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Fatz and Moon Pi

6 April 2021 – Freezing rain and snow and 28 degrees

Holy Cow or Holy Calf we have been busy since the last blog!  We have three more calves but this blog will be dedicated to the heifer calf we named Moon Pi.  On Monday, the 29th of March at 5AM I headed out across the stock dam into the maternity ward pasture to check on the cattle.  Dave had just checked at 3AM, and thought I might need to look at our heifer, Fatz, who was acting a little strange and off by herself.  

The full moon was shining so brightly I could see from a distance that Fatz was licking a little black bundle on the ground, and I could see little eyes and a head.  As I got closer I could tell she had just calved because the baby still was covered in goo.  Fatz was still standing there straining with her tail straight out behind her and I thought she might be having twins, but thank goodness she was not and was just finishing up her birthing process.  She turned around and started licking her new calf who was pretty quick to get up and try to nurse.

Unfortunately, Fatz was not going to allow that.  For unknown reasons, some first-calf heifers just don’t know what being a mother entails. I guess no one ever told them what to expect.  It’s possible that she was sore after calving, or just scared by the whole process.  It was extremely windy which is always unsettling and that may have put her on edge as well.  Anyway, she would not let the baby near her milk bag and kept aggressively kicking it down and eventually she just turned and walked away. 

By this time, Dave was out with me and we realized that Fatz might need some alone time with her baby so we picked up the baby and took her a short distance to the shed, anticipating that mom would follow and get away from the rest of the herd who was starting to get up and get on with their days.  Fatz was not interested in following and we eventually coaxed her into the shed with her baby.  At this point, she completely lost her mind and began aggressively pacing and testing the shed gate, not giving any thought to her newborn and almost trampling her.  We opened the shed door and Fatz left.  

Now Dave and I were looking at this poor pathetic calf, barely two hours old, and no mom around that was remotely interested in her.  We knew that she needed colostrum immediately to ensure a healthy immune system for her life ahead, and went and heated up a bottle and tried to feed it to her.  This calf was barely hanging on and would not take the bottle.  We called the vet to see what else could be done and she reinforced the idea that that calf needed colostrum immediately and that we could give it to her with an esophageal feeder, or stomach tube.  We had not done this before so Dave put the little calf on the floorboard of his truck and booked it to the vet where she taught him how to tube a baby. 

Moon Pi in the calf sled in the mudroom after getting a belly injected full of colostrum and milk

The vet instructed that if the baby did not get up and eat from a bottle in two hours that we should tube her again, which we ended up doing two more times.  By the third time, she was clearly getting stronger but wasn’t quite able to stand on her own.  After the 3rd dose of milk she got up, wobbly legged, and hesitantly drank milk replacer from a bottle.  Oh by the way, this all took place in the mudroom of the house because it was quite cold and we wanted her to have the best chance at life.

Sherriff sitting guard duty over little Moon Pi

Long story, I know, but the result was after multiple mini-meals of milk the baby began to regain strength and by the next afternoon she was actively searching out the bottle and sucking so hard I thought she would pull the nipple right off the thing!  Since this little heifer calf was the 3rd calf this season and her ear tag number would be 14, we decided to name her Pi after the mathematical constant 3.14.  Since she was born under the full moon we called her Moon Pi.

An improving Moon Pi sucking down some milk replacer

Meanwhile, Fatz went out to graze with the herd and did not look back until the next morning.  I’m sure she had milk in her  bag and it was starting to irritate her. It seemed she realized she had missed out on something and needed her calf, because she kept coming up to the barn and loudly and insistently mooing.  We wanted Moon Pi to get a little stronger before we tried to reunite her with her mom, but we knew she needed to be around other cows or we would end up with a bottle baby for the next 5 months.  We moved Pi into a barn stall where she could hear her mom outside and her mom could hear her.  We let them sniff each other through some corral panels and Fatz finally seemed very interested in getting her baby back.  We opened the panels and put them together and Fatz licked her all over until Moon Pi tried to get on her teat to eat and then Fatz stomped on her again!

We hustled in there and grabbed the poor baby away from her mom and realized this was going to take some more work.  After consulting with multiple cattlemen and other ranchers we decided to catch Fatz in the squeeze chute and either milk her, or hobble her hind feet and put Moon Pi up to her so they both could realize what was supposed to happen.  Does this sound like a crazy idea?  Maybe, but lots of others have had success with this technique for absentee moms and it was definitely worth a shot.  

Might as well try!

We enlisted the help of a neighbor, and caught Fatz in the squeeze chute.  Dave got down behind her and threw ropes around her rear feet to hobble her.  The neighbor held the ropes while I tried to distract her in front of the chute with hay and cow cake.  When they were ready, I got Moon Pi out of the barn stall and pushed her up underneath her mom.  With the neighbor keeping Fatz from hurting us, Dave and I were able to maneuver the calf up to her mom’s teats and before too long, she was sucking away!  As soon as the baby began nursing it was like Fatz had taken a sedative.  She relaxed in the chute completely and began eating her hay and not struggling.  Progress!

Dave manages to get her feet hobbled
Baby investigating the mandatory nursing location

We decided to slowly introduce this process as the last time we tried to put Fatz back with Moon Pi, Moon Pi was nearly trampled to death.  We planned on repeating the mandatory nursing for the next few days in the hopes that mom would relax and realize that the baby was a good thing. After two days we put them back together again and Voila!  Mom adopted her baby back and we watched, overjoyed, as she let her nurse and did not even try to kick her.  

Finally getting the hang of it

And then the weather improved, the sun came out and everyone lived happily ever after.  Okay, not quite, but the weather did improve and Fatz did take Moon Pi back.  Oddly enough, Fatz became extremely overprotective, not letting us get near Moon Pi and acting very aggressive to other calves that came to investigate.  She seemed to realize that if she wasn’t going to be a good mom, her baby would get disappeared!  We were still quite pleased.  The best thing for that little calf is a cow-momma, not an adopted people-momma. 

Fatz and Moon Pi – Reunited

Dave and I were feeling pretty good about this.  Thank goodness for all the advice from other cattle owners and the help of good neighbors.  Sometimes life on the Holler ain’t all sunshine and roses, but it sure feels good when a problem gets worked out. It especially feels good to do something you never imagined you would do and see a positive result. We hope you all are doing well out there in the real world.  Hang onto your freedoms and we’ll do the same!

A Frosty Morning

10 Jan 2021 – Sunny and 37 degrees

How’s everyone doing out there in the real world?  Things on the Holler have settled into a typically slow plod through the winter months, where the sun is only showing about 8 hours a day and that little amount of daylight is filled up by a million little projects and a few routine chores.

A frosty morning

This morning we had some spectacular hoar frost.  

Some hoar frost. When the wind is out of the east we always get a little icing on the cake!

The cows were even a little frosty, although they all seem pretty fat and happy, just how we like them.

Andy also got a little icing

Things are changing rapidly out here.  One of our neighbors sold off a big piece of her property, which was bought and subdivided into 40 acre plots.  Those plots sold almost immediately and shortly thereafter they put in some power poles.

Power company putting in poles across the way

This means that we will  probably have new neighbors on two sides of the Holler, although it seems unlikely this will happen quickly. The rumors are that local builders are scheduled out two-three years.  We are just happy they divided the plots into 40 acres and not five or ten, but it just goes to show you really have no control over most things, so you have to just roll with it.

We plan to take advantage of the power that has been set up.  As you may remember, we are completely off-grid solar here, which has its advantages and also disadvantages.  It’s great not having a power bill, but there are days, like yesterday, when it is completely cloudy and we get almost no charge to the batteries. Also, the winter days are so short, so if we get snow and we don’t get the snow scraped off the solar panels, we are back to depending on the generator.

These days we run the propane generator, which isn’t really an inconvenience, but it would be nice to be able to just use the grid as a back-up. Plus, it will be nice to not have to rush outside in the mornings to scrape snow off the panels.

Snowy panels do not equal good power.

I wish I had more to report.  Don’t worry, Hoten Holler Follerers, calving season, planting season, and a new crop of bees are just around the corner.  Until then, hang on to your liberties and have a great Sunday!

Wooly Bear looking for some cake

You’re REALLY on Fire!

17 October 2020- Rain/sleet and 35 degrees – expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight

Yesterday was a spectacular day on the Holler.  After supper, Dave and I had a glass of wine in the loft and were discussing how grateful for all the things that happened this week, and the frosting on the cake was as we toasted it started to rain.  We have been desperately praying for rain.  Amen.

Last Saturday morning was beautiful weather, but dry.  I went for a run and Dave was up in the barn and corral working on a plan to sort out the individual calves that were going to different buyers this week.  He came around the corner and looked to the south to see smoke billowing up from what looked like the neighbor’s house.  He thought to himself, “Why would anyone be burning trash in this wind and dryness?” and he jumped in the Mule to drive down there and see what was going on.  As he got closer he realized the smoke was not from a controlled burn, but it was a fast moving grass fire and headed right toward another neighbor’s lot full of dry ponderosa pine.  

A little bigger than a trash burn.

He sped up the hill and ran into the first neighbor’s barn where he found the man working on his mower.  Dave said, “Did you call the fire department?”  and immediately realized the man had no idea what was happening. The wind was blowing away from the barn so he couldn’t even smell the smoke.  “You’re on fire, you’re really on fire!  Call 9-11!”  And with that Dave sped down to another neighbor’s place that was definitely downwind of the burning grass and now burning trees.  He ran up to their house and told them to get their kids and animals and get out.

Right about this time I was returning from my run and I was dying after running up the steep hill that ends at the north part of our road.  I turned the corner and saw huge flames in the trees and immediately thought it was the southern-most neighbor’s house. I never ran home so fast in my life and as I was running down the hill I saw Dave speeding up the road from the direction of the blaze and realized he must have already called the fire department.  By the time I got to the house he was in the tractor headed over to the neighbors whose house was in danger to help them move their hay bales away from the approaching fire.  I jumped in the Mule and drove over there behind him to see if I could help them get their stuff out.  

These are new neighbors that moved into the High Lonesome and they have 3 kids and 4 dogs and 2 cats.  I ran into their house and said, “What can I do to help?”  The lady said “Just get all of the animals in the car!”  So we loaded up the animals and obviously, the kids and drove back to our place which was to this point in the clear from the fire.  As we raced down their driveway we could see what looked like a fire tornado spinning across the pasture and flames were rolling along the tree tops.  

Driveway to new neighbors’ house and wind blowing the fire toward it.

In a short time, and I mean short, the fire department arrived.  They were awesome.  Several local volunteer departments went right to work and they even called in three helicopter drops of water. After a very stressful hour and a half it appeared that they had the whole thing under control and the new neighbors place was no longer under threat.  The fire was contained about 150 feet from their barn.  God Bless the firefighters!

The fire departments remained on scene until late in the evening and sent crews out the next day to continue to douse the hot spots.  We are so grateful that no one got hurt and not one structure burnt.  It could have been really, really bad.  Instead it appears there will be a nice green pasture next year.

Burnt grass and forest.

The week remained busy as we decided our fire mitigation plan here needed some work.  Dave assembled a fire fighting kit by ordering multiple long hoses that would work with a water pump that we have.  We decided to keep our cistern full of water and to always have water in the totes just in case.  Of course we can’t keep the totes full when it freezes but in the summer when it is dry, they will be at the ready.

Wednesday, we both went to another neighbor’s house to help him with his round-up preg check event.  He is a lot bigger than us with over 200 calves and nearly 300 cows.  Dave sorted and pushed cattle into the tub and up the alley.  I got to give shots to all the calves. They especially liked tequila shots.  It was a long, long day and we were both really tired at the end.  We are also really grateful that we only have a few cows.

Calves waiting to be worked
Horseback cowboy pushes cows toward the tub.

Thursday we recovered from the round-up and began preparing for the big snow we are supposed to be getting this weekend.  We also did some preparations for our calves who were going to separate buyers.

Friday, Apollo 11 went home with the gentleman from Wyoming who wants to add him in with his two calves and raise him up for beef next year.  The guy was so nice and he loved our gentle cows.  He said to stay in touch and not sell any of our steers next year without talking to him first.  We are just really happy Apollo went to another ranch for the rest of his life instead of a feedlot.

After Apollo 11 left, Dave and I loaded up the three heifer calves and he drove them to another ranch where a really nice couple had prepared a great corral and shelter for them. They were so happy to get these three gentle girls and again, we are so happy they are also going to live on a ranch where hopefully they will be (re-)productive and have long and happy lives. 

Apollo 11’s last day on the Holler
Dave says goodbye to the heifers, Frosty, Bo, and Toni. They seemed to like their new digs.

And that leaves us with one calf, Henry the 8th.  We didn’t want poor Hank to be lonely so before all the calves left we sorted out two of our yearling heifers from the big cows to come hang out with him while he continues to be weaned from his mom.  It went so smoothly and Dave and I just walked into the pasture and they were already hanging out by the gate.  We tempted them out with just a little cake and walked them down the road and into a pasture adjacent to the corral.  We let Henry out with them and now they are all hanging out together for the next four weeks. 

Lucky and Fatz get to hang out with their little brother, Henry the 8th. I’ll post a picture of all three when I get a good one.

That brings us back to yesterday evening.  On the way back from the ranch where Dave dropped off the heifer calves, he stopped at Lintz Bros. Pizza Company which was a great treat for us.  We had a great supper and all the chores were done and finally we had a moment to relax and think about how lucky we are.  There were so many moving parts and pieces that could have gone awry, but somehow we were able to safely get all the animals to happy new homes. We also narrowly avoided a disastrous fire.  Neither of us got hurt at round up.  It was just one of those moments where we had a chance to reflect on all the work of the previous year of breeding, raising, feeding, watering, haying, calving, branding, and finally selling our product, the calves.  Plus we feel like we did a lot better than we would have done at the sale barn.  

Just when things couldn’t seem to be going any better, it started to rain and has been raining/snowing on and off since yesterday.  Oh, and then the pics and videos of the calves from their new happy homes started coming in via text. I don’t normally like to say it out loud for fear of jinxing ourselves, but life is good on the Holler.

Fatz, Lucky, and Hunny on a warmer day.

I hope everyone out there in the real world is having as good a weekend as we are, snowstorm and all.  Keep it free out there!

Long Shadows

29 September 2019 – raining, windy and 41 degrees

It’s the perfect day to stay inside and write a blog.  It is cold, rainy, and pretty miserable outside.  Dave built the first fire in the wood stove of the season and he, the Sheriff, and I are taking a lazy Saturday morning inside where it is warm and dry.  We did manage to sneak out for a quick morning walk but it looks like we will be housebound for the rest of the morning.  That’s okay with us, because we have been working a lot outside this week, trying to put posts in the rocky barnyard to set up a corral for our herd.

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One telephone post….hole dug, filled and set with concrete.  About 2 hours work.  Phewww.

We got these corral panels from a seller off of Craig’s List.

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Coral panels are portable fence.  It makes more sense for our rocky ground than setting tons of posts.

We are hoping to organize our corral so we can have a place to load cows and a separate alley to send them through the squeeze chute.  Our ground is so hard and rocky that every post we put in takes a lot of effort and time to dig the holes.  We have a new neighbor that has lent us his jack-hammer.  He also asked us to take 28 telephone poles off of his hands.  He wasn’t going to use them and didn’t want to dump them, so we moved them to our place and are using them for the corral as well.

We are also consulting with another local rancher and friend.  Yesterday, I put together some garden goodies and some honey and Dave went over to the Spring Valley Ranch and dropped off the box for the rancher and his wife.  He told them, “I’m bribing you to see if you can come over and help us plan our corral.”  They were super excited about the goody box and the rancher will come by this week and discuss our plans.  He also asked us for some help with his fall roundup next month.  We really like the community support of the ranching community.

We have been busy fixing fences almost every day since the elk have become much more rambunctious as the rut continues.  It really is quite beautiful to hear them bugle us to sleep in the evenings.  The last few years we haven’t had near the elk activity as this year.  We’ve seen them almost every day for a month, and nearly every morning we wake up to loud bugles and elk right in our backyard.

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Breakfast!

As I posted last time, the only drawback to getting to see these wild creatures every day is that they are destructive, taking out trees and barbed wire wherever they decide to go.  I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

A lot of people ask us if we can shoot one, but unfortunately the answer is no unless we get an elk tag.  There are ranchers with much bigger operations than ours that have enough acreage to get a “reclamation tag” where they can harvest an elk to repay themselves for damage to their property.  We do not have enough land to qualify for this, and in South Dakota, you have to apply for a regular hunting tag in a lottery.  It is pretty tough to get one, we hear.  I think the elk have heard this as well and consequently decided to continue to hang out on the Holler.

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The elk keep getting closer to the house.

In other ranch news, we moved the wood box back to the front porch in anticipation of colder weather.

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Moving the wood box back to the porch….a sign of impending snow!

Also, we decided to invest in a wood splitter.  Dave says when he was growing up, he didn’t know what a wood splitter was.  If someone mentioned “the wood splitter”, he thought they were talking about him and his axe.

We discussed the fact that splitting wood by hand is fantastic exercise…..if you’re in your twenties.  But in your 50’s, splitting wood by hand is a fantastic way to injure yourself.  The machine arrived yesterday and Dave assembled it.  We are champing at the bit to get out there and put it to use, but dang it…it’s raining!  Ha ha.

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Joe took up residence in the crate the splitter arrived in.  He is splitting his own wood (sticks) in there.

We had a fantastic September, but the weather is changing and the temperatures are starting to drop.  The mornings and evenings are beautiful, and the shadows are growing longer.  One year ago today we had the first snow of the season.  We’re sad to see summer go, but getting ready for another winter and actually looking forward to a few down days.  Happy rainy Saturday from the Holler!

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Sheriff Joe making sure the calves don’t get out of line.

 

The Great Calf Escape of 2018

1 January 2019 – Sunny and 4 degrees (-19 Windchill)

Happy New Year!  It is going to be hard to beat 2018.  We were sad to see it go as it was such a busy and productive year for us, but we are looking forward to more progress and adventures in 2019.

We ended the year with a lot of snow.  The forecast was for 1-3 inches on the 30th, but it snowed that whole day and most of New Year’s Eve. We probably have between 8 and 9 inches of snow on the ground.  It is beautiful, but the clear skies last night made the morning bone-chilling cold.  Or as we like to say, “quite refreshing!”

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Rancher Dave breaking ice in the stock tank

The cows all took shelter over in the loafing shed and the barn at the High Lonesome.  Our barn is full of hay and we don’t have it set up with a corral for the cows yet, so it is nice that they can find a warm place to hide out when the weather gets extreme. While it was snowing, we decided to feed them in the bunks in the corral.

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Cowboy Dave checking out the herd eating in the bunks

We prefer to feed the cows in the field because when they are all cooped up and squished together someone always gets ticked off and a bar fight breaks out.  There is a lot of head butting and snorting and pushing in a small space.  Add the snowy/icy conditions to that and there is potential for someone to get hurt.  When we feed them in the field, they seem to leave each other alone and enjoy their meals.

Once it stopped snowing, Rancher Dave used the snow plow to create a lane in the field where we could put out hay, and this morning they were back to eating in the manner they (and we) prefer. Most of the cows came running through the field, but three of them decided they didn’t want to make the trip, even for dinner.  So they “ordered in” and we fed the remaining three in the bunks.  Apparently, they preferred to stay in on New Year’s Eve.  Too many drunken revelers for them I suppose. They have us trained pretty well.

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Plowed area in the field with hay set out for our spoiled cows.  Holler and the barn in the back.

We did have some excitement on New Year’s Eve.  As I mentioned, we have a young bull and a calf penned up over at the High Lonesome because we are weaning the calf from his Mom.  The young bull is there for company.  Before the afternoon feeding, Linda was cooking in her kitchen and noticed two calves running through her yard!  She and Cowboy Dave ran outside and closed the gate before they could escape to the road and back to the herd.  They tried to walk them back to the pens, but the calfies were not having it. Cue the Benny Hill music.

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Shuffling around in the snow trying to catch up with escapees

At around the same time, Rancher Dave and I were headed up the driveway for the afternoon chores and feeding.  Obviously our priorities changed at that point and the four of us went about the business of catching the escaped hoodlums and pushing them back into the pen.  This was really fun in the blowing snow and ice, but we worked together and got them back where they belonged.

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The two culprits apprehended once again

It turns out, someone had left a gate open after morning chores. Since Rancher Dave and I do the morning chores, it was pretty obvious that  one of us was responsible for leaving the escape route wide open.  It didn’t really matter, we all needed some exercise and the calves enjoyed their little rebellion.  I suppose there are more exciting New Year’s Eve stories, but we kind of prefer a tamer night on the ranch to a wild party in the city.

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Red Barn, White Snow, Blue Tractor.  

We hope everyone out there has a fantastic New Year.  Stay warm! It beats the other options.

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The herd enjoying the cleared field for breakfast.  Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…..

24 December 2018 – Sunny and 47 degrees!

Merry Christmas! There is not a lot of news to report from the Holler for the second half of December, but we wanted to wish all the Hollerer Follerers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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A cold morning earlier this month.

We have been enjoying a really warm December, but it appears that all that will change tomorrow as we are expecting snow on Christmas Day. What more could anyone wish for?

We are planning a quiet and peaceful day. We will feed and bust ice in the morning and follow it up with a Rancher’s Special Christmas Breakfast of Egg Benedict. Then we are going to take it easy until afternoon chores. Cowboy Dave and Linda have invited us to Christmas dinner and we are looking forward to showing them the “2018 Review” which is a movie we make of all the things that have been accomplished on Stagecoach Springs throughout the year. It is really just slides set to music, but we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of progress to show. This year we hayed over 50 acres. We put up over 1000 bales of hay into the barn that was also built this year. We filled the wood sheds. We cut and dragged slash. We watched our herd deliver 7 healthy calves. We plowed snow, we fed cattle, we chopped ice, we picked up rocks, we harvested honey, we made jelly and salsa and all sorts of things from the garden. We had great times with visiting family and friends. We drank a few Keystones and glasses of wine. We made trips to North Carolina, Montana and Iowa. We got a puppy, kittens, and expanded the beehives. We built fences. You can imagine there are quite a few pictures in the” 2018 Review” movie.

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Domino, our new cow, seems to be getting along better with everyone.  

Tonight we sit here with happy hearts enjoying the Christmas tree and a nice warm fire in the stove. From our house to everyone out there we hope your Christmas is merry and bright and we thank you for reading about our adventures this year. God Bless!

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Joey, who looks like the culprit that ate my powdered doughnuts!

Hotens on Ice

9 December 2018 – Sunny and Highs in the upper 30’s

I know we aren’t the only ones with snow right now.  Here is a friendly reminder to go slow, keep your feet underneath you, and keep your tires on the road!  The warmer temperatures and the melting snow have made our whole world one big icy challenge.

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Ice and snow everywhere we go

The first step out the door in the morning is onto a slippery, icy, deck.  I generally am looking down at my feet to make sure I don’t trip.  Yesterday, I was looking down and Sheriff Joe was right next to me.  I saw him lower his head into his hunting position, and his tail came up to a nearly vertical point.  I looked up and about 15 feet in front of me was a beautiful buck with a huge rack of antlers.  He stared right at me for a split second and then the Sheriff ran him off. I love mornings.

Next, I shuffled through the ice, Tim Conway style, up to the barn and made sure Maverick, the cat, got fed and watered.  Dave loaded hay in the Mule and warmed it up so we could go feed the cows. The Mule has been in  four wheel drive a lot because every time we try to go up a hill we end up spinning out.  We bought it used and think it still has the original tires, so we have ordered some replacements to ease our commute!

When we feed, even the cows are being careful in the slippery field.  Normally they will run towards the feed wagon (the Mule), but they know to be more cautious in the winter and tread very lightly.  It’s kind of cool to watch a 1600lb cow walking as gently and slowly as possible. It is similar to watching a very large ballet dancer.  Maybe I’ll buy them some tutus.

Our chores have become slightly more complicated because we have two new editions to our herd.  They are actually older ladies, but one of our neighbors gave us a bred cow as a barter for some fence work we did for her, and Cowboy and Linda purchased the other cow from her.  Meet Brandy and Domino!

Unfortunately, even though they are all adults, the cows act like rotten grade school children when a new kid shows up at school.  They all gang up on the new cows and there is a lot of brawling, head butting, and kicking up dirt and snow.  It’s pretty awful to watch, but all we can do is yell at them to stop, or whack them with a stick so they will separate.  Poor Brandy and Domino have been spending most of the day looking wistfully at their old pasture across the way, but they did figure out the Mule means food and have started coming down to the plowed area of the pasture when we feed.  They have been holding their own and getting in on the food and cake in between the bar room brawls.  I hope they can all adjust soon.

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Brandy and Domino missing their old home across the fence.

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave trying to bounce out any rowdy cows that start fights at breakfast.

One of the casualties of all the fighting was poor Honey, our cow that had recently been to the vet for an ear problem.  Her ear was healing nicely, but lately it began to look like she had been rubbing it or itching it with her hind leg.  It was bleeding and scabby again. The first morning we introduced the new cows to the herd, Rancher Dave, Cowboy, Linda, and I watched the cows feed in the morning and tried to prevent too much fighting.  As we were watching, we saw Puzzle, one of our old cows, take a really cheap shot and headbutt Honey right in the bad ear.

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The boxing ring

Honey’s ear shot blood all over her face and Puzzle’s.  It was like that horrible scene in Rocky where his eye bursts open.  Honey looked like it hurt her pretty badly, and she kept dropping her head and shaking her ears.  We decided we would have to take her back to the vet.  Fortunately, our vets here are really exceptional and even though it was a Saturday and short notice, they decided to squeeze us in….or literally, squeeze Honey in the chute!

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Dr. Olivia gives Honey a shave so she can treat her ear

They shaved, cleaned, and disinfected her ear, pulled the tag out, and gave her an antibiotic.  We were really glad we took her in because she had a slight fever indicating the ear might be infected. Poor Honey!

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Honey’s infected ear…note all the blood that the vet cleaned out of it on the bottom of the chute.

Now back to the Ice-Capades.  Our dirt road is private, and the maintenance is up to the people living here, so Rancher Dave does the plowing and Cowboy Dave does the snow blowing when needed.  We don’t have that much snow on the ground and our road didn’t even require plowing this time.  Still, it is slick in some spots and from the Holler to the county road is uphill the whole way.

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Looking north up our road.  The Holler is on the right and the High Lonesome on the left.  It is about .6 miles to the top of the hill from our driveway.

The county road is also dirt and is maintained by the county.  They usually get out and plow it right away, which they did this year, but so far they have not put down any salt or sand.  It reminds me of that amusement park ride, the Alpine Slide.  From the top of our road to pavement it is all downhill and it feels like you’re driving on the roughest washboard covered in ice. Wheeeee!

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Staring down the Alpine Slide

Okay, not wheeee!  More like Whoa!  Cowboy and Rancher Dave hooked up the cattle trailer to the truck and had no problems getting up our hill, but once they hit the Alpine Slide they had to slow way down, keep in in four-wheel drive, and hang on tight all the way to the neighbors.  They made it safely, loaded up the two bred cows, and proceeded back up the mountain to our road.  Driving on ice is challenging enough, but it adds another level of excitement when you’re pulling a large trailer.  Why not up the ante and load that trailer with two 1500 lb pregnant cows?  We create our own fun out here in the country.

Fortunately, they made it back safely.  Unfortunately, Rancher Dave and I got to make the same trip to the main road with Honey loaded up for the vet the next day.  Again, it was an easy trip to the county road and a white knuckled, slow as we could go, slip and slide down the Alpine Slide.  Coming up from the main road is worse because it is so icy, you cannot really slow down too much or you wheels will just spin and you won’t make it up the hill.  I was really glad Rancher Dave was driving but we all made it safely.  We unloaded Honey into a corral at the High Lonesome with two of the nicer, younger cows for company.  We decided we are going to keep her out of the boxing ring while her ear heals. Next we hosed out the trailer and got everything put away just in time for afternoon feeding.

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Valentine at the afternoon feeding

That evening, Rancher Dave and I were sitting on the sofa drinking some fancy boxed wine and he said to me, “Everything today was difficult.  The fighting cows, the injured cow, the trip to the vet, and even the chores were hard to get done because of all the ice!” I agreed, it was a stressful and tiring day.  Then he said, “But you know what, there is nothing I would rather be doing.”  I agreed with this too, and about 15 minutes later he was sound asleep on the couch.

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Why is everyone so sleepy?

And by the way, Honey’s ear is doing just great.  The very next morning you couldn’t even tell she had a wound, it just looked like someone shaved her ear.  Cow’s and their stupid  party tricks; wait until someone passes out and shave their ear.  Classic.  Everyone be safe out there in the ice and snow!

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You can’t even tell her right ear was injured.  God Bless our animal doctor!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 23

It has been an incredible November here in South Dakota. We have had several days in a row that were almost 50 degrees, and if the forecast is correct, we are expecting 50’s next week as well! Today, we woke up to a little dusting of snow and temperatures in the low teens, but we cannot complain as the wood stove is cranking and the house is warm. Also, we have been working outside a lot, taking advantage of the warm weather and are grateful for an “indoor day” to get caught up on other projects.

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Snow on the Holler

We have been working on cleaning, fixing, and prepping some of the haying equipment for winter storage. This year, all of the machinery can fit in the barn and that really extends the life of all things mechanical. Dave had to pull out the old mower blade, and that took several hours of pushing and pulling. He was not deterred.

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Rancher Dave sitting in the hard gravel working on the mower

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He got the blade out!

I worked on cleaning up an old calf table. It was pretty worn and rusty so I thought I would spray paint it with Rustoleum. This was not a good idea considering the gusty winds. I went through a can of paint in about 5 minutes. Instead, I found some of the rust-proof paint we used to paint the trailer last summer and that worked out pretty nicely.

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Before

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After

This calf table is missing one of the handles, but if we can rig one up, we will be all set for round up next year and we won’t have to borrow one. If the bull did his duties and all goes well, we will be expecting seven calves in April, and Cowboy and Linda will also be expecting six in April. Muzzle should be delivering in July again this year since she got off cycle somehow last year. So the roundup will be twice as big as last year. Any volunteers are welcome!

Dave was going to teach me to change the oil in the generator that is the backup for our solar power. It runs a test cycle every week and we have used it off and on when we have a run of cloudy days that aren’t solar-power friendly. As we began to take everything apart, Cowboy Dave and his dogs showed up in the southern pasture in his Kawasaki Mule. Joey decided that it looked like they were having more fun than Dave and I changing the oil and so he scooted off through the barbed wire across the field and up the hill to join the party. I don’t want him running off, even if it is just to see his friends, so I went through the gate, across the field and up the hill to get him and scold him. By the time we returned to the generator, Dave had changed the oil. Jen’s training: incomplete.

It was also time to change the oil in our Mule, so we did that on one of the warm days as well.

We have been waiting for some moisture in the forecast so we can put down nitrogen for fertilizer. We have had the broadcaster on Babe all month, but we just haven’t had the right weather to fertilize yet, so we took the broadcaster off the tractor so we could move the mower Then, we put the broadcaster back on Babe so we will be ready to go when the weather dictates. We also helped Cowboy Dave put his snowblower on his tractor, Bob, likely ensuring we won’t have any significant snow all winter, right?

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Broadcaster on Babe

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Snowblower on Bob

Putting implements on tractors and taking them off is not a huge deal, but it does take some time, depending on how many connections, cotter pins, etc. are involved.  It requires some teamwork and coordination and our overall operations are improving. We are hoping all the equipment is good to go for winter, now. It is a lot easier doing some of these outdoor tasks when it is sunny and 50 than when it is snowing and 10 degrees.  Dave was happy that even though it was in the low teens this morning, Babe, the tractor, started right up in the barn. He got to work picking up some of the slash we have been dragging near the stock dam.

It is our 3rd November here in South Dakota, and really only the 2nd of having somewhat of a normal existence as ranchers since we were in the camper the 1st year. The rhythm of the seasons is starting to feel more comfortable. We are feeling much more prepared for winter than last year and definitely more than the first year we were out here. This blog is starting to get a little routine, more chasing cows, dragging slash, fixing equipment, stacking wood etc. Still, I really enjoy documenting our life here. If you would have told us ten years ago what we would be doing we would have said you were crazy. It turns out that we have never felt more at home. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A cold winter day, even for cows

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Maverick getting some sun on the hay bales in the barn

 

Dust Bunnies and Barn Cats

7 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 35

Anyone who has ever lived in the country, especially on a dirt road will understand the never-ending war on dust.  When we built this house, all of our neighbors said, “Don’t get a lot of carpet.  It’s impossible to keep clean.”  So we didn’t, and instead went with this dark flooring.

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Beautiful dark floor….impossible to keep clean!

I can still hear the words of warning from one of my past co-workers, Cindy, who said, “Don’t get dark floors.  They will always look dirty!”  Obviously, I didn’t listen and Cindy, if you’re out there, you were absolutely right.  The thing is, I love the look of these dark floors, especially when they are clean.  The problem is (and believe me this is NOT something I would describe as a problem in any other context) we live on a dirt road, have a dirt driveway, our yard, while filling in with some grass, is still mostly dirt from construction.  Add to that our mostly outdoor activities, which leads to muddy, dirty boots in and out of the house all day.  Oh, don’t forget the super fuzzy and dirt- loving Sheriff, or rather, Joe Dirt.!  The cumulative result of these factors is a very dirty/dusty looking floor.

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Sheriff helping in the garden

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Joe Dirt

It seems I am constantly sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. I admit it has become somewhat of a neurosis, but when I see dusty paw prints or dust bunnies, I become a bit of a crazy lady and make a mad dash for the broom….. or my Halloween ride!  Dave is a complete team player, mostly taking off his boots when coming in the house and he even went so far to build me a mop/broom station for organization.

Two days ago he again proved to be the MVP on the Holler.  He went to get the mail and came back and said, “Look what I got ya!”  And I was more than super excited to see it was a robotic vacuum cleaner!  This is something I would have never bought for myself, but Dave is always solutions oriented and probably also tired of me crabbing about the dirty floors.

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My super new robot vacuum….I’m Jenny Jetson!  Love it!

So here is my product review.  This vacuum sucks.  And that is awesome for a vacuum whose only job is to suck.  It is smart enough to work its way around the room, it can go over hard floor and carpet, it’s slim enough to fit under the sofas and bedroom furniture, and when its battery starts running low, it finds its way back to the charging station.  Win, win, win!  Thanks, Dave!  We do have to keep an eye on Joey, because he is quite interested in the thing and would probably like nothing better than to jump on it and tear it to pieces.  Don’t do it, Joey!

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What kind of toy is this?   Hmmmmm?

We have been busy here, and despite the cold temperatures and wind, we built a fence for our neighbor, Sheri.

That was about a 3 day project, building H’s one day, 80 T-posts the next, and hanging wire on the third.  We’ve become pretty efficient with the fence tool and post cannon, but we still get pretty sore from fence building.

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I’m driving Babe back from the fence build.  The Sheriff  usually rides shotgun with me and doesn’t like when I drive something without him! 

I have sad news on the animal front regarding Goose the cat.  Goose went missing about 3 weeks ago and while most country folks don’t think that is that long for a barn cat to wander, I feel like she must’ve gotten eaten by a coyote or a hawk.  We see and hear coyotes almost every day and they also have to eat. Goose was pretty little and not so smart, poor thing.  Maverick has always been more athletic, easily evading Joey and the neighbor dogs and shooting up a tree when necessary.  He seems much happier without Goose, but Dave and I are sad and hopeful that either she still might return or that she met a quick ending. Another piece of country advice:  Don’t get too attached to barn cats.

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Come back, Goose!  or RIP Goose! 

Finally, we had a fun night out last night.  As is our new tradition, we spend election Tuesday evening with our dear friends, Cowboy and Linda, and drive 6 miles to the Pringle Fire Hall and cast our ballots.  Then we walk literally around the building into the Hitch Rail Bar and Grill and have a delicious cheeseburger and some beers.  Then we go vote again….just kidding.  As we were driving there early yesterday evening, we saw an enormous bald eagle soaring along the highway.  What a cool thing to see when heading to exercise your civic duty!

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The HitchRail Bar with the Red Tower of the Pringle Volunteer Fire Dept and polling station just behind.

November has set in and things have slowed.  Temps are dipping into the teens in the evenings and the days are cool but fortunately there has been a lot of sunshine and not a lot of that cold, white, fluffy stuff we won’t mention by name. We aren’t feeding cows yet, but they are all fat and contentedly laying around by mid-morning with full bellies from the grazing that remains in the pastures. Days are short, but sweet and we are looking forward to a fun, productive November, and also some dust-free floors!!!

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave pushing Rose, the cow, out of the High Lonesome Driveway.  WHO LET THE COWS OUT? 

 

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