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Winter

The First and Last Day of November

30 November 2019 – 23 and sunny

I really dropped the ball for blogging this month.  Reading back, my last post was the first day of the month and here we are on the last. They look eerily similar!  We were suffering from the cold weather on the first  and this afternoon we are recovering from a “blizzard”.  I use the quotation marks because we were supposed to get up to 8 inches of snow and have 40mph winds, but really we got about 2 inches of snow and it was just a little breezy. As far as blizzards go, we’ll take it!

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Less snow than expected!

Despite what you may think, November was actually very mild.  Thus, the lack of blogging. We had many days in the upper 40s and a few in the 50s, lots of sunshine, and there was no reason to come inside and spend time on the computer.  Instead, Dave and I worked on some random projects around the ranch and tried to drink up every drop of sunshine we could.

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Cows grazing in November

We did resolve some issues this month.  The Horny Toad cow was hauled away by her owner and the Mayflowers were left to graze the northern pastures in peace.  Their demeanors really did seem to change after that crazy cow left and all seemed right with their world.  Meanwhile, the Brambleberry calves were as quiet as ever during weaning.  About two weeks ago, we opened up the gate and they reunited with the big cows.  The calves didn’t seem too concerned about re-meeting their mothers, except Andie, who tried to go right up to her Mom, Hunny.  Hunny wasn’t having it and gave Andie a few warning kicks. Andie decided that hay is better than milk since hay doesn’t involve a hoof to the face.

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The herd, reunited.

Here we are two weeks later and we have been watching closely and the calves seem to be successfully weaned so the moms are free to load up on calories for their next calves.  We will know for sure who is pregnant this week, as the vet is coming out to give the young calves some inoculations, pour everyone to prevent worms, and check the big girls to see if the bull did his job.

The past three days have been full of weather related anxiety.  On Wednesday, we woke up in a literal cloud.  The fog bank lingered until late Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t that cold but it was unusually humid for us and the east wind froze all of the moisture in the air on the east side of trees, the barbed wire, and  the cows!

The entire Holler was completely covered in ice and we were glad we weren’t traveling and that our families weren’t travelling for Thanksgiving.  We didn’t want to make a whole turkey for just Dave and I because we could never eat it all, so I bought a turkey breast  instead.  Dave pulled it out of the freezer to defrost it and said, “Did you mean to get a cajun turkey breast?”  I did not, but one consequence of refusing to wear reading glasses to the grocery store is that you often end up with the unexpected.  We had a great Thanksgiving, with the exception of that Cajun Turkey.  Sorry to any of you Creole-folk but who would add this flavor to their turkey? I understand a good cajun seasoning on shrimp and seafood, but this seems like a crime.  Even though we didn’t like the turkey breast, we concluded that every distasteful event can be reconciled with mashed potatoes and pecan pie.  Hooray for pie!

Speaking of turkeys, the wild ones that the Sheriff has been hunting seemed to all disappear the week of Thanksgiving.  Strangely, they showed back up in the corral today.  They must know Thanksgiving is over and we are sick of turkey. We are done with leftovers and having spaghetti tonight with a sauce made from tomatoes from this summer’s garden.

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Top shelf tomatoes for spaghetti sauce tonight!

On Black Friday, we scrambled to disassemble our corral and set up a giant stall inside the barn so the cows could have shelter from the oncoming blizzard. One day we will have more permanent structures in place so we won’t have to do this, but the ranch projects are all ongoing and the permanent stall build is definitely up there on the list.  Meanwhile, we worked all morning in anticipation of the “blizzard”.

We went to let all the cows into the corral area and as they walked past the open barn door, #112 who we call the “Dirty Dozen”  turned her head and looked inside the new stall.  It was as if a lightbulb came on in her head and she stopped and turned and stuck her head in the door.  Then she mooed over her shoulder as if to say, “Hey girls!  I mean, HAY girls!  Come check out the new digs!”  With that, she went into the big stall and all the other cows immediately followed her.  They all just hung around inside and decided that this was going to make a fantastic new bedroom.  It also was conveniently a fantastic new bathroom!

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Everyone line up for a picture.  

Dave and I were super happy that if they needed it, the cows could use the barn as shelter and that’s exactly what they did.  I went out after dark during the beginning of the snow and wind, and they were all inside enjoying their new hotel room.  We are calling it the Taj Ma Holler.

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The Sheriff keeping the cows in line.

We seemed to have survived the great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 2019 and while it is about to set, the sun is shining brightly and it is really beautiful outside. It seems quite appropriate that as we roll into December the Holler looks just like a Christmas Card.

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Home sweet home.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

Hey Winter, Ever Heard of Being Fashionably Late?

1 November 2019 – 31 and snowing, and sunny

I can hear some of you out there saying, “Well what did you expect when you moved to South Dakota?”  This is the answer to me talking (not crabbing or whining…yet) about the snow this early in the season.  I still am enjoying it, although snow this early makes everything a little more difficult.  It makes us wonder if we have enough wood in the shed, if we have enough hay for the cows, and if the bees have enough honey to make it until possibly mid-May.  It’s not like we have much choice in the matter so we will just plow forward and feed the cows when they need it and burn the wood when it’s cold.  The bees are another entity, and if it looks like spring will be delayed, I may start feeding them some sugar in late February.

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Heifers wanting some breakfast

In between snow we have had a few decent days. Dave did some amazing work on the head gate. This is going to be really useful when we have the vet out to give shots or if we need to do any minor medical treatment to any of our girls.

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BEFORE
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AFTER…..Nice job, Dave!

We took our remaining older cows to market.  It was hard seeing Marzee, Boohaa, and Domino go, but it had to be done.  Dave took this picture of them after off-loading at the market and he said to one of the Cowhand girls working there, “It’s normal for people to take pictures of their cows, right?”  She laughed at him and said sarcastically,  “Oh, yeah, perfectly normal.”

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Ugh.  Bye girls.  You are very good cows.

We moved our original cows and Hunny into the northern pasture to keep them away from their weaning babies in the Maternity Ward.  We call this older group of cows “The Mayflowers”  since they were all born in May of 2017.

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Cherry Bomb and Triple Sticks at the lick on the north

There was quite a bit of nice green grass still in this pasture when we put them out and the girls have settled in nicely.  We have been feeding them when there is snow on the ground, and we had some really cold October temperatures this week (negative 4 one morning) so we had to bust ice several times a day.

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Big chunks of ice, too big for October! Looks more like February.
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Rancher Dave getting the spud to bust the ice

This pasture is across the road from a neighbor’s pasture, who is leasing her land to another local rancher and his cows were super curious when we put the Mayflowers in across from them.  He has one cow that is very “rangey” or wild, in our opinion.  We call her Horny-Toad because she has big horns and she jumps fences. She also spooks very easily whenever we’re around and runs away from us bucking and kicking.  Sometimes she charges a little, but if we just stand our ground she runs away again.  She looks like the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull and she always jumps the fence whenever we are moving our cows.

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Anyone remember this old commercial?

This time was no exception.  When we put the Mayflowers in the northern pasture it took about three seconds for Horny Toad to jump out of her pasture and jump the fence into ours.  She immediately began picking a fight with our cows.  Our cows are really docile and kept running away from her. They looked at us as if to say, “Who is this lunatic in our house?”  They need to buck-up and push back at her, but they won’t.  I am actually quite happy they are the pacifists they are because Horny Toad could really hurt one of them with her horns.

Dave and I tried to push her back out several times, but she just keeps jumping the fence and coming back.  After it snowed, we called the rancher and asked him to get her out because we are already feeding early and we don’t need to feed his cow, too.  He obliged and came by the next day, and moved her back to her pasture where he put out additional hay and she stayed for two more days.  Then, this morning, she was back out on our North pasture, although separated by cross fence from our girls for now.  The rancher said he would come get her and take her away this weekend so we all (Dave, Me, Hunny, Trips, Dozen, Cherry Bomb, and Valentine) are  hoping she goes back to her place!

The four heifers in the corral are fattening up and still not mooing for their mamas.  We call this group of heifers the Brambleberries because they were all born in April and that’s what blooms in April.

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Rancher Dave feeding the Brambleberries

One snowy morning, The Sheriff and I went to check on the Brambleberries and when I walked around the barn I didn’t quite recognize what I saw in the corral.  I originally thought I saw some giant peacocks, but quickly realized that it was a rafter of turkeys.  (I had to look that up but that’s what you call a group of turkeys!) There were so many turkeys, it looked like the audition line for a Chantix commercial.

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Chantix Turkey

I could not believe the size of these birds, some seemed four feet tall.  As I was trying to wrap my brain around what sort of giant critters  were in the corral, the Sheriff immediately realized that these were not our heifers and he shot into action.  He dived under a corral panel and created his very own turkey tornado.  There must have been 30 or so birds and their giant, pterodactyl size wings blocked out the sun as they took flight behind the barn.  In the distance, I saw four black heifer behinds running up and over the hill to the other end of the pasture, frightened by the uproar. Still, not a single Moo.  Never a dull moment here on the Holler.

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Hey Turkeys…..look at my teeth!

Since then, the Sheriff has shown a  little more restraint around the turkeys.  It seems the turkeys always show up after we feed the cows and do the clean up of whatever hay is left.  Now, when we see them, the Sheriff goes into an immediate pointing position, ears up and tail held high in question mark position.  I say, “Joe, see the turkeys?”  I can feel the adrenaline emanating off of the poor dog.  Then I say “Get ‘em!”  And he is gone.  Instead of creating a tornado now, he goes into missile lock on whichever poor turkey catches his eye.  He chases the particular bird around and around, even after it takes flight. (Joey doesn’t actually take flight, but he goes into surface to air missile tracking.)  I think the Sheriff is dreaming of Thanksgiving.

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Sheriff Joe on alert for turkeys.

So that’s about it from the Holler.  We hope everyone out there in the real world has a great November.

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A coyote (right of the top of the tree) running in the snow

 

October Snow……Again

20 October 2019 – 34 and snowing

We have some wacky mountain weather going on here.  This morning, the sun was shining and Dave and I worked outside wearing jeans and sweatshirts.  I went running this afternoon and ended up in short sleeves.  About one hour after I returned, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and now it is snowing and blowing.

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It looks like the white thumb of death just north of us!

Fortunately, it is supposed to go back into the 40s tomorrow with lots of sunshine, and 50s for a few days after that.  Since my last post, the weather has been really nice and we have been outside enjoying every last drop of it. We finally finished building our corral. Dave and I agree that this was one of the most complicated projects we have completed since we moved here.  First, we had to decide where to put the corral.  We debated about terrain, wind direction, proximity to the house, access for a trailer and all sorts of details.  We settled on the east side of the barn.

Second, we weren’t sure about the best way to set up the panels and the head gate. We consulted with friends, family, books and the internet to come up with a system that would allow us to separate cows and calves, and result in an alley to run them through the squeeze chute or into a calf table.  Also, we wanted to build in an accessible way to load cattle into a trailer.  We debated and debated, drew our ideas on paper, moved panels and moved them again. This is the corral.

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Rough sketch
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Reality

Third, we completed the “barn yard” by clearing out some of the large rocks and boulders and putting down gravel.  Now the corral is accessible with alleyways on the north and south side of the barn.  We can also drive the tractor through the barn to get back there and clean out manure.  Once more, Dave and I are happy for the snow to have a break from moving rocks!  Anyway, we are super excited about completing this project and will keep you posted about the functionality of the corral.

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South side alley
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East side sans rocks and with new gravel

After we separated out Shiner, the steer, and sent him to the market with the neighbor, we moved the four heifers we intend to keep into the new corral.

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Andie, Cupid, Fatz and Lucky

These four girls, all born in April, are as quiet as little church mice.  We haven’t heard Moo-One from any of them. They are really warming up to us, though.  Of course there is always one piggy in the group and this group’s piggy is Fatz.  She is already eating cake out of our hands and I joke that she is Dave’s new girlfriend.  She follows him around constantly nosing him to see what he’s up to…..or if he has any cake in his pocket.

Our plan is to keep these girls in the corral tonight so they are secure during this little snow storm.  Tomorrow we will release them into a pasture that we fenced off this summer, which we are calling the Maternity Ward.  We wanted a pasture close to our house.  We also wanted it to be about two acres so next spring we can move the pregnant cows in, leaving them just enough room to graze while limiting their wandering space so we can check on them when we expect calving.  The extra fenced off pasture will prove to be helpful in the fall, too.  We are keeping these four young heifers here while they are being weaned from their moms.  The big ladies are being kept in a pasture at least two fences away to prevent them from breaking through the fence and finding their kids.  This will need to go on for at least a few more weeks until the moms lose their milk and the babies stay off teat.

In addition to taking care of our facilities, we helped our neighbor separate his calves for market.  He has a much bigger operation than us and we ended up working nearly 300 calves.

It is always fun to participate in this neighbor’s operations because we learn a lot and we end up very grateful that we only have a handful of cows.  We do appreciate the cowboy lifestyle and enjoy watching them round up their herd on horseback.  Maybe one day we can participate in that part too.

Everyone here is doing well.  The Sheriff recovered from the pulled out toenail and has returned to his mischievous self.  He cannot stay out of the dirt.

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Sheriff Joe in the gravel pile

This dog loves, loves, loves getting as dirty as he possibly can.  I try to brush him or towel him off before he comes in, but he has very long fur and when he stands in the sunlight wagging his tail, he looks like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.  I think I could rent him out for Halloween parties as a fog machine.  Except instead of fog, it would be a dust machine and his wagging tail would just create and blow dust all around the venue.

Okay, that’s about it this week from the Holler.  We’re in for the evening by the stove watching the snow blow around and looking forward to tomorrow and a few more days of sunny warm weather.  We hope everyone is having a great October!

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October sunrise

 

October Snow

12 October 2019 – sunny and 26 with snow on the ground

We had the typical 10th of October snow storm.

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View from the deck on Thursday morning

It was quite a drastic change in temperatures as the high on Tuesday was in the 70s and then it snowed and dropped to 14 degrees Wednesday night.  The Sheriff seemed to be the only one that was really happy about the snow.

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Sheriff Joe Loves the Snow!

It isn’t all that bad, though.  We were able to get some bales of hay out for the cows and as we had been expecting the weather to change, we wrapped the beehive in tar paper.  Because of the rapid change in temps, we decided to bring Maverick, the cat, in from the barn for the night.  I brought him into the mudroom a few nights last winter that were bitterly cold and he meowed the whole time.  This time, however, he was super quiet and slept the whole night.  He did seem ready to get back to the barn the next day.

Speaking of animals, Maverick has been taunting the Sheriff quite a bit.

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Want to come down and play?

It all came to a big head when Sheriff Joe decided to go after the dang cat and while sprinting across some rocks, Joe tore out his toenail.  He didn’t stop, however, until Maverick was stuck up a tree. I think Maverick was singing that Bob Marley tune while he hid out in the tree,  “I Shot the Sheriff!”.   Hoten Holler drama.  Anyway, Joe has been pouting ever since because his toe hurts and maybe his ego too?

Dave and I enjoyed the warm weather earlier in the week with a visit from my Mom and Dad.  We put them to work and split some wood with the new splitter.

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Ranch Transportation
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The whole family splitting wood

We got to have some fun, too. Dave went to help a neighbor with his cattle round up, and Mom, Dad, and I got a front row seat from the truck.  It is really neat to see the real cowboy stuff that happens in this country.

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Neighbors round-up on horses and using ATVs and Trucks

We were also happy the elk returned for a visit both nights they were here.  They had left for about a week and we thought they were gone for the season, but they decided to come back so Mom and Dad could watch and hear them.

It was so great to see my folks, but they left (fled) just ahead of the snow storm.  Today is supposed to get into the upper 40s but the wind is howling and it is pretty miserable working conditions outside.  We are supposed to climb back into the 50s next week which will be nice, and hopefully the right conditions for taking calves to market.

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Shiner is #4 with the white face.  All the calves are getting big!

 

We have decided to keep the four heifers, Andie, Cupid, Fatz and Lucky.  The steer, Shiner, will be going with a neighbor’s calves.  We loved this little guy, if you remember he was the really listless one that we didn’t think was going to make it. It turns out he is just lazy, and has turned out to be really big and healthy.  Still, we aren’t in the business of keeping pet steers, so off he goes.

The following week we will be sending some of the older girls to the auction.  Also, Boohaa, one of our original cows  is going. She has been exposed to a bull for a full year and hasn’t gotten pregnant. She is a real sweet girl, but again, that’s not part of the business plan. This isn’t the fun part of raising cows, but it has to be done and we tell ourselves that they all had a good life here on the Holler where they were spoiled with beautiful green fields, shelter from the snow, and lots and lots of cake and head scratches.  Also, if we were made of hay I’m sure they would have no problem eating us or sending us to auction.

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Marzee and Shiner in the background

Well, that’s it for this week.  Stay warm out there and we’ll try to do the same!

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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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!

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The Holler 2019

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.

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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.

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The herd waiting in line for breakfast
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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.

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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!

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

 

Hey Winter, We’re Done!

17 Feb 2019 – Snowing and a high of 10 degrees

Remember back in November when I wrote how much I like snow.  That was definitely a November comment.  By the time February rolls around we are ready to see some sunshine and some green grass.  The weather gods don’t seem to care about what we want.IMG_8095

I guess we will appreciate the spring that much more if it ever warms up! Meanwhile, we are plowing through February, literally.

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Rancher Dave plows Stagecoach Springs Rd.

We decided to take advantage of a relatively warm and sunny day and stock up on some hay in case we run out.  We had a great hay season last year, but we ended up with four additional cows to feed so we may end up short depending on the weather.  When it is really cold like it has been, the cows require more food because they are burning a lot of energy to just stay warm. We figured we could buy them all coats and mittens, or we could just feed them more. Cows are really fussy about their fashion choices, so we opted to increase the feed.  We bought hay in April last year because of a late spring snow storm and it was pretty pricey, so this year we think we are ahead of the game by buying it in February.  Plus, we can store it inside the barn if we don’t use it all.

 

I think Maverick, the barn cat, was excited to see some hay coming in instead of all of it leaving.  He is running out of hiding places as we keep feeding all of his “furniture” to the cows.

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Maverick lounging in the sun on top of the hay bales

We have taken pity on the poor little guy  because the temperatures have been dipping below zero at night, Dave and I let him sleep in the mud room.  Dave grabs his box and I grab him and bring him in the house quietly so that Sheriff Joe doesn’t suspect anything.  The first few nights he was so quiet and didn’t make a peep.  The 3rd night we brought him in he decided he would meow all night.  The Sheriff didn’t care for that behavior and decided he should stay up all night monitoring the situation.  The animal drama never ceases around here.

Speaking of the Sheriff, his first birthday is in two days! The amount of growing a puppy does in one year is pretty amazing.

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The Sheriff today after rolling in the snow…he’s pushing 90 lbs now!
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The Sheriff in May, barely tall enough to get to his bowl.  He weighed less than 20 lbs here.

He definitely loves being a rancher, riding in the mule, chasing cows, playing with the neighbor dogs, and rolling in the snow drifts. (Oh, and we definitely love him too!) Happy Birthday, Joey!

The amount of snow and cold temperatures allowed us to finally get some of our slash piles burnt. There is always a little anxiety associated with lighting these large piles, even when they are surrounded by snow.  Fortunately, they all burned down really well and without incident.

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A big burning pile of slash

That’s all there is going on here on the Holler.  We are anticipating calves in about six weeks so we hope winter gets all it wants to get done before then.  We hope everyone is staying warm out there in civilization.

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Cows headed back to the High Lonesome after feeding and watering in the snow

 

February Freeze

5 February 2019 – Cloudy, snow flurries, highs in the teens

Brrrrr….It is cold out there. Although we skirted the edge of the polar vortex we are experiencing another cold snap, expecting below zero temperatures tomorrow night and highs in the single digits for the next few days. It is February in South Dakota, so we roll with it, or slide with it when you consider all the ice.

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A wintery view down our driveway
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From the top of Stagecoach Springs

Anyway, it is the first day of the Chinese New Year celebrating the Year of the Pig. We celebrated by eating bacon for breakfast. So Happy New Year everyone!

We have been busy chasing cows around, feeding, chopping ice, scooping stalls, and all the other usual hijinks that happen out here on the Holler.

We spent one day last week visiting the Black Hills Stock Show. This is a really neat event that showcases all things cowboy, rancher, and western. There are a ton of booths where vendors are selling everything from cowboy hats to branding irons. Rancher Dave and I bought a cowhide rug and a matching coffee table for our living room.

When we left Florida, we sold as much stuff as we could, including most of our furniture. Since then we have been slowly trying to decorate the house in a western theme. We thought these pieces class up the place a bit and make it look less like two college students live here. Ha ha.

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New coffee table
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Cowhide rug

We also attended the “Free Style Bull Fighting” event. I have never seen anything quite like this and I’m convinced this sport was invented by some ranchers after a long day of haying and too many Keystone LIghts. Anyway, the idea is that a bullfighter (not traditional red caped Spanish guy, but a young cowboy in running shoes) gets into the ring and signals the gate keeper to let out the bull. The enormous and enormously hacked off Mexican Fighting Bull charges into the ring bucking, snorting, and looking for someone to kill. The bull immediately spots said bullfighter and the game is on. For 60 seconds, the bullfighter tries to get as close to the bull as possible without getting killed. See the Youtube video below for an idea of what this is like. The bullfighter is judged on his ability to stay close to the bull.

Freestyle bullfighting link

The rounds we watched were incredibly exciting and had both Dave and I on the edge of our seats. Dave took a video, but I won’t let him post it because it is terrible for two reasons. First it is incredibly stressful watching the angry bull pushing around the young bullfighter. Second, you can hear this crazy lady in the background shrieking, “Oh NO!! Run! Oh my gosh, make it stop!….Oh no oh no oh NOOOOOOO! Arggghhh” Okay, the crazy lady is me. I have always hated my voice on tape; I sound much cooler in my head. But this recorded bit of anxious drama is just too terrible to share. You’re lucky I told you about it at all. Now let’s all forget this ever happened.

Anyway, we had a fantastic day at the stock show shopping, people watching, and looking at all the beautiful show cows. As usual, we were even happier to get back to the Holler.

We took another trip today to the booming metropolis of Edgemont, South Dakota. We had to go to the ranch store and load up on cow cake. We also stocked up on calving supplies. We bought a few bags of colostrum, some scours treatments, plastic gloves, disinfectant, a giant baby bottle, some electrolytes, syringes of nursemate ASAP that stimulate a calves desire to eat, and other random things we want to have on hand but hope to not need. We aren’t expecting any babies until the first part of April, but you never know.

We are hoping things warm up a bit before the first calf arrives. Meanwhile, the cows don’t seem too hungry and are not running at us when we feed. On the cold nights, they head up into the woods and huddle together to emerge with icicle coated whiskers in the morning. It’s cold but it’s beautiful and impossible to describe how much we still like chores. They haven’t become “chores” to us yet.

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Feeding time at the High Lonesome

Again, Happy February everyone. We hope things are going well out there in the real world!

Two Weeks In…..

15 January 2019 – Cloudy and 32

I cannot believe we already are two weeks into the New Year.  Anyone else still writing 2018 as the date?  Dave and I have been keeping busy with typical ranching duties. While the weather has been warm, it has been windy.  We even busted out the old ski-goggles to keep the hay out of our eyes when we were feeding!

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Rancher Dave wearing ski goggles to feed….it was really windy!

Dave got the round baler unroller up and running.  The roller runs off of the tractors 3-point connection and rear hydraulic system and uses the two spears to pick up a big round bale.  Then, when the tractor is driven across the field, the bale is rolled out on the ground making it easier to feed the cows.

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Bale Unroller picking up a big round bale.  This is pre-paint coat.

After fixing it, he painted it blue to match Babe.  Immediately after painting it he came in the house and looked out the window and saw Maverick, the barn cat, crawling all over it.  So now it has a nice new paint job with some kitty prints, and Maverick has blue paws. Blue paws are the hottest new trend this year, we’re told, all the cats are doing it.

We have been enjoying an unusually warm January, with temperatures reaching mid to upper 40’s in the day and only mid 20’s in the evening.  The water in the barn doesn’t even freeze, which has been great!  Of course, all good things must come to an end and we are looking at single digits and more snow this weekend.  We cannot complain; it is January in the Dakotas after all!

We added two more cows to the combined herd.

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Cowboy Dave checking out his new cow.

One of our neighbors is getting rid of her stock and they both seemed like a good fit.  Smudge, who is related to Domino, is Rancher Dave and my new (old) cow.  Nina (pronounced NINE-UH) is Cowboy Dave and Linda’s new lady.  Now we have four of the neighbor’s old cows and I think we should call them the Golden Girls.  The addition went better than last time and there were no big bar brawls or picking on the new girls.  Who knows what sets these cows off?

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Smudge looks just like domino except her eye makeup is smudged whereas Domino’s is a perfect circle.

Anyway, Cowboy Dave took Mac, his off-cycle calf that was born in July to market today.  He was finally weaned and ready to go. After we loaded Mac into the trailer, Hugo, the young bull that was keeping him company was left all alone at the High Lonesome corral.  I guess he didn’t like being left alone because he went completely bonkers. Our plan was to use cake to lead him over to join up with the rest of the herd, but he decided to start snorting and kicking and throwing his head around, even charging at us.  He is probably 700lbs now and the sight of a 700lb bull running angrily toward you in the snow is a little disconcerting. Anyway, he was too riled up to figure out where the rest of the cows were so we had to reattack.

Rancher Dave went all the way back to the Holler and grabbed some cake to lead the rest of the herd to poor, lonely Hugo.  The whole herd came running after him in the mule because they view it as the “cake wagon.”  We thought Hugo would be happy to be reunited with everyone, but he immediately got into a big fight with one of the larger cows.  After a few tense minutes everyone finally settled down and quit brawling.  Cows have more drama than any soap opera!

All the animals around here seem to be on edge today.  Later in the afternoon, the FedEx guy showed up with a package and who knows why, but our big bull, Koozy, decided he hated the FedEx van.  He was in a pasture adjacent to the driveway gate and he was pitching a fit, snorting and screaming at the poor Fed-Ex man.  Watching this from the house, we wondered if the delivery guy was even going to get out of the van.  I’m not sure I would have, but he did and when he delivered his package Dave said to him, “I think he likes you!”  I said we were going to get him a red cape to wear in case he wanted to hone his bull fighting skills.  I don’t think he was too amused.

Meanwhile, the coyotes have been howling and yipping all day and night.  This drives the dogs crazy which in turn drives us a little crazy.  I wonder if the animals are sensing the impending snow storm or if maybe they’re just grumpy because the Dallas Cowboys didn’t win their play-off game.  It makes sense to me that ranch animals would cheer for the Cowboys.  Hmmmm….clearly the animals aren’t the only ones losing their minds around here!

That’s all that is new on the Holler.  We hope everyone is doing well out there in the real world.

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Joey and I snap a selfie in the truck.  

 

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