Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cold Updates

Yesterday was dedicated to the animals' basic needs (and a few of mine, too). With a new level of cold slashing into the county — certain measures I had been taking to fight the weather have been proving inadequate. For instance, every morning I go out and break the ice on the horses trough so they can get to their big gulp. A few good kicks and the ice breaks and all is well in the world. But yesterday morning the ice was thick enough to stand on. No kick would do.

So there I was in my rabbit hat, trying to crack into it with a broken singletree while Jasper stared was a moment Norman Rockwell would have sketched for the Saturday Evening Post. It was as country as could be. Red cheeked, clouds of air puffs, and a horse that would roll his eyes if he could. Classic. After a while I had to pour a tea kettle of boiling water to crack on.

S So, yesterday: I bought a floating de-icer. (There goes my notion of not spending money!) For those of you who do not live in this climate, it's a metal buoy of sorts that heats up with an internal thermostat when the water hits a freezing point. It cost thirty dollars and the 75 feet of extension cords cost around the same, but I am thrilled. It means no more breaking chunks of ice or worrying about the horses being parched. Water de-icers are a reality here for winter livestock. The sheep already have a heating element in their big bin of water and the goats have an electric 3-gallon bucket. The pigs (who live in the barn and spill or swill their water long before it could ever freeze)just have a plastic bucket and have yet to complain about the system.

S Speaking of pork: my piglets from October are looking so large and good. I'd put them both well over a hundred pounds. I am calling Greg Stratton tomorrow to set up their slaughter day in about 5-6 weeks (possibly sooner). I am keeping 3/4 of the meat from a pig for myself and I bartered the other 5 quarter-shares to friends. I'll be contacting the first pork fellowship shortly to invite them to be at the slaughter if they are interested. I'm sure some are.

Besides water defrosting and slaughter dates: there were other small changes made to the farm. I bought extra mineral bricks, so everyone could take a chunk of multi-vitamin when they so desires. The horses get a big lickable bucket, the sheep get a course block of what I can only describe as the same consistency as fireplace starter logs, and the goats get one like it (With copper and other pro-goat minerals). It felt good to divvy out that little extra winter nutrition. It felt good to set up the horses with fresh water at their whim. And today it'll feel good to get a load of hay from Nelson and set up an order for more. I need to fill the barn up with around 30-50 bales and stack another 15 or so near the woodpile for easy access. That will last a month or so with the horses, sheep, and goats. I offer some to the pigs and they eat it up as well. Who knew? You never hear of grazing pigs but it makes sense.

The woodpile is getting skint. I think I need to order another cord. I will do so soon as I can, but for now I am alright. Most of the time I only need to fire up the living room stove, but soon as the nights dip into single digits both stoves need to be roaring to keep things from freezing and me from yelping. It's a full-time job, heating with wood the way I do, but I like it. It's a good way to live for a farm writer. The woodpile forces me to spend a lot of time near my computer and my animals. Not a bad place to be for a modern homesteader. Not bad at all.


Blogger Teri said...

Happy New Year, Jenna. May 2013 be a successful and fulfilling year for you. I am currently traveling around in my RV and hope to find a piece of property to settle down. You are inspiring, I have read many books about homesteaders and find that I enjoy the daily snippets of a blog, too.

January 1, 2013 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger blind irish pirate said...

Good on you for getting a water heater for the horses. It's not just that you don't want them to be thirsty - no water means just inviting an impaction colic. When the weather changes like this, we see a huge increase in colics at the hospital, and there is an agreement that water consumption has a lot to do with it - impactions, displacements, torsions. Better the $60 now than $5K for colic surgery.

... super morbid for me just wishing you a Happy New Year. Goodness.

January 1, 2013 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger phaedra96 said...

I am surprised you survived this long without a tank heater! I put mine in the tank early in November and plug it in when needed. It has a auto shut off so it is not heating water when the temp is above freezing. Stay warm and safe. Check your chimney also since you are burning wood like crazy. Chimney fire ain't fun. We had one when I was a small child and the sound still makes me cringe.

January 1, 2013 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Hoots said...

A warm and happy new year to you and your beautiful animals, Jenna!

January 1, 2013 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

about the goat mineral block: just check to see that it has selenium. Up here that is the one thing that is lacking in our hay and for some reason I have yet to find a goat mineral block with it. So, my goats get the block labeled "not for goats" because it has selenium, they will have seizures if selenium is lacking.(it's the same block I have for my mares). They have been doing fine on these blocks for the past 7 years. For the horse blocks, I have had no problem getting their mineral blocks with selenium at any of the feed stores, except for the local Tractor Supply in Greenwich. They either are out of it or stock very little.

January 1, 2013 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

Research the hay thing with pigs. They do eat it but the feed conversion is poor and the bulk excludes the other feed. You want nice rich pigs for slaughter....yes.

January 1, 2013 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

Winter has always been the time when we've had to deal with colic and mostly from the horses not drinking enough water. That's what prompted us to get the trough heater. It's wonderful! No more lugging buckets of hot water. You and the horses will both enjoy it!

January 1, 2013 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger ican said...

Happy New Year!

I may have mentioned it before, but I think it bears repeating...We heat almost solely with our wood stoves, and generally don't like to go into winter with anything less than 14 *face*cords of firewood. It's a fair bit of work in the warmer months, but so worth it...I wouldn't want to run the risk of not being able to find firewood in the middle of burning season, or having pay an exorbitant amount because of the time of year.

Good luck!

January 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

You will be very happy the with stock tank deicer. We run two with very heavy duty extension cords. The horses will also drink better. How cold is is there? Stay safe and warm. Happy New Year! Sharon in Oregon

January 1, 2013 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

I agree with Ican. We usually have our wood no later than Sept. I never keep up with how many cords but it fills an 8x20 7 1/2 ft. tall wood shed. 100% of our heat comes from the soap stone wood stove. Some may be left over for next year. We have had offers of many downed trees and getting appropriate wood is usually not a problem. However, I know you do not cut your own and need to get wood when it is available. And we live in TN and do not know anything about a real winter. We also clean the chimney about 8 weeks during the winter.

January 1, 2013 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Do your goats like the mineral block? Mine just ignored it - or used it as a stepping-stone. I got loose minerals for them, and they like that much better.

Happiest of New Years to you, Jenna, and all of your critters!

January 1, 2013 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Diane in VT said...

Jenna, what do you use to keep the chickens water from freezing? Bringing their three gallon plastic waterer inside overnight was working for a while but isn't cutting it in this cold weather. I'm looking at heated dog bowls on amazon...

January 1, 2013 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Mamawolf said...

Check out Guinnea Hogs... Grazing pigs! For real! So cute and do far less damage because they graze rather than root. Good friend of mine are raising 3 on pasture. They are part of the rotational grazing program along with the sheep, cows and chickens. Super cool!

January 2, 2013 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Sarah Taylor said...

Check out Sugar Mountain Farm blog for info on pastured pigs.

January 2, 2013 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I am aware of pasture pigs and the set ups, it isn't what I am set up to do here. Nor is it ideal in midwinter. The pigs get hay mostly for bedding and nibble it. They do not eat a diet of it.

January 2, 2013 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger ladyfarrier said...

Agree with everyone who says that you have to have water in front of horses 24/7, expecially in the winter.

A good way to save on the (very expensive) tank heater costs is to use a timer. You don't need to run the heater 24 hours a day. Experimentation will show you just how much is needed to keep it ice free. I find that below freezing overnight I can keep it clear with an hour's heater ON every 3-4 hours. Saves a bunch.

Buy a timer rated for the wattage of the heater, but still under $8-10,usually.

January 2, 2013 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Hi Jenna, and Happy New Year! I've been focused on school and haven't been on - it's good to see things seem to be going well for you and the farm. We stuffed the pigs' hutch with hay for insulation the other night and they ate it! I figure they must've needed the calories but we definitely do feed them adequately. Thanks for the info on the water de-icer. I'm trying to talk my husband into one - right now we carry water to the pigs in 5 gal buckets. Because we have the chickens in a hoop coop and have stuffed that with hay to keep them warm, too, their water didn't even freeze the other night. That was a comforting surprise - I have been worried about them in this cold. We also heat with wood and I know what you mean about it demanding your attention. Comforting, somehow, to simply use something as basic as fire to keep warm and comfortable when it's cold out. Blessings on you and yours in the coming year!

January 2, 2013 at 5:06 PM  

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