Overall the critters seemed to fair the extreme cold better than I did. I had three losses this winter but it is hard to say if it was weather related or old age. They were all chickens up there in years. I always hate to have a loss no matter what, but I hope it was due to old age. They each had been a part of my farm family for many years and will rest easy now. As for everyone else, they seemed to adapt to the cold and knew where and when to seek shelter.
For me, the biggest challenge of the winter was the extreme cold and the freezing of my water hydrant. Normally I have three water sources to which I can hook up a hose and fill my water containers and tanks. This winter two of those sources froze solid and remained froze for weeks on end. As a result I did everything in my power to keep my one source thawed and functioning. Because of this it meant an increase in my chore time as I needed to fill multiple containers and haul water. Lucky for me, the animals were patient and took advantage of any time I hauled fresh water, by getting drinks before it froze over. Many days I would get my water bowls filled and by the time I got around the chicken houses and filled the other bowls, the first bowls were already froze over...it was that cold.
Today's challenge came when I was in the process of rolling a big bale of hay. Years ago I switched over from small square bales to the big round bales. I never had a proper place to store the small square bales, so I would stack them on my front porch and tarp them. I then had to carry them on my back from my porch up to the barn if there was snow on the ground because my truck is not 4 wheel drive...so it would get stuck. That was a real chore, carrying three or four bales a day from the house to the barn on my back. I finally switched over to the big round bales.
While I don't have any farm equipment to move or handle the big bales, the hay man can drive his truck up to my hay holding pen and drop off 14 big bales at a time. I can then peel hay as I need it from each bale into my feeders so the cows, sheep, and my mule and donkey can eat at free will. This is great and has save much work for my back, but it still is time consuming and can be a challenge. This morning as I started a new bale it sat right next to another. To peel it, I needed to get it rolled away from the other bale. There is not much choice but to try and wedge myself between the two. As I worked my way in between, I used my pitchfork to stab into the bale and try and move it away. You have to be very careful when stabbing the bale to make sure you don't miss....and to make sure it is deep enough so it doesn't fly out when you are using it as leverage. Either case, could be really bad news for me and a trip to the hospital...and we don't want that.
This morning as I stabbed my pitchfork into the big bale of hay and wedged myself between two bales, I started to run out of gas as I pushed on the handle of the fork trying to get it to roll forward and I used my knee as a block to keep the bale from rolling back. I found myself too tired to push anymore, but unable to back out because I was using my knee as a wedge to prevent the bale from rolling back.....therefore, I was stuck. I started thinking about breakfast and how hungry I was. I also started to wish I hadn't left my phone in the house. I also knew it could be hours before my mom would check on me because my winter chores often took me four or more hours to do. I decided to hold out for a minute longer before moving my leg that was about to give out and let the bale roll back on me. I took a couple deep breathes and pushing my pitchfork deeper into the bale I was able to get enough leverage with the fork to move the bale forward as I pushed my knee in deeper. Little by little I was able to get the bale to roll forward enough that I had room to work around it. Now I could peel hay for my grateful critters.
I had grand plans for this winter. My hope was to get lots of work done inside organizing images, paperwork, and upcoming shows. Working on layouts of new cards and hopeful books....however winter had a different plan and I spent a great deal of time caring for my critters and making sure they were cared for this winter. So I find myself behind on many things, but I have confidence it will all work out in the end. Despite cold cloudy day we are currently having, I know spring is just around the corner. I am also very excited as I have a photo shoot lined up this month to visit some Mammoth Donkeys!! That is going to be fun. Then at the end of the month I get to visit my friend Deb's place before her Alpaca are sheared. I'm anxious to see them in full coat. Then next month I will visit a farm where they have Fjord horses! I can not wait. It will be nice to add some more animals to my collection for the heritage breed photo book....new farmers too!
Between photo shoots I will be doing a few spring art shows. Last year I was so pleased with the positive comments from folks I met. A lot of people are very interested in my photo series of endangered/threatened livestock and poultry. I am so fortunate to have kind folks such as yourself to help make this dream a reality. I thank you for your continued support and hope winter treated you well.