HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
A bitter cold night leaves me restless. Too many years of listening for trouble I guess. On the farm cold with wind, especially when there is minimum snow cover means trouble. Most common is pipes freezing. If the cows don’t get up to drink often enough during the night, the most vulnerable water buckets will freeze.
It might be the one at the end of the line, or one where a draft comes through a cracked window. If your lucky, you just have to thaw it in the morning, and hopefully it didn’t crack a pipe, or bust a valve. If you are unlucky, it did both of those things, and thawed, before you got to it. Or the thirsty cow has messed with it enough to break it off.
When this happened I would wake to the sound of the water pump running too long, and know we were headed to the barn to shovel out the water. Hopefully, we got there soon. Maybe just the gutter was full of water. Hopefully the cow was not too wet, and the calves tied up front were still dry. In any case it meant a morning slogging with wet straw and manure, before we were able to start the already tough job of daily chores.
At our first farm we started without running water. We had heavy rubber buckets that would withstand being beaten to break the ice free. A pile of mini ice bergs would form outside where we broke them all free.
Winter chores in bitter cold are more onerous in many ways. First is the many layers of clothes which make movement more difficult. Now, in a stanchion barn like ours, the main barn is usually pretty warm, and work will have you stripping your outer layers off. At least until you have to open the barn door to bring in feed or take out manure.
Tractors and other equipment are more likely to break or not start in bitter cold. Nothing like trying to work with jumper cables in multiple layers of mittens.
And of course, for some reason, animals have a tendency to drop their young during extreme weather. I’m not sure why nature works like that. Having babies due during a cold snap means extra trips to the barn to check on things when you would like the opportunity to hunker down with a warm quilt yourself.
Shoveling our sidewalk in -2F degrees this morning I wondered if maybe I didn’t really miss the farm life after all. No. No. I still miss it. Weather presents a challenge, but I was also privy to a lot of beauty, that given the chance to stay snug inside, I would not have witnessed. And, there is something cozy about a barn. When everyone has fresh bedding and the critters are contentedly chewing their food, there is a snug and peaceful comraderie in the barn, (jeez, I can see this just like I was there. The cats drinking fresh warm milk just outside the milk house door. The steam coming from the cows breathing. I can see them pulling at and chewing their hay. I can even hear the satisfied grunts of a sow as she stretches out for her litter, and their happy and quarrelsome squeals. The horse at the pasture fence waiting for his grain. And for me a hearty breakfast to be had, back at the house.)