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Winter

Quit Whining about the Heat!

9 September 2020 – Sunny and 42

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

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

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

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

Dave unloading the trailer

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

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

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

Tarped bales

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

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

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

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

Hello firewood my old friend….

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

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

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

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

Red Sky in the morning…ranchers’ warning!

And We Thought March Was Mad

11 April 2020 – Overcast and windy but 37 degrees

It is that time of year where we are just about sick of winter.  Of course, April is also one of the snowiest months here in the Black Hills.  It seems that we get a blizzard every ten days or so, and then it gets into the 50s and 60s for a few days.  Everything gets muddy and sloppy and when it finally dries up, here comes the next blizzard.  That is the case today.  We are expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight, and yesterday we were working outside in short sleeves.

I fear I sound like I’m complaining.  These temperature swings are not all bad, and the warm days are so greatly appreciated after a giant dump of snow.  If we didn’t have any critters, I don’t think I would mind at all because the snow is quite beautiful.  BUT we do have critters and they are all trying to have babies!

Fortunately, the Dirty Dozen (#112), the girl we were following around in late March decided to calve on one of the warmest days.  It was about 60 degrees and mid afternoon when she walked away from the herd, laid down in the woods, and delivered her baby in about five minutes. We were extremely grateful to see the baby get up on his feet in 30 minutes and began to nurse shortly after that.  Dozen is a great mom, and her milk bag is huge so the baby has no problem getting his fill.

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Dirty Dozen and her baby bull, Henry

Last year, we had a hard time with all the 1st calf heifers.  Dozen had a female calf last year and it died at 1 day old from pneumonia.  The vet did a necropsy and said the baby’s stomach was full of milk, so Dozen had been feeding her.  The baby died anyway and we ended up quarantining all the babies and moms that had been in contact with her. Another 1st calf heifer wasn’t producing very much milk, so we worked with Dozen to help nurse that calf, and she was more than willing to help.  At the end of the day, I think all of the calves born to our heifers ended up nursing on Dozen.  She seems to really like babies!  Anyway, the calving season last year was a huge pain, and it was so sad, and it turned us into Nervous Nellies for the calving season this year.  I’m sure most experienced ranchers would probably laugh at all the fuss and worry we have been doing, but we just really want to take good care of everyone and for them to thrive.

Dozen’s calf this year is two weeks early by the gestation calendar, so we are acting like extreme helicopter parents, checking on this baby bull every 2-3 hours.  He is 3 days old today and nursing very well. He has been tearing around like a race car in the mornings and evenings, and it is really fun to watch.  It’s as if he is showing off to the rest of the herd, “Look how fast I can run!”  Then he wears himself out and Dozen parks him in the tall grass to sleep the rest of the day.  Yesterday, after she parked him and wandered off to graze, Dave and I snuck up and tagged his ear.

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Nice Bling, Henry!

He is the 8th calf born to the herd so we named him Henry the 8th. We thought he might holler when we tagged him, as calves often do, but he didn’t make a peep so his mom didn’t come running to check on him.  We saw her going back to him later in the day and she sniffed him all over, especially his new ear tag.  I think she was mad he got an earring without her permission. Kids today!

Due to the impending blizzard conditions this evening, we have been preparing the barn with an extra stall for Dozen and Henry, so Henry doesn’t get stepped on by all the other cows trying to shelter from the storm. Dave added boards to the bottom of the panels to prevent him from squirting out into the main stall area.  He also has an extra panel handy in case one of the other ladies decides to calve during the bad weather. If that happens, she will have her own little area as well.  We are calling the stalls the Princess Suite and the Royal Deluxe.  Oh, Dave also added LED lights so we can keep an eye on everyone at night.

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A nice area for mom and baby

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Boards at the bottom to keep baby from squirting out

Next thing you know the cows will be demanding turn-down service and mints on their pillows.

In other news, we have enjoyed working outside on the last few warm days.  We built a platform and assembled this greenhouse.

The platform was a lot easier than assembling the greenhouse.  It was supposed to take 6 hours but I think it took us twice as long, considering the convoluted directions.  At least that’s my excuse.  Regardless, it seems to have turned out well and if it wasn’t going to be 6 degrees tomorrow night I would already have planted some things in there.  So the plants I have started will remain on the kitchen counter until the next warm weather.

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Beets and Peppers

We are ready for this snow to come and go, and once that happens we will begin disking and planting hay crops.  We are also hoping nobody else has a baby until the snow is gone, but that is never up to us.  As always, we are far removed from the real world and crazy things that are happening out there.  I hope everyone that is reading this is staying safe, staying sane, and that you all have a very Happy and Blessed Easter!

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Sherriff Joe on night patrol during the Super Moon

 

March Madness

19 March 2020 – Overcast and windy but 34 degrees

I reread my last post on the 3rd of March and at time the CoronaVirus News was just a whisper of background noise.  How things have changed in 16 days. Life is really no different here on the Holler.  We are self-quarantined most of the time anyway, working on the ranch and only going to town once or twice a month.  We always keep a stockpile of goods just to avoid extra trips for things like toilet paper or dog food. The small towns here in the Black Hills are always ghost towns in the winter months.  Most restaurants are only open from April to September and a lot of small business owners close up shop and head south.  Consequently, life here is  quiet and slow in the non-tourist season so it  feels like we are far removed from the crazy happenings in the rest of the world and just watching a science-fiction movie whenever we do turn on the news.

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Sunrise on the Holler

I know this is not like watching a movie for most of the country, and Dave and I have been in touch with family and friends that live in more populated areas (just about anywhere else).  The shutdown of businesses, schools, and normal life sounds extremely surreal.  All we can do is pray that people stay safe, be kind to each other, and don’t panic. This is still the greatest country in the world and we will beat this thing.

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Some deer grazing off the back porch

So what have you more social people been doing with all of your “stuck at home” time?  I have to brag about a good friend of mine who sent me a picture of teaching her kids how to build a fire.  They are working on survival skills at home and I thought that was a very neat idea.  I imagine not everyone is enjoying self-quarantine, but as a person who spends quite a lot of time in self imposed isolation due to geography and general hermit-crabby-ness, I have one piece of advice.  Do NOT sit around and watch or listen to the news all day.  You’ll go nuts.

Here in the ops-normal Holler, we have been busy with spring chores. We will be moving cows to different pastures once they calve and that requires fence inspection and mending.

We are still heating with wood and our wood shed is starting to look a lot less full than it was a few months ago.

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A lot of this that is left is still too green to burn.

We also have an area we call the “maternity ward” where we plan to put our pregnant cows as they start to look like they’re about to deliver, so we can keep a close eye on them.  Part of our life lately is trying to keep that area clean and picking up poop.  I read that cows can create 65 pounds of manure a day and after Dave and I hauled 7 tractor loads of poop out of the maternity ward, I believe it!

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Time to move the poo.

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A clean maternity ward….for now.

Thank goodness the bovines don’t use toilet paper or we would definitely be in trouble. They keep us busy feeding and checking on them. We are expecting the first calves mid-April, but one cow in particular already looks like she is getting milk in her bag.

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The Dirty Dozen.  Her bag is definitely bigger than everyone else so far.

We hope she holds off, it is still pretty early for her to calve. The other bred cows just look really big and slow right now, and the heifers that are not bred are loving spring.  They get in a lot of play fights, run around and headbutt each other, and for some strange reason they are particularly fond of sprinting up and down the side of the stock dam. They are crazy. They spent too much time this winter sitting around watching the news.

 

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Andie the heifer enjoying her dinner.

We  had a few spring blizzards which lead to busy days full of snow removal.  One day last weekend we had the most snow we’ve seen since we lived here, but the next day we were wearing short sleeves outside.  It’s likely winter isn’t done with us yet as April and sometimes May can be the snowiest months, but the 10 day forecast looks like 40s and 50s so we’ll take it!

We continue to feed the cows because it there isn’t anything for them to graze yet, and the barn is starting to look empty again as well.

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Rancher Dave sends a bale down the chute.

The blue birds and the turkeys have returned, and occasionally we have some geese flying north.  Sheriff Joe is quite pleased to see the turkeys are back, as one of his favorite activities is scaring them off.

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It looks like the good Sheriff forgot to wipe his feet!

The bees have been pretty active on the warmer days and while I am feeding them I won’t be completely convinced they survived the winter until I can open up the hive and see if the queen still lives and starts laying eggs. Long live the queen!

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The bees last fall

And that is about all there is to say for now. Dave and I are really wishing the very best to everyone out there in the strange and crazy world.

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Don’t forget to laugh.

 

Out on the Prairie

3 March 2020 – Sunny and snowing simultaneously….hovering around 35 degrees

So long, February!  I’d like to say we’ll miss ya, but likely we won’t.  It was not exceptionally cold or snowy last month, but it is that time of year when we are really starting to want warmer spring weather.  The forecast shows we may get our wish, however, it was forecast to be sunny and warm the last two days and it has been sunny but NOT warm.  The wind has been blowing, gusting up to 40 and while the sun is shining it keeps snowing. Some people brag about their weather, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a day.”  But we say, “How can you not like the weather?  It’s sunny and it’s snowing, and windy! We sometimes have all four seasons at once.”

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The herd in the south pasture braving the wind, snow, and sunshine

It seems like the wild life is waking up for spring.  There is a pack of four coyotes that have been hunting in our pastures.  We give them a warning shot if they get too close to the house, but we’re hoping they will take out the groundhogs or moles that have been digging out there.  As long as they leave the dog and cat alone, we think they are okay.  Yesterday morning, Dave and I watched them hunting mice or some other vermin. They work as a team and they seemed to round up a pretty good breakfast for themselves.  At night, they make a lot of noise, but sometimes we hear them during the day as well. Fortunately the Sheriff usually sticks close by when they start singing.

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Sheriff Joe hanging out in the barn stall while we do some work

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Maverick, the barn cat who gets to come in when it is too cold in the barn.

After the coyotes got their fill, a line of about 12 deer went marching right by the house.  If the apocalypse happens, I guess we won’t go hungry either.

Shortly thereafter, there was a giant bald eagle flying around the cows. Then, later in the day a loud, honking flock of geese did a low pass directly over the barn.  We are enjoying the return of the birds after the long winter and looking forward to seeing the first rocky mountain bluebirds and hearing the first meadowlarks.  Maybe all the critters are showing up because we have so much water in the stock dam.  Nothing brings out the riff-raff like a good watering hole.

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The stock dam is full of water….too bad it won’t last

Pretty soon we will be planting seeds and getting ready for the garden.  In April we will start disking and are planning on putting in barley for the hay crop this year.  We are only about 6 weeks away from calving and the ladies are looking big and tired.

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Fat and happy and very pregnant cows

Today, the fire is burning in the wood stove and while we have ventured out for chores, the wind and the snow are making us remember that we live in South Dakota and winter is just not through with us yet.  Hope everyone is staying warm and happy out there in the real world.

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A cold and sunny February morning

 

Hey, Joker

10  Feb 2020 – Sunny and 28 degrees, also snowing at the same time

Did anyone see the full moon this weekend?  Wow, it was really bright out here especially with just a little snow on the ground.  Nice job, Mother Nature!

We took a little road trip down to Lusk, Wyoming on Saturday to look at a potential bull to breed our cows and heifers this summer.  It was a beautiful drive and we saw tons of antelope running through the wide open Wyoming countryside.  All the hawks in Wyoming seemed to be out hunting that day, too, and we probably counted ten or more sitting on fence posts along the road. As we neared Lusk, the Laramie Mountains began to appear on the horizon.  Wyoming is just beautiful, well, not South Dakota beautiful, but close.

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Southeastern Wyoming

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Laramie Mountains in view

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Beautiful snow and clouds

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South Dakota sunrise 

We met the rancher we’ve been talking to about the bull rental and drove to his paddocks where he keeps his cows and his bulls.  We liked a couple of the boys and agreed to rent one contingent on him testing well for fertility in the spring.  All of his bulls have good demeanors and we also got to look over the bulls’ mothers who were also very mild-mannered and nice looking.  Hopefully this will work out for both parties and we at the very least have made a new rancher friend that isn’t really too far down the road.

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A bull that is likely too big for our heifers

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These two are just about right, Happy Valentines Day, girls!

Speaking of cows, did anyone watch the Academy Awards? We did not watch the show and have not watched it for as long as I can remember.  I’m pretty sure we haven’t even seen any of the movies that were nominated and/or awarded.  That being said, I do read the news and while I strive to stay away from politics on this blog I have to address the comments of Joaquin Phoenix regarding cows:

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then, we take her milk, that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal, and I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up.”

Okay, Joker.  I wouldn’t dream of criticizing your movie or acting method because A) I haven’t seen the movie and B) I don’t know anything about acting.  Can I ask you for the same courtesy?  It really irritates me when people rip on the livestock industry or the dairy industry.  I don’t know very much about dairy farming, but I have learned a ton about beef cattle in the last four years by ranching and being around beef cattle ranchers.  There is an ocean of information left for me to learn but I do know one thing for certain:  ranchers and farmers love and care for their animals.  In most cases, it is their livelihood and their paycheck depends on the health of their animals.  They would not be ranchers if they did not love their animals.  It is not a field where it is easy to get rich so most are not financially motivated to get rich, but love the lifestyle and want to sustain it.  That lifestyle includes TAKING GOOD CARE OF COWS!  Some of the most desirable tasks include:  feeding and watering every single day, cleaning manure out of stalls and paddocks and corrals to make sure the environment is healthy for the animals, staying awake all hours to ensure a mom can deliver her calf safely and helping when needed, humanely weaning calves from moms to take pressure off the mom and strengthen the calf.  Even the artificial insemination of cows should be considered humane as often the genetics of the bull will determine the size and positive health traits of the calves, protecting both the mother and future baby.

I know there can be a lot of negative press out there regarding ranching. It is not difficult to find videos of people abusing cows on the internet, but it is also not difficult to find cases of police being brutal, teachers being inappropriate, and even religious clergy and medical doctors misbehaving.  My point is that there are examples in every field of people acting poorly, but those bad examples should not define the rest of the people in that field.  I have met so many different ranchers since we’ve moved to South Dakota and every single one of them would do anything for their cows, and they do. I haven’t met a single evil money-grubbing hack sitting in the corner  just plotting the next moment to rip a calf off the mother’s teat and steal the milk for coffee, cereal, or profit.  Come on.  Really, come on, Joaquin.  Come to the ranch and we’ll show you just how spoiled the cows are.  Just bring your own tofu because we’re likely having burgers for lunch.

Okay, I’m done ranting and if you’re still reading, please don’t be afraid to stand up for the ranchers, farmers, and food producers that are feeding the world.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the herd seems healthy, fat and happy.  The Sheriff is still loving winter and the barn cat has decided he would like to spend the night in the mud room if the temperature drops below 20 degrees.  I am a sucker so he doesn’t usually meow for too long at the door before I let him in, even though I know he’ll start meowing again around 2AM to go back outside and go hunt up some mice from the barn.  It’s a real circus.  But it is our circus and we love it.

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Rancher Dave and Sheriff Joe heading out for morning chores

We hope everyone is surviving February out there in the real world.

 

Superbowl Monday

3 Feb 2020 – Snowing, Blowing and 15 degrees

Oh, January….where have you gone?  And why did you take all the warm days with you?  January lulled us to sleep and February snuck up behind us and smacked us in the head.  It is a real blizzard out there right now, but I guess that is to be expected here in the Dakotas.

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Hunny leads the herd into the cafeteria.  Bon Appetite, ladies!

We had been taking advantage of the warm January days, having coffee on the deck in the mornings, grilling out in the evenings. Even though we have been sitting outside in the sun, it has been cool enough to keep a stocking cap and winter coat on, but we were outside nonetheless.

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Salmon on the grill

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Dave enjoying coffee in the morning on the deck

We couldn’t sit still too long, though.  We went out several days to stock up on our firewood stores, and it looks like we did just in time.

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Woodshed loaded once more

One particular day we were cutting wood from a slash-pile in the National Forest, and the Sheriff was poking his nose in every hole he could find. Eventually, I called him and told him to quit being so nosy.  He came running over with a few porcupine quills in his nose.  He had found the dead critter and decided it would make a good snack, quills and all.  Fortunately, Dave was able to pull them out pretty quickly.  Sheriff Joe is such a tough dog; I don’t think he understands pain.  He never yelps or cries and he just sat there as Dave pulled the barbs out of his snout.  Then he ran right back to the porcupine carcass and had to get scolded to leave it alone.  Silly mutt.

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Sheriff Joe in the back seat…..slash pile in the background

The cows have been loving the warm weather.  We are planning ahead for the summer and trying to line up a bull to rent for July through September.  We sold our bull in the fall because we kept some of his heifers and we don’t want any inbreeding. We have been talking to a rancher just across the border in Wyoming about leasing a pure red angus bull that will be small enough to service our heifers and big enough to take care of our older girls as well. We invited him to come see the herd and make sure everyone looked healthy and that our facilities would be good for his bull.  We will take a trip in the next week or so to look at his bulls and maybe pick out who will be a good fit for our ladies.  These arranged marriages are a lot of work!  Anyway, he liked our place and it looks like we will be able to work something out for the summer.

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Two heifers at the lick and two lazy cows in the front.  All enjoying a warm January day.

It is amazing how much we have learned about cattle in the last few years.  It is also amazing how much we have discovered that we still have to learn.  One thing of interest is that you have to be pretty careful selecting a bull.  Just like people, bulls can get venereal disease and you have to have them tested before you put them in with your herd.  One bull is typically expected to service about 25 cows in a season, so I guess the V.D. isn’t too hard to understand.  The other thing you test them for is fertility.  That sounds like an interesting job, right? No thanks.  Well they go to the vet for that test and the vet tells the rancher what percentage of success (breeding) they can predict from the bull as a percentage.  For example, they will give a result like the bull is 82% fertile.  Other factors to consider are the size of the calves that the bull has historically produced.  If you are breeding a bull that throws large calves to smaller cows, you can expect some birthing trouble.  Another thing to think about is genetic traits, including general health, disposition, horns, and conformation.  It is a lot to take in, but ideally the more research we do the better the outcome for our herd in calving season. The bull we are looking at is a young virgin bull, so some of the factors like calf size will be unknown.  Again, we still have a lot to learn.

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Could this be a future match?

Meanwhile, we will take a big blizzardy snow day to stay indoors and catch up on some of that research, write a blog, do some tax preparation and maybe just read a good book.  This morning, the cattle are fed and the ice is broken on the stock tanks so they can get a drink.  The wood stove is burning and we will probably hide away inside until it is time for evening chores.  Thanks for reading….we hope everyone out there in the real world is enjoying the roaring 20s so far.  I know we are!

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Nobody misses a meal at the Holler.

 

Got Snow?

28 December 2019 – 28 and snowing and snowing and snowing

Hey out there!  We had a beautiful and fantastic Christmas here at the Holler.  It was sunny and warm until about 5PM, then it started snowing.  Typical four-season day in South Dakota!

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Cows eating across the stock dam as Rancher Dave brings Babe home.

December was so mild and both Dave and I were wondering where those temperatures were 3 years ago when we were living in the camper?  It was 50 degrees on Christmas Eve so I decided to open the beehive and tell them Merry Christmas.  Just kidding, I felt like I had to open the beehive because every time I had checked it recently, the entrance reducer was knocked out of place.  Upon closer inspection it had clearly been chewed upon.

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Entrance reducer to the beehive with obvious teeth marks

We suspected a mouse caused the damage and this was confirmed by placing Dave’s game camera and a mouse trap in front of the hive.  Sure enough, there was a mouse that was burgling honey.  We caught him on camera and in the trap, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a nest in the hive.  Fortunately, the weather was mild so I put on my suit and tore the whole thing apart.  I did not find a mouse but the bees were not in the Christmas spirit and were quite angry about being disturbed so late in the season.  I put their house back together and said “Buon Natale!”  since they are Italian.

Dave smoked a standing rib roast on his smoker.  It was so dang good!  It was also pretty big so we will be eating leftovers for awhile.

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Amazing prime rib…yummmmm

Santa was pretty good to us. (Although he did NOT bring a horse…..Dave says I probably have to behave much better next year to make the “Nice List” and them maybe I’ll get a horse!) One of our favorite presents this year was made by a good friend in Florida.  Another friend that visited here brought him  (at his request) a stick of firewood from the Holler.  From this he handcrafted these homemade pens.

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Pens from Holler firewood! 

What a cool present!  Thanks so much!

The day after Christmas, we decided to take a ride through Custer State Park and see if they had any cool Christmas decorations at the State Game Lodge.  Unfortunately, the lodge was closed so we didn’t get to see any cool decorations, but we did take Joey for  hike and when we were driving we got to see some big-horn sheep!

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Not a reindeer….but pretty cool.

Today we are watching it snow.  We fed the cows this morning and there was hardly any snow on the ground.  As the morning progressed, it just keeps coming and they have all decided to mosey on up into the barn stall that we call the Taj Ma Holler.

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Valentine waiting outside the stall for supper, Hunny and Dozen staying in and nice and warm.

I think we probably have about 5 inches of snow so far, and it is quite beautiful, but it will make feeding in the evening all the more fun!  Also, we cannot keep the snow off the solar panels on a day like this, so we ran the generator to charge the batteries for about an hour this morning. I’ll probably scrape snow off the panels again after we feed this afternoon, although it won’t make much difference for power today.  It is just easier to keep up with rather than try to catch up with once they get a lot of snow accumulated on them.

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Snowy panels with the snow rake in the lower right hand corner.  No point to keep raking when it is still snowing!

Fortunately, we are staying warm in the house next to the wood stove.  We passed the winter solstice on the 21st so the days are getting longer!  This is a big deal when you live in the northern latitudes and we celebrated with a local South Dakota beer called “Pile O’ Dirt Porter”  in hand painted Christmas glasses that my Mom sent to us.

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Beautiful Christmas glasses…cheers, Mom!

We are looking forward to the new year.  This is probably the only time in life where instead of saying, “Hindsight is 20/20”  we can say “The future is 2020!” Ha ha! We have been invited to a friends for a Rocky Mountain Oyster party, so that will be a first for us. Other than that, we will probably be in bed by 9pm and up early for New Year’s Day.  Wild times on the Holler!

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Heifers at happy hour.

We hope everyone out there had a Merry Christmas and that we see some of y’all in 2020.  Stay warm and take care out there in the real world!

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Lucky says, “Happy New Year!”

 

Frosty Fun Times

14 December 2019 – Cloudy and 23

We got another coating of icing on all of the trees last night, but there isn’t very much snow on the ground and I think we will be just fine without a white Christmas!

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Ice-covered Holler

Holler activity has slowed way down in December, mostly because the days are so short.  The sun isn’t rising until 7:20 and it is already dark around 4:15.  Only one more week and the days will start to get longer again.  Time is really flying.

Meanwhile, we have been staying occupied moving corral panels.  After we had the cold storm at the end of November, we moved the corral panels back into the barnyard and set up the alleyway into the squeeze chute so we could run cows through there.  We had an appointment for the veterinarian to come out to preg-check our older cows, and to inoculate the whole herd.  Also, everybody got poured with dewormer.  Well not Dave or me, but all the cows.

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Setting up the corral

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Getting the girls lined up and ready to go

This was the first real trial for our corral and squeeze chute set up and it went splendidly.  The vets even said they thought it worked great and gave a few minor suggestions on narrowing the alley way, but overall they felt this was a very functional facility.  We are so grateful for the vet clinic we have here, and especially that they do ranch-calls. I think they had fun, too, because we have such a small operation and our cows are so docile.  We don’t use a prod to push them through the alley, instead we just wave cake in front of them and they walk right into the chute!

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Fatz getting her BANGS shot

This was my first time running the headgate on the squeeze chute.  The first calf that came through was Lucky, and I was ready….well, I thought I was.  I saw her walking into the chute and right when her nose came through the catch I pulled down on the lever as fast and hard as I could to operate the headgate.  I looked up and saw her bounding off into the corral.  I completely missed.  It reminded me of that feeling of when you try to hit a baseball and you swing as hard and fast as you can, expecting a home run, and all you get is WHIFFFFF.  The vets and Dave looked at me, not so much with disappointment, but something more like, “This is going to be a long day if she’s this bad.” The vet said, “Every time you miss one you have to buy a case of beer!”  I guess she really knows how to motivate people!

We chased Lucky back into the alleyway and once more she came ambling into the squeeze chute and I pulled the lever and BAM!  Caught her!  I didn’t miss another cow or calf.  (Don’t get too excited, there are only nine of them.)  The vet said I get the “Most Improved”  Award. I just didn’t want to give away all the beer.

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Preg Checking – make sure you don’t wear anything nice!

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An ultrasound of a calf

We were disappointed to learn that one of our cows, Valentine, is open this year.  It is impossible to tell if the bull just didn’t like her or if she had been pregnant and aborted for some other reason.  Dave and I thought she may have been open and in heat because one evening while we fed, all the cows came for dinner as is their routine.  Then, Valentine took off running to the west toward another ranch that has cows and a bull in its pasture.  This was very strange behavior.  Eventually, she came back to eat a little hay, and then she took off running in the same direction again.  It was just beginning to get dark and there was really no way she could go anywhere, so we finished our chores and left it up to her to work out her issues.

Once we got inside the warm house, the phone rang and it was our new neighbor.  They are in the process of moving to the Rock Ridge Ranch at the end of our road, but were not staying there at the time.  They did, however, have a video security camera installed that they could monitor from a different location.  The lady called to say, “I have an alarm going off at my house and when I looked at my camera, there was a wide-eyed white face cow looking in the window!”  Dave and I knew it was Valentine and said we would get her, although we weren’t quite sure how she would have gotten through the fence onto the neighbors’ property.  We put on our 400 layers of clothing and headed back out into the cold to find her.  Once she heard the diesel engine of the Mule, she came running down the road towards us and the rest of the herd.

Dave and I continued to the neighbors property and found a wooden post that had been knocked down and about a 3 foot gap in the fence where Valentine had squeezed through. We were pretty sure Valentine didn’t knock the pole down, but it was amazing that she found the one spot in the long fence to run through, and then come back through when she heard the Mule.  Anyway, we wired up the fence and called the neighbor to let them know there were no more creeping, peeping cows in their yard.

This strange behavior must have been indicative of Valentine being in heat, so we weren’t completely surprised when the vet said she was open. We are disappointed.  We decided to downsize our herd this year to ensure we wouldn’t have to buy extra hay, and were expecting 5 calves in the spring. One open cow is a 20% loss so that kind of stinks.  Still, we will give Valentine one more chance to get pregnant next year since she is such a nice girl and she had a beautiful baby this past April.  Maybe someone should have a talk with her and let her know that even bulls can detect desperateness and it is NOT attractive.

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Valentine after her crazy shenanigans looking for the bull.  It seems she thought she could use a mud-mask to improve her situation.  

After the vet visit, Dave and I moved all the panels back to the configuration where the girls can hide from the weather in the barn stall.  It has been pretty nice since then, and they haven’t even poked in there, which is also okay.  That means just less poop shoveling for us!

Dave has been busy manufacturing some cutting boards.  Last year he sent his mom a beautiful American Flag board, and both of his sisters liked it so much that he made them each one this year.  His goal was to get them out before Christmas.

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A beautiful hard-wood cutting board!

 

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A cutting board for law-enforcement family member….American flag with the thin blue line

Simple chores and feeding occupy our days now, but we are always planning and trying to improve our operation.  We know it won’t be long until we are spring planting, calving, and getting ready for haying again.  We are enjoying this mild December and getting ready for Christmas. This afternoon we have stew cooking on the wood stove and are getting ready to go out and bust ice in the water tanks again and do some afternoon feeding. The house is warm, the wood box is full, and the cows all seem fat and happy. We are really getting to appreciate some down time and the peacefulness of the season, and we are grateful for every single day.

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Decorations in the loft

Happy December, everyone!

 

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!

 

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