I haven't written in a while because things have kind of slowed down for us on the ranch a bit. Especially after we got everything organized and moved into our new home. We still have some projects on our house here and there that we will most likely finish up in the summer time when it's warmer out and we can open up windows. However, I think I can speak for just about any farmer in the midwest that says they're done with this winter weather. Several farmers have lost livestock in this snow and wind and gotten severe frostbite while trying to save their animals resulting in hospitalization. It's frustrating to hear these stories happening throughout the states that have had to deal with extreme weather conditions. If you don't catch a calf in this weather within moments of it being born, it could freeze to the ground without a chance to even drink from its mama.
The month of February was brutal, and even with just four animals, it felt like there was no end in sight. Especially because we're starting our ranch from the ground up and working with the shelters we have or built and the cheap fencing we've temporarily fixed. Holden was gone every weekend in February, Thursday-Sunday with his national fraternity as an alumni, training students through leadership seminars. I had no problem watching the animals on my own because we've always shared chores and farm tasks. However, there seemed to be a blizzard or something that went wrong every weekend he was gone and 3 out of the 4 weekends I was here to fend for myself. (And just to clarify, I am not blaming my husband for the hardship that happened. Clearly it was out of our control, but lets just say I was a little bitter that he got to fly to places where he could wear a light jacket and I was bundled up with ski goggles just to feed hay to our cattle.)
Before these rough weekends, when we had the -50 degree weather with insane high winds and our water pump froze. A quick phone call later to the water pump guys down the road and they said it would cost us well over $1,000 in the winter to get it fixed. So plan B was to buy a longer hose to attach from the spigot on the other side of the house to fill their water. This seemed to work for the time being but not ideal.
The first weekend Holden was gone, we had severe winds again which caused me to drag hay bales out to the barn for the cows and then harness Jenny and bring her around the house and into the dog kennel which is attached to the house. The dog kennel for those of you that don't know, used to be the old concrete patio on the previous owners house. Sometime later they added on a sun room above and the bottom became like an attached garden shed where they stored a lawn mower and other gardening tools. It now is an indoor/outdoor space for the dog when we're gone, but in this case a space for the donkey during the cold weather.
The following weekend wasn't so bad, but just mainly snow, so a lot of shoveling and plowing to make sure the cows didn't walk the snow drifts over the fence. The third weekend was another bad weekend where I repeated everything I did in the first weekend with hauling hay bales to the barn, because the cows wouldn't leave it to come out and eat from the feeder while harnessing jenny and leading her through the snow and wind to safety. Her little shelter we built just didn't seem to be all that great for this winter's weather.
The last weekend was what did me in. My parents came to visit (thank god for that) because had they decided not to, I'm almost sure Jenny would've died in this weather. With the insane amounts of wind we got, it was blowing right into her shelter. I had to dig her out as best as I could and pull her out. She was clearly scared because there was snow and icicles on her face so she couldn't see so well and didn't want to move. I had to wave my dad down in the snow because he couldn't hear me over the wind. We couldn't open the gate to get her out, so our best shot was to pick her up and lift her over the snow drift since the snow was up over her 5 ft fence. From there we had to protect her back and literally roll her over the fence over the snow drift just to get her out, where I led her with carrots to follow me through the snow and wind to the indoor kennel. It was so deep we had to pack down a spot for her to walk because every time she stepped it was up to her belly. We both had to stop and take breaks along the way where I sheltered Jenny with my body wrapping myself around her because it was so exhausting trenching through the snow. Once we got her inside, I took her coat off and warmed up some towels in the dryer and dried her off and got rid of the icicles. Needless to say, she was exhausted and so were we. She curled up on my old yoga mat I laid out for her and some towels and slept through the entire night.
All while this was happening, Holden was stuck at the Holiday Inn in Owatonna, Minnesota trying to come home after his leadership training because I-35 and I-90 were closed and state patrol was turning people around from going any further.
Once Holden got home after being stranded in Owatonna for two days, we moved all our hay bales into our larger shed and turned our smaller tin shed into the new and improved protected shelter for Jenny. She's completely covered now and protected from the wind from all sides but still gets some sunshine. She doesn't have as much space as she used to to roam, but we're hoping this summer to get something better prepared for next winter with a stronger fence-line, snow fence, shelters and all.
I was envious but not envious of the big time farmers with larger shelters and better protection and bigger equipment to help them, however they also faced some extremely challenging conditions and lost more than we did. We were fortunate enough to still have our animals safe and sound while working with the little amount of protection and equipment we have. At the end of the day, I'm thankful for what we do have and that everyone made it out okay, but this snow can go away any day now so we can have our lush green pastures back.