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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!

Return of The Black Plague

3 August 2020 – Sunny and 78 – Perfect

The Holler has been a hub of activity for the last few weeks.  We decided to wash and water seal the deck.

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Looks pretty good!

We cut our neighbor’s yard since she had a lot of natural grass hay in one of her pastures.  Normally she gets about 300 bales out of this pasture, but she was happy to get 86 bales this year. It made load up pretty easy for us and we were done before 9AM!

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Two trips and done!

We have been starting a lean-to project to provide the cows some extra shelter from the wind and snow we can surely count on in a few short months.

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Dirt work for the lean-to

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Three posts set

This will be a better place for the cows if the weather is nasty because we won’t have to stuff them into the barn, and more importantly, Dave and I won’t have to shovel poop out of the barn.  We expect to be able to drive the tractor right in and scoop out the poop from the lean-to. Anyone need compost?

We are first-generation ranchers, which means all of the infrastructure and systems that many ranchers inherit from their folks do not/did not exist here. Moving onto raw land means all projects belong to us.  This is good and bad. It would be nice to have some things already completed like this lean-to, or some irrigation lines to move collected water into the cistern.  On the other hand, we are responsible for all the projects here. If something works, that’s because of us but if it doesn’t, that is also on us. We are learning, year after year, and constantly trying to improve things.  It is a life-long process but it is also a life-good process and we enjoy brainstorming to come up with a list of projects that will make our ranch run smoother.

One thing we didn’t plan on was the return of the Black Plague.

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He’s back….

That is the same dang bull that comes back year after year.  He was here in May and we moved our girls to a different pasture.  He has been in the National Forest and we thought there would be plenty of cows out there to keep him busy.  Nonetheless, he found one of our girls irresistible and Dave and I watched helplessly as he leaped over a four-wire fence like a deer.  Then he proceeded to mount one of our heifers and she went immediately to the ground.

Fortunately, she did not get hurt and we are hoping she did not get bred by him.  She is older now than when he broke in in May so we are trying to breed her to the leased heifer-bull, Moscow.  The Plague, however, was not having any of that and fortunately Moscow is a lover, not a fighter.  He just stood out of the Plague’s way and I don’t blame him.

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Moscow, the rental bull

We were fed up with this jumping bull, and after about a week of trying we were finally able to make some contact with the owner.  We said we would buy the bull (intending to take him to town).  He said if we take him to market to just send him the check so Dave and I were completely excited at the prospect of getting rid of this nuisance.  We contacted some friends that have horses and are experienced cattle ranchers.  We determined the date based on the bull sale at the local cattle market, and then we moved our cattle panels and trailer up to the pasture where he was hanging out with our herd.

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Moving the panels to try to funnel the bull into the trailer

We were all set with equipment, help, and a plan to catch that bugger.  The morning we were supposed to execute the plan we drove up to the pasture to check on things.  That stinkin’ bull was GONE!  He jumped out of our pasture and we could see him way off in the distance walking behind a herd of range cattle headed up into the forest. There is pretty much no way we could round him up out there so we called off the help.

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There he is in the National Forest with some hopefully more interesting ladies

While we are hoping he stays away, if he comes back Dave and I will do our best to catch and load him, but not at the risk of injury or death! Or at least trying to minimize that risk.  We know the local ranchers with range permits round up their herds on the 1st of September so we anticipate he will be part of that group.  Hopefully he will be taken to market then.  We’ll see what happens, but we are hoping that all of our cows are bred now and he will have no reason to come back.  GIT OUTTA HERE YA DIRTY STINKIN PLAGUE!!

We decided we were long overdue for putting up a flagpole in our barnyard, so we dug a hole (this is a trend for us, constantly digging) and put up our big, beautiful flag.  God Bless America!

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Flags, tractor, barn, sunflowers….awesome.

We have also been getting a little bit of rain here and there.  We think we may be able to save a little of the sudan-grass hay we put in one of the pastures.

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Sudan grass ready to be hayed in the next few days

We have lined up some hay to purchase from another guy about an hour away, so we should be able to keep all the cows this year and sell the calves at market.

The garden seems to have rebounded a bit after the hail storm and while I doubt we’ll have the haul we did last year, we may get some tomatoes and cucumbers.  The corn looks pretty good too! I’m wondering if the lack of production can be blamed on the hail storm or the lack of honey bees, since my hive died.

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Corn

The good news is we will stay busy for the rest of the summer with one large task looming on our list.  Firewood.  Ugh, I like getting firewood but I hate thinking about building a fire already.  It seems like summer just got here! At least one big furry dog will be happy when the snow starts flying.

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Sheriff Joe is tired of the dog days of summer

We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world.  Keep it free out there!

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Moving water for the cows

 

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

 

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