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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

 

Freedom, Baby! Heck Yeah!!!

4 July 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 80’s

Today is my favorite holiday. I love reading about the Founding Fathers and the enormous risk they took to throw down that Declaration and say, “We don’t want a king, we want to be free from your rule and here’s why.” And the list is honest, eloquent, and timeless.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  This is what it means to be American and this is what we celebrate today.  If you really want to refresh your patriotism and appreciate your freedom, here’s a link to the Declaration of Independence.  Read it out loud and you cannot help but be moved.  God Bless America!

Declaration of Independence

Out here in the free, wide opened spaces of the great state of South Dakota, we are celebrating today by going to the Veterans’ Parade in Custer.  It is a small town Fourth of July parade and will likely be full of locally built floats, fire trucks, horses, and the high school marching band. Oh yeah, and we get a B-1 Bomber low pass to start things off.  Cool!

We are cooking out this afternoon for some friends, likely drinking some Keystones and eating some burgers and dogs and watching the cows and chickens from the south porch.  What’s everyone else doing out there?

Now for the Holler update.  We finished bailing Shari’s property with 171 more hay bales.  Now all we have left is the oats once they get tall enough.  That is unless we get some incredible moisture and we hay again in August?  Here’s hoping for that…sort of!

The bees have been extremely busy.  There are so many wildflowers that I had to add another “super” or house on top of their main hive body.   Then, 7 days later, that box had 6 frames full of honey so I put another super on top of that!  I hope they can make enough honey to sustain themselves throughout the winter.  I read they need 70-90lbs; that is about one full deep box.  Anything they make beyond that I plan on keeping.  If they are successful and survive the winter I will probably get another hive next year.  Two hives won’t be much more work than one.

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Two “deeps” and one honey super…bees at the front door!

The garden is going gangbusters.  Dave and I have been eating spinach every day and giving some away as well.  Pretty soon we are going to have Pop-eye arms!

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Carrots to the left, spinach in the middle, onions to the right.

We are also harvesting lettuce for the burgers we will serve later today.

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Lettuce amongst the relentless weeds

We pulled this turnip out of the garden yesterday.  This morning the breakfast menu consists of “Hashtag-Hash” which is a diced turnip, spinach, onion, and bacon with a fried egg on top.

The corn is not quite knee high at the 4th of July, unless you have really short legs!

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Shin-high corn

The chickens are free ranging (under supervision) most of the day.  We like to sit out and watch them in the evening.  Chicken TV is better than anything on cable.  They truly are bird-brains and they have a lot of self-induced drama.  They are getting big and FAT, or we could say fluffy if we don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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The Islanders and Charlie’s Angels (Farah Fawcett is inside) mingling outside the coop.

 

Yesterday was branding day. We took 7 calves to the Vet and they got their vaccinations and their brands.  Cowboy Dave did the branding and Pilot Dave worked the calving table while the new Vet in town (an ISU grad!) administered the meds.  I got to work the gates and take pictures.

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A steer in the calf table
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Does anyone else smell grilled burger?
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Little Bugger says, “I hate Mooooo-ndays!”

Well, that’s all from the Holler for now.  We are wishing everyone out there a Happy Independence Day!  Freedom, baby!  It’s what it’s all about!

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Three Amigos at the Independence Day party.
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Rainbow from the back deck

 

 

Everything is so Green!

27 May 2017 – Cloudy and highs in the upper 50’s

I haven’t posted in a long time, but as I mentioned before….Spring is for working!  We have been really busy working on a ton of spring projects.

First, we built two H’s, one on each end of the southern property line,  and put in a gate at the southeast corner.

Then we put in T-posts. 

Then we strung barbed wire using a spinning-jenny on the back of the mule. 

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Spinning-jenny on the back of the mule stringing out the barbed wire.

We clipped the wires to the T-posts and now we have a new fence.  It all sounds so easy and it really isn’t complicated, it just takes time and effort.

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1/4 mile of fence complete!

We also put a fence around the garden. We used left-over 14 gage wire from the chicken coop and t-posts from the fence project.  We found an old gate in the junk yard and the garden, railroad ties and all, has not cost a single penny.  We have potatoes and turnips and wild onions growing!

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New garden gate. (Not snow, but ashes in the garden to balance out the pH.)

The builders returned to put the final touches on the house.  Now that we have steps on the front and side porches, Dave and I did some landscaping. We also stained the steps.

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Stained steps and a lot of smoothed out dirt.

In full disclosure, it has not been all work and no play around here.  We did go to a rancher’s dinner in Edgemont, which was sponsored by a cattle-drug company representative.  We learned all about inoculating and “pouring” de-wormer on cattle to keep them healthy and make sure they reach their full growth potential. We also learned about hormonal implants which are injected into the ears of cows to help them get big and fat.  It was really interesting and of course they fed us beef!

Yesterday, Dave and I went to Hot Springs for their Wine and Putt-putt golf walk.  We paid $10 for a souvenir wine glass and strolled around the town in and out of the shops sampling wine and appetizers, and some of the shops had putt-putt golf holes that you played for prizes. It was pouring down rain the entire evening, but this is South Dakota, so the locals were undeterred and there was a nice sized crowd.  We splashed around town and had a few sips of wine, and enjoyed a fun night out after so many days working here on the Holler.

The weather has been cool and rainy. March and April were pretty mild, but May has been chilly and wet!

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Storm cloud over the house.

The payoff is the stunning green grass and wild flowers. The oats are sprouting and the field looks amazing!

The bees have been enjoying the rocky mountain irises, Indian paint brushes and the “butter and eggs” wild flowers.

Summer is coming and it is going to be beautiful! 

Happy Easter and Hoten Holler Happenings

18 April 2017 – Cloudy with a chance of rain, 62°

Wow, it has been an eventful 9 days since I last posted to this blog. I read the last post and realized we accomplished everything I had written on our to-do list….and then some more.

We were super happy that the bolts came out of the tractor frame and we picked up the tractor from the welder in Custer and Dave drove it home. The next day, Cowboy brought over his tractor and we put the loader back on the tractor frame. We were thinking this wouldn’t take too long, but it ended taking us the whole afternoon.

The loader was just really heavy and it sets down into the tractor frame on two little cylindrical bars that parallel the ground. It has to be the right angle and height to fit onto these and tilted just slightly up so the holes line up and the pins can be inserted to hold them together. Sounds simple, and it would have been if the loader was small enough and light enough to maneuver. Plus we were trying to coordinate the effort of two tractors over two loud diesel engines. We finally got the thing in place. Then the men had a lot of fun trying to reconnect the hydraulic lines to the correct connection points.

At the end of the day, Babe is up and operational. Cowboy Dave and Tractor Dave were covered in hydraulic fluid and dust, but happy to have accomplished what needed to be done. Nice job, guys!

I set up the beehive. We are picking up bees the first week of May and I found the perfect spot to put them. They have a nice southerly facing location that is shielded by trees and the top of the hill to the North and West. They are only about 50 feet from one of our rain barrels that will serve as a good water source, and they don’t have too far to travel to the garden (which is just dirt now anyway). They do face a grove of trees and a grassy, wildflower area so I hope they will be happy. They are Italian bees so if they aren’t happy I will try playing some of the Three Tenors music over a speaker and set out a carafe or two of chianti.IMG_3047

My good friend and neighbor, Linda, gave me a bunch of raspberry plants. I put them on top of the cistern.

It kinda looks like a grave, and knowing that I do not have a green thumb, but rather the black thumb of death, I hope it doesn’t turn into a raspberry cemetery. Linda promised to forgive me if they all die but so far they seem to be looking pretty good.

The two Dave’s took Frosty, Laverne, Keystone, and Doreen to market. It was sad to see Frosty go after all the adventures we have had with her but she actually loaded with no issues this time. We also of course were sad to see the other three go but that’s what happens on the ranch.

Tractor Dave has been busy planting oats and harrowing the field. He ended up using his truck to harrow so he could really pick up some speed and bust apart some of the clods of dirt.

He decided to do this on Saturday and Sunday because we were supposed to get a ton of rain today and most of this week. Even though it was Easter weekend, he got it done because he wanted to beat the rain. Of course it hasn’t rained a drop yet. The bonus was that my parents were here visiting and Dad got to ride along for the harrowing. Dave enjoyed the company and Dad enjoyed the farming memories.

While the men were farming, Mom and I made food for Easter. We had ham, potatoes, corn casserole, homemade rolls, asparagus, carrot cake and tiramisu. Cowboy and Linda joined us for dinner and we had a great time.

Mom and Dad didn’t stay very long, but they finally got to see the house and all the work we have been doing around here. Last time they were here there was just a hole in the ground.

And that catches us up since the last time. We really hope everyone out there had a great Easter. It is a great time of year!

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Happy Easter!
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Elk on the north property
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More Elk

 

Stuff Just Breaks

27 March 2017 – Sunny and highs in the mid 50’s

It has been a challenging week at the holler, but we are doing our best to be countrified and take on each problem as it comes. We got the tractor, Babe, last week and after one day of use, moving rocks, moving dirt to the garden, moving slash piles etc. two of the bolts that hold the loader onto the tractor frame broke.

This tractor is 21 years old, so we were expecting some problems and maintenance, but these things are built to last as long as they are taken care of well. Some busted bolts aren’t unusual after 21 years of use, but it has led to some tests for us.

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Bolts broken off inside tractor

The remaining rusted pieces of the bolts are in the tractor and need to be removed so we can reattach the loader. Dave and our friend Matt have spent the last four days trying to get the bolts out. They drilled, then they drilled some more. I played gofer running to Rapid to at least 3 different stores trying to find replacement bolts. Still, the bolts remains in place. We are discussing what to do next; probably drilling the holes bigger and re-tapping the bolt holes for larger size bolts.

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Loader detached from Babe in the driveway

Anyway, the men have felt a bit of a time crunch to get the tractor out of the driveway because we are having a garage put in first thing this morning. We spent the weekend trying to determine how to safely move the detached loader (weight somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300lbs) so the building project could commence this morning. We were able to get it moved on Sunday morning with the help of Cowboy’s tractor and some serious stubborn-goatedness and innovation on the part of Pilot Dave. He hooked straps to the forks on Cowboy’s tractor and kept the loader from swinging using a 2×6 board. He stabilized it in place with a fence post so it should not tip over. Good job, guys!

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Then we discovered Babe would not start. Ugh…. I remember a conversation I had with my cousin Patti, who farms with her husband in Iowa. She said, “Stuff just breaks. There is always something broken but you just have to figure it out and move forward.” I get it now.

So if we couldn’t get Babe started, we were going to have to move the tractor without any power to the brakes or steering. Reef did some trouble shooting and determined it was either a battery cable or the battery and off we went on a Sunday to Hot Springs, in hope that the CarQuest Autoshop was 1, open and 2, stocking what we needed. Success on both accounts!

We returned in the 40-degree rain and Reef went to work replacing the cable and the battery. Miserable working conditions ensued, and so did the pain as Babe refused to even turn over. The rain increased and the temperature decreased and we decided to come into the house until the rain subsided. Thank God we have a warm house! Life is good inside the house on a cold rainy day, and the wood stove warmed us right up.

We discussed what to do as it was nearing 5PM, still raining and very cold, and the builders were supposed to be here at 8AM the next day. Babe was still in the driveway. The plan was to hook her up by chain to Truck Norris and drag her out…. SLOWLY…. as there was no hydraulic assist to the brakes and steering and we were going to pull her down a bit of an incline to get her out of the way.

First thing this morning, we got up and went out and chained the truck to the tractor. Mind you, I have never towed anything with a chain before, but Reef talked me through the route and the plan. He got in Babe, I got in Truck Norris and we put our cell phones on speaker so we could communicate.   A brake check, a steering check, and down the hill we went. Mission accomplished…..and we didn’t drive into the house or solar panels or off a cliff. Now we just have to get the tractor running and the loader reattached. We have work to do and it looks like another busy week ahead on Hoten Holler.

I hate to be complaining; this is a blog, not a BLERGGG….so here is the good and happy part. Spring is showing up here in the black hills. The meadowlarks have returned so we have music to work to, and the plants for the garden have begun to sprout!

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Peppers
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Cucumbers and Maters

Lettuce Turnip the Beet

Sunday, September 6, 2016, Sunny and Highs in the upper 70s

Linda’s garden has gone gangbusters.  She has a green thumb, but unfortunately she also has a wounded finger from slicing pickles on the mandolin!  She asked me if I could come down and help her can some of her beets.  I said yes right away!  Linda is so much fun to work with and she’s a great teacher so I am learning what I can (no pun intended) about food preservation. 

Our other neighbor, Kathleen, was there also so we had a beet canning party. 

Cowboy Dave and Linda are expecting two more calves this month so we loaded up the dogs and drove out to check the status.  Everyone is doing well and there were no new calves, but it was another beautiful South Dakota day and I enjoyed the ride.

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Stormy and Veronica….several weeks old each.

 

Meanwhile, back at the Holler……

This is the cistern.  We are planning to use it as a primary water source for the house if we one day decide to tell the Southern Black Hills Rural Water Company to pound sand. img_1826

Here are the steps from the basement to the main floor.

Here are the retaining walls.  Nice job, Todd and crew!    img_1871

Here are Dave and Hercules chillin’ on the tailgate.img_1917

Here is Dave at the Miner Brewing Company in Hill City….another perk from work camping VIP card was a free beer!img_1913

Happy September, Everyone!

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