Search

Hoten Holler!

Category

Tractor

Two Babies and an Earthquake

26 March 2021 – Cloudy with rain in the forecast, about 43 degrees

After surviving the beast of a blizzard, temperatures bounced right back up and the whole world immediately became a muddy, sloppy mess.

Dave in the tractor removing some mud

One of our cows decided that since she found one patch of dry land she would go ahead and have a baby right there.

Cherry Bomb and Shadow shortly after birth

This is Cherry Bomb’s 3rd calf. The baby, which we named Shadow, is about three weeks early considering the dates of exposure to the bull and the cow-gestation calendars.  Shadow is also pretty small so we figured she must belong to the bull we leased and not the one that jumped in early in the season, otherwise she would have been bigger and possibly black?  It’s impossible to tell, but Cherry Bomb is a great mom and she had Shadow up and nursing in a short time.

Tiny little Shadow

The next morning, we noticed Lucky (a heifer) was really acting uncomfortable and wandering off by herself.  We followed her around from a distance and at one point she laid down and was obviously in hard labor.  We never saw her water break, but clearly she was having her calf.  In nine short minutes she had a beautiful little black heifer of her own.  

Lucky and Jinx

This is Lucky’s first calf and she didn’t quite understand what it was.  She got up after calving, turned around and started smelling it.  When the baby moved, Lucky was visibly startled and jumped backward like she had been shocked!  Dave went to check and make sure the baby was breathing; he stuck a finger in her nose and everything looked great so we just stood back and watched.  Lucky seemed unsure of what to do, but then Cherry Bomb, who had calved her baby just the day before, came over to Lucky and started licking Lucky’s calf.  Lucky caught on and began to mother her own baby while Cherry Bomb just laid down and hung out with her the rest of the day. Sometimes cows can be so smart, even kinder than people.

Lucky is #7, and her calf is #13 so we named her Jinx.  Jinx was a lot faster than Shadow and up and nursing almost immediately.  She is also pretty small and early.

Tiny little Jinx

Both girls seem to be doing pretty well.  They sleep all day wherever their moms park them in the tall grass, and they are up running and bucking in the morning and before nightfall.  They are super curious and squirt through the barbed wire a few times a day, but their moms call them and they come back through. Sometimes cows can be so dumb.

Two early girls

The early births of these calves has put Dave and I into night-watch mode. We take turns getting up several times a night to check if anyone is in labor or in trouble.  This is probably overkill, but we had some bad luck with heifers two years ago so we want to be around to help if we are needed.

While getting up in the middle of the night sounds like it might be a total pain, it is strangely peaceful and relaxing.  We are at a good phase of the moon so there has been a lot of light at the 1AM checks, and the moon sets by 4 or 5 and then the stars are so bright and beautiful.  Most of the time the cows all bunch up together and sleep under a tree in the maternity ward, but sometimes they spread out and we have to hike around to put eyes on everyone. When they are all sleeping together it sounds like a bunch of snoring old drunk sailors, and they are so used to us checking on them they rarely get up or even look up. It’s really quite comforting knowing they are all together and no one is calving and we can usually sleep more soundly after these checks.

The remaining pregnant ladies are looking mighty large and uncomfortable, but they have been enjoying the warmer temperatures and since the snow is almost gone they have been finding some green sprouts to graze upon. I bet they are ready to have their babies and get on with the springtime, already!

Jinx walking next to her Aunt Valentine, while her Aunt Dirty Dozen is in front, both aunts are super pregnant and expected to calve at any moment.

That’s about it for calving so far, but I forgot to mention that this morning we had a small earthquake.  I didn’t even feel it because I was outside playing with the Sheriff, but Dave said, “Did you feel the tremor?”  He said the house began to shake a bit and he could hear rattling, but I didn’t feel a thing outside.  Turns out we had a 3.4 earthquake centered not too far from here.  I’ve said it before, there is never a dull moment on the Holler! If we get any more tremors we’ll have to call up Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire.

Not too far from home!

We hope you all are doing well and keeping it free out there in the real world.  

Sheriff clinging to the last bit of remaining snow

Yeah, But How is Your Electric Bill?

12 February 2021 – snowing, high of negative 2, minus 15 this morning.  Brrrrr.

Oh boy am I eating my previous words about what a mild winter we were having.  I know we aren’t the only ones getting the five-finger icy death choke-hold from the polar vortex.  I see frigid temps and snow reaching much further south than normal, and I know the folks in North Dakota and Canada are really feeling it, or not, they may just be numb! As for us, we are on day six of what is forecast to be a ten day stretch where we won’t be seeing anything higher than 10 degrees.  Actually for the next three days we won’t get above zero and the evenings are much colder than that. It’s like Mother Nature said, “Oh, aren’t you enjoying this mild winter?”  and Old Man Winter said, “Ha ha, hold my beer!”

Cattle looking pretty cold

I can’t express how grateful I am, however, that the wind seems to have been shut off and by some miracle we are getting a bit of sun during the day.  This makes a huge difference in the real feel of the temperature. Also, as we are off-grid solar, the sun in the afternoons has made a huge difference.  Unfortunately, we have had about a week of really cloudy, snowy mornings which makes everything a pain regarding being dependent on solar energy.  

A rancher friend that we know has a much larger operation than we do. He has several out-buildings and runs quite a bit of heat on electricity.  He complained to me one time about how high his electric bill could get in the winter and I laughed to myself and thought, “Well, our electric bill is zero!”  But it really isn’t zero if you consider how many man hours can be required because we are not plugged into the grid.  This last cold spell has made Dave and I realize that getting on grid is a priority.  While solar is nice, it is not as convenient as good old fossil fueled electricity, especially when trying to heat water tanks overnight  and firing up block heaters to warm up tractors and other equipment.

Here’s the panels, or array after scraping once today. The black box beneath the panels is the propane generator that is called “emergency back-up” but has trouble starting with east wind and snow, so we put up a wind block of plywood.

When it’s full-on winter and there is little sun, our chores become a bit more involved.  Typically we get up and make coffee on the wood stove. Dave then puts on 40 layers of clothes and he and the Sheriff head to the barn to start the gas generator to plug in the block heater for the tractor. Then he slugs through the snow down to the house generator and takes down boards that protect it from freezing in the East wind and snow.  I see him do this and I start the house generator from inside while he scrapes the snow off the solar panels. When it is minus 15 degrees the house generator, which runs off of propane, sounds like it does not want to start and we both hold our breaths as it whines about its startup cycle. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s feet get cold and he comes running back to the porch wanting to come back in.  He needs better winter gear.

Sheriff Joe will start holding his feet up out of the snow when he gets too cold. Then he pouts if you put him inside before chores are over.

Once the generator is running and powering the house it also begins charging up the batteries. I get some coffee brewing with the electric coffee pot and fire up the oven to get some breakfast going before we get out to feed.  Dave comes in for coffee and toast and to let the tractor block heater get warm.  After a bit, we both winter-up with our 40 layers of clothes and we go to the barn to start the tractor and Mule. About 10-15 minutes later once everything is warm (if it started) the Sheriff and I hop in the Mule and go open the gates.  Dave follows in the tractor and scoops a lane in the snow drifts while he unrolls the hay for the cows.  The Sheriff and I head up to the stock tank and start chopping ice and running water.

Rancher Dave headed to feed.

After the food is out, Dave opens the gate to let the cows come out for breakfast.  Lately, they have been packing into the shed at night.  I am so glad we got that project done this fall, it really is a big deal for them to have a place to stay warm and dry overnight and while they look at us like it’s our fault it’s so dang cold, no one really looks like they are having a problem with the temperatures and snow.  They are in fact the most spoiled cows in South Dakota.

Lucky looking pretty angry about the cold.

While the cows have breakfast, we check them over, looking at their eyes and noses, how they are walking, making sure no one looks like they are going to calve.  It’s still pretty early but the stress of the cold can cause bad things to happen. After cow-checks, Dave and I meet up at the shed and scoop out the manure that isn’t completely frozen to the ground.  We put down a fresh bed of pine shavings and make sure their room is all made up for the next night.

All lined up and waiting to go feed.

This morning was the coldest we have seen since we’ve been here.  The Mule wouldn’t start and we thought it would be easier to just feed square bales in the corral since there is so much snow.  Because the Mule wouldn’t go, we just put the bales of hay in this calf-sled and pulled it into the corral and fed everyone.

Feeding the old school way. I’m so glad we only have a few cows! We use this shed if we have to drag a newborn calf into the barn to get warm.

The next problem of course is keeping the water tanks open.  This would be easier with an electric tank heater, but again, this is a drawback of being on solar energy only.  We do have a propane water heater but it only works when it is about 20 degrees and above, so we are left to find other solutions.  Obviously we chop ice with shovels, spuds, and a pick axe, but when it doesn’t get above minus two for three days it is difficult to keep the water open for the cows. We never fill the tank to the top so we can always put in water from a hydrant and a hose.  This morning, the hoses were frozen as well, even though we kept them in the barn.  We filled a giant 32 gallon cooler with hot water from the house and several 5 gallon buckets and drove them up to the corral and melted all the ice in the tank.  

Watering the old school way, after filling the buckets/cooler inside with steaming hot water we delivered it to the cows 5 gallons at a time.

Oh yes, while all of this activity was going on it continued to snow.  I went back to the panels and cleared them with the snow rake, and then raked some of the snow off the house and garage roofs.  Dave went back in the tractor and cleared the barnyard and the driveway.  He was going to do the whole road, but it’s supposed to keep snowing tonight so he won’t waste the diesel fuel by doing it twice.  Instead he’ll do it tomorrow….if everything starts!

That has been morning life on the ranch the last few days.  It’s “things break cold” weather but the cattle need feeding and the snow needs clearing.  I am not complaining, at least we don’t have a power bill…hahahaha.  We are going to work to make our lives a little easier in the future winters by hooking into the grid.  We have new neighbors to the north and east and are trying to work out a way to split costs to get everyone hooked up out here. After hearing about our winter solar shenanigans nobody seems to want to be off grid.

It’s early afternoon, the snow finally stopped for now, and the sun is peeking out.  The cows are still shuffling around in the corral and they will probably hang out there or go back in the shed until we feed again in the early evening.  Sheriff Joe is passed out in front of the stove and the barn kitty ran back to the barn to hang out in the hay bales.  He has been staying in the mud-room at nights because it is so cold.  Notice I didn’t say “sleeping” in the mud-room. He likes to start meowing around 3AM but it’s way too cold to throw him out. 

And that is how things are on the Holler.  As hectic as the morning seemed, I still feel it was better than going to an office, or even flying in bad weather.  Plus, I get to work with my two favorites, Rancher Dave and Sheriff Joe.  The cows look cold but they seem to be doing fine and are enjoying their extra rations and hot water.  Valentine’s toe is fine, by the way. God Bless all of you reading this.  I hope you are warm and toasty and hanging on to your liberties out there in the real world.  Cheers!

Fatz after getting a drink of hot water.

Don’t Shoot it Down, Please

26 Jan 2021 – Sunny and snow flurries, a chilly 7 degrees this morning…Brrrrrr

Well I guess winter has finally decided to deliver.  We have been going through a pretty good cold snap with continuous snow flurries and really low temperatures.  It was in the single digits last night and supposed to be the same tonight.  However, we are supposed to be in the high 40s by the end of the week!  South Dakota likes to change its mind.

Meanwhile, it is too blasted cold to do anything outside except feed and water cows. They don’t seem too unhappy though since they have been hanging out in the trees and the corral out of the wind. One of our cows, Valentine, has had a foot problem this week.  Rancher Dave and I were feeding the other night and noticed a bit of blood in the snow.  We followed the tracks and realized Valentine’s dew-claw (yes that’s the term) was broken and just hanging off of her foot.

You can see the toenail part separating and the pink underneath.

Poor girl, it looked like it hurt a bit but she really didn’t limp at all on the way to get fed.  We have a little cow-medicine kit and we keep some spray medicine for cuts and infections in that kit.  We gave her foot a couple of shots of antiseptic and decided to wait and see how she did.  Today, she seems fine although her entire dew-claw has fallen off.  It isn’t showing any signs of infection and she actually seems to be walking a bit better.   We will continue to shoot her with antiseptic unless she comes up looking like she has some additional problems.  It doesn’t help that she is seriously fat and pregnant so that is a lot of weight relying on her poor foot.

This is fat Valentine and you can see her front right foot is missing the rear digit on the hoof.

Not being expert cattle people, we rely on some of our neighbors and the vet for advice.  We have long since given up searching the internet because it usually leads only to more confusion and worry.  I was happy to hear from another local rancher that their advice was also to “keep an eye on it” and if she stopped eating, drinking, or walking at all then we should probably corral her off and try to give her some time to heal.  So far, so good.  She seems her normal hungry self and her foot looks okay, although she is missing a digit, it is no longer bleeding or seeping anything.  Adventures with cows.

A closer look shows the whole thing fell off.

Because we finally got a decent amount of snow, we decided to burn a slash pile.  Rancher Dave also has a new drone, and decided he wanted to make a movie about burning slash.  He wanted to put a can of flammable liquid in the pile and launch the drone to film from above.  At that point he wanted to shoot tracer rounds at the pile and blow it up.  (For the record, and being the daughter of the original Captain Caution, I did not wholeheartedly support this idea.)  

Dave lighting the slash pile from a ways away.

Unfortunately, the temperature was too low to launch the drone but Rancher Dave still wanted to shoot the burn pile.  I filmed him and to his chagrin, (and my relief) there was no giant explosion.  The tracer round lit the pile but it was fairly anticlimactic and it just started a slow burn.  I guess he just wanted to have some fun shooting before we sold all the guns and ammunition.

At least the Sheriff enjoyed the bonfire.

Although he was disappointed, he did get to use the drone a different day when it warmed up a bit.  Here’s a view from the Holler from above in case you find yourself flying over.

Just to be cautious, I texted the closest neighbors and told them we had a drone and said, “Please don’t shoot it down if it goes rogue!”  Most South Dakotans are well armed and don’t take too kindly to surveillance.

Today, we are staying warm inside by the stove.  I put a cider-braised pork roast in a dutch oven and have been cooking it all day while the stove simultaneously keeps the house warm.  And it is warm in here so it’s perfect for blogging.

The only other thing to report is that the elk have been especially active in the last few days. They are not making noise, as they do in the rut, but they are all over the Holler and the road.  I saw about 30 of them hanging out on our road when I went to the post office yesterday, and we have seen them quite a few mornings when we are out feeding cattle.  Sorry I didn’t get a picture, but the road was kinda icy and I was concentrating on that.

Winter chores

That’s about it from the Holler. Hang on to your liberties out there and stay warm.  Only two more full moons until spring and calving season!

A Bitter Wind

The Bitter Wind

20 Jan 2021 – Sunny and 37 degrees and you guessed it, windy.

Rancher Dave and I have been going to town more than normal in the last week or so.  We took a big trip to the booming metropolis of Rapid City ( referred to as “Rapid” by anyone local).  We stocked up on groceries and other essentials (Franzia) so we could avoid going back to the city if they institute a muzzle-mandate in which we refuse to participate.

Winter in downtown Rapid

A trip to town is a big event around here, and we usually have a long list of items and stops to make sure we don’t waste any time. It is only about an hour and fifteen minutes to Rapid, but we always go to Sam’s Club and Lowe’s and at least 14 other places, so it is an all day event.  Considering we try to go only about every 6 weeks, we load up on everything and it takes another hour and a half to unload the truck when we get home.  

Yesterday, we took a smaller trip to the not-so booming metropolis of Custer.  We picked up a pick-up load of dry firewood, since the woodshed is only about half full and most of what remains is pretty green.  Today we will go out and split and stack what we scored yesterday.  We also spent part of the day chopping ice and scooping it out of a water tank that hasn’t been used in a bit.

That’ll teach us to not drain a tank that isn’t in use.

We also had a few other stops like the post-office, the library, and a place that sells other goods that are sort of hard to find right now, and may be much more difficult to find in the near future.  I’ll let you speculate on what that might be.

We’re back on the Holler today and the wind is howling, again.  About a week ago we had two days of nearly tropical storm force winds.  One morning I got up and Dave said, “Did anything blow away?”  I looked out the front door and noticed that we no longer had a greenhouse.

After the wind
Before the wind.

The only thing left was twisted and bent metal and two giant pots of soil. We spent some time that morning driving around the Holler picking up greenhouse panels and can only assume the ones we didn’t find are flying around in Minnesota somewhere.  That’s okay, though.  We will put the panels to use in some planter boxes or something of the like, but the greenhouse is unsalvageable.  We keep trying to grow things and Mother Nature keeps saying, “NO!” She’s generally stronger than we are, but she underestimates our determination!  We will Make the Greenhouse Great Again!

At least we don’t live in Buffalo!

We had a really cold and snowy day this week and we decided to try to make it seem more summery by making salsa.  This past year the drought didn’t do the garden any favors so I didn’t have too many tomatoes, but we did get quite a few peppers out of what used to be the greenhouse. We used those and some roasted hatch chiles to can about 9 pints of homemade salsa.

Only 7 cans pictured…what happened to the rest?

You really cannot beat homemade salsa, even if the tomatoes are from cans.  If you’re interested, we just use the Ball Canning Book recipe and here is the link.

Ball Blue Book Salsa (bigoven.com)

We use the recipe as just a guideline really, and taste it as we go along. We use whatever kind of peppers we have on hand and not quite as many onions as called for.  We also add a little bit of sugar and red wine and so far have rave reviews.  Canning is really easy, just time consuming, and there is usually a nice mess to clean up afterward, but oh, the SALSA!!!

That’s about it from out here in God’s Country, SoDAK!  Today the wind is bitter and howling, and it seems to match our current mood.  Still, we know that one day that wind will die down. Until then we remain grateful for our health, family and friends, and especially the freedom that we still enjoy.  We don’t take any of these for granted so we’ll face the bitter winds knowing that soon they will be blowing in a better direction.  Hang onto your hats and your liberties out there.  God Bless.

Home sweet home.

Quit Whining about the Heat!

9 September 2020 – Sunny and 42

Last weekend it was nearly 100 degrees on Saturday.  That all changed Monday night when the snow rolled in…..that’s right, snow already!

We fed a little but the snow melted by afternoon so it was a light breakfast.

Don’t worry though, we are all prepared for winter.  Okay, maybe you should worry a little.  We still haven’t completed the shelter for the cows but we are making progress.  We got the posts all squared up and the headers on the top so we can start putting in some rafters.

We also got one big load of hay delivered and are ordering one more.  

Dave unloading the trailer

Even though our hay crop was a complete bust this year, there is still quite a bit of work to do when putting up hay.  It has to be unloaded from the trailer, and the truck-driver doesn’t want to sit around all day and watch us put up hay, so Dave unloads it all in the yard as fast as he can.  Once the truck driver is gone we set to work putting as many bales in the loft as we could fit.

Headed to the barn loft
Room for a few more up top

Then we put the outside bales on pallets and covered them with a tarp.  This might be overkill as these round bales will probably do fine with the rain and snow, but the deer and elk like to pick at them as well so we tarp them just to add an additional level of security.

Tarped bales

As the winter storm approached, Dave and I hustled around battening down the hatches getting ready for winter.  This was strange on Sunday as it was ninety degrees and we were wearing shorts and sweating but prepping for snow. 

Monday morning started off relatively warm (60s) but the temps dropped all day and it began snowing around 5pm.  We used the day to move cows to a pasture where they had some trees and a wind break for shelter.  Normally we wouldn’t worry too much about them in 20 degree temperatures but because it has been so warm we thought the temperature swing would be hard on them.  We spoil our cows and I’m pretty sure we were the only ranchers in South Dakota that would make such a fuss for one early snowstorm.  

Four calves wondering why the people are running around like mad.

We also reluctantly loaded up the firewood box and moved it to the porch.

Hello firewood my old friend….

The forecast (which came true) was for snow and record cold temperatures down to 24 degrees.  This prompted me to pull up all the plants in the garden. I have a few boxes of green tomatoes that I am trying to let ripen, and I have tons of cayenne peppers.  

This wasn’t too heartbreaking because most of the garden got demolished in the hail storm in July, so we salvaged what we could.  Thank goodness we aren’t solely surviving on what we grow or we would be very thin at the end of next winter.  I guess if times get really desperate we could incorporate wild rabbits and deer into our diet, but so far Lynn’s Dakotamart remains open and the bunnies are safe….for now. Also, neither one of us are big fans of hare in our food.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

My parents came to visit for a few days.  I tease them that they are the bookends to our summer because they usually visit around Mother’s Day and again right before it snows.  Their timing was impeccable this time.  We had a great time but I didn’t even take one picture of them!  Dang.

It is supposed to warm back up to the 80s this coming weekend, and we are going to have to kick it into high gear getting this lean-to completed.  We definitely need to get more firewood and we have to get another load of hay delivered if we are going to keep all the cows over winter. I guess I better get my coat and stocking cap on and get out there and help Dave cut some rafters!  Keep it free out there in the real world.

Red Sky in the morning…ranchers’ warning!

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!

IMG_1237
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.

IMG_1206
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.

IMG_E1221
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.

20200616_092951
Branding Party

20200615_083504
Making new friends

20200615_173720
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.

IMG_1218
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.

IMG_1239
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!

IMG_1245
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.

LIYO4120
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.

IMG_0928
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.

IMG_0930
Getting it done

IMG_8245
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!

IMG_0971
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.

IMG_0936
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.

IMG_0855
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.

IMG_0872
Broadcasting the seeds

IMG_0866
Unhooking the disk, filling up the broadcaster’s hopper

IMG_0879
Phone poles strapped to the disk to weigh it down.  

IMG_0881
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.

IMG_0905
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!

IMG_0888
Quite a few rocks remained after the excavation for the barn.

IMG_8188
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.

IMG_0906
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!

IMG_8076
Henry the 8th says hello!

Get that Bull a Cigar!

10 April 2019 – Freezing rain and 24 degrees

It appears our bomb-cyclone-avoiding luck has run out.  We are sitting in the middle of a nasty winter storm today, complete with freezing rain, snow, and 40mph winds. The snow isn’t really sticking so it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures, but it is fairly unpleasant outside for April.

IMG_8425
Cows eating on a cold day

Despite the weather, Rancher Dave is out in Babe, the tractor, disking up the fields.  He said it is actually the perfect temperature for disking since the ground is kind of wet, but the dirt is too cold to clump up on the disks.  He is pretty cozy in the tractor cab and said he even has to keep one of the windows cracked to prevent from getting too warm.

We had such fantastic luck with oats last year that we decided to plant more this year.  Rancher Dave called the seed store in Rapid and went down there to buy a pallet of Goliath Oats.  When he got there, he paid the guy and went down to the warehouse to pick up the pallet.  Unfortunately, they had made a mistake and didn’t have any oats in the warehouse!  They made it right and delivered the pallet to our barn to make up for the trouble.  This all happened on April Fool’s Day so Rancher Dave thought he could pull a good joke on me about the whole debacle.  When he got home from Rapid I saw his truck coming up the drive so I went to put on my boots and work gloves so I could help him unload.  When I got up to the barnyard, I saw him standing next to the empty trailer with his head in his hands and he said, “I lost the pallet!  It must have fallen off somewhere between here and Rapid!”  Normally I would not fall for these shenanigans but I was completely caught off guard that day.  I said, “Oh no!  I’ll go call the Highway Patrol and see if they’ve seen it!”  My fear was that it would have killed someone if they hit a giant pallet full of oats, and also my mind began racing about how in the heck we would reload it if we did find it.  Then Dave said, “April Fools!” Ha ha…nice one Dave.  Just remember paybacks are hell!  So my plotting begins,  Bwahahahahaha.

We were hoping to get the oats in the ground before this big round of moisture, but they were just delivered yesterday afternoon, so it will have to wait.  Last year we got them planted on the 16th of April so we aren’t too late yet.

Meanwhile, calving season has commenced.  On the 5th of April, and exactly on schedule, Dairy Queen calved a cute little bull which we named BlackJack.  He is the 21st cow we have out here now thus the name.

IMG_8390
Dairy Queen and BlackJack

DQ is a fantastic first-time mom and is constantly licking and grooming the little guy.  He is super strong already and every morning goes zooming and kicking around the pasture.

Three days later, Rosie calved a little bull in the wee hours of the morning.  This is her 5th baby and she snuck off in the early AM to give birth by herself.  He brings the herd total to 22 so we named him “Catch 22.”

IMG_8395
Rose and Catch

We have separated the new moms and babies from the rest of the herd for a couple of days, and now that the weather is so awful, they are in one of the barn corrals where they have some shelter from the freezing rain.  We also corralled Honey because she really looks like she could have her baby at any moment.  The rest of the herd has access to a big loafing shed and another covered pen.  We are really hoping no one decides to calve until Friday when the wind and moisture will subside and the warmer temperatures will return. According to our records, no one else should calve until the 24th because they weren’t exposed to our bull before that.  There were a few “traveling salesmen” bulls that wandered through our pastures last spring, and if anyone calves in the next few days the timing could mean that one of those bulls was the responsible party.  We did have Rosie and Dairy Queen in with our bull, Koozy, when we first bought him last summer, so we know for sure that Black Jack and Catch are his kids. Nice job, Koozy! Get that bull a cigar!

IMG_8414
Catch trying to catch some Z’s

Time keeps speeding by and we can hardly believe we are already in the middle of April..  I wanted to write a blog post on the 31st of March because it was the three year anniversary of the day that Dave and I left Florida with the U-haul full of our things and headed out toward our new lives here in the Black Hills!. I missed the date because the weather was too nice to be inside writing a blog.  Dave and I did celebrate with a fancy box of wine.  We are both amazed at the amount of things we have learned and experienced in just three short years, and our only regret is we didn’t start this adventure sooner.  We can’t wait to see what will happen in the next three years. I’m sure it will go by in the blink of an eye, and I can tell you I am already looking forward to the next April Fool’s Day.  Look out, Dave!

IMG_8430
The Holler 2019

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

The Misfit Farmer

agrarian misadventures, feats of agricultural exaggeration, plus lessons from a hard-knocking tractor

Humble Little Homestead

Living Simply and Enjoying the Good Life.

Feed Yard Foodie

A foodie running a cattle feedyard in Nebraska

Small-Scale Cattle Farming

Resource for people keeping small herds of cattle of any and all breeds.

Crippled Cowgirl

Raised on a spectacular Montana cattle ranch and living with Multiple Sclerosis

J.C. Brae

Country Music Artist

Homestead Diaries

Finding joy in red dirt, rusted hinges, and wide open spaces

On the loose

Living life in pursuit of ten feet tall, still!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

music, poetry, musings, photography and philosophy from a woman who found her way back home and wants you to come over for a hike and a cocktail.

Jolyn Young

Writing (and laughing) through life

The Pioneer Woman

Plowing through Life in the Country...One Calf Nut at a Time

Life on a Colorado Farm

Life on a Colorado Farm (All Rights Reserved)

Cowboy Wife

Tidbits from life on the range

My Last Best Place

The pleasures & perils of horsemanship, marriage, and owning a small farm

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: