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Haying

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

 

Catching Up

12 May 2020 – Rain/Snow and 40 degrees!

In between calving and bull virility testing, Dave and I have been working to get things going here on the Holler. A few posts ago I mentioned that our redneck disk broke down and was unsalvageable.  Interestingly enough, the man that removed all the rocks from our barnyard had a contact in Rapid City that deals in used farm equipment.  Dave contacted him and he had a used 12 foot tandem disk that he thought might work for us.

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The new disk

Dave went to look at the disk and liked it, however it was too big to fit on a trailer, and while it could be towed behind a tractor or truck, it needed new tires.  The guy put different tires on it and Dave brought it home. This was quite an adventure for rancher Dave.  The disk, as mentioned before, is 12 feet wide (as advertised, but more on this later) and that is quite a wide load to pull up the mountain.  Additionally, as the disk hooked onto a drawbar on the back of the truck, it was not made for this type of travel. At about 20mph it would start violently vibrating back and forth. Traffic was backing up behind Dave as he slowly crawled up the hill with the wide disk in tow. The road from Rapid is also pretty twisty and narrow in some places so it took him about four hours to get home.  When he turned to come into Stagecoach Springs, he questioned whether the disk would fit through the entrance to our road.

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Just slightly wider than the road, and definitely wider than the entrance

I drove up in the Mule to meet him and brought the tape measure.  We realized our entrance is exactly 12 feet 5 inches wide at the narrowest point.  The “12 Foot Disk”  measured about 13 feet, 6 inches.  Rats!

Fortunately, there were a couple of options open to us.  We considered bringing the tractor up to  the entrance and lifting the disk over the fences.  We also realized a neighbor to the east of us has a wide gate entrance to her pasture, and we have a 16 foot gate between our properties.  We decided to go with this route and after contacting her, she said that would be no problem at all. Dave drove the disk 2 miles east to her property and through her gate.  Then he proceeded cross-country, over rocks and through trees and up the hill to the point where her pasture finally meets the gate in ours.  The terrain was pretty rough and about half way through his journey we decided it would be better to get the tractor and pull the disk rather than put all that wear and tear on the truck.

So about 6 hours after leaving rapid city, we finally got the new/old disk onto the Holler.  We were really hoping it would work as it seems this is its new permanent home, unless we decide to widen the entrance to the road.

The next day, Dave put the hydraulic cylinder on the disk and there were several problems with the fittings.  Fortunately, Dave knows a great welder in Custer so he took the required parts to him, which he found a fix for on the spot.  A few hours later we had the disk hooked up and running and Dave was able to complete disking our southern field.

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Getting it done
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Nice job!

The disk worked so well, we decided to rip up some more pasture in the northern fields. Dave completed all the disking, I did the planting and we split the harrowing duties.  We finished the hay crop work on Saturday, just in time for some snow and rain on Monday!  Hooray!

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Planting view from the tractor

We still have one field to work, but the cows are in that pasture until the 1st of June.  Once we move them elsewhere, we will plant a crop in that field that we can harvest later.  Our goal is to produce enough hay to feed the herd all winter.  We were successful this year, and while we are still feeding a bale or two a day because of the cold temperatures, we have enough hay to last through the 2nd of June. The calves are grazing more and more and we are cutting back on the feeding, but when there is snow, we like to make sure they have enough to eat.  I really hope we aren’t feeding in June! The point is our hay crop mostly determines the size of our herd, but we do have options to buy hay if we don’t harvest enough of our own.  We do like the idea of being independent, though, and are doing all we can to make use of this land.

We are also trying to get the garden and the lawn up to speed.  Since construction four years ago, there are parts of the yard that have not recovered.  We have planted grass seed, but it has only taken to some places, and some spots are so rocky and sandy it doesn’t appear we will ever have grass there.  Dave has been getting some good soil out of one of the ditches and putting it on the bare spots in what should be the lawn.  Hopefully this will lead to some growth. Also, he used the ditch dirt to cover up the rocky barnyard cliffs.  We are going to put out some grass seed and wildflower seeds on this bank.

I have harvested some asparagus out of the garden, but it doesn’t appear to be doing so good after the freezing temps we have had for the last few days.  It will get warm again, though, (right?) so hopefully we can get the vegetable garden up and running.  The greenhouse has been good for some seeds, but I can’t transplant anything out in the snow, so hopefully the beets, peppers, and lettuce can hang on a little longer in there.

The weeks are just flying by.  Dave and I were having a glass of wine on the porch this weekend and he said, “I can’t believe we are only about six weeks away from the summer solstice, and then the days will start getting shorter again.”  I said, “I wish you hadn’t said that, Dave.”  But he is right, and spring and summer are the busiest times for us, so that does make the calendar seem like it is turning quickly.  It’s a good thing though, to go to bed tired knowing that you got some good work done during the day, and to wake up in the morning knowing that you still have a lot to do.

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Nothing like a porch nap after a long day ranching

 

Ranch Follies

28 April 2020 – Sunny, windy and 57

I really wish I was posting pictures of baby calves today, but we are still waiting! The three remaining bred cows look very uncomfortable and all have started to fill up their bags with milk, but morning, day and night there is no calving action. The weather has been just perfect, so they are probably waiting for a May snowstorm. Anyway, there is no news on the baby front.

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Hunny looking big and miserable, waiting to deliver.

In between checking on cows, Dave and I have been busy disking, planting and harrowing our hay crop.

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Broadcasting the seeds
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Unhooking the disk, filling up the broadcaster’s hopper
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Phone poles strapped to the disk to weigh it down.  
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Dragging the harrow over the planted seeds to cover them with dirt.

We were nearly complete when our antique/redneck disk went kaput! The thing is so old and will not take any grease, so it was truly a matter of time before it died. On one of the last fields, Dave was disking and I was nearby. I could hear the thing really start to sing, metal on metal. I couldn’t tell if it was dust or smoke coming out of the disk, but Dave shut down shortly after that and said it smelled like it was burning up. He parked it and we have one small field left to plant. If we cannot get a replacement disk this year we will just let the grass grow and harvest grass hay from there, but we’re on the hunt for a used disk that we will definitely need next year.

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RIP Redneck disk.  You turned over a lot of rough soil in your life!

We also had a gentleman come and pick up all the big rocks that were still piled in the barnyard. I know some people don’t like Craig’s List, but we put an ad up for free rocks and he happened to need rocks for building his driveway and an approach to his house. He came out with a skid-steer and a trailer and after about ten trips, he went away with free rocks for his project and we have a really nice looking barnyard!

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Quite a few rocks remained after the excavation for the barn.
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New Craig’s List friend hauling away rocks.

The next few days, Dave will use the tractor to get fill dirt out of one of the ditches. He’ll put this dirt on top of the remaining rocks and ideally we will get some grass growing up there.

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A few of the rocks remain, but with some fill dirt I hope next year to seed this wall with wild flowers and cover it with compost to help them grow.  

In light of all the craziness in the world, here are some short ranch follies that will hopefully make you laugh.

Nothing happens quickly on the ranch and there is no such thing as instant gratification so we are constantly working to get things set up so they are more efficient. One of the future projects is to have a better way to get water to the barnyard. Currently we are using runoff from the barn roof which works great if there is rain or snow, but if there is not we have to run 3 hoses from the house up the hill into the barnyard water tanks. This is kind of a pain, especially if there is snow and ice. We cannot leave the hoses hooked up in the cold temps because they will freeze and cause all sorts of problems. A few weeks ago, Dave had hooked up the hoses and was filling the barn tanks. He was distracted working on something else and I noticed that the tanks were almost full, so I walked down the hill to turn off the water and disconnect the hose. I really thought I was helping him out, but when he returned to the water tank a few minutes later, it was completely empty. When I unhooked the hose at the bottom of the hill, the suction and gravity sucked all the water out of the tank. Sorry, Dave! So he had to start all over. Ooops!

Last year, after a long day of baling hay, we were driving in the Mule back to the garage. While one person is in the tractor baling, the other person helps out a little by using a leaf rake to pull the hay out of the corners and into a wind row. We were both tired from working in the heat all day and put the rake in a vertical position in the back of the Mule, the top of the rake extending over the top of the Mule. As we pulled into the garage, we were congratulating ourselves on how much baling and work we had accomplished that day when we heard a loud CRACK! The top of the rake hit the top of the garage door as we drove into park.  The roof ripped the top off the rake  and the rest of the handle remained in the Mule. Now we have a rake that will work for a very short person and a long handle for nothing. Ooops!

This winter, during bad weather, we would let the cows sleep in the barn. To make sure they were under cover we would lead them into the corral and close the gate. One morning after a bit of snow, Dave and I plowed a lane to feed and put out the hay, but the cows did not come to breakfast. This was odd because they normally hear the Mule and come running. We tried calling them, “Hay Ladies!” and shaking the cake bucket which always works. Still, there were no cows. We drove the Mule back to the barn from the feeding area and all the cows were there lined up behind the closed corral gate, looking at us as if we were the biggest morons for calling them to breakfast when they were locked up. Ooops!

Finally, one day a few summers ago, Dave had to go to town for some appointment and I noticed that the stock tank in the field was running low. Keep in mind, I did not grow up on a farm and there are several tasks on the ranch that were still pretty new to me. Running water is easy, but this water tank was in a distant pasture, and required loading water in a separate tank that was on the trailer, and hauling the trailer to the field. I was quite proud of myself for getting the trailer hooked up to the truck, loading it with water and hauling it to the field and filling the stock tank. This is not a big deal now, but at the time I had very little experience driving a truck and trailer and maneuvering it into position to drain into the stock tank. When Dave came home I bragged about how far I had come, being able to do all of these tasks by myself. As we were sitting on the deck discussing the day, some of the cows began to appear walking up the hill from the pasture where I had filled the stock tank. All of the pride in my task vanished quickly as I realized I had left the pasture gate open. Ooops! At least it only took us about an hour to get everyone back in the pasture.

Hopefully some of these stories make you laugh. I know things are getting kind of mundane out there in the real world, but it is spring and things will get better soon. Stay safe out there, and don’t forget to have a few laughs, even if it is at yourself!

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Henry the 8th says hello!

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!

 

Hay for Days…….

11 August 2019 – cloudy and highs in the upper 70s

Hey out there!  We’re still alive, but we have been working outside all summer and that hasn’t left much time for blogging.  I will try to do better but the amount of work we still have to complete before the snow flies is a little overwhelming.  We keep trying to get all of our hay cut and baled and loaded.  It has been hot and rainy (unusual for here) so the hay keeps growing and rain daily means it has been too wet to cut.  When we get two dry days in a row, we mow the hay, and then it rains again so we have to let it dry another day before we rake and bale.

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Dave mowing one of the pastures

We are slowly getting through the haying season, but it just doesn’t want to end.  We still have the north pastures to mow and bale, and our neighbor’s yard.  Then, it looks like we might get a second cut in some of the southern pastures!  Meanwhile, the hay loft is slowly filling up with hay.

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Putting hay in the loft, one pallet (9bales) at a time

To make our lives easier, we stack bales on pallets and let the tractor do the work lifting it into the loft.  We use a pallet jack in the loft to position the pallets of hay.  Over 1000 bales of hay moved so far this summer and possibly another few hundred to go has led Dave and me to believe we need to invest in a round baler. This point was not so subtly emphasized by our UPS driver who said to me, “You’re still picking up those idiot cubes?”  His point was that square bales are a pain, and while in small quantities they are useful, picking them up and stacking them is a lot of work. Anyone out there got a round baler for sale?

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A loft full of “idiot cubes”

In the midst of haying season, I abandoned the ranch and went to the Grand Canyon to pursue a bucket list trip with my brother, Scott.  We hiked the whole canyon, north rim to the south rim in two days.  It was 24 miles of incomparable beauty and stifling hot temperatures.  As one hiker said, “Both God and the Devil live in the canyon.”

It was a great trip and while Scott and I were both worn out at the end, it was an incredible journey and we had a great time.  We ended up sore and tired but thankfully neither of us suffered from any blisters, heat exhaustion or any other injuries.

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View from the South Rim

The canyon was great, but I was ready to get back to the Holler and to my favorite rancher and of course, the Sheriff.  We were back at work the next day picking up hay bales.

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One of many loads of hay
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Sheriff Joe was happy to see me

Summer is coming to a rapid close and we still have a lot to do, including finishing the hay.  We are also trying to get in a new fence around the paddock.  We haven’t even begun to gather firewood.  Meanwhile, the garden is producing lots of goodies, and Dave and I canned 20 jars of pickles this week. Don’t worry, we won’t eat them all but they usually go into goodie baskets for guests and family.

Soon the tomatoes should be ready for canning. Like last year , the peppers didn’t do so good, but I still plan on canning some salsa. The bees are going gangbusters and we should be harvesting Hoten Holler Honey in the next few weeks.

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Bees prepping for their morning sorties

The calves are getting huge and after the hay is up, it won’t be long before they get weaned off of their mothers.  The bull has been in with the cows since mid-July and we are hoping he has been doing his duties.  It appears he is a little worn out, too.

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Koozy, the bull laying down amongst his harem

Tonight, it is raining again which means we won’t be able to do anything with hay until mid day tomorrow at the earliest.  Dave and I are watching the storms roll in and Sheriff Joe is passed out on the floor after a long day of chasing butterflies.  Life is good on the ranch.

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A beautiful August day

 

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