Moving the manure pile.

What does it mean when I’m sharing an activity such as the moving of the manure pile? No need to contemplate, I’ll tell you. It means winter is too long!!! exclamation point, exclamation point…

But no fear, for March is here! It may get worse before it gets better (as March is known to do) but hoping it doesn’t. “Hope” the trait of every farmer. Fact is, we’re on the home stretch! Spring is just around the corner. (I need to remind myself.)

The manure pile was spreading. Spr-ead-ing. There’s only so much snow you can push a wheelbarrow through. Then the pile itself becomes a snow trap. You can tell how far the manure pile was reaching by the first picture. It’s near the front tire of the tractor. We don’t have a tractor with a bucket, so we called our neighbour and hired him to do the work for us.

My apologies on the quality.  It was dusk when the pictures were taken. Days are still short and you do things when you can.

Thanks, neighbour! It’s so much appreciated!

In case you’re wondering why he didn’t use the snowblower on the back of his tractor, it’s because there is too much frozen manure.  Snowblowers are only good for blowing snow and nothing else. Anything hard or frozen breaks it.

A small (small!) part of me wants some fresh snow so we can toboggan down the manure pile. It’s huge! We don’t have any hills around here on the prairie, only manmade ones.

Snow, snowy snow

I didn’t think saying it once was enough. 🙂 We’ve been very fortunate this year with the amount of snow we’ve gotten, or lack of.  Yesterday, in fact went up to a pleasantly melting +7C (45F)!  It started snowing last evening and we woke up to quite the blanket.  School was cancelled in our area and my guys couldn’t get to work.  It’s been accumulating all day.  So it’s been a rather quiet, snowy day by the woodstove.  I’ve got homemade buns cooling and a pot of hot chili on the stove.  Time to do the milking, then supper around the table, and a relaxing evening.  Here’s a few pictures from today:

Stuck in a winter rut

 

Winters are very monotonous. Always have been here on the Canadian prairies where winters are long. Well, here I am again… stuck in a rut. I’m not looking for drama, not even adventure, just something… different. Really, I’m not asking for much. One day is looking a lot like the next. Oh, sure, sometimes the weather changes. That’s a topic for discussion! But it’s short lived (and not very interesting).

Every morning I rise to do the animal chores. Shovel the same manure, feed the same animals. Pour the same milk and clean the same jars. I really am thankful for my life, I wouldn’t change it for anything. But repetitive days can wear on a person until you are ready to do something outrageous! Oh, I’m not quite there yet. Sorry to disappoint you. (Unless staying up late to blog counts?) I’d like to take care of this feeling before I do something silly.

I’m really looking forward to spring, as I do every year. And, undoubtedly it will come, some time in April, hopefully. In the meantime, I need to find something different!!!

Do you ever get stuck in a rut?

Brrr!

That sums up the bone-chilling temperatures we’re having right now.  If you’ve never experienced this kind of cold, let’s see if I can give you an idea.

-26 F at twilight this morning

Normally when you think of cold, you think of snow.  When it’s this cold, it doesn’t snow.  The consolation is the sun shines and it shines brightly!  Sometimes we see sundogs.

Behind a closed window blind.

I bundle up in my parka, toque, and ski mitts to go out and do the animal chores.  The wind bites at my face like hundreds of tiny needles.  Exposed skin can freeze in a matter of minutes.  Beneath my feet the snow has changed from the low sound of crunch to a high pitched squeak with every step.

As my mechanic hubby says, “This is when things break”.  Cars don’t go without the block heater being plugged in for several hours.  So when the power went out last night, we were all up, stoking the wood stove and starting the cars.  To get to work this morning, the engine needs to be kept warm but without electricity to power the block heater, starting the engine is the only way to do that.  It will start as long as it’s done soon after the power goes out and before the block heater has a chance to cool down too much.  Thankfully the power was out for only 1 hour and 40 min.

Frosted steer! Is that frozen drool?

The waterlines in the barn froze while the power was out.  There really wasn’t much we could have done about that.  The animals were all fine, though.  I spent 45 min. this morning with a hairdryer defrosting the waterlines, and hauling water to Happy.  A milk cow drinks a lot of water.  She needs a lot of water.

The temperatures are expected to stay this low for a couple more days.  We usually manage okay when it comes for a day or two but when it continues for more than that, it really starts to take it’s toll on the farm.

Those warm summer days in the garden seem so far away right now… (yes, we get those too)

Have you felt this kind of cold?
How cold does it get where you are?

Winter watering challenges

Have you every thought about watering animals in sub zero temperatures? Most people don’t. Unless, of course you live where winter is 5 months out of the year. Here’s how we do it.

Floating water heater

We are below freezing everyday now so summer water troughs freeze solid. You can get floating and submersible water heaters and we do use one. I think that is the usual solution for most farm people here. We took it a step further and hubby built an insulated water trough out of a plastic storage bin. Last winter, with just one calf drinking from it, we kept it full by carrying 2 five gallon pails of water every few days. This winter, that one calf is a yearling and we have a milk cow. Milk cows drink a lot of water! The trough is emptied daily by these two. How to keep the trough full? (not hauling 2 five gallon pails 3 times a day!) Hubby built a sled for it so we can slide it to the barn, fill it up and slide it back. This we do everyday. A lot of work but a solution until we come up with something better.

Insulated water trough on a sled

We had a really cold night already this week. It dipped to -30C (-22F). Inside the barn kept quite warm but during the day while Happy was outside, it cooled down to the point that there was ice on the water bowls and the lines were frozen. Now, the decision is made, do we drain the waterlines and haul buckets of water to the cows? Or do we install a heater and keep the barn warm? Already filling the outside water trough daily, you can guess which option we chose.

Water bowl in the far corner

I already have a heater in the chicken part of the barn to keep the waterline from freezing. We opened the door between the two areas to help keep them both warm. Not too warm, just warm enough. We blocked the doorway so the chickens and ducks stay where they belong but air can flow.

How do you water your animals when it’s freezing out?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Sustainable Eats, Culinary Bliss, and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

Winter update

It’s been a long winter with just a few things going on. I thought I’d give you some of the highlights.

Christmas was quiet on the farm with just my immediate family. I cooked one of my home grown turkeys and we ate it for a week! So good, though. The new year brought my brother home from Europe. We had a really nice visit, catching up and playing Wii!

We had several losses on the farm this winter. A mink got into the barn and killed 2 of my ducks. The mink didn’t live long to tell his tale, my dog got him! Extra biscuits for Lucy, she’s earned them.

The heifer was down one day. I did all I could for her but in the end she didn’t make it. Doesn’t take a calf long to turn when it doesn’t get up.

The last loss was one of our goats, Cap. She hadn’t been herself before but seemed to rebound. This time she didn’t. 😦 As all my goats have reached their life expectancy, I chalked it up to that.

The rest of the animals seem to be doing quite well. Some of those very cold winter nights were really hard on them. I know they will be as glad to see spring as I will! The hay we got in the fall didn’t last and we had to get another 10 bales. We had to dig out the door into the shed so hopefully they’ll last until the snow is gone.

We have so much snow! Chores are harder everyday. I have never seen this much snow in the goat pen! Where we built the calf shed last fall changed the way the snow drifts. I stopped using the gate into the goat pen in January some time. I’ve been walking up the drift and stepping over the fence around the back side. I broke the water pan for the chickens. It was so cold it cracked. Broke the duck water pan and blew through 4 water pails for the goats.

That’s about it around here. It’s the time of year we all are sick of winter and are just hanging in there hoping spring comes soon.

And winter goes on and on… and on

The farm falls into a daily routine these days. Get up, have breakfast, do the chores, (not much between) , make supper, evening television, then to bed. I can see how a person could get cabin fever this time of year. There’s really nothing to break the monotony. Hobbies help! I knitted mittens, tried a couple new things in the kitchen, browsed seed catalogues, but that’s about it. I’ve been organizing and scanning family photos too. That’s made me feel very nostalgic.

I hope your winter is a little more exciting. What have you been up? Are you watching the Winter Olympics?

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!