Struggling to Farm in the deep cold and driving snow

Yesterday the snow and the wind fought it out all day and into the night.  The umpire fled, the cheerleaders bolted. The game deteriorated into a brawl. It was all about hard faced driving snow.  Snow piling up just where you want to walk, then blowing itself up into, around and ahead of the next place you want to walk.  A team of winds howled and chased the snow down as it tried to fall.  Stretched out and biting at it like  dogs chasing rabbits. This was not the soft gentle snow of Christmas cards, this was a world of cold icy vicious unforgiving  snow. Quarreling with a vengeful wind.  Biting back. Snapping.  In fact it was just as bad as forecast. blizzard-021

But once I had my clown suit on and my hoodie pulled right down over my face like the shy monk that I really wish I was sometimes,  I found it more bearable than it looked.

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So the morning puttered along in a chilly snowy kind of way.  Though we were slowly being snowed in. And the wind would take you of your feet if you were not careful. Yes that is me, off out to see to my animals.  See how the wind was digging the snow out of some pathways and hurling it into others.blizzard-049

The snow finds any crack and slowly feeds tiny dust mites of snow into the barn. Much as I would love new barn doors! There are so many cracks in this old barn that the snow drifts  in from all directions. But it is quiet in there. Churchlike.blizzard-024

By afternoon it began to get very cold with the wind increasing. So I put a pot of stock on the stove, a roast of pork in the oven to heat both the kitchen and the dinner. Set the dehydrator to make some sweet potato dog treats (thank you Post Mistress). More warmth in the kitchen.

Sliced up some of the bacon for pancetta.

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Experimented with making risotto rissoles.

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Very easy. Just take the cold risotto, (which was made the night before with kale, parmesan and lemon) – pat firmy into a patty with floured hands, then pan-fry in a little butter until hot and crunchy on the outside. We ate them for lunch with a hot thai sauce.  Very good. I will make these often now.

I chatted online to Bob, whose sow Belle is pregnant with our KuneKune, (we hope). Here is Belle as a piglet and then all grown up.  If you want to see more kunekune’s pop over to Bobs site. Sherry (one of the fellowship) is buying one too.  We are both excited.

goosegilt440 kunekuneBelle440

These images are taken from Bobs site. (Belle as a piglet and Belle as a grown sow almost ready to farrow.) This time she is due to farrow Feb 1st.

As the day progressed the wind increased and the snow never stopped. Soon each time I went out to visit the barn I would return with eyes stinging from the flying snow and as the drifts got deeper, Boo and I found ourselves up to our knees in snow as we struggled across. Well my knees, Boos face.

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TonTon elected to stay in the barn most of the day. In the end I made him go inside and he took himself to the bedroom and sulked. The wind was making him very anxious about his animals. He was leaping gate after gate, checking each one as I  scooped manure sodden straw up against all the big doors letting the icy blast seal the cracks shut for me.

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Then it got even colder and the wind was blowing so hard I could not open and shut my little doors anymore. They were being frozen open or shut  by the wind, and the snow was freezing in front of them. It was even getting hard to get in and out of the house.  Inside the barn was fine still. No wind in there. Just munching and shuffling and watching.  Everyone was fed extra. blizzard-116

Getting to and from the barn was getting pretty wild. Thank God my crampons came in time.  The cats would not come in, the weather terrified them, I left them full  and curled up in warm hay corners. Visiting the chickens at the end of the day, meant walking through snow drifts as high as my waist,  the air whited out with blowing snow that stung  my face. Then trying to open the door into the wind. I finally fell into the chook house with the wind slamming the door at my back and all the chooks, sitting comfortably on their roosts turned around and said “What the Hell are you Doing out in this weather!”  They all mumbled and shuffled closer together and told me not to let the door smack me on the bottom on my way out! Humans!  Letting in the draft. I heard someone say as I left..

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By dark I had to concede that I could not go out anymore. I had done the best I could.  Already John had come out looking for me twice. The cows and the sheep are all bred for cold temperatures and have not led spoiled lives.

And the deepest cold with its skin stripping wind does not come in until this morning.  Somehow it being light makes that feel easier to manage. But with a high of -13F (-25C)  under clear skies with a  howling gale (25-35mph- 56k) that takes us this down to -45F (-42) wind chill. I am filled with dread.  There was a door last night that I could not close fully, the ice got to it first but it was in the lee of the wind, with plenty of room inside for the sheep to get out of the wind and not too much of a problem. Today the wind will swing around and this door will have to be  dislodged from the icy ground and  shut. Somehow.

I think the animals are better set up for this cold than I am. I am going to have to find a wooly hat.  I know that many people  routinely farm in climates like this. But here we are just not set up for it. I have no heated barn. I am used to letting the doors stand open almost all winter.  At least it is only for a few days.

This morning I was ready to go out again at 5am. The wind was in a lull, and had dropped to a brisk breeze. It was -13F.  On entering the barn, after crawling up out of  a drift up to my waist, I broke the seal of ice on the barn door and entered a quiet deeply cold atmosphere. Three warm cats leapt out of the shadows and onto their dinner table.Sheila grunted to me from under her mound of straw, The Plonkers opened one eye each and said let us know when breakfast is ready.    Daisy and Queenie rose up out of their beds, ice and fine snow covering their bodies, stalactites of frozen breath hanging from their noses. The sheep milled about comfortable in their thick woolen coats.

Everyone was fed and frozen buckets of water carried back inside and swapped for clean buckets of fresh water, then the pigs tucked themselves back into bed, under their warm lights, Daisy looked for ways to steal the sheep’s hay, the cats disappeared back into the hay bales and I turned off the light, called the dogs and pushed the door shut again. I will feed the chickens when it is light.

It is still dark as I write. So I have not seen what is out there. Though the sky is clear. I will take Camera House out into the dawn soon. We have two days of this deep cold now.

Still we are all very well fed. And the fire is warm, and worse things happen at sea!

Your friend on the farm

celi

92 Comments on “Struggling to Farm in the deep cold and driving snow

  1. In SE MN we have the cold and wind without the snow — be careful out there C —

  2. Oh Celi I really feel for you! Although it is 47F here at the moment, it is supposed to drop fast down to 5F tonight with strong winds bringing it down to -15F, and stay there all through tomorrow too. We have no snow, just ice. However it is nothing compared to what you and folks further north are dealing with. I just have my chickens to worry about, not a full farm like you. Poor hens have so much straw in their little hut they can hardly move LOL. Tried telling my family back home how cold it is here and they really can’t comprehend it – never having that kind of cold in England. Luckily I have no pet sitting jobs at the moment, traveling out early mornings in this is not on my fun list!
    Stay warm and safe my friend.

    • It seems this terrible weather is all over. Lucky you don’t have to go out to work!..As Connie said it is a good day to bake! c

  3. OH MY, what a time of it you are having. waist high snow drifts, and doors freezing shut or open. Be careful, stay warm as much as you can. We worry about you. Your risotto rissoles.sound absolutely delicious although I bet wrapping your hands around a hot cup of tea felt pretty good.

  4. Glad you are ok out there. I can’t get out of town but I don’t think mail will be moving today. Most Interstates were closed last night. Stay warm and be careful. Good day to stay in and bake! 

  5. Morning Celi…or should I just say “Brrrrrrrr”!
    I have worried about the farmy animals all night…my thermometer is now reading -6 but at least the wind seems less harsh here. ….I was awakened at 3am by 3 firetrucks in front of my house….my next door neighbor had a chimney fire ablaze…luckily the guys got it out right away but now I’m wide awake and up for the day, I suspect……I have about 18 inches of snow on my deck and my doors are half covered with huge drifts…….I plan on staying put, keeping my fireplace full, and putting a pot of beef stew on to cook! I have now gone into my winter hibernation mode! 🙂

    • Hibernating until this is over sounds like a very sensible idea. Our wind is changing to the west so now the drifts will be blown up into peaks, maybe it will blow those drifts back off your porch!.. c

  6. I remember these cold snaps from growing up on the farm. We had no heated buildings either and lots of draft in the old barn. Just a little heat lamp in the chicken coop. I don’t ever remember an animal dying from the bitter cold. Shelter, plenty of feed and hay, snuggled together for warmth—they all did fine. Dad definitely did not go out and check on them as much as you do. Careful not to let out the heat the animals’ bodies fire up.

    • I hate to be in the house, would rather be in the barn. No matter what the weather. I am sure your Dad was a lot more confident than me as a farmer, I grew up on a beach. Living, let alone farming, in these conditions is very new to me..but I am glad to hear that your father never lost an animal in the cold .. c

      • What an adjustment! I understand wanting to stay in the barn. I always wanted an old Scandinavian farm where the house and barn were one building. That way every one stayed warmer (a little smellier, but who cares?)

        • Oh I do agree, especially when we were milking last winter.. I kept harping on about building a little barn against the house for Daisy!.. c

  7. That was said with love and care for your safety and anyway I meant bonkers

  8. Be safe, dear friend! Your animals have all the comforts that you have provided and they will be as warm as they can be until this horrid weather ceases. I hope it is sooner rather than later.

  9. Keep warm Celi. Such crazy weather – we’ve warmed up here in Canada but have freezing rain, flash freeze warning, and windchill warning. Colder than it’s been in decades too.
    Fires are going and I expect our power will go out….

    • morning Grammom. Aren’t we lucky to have fires, otherwise the threat of power cuts would be terrifying.. c

  10. I see three of my blog buddies have commented above already.

    I can’t imagine having to make my way through waist-deep snow. It sounds like a magnificent, if frigid, adventure. Stay warm and be well!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Morning Kathy, I do need to qualify that it is a waist deep snow drift, right up and through a gate I have to go through/over to get the the chook house. For a moment there this morning I thought I could walk on top of it, as it is frozen on the top, but .. ah.. no.. down I went! c

  11. as you say it won’t last but while that mean weather is with you it is horrid! I wish I could lend you some of my ski gear (you have the crampons now!) – like my balaclava and ski goggles – that way the only part of your face that is exposed is your nose – which goes VERY red!! And poor Ton getting worried about his flock, how stressful for him. A friend has a Springer Spaniel (very trained) and he can be a bit of a worrier too. We’re just bloody wet!!

    • Funny you said that, walking into this wind is rubbish and John said, when I came in , that I should be wearing goggles! c

  12. I’ve been thinking of you and my other farmy friends more than usual because of the snow and cold. As I watched the snow I began to think of how many things I’ll need to buy in preparation for working in this kind of weather on our farm one day.

    Stay safe! Stay warm!! The temperatures today are unforgiving.

    • Right at the moment I am wondering what the hell I am doing trying to farm in this environment.. it is evil and everything has stopped working in the chook house so I have to go back out there soon with new lights and another electric water bowl and shift everything around.. too cold even for the camera out there today.. c

      • My SIL called this morning from Dallas. She said it was 1 degree there this morning. Not a lot warmer, so not quite sure how far south we would need to move to get nice farming weather. Either too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer.

  13. Hey look, I could start a farmy in my townhouse garden. Miniature Cow, miniature Piggie, horse and goat 🙂 Paddy would be beside himself 🙂 How do you think Sheila will take to the newcomer?
    Not sure what to say about your current landscaping. Please stay warm and be safe. Laura

    • I am hoping that with time Sheila will get to like him so they can hang out together.. fingers crossed.. c

  14. All I can offer are E-Hugs and warm wish prayers….. And don’t be over confidant with those grippy attachments….

  15. I hope that you’re popping your mobile phone into your pocket when you head outside! Without it, you’ll not be able to ring for help if you fall.

  16. It may be time to trade your grippy thingys for snowshoes.
    I have a pair. They definitly work well in deep snow, untill the dog decides to jump on the back of your snowshoe.
    You have to walk bowlegged like John Wayne

    • The Old Codger used to walk to school in his snow shoes.. he still has them, very old and beautiful.. c

  17. I reckon even Hell is freezing over this year! Have you tried swimming/diving/or/skiing goggles? I know from experience that diving goggles enable you to see in the most murky conditions. Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t have a woolly hat? I’ve been knitting/crocheting etc woolly scarves and hats for Christmas presents since the beginning of November. Is it too late to start now? I know they’re completely outmoded and only meant for little children, but I reckon a fleece-lined knitted pixie hood would do you. The chain has been in US customs since 2nd January, but I don’t suppose it will arrive any day soon, given that you seem to live in Siberia! CrowingCroneJoss has no hot water, so she’s coming for a shower.

    Bear up and keep as warm as possible.
    Lotsaluv,
    ViV x

    • Oh the pixie hood (I looked it up) would be most excellent in this environment. Definitely not too late to start one now if you have time, Viv. We have three more months of winter yet.. My problem with the beanies they sell is that I have a big head, with lots of wooly hair so they are all too small and too tight so I just wear the hoods on the jackets. (Though this morning I borrowed Johns smelly balaclava, as my face was freezing off. ) Say good morning to Joss for me.. glad you have hot water!.. c

      • I’m on the case. The chain seems to have disappeared from the universe! They tell me that the “follow” number doesn’t exist, even though I’ve been checking on it successfully every day since we posted it.

        • Once it leaves the customs it is harder to trace from your side, I would think that means that it has been shipped.. excellent.. I can’t wait to see it.. c

      • Your weather is just downright horrible! We are cold here, but nothing like what you are experiencing…nor do we have snow. Snow would be nice right now. Like you I wear layers and layers of clothing…from the top of my head to my feet…its the only way to survive. I can’t imagine what life would be like in Alaska trying to take care of animals and oneself. Shudder

        Linda
        http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

        • I think if you start out knowing it is going to get that cold (like in Alaska) it is easier to manage, for example you would not have one side of my barn Open! this is unusually cold for this region which makes it worth noting.. c

  18. I have been worried about you all in the thick of this nasty weather. You have a lot on your plate that is for sure and yes there are others who have it so much worse but when we are pushed past what is normal for us it is just as bad. It would be the worry that would eat at me as well please stay safe I know these animals mean the world to you and the pain of loss is high already so only do what you can and come spring look into all the ways you can get that barn ship shape as winters will always be coming after fall ends. JT’s mother was fanatical about the animals who lived on the VT farm too I am blessed JT is only concerned with us as it is hard to tell dogs like that to let it go 😦 Never go out without your phone in a baggie in a warm pocket there will always be a time you will wish you had carried it.

    We went from snowstorm to rain and sheer ice with thick fog as the warmth is trying to win out. We canceled his diabetes appointment because we could not get out of the woods and what we can not push away will freeze solid as your weather heads east. You stay safe if they have full bellies they will be able to fight off the rest.

    HUGS

    • You are right about the full bellies! We all do well when we have lots to eat.. Ice and fog, is a very nasty mix, hope the warm loosens things up for you. c

      • Thanks I hope so then we can PUSH WATER away before it refreezes 🙂 So glad he did the roof this last time roofs are collapsing and pipes are bursting and we have yet to get your cold 😦

  19. Our situation is very similar to yours. I am amazed at how the snow has found its way into places never noticed before! Stay safe, Miss C and good luck to you and your animals.

    • I hope yours are all tucked up too Marla. Isn’t this wind just awful.. I have never been in such cold before. not in my life.. c

  20. All I can say is rather you than me… it looks just too cold that I would even get out of bed… keep safe…

  21. Hi Cecilia, one thing I have found that works great for transporting water, especially in a blizzard, are empty cat litter containers.(I think they are fresh step brand). The containers are white plastic with a screw cap lid and a handle. They work well because you will not spill your water even if you fall down, or suddenly go waist deep into a snow drift. If the cap freezes, turn upside down give a shake and that will usually do it. I use the black rubber water dishes which if you stomp on them upside down, the frozen water will break out. I live in North Dakota and we have been having a few weeks of very cold weather and quite a few storms. Our goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks are doing pretty well. I think I will steal your idea for goggles, that driving snow is a real pain. Stay warm and God bless. 🙂

    • That would be great except a cow drinks about 30 – 40 gallons of water a day.. I have those black rubber dishes too they are excellent. I heard just now that it is colder than the South Pole here today, in fact today Scott Base is at -11, we are -14. The water is freezing so fast! North Dakota has had some terrible weather lately.. much worse than here.. c

  22. I was gripping the edge of my seat reading this morning. I’m so glad everyone made it through the night, but what hellish weather you’re having. It will go down to 6 her tonight with minuses in windchill, which is almost unheard of this far south. But we have no ice or snow. I’m so glad you have your crampons now, and anything you can do to completely cover up when you go out sounds like a great idea. The little piggy is adorable and I hope your get your delivery in February. Something to look forward to. Do stay warm and may the Force be with you!

    • Hopefully this is just a cold snap and it warms up again soon, even though we are not in the South, this kind of weather is shocking.. c

  23. I took every step with you! I put on as much Winter gear as I could layer on this morning to hurry out to check my critters. I had a sleepless night worrying about how a -26 with winds would stress my animals. I grained horse and donkey and added even more straw to the lean to. They seems to be holding up well. They too are used to the cold but have not been tested by these lows….
    My ducks seem the most stressed. I’m adding a 2nd heat lamp…that should help.
    We are doing what we can…..hang on, they promise a warm up by Sunday.

    • That is terribly cold.. -26.. very bad.. I am going out now to add more straw out.. wish I had another heat lamp, but we are snowed in too, so we must do with what we have today.. c

  24. Thank goodness for snowpants and layers. I thought it was bad when we had to walk the dogs in-13F/-26C weather but that was our low, not the high! The jet stream needs to shape up and ship this out.

  25. My containers only carry 2 1/2 gallons each, so that would be a lot of trips for you. We have a stock tank outside with a heater in it, on good days I make more trips with water, or the family helps out on the weekend. Our 2 sheep and 4 goats don’t drink as much as a cow, so 5 gallons at a time works for me. This morning we were at -26 with a windchill of -51, but the sun is shining and the animals were happy to see me, so life is good. Have a great day1

  26. Oh Cecilia, you haven’t lost your sense of humor in all this horror. The chooks, the plonkers, Sheila–they all have something to say to you. The nerve of those ungrateful chooks, sassing you like that! Wouldn’t you just like to wring their necks!
    I wish had not given away my husbands shapka we bought in Germany during the Christmas Markets tour. It was plenty cold then. But the shapka was too big for him. Kept sliding down over his eyes.

    • Ah well, I often think those things.. wish i had kept this or that.. imagine if we did keep everything! there would be no rooms in our houses for US!! c

  27. I feel as if I’ve stepped back decades into the winters of my youth via your photos and words. This could be “my” prairie, my experience.

    Minus 22 degrees here in southern Minnesota this a.m. with a minus 47 windchill. But I have no animals to feed (only a teen) and no need to venture outdoors, except to take a photo.

    Stay safe. I am thankful Our John has checked on you when you venture out.

  28. Those Chooks do have a way of announcing reality…theirs anyway. The animals with shelter, hay, food and water will be fine. Barns illustrate the meaning of “havens” in these storms.
    Bundle up – agree goggles are a good idea. Do you ever have a line from house to barn that you can clip to in really bad weather? Take care C!

  29. admiration and astonishment follow you like characters in a morality play, and still no matter the physical elements, you write to exceedingly well, so enchanting; stay safe; our hearts beat warm thoughts out here for you.

  30. I read your winter day out loud to Cousin Lar. Never have I felt the prairie cold so eloquently. Lar said it described vividly memories of going into the barn on one of those brutal freezing days when the world was a complete white out and driving on the highway was impossible. V/

  31. My late husband used to tell stories of growing up in North Dakota and the blizzards were so bad that they had to string rope between the house and the barn to hold on to. Otherwise they risked getting lost in 6 feet of snow and freeze to death. Do you have one of those bomber hats? Our weather used to be like you have 20 years ago when we moved to our farmy. Had to use snowmobiles to get out to the county road. Fed and warm….yes. That is the key to surviving for both humans and animals. Good day to bake something in the oven. Hot chocolate, too. This year is like winters used to be in the 1920’s and 30’s. January has very sharp teeth.

  32. Yes, a warm hat. With ear flaps. One that ties under your chin so it can’t get blown off. And make sure you’re well fed and watered too, missy, or the wind will carry you off while you struggle to see to the animals.

  33. Oh my, it sounds absolutely brutal Celi, I hope it lets up for you. We’re on a very cold spell too with high winds, I have my fingers crossed that no more branches will come down and tear away power lines, with this wind the house will cool down instantly!

  34. Just for once I have absolutely no words! Just hopes and prayers and hugs across ocean and land that once this is over no permanent harm has come to anyone on the farmy. Great Britain is suffering also, not so much with brutal cold but with flooding rain . . . we all are blowing warm air north as hard as we can . . .

  35. Hope you’ve got a full storehouse & pantry of food (for both your family & animals). Those temps sound horrific for farms not used to them. Hope the cold spell and storms break up soon.
    Keep safe.

  36. We didn’t have the snow, it all went south of us but it was -23F with -48 windchill at chore time this morning. All of our animals (except the fowl) have free run shelters, no doors and they are handling it just fine. I did give them extra food and bedding but the horses, goats and donkey were all out and about today enjoying the sun. Even the chickens ventured out and pecked around where we’d shoveled. The chickens do have a heat lamp and we have heated buckets. The horses have a large tank that we put insulation around and encased that with plywood. They have a tank heater in it but it’s on a timer and isn’t on during the day. It stands under their run in and amazingly it never froze during the day today. By Sunday they’re saying it’ll be near 40. Go figure, I’m 60 yrs old and only remember weather like this 2 or 3 times in my life. Not fun but doable, makes you really appreciate the thaws!

    • Your insulated tank sounds like a good idea, I have some spare insulation too, when the weather warms up we may have a go at surrounding Daisy’s water.. c

  37. Forgot, Belle is just too cute, can hardly wait til spring and little pigs!

  38. I keep watch as our temperature plunges 50 degrees today. This is just crazy winter weather. We had rain this morning, but now it’s dry, windy, cold. Some schools are closing tomorrow, some starting later. I’m glad we don’t have to deal with all the snow you have. Keeping you in thought and prayer.

  39. I am comparatively new to your blog and mesmerized by your stories of all the animals and the adversities of a brutal beginning to winter. You are so brave and so caring of your creatures and you write eloquently of your battles with nature. I find myself eagerly awaiting the next episode and wishing you well and warm through it all.

    • And thank you so much for introducing yourself, I am always enchanted by who is reading my humble wee mutterings.. it is a beautiful world that we live in.. c

  40. Pingback: shades of grey | Life in Mud Spattered Boots

  41. Oh my it’s looking tough for you al right now. Belle is gorgeous and Boo look sso fummy with his icy snout. Take care when you go out and enjoy your time in the kitchen with all that gorgeous cooking!

  42. Oh, your words and photos have me remembering my native Nebraska. You are tough, Celi. It’s a hard life up there… but also beautiful and rewarding. What would we do without our beautiful animal friends?

  43. What alarming and terrible weather conditions! I’m just catching up after my off-line absence and really feel for you. What a hard winter you are having.

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