Self-Sufficiency Series

Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are we in for a hard winter?

Here in Idaho (as well as many other northern locations) they say we have three distinct seasons: Winter, After Winter, and Getting Ready for Winter. There's some truth to that.

Old-timey folks wisdom is full of predictors for the weather, usually interpreting signs in the natural world (both plant and animal) to dictate whether we'll have a hard winter or not.

Last winter most of the country was WHOMPED with one of the harshest cold seasons on record... yet north Idaho managed to escape the worst of it and we had just a regular winter. But we've had our share of nasty weather as well. A few years ago, we had two harsh winters in a row that illustrated with great clarity why a prepared lifestyle is a wise lifestyle.

So when I saw Granny Miller's blog post on a hornet nest winter forecast, it got me thinking about our winter preps. We have a lot we want to do before the snow flies, but here's what we've got done so far.

We have oil lamps primed and on standby, as well as a generous supply of kerosene.

We have about 40 gallons of stored water on hand (no photo, sorry).

We have lots of firewood.

We have our hay in.

The livestock have shelter from the barn awning.

The chicken coop is now insulated.

But there are a LOT of projects we want to accomplish before the snow flies. These include:

• We want to build feed boxes for the cattle under the awning. This will keep hay from being wasted as much, and will keep debris from building up as fast.

• We want to build an above-ground root cellar out of a pen in the barn. We anticipate a heavy crop of potatoes and don't really have an adequate way to store them. Our house doesn't have a basement and digging underground involves a lot more logistics than we're willing to put in at the moment, but retrofitting a pen with heavy insulation is more do-able.

• I want to do a lot more canning. A lot more.

• Don wants to drop several more dead trees and cut them up for firewood. Not only will this reduce the chances of losing other trees to insect damage, but it will provide additional firewood.

• We'll need to blow out and put away part of the drip irrigation system in the garden.

• We want to build an extension to the bull pen shed. Our current shed is kinda cozy (read: small) and having additional room will allow the animals to over-winter more comfortably.

• We want to install guttering on the barn awning. Currently water just dumps down the awning and creates horrifically muddy conditions. Guttering will funnel the water away and make the bull pen and feedlot much less sticky.

• We want to buy a ton of chicken feed. Yes, literally. We found a source of bulk feed where the feed comes in thousand-pound bags. The cost is half what we're currently paying for 50-lb bags, and it means we won't run out of chicken feed in the middle of a blizzard. However we'll have to build rodent-proof bin before we can buy the bulk feed.

• We'll make sure to have plenty of food on hand, both for us and for our pets. For example we always try to keep two bags of dog food ahead of what we're using, just in case.

• We'll top off our propane tanks.

As you can see, plenty to do before the snow flies! But since it's not yet September, we'll have about two full months (maybe more, if the weather cooperates) to get these tasks done. We'll prioritize as we go, and the least important (or the least do-able) will get put off until next year.

Yep, we're in the season of Getting Ready for Winter. We must be in north Idaho.

What are your winterizing plans?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unexpected snow

It has been snowing for two solid days. Not wildly, not massively, but very persistently. While the weather forecast called for a couple of inches, the amount of snow has taken everyone by surprise.

This is quite a change from last week, when we had bare ground and even some sunshine.

Here's Lydia, on guard duty.

Wait! Do I see something?


As of yesterday (Sunday) morning we had bare ground. But the snow, while fairly light, hasn't let up in 36 hours.

We've barely had any wind, so the snow pretty much stays where it falls.

Often the snow obscured the view toward our neighbors.

This is excellent weather to stay holed up (an advantage to working at home), but I had an errand that took me to town. The drive was quite lovely...

...until I got clear of the trees. Can you see the road? Well guess what, neither could I.

It was a touch better on the way home. At least I could see some landmarks. Vaguely.

Once I was closer to home, I could once again admire the scenery.

Since I was already "suited and booted," as we call it, I decided to do some barn chores. Here the yearling calves patiently wait for dinner.

Snow on the last of the big tractor tires we got in last fall for the garden.

Here Matilda and Amy were very eager to get into the barn for the night.

Major looks like a reverse Dalmatian in this kind of weather.

Younger Daughter wiped him down with a towel.

Whenever we get snow like this, Lydia gets snowballs between her furry toes...

...which she proceeds to chew out, sorta like yummy snacks.

Then -- often with wet feet -- she'll climb onto somebody's bed and take a nap.

I went out and measured the snow depth at about 4 pm Monday afternoon. Exactly eight inches.

We aren't getting the huge whomping snowstorms the east and midwest are getting, but I'm grateful for the snow we do have. It means moisture for farmers this summer.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sorry for the silence

I haven't been posting much this week, and this is why.

Rather unusually for a February, we're slammed with tankard orders. We shipped off a 100 piece order last week, we have to get this current production run of 100 shipped by this upcoming Monday, and then we immediately plunge into yet another production run to finish some outstanding orders. Yikes, where's our quiet snow-filled winter?

To make things more challenging, the "polar vortex" that's been hitting the rest of the country has finally swung our way. Nighttime temps are plunging well below zero, and today's high was a modest 10F.

Poor Don has been working in the shop in this bitterly cold weather. He packs his gloves and boots with warmers and stands in front of the diesel heater and stays moderately unfrozen. But we'll be glad when this cold snap ends too.

I'll be back when we're a bit less busy! Thanks for your patience!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter weather

Unlike much of the rest of the country, north Idaho has been spared the brutal cold and heavy snows that have plagued so many other places. In fact, we're having a remarkably mild winter with barely any snow at all.

Earlier in January we had some high winds. Wind is nothing unusual out here on the prairie, but once in awhile we get a humdinger and this was one of those times. On Saturday, January 11, the day started out calm but the wind picked up by dawn. It was screaming. We had every kerosene lamp on standby and we kept every livestock tank brimful in case we lost power (when we lose power, we lose the use of our well pump), but miraculously the power stayed on.

But a particularly violent gust snapped the top 40 feet off of our tallest pine. Thankfully no cows were underneath.

And then we had a two-week period of dead calm, freezing fog, and bare frosty ground. While I'm sure folks in the Midwest would give their eye-teeth for this weather, frankly it got boring after awhile. The kids wanted a good whomping snowstorm so they could get some sledding in.

The weather finally accommodated them. I don't know if whomping was an accurate description, but at least some weather moved in.

So we did a few things to get ready, notably splitting some firewood. It was juuuust beginning to snow while I split.

Front porch, before:

Front porch, after:

I caught up on laundry.

I've been keeping Matilda and Amy tucked in the barn for a few days. (Before anyone hollers, Matilda is a Jersey. It's normal for Jerseys to look quasi-skeletal with ribs and hipbones showing.)

The reason is because Matilda is limping. She somehow twisted or sprained her back right ankle. Since Matilda is our lowest cow on the totem pole, she tends to get pushed around by the more dominant animals, so I wanted her to stay quiet for a few days.

I found a clutch of eggs in the barn...

...which turned into a bigger clutch the next day.

On Wednesday, we got about five inches of very pretty snow.

Breakfast for the beasties.

We had a little bit of wind, but mostly it was calm snow.

In the afternoon, I let Matilda and Amy out to stretch their legs and also so I could clean the barn. Amy's not used to being confined, so she immediately dashed around and fell to playfully sparring with Petunia.

Matilda is still limping, but seemed glad to get outside.

A sentinel quail watches over his flock.

Major is easy to spot in this kind of weather.

He and Lydia enjoyed a good romp. At his age, Major mostly stands there and lets Lydia do the romping, but his body language eggs her on.

The dogs were aided and abetted by Older Daughter.

We decided it was time for some comfort snacks in the form of survival cookies. Lydia is very attentive through this process because she knows from experience that she gets to lick the spoon. We divvy up any leftover bits of dough between her and Major.

Altogether it was nice to finally get a taste of winter.

My sympathies to all the poor souls across the country who want to shove winter back where it came from. Hang in there, spring is on the horizon.