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Tons of Progress…and Snow Drifts

29 December – Sunny and High of 25°F

We were able to dig our way out of the snow, large thanks to Cowboy Dave for clearing the roads on his tractor Monday afternoon. Once more, the winds really picked up so by Wednesday the roads were completely drifted over again.  Pilot Dave used the builder’s Bobcat to clear multiple times to ensure that Jeremiah the tile guy, the cabinet delivery team, Mike the painter, the construction crew, and the Lowe’s Delivery Truck could make it to the house.  This morning, Pilot Dave is out there again because the winds blew like crazy again last night and all of the snow in Wyoming is now on Stagecoach Springs Road! It is becoming very apparent that in the near future we will need a tractor or an ATV with a blade on it.

 

Any of you readers that grew up in a cold and snowy climate must remember what it was like playing in the snow as children. I remember in Iowa that it seemed like the snow was always at least up to my waist.  In retrospect, the snow must have seemed so high because I was a little kid.  Well, we have entered into big-kid snow drift territory.  Dave and I walked up the road before he and Cowboy had a chance to clear it, and we were high-stepping all the way.  There were some drifts that I really didn’t know if I would make it across. We walked all the way to the mailboxes and back…. what a workout!  Cross-fit be damned! If you really want to break a sweat spend some time hiking around in the snow drifts and shoveling driveways.  No wonder people in colder climates live longer.

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We are extremely pleased with the house progress. Yesterday it was a beehive of activity as cabinets were delivered, Mike the painter finished up, Jeremiah the tile-guy began working on the shower, and the appliances were delivered.

It was such a huge relief to see the cabinets in the freshly painted house. It has been difficult for us to pick things from samples and envision what they will look like in actuality.  Dave and I agree that the cabinets look amazing with the beams and the paint.  We really like the hardware we picked for the drawer pulls and cabinets too! It looks similar to barbed wire but there are no barbs.  (Although barbed wire on the pantry cabinet handles and especially the cookie jar sounds like a good way to diet!)

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We also were quite happy with the way the counter tops turned out. They were another big commitment item that we hoped would look good and we love them.  We can’t wait to see them with the floor and the lighting.

This is the last post for 2016. We had an incredible year and are sure that 2017 will be equally as exciting and educational. Thanks, everyone, for reading and we hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve.  We will likely be in bed by 9PM but up early to watch the sunrise and welcome the New Year.

 

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Don’t forget to have fun…and a Happy New Year!

Nature’s Home Depot

14 December 2016 – Cold and Sunny – High of 15°

The last time we were in Rapid City (or just “Rapid” if you’re a local) Dave and I stopped by the National Forest Service Office and applied for a permit to harvest slate from the forest.  The permit is good for one calendar year, it is free, and you are allowed to remove one ton of slate.  They give you a list of places you can take it from, and ask you to be honest about the amount as no one actually weighs what you remove.

We are planning on using the slate for the base of our wood burning stove.  Obviously, we can’t just set the stove on the floor and we thought it would be cool to use something we retrieved ourselves instead of just going to the store and buying some tile. We can also use it for walkways and landscaping around the outside of the house.

We drove up north towards Hill City and then drove around for about 45 minutes looking for the Forest Service Road that we were allowed to remove slate from.  The Forest Service, while extremely helpful, has some useless maps. They also do not mark their roads very clearly, at least not the ones that are designated for slate removal.  As we were driving about we discussed how nice it was for them to allow us to harvest slate for free, but then again, maybe it was just a big joke to get people to go out and get lost on the unmarked roads! We eventually figured it out and got to the desired location.img_2315

We took a sledge hammer, an axe, and a shovel and hiked up the hill to find some pieces that we thought would be useful.  It was cold, in the 20’s, but we both lost our winter coats pretty quickly from all the hiking up the hill and carrying slate back to the truck.  I forgot to mention, they don’t allow you to use any equipment to gather the slate, so you’re stuck with hand tools and/or buckets.  We stacked what we gathered in the back of Truck Norris and headed out of the forest.  On the way out we saw the biggest, most beautiful bald eagle circling very near.  I reached for my phone to snap a picture and Dave said, “No, just enjoy it!”  and he was right.  I could never have gotten a picture to do that bird justice and it was just a brilliant end to a morning of hard work and fresh air.  We watched him fly away.

Then we thought we would treat ourselves and go to lunch in Hill City.  Appropriately, we ate at the Slate Creek Grille.  Tourist season is long gone and we were the only people in the place, but the food was good and it was nice to sit down in a restaurant, even though we both looked pretty rough in our snow pants and dirty sweatshirts.  The locals didn’t seem to mind, as is typical of most people around here they were very friendly and didn’t judge our ratty appearance!

We returned to the Holler to discover that the guys have nearly finished the decks, the sheet rock and taping is mostly done, and we had several samples of wall texture to pick from. Ahhh, ,more decisions!

Today we are heading into Hot Springs to do laundry and load up on propane.  We are supposed to get an arctic blast again, and this time it is supposed to be accompanied by several inches of snow.  You never know when you may get snowed in so we are prepping in case we are stuck out here for several days. Wish us luck!

The First Thanksgiving

27 November 2016

Partly Cloudy, High 47°F

We are wishing and hoping that all you Hoten-Holler Foller-ers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and a relaxing four-day weekend.  Thanksgiving is such a wonderful American tradition: the whole premise of giving thanks, eating until you need to switch to sweat pants, the family, the football, and especially the time off.  This is an awesome time of year, and we have a ton to be thankful for here in South Dakota.

We were happy to see all the progress on the house the week of Thanksgiving.  Sheet rock arrived and was unloaded.  The tongue and groove ceiling in the entry way was completed.  The guys worked hard until sundown on Wednesday.  Thanks to Todd and crew!

Thanksgiving was cold. There really is no way for us to leave and travel to see family, as we are kind of stuck here making sure the camper doesn’t freeze and the batteries for the solar power don’t freeze.  We decided to make the most of it. We had a relaxing morning, then we went to work splitting and stacking wood.  Reef fired up the smoker and cooked up a frenched-pork roast and baked potatoes.  I made some spinach/artichoke dip and corn casserole.  We moved our patio table into the house and decided to have our first Thanksgiving inside.  It was about 49° in the house, but we ate in there anyway, and it was awesome!

The two things we really missed were family and pie.  We decided we will definitely have family here next year if we can get anyone to come.  Since we missed out on pie, we have given ourselves a pass to have pie any time the opportunity arises all year. “Well, I really shouldn’t have pie, but I didn’t get any at Thanksgiving, so serve it on up!”  We really strive to be quite logical, especially when pie is involved.

We spent the rest of the weekend completing several projects that were on our list. We finished staining the timber frames on the west side of the house.  Thanks to Todd, our builder, we were able to use the tele-hand to reach the high spots.  Dave and I had no desire to put a ladder up to the highest peak, as the ground is quite sloped and the peak is pretty high off the ground.   We pulled the tele-hand to the north side, extended the arm, and I climbed up in the basket and stained the high parts.  Dave didn’t slack off by any means; to complete the inside of the porch he had to stand on a ladder leaning out against the beams, and this was quite precarious.  We just took our time and we think the result is beautiful. Plus, neither of us fell and cracked open our melons, so again, something else to be thankful for!

The other big task we completed was pulling out the rickety old cattle guard that went over Stagecoach Springs Road.  That thing has become exceedingly hazardous because some of the welds in the bars have broken.  You really had to slow way down to cross, and  more than one person has complained about it.  Cowboy Dave even put up a sign saying, “Cross at your own Risk!”  While the daunting old thing caused great concern to all crossing drivers, it served no real purpose as the cows would transit it fearlessly.  We decided it was time for it to go!

Pilot Dave used the bobcat to haul up several loads of rock from our build site.  There is no shortage of rock around here!  Then Cowboy Dave brought up his tractor to join in.  The two Dave’s chained up the heavy old cattle guard and pulled it out of the ground.  Cowboy Dave used his tractor to remove the timbers that framed the box in which it had sat.  Pilot Dave picked up and dumped loads of rock into the hole in the ground.  Cowboy Dave used his tractor fill in dirt and gravel on top.  They make quite a team, the two Daves!

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Then our neighbor Sheri and her son Allen showed up with a huge loader and a big load of dirt.  They filled the hole with the dirt and hooked up the cattle guard and hauled it away.  Team DaveX2 worked to smooth out the gravel and now instead of a dangerous and scary cattle guard we have a smooth road.  I bet the UPS guy will be really happy, he won’t even have to slow down!

Meanwhile, the days are clicking away out here on Hoten Holler.  Granted, we only have about 9.5 hours of daylight right now, but it seems like the time is flying.  There is always something to do and it is usually fun or at least rewarding.  We are surrounded by some really great people and entertained constantly by some really silly cows.  We say we are living RFD-TV in HD, on widescreen and in stereo. We are both healthy and getting our fair share of fresh air and exercise.  Every day we are watching our house go up and watching the sun go down, counting our blessings, and thanking God for the weather which has been so mild. We sincerely wish all of you a belated Happy Thanksgiving!   

 

Halfway Around the Sun in South Dakota

2 Oct 2016 – Sunny highs in the upper 70s

Yesterday was laundry day, and thanks to solar power we were able to do several loads right here on Hoten Holler without any laundromat hassles and without spending a single quarter.  img_0658

Around 2PM, Linda called and said that the neighbor had found Red Butz, their renegade bull that escaped into the National Forest in June.  She and Cowboy Dave were going to round up the replacement bull, (B.C. – or Baby Cakes, or Butch Cassidy, or Buster Crab….no one knows his real name for sure!) and take him to Ned’s for the exchange of Red Butz.  This sounded like great fun to us so we went along to see if we could help, or at least help more than we did last time when Red Butz escaped!

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Up in the pasture with all the ladies, there stood the big beefy beastie, with his pinkish looking eyes and curly white hair on his face.  B.C. is a Hereford bull and weighs about 1600 lbs.  He looks like he may just kill you, but he is really very sweet.  He lets all the cows lick his head and groom him, and he will even let Cowboy Dave pet him.  Cowboy Dave and Pilot Dave just walked up behind him, and Cowboy hit him lightly in the back foot with a whip and off he went.  It was like walking a dog as the two Dave’s walked him a half mile down the fence line back to the corral.  Linda and I rode in the mule, providing cow cake (a treat for cattle) and beer as requested during the journey. 

Cowboy Dave could not believe it.  He said he had never seen a bull be led away from the lady cows so easily.  He went right into the corral and right into the trailer.  What a good bull!  Linda called Ned to tell him we were on our way, and Ned said they had been chasing Red Butz since 10AM trying to get him into the corral.  Pilot Dave said she should tell him we had to do the same, and we were exhausted!  Ha ha.

We drove the trailer over to Ned’s ranch and as we approached the gate we saw two cowgirls on horseback riding towards us.  They were herding up two stray calves that had gotten in the forest and away from the herd.  It was really like we were back in an old western movie, but this is just daily ranch life for people out here.  Pilot Dave held the gate for them so they didn’t have to open and close it on horseback and they waved and smiled, and rode off to water their horses. 

Next we unloaded B.C. and he sauntered off like the easy going bull he is.  Then, we uploaded Butz.  He was a jerk and ran at Ned.  Ned hollered at one of the cowgirls, “I need a horse!”  and since they had their horses already saddled and ready to go, one brought him Rosie.  Rosie knew just what to do, and Ned, (who is in his early 80’s!) easily jumped up in the saddle and they chased Butz right up into the trailer.  It was exciting for Pilot Dave and me, although I think it is just ops normal for the ranchers.  We talked to our neighbor Ned a little more, and we both agree that people in South Dakota are just awesome.

We have been reflecting on the last six months, realizing we have been here half a year…halfway around the sun.  Dave and I agreed that this has really been the best summer of our lives. It has been a huge adventure and our only regret is we did not get here sooner.   

We have been getting up with the sunrise and listening to elk bugling nearly every morning.  We also see many white tails and hear coyotes, and some strange creature we cannot identify.  We are far too northern for a chupacabra, so could it be a Yeti?  Probably just an owl or strange bird. In the evenings, after the construction crew is gone, we sit in our future living room and watch the sunset.  We can hear cows mooing and coyotes yipping, and when it is dark, the stars are so bright we can hardly believe it.  So far, the autumn has been mild but we know that can change quickly.

The progress on the house has been great this week.  Todd and crew have been working very hard and the ceiling panels are on.  The windows arrived and we can’t wait to see what they will look like installed.

We know the posts are coming infrequently, due to our lack of internet, but we hope you are enjoying our story and we appreciate the views.

 

Timber Frames!

9/23/16

Timbers are up!  This has been an amazing week here at the homestead.  Todd, Curtis, Brian, and Jared assembled the timber frames flat on the floor of the great room, then a crane was on site to lift and set them in place.  While the crane was doing the lifting, Todd and his crew were running up and down ladders, maneuvering a telehandler with a platform all around the house to be in position to guide the timbers in place.  It reminded me of carrier flight operations in such that it looked chaotic and dangerous, and it was!  On the flight deck of a carrier, people are running all over the place with purpose, each one has assigned duty and everyone is directed by the Air Boss using a loud speaker.  If you’re not in the place you should be, the Boss will definitely let you know!  Here, Todd is the Air Boss.

More Progress

Friday 8/26/16

Foggy and a light rain in the morning, sunny afternoon.

What an amazing and productive week!  The Hoten Holler Homestead is rising up out of the ground, thanks to the amazing efforts of Todd and his crew.  Here are some of the latest pics:

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Todd’s crew

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Septic tank/system approved!
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Looks like we have two driveways, Greg is trenching the waterline

 

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Water line from Stagecoach Springs to the House….Looks like we have giant moles!

 

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A view from the SW corner of Hoten Holler
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Possible retention wall material

Homestead Update

Monday, 21 August, Hot and highs in the upper 80’s – Tuesday 22 August, highs in the upper 70’s (PLEASANT!!)

We are super excited to see all the work that has been completed on the house.  You can see the solar batteries have been installed and now the builders are working off power provided by the sun.  Thank you GenPro and thank God for the sunshine!

Big Kudos too to Todd and his hard workin’ crew!  Look at all the walls and progress.  Woot woot!!

And one more big thanks to Greg the excavator for his amazing work and persistence in busting through all of this rock.  We have a septic tank and a cistern for water.  Nice job, Greg!!

Decisions, Decisions

Thursday, 11 August 2016, Overcast and highs in the mid-70’s followed by lots of sunshine

There has been a lot of progress on the house.  Our builder, Todd, and his crew have been busy framing in the basement.  It is fun watching the progress as the house starts to come together!IMG_1603IMG_1602

With the progress comes lots of decisions.  We have to start picking lots of materials as Todd needs to order them in the near future.  Some things we have to decide:

  •                 Siding, type and color
  •                 Fascia, type and color
  •                 Soffit, type and color
  •                 Gutters, type and color
  •                 Windows, color
  •                 Timber-framing, stained or not stained
  •                 Driveway location
  •                 Kitchen cabinets, drawers, pullouts, cabinets, shape, color, finish, hardware
  •                 Kitchen countertops, type, color
  •                 Kitchen sink, faucets
  •                 Bathroom cabinets, type and finish, faucets, hardware
  •                 Bathroom countertops, sinks
  •                 Roof, material, grade, color
  •  

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    Pilot Dave looking at siding samples in the Happy Camper

These are all decisions that will affect the overall look of the House of Hoten, so we are trying to be deliberate, practical, and stay within budget.  It can be quite overwhelming since there are thousands of color samples, options, pictures etc. to choose from.  I have joked with the builder that he should just give us two options, and then our decision making process would be streamlined. 

On a separate note, we spent the afternoon sorting cows with Cowboy Dave and Linda.  It is time for the steers to be weaned and then go to auction, so we went out to separate the Mama’s from the babies.  This was quite the adventure, the cows seemed to know something was up and a few were not being very cooperative.  Frosty, the boss cow whose calf is being taken to auction, assessed the situation and decided that she was not interested in being herded toward the barn.  She leaped (all 1600 lbs of her!) over a four-wire barbed wire fence.  She should have been in Rio running the hurdles in the Olympics for Team USA! If we didn’t actually see it, we would not quite believe that enormous bovine could jump the fence….but it worked out because we were able to easily get her calf separated after she left.

 

After splitting off the 3 steers/calves and two of the Mamas (since Frosty didn’t want to play), Linda drove the mule down the path and Cowboy Dave tossed cake out the back to get the cows to follow up to the corral.  Pilot Dave and I acted as wingmen keeping them from bolting away from the fence line out into the pasture. Some quick maneuvering of gates in the corral and the three steers were penned away from the two mamas.  The Moms were loaded up in the trailer and hauled back up to the pasture with the rest of the herd.  The babies bawled, but were satisfied with some tasty hay served up by the Cowboy.  Another exciting day on the High Lonesome.

Foundation Panels Going Up

Todd and his crew started installing the foundation panels yesterday.  Starting to take shape!

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