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.

5 thoughts on “

  1. My relatives live not too far away, near Howard Lake. They’ve extended a warm welcome to me, trying to entice me to move to Minnesota from Phoenix, Arizona. The welcome is about the only thing warm about the whole deal, as far as I can see.

    Last summer I was in Wright County for the first ever Minnesota Garlic Festival, put together by my cousin Marienne and her husband Jerry. As it was then about 112 degrees in the shade in Phoenix, I rhapsodized about moving to the glorious cool of the north country. They probably chuckled at my romantic ignorance.

    I can laugh about my Minnesota fantasy now, and people up your way are free to think I’m crazy. But just remember, in six months it will again be 112 in the shade in Phoenix, I’ll be back for another Garlic Festival and I’ll undoubtedly be talking about moving to Minnesota again.

    We each get a little slice of Heaven, but we’ve gotta pay for it with a great big chunk of Hell.

  2. Hey, Debbieduck—-Chachi is fine. While all the llamas can get out of the wind, he’s with the bunch of sheep who have access to the barn. He still won’t let me touch him, so kisses are out of the question, but he loves me when I bring him corn!

  3. Lori,

    I love your comment about heaven and hell—that pretty much sums up Minnesota…

    The world keeps getting smaller. Marienne and Jerry are friends of ours, and Jerry took a shift caring for our farm when we went to England and Scotland a few years ago. (Yes, we took an actual VACATION!) Your uncle Willard is one of Melissa’s dearest friends, and taught her much of what she knows about farming.

    So now you have two farms urging you to return to MN…ignore all our complaints about weather…it really isn’t that bad (she says, her Pinocchio wooden nose growing longer and longer by the minute!)

  4. I always say that I don’t know if I could be doing this sheep raising/farm stuff if we lived in my old homeland of Minnesota. I’ve been hearing about your cold weather, and feel for you. Out here in balmy Oregon we had a week of frozen water buckets and that was bad enough – I know you’re groaning. I am sorry about the ewe. Lambing is stressful enough I’m glad we don’t do it in Minnesota weather – but I applaud you both, and your girls for their midwestern toughness! Do you have a donkey? You have to get a mini donkey. We love ours.

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