Farming in Winter

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We’ve almost survived our first winter farming.  Only 16 days until Spring!

What we’ve learned:

1) I used to have to guess if our water spigot by the barn was going to be frozen or not.  I’ve learned to notice how the ground feels when I walk on it.  If it is firm, the spigot will be frozen.   If it has give, the spigot will not be frozen.

2)  A frozen water spigot means we have to haul water from the house and/or break ice.  Water is heavy.  Breaking ice takes extra time.  Next year we hope to have either automatic heated waterers or have heated water buckets of some sort for the pigs, cows, and sheep.

Breaking ice happens at least twice per day when it is freezing.

Breaking ice happens at least twice per day when it is freezing.

3)  We actually experienced the cold weather for the first time in years.  In the past, I got in my car inside my garage and drove into the weather encased with a heater blowing.  Once I parked, I walked thirty seconds or less to get where I needed to go before I was again back in a heated building.  I didn’t spend much time out in the cold.  As a farmer, we are outside for about twenty-thirty minutes twice a day.  Now, when someone tells me “It is cold outside”.  I say “I know” because I really know how cold it is now.  It isn’t just a number on my iPhone weather app.

4)  If the temperature or wind chill is above 20 it is a good day!  If it is below 20 it is really cold and I would rather stay in bed.  Those are the days I tell myself “bacon, bacon” for motivation!  We wear layers and try to cover as much skin as possible on the coldest days.  Our coldest day was a Sunday morning when the wind chill was -15 degrees.  Negative.  It doesn’t take long for our fingers to start hurting when it is that cold.

5)  Chickens are thirsty, even in the cold.  We are always giving those ladies more water.

6) Horses can dig in the snow.  They dig, looking for grass.  Even though they have hay in their stall, they still like to dig in the snow.  It is kinda cute.

Trixie walking in the snow

Trixie walking in the snow

7) When I see a meme or post telling everyone to bring all their animals inside, I imagine our house filled with livestock!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Our woolly animals seemed to keep pretty warm most days this winter.  The livestock guardian dogs were fine.  The sheep were fine.   The horses were fine with their winter coats. The non woolly animals were more cold sensitive. The pigs stayed in their hut unless they were eating.  The calves had to stay in the barn with boards around their corral to keep out cold drafts.   Our Rosie dog could only be out for thirty minutes before she was ready to take refuge in the house.

Pups playing in the snow.

Pups playing in the snow.

8) Winter does have a few perks. The cold is necessary to kill off extra insects, like ticks and flies.  The cold also keeps the pig odors down to a minimum.  Plus, you don’t have to mow the lawn!

We are most looking forward to warmer weather so we can complete several projects on our docket.  What are you looking forward to?