Snow drift removal

It has been a long day. It started last night by the realization that I was not going to go to work, the wind was howling. When we went to bed the gusts were over 50 MPH and sustained winds over 40 MPH. It was a long night as the house creaked and swayed the entire time. In the morning when we checked the weather station our peak gust was 89.5 MPH! I did not look at our siding today but will need to inspect the entire outside tomorrow. My decorative windmill out in the ram pasture had a crooked tail before the storm. It is now missing its tail and one of the windmill vanes is missing. It is going to need a lot of TLC. Hopefully, I can salvage it. One of the front porch lights blew off last night, it got beat up by falling ice which cracked it then the wind finished it off. The ice breakers and gutters for the roof are moving up the priority list.

On my way down to the driveway I spotted the old lamb shed, it had been pushed off of the railroad ties it had been sitting on. about ten feet North of where it was. Last time the wind got this high it actually rolled the building onto its side. The roof shingles on Donna’s garage were blowing off also. the building is set 90 degrees to the direction of the wind which allows the shingles to just be lifted right off the roof.

I fired up the Kubota and Annmarie went out to the barn to do chores. We had not checked the driveway but it is prone to drifting so we figured it was drifted shut, we were right. It took me three hours to get the 1/4 mile of driveway cleared with at least an eight foot wide path down the middle. This just kept going on and on. I had lots of clothes on and still had to go back inside and put on my warm snow boots instead of my muck boots at one point.

The temperature heated up over freezing and the wind had cleaned off a lot of snow, so much so that the chickens actually came out of the coop and scrounged in the compost pile that had been building for days.

After I went and dug out two more friends I made it home after seven hours out on the tractor. I dumped off the bucket and got the forks installed. I grabbed a large bale and headed into the barn lot. Yep, even though the barn lot looked clear it was not. I managed to beat through three different drifts and got into the cow area. I went down over the culvert and hit a huge drift on the uphill side. The tractor kept sliding down toward the six foot drop off! I finally just stopped and parked the tractor and walked away. I was just going to dump the tractor over into the spring and then it would have been super painful to get out, neighbors, favors and fence cutting to get enough equipment in to pull it out. It was just not worth it.

The forever shower once I came in and the early bedtime was well deserved.

I managed to dig the tractor out with my little tractor a shovel and 1/3 yard of gravel the next day.

Winter Routine, not!

I went out Sunday morning to do the barn chores and found the horse in the old milking enclosure. Mind you, the day before Sarah and I had lowered the panel to prevent the horse from getting in as she had done the day before. I have no idea how she got in, she must have gotten down on her knees and army crawled in! She was a little perturbed about being trapped and as I was working on getting the panel down she kept coming up to push on it. I had to shoo her away as I needed to reef on the panel to get it out and did not want to smack her in the nose with the panel. She might take offense at that.

We fed the sheep, who are being picky eaters. We have some wonderful green hay and some not very good hay. I am feeding it out 50/50 right now and the sheep are not eating the lousy hay, which tells me that they are wasting the good hay by only looking for the choicest morsels. So the 50/50 will continue as the good hay needs to stretch out. I have a new plan for haying in the spring and I am simply not going to let the hay get as dry. I have a moisture tester and used it last year. But I am baling the round bales fairly loosely, and the bales are drying out after they are baled. I am going to experiment with the bales and if necessary the first weeks worth of bales will be stored outside and not stacked super tight and used first in the winter!

I had noticed that someone was cribbing our new ram enclosure. I suspected the horse but it was fairly low and could have been the sheep. After catching the horse in the old milking area I am convinced it is the fat horse trying to get to more hay. I used a tie down to make the hole smaller so even if she keeps cribbing she cannot get into the ram area. This summer we will build it up and make the exterior match the barn.

Since it is the new year I continued on my annual cleaning and organizing trend. I stopped the stairway fan, vacuumed it off and then wiped it down.
When I was doing the same to our large stained glass light I found a solid layer of dust on it and two of the six lightbulbs were burnt out. I ended up having to wipe the whole thing down and vacuum down the walls to remove dust laden cobwebs. I am forever grateful I had enough foresight to cut the access holes into the bathroom walls to allow easy access to the stairway ceiling. The stairway is a lot brighter now!

Cold day

We have officially had our coldest night of 2021 last night! It got down to -6.7 F per our thermometer last night. I waited for it to warm up before going outside to do morning chores – it was 8 F. This doesn’t sound much warmer but it really is a lot warmer than negative numbers. I dressed up in four different layers. I will admit the two stockings on my head was overkill and did make it a little too warm when I was out in the barn feeding. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I was even able to find a couple of places that still had undisturbed snow to take some pictures. We still have six ewes that need to give birth and they are not having lambs any time soon. It is crazy how much the old ram spread out his affection. We have been lambing for over four months now. The old ram comes over and visits us when we go into the barn lot. He wants scritches and some more food, fortunately for us he is teaching the new ram that we are the source of all that is good. I have been able to pet on the new ram several times and I have not even fed him any grain yet.

The cows up above and down below all got some supplemental hay bales tossed out today. They can root through the bales and pick out the grain heads and use the straw as filler. I will feed them supplemental hay again tomorrow. This just stretches the large bales that we are feeding. When I went down to feed the lower cows the alpaca had pushed them away from the feeder and the cows were down by the schoolhouse wandering around. I drove the tractor in circles to flatten the snow to create a spot to toss out the bales. The cows came running when they heard the tractor!

I told Annmarie I would start in on some of the winter projects. One of which is to make frames for the upstairs bathroom closet. But before I could do that I needed to clean off the shelves. This led to a very large give away pile and the joy of space bags being realized. The space bags made short work of all the extra blankets and pillows. I found three more Pendleton wool blankets buried and we had even taken them to the dry cleaners at one point as they all were still in their bags with tags. Annmarie is going to order the heavy duty magnets and I will make the frames and install the magnets on the cabinet faces and the frames. We are then going to cover the frames with fabric. There will be three frames for each side so you will only need to remove one frame to access what you want. Once I get the bathroom door back on there will be no room for cabinet doors. The magnetic frames is a great space saver for this tight spot.

Snow Day

This word means a different thing on the farm. It has been quickly building up a snow pack over the last two days. I was working at the paying job and was still able to get down the driveway in my Ford Focus. The Focus is really the litmus test for when I need to get the tractor out and clean off the driveway. I managed to get out of the driveway Thursday morning at 0430. It was a close call but I managed to do it! This meant that I knew all of Friday would be a Snow Day. Removing snow all day long was the plan. Now this would have been easy to do if I had my six foot adjustable snow blade to go on the front of the new Kubota tractor. It can even adjust the angle so the snow just gets pushed to the outside of the road. This would be so cool but the blade, which I ordered in the spring is still not at the tractor dealer. The three point large bale spear lift just showed up two weeks ago. I expect the snow blade to show up this spring.

Sarah and I went out to feed this morning and Annmarie wanted us to convert one of the horse stalls into a shelter for the four sheep/rams/weathers. The wind is blowing in snow so she wanted us to stop that somehow and make a spot to feed the sheep that the horse cannot get into. So we raided the wood stash in the machine shed and went out to the barn and built something!

Sarah shoveled the walkway while I started in on the driveway. I fed the upper cows 8 bales of hay to supplement the big bale. I will do that all weekend with our grain hay that got too dry. The cows supplement with it and eat all of the grain out of it. I did offer to shovel the walkway if Sarah fed the cows, she did not think that was a fair trade.

I spent another three hours pushing snow around the house, the driveway and down to the gate so that Donna can walk down and let the alpaca into the lower cow pasture to eat hay. I then drove into town the two miles to dig out my mother next. I had pretty well bundled up but driving down the road at 20 mph in 12 F temperature is pretty cold. I was quite cold by the time I got back to the house. I went out to do the evening chores. I force pet the horse, its what I call it when I talk to her and pet on her before feeding her, she lays her ears back and lets me touch her! I opened up the outside barn door, fed the horse and then went inside and started feeding the sheep and getting the barn all locked up. I was coming back for the fourth bale of hay when I noticed all four boy sheep were in the hay room eating the grain I had set out for the momma sheep! I had forgotten about them and my habit is to leave the outer door open so the last little bit of sunlight lights up the interior. I had to keep shoving them out the door and even with the grain in my arms out of their reach as fast as I shove 1-2 out the door the other 2 jump back in. It took a while to get them all out and the door firmly latched shut. After a 30 minute shower I was finally warm again.

Alpaca self thinned

I had to go out again this morning and run the tractor over the driveway. The snow just keeps coming down, there is over 18” on the ground. I even went down to the pregnant cows and drug a path through the snow to the water and flattened a spot under a tree. They had already knocked down the snow all around the feeder. I went up to check on the upper feeder cows and had to drag a path out to them. They had about 1/3 of a bale so I went out and broke up a bale and scooped it up a few large flakes at a time. I then drove those out to them and tossed them over the fence. When I was cutting open the large bale I discovered that one of the white alpaca had died last night. It was not even frozen or stiff yet, it was curled up sheltered between two large bales. The alpaca are old and we are going to have to look for a few more this summer. So if you know of someone within 120 miles that wants to get rid of their male alpaca we are willing to pick them up and give them a forever home. Unfortunately, we can only take males as we do not want any cria, no baby alpaca! The snow is so deep I was unable to move the body up to the boneyard. I could not even get it out of the field, the snow was just too deep. So I blocked the gate with the body so I will be able to find it when the snow goes away.

I spent the rest of the day trying to get the bathroom wired with our final choices. I installed all of the push button switches and started in on the outlets. I got the lights in but initially had the sconces turned upward. Annmarie came up and looked at it and stated that we had talked about it before and wanted the scones turned downward. So I went back and fixed them and turned them all downwards. They look better turned downwards! I still have three outlets to wire up before I am done in the bathroom. I do need to install a closet light still.

We have had three more lambs born this week. I will have to update the data soon. We tagged the twins, both girls, and turned them loose into the main herd tonight. Annmarie had told me on Friday that I needed to bring the gloves and come to the barn. The Gloves are shoulder length OB vinyl gloves used to be able to reach up inside the sheep and pull out babies. This is never a good sign. Luckily the mother was not in distress so I did not have to intervene. I dread having to use my nursing skills on the sheep.