There’s no denying winter is brutal. A month ago there was a chill in the air. Today that air has been treated with an arctic blast of frigid cold that can be downright dangerous to living things. At fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, now is not the time to be outside prepping for the cold weather, so I’m happy to report we took care of it back in November. I’m filled with gratitude, to be sure. Along with the extreme chill we have also been gifted with far more than a foot of snow on the ground and covering every horizontal surface. It is a stunning wintery painting everywhere one looks.
Folks who have never had the opportunity to live in a cold climate, on a farm, might be interested to see what it takes to get through a long, cold and snowy Michigan winter. So here are some highlights of our fall preparation:
Filling the barns with enough hay to last through the winter and until the first hay cutting in 2018 is paramount because locating hay and trying to get it delivered is no fun in the middle of winter. This is challenging mostly because we have limited barn space but we are creative and manage to sock away plenty (unless I bring in additional hay-eating livestock, which is a real possibility).
Chicken Runs Tarped for Wind Protection
Chickens can survive the extreme cold as long as they have a house to roost inside that is protected from cold drafts. I like to give their runs some added protection from icy cold wind and snow so they will feel comfy enough to enjoy some outdoor time throughout the coldest months. Chickens will avoid walking in snow covered ground and who can blame them?
Loading the Hay Hut
It is challenging to load up the horse’s hay hut in inclement weather, so we got them all fixed up with a nice new round bale . . . which only lasts 1-2 weeks so we end up doing it in inclement weather as it turns out. Rain, sleet, snow or twenty-below, those horses like to eat. And these two prefer to live outside year-round. They honestly hate being stalled inside the barn.
Preventing Water from Freezing
Electric heaters in all livestock watering troughs is how it’s done. Then it’s a matter of checking daily to be sure they are operating as they should. It sounds easier than it is, but it is a necessary evil of winter in a cold climate. Side note: Hoses are disconnected, drained and stored inside the barn after every use to prevent freezing. And they will freeze. Ask me how I know.
Mowers, 53 Chevys, lawn tractors and anything with a motor, are winterized by my husband. I leave it to him and try not to understand too clearly, lest it become my job one day. There is something about battery tenders and spark plug removal and additives in gas tanks, but other than that, I’m clueless. They all get a good power washing too, unless the big freeze comes too quickly (which happened with my lawn tractor, because I needed to use it to rake manure till it literally froze).
These go in the back of our pickup truck for winter traction.
Manure Maintenance (Poopsicles)
Ah yes, like cutting grass, that manure is frozen solid and covered in snow. And so it waits until the thaw. Rika, the wonder dog, thinks frozen horse poo is an incredible thing that appears out of nowhere! Thankfully, she also enjoys her frisbee year-round, until we lose it, which is now the case. It’s out there somewhere, this much we know.