012814 – snow rollers

2014-01-27 13.49.50Saw this little thing on the way back up to the house from the barn – from all the interwebs fuss, it’s a “snow roller”, or a nature-made snowball.

According to that bastion of information, Wikipedia, snow rollers are created when a chunk of snow is blown along by the wind, picking up more snow as it rolls – like rolling a ball for a snowman.

Some of the pictures I saw had hollow snow rollers – looked like a powdered sugar donut!

I’ll add this to the “weather phenomena that I never new about” category!



011514 – the bucket garden


This is all it is – a 5 gallon bucket, some soil and seeds, and a light fixture with a grow bulb in it. Denny made the stand the light is hanging from (the vertical piece goes all the way to the bottom of the bucket). We have the light on a timer, but as long as you turn it off at night, you should be good to go.

What corner could use to grow things? Lettuce, carrots, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes….experiment and see!

011414 – food in a bucket

If you have room for a 5 gallon bucket, you can grow food. Fill bucket with soil, plant some seeds, put a grow light on it, and water. Wait a bit and you’ll get food! These are our first radishes, and we’re going to try carrots next. Growing food, in the winter, in the house – it can be done!


Well intended but sometimes wrong

Whenever the weather gets the way it is right now (very cold and snowy), various posts, emails, and even news stories begin to circulate. You know the ones. Those that show something like a snow encrusted dog or other animal … Continue reading

Whenever the weather gets the way it is right now (very cold and snowy), various posts, emails, and even news stories begin to circulate. You know the ones. Those that show something like a snow encrusted dog or other animal sleeping in the snow and exhorting people with the refrain, “If you wouldn’t sleep outside in this weather, your pet shouldn’t either.”

I will grant that, for most urban dwelling pets and people, who don’t regularly stray far from the climate controlled confines of their homes or jobs in any kind of weather, this is sound advice. The fact is that most pets and people are in no way prepared for this kind of weather.

The problem starts when this idea becomes a universal generalization applied by people to all circumstances, many of which they neither know nor understand.

For those of us who care for and live with outside animals every day of our lives, that generalization is wearisome at best. The fact is that we spend nine or ten months of the year preparing our animals, be they cattle or dogs, for exactly this kind of weather by allowing them to develop the very kinds of natural defenses that allow them to live in this kind of weather.

How can I say that? Because I know that most animals, being near relatives of their wild cousins, retain most of the traits that allow wild animals to survive and thrive in this kind of weather without harm. As a result, we make sure they have year around access to sufficient food and water, exposure to the weather when it is good, and plenty of exercise.

How does that help? Because most animals, unlike most people, expend most of their energy doing two things: getting ready to make babies and getting ready for winter. Giving them access to the right food, weather, and exercise lets them put on the right kind of fat and grow the right kinds of coats so that, even when it is sub-zero outside, they are fine.

How could they possibly be fine? Well, the same way you are fine if you are well fed and properly bundled up against the same cold. Outside animals develop multi-layered fur, sometimes as much as four or five layers thick, coated with various oils and structured in such a way that, even in the bitter cold and snow, they are as warm as you are in your coat and mittens.

In fact, for a variety of animals including cattle and working dogs, a crust of snow functions as an additional layer of protection against the cold. That crust forms an insulating barrier against a far more deadly enemy: the wind. If you see furry mammal covered in snow that is not otherwise in distress, the chances are that it is fine. I can say that because, being warm-blooded, an animal in distress in that situation will be covered in melt ice, not snow or frost or surface ice. This usually happens because the animal is sick or has gotten extremely wet. In that case, yes, the animal is in danger and needs aid quickly.

But for the majority of animals that have been properly cared for the rest of the year, being outside in this weather is not as much of a threat as people want to think it is, especially if they have a place to get out of the wind and, if they need to, out of direct exposure to precipitation. Otherwise, I can assure you they are fine.

No, really. They’re fine.


010214 – snow cows

With the cold weather and snowy conditions, you may have seen snow-covered animals standing around in their pastures. What’s wrong with them? Do they not have a barn to go in?

If you look at these two examples, it looks like they have had no access to shelter – they have snow all over them! What you can’t see is the big barn that they don’t go in, except when it’s time for their ration of oats, or when it’s really windy out. Same goes with our horses – they were completely covered with snow when I went to feed them this morning. Nice dry barn? Nah, we’re going to stand outside and look for grass in the snow or munch on the hay in the hay wagon!

Snow on their backs means that they have a good winter coat that insulates them from the cold. I’ve “dug down” into their winter coat and their skin is warm to the touch.

They have access to shelter when they choose to use it, and don’t seem to mind getting snowed on, so we leave it be. Silly cows!