Working The Farm When You’re Not As Young As You Use To Be!

Never before have we felt our age more than we have this winter. Never before has the phrase “it’s all in what you’re use to” been more fitting.

We have seen temperatures in the single digits quite a few times – no in Virginia we are not use to this. There have been several minor snows but even with the insignificant amount of snow, working outside has been a bear. Hauling water…most people don’t have a clue how heavy a 5 gallon bucket of water really is…its 40 pounds, that is carried 300+ feet, 5 to 6 times back to back, some days 3 or more times in a day. The livestock needs water and it needs to be thawed – the animals are not fond of ice chips. You find yourself getting really excited when the temps are predicted to be in the 30’s only to be disappointed because it’s going to rain for several days. A cold miserable rain!

Once you have a single spare moment it’s time to hit the woodpile for log splitting because Lord knows that fire breathing woodstove must be fed.

It’s at the end of these kinds of days that you become way to aware that 60 is just around the corner for both of us. The farmer seems to always have a personal heat source wrapped around his back during his breaks. The farmHer hasn’t been able to sit or stand without fear that this is going to be the time those knees just stop working. If we aren’t reminding ourselves we’re not 20 anymore our friends are quick to point it out.

As I sit here writing this we have one eye peeled to the up coming weather forecast. Some say 8-12″ of snow with sleet. Others are saying 20+ inches of snow. I don’t think we’re going to get missed this time. That’s okay, spring will come soon and the aging muscles will finally get a break before it’s time to break the earth to plant the garden, cleaning out the chicken house, doing hoof trims, sheep shearing…okay,  that’s enough!

“January Has Come In Like A Lion…”

That saying use to apply to March around here but for the last 5 or so years, it’s an excellent description of what our January’s have done. This one is no exception. We thought it was cold on New Years Day when the thermometer topped out at a balmy 42 degrees..well, I am here to tell you that was a heat wave! Since then our nights have been in the mid-teens and our days have struggled to reach 30 degrees and oh good Lord, the wind! The daytime sustained winds have been around 25 mph, with gust over and above. I am a huge lover of cold weather but if there’s no snow involved, it just as well be 70! This is ridiculous. I feel so sorry for all of our friends in the mid-west and up North. The prediction was for a hard Winter and I think we’re having it.

My talk about the cold is leading me to take a moment to discuss animals care in the harsh Winter months..mostly, water. Here at the farm, we are not fortunate enough to have a year round outside water source for the livestock. During good weather, we use hoses from the house but this time of year, livestock needs water too..possibly more than in the heat of Summer. What would normally take about 30 minutes in the morning and evening to do livestock feedings and waterings, is easily taking up to an hour and a half each time for us. Everyone must always remember that our animals need to have water sources that are clear and flowing for at least a little bit of every day. We are feeding diets high in roughage (hay) and grain which both absorb moisture in the gut. Feeding like this with a lack of water will take a sheep, goat and llama (speaking for my own animals) down quicker than parasites. So please, when you are doing your daily chores in this weather, remember water. Also, on this same note, don’t forget any outside pets you may have. I know that I am not telling anyone anything they don’t already know, but usually your pets water dishes are much smaller and shallow, which means they freeze much easier..just keep an eye on them too. I just hate it when a fellow farmer friend  tells me about loosing livestock in bitter cold weather. I know that the chore of water hauling is not easy, especially when you get to be our ages, but keeping our stock alive and healthy is so very important.

So, tell me, now that you know that our New Year has brought additional work for us..how about you! Any stories or other recommendations you want to share? Feel free to leave us a comment.