Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Breaking Ice

Ice Portal to the goats. :)

Steven just sent me these photos he took this afternoon. Since much of December and the first part of January was extremely cold here, the big concrete stock tank at the windmill began icing over, deeper and deeper. Eventually we gave up on chopping the ice, and just provided the goats with fresh water daily in tank in their barn instead. So in the meantime, the ice in the big tank froze deep (our poor goldfish are under there somewhere).

Today we had the first of a small warming trend. So Steven went out and started up the windmill to allow water to flow over the iced tank to loosen it.

Then he cut the ice into big chunks with a handsaw, and manually muscled the hunks of ice out with a hay hook and brute strength! He only did one small area of the entire tank - the side where the goats drink.

These photos show how thick the ice was - nearly a foot deep. The keyhole photo (with the goat) above - the hole was made by the pumping water, melting it where a cattail had poked up through the ice (yes, we keep a few cattails in the tank as cover for our fish).

You can see the entire tank in the background of this shot.

The residual snow and ice around the farm should all be melted off tomorrow - a forecast high of nearly 60 by the end of the week! Yippee! (the fate of the fish is still unknown. Not seen yet)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Wood

Sorry I haven't had time to do much blog updating lately. I always have ideas, but rarely time to get them written down. On a positive note, we received about four inches of snow early this week, the first real moisture of this winter. We are very thankful for it, and hope that more rain or snow will come soon to our parched ground.

During our winter time, most every weekend or daylight hour that we are both home (there isn't much of that during the weekdays) is spent working on making sure we have enough firewood, as that is our primary heat. Especially this week, as wind chills have dipped to -15 F during the nights, it is important we be well stocked with wood.

Steven and I have fallen into a system/pattern which seems to work best for us.

During the weekdays while I'm away, Steven uses any extra time he has to go out into the grove or shelterbelts, and find dead wood hedge (osage orange) and he drags as much of it as he can up to the house and creates a pile near the chopping block on the sheltered south side of the house:

(The stump at the left edge of the photo is Steven's
wood-splitting block - an big old hedge section that we've about worn out)

(Thanks always to our great-great-grandfather and pioneer fore-runners who planted all these trees back in the 1880s, when there was not any kind of tree within 3 miles of the place when it was first homesteaded)

Then whenever I'm home and have daylight hours, we both bundle up, I get my trusty Husqvarna chainsaw oiled up and ready, and we begin an assembly-line style of wood cutting. He lifts and feeds the big limbs to me as I cut them off at acceptable lengths. I'm like a human buzz saw :)

Then we set the large chunks aside for Steven to split with the maul, and the smaller stuff that can be burned whole we load into the wheelbarrow to stack in the corner of the greenhouse to keep it dry and ready.

Unlike many people, we do not let there be any waste. We are not picky about size and shape of wood pieces. It all burns. Some people like their wood stack to be nice and neat and uniform, but we save even the smallest twig of hedge (good for starting fires) to the biggest part of gnarly stump or root that is dry and able to be cut and fit into the stove. So our stack isn't pretty - and sometimes we may have to load more into the house at a time, but there will be no wood wasted on our farm!

There is the old adage that firewood "warms you twice -- once when you cut it, and once when you burn it!" I certainly agree with that!