Posts Tagged ‘Winter weather’


Of course, Winter here at the farm didn’t follow close on the heels of Spring, as the time gap between my last posting and this one might suggest.  Nor did I fall off the edge of the earth, or give up farming, or run away to the big city.  I just got a bit submerged is all, in the work and projects and animal husbandry as the growing season progressed, and lost the thread of storytelling here on the blog.  The convenience and simplicity of Facebook updates turned into a lazy habit, and the discipline of composing anything longer than a paragraph simply vanished.  Faded away like fog in morning sunlight.

Along with so many other people, I hope to use the New Year as a springboard for getting back to doing things I love, but have let slip out of my regular routine.  Like writing here.  So let’s get on with the story…

It took awhile for winter to arrive this year.  Seemed like Fall just didn’t want to give up and let go; the temps stayed unseasonably warm through most of November, with very little rain.  It was great weather for Bear’s usual visit, he doesn’t really like cold and stormy, it interferes with his projects out in the shop.  This year he wore short sleeves until the last few days he was here, and never had to hole up inside by the fire with sniffles or a cold as has happened in the past.

And I was very grateful for every extra day of good working weather, using them to catch up on winter prep like filling the woodshed and stuffing another load of horse hay into the hay shelter.  Glad I did, too, because this last week, Old Man Winter arrived with a crash and a bang, bringing freezing temps and icy rain and the first snowfall to south-central Kentucky.

Now the focus is on keeping livestock fed and watered, and trying not to fall behind on maintenance chores like removing manure in the horse yards, and spreading it on the pastures.  Keeping a good supply of split wood in the shed.  Catching up on office work and farm business.  Staying healthy, positive and motivated.

It’s hard to say if this winter will be a rough one with lots of snow and cold.  The old-timers around here talk a lot about winters being much more rugged when they were young – deep snows, more frequent storms, bitter cold temperatures.   I’ve lived and worked in northern Colorado, so I’m no stranger to wintry weather, but it does make everything a little harder, especially on a farm.

And a little harder every year I get older, too.  Though I am learning a thing or two every year that makes things go easier, that’s gotta help balance out the aging factor, right?

So let’s see if I can keep the story going this time, because there’s an awful lot of good stuff happening here at the farm and this blog is a great way to journal our progress.

Until next time, then.


Read Full Post »

Stove dog Rusty and Grace

It’s finally feeling like winter, which around here isn’t usually too brutal, just cold and sometimes wet, sometimes muddy, sometimes a little snow and wind.  All those balmy spring-like days in December were nice, and we’ll have some moderate temps here and there over the next few months, but the green grass has withered on the pastures and I don’t go out without coat, down vest, hat and gloves no matter how sunny it is.

We’re heading into a pretty good cold snap over the next few days and the expectation of single-digit overnight lows certainly adds a bit of complexity to the normal routine of feeding and watering and tending to livestock, as well as household tasks.  I’m better prepared this winter than last, but there are still gaps in my readiness posture.  Like the paltry stack of split firewood out in the little woodshed, which explains the empty spot along the wall next to the stove in the picture above.  It should be filled with wood, but there’s not much wood to bring in; so it goes.

The little EPA certified soapstone stove doesn’t need a lot of wood to keep this little place warm, so I can get by with scrounging as the weeks go by, but it would be nice to have a couple of cords laid in and not have to worry with it.

Maybe next year.

What’s more important than a full woodshed?  A full hay barn, of course, and a good supply of well-covered round bales for the cows – I’d much rather have to cut firewood in the winter than be running out of hay and trying to find some to buy this late in the year.  It’s an example of how I have to prioritize my time and energy, there isn’t enough to get everything done exactly when I’d like to; so it goes.

The stove is cranking tonight, the dogs and Gracie the cat are gathered close, I at my computer table; it’s a familiar winter evening scene full of peace and contentment.  There’s much work to be done this coming week, the list is ever changing as time and priorities dictate, but staying warm and keeping everyone fed is always at the top.


Read Full Post »

Fall grazing

That title phrase is borrowed from a recent Gene Logsdon blog post, in which he talks about bringing in firewood for the winter ahead, and how the onset of winter makes some of us uneasy, whether we know why or not.

I know why the coming months of dormant grass, saturated soils, and frigid temperatures make me uneasy.  Because I’m not ready for it, that’s why.

It feels like we went hurtling through the heat of August just last week.  But of course, August was two – nearly three – months ago.  Back then, I was mapping out all the things to get done by October, and though the list was ambitious, it seemed doable.  Now October is heaving its last breath, and the bottom half of my list just rolls to the right.  November.  We’ll get it all done in November, then.

Meanwhile, the leaves are changing color and falling, and the cows are on their last rotation through paddocks just recovered enough to provide good grazing – most are 8″ at the tallest and some areas much sparser.  Quite the difference from the lushness of May and June.  Regrowth slowed in September and after this time through, will be just enough to regenerate root reserves before growth stops.

It is sobering to see the end of the grazing season fast approaching, knowing that soon I’ll have to serve up hay to hungry animals in all sorts of weather.  Glad to have the hay stockpile; not thrilled with the work ahead to feed it out.

The things that did get done should make me feel very contented, and in any other season than this, they would.  For example, in just two weeks I tracked down 80 rolls of grass hay for the cowherd, hauled them up to the top of the hill, set them on pallets along the hay storage lane, and covered them with plastic.  That was huge.  A lot of work, and a load off my shoulders to finally get it done.  Having enough hay to feed a mixed herd of cows, steers, heifers and calves through the winter is no laughing matter, even here in balmy Kentucky.

The garden harvest has gone very well, too; my shelves are literally groaning with quart jars of tomatoes, green beans, and three kinds of pickles.  There are pounds of chard and edamame in the freezer, bags of dehydrated herbs and cherry tomatoes in the cupboard, piles of winter squash in the spare room, and an overflow fridge out in the shop stuffed with potatoes, beets and carrots.  The abundance makes all the work worth it, and I’m glad to have homegrown food for the winter and beyond.

Still, I am uneasy.  My firewood pile is very small.  I’ve just enough split and stacked on the back porch for the next few weeks, then I’ll have to devote a couple of days to harvesting some standing dead trees, cutting them to length and splitting a mix of large, medium and small for the woodstove.  I wish I’d have had time to get ahead of this resource but I didn’t.  I won’t run out and I won’t freeze, but it’s work that should have been done by now.

Then there’s the horse hay storage structure, still sitting in the palletized box it shipped in, waiting for site prep, footer holes dug and poured, and assembly of the 24′ x 20′ steel tubing frame that’ll be covered by the heavy-duty custom-sewn covering, warrantied to last 15 years.  Once erected, it’ll hold 600 bales of hay for the horses.  Sitting in the box, it’s a long way from being able to hold 600 bales of hay.  Might as well be a box of rocket ship parts out there, as useful as it is to me right now.

Barn doors need built and hung to finish the stall so I can wean the little colt; cows need run through the corral and chute again for annual shots; calves must be captured and hauled to the vet for castration and vaccinations, the yearling colt needs a vet visit for his gelding ceremony; the list goes on, and the weeks fly by, and it is getting cold already.

I shake off the uneasiness but it’s the season for that sort of thing, and it returns.  Maybe I’ll get used to it in a couple of years.

Read Full Post »

Icy woods and road

This past Friday morning we woke to a world covered in a thin layer of ice, just as the guessers had predicted.  It made the roads treacherous, prompting school cancellations and late business starts throughout the area; even so, there were a lot of people that had to drive on it anyway, for whatever reason, and by all accounts it was a wicked slick morning on the roads and highways.  My driveway entrance looked like a little parking lot when I got back down from morning feeding, with a half-dozen cars waiting for the salt trucks to come by so they could make it up Wilson Hill.

I was thankful that the only driving I have to do for my job is in a 6×4 Gator up a dirt road to pitch hay to the cows and let the ducks out.  Even my little rough road was cloaked in a sheet of ice, so we slipped and slid a little, and I kept my speeds down with a foot on the brake, especially coming downhill.  I remembered to take my camera with me and tried to capture a little of the magic of the frozen moment.

Ice bud

The forest was beautiful, a palette of steel grays, dusky blues, muted mauves and ochres.  All the branches brushed with silver glistened and sparkled against the dark trunks.

Icy woods

The cedars and pines were tipped in white and drooping gracefully.

Icy cedar

Cows, heifers and steers had icicles dangling from their ears and ate their breakfast on ice-covered ground.

Icy breakfast

And the sunrise up on the pastures was breathtaking.

Icy pasture sunrise

Temps hovered right around freezing all day, so the ice lingered anywhere it wasn’t salted or walked on or shoveled.  I cleaned off my two porches and the walking bridge across the creek using a hoe to chop and shatter the thin sheet of ice into chunks that could be scraped and swept aside.  First time I’ve had to do something like that in a long, long time.

Tonight we have a high wind advisory and thunderstorm watch, wild weather riding in on the approaching cold front.  I’ve spent the day lashing down hay, equipment and firewood tarps, putting away loose objects, and generally buttoning the place up for heavy rain and 40-mile-an-hour gusts.

It’s currently 70 degrees outside, and the shop’s concrete slab floor is sweating.  Too warm for January.  We’ll welcome the return of the cold air.

Read Full Post »

Well, as wintry as it gets for Southern California, anyway.

Wind and a bit of rain, and 54 degrees, is all we San Diegans need to get in the holiday spirit.  Lacking (and not needing) a woodburning stove, we’ve got a tidy fire in the fireplace tonight, and with the tree finally decorated, the house is finally starting to feel Christmasy.

I am glad I’m not travelling, stuck in an airport because of snow delays.  My sympathies for all who are; that is no fun at all!

My work schedule is light this week, and I’m enjoying the extra time at home.  Cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating – not much time for just laying around, that’s for sure.  Still, it’s worth it, and beats the heck out of where I was this time last year.

Even though this holiday season snuck up on me, it’s great to be home this time of year.  Hope your holidays are warm and bright!

Read Full Post »