Hoten Holler!



The Barn Door is Open!

4 August 2018 – Sunny and highs in the low 80s

Please excuse the title of this post, I couldn’t resist.  Anyway:  Woohoo!  We have a barn!

Barn under construction in late June
The big red barn

The barn was actually completed mid-July, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it because we have been busy filling it up with stuff.  After the building was complete, we had several loads of gravel brought in.  Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave used Cowboy’s tractor (since it is a little more maneuverable than Babe) to spread the gravel inside.


This all happened at the same time we were still haying, so we immediately began stacking hay in the barn.


We also have been using it to store equipment, and are especially happy that our tractor, Babe, has a sheltered place to stay.  The intense South Dakota sun, and the frequent hail storms can really do a number on equipment that is constantly outside, so we are hoping to prolong the life of our tractor.

IMG_6758 (1)
Bob and Babe protected from the elements

We are planning on putting up a hay loft.  The builders engineered it and put in four support beams, but in the interest of time and money, we have elected to do this ourselves. Clearly, we have a lot of free time…ha ha ha ha ha!  Once haying is finally done and autumn sets in we will get to work on the hay loft, stalls, equipment racks etc.

The other big barn project is all the rocks that were displaced for construction.  Does anyone want any?  Really, come and get them, they are FREE ROCKS!  And they rock.  (Sorry, again I have been spending too much time in the sun.) Rancher Dave and I have been slowing digging out and picking up the big boulders, primarily with the use of Babe.  Our ultimate goal is to have gravel around all sides where we can drive a truck and hopefully have enough space in the front to turn around or back a trailer.  We have mostly completed the front side.

Moving more rocks
The front nearly complete with gravel and the road back to the house

We also completed a road from the house to the barn. It’s kind of ironic that we have all these rocks and we keep purchasing more rocks in the form of gravel.

We are really happy to have so much space to store hay. Speaking of hay, we were hoping to get 1000 square bales out of our properties this season.  Last year we got around 600, and this year we got exactly 1002!  Goal accomplished.  We need about 1050 to feed our cows for the winter, so we will end up buying some round bales anyway, but not nearly what we bought last year.  Also, it is good to have a contact you can buy hay from and the best way to keep that contact is to buy hay each year, so we really don’t mind buying a little.  Hay is a lot cheaper now than it will be in April.

Our haying season is not complete yet.  We are having the wettest summer on record in Custer, and it just keeps prolonging our work.  We did complete our fields and all of Cowboy Dave’s property, including a second cut of his alfalfa.  This is almost unheard of in these parts.

Jeff driving Babe and baling the 2nd alfalfa cut
Kana loads the hay onto the wagon

Notice we had some extra help doing Cowboy’s field.  Our good friends, Jeff and Kana, came all the way from Florida to visit the Black Hills and we put them to work.  Jeff did some baling, and Kana drove Cowboy’s tractor to stack hay bales.  Rancher Dave and I sat around and drank beer.  Just kidding.  We really did have quite an efficient operation going with two extra people, we baled and stacked and loaded all the bales in about 90 minutes.

We didn’t ask our friends to work the whole time.  While we weren’t haying, they enjoyed Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood Rodeo, Devil’s Tower, horseback riding, and of course the Red Canyon and a burger in the booming town of Edgemont.  We had a great time while they were here and we were sad to see them go.  I hope they come back, especially during next haying season….ha ha!


Back to haying season.  While we have completed this side of the neighborhood, we still have two fields to complete for our neighbor Sherri.  She is the owner of the mower and baler, and in exchange for their use, we use our tractor and Cowboy’s tractor to hay her yard and one pasture. We are on hold for haying her fields due to rain!  It will get done, though, and we will have a big post-haying season glass of wine to celebrate. Or maybe we will have one tonight, in hopes it gets done soon.

Everything is happening all at once. In the next couple of weeks, we hope to complete Sherri’s haying, clean and put up the haying equipment for the season.  Also, we will be harvesting more honey.  We have another load of firewood to pick up from our friend who wants to get rid of it.  The garden is going to need some attention too.  I canned pickles this week, but I will be doing more real soon. I also picked, cleaned, blanched and preserved sugar snap peas. The tomatoes are starting to come in and I am hoping to make some salsa sometime in the next two weeks as well. The peppers are starting to come in and Rancher Dave will be using the hot ones to make his famous corn relish. Linda has picked buckets of chokecherries off her trees and she is going to teach me how to make chokecherry jelly. I better stop writing and get to work.

Happy August, everyone!

The Holler with the barn
The Sheriff supervising the gravel smoothing activity from a comfortable hay bale.



12 November 17 – Sunny and highs in the upper 40’s

We seemed to have made it through the cloudy days and the sun is shining again on the Holler. 

Sunrise over the Holler


The snow has mostly melted and while we are still breaking ice off of the water tanks in the mornings, the chores have become a muddy, poopy mess. 

All the animals seem to be enjoying the warm-up, though.  The cows are back to grazing and we have cut back on the supplemental hay as there is plenty of grass left for them to get.  The calfies are still eating creep and should be reunited with the rest of the herd in the next 10 days or so.  Since they are getting old enough, Dave and I decided to take them out for shots, I mean their six month vaccinations!

First we hooked up the truck to the trailer.  Then we corralled the calves and put a little gentle pressure on them to load up.  They were so sweet and easy going, and they got in the trailer in no time.

We wanted to be sure the mother cows would not chase us up the road and across the cattle guard, so Cowboy Dave and Linda lured the rest of the herd away from the road with cow cake.  Those cows are definitely in love with cow cake and one shake of the bucket brought them all stampeding across the pasture and down over a hill where they couldn’t see or hear the trailer loaded up with their babies.

Then, when the moms were not looking, we drove up the road with their babies and snuck out for the trip to the vet.  The babies barely even mooed in the trailer; I think they were scared.

Trailer loaded with 5 heifers.  Don’t judge the dirty truck….we live on a dirt road!


Dave and I made it to Edgemont without incident.  We unloaded the calves in the vet’s corral and we had to push them one by one into the shoot where they received their vaccines. Most of the girls were easy to move around, but the last two heifers refused to go through the shoot.  The vet had to get out the “hot stick” and give them a little electric buzz to get them moving.

In the vet’s corral
Boohaa waiting for her shot

  The state of South Dakota and most states require cattle to be inoculated with a “BANGS” vaccine.  This is to prevent brucellosis which is a super contagious and deadly disease.  They administer it to young calves not less than 2 months because their immune system is not ready for it until that time.


We were quite amazed that everyone was vaccinated and reloaded onto the trailer in about 45 minutes.  Even more amazing is that it only cost $34 for five heifers.  Cows are definitely cheaper than dogs when it comes to vet visits!

We drove back home and unloaded the calves back into the corral.  Then we grabbed the hose and spent more time hosing out all the poo from the trailer than it took to even go to the vet.  The calves were exhausted from their big adventure and one even decided to lay down to eat.

That was exhausting!


The rest were rewarded with some creep and they were hungry!



And that was an exciting Friday here in the Southern Black Hills. 

On Saturday, after morning chores, our friend Matt came out to do some welding work on the tractor implements.  These rings were added to the snow plow and grapple to keep the hydraulic hoses from getting squished during operation.

While the guys were working on the tractor, the nosey bovines decided they would have to come hang out and see what was going on.

What’s going on here?
We see you’re working on the tractor, but would you happen to have any cake?

Pilot Dave and I then took the rest of the afternoon off and went to Hill City to celebrate Veterans’ Day.  We had a flight of beer at the Miner Brewing Company, and we brought home a growler of their seasonal spiced ale called “Light Weight Sweater.”  Personally, I don’t think the name is too compelling, but the beer is really good!

A flight of beer and a growler to go!


Then we went to the Hill City Diner for a late lunch. Due to the time change, it is getting dark around 4:30 so late lunch turned into early dinner.  Dang daylight standard time!  It has me falling asleep around 8PM and this morning I am writing this at 4:30 AM!

Anyway, we are really grateful that our trip to the vet with a trailer load of heifers was successful.  We are also really grateful to live in the United States……God Bless all the veterans and their families.IMG_4751


Chicken on the Menu

25 April 2017 – Snowing and high in the low 30’s

The last three days, Dave and I have been busy building a mobile chicken coop. Our intention was to make a simple and economical home for the future Hoten Holler Hens, but several trips to the hardware store and 3 days later, we still aren’t completely done. We are really close, all we have to do is put on the tin roof and the wire, and dress it up with some left-­­­over siding from the house. Oh….and just add chickens.

We started out with some plans we found on the internet and perused our scrap pile for the materials we could use.

Then on a trip to Rapid, we picked up the foundation 4×4’s and other materials we were lacking. We started with the foundation and the frame.

Then we built the house.

Then the ramp.

Chicken Ramp

Then the door.

Then we put wheels on the back so we can tow it around. This will allow the chickens access to different parts of the yard, and allow them to also fertilize patches of ground at a time.

Wheels for Transportation of the Chicken Wagon

We hooked up the coop to the truck to pull it out of the garage and were thankful we cleared the garage door!

Almost didn’t clear the ceiling!

Note to self: ensure all building projects commenced inside will fit out the door.

We pulled the tractor to the north side of the house where we will put on the finishing touches. In the meantime, hopefully no random critters will try to move in.

Truck pulling coop
Mostly Finished

The last three days have been beautiful here. We were working in short sleeves in the garage and enjoying the summer-like temperatures. We are not working on the coop today because it is snowing! What a difference from yesterday!

While we have been primarily focused on the HUD (Hens Urban Development) project, Dave got to use Babe the Tractor to move a 1300lb hay bale into Cowboy Dave’s cattle feeder.

Up and Over!
Nice shot, Tractor Dave!

And Patsy the cow had a little bull, so we had to go visit the baby!

Patsy and Baby Bull
So Sleepy!

Today we are happy and warm inside the house in front of the wood burning stove. I am using it to cook up some poblano-pork chili for supper. Happy Tuesday from the Holler!

Poblanos and onions browning on the stove

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J.C. Brae

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