

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The Holler 2019

In Like a Lion

4 March 2019 – Frigid and negative 15 this morning

I’m eating my words for bragging about the last polar vortex missing us.  This morning the wind chill was -23 and nothing would start.  Rancher Dave went out to start the gas generator which he uses to heat up the tractor, but the generator said, “Um, NO!  It’s too cold!” We use the generator because our house is completely on solar power so it would not work to have a block heater plugged in all night.

Unfazed, Rancher Dave plugged the tractor block heater into the house once the sun came up and we were harvesting as much solar energy as we could use.  He also went to start the Mule, but the Mule was on strike too. About an hour of heating the tractor started right up, but the Mule would not participate.  Rancher Dave drove the tractor to the field and the Sheriff and I loaded up in the pickup which started without protest. Out to the field we went and Joey and I were quite happy to be inside the warm pickup cab instead of the open air Mule.  Rancher Dave was nice and cozy inside the cab of Babe, too.

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Dave unrolls a bale of hay, he’s hard to see but he’s by the trees in the background.

After unrolling the bale of hay, I let the cows out from the adjacent field.  They looked miserable.  One of the cows that we call Dirty Dozen had so many icicles on her mouth I wondered if she would be able to eat.  They came charging through the gate and I was happy to see the Dirty Dozen chowing down on her breakfast.

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The herd waiting in line for breakfast
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Icicles on the Dirty Dozens chin

As the cows walk through the gate I try to get a good look at each one of them because we are about four weeks away from our first expected calves.  I try to look at their eyes, ears, and feet, and since all the ladies are very pregnant I try to get a good look at their udders (bags) and their backsides as well.  Under the careful tutelage of Cowboy Dave and Linda, we have learned a lot about calving.  The best indication of impending birth is a bag full of milk and teats pointing straight out.  Second, we  try to look at the underside of the tail for any mucus. Linda says, “Get a good look up their address!”   Also, a cow with labor pains will spend a lot of time licking her belly and you can tell if she’s been doing that by her fur.

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Fat ladies coming through!

After Rancher Dave gets the hay rolled out, he gets out of the tractor and walks amongst the feeding herd to give them the once over as well.  Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one, but it is also nice for the cows to get used to us walking around them.  That way, if they do have any problems birthing they won’t panic because the ranchers are right up in their business.

We are really hoping that nobody calves in this weather.  A lot of local ranchers are already calving and could really use a break from these unusually low temperatures.  A wet calf in minus 20 wind chill doesn’t have much of a chance.  Cowboy Dave and Linda told us that one unusually cold spring they lost 3 calves in one day to the bitter cold.  Ugh.  Hang in there ladies!  No babies yet, please!IMG_E8159

Next we go about breaking the ice and filling the water tank.  You can see we have really only been able to keep one big hole open on this tank.  This proved to be a blessing in disguise the other morning because Muzzle, one of the pregnant girls, decided she wanted to get water and no one was going to stand in her way.  Our little bull, Hugo, was trying to get a drink when Muzzle came up beside him and head butted him in the side so hard he came off his feet and landed right in what would have been the middle of the stock tank.  Fortunately there was so much ice there he just slipped right off and back onto solid ground.  Mean old Muzzle.  It’s not just her, all the cows seem to be cranky and headbutting each other.  They are sick of the cold too!

Once everyone is fed, we put up all the equipment in the barn and head into the nice warm house.  It feels so good coming in out of the cold, and Joey immediately passes out.  From our windows we can see the cows eating for about two hours and then they go to the stock tank for a drink and up into the woods for some shelter.

It’s getting to be pretty routine, but this will come to an end once the calfies come.  When the snow melts and there is green grass to graze the feeding chores (and hopefully chopping ice) will come to an end.  We will still have to fill water and check cows daily, but the focus of the day will shift to disking and planting next year’s hay crop.  Of course many other outdoor projects will take over when the weather warms up and we will probably be spending most of the days outside.  I can’t wait!  Meanwhile, it is going to be a warmer night, forecast only to get down to zero. Maybe some of the equipment will start in the morning!

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The Sheriff waits next to the tractor while Rancher Dave and I inspect the herd

 

Hey Winter, We’re Done!

17 Feb 2019 – Snowing and a high of 10 degrees

Remember back in November when I wrote how much I like snow.  That was definitely a November comment.  By the time February rolls around we are ready to see some sunshine and some green grass.  The weather gods don’t seem to care about what we want.IMG_8095

I guess we will appreciate the spring that much more if it ever warms up! Meanwhile, we are plowing through February, literally.

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Rancher Dave plows Stagecoach Springs Rd.

We decided to take advantage of a relatively warm and sunny day and stock up on some hay in case we run out.  We had a great hay season last year, but we ended up with four additional cows to feed so we may end up short depending on the weather.  When it is really cold like it has been, the cows require more food because they are burning a lot of energy to just stay warm. We figured we could buy them all coats and mittens, or we could just feed them more. Cows are really fussy about their fashion choices, so we opted to increase the feed.  We bought hay in April last year because of a late spring snow storm and it was pretty pricey, so this year we think we are ahead of the game by buying it in February.  Plus, we can store it inside the barn if we don’t use it all.

 

I think Maverick, the barn cat, was excited to see some hay coming in instead of all of it leaving.  He is running out of hiding places as we keep feeding all of his “furniture” to the cows.

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Maverick lounging in the sun on top of the hay bales

We have taken pity on the poor little guy  because the temperatures have been dipping below zero at night, Dave and I let him sleep in the mud room.  Dave grabs his box and I grab him and bring him in the house quietly so that Sheriff Joe doesn’t suspect anything.  The first few nights he was so quiet and didn’t make a peep.  The 3rd night we brought him in he decided he would meow all night.  The Sheriff didn’t care for that behavior and decided he should stay up all night monitoring the situation.  The animal drama never ceases around here.

Speaking of the Sheriff, his first birthday is in two days! The amount of growing a puppy does in one year is pretty amazing.

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The Sheriff today after rolling in the snow…he’s pushing 90 lbs now!
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The Sheriff in May, barely tall enough to get to his bowl.  He weighed less than 20 lbs here.

He definitely loves being a rancher, riding in the mule, chasing cows, playing with the neighbor dogs, and rolling in the snow drifts. (Oh, and we definitely love him too!) Happy Birthday, Joey!

The amount of snow and cold temperatures allowed us to finally get some of our slash piles burnt. There is always a little anxiety associated with lighting these large piles, even when they are surrounded by snow.  Fortunately, they all burned down really well and without incident.

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A big burning pile of slash

That’s all there is going on here on the Holler.  We are anticipating calves in about six weeks so we hope winter gets all it wants to get done before then.  We hope everyone is staying warm out there in civilization.

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Cows headed back to the High Lonesome after feeding and watering in the snow

 

February Freeze

5 February 2019 – Cloudy, snow flurries, highs in the teens

Brrrrr….It is cold out there. Although we skirted the edge of the polar vortex we are experiencing another cold snap, expecting below zero temperatures tomorrow night and highs in the single digits for the next few days. It is February in South Dakota, so we roll with it, or slide with it when you consider all the ice.

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A wintery view down our driveway
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From the top of Stagecoach Springs

Anyway, it is the first day of the Chinese New Year celebrating the Year of the Pig. We celebrated by eating bacon for breakfast. So Happy New Year everyone!

We have been busy chasing cows around, feeding, chopping ice, scooping stalls, and all the other usual hijinks that happen out here on the Holler.

We spent one day last week visiting the Black Hills Stock Show. This is a really neat event that showcases all things cowboy, rancher, and western. There are a ton of booths where vendors are selling everything from cowboy hats to branding irons. Rancher Dave and I bought a cowhide rug and a matching coffee table for our living room.

When we left Florida, we sold as much stuff as we could, including most of our furniture. Since then we have been slowly trying to decorate the house in a western theme. We thought these pieces class up the place a bit and make it look less like two college students live here. Ha ha.

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New coffee table
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Cowhide rug

We also attended the “Free Style Bull Fighting” event. I have never seen anything quite like this and I’m convinced this sport was invented by some ranchers after a long day of haying and too many Keystone LIghts. Anyway, the idea is that a bullfighter (not traditional red caped Spanish guy, but a young cowboy in running shoes) gets into the ring and signals the gate keeper to let out the bull. The enormous and enormously hacked off Mexican Fighting Bull charges into the ring bucking, snorting, and looking for someone to kill. The bull immediately spots said bullfighter and the game is on. For 60 seconds, the bullfighter tries to get as close to the bull as possible without getting killed. See the Youtube video below for an idea of what this is like. The bullfighter is judged on his ability to stay close to the bull.

Freestyle bullfighting link

The rounds we watched were incredibly exciting and had both Dave and I on the edge of our seats. Dave took a video, but I won’t let him post it because it is terrible for two reasons. First it is incredibly stressful watching the angry bull pushing around the young bullfighter. Second, you can hear this crazy lady in the background shrieking, “Oh NO!! Run! Oh my gosh, make it stop!….Oh no oh no oh NOOOOOOO! Arggghhh” Okay, the crazy lady is me. I have always hated my voice on tape; I sound much cooler in my head. But this recorded bit of anxious drama is just too terrible to share. You’re lucky I told you about it at all. Now let’s all forget this ever happened.

Anyway, we had a fantastic day at the stock show shopping, people watching, and looking at all the beautiful show cows. As usual, we were even happier to get back to the Holler.

We took another trip today to the booming metropolis of Edgemont, South Dakota. We had to go to the ranch store and load up on cow cake. We also stocked up on calving supplies. We bought a few bags of colostrum, some scours treatments, plastic gloves, disinfectant, a giant baby bottle, some electrolytes, syringes of nursemate ASAP that stimulate a calves desire to eat, and other random things we want to have on hand but hope to not need. We aren’t expecting any babies until the first part of April, but you never know.

We are hoping things warm up a bit before the first calf arrives. Meanwhile, the cows don’t seem too hungry and are not running at us when we feed. On the cold nights, they head up into the woods and huddle together to emerge with icicle coated whiskers in the morning. It’s cold but it’s beautiful and impossible to describe how much we still like chores. They haven’t become “chores” to us yet.

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Feeding time at the High Lonesome

Again, Happy February everyone. We hope things are going well out there in the real world!

Two Weeks In…..

15 January 2019 – Cloudy and 32

I cannot believe we already are two weeks into the New Year.  Anyone else still writing 2018 as the date?  Dave and I have been keeping busy with typical ranching duties. While the weather has been warm, it has been windy.  We even busted out the old ski-goggles to keep the hay out of our eyes when we were feeding!

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Rancher Dave wearing ski goggles to feed….it was really windy!

Dave got the round baler unroller up and running.  The roller runs off of the tractors 3-point connection and rear hydraulic system and uses the two spears to pick up a big round bale.  Then, when the tractor is driven across the field, the bale is rolled out on the ground making it easier to feed the cows.

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Bale Unroller picking up a big round bale.  This is pre-paint coat.

After fixing it, he painted it blue to match Babe.  Immediately after painting it he came in the house and looked out the window and saw Maverick, the barn cat, crawling all over it.  So now it has a nice new paint job with some kitty prints, and Maverick has blue paws. Blue paws are the hottest new trend this year, we’re told, all the cats are doing it.

We have been enjoying an unusually warm January, with temperatures reaching mid to upper 40’s in the day and only mid 20’s in the evening.  The water in the barn doesn’t even freeze, which has been great!  Of course, all good things must come to an end and we are looking at single digits and more snow this weekend.  We cannot complain; it is January in the Dakotas after all!

We added two more cows to the combined herd.

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Cowboy Dave checking out his new cow.

One of our neighbors is getting rid of her stock and they both seemed like a good fit.  Smudge, who is related to Domino, is Rancher Dave and my new (old) cow.  Nina (pronounced NINE-UH) is Cowboy Dave and Linda’s new lady.  Now we have four of the neighbor’s old cows and I think we should call them the Golden Girls.  The addition went better than last time and there were no big bar brawls or picking on the new girls.  Who knows what sets these cows off?

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Smudge looks just like domino except her eye makeup is smudged whereas Domino’s is a perfect circle.

Anyway, Cowboy Dave took Mac, his off-cycle calf that was born in July to market today.  He was finally weaned and ready to go. After we loaded Mac into the trailer, Hugo, the young bull that was keeping him company was left all alone at the High Lonesome corral.  I guess he didn’t like being left alone because he went completely bonkers. Our plan was to use cake to lead him over to join up with the rest of the herd, but he decided to start snorting and kicking and throwing his head around, even charging at us.  He is probably 700lbs now and the sight of a 700lb bull running angrily toward you in the snow is a little disconcerting. Anyway, he was too riled up to figure out where the rest of the cows were so we had to reattack.

Rancher Dave went all the way back to the Holler and grabbed some cake to lead the rest of the herd to poor, lonely Hugo.  The whole herd came running after him in the mule because they view it as the “cake wagon.”  We thought Hugo would be happy to be reunited with everyone, but he immediately got into a big fight with one of the larger cows.  After a few tense minutes everyone finally settled down and quit brawling.  Cows have more drama than any soap opera!

All the animals around here seem to be on edge today.  Later in the afternoon, the FedEx guy showed up with a package and who knows why, but our big bull, Koozy, decided he hated the FedEx van.  He was in a pasture adjacent to the driveway gate and he was pitching a fit, snorting and screaming at the poor Fed-Ex man.  Watching this from the house, we wondered if the delivery guy was even going to get out of the van.  I’m not sure I would have, but he did and when he delivered his package Dave said to him, “I think he likes you!”  I said we were going to get him a red cape to wear in case he wanted to hone his bull fighting skills.  I don’t think he was too amused.

Meanwhile, the coyotes have been howling and yipping all day and night.  This drives the dogs crazy which in turn drives us a little crazy.  I wonder if the animals are sensing the impending snow storm or if maybe they’re just grumpy because the Dallas Cowboys didn’t win their play-off game.  It makes sense to me that ranch animals would cheer for the Cowboys.  Hmmmm….clearly the animals aren’t the only ones losing their minds around here!

That’s all that is new on the Holler.  We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world.

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Joey and I snap a selfie in the truck.  

 

The Great Calf Escape of 2018

1 January 2019 – Sunny and 4 degrees (-19 Windchill)

Happy New Year!  It is going to be hard to beat 2018.  We were sad to see it go as it was such a busy and productive year for us, but we are looking forward to more progress and adventures in 2019.

We ended the year with a lot of snow.  The forecast was for 1-3 inches on the 30th, but it snowed that whole day and most of New Year’s Eve. We probably have between 8 and 9 inches of snow on the ground.  It is beautiful, but the clear skies last night made the morning bone-chilling cold.  Or as we like to say, “quite refreshing!”

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Rancher Dave breaking ice in the stock tank

The cows all took shelter over in the loafing shed and the barn at the High Lonesome.  Our barn is full of hay and we don’t have it set up with a corral for the cows yet, so it is nice that they can find a warm place to hide out when the weather gets extreme. While it was snowing, we decided to feed them in the bunks in the corral.

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Cowboy Dave checking out the herd eating in the bunks

We prefer to feed the cows in the field because when they are all cooped up and squished together someone always gets ticked off and a bar fight breaks out.  There is a lot of head butting and snorting and pushing in a small space.  Add the snowy/icy conditions to that and there is potential for someone to get hurt.  When we feed them in the field, they seem to leave each other alone and enjoy their meals.

Once it stopped snowing, Rancher Dave used the snow plow to create a lane in the field where we could put out hay, and this morning they were back to eating in the manner they (and we) prefer. Most of the cows came running through the field, but three of them decided they didn’t want to make the trip, even for dinner.  So they “ordered in” and we fed the remaining three in the bunks.  Apparently, they preferred to stay in on New Year’s Eve.  Too many drunken revelers for them I suppose. They have us trained pretty well.

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Plowed area in the field with hay set out for our spoiled cows.  Holler and the barn in the back.

We did have some excitement on New Year’s Eve.  As I mentioned, we have a young bull and a calf penned up over at the High Lonesome because we are weaning the calf from his Mom.  The young bull is there for company.  Before the afternoon feeding, Linda was cooking in her kitchen and noticed two calves running through her yard!  She and Cowboy Dave ran outside and closed the gate before they could escape to the road and back to the herd.  They tried to walk them back to the pens, but the calfies were not having it. Cue the Benny Hill music.

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Shuffling around in the snow trying to catch up with escapees

At around the same time, Rancher Dave and I were headed up the driveway for the afternoon chores and feeding.  Obviously our priorities changed at that point and the four of us went about the business of catching the escaped hoodlums and pushing them back into the pen.  This was really fun in the blowing snow and ice, but we worked together and got them back where they belonged.

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The two culprits apprehended once again

It turns out, someone had left a gate open after morning chores. Since Rancher Dave and I do the morning chores, it was pretty obvious that  one of us was responsible for leaving the escape route wide open.  It didn’t really matter, we all needed some exercise and the calves enjoyed their little rebellion.  I suppose there are more exciting New Year’s Eve stories, but we kind of prefer a tamer night on the ranch to a wild party in the city.

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Red Barn, White Snow, Blue Tractor.  

We hope everyone out there has a fantastic New Year.  Stay warm! It beats the other options.

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The herd enjoying the cleared field for breakfast.  Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…..

24 December 2018 – Sunny and 47 degrees!

Merry Christmas! There is not a lot of news to report from the Holler for the second half of December, but we wanted to wish all the Hollerer Follerers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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A cold morning earlier this month.

We have been enjoying a really warm December, but it appears that all that will change tomorrow as we are expecting snow on Christmas Day. What more could anyone wish for?

We are planning a quiet and peaceful day. We will feed and bust ice in the morning and follow it up with a Rancher’s Special Christmas Breakfast of Egg Benedict. Then we are going to take it easy until afternoon chores. Cowboy Dave and Linda have invited us to Christmas dinner and we are looking forward to showing them the “2018 Review” which is a movie we make of all the things that have been accomplished on Stagecoach Springs throughout the year. It is really just slides set to music, but we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of progress to show. This year we hayed over 50 acres. We put up over 1000 bales of hay into the barn that was also built this year. We filled the wood sheds. We cut and dragged slash. We watched our herd deliver 7 healthy calves. We plowed snow, we fed cattle, we chopped ice, we picked up rocks, we harvested honey, we made jelly and salsa and all sorts of things from the garden. We had great times with visiting family and friends. We drank a few Keystones and glasses of wine. We made trips to North Carolina, Montana and Iowa. We got a puppy, kittens, and expanded the beehives. We built fences. You can imagine there are quite a few pictures in the” 2018 Review” movie.

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Domino, our new cow, seems to be getting along better with everyone.  

Tonight we sit here with happy hearts enjoying the Christmas tree and a nice warm fire in the stove. From our house to everyone out there we hope your Christmas is merry and bright and we thank you for reading about our adventures this year. God Bless!

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Joey, who looks like the culprit that ate my powdered doughnuts!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

1 December 2018 – Snowing and a high of 35

It is the perfect December day here on the Holler. We are in the middle of a big snowstorm, expecting 3-5 inches before tomorrow, and believe it or not, we are pretty happy about the snow. We have been waiting and waiting to put down the nitrogen fertilizer we bought in October. The fertilizer experts said to put it down right before a big snow, that way it won’t just evaporate and the moisture will maximize its purpose. We got done fertilizing all of our fields and the fields over at the High Lonesome on Thursday and it started snowing Friday night. The timing was perfect, so we’re happy about the snow. More on this later.

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Beautiful snow – view from the barn
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Cows looking for food

Thanksgiving was really nice. It was about 65 degrees here, but we weren’t around to enjoy it. We took advantage of the warm weather and sun and road-tripped back to Iowa where we got to have Thanksgiving with my parents and my brother. It is difficult for us to get away in the winter because our house is off-grid and solar powered. If it snows while we are away, there is no one here to start the generator (although this is supposed to happen automatically, we are still suspicious of this feature) and no one here to scrape the snow off the solar panels. Also, the cows need feeding and watering, and if it is bitterly cold the ice has to be broken off the water tank. Fortunately, the weather was nice so the cows had plenty to eat and drink and the batteries in the house remained charged thanks to the sunshine. It was really nice to see my folks and we ate and ate and ate. You gotta love Thanksgiving, especially if you love pie.

 


We had a great time in Iowa, but we were happy to return to the Holler. There is no place like home, and Rancher Dave and I have really transformed into country people. We are pretty uncomfortable in the city with the traffic and the noise, and Sheriff Joe is definitely a ranch dog. He had to be leashed during our trip because he doesn’t have any sense about traffic, cars, and he has no understanding of other people’s yards and fences. He likes wide open spaces, cows, and mule rides. So do I.

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Joey’s ears flapping in the wind in the mule

We bought my brother’s pick-up and I drove it back. We had been searching for a little ranch truck that we can also run back and forth to town in and take some of the burden off of Truck Norris (our Toyota and only vehicle since we left Florida). Coincidentally, my brother was having a hard time selling his truck because it has a manual transmission. Apparently, no one can drive a stick shift any more, or they don’t want to because it makes it too hard to text and drive. Ha ha. I guess we are old school now and think it is pretty cool to drive a stick-shift. It turned out to be a good deal for all of us, so thanks, Bill! We love this little truck and have already had it back and forth to town a couple of times. It’s doing great in the snow, and proving to be a valuable ranch-hand.

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My new ride.  We named it Tonto (because we name everything).

Now, back to putting down nitrogen. The fertilization process would have went really smoothly if it weren’t for the dang cows. They are so MOOOOODY! Our herd is spoiled rotten, and they have become so accustomed to being fed cake that sometimes we can barely get the mule out of the driveway without being stampeded by those hungry bovines. They have become quite the pests and I have even started threatening them about making them into burgers and often tell them they would be more likeable covered in cheese and stuffed in a sesame seed bun. On a day where they get really pushy, I like to sing Jimmy Buffet’s “Chesseburger in Paradise”. They don’t care.

 

Rancher Dave wanted to make sure the broadcaster was set to the proper rate so we put down the proper amount of nitrogen. This would require a test run in one of the small fields and also require him to hold a steady speed in Babe, the tractor. Sheriff Joe and I were supposed to follow along in the mule and indicate how far the fertilizer was throwing out of the spreader, but as soon as we started the mule, those crazy cows came running. They were rudely pushing about in front of Babe, preventing Dave from driving a steady speed. They were rushing toward Joey and me, and we couldn’t even walk across the pasture to show Dave where the fertilizer was broadcasting. Finally, we decided to give them some cake in another pasture and get them out of the way.

But NO! Those greedy girls ate all the cake and came running back to the field we were trying to work. We had to give them two bales of hay to occupy their time so they would leave us alone. Eventually, we figured out the proper setting on the broadcaster and went to work. The next day, we tricked the cows and fenced them into a pasture over at the High Lonesome so they would be out of our way.

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Babe with the broadcaster attached, spreading nitrogen

Putting down fertilizer is pretty straightforward once you figure out the setting on the equipment and the speed you need to drive the tractor. The problem is that none of our fields are perfectly square so it is easy to lose track of where you have been already. Our good friend, Jeff, provided the remedy to this by introducing Rancher Dave to the MYTRACKS app. Dave put this app on his phone and was able to real-time track where he had been in the field. It also provided the speed as Babe has a tach but no speedometer. Look out Elon Musk, we’re pretty high-tech out here.

 

I got to do the driving on day 2, and this app made my job super easy. Of course, it looks like I did some drunken bowties in the middle of the field, and my excuse was that somebody texted me while I was working. I had to try to navigate my way back to the MYTRACKS app while driving Babe and this is the poor result.

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DON’T TEXT AND FERTILIZE!

I guess I shouldn’t make fun of people texting and driving any more.

Today, we got up right before sunrise. It was already snowing so I threw my snowpants on over my pajamas and went up to the barn to check on Maverick, the cat, and give him some food. I dusted snow off the beehives so the bees could go in and out. I scraped some snow and ice off the solar panels while Rancher Dave loaded the mule with hay. We fed the cows and by the time we got back to the house, the solar panels were covered in snow again. Dave went in the house to start the generator because it appears this will be one of those rare days where our batteries won’t get charged by the sun. Just because it was so beautiful outside and I was already wearing my snow gear, I decided to give the panels one more snow scraping.

I was nearly done and I turned around, looking for Sheriff Joe. I spotted him almost immediately as he was only about 50 yards from me. I was instantly shocked to see him in the international “dog play” position, with his front paws down on the ground and rear in the air, and NOSE TO NOSE with a coyote! The coyote was also in the play position. Alarm bells started going off in my head as I recalled story after story about coyotes sending out a scout to play with a dog, only to lure it back to the pack where it will surely be killed. I started yelling bloody murder, “Joey! No! Come! Get over here!” and “Dave, get the gun!” I was kicking myself because I had just leapt out of bed this morning and was unarmed. I didn’t even have my knife, although I’m not sure what I would have done with either weapon.

Dave couldn’t hear me because the generator was running, so instinctively I kept yelling and ran towards Joey and the “playful” coyote. I think Joe could tell I was upset and he came sprinting back to me, but the coyote just sat there and looked at us. I grabbed Joe’s collar and we ran to the porch and I said, “Dave, come kill this coyote!” Dave was on it, and threw on his coat and boots, grabbed his rifle and went out to the back deck. The coyote was long gone. We love animals, and are not keen on killing them, but after the disappearance of our cat, Goose, and the attempted abduction of Joey, we have decided it is open season on wiley coyotes, especially when they are brazen enough to come so close to the house with people outside and the generator making a lot of noise.

I’m sitting here now, looking out at the beautiful, gently falling snow and thanking the Good Lord that my dog didn’t get killed or attacked this morning. Dave is out scraping the panels again and shoveling snow off the deck. The cows are done eating and have headed back to the trees for shelter. I have a pot full of pinto beans and conecuh sausage cooking on the wood stove. It really looks like a Christmas Card outside and since it is the first of December, I think I’ll go dig out the Christmas decorations. We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a good weekend. Happy December!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 23

It has been an incredible November here in South Dakota. We have had several days in a row that were almost 50 degrees, and if the forecast is correct, we are expecting 50’s next week as well! Today, we woke up to a little dusting of snow and temperatures in the low teens, but we cannot complain as the wood stove is cranking and the house is warm. Also, we have been working outside a lot, taking advantage of the warm weather and are grateful for an “indoor day” to get caught up on other projects.

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Snow on the Holler

We have been working on cleaning, fixing, and prepping some of the haying equipment for winter storage. This year, all of the machinery can fit in the barn and that really extends the life of all things mechanical. Dave had to pull out the old mower blade, and that took several hours of pushing and pulling. He was not deterred.

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Rancher Dave sitting in the hard gravel working on the mower
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He got the blade out!

I worked on cleaning up an old calf table. It was pretty worn and rusty so I thought I would spray paint it with Rustoleum. This was not a good idea considering the gusty winds. I went through a can of paint in about 5 minutes. Instead, I found some of the rust-proof paint we used to paint the trailer last summer and that worked out pretty nicely.

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Before
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After

This calf table is missing one of the handles, but if we can rig one up, we will be all set for round up next year and we won’t have to borrow one. If the bull did his duties and all goes well, we will be expecting seven calves in April, and Cowboy and Linda will also be expecting six in April. Muzzle should be delivering in July again this year since she got off cycle somehow last year. So the roundup will be twice as big as last year. Any volunteers are welcome!

Dave was going to teach me to change the oil in the generator that is the backup for our solar power. It runs a test cycle every week and we have used it off and on when we have a run of cloudy days that aren’t solar-power friendly. As we began to take everything apart, Cowboy Dave and his dogs showed up in the southern pasture in his Kawasaki Mule. Joey decided that it looked like they were having more fun than Dave and I changing the oil and so he scooted off through the barbed wire across the field and up the hill to join the party. I don’t want him running off, even if it is just to see his friends, so I went through the gate, across the field and up the hill to get him and scold him. By the time we returned to the generator, Dave had changed the oil. Jen’s training: incomplete.

It was also time to change the oil in our Mule, so we did that on one of the warm days as well.

We have been waiting for some moisture in the forecast so we can put down nitrogen for fertilizer. We have had the broadcaster on Babe all month, but we just haven’t had the right weather to fertilize yet, so we took the broadcaster off the tractor so we could move the mower Then, we put the broadcaster back on Babe so we will be ready to go when the weather dictates. We also helped Cowboy Dave put his snowblower on his tractor, Bob, likely ensuring we won’t have any significant snow all winter, right?

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Broadcaster on Babe
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Snowblower on Bob

Putting implements on tractors and taking them off is not a huge deal, but it does take some time, depending on how many connections, cotter pins, etc. are involved.  It requires some teamwork and coordination and our overall operations are improving. We are hoping all the equipment is good to go for winter, now. It is a lot easier doing some of these outdoor tasks when it is sunny and 50 than when it is snowing and 10 degrees.  Dave was happy that even though it was in the low teens this morning, Babe, the tractor, started right up in the barn. He got to work picking up some of the slash we have been dragging near the stock dam.

It is our 3rd November here in South Dakota, and really only the 2nd of having somewhat of a normal existence as ranchers since we were in the camper the 1st year. The rhythm of the seasons is starting to feel more comfortable. We are feeling much more prepared for winter than last year and definitely more than the first year we were out here. This blog is starting to get a little routine, more chasing cows, dragging slash, fixing equipment, stacking wood etc. Still, I really enjoy documenting our life here. If you would have told us ten years ago what we would be doing we would have said you were crazy. It turns out that we have never felt more at home. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A cold winter day, even for cows
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Maverick getting some sun on the hay bales in the barn

 

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J.C. Brae

Country Music Artist

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