The sun had come out. After being foggy and drizzly all day the clouds had broke.
There wasn’t going to be time to work horses. Not before I had to go meet the bus. But now the sun was shining. I hadn’t gotten horses worked. Had to get kids from the bus.
I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out. I could take the horses to get the kids!
If I hurried there was still time for that. Lady would have to go with burrs in her mane. There was not time for that. I did get them saddled and we headed off. Or tried to.
I stepped onto Rusty from the mounting block. He spun and took off. At a walk. If you’ve ever been taken off at a walk on a Morgan than you know that it is like being bolted with. Almost. Dancing on his tiptoes he bounced across the yard spooking and shying.
Out to the driveway I gave him his head. Work it out I told him. Use up some of that energy. He was off. At a trot. Lady followed behind. My phone started to slip. Reins and lead in one hand, fumbling with the phone with the other.
Rusty, noticing I was distracted, ducked his head and proceeded to crowhop. Then he spun back towards home. Lady was still back there quietly being drug along through all this at the end of the lead. Keeping a hold of phone and reins and lead I got everyone stopped. Rusty was still mad, but remained still long enough to get the phone secured and Lady reeled back in. Then we were off again. At a walk this time.
None of this was looking like a very good idea. We were going to ad children and backpacks to the mix of spicy horses and a cool windy fall day? Oh dear.
We made it to the bus stop and paced in circles for awhile while waiting. I finally got off and convinced the horses to graze. We didn’t tear up the yards too badly.
The bus came. The children got out and dove onto their horses. No one spooked. No one died. I was left on foot. That was fine. It was getting cold. Walking a little was warm. Then I begged a seat from my daughter and she obligingly allowed me on her horse with her. We zipped towards home.
The children played and laughed and had no idea they were riding fire breathing dragons. The dragons kept their feet on the ground and abstained from flying. Despite my nerves, we made it home safely.
If we get anymore warm afternoons, I think we’ll need to do this again.
Larely, while the Goblin Child has been happily riding around ON her horse, she has been saying how nice it would be to go on a trailride. I point out that she is in fact currently trailriding.
That doesn’t count of course. She wants real trails, beautiful and scenic and somewhere she has never been before.
We have two horses. Three of us. There are trails nearby. But getting there and figuring out the logistics is daunting.
Finally it occurred to me that we could manage that. Fort Robinson isn’t that far away. They offer trail rides. One of which goes up into the buttes. She could have her trail ride and I could get a bit of revenge. Don’t like riding your horse here at home? Here, how do you like these trails 😈 as we climb the steep terrifying buttes.
It rained all night long and we woke up to a cool damp morning. I was worried they wouldn’t be giving rides.
Telling the kids we had to get some shopping done I drug them out of the house. We drove through the town with the stores and out the other side. I thought they might be engrossed in their tablets and not notice where we were going. Instead they were happily looking out windows. And still never questioned that we had passed the store I had said we were going to.
Pulling up to the fort we were supprised to see a neighbor of ours get out and beat us to the ticket line. She was signing up for the next available traileride for her kids. We signed up for that one too. Plus a jeep ride to fill the time between.
The goblin Child had texted one of her friends about something completely unrelated. It was a huge surprise when the friend texted back that she was at the fort, and they, she and her family, were going to be taking the same trail ride we were!
Wow, what a small world.
We toured one of the museums. Took our jeep ride. It was very pleasantly cool in the open top jeep as we wound up the buttes. Lunch in the restaurant, buffalo for everyone! Then it was time for our ride.
The trail horses were the usual tired, bored with life, and sick of people. I got a big raw boned sorrel who came with the warning to watch him and not let him bite the horse in front. My son got a cute little bay roan, rabacino? who walked so nicely right behind. My daughter got a long lanky grey who fell in line next to her friend. They were clear in the back of the line.
We started out across the gentle rolling hills. I fell into conversation with the girl leading the ride. She was a horse girl, of course! who also loved her milk cows. We had a lot to talk about. I remembered to look back and check on the children once in awhile. Every time I did my horse took the opportunity to reach out and bite the lead horse. Then we started climbing. The trail went straight up for quite a ways. The horses panted and climbed dutifully upwards. We stopped occasionally to let them rest.
The trail was mostly wide and not terrifying. Not even to me who is terrified of heights when horseback. A couple of places got narrow on steep side hills but we all survived. It made me think how nice it was not to be riding out flabby out of shape horses. They would never have made the climb. At the very top of the butte we stopped to admire the amazing view, and let the horses breath a bit. I took the chance to get my phone out and get the few pictures I did get. My horse took the opportunity to bite the horse in front of him.
Then it was time to start down.
At first the trail was gentle, winding down along the sides of the hills. Then it took a turn straight down. Holding my breath and tensing I let my horse know how terrified I was. He stumbled a little. I forced myself to breath, deep and regular. Then made muscles relax, as much as I could. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to insist on getting off and walking. On a guided traileride. On a horse who had packed all sorts of non horse riding tourists in sandals and shorts down this same hill. That was enough to make me stay on. Each slip on a loose rock made me gasp and cling tighter to the saddle horn. Each time we brushed against a sharp yucca I was sure it would be the last straw that made him take off bucking down the hill.
Not surprisingly, we made it to the bottom without incident.
Back on the gentle rolling hills I was able to breath again. To check back on the children riding behind me. My horse too the chance to bite the horse in front of him.
We all survived the ride. My son was exhausted. All that long slow was a lot more work than zipping around on his little mare in the yard. My daughter had a great time coming up with stories with her friend. They had decided on the worst case scenario for the ride. Her story goes like this:
Your riding along on your horse and the horse gets bit by a rattle snake. That makes the horse buck. You fall off the horse, over the steep cliff we were riding along. You get impaled on a tree on the way down. A mountain lion comes along and eats your legs as you hang there. Then you catch on fire!
Luckily, none of those things happened. But think how fun if they had.
She enjoyed the ride greatly, but doesn’t think it would be worth it to work on steering her own horse so they could go do it together. It was more fun on a horse she could just sit on.
We got the best present this morning. It was thirty five degrees when we went out to feed! Snow was melting on windshields and everything started right up without even being plugged in.
We did open our presents first. The cattle and horses have plenty of feed, they aren’t waiting anxiously. No reason to rush.
Bones, black kitty, is back outside where she belongs. Our daughter was holding her the other day and said a bug crawled off the cat onto her. She killed the bug, but there wont be very much cuddling until we can get to town for flea control!
Grey and white kitty quieted down amazingly through the snow. Once he discovered other kitties were getting fed, and the food wasn’t so bad he warmed right up. He is a strange kitty. I was trying to show him where I had left food. He attacked my hand, full on with claws and teeth. Then started violently rubbing against my arm. He may be crazy, but that’s my kind of crazy. Especially when I am fully dressed for winter and safe from his aggressive displays of affection.
The horses got carrots, my pet cows got cake. The rest of the cows got a cows favorite present, lots of food. We are cutting them back to normal rations, but it’s still exciting to get food.
We bought ourselves a flour mill for Christmas. I walked through the garden yesterday, looking for the sweetcorn we had left behind. We’ve always thought it would be fun to grind our sweet corn into corn meal. Two stalks still held ears of ornamental corn. The rest was picked bare. Deer had been sheltering behind the lilacs. Rabbit tracks covered the ground. Far better to feed the hungry animals with the remains of the garden. Who needed corn meal anyway. The sunflowers are picked clean too. Their heads barely above snow level. Now, barely into the bleak midwinter, what will they eat for the rest of the cold? I hate to have the easy pickings gone already.
Squirrels have been everywhere. We see them constantly on the snow drifts. They’re venturing far from the safety of the trees to gather kernels of corn left from the feeding of the cows. Pheasants are everywhere as always. A grouse wasn’t quick enough to evade the hawks. They feasted on her alongside our driveway. Hawks need to eat too. Bald eagles sit in the trees of the windbreak. The cats better be careful.
One calf died the first night of the blizzard.So far that seems to be the only loss. There were a couple of days we just could not get to the bulls to break the ice in their tank. They had feed and shelter. Just not water except for the snow. After the wind stopped and we could see enough to dig to them my husband took a chainsaw to the ice in their tank. He cut out thick blocks. Ten inches of solid ice in those two days. One bull is not going to be ok. He got frost bite in the most unfortunate of places. Poor guy. That would make two losses from the blizzard. Death isn’t the only way to lose cattle.
Christmas is good. Work still needs done. It is the work I want to be doing. The posts about thanking the farmer for not taking any days off, working on holidays and bad weather, always seem odd to me. What else would I want to do? This is the life we chose. This is what is good. Coming back in and sitting a bit is good to, but what would one do with a full day off anyway?
Nothing would start this morning. I thought for sure with these tropical temperatures we have this morning everything would start right up
The wind isn’t blowing! That makes everything seem so much nicer. I made the children come out to feed with us, with it being so nice out. They complained but then made a beeline for the big drifts and were off playing. So nice after days inside.
After getting the payloader started yesterday afternoon my husband put LOTS of hay out for the cows. They had plenty of hay left over this morning so feeding them more isn’t an emergency.
With the payloader started yesterday my husband also dug a path to the barn! It was tough digging. The wind was at it’s worst. I had brought the kids along, but up to that point being along with us had meant sitting in the suburban while we watched the gate while cows got fed and driving back and forth.
Now they were both given shovels and told where to dig. The wind whipped the powdery snow around behind the relative shelter of the barn. Their faces were quickly coated in ice. I sent them back to the house. With some worry they wouldn’t be able to find their way in the white out conditions.
They did find their way. I watched to make sure, then went back to digging.
With a path cleared I went for Popcorn. She lead easily from the shelter of the windbreak where they were standing. The wind was whipping around it too, coating them in powder. I had been going to go back for the others after I had her in, but they all followed happily. Even the extra calf we have acquired through this storm. One of my father in law’s who went wandering early in the blizzard. He hasn’t asked once to go back to his mom. Life must be pretty good with the milk cows.
With them all tucked into one side of the barn, so the body heat would be condensed, I went for the horses.
Walking out to the gate I called. Maybe going with the wind my voice would be able to be heard out there? No heads popped up so apparently not. Walking farther out into their pen I called again. This time ears appeared. I called again and Rusty started to come. I turned back towards the barn.
The horses came thundering up behind me and followed through the gate. Then Rusty passed me and went for the barn on his own. All the horses went in. The usual separations wouldn’t work, having to share it with the cows. Maybe if I tied Rusty the other two would be alright in there together. But Lady was scared to come in. She wanted to stay in the door. Helly was feeling spooky and hot, so was Rusty. They bounced around. Skittered across the cement floor. Chased each other and spooked. They were feeling good, and energetic. I got the call, my husband needed help. They were not going to be ok in the barn. I took off the halter I had briefly gotten on Rusty and they were gone, out the door.
I left the gate open so they could eat the cows alfalfa bale.
This morning when I let the cows out of the barn they looked warm, happy, and rested. The horses were reluctant to leave the alfalfa, but they are fat and were plenty warm. Back out to their grass bale they needed to go!
The big herd of cows was spread out in the warm weather and sunshine. Resting and melting. The steam was rising from their backs, black hide soaking up what warmth it could. Icicles dripped down their sides from where the bunch had been pressed close together and the combined body heat melted the snow. The two old girls I would have bet on losing through that were up and looking good.
The snow cover on their backs must itch. Ghost and Dandelion both begged for more and more scratches as I gave them brisk rub downs removing what I could.
The black kitty, Bones, and the big grey and white one have been enjoying being fed in the straw bales. Bones was sitting outside the barn door yowling for her breakfast. Grey and white kitty didn’t leave even as I came close enough to put feed in their hiding spot.
Most things seem to have come through nicely. We should hopefully be on the other side of this storm and things getting better!
The sun is shining, but without warmth or kindness. It lights the sky so we can see, but no more than that.
The wind is howling, whipping up the powder dry snow that falls when it is too cold for real snow containing moisture. The snow bites at any exposed skin, leaving it just damp enough to freeze quickly under a layer of ice.
My pickup gave up yesterday. One vehicle would start this morning. It has been running ever since. Walking to and from the quanset trying to get things running and cattle fed would be a death march.
Actual temps right now are 17 below zero, farenheight. Did you know that 40 below is the same farenheight or celcious? The windchill is 45 below.
It’s a wonder any of the animals made the night. I have doubts about Popcorn having made it this far without her blanket. She had ice frozen to her chin like a goatee and was moving slow when I grained them this morning. The calves were shivering. Hunched against the cold.
The beef herd is huddled in their windbreak, hungry and waiting for us to feed them. The feed truck started, eventually. It died a couple of times but I made it to the bunks. Cows came running looking for their breakfast. They were willing to brave the wind for alfalfa and corn.
Then the truck died.
The guilt I felt feeling the hopeful eyes of the cows on me as I walked away. So close to getting them food, but so far.
The payloader wouldn’t even try. My husband is out there working on it now.
The children haven’t been out of pajamas for a couple of days now. I keep thinking I should make them get dressed. But why? They don’t need to go out into this. Nothing should have to.
My hindquarters are beginning to thaw. It’s time to get dressed again. My husband has been out there awhile. Need to make sure he hasn’t froze solid. I want to try to dig a path through one of the drifts so I can get things into the barn. it’s not warmer in there but maybe with all the milk cows and calved huddled together they could raise the temp a bit and get a break from the wind.
We are lucky. I’m not complaining. We have neighbors who have lots power. Others with family snowed in far from home, or at home. Or cows have hay left over from yesterday and are well sheltered. The horses have plenty of hay. We are all here together. Life is still good.
Now we have -12F, with the wind howling and slow flurries. I’ve been mocking them a little. School is being canceled again?! For up to an inch of snow??
Now that it’s here I have been properly chastised. It’s cold. The feed truck, my trusty winter mount. Always willing and faithful, able to start in the coldest of weather, has failed.
She couldn’t manage to start yesterday. After battery chargers and being plugged in I was able to feed the load she carried, mid afternoon.
Then she got reloaded and…. died. Right there in the middle of the road she gave up and quit. I called my husband. He happily and enthusiastically came home from work early to work on her in the freezing weather.
Well, maybe not. He did come work on her.
He got her going again and she got parked in the shed where she could be plugged in for the night.
This morning she started happily. Because school was already canceled my husband was home to help feed. It went well, until she died again. He finished putting out bales then came to manually pump fuel to get her started. I was able to finish feeding and get reloaded. With firm instruction to keep gas to her!
She tried to die again. I floored it. In neutral of course. She lugged along sounding more dead than alive until she gasped for breath and came alive again.
I urged her back to the comfort of the shed and left her there until tomorrow.
The valiant battle against the snow drifts blocking the roads was won. But the battle was won while the war was lost. Drifts are collapsing. One lady we know was trapped in her car when a drift collapsed on it.
The light snow flurries are quickly drifting things once open closed again. The temperatures keep the ability to fight to a minimum.
I just came in from blanketing my cow. She was sick this fall and is skinny anyway from being such a good milker. I worried about her in this cold and driving wind. I would have blanketed her sooner had I thought about it.
The cows have more food than they can eat tonight. The horses are fat and fluffy. They got a full bale with not net or even bale feeder to restrict their access. The black kitty has been spending time on the porch and is now sleeping cuddled in the favorite cat hole in the straw. Milk cows got more corn than is probably good for them and one a blanket. Things are settled in best we can do for them.
The children haven’t gotten out of their pajamas all day. As much as I like to drag them outside for at least a little bit even in the worst weather, this is more than I will make them do. We cuddle with them and try to warm up between our trips outside to take care of animals. Our house is warm and has electricity . We’ve got it good.
The winds have, for the most part, quieted. The sun has been shining on the black hides of the cows warming them as they rest and recover laying and soaking up the warmth. The children have been off exploring colossal snow drift. The adults have been getting to sit down a little bit. Trying to catch a glimpse of this cabin fever we’ve heard some people talk about. Or at least a bit of rest.
We woke to fog yesterday.
Hoar frost covered tree branches, fences, and animals. The ground and the very air glistened white. God decorated his creation with such beauty it seem sacrilig to disturb it. Still and silent the world shined under its blanket of crystal. Even the sun was decorated, sundogs nearly circling it.
Until the wind came to destroy the tranquility. No longer whipping, instead quiet and insidious. Just enough to blow the crystals in the air at our faces stinging and cold. Falling to the ground they mix with the snow. The windchill dropped and my face froze walking back to the house after feeding.
It was time to try to make it to the store. My husband and children had gone off to work already. The highway was plowed in a fierce battle against drifts. My husband had blown a path clear to get to the highway. We were almost out of milk.
It felt weird reentering the rest of the world. The drifts along the way were fascinating. The roads were mostly clear, just narrow. All the stores were out of milk.
Except our little local store. The one that had been out before the snow. It made me feel dreadfully guilty for giving business to the behemoth instead.
We developed a new kitty through the storm.
The small black cat has been around for a few weeks now. Yowling at us from a distance, we’ve been putting feed out to appease it. It had not been willing to let us get close. By the end of the snow it came to our back door with it’s loud demands.
My husband fed it and petted it. Apparently that broke the barrier. She now not only lets, but noisily request petting and holding. We worry about our own cats response to an intruder and are not willing to let her in the house. She has been spending large parts of her days on the back porch keeping warm and we’re trying to get some weight on her.
Until then she has been Christened Bones. A fitting name for her tiny skeletal form.
Feeding took a normal amount of time and the cows were happy to come out of their quickly shrinking shelter. The milk cows still needed water hauled to them. We’ll try taking them out a different gate and moving them to water that way this afternoon.
The kids went out to explore the giant drifts in the tree row. They are almost as tall as the trees and from the top we can look past the trees and get our first glimpse of the outside world that we’ve had for days.
The corn stalks caught some snow. That’s why people leave stubble, to catch the snow and provide moisture for next summer.
They didn’t catch all the snow. That’s why it is so deep anywhere there’s shelter.
From the top of the drifts we watched my husband head out with the snow blower. Trying to dig his way to the highway, then to clear his sisters driveway. Our driveway wasn’t bad. Drifts covered the road the whole way to the highway.
The highway was open. For a little ways. As far as people had had to clear to get feed to their cattle. My friend had given it a try to see if she could get to town. She confirmed that it was clear from those peoples house as far as their cows. The snow plows are focusing on busier roads. Nothing on this one has been touched.
Not like over night, but during the day. The wind died down a bit. Or the snow has blown to where it is going to blow. The sun was shining and the sky as blue this morning as it was this afternoon. Not that you can tell.
The drifts that were as big as I had ever seen yesterday were bigger today. The cows were tired. They have shelter and food but the constant snow and cold was taking its toll. I feel awful for cows that people can’t get to. There are people who have been digging all day, all day for the last few days, trying to get to cows. We’re lucky to have ours home, close, and equipment that can reach them.
The milk cows are trapped in their nice sheltered place. That’s the problem with shelter. It shelters snow too and drifts build. I’ve been hauling water to them. They have their bale and are good except for water.
I let the horses up to the barn this morning. I was going to let them in. Rust didn’t even hesitate, he jumped right through the chest high snow bank after me when I called. That got them near the barn, but not in it. That last snow bank was chest high and wide. Much wider than the one he jumped through for me. None of them would try it.
It was better sheltered next to the barn and I hauled the last of the hay I had put away in the barn out to them.
When we went out tonight the horses happily left their sheltered place and ran back out to their pen.
Hopefully the wind stays down and we can dig out and have it stay dug out for more than a few minutes.