Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hunkering Down: The Ice Man Cometh!

For you "Oldies" fans out there, the theme song of this post is "Limbo Rock" . . . you know that line, "How LOW can you GO?" 

Monday it's supposed to start raining, change to snow (although around here it could end up being freezing rain), and get down to a low of 4° with a wind chill of -10°.  BRRRRRR!  Tuesday is supposed to be relatively balmy with a high of 23° and a low of 13°.  After about 36 hours of the Ice Man, we're supposed to get back our more normal winter temps of low 40s during the day and about 27° at night.

Although Dexters and horses routinely do well in even more severe temperatures, our forecast deep freeze can come as a shock to livestock that aren't accustomed to it.  So this afternoon we did some hunkering down to get ready for the Ice Man.  (Herb will be seeing counseling clients till late Monday evening and won't be here to help me get ready.)

Herb got out a new round bale for the animals in the pasture.

While Herb took care of the round bale, I collected turn-out sheets from the tack room and took them down to dress Angel and Brandy for freezing rain, just in case.  Once the rain is over I'll probably take the blankets off so the girls can fluff back up and stay warm in the cold.

The horses are old hands at wearing blankets, but Julie wasn't quite sure about this.  I tried our smallest one on Julie, but it was still too big.   So poor Julie will just have to tough it out.

Herb brought down the Rubbermaid tank and filled both tanks in the pasture.  In case the ice freezes solid, it's easy to remove it from the Rubbermaid tank by whacking it with a heavy rubber mallet.  Tomorrow I'll run down there with a big log to float in each tank, which helps to prevent solid ice forming.
Boudin has been banished to solitary confinement in the Back Pasture ever since Cameron caught the big galoot trying to nurse Ebony over Christmas vacation.  We let him back in with the horses today so he can get to the hay and so that we don't have to go to the Back Pasture to break ice on the pond for him.   The less scattered our animals are, the easier it is for us to keep an eye on them.  Boudin still wants to be with Ebony, so we weren't taking any chances.

Herb led Ebony up to the barnyard (it is SO great dealing with halter-broken cattle!) where she promptly dug into the manger full of hay.  She is Boss Cow, so the others left her in peace, although Macree ventured to eat from the other side.

Next we got a pile of clean hay that had been strewn in the hay barn and we built a comfy nest for Misty in the feed area.  She may or may not choose to use it, but at least she'll have a dry, warm place to go.

We plugged in the electric dog bowl to keep some water warm for the chickens, ducks and Misty.  It's safely inside the feed area where the cattle won't mess with it.  (Let me add here that putting electricity in the barn is one of the smartest improvements we've made!)

The water tank got a de-icer plugged in, and we drained and hung the hose.  The proximity of the tank to the chicken coop allows us to run one extension cord up high out of reach of mischievous horses so that we can safely plug in the tank de-icer and a heat lamp for the chicken coop.

A new salt block encourages the animals to get plenty of salt and stay thirsty enough to drink the water, even though it's cold.

Next we got some exercise stripping the stall we use to separate Siobhan and Macree overnight for milking.  I'd gotten behind on this, so Herb helped me.  Between the two of us we were able to lift the loaded wheelbarrow enough to dump it into the manure spreader, saving us from having to shovel everything twice or carry each shovel load clear across the barnyard.  (I will not be milking Tuesday morning in near-zero temperatures!  It's better for the animals to share warmth when it's that cold, and I can very well imagine the milk freezing as it hits the pail--I have no need to see it!)

After filling the water bucket and stuffing the manger with hay, I spread lime over the wet spots on the clean floor and carried in lots of loose hay the cows have spilled around their manger and hay nets.  They won't eat it once they've dropped it, but it makes a nice clean bed for Siobhan.  (Since Sir Loin has joined the barnyard gang and has decided he should get to nurse like Macree, I need to put Siobhan in the stall instead of Macree.  That keeps Siobhan away from everyone who still has nursing on their minds!)

We turned on the heat lamp in the chicken coop as usual in the evening, and we'll just leave it burning until things warm up.  I added fresh clean hay to the nest boxes before covering them for the night.  (You can see our high-tech nest box covers here:  two door mats with handy holes.  I just drove nails in appropriate spots so we can hang the mats over them.  During the day they are propped on the folding door that covers the nest boxes.  The mats are heavy enough and just the perfect size to cover the nest box openings and keep the chickens out of them at night, thus cutting way down on chicken droppings in the nests.)

That's it--we're all hunkered down for the Ice Man.  Everything and everyone is as ready as we can get them . . . except poor Boudin, who is hanging out near the gate where he bid Ebony farewell!  Herb thinks we might find him frozen there Tuesday morning, but I have faith that he has enough sense to head down for some hay and shelter once his hunger overcomes his broken heart.  Meanwhile, he's making quite a racket letting everyone know how upset he is!  Moo away, Boudin--it'll keep you warm! 


  1. If every farmer would prepare as well as you two, all animals would be well taken care of. You guys do a great job and your animals are lucky to be on your farm. I hope to model our farm after yours when it comes to taking care of animals. Good job and I am sure they all make it through this deep freeze with out problems.

    1. You're so kind, Gordon. We've had good examples to follow and good breeders to give us advice. I belong to a ProBoards Irish Dexter group and three Yahoo Dexter groups (Dexters Only, Milking Dexters and A2 Milk) and have learned so much from the people there. One thing I HIGHLY recommend to anyone starting out in cattle is to join discussion boards relevant to their breed or type of cattle. There's a guy on the ProBoards who has both Dexters and Highlands. If you want, I could put you in touch with him some time.

      Herb has been so good, carrying hot water by hand to pour in the tanks in the pasture where we don't have a de-icer. He even fills extra hay nets for me before he leaves in the morning because stuffing them makes my allergies and asthma act up. We really make a good team because I do the networking in person and online and learn new things, and he's ready to put new ideas to work! I just today learned a trick that I'm very excited about adapting to use when our new baby bull arrives in a couple weeks, and Herb was right on board with the ideas. I'll definitely be doing a post on this because someone posted about what they do, and it's extremely helpful to us, so I want to pass it on.

      Your animals will be very lucky to live on your farm, too, because you are so industrious and such an avid learner! It will be so interesting to follow the actual implementation of all that you've researched and learned on your farm.


I LOVE comments so please take a minute and let me know you were here! Sorry I have to use Captcha, but I hope you'll comment anyway! Comments make my day! :)