Saturday, April 29, 2023

Ranch Life

 Well, it's time. Most years by the first of May we would be well into the planting season up at The Farm. This year, they have not even gotten started yet. Cold and snow were curse words for farmers looking to get into their fields this spring. 

Although it put them a couple weeks behind, I did not mind quite as much as it allowed me to spend more time with Forrest, Somer and Lily!

 This week started much like last week's did, over at Kevin's helping him with his rental (the bunkhouse). Only this time, instead of putting the decking on his roof, we were putting the steel up. The first picture is when we just got started, putting up the transition strip between the roof lines. Then the almost finished roof!

Dan and Merrell helped as well. They were cutting the steel to size, removing the protective coating and handing the sheets up to Kevin and I. We started about 9am and quit about 4pm getting the entire north side done. One more 1/2 day and he should have the south side complete making the bunkhouse even more watertight!

While I was doing that, the kids were busy riding dirt bikes on our property. The beauty of having a toy hauler is that you get to haul your toys with you! They have two dirt bikes, three pedal bikes, two electric scooters, three snowboards, a metal detector, two bows, multiple fishing rods are just the things I can think of off the top of my head. As many of you know, when you live full time in an RV you need to bring everything with you!

It is quite interesting having 4 dogs underfoot in the house. They are all good dogs, but it does create a certain amount of chaos. Here is my view anytime I try to have a meal.

Six eyes intently watching my every move. My hand goes right, their eyes move in unison following, my hand goes left, their eyes go left.... Where is Dakota during all this? All I have to do is turn my head to the right....
Barb, Lily and Forrest got out to the Custer Disc Golf course one afternoon for a couple of hours. We did not even know it existed. We will have to do that someday; they said the course was beautiful. 
The weather has not really cooperated with outdoor activities, but we managed to get out on a few more rides in the National Forest. Chloe went to the vet on Wednesday and got spayed, so she has been on a restricted activity plan. Neither Zoey or Chloe understand why she cannot run around and play. I was able to get this short video of them playing before the surgery though!
With only two major projects left on the house, I was anxious to get to one of them. Next up is soffit and facia. Not an overly difficult job, just slow and tedious. I put a few hours in over 3 days and was able to get the 1/3 of it done. 
Friday night we went out and celebrated Dan's birthday. The big 7-0! 11 of us went out; Dan, Bonnie, Kevin, Cheryl, Vicki and Merrell, Barb and I and Forrest, Somer and Lily. We all met up in Custer at the Pine Social Club Company, they did not serve soup, but they did serve beer! 

Beer and axe throwing, what could go wrong?!?! It was a blast!
All this fun and I did not get one picture of the birthday boy! After that we headed over to The Bugling Bull for supper. 
Saturday was a day I had been looking forward to for several years. Calf branding day at the ranch next door! In years past, we have always been gone to the farm by now, but with the late spring up in North Dakota, we finally made it to this big event! There were probably a dozen people for neighboring ranches, friends and family. They pitch in to help each other out for events like this. 

The calves do not like being separated from their moms and visa versa. It is so loud that you can hardly hear yourself think. 
First up were the momma and heifers. They needed to be vaccinated. Angus are very stubborn, it is nearly impossible to force them to go anywhere they do not want to go. 3 or 4 guys were pushing them into a smaller pen, up an alley way and into the squeeze shoot. My job was to operate the end gate on the squeeze shoot opening and closing it as one cow was released and letting another in. 

While they were in the squeeze shoot, one person would vaccinate them, another sprays ivermectin on their backs. Ear tags are replaced as needed.

Once all the cows and heifers were done, it was time for the calves. They were run through the same shoot then into a smaller shoot which squeezes them and lays them flat. Each calf gets two shots, branded and the bull calves get de-nutted. This process is not for the faint for heart, and I could see some judging how this whole process goes, but it is ranch life, has been for hundreds of years and will be for hundreds more, I could see myself as a rancher in another life. It was interesting to hear the ranchers talk about this and that. For example, this ranch uses 3 different branding irons to make their brand. There are so many brands out there right now (like license plates) that all the one and two iron brands are taken up and they are into three iron brands. Very interesting.
The brands are heating up!
For this process, I was the heeler. See that rope on the calf's rear foot? I was holding the other end of the rope. Once the calf is on the table I slip the loop on the foot, trying not to get kicked, pull it tight and hold it while it gets de-nutted and branded. John, the rancher, is quick with the knife and it takes him less than a minute to castrate the bulls. I then take the rope off, they tip the table back and the calf walks off. Barb manned (or Barbed) the branding station. Her job was to make sure they were nice and hot and hand each one to John as he needed them. For those of you wondering, he does save them for Rock Mountain Oysters later. For those of you who don't know, what Rocky Mountain Oysters are, Google it. 
One thing I realized, a little too late, was that both of my jobs were on the business end of the cattle. That must be where they put the rookies. When one particular calf coughed at the wrong time I was covered. Needless to say, a shower was in order at the end of the event. 

Now that I've terrorized you with the reality of ranch life, I will leave you with calming two pictures. This one is of the first flower I have seen for the year. It is about the size of a golf ball, and we saw several of them in the forest while shed hunting. Anyone know what it is?
And for this week's installment of "Find the Frenchie", we received this picture from our niece Alana. Apparently, their little Sophie was wondering what was going on outside when their parents were out in the yard.
Next week's post will be from the North Dakota, I leave tomorrow!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Forrest and Family Arrive for a Visit!

 Here I was thinking I did not have a lot to post about this week. Then I looked at the photos on my phone. I generally let my photos remind me and guide me on my posts as often I forget what we did in a given week. 

Like helping Kevin put the decking on the ceiling for his covered porch. It seems like weeks ago, but it was within the past week. 

Or putting the steel corners on the house. Now that the porch ceiling is done on our house, I can finally put the steel corners on. There were actually 4 corner sections; two above the porch and two below the porch. Here are before and after picture of two of them. Small differences, but significant to us. 

This step as literally been 6 years in the making since we purchased this property in April of '17. Two more major steps and I think we can call the house done! We are so close I am even starting a blog post detailing our build from start to finish. I doubt that we can post this until later this summer when the stone is finally done but at least we are close enough that I can think about it!

One day, Barb and I went shed hunting as it seems all the elk and deer have finally shed their antlers. We found two nice elk sheds! 

When we came home, we noticed something at the front door under the porch. Upon closer inspection, we noticed it was a deer... standing at our front door! As I walked up the side of the house, it walked off but did not run away. I scooped up some food and it came right up to me! 

She hung out for a bit and wandered off. We have not seen her since. 

The big news of the week is that our son Forrest, his wife Somer and daughter Lily (and two dogs and a cat) arrived for a visit! As you may recall, they sold their house in January and have been full timing ever since! Somer took a 13-week travel job at a hospital in Grants Pass and this trip to our house was their first big adventure!

Chloe has gotten very big since we saw her just over a year ago. She is now a whooping 7lbs! Jack, now 9 is his normal chill self, seems to have taken over Zoey's bed. 

 They arrived Thursday and brought the cold weather with them. Since they have arrived, I don't think it has gotten over 35 degrees. But we are managing to have fun regardless. On our first full day here, Forrest and I went shed hunting. We found two whitetail sheds and some old cars buried deep in the forest. One has to wonder how they got there. Someone must have lived there sometime in the past. 

The next day we took Lily to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. Since she is homeschooled, we have to incorporate schooling into our daily schedule. Besides her regular school work, there are so many educational things in this area to expose her to. 

Forrest also has a 3D printer we have been playing with. The first thing he made when he got here was replacement closet brackets for their rig. Every one of their rod holders had broken on the way here. These ones are not only much stronger, only cost pennies to make!

And so it begins, fun with family. We, nor they, know how long they are staying but our plans are to have fun every day until I have to head to the farm, or they carry on down the road. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

New Project Unveiling!

 It's Sunday, Easter, and here I am a 60-year-old man (kid) looking for my Easter basket. Through each of the cabinets in the kitchen, under the sink in the bathroom. She saves me a little suffering by telling me that it is not on the lower level so, upstairs I go. Under the bed, in the shower, the drawers of the desk.......She's just laughs at me. Finally, on top of the grandfather clock I find my prize!

Since Barb was playing games with me this week, I thought I would play a game with you. If you are involved in the Frenchy community on Facebook, you would know there are lots of pictures posted with the title of "Find the Frenchie" with a French Bulldog hidden somewhere in the picture. Well, here is my version of "Find the Frenchie"..... You may have to zoom in to find her. 

You may wonder why she is hiding. Well, she was a very bad girl this week. Actually, it was more our fault as someone made the bed and left one of her toys under the covers. 

Guess it is time for a new bedspread!

The snow is all gone now, almost 30" gone in a week. How did it all leave so fast? This is how....

We had another first this week! Well, it is the first time we have observed it. We have elk in the area, and they pass through our property a few times a year, usually at night but this morning when we woke up, there they were! Over 70 elk meandered through our pasture eating grass as they went. What a way to start the day!

We spent two days this week getting the last of the tin up. The corner angled pieces were a little more challenging as the longest pieces were almost 16'. Thankfully, we were able to use Kevin's sheetrock lift to hold them up while we screwed them in. 
Once all the tin was up, we could start on the beams that Barb had previously sanded and stained. They are going to be placed everywhere there is a post, a total of 11 beams when all is said and done. 

Now for the big unveiling..... Because we do not have enough to do, we decided to start yet another project. One that we have had in the back of our minds for over a year and were just waiting for the right time. 

I first mentioned this project last October in this post when we leveled out an area just off the porch. Well, this week I was able to take the next step. My nephew-in-law Ryan grew up on a farm about 4 hours east of us in Wood, SD and had just the right item we needed to get started. All I had to do was go get it. 

Here is what I went to go get.... A grain bin!

There was just one stipulation. I could have the one for free if we took down both of them. Kevin was nice enough to volunteer to come along and help. We left the house at 4:45am and drove to Rapid where we met Ryan. We followed him for the next few hours and arrived at the farmstead where we met his mom Lisa, and dad Rob. Both very, very nice people.

The five of us then spent the next 8 hours dismantling the two bins. Being farmers, Rob, Lisa and Ryan are hard workers, so it was pretty much nonstop work. Except for lunch break where Lisa made sandwiches for all of us. 

The idea was to put a chain through the top of the bin and attach it to a tire. Then use a loader to lift the bin, suspending it so we would dismantle it ring by ring. Easier said than done but they got the tire attached to the chain. You ever tried to carry a tire and rim up a ladder, hold it over your head and attach a chain to it? Not an easy task. 
While they were going that, Kevin, Lisa and I worked on removing the bolts holding the bin to the ground. The next challenge was the fact that the bottom ring was cemented to the ground, and we could not access the bolts.  So, we decided to leave the bottom ring for the moment and removed the bin a level up. 
Here is a short video showing how that went. 

Then we removed each layer, lowering it as we went until it was just me inside the top as I removed the top ring and flanges. Then we set about grinding off the bolts on the bottom rim, a pain in the @ss.

A few hours later we had one on the trailer and one more to take down! Kevin and I were back in the truck a little after 6pm tired and ready for our 3 1/2-hour drive home. A 16-hour day but we now have our grain bin! 
The next step is prep the pad site by leveling it more, run electrical, pour concrete and put it up! This will probably not place until later this summer as we have other plans for the rest of the spring. When it is all said and done, it will look something like this....
That's it for now, the suns out and we gotta get back to work!