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September Scramble

12 October 2020 – Sunny and 60

There is always pressure this time of year when the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler.  Winter is coming.  We are preparing.

We finished the loafing shed for the spoiled cows with the exception of one corner because we ran out of trim.  This was not a planning error, but rather a change in plans as we decided to add the silver trim to the front too.  

 

Because we live in the country and far away from most convenient things, we had to place another order for trim with a company in Rapid City.  We should be able to pick it up and completely finish the shed this week. We’re calling it the Hidden Cow Palace because it cannot be seen from the road. And it’s for cows.  And it’s kind of a palace.

Dave and I have stayed busy gathering and splitting and stacking firewood. Stacking firewood in the woodshed is the spookiest of Halloween-time jobs.  There are all sorts of critters in there.  There are millions and billions of spiders and webs.  I’m sure there are some snakes living under the pallets. Something rodent-like has several furry nests buried in between the sticks.  When we started stacking the wood a bat flew out and nearly hit me in the head! I guess it is the season to get creeped out…..yuck! 

We have had such dry weather that there is nothing left in the pastures for the cows to graze, so we actually have been feeding hay for a couple weeks.  We try to plan for 180 days of feed because it’s likely that we can have a blizzard in May so Nov-May is the feeding season.  This year we’re feeding in September so it’s possible we will have to buy even more hay. That’s okay though.  There are several ranchers that aren’t too far away that had much better hay seasons than we did and we are always happy to do business with other ranchers.

Dave and I goofed off one day this month. (Actually we goofed off every day, but we designated one specific day to goofing off.) We went to the Buffalo Round-up Art Show at Custer State Park.  The Round-up is quite spectacular but we have done that before and the traffic is horrific, especially when we’re used to zero traffic.  We beat the crowds from the round-up and went to the art show.  Then we met up with our favorite Fish-n-Chips food truck that swings through Custer every few months.  You know they’re good when the line goes all the way down the block.

And that wraps up September.  Wait until you see how exciting October has been so far in the next blog!

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

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.

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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.

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Salmon on the grill

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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The area we were gathering wood in the snow

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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.

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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!

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View from the water tank in the morning

 

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