Hoten Holler!



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 (

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.

In Like a Lion

4 March 2019 – Frigid and negative 15 this morning

I’m eating my words for bragging about the last polar vortex missing us.  This morning the wind chill was -23 and nothing would start.  Rancher Dave went out to start the gas generator which he uses to heat up the tractor, but the generator said, “Um, NO!  It’s too cold!” We use the generator because our house is completely on solar power so it would not work to have a block heater plugged in all night.

Unfazed, Rancher Dave plugged the tractor block heater into the house once the sun came up and we were harvesting as much solar energy as we could use.  He also went to start the Mule, but the Mule was on strike too. About an hour of heating the tractor started right up, but the Mule would not participate.  Rancher Dave drove the tractor to the field and the Sheriff and I loaded up in the pickup which started without protest. Out to the field we went and Joey and I were quite happy to be inside the warm pickup cab instead of the open air Mule.  Rancher Dave was nice and cozy inside the cab of Babe, too.

Dave unrolls a bale of hay, he’s hard to see but he’s by the trees in the background.

After unrolling the bale of hay, I let the cows out from the adjacent field.  They looked miserable.  One of the cows that we call Dirty Dozen had so many icicles on her mouth I wondered if she would be able to eat.  They came charging through the gate and I was happy to see the Dirty Dozen chowing down on her breakfast.

The herd waiting in line for breakfast

Icicles on the Dirty Dozens chin

As the cows walk through the gate I try to get a good look at each one of them because we are about four weeks away from our first expected calves.  I try to look at their eyes, ears, and feet, and since all the ladies are very pregnant I try to get a good look at their udders (bags) and their backsides as well.  Under the careful tutelage of Cowboy Dave and Linda, we have learned a lot about calving.  The best indication of impending birth is a bag full of milk and teats pointing straight out.  Second, we  try to look at the underside of the tail for any mucus. Linda says, “Get a good look up their address!”   Also, a cow with labor pains will spend a lot of time licking her belly and you can tell if she’s been doing that by her fur.

Fat ladies coming through!

After Rancher Dave gets the hay rolled out, he gets out of the tractor and walks amongst the feeding herd to give them the once over as well.  Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one, but it is also nice for the cows to get used to us walking around them.  That way, if they do have any problems birthing they won’t panic because the ranchers are right up in their business.

We are really hoping that nobody calves in this weather.  A lot of local ranchers are already calving and could really use a break from these unusually low temperatures.  A wet calf in minus 20 wind chill doesn’t have much of a chance.  Cowboy Dave and Linda told us that one unusually cold spring they lost 3 calves in one day to the bitter cold.  Ugh.  Hang in there ladies!  No babies yet, please!IMG_E8159

Next we go about breaking the ice and filling the water tank.  You can see we have really only been able to keep one big hole open on this tank.  This proved to be a blessing in disguise the other morning because Muzzle, one of the pregnant girls, decided she wanted to get water and no one was going to stand in her way.  Our little bull, Hugo, was trying to get a drink when Muzzle came up beside him and head butted him in the side so hard he came off his feet and landed right in what would have been the middle of the stock tank.  Fortunately there was so much ice there he just slipped right off and back onto solid ground.  Mean old Muzzle.  It’s not just her, all the cows seem to be cranky and headbutting each other.  They are sick of the cold too!

Once everyone is fed, we put up all the equipment in the barn and head into the nice warm house.  It feels so good coming in out of the cold, and Joey immediately passes out.  From our windows we can see the cows eating for about two hours and then they go to the stock tank for a drink and up into the woods for some shelter.

It’s getting to be pretty routine, but this will come to an end once the calfies come.  When the snow melts and there is green grass to graze the feeding chores (and hopefully chopping ice) will come to an end.  We will still have to fill water and check cows daily, but the focus of the day will shift to disking and planting next year’s hay crop.  Of course many other outdoor projects will take over when the weather warms up and we will probably be spending most of the days outside.  I can’t wait!  Meanwhile, it is going to be a warmer night, forecast only to get down to zero. Maybe some of the equipment will start in the morning!

The Sheriff waits next to the tractor while Rancher Dave and I inspect the herd


Morale Buster – Morale Booster

2 December 2016

High of 34° – Super Sunny

It seems our streak of super nice weather has come to an end.  The last week was tough as temps dipped into the teens each night and it hasn’t been above freezing except for today.  Also, it has been cloudy and crazy windy, leading to some problems with a camper running off of solar power and exposed to the elements.

We woke up Tuesday morning to find our water pump had frozen, despite the hay bales all around the camper.  We have to unhook the water hose to the camper from the hydrant each night, as the hose will freeze and the ice will move into the camper plumbing system and the hydrant causing all kinds of problems.  So, to have water available, we have a fresh water tank in the camper and a water pump that provides water to the hot water heater, the toilet and the faucets.  Well, Tuesday morning el pumpo no worko!  Frustration followed as we realized the hydrant was frozen as well so we had no access to running water.  The high on Tuesday was in the 20’s and it was cloudy and windy with no chance of thawing out and not a lot of excess power from the solar panels…..ugh….morale buster!

We went to Custer and bought some antifreeze and a space heater to stick under the camper.  We were both feeling pretty low, thinking we may have busted our camper and how it would be next to impossible to live out here without any running water.  We even contemplated winterizing the camper and getting a month to month rental in town…morale buster. Image result for winter memes

I talked to my parents on the phone that day. Dad told me how when he grew up they didn’t have running water or heat in their house.  He grew up in Iowa and the cold winters were not easy in that situation.  He said they would wake up and have to break ice off the top of the water bucket to get something to drink, then he and his siblings would run to the barn which was warm because that’s where the cows were!  Well, I guess we don’t have it that bad in our little propane heated camper.  Mom said, “things break and when it’s cold they break a lot.”  I’ll take these wise lessons from two seasoned farmers who lived in a time where cold and no water were the norm, not the exception. Thanks for the gut-check Mom and Dad….morale booster! 

Wednesday morning, Pilot Dave and I woke with a fresh perspective.  This is South Dakota and winter is here and we aren’t going to quit that easily.  Dave took my hair dryer to the water pump and I covered the hydrant with black plastic and his grill cover, hoping to get some warmth in there or at least protect the pipe from the wind.  Around 10 AM, the water pump defrosted and came back to life.  Morale Booster!  It really is the little things out here that make all the difference.

Since then, we have decided to run the pump off and on throughout the night to keep some water moving. This seems to be working – morale booster.  We also have discovered we have a leak somewhere, and the waste water pipe to the dump valve has frozen solid – morale buster.  The roller coaster continues. Today I am doing laundry in Hot Springs (which has the nicest laundromat I have ever seen in my life) and Dave is at Ace hardware picking up some heat tape and sealant for the pipes.  We are not yet defeated!  The forecast has two days next week with highs in the teens and it is supposed to drop below zero at night. An arctic blast!  Our plan of attack is to stock up on propane and keep that camper and underbelly as warm as possible.  We can also run the generator at night to keep the heat tape warm and put a light bulb under the camper body amongst the hay bales if necessary.  Wish us luck!

Other good news is the progress on the house.  The sheet rock guys (aka the Sheet Rockers….could be the name of a new rock band?) have been at it all week and are making tons of progress.  Todd and his crew have been doing a heap of work as well and it seems like things are accelerating.  The house is so insulated that even though the temps are in the teens at night it has remained 50 degrees or more!

So the saga continues…….despite what has been the low point in our adventure thus far we are still happy to be here.  We really have no complaints, we are healthy, happy, eating well, entertained by cows, and definitely appreciating the freedom we have out here.  We hope you will continue to read and I promise there will be less crabbing in the next blog, come hell or high water or snow drifts and no water.

Finishing Touches on Water Hydrant



Sunny, Calm, Warm, Rainy, Cold, Windy

Today we put the finishing touches on our water hydrant.  Although the 6′ hydrant was connected and buried along side a treated timber we needed some way to keep the cows from using it as a scratching post.  So we dug three holes in a triangle around the hydrant to a depth of about 2′.  Then we put in 8′ treated timber poles, threw in some rock and dirt, tamped the rock and dirt until sturdy.  To add more stability we added two runs of cross boards connecting the three poles.  When we cut off the excess poles we added those in an “X” pattern on top. This ain’t going anywhere!

When we went back up to the High Lonesome for some extra wood screws, Cowboy Dave came across this sign and asked if we should put it on the hydrant.  He added the “S”, fitting if you know Jenny.





Water Situation Update

Saturday, 21 May 2016, Foggy, Cold and 64°F – barely!

It was so cold and foggy this morning.  We had planned to take advantage of the official opening weekend at Custer State Park and drive through and see what was happening.  We drove South on 87, up through the mountains where we could see nothing from the scenic overlooks because of the fog.  Actually, we were in the clouds and it was eerie and awesome.  As we descended through the southern part of the park on the Wildlife Loop, we could see much better and spotted many bison, antelopes, and some very friendly wild burros.

We were feeling quite adventurous and decided to leave the main road and head south on one of the dirt roads that is much less traveled.  What a treat, we saw so many more buffalo including many Mom and baby pairs right in the road.  We followed the road up a very steep hill and were rewarded with one of the best views either of us has ever seen.  360° of nothing but wilderness, rolling hills and the silhouettes of buffalo on the ridge lines; not another car or human in sight. These pictures do not do the scenery justice, if any of you readers ever get here in person we will have to show you this spot!

After goofing off on the park back roads, we headed down to Hoten Holler to see if we could get the hydrant hooked up, finally.  Reef jumped in the hole and it had dried enough that he was able to shovel out most of the mud and reach the hose.  We used Dawn Dishwashing Soap to lube up the barb and the water line and Reef hammered the fitting into the hose.  He clamped the hose and turned on the water and it works!  We spent the next couple hours packing rocks into the hole and shoveling dirt back in.  This was work, but not as hard as shoveling the dirt out. Hotens – 2, Black Hills Rural Water – 3.  We are gaining.

This hydrant is one of the first of many projects on our homestead list.  Next big project:  barbed wire fence around the driveway and home area.  Of course we finished the day by visiting the High Lonesome where we drank a few beers on the porch and celebrated our victory!

Barbed Wire and Beer

12 May 2016 – Sunny (WINDY) 63°F

Today we went out to the property to meet the water guys and get our water turned on….finally.  Unfortunately, they had already done that after some miscommunication and our hydrant hole is now full of mud.  Black Hills Rural Water – 2, Hotens – 0.  Now we are waiting for it to quit snowing (yes snowing!) so we can get back there and dig some more in that danged hole!

We also met with Todd (builder) and the solar guys and discussed where the battery bank would go and how they would trench for the conduit for the solar panels to the battery storage.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I wish I would have taken some pictures!  More to come.

After all the “business” was taken care of, we went over to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s to see if they needed help with anything.  We spent the afternoon stringing barbed wire between his pasture and the National Forrest.

We had begun this project last week, tearing down the old barbed wire fence and learning all sorts of new tricks from Cowboy Dave.   I am so happy to now have received some tutelage in the use of fencing tools.  (Pilot Dave has done this type of work before.)  I learned to use a fence post jack, a fencing tool, a post cannon, (actually Pilot Dave did all of the post cannon work), and a fence stretcher.  Last week we had jacked the posts and taken down the old barbed wire….some of it was single strand which Cowboy Dave pointed out has not been manufactured since the late 1800’s.  There is some history out here in the hills!  So we rolled that wire and he kept it as an antique.  We salvaged the multi-strand wire and reused it when we moved the fence.

The two Dave’s built an “H” which was two big logs that were driven into the ground with braces in between.  The H provides stability and tension for the barbed wire in the corners.  Then Pilot Dave used the post cannon and drove all the posts into the ground (sometimes into the rock!).  This was good exercise, and Cowboy Dave was happy to have Pilot Dave’s help!  We attached the wire to the H and the last post pulled it tight, and began hanging it on the t-posts all the way to the end.  We did 3 wires and have one to go, but about 4pm, Cowboy Dave said, “Is it time to go drink beer?”  And everyone knows the answer to that question.

So back up to the High Lonesome homestead we went and had a few Keystone Lights on the porch with our wonderful friends and their two sweet dogs.  Shortly thereafter, our other new friend, Matt, showed up with his 5 dogs!  Yes, 5 dogs….I’m in heaven!  Then, another friend showed up whom we had not yet met.  This man, Chad, had a rough week as his parents’ home burned to the ground on Tuesday and his girlfriend broke her back in a separate incident and was in the hospital.  Cowboy Dave and Matt had rushed to Chad’s folks’ place to help fight the fire but it was too windy and they were too late.  Chad said they were having a massive cleanup effort this Saturday and we volunteered to go help. 

So these are some things we have observed about the people in the rural Black Hills.  Neighbors are good to each other.  They want to help new friends succeed in their ventures into farming/ranching. They want to help old friends when things don’t go well.  They take advantage of the sunny days by getting up early, working hard all day and then drinking cold beer in the late afternoon sun.  No one ever pulls out their smart phone during conversation, in fact they rarely use cell phones. They love their dogs.  They love their guns.  They love their freedom.  We love it here.

Water Hydrant

Okay, so we have rural water to the property.  Two water lines actually, one designated for the house and the other for livestock.  The water company, (a name that shall not be mentioned), trenches the 1″ pipe along the road and then about 50′ or so into our property.  The pipe is buried about 6′ down.  Then they install a meter connected to a post in the ground and leave about 10′ of the pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Since we are already paying for the water, even though we have not used a single gallon yet, (I’m hitting the keys very hard now),  we are going to install a 6′ frost free water hydrant so we can use the water we are already paying for.  If you’ve never installed a 6′ hydrant, and I don’t know why you would, let me tell you, digging a six foot hole is a great workout!  Just ask Jen, I’m tired just watching! We hope to finish tomorrow before the rain fills up the hole.


Update: 5-7-16

Added the elbow to the hydrant and put gravel in the bottom of the hole for the drain, then we cut the 1″ pipe and added two clamps to attach the pipe to the brass elbow.  Before attaching the pipe to the hydrant we wanted to turn on the water line to flush it out in case any dirt or debris was in the line so we didn’t clog up the hydrant.  The water company, has installed a “special” valve near the road that turns on and off the water supply so we were not able to flush the line today.  We will have to call them out to the site on Monday to turn on the water, I can’t wait to spend some quality time with them!




Blog at

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: