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Two to Go

21 April 2021 – Sunny and 29 degrees….lots of snow on the ground

Since the last post we have had all four seasons again, warm summer-like high 60s for a few days, typical cool spring and fall-like weather, oh yes, and another two giant snow storms.

Lucille at the snowed-in bed and breakfast

Any of you farmers out there needing moisture, please do not misunderstand us.  We are very grateful for the moisture as we can always use it here.  On two of the nice days, Dave and I took turns picking rocks and disking the northern pastures.  Then we fertilized, seeded, and harrowed just in time.  About four hours after we completed our spring planting of this pasture we got nearly a foot of snow.

About a day after the snow had mostly melted, we noticed that one of our heifers, Cupid, was really bagging up.  We kept an eye on her all day, and at the 2AM heifer check she was the only cow up and about while everyone else was snoring peacefully.  I came inside and told Dave we should probably set an alarm for an hour later instead of two.  Neither of us could sleep and at 3AM we went out to find Cupid in full-on labor.  We watched her get up and lay down and get up and lay down, pushing and pushing until finally the tell-tale sign of two hooves appeared.  Then she laid down for what seemed like an agonizing hour but was actually only about five minutes.  We finally saw the little nose and the front half of her baby emerge.  Cupid seemed to quit pushing and Dave snuck over and gave the little calf a quick tug.  She was BIG and Cupid seemed thankful for the assist.  It is her first calf, and Cupid seemed to embrace her position of new mother by licking and looking after her baby immediately.  About 20 minutes later, the calf was up and nursing.  Perfect!

It is another heifer calf, and we noted the time she was born was 3:38 AM, so we named her after one of our favorite calibers to shoot, .338 WIN MAG.  We are calling her Maggie for short.

Cupid and Maggie

A few days later, at a more decent hour, Wooly Bear headed up to the trees and I tried to sneak up so I could see what she was doing.  She looked at me every time I moved with a warning glare, “GET AWAY!”  I parked about a football field away from her and watched as she easily calved a giant bull calf.

Wooly Bear and Wooly Booly

This is not her first calf and she is also a very good mom.  We decided to name this big guy Wooly Booly. He was born on a very nice, warm spring day and got to rest in the sunshine all day before the next foot of snow.

That evening, we knew we were supposed to get snow, and since we still have two expecting cows we called the herd back into the maternity ward.  Everyone came except for Wooly Bear and her new calf.  This is pretty typical because most new moms like to have some alone time with their new babies, but we worried about them being out by themselves in the blizzard. 

At night checks, Dave could still see them off in the trees near to where she had calved.  At the 2 AM check I could barely see using the spotlight because it was snowing so much and the wind was blowing so hard.  I made my way down to the maternity ward gate and just on the outside was Wooly Bear and her calf.  I waddled through the snow back to the barn and grabbed some hay and came back and led her into the maternity ward, baby in tow.  She went right into shelter with the rest of the herd in the cow shed.  I’m so glad we built that, while most cows will take shelter in the trees, ours are spoiled but we sleep better knowing they have a warm dry place to shelter.

The shed is just big enough for almost everyone, spill over gets the barn

It continued to snow the entire next day and part of the day after that.  Fortunately nobody decided to calve during the blizzard.  We are waiting on Valentine and one last heifer, Andie. It’s supposed to warm up so I hope they follow suit and calve on a nice day, daylight also is preferred, but at this point we are just ready to be done! I bet they are too.

Once the snow melts and we are calved out, we will move the whole herd to a leased pasture and start working on planting the south fields.  Spring is busy, dynamic, and exhausting but when the wind stops blowing and the sun is shining it really feels like paradise.

Sheriff getting a smooch

Oh, I almost forgot.  Pi is doing really well.  She, in fact, is the biggest trouble maker of all the calves and will not be contained with barbed wire.  She is always sprinting around and squirting out to the road (which is private and has hardly any traffic) or to the neighbors’ pastures. She likes to head-butt all the other calfies even though they are a bit bigger than her. Her mom is doing great nursing and we are so happy that she seems to be feeling and acting like a normal calf. That’s it from the Holler. Thanks for reading and we hope all you are having fun and keeping free out there in the real world!

Pi in the front ruining the family photo by sticking her tongue up her nose

Two Babies and an Earthquake

26 March 2021 – Cloudy with rain in the forecast, about 43 degrees

After surviving the beast of a blizzard, temperatures bounced right back up and the whole world immediately became a muddy, sloppy mess.

Dave in the tractor removing some mud

One of our cows decided that since she found one patch of dry land she would go ahead and have a baby right there.

Cherry Bomb and Shadow shortly after birth

This is Cherry Bomb’s 3rd calf. The baby, which we named Shadow, is about three weeks early considering the dates of exposure to the bull and the cow-gestation calendars.  Shadow is also pretty small so we figured she must belong to the bull we leased and not the one that jumped in early in the season, otherwise she would have been bigger and possibly black?  It’s impossible to tell, but Cherry Bomb is a great mom and she had Shadow up and nursing in a short time.

Tiny little Shadow

The next morning, we noticed Lucky (a heifer) was really acting uncomfortable and wandering off by herself.  We followed her around from a distance and at one point she laid down and was obviously in hard labor.  We never saw her water break, but clearly she was having her calf.  In nine short minutes she had a beautiful little black heifer of her own.  

Lucky and Jinx

This is Lucky’s first calf and she didn’t quite understand what it was.  She got up after calving, turned around and started smelling it.  When the baby moved, Lucky was visibly startled and jumped backward like she had been shocked!  Dave went to check and make sure the baby was breathing; he stuck a finger in her nose and everything looked great so we just stood back and watched.  Lucky seemed unsure of what to do, but then Cherry Bomb, who had calved her baby just the day before, came over to Lucky and started licking Lucky’s calf.  Lucky caught on and began to mother her own baby while Cherry Bomb just laid down and hung out with her the rest of the day. Sometimes cows can be so smart, even kinder than people.

Lucky is #7, and her calf is #13 so we named her Jinx.  Jinx was a lot faster than Shadow and up and nursing almost immediately.  She is also pretty small and early.

Tiny little Jinx

Both girls seem to be doing pretty well.  They sleep all day wherever their moms park them in the tall grass, and they are up running and bucking in the morning and before nightfall.  They are super curious and squirt through the barbed wire a few times a day, but their moms call them and they come back through. Sometimes cows can be so dumb.

Two early girls

The early births of these calves has put Dave and I into night-watch mode. We take turns getting up several times a night to check if anyone is in labor or in trouble.  This is probably overkill, but we had some bad luck with heifers two years ago so we want to be around to help if we are needed.

While getting up in the middle of the night sounds like it might be a total pain, it is strangely peaceful and relaxing.  We are at a good phase of the moon so there has been a lot of light at the 1AM checks, and the moon sets by 4 or 5 and then the stars are so bright and beautiful.  Most of the time the cows all bunch up together and sleep under a tree in the maternity ward, but sometimes they spread out and we have to hike around to put eyes on everyone. When they are all sleeping together it sounds like a bunch of snoring old drunk sailors, and they are so used to us checking on them they rarely get up or even look up. It’s really quite comforting knowing they are all together and no one is calving and we can usually sleep more soundly after these checks.

The remaining pregnant ladies are looking mighty large and uncomfortable, but they have been enjoying the warmer temperatures and since the snow is almost gone they have been finding some green sprouts to graze upon. I bet they are ready to have their babies and get on with the springtime, already!

Jinx walking next to her Aunt Valentine, while her Aunt Dirty Dozen is in front, both aunts are super pregnant and expected to calve at any moment.

That’s about it for calving so far, but I forgot to mention that this morning we had a small earthquake.  I didn’t even feel it because I was outside playing with the Sheriff, but Dave said, “Did you feel the tremor?”  He said the house began to shake a bit and he could hear rattling, but I didn’t feel a thing outside.  Turns out we had a 3.4 earthquake centered not too far from here.  I’ve said it before, there is never a dull moment on the Holler! If we get any more tremors we’ll have to call up Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire.

Not too far from home!

We hope you all are doing well and keeping it free out there in the real world.  

Sheriff clinging to the last bit of remaining snow

A Bitter Wind

The Bitter Wind

20 Jan 2021 – Sunny and 37 degrees and you guessed it, windy.

Rancher Dave and I have been going to town more than normal in the last week or so.  We took a big trip to the booming metropolis of Rapid City ( referred to as “Rapid” by anyone local).  We stocked up on groceries and other essentials (Franzia) so we could avoid going back to the city if they institute a muzzle-mandate in which we refuse to participate.

Winter in downtown Rapid

A trip to town is a big event around here, and we usually have a long list of items and stops to make sure we don’t waste any time. It is only about an hour and fifteen minutes to Rapid, but we always go to Sam’s Club and Lowe’s and at least 14 other places, so it is an all day event.  Considering we try to go only about every 6 weeks, we load up on everything and it takes another hour and a half to unload the truck when we get home.  

Yesterday, we took a smaller trip to the not-so booming metropolis of Custer.  We picked up a pick-up load of dry firewood, since the woodshed is only about half full and most of what remains is pretty green.  Today we will go out and split and stack what we scored yesterday.  We also spent part of the day chopping ice and scooping it out of a water tank that hasn’t been used in a bit.

That’ll teach us to not drain a tank that isn’t in use.

We also had a few other stops like the post-office, the library, and a place that sells other goods that are sort of hard to find right now, and may be much more difficult to find in the near future.  I’ll let you speculate on what that might be.

We’re back on the Holler today and the wind is howling, again.  About a week ago we had two days of nearly tropical storm force winds.  One morning I got up and Dave said, “Did anything blow away?”  I looked out the front door and noticed that we no longer had a greenhouse.

After the wind
Before the wind.

The only thing left was twisted and bent metal and two giant pots of soil. We spent some time that morning driving around the Holler picking up greenhouse panels and can only assume the ones we didn’t find are flying around in Minnesota somewhere.  That’s okay, though.  We will put the panels to use in some planter boxes or something of the like, but the greenhouse is unsalvageable.  We keep trying to grow things and Mother Nature keeps saying, “NO!” She’s generally stronger than we are, but she underestimates our determination!  We will Make the Greenhouse Great Again!

At least we don’t live in Buffalo!

We had a really cold and snowy day this week and we decided to try to make it seem more summery by making salsa.  This past year the drought didn’t do the garden any favors so I didn’t have too many tomatoes, but we did get quite a few peppers out of what used to be the greenhouse. We used those and some roasted hatch chiles to can about 9 pints of homemade salsa.

Only 7 cans pictured…what happened to the rest?

You really cannot beat homemade salsa, even if the tomatoes are from cans.  If you’re interested, we just use the Ball Canning Book recipe and here is the link.

Ball Blue Book Salsa (bigoven.com)

We use the recipe as just a guideline really, and taste it as we go along. We use whatever kind of peppers we have on hand and not quite as many onions as called for.  We also add a little bit of sugar and red wine and so far have rave reviews.  Canning is really easy, just time consuming, and there is usually a nice mess to clean up afterward, but oh, the SALSA!!!

That’s about it from out here in God’s Country, SoDAK!  Today the wind is bitter and howling, and it seems to match our current mood.  Still, we know that one day that wind will die down. Until then we remain grateful for our health, family and friends, and especially the freedom that we still enjoy.  We don’t take any of these for granted so we’ll face the bitter winds knowing that soon they will be blowing in a better direction.  Hang onto your hats and your liberties out there.  God Bless.

Home sweet home.

A Frosty Morning

10 Jan 2021 – Sunny and 37 degrees

How’s everyone doing out there in the real world?  Things on the Holler have settled into a typically slow plod through the winter months, where the sun is only showing about 8 hours a day and that little amount of daylight is filled up by a million little projects and a few routine chores.

A frosty morning

This morning we had some spectacular hoar frost.  

Some hoar frost. When the wind is out of the east we always get a little icing on the cake!

The cows were even a little frosty, although they all seem pretty fat and happy, just how we like them.

Andy also got a little icing

Things are changing rapidly out here.  One of our neighbors sold off a big piece of her property, which was bought and subdivided into 40 acre plots.  Those plots sold almost immediately and shortly thereafter they put in some power poles.

Power company putting in poles across the way

This means that we will  probably have new neighbors on two sides of the Holler, although it seems unlikely this will happen quickly. The rumors are that local builders are scheduled out two-three years.  We are just happy they divided the plots into 40 acres and not five or ten, but it just goes to show you really have no control over most things, so you have to just roll with it.

We plan to take advantage of the power that has been set up.  As you may remember, we are completely off-grid solar here, which has its advantages and also disadvantages.  It’s great not having a power bill, but there are days, like yesterday, when it is completely cloudy and we get almost no charge to the batteries. Also, the winter days are so short, so if we get snow and we don’t get the snow scraped off the solar panels, we are back to depending on the generator.

These days we run the propane generator, which isn’t really an inconvenience, but it would be nice to be able to just use the grid as a back-up. Plus, it will be nice to not have to rush outside in the mornings to scrape snow off the panels.

Snowy panels do not equal good power.

I wish I had more to report.  Don’t worry, Hoten Holler Follerers, calving season, planting season, and a new crop of bees are just around the corner.  Until then, hang on to your liberties and have a great Sunday!

Wooly Bear looking for some cake

You’re REALLY on Fire!

17 October 2020- Rain/sleet and 35 degrees – expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight

Yesterday was a spectacular day on the Holler.  After supper, Dave and I had a glass of wine in the loft and were discussing how grateful for all the things that happened this week, and the frosting on the cake was as we toasted it started to rain.  We have been desperately praying for rain.  Amen.

Last Saturday morning was beautiful weather, but dry.  I went for a run and Dave was up in the barn and corral working on a plan to sort out the individual calves that were going to different buyers this week.  He came around the corner and looked to the south to see smoke billowing up from what looked like the neighbor’s house.  He thought to himself, “Why would anyone be burning trash in this wind and dryness?” and he jumped in the Mule to drive down there and see what was going on.  As he got closer he realized the smoke was not from a controlled burn, but it was a fast moving grass fire and headed right toward another neighbor’s lot full of dry ponderosa pine.  

A little bigger than a trash burn.

He sped up the hill and ran into the first neighbor’s barn where he found the man working on his mower.  Dave said, “Did you call the fire department?”  and immediately realized the man had no idea what was happening. The wind was blowing away from the barn so he couldn’t even smell the smoke.  “You’re on fire, you’re really on fire!  Call 9-11!”  And with that Dave sped down to another neighbor’s place that was definitely downwind of the burning grass and now burning trees.  He ran up to their house and told them to get their kids and animals and get out.

Right about this time I was returning from my run and I was dying after running up the steep hill that ends at the north part of our road.  I turned the corner and saw huge flames in the trees and immediately thought it was the southern-most neighbor’s house. I never ran home so fast in my life and as I was running down the hill I saw Dave speeding up the road from the direction of the blaze and realized he must have already called the fire department.  By the time I got to the house he was in the tractor headed over to the neighbors whose house was in danger to help them move their hay bales away from the approaching fire.  I jumped in the Mule and drove over there behind him to see if I could help them get their stuff out.  

These are new neighbors that moved into the High Lonesome and they have 3 kids and 4 dogs and 2 cats.  I ran into their house and said, “What can I do to help?”  The lady said “Just get all of the animals in the car!”  So we loaded up the animals and obviously, the kids and drove back to our place which was to this point in the clear from the fire.  As we raced down their driveway we could see what looked like a fire tornado spinning across the pasture and flames were rolling along the tree tops.  

Driveway to new neighbors’ house and wind blowing the fire toward it.

In a short time, and I mean short, the fire department arrived.  They were awesome.  Several local volunteer departments went right to work and they even called in three helicopter drops of water. After a very stressful hour and a half it appeared that they had the whole thing under control and the new neighbors place was no longer under threat.  The fire was contained about 150 feet from their barn.  God Bless the firefighters!

The fire departments remained on scene until late in the evening and sent crews out the next day to continue to douse the hot spots.  We are so grateful that no one got hurt and not one structure burnt.  It could have been really, really bad.  Instead it appears there will be a nice green pasture next year.

Burnt grass and forest.

The week remained busy as we decided our fire mitigation plan here needed some work.  Dave assembled a fire fighting kit by ordering multiple long hoses that would work with a water pump that we have.  We decided to keep our cistern full of water and to always have water in the totes just in case.  Of course we can’t keep the totes full when it freezes but in the summer when it is dry, they will be at the ready.

Wednesday, we both went to another neighbor’s house to help him with his round-up preg check event.  He is a lot bigger than us with over 200 calves and nearly 300 cows.  Dave sorted and pushed cattle into the tub and up the alley.  I got to give shots to all the calves. They especially liked tequila shots.  It was a long, long day and we were both really tired at the end.  We are also really grateful that we only have a few cows.

Calves waiting to be worked
Horseback cowboy pushes cows toward the tub.

Thursday we recovered from the round-up and began preparing for the big snow we are supposed to be getting this weekend.  We also did some preparations for our calves who were going to separate buyers.

Friday, Apollo 11 went home with the gentleman from Wyoming who wants to add him in with his two calves and raise him up for beef next year.  The guy was so nice and he loved our gentle cows.  He said to stay in touch and not sell any of our steers next year without talking to him first.  We are just really happy Apollo went to another ranch for the rest of his life instead of a feedlot.

After Apollo 11 left, Dave and I loaded up the three heifer calves and he drove them to another ranch where a really nice couple had prepared a great corral and shelter for them. They were so happy to get these three gentle girls and again, we are so happy they are also going to live on a ranch where hopefully they will be (re-)productive and have long and happy lives. 

Apollo 11’s last day on the Holler
Dave says goodbye to the heifers, Frosty, Bo, and Toni. They seemed to like their new digs.

And that leaves us with one calf, Henry the 8th.  We didn’t want poor Hank to be lonely so before all the calves left we sorted out two of our yearling heifers from the big cows to come hang out with him while he continues to be weaned from his mom.  It went so smoothly and Dave and I just walked into the pasture and they were already hanging out by the gate.  We tempted them out with just a little cake and walked them down the road and into a pasture adjacent to the corral.  We let Henry out with them and now they are all hanging out together for the next four weeks. 

Lucky and Fatz get to hang out with their little brother, Henry the 8th. I’ll post a picture of all three when I get a good one.

That brings us back to yesterday evening.  On the way back from the ranch where Dave dropped off the heifer calves, he stopped at Lintz Bros. Pizza Company which was a great treat for us.  We had a great supper and all the chores were done and finally we had a moment to relax and think about how lucky we are.  There were so many moving parts and pieces that could have gone awry, but somehow we were able to safely get all the animals to happy new homes. We also narrowly avoided a disastrous fire.  Neither of us got hurt at round up.  It was just one of those moments where we had a chance to reflect on all the work of the previous year of breeding, raising, feeding, watering, haying, calving, branding, and finally selling our product, the calves.  Plus we feel like we did a lot better than we would have done at the sale barn.  

Just when things couldn’t seem to be going any better, it started to rain and has been raining/snowing on and off since yesterday.  Oh, and then the pics and videos of the calves from their new happy homes started coming in via text. I don’t normally like to say it out loud for fear of jinxing ourselves, but life is good on the Holler.

Fatz, Lucky, and Hunny on a warmer day.

I hope everyone out there in the real world is having as good a weekend as we are, snowstorm and all.  Keep it free out there!

Chasing Cows in our Pajamas

16 October 2020 – Sunny and 50’s

Things stay busy on the Holler in October because the calfies are getting too big to nurse so we have to wean them off their mothers.  This year we thought ahead and coordinated the separation of moms and babies with the vet’s visit for preg-checking.  That way we only had to sort the cows once!  

We brought the whole herd into the corral and Dave set up this wood bar between two of the corral posts.  The babies are short enough to go under it, but the moms are not so we just walked everyone around in the corral for a few minutes and the calves shot under the bar and the moms stood there looking confused. 

The bar is black and behind the red gate on the left. We just open the gate and the calves shoot right under. Close the gate and they are sorted off!

One of our favorite vets, Dr. Olivia, was right on time and was able to give the heifer calves their “Bangs” or brucellosis vaccines.  They all got poured for flies and that part of the day went relatively smoothly.  Bo, #10, was a little slippery and while I caught her in the head gate initially, she squeezed out backwards into the chute. I opened the head gate to try to catch her again but she sprang through and I missed her.  First round of beers on me.

Dave chased her backwards through the chute and I prepared to catch her again but I think she thought it was a big game at this point and sprinted toward the head gate and leaped through it before I could catch her.  Second round of beers on me.

Dave chased her back through again and this time I kept the head gate closed until she scooted her nose up to it.  Then I just barely opened it and she tried to jump through again but I got her.  I think I lost some cool points, though.  Thanks Bo!

Dr. Olivia preg checks one of the cows.

We began working the big cows.  They were getting their vaccinations, poured for flies, and checked to see if they were pregnant and when they were due. It was going relatively smoothly until Wooly Bear decided she did not want to participate and jumped over the corral fence taking out several strands of wire with her.  Andie decided to follow her.  We scrambled to move some corral panels to cover the hole in the fence but now two of the big cows were on the lam. We continued to work the remaining cows and spent way too much time rounding up the two rebels.  At the end of the day, poor Dr. Olivia had to speed off to her next appointment and one of our friends that came to help had a smashed and bloody finger from rambunctious cows in the alley way. It’s not really a round-up unless someone gets mad or hurt or both.

We found out that Moscow the bull had done a fine job impregnating nine out of ten cows.  Sadly, Hunny, one of our original girls, is not bred.  Dave and I kept an open cow, Valentine, last year and agreed in advance we will not be keeping any open cows again.  They are expensive to feed and they act crazy when they go into heat.  Sorry Hunny, but your number is up. More on that in a minute.

Our beautiful sweet cow, Hunny, is open! DANG.

After the vet left and the friend’s finger was bandaged and doctored, we loaded up the calves in the trailer and led the moms up the road to a pasture we call the Hideout. The moms followed the trailer easily because they knew their babies were inside.  In the dirtiest of tricks, we led the moms into the Hideout, did a U-turn and drove the babies out and shut the moms in.  It’s time for weaning and this was the best way we could ensure to separate them.

We drove the babies back to the corral and unloaded them.  While they were looking for their moms initially, they were quite pleased to see we had put out some buckets with a sweet grain mix for them.  We also had a big bale of hay and some fresh water.  They still bawled, and their moms could be heard bawling all the way up in the hideout.  This went on for two full days and included one of the moms, Triple-Stix, jumping the hideout fence and coming back to stand outside the corral and bawl for her baby.  We would lead her back to the hideout with cake and she would get water and cake and come right back.  This also went on for two full days.

On the third day, I woke up at about 2:30AM and felt panic.  Why was it so quiet?  There was no bawling or mooing.  I lay awake listening and I could not wait until sunrise to throw on my shoes and go see if everything was okay.  All the babies were in the corral sleeping and there was no sign of Triple-Stix.  I guess they all decided the bawling was a waste of energy. Peace at last!

Things went well for the next few days.  The calves are digging their new routine, especially the feedings of sweet grain mix.  The moms have settled into the hideout and most of their bags have gone down quite a bit so they aren’t desperate to find their babies and nurse them.  Triple-Stix gave up on jumping and now she just looks mad at us. After about a week of separation, Dave and I were up before sunrise drinking coffee and when it began to get light out we went to change into chore clothes but I looked out the bedroom window and saw a calf NOT IN THE CORRAL but in the yard looking back at me!  Those sneaky devils had busted out of the gate and were headed off to who knows where.  

Dave and I ran out the door while he went to the corral to close in the three calves that weren’t brave enough to leave. I took the Sheriff and tried to chase the other two back into the corral.  It was pretty easy because they took one look at Sheriff Joe and turned around heading back to their sanctuary.  He didn’t even chase them but just crept up the fence while I flanked them to funnel them back through the gate.  Dave looked at me in my cowboy boots and pajamas and said, “Nice job, and nice outfit!” I am a farm fashionista.

Weaner calves in the corral. From left to right, Henry the 8th, Frosty, Apollo 11, Bo Derek, and Toni Romo

We have been actively trying to sell our calves and Hunny for about a week and a half.  We have always just taken our cows to market, but at the auction we have no say on the final deal.  It seems for operators our size that no matter how nice our calves look they don’t bring the price that an arena full of uniform steers or heifers do.  This year we advertised on Facebook Marketplace (Stagecoach Farms) and Craig’s List to see if anyone wanted a steer, three replacement heifers, or an open cow who probably has several more calves in her future.  

We got a lot of response and as of today we have a plan for everyone.  We are going to keep Henry the 8th as a steer and feed him up and take him to the butcher next fall.  A gentleman in Wyoming is planning to come get Apollo 11, the other steer, and add him to his herd with the same intention to feed him out and have him butchered when he gets big enough.  Another couple nearby wants to start their own herd and are planning on getting the three heifers this week.  They really loved them and said their grandchildren would be so excited to see these gentle calves.  Dave and I joke that they are going to a petting zoo.

Hunny definitely hit the jackpot because another local rancher with a herd about the size of ours wanted to add another cow.  He says his cows come for cake and let him scratch their heads, just like ours.  He came to see Hunny and how nice she is and decided to add her to his herd where he will breed her with his bull.  He took her home and said she became the “boss cow” immediately so it sounds like she found her new place. She was definitely the boss cow here so it will be interesting to see who takes over next.

Hunny and Toni Romo #9

That about wraps up the first ten days of October. As busy and chaotic as it might sound, things have not really quieted down.  More on that in the next blog….but until then, keep it free out there in the real world!

Quit Whining about the Heat!

9 September 2020 – Sunny and 42

Last weekend it was nearly 100 degrees on Saturday.  That all changed Monday night when the snow rolled in…..that’s right, snow already!

We fed a little but the snow melted by afternoon so it was a light breakfast.

Don’t worry though, we are all prepared for winter.  Okay, maybe you should worry a little.  We still haven’t completed the shelter for the cows but we are making progress.  We got the posts all squared up and the headers on the top so we can start putting in some rafters.

We also got one big load of hay delivered and are ordering one more.  

Dave unloading the trailer

Even though our hay crop was a complete bust this year, there is still quite a bit of work to do when putting up hay.  It has to be unloaded from the trailer, and the truck-driver doesn’t want to sit around all day and watch us put up hay, so Dave unloads it all in the yard as fast as he can.  Once the truck driver is gone we set to work putting as many bales in the loft as we could fit.

Headed to the barn loft
Room for a few more up top

Then we put the outside bales on pallets and covered them with a tarp.  This might be overkill as these round bales will probably do fine with the rain and snow, but the deer and elk like to pick at them as well so we tarp them just to add an additional level of security.

Tarped bales

As the winter storm approached, Dave and I hustled around battening down the hatches getting ready for winter.  This was strange on Sunday as it was ninety degrees and we were wearing shorts and sweating but prepping for snow. 

Monday morning started off relatively warm (60s) but the temps dropped all day and it began snowing around 5pm.  We used the day to move cows to a pasture where they had some trees and a wind break for shelter.  Normally we wouldn’t worry too much about them in 20 degree temperatures but because it has been so warm we thought the temperature swing would be hard on them.  We spoil our cows and I’m pretty sure we were the only ranchers in South Dakota that would make such a fuss for one early snowstorm.  

Four calves wondering why the people are running around like mad.

We also reluctantly loaded up the firewood box and moved it to the porch.

Hello firewood my old friend….

The forecast (which came true) was for snow and record cold temperatures down to 24 degrees.  This prompted me to pull up all the plants in the garden. I have a few boxes of green tomatoes that I am trying to let ripen, and I have tons of cayenne peppers.  

This wasn’t too heartbreaking because most of the garden got demolished in the hail storm in July, so we salvaged what we could.  Thank goodness we aren’t solely surviving on what we grow or we would be very thin at the end of next winter.  I guess if times get really desperate we could incorporate wild rabbits and deer into our diet, but so far Lynn’s Dakotamart remains open and the bunnies are safe….for now. Also, neither one of us are big fans of hare in our food.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

My parents came to visit for a few days.  I tease them that they are the bookends to our summer because they usually visit around Mother’s Day and again right before it snows.  Their timing was impeccable this time.  We had a great time but I didn’t even take one picture of them!  Dang.

It is supposed to warm back up to the 80s this coming weekend, and we are going to have to kick it into high gear getting this lean-to completed.  We definitely need to get more firewood and we have to get another load of hay delivered if we are going to keep all the cows over winter. I guess I better get my coat and stocking cap on and get out there and help Dave cut some rafters!  Keep it free out there in the real world.

Red Sky in the morning…ranchers’ warning!

The Last Bit of Summer

21 August 2020 – Sunny and 91 – It’s HOT

Hey everybody!  How is your summer going?  We are soaking up the heat and sun and anticipating about ten more days of hot, dry weather….then September will be here and we expect the typical drop off in temperatures.  August is great for making us wish for fall.  Although it has been hot, we have been busy working on the lean-to.  This morning we put in and concreted the last post.  

Posts in the ground for the lean-to shelter….the cows better be grateful!

Prior to that, we had some great visitors this month.  One of Dave’s friends from the Coast Guard and his wife visited us and we put them to work.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of hay to harvest this year, but they both got to work at mowing and baling.

Dave gives instructions for mowing
Raking like an old hand.

We also got some firewood and split it, although it was much too hot to spend too much time in the woods. 

Cutting wood in the forest

Another highlight was corralling and trailering Moscow, the bull, and taking him to the vet so he could be tested for trichomoniasis.  We had to ensure he did not have this venereal disease so we could return him to his owner. Moscow was reluctant to trailer up (nervous about the test?), but thanks to extra hands we finally got him on the trailer and to the vet.

Corral panels set up to catch the bull
Moscow getting tested for Trich

Moscow came up clean but had to return to the Holler for a few days to await his test results. We are thinking all the cows are bred because of the reaction of the cows upon his return.  In the spring when we introduced him into the pasture, the herd was super excited and would not leave him alone.  This time all the cows were laying down and when we unloaded him they barely looked up.  He seemed a bit confused, as if to say, “Didn’t you girls miss me?”  Not one cow got up to greet him and eventually someone let out a nonchalant “Moo” telling him he could come back into the herd but there wasn’t going to be any fanfare or welcome home parties.  I hope he didn’t feel too used. 

Cows interested in NOTHING but sleeping

Our guests also got to do some Black Hills touring, going to Deadwood and Sturgis. It was great to catch up with them and although there was not a lot of farming/ranching to do, we all worked really hard to ensure the Franzia Wine Company stays in business by sitting on the porch and drinking a lot of cabernet.

Fortunately, there were a couple of elk sightings while they were here, but the morning after they left, Dave and I woke up to about 50 elk grazing in our South Pasture.  

Elk in the backyard

So the seasons turn, and the turkeys have returned much to the pleasure of Sheriff Joe.  This morning while cleaning up after breakfast, Dave pointed out the window and we saw nothing but a black cloud of turkeys.  Of course the Sheriff was busy running them out of town and came back with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, clearly proud of his ability to keep the ranch turkey-free.

A well-deserved soak after chasing wild turkey

Earlier this week, Dave and I loaded up Moscow, the bull, and drove him back to Lusk, Wyoming.  He loaded super easy this time and rode all the way there without making a peep.  We hope he got everyone pregnant and that they all have nice calves in the spring.  If so, he is definitely welcome back next year!

We harvested some (very little) corn and carrots from the pathetic garden.  Tomatoes are starting to come in, but we have had an inundation of grasshoppers so we will see how it turns out.  This has not been a banner year for growing things on the Holler, but that is how it goes with farming.

Fresh Carrots
Sweet Corn

That’s about it for now.  We hope everyone out there in the real world is enjoying the last bits of summer and having fun and staying free! Oh, and keep your heads out of the bucket!

Dozen with her head in the cake bucket

Never A Dull Moment, Can We Just Have One Dull Moment Please?

12 July 2020 – Sunny and 84 – Perfect

Last time I was crabbing about no rain.  That very evening, Dave and I were sitting on the back porch laughing as all the storm clouds built up and went right around us, as has been the pattern for the summer.  There really was nothing left to do but laugh, and Mother Nature must have felt we were mocking her.  Suddenly a giant cloud began building to the Southwest, and it was moving pretty quickly and we were its bullseye.  As the storm came nearer, the wind picked up and Dave said, “That cloud is green.”  All my midwestern people recognize this is never a good sign.

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Storm lining up on the Holler

We hustled around putting up lawn chairs and closing up the greenhouse in anticipation of a big storm and I’m glad we did.  The wind in front of the cloud was insane, it was blowing so hard all the trees were leaning over.  Then the hail began.  The stones were not big, but they were being propelled by the wind and pummeling the house.  There was so much hail coming down so fast it looked like the roof was vomiting. We still had piles of hail on our porch the next morning.  It was loud too, as we have a tin roof.  Dave positioned himself at the front door and watched helplessly as he thought the greenhouse would blow away.  I stayed looking out the back at the poor garden and the poor cows, who headed for the hills and disappeared behind the dark sheets of rain and hail.

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Hail piled up on the deck

Dave said he saw the cat sprint out of the barn and run and hide under the porch.  I cannot imagine how loud the wind and hail was in the barn, but it must have been enough that poor Maverick thought he had better run for his life.  After about 20 minutes the hail let up and it was just pouring rain so I thought I would stick my head out and see if I could find the cat.  As it rained the porch area began to flood and I could hear Maverick howling his head off as he was stuck in the rising waters under the porch.  I ran outside in my flip flops and tried to fish him out but he would not come.  I was standing in about 5 inches of water and I thought I would try to get him out the other side of the porch but as I changed positions Dave yelled out the door, “There he goes!”  And I caught sight of him running toward the woodshed.  I sloshed over there in ankle high water and was able to catch him, wrap him in a towel and run through the pouring rain back inside the house.  He was really making a lot of noise meowing and complaining, but he didn’t try to escape my grasp. When we got inside, he looked so pathetic, all soaking wet. I’m sure I also looked pathetic, all soaking wet!  I put him in the mudroom and toweled him off and now he is my new best friend.

The rain didn’t let up until after dark, and the next morning Dave and I went outside to survey the damage.  Fortunately none of our buildings were damaged and I feel like we really dodged that bullet because that was one wicked storm!  There were casualties, however, especially the garden.  The cucumbers were decimated, the corn looked like someone had taken a weed-whacker to it, and the tomato plants were all laying on their sides. The potato plants which were previously as tall as my chin, were also flattened.  We walked north to the field where we had hoped to salvage some of our remaining barley and it also was flattened and laying down.

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Flattened Cucumbers

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Smashed Potatoes

I guess this isn’t the year to grow things on the Holler.  But at least we got some much needed rain and hopefully it will promote some growth in the grazing fields. By some miracle the greenhouse stayed standing with no damage.

The Sheriff was quite happy with the storm.  I really do count my blessings with this dog.  He is a cool customer and the thunder and hail does not bother him one bit.  He also is great about riding in the truck and doesn’t whine or drool but he just sticks his head out the window watching the world go by.  He is a very easy going dog.  One thing he liked about the rain storm was that it filled up his stock dam with water.

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Stock Dam Full of Water

He has been going swimming every day since and he loves it.  If I don’t take him out there, he sneaks off and comes back soaking wet.  This is always followed by a victory roll in the dirt which makes him a mud-puppy indeed!

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The Sheriff’s new swimming hole

After the storm, the drama on the Holler did not let up.  Yesterday morning at around 5AM we heard the bull making a lot of noise.  Dave jumped out of bed and saw our neighbor’s cows hanging out by the gate next to our herd.  Our neighbor has downsized her herd (2 cows and 1 calf) so we agreed to let her cows in with the bull so she can get them bred.  Dave saw them down by the gate and said he was going to run down there and let them in.  I said sleepily from under the covers, “Do you need help?”  and he said no and that I should go back to sleep. Oh, my sweet husband.

I heard him drive down in the Mule and I could not go back to sleep, feeling guilty that I should have gone with him.  It is always hard to move cows through a gate with just one person. I got up and threw on my jeans and watched him from the back window.  He was doing great, using cake to move the neighbor’s cows through the first gate despite our cows crowding him wanting cake.  Then he called me on the radio and said, “I think Harley prolapsed.”  Harley is our neighbor’s favorite pet cow and it appeared she had a vaginal prolapse which can occur in a pregnant cow before calving.

GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW WARNING:

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Oh Poor Harley!  Yikes!!

Dave decided it would not be a good situation to let her cows in with our herd because there is always fighting when new cows arrive, and poor Harley clearly needed some medical attention.  He moved the neighbor’s cows to a smaller pasture so we could have easier access to Harley and he came back to the house.

We called the neighbor but only got voicemail.  We called the vet to see if this was an urgent life-threatening situation, but again it was around 5:30 AM so we got their emergency pager number instead of a person.  We discussed our options and decided that if it were our cow we would catch her and load her up immediately and take her to the vet.  So we began loading up cattle panels on the tractor and we hooked up our trailer to the truck.  During this time, the neighbor called and said she was on her way and agreed we should take Harley in to the vet.  The vet also called while we were managing the cow-moving logistics and said they would make room in their schedule for whenever we could get there.

So we drove the tractor with the panels and the truck with the trailer to the pasture where Dave had secluded Harley and company.  Harley was clearly hurting and did not want anything to do with us, but we were able to set up the panels in the corner and push her into the trailer.  Dave and the neighbor went off to the vet and I cleaned up what I could by myself with them gone.

The vets took care of Harley, cleaning her parts and pushing her prolapse back inside of her.  Then they laced her up to keep her insides on the inside of her. The repositioning apparently is not an easy task as the vets would push and the cow would try to push against them so she kept prolapsing, but the vets eventually won and were able to lace her up tight.  They said she did not have an unborn calf, which led us all to believe that she may have had a calf out in a field somewhere or she had aborted, causing her to prolapse.  The strange thing is she was not exposed to a bull in the timeframe that would have her calving now, but we have seen this movie before where a cow calved and we could not explain who the daddy might be.  We also know there are roving bulls out here so maybe that is what happened.

Regardless, the neighbor’s property is many, many acres of hills, forests and valleys and if Harley calved out there it would be nearly impossible to find the baby.  Dave and the neighbor took Harley back to her corral after deciding it was too dangerous for her to be in with a new herd and especially a bull.  Harley was not happy about being alone and the neighbor let her out on her large acreage in the hopes that if there was a calf the Momma would find it and possibly save it.  This morning, Harley showed up at our gate again without a calf so we’re fairly certain if she did calve it did not survive.

While Dave and the neighbor were at the vet, I saw the neighbor’s remaining cow and calf hanging out by the gate and I pushed them into our pasture so the cow could be exposed to the bull.  Of course, there was a lot of fighting initially as every one of our cows had to explain to the poor new girl that they were higher than her in the pecking order.  The new girl, who the neighbor calls Wooly Bear, did not back down from a fight so there was a lot of snorting and grunting and kicking up dust well into the afternoon. If you’ve ever seen a movie with scenes from the prison yard, you can imagine what it is like when a new cow goes in with an existing herd. Cow Drama.

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Wooly Bear and her calf, Frosty

Today, things have settled significantly. The herd all seems to be getting along but I feel so bad for Harley stuck on the other side of the fence.  Her old companion, Wooly Bear slept next to her by the fence last night.  I know people think animals do not have feelings, but I truly believe they have a routine and they do not like change. But, like people, they will adjust although sometimes against their will.

If that isn’t enough excitement for you, I have one more little story.  This morning I was doing the usual chores and was getting ready to walk down to what remains of the garden to water plants.  I started walking down the hill in our yard, about ten feet from our porch and I heard the strangest noise behind me.  It sounded like an automatic sprinkler coming on, just a very quick hissing sound.  Joey was behind me so I thought maybe he had some toy or made some weird noise and I turned around and realized I was standing about 6 feet from a fat coiled up prairie rattlesnake.  Joey was on the opposite side of the snake and I very calmly commanded him to move away and get on the porch.  Dave was in the house so I very calmly yelled, “Oh Dave, could you please come out here for a second?”

Okay, that’s not what happened at all….I completely freaked out.  I HATE snakes and I literally almost stepped on this venomous critter.  My dog was on the opposite side of it and I started screaming bloody murder.  “Joey!  Get Away!  Leave it leave it leave it! AHHHHH!!!!”  It must have really startled Dave because he came running out of the house and said, “What’s wrong?”  All I could say/scream was “SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE!!!”

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Prairie Rattler minus its head

If it hasn’t been revealed in all the blogs up to this point, I would like to say that Dave is a much cooler customer than I will ever be.  He jumped off the porch, grabbed Joey’s collar and hauled him inside.  Then he returned with his .410 shotgun and blew the snake’s head off.  My hero.

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Dead Eye Dave, One Shot, One Kill

I know that snakes are good for the environment, but there is no way I can feel bad about killing a poisonous snake that is that close to my front door so save it if you’re mad about the snake slaughter.  It’s dead and if another rattler shows up here it is getting the same treatment. Sorry, not sorry.

So that’s it for the last few exciting days. We did get a nice rainstorm again early Thursday morning so hopefully this pattern will continue without the hail and wind. And we are definitely grateful for the rain although it is probably what is driving the snakes out of their holes.  We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world and keeping yourselves safe and free! Happy Monday!

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The Holler Herd

 

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