Friday, January 5, 2018

Water Like A Stone

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

These are the first words of one of my Dad’s favorite hymns and we are surely in this phase of winter weather.  The bonus of this kind of weather is that all of the eggs my hens lay are sparkly clean.  There is nothing for hens to track into the nests.  Even their poop freezes almost as soon as it hits the air.

The downside is that their eggs are freezing almost as fast as they are laid.  This necessitates a couple of trips to the henhouse per day to gather them before they bust open.  Other things are freezing as well.  Although the henhouse is well insulated, it’s not heated.  That wouldn’t be practical and the hens and roosters can hunker down and let their feathers cover their feet, which are the most vulnerable part of their anatomy when it’s cold.

What they can’t cover is their combs.  When the temperatures drop below zero and stay there, then there will be some comb damage.  It doesn’t seem to hurt, but the rooster won’t be quite the dandy he was before. 

We are also watching carefully for lambs or calves.  Anything born in this weather needs to be dried off quickly by its mama so it can rise up and suck some colostrum.  When those two things happen in quick order, then newborns are usually fine as there is some protection in that first milk that acts like anti-freeze.  Our job is to scout the fields and watch for imminent signs of birth in the mamas. This is much easier said than done, because often the first sign is the mother heaving and straining.  We have some sheep and cows with shortened ears who suffered frostbite as babies. 

The dogs, who usually cuddle up together in one doghouse in the most severe weather, have even been allowed in on the mud porch.  Luke would be happy to stay in his bed all day, but Rex is antsy, asking to go out even in the bitterest winds.  Last night, he chased rabbits all night long.  We could hear his howling pursuit out in our front lot.  This morning he didn't seem any worse for the wear, but he did agree to take a nap.
Luke gives me puppy dog eyes when I ask him if he'd like to go out.

The worst part of such cold weather is the water. Every puddle, every stream, and every river is frozen.  
The merry stream behind our house is completely silent.

I know that the river in front of the house is flowing beneath the ice because I can hear it.

There is nothing for livestock or wildlife to drink unless they find the places where springs first rise up.  That water is 54 degrees and won’t freeze the first foot or two away from its inspiration.  

If you look closely, you can see a bit of live water where a spring rises up behind our house.  But it is frozen up a foot below this spot.

All the talk around our community is of chopping ice and trying to find ways to keep water tanks from freezing solid.
This tank was chopped open less than an hour ago and you can see that it's already re-frozen where it was opened up.

One farmer, at the basketball game last night, spoke of having to move a whole herd of cattle into another field.  When he chopped into their stream, he found no running water.  He said in his twenty years of farming that valley, he’d never seen anything like it.

Another farmer has been experimenting with bottles full of salt water, floating them in her water troughs to act as gateways to the liquid water beneath the ice.  She saw the idea on You Tube.  The video shows cattle pushing down on the bottles which, because they are full of salt water are less dense than the water in the trough.  They float and keep the top from freezing solid and then, when cattle push the  bottles below the ice, it leaves an open hole to drink from. 

She said that so far all that’s happened is that the bottles have frozen into the ice and are immovable.  She’s back to chipping and chopping little holes open by hand.
Annie and Midnight are glad to find the water tank.

This freeze up is supposed to last at least two more days.  I’d like to borrow from the Danes and cozy up my home with candles, then hunker down for the duration.  My farmer husband grins when I say that, then hands me my mittens.

Oh well, as the saying goes.  “There’s no such thing as bad weather.  Just bad clothing.”

Ready or not, here I come!