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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