“A good stiff chill this week, to remind us we live in the North Country. When the weather turns cold everyone I see asks me about the animals. I’m looking out the window at the sheep right now. They are so well insulted by their wool, the snow doesn’t melt on their backs. We put farrowing huts in their corral this week, bedded with hay. They have not even tried them out yet. Instead, they are lying down in the thin sunlight, chewing cud. I think the rest of the stock feel the same about the cold (barring, perhaps, the fur-less pigs, who have spent the week buried together under lots of hay and straw). Animals eat more during a cold snap, but away from wind and wet their internal furnaces keep them comfortable and content. I worry much more about their wellbeing during a heat wave, or when the flies are bad.
The trouble with cold is water. When the low fell to -15 degrees on Wednesday night, the drains froze in the milk house and the office trailer, and some of the frost-free hydrants stopped running. This happens in fields with water tables higher than the valves that are supposed to empty each pipe to below the frost line after use. One of those troublesome hydrants is the one we use to water the horses. Luckily, they are near a field with an old, hand-dug well in it. Mark and I walked over the frozen field to inspect it. Had the heat of the earth kept the water liquid, when all the other surface water on the farm was hard as stone?” Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.