Here in the Piedmont region of deep South, our winters are mild overall with the occasional snow fall, but in stead of snow we tend to get ice storms which bring down tree limbs and power lines, and create a phenomena known as black ice on the roads. If there is an actual snow storm with any accumulation, the snow is wet that gathers in a slushy layer that freezes over night into a solid sheet of ice that sends many a vehicle spinning into other cars and trucks, much like a pinball. We don’t have such events every winter, and when we do, the conditions rarely last more than a few days unlike other parts of the country where snow stays on the ground from December to March or longer.
Because of the infrequency that we experience such conditions, not to mention our temperatures rarely drop to less than 10 degrees below freezing, we sometimes get caught unprepared. I recall what I experienced earlier in life, the repercussions for not being prepared for winter weather. Usually, all we have to be concerned with is draining out the water hoses so they don’t freeze overnight. Tonight however, we are prepping for some of the coldest temperatures to ever hit our part of the world. Right now we are at a balmy 44 degrees F and according to Weather.com, we will climb to 46 by midnight but then we will descend into 30’s and then the 20’s by 5:00 tomorrow morning. We will stay below 25 degrees all day until we reach 6:00 pm when we get into the teens. According to the forecast, we will be in the teens over night until the mercury plummets even further around 3:00 Tuesday morning into the single digits until we hit a possible low of 0. Yes ZERO degrees according to some, but hey freezing is freezing right?
So we’ve wrapped the chicken coop in plastic and lined the walls with empty feed bags. Typically, we just keep their water fountains outside but we brought them in the coop so they don’t freeze solid and the ladies don’t have to be outside if they don’t wish. We’ve embraced the deep litter bedding method, partly out of laziness, but hopefully the layers of manure and carbon will generate enough heat to help the coop stay cozy.
Extra hay has been put out for all the cows. I have no qualms for the Dexters as they are super hardy and as a breed, they are known to withstand the worst winter weather, much like the ponies we had growing up. All they need is unlimited hay, each other, and a windbreak. Our Jerseys will get to come in the barn and bed down on straw so to keep one happily converting hay into milk and the other nourishing the new calf growing in her that is due to arrive in a couple of weeks. We put several tennis balls in the water troughs in hopes that will be enough to keep them from freezing over. Hank has been brought up out of the pasture to the currently empty calf nursery so he can bed down in the shed on a layer of straw. The kitties will get to entertain the fantasy that they are actually house cats for a few days and of course our Great Pyrenees Gabby, is as suited as Hank for the cold, but she prefers our company to his.
Our house was built in an era when heating was with wood/coal and oil and all you had to do to ensure you kept warm was to keep the fires going and put on another layer. The foundation was originally pillars that elevated the house 18 inches or so above the ground. At some point, the gaps were filled in with concrete blocks with vents left to allow for ventilation. I suppose we have repeated some of the same steps our predecessors took; blocking up the vents with feed sacks to keep the cold air out from under the house, piling up wood by the fireplace and adding an extra quilt to the bed.
Sadly, I will be off to my other job answering 911 calls on the fire truck when the worst temperatures hit so Katie will be dealing with farm life alone. I know she can because I know she is tougher than any man, including me. Any woman who has brought a new life into the world, especially without “pain management” has that distinction. She’s also survived kicks milking cows, rooster attacks, chasing after loose pigs and has stood side by side with me processing 100+ chickens in the freezing rain.
So if you’re going to be driving to work the next couple of days; leave early, drive slow, and don’t become a pinball.