End of March

What a day. What a start to spring and an end to the month of March. Snow totals aren’t certain due to the winds we had, but the nearest I can guess is that we had a solid foot of snow, which is the most I’ve seen in a long time. I think everyone was a little taken by surprise at the quantity. And it was a beautiful, picture perfect snow, weighing down the pines until the wind swept in later in the morning, flinging the snow upwards from the tree branches back into the sky.

That much snow hampers just about everything, with knee-deep and even waist-deep drifts piling into ditches and against buildings, making a simple trudge downhill to the barn or to the shop take three times as long. The fourwheeler struggled to get around, the animals struggled to get around, the feeding pickup struggled to get around.

Fortunately we weren’t dealing with frigid cold, but the gale-force winds drove the snow into ground blizzards and drifted cattle away from shelter. We went out to feed cows early afternoon and look over everything, and ended up on a wild goose chase to pair up a couple of older cows (who should know better) with calves they had left in the storm, before we bogged down in a drift a mile from the house. Sometimes it is just one thing after another on a day like yesterday.

The wise mamas were hunkered down safely in the shelter of the timbered pastures. Those instincts are beautiful to see. The calves with good mamas did really well, the cows having found good places for them to weather out this storm. The older calves frolicked and played, busting through drifts and scampering about oblivious to the trouble the snow was causing everyone else. And it did my heart good to see the calf we saved a couple of weeks ago enjoying his little life and his first real snow storm. He’s the one with the red ear tag.

The storm did take its toll, as it has on everyone in this region, and as we dig out this weekend we’ll see just what the damage was, just in time to brace for another winter storm system that is forecasted to blow through starting Monday. We need the snow, but we’re praying for the best outcomes possible and for safety of our livestock. For the heifers, hopefully their instincts to shelter will be improved for the next storm as they’ve learned for the first time how to look out for a calf in a real winter storm.

The pups were a riot, about as oblivious and playful as the calves. This was the first big storm they’ve seen and it was pretty hilarious to watch them floundering along, iced over, with mostly just their eyes visible. They could have played all day, but I forced them into the house a few times to defrost. And then kicked them out again when cabin fever started raging.

The storm finally blew itself out late afternoon and the sun set on calm, under a blue sky. What a difference a few hours can make, or a few days. So March drifted out with the sound of snow melting from our eaves.

After the Storm

Oh, these winter days after a storm. We woke up to a world transformed under the clearest of clear skies. The wind, worn out overnight, gave way to a peaceful calm, but not until leaving those whimsical reminders of its presence, strangely and wildly sculpted drifts of snow and ice, sparkling wickedly in the unmasked winter sunlight. The sky is so blue it looks ages away, yet somehow seems I could reach up and touch it. Not a cloud to be spied. The snow a blinding sheen. Trees laden with icy burdens on every branch, which occasionally slip from their shoulders and disappear in a shimmering cloud.

Our footprints from yesterday were blown away and filled in. Our slash piles have reduced to smoldering heaps of ash. Animals came through the storm unscathed. No calves arrived, which is a blessing in this cold.

I love these days, when 10 degrees feels just right. The relief is apparent, watching the animals move around more comfortably, from the pups to the chickens to the larger livestock. The misery everyone slogged through yesterday has melted away as the temps have crept a little further above zero. Without the biting wind or the stinging snow, it feels oddly springlike.

I love these days, these storms that are gone almost as soon as they arrive, bringing some moisture to the parched earth, reminding us that it still is winter but that springtime isn’t too far off.

I love these days.

So it Begins

The winter storm is blowing in! What a change from this morning. I stomped out in bibs first thing and immediately overheated, it was so balmy out.

We spent the morning shuffling cows and yearlings up north, corralling the yearlings for the storm and moving the cows about 2 miles into the calving pasture. It was beautiful weather, only starting to get chilly when we got close to wrapping up. The sky grew unsettled and it was as if everything, not just us, was anticipating something. Everything, that is, except the pups. Bess was busy learning how to be a cowpuppy with Brad, while Josie took advantage of the gentle lilting (no, it isn’t) motion of the fourwheeler to take a nap on my lap. She only fell off once.

We buzzed back up home, got a quick bite to eat, and headed out once more to get the cows on our end moved closer for the storm, and even moving the bulls into a more sheltered pasture. When we headed out after lunch, a little moisture was starting to blow in, quickly turning to sleet that stung like needles as we flew around on ATVs getting the shuffling done. The bulls were a little extra feisty with the weather change and gave us a quick and underappreciated rodeo.

The stinging sleet was accompanied by settling fog, obscuring the tops of the trees as we moved the last bunch of cows. As we got back up to the yard and put the fourwheelers away, the biting sleet turned suddenly to whirling snow, the distance disappearing from sight behind a whiteout.

The chickens are tucked in for the cold snap, with a fresh layer of sawdust to keep them dry. I moved their feed hoppers inside their snug coop to make feeding easier on them. It really feels like walking into a concrete bunker, as silent as it is when the door closes behind me! Lucky chickens.

Everything is coated with fresh white. I’m watching the snow whip this way and that outside the picture windows in the living room, listening to the wind whistle comfortably around the eaves, and ordering the last of my garden seeds. Maybe I’ll roll some newspaper seed pots and brainstorm my flower garden. The cozy aroma of bread baking is wafting through the house and the pups are playing hard and sleeping hard by turns in the mud room. Brad is doing some final chaining up of tires down in the shop. We have water for drinking and oil in the lanterns, the generators are ready to go and livestock have all been fed. The temps are dropping, and are a good thirty degrees colder than they were at lunchtime. We’ll keep praying for moisture and bracing for the cold, thankful for a warm home and a snow storm.

So it begins.