Saturday, January 9, 2010


Growing up in Upper Michigan, snow was not a stranger. We had drifts upon drifts. My dad would get up at 0'dark thirty to push snow for several hours before heading off to work, and do the same thing when he got home. We played on snow banks most years from late September until April. But, sheltered by trees and hills, the snow usually came drifting down fairly gently.

Oh sure, we had the usual blizzard and lake effect nastiness you get being near the big lakes. Winds off Superior were bitter, and winds off lake Michigan could chill you to the bone. But there was shelter to be had from the thick forest that covers much of the U.P., and in general stretches below 0' didn't last too very long without breaking.

Winter on the plains is different.

For one thing, the lack of trees makes the wind a LOT more deadly. Fluffy snow turns to ground blizzards or packs into solid, cow-weight bearing drifts, snow creepers wiggle their way out into deceptively deep road blocks to trap cars and block barn/house doors. And the windchill will just plain freeze you.

It's gorgeous, though.

Driving home yesterday - I left early so that I'd be traveling in the "heat" of the day (the temp reached a whopping -11 very briefly after our low of -24) and reached home with the sun still glowing off the wind-polished snow crust. The few minutes more sunshine per day we're accumulating is already making a noticeable difference - one nice thing about the plains: trees don't create an artificially early sunset.

Rather than un-bundle, I collected T and we headed out to do the horses while there was still daylight. Good thing, too. As we bumped down the rutted hill coming up to the farm from the south mile road I could see dark spots against the snow where dark spots had no business being.

Fences that look plenty tall with no snow on the ground appear deceptively low with 3' drifts against them. When the drifts are packed solid, they pretty much are that short. And metal stuff gets brittle when the temps get that low.

Thankfully, a good bale usually keeps the critters where they belong, but not always. Livestock drifts a fair amount every winter, moving away from the wind just like the snow. Sometimes it's the combined weight of the packed herd pushing a weak spot in the fence down. Sometimes they just walk out over it across the snow pack.

Our three escapees had done a combination of the two.

Sunny, Thunder & Pennie were out on a polished spot in the front field pawing through the snow crust to get to frozen pasture grass. They came running when they saw me, demonstrating exactly how and where they'd popped out in the first place, but proceeded to dive right back out again before I could get the hole blocked. Of course, rest of the bunch - the bale had been holding their attention just fine until then - wanted to go with them. Thankfully, with T to block the hole and run interference it was a matter of minutes to get them back in, although I found a few thigh-deep spots to fall into.

At least the effort of staying upright meant I was warm.

We spread hay to keep them busy and then patched the fence and tied some plastic flags to the spot before we lost the light. We'll need to do a better job today, but it will hold them for tonight.

Pictures will have to wait
until it's warm enough
for the camera batteries to function.
It's cold out there.


Breathe said...

Warm enough for camera batteries?


Great post and I hope everyone is where they should be today...

Kate said...

You're colder and probably even windier than us - but my cell phone and camera batteries quit too - I keep my cell phone inside my coat if I can to keep it from dying.

Braymere said...

Remind me to never go to South Dakota in January!!! That is just too cold for me. Here I've been complaining about the weather in Colorado, but what you've described is much, much worse.

Mikey said...

Dang girl, that does NOT sound like fun!!! Tooo cold for me!! You be careful up there!

Horse Riding Equipment said...

Best wishes for 2010 ! for all horse lovers