Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a beautiful day out on the lake..NOT!

My dear, dear husband decided today (well, actually a Friday ago), that instead of driving around the lake to get to OshKosh, we would drive straight across..EEKK!  The lake, Lake Winnebago, of course, is frozen. The ice is reported at 20 inches thick today. 

This is as we are coming down the hill to one of the many off ramps onto the water.  You can see the 'plowed road', on the ice.  There are actually two roads. You can just see the second one off to the right.

Uuugg. This doesn't look so hot. Maybe we should go back. Ack! He says, its fine.  The metal tracks are actually laid from shore onto the ice, over a large crack that had formed. #1 rule when driving on the lake? Take OFF your seatbelt!  #2 rule? Look out for the holes.

This is just off shore.  We chose the right hand road, and later switched to the left hand one. 

Notice the Christmas trees?  These are actually mile markers. The various fishing clubs around the lake are responsible for 'ice maintenance', so to speak. They plow the roads, and monitor other things. They also take a Christmas tree collection each year.  The members drive out on the lake and bore holes in the ice every 1/10th of a mile along the main plowed roads.  At the one mile out point, they put a very large tree. At the two mile out point, two trees together, three miles, three trees together and so on. Each club usually goes out 3-5 miles and meets up near the middle with the club from that area on the other side.  This way, if a person gets turned around, or snow blinded, they only have to find a tree line to help get back.  After sturgeon season is over, when the ice starts to first get 'funny', the clubs remove the trees, rather than let them fall to the bottom.

At this point we were so far from nowhere, all you could see was ice and snow. The road was very rough in some places, and it was a very sunny day. This caused a lot of surface melting, so there were places on the road with standing water. This was VERY scary, as you just can't see what is under there. At one point, we left the road due to a large dark spot of standing water that looked too scary to drive through. We almost got stuck several times, and I really had to go. You know, GO!

So here is the last photo. This was taken just after exiting the lake. Whew! It was a nice experience, really, but I never want to do it again. 

Three days later, the news said 3 trucks went through the ice and one man died. Again, I say... I never want to drive across the lake again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where the Longhorns Lie...

Ahh, Texas Longhorns. These cattle were bred for open scrub range, nasty freezing wind and no shelter.
Ours seem to do ok. They are a lot bonier than other beef cattle, and they don't seem to grow longer hair. I just can't figure out how they manage.

But, upon sneaking up on them in the dark, I discovered them in a pile. From left to right we have Peony, Penny, and Noodles.  Our bull, Black Out has his face neatly tucked in between the shoulders of his wives to protect his face from the bitter cold. Top and center is Pale Face, a mixed breed steer with his eyes squeezed shut, even though he was awake.

On an unrelated note, an update on Sad Lion's calf. He is doing great! Our daughter named him King Lion, and King of the cattle jungle he is.  He leaves mom to wander among the big herd at will, and I have found him sleeping far from where he is supposed to be on more than one occasion, and he is only 4 days old. What a stinker!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today's Special

This morning was the coldest morning of the year so far. Minus 10 at sunrise!  And wow, what a disaster we found upon awaking. Apparently the power went out around 11:30pm and didn't come on until 4am or so. Result?  Frozen cattle water. Ugg!  The line that runs to our cattle tank froze solid.  Chris wrapped hot towels around the faucet, afraid that it froze into the wall. He had to get at least the faucet itself thawed so he could shut it off and drain the line in the wall.

That was the first surprise.

The second, was Sad Lion had her calf around 11am this morning. It was bright, sunny and 10 degrees!
She did everything right and so far so good.

This is his first attempt to stand. We discovered he was having a problem because all her birth yuck froze into an ice slick.  So we drove her off and put some hay under him for traction.  Good thing there was no wind!

Isn't he cute? Solid grey.

                                                             She's a very good mother.

                                                                  He finally got up.
                                                                 Update tomorrow.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How was your blizzard?

It started snowing here sometime early Tuesday. Schools were shut down for 2 days. The wind picked up and the fight was on. We had 40+ mile an hour winds for 48 hours or so.

You can see in this photo, our mailbox seems to be having trouble holding position.

The picture above is the garden and the picture below is the farm down the street. These were taken on Tuesday as the sun was setting. That was the beginning of the worst night. Bitter cold wind, below freezing temperatures, and heavy snow fall (sideways mind you) all night long.

On Wednesday morning, the wind subsided for a few hours. Just enough time for us to shovel paths to the animals. We actually shoveled, with Chris in a skid loader from about 6:30 am until just before dark. The cows were in 2 feet of snow, all over and it all had to be moved to get to their feeders.

This is some of them, patiently waiting for paths to be shoveled so they could get to their hay.  When the wind picks up, they tend to group together and turn away from the wind.  The snow melts on their warm coats, and then solidifies into chunks of ice like armor.

The picture above, I took off the back deck. On the right, you can see the corner of the smoke house. That drift ran from the front of the goat runs, past the smoke house, across the back yard and connected to the edge of the house. It was so tall, the dog couldn't get over it. Measured from the dirt, just shy of 5 feet.
The picture below is the back garage door. We had to shovel from the yard to get to it. The drift almost completely covered the door. There was no getting it open from the inside!

Then, the wind picked up again, and the fight resumed. Unfortunately, tragedy struck. We lost 2 animals in that storm..a small cow and a young steer. It was terribly upsetting to find them the next morning, buried in the drifts. We have noticed, over the years, that when the wind picks up like this, the animals tend to stop eating until the storm subsides. A cow that doesn't eat can freeze to death. Their 4 compartment stomach is a giant fermentation vat.  It keeps them warm from the inside out.  The same holds true for goats. We suspect that may have been the cause of their deaths.
Farming isn't always fun and games. The weather gets nasty, and sometimes the animals just can't take it. The two we lost were hereford crosses.  Not a breed that typically does well in really nasty weather.
That is one reason we focus on the scottish highlands. They were bred for weather like this. Transitioning away from the more 'fragile' beef breeds is a better choice for grass-based farms that live in areas with harsh weather. Its a step-by-step process.

This picture shows two of our highland cows in the wind as the sun was setting on the second day. They seem to not mind the storm at all.  If you look really close in front of the tree line, you can see snow chunks blowing sideways.  Photos just never do justice to the true ferocity of the wind here.

On the morning of the third day, the wind was still going strong. It died down, stopped and the sun came out by mid day. The picture above, I took before I went in for the evening. The temperature dropped and froze all the snow stiff. This was the path to the greenhouse. I thought it looked really cool.

And below is a picture of the greenhouse itself. This picture I am posting so the people of HT can see what one looks like, as we have been discussing them for a while.