The Cost of Cold
It’s been a rough few days out here on Rising Moon Farm. I did chores five days ago, and even though it was only 5 degrees, it wasn’t too bad, and if truth be told, I was feeling smug out there pitching hay and feeding corn and refilling water troughs,. We Minnesotans are tough, living in a land so cold your spit shatters when it hits the ground. How cool is that?
Then the temperature dropped. Suddenly it was -20, with a windchill of -35. This nasty stuff becomes serious, especially when it goes on day after day. Every morning we trudged up to the barn, sharing chores because it was too cold for one person to be outside long enough to do all the chores alone, and we’d find the sheep hanging around on their hay bed, chewing cud and looking unconcerned about the weather. (The morning I took this photo, it was -15.) But I said it would be a miracle if we didn’t lose anyone to the cold.
All the animals had plenty of food and water, and a place to get out of the wind. The birds in the chicken house were cold, however, and one black and white speckled hen got weaker and weaker until Melissa brought her into the house. She’s been living in a cage in the entry way for a few days now, and is doing fine. She’s a polite house guest, only cooing now and then, rustling the newspapers underneath her occasionally.
In our flock of 45 ewes, we still have two of our original flock, #18 and #66, ewes who were born in 1996. They were still producing twins, which is amazing for nearly 11-year-old ewes. They have been living with the ewe lambs and Chachi (the llama), and have had access to our three-sided barn.
Turns out that wasn’t enough. Melissa went up to check on the sheep this afternoon, and found that #18, one of her favorites, had died. Age? Illness? Possibly both, combined with the cold. No way to really know. We were lucky to just lose one animal. Ranches out west have been buried in snow and blindsided by cold several times this winter, and hundreds of animals have died. While death is a natural part of farming, it’s hard when Mother Nature steals one when you’re not looking.
The cold will be breaking soon, and the temperature should rise to 10 above later this week. After five days of -20, 10 above is gonna feel like a heat wave. We’re ready for the break, and so are the animals.