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Happy Independence Day

5 July 2020 – Hot and 89 degrees

I meant to blog on the fourth but I was too busy doing nothing which was just spectacular.  Dave and I intentionally took a relaxing day off and the only work we did was water the cows and the garden.  So Happy Belated Independence Day!  I hope you celebrated your freedom and the birthday of the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

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Not Far From Home

Dave and I got a special treat on the evening of July 3rd.  President Trump was holding his rally at Mount Rushmore, and while we did not attend, we got our own private airshow in our back yard.  We were sitting on the porch and noticed three B-1s flying in a circle overhead.  This went on for sometime and we figured they would be doing the fly-by to open the Mt. Rushmore ceremony.  Then, three F-16s showed up and also began circling right over our yard.  THEN the Blue Angels showed up and also circled over our house for about 20 minutes.  It was Awesome. What a cool thing to see right from your back porch!

It has been hot here, and dry.  I don’t think we’ve had any significant rain since May and consequently our barley crop turned brown, and began to shrivel up.  In the hopes that we might salvage some hay, we went ahead and mowed some of the fields.  We tried to rake and bale and in a field where we got 153 bales last year, we were able to piece together 10.  Ugh.  If we keep all the cows that would be about a day and a half of feed next winter.

 

Needless to say, we are a little more than disappointed, but that is part of the ranching/farming life.  It’s a continuous sine wave where one day you’re riding high and the next you’re way down in the dumps.  But who knows what tomorrow will bring?  We could still use some rain, everything is drying up and while we have made up our mind that we will just buy hay this year, we are hoping the pastures can support the herd for the summer.

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Rain all around us, but not a drop here.

In more exciting news, we went and picked up the bull we are leasing for the next two months.

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Moscow earlier this year at the Vet

This is Moscow (that’s what the owner named him, not sure why but we like it and hope he’s not a Russian spy).  We met the owner in Edgemont and swapped him from his trailer into ours.  That gentleman bull did not even make the smallest mess in our trailer so we appreciate that too!  When we brought him to the pasture with our cows, the cows were over the hill in the far corner.  He got out of the trailer and immediately picked up their scent.  He began walking in circles trying to determine where all the cows were and then he started to get a little frustrated, pawing at the dirt and grunting.

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Smelling for other cattle in his new pasture.

Meanwhile, Dave started calling the cows, and yes they do come when he calls because they love him and think it means he has cake.  Moscow heard them mooing as they came up over the crest of the hill he called back to them in that crazy high pitch sound that only bulls can make.  Valentine, the one cow that was open all year came sprinting down the hill.  She was so excited there was a bull in the pasture. Of course when one cow starts running they all start running and poor Moscow was a little intimidated I think.  He stopped and stood completely still, completely nervous and scared of the group of lonely ladies surrounding him like he was Elvis  and they were a fan-crazed group of teenagers.  That didn’t last long, however, and almost immediately he embraced his rock star status and the whole herd went back over the hill together, most likely looking for some privacy! I’m pretty sure I heard some Marvin Gaye playing over there.

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Moscow frozen solid as the girls surround him

We were really happy that no one decided to fight and we have observed him doing his job several times so hopefully everyone will get bred and have healthy babies next spring.

Shifting gears, I have bad news about the bee colony.  I opened the hive in late May and they were thriving.  There were eggs (indicating an active queen), brood, and lots of pollen and uncapped honey.  About two weeks after that I noticed a dramatic decrease in bee activity and a giant pile of dead bees in front of the hive.  I put on my bee suit to investigate and discovered that almost all the bees were dead.  There were no longer any eggs or even brood or honey stores.  The colony is dead or gone, but the big pile of dead bees leaves me to believe they didn’t swarm and leave.  I’m not sure what happened but am still doing some research to try to determine what killed them.  It is too late this year to get new bees but I will try again next year.  It’s sad, but again, that is the roller coaster that is ranch living.

On the positive side, the garden seems to be doing well, the cows are fat and happy, the dog is hot and unhappy except in the morning and evening, and the cat remains healthy and crazy.  So as far as Hoten Holler life goes, all is pretty good.  We hope everyone out there in the real world enjoyed the Fourth of July and is keeping happy and free.  God Bless America!

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Sunset on the Holler

 

A Hot and Dry June

19 June 2020 – Cloudy and 56

I cannot believe it has been nearly a month since my last blog.  We also haven’t had any rain since the last post, and we are hoping and praying we get some today because our beautiful green barley is starting to look a little thirsty!

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Several dry patches show how badly we need rain

It has been a really busy month for us.  We decided to cross fence and close in the south pasture and put in two gates to make sure we had access from the north and south side and we could get our haying equipment in and out.

If we ever do get any more rain and we actually get to cut some hay this summer, we decided it would be much easier if we had an extra little run-around tractor. This will save so much time preventing us from having to come back to the barnyard and swap out implements every time we switch tasks from cutting to raking to baling to hauling.  We found this old gem on Craig’s List and are excited to see what it can do.

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Rancher Dave testing out his new ride, Sprout

As is our tradition, we had to name the tractor so we’re calling it Sprout.  It is a John Deere 3010, and so far my Dad, who is a red tractor guy all the way, has not disowned us for buying a Deere.  This tractor was made sometime between 1960-1963 and it is gas, not diesel.  It has functional hydraulics and a good PTO so it should really help us streamline our process during haying.  At the very least Dave and I can both be working at the same time.

We finished shoring up our corral just in time for some visitors.

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Visitors at work moving cows

My sister, her son, her best friend and her best friend’s daughter came to stay and help with the annual round-up.  We have the vet come out and innocculate the calves, pour the cows to protect against worms and parasites, and brand and castrate the babies.  Our guests had fun and they all helped immensely, so we felt the day went rather smoothly and were grateful for their help.

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Branding Party
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Making new friends
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Practicing for round-up

We didn’t make the guests work the whole time they were here, they did get to visit Sylvan Lake, Devil’s Tower, go to a rodeo in Wyoming, and of course they went to see the Big Heads at Mount Rushmore.

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View from the Needles Highway

Fun was had by all and we hated to see them go, but I think they had fun and enjoyed the fresh air and wide open spaces.

Dave and I kept the herd nearby in the maternity ward for the last couple of days.  We like to keep an eye on the babies after branding and castration in case someone develops an infection or a problem.  They all looked pretty good this morning, so we marched them back up the road to the big pasture we’re leasing.  I think they were happy to get out into a bigger area.

Now that the round-up is over we can disk and plant the very last field, which is the maternity ward.  The next big event will be the arrival of the bull (which we moved up to the beginning of July).  I’m sure Valentine will be ready and waiting for him right by the gate!

Of course the next big ranch event is haying, but again, we need rain!  As we wait for the crop to grow we will be busy prepping and greasing hay equipment, killing noxious weeds, and taking care of the lawn and garden.

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The corn is growing but the garden needs weeding!

That’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone is having a good summer out there in the real world, despite all of the unrest and bad news.  Keep safe and keep yourselves free!

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Sheriff Joe getting a drink from the watering can

 

And We Thought March Was Mad

11 April 2020 – Overcast and windy but 37 degrees

It is that time of year where we are just about sick of winter.  Of course, April is also one of the snowiest months here in the Black Hills.  It seems that we get a blizzard every ten days or so, and then it gets into the 50s and 60s for a few days.  Everything gets muddy and sloppy and when it finally dries up, here comes the next blizzard.  That is the case today.  We are expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight, and yesterday we were working outside in short sleeves.

I fear I sound like I’m complaining.  These temperature swings are not all bad, and the warm days are so greatly appreciated after a giant dump of snow.  If we didn’t have any critters, I don’t think I would mind at all because the snow is quite beautiful.  BUT we do have critters and they are all trying to have babies!

Fortunately, the Dirty Dozen (#112), the girl we were following around in late March decided to calve on one of the warmest days.  It was about 60 degrees and mid afternoon when she walked away from the herd, laid down in the woods, and delivered her baby in about five minutes. We were extremely grateful to see the baby get up on his feet in 30 minutes and began to nurse shortly after that.  Dozen is a great mom, and her milk bag is huge so the baby has no problem getting his fill.

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Dirty Dozen and her baby bull, Henry

Last year, we had a hard time with all the 1st calf heifers.  Dozen had a female calf last year and it died at 1 day old from pneumonia.  The vet did a necropsy and said the baby’s stomach was full of milk, so Dozen had been feeding her.  The baby died anyway and we ended up quarantining all the babies and moms that had been in contact with her. Another 1st calf heifer wasn’t producing very much milk, so we worked with Dozen to help nurse that calf, and she was more than willing to help.  At the end of the day, I think all of the calves born to our heifers ended up nursing on Dozen.  She seems to really like babies!  Anyway, the calving season last year was a huge pain, and it was so sad, and it turned us into Nervous Nellies for the calving season this year.  I’m sure most experienced ranchers would probably laugh at all the fuss and worry we have been doing, but we just really want to take good care of everyone and for them to thrive.

Dozen’s calf this year is two weeks early by the gestation calendar, so we are acting like extreme helicopter parents, checking on this baby bull every 2-3 hours.  He is 3 days old today and nursing very well. He has been tearing around like a race car in the mornings and evenings, and it is really fun to watch.  It’s as if he is showing off to the rest of the herd, “Look how fast I can run!”  Then he wears himself out and Dozen parks him in the tall grass to sleep the rest of the day.  Yesterday, after she parked him and wandered off to graze, Dave and I snuck up and tagged his ear.

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Nice Bling, Henry!

He is the 8th calf born to the herd so we named him Henry the 8th. We thought he might holler when we tagged him, as calves often do, but he didn’t make a peep so his mom didn’t come running to check on him.  We saw her going back to him later in the day and she sniffed him all over, especially his new ear tag.  I think she was mad he got an earring without her permission. Kids today!

Due to the impending blizzard conditions this evening, we have been preparing the barn with an extra stall for Dozen and Henry, so Henry doesn’t get stepped on by all the other cows trying to shelter from the storm. Dave added boards to the bottom of the panels to prevent him from squirting out into the main stall area.  He also has an extra panel handy in case one of the other ladies decides to calve during the bad weather. If that happens, she will have her own little area as well.  We are calling the stalls the Princess Suite and the Royal Deluxe.  Oh, Dave also added LED lights so we can keep an eye on everyone at night.

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A nice area for mom and baby
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Boards at the bottom to keep baby from squirting out

Next thing you know the cows will be demanding turn-down service and mints on their pillows.

In other news, we have enjoyed working outside on the last few warm days.  We built a platform and assembled this greenhouse.

The platform was a lot easier than assembling the greenhouse.  It was supposed to take 6 hours but I think it took us twice as long, considering the convoluted directions.  At least that’s my excuse.  Regardless, it seems to have turned out well and if it wasn’t going to be 6 degrees tomorrow night I would already have planted some things in there.  So the plants I have started will remain on the kitchen counter until the next warm weather.

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Beets and Peppers

We are ready for this snow to come and go, and once that happens we will begin disking and planting hay crops.  We are also hoping nobody else has a baby until the snow is gone, but that is never up to us.  As always, we are far removed from the real world and crazy things that are happening out there.  I hope everyone that is reading this is staying safe, staying sane, and that you all have a very Happy and Blessed Easter!

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Sherriff Joe on night patrol during the Super Moon

 

Out on the Prairie

3 March 2020 – Sunny and snowing simultaneously….hovering around 35 degrees

So long, February!  I’d like to say we’ll miss ya, but likely we won’t.  It was not exceptionally cold or snowy last month, but it is that time of year when we are really starting to want warmer spring weather.  The forecast shows we may get our wish, however, it was forecast to be sunny and warm the last two days and it has been sunny but NOT warm.  The wind has been blowing, gusting up to 40 and while the sun is shining it keeps snowing. Some people brag about their weather, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a day.”  But we say, “How can you not like the weather?  It’s sunny and it’s snowing, and windy! We sometimes have all four seasons at once.”

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The herd in the south pasture braving the wind, snow, and sunshine

It seems like the wild life is waking up for spring.  There is a pack of four coyotes that have been hunting in our pastures.  We give them a warning shot if they get too close to the house, but we’re hoping they will take out the groundhogs or moles that have been digging out there.  As long as they leave the dog and cat alone, we think they are okay.  Yesterday morning, Dave and I watched them hunting mice or some other vermin. They work as a team and they seemed to round up a pretty good breakfast for themselves.  At night, they make a lot of noise, but sometimes we hear them during the day as well. Fortunately the Sheriff usually sticks close by when they start singing.

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Sheriff Joe hanging out in the barn stall while we do some work
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Maverick, the barn cat who gets to come in when it is too cold in the barn.

After the coyotes got their fill, a line of about 12 deer went marching right by the house.  If the apocalypse happens, I guess we won’t go hungry either.

Shortly thereafter, there was a giant bald eagle flying around the cows. Then, later in the day a loud, honking flock of geese did a low pass directly over the barn.  We are enjoying the return of the birds after the long winter and looking forward to seeing the first rocky mountain bluebirds and hearing the first meadowlarks.  Maybe all the critters are showing up because we have so much water in the stock dam.  Nothing brings out the riff-raff like a good watering hole.

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The stock dam is full of water….too bad it won’t last

Pretty soon we will be planting seeds and getting ready for the garden.  In April we will start disking and are planning on putting in barley for the hay crop this year.  We are only about 6 weeks away from calving and the ladies are looking big and tired.

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Fat and happy and very pregnant cows

Today, the fire is burning in the wood stove and while we have ventured out for chores, the wind and the snow are making us remember that we live in South Dakota and winter is just not through with us yet.  Hope everyone is staying warm and happy out there in the real world.

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A cold and sunny February morning

 

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!

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