You have to love the weather in Kansas. On Monday night we went out at the 10:00 pm ewe check in shirt sleeves. Two days later we woke up to four inches of snow and single digit wind chill. It is awfully tough on new lambs and calves, but at least we had a couple of days to prepare for the worst. Say what you want about the weather but it is never the same here on the plains and it keeps life interesting.
This morning broke (I say broke because we were long up before the dawn and I certainly felt broken) cold, windy and most importantly snowy. Jennifer and I turned on the TV as we got ready to go do chores and saw the crawl across the screen proclaiming the day a snow day for our school district. That meant a lazy day of sleeping in and playing in the snow for most kids. Yes most kids, but not my kids.
Sure we took pity on them and let them go back to bed (it was 5:30) and sleep for another hour. Actually it was not the kids that we were taking pity on but the animals. Normally we all go out at 5:30 check and feed the animals in the barnyard. However, this cold snowy morning Jennifer and I decided on a quiet, stealthy check of the barn trying not to disturb anything. The ewes and lambs would be much better off and warmer undisturbed in the fresh bed of straw we had put out the night before.
Wake up calls were served and plans were made over breakfast on how to attack the chores. Extra care was needed to make sure that all of the new lambs were healthy and relatively warm. The decision was made to feed outside and then shut the ewes back in the barn and that meant water needed to be moved into the barn. Hay was thrown, feed put out and water was moved. I guess that is our idea of playing in the snow.
When everything was fed and bedded in the barnyard it was time to go out and check cows. Remember that bull that wouldn’t stay home last spring(I am happy to say that he is coming to a McDonalds near you, but that is another story for another day), it seems those rendezvous moved my calving up about a month. With three calves already on the ground, thorough morning checks of the cows are now part of my morning routine.
We plowed through the drifts to get to the pasture and a quick check revealed a new surprise conceived last April. Fortunately both cow and heifer calf did not seem fazed by the near arctic conditions. The cow was an older one and she had picked a good spot out of the wind. With the extra help the calf was quickly checked, tagged and released back to mama. We made our way back to the house re-opening the drifts that had filled back in during our jaunt to the pasture.
We were back into the house at a little after 8:30 am and the morning’s events were discussed over coffee and hot chocolate. I am sure that many of my kid’s classmates were still in bed. I am sure of this because that fact was mentioned a couple of times. The wood stove was stoked and the process of thawing out, for the first time, was initiated. I say for the first time because nearly hourly checks will be made of the lambs and ewes during the day. Each one of these excursions will also necessitate thawing out by the wood stove.
I am sure my tale of my kid’s snow day is not any different than any other farm kid in the neighboring two or three counties. Inclement weather provides many challenges, especially when newborn animals are thrown into the mix, those challenges require that all hand need to be on deck. Keeping the chores done and animals care for is definitely a family activity.
Days like this are what makes farming and ranching such a unique way of life. At an early age farm kids quickly learn that there are no days off or days when work is cancelled due to inclement weather. They also realize that family activities and farm work have a way of morphing into each other. So while other kids may have been snuggled in their warm beds enjoying their snow day, my kids were bundled in their coats and overalls enjoying their snow day just as much.