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.

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