We woke up today to a warm and sunny 16 degrees. It was a vast improvement over two days of snow and high winds. I allowed the chickens to leave their coop, but they were dubious about the idea. One brave soul ventured out and then acted quite upset when she landed in the snow. She retreated to the outside roost, which remains above snow level.
The snow around the coop is 14 to 16 inches deep, but the half-inch hardware cloth that lines the lower two feet of the chicken run acted like a snow fence. Inside the run, the snow on one end is only 6 inches deep. Still, that’s waist high on a chicken. I am glad I have not clipped their wings as they have taken to flying about rather than wading through the snow.
I ended up putting a waterer inside the coop and another in the run so they can access it where-ever they want. We checked on them several times during the day and never saw more than five outside at one time.
So far, my practice of bringing the previous day’s waterer into the garage each morning to thaw out has been working. Once it thaws out, I empty it, refill it with fresh water, and swap it out for the frozen one out the next morning. I just have to keep the garage warm enough to thaw the water. It’s about 45 degrees in there now, which is colder than normal but on par with our coldest point last year.
The dog came home early from her self-guided morning walk, which surprised me. I did not need to call her back, so I wondered if she was getting tired of the snow.
Only once she was inside did we realize she had captured a mouse and brought it home to more fully enjoy in the peace and quiet of her den. When I say “we realized,” what I actually mean is that my wife found it and I heard about it while I was outside shoveling and blowing the snow. Let’s just say she successfully conveyed her message that the discovery was not a happy moment for her.
My wife thinks the mouse was dead and frozen, which means the dog is not the great hunter I envisioned by a great sniffer-outer of dead creatures. If that is the case, it’s a shame. She hunts and pounces with the intensity of a hungry coyote; I like to think she is successful once in a while.
Now that the wind has died down, I can see tracks in the snow. The good news is there are no large tracks. I expect any bears have denned up by now. In any case, nothing circled the garden or the chicken coop. I spotted a set of tiny tracks that came from a hole, walked along the chicken run fence and disappeared. Worried that it might have climbed the fence, I looked, but there were no corresponding tracks inside. I don’t think something grabbed it from above because there were no unusual marks. I have to assume it dug back under the snow.
Local radio reports schools, local governments and many businesses were closed. I do not know how the roads are because we can’t get out and no TV station is going this far into the boonies to cover traffic. To give you an idea of how long we might be snowed in, my wife has a doctor’s appointment Friday and is already considering calling to postpone. I am more hopeful. If this sun keeps up, we might see some sublimation in which the snow evaporates into the air rather than melts.
There’s enough snow that a couple day in the 40s would not clear it out, but we will still get a big melt-off at some point. That could make things very muddy. Then it will refreeze at night, resulting in ice.
Snow that melts slowly and seeps into the ground is good news for me and anyone else who depends on groundwater for their drinking water. Rather than running off into the creeks and streams, although that also happens, much of the moisture will seep down into the soil and help raise the water table. That’s good for anyone who has a spring or well.
I used up about three quarters of the stack of firewood I brought into the basement, so I raided the pile of wood we have in the garage. I was after larger pieces that will last longer and help us through the night.
The cord of wood we are working on is completely tarped up, so I know we will be able to bring in dry firewood when we need to. The next two cords we plan on using (our February and March wood) are covered on top, but between the wind-blown snow and a tarp that only extends two feet down the pile, they ended up saturated with snow. I used a leaf blower to blow out as much snow as possible. We want to avoid the snow melting on the firewood, dripping down and refreezing. Without blowing out the snow, we would need a few warm and dry days to melt it out and help dry the wood, and there is no guarantee we’ll have those before February.
Once again, the wood stove and fireplace insert proved sufficient to keep us warm. The basement was in the mid 70s, the kitchen and great room upstairs got down to 65 first thing in the morning but warmed up to the low 70s, and the bedroom was in the low 60s. The guest room, which is furthest from the heat source, sank to 52 degrees and our bathroom bottomed out 54. Not terrible when it is in the wind chill is below zero. Some people might consider that roughing it, but we’ve adapted well.
All Ends Well
Our other preparations proved sufficient, even though we did not need to turn on the generator. About the worst thing that happened was some chicken eggs froze and split open when I neglected to make the afternoon egg collection. The only other complication was that the garage door had some ice buildup and refused to close. Apparently, the automated systems thought it was hitting something and would reverse direction. That was annoying, but easily fixed.
Now I have freshly charged batteries, a few more days of firewood, and the perfect excuse not to go anywhere for a few days.