Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Winter's Bottom

Tara Alan
I can not stress enough how impactful it is to general morale of a homestead to have the dishes done and the coffee prepped the night before. When I woke up in the living room—in the center of a pile of dogs, one brave cat, and a hawk perched above us all—I was so elated that there was no coffee pot to wash out and load or dishes to deal with, because if the pipes froze there would be a longer process of heating up water collected on the stove the night before in pans. (After that was used up - collecting, boiling, and preparing mountain stream water for indoor use.) But the sink was dripping smartly onto the thawed black body of Japanese Silkie Rooster the butcher had prepared for me weeks earlier. I had taken it from the freezer the night before. After I finish the morning update here I'll be setting it into the crock pot whole - surrounded with chicken stock, stored potatoes, onions, and some carrots from the fridge. A little olive oil and herbs and the lid clamps shut. In a few hours meat will be falling off the bone and a stew will be prepared to serve over some Amish egg noodles from the larder. I feel ready for the day.

This morning is the beginning of Winter's Bottom. The stretch of cold that usually hits this area in mid to late January but has chosen to arrive here in Washington County early. The following ten days will go from slightly negative numbers (like right now) to well into the double digits. Locals are saying we could be looking at -20° this weekend if it's like it was back in the nineties when the cold came and stayed this long.

This might be standard fare for some of you, but here that is colder than usual and the animals, the house, the chores, the insulation, the pipes... all of it isn't ready for this much cold lasting this long. Sure we get hit hard a day or two - but two weeks of never nearing the temperature water freezes isn't normal. And when you raise animals it is all about what they are used to - not you. Swings 30 degrees are hard on all of us. It's my job to get it ready and to see the farm through till it the weather breaks.

As of right now the AM chores are done and all the animals seem fine.The dogs did not want to stay out long. They went out, peed, and then were waiting by the living room glass doors to be let right back in. I didn't blame them!

The fires have been cleaned of last night's ash and restarted. The coffee pot is taunting me and I'll get a fat cup of it between writing this and rereading it before posting.

The hawk will go back outdoors when the temperatures are in the positive (an hour or so) and be fed a warm meal. She won't come back indoors until after dark. She's inside now because she's at her hunting weight and I'd rather be safe than sorry. Plenty of young red tails out in the wild won't survive this spell.

The horses and sheep have their water tank defroster sending light steam into the air.  They are eating hay like proud beasts and the jungle fowl birds spend most of their time on the sheep's backs. (Chickens are not stupid.) The goat's water was frozen solid but I cracked the rubber tub and refilled it (same with the pigs).

Today the new animal work is setting the goats up with a heated bucket I'm borrowing from a friend and getting the pigs 2 bales worth of bedding in their pigoda. They will bury themselves deep in it to create a heat igloo of porky goodness in their home. The chickens - they are all in the barn being fed and watered there. I'll be loading and stacking hay in the cold, driving the truyck around the county, mailing soaps, and getting the regular work done indoors as well. I'll be up late, sleeping less, and worried more.

More updates in the evening. I need to pick up that hay and arrange for more firewood.

The AM stats are as follows.

Outdoor Temp: -3° F
Indoor Temp: 50° F
Truck: Started up! - needs extra coolant.
Pipes: Dripping/thawed
Toilet Bowl Water: liquid