Posts Tagged ‘hoop house’

I am pretty sure this post will show up as having been posted a day late but actually it is still Mother’s Day where I am so HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!  I didn’t get to see any of my kids today but they did call and wish me a happy day anyway so life is good.

I have been running so fast and furious for so long that I don’t even know where to start so let’s see what’s on the camera. 

We are still buying yearlings so we have a new batch to brand at least once a week.

Two weeks ago I went to the Wyoming Master Gardener Conference in Gillette, WY where I learned how to build a snazzy hoop house and how to make Strawberry-Basil ice cream.  I also learned a bunch of stuff about native plants and even more about poisonous plants and fairy gardens.  It was great!

I even hitched up Nadine, my camper and pulled her over to Gillette to sleep in.  Of course since this conference was in Wyoming – in April – it rained and snowed every blessed day and the wind blew like crazy.  

It was 80 degrees and beautiful the week before – go figure. 

Anyway it wasn’t a total bust – I did discover a few things about Nadine – she has a leak above her front window so one corner of the bed was a little soggy.  I’m pretty sure she has no insulation in her walls.  The jack on the front of her hitch is broke (thank goodness for Handy Man jacks) and the furnace still doesn’t work but thankfully, I had packed a small electric heater that warmed her up in about 15 minutes so it wasn’t too bad even though it was 30 degrees outside.  

Nadine also doesn’t have a very secure lock on her door so being the ‘ready for anything, Boy Scout Mama’ that I am, I fashioned a dead bolt for her door once I got to the campground. 

You can’t be too carefull!

One Handy Man Jack plus one load binder and you too can have your very own Redneck Dead Bolt.  Perhaps I should patent it.   There was no way anyone was going to break in and surprise me in the middle of the night!  At least not without having to tear the door knob completely out of the door.  My Dad said I could have also used the removable handle to beat an attacker senseless if needed.  Yes, my beloved Handy Man Jack – the all around survival and self-defense device of every ranch wife.

My husband thinks I’m nuts…

Last weekend I went to a Quilting Retreat at Outlaw Bible Ranch just outside of Custer, SD.  Nadine stayed home and I stayed at my parents house which was much warmer and drier.   My baby, Morgan had requested a Crown Royal quilt made from the purple flannel bags the whiskey comes in so this is what I made while I was there…  at a Bible camp…  with 40 good God-fearing Church women…  I made a quilt out of whiskey bags. 

 I am so going to Hell!

That’s me at show and tell.  I really didn’t envision this quilt ending up like this – a little wild and crazy.  It just kind of took on a life of its own.  I have titled my latest artistic endeavor ‘Morgan’s Drunken Trip Around the World’.   He loves it.  Everyone wanted to know who had to drink all that Crown Royal for the quilt (I cut up 87 bags) I just told them I love my children so much that I will do anything for them even drink 87 bottles of whiskey!  Ha!  Don’t think so – actually Morgan’s buddy Brandon has a step mom who owns a bar.  Sweet…

Last but not least, today I finally built the railing for the front steps. 

We have absolutely no idea what those cool metal wheels are off of but Morgan found them in the iron pile and he brought them to me.  I really love that kid!

Levi (the dog) and Franklin (the rooster who lives on the porch) supervised the whole operation so you know it was done right.  Franklin is very picky when it comes to the details.  They were very impressed by my carpentry skills.  Can you tell?

Other than that it’s been work and lots of gardening.

But I did take time to come up with a ‘top ten’ list for Mother’s Day and all you Ranch Moms out there so here goes,

You might be a Ranch Mom if:

1.  Mother’s Day is spent in the corral – dehorning, branding, de-lousing, doctoring, vaccinating and castrating.

2.  You go to the bathroom and while you’re there you carry on a one-sided conversation with the bum calf, chicks, lamb or baby pigs that are temporarily living in the bathtub till the weather warms up.

3.  You receive gifts such as chain saws, post-hole diggers, back hoes, dump trucks, a milk cow or a load of well-rotted manure and you are thrilled!!!

4.  The bum calf, chickens and every other critter on the place eats supper before you do.

5.  You work full-time at the ranch but also have an 8-to-5 job in town just so you can rest and heal up from the ranch work.

6.  You can back down and turn a charging cow with nothing but a kitchen broom in your hands and the crazed look in your eyes.

7.  You can imitate a cow lowing well enough to calm a scared calf.

8.  At least once you’ve lost both your boots and both socks to 1 foot of sucking gumbo mud before slipping and face planting yourself just to save your baby who is stranded in the center of the corral because he thought it would be fun to play in the mud.

9.  You’ve ever zipped your 2-year-old child inside the front of your Carhart coveralls so they could stay warm while you do chores.

And finally,

10.  You’ve raised more 4 legged babies than 2 legged ones in your life time.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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With all the rain and storms we’ve been having the last couple of weeks I had a terrible thought last night as I climbed into my nice cozy bed and snuggled down into the thick feather tick and home-made quilt.  Outside, the wind was roaring and the rain was falling and occasionally the whole sky would light up with white-hot bolts of lightning and it got me wondering…

Do hoop houses attract lightning?

I suppose it was because hoop house construction was still fresh in my mind and it was probably due to all the photos I put in my last post of large metal hoops sticking up in the air that made me think of it but it surprised me that this is something I have never even considered before.

Someday while weeding my heirloom tomatoes will I get the shock of my life or will I come home from work to a steaming pile of roasted veggies and melted plastic?

Does anyone out there know or even care about this besides me?

Hubby says “No way.  Our hoop house basically has 34 metal rods grounding it to the earth.”    But still, I wonder…

I’m normally not afraid of lightning although I do have a healthy respect for the power of nature.  In fact I love to watch huge thunderheads boiling over the horizon – as long as I’m sitting in the safety of my living room.   There’s just something about the extreme beauty of lightning as it reaches down from the heavens above and blows a tree to smitherings that tends to get your attention.  Maybe it’s this seemingly random act that makes you suddenly realize it’s true – you never really know when it will get you. 

 I’ve heard lots of stories about lightning including the one about my great, great, great-grandmother.  Actually, I’m not sure just how ‘great’ she was – my sister keeps track of our ancestory.   Great-grandma was struck and killed by lightning while she stood in the kitchen doorway.  That’s the kind of thing that could send you screaming for the basement every time the sky turns dark.  Of course if you follow that kind of logic and try to avoid every danger in life we should also be terrified of apple trees as there’s also the story of my great, great-grandfather who was killed at the age of 89 when he fell out of an apple tree.  

For some reason the sight of an apple tree doesn’t send me into a panic near as much as the thought of what the hell was an 89-year-old man doing up there anyway?  

Kind of says something about our whole family tree doesn’t it? 

I honestly believe our family tree is the majestic oak – large, strong and full of nuts!

Anyway back to the hoop house question.  I have googled it and found no statistics on this but I bet someone out there knows the truth.

I ask this because we seem to be in a lightning ‘hot-spot’.  We have lived in this house for 5 years and in that time we have been hit by 3 really good shots of lightning.  Each time it has taken out the computer (including the modem and the external hard drive), the cordless phones, the TV satellite receivers, several light bulbs and it has fried the ventilation (fart-fan) in the bathroom  (since I live with men – this is the item I have missed the most).  This has even happened when we have had everything pluged into surge protectors.  We’ve had strikes so close that the lady who lives in the fire tower on top of Elk Mountain has called to see if we were OK.  She can’t see our house from her tower but she does know where we are.  We have no clue as to why we’re so attractive to lightning – not even the TV guy or phone guy can explain it.  They’ve told us our house is grounded better than any other place they’ve been – having a retired lineman in the family has served us well. 

What can I say – lightning loves us.

And it’s not just our ranch.  Several years ago a local minister was helping gather cattle at the neighbors place when he was hit by lightning.  As I heard it the lightning stuck the metal button on the top of his ball cap, traveled through his body, out the zipper in his jeans and into the saddle horn dropping his horse straight down to the ground.  The horse was dead with the minister still sitting in the saddle.  Our neighbor who was also on horseback a short distance away was blown off his horse and knocked unconscious.  When he came to, he stumbled over to the minister, checked for a pulse but finding none made his way back to the house where his wife called 911.  The paramedics arrived thinking they were going to be transporting a dead body but instead found the minister alive.  He was badly burned and had an assortment of injuries but he was alive.  He made a full recovery and continues to preach.  I’m just not sure you could get him back in the saddle on a stormy day.

Another man I know was struck by lightning while walking across the local Wal-Mart parking lot.  I’m not sure why the lightning singled him out of the crowd but for some reason it was his ‘lucky day’.  He also recovered but isn’t to fond of parking lots.

Lightning is like tornadoes – you hear some fascinating stories – stories of life and death.  Even knowing that you can survive lightning doesn’t make me want to risk it.  With our history – I think I’ll probably just wait out the storms inside the house (hiding in the basement if necessary).  I’m all for trying new experiences but I do draw the line at lightning.  So for now I’ll play it safe – but I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes and you’ll be the first to know if someday I come home to the aroma of roasted veggies.


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Last Friday and Saturday Hubby and I went to Cheyenne, WY to visit our son and daughter-in-law, Dani who graduated from LCCC’s Equine Science program.  We even got to visit the place where she has been working – training and breeding horses.  It was great to get away but by Sunday morning we were back home, rested up and ready to get started on the giant jigsaw-puzzle-soon-to-be-hoop-house in our back yard. 

Luckily we had done some of the ‘dirty work’ the weekend before.

This is how it all began…

May 12th we started with a fairly level piece of ground and dug 34 holes.  Each one had to be at least 2 feet deep and 12 inches around.

Check out that great water hydrant in the middle of it all.  Water is a wonderful thing!!!

Then we hired a professional. 

We hired John (the best cement man in the world) and he brought his mixer and a truck full of sand – talk about a rolling mobile beach.  Kind of makes you all nostalgic for a pair of flip-flops and a Pina colada doesn’t it? 

We even used my anniversary gift – the big yellow ‘garden tractor’ on the left.  Hubby brought a couple of scoops of gravel for mixing cement with it. 

Even though it’s my loader I still let him drive it once in a while – if he behaves himself. 

Yep, some girls just get diamonds and flowers. 

Not me…  I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

This is Johns’ ride.  Don’t you just love big, red Mack trucks with shiny chrome stacks and big bumpers? 

I do.  Especially when they have great Mack bulldog hood ornaments like this.

So 2 weeks ago (on Mother’s day) we mixed and poured cement.  Then we had to wait…

We waited for the cement to set up and we gave it time to cure and we waited some more because it rained…  for several days…   and then we went to Cheyenne…

But finally, last Sunday, with the ground stakes ready to take the weight of the hoops and a lot of help from our neighbor, Paul we ‘dove in’.  We made pretty good progress without too many mistakes.  The instructions could have been a little more in-depth but what really helped the most was to lay out all the pieces before we started putting anything together.

Actually, the worst part of the whole day was the wind.  It started to blow by mid morning and by noon it was really starting to get with it.  But we kept on working till about 5:00 when it got so bad it would just about blow us over as we stood on the ladders.  It was darn exciting!  See the ladders in the photo?  That’s the way they looked if you weren’t holding them up.

We worked all day and didn’t quite get to the half-way point but now we can see just how big this thing is going to be.

I don’t think I have enough tomato plants started.

And it doesn’t look too bad for our first attempt.

Of course that was last Sunday and as of today (when I took the pictures) we have not been able to do anymore work on it because we had 40-50 mph winds on Monday and Tuesday and then rain ever since.  I don’t know about you but patience has never been one of my strong points.  Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about it but whine and I’m sure you don’t want to hear that so instead here’s some photos of our Nanking Cherry bushes.  This is the 5th summer for them and they look great.

They’ve had a pretty hard life so far.  We planted them 2 years before the end of a 9 year drought and for the last 3 years we have had a horrible infestation of grasshoppers that have totally stripped the leaves and fruit from them but just look at them now. 

Take that you pesky hoppers! 

You’ve got to be tough to survive this country – just like the people who live here.  We might have some scars and rough spots but once in a while we do put on a really good show.

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You will never guess what we have in our back yard.

It is something I have needed for a long, long time and hopefully it is something that will help save my sanity from the grasshoppers that have infested our place for the last 3 years.

OK – it’s not therapy but that might have been cheaper in the long run.  HA!

Here’s a clue.

It fits on a flat bed trailer and looks like a bad accident.

Or a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Have you figured it out yet?

From this photo only one thing is obvious to me – whatever it is –  it’s going to be a challenge. 

Ahhh!!!!   Another new project – I must be crazy.

I haven’t finished Nadine yet and now we have this sitting in our yard.

 It’s a hoop house – basically, a plastic covered greenhouse without additional heat.

South Dakota is one of the states chosen for a pilot program with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP).  EQUIP is split into several conservation programs – water projects, sage grouse protection and one for hoop houses.  There are other ones too but these are the main 3 we hear about in SD.   This program is meant to encourage the organic production of vegetables and specialty crops by helping ranchers and farmers purchase hoop houses on a cost share basis.  It’s a wonderful idea and we were one of the lucky ones who qualified this year.  We have heard there hasn’t been much interest in this program so it may be one of the programs cut with the new budget.

For the last few years I have been trying to sell vegetables at the local Farmers Market and fall festivals.  The demand is defiantly there – especially for fresh veggies grown organically.  Everyone has been very encouraging and very eager for more than I can produce – especially when we have to share with millions of grasshopper so hopefully this will help.

That is – if – we can get it put together.

There seems to be a lot of pieces…

Lots and lots of pieces…

Big pieces and lots of little bitty pieces…

So many pieces that Hubby seems a little overwhelmed at times…

But at least Julio (the cat) is there to help.  Even though he doesn’t have thumbs, Julio does what he can – like rubbing against your leg and letting you know that he loves you even if you’re an idiot and can’t understand what the instructions are trying to tell you.  It’s OK. 

It’s good to have warm, fuzzy friends.  Sometimes you just need a warm, fuzzy hug.

For me it’s easier not to look at the whole project because that can send me running home to my mommy or down to the corner bar.  Instead I tend to break the big jobs down into lots of smaller jobs.  Instead of one big job – we have about 583 small jobs to do before I can plant seeds.  Then it’s not quite so scary.

Especially when you have good help – last night our neighbor, Paul and I were in charge of unloading the trailer and counting all the parts.  Today Hubby digs in the new water line and installs the hydrant.  Then it’ time to lay it out on the ground with stakes and string so it’s square (actually rectangular) and then we start digging post holes for the ground stakes. 

 Just like the old saying:

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time.”


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