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February 7, 2011

The Big Snow

It was the Storm of the Century!!!!! Oh wait, what about the Christmas Eve Blizzard in '09? I'm not sure which was worse.

So, how much snow did we get last week? I really can't tell you, because the wind whipped it around so much that there is no way to get a true measurement. In some places the ground was swept down to an inch of snow; in other spots the drifts were well above my knees. The weather map estimated that our area received 12" of snow on top of the sleet that fell first.

We had several days' notice of the storm, so we were ready. The power stayed on, thankfully. Our internet was out for a day, but we had heat, a very important thing when the low temperatures are near zero and the windchills are even lower.

Tuesday morning, during the storm, I dressed in about sixteen layers of clothes and went out to feed. I started the "chuckwagon" vehicle and let it warm up, fed the goats in the barn, measured the horses' feed and put their hay on the cart.

I started the drive to the horse barn, but within ten feet I managed to get stuck in a drift and ultimately burned out the clutch. Instead of being fed in their separate places in and around the horse barn, I had to pour the horses' feed in piles on the snow and let them argue about who got what. It wasn't pretty.

The ATV got stuck in a drift. The tractor wouldn't start so we couldn't use it to move snow. I learned that it's extremely hard to walk in about sixteen layers of clothes through snow drifts well over my knees.

My biggest problem: My chicken coop is inside my goat yard. I couldn't open the gate to the goat yard to get to the chickens due to the snow (the goats were in the barn, not in the yard). So, over the fence I went, only to realize that I couldn't open the door to the chicken coop either.

Fortunately, there is a four-foot-high gate into their run, and the wind had blown the snow clear there. After struggling to open the rusty unused latch, I managed to get it open and could stoop over and crawl in. I'd left the "hatch door" from the run to the coop open (kind of by mistake) so I was able to feed them in the run. I put out a pan of water and added more several times a day. One of my hens froze to death.

Obviously I need a back-up plan for the chickens: when we're expecting snow, I need to be able to put them somewhere in the goat barn. I'll have to come up with a temporary coop plan, or at least a place to put every empty cage we own so they won't be too crowded together.

Hubby spent two days trying to get the tractor started so he could move snow easily, but it was just too cold for the battery. On the third day, he got the vehicles dug out and ready to go somewhere. First he took the ATV out our gate and partway down the hill road, and had a great deal of trouble getting back up the hill to the gate.

We'd watched the road grader go by, pushing snow to the side of the road. Occasionally a neighbors' 4x4 truck would go by on the way to feed cattle in other pastures. Our mail was delivered twice in three days, by a 4x4 truck. A neighbor boy in his very late teens walked toward the blacktop road dragging a rolling suitcase - I guess he'd had enough of the isolation.

Finally on the fourth day, hubby put chains on the pickup truck and headed to town. For snow to stay on the Oklahoma ground this long is extremely unusual, and the weather forecast was not promising, so he brought home more dog food and livestock feed just in case. Sure enough, that day we had another 3.5" of snow. The tractor started with a new battery, and he plowed the snow from the driveway.

I'm learning how to drive the ATV to haul the horses' feed to the barn. (Walking down a slippery hill carrying buckets of grain, surrounded by horses, is NOT a good idea. The planned feed room in the barn is not yet built.) Upon examination, hubby says it looks like the clutch is ok on my vehicle, but a belt broke; he'll replace that when we can buy a replacement belt in town.

On the fifth day the sun came out, the daytime temperature topped out in the 40's and water dripped loudly from the roofs. What a sweet sound! I could see bare ground in one little spot in the front yard. The threshold of the horse barn turned to mud. (I don't complain about mud.) And yesterday we had rain - rain, not snow - which also helped the melting process. We're on our way back to normal! Unless Wednesday brings more snow like they're predicting...

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