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!



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.


Day 356 – how high’s the water, papa?

It’s been a while, I guess! Farm life just keeps going along – moving hay bales for the cows and the goats to eat, forking loose hay to the horses, gathering eggs (wherever they may be!), planning for the coming spring (seeds for the garden, new critters for the farm, living quarters for said new critters). We also completed the “big move” – only (haha) 100 feet apart, but I think that actually made it more of a job, because it wasn’t pack-everything-and-throw-it-in-the-moving-truck-to-go-to-the-new-house, but a few trips here and a few trips there. Finally, in the words of a dear friend, we put the cat in with the cactus, and just got it finished. Well, at least we have all of our stuff in the house and all Mom’s stuff at her house. If you’ve ever moved, you know that the unpacking and such may be even more stressful than the box moving. But it’s done.

On to yesterday and this morning. It rained, and rained. It stopped for a bit, then rained some more. End result? Same as it ever was – the river came to visit!

The critters are all well, if a bit damp.

Day 305 – big wind

A nice sized storm system rolled through the area last night, bringing some serious wind and rain, which (surprise, surprise) knocked our power out for the evening. After checking the animals, we thought a line had been knocked down by some falling branches, and reported as such to the DP&L power outage hotline.

No one slept well last night, half listening for the repair truck (not that we actually expected it to come until this morning!) and wondering about the imagined damage to buildings and such around the farm. Well, at least I was wondering about that!

Morning arrives, power is still out, so we begin assessing the damage. No line is down, so we figure a fuse popped. Buildings – fine. Critters – fine (it appears that there was a calf born sometime between yesterday afternoon and this morning – silly momma cows). Trees – laying across the driveway. Yikes!

Out comes the chainsaw to cut a path (you can see how big this “branch” is) and a rake to remove smaller debris. We’ll chip the branches later on.

These are the branches that we think caused all the problems – they came from pretty high up and we think they bounced the power lines together and blew the fuse.

DP&L arrives as we are sawing away – problem resolved, and we have power. No damage to foods in the fridge/freezers. Huzzah!


Day 205 – looking like fall

IMG_0327There are a couple of things “wrong” with this picture:

1.  It’s before 8:00 am and the cows/horses are out in the pasture – they’ve been in the barn every morning for the last month or so, and

2.  This morning sky is not a summer morning sky.

We heard cicadas for the first time earlier this month, and it’s said that the frost is about 6 weeks away from that date, which would put our first frost around mid-August.  A lot of people pooh-pooh folk wisdom, but it’s been right too much for me to discount it all.  And I figure it got passed through the years for a reason – things that aren’t true don’t tend to be shared for very long after they’re proven wrong.


Day 201 – rain

IMG_0321A little hard to see in this picture – but it rained today!  After the stinkin’ hot week we had, it was a welcome sight.

It’s always been interesting how the amount of rain varies in the same storm system.  I was at Greenville’s farm market this morning, and we decided to close the market early due to the big red blob on the radar heading our way.  We were still getting tents down and products packed away when the wind came up and the rain came down.  It was a soaker.  Then I’m driving back to the farm and it was raining a nice, gentle rain – good to water the garden.  It was windy, to be sure, but the soaking thunderstorm all went north of us.

I’ve also seen it raining down by the river and not at the houses, and have watched the downpour come across the fields – both are pretty cool to see.  The one I don’t really like is when I can see the whole rain shower moving north or south of us, and we get nothing!


Day 200 – heat wave


I heard someone at the Vandalia farm market say that the weatherman proclaimed this past week the longest heat wave this year.

Uh, I’m pretty sure this is the first “big heat” we’ve even had this year, and it’s July, people – it’s summer in Ohio!

Even a short time working outside or moving around to care for the animals makes me drip sweat, but I guess that’s all part of the job description, and I can always cool off in front of the fan.  Lots of water and lots of breaks.

Still, I think the cat has the right idea – sleep through it all.

Day 199 – heat

IMG_0317It’s been quite oppressively hot this past week.  This is a physical manifestation of that heat – haze over the fields.  It’s easy to see here because of the nice green background of the trees, The air feels heavy and for me at least, it gets hard to breath – feels like I’m breathing water.

We’ve been staying inside as much as possible except to tend to the animals and do necessary things.  The farmer’s market today was absolutely brutal – it’s in a parking lot, so even with a tent, the heat radiated from the asphalt.  We were all pretty miserable.

Not much that can be done except keep the animals (and ourselves) hydrated and able to get to shade.  The animals may decide to not stay in the shade, but they at least have access.

Forecast says it’s supposed to start cooling down a bit on Saturday – that would be nice for everyone.