Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Winterizing the Farm- Steps to prepare for the months ahead

I thought it might be interesting to write about what needs to be done to prepare for the long, dark, winter days while the sun is still shining and it’s 90 degrees out.  Seems a bit easier to think about!
Kelly with Loopy
I always deliberate when I should actually begin to prepare for those winter storms, and though it does seem a bit early, I’ve already begun.  The years that I’ve continued to put it off until the weather begins to turn are the years that I’ve been the most unprepared.  So, this year I’ve decided to get a jump on things.
These tips are my own and may not pertain to your farm.  Mine is a very “hands-on” farm, and even though there are things that would make my life easier, they cost money and my budget doesn’t allow for them at this time.  You may come across a tip that sounds a bit antiquated, if that is the case, please understand that it’s probably the most affordable for me at this time.

Imax in Winter Wonderland!
Bring the animals’ halters inside.  We have tack trunks in the barn for gear, and racks for everyone’s halters; however, I’ve been through ice storms when I can’t get the barn door open!  Now I keep halters for horses and llamas in a cupboard in the mudroom/laundry room once fall sets in.

Round up the Trough Heater/Extension Cords. These I get out of the loft (hay is going in) and move them to outside.  I have a special rack of hooks and I hang them there.  That way I am ready to begin heating water troughs and pond as soon as the temperatures begin to stay too low for too long!
Remember  to feed birds (and bunnies)!!

Switch siding on Run-ins.  This is a funny one.  During the summer, I remove the north walls from the run-ins for horses, sheep, and llamas and place on the south side.  Obviously this is because the summer sun is hot and the animals head to the run-ins to cool off. It feels great to have the breezes blow through by having a few sides removed. Plus the fiercest storms usually come up from the south.  Then for the winter, I remove the panels from the south walls and put them on the north side. Obviously the warm, low on the horizon sun, feels great warming the animals in the run-ins, and now the worst winter winds from the north are blocked.

ALL animals need shelter, food,
and fresh water daily!
Don't forget the love!

Clear the Porch/horse trailer. I load the barn full of hay, but I also keep some bales on the front porch as well as in the horse trailer.  This again is because of ice storms.  The porch is covered, but is open to the elements.  I don’t usually keep much hay there, just a few bales to use in a pinch.  I keep a few dozen in the horse trailer and about a half dozen in the back of my truck with cap on. One winter when we had an ice storm, I couldn’t get into the barn.  It was awful!  I had to be resourceful with a sledge hammer; and, now I’ve learned preparation is better than destruction!

Headlamp/spotlight batteries.  My absolute favorite thing I use in the winter is my headlamp. It’s my daughter’s old one from hiking (She bought a new one, but this is fine for me). I have to feed hay and check water troughs every morning before getting ready for work.  Usually this is in the dark. So, while I’m busy carrying flakes of hay and a sledge hammer for troughs, it helps to have my hands free to not carry a flashlight. I also have a powerful spotlight for situations out in the fields. I recommend having both!
Snow can be beautiful!

Horse Blankets.  All our horses are different sizes and have different blanket needs. We have blankets for everyone and each blanket is in a separate container marked with that horse’s name.  I keep these in the horse trailer.  During the summer, I pull them all out and check that they are ready to go and that everything is in working order on them. It is a rare case that we put them on everyone, but have them if we need them.  Occasionally we get a horrible COLD, rainy day in the winter and that is the type of weather they can’t handle too well. So, out come the blankets. Remember, horses that are fed well and have shelter should do well. Their hair fluffs up to warm and retain that warm air around them. Snow, cold temperatures, wind can be difficult, but they still fare well.  It’s when nasty, cold rain/sleet/icy conditions get factored in, that horses don’t do so well. Horses should not have a blanket put on them in the fall and not taken off until spring!  They need the vitamin D from the sun and to do that they shouldn’t remain covered.
A horse needs 25 lbs of  forage
 and 10 gal of water each day.

Hose hooks.  Ugh!  This is a bad one.  During the summer I coil up the hoses when I am done with them.  We have over 500 feet of hoses for the back yard, and 300 for the front.  I have to run hoses with water to fill the troughs at the different paddocks for all the animals.  Well, in the winter we need those hoses always drained after each filling session to allow them to be ready whenever I need them.  So, to fill troughs I have to screw them all together, and when I am done I need to unscrew them all, take them over a hill to help with the draining, and then raise them up on hooks so that I can find them in case it snows or ices on them.  (This is one of those times when it’s an antiquated system, but it’s the cheapest way I can afford at this time. Someday I will run water to each of the paddock in pipes underground!! And then have a pump.---I can dream!)
"Bear Tracks" quilt square
brightens the shed!

Reposition water troughs.  Where I have the water troughs for the summer is different from the winter time.  I pull them all closer to where the paddocks all meet so that the water heater is easier to move from trough to trough throughout the day.  If I’d plug heaters in for all the troughs at once it would be over 7,000 watts and I don’t have any outlet that can handle that!

Deworm. That’s standard on most farms throughout the year, but after the first hard freeze, I make sure that everyone is done at once-- That’s horses, llamas, and sheep.

Mud room ready!  This is another UGH moment! Barn jackets and overall pants are different from house/town clothing.  We strip at the mudroom door.  Our other clothing hangs in that room so that we can change into normal clothes after taking off barn clothing. Our muck boots have a spot by the door, too. All the pairs look the same even though the sizes are slightly different. We have our names inside our boots to tell them apart.  There is a place for our scarves, gloves, tools, headlamps, too!  It’s wonderful when summer comes and we can see all that packed away for a few months. 
Snow coverage doesn't usually
last for long in Kentucky.

Hay bale cutter/twine bags.  Mellow but necessary!  We go through hundreds of square bales and dozens of round bales during the winter.  For my llamas and sheep (both ruminants), I have a round bale at all times in their paddocks. Plus, I also feed grain and flakes of square bales both morning and night. For my horses, I only feed square bales. So they get flakes from the square bales morning, afternoon, and late night; plus, grain in the afternoon. I have special baling twine cutters.  We all use them, and we all remember to put them back where they belong.  Much is done in the dark, both in morning and at night, and it is irritating to be trying to feed and can’t find the cutters.  So, there is a hook for the cutters and a bag to put the twine in after we’ve snipped the bales. There are horror stories of animals eating the twine and not having it pass, so we pull the twine, knot it, and throw it into sack.  It may be little more effort, but not worth the risk if we don’t.
Mother/daughter sharing a
flake of hay.

Kerosene/candles.  This one is for the house.  I usually pull the kerosene heater from the shed and place it in the mud room.  I get kerosene in a very small container to have on hand.  Figure as long as I’m prepared, I won’t need it.  A few years ago we had had an ice storm and some people didn’t get power restored for several weeks.  We were one of the lucky ones, but it never hurts to have everything ready to go in case it’s needed (or to share with a friend who does).

If you have any tips to share, please do!

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