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January Wrap-Up

3 February 2018 – Cloudy and 33 with 3 – 5 inches of snow in the forecast

I cannot believe we are already into February?  What happened to January?  Well, here’s what happened. January was cold, then warm, then cold.  There was snow, sunshine, and more snow. It warmed up enough that I could wash the truck. The next day, I realized it was a waste of time.

We had a magnificent snowfall of around 8 inches.  We had to use the snow rake and clear the solar panels.

Since we had enough snow, Tractor Dave decided this would be a good opportunity for me to learn to plow the road.

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Jenny plowing the road

It is harder than you might think because if you get the blade too low, you mess up the gravel and the road can become really rough.  Gravel isn’t cheap to replace at about $250 a load, so when plowing, you really don’t want to create any holes or rough patches.  On the other hand, if you don’t get the blade low enough to scrape up the snow you are basically just burning diesel fuel.  The snow plow’s blade can be rotated up and down, right and left, as well as elevated in relation to the ground, and it is difficult to find the best position to clear the road.  Our dirt road is crowned in some places, level in others, and there are multiple hills and valleys, which only complicates the plowing process. 

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A close-up of the plow

 

After 2.5 hours in the (thankfully) heated cab, Stagecoach Springs was open for business. I really enjoyed plowing and I think Dave and I are going to have to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who gets to scoop up what we have coming today. Funny, we never have this argument over scooping poop out of the stalls, though.

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Clearing the road

 

In other news, the Black Hills Stock Show has been going on in Rapid City over the last 2 weeks.  I spent an entire day walking around checking it out and I could have easily spent a week looking at all they had going on.  There were tons of vendors that were marketing a wide variety of goods including western furniture, art, cattle feed, tack, prairie dog exterminators, pesticides, seed for alfalfa, tractor equipment, trailers, ATVs, feeders, stock tanks and the ever-popular bull semen! Artificially inseminating cows is big business.  Some of the events included rodeos, cattle shows, horse riding clinics, and all sorts of seminars for ranchers. It was so western, so cowboy, and so much fun.  Everyone was wearing boots and hats, and you could just tell that all those cowpokes were the real thing.  I barely saw a single person looking at a smart phone.

I really liked walking through the prep area for the Hereford bull show.  This part of the stock show is basically a beauty pageant for cattle, and the prize winners take home some big money and bragging rights for the quality of their bovines!  The best part is most of the ranchers showing are young kids in 4H.  I saw two kids, probably 9-10 years old, hanging out in the stall next to their bulls and eating lunch.  The bull decided to do his business and as soon as he pooped, the little girl jumped up and ran to get a pitch fork and cleaned up after him.  No one told her to, she didn’t complain, and then she went right back to eating lunch.  Ranch kids have initiative, that is for sure.

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A beautiful Hereford getting groomed for the show
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Some bulls laying around before the show, notice the fans keeping them cool.  Spoiled!

 

Our cows are getting bigger.  The May-Flower heifers are still super friendly and the one we call Black Cherry especially likes Dave to scratch her head.  That will be pretty interesting when she gets to be about 1600 pounds! 

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Dave giving Black Cherry a face rub

 

The other cows are about 50 days out from calving.  They are LARGE and IN CHARGE!  They can put away some groceries and go through many gallons of water too. We stay busy feeding and watering them, but it is still so much fun for us. We have been battling with ice in the pastures and the corrals.  The pregnant cows know it is slippery and they walk like old ladies across the slick spots.  We try to route them around the icy patches because if one of them wipes out it will be a big deal trying to get her back on her feet!

We applied for a brand for our cows.  The process of getting a brand is pretty complicated if you are looking for something specific.  Originally, we wanted three H’s for Hoten Holler Homestead, but the lady at the brand office said that anything with double or triple letters is nearly impossible because they are already taken, and the H’s are even more difficult because they can be read as I’s if rotated.  She said if we design a new brand it takes 6 months for them to approve, if they approve it.  However, there are expired brands to choose from that we could have approval for in two weeks if we found one we liked.  We chose this one.

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I over-cropped.  We will be branding Cattle on the right hip, not Cats.

 

It is an H with an inverted R, or in brand-speak, a CRAZY R.  It will go on the right hip of the cows and it stands for Hoten Ranch.  Or, Hoten CRAZY Ranch if you prefer.

And here we are in February.  The days are starting to get longer and we are planning for spring projects, primarily disking the fields, planting oats or alfalfa, ordering a branding iron, and getting started on a barn. Once again, as I wrap this up, it is starting to snow.

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Arrow likes to help with chores, especially the feeding of round bales.

The Road to Nowhere……YET

The Road to Nowhere…..Yet

27 July 2017 – Sunny and Highs in the Upper 70’s

Last Thursday was a busy day on the Holler.  We decided to piggy-back on Cowboy Dave’s gravel delivery he had scheduled and order a few loads of gravel for the road that will go around the front of the house to the future site of the barn.  Because we procrastinated (if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!) we were rushing around trying to get the big rocks that remained from the house build to make a base layer for the road.

Pilot Dave used Babe to scoop all the rocks and move them to the site.  Cowboy Dave used Bob to smooth out his piles. 

A few hours later, the gravel-man showed up with a truckload of rock.  We explained what we wanted to do and he said, “No problem.”  He drove to the gate and started dumping gravel and about 5 seconds later we had a road. 

We think it looks pretty darn good!

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The New Road
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Another View of the New Road

 

We spent most of the afternoon doing what we always do:  picking up and moving rocks.  Dave used the tractor to add some “curbs” to keep the gravel from spilling out of the low spots.

I have been working on a stone pathway that goes from the west porch to the front porch.

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Rock Path

 

Dave isn’t too happy with me moving all these heavy rocks.  He is still on restriction from lifting anything over 30lbs and expressed his concern that I shouldn’t be doing so much heavy lifting.  I told him not to worry, my Indian name is “Strong Like Bull.”  He said it should be “Stubborn Like Goat.”  After working in the hot sun moving rocks all day we both agree my name actually should be “Smell Like Goat.” Anyway, I have the path in the order I want, I just need to put in some leveling sand and shift the rocks over to their permanent location.

To top off the busy Thursday, my new Bee-Mentor, Peyton, came over to look at my hive and tell me if it was going well or if I was screwing up royally.  Fortunately, he said the bees look good and healthy.

 I was a little disappointed when­­­ he said I probably won’t get any honey this year, but that is normal for a first-year hive.  He said I could take some honey but the bees probably wouldn’t survive on what they have so far.  If that was my intention I would have just bought a bunch of honey and not bothered with the bees.  My hope is to get them through the winter and if all goes well I can harvest a mother-lode of the golden stuff next year.  Until then, there is always something new and exciting to do here at the Holler.  Don’t forget to holler at us if you find yourselves up this way!

Stuff Just Breaks

27 March 2017 – Sunny and highs in the mid 50’s

It has been a challenging week at the holler, but we are doing our best to be countrified and take on each problem as it comes. We got the tractor, Babe, last week and after one day of use, moving rocks, moving dirt to the garden, moving slash piles etc. two of the bolts that hold the loader onto the tractor frame broke.

This tractor is 21 years old, so we were expecting some problems and maintenance, but these things are built to last as long as they are taken care of well. Some busted bolts aren’t unusual after 21 years of use, but it has led to some tests for us.

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Bolts broken off inside tractor

The remaining rusted pieces of the bolts are in the tractor and need to be removed so we can reattach the loader. Dave and our friend Matt have spent the last four days trying to get the bolts out. They drilled, then they drilled some more. I played gofer running to Rapid to at least 3 different stores trying to find replacement bolts. Still, the bolts remains in place. We are discussing what to do next; probably drilling the holes bigger and re-tapping the bolt holes for larger size bolts.

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Loader detached from Babe in the driveway

Anyway, the men have felt a bit of a time crunch to get the tractor out of the driveway because we are having a garage put in first thing this morning. We spent the weekend trying to determine how to safely move the detached loader (weight somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300lbs) so the building project could commence this morning. We were able to get it moved on Sunday morning with the help of Cowboy’s tractor and some serious stubborn-goatedness and innovation on the part of Pilot Dave. He hooked straps to the forks on Cowboy’s tractor and kept the loader from swinging using a 2×6 board. He stabilized it in place with a fence post so it should not tip over. Good job, guys!

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Then we discovered Babe would not start. Ugh…. I remember a conversation I had with my cousin Patti, who farms with her husband in Iowa. She said, “Stuff just breaks. There is always something broken but you just have to figure it out and move forward.” I get it now.

So if we couldn’t get Babe started, we were going to have to move the tractor without any power to the brakes or steering. Reef did some trouble shooting and determined it was either a battery cable or the battery and off we went on a Sunday to Hot Springs, in hope that the CarQuest Autoshop was 1, open and 2, stocking what we needed. Success on both accounts!

We returned in the 40-degree rain and Reef went to work replacing the cable and the battery. Miserable working conditions ensued, and so did the pain as Babe refused to even turn over. The rain increased and the temperature decreased and we decided to come into the house until the rain subsided. Thank God we have a warm house! Life is good inside the house on a cold rainy day, and the wood stove warmed us right up.

We discussed what to do as it was nearing 5PM, still raining and very cold, and the builders were supposed to be here at 8AM the next day. Babe was still in the driveway. The plan was to hook her up by chain to Truck Norris and drag her out…. SLOWLY…. as there was no hydraulic assist to the brakes and steering and we were going to pull her down a bit of an incline to get her out of the way.

First thing this morning, we got up and went out and chained the truck to the tractor. Mind you, I have never towed anything with a chain before, but Reef talked me through the route and the plan. He got in Babe, I got in Truck Norris and we put our cell phones on speaker so we could communicate.   A brake check, a steering check, and down the hill we went. Mission accomplished…..and we didn’t drive into the house or solar panels or off a cliff. Now we just have to get the tractor running and the loader reattached. We have work to do and it looks like another busy week ahead on Hoten Holler.

I hate to be complaining; this is a blog, not a BLERGGG….so here is the good and happy part. Spring is showing up here in the black hills. The meadowlarks have returned so we have music to work to, and the plants for the garden have begun to sprout!

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Peppers
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Cucumbers and Maters

We have gravel!

 

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Driveway Update

We went out today to do some work on the water hydrant, (a post later), and Greg our excavator, had made some major progress on our road.  Later, Todd showed up and the four of us went to the Hitch Rail in Pringle for supper, (thanks Todd).   Greg’s wife drove in from Hermosa and showed up shortly after we arrived, we had such a great time getting to know them, what a great couple!

 

 

More progress today, 5-7-16

 

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