Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bucket Brigade

It's a cold, dry day today. Everything is hard and bright and frozen solid. Temperatures are supposed to drop to 11 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.

Now, I grew up in Maine, so I know that 11 degrees is nothing to some of you northern folks. But it's just about as cold as it ever gets down here. It brings up lots of challenges, because our farm is not set up well to deal with temperatures this low.

For example, we don't even have a frost-free outdoor faucet. We just have the regular kind of faucet that sticks out of the foundation of the house. From there, I run a long, long hose across the yard and down to the animal paddocks so that I can fill the 500+ gallons of water troughs per day.

In cold weather, the faucet freezes. And if the hoses are not laid straight and completely drained of all water, they freeze too. When that happens, we have a portable propane heater that we light and tuck in the crawl space under the house to thaw the faucet. If the afternoon is going to get warm enough, I lay the hoses in the sun and hope they thaw in time for me to water the animals.

If the afternoon is not going to be warm enough to thaw the hoses outside, we have two choices: Either drag 250' of frozen, dirty hose into the house, cram it into the bathtub stall, and let it heat up in a tub of hot water until it thaws, or else fill buckets in the kitchen sink and make a gazillion trips, carrying buckets by hand.

All the animals needed the ice in their troughs broken and removed today, of course, but only the sheep and the young horses needed their troughs refilled. So we opted to do the bucket brigade.

We collected all the spare buckets we could find (we save every empty cat litter bucket we ever get, because a farm can never have too many buckets) and started filling them in the kitchen sink and in the bathtub. I didn't count how many trips we had to take, but Ken and I both worked up a good sweat doing it.

As a special treat, we used warm water, which the animals really appreciated. I feel bad for the poor sheep, who were sheared a month late this year and have very little wool regrowth yet. But Icelandic sheep are used to cold weather, and they don't really seem very bothered about it.

I like our Virginia climate. I'm glad that we don't have very many days in the year like this one. In the interests of efficiency, I always look at what the weather is predicted to be, and every day that it's warm enough for me to water the animals using the hose, I fill everybody's troughs right up to the brim, just in case the next day will be another day when I have to do the bucket brigade.

1 comment:

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

been there done that. We too are not set up for freezing weather and watering animals. Usually I keep the hose in the garage at night if it will freeze hard---pulling it out the next afternoon to water with. However----I missed it this time and had to lug water for 4 days. At least I don't have horses! Thank goodness.