As I alluded in yesterday's post, Don and our neighbor's son Master Hand Grenade have been engaged in building an awning on our barn. This will shelter our animals in inclement weather as well as cover a long feed box which will take up one entire side of the barn.
The awning has been planned ever since we built the barn two years ago. The size is generous enough to shelter our herd while being steep enough to shed snow.
Don started the infrastructure for this awning last year, but winter caught up with us before he could complete it.
This year he is committed to finishing the awning before the snow flies. Master Hand Grenade's help has been wonderful.
Two of our neighborhood's manly men -- I love it!
Last Friday they had finished the rafters...
...and today they got an excellent start on the sheathing.
It's been rather exciting, watching this project come to fruition.
The prevailing wind direction is on the opposite side of the barn, which means this awning will offer the animals the maximum protection.
But what happens if the "blizzard of the century" rolls through? What kind of shelter can we give the animals when the wind vortexes around the barn and dumps snow inside?
Well that's a story unto itself. You see, all summer long I've been collecting old billboard tarps from an advertising company. Originally the idea was to use them as weed control in the garden (where they've performed splendidly), but we quickly realized that these tough vinyl tarps have a thousand-and-one uses on a farm, anything from tarping hay to funneling rainwater into the pond.
One of the pre-cut sizes of these tarps is 14x48 feet which -- I'm not kidding -- happens to be the exact dimensions of the long side of the barn. So our plan is to grommet one of these tarps, fasten it under the eaves, roll it up when not in use, and have it ready to drop down and secured to the barn beams when necessary. This will offer both wind and snow protection inside the barn.
And, as Don puts it, if that mythical "blizzard of the century" comes roaring through, to heck with keeping the animals out of the hay bales. It's more important to keep them alive. In such circumstances, we'll shoo the whole herd into the barn and secure them there.
Actually, this mythical "blizzard of the century" isn't so mythical to the folks in South Dakota. Doubtless you've hard about the horrible recent tragedy in which a catastrophic early-season blizzard killed a hundred thousand cattle. My heart goes out to all the farmers and ranchers who lost stock.
Apparently "Livestock were initially soaked by 12 hours of rain before 48 consecutive hours or snow and winds up to 60 mph." That is one heck of a storm.
It's not just the economic loss to these ranchers, though that's devastating enough. It's an emotional loss as well. It's no easy thing to see dead animals, much less a tenth of a million of them. And the thought of losing one's entire herd (and livelihood) is devastating.
So we want to be prepared should the "blizzard of the century" roll through north Idaho. All of our dear animals -- Matilda and Ruby and Jet and Polly and everyone else, including the calves -- are too valuable, both financially and emotionally, to lose.
So an awning, as well as a pre-positioned tarp to drop across the entire front of the barn -- sounds like an awfully good idea to me.