Hoten Holler!



Superbowl Monday

3 Feb 2020 – Snowing, Blowing and 15 degrees

Oh, January….where have you gone?  And why did you take all the warm days with you?  January lulled us to sleep and February snuck up behind us and smacked us in the head.  It is a real blizzard out there right now, but I guess that is to be expected here in the Dakotas.

Hunny leads the herd into the cafeteria.  Bon Appetite, ladies!

We had been taking advantage of the warm January days, having coffee on the deck in the mornings, grilling out in the evenings. Even though we have been sitting outside in the sun, it has been cool enough to keep a stocking cap and winter coat on, but we were outside nonetheless.

IMG_7828 (1)
Salmon on the grill
Dave enjoying coffee in the morning on the deck

We couldn’t sit still too long, though.  We went out several days to stock up on our firewood stores, and it looks like we did just in time.

Woodshed loaded once more

One particular day we were cutting wood from a slash-pile in the National Forest, and the Sheriff was poking his nose in every hole he could find. Eventually, I called him and told him to quit being so nosy.  He came running over with a few porcupine quills in his nose.  He had found the dead critter and decided it would make a good snack, quills and all.  Fortunately, Dave was able to pull them out pretty quickly.  Sheriff Joe is such a tough dog; I don’t think he understands pain.  He never yelps or cries and he just sat there as Dave pulled the barbs out of his snout.  Then he ran right back to the porcupine carcass and had to get scolded to leave it alone.  Silly mutt.

Sheriff Joe in the back seat…..slash pile in the background

The cows have been loving the warm weather.  We are planning ahead for the summer and trying to line up a bull to rent for July through September.  We sold our bull in the fall because we kept some of his heifers and we don’t want any inbreeding. We have been talking to a rancher just across the border in Wyoming about leasing a pure red angus bull that will be small enough to service our heifers and big enough to take care of our older girls as well. We invited him to come see the herd and make sure everyone looked healthy and that our facilities would be good for his bull.  We will take a trip in the next week or so to look at his bulls and maybe pick out who will be a good fit for our ladies.  These arranged marriages are a lot of work!  Anyway, he liked our place and it looks like we will be able to work something out for the summer.

Two heifers at the lick and two lazy cows in the front.  All enjoying a warm January day.

It is amazing how much we have learned about cattle in the last few years.  It is also amazing how much we have discovered that we still have to learn.  One thing of interest is that you have to be pretty careful selecting a bull.  Just like people, bulls can get venereal disease and you have to have them tested before you put them in with your herd.  One bull is typically expected to service about 25 cows in a season, so I guess the V.D. isn’t too hard to understand.  The other thing you test them for is fertility.  That sounds like an interesting job, right? No thanks.  Well they go to the vet for that test and the vet tells the rancher what percentage of success (breeding) they can predict from the bull as a percentage.  For example, they will give a result like the bull is 82% fertile.  Other factors to consider are the size of the calves that the bull has historically produced.  If you are breeding a bull that throws large calves to smaller cows, you can expect some birthing trouble.  Another thing to think about is genetic traits, including general health, disposition, horns, and conformation.  It is a lot to take in, but ideally the more research we do the better the outcome for our herd in calving season. The bull we are looking at is a young virgin bull, so some of the factors like calf size will be unknown.  Again, we still have a lot to learn.

Could this be a future match?

Meanwhile, we will take a big blizzardy snow day to stay indoors and catch up on some of that research, write a blog, do some tax preparation and maybe just read a good book.  This morning, the cattle are fed and the ice is broken on the stock tanks so they can get a drink.  The wood stove is burning and we will probably hide away inside until it is time for evening chores.  Thanks for reading….we hope everyone out there in the real world is enjoying the roaring 20s so far.  I know we are!

Nobody misses a meal at the Holler.


Sun and Wind

19 Jan 2020 – Sunny and 41 degrees

Wow it is windy out there today! Sometimes we wonder if we should have went with windmills instead of solar power, but the sun is shining too so we’ve got that going for us. We have been working in the barn framing up some stalls.  Actually, Dave has been doing the planning, framing, and building and I am more like the assistant, getting him tools from time to time, holding the dumb end of the tape measure, starting the generator for the power tools, keeping the dog from chasing the cat.  Maybe I was doing a little bit of work, too.

Corner of one barn stall

We also painted and put up some boards in our corral.  We have been using the movable cattle panels, but we are always trying to get a more permanent structure in place and that all takes time and money.  We started with these two sections, and when the weather warms up and we get back into summer working shape we will dig more holes, put in more posts, and string some more boards.  Our goal is to get the corral to be functional without having to move panels any time we change things.

This winter has been incredibly mild.  I’m almost scared to write that since we have quite a few months of winter in front of us, but wow, we have been in the high 30s and low 40s a lot more than we were the first two winters out here. We probably would have really appreciated this when we were in the camper, but we’ll take it  now. The forecast even has us in the high 40s for the next ten days so we plan on breaking out our shorts and flip-flops.  The cows are loving it, too, and have only come into the barn to sleep once or twice. They also have been discussing shorts, flip-flops and even Hawaiian shirts.

Lucky enjoying her breakfast in the sunshine

Life is just a little easier when it isn’t completely frigid.  It is still pretty cold in the mornings and we usually have to break ice on the water tanks, but the ice isn’t that thick and it doesn’t take us that long. Instead we get to spend more chore time walking around the herd and making sure everyone is looking okay. This has made all the cows terrible pests. We cannot walk up to any of them without them running toward us and sniffing at all of our pockets to see if we might have some cake.  If we don’t give out cake, then they usually give an indignant snort and blow cow-boogers all over us, and then turn and walk away.  They are spoiled, fat, and happy I hope.

The Dirty Dozen chowin’ down

We have also been gathering some firewood.  Even though the temperatures have been nice, there is still a bit of snow on the ground, especially in the wooded areas and that makes getting the wood a little harder.  Especially walking back and forth to the splitter in the snow.  I think the Olympics should really consider wood-gathering as a new sport.  The object would be to fill the trailer with wood that you cut, split and load in the least amount of time. Dave and I would most likely NOT qualify for the team, but we would be willing to let any contestants do their trial runs out here and fill the woodshed in the process. It’s gotta be more entertaining than the luge, right?  (Sorry any readers that are lugers…..I doubt there are any of you reading anyway.)

The area we were gathering wood in the snow
Most used trailer in South Dakota

The only critter out here that isn’t loving the warm weather is the Sheriff.  Joey can never get enough snow.  When we go out in the morning, his nose goes to the ground, then he bends down walking while rubbing his face across the snow.  The next two steps have him sliding on his side down the driveway and then he just lies on his back in the snow until we make him get up. It’s a bonus if he has a bone or a string to chew on, he would stay there all day.

Joey’s version of a relaxing morning

That’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a pleasant winter too, and if not, remember there are only two more full moons before spring!

View from the water tank in the morning


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