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21 June 2019 – Sunny and forecast to be 60

Happy First Day of Summer! This is my favorite season and I am really looking forward to some warm weather and some hot working days. It feels like we skipped spring altogether because of the late May blizzard and the cool temperatures we have had in June so far.  Still, the oats are growing, the calves are growing, the weeds are growing!!!  Spring flew by!

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Happy and Fat Cows

We woke up this morning to four bull elk in our back yard.  Got to love South Dakota!

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Elk like oats for breakfast.

My sister and her son and my Mom came to visit last week.  We had fun driving the tractor, shooting guns off the deck, checking cows, and doing some touring.  We went to Keystone where my nephew got to go into a gold mine and pan for gold.  We all had ice cream and enjoyed the boardwalk. We also went to Sylvan Lake and hiked the mile around it.  My Mom did great, despite some very rocky and steep trails.

 

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Family at the Lake
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Hiking the rocks
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Needles Highway

The weather was perfect and we drove along the Needles Highway on the way home. We went to the infamous Hitchrail for a burger for supper.

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Two Iowa girls in a tractor

Of course you can’t come to the Holler without doing a little ranch labor.  We put the crew to work at building an H for a gate we’re putting in between our pasture and our neighbors.  My sister especially liked breaking rocks out of the post hole using the 30 pound spud.

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Spudding the hole

My nephew and Mom did a great job picking up rocks to fill in around the post and again, my sister enjoyed tamping the rocks back into the hole using the spud, her new best friend. I offered to let her take the spud home with her but she graciously declined.

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She left the spud here for me.

Their hard work helped us get a good start on this H.  Dave and I dug the post holes for the H on the other side this week, and today we finished the wire gate.

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The new wire gate.  Nice H’s on both sides.

Thanks for the help, family!  We’ll try to find something more fun for you to do when you come back.  Throw hay bales, maybe?  Anyway, their visit flew by!

Dave and I have been busy just keeping up with the yard and weeds, cleaning up the barn, maintaining equipment and of course, checking the cows.  Our herd is grazing on the neighbors very large pastures while we grow oats, so checking cows takes a bit more time.  We spend the early mornings driving around looking for them.  When we do finally find them, I have a list and take “roll call” so we can make sure everyone and their babies are present and accounted for.

Three days ago, we found everyone except for one of Cowboy’s girls that was STILL expecting.  After driving around another 15 minutes or so we saw some of the neighbor’s herd.  Rancher Dave shut down the Mule and I hiked down into a ravine where I heard some strange mooing.  Sure enough, there was Diamond with a brand new little heifer calf that was still steaming.  She must have just been born and she was a big bright eyed girl.

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Diamond and her baby in the ravine

I stayed to make sure she would get up and nurse while Rancher Dave went back to the Holler to call Cowboy and Linda and let them know they had a new calf on the ground.  About 15 minutes later, I heard a Mule (Cowboy and Linda have one as well) and I ran up the ravine to show them where the new baby was hidden.  I must have been 30 feet from them and I was yelling and waving my shirt over my head, but they didn’t hear me over the Diesel engine and went flying by!  Another ten minutes went by and I heard them coming back on the other end of the ravine.  I ran down to the bottom but it was pretty tree covered so again, they didn’t see me, and again they went flying by!  Finally, Rancher Dave came back and they saw his Mule and followed him to put eyes on their newest herd member. Never a dull moment out here.

Switching gears, I have been doing a lot of running and hiking to train for an upcoming bucket list trip.  My brother and I are going to hike the Grand Canyon, North Rim to South Rim, in August.  The time of year isn’t ideal, but somehow we secured reservations at the very hard-to-get dorms at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. See the link below for some fun information about the place.

Phantom Ranch

The only dates we could get were in August, so we will brave the heat and do this once in a lifetime trip. It is 24 miles of hiking so I have been trying to put in some miles. The other morning I was running on a trail near the Holler.  I heard something go flying by my head and saw it was a diving black bird.  Then it came back to reattack.  If anyone was watching me from a distance they must have thought I was having a seizure or was being possessed by some evil dancing spirit as I tried to shoo the crazy bird away from my head.  The bird followed me for about a quarter mile, swooping and attacking the whole time. I thought about picking up a handful of rocks to defend myself but eventually it left me alone.  The only thing I could think was that I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and that bird had some sort of vendetta against Sesame Street and mistook me for Big Bird. Things flying by….ha ha!

This week I also hiked to the top of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rockies in the continental US.  It was a beautiful day and a tough hike, but I wasn’t hurting too bad the next day so I feel like I’m making some progress in my training.

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Harney Peak.  You can see the lookout tower on the top which was 1700 feet up.

That’s about it for now on the Holler.  We are looking forward to cutting, raking and baling hay in the next few weeks.  The oats are getting tall and the alfalfa looks like it could bloom at any minute.

We are expecting some normal summer weather, high 80’s, in the next week and that will really make things grow.  We are about to get really busy, and I’m sure we will blink and say, “Wow, summer really is flying by!” And shortly after that, “Look at all that snow flying by!”

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The Sheriff conducting some concealed surveillance in the tall grass

 

 

Have a great summer, everybody!

 

The Lazy Days of Summer

25 August 2018 – Sunny and 86 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The (Grey) Goose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A New Ranch-hand

7 May 2018 – Sunny and 79 degrees!

We have a new hire at the Holler.  Meet the newest ranch-hand Sheriff Joe. (We call him Joey!)

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Joey!

It has been a few years since we had a dog and over 10 years since we had a puppy and we had forgotten how much fun they are.  So far, Joey has been pretty good with the potty training and he already knows sit.  “Stay” is not quite clear to him yet.  He also thinks it is pretty cool to be wide awake at 4 AM after sleeping all afternoon.  He can get away with anything now because he is so dang cute.

In other news, we completed the fence in the northern pasture.IMG_5837

We also had a big MOOOving day as we wrangled the herd from a leased neighbors pasture to another pasture to the south. Fortunately, our docile girls (and now some boys) didn’t cause any trouble and went right where they were supposed to go.

 

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Cows in the Southern Pasture after MOOOOving
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Linda, Cowboy, and Pilot Dave enjoying a Keystone after the big move.

 

The weather is just about perfect now, and the herd seems to love their new digs.  This morning, they were all hanging out all fat and happy.

This afternoon, we helped our neighbor, Ned, do some cattle round up so the vet could preg-check about 50 or so of his cows.  It was really fun, and Joey did great as well.  Dave did most of the rounding up and squeeze chute operation.  I got to use the hot-shot cattle prod to force the girls into the head gate.

 

The vet was great.  He would say, “This one’s open”  meaning not pregnant, or “This one will calve about the first week of June.”  He would say, “This one is between 120-150 days pregnant.”  And he even asked Ned if one of the cows had been a twin.  Ned didn’t know as she was not born at his ranch but was purchased elsewhere.  I was wondering how the heck the vet could tell if a cow had been a twin.  I learned that if a cow has twins and one calf  is a bull and one calf is a heifer, the heifer can end up infertile.  The term is a free-martin.  Cattle ranching really has a language all its own!

That about wraps it up for Monday.  We hope everyone out there is enjoying May so far.  We are loving it after the crazy long winter.

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Perfect South Dakota Saturday Night

 

Spring Has Sprung!

28 April 2018 – Sunny with highs in the upper 60’s

Nature has really done some showing off for us in the last eight days.  I just reread the previous blog post and it is amazing how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

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The Herd….Fat and Happy

 

Everything is greening up here like you would not believe! The days are getting longer and the weather is perfect for springtime ranch work! This week we have been cross-fencing the northern pasture.  This is always fun in South Dakota because there are really very few rocks…..ha ha ha ha ha…..actually, it is almost all rocks and pounding in T-posts and augering the holes for the H’s has been challenging.

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Team DaveX2 looking for a spot without any rocks
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Fence in progress

 

Still, the fencing team persevered and the progress is definitely noticeable.

 

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Laser straight!

 

The bees have really been venturing out of the hive, too.  There are little white flowers and other blooms popping up all over.  I am so grateful they seemed to have survived the winter in tact.  The weather is not supposed to be as warm next week, so likely I’ll open the hive and check for a queen the following week.  I wanted them to enjoy the warm days this week with little disruption.

The calves are really enjoying the spring weather, too.  They are so full of energy, bucking and kicking, and running. They are really curious about us, too, but they are obedient to their mothers’ warnings…..”Don’t get too close.”

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Dude trying to get in on Chips’ lunch from Frita

 

And just like that, April is almost gone!  May plans include more fencing, some landscaping, getting the garden up and running, and possibly some relaxation before haying season.

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Hercules is exhausted after a hard day fencing!

 

Happy Spring, everyone!

October Update

26 October 2017 – Highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the teens tonight!

Hey out there!  And HAY out there!  It has been awhile since I’ve written.  Things have been busy on the Holler and to be honest, we have been spending as much time outdoors as possible enjoying the autumn weather.  The last thing I have wanted to do is waste these beautiful days indoors on the computer, especially since winter is coming. It is coming tonight!

Pilot Dave and I have been busy doing some landscaping projects around the house, especially since he got the front of the tractor (Babe) re-rigged with hydraulic connections.  Now Babe can operate a snow plow, a grapple, and any other implement that can go on the front.

Dave has been leveling out some of the rock piles left over from construction.I have been lining the road to the future barn with rocks.  That’s what I do now, pick up rocks.  I bet you thought I was going to write “Pick up rock stars”  but that was the old me ….ha ha! Plus there are no rock stars in South Dakota. (Except for Pilot Dave, of course!)

There is always limbing and slash dragging to do.  It’s always nice when the cows come around to supervise.

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“Is any of this slash edible?”

We have been prepping for colder weather by adding some insulation to the chicken coop and wrapping tar paper around the beehive.

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Tar paper to keep the bees warmer, the top is the feeder which will come off in the next few weeks.

There is always fence to mend.  We fixed some wire on the northeastern H after what appeared to be elk broke it down. We assume it was elk because we saw two different herds for several evenings up on the hill on the opposite side of the H.  I tried to get a picture but the distance and the low-light were unfavorable for my I-Phone camera.  Here’s the best I could do.

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Elk in the evening

We also mended the northern neighbor’s fence because her cattle kept breaking out to hang out with Cowboy Dave’s cattle in our northern pasture.  It’s where all the cool calves hang out apparently.  We added some T-posts and stretched the wire so they weren’t able to escape and mingle with the calves on the wrong side of the fence.

This morning, we fixed the southern neighbor’s fence.  He had called a truck to pump out his septic system and they cut through some wire to find an easy place to approach his tank.  We were releasing the cows back out on our property and needed to ensure they didn’t wander up to his house, so in the 30 knot winds and 30 degree temperatures, Dave and I went up and stretched and spliced five wires back together. We’re getting the hang of this fencing stuff!

On the rainy/windy days this month, Dave put his carpenter skills to work and completed this awesome coatrack for the mud room.

I sewed up some carpet remnants from the build and made some throw rugs.

The last few days, we have started doing cattle chores for Cowboy Dave.  We are doing winter feeding and watering for him and Linda in exchange for some heifers.  Two days ago, we separated the calves from their moms so they could be weaned. The cow-calf separation operation was really easy by luring the moms using cow-cake.  We chased the whole herd up the pasture toward the corral. The moms came running through the corral and we closed them off in the opposite pasture.  The babies were following as quickly as they could but we shut the corral gates around them and now they are isolated from their moms.  This is important because the moms are all pregnant again and they don’t need to be nursing the calfies anymore.  They need to conserve their energy and calories for their future babies, and the calves need to get off the sauce, I mean milk.

At first the moms just went into the new pasture and started grazing, happy to be in a new place.  We filled a feeder with “creep” for the babies, which is just supplemental feed for calves, and they went right for it. One of the little heifers even jumped right into the creep feeder and we had to scare her out.  We also put a bale of oats harvested from our field into the troughs and they liked that too. (We will be putting HAY out there for the rest of the winter.)

But then, one of the moms realized there were no babies around and started BAWLING, “MOOOOOOO!  MOOOOOIIIEEEEEEEE!  MOOOOOOO! MOO! MOO!”  And then the babies started bawling.  And then all the cows and babies were bawling.  Then Cowboy Dave, Linda, Pilot Dave and I all started bawling!  Just kidding about the people, but listening to the cattle crying was very sad. But it is necessary.  We will reunite them all when the moms’ milk dries up in about 3 weeks and when the babies will lose interest.  Meanwhile, it has been quite noisy around here for the past few days!

The big news is that we have made our first cattle purchase.  We bought these three heifers and will be adding to the herd several more next year.

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#113 Black Cherry
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#114 Little Bugger
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#115 BooHHaaa

Overall, it has been a busy and successful October.  We hope everyone is doing good out there in civilization.  Dave and I are dressing up as Jolly Ranchers for Halloween this year, same costumes we wear every day!

A Working Vacation

5 September 2017 – Sunny and 39° at 6AM – Highs in the upper 60s

Our friend and Dave’s former co-worker, Andy, came to visit all the way from Pensacola for the last part of August.  We had a few other visitors at the time of his arrival, and while we set about exploring the Black Hills, Tractor Dave and Pilot Andy went to work.

They finished the fence on the southern pasture that had been put on hold due to Tractor Dave’s appendix blowing out.  They did a great job figuring out how to get the fence to go around the cul-de-sac.

Then, they set about building a woodshed so we can move our firewood out of the garage and have a place to keep it dry this winter. These guys were not messing around, and even had to do something we vowed we would never do again: rent the jackhammer.  The ground was so rocky in places it took a ton of work to get the posts set.

Seriously, what a nice wood shed!  This is a YUGE improvement from last winter where we were storing wood under tarps and forced to dig it out from underneath the snowbanks.  Plus, as the neighbor said, it is nicer than some places where people live.  I love our fancy wood shed.  Thanks, Andy and Dave!

We convinced Andy to take a few days off and did some touring of the area. We watched the eclipse, and on another day, we went to Mount Rushmore to see the Big Heads, of course.

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Obligatory Mount Rushmore Picture

 

We also spent a day in Rapid City and touring the multiple wineries of the hills.  Our favorite, surprisingly, was Stone Faces Winery, which offered a frozen peach wine slushie.

We went to Hill City one day and ate German food at the Alpine Inn on the patio. You can’t eat German food without drinking German beer.

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Cheers at the Alpine Inn in Hill City.

 

Andy also got to participate in some typical ranch work.  He helped with the cattle drive from Cowboy Dave’s to the Holler. He also added the job title of “Chicken Wrangler” to his resume.

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Cow cocktail hour at the Holler.
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Not croquet, but chicken wrangling.  Important to get the girls in their coop before going touring!

 

We went down the Red Canyon to the Hat Creek Bar and Grille in Edgemont, SD….mandatory tourism for anyone that visits the Holler.

Then it was back to work.  Dave and Andy set out to make a giant firewood box so we could fill it every 8-10 days at the woodshed, attach it to the tractor bucket, and deposit on the porch under cover.  This also is YUGE so we don’t have to walk outside in the snow to get wood for the stove in the winter. 

We had a great time with an old friend and were amazed by how much work was accomplished in a short period of time.  Beyond that, Andy felt like he needed to give us a house-warming gift which was an awesome A-Salt Rifle to kill flies. See the link below for a YouTube demo.

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Tractor Dave Preparing to Kill Flies on the Porch

 

A-Salt Rifle for Flies

Sadly, Pilot Andy had to head back to Florida.  As has been the trend for our guests this summer, after visiting the Holler they return to a hurricane.  We hope you will stay safe.  Thanks for all the work, Andy!  We hope you come back real soon, Stumbles Off Porches.  I’m sure we can find some more projects for you! Also the Hill misses you.

 

Everything is so Green!

27 May 2017 – Cloudy and highs in the upper 50’s

I haven’t posted in a long time, but as I mentioned before….Spring is for working!  We have been really busy working on a ton of spring projects.

First, we built two H’s, one on each end of the southern property line,  and put in a gate at the southeast corner.

Then we put in T-posts. 

Then we strung barbed wire using a spinning-jenny on the back of the mule. 

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Spinning-jenny on the back of the mule stringing out the barbed wire.

We clipped the wires to the T-posts and now we have a new fence.  It all sounds so easy and it really isn’t complicated, it just takes time and effort.

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1/4 mile of fence complete!

We also put a fence around the garden. We used left-over 14 gage wire from the chicken coop and t-posts from the fence project.  We found an old gate in the junk yard and the garden, railroad ties and all, has not cost a single penny.  We have potatoes and turnips and wild onions growing!

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New garden gate. (Not snow, but ashes in the garden to balance out the pH.)

The builders returned to put the final touches on the house.  Now that we have steps on the front and side porches, Dave and I did some landscaping. We also stained the steps.

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Stained steps and a lot of smoothed out dirt.

In full disclosure, it has not been all work and no play around here.  We did go to a rancher’s dinner in Edgemont, which was sponsored by a cattle-drug company representative.  We learned all about inoculating and “pouring” de-wormer on cattle to keep them healthy and make sure they reach their full growth potential. We also learned about hormonal implants which are injected into the ears of cows to help them get big and fat.  It was really interesting and of course they fed us beef!

Yesterday, Dave and I went to Hot Springs for their Wine and Putt-putt golf walk.  We paid $10 for a souvenir wine glass and strolled around the town in and out of the shops sampling wine and appetizers, and some of the shops had putt-putt golf holes that you played for prizes. It was pouring down rain the entire evening, but this is South Dakota, so the locals were undeterred and there was a nice sized crowd.  We splashed around town and had a few sips of wine, and enjoyed a fun night out after so many days working here on the Holler.

The weather has been cool and rainy. March and April were pretty mild, but May has been chilly and wet!

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Storm cloud over the house.

The payoff is the stunning green grass and wild flowers. The oats are sprouting and the field looks amazing!

The bees have been enjoying the rocky mountain irises, Indian paint brushes and the “butter and eggs” wild flowers.

Summer is coming and it is going to be beautiful! 

Hoten-Holler-Gate (Not a scandal, just a gate…sorry if you were hoping for something more outrageous)

24 July, Sunny and highs in the upper 80’s

We haven’t posted very much this week, but we’ve been busy.  You guessed it, more fences and gates!  We installed a gate on the east side of the build site to have access to the trail that crosses the stock dam.  We ran into some pretty sturdy rocks so we rented a jack hammer.  Dave really enjoyed jack hammering……for about 10 seconds.  This was hard work, but there was no way the rocks were going to get us to move the gate.  We wanted it in that spot, and that is where it is!

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Jack Hammering!

 

 

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Thanks again to Cowboy Dave for the tutelage in gate hanging.  We have to say these H’s and the gate look pretty darn good!

We also completed the entrance H’s and are waiting to hang gates until the final grading of the driveway is complete.  Again, they are some mighty fine H’s.

We have a concrete floor now and our walls have been delivered.

The cows are pretty happy up on the northern property.  They got a new Hereford bull this week to replace the renegade Red Butz that escaped a few weeks ago.  They are enjoying their new spot with lots of grass and lots of sunshine.

This weekend is “Gold Discovery Days” in Custer.  There are tons of tourists.  Dave decided to celebrate and dress up as George Armstrong Custer.  He looks just like him, don’t you think?IMG_3702

Just kidding, this isn’t Dave….it’s a local actor who we happened to run into during our daily trip to True Value Hardware to pick up more building supplies for fence and gates.  The local hardware store owners are super nice, and they like to joke with us and are always extremely helpful.  Probably because building this fence is paying for their trip to Hawaii this year.

All is well here in South Dakota, but we are realizing the summer is rapidly coming to a close.  Our plan is to finish the fencing before the end of the month and then focus on collecting fire wood for the winter.  People keep telling us it gets cold here in the winter….

Let Them Eat Cake!

Friday June 8, 2016…Sunny, breezy and low 80’s

The last two days have been perfect for working outdoors.  The low humidity and mild temperatures were exactly what we needed for stringing barbed wire and moving cows.

We started working on both Thursday and Friday at around 830 AM and Thursday we finished around 4PM and Friday around 6PM.  We were outside all day but the hours flew.  There was no looking at the clock waiting for quitting time, just moving along to the next post or the next string of wire until we were satisfied.

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Fence and H along southern side of the future house

 

Before we arrived here, I never gave much thought to the miles and miles of barbed wire fence you see when driving across America.  I have a new found appreciation after the last two days.  It is not as easy as pounding a post in the ground and tying a wire around it and stringing it down the line; fence building is not rocket science, but it helps to have someone show you the way (Thanks Cowboy Dave!) because there are many mistakes you can make.  Here are some lessons we learned:

  1. Fencing materials are expensive so you don’t want to screw up and waste your time and money.
  2. Barbed wire bites….Let go of one end or cut it without standing on both sides and you can end up with some serious dingers!
  3.  Build a strong/sturdy H with wood in the corners to make sure the wires stay rigid and the fence has stability.  The corner H’s have to line up so your fence goes in a straight line, and you have square 90 degree corners.IMG_1405

    IMG_3654
    H and Wire X’s
  4. Reinforce the H’s with wire X’s (I know there are a lot of letters, but I promise we won’t make you take a quiz or anything at the end of this post).
  5. Your fence needs to be straight, which is accomplished by pulling a wire taut, snapping it and seeing it falls in a straight line.  Then your T-posts have to go down that line, regardless of how many rocks you encounter when using the post cannon to pound them into place.
  6. Image result for fence post tools
    Post Cannon
  7. Pounding in T-posts can be easy if you are on soft soil, or impossible if you find one of the Black Hills Rocks.  Essential equipment includes a post cannon, jack-hammer bit and a sturdy sledge hammer, and a really strong hard working husband that just won’t quit until the danged post is in the danged hole!
  8. String wire from bottom to top.  Tie it off, roll it out, stretch it using a fence stretcher, secure it to the H’s, and then clip it onto the T-posts.  This is the cool part because once the wire is strung you look down your line and say, “Wow, that’s straight!”  And then you start all over for three more wires.
  9. It is imperative to sit down and drink a cold beer after working on fence all day.  IMG_1407

After finishing the fence, we went with Cowboy Dave and Linda to move their cows to the northern part of our property.  The two Dave’s also had to drain and load a water tank and place it in the new location.  They took the truck and trailer and Linda and I took the Mule.  Our responsibility was  getting the cows to follow us through the gate and over the road to the new property.

Linda grabbed two buckets of “cow cake”  which is just large pellets of alfalfa and molasses and said we could easily lure them across with this.  We went up to the pasture and Linda got out and started shaking the buckets and yelling, “Come on ladies, it’s MOOOOOOving day!”  Sure enough, here came the cows, all of them came running at us looking for an early evening snack.  We hopped in the mule and the cows followed us.  It felt like we were on a float in a parade, tossing goodies to the crowd and the cows came right along picking up the cakes behind us until……

THEY GOT GREEDY!!! Our peaceful little parade float turned into the jeep scene from Jurassic Park with the T-Rex following.  Those hungry hungry heifers were running beside and behind us sticking their big old heads right in the cab trying to grab the cake.  One cow, Rosie, ran in front of us and kicked her back legs at the Mule, turned and mooed, “GIVE ME MORE CAKE!!!” (I may be embellishing a bit, it wasn’t quite that dramatic but it sure was fun and exciting for me!)IMG_1448  Linda was super-cool and laid back, and she just kept driving along until we got the cows to the new location. Their little bovine brains were easily distracted from the cake by all the new tall, fresh green grass available.  The men followed up with moving the big water tank, leveling it, and making sure the ladies were happy in their new digs.

We all rode back to the High Lonesome for some refreshments, and Linda made us the best burritos we may have ever eaten.  She shredded chicken and topped it with onions and peppers from her garden, baked them with cheese and then covered them with her homemade salsa and fresh cilantro.  One day we will have a house and we will cook for them, but I have to admit I’m a little intimidated after this awesome meal!

We left the High Lonesome Ranch around 9PM and headed past the Hoten Holler Homestead in the twilight.  It was too dark to see our work but we knew those fences were out there and those cows were probably happily laying down in that thick grass up on the northern property.  We were tired but full of burritos and satisfaction in another great South Dakota Day!

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J.C. Brae

Country Music Artist

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Finding joy in red dirt, rusted hinges, and wide open spaces

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