December 9, 2013

Winter Weather

Winter's first storm has come to Oklahoma. Thursday evening I carefully inched down the icy hill to the horse barn. I slipped once but caught myself. Friday morning we had four inches of snow on top of that icy layer. Protected yet hampered by ski-pants, I fell twice on the way down the hill. I eventually managed to finish the morning chores in just under two hours, with three trips to the house to refill my hot water jugs.

I've spent many winters in the Midwest, in New England, and in Iceland. And yet I've forgotten that winter wear is heavy, and that snow hides the holes and the rocks and makes it difficult to walk.

I've kept detailed notes during past storms. They are helpful when fall is here and I'm preparing for winter, and especially when a storm is on the way. Simple things like the time the latch was covered with ice on the trailer where I keep the feed, and that frozen snow once made it impossible to open a gate to care for the chickens. We've since moved the trailer to a different spot so the door is protected from the worst of the wind and precipitation. Clearing the snow along the gates is high priority, before it can freeze solid and immovable.

Some of my notes read:
"The bottles of water in the unheated mudroom stayed liquid until the outside temperature reached about 3°, much lower than I expected, and even then they did not freeze solid. The bottles that were stored in boxes fared even better. One night I left a 2-liter bottle of water in the barn, set inside a plastic coffee can; it too did not freeze even though others did."

"Water in metal buckets freezes first, then the plastic buckets, then the black rubber buckets. Where possible, our water troughs and buckets are in the sun so that the solar heat will thaw them more quickly."

"Move the sledge hammer to a protected (so that it won't freeze to the ground) but accessible place; use to break ice on the water troughs."

I worry about the horses drinking enough water. We don't have a tank heater for their trough - or a place to plug one in - since the barn fire. I break the ice in their trough several times a day with the sledge hammer, but of course it freezes again. I haul warm water to them, but the old saying is true: "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink". Their tracks in the snow are proof that they've been drinking out of the pond though, thankfully. As soon as we can find a tank heater in stock we will buy one, and this summer hubby will run a new outside outlet.

A black rubber feed pan holds my chickens' water in the winter. I can turn it over, thump the bottom, even twist it to dislodge the ice without breaking the pan, unlike the red-and-white chicken waterers that tend to crack when the water inside freezes.

What do you do to prepare for storms?

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  1. Good things to remember, thank you.

    We use the black rubber pans for water as well. They fare much better than plastic or metal.


  2. Thank you, Fern. I'm slowly moving toward black rubber buckets as well as feed pans. I have one that I use to soak horses' legs if they need an epsom salt soak. They won't destroy it by putting their weight on that leg in the bucket.

  3. It seems like we are never prepared for storms. Next year we too are running power out to all our outbuildings and getting electric buckets for our birds. We have the larger black rubber tubs for outside but I think I will get more of the smaller ones too.

  4. That is a great idea keeping little notes! Luckily we dont get bad winter weather here even though sometimes it would be nice to have some snow.

  5. Keeping notes is a great idea. Since we're in a new place this year, we'll be learning as we go this winter and notes would really help us along I think. Stay warm out there!

  6. Kelly, it would take one giant extension cord to run power to any of my buildings unfortunately, and it would have to go across the barnyard as well. My critters have to rough it. But I can move the horses' water trough as close to the house as possible and run one cord to that for a tank heater. The dog and cats will drink out of that as well, and I can dip water from that for the goats and chickens.

    By the way, I love the name of your farm. Our dog is named Cracker.

  7. Nadine and Jody, keeping notes really helps. I started because we lost power during one storm and were in the dark for several days, so it was something to do as well as a way to document what did and didn't work. All those notes have been invaluable in later winters.

  8. I love your beautiful winter snow pictures. Our storms here in Australia consist of a lot of water and a lot of wind. In preparation we close all windows, doors, gates, pens, and make sure our animals are secure and safe. Then we watch the storm and hope everything is OK when we emerge. :-)

  9. Those sound like rather violent storms!

  10. Cindy Mc in OK7:50 AM

    Thanks for the tip on the black rubber pan. We were just discussing what to try. The water for the chickens has been a battle this week. Will have to grab one at Atwoods.

  11. If you have electric near your chicken coop, you can make a heater for the chickens' waterer as shown here:

    But if you don't, like me, the black rubber feed pan works great for their water. You still have to haul water several times a day, but you can turn it over, thump the bottom, and if necessary you can twist it to dislodge the ice inside, then refill with warm water. My girls love drinking the steaming hot water! They haven't knocked it over and spilled it, which was my main concern.

  12. I smiled when you talked of hauling water to the horses. I've been doing the same, carrying between 3-5 gal every couple of hours. However, I remind myself when I was growing up the horses often stayed out for days through the winter without coming up to water. They had over 600 acres of prairie to roam, and they would ate the snow to get their water. By their own choice they didn't come in. There was no creeks or other sources of water, just the horse trough at the barn.

    While I don't recommend letting your horses go long without water (they need the water to help with their metabolism during the cold weather), they are often much hardier than we give them credit.

    Back home, they would shelter in a coulee on a cold night (again by choice-they could have come up to the barn), their backs covered with ice. The ice actually acted as an insulator. They'd come in with clumps of ice on the bottom of their hooves. I often marveled that they didn't have more leg injuries from the balls of ice they walked on, but I can't think of a time when such an injury occurred because of the ice.

    The wide-open spaces of the prairies are horses' natural habitat. Because we have domesticated them, we find we need to give them more care. Nothing wrong with that.

    So don't stress over them not drinking. You can check for signs of dehydration when you check them over for other injuries, but as long as they have salt and water available at their convenience, they're probably just fine.

  13. It's great that you keep notes for the winter! We have problems with the gate to the chicken run freezing and I always forget about it until it happens. We use the black rubber pans for water too and they work great. I can just throw them on the ground and stomp the bottom and the ice comes out.

  14. Thank you, Lynn. I recently saw a cartoon of two horses, one with a light blanket and one with several blankets on, it was really bundled up. The first horse asked the second "what happened to you?" The second answered "my mom is cold". Yes, they are hardier than we think. Thank you for reminding me that they will be ok. :-)

  15. Hi Tammy, aren't those black rubber pans great? I have yet to destroy one. The horses mangled the bail on a black rubber bucket but didn't hurt the bucket itself.

  16. Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! Glad that the horses found their way to the pond. Hoping your winter is a mild one!


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