Weathering the Cold Snap

Ice Feathers on Window

Several people emailed asked if we were okay with the cold weather. We and the livestock are doing okay. I think that deep cold weather like this is harder on people who are not used to dealing with it, where it is a surprise rather than part of the pattern of life.

Dealing with winter, or any weather, largely a matter of thinking ahead, of planning. You can tell when the weather will turn like this because the stars get so sharp from the lack of moisture in the air up high. The horizon is a knife edge of clarity. That’s a warning. It generally builds over a few nights.

When it gets this cold we hunker down after putting out lots of extra hay to the animals in anticipation of the cold snap. During these periods we do less in the way of outdoor chores, just the basics, focusing more of our attention indoors on plastering the walls of the butcher shop, metal working, reading and such. The livestock do the same, spending less time out and about and more time snuggled in.

Hay is piled strategically because tractor doesn’t like to start when it gets this cold. If necessary we can flip big round bales by hand to the animals. We could start the tractor with the block heater and juicer but it is better for the equipment not to do so when it gets this cold. If we did start it then it should run for an hour or more to prevent damage to the engine, transmission and hydraulics. Idling is necessary contrary to the nonsense they’re putting in the newspaper. Otherwise you could damage equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars and it will cost many thousands to fix it. False economy for a gallon of diesel.

We setup our farm so that it takes advantage of the natural lees to stay out of the wind and also to drain the cold air down further into the valley. Sleeping spaces, springs and way troughs are tucked in to take advantage of these microclimates.

Dogs on Snow

The dogs seem to love this weather – they’re built for the arctic with their thick double coats, high metabolisms and huge snowshoe paws. Interestingly the coyote pack to our north was mobilized during this cold snap so our pack worked over time. For wild ones it is do or die. Daring into our pastures is a good way to die there so they skirt around us over the ridge avoiding our pack although the two groups talk back and forth about the issue.

A few litters of piglets were born during the extreme cold, one last night when it was 24°F below zero. They seem to be doing fine. Deep bedding packs, shelter from the wind and the sows’s 103°F body heat all help. Hovers and creeps make a difference. Open greenhouses would be great but not something we have setup this year.

Today the chickens, ducks, geese and pigs are out walking around in the sunshine but go to bed early with the combination of dark and cold. I saw the geese taking a bath in their running spring waterer this morning. With it being below zero but the water being 40°F I suspect it feels toasty to them.

Oddly we got about twelve inches of snow during the extreme cold. It was very fluffy – the wind quickly packed it down to about 6″. Or maybe it blew some away. Snow in the deep cold is unusual and when it happens is very dry and light. It can come, settle and then all blow away into the woods. Typically when it gets extremely cold no snow falls as the humidity is so low the moisture just isn’t there to precipitate. I’ve seen this happen before but it isn’t common. The snow helps blanket everything and provide some insulation so it is appreciated.

Stay warm, out of the wind and don’t touch metal.

Outdoors: -24°F/-1°F Sunny 12″ Snow packed to 6″
Tiny Cottage: 59°F/53°F

Daily Spark: How many ice breakers could an ice breaker break out if an ice breaker hadn’t gotten stuck breaking ice trying to rescue a bunch of climate alarmist on a frozen jaunt in ship in Antartica in the middle of the southern hemisphere’s summer? Two so far… Two more standing by ready to get stuck…

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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5 Responses to Weathering the Cold Snap

  1. US too. Lots of contacts from family wondering how we are as it is impossible for them to understand how anyone would actually GO outside in this stuff. Both hubbies and I grateful for our MUCK boots this winter. Learned about them from you years ago. Keith got anew pair under the tree this year, the “artic” version and he is very comfy in a below freezing weather and high winds…well at least his feet are.

  2. June says:

    I have read before where you talk about not touching metal but I never appreciated what you meant. I had a strange problem this morning. It has never been this cold before. I came out to find a pig stuck to the nipple waterer. It was just standing there and I didn’t realize what was happening at first. Once I figured it out I poured warm water on and it freed up (yeah! me! for thinking!). Then I got to thinking you guz must run into this a lot with it getting so cold and then I realized you have a thing about not touching metal in the winter and I realized your troughs are not made of metal and you don’t use nipple watters – they’re metal too. Now I understand! Brrr! I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this all the time.

    BTW – the nipple waterer was ruined. Frozen solid and cracked or something. It won’t work now. The pig seems okay.

  3. michael says:

    I am discovering that genetics are worth their weight in gold. We just had our first winter farrowing. Our sow is in a deep bed pack and is under a hog panel / hoop style green house. It is noticeably warmer in her shelter. Animals (pigs in particular) seem to be a lot more resilient and hardy then most folks give them credit for. Adverse weather conditions (coupled with the farmers prep.) also seem to be a good litmus test! Thanks for sharing all of your hard work. Does your when eve freeze? Or do you go through it fast enough?

    • “Eve”? Do you mean whey or water? Neither normally although both have happened. We insulate the tanks, use ground contact, micro-climates, the whey is replenished every day or two and the water flows from the springs continuously. The other thing that helps is ducks. “Ducks” you ask incredulously…? Yes, ducks. You see, ducks get up in the middle of the night and go take a drink of water. This keeps their waterers free and open. If they’re in with pigs it means the pigs waterers stay open. Funny little detail. :)

  4. David lloyd Sutton says:

    One night, my window next my bed open for coolth in the middle of a Santa Barbara summer, I discovered why the lettuce beds on the north side of my studio were being destroyed. I’d been blaming wildlife, as all of my chickens, ducks, and geese were well fenced far from those beds. Turns out that mallards, at least, fly quite well in the dark and they were descending like feathery ornithopters on my innocent lettuces. Ravaging ensued. The next morning I descended on my flock of garden bandits and scissored all right wing feathers short. Sharia law for waterfowl.

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