Almost Christmas Blizzard

We woke up to sow this morning.

It came as a complete surprise. The forecast had said maybe, a small chance of snow. We’ve gotten so used to not getting anything that perhaps they said more and we didn’t hear it because our expectations were otherwise. Whatever the reason we had not expected snow.

A small blizzard was even more of a surprise.

Had we known it was coming we would have brought the cows into the corrals. Fed them where there was shelter and feed. Instead they were out in the corn field. A great place in the weather we had been having. Lots of corn stalks to graze on while they search out the ears left behind.

Not a drop of shelter though and  the wind is howling down with this snow. Driving it into drifts, coating everything in its path with a blanket of white.

Looking out into the powdery white my husband sighed deeply. This would mean lots of time digging out the feed bunks and the cattle would have to be found. Cattle drift with the storm, as any one who is a fan of old westerns can tell you. They don’t exaggerate the force of a herd with heads down walking blindly with the wind until stopped by fence line or, as in my favorite by Louis L’amour, a cliff. They could have drifted down to the corrals. That was the best case scenario. The storm isn’t all that bad. We could see the hay out inn the stack yard still. The wind was whistling through the trees letting us know how much worse it was blowing away from the shelter of the windbreak. They knew the way though.  It was a good possibility really.

Or they could be gone. Off across the neighbors fields. Mixing with their cows. Hopefully not making it as far as the highway. We have a neighbor who lives on the highway and they got a whole herd of cows and one horse in  their yard and barns during a blizzard. The horse determinedly herded the cows and held them in the barn until someone came to find them.

As my husband headed out to start digging out the cattle, I went the other way to check on my horses. They have a run in shed that they refuse to use except on sunny summer days and plenty of feed and shelter. I hate fr them to get cold or wet though. I wanted to see how they felt about it and offer the option of the shed to dry off in. Checking onn Ghost, Poppy, Baa, and Violet where they have their own little pen with sheds for all I closed gates and rearranged things so the horses could get to the barn.

Then I walked to the edge of their pen and called.

In the distance I could see where they were standing happily eating hay. They had heard me and responded with heads thrown in the air and ears prick towards me. They came, ready to go in the barn.

As they came through the falling snow to where I could see more than an outline of them, I was confused. Where were MY horses? These horses were a completely different color! We didn’t have any white horses!

Even as powdery as the snow was it had coated them head to toe. All fur was white, their manes all that retained any color. The beautifully colored snow horses pranced through knee deep drifts, nipping at each other and determind in their goal. Together we turned and walked into the barn.

Wading back to the house for a curry comb to scrape the snow from their hides I paused, wondering how the men were fairing. In the distance I spotted the dark outline of a payloader, then of two. They were digging snow, clearing a path to feed. Happy to know they were out there I carried on.

Horses scraped free of their snow blankets I followed my tracks back into the snow with a pitchfork to dig up some hay. Had I known it was going to snow I would have had this ready and waiting for them! It is more pleasant when all things are dry and not buried. With a handful of pitchfork my phone rang. Rushing to dump it through the open barn door I leaned against the barn to shelter my phone from the moisture and managed to answer before it stopped ringing. My husband was calling to check on us as he worked.

Yes, we were fine. Or I was. I couldn’t vouch for the children in the house. They had computers though, great baby sitters for times like these. How were the cows? They had drifted into the corrals! They were going to feed them in n the corrals. The corral I had turned the horses out into because we weren’t using it for cows! Uh oh. I needed to shut some gates!

Pitching a few more fork fulls to the horses I started my walk. Lots of corrals with lots of gates makes a nice little track for the horses to wander through. They also make a long walk through deep drifts to close. The first gate was buried in drifts. I pushed and pulled and could barely move it. Not such a bad thing. I could close other gates and this would give the cows a bit more room. But I had to try one more time first. Walking the drift down, kicking snow out of the way the best I could I go the gate farther shut. Repeating the process over and over I managed to get the gate closed.

Out of breath, lungs burning from panting inn the cold wet air I finished the loop closing the other gate then back into the wind towards the buildings. My torso was hot, sweating under coats, and gloves, and scarf. My legs were frozen solid with only the thin covering of my jeans. You would think the two would even each other out. Combine to leave you comfortably warm, instead of dying of heat and freezing to death at the same time.

A the buildings I paused. Halfway between house and barn I had to decide. Did the horses need more hay or did I need to sit down a moment, catch my breath and alternately warm up and cool down? They had been eating when I called them. They could survive for an hour or so on what I had given them already. I gave in to temptation and went inside. To write this. Now I should go check on them. Probably let them back out. A glimpse of blue is showing through the clouds now and then. The blizzard is gone. Hardly enough moisture in the dry powdery snow to make  it worth the trouble it made. At least it will settle the dust for awhile. And I will turn  the horses back out now that they’ve had time to dry.

Category: Cows, Horses
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