Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Sucks

Winter sucks on a good year. This year, winter really, really sucks.

The cold came early, most of November and December ran in the -40°C range.  Weeks and weeks of freezing bloody cold with rarely a day in the tolerable -30°C range.  January was worse to start, then got a little better, then worse again.  More of the same for February, until this week.  We're at a balmy -9°C now.

You'd think with all the cold, we'd at least get a break from the snow.  But no, no luck there either.  More snow this year than we've had since we moved up north.  Many of the old timers say there hasn't been this much snow in 20 years.
The cold and snow and wild life took it's toll on the livestock.  When two of the calves disappeared, coupled with numerous prints, I assumed wolves.  The next two calves froze to death, no doubt about it.  We found their bodies.  We'll see if we find the bodies from the first two when things melt in the spring.  That's all my bottle babies and Mugsy, Mindy's calf.  The only survivor (touch wood) is Majesty, Dorie's calf.

We found Mildred lying in the middle of the barn.  No signs of trauma.  Just dead.  Again, I assume it was the cold. 

Mama took sick and died.  Max froze to death.  Mary Jane broke one horn, then the other about a month later.  She died a few days after that.  I think one of the bigger critters may be responsible for injuring her.  Sheila is the lone surviving goat.

We moved the three surviving meat hens and 1 rooster to the basement in December.  All of my other hens and the chicks I hatched last year died.  One goose and 2 roosters remain outside.

Wonder suffered severe frost bite and we put her down.

Winter depresses me on a good year.  This year, it's been over the top.

#4 got freezer burn- a form of frost bite that's like a third degree burn.  The picture is three days after it happened, with the swelling down to about half the size it was.  He had to go to the hospital everyday for treatments with flamazine for almost two weeks.  We got lucky and he didn't get infected.  He's looking pretty good now, ears back to normal size, but he'll remain highly susceptible to frost bite for the rest of this winter, and still increased likely hood for the rest of his life after that.

Loggers have been working the bush behind us, and decided to pile the snow from the end of the logging trail down our trail, blocking it off.

Snow banks on the sides of the road have been pushed back again and again and still look huge.  Flooding is expected in the spring.

The one good thing this year was that #2 and #3 made the biathlon team with cadets.

They've been practicing skiing and shooting regularly.  I've been volunteering more with cadets and may become an officer.  I got to go to the regional competition with them in Sault Ste Marie.  It was too cold to ski.  Seriously.  They had to do an indoor range competition, and a physical fitness competition instead.  My boys didn't do well this year (first timers), but our girls won gold for the relay team, and one of the other boys one gold individually.  The provincials went better weather wise, and one of our girls is going to nationals in March in Nova Scotia!

#2 is totally hooked on skiing, and continues practicing for next year.  He's cut his time in half.  #4 is getting a head start learning how to ski now.  I decided to give it a try too, and despite the fact that it's an outside winter sport, I kind of like it.  I'm really, really bad at it, but still, I kind of like it.

We're almost out of firewood and will probably need to start cutting in March to get us through the rest of the winter. 

Spring will probably be late.  I haven't started any seedlings- not even tomatoes.  No ambition.  Greenhouse 1 is going to need new plastic.  The back side is pretty much shredded.

Thanks to everyone who has popped in and said hello.  I haven't been in the mood to write much.  Winter sucks.


  1. Wendy,
    I shrieked and gave a little start when I saw you posted. That sounds like a miserable experience having so many animals die. How do the chickens like it in the basement? Mine would go in my basement, too, in that kind of weather. They lived through 6 F weather with no house. The cows are such an investment to lose. Is there any way to protect animals from that kind of cold if it happens again?

    Your boys are coming right along. And, you are learning to ski! I know you would prefer to just hibernate and never go out...lol.

    How on earth did #4 get his ear exposed like that? Was he just lax in keeping ears covered? Did it freeze like that when covered? Was he out too long? I know when it was 6 F here, I was getting worried about me! His ear looked like it would hurt. Was it painful?

    Is it hard to keep your house warm? Mine was just barely livable and my skin hurt.

    Well, I am glad you are back. Actually, I worried the winter was worse than you described. You know how a person's mind runs wild without news.

    1. An insulated or heated barn would help. Sort of. I kind of blame Mildred's death on coming from a dairy with an insulated barn. She didn't grow any winter fur, just remained sleek. It took two years for Tori to adjust to the weather and start growing in a thick winter coat. I guess we were lucky those winters weren't as harsh. The bottle calves, likewise, had come from dairy operations, so weren't prepared for winter outside. Mugsy was born too late in the summer. Mama was getting older, and sometimes stuff happens. I can't explain Max. He had a good coat of fur. So while an insulated barn would be nice in these extremes, it would make it harder on them when they have to go outside. Unless I locked them in for the entire winter.

      Lesson learned- no more auction purchases. If I'm going to buy anything that needs to live outside in the winter, I need to buy stock that's already acclimated to living outdoors here.

      The birds need heat. They were doing well until a couple of nights that we dropped below -50°C. Frost bite was evident on their feet and combs. It weakened them and then they started dying. Every morning I'd go out and find a body or two. If I had plugged a heat lamp in on those really cold nights they probably would have been ok.

      We think #4's ear froze while skiing. It was only about -20°C that day. He was wearing a heavy ball cap and a neck warmer. (Skiing is hard work and makes you sweat!) It was his first time skiing and he fell down a lot. We think he got it covered with snow on one of his falls. His other ear never swelled up, just a bit pink. His brothers had no problem. After skiing he said his ears were burning. It took about two hours for it to swell up like that. At that point it was no longer painful, just numb. It stayed numb for about 5 days.

      We heat with wood. The house is fairly small. I have three feet of snow banked around the house. As long as the fire keeps burning it's toasty in here. If the fire goes out the temperature drops like a rock. Then it takes all the next day with both fires burning to get everything warmed back up.

      It was worse. It was winter (which I hate) in the north (where we moved because of Dad) without my Dad (because he died). You know what I mean.

  2. Almost every day I've checked to see if you've posted, and was happy to see today that you did. You've had a hard, sad winter. Can anything be gleaned from this sorrowful experience? Wishing you a calm and peaceful spring.

    1. Thanks. As I said to Linda- I need to be diligent about buying livestock that's genetically prepared for the conditions we live in, and keep a heat lamp on in the chicken coop over night. Maybe. I might just keep the chickens in the basement through the winter from now on. They've been laying eggs since the end of January. That never happens...

    2. Take this for what it's worth...but, I've heard that the Scottish highland cows are pretty rugged, and they happen to be extremely adorable. And I've researched chicken breeds that can handle our Canadian winters, in particular the Chanticleer (the only breed developed in Canada - PQ). I don't even remember the others I looked at now. Maybe these breeds would be interesting for you to look at when you get back into animal mode. God bless.

    3. Thanks Sue. I posted about the cows this morning.

      The chanticlers sound interesting. I've been reading this morning. I've emailed a breeder here in Ontario for more info on ordering. While extremely hardy, as you say, they're also endangered and expensive. The price I could handle with them being better for the farm for the long run, but it's a little scary considering what horrible luck I've had with chickens in general around here. Minimum order is 25, postal delivery, which is more than I really want. I looked at ordering fertilized eggs too- but they're more expensive than the chicks. I haven't decided what to do at this point, but I appreciate the suggestion!

  3. OMG wendy - i am so sorry.... we had a pretty bad year here, worst in 10-20 years but NOTHING compared to that level of cold - and your animals - what a loss....

    i have been thinking about you and when things were bad here - i would say to kymber "imagine how tough it must be up where wendy is"

    i used to race cross country skiiing back in ottawa in the 70sand occasionally people would get frostbite. one year in perth windchill was around -45 and they were inspecting people at the water rest stops and pulling some people off the track - one guy had both ears as bad as #4... once they get that bad, you can't feel them so you don't know. i have experienced temps like yours, but only a few days at a time... nothing like what you have been through - so cold it burns!

    i am wishing you a speedy spring with NO blackfiles!

    you are the toughest of us all so i know you will pull through..still..

    a big hug to you from cape breton!!!!

    btw - i have to re-plastic our porch too - damn uv!

  4. ugh Wendy...every commenter above me has already said it all. i just can't believe that you like skiing - bahahahahah! good on ya gurl! the first time i went skiing, i went down a bunny hill and there was only 1 tree for about 3 thousand miles. and that tree was like a thousand miles away!!! guess who went down the bunny hill, couldn't do the "sideways-ski-stop-thingy" and hit the only tree around. with my face!

    i am so glad to see you posting again. i have been missing you. and yes, we have been thinking of you all over this winter. much love and prayers have been sent your way over the winter, and will be continued to be sent. i'm just glad that you're back.

    your friend,

    1. Thanks, jam and kymber!

      We'll pull through. It's just unfortunate that we couldn't give the critters a better chance to survive this bloody cold.

      At this point I'm hoping everyone delivers late- although the old timers are also saying we're going to have big, dumb calves, with high mortality rates this year. I guess it's a consequence of such crappy weather.

      I tried downhill skiing once when I was younger. I hated it, and never made it off the bunny hill. I could picture myself doing that, kymber, lol. I tried cross country once too, and found it really boring. This is skate skiing, and I really don't even know why I like it. It's just fun.