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Fall Harvest

19 September 2019 – sunny and 75

Autumn harvest season has arrived.  We have been busy on the Holler putting things up.  First we put up the hay.

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A barn full of square bales.  It’s the cow’s version of the Golden Corral.

Then we had about a million cucumbers so we put up pickles.

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One of many batches of pickles in process

The bees really went to town this summer and we have been spending several days harvesting and putting up honey.

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South Dakota Liquid Gold

Now, it is starting to get a little cold in the evenings, but the tomatoes are coming in like crazy.  Every day for the last week I have picked about 15 tomatoes, and it looks like there will be at least 3-4 more days of picking that many.

Dave and I made salsa.

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Super Fresh Salsa

We canned and put up more tomatoes. After finally getting the tomatoes canned I found the most amazing thing on the counter in the spot where they had all been sitting.  Counter space!  I hardly recognized my own kitchen.

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Endless tomatoes

Nothing tastes better than a late summer tomato.  We have been eating so many tomato sandwiches it’s kind of getting old.

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A change up to the mater sandwich….Caprese salad and a glass of Franzia!

Dave has given me a new nick-name:  The Mater Queen of So. Dak.  I think this enormous tomato would have won a prize at the state fair, so I’ll embrace the new title.

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That tomato is almost as big as that cow!

We have done so much canning this year that we decided if we get snowed in this winter we will probably not bother plowing out.  Instead we will stay in and eat pickles, tomatoes and honey.

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We’re starting our own grocery store.

We have also been gathering firewood.  Here is the pile that we will split and stack that we hope will keep us warm for a few nights…ha ha.

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Trailer full of wood
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This looks like a cool fall day project

Another fall task has been putting up the haying equipment for the winter.  Dave and I spent quite a bit of time reorganizing the barn lot and Dave did a lot of greasing and maintaining on the mower, baler, rake etc.  We think the barnyard cleaned up pretty nice.

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All the equipment in a neat little row

And finally, we have been entertained mornings and evenings with tons of elk.  In past years, we have heard and seen a few herds, especially in the fall rut.  This year, the elk have decided that our south pasture is the best new nightclub in South Dakota.  Nearly every evening, right around sundown, the bugling begins.  In the low light, you can only make out the giant forms of the herd in the distance, but you can hear them bugle and snort.  It continues late into the wee hours of the morning and tapers off around 3AM.  Then, right before sunup, the bugling begins again and we get a good look at the herd.

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Evenings at the South Pasture Nightclub
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Elk

We also get a good look at whatever damage they have done to our trees.

I wonder who was responsible for the death of these trees?

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Game-cam images
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He’s a big bull, and it looks like he’s been fighting because one of his antlers is broken.

This morning, there were about 25 cows and at least one big bull shutting down the south pasture night club.  They decided to head east and jump the barbed wire fence.  As they ran it sounded like a herd of horses running, except the rhythm of their hoof-falls was a little different than horses. How can I explain this in writing?  I’ll try by explaining that running horses sound like the beat of the William Tell Overture or the Lone Ranger theme song.

“Da da DAA da da DAA da da DAA dum dum”

The elk sound more like a car on a bumpy road.

“Ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca…..”

Okay, if you read that out loud you may  get the idea.  I wouldn’t recommend reading it out loud if you’re at work or somewhere in public.  You might get some strange looks. Back to this morning, we saw the elk start running east and heard their trampling feet:

Ducca ducca ducca ducca ducca…..

One by one they began to jump the barbed wire fence and then we heard:

Ducca ducca ducca ducca TWANG!!!!!

Dave and I looked at each other over our coffee cups and he said, “I guess we’ll be fixing fence today.”  Never a dull moment out here on the Holler

That’s about it for this time.  We are working outside today, enjoying the unusually warm autumn weather. We are hoping for a long, mild autumn, but in reality we could be less than 1 week from the first snow flying.  We better get out there and split that firewood!

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How is your September?  Hmmmmm?

 

Squirrels and Turkey and Elk – Oh My!

30 August 2019 – raining and 47 degrees

Yep, it’s raining again so I am taking advantage of the weather and blogging this morning.  We have mostly caught up on haying.  We spent yesterday finishing a couple areas that are difficult to maneuver the tractor in and trying a second cutting in some lush areas in the south pasture.

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Mowing the stock dam

Overall, we had a stellar haying season, putting up well over 1500 bales.  When it stops raining and we bale the stock dam and the second cutting we will be DONE and Dave and I have vowed that we will do something to celebrate.  We will probably just go to the local bar in Pringle (The Hitch Rail) and have a burger and a beer, but it will be a celebratory supper nonetheless.

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Mowing in the clover
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Lots of bales

We were fortunate to have some help for a week this month.  Dave’s good friend from the Coast Guard, Mike, came to visit and “experience” ranch life.  He got to check and water cows, put fence posts in the ground, jackhammer some rocks, drive the tractor, cut and haul slash, and of course he got to rake, bale, and load hay into the barn.

Mike said it was so fun for him, like going to a Dude Ranch and that he really enjoyed the work.  We said, “Tell all your friends about haying season next year!”  Ha ha.  Anyway, we were extremely grateful for the help and we accomplished a lot while he was here.

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Thanks, Mike!  We hope you come back!

And it wasn’t a complete working vacation for him.  Dave took him through Custer State Park where they got stuck in “buffalo” traffic.  They toured the Needles Highway and went to some brew pubs in Custer.  Most evenings we drank wine and fired some rounds off the back deck.  One evening, while we were eating dinner, a herd of about 30 elk decided they would go to the oat buffet in the southern field.  As the sun set, we enjoyed watching these magnificent creatures and listened to their haunting bugles and elk noises.  It was a great South Dakota experience.

Of course, we saw tons of deer and turkeys enjoying the Holler while Mike was here, too. When you come to the Holler,  you’re going to experience some wild life! Not that we’re that wild, usually we are in bed by 9PM.  Sad.

Yesterday, while checking cows, Sheriff Joe decided to leap out of the Mule and pursue an offending jack rabbit.  The jack was huge and the Sheriff didn’t stand a chance as the rabbit shifted into high gear and ran east, possibly all the way to East River. (That’s South Dakota speak for east of the Missouri)  Upon returning from checking cows, I was working in the garden and nearly stepped on a snake!  Yikes!  Later, Dave and I were putting fence posts in the ground and we heard a strange pounding noise coming from the direction of the house.  The Sheriff and I went up to investigate and discovered a squirrel had fallen into one of our rain barrels.  The little guy was throwing himself against the sides in an attempt to escape.  I distracted the Sheriff by throwing a stick which completely worked.  In his absence, I tipped the barrel over and the squirrel ran out and up the nearest tree.  He then began angrily chatting at me, as if it was my fault he had been stuck. Ungrateful rodent.

In between all the crazy projects, we have put up more pickles.  Three cucumber plants yielded 25 jars of pickles this year, and that doesn’t include the cucumbers we have been eating in salads and giving away to neighbors.  Now the peppers and tomatoes are starting to come in so we also canned some of Dave’s famous corn relish.

The last two days we have also harvested honey from the bees.  There were three medium boxes full of capped honey and we harvested two full ones and left part of the third for the bees to ensure they have enough honey to make it through the winter.

We haven’t figured out how much we will actually get to bottle yet, because it takes awhile for the sticky stuff to run through the filter and get out all the wax and bee parts.  So far, it looks a lot like last year’s honey and the basement smells like flowers!  It is also a giant sticky mess which we will probably tackle today if it keeps raining.

One last thing, I forgot to write about in July.  Dave and I were having coffee one morning and we heard what sounded like a tornado, or giant gust of wind off the west deck.  We quickly discovered that a giant hot air balloon was about to land in our back yard!  We watched the beautiful balloon go down in a field just across the road.  I ran to get the Mule so we could see if they were okay, and Dave yelled to the pilot, “Are you okay?”  He yelled back that everyone was good.  We drove down and discovered they had taken off from Custer and were surprised by 30 knot winds that took them on a wild ride a lot further than they intended to go.

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Never a dull moment on the Holler

Despite the velocity and the distance, the balloon crew arrived in vans almost immediately and picked up the passengers and the pilot.  They packed up the balloon and they were gone, nearly as quickly as they had arrived.  Of course we didn’t let them leave without asking if they wanted to pick up hay bales.  Maybe that’s why they left so quickly.

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Balloon Landing
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The chase crew arrives – notice the square hay bales just begging to be picked up across the road!

Well that is it for August.  It definitely is starting to look and feel like autumn.  September promises to be just as busy for us as we continue the paddock fencing project and we will have to separate and wean calves from their moms. We haven’t even begun to gather firewood for the winter.  It’s all good but it is all going so fast!  Happy Labor Day Weekend, everybody.  We hope summer 2019 was as fun for you as it was for us.

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It stopped raining.  Time to get back to work!

 

Lots to Do and Not A Lot of Spring Left to Do It

9 June 2019 – Sunny and forecast to be 65 (but it was 33 this morning!)

It has really greened up on the Holler since my last post.

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Looking at the house from the South Pasture.  The oats are really green and about one beer can high.

The calfies are getting BIG!  Especially the ones that were born in early April.

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The big calves, and in the front with the white face is Moonshine aka Shiner.  He was the one that was so sick and we thought might not make it, but he is a tough guy now!

And here is the newest edition to the herd.  Smudge had a cute little bull and Linda is calling him June Bug.

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JuneBug and Mama-Smudge giving me a look that says, “Not too close!”

Our calves are spread too far out in age to hold a single roundup, so we elected to drive the first 10 to the vet for branding, castrations and inoculations.  We had already moved the herd to the pasture we call the “Hide Out”  so we had to drive them back to the High Lonesome where we have the ability to separate and load the calves.

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Moms outside the corral and babies inside ready to be loaded up for the vet.

Our herd is pretty gentle and we really didn’t have much trouble doing this.  Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave took the babies to the vet and Linda and I stayed behind listening to the Mamas pitch a fit for about 3 hours.  They did NOT want to lose track of their babies.

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There goes the trailer full of calves.

The vets did a great job, and the two Daves did the branding.

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Shiner in the calf table
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Rancher Dave giving Andie a brand

They all reunited later that afternoon as Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave drove the trailer of babies back to the hideout.  The moms heard their babies mooing and ran after the trailer back into that pasture.

Other than moving cows around too many times, we have been busy working on farm equipment and keeping up with the landscaping.  At the last post we had nearly a foot of snow, but here we are the 2nd week of June and we have already mowed the lawn twice in one week!

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Trying to get the mower guides in line so we can get the blade back in it.

The garden is planted (VERY LATE) and we are hoping that there is still season enough left to get some good tomatoes and peppers.  It’s pretty cool still, so the lettuce seems to be doing the best so far.  I’ve also got some flowers going in this cool planter Dave built for me.

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I love yellow flowers around the red barn.  Cyclone colors!

The bees don’t seem to be thriving like they were at this time last year.  There are plenty of wildflowers for them to visit, but when I opened the hive, there were just not that many bees in there.  I don’t hold high hopes for a lot of honey this year, but the things I don’t know about bees could fill up the Grand Canyon.

And so it goes, the spring is almost gone and we will be cutting oats in the very near future.  Then we will be baling and stacking hay.  By the way, we got the hay loft in the barn completed.

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Hay loft complete.  The idea is to drive the tractor up to it with a pallet of hay for stacking.  We still need a staircase, though!

And before I go, I wanted to write a blog on D-Day, but we were busy and it didn’t get done.  Let me just say how grateful I am to be an American and for my freedom.  Thank you to all the veterans, and especially to those brave men that stormed Normandy 75 years ago.  The only thing we can say is Thank You.

flag of u s a standing near tomb

 

Garden Goodies

7 September 2018 – Sunny and highs in the low 80’s

I bet all you people down south have already harvested your tomatoes, but up here where the growing season is SHORT, the tomatoes are just coming in.  I’m super excited, nothing tastes better than a tomato on Dave’s homemade artisan bread with some Duke’s mayo.

The garden was pretty productive this summer.  We did get some sugar snap peas, which I froze and have been using in stir-fry and salads.

We got around 20-25lbs of potatoes.  This is Friday, so tonight we will have the traditional “Death-Row Dinner” which will consist of a rib-eye, a fresh baked potato from the garden and a salad.  Don’t forget the Franzia!

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Counter full of taters

We had 3 cucumber plants and harvested enough to make 14 jars of pickles.

 

In between the haying, picking up rocks, and fence building, two of my neighbors were picking fruit from their trees.  Linda had two choke-cherry trees full of beautiful, dark red cherries.  We picked them and she taught me to make jelly.

Sheri brought over two giant buckets of crab-apples.  Using my newly acquired, mad, jelly making skills, I attempted to make crab-apple jelly too.  It didn’t turn out as good as the choke-cherry jelly, but it is still pretty good.

We have some butternut squash coming in now, too.

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Anyone for squash?

We have been eating quite a few poblano peppers in chilie rellenos, enchiladas, soups, etc.  We also have harvested a ton of jalapenos.

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Delicious peppers

And I have enough onions to make the whole state of South Dakota cry.  Now if the dang maters would just ripen up we could can some salsa.  Last year we ate all the salsa we made (and what we didn’t give away) until we ran out in March.  Then it was back to the store-bought stuff which just isn’t as fun.

The other cool thing about the end of gardening season is sharing with neighbors.  Linda is picking more corn than they can eat so we are reaping the benefits of that in exchange for some cucumbers and honey.  Sheri has been supplying us with zuchini and squash, also in exchange for honey.  Every time someone pulls into the driveway it is like a special visit from the farmer’s market.  Keep your Blue Apron and Hello Fresh delivery services….we’ll take the South Dakota food share program!

That’s it for the harvest news.  We also had some fun catching the bull and sending him to Sheri’s to take care of her ladies. Rancher Dave, Cowboy Dave and I loaded up some cattle panels in the trailer, went to the pasture and set them up in a circle with an opening on one side leading into the trailer.  We herded the girls and the bull into the circle and started leading the ladies out with cake.  The bull finally figured out that he was the only one left in the circle and he got a little upset.  Rancher Dave was not afraid and told him to get his big bull butt in the trailer, so he did.

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Rancher Dave directs Koozy, the bull, into the trailer as Cowboy monitors the situation.

Then the two Dave’s took Koozy, the bull, off to the neighbors to meet some new girls.  We are hoping he got all of our girls pregnant and if so, we should be expecting 14 calves from the herd in April and May.  (Seven of ours and seven of Cowboy’s and Linda’s.)  So if anyone wants to visit in the spring, be prepared for some sleepless nights!  And if the bull didn’t do his job completely, he will come back to the herd in October and have a chance to “clean-up”.  (That is a real rancher term, I’m not being silly.)  If he gets anyone pregnant in October that will mean July calves, which aren’t ideal because you have to feed them part of the winter. Still, it is better than having open cows.  Oh, the things I’ve learned in two years!

One final note about the barn cats.  They are doing great.

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Maverick (left) and Goose (right) hanging out in the barn.

Neither of them has ventured too far from the barn, even though I leave the door open for them all day.  They are afraid of Sheriff Joe, and haven’t figured out that if they just give him one or two good swats he will likely let them be.  Still, they are happy to see us every morning and any time we are in the barn.  If you sit down, Goose will immediately jump in your lap and start purring.  Maverick is a little stand-offish, but if you bring treats he warms right up.  I haven’t seen any signs of mice either, so cheers to the kitties.

The days are getting shorter and the nights are a little cooler.  We are loving the change of seasons and feel much more ready for winter than we did last year.  But, if summer wants to hang on for just a little longer, we’d be okay with that!

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Triple Sticks, the heifer, in the North pasture….she’s been eating!

 

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!

Last Weekend of the Summer

17 September 2017 – Sunny and currently 32°F at 7AM – High of 67 forecast today

What the heck happened to the summer?  As all good times, it went way too fast. Here we are looking at autumn and prepping for snow. So long, summer! We have come a long way since last year, and an especially long way from two years ago.

This year I have a lot less apprehension about winter. Last year in the camper was pretty tough but this year we have a warm house, a wood stove and a wood shed full of wood.  I feel like we are much better prepared, and actually even a little excited for the change of seasons.

We have been busy, not only getting firewood, but winterizing the garden.  Overall, the garden did pretty well for us, yielding a ton of tomatoes, jalapenos, and cucumbers.  The corn and the potatoes were total busts.  Mother Nature must be telling us to cut out the carbs.  Anyway, here are some of the ways we have been trying to put up tomatoes.

Yesterday, we knew it was going to be near freezing so we pulled out all the remaining plants.  There were tons of green tomatoes but they all got tossed over the fence for the cows.  It only took a short amount of time before Mar-Z, a huge hippopotamus looking cow, came looking for food and ate all of the tomatoes she could find.

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Mar-Z found the Mater Plants
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Picking off the tomatoes

We have been composting food scraps and chicken waste and will dump that in the garden over the winter, hoping that the soil will do even better next year.

Dave has been working on a coat rack/shelf for the mudroom.

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Installing wood dowels to connect the boards

 

I have been avoiding the bees, trying not to disturb them as they are getting ready for winter.  I will open the hive one more time and treat them for Varroa Mites.  In November, I will probably wrap their hive in tarpaper and put on a hive top feeder with sugar water just to help them if they need more food. 

The chickens seem pretty happy with the cooler temperatures.  All of the Islanders are laying eggs and we get three nearly every day.  One of those poor girls is laying gigantic ostrich size eggs that usually have two yolks.  This one was so big I couldn’t even close the egg carton! 

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Big egg in the middle next to two regular sized eggs

 

Fresh eggs are the best.  I don’t know if we could ever go back to store-bought eggs.  Meanwhile, the Freeloading Faveroles still haven’t produced a single egg. 

Tractor Dave and I are slowly tackling our list of things to complete before winter.  We are enjoying the cooler temps, the blue skies, the yellow aspens, and the wild turkeys that wander through the yard.  It is quiet and peaceful here and life is good on the Holler. 

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Typical September Day

 

 

Chicken Reality TV in HD

5 August 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 70s

Last year while we were in the camper, we were without cable TV or a satellite dish.  After giving up television for several months, it seemed quite pointless to start paying for TV shows again.  Consequently, we have been binging on Amazon and Netflix series for nighttime entertainment.  The early evenings, however, belong to back porch, the sunsets, and the chickens.

Dave and I will often go down to sit by the garden in the early evening.  Another really cool thing about the Black Hills is we don’t have any mosquitos.  (Well, maybe I have seen one mosquito in a year, but it clearly took a wrong turn heading for Minnesota.) It makes sitting outside in the summer evenings really pleasant.  We usually let the chickens out of their run to free range and scratch around in the yard.  They are really funny to watch.

Our chickens were bought in two distinct groups.  One group was “The Islanders” which are big white beautiful leghorn chickens, dubbed Ginger, MaryAnn, and Lovey.  The leghorns are the supermodels of the chicken world; tall, long legged and elegant. They strut around like they own the place.

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Ginger – Evil Chicken

 

 Then came “Charlie’s Angels” which are the stubby little fat faverole chickens, dubbed Sabrina, Smithy, and Farrah Fawcett.  You may recall Sabrina became a hawk’s dinner, but the remaining faveroles have found their own places within the chicken society here on Hoten Holler.  They are the stubby, short and they waddle around like overweight Walmart customers in the cookie aisle.

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Smithy the Faverole

 

The queen chicken is definitely Ginger – a leghorn.  She has worked her way to the top of the pecking order of all the other chickens and has been laying an egg daily. 

We believe Ginger is organizing a coup (no pun intended) to overthrow us and become not only the queen of the chickens, but the queen of Stagecoach Springs.  She will run up to us as soon as we open the coop and get right between our feet.  If there is any delay in dropping a grape, raisin, or other chicken-worthy treat, she will peck our feet or the back of our knees.  I threatened to make a chicken-football out of her for pecking at me.  I shuffled my feet at her in a kicking motion thinking she would get spooked and fly off, but instead she bowed up to me swinging her head and neck in a circle.  She was clucking at me, “Oh No You Di-int!!!” She’s an evil chicken, but I still love her.

At the other end of the pecking order is Farrah Fawcett.  We should have named her President Martin Van Buren.

She is always getting pecked at and run around by the other girls.  She is the complete opposite of Ginger and if you even blink at her she squawks and shuffles away as fast as she can on her stumpy little legs.  She is a sweet chicken and I love her.

The other girls provide equal entertainment.  I found a giant tomato worm in the garden and I threw it to the girls to eat.

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A tomato worm for your nightmares….eek!

MaryAnn grabbed it and ran all over the yard and the other chickens chased her to see what she may have found.  She finally stopped to peck and eat that worm and they all descended on it.  It was like watching a violent and gory episode of Game of Thrones.  Poor tomato worm!

Anyway, that is how we spend our free time without cable TV….Chicken Reality Television in HD is definitely more fun to watch than the news.

 

 

 

 

A Northerly Wind

3 August 2017 – Sunny and 44° at 6AM – highs in the mid 60’s
Hey all you Florida people out there….how is the summer treating you?IMG_4003
Bwahahahahaha…..In case you didn’t remember, this winter while you were enjoying the warm temps of the sunshine state, we were freezing in a camper. Well, I really hope it isn’t too hot and miserable down there, after all it is only August and there is a lot of summer left. Hee hee….just getting my digs in while I still can. But it is REALLY nice here, perfect weather for working outside and while it is in the 40’s this AM, it doesn’t feel that cold because of the low humidity. Dave and I had coffee on the porch in our PJs. The cool weather is a nice break as we had a couple of hot weeks in July. The bees were so warm they had to come out on the porch and crab about the weather just to cool off.

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Bees cooling off on their porch on a hot July day

Thanks to the warm temps, the tomatoes are starting to ripen. We enjoyed a classic BLT with the L and the T from the garden. Everything else was from Lynn’s Dakotamart.

 

We even have raspberries starting to turn now.

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Berries!!

The corn is nearly chest-high. It has pink hair. Punk rock corn.

 

We have been busy putting up a second cutting of hay, working on some landscaping projects around here, and doing our level best to stay out of trouble. The month of August will be full of visitors here at the Holler. Dave’s sister and her husband will be here for a week, followed shortly by a visit from my cousins and a good friend of Dave’s for the eclipse. We aren’t in the “Path of Totality” but we are pretty close.

 

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We are located in the SW corner of South Dakota, just North of the Nebraska panhandle, not too far North of the Path of Totality

We hope it won’t be cloudy for the eclipse party, but even if it is, the Keystones will be cold and the company will be good. Hope all is well out there in the real world, and not too terribly hot and humid, especially in Florida. Ha ha ha!

 

And Then There Were Five

19 July 2017 – Sunny and high of 95°F

Dave is feeling really good and almost 100% himself.  Thanks to everyone for the phone calls and emails, we appreciate it.  It’s difficult for him to stay in low gear but he still needs to take it easy for 3 more weeks so his internal stitches don’t come apart.  They will dissolve on their own, but meanwhile he isn’t supposed to lift anything heavy or do anything too strenuous.  We have been keeping busy with typical household chores, some gardening and light yardwork.

Our neighbor, Shari, had to work on Monday evening.  It has been really hot so she asked us if we could make sure her cows had enough water between 7PM and 8PM.  We were happy to do this, although we went over to her pasture around 6:30 thinking this wouldn’t affect the cow schedule.  The stock tanks were nearly full so we proceeded to top them off with the hose. 

At 7PM on the dot, her cows came running from the eastern pasture, through the underpass of the road, and right up to the stock tanks.  They pushed and shoved each other to get a good spot at the bar and in about ten minutes both tanks were nearly empty.  So, we stood there with the hose and tried to keep up with the water demand from the thirsty girls! 

At about 7:45 we had refilled both tanks and the cows had their fill and wandered back through the underpass and off into the other pasture.  We got in the truck and drove home.

When we pulled into our drive, Dave looked down the hill at the back yard and said, “What is that?!?”

There was an enormous hawk, really about the size of a standard laundry basket, hunched over beside the garden on top of a huge pile of black and gold feathers.  The hawk was eating our chicken, Sabrina.  Dave ran for the gun and I ran to see if she was still alive.  The hawk flew off and Sabrina was dead.  It looked like he got her just before we got home.  From all I’ve read the merciful thing is a hawk will kill its prey pretty quickly.

I looked in the coop and there were no chickens.  Dave and I proceeded to search and he found Farrah Fawcett under a small tree not far from the murder scene.  I found the four other chickens in a bush about 30 yards away on the other side of the fence.  They were terrified and I thought they were all dead because they wouldn’t move until I picked them up and set them on their feet.  They all ran back to the coop and up into their house. 

Dave and I are kicking ourselves because we knew the risks of free-ranging here in the country.  We just got cocky and we left them out while we were not here. Nearly everyone we know that has kept chickens has lost a few to predators, even those that keep theirs cooped up have lost a bird or two.  The poor chickens really are defenseless to hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, etc.

The best solution we could come up with is to move the coop closer to some trees for more cover and to only let them free range when we are close by.

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New location under trees
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Five Remaining Girls

Regarding the hawk, neighbors and family both say, “He will be back!” In fact, he was sitting next to the garden the next morning but flew off as soon as we opened the back door.  I guess he thinks we are KFC or something now.  He’s welcome to come back.  We are ready for him this time.

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HAWKS WELCOME HERE!!

 

On a lighter note, the garden is doing great.  We have been eating and giving away lettuce and spinach.  The turnips are delicious and we already have harvested a few banana peppers.

The potatoes looked pretty good but the yield was, well, small potatoes.  Each plant had a maximum of ONE potato, and some had none.  Plant a potato, get one potato?  Hmmmm….

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Small Potato Yield…..We should have just bought a bag at the store!

 

The tomatoes are looking good so far, but you never know if they will get bugs or rot.  We’re hoping for a bumper crop to make salsa, tomato sauce, and of course BLTs!

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Large but unripe tomato

 

The beets, corn, and cucumbers don’t look too bad either.

We will do some planting of more potatoes in the next few weeks, as well as some lettuce, spinach, and turnips in hopes of a late fall harvest.

That’s all on this end for now.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying the summer and keeping an eye on their flocks!

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R.I.P. Sabrina

 

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