We made it through January and it seems that the entire month was spent hauling buckets of water for the horse, cows, chickens and pigs. As Gene Logsdon wrote in his journal that farming without money takes a bit more labor and his direct comment, “no water piped to my barn as well as no electric in the barn, also examples of farming without money “. We wouldn’t trade the weather for anything, and wouldn’t mind another cold snap next year, because our hope is that this type of weather will decrease our bug pressure.
We are fortunate to have water piped to our barn, using hoses, making animal chores rather easy when the water is unfrozen. However, when it freezes, so do the hose lines which means we must carry water. It would be rather costly to pipe our water underground, and since we farm without much money, that is not in our budget. After realizing how much water our cows drink we are surprised that California is able to raise any livestock. It seems that our vegetable production uses much less water than raising livestock, which to us, means vegetable production might be better suited for the desert.
We don’t currently have power to the barn, or we would run heaters to keep the water troughs unfrozen, but for now we have been breaking the ice layer in the troughs a couple times each day providing the critters with access to water. At one time we did have electricity running to the barn, but a tree fell knocking our power line down, so fixing this power line has not yet made it to the top of our priority list.
The old timers would just allow their animals to drink out of the branch because here in the mountains we are fortunate that our branches rarely freeze. We, trying to be good stewards of the land, have fenced our animals out of the branches so the animals rely on us for water. Keeping Meadow Fork clean, means keeping the animals out of it’s tributaries, and most of the streams on this farm run right into Meadow Fork. We have had a dusting of snow the past few weeks, and the animals could eat snow, but they are much better off if we provide them with fresh water. We don’t want our animals struggling to get water, when they are simply trying to survive in our unseasonably cold temperatures, which is why we are happy to spend January hauling water.
The old timers claim that these temperatures were at one time the norm for winter, but according to the weather records, this is our fourth coldest winter in 50 years. My theory was that the old timers had homes which were poorly insulated so it was a bit more difficult keeping their homes warm. So to them, because it was difficult to keep their home warm with wood heat, the winter’s all felt extremely cold. We’ve experienced these brutal conditions first hand living in a poorly built singlewide trailer trying to keep the temperatures above 56 degrees at night. Several times this winter a layer of ice has even developed on the inside of our windows. This is just a reminder that one day we hope to build ourselves a decent home.
So what have we been doing during January’s Artic Blast?
We finished building the 4 season hog shelter and fencing a corral. We have yet to complete fencing the perimeter of their pasture where we hope to seed paddocks of forage crops for their nourishment, but our plan is to juggle that in with other farm jobs early spring. Once the perimeter of the hogs pasture is fenced, we plan to divide the pasture into 3 or 4 paddocks using electric fencing.