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Winter

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.  

 

The Great Calf Escape of 2018

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

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

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

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Rancher Dave breaking ice in the stock tank

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

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Cowboy Dave checking out the herd eating in the bunks

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

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

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

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

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Shuffling around in the snow trying to catch up with escapees

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

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The two culprits apprehended once again

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

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Red Barn, White Snow, Blue Tractor.  

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

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

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…..

24 December 2018 – Sunny and 47 degrees!

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

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A cold morning earlier this month.

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

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

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

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

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

Hotens on Ice

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

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

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Ice and snow everywhere we go

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

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

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

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

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

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Brandy and Domino missing their old home across the fence.
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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave trying to bounce out any rowdy cows that start fights at breakfast.

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

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The boxing ring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Staring down the Alpine Slide

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

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

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Valentine at the afternoon feeding

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

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Why is everyone so sleepy?

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

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

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

1 December 2018 – Snowing and a high of 35

It is the perfect December day here on the Holler. We are in the middle of a big snowstorm, expecting 3-5 inches before tomorrow, and believe it or not, we are pretty happy about the snow. We have been waiting and waiting to put down the nitrogen fertilizer we bought in October. The fertilizer experts said to put it down right before a big snow, that way it won’t just evaporate and the moisture will maximize its purpose. We got done fertilizing all of our fields and the fields over at the High Lonesome on Thursday and it started snowing Friday night. The timing was perfect, so we’re happy about the snow. More on this later.

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Beautiful snow – view from the barn
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Cows looking for food

Thanksgiving was really nice. It was about 65 degrees here, but we weren’t around to enjoy it. We took advantage of the warm weather and sun and road-tripped back to Iowa where we got to have Thanksgiving with my parents and my brother. It is difficult for us to get away in the winter because our house is off-grid and solar powered. If it snows while we are away, there is no one here to start the generator (although this is supposed to happen automatically, we are still suspicious of this feature) and no one here to scrape the snow off the solar panels. Also, the cows need feeding and watering, and if it is bitterly cold the ice has to be broken off the water tank. Fortunately, the weather was nice so the cows had plenty to eat and drink and the batteries in the house remained charged thanks to the sunshine. It was really nice to see my folks and we ate and ate and ate. You gotta love Thanksgiving, especially if you love pie.

 


We had a great time in Iowa, but we were happy to return to the Holler. There is no place like home, and Rancher Dave and I have really transformed into country people. We are pretty uncomfortable in the city with the traffic and the noise, and Sheriff Joe is definitely a ranch dog. He had to be leashed during our trip because he doesn’t have any sense about traffic, cars, and he has no understanding of other people’s yards and fences. He likes wide open spaces, cows, and mule rides. So do I.

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Joey’s ears flapping in the wind in the mule

We bought my brother’s pick-up and I drove it back. We had been searching for a little ranch truck that we can also run back and forth to town in and take some of the burden off of Truck Norris (our Toyota and only vehicle since we left Florida). Coincidentally, my brother was having a hard time selling his truck because it has a manual transmission. Apparently, no one can drive a stick shift any more, or they don’t want to because it makes it too hard to text and drive. Ha ha. I guess we are old school now and think it is pretty cool to drive a stick-shift. It turned out to be a good deal for all of us, so thanks, Bill! We love this little truck and have already had it back and forth to town a couple of times. It’s doing great in the snow, and proving to be a valuable ranch-hand.

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My new ride.  We named it Tonto (because we name everything).

Now, back to putting down nitrogen. The fertilization process would have went really smoothly if it weren’t for the dang cows. They are so MOOOOODY! Our herd is spoiled rotten, and they have become so accustomed to being fed cake that sometimes we can barely get the mule out of the driveway without being stampeded by those hungry bovines. They have become quite the pests and I have even started threatening them about making them into burgers and often tell them they would be more likeable covered in cheese and stuffed in a sesame seed bun. On a day where they get really pushy, I like to sing Jimmy Buffet’s “Chesseburger in Paradise”. They don’t care.

 

Rancher Dave wanted to make sure the broadcaster was set to the proper rate so we put down the proper amount of nitrogen. This would require a test run in one of the small fields and also require him to hold a steady speed in Babe, the tractor. Sheriff Joe and I were supposed to follow along in the mule and indicate how far the fertilizer was throwing out of the spreader, but as soon as we started the mule, those crazy cows came running. They were rudely pushing about in front of Babe, preventing Dave from driving a steady speed. They were rushing toward Joey and me, and we couldn’t even walk across the pasture to show Dave where the fertilizer was broadcasting. Finally, we decided to give them some cake in another pasture and get them out of the way.

But NO! Those greedy girls ate all the cake and came running back to the field we were trying to work. We had to give them two bales of hay to occupy their time so they would leave us alone. Eventually, we figured out the proper setting on the broadcaster and went to work. The next day, we tricked the cows and fenced them into a pasture over at the High Lonesome so they would be out of our way.

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Babe with the broadcaster attached, spreading nitrogen

Putting down fertilizer is pretty straightforward once you figure out the setting on the equipment and the speed you need to drive the tractor. The problem is that none of our fields are perfectly square so it is easy to lose track of where you have been already. Our good friend, Jeff, provided the remedy to this by introducing Rancher Dave to the MYTRACKS app. Dave put this app on his phone and was able to real-time track where he had been in the field. It also provided the speed as Babe has a tach but no speedometer. Look out Elon Musk, we’re pretty high-tech out here.

 

I got to do the driving on day 2, and this app made my job super easy. Of course, it looks like I did some drunken bowties in the middle of the field, and my excuse was that somebody texted me while I was working. I had to try to navigate my way back to the MYTRACKS app while driving Babe and this is the poor result.

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DON’T TEXT AND FERTILIZE!

I guess I shouldn’t make fun of people texting and driving any more.

Today, we got up right before sunrise. It was already snowing so I threw my snowpants on over my pajamas and went up to the barn to check on Maverick, the cat, and give him some food. I dusted snow off the beehives so the bees could go in and out. I scraped some snow and ice off the solar panels while Rancher Dave loaded the mule with hay. We fed the cows and by the time we got back to the house, the solar panels were covered in snow again. Dave went in the house to start the generator because it appears this will be one of those rare days where our batteries won’t get charged by the sun. Just because it was so beautiful outside and I was already wearing my snow gear, I decided to give the panels one more snow scraping.

I was nearly done and I turned around, looking for Sheriff Joe. I spotted him almost immediately as he was only about 50 yards from me. I was instantly shocked to see him in the international “dog play” position, with his front paws down on the ground and rear in the air, and NOSE TO NOSE with a coyote! The coyote was also in the play position. Alarm bells started going off in my head as I recalled story after story about coyotes sending out a scout to play with a dog, only to lure it back to the pack where it will surely be killed. I started yelling bloody murder, “Joey! No! Come! Get over here!” and “Dave, get the gun!” I was kicking myself because I had just leapt out of bed this morning and was unarmed. I didn’t even have my knife, although I’m not sure what I would have done with either weapon.

Dave couldn’t hear me because the generator was running, so instinctively I kept yelling and ran towards Joey and the “playful” coyote. I think Joe could tell I was upset and he came sprinting back to me, but the coyote just sat there and looked at us. I grabbed Joe’s collar and we ran to the porch and I said, “Dave, come kill this coyote!” Dave was on it, and threw on his coat and boots, grabbed his rifle and went out to the back deck. The coyote was long gone. We love animals, and are not keen on killing them, but after the disappearance of our cat, Goose, and the attempted abduction of Joey, we have decided it is open season on wiley coyotes, especially when they are brazen enough to come so close to the house with people outside and the generator making a lot of noise.

I’m sitting here now, looking out at the beautiful, gently falling snow and thanking the Good Lord that my dog didn’t get killed or attacked this morning. Dave is out scraping the panels again and shoveling snow off the deck. The cows are done eating and have headed back to the trees for shelter. I have a pot full of pinto beans and conecuh sausage cooking on the wood stove. It really looks like a Christmas Card outside and since it is the first of December, I think I’ll go dig out the Christmas decorations. We hope everyone out there in the real world is having a good weekend. Happy December!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November 2018 – Sunny and a high of 23

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

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Snow on the Holler

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

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Rancher Dave sitting in the hard gravel working on the mower
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He got the blade out!

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

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Before
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After

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

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

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

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

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Broadcaster on Babe
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Snowblower on Bob

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A cold winter day, even for cows
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Maverick getting some sun on the hay bales in the barn

 

Hey! What About Autumn?

28 September 2018 – Snow (wait, what?) Snow and 31 degrees

Last week it was hot.  This week it is not.

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September Snow

It seems we went directly from summer to winter. But next week is forecast to be much more typical fall temperatures, highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.  That’s about perfect weather, but Mother Nature’s little swipe at us last night didn’t sit too well with most of the critters on the Holler.  The cows came out of the woods this morning and were extremely loud and rude, crabbily mooing at the house until Rancher Dave went out and fed them some bales.

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Rancher Dave putting bales in the feeder

The bees are probably in shock.  Fortunately, I did get all the honey supers off the hive and the mite treatments out, so they should be all set for winter. Goose is warm in the barn and Maverick is over at the High Lonesome, where he spends about every other night.  That little punk digs his way out of the barn at night and sometimes hunts over there or steals the cat food Linda puts out for her barn kitties.

The Sheriff, for one, is very excited about the snow.  He hasn’t seen snow yet in his life and he went out first thing this morning and growled and barked at his surroundings.  Shortly after discovering that the white stuff wouldn’t kill him, he tried to eat as much of it as he could.  Then he went bananas.  He started sprinting around in circles, rolling and jumping in the snow.  He acted like a little kid that heard he got a snow day off from school.

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Blurry picture of a crazy dog

In other news, the Hoten Holler ranch made its first cattle sales last week. Cowboy Dave and Rancher Dave loaded up the spring calves and took them to the cattle auction in St. Onge, South Dakota.

 

 

We had two steers for sale, T-BONE and Dude.  Cowboy and Linda had 2 heifers, Lilly and Heidi, and one steer, Chips.  They kept Hugo, Patsy’s calf, as a bull and plan to replace Koozy with him in a couple of years.

 

Both Dave and I thought it would be hard to sell these calves since we have known them since their births.  We told ourselves that these steers have had it made out here all spring and summer on the Holler.  They have been so spoiled to live in these beautiful hills with no shortage of food or water and plenty of supplemental treats from the garden and cake and creep.  They have been handled gently and well cared for, but it was time for them to go.  We also reminded ourselves that if we were made of hay or grass, they would have no problem eating us!

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Rancher Dave and Cowboy Dave smoke a celebratory cigar in honor of the calve sales

The sale of the calves was bitter-sweet, but now we can move forward to the next cycle of life in the cattle business.  We are hoping that we have 14 bred cows this fall that should calve in late April or early May. In between now and then, we will take the best care we can of the cows (and the two bulls) and make sure they are spoiled, fat, and happy.

Speaking of spoiled, fat, and happy, I have a pot of chili cooking on the wood stove for supper. It’s warm and cozy in the house and it feels like a perfect winter day…..except it’s September!!!

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Chili on the stove and Sheriff Joe warms himself after a morning of crazy running through the snow.

 

Spring is Coming….Right?

20 April 2018 – Cloudy and 40 with snow showers in the forecast

The Holler is showing all the signs of spring, but Old Man Winter just won’t go away.  We have little sprouts of green grass all over the pastures, the blue birds and the meadowlarks have returned, the tulips are trying to come up, and the bees have ventured out of the hive on several warm days this week.  Still, we have to head out for morning chores in our snow pants and parkas because the dawn temperatures are pretty low and the wind makes it feel even colder.

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Tulip trying to peek up through the frost

 

The past two weeks have been really busy, so I’m giving advanced warning about the length of this blog post.  We have been disking, harrowing, and planting with unwavering faith that the growing season must begin soon.

The days fly by when you are in the field all day, but it feels great to come into a warm house at night and be tired from all the work.  It also feels great to look at the field you just plowed and planted and believe….really believe….that it is going to produce some good hay.  You gotta have patience out here on the ranch.

The bovines have been busy, too.  Last week, Cowboy Dave had made a trip out of town to see an old friend.  Linda remained and was keeping a close eye on Frita, a cow who looked imminently close to calving.  On Saturday morning she called to say Frita was having her baby. Dave and I went over to the High Lonesome and met Linda in the pasture to watch Frita go through her paces.

You may wonder why we make such a big deal about watching these cows give birth. In all likelihood they would be just fine, or even better off if we minded our own business.  But the counterargument is that if there is a problem, those dang cows refuse to grab a cell phone to call or text for help. We think they have trouble dialing because the numbers are too small for their big hooves.  Calves can be anywhere from 50-75 lbs so there are many things that could go wrong that would require our assistance.  A breech position calf would require a person to help reposition the calf in the birth canal.  A very large calf may require pulling.  A calf that is born and not breathing immediately, or one that won’t eat right away are both situations that would require a human assist.  Not that Pilot Dave or I have done any of these things before, but Cowboy and Linda have, and we are trying to learn everything we can to be the best stewards of these animals that we can be.

Back to Frita – we watched her in obvious labor pains for nearly two hours, but then she got up and walked back to rejoin the herd.  We decided to give her some space and time, and when Dave and I started heading up the driveway back to the Holler, I caught a glimpse of her going up over a hill by herself again.  I said I wanted to stay and see if I could keep an eye on her for awhile.  Dave went back to get some chores done on the Holler and Linda went back to the ranch house on the High Lonesome to get on with her day.  I hiked a short distance up over the hill with my field glasses and I could just see Frita in the distance lying under a tree.  I spotted her with the glasses and realized she was calving!  This was probably only 5 minutes after Dave and Linda had left, so I called them from my cell phone (since Frita refused to use hers!) and they came back to the pasture about two minutes after the baby was born.

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Frita has her baby in the only dry spot

 

We got a little closer and watched as the little calf struggled to his feet and started nursing.  Phew!  Another healthy calf.  Later that day we took Frita some hay and got a better look.  It is a little bull, and we decided to refer to him as Chips – Frita Chips….like Frito Chips. This is Cowboy and Linda’s bull, so they will obviously name him as they please, but with so many calves running around, Dave and I like to give them a name so we know who is who.

Cowboy Dave returned the following day and was pleased about the healthy addition to his herd.  We decided that we would move calves to one of the northern pastures because it is already mid-April and we needed to move them out of the current pasture to prepare the field and let the alfalfa and grass start growing. First, we had to catch Heidi and Chips and tag them while we could still use the paddock gates to keep the frantic mothers at bay. First thing Monday morning, we got the calves tagged.  It was relatively uneventful, as the two Dave’s are getting pretty good at grabbing the little calves and getting right down to business as Linda and I try to distract the Moms with cake and hay.

Next, we rounded everyone up and herded them along the fence that borders the National Forest toward the northern pasture.  The cows are pretty good about this, but of course, there is always one troublemaker.  Puzzle’s calf, Heidi, decided to crawl under the barbed wire and take off on her own into the National Forest.  While Linda worked the gates and Cowboy drove the cows onward with his mule, Pilot Dave and I tried to get that little dogie back to the herd. She was only six days old, but she could run!  A horse would have been very helpful at this point, but since the horses remain on the “Future Purchases List”, Pilot Dave and I ran all over hell’s half acre trying to push Heidi back toward the herd.  Finally, after a lot of exercise, we got her out of the forest and on the right side of the fence, but of course, she turned the wrong way and headed south back to the place everyone had just left.  Heidi, Come Back!!!  Cowboy Dave and Linda returned to the chase on their mule and eventually we got her headed the right way.  She was reunited with her mother, who didn’t seem too concerned that her daughter had been running around like a wild child.  Lady, get control of your kid!

Next, Pilot Dave and I hooked up the round feeder ring to Babe and delivered it to the northern pasture.  It was a slow process, manipulating the big ring and tractor through all the fences and gates, but Dave has gotten pretty good on the tractor.

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Dave maneuvers Babe and the feeder ring through the pasture gate

 

Yesterday, Pilot Dave and I checked cows in the morning. Everybody looked good and all the calfies were running around, jumping and bucking and feeling good.  We gave Honey and Muzzle the once-over because they are the two remaining pregnant ladies.  They looked normal, well, normal in the pregnant cow sense. We left them in the pasture intending to check everyone again around noon.

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Lilly and Hugo enjoying the sunshine
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T-bone and Heidi with Honey looking over them

 

We are out of hay and since the weather hasn’t been warm enough to produce sufficient grazing grass, Cowboy Dave took his trailer south to Edgemont to pick up some round bales from the feed store. Meanwhile, Pilot Dave and I took our trailer north to Custer to pick up a disk and an auger that were in the shop being welded.  We all met back on Stagecoach Springs to continue the daily chores.

Pilot Dave drove Babe up to the northern pasture to get the big bale of hay off of Cowboy Dave’s tractor. This was just another incident where we are so grateful to have a big tractor, and I am so happy that I married a good tractor driver!

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That’s a big bale of hay!
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Pilot Dave’s view from the cockpit of Babe.

 

I went and got Linda in the mule and we decided to do the mid-day cow check.  As we approached the pasture we could see Honey way off by herself under a tree.  As we got closer, we could see what looked like a big red rock next to her, but as we got even closer we realized it was a calf!

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Honey’s new baby!

 

 

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Still wet behind the ears.
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Honey enjoys a meal after calving.

 

Honey gave birth to a beautiful little bull.  He is the Hoten Holler’s second calf so he gets the #2 ear tag if we can catch him today. He looked healthy and was already up and nursing, so we returned to the task at hand, getting the big bale into the feeder.

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Cowboy Dave trying to train Mar-zee to jump through the hoop.  Next week we light the hoop on fire and then we’ll be ready for the circus.
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Moving the feed ring over the hay bale.

The day was only half done, though, so the two Dave’s finished up the disking and planting over at the High Lonesome.

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Back to disking the High Lonesome

Out here, you literally have to make hay while the sun shines.  Although we are done with the snow, we hope we get some precipitation today to get the oats off to a good start.

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Valentine wants to give Dave a smooch.

 

 

 

 

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J.C. Brae

Country Music Artist

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