Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Confronting the Cold

It has been all over the news, but we have had some of the coldest weather I can really remember and certainly the coldest temperatures and windchill since I started farming. On Monday, the  high temperature was -3 F and the low was -14 F with wind chills driving temperatures to around -50. We just got back from vacation Sunday night late and the temperatures were an unpleasant surprise to come home to. They even canceled my daughter's preschool on account of the cold Monday and Tuesday.

When I got home the cows had broken through a temperate fence and hunkered down in and around the hay bales for cover. After two very tight flights hauling kids through the airport as fast as we could go, I did not have the energy to extract the cattle from the hay bales and get them more shelter that night. Luckily, I had moved the sheep inside the building before I left for vacation in preparation for lambing in a few weeks. The building was a whopping 10 degrees Monday morning, still more then 20 degrees warmer then outside. Luckily, sheep chores did not get more difficult because of the cold weather.

Sheep inside our farm building

The chickens require a little more attention in this weather. This is the first time since I built the new building that I had to break thick ice on the unheated chicken water buckets. I am also collecting eggs twice per day so we limit the likelihood of having eggs freeze. Since we use roll away nesting boxes, where the eggs roll forward away from the hen to a collection grove, the hens are not usually sitting on the eggs to keeping them warm. 

Frozen chicken waters

Chickens that are happy to drink again

The cows proved the most challenging to deal with and are most of why I spent three hours outside Monday choring. The first thing I did, was to get the cattle a new bale of hay. So, I rolled a bale down the hill and pushed it over on its side before cutting the bale wrap off and putting the bale ring around it. The bale they we eating on before they broke into the hay was 3/4 gone and was quite exposed to the wind. I then had to pop some sheep net out of the ground using a hammer and pry bar so the cattle could get back to their water and also make use of the outside sheep shelters, since the sheep were inside the building. 

Cattle moved to the south side of the building

Cattle in a more sheltered place

Cattle now making use of the outside sheep shelters

 Then I had to cut the cattle off from getting into my bales of hay. I started by setting up some temporary posts and running a temporary fence line. I had to take a cordless drill and make holes in the ground for each of the half dozen posts.

Temporary electric fence posts put in with the aid of a cordless drill

 I also had to open the cattle water. I love my Cobett waterer, but that was the worst ice I had ever seen on the thing. It was 4 inches thick where the cattle last drank from it and 6 inches on the other side of the waterer. It took several minutes of work with the hammer and pry bar, but I got it open and then the cows, who were impatiently waiting for me, started drinking.

Thick ice on the Cobett cattle water

The cows swarm the Cobett once the ice is off

Lastly, I had to deal with the little things that happen when you move livestock into an area you don't usually have them. I had to reconnect that section of fence to my electrified fence because I had cut the supply line a year or two back for some forgotten reason. The I found that several calves decided to escape through a gap in the the wood fence that I had always intended to close off. So, that project got completed  and the calves got rounded up and returned to the pasture, but not before I chased them around the house yard far longer then I would have liked given the temperature.

Former small gap in the fence that the calves decided to exploit

All and all it is good to be home. It is hard traveling with children and it is nice to work on getting them back into a routine. I think my Son is the happiest to be home since he is not nearly as outgoing as his sister. It could also be that he was tired of ridding around in the back seat of a mini van with his father for several days. 
Watching Daddy int he back of the mini van

I am looking forward to preschool opening up again and life retuning to normal,  but Hazel and I did enjoy a morning of playing with Duplo blocks together.  I will keep you posted as the weather moderates and I get a chance to tackle some farm projects that could use my attention. 

Showing Daddy the rolling Duplo tower