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Hoten Holler!

And They Lived Happily Ever After

10 June 2021  – High of 90 – severe weather again tonight!

It has been awhile, and my excuse for not blogging is the standard old, “We’ve been busy!”

Drone shot of the Holler

We have been doing a ton of work, as spring/summer is the busy season on the ranch.  Once all the calves were on the ground, Dave and I began feverishly preparing for our round-up/branding party, or muster as they say in Australia!

Fresh posts and rough cut lumber to seal up the alley leading to the chute. Dave added some benches if we need to look over from above.

We improved the alley way to our squeeze chute by putting in wood posts and boards on the north side.  Previously we had used cattle panels, which worked fine until some cow became unruly and tried to bust out or climb over them.  We thought we could beef up the operation, no pun intended.

Alley complete. Looks like a good way for the cows to go, right?

We had a great friend come visit from Florida and he was an enormous help around the ranch.  When he got here, we put him right to work planting millet hay in a southern field.  We disked, fertilized and planted, then harrowed. It took almost two days but we are hoping we will get some good rain and it will grow.  

A cold one after a harrowing day!
Disking the southern field to plant millet-hay

Meanwhile, the weather has been better than last year for growing.  Of course we could use more rain, but we have been getting a thunderstorm here and there which really helps.  The oats are looking pretty good so far….fingers crossed!

I installed two new bee colonies.  My bees died last year for reasons unknown, much like many bees in the area.  This year I put up two hives.  So far they seem to be thriving, there are bees everywhere!

Bee hives! Trump Tower up on the hill with Queen Melania, and The Governor’s Mansion down the hill with Queen Kristi Noem.

I finally got some plants in the garden.  I tried to plant some seeds as well, but so far they haven’t shown much promise.  I’ve got potatoes going in buckets and herbs in a planter by the barn.  This is the time of year where we get severe weather and hail so hopefully they can survive to produce something by the end of the summer.

Speaking of growing, dang those calves are getting big!  We have moved them up north into green, green grass and all they do is nurse, eat, and sleep….and GROW!

Trouble Makers!
Round ’em up, Sheriff Joe!

Last year we had problems with a neighbor’s bull jumping in, but we are trying to prevent that this year.  We have been busy stringing hotwire around the top of the barbed wire hoping that it will deter him, or at least make him think that while our cows are quite attractive, there are easier access cows on his side of the fence.  

Rancher Dave tying off the hot wire. This field is locked up like Fort Knox and our cows are the gold.

We plan to lease Moscow (the bull we leased last year) again this year.  He threw some nice calves and we will sell all of his offspring, but we liked him, his demeanor, and it makes much more sense for an operation our size to lease or borrow a bull than worry about keeping one year round.

On the first of the month, we held our round-up/branding party and things went pretty well.  We had some great help from our Florida friend and a good neighbor.  The vet and her assistant are true professionals and once things started going, they went rather quickly.  The weather was perfect and the calves all did great.  The cows mostly behaved, although a few weren’t too keen on going through the new alley.  At one point, Dave said, “Can we grab the cattle prod?”  I went to get it but after hearing Dave’s request, the reluctant cows went through the alley without a complaint.  I swear they can speak English and did not want to get zapped!

Cows and calves separated before the vets arrived and we started working.
Calf in the calf-table, two big cowboys pushing them through, Rancher Dave on branding duty and the vet administering shots etc. I was off somewhere drinking a beer.
Shadow, our oldest calf, was almost too big for the table, she had to stick one leg out for branding.

So here we are on the 10th of June and expecting another round of severe weather.  I would say the weather this year has been extreme, but this is South Dakota, so it is always exciting!  We had some big storms two nights ago but fortunately got mostly rain and not a lot of hail.

Angry clouds over the Holler

Finally, I hate to write this part but I have decided to quit updating this blog.  We really, really appreciate all the feedback and the support, but it seems I have run out of new things to write.  Looking back over the last five years, I realize that we have come a long way since we were city folk moving out here from Florida, and I am so glad I have had this media to document the journey.  Now it seems we have fallen into a bit of a routine, and my posts mirror the year before:  calving, planting, haying, firewood, etc. So we are signing off.  We’ve got nothing but love and appreciation for all you Hoten Holler Follerers. Thanks for joining us on this crazy adventure.  From Rancher Dave, Sheriff Joe, and me: God Bless all of you and keep it free out there in the real world!

Fatz saying goodbye!

Calving Season 2021 – Complete!

3 May 2021 – Rainy and 42 degrees

We could no longer continue to wait on Valentine and Andie to have their calves, so we moved the herd south and out of our pasture about a week ago.  This way we could get our crop in the southern pasture by a decent date. We disked, fertilized, planted and harrowed the southern pastures.  It was a two-day event and we had both tractors going at the same time.  I wish I could explain how awesome it smells out here when disking up the fresh dirt (and rocks), but you’ll just have to believe me that it smells just like spring.

Dave in the distance fertilizing the southern pastures
Here I am dragging the harrow, covering up the seed and fertilizer

Because we were still waiting on two calves, we continued checks every few hours.  While Valentine has had a calf before, she was open last year and we wanted to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t have any problems.  Andie is a heifer, and since this is her first baby she warranted more monitoring as well.

In the late hours of the 28th of April, Dave went to check cows and said he thought Valentine would likely calve that evening.  He came in from looking at her around 1030 PM.  I went out to look again at 1:30AM and as soon as I turned off the Mule I could hear the low and constant mooing that is typical of a new mom.  I used the spotlight and found her standing there nursing her fresh little calf.

Valentine and her fresh little baby.

The next day we were able to determine it was a heifer, and Valentine is so gentle and used to us that I fed her some cake while Dave tagged the little girl. She is #18 and because she is Valentine’s baby we decided to call her Frankie Valli.

Frankie and her new earring.

Valentine is so happy to be a mom again, but we were still waiting on Andie.  She was showing all the signs of imminent calving, and she looked bloated and miserable.  Finally on the evening of the 1st of May at the 2AM check I came back and told Dave he should probably go back and check at 3:30 or 4:00.  He did and Andie was still with the whole herd, laying there chewing her cud and doing NOTHING.  Ugh. Sorry, Dave!

At daylight on the 2nd, we looked out the window and could see Andie walk down a hill and put quite a bit of distance between her and the rest of the herd.  We watched her paw at the ground, walk in circles, back up multiple times, and stand there with her tail straight out as if she was really straining.  We gave her a bit of time and finally around 7:30 she lay down as if she was in labor.

Andie with her tail pointed straight out, straining and straining.

Dave and I and Joey took our calving kit and went to keep an eye on her from a closer distance.  She strained and pushed and strained and finally around 8:15 we could see her baby’s hooves emerging.  But then Andie would give up, stand up and walk around and her baby’s hooves would disappear back inside.  After a lot of ups and downs and what appeared to be complete agony, she lay back down for a big set of pushing.  This was over an hour after we had seen the hooves the first time and she was getting really tired so Rancher Dave snuck up behind her, grabbed the two little hooves and tugged.  Well, he actually really had to pull quite a bit and while Andie protested initially, she seemed to realize he was helping her and she began pushing while Dave pulled and they successfully delivered an enormous bull calf.

Right behind Andie you can see her fresh, still wet, baby. If you look close you can see blood on Rancher Dave’s glove.

Immediately after calving Andie, who has always been our least friendly cow, got up and angrily mooed and shook her head so Dave and I backed away quickly.  Then she went to work licking her new baby.  It was pretty amazing that after such a long and difficult labor that baby was up on his feet and nursing in the shortest time we have ever seen.

Since Andie is named after Dave’s good friend Andy, we named the calf after his favorite wine, Louis Martini.  We’ll call him Martini for short.

Andie and Martini resting after an eventful birth day.

So that brings us to the end of calving season 2021.  We were both so happy and tired after Andie finally calved.  We came back to the house and had breakfast and took a big nap!  That evening we checked cows before dark and everyone was looking really good and happy.

The Dirty Dozen photo-bombing again in front of the field full of calves.

That was last night, and we went to bed around 9PM and slept all night for the first time since mid-March.  Today we are getting a gentle rain, which is so good for the hay crops we planted.  Sometimes the blessings just pour on in.

That’s about it for now.  Next on the agenda is shoring up the corral for round-up and branding, more vehicle and equipment maintenance, getting the bees installed and the garden planted, and pretty soon we’ll be ready to bring the bull back for breeding!  For now, we’ll just enjoy all the new calfies and a few good nights of sleep.

Dozer and Lucille stepping out for a drink.

Thanks for reading, and keep it free out there in the real world!

Two to Go

21 April 2021 – Sunny and 29 degrees….lots of snow on the ground

Since the last post we have had all four seasons again, warm summer-like high 60s for a few days, typical cool spring and fall-like weather, oh yes, and another two giant snow storms.

Lucille at the snowed-in bed and breakfast

Any of you farmers out there needing moisture, please do not misunderstand us.  We are very grateful for the moisture as we can always use it here.  On two of the nice days, Dave and I took turns picking rocks and disking the northern pastures.  Then we fertilized, seeded, and harrowed just in time.  About four hours after we completed our spring planting of this pasture we got nearly a foot of snow.

About a day after the snow had mostly melted, we noticed that one of our heifers, Cupid, was really bagging up.  We kept an eye on her all day, and at the 2AM heifer check she was the only cow up and about while everyone else was snoring peacefully.  I came inside and told Dave we should probably set an alarm for an hour later instead of two.  Neither of us could sleep and at 3AM we went out to find Cupid in full-on labor.  We watched her get up and lay down and get up and lay down, pushing and pushing until finally the tell-tale sign of two hooves appeared.  Then she laid down for what seemed like an agonizing hour but was actually only about five minutes.  We finally saw the little nose and the front half of her baby emerge.  Cupid seemed to quit pushing and Dave snuck over and gave the little calf a quick tug.  She was BIG and Cupid seemed thankful for the assist.  It is her first calf, and Cupid seemed to embrace her position of new mother by licking and looking after her baby immediately.  About 20 minutes later, the calf was up and nursing.  Perfect!

It is another heifer calf, and we noted the time she was born was 3:38 AM, so we named her after one of our favorite calibers to shoot, .338 WIN MAG.  We are calling her Maggie for short.

Cupid and Maggie

A few days later, at a more decent hour, Wooly Bear headed up to the trees and I tried to sneak up so I could see what she was doing.  She looked at me every time I moved with a warning glare, “GET AWAY!”  I parked about a football field away from her and watched as she easily calved a giant bull calf.

Wooly Bear and Wooly Booly

This is not her first calf and she is also a very good mom.  We decided to name this big guy Wooly Booly. He was born on a very nice, warm spring day and got to rest in the sunshine all day before the next foot of snow.

That evening, we knew we were supposed to get snow, and since we still have two expecting cows we called the herd back into the maternity ward.  Everyone came except for Wooly Bear and her new calf.  This is pretty typical because most new moms like to have some alone time with their new babies, but we worried about them being out by themselves in the blizzard. 

At night checks, Dave could still see them off in the trees near to where she had calved.  At the 2 AM check I could barely see using the spotlight because it was snowing so much and the wind was blowing so hard.  I made my way down to the maternity ward gate and just on the outside was Wooly Bear and her calf.  I waddled through the snow back to the barn and grabbed some hay and came back and led her into the maternity ward, baby in tow.  She went right into shelter with the rest of the herd in the cow shed.  I’m so glad we built that, while most cows will take shelter in the trees, ours are spoiled but we sleep better knowing they have a warm dry place to shelter.

The shed is just big enough for almost everyone, spill over gets the barn

It continued to snow the entire next day and part of the day after that.  Fortunately nobody decided to calve during the blizzard.  We are waiting on Valentine and one last heifer, Andie. It’s supposed to warm up so I hope they follow suit and calve on a nice day, daylight also is preferred, but at this point we are just ready to be done! I bet they are too.

Once the snow melts and we are calved out, we will move the whole herd to a leased pasture and start working on planting the south fields.  Spring is busy, dynamic, and exhausting but when the wind stops blowing and the sun is shining it really feels like paradise.

Sheriff getting a smooch

Oh, I almost forgot.  Pi is doing really well.  She, in fact, is the biggest trouble maker of all the calves and will not be contained with barbed wire.  She is always sprinting around and squirting out to the road (which is private and has hardly any traffic) or to the neighbors’ pastures. She likes to head-butt all the other calfies even though they are a bit bigger than her. Her mom is doing great nursing and we are so happy that she seems to be feeling and acting like a normal calf. That’s it from the Holler. Thanks for reading and we hope all you are having fun and keeping free out there in the real world!

Pi in the front ruining the family photo by sticking her tongue up her nose

The Bovine Roller Coaster

9 April 2021 – Cloudy and 40 degrees

Do you want some excitement in your life?  Need a little more drama?  I recommend starting your own small herd of cattle and don’t forget to breed at least a few heifers just to make sure things stay interesting.  Want to keep things super spicy?  Try all this in a mountain environment just to make sure the weather keeps you on your toes.

Super heavy, wet snow weighing down the trees

Yep, we got another foot of snow.  It was in the 70s for two days and then the weather forecasters said we would probably get 1-3 inches of snow, but they were only a little off.  It snowed, and snowed, and snowed.  The heavy, wet, difficult to shovel and nearly impossible to walk in kind of snow.

Let’s rewind a bit and enjoy the memory of those lovely, warm spring days (just a few days ago.)  Fortunately, two of our cows decided to take advantage of the warm weather and calve their babies within 16 hours of one another.  First, just before sunset, Triple Stix headed off into the corner of the maternity ward, turned around three times, laid down and had a big red heifer calf.  The girl was up and nursing in about thirty minutes.  This is Triple Stix third calf and she has always had an easy time delivering and is a great mom.

Lucille and her mom, Trips

We named her calf Lucille, like Lucille Ball, because of her beautiful red coat.  Also her mom, Triple Stix is Tag #111, and Lucille has three L’s…lll.  I think maybe we’re reaching, but we’re tired here so cut us some slack!

The next morning, the Dirty Dozen (Tag #112) walked off into the tall grass, laid down and had the first bull calf of the season.  He is another big, red calf and because we call his mom Dozen, we changed one letter to name him Dozer….Bull Dozer.  I know, reaching again.

Dozen and baby Dozer

Dave and I were riding high.  Two healthy calves in a short period of time and we were so proud of the work we had previously accomplished reuniting Pi with Fatz.  The weather was great, the cows were all lounging peacefully in the sun.  We spent the day relaxed and happy as well.  Then…..we called the cows back to the maternity ward where we feed them in the evening and can easily access all of them for night checks to see if anyone may need assistance if calving.  We called them, and yes, they do come when we call them, and they all came ambling in, four calves in tow.  Wait, we have five calves!  Where is number 5?

Of course it was little Pi.  Her mom came back without her so we drove the Mule out to the field and found her lying in the grass, panting heavily and barely able to stand up.  She was clearly very sick.  Dang it!

Dave picked her up and rode in the back of the Mule, carrying her back up to the barnyard.  We had a calf die of pneumonia a few years ago, and this is exactly the kind of symptoms that Pi was displaying.  We grabbed our calving kit and took her temperature, which was 104.6.  Normal calf temperature is 101.5 so she did have a fever and that is also a sign of pneumonia.  We decided to give her a shot of antibiotics.  We did this and as the evening set in, she cooled off and her panting seemed to subside a bit.  Then her mom came over and Pi struggled to her feet and went to nursing. We checked on her every hour or so and she seemed to be resting and breathing like normal.

The next morning, after a long and restless night, Dave and I watched her and while she was a little wobbly, she got up and nursed again.  Then she perked right up, just like the other calves she started bucking and running around, frolicking as healthy calves do in the early morning.  We were quite pleased by this and thought she would be best off with her mom and the herd, although we resolved to check on her multiple times during the day.

It was warm again, in the mid-70s, and as the afternoon heat set in we saw her go back and lie in the tall grass on the hill.  We checked her several times and she seemed to be okay, so I went ahead with my day which was a plan to go to an optometrist appointment in town.  Dave stayed behind and kept close watch on everyone.  When I got to town, Dave sent me a text and said he was worried about Pi.  He took her temperature and it was 105.  She could not get up.  I said I would come right home, and we should move her to the barn where it is cool and we can give her some more medicine.  

Somehow Dave was able to evade Momma Fatz and pick up that 60 pound calf and put her in his lap and drove the Mule back to the barn, all on his own.  By the time I got home, she was in the cool barn and we gave her some medicine and kept her cool.  We decided to keep her in the barn and bring her mom in with her for the next few days. This is easier said than done after all the drama we had with Fatz earlier.  The best thing we could do was bring in another cow for company, and that was easy to do by luring another expecting heifer, Cupid, into the corral using cowcake.  

An older picture of Fatz

Of course, that evening it began to snow, and snow and snow.  We were glad to have that sick little calf inside, and she seemed to find some more strength after cooling off and another round of medicine.  Her mom and Cupid weren’t too happy about being penned up, so we kept them calm with obscene amounts of fresh, dry hay.  The next morning, Pi seemed mostly fine.  She nursed, and while still wobbly, she bounded around the barn stall a bit.  We tried to shovel a place in the corral so the penned up cows could come outside and enjoy the sunshine, but dang that snow was hard to get rid of.  Of course Fatz came out and bulldozed her way through the deepest drifts and little Pi kept getting stuck and high-centered.  The other calves out in the maternity ward were acting like kids on a snow-day, running and jumping in the thick heavy snow.

Healthy babies navigating the snow

At this point we realize that Pi is going to need a lot of TLC and patience.  We pushed the two big cows back into the barn pen and Dave carried the calf back inside.  They would just have to stay inside until the snow melted enough for her to get around.

This is the bovine-roller-coaster that is calving.  And we are such a small operation, I cannot imagine these ranchers that have hundreds of calves!  God Bless them because it is rarely easy and while there is a lot of joy in seeing the fruits of your labor, it is really upsetting when it doesn’t turn out the way it should.  

After the last few days and several rounds of antibiotics, Pi seems to be recovering a bit.  I hate to write that for fear of what may be coming next, but we finally let her, Fatz, and Cupid out of the corral this morning.  Most of the snow is gone and we thought we could keep them contained in the Maternity Ward which is just a few acres.  The temperatures are cooler which bodes well for the pneumonia problem.

When we let them out, Pi took off running and bucking.  She went right to the barbed wire at the edge of the maternity ward where she could see the rest of the herd and four healthy calves bounding around.  She squirted right through the barbed wire and off to play with her cousins.  We decided we couldn’t contain her so we let the two big cows back with the herd as well.  As the big cows grazed, the five babies ran and played, headbutting each other in play-battle, sprinting around and around the rest of the herd.  

Finally as the morning progressed they parked themselves under a tree to rest up for the next nursing and play session.  She seems fine.  We’ll keep checking!

One more quick cow story.  Early this morning, before we let Pi, Fatz, and Cupid rejoin the herd, we spotted all the cows and calves sprinting across the south pasture.  They circled up as if to check and make sure everyone was there, accounting for all their calves.  Then we saw Wooly Bear sprint out on her own.  She is super-pregnant and large and she seemed to be pursuing something at a dead run.  She started stomping and throwing her head around and from behind one of the berms out shot a big coyote.  She ran at him with fire shooting out of her nostrils and that varmint coyote headed for the hills.  Then Wooly Bear headed back to the herd and gave the all clear so they all went back to peacefully grazing.  Cow Drama!

Do NOT mess with the Wooly Bear or her nieces and nephew

Thanks for reading and coming along on this wild spring roller coaster.  I hope things mellow out a bit, but we’re still waiting on four calves and they should be coming any day.  Then we’re on to disking, fertilizing, planting and harrowing.  Until then, keep it free out there in the real world, friends!

Babies following mommas in the snow

Fatz and Moon Pi

6 April 2021 – Freezing rain and snow and 28 degrees

Holy Cow or Holy Calf we have been busy since the last blog!  We have three more calves but this blog will be dedicated to the heifer calf we named Moon Pi.  On Monday, the 29th of March at 5AM I headed out across the stock dam into the maternity ward pasture to check on the cattle.  Dave had just checked at 3AM, and thought I might need to look at our heifer, Fatz, who was acting a little strange and off by herself.  

The full moon was shining so brightly I could see from a distance that Fatz was licking a little black bundle on the ground, and I could see little eyes and a head.  As I got closer I could tell she had just calved because the baby still was covered in goo.  Fatz was still standing there straining with her tail straight out behind her and I thought she might be having twins, but thank goodness she was not and was just finishing up her birthing process.  She turned around and started licking her new calf who was pretty quick to get up and try to nurse.

Unfortunately, Fatz was not going to allow that.  For unknown reasons, some first-calf heifers just don’t know what being a mother entails. I guess no one ever told them what to expect.  It’s possible that she was sore after calving, or just scared by the whole process.  It was extremely windy which is always unsettling and that may have put her on edge as well.  Anyway, she would not let the baby near her milk bag and kept aggressively kicking it down and eventually she just turned and walked away. 

By this time, Dave was out with me and we realized that Fatz might need some alone time with her baby so we picked up the baby and took her a short distance to the shed, anticipating that mom would follow and get away from the rest of the herd who was starting to get up and get on with their days.  Fatz was not interested in following and we eventually coaxed her into the shed with her baby.  At this point, she completely lost her mind and began aggressively pacing and testing the shed gate, not giving any thought to her newborn and almost trampling her.  We opened the shed door and Fatz left.  

Now Dave and I were looking at this poor pathetic calf, barely two hours old, and no mom around that was remotely interested in her.  We knew that she needed colostrum immediately to ensure a healthy immune system for her life ahead, and went and heated up a bottle and tried to feed it to her.  This calf was barely hanging on and would not take the bottle.  We called the vet to see what else could be done and she reinforced the idea that that calf needed colostrum immediately and that we could give it to her with an esophageal feeder, or stomach tube.  We had not done this before so Dave put the little calf on the floorboard of his truck and booked it to the vet where she taught him how to tube a baby. 

Moon Pi in the calf sled in the mudroom after getting a belly injected full of colostrum and milk

The vet instructed that if the baby did not get up and eat from a bottle in two hours that we should tube her again, which we ended up doing two more times.  By the third time, she was clearly getting stronger but wasn’t quite able to stand on her own.  After the 3rd dose of milk she got up, wobbly legged, and hesitantly drank milk replacer from a bottle.  Oh by the way, this all took place in the mudroom of the house because it was quite cold and we wanted her to have the best chance at life.

Sherriff sitting guard duty over little Moon Pi

Long story, I know, but the result was after multiple mini-meals of milk the baby began to regain strength and by the next afternoon she was actively searching out the bottle and sucking so hard I thought she would pull the nipple right off the thing!  Since this little heifer calf was the 3rd calf this season and her ear tag number would be 14, we decided to name her Pi after the mathematical constant 3.14.  Since she was born under the full moon we called her Moon Pi.

An improving Moon Pi sucking down some milk replacer

Meanwhile, Fatz went out to graze with the herd and did not look back until the next morning.  I’m sure she had milk in her  bag and it was starting to irritate her. It seemed she realized she had missed out on something and needed her calf, because she kept coming up to the barn and loudly and insistently mooing.  We wanted Moon Pi to get a little stronger before we tried to reunite her with her mom, but we knew she needed to be around other cows or we would end up with a bottle baby for the next 5 months.  We moved Pi into a barn stall where she could hear her mom outside and her mom could hear her.  We let them sniff each other through some corral panels and Fatz finally seemed very interested in getting her baby back.  We opened the panels and put them together and Fatz licked her all over until Moon Pi tried to get on her teat to eat and then Fatz stomped on her again!

We hustled in there and grabbed the poor baby away from her mom and realized this was going to take some more work.  After consulting with multiple cattlemen and other ranchers we decided to catch Fatz in the squeeze chute and either milk her, or hobble her hind feet and put Moon Pi up to her so they both could realize what was supposed to happen.  Does this sound like a crazy idea?  Maybe, but lots of others have had success with this technique for absentee moms and it was definitely worth a shot.  

Might as well try!

We enlisted the help of a neighbor, and caught Fatz in the squeeze chute.  Dave got down behind her and threw ropes around her rear feet to hobble her.  The neighbor held the ropes while I tried to distract her in front of the chute with hay and cow cake.  When they were ready, I got Moon Pi out of the barn stall and pushed her up underneath her mom.  With the neighbor keeping Fatz from hurting us, Dave and I were able to maneuver the calf up to her mom’s teats and before too long, she was sucking away!  As soon as the baby began nursing it was like Fatz had taken a sedative.  She relaxed in the chute completely and began eating her hay and not struggling.  Progress!

Dave manages to get her feet hobbled
Baby investigating the mandatory nursing location

We decided to slowly introduce this process as the last time we tried to put Fatz back with Moon Pi, Moon Pi was nearly trampled to death.  We planned on repeating the mandatory nursing for the next few days in the hopes that mom would relax and realize that the baby was a good thing. After two days we put them back together again and Voila!  Mom adopted her baby back and we watched, overjoyed, as she let her nurse and did not even try to kick her.  

Finally getting the hang of it

And then the weather improved, the sun came out and everyone lived happily ever after.  Okay, not quite, but the weather did improve and Fatz did take Moon Pi back.  Oddly enough, Fatz became extremely overprotective, not letting us get near Moon Pi and acting very aggressive to other calves that came to investigate.  She seemed to realize that if she wasn’t going to be a good mom, her baby would get disappeared!  We were still quite pleased.  The best thing for that little calf is a cow-momma, not an adopted people-momma. 

Fatz and Moon Pi – Reunited

Dave and I were feeling pretty good about this.  Thank goodness for all the advice from other cattle owners and the help of good neighbors.  Sometimes life on the Holler ain’t all sunshine and roses, but it sure feels good when a problem gets worked out. It especially feels good to do something you never imagined you would do and see a positive result. We hope you all are doing well out there in the real world.  Hang onto your freedoms and we’ll do the same!

Two Babies and an Earthquake

26 March 2021 – Cloudy with rain in the forecast, about 43 degrees

After surviving the beast of a blizzard, temperatures bounced right back up and the whole world immediately became a muddy, sloppy mess.

Dave in the tractor removing some mud

One of our cows decided that since she found one patch of dry land she would go ahead and have a baby right there.

Cherry Bomb and Shadow shortly after birth

This is Cherry Bomb’s 3rd calf. The baby, which we named Shadow, is about three weeks early considering the dates of exposure to the bull and the cow-gestation calendars.  Shadow is also pretty small so we figured she must belong to the bull we leased and not the one that jumped in early in the season, otherwise she would have been bigger and possibly black?  It’s impossible to tell, but Cherry Bomb is a great mom and she had Shadow up and nursing in a short time.

Tiny little Shadow

The next morning, we noticed Lucky (a heifer) was really acting uncomfortable and wandering off by herself.  We followed her around from a distance and at one point she laid down and was obviously in hard labor.  We never saw her water break, but clearly she was having her calf.  In nine short minutes she had a beautiful little black heifer of her own.  

Lucky and Jinx

This is Lucky’s first calf and she didn’t quite understand what it was.  She got up after calving, turned around and started smelling it.  When the baby moved, Lucky was visibly startled and jumped backward like she had been shocked!  Dave went to check and make sure the baby was breathing; he stuck a finger in her nose and everything looked great so we just stood back and watched.  Lucky seemed unsure of what to do, but then Cherry Bomb, who had calved her baby just the day before, came over to Lucky and started licking Lucky’s calf.  Lucky caught on and began to mother her own baby while Cherry Bomb just laid down and hung out with her the rest of the day. Sometimes cows can be so smart, even kinder than people.

Lucky is #7, and her calf is #13 so we named her Jinx.  Jinx was a lot faster than Shadow and up and nursing almost immediately.  She is also pretty small and early.

Tiny little Jinx

Both girls seem to be doing pretty well.  They sleep all day wherever their moms park them in the tall grass, and they are up running and bucking in the morning and before nightfall.  They are super curious and squirt through the barbed wire a few times a day, but their moms call them and they come back through. Sometimes cows can be so dumb.

Two early girls

The early births of these calves has put Dave and I into night-watch mode. We take turns getting up several times a night to check if anyone is in labor or in trouble.  This is probably overkill, but we had some bad luck with heifers two years ago so we want to be around to help if we are needed.

While getting up in the middle of the night sounds like it might be a total pain, it is strangely peaceful and relaxing.  We are at a good phase of the moon so there has been a lot of light at the 1AM checks, and the moon sets by 4 or 5 and then the stars are so bright and beautiful.  Most of the time the cows all bunch up together and sleep under a tree in the maternity ward, but sometimes they spread out and we have to hike around to put eyes on everyone. When they are all sleeping together it sounds like a bunch of snoring old drunk sailors, and they are so used to us checking on them they rarely get up or even look up. It’s really quite comforting knowing they are all together and no one is calving and we can usually sleep more soundly after these checks.

The remaining pregnant ladies are looking mighty large and uncomfortable, but they have been enjoying the warmer temperatures and since the snow is almost gone they have been finding some green sprouts to graze upon. I bet they are ready to have their babies and get on with the springtime, already!

Jinx walking next to her Aunt Valentine, while her Aunt Dirty Dozen is in front, both aunts are super pregnant and expected to calve at any moment.

That’s about it for calving so far, but I forgot to mention that this morning we had a small earthquake.  I didn’t even feel it because I was outside playing with the Sheriff, but Dave said, “Did you feel the tremor?”  He said the house began to shake a bit and he could hear rattling, but I didn’t feel a thing outside.  Turns out we had a 3.4 earthquake centered not too far from here.  I’ve said it before, there is never a dull moment on the Holler! If we get any more tremors we’ll have to call up Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire.

Not too far from home!

We hope you all are doing well and keeping it free out there in the real world.  

Sheriff clinging to the last bit of remaining snow

Snowmageddon 2021

24 March 2021 – sunny and mid 40s

The weather people got it right and about ten days ago we got completely pummeled with a spring blizzard. Actually, it was more like a hurricane with 30-40 knot winds gusting over 50, except our hurricane included continuous snowfall, so there’s that!

Snow drifting into the wood shed

We moved all the cows into the maternity ward and they huddled in the cowshed for the entire two days.  It was absolutely miserable going out to feed and check on anything as freezing snow would pelt you in the face and the wind made it very hard to walk around.  Fortunately it blew so much that the snow did not accumulate too badly on the roofs of any structures, and even the solar panels remained clear most of the first day.

That night the wind continued to roar, the snow continued to fall.  By morning nothing had really changed, it was windy, snowy, and miserable but around noon the wind died off and the snow ramped up.  We ended up with almost two feet of snow but thanks to the wind we had drifts that were well over four feet high.

Lots of snow to deal with

The weather matters not when you have pregnant cows to feed and water, and while we were completely unable to get the Mule out into the giant drifts, we had our handy cowsled that we threw square bales in and got everybody dinner.  Fortunately we have learned our lessons about water and had hung water hoses in the trees so we didn’t have to dig them out from the snow and we were able to run water to the tanks in the maternity ward.  It would have been nearly impossible for the girls to get up to the water tank in the main field as snow in some places was higher than their briskets.  

Cows headed up for water

The cows actually are a lot tougher than we think and they can plow through some of those drifts like a bulldozer.  We try to make it easy on them, though, since they are all super pregnant and miserable anyway.  I’m so glad we built that shed.

Cow shed in the snow bowl

After the storm finally subsided, the clean up began.  Dave spent about 10 hours over two days in the tractor clearing the barnyard, the driveway, the neighbors’ driveways, and our main road.  Our road is private so the county does not plow it. 

Rancher Dave spent a lot of time in the tractor moving snow

If you’ve never operated a snow plow in a tractor, you should know it is not as easy as just getting in the tractor and pushing snow off the road.  The plow is articulated and angles in multiple directions.  With two feet of snow it becomes quite difficult to tell where the road actually is.  When pushing that much snow, it builds up so much in front of the plow that you sometimes need to back up and push the snow into the ditch before you can continue forward.   If you get the plow too low you can gouge and remove the gravel from the road, leaving a disgusting muddy mess when the snow finally melts. Dave says plowing is more of an art than a skill, and it takes practice. I think he got his practice in for this season!

You can barely see the Holler and the Barn on the right

While Dave was in the tractor, I went to work on the disgusting shed which was full of two days worth of cow crap.  I also used the snow rake to get the accumulated snow off the roof, off the garage, off the solar panels. After feeding in the afternoon, we came inside and collapsed in front of the TV.  While beautiful, snow creates a lot of work on the ranch but we are grateful we can do it, and nothing feels better than sitting in front of the woodstove after being outside working all day!

We survived the blizzard which the weather people named Xylia. Hopefully since X is close to the end of the alphabet there won’t be many more like her this season!  The snow has been melting and the weather has been exceptionally warm since the storm. Everyone is breathing sighs of relaxation and soaking up the sunshine.  We even saw a robin so that means spring is coming soon, doesn’t it?

Y’all keep it free out there in the real world and thanks to all who checked on us.  We’re doing great and hope everyone out there is doing great too. 

The Sheriff keeping an eye on things from behind the snow drifts

Hang on Ladies!

12 March 2021 – cloudy and 34 – expecting a blizzard this weekend

The frigid cold in February was shortly followed by a whole week of mid to high 60s and we ate it up.  We grilled out for supper, and after the river dried up the cows were even finding some little green sprouts to eat in the ditch.

Beautiful warm weather on the Holler

The weather was so nice we got ambitious and worked outside hanging some gates to replace a wire gate leading into the pasture we call the “Maternity Ward.”  We initially put up a wire gate there thinking we wouldn’t be using the gate that much, so why invest the money when a wiregate will do the trick? It just takes a little more effort to open and close.  As so many things go on the ranch, you really don’t know how your operation is going to work until you are in the midst of said operation.  We realized pretty quickly that when we start watching cows, especially heifers, for calving we will be opening and closing that maternity ward gate almost daily. It became a pain, especially when trying to do it solo in the mud. So we bit the bullet and hung parallel gates wide enough to get the farm equipment in and out.

Babe moving the gates to the maternity ward entry

The fun thing about hanging two gates is trying to get them to match up.  We have become pretty proficient about getting a single gate up and level, but the parallel gates are more difficult.  It also doesn’t help when the area where you’re hanging the gates is sloped.  The challenge is to get the gates to meet up in the middle, be as close as possible to the same height so it doesn’t look sloppy (and drive Rancher Dave crazy) and also try to make them both level so they don’t swing one way or the other when opened.  

Rancher Dave with a plumb-bob and a level trying to get it right

As mentioned, we do get a bit of wind here from time to time.  There is nothing more frustrating (or funny to watch) than trying to close two gates quickly behind cattle with the wind blowing them open while the gate closer is slipping around on the ice or in the mud trying to catch one and then the other to get them chained together.  This is just one more possible event in the Ranching Olympics. I think we were able to get these gates pretty even and they don’t have much swing to them.

Not too bad, swinging a bit towards the south with a north wind

Spring is amazing here in the Black Hills.  It always seems to unpack itself neatly, one event followed by the next.  A big thaw, multiple flocks of geese squawking as they head north, the appearance of a blue bird or two.  Just when you get lulled into a mindset of “we made it through winter, the worst is over” then you get punched right between the eyes with another crazy snow storm.  We got about 6 inches of snow on Wednesday.  It snowed for 24 hours and it was the wet, heavy stuff that makes it difficult to walk through and ensures you get a great arm workout when trying to shovel it or rake it off the roof.

The day after hanging the gates, good thing we got them up or we’d be dragging the old wire gate (seen left of the gate) to close the cows in.

Dave and I spent a lot of the next day occupied with snow removal, poop and shed clean-up, and once again refilling the firewood box. The cows seem angry at us.  I’m convinced they think we decide the weather.

Grumpy girls wondering why we keep making it snow
Cleaned out the cow shed while they were out eating

And today, while it is warm and amazingly not windy, the weather people are forecasting a massive winter storm this weekend including “FEET of SNOW” and “GUSTS over 40MPH”.  Stupid groundhog, I swear if I see him we are going to have words.

Screenshot of the coming storm

That’s about it for the first part of March.  As of today we are still hopeful no one decides to calve until the expected early April due dates.  We hope this storm isn’t as bad as they are predicting, but as we always say, “We’ll get through it, or we won’t!” We’re moving cows back to the maternity ward tonight so they have access to shelter in the shed and we can get them into the barn if we have anyone trying to have an early baby. Hang on, ladies!  Better weather is on the horizon. Right?

Sisters, Valentine and Dirty Dozen, both expecting calves hopefully not for a few weeks!

God Bless all you Hoten Holler Follerers and we hope you are healthy, happy, and hanging on to your liberties out there in the real world.

We have the barn all set up and cleaned out just in case someone decides to have a baby in the blizzard.

Not Leap Year

27 February 2021 – Cloudy and 30 degrees

Oops. I guess it isn’t Leap Year. I could blame that mistake in the last post and title on multiple things, including accounting for cow gestation dates and hay supply in 2020 and carrying over the days. Actually, maybe I just want a do-over for 2020. Anyway, it isn’t Leap Year. Sorry for the confusion! Happy Saturday (it is Saturday, right?) y’all!

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