Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Winter Wonderland

We have had some serious connectivity issues of late so the blog has had to be shelved for awhile but I think we finally have it fixed. This winter has proved to be cold and snowy so far but like all of the seasons in the Ozarks winter has a particular beauty and we don't let a little cold weather stop us from enjoying all that it offers.

Temps have ranged from below zero to a couple of days in the 50s but on average we are about 10 degrees below normal so far this year.

There is something profoundly bucolic about a barn covered in snow and its so quiet and serene it melts away any cares or worries.....until you have to shovel or load the wood stove!

We live in the country, we don't have neighbors we can see or hear (other than cows or the occasional rooster from Roy's farm or Ed's braying donkeys a couple miles away), but a good snow cover makes us feel even more remote for some reason...and we like that.

We get asked a lot if a stone house is warm in the winter and it is. The concrete and stone acts as a heat sink and because there are no gaps in the walls (particularly since we replaced all of the windows and doors) we get absolutely no drafts or cold spots. Also unique to this area because of the rocky substrata, we have a full basement so all of the plumbing is well below the frost line where it enters the basement and we have never had any issue with frozen water lines; something that has been a serious issue in this area this year.
One thing that is a constant in the Ozarks is the ever changing weather and after a dreary snowy day we usually get days of sunny bliss.

These Oaks behind the big barn are like a bird sanctuary and we often will have hundreds of varying species competing for attention.

I much prefer warmer weather but I look out at our small farm on days like this and know that we ended up in the right place.

Our daily routine involves breaking up the ice in the water troughs a couple times a day, feeding a little grain to the cattle and sheep, laying out some hay for the ruminants, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, and on days like this mending fences (literally), splitting wood, or other tasks that are easier to do in sunny weather.

We check fence lines every afternoon and normally use the 4 wheeler but when its too cold we will take one of the trucks...age has made us a bit soft. Here we are heading to the back pasture which is beyond those trees.

And here looking back in the opposite direction of the previous shot towards the shop. I like it back here as its in the middle of a couple hundred acres of nothing but pasture and woods (wish we owned it all) and its full of wildlife.

From the south pasture you can see some of the corn stalks we left standing after the corn harvest. Birds and deer like it and we like watching them so its a good match.

This old hog barn in the south pasture is beyond repair as its literally only held up by some trees growing through it but I like to imagine what this place looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s when it was in its prime. We are still attempting to find some old photos of the place and I will post them if  we find some.

Our farmhouse is old and very old fashioned and we are keeping it that way but its homey in a way that's hard to describe. There isn't a level surface or right angle in the place but when you come inside its warm, it has that infinitely pleasing old house smell, the old Sessions clock is slowly ticking in the living room and on a cold winters day like this your likely to smell a hearty stew or soup cooking away in the kitchen...and I guarantee it will make you sleepy.

Now that we don't have to worry about septic lines we can drive through the barnyard and up to the hay mow instead of going through a couple of gates and we take advantage of that luxury.

We haven't started on wiring up the shop yet but the power pole with its dedicated transformer is just waiting and tormenting me. We got the pole put it but haven't progressed further and I am itching to start.

As Judy is demonstrating we actually got quite a bit of snow and this is a lot for this area; schools were out for a couple of weeks and we have had some interesting EMS and fire calls...some of which required me to use my 4WD pickup to reach patients as our rescue rig just isn't set up for this amount of snow.

Was it cold this day? Yes it was but Holly keeps me warm!

Our little lamb Cocoa has had no problem with the cold or snow.

She is still nursing but has taken to eating hay and some grain and Tulip continues to be a good mother.

I have been struggling with physical pain from my back lately and its easy to feel down or sorry for myself but then I walk out to the sheep corral and see something like this and its hard not to smile. With all of the craziness in the world and peoples busy lives I sometimes just want to have people follow me around for a day on the farm to show them why we jumped out of the rat race and gave up good careers

Nike our ram has been a pistol and we have to keep him in a separate pen because he is so aggressive. Rams naturally are going to challenge you and try to head butt you (he is a good example of why they call them "Rams") but its just their nature and he is actually very affectionate. He jumps and plays in the snow and though we take precautions in never turning our backs on him, he is enjoyable to have around.

One of the things we like to do when it snows is to find all of the many wildlife habitats on the farm and a good way to do that is to identify tracks like these rabbit tracks which are all over.

Or these really clear wild turkey tracks....

or a raccoon...

and even these Coyote tracks which aren't very clear but were  very close to the sheep pen.

Bandit has gotten old and has decided that he likes riding in the truck when we check fence lines as we were doing here in the south pasture. He has to be helped into the 4wd trucks now and he shakes from his doggy Parkinson's but he is a good old boy and my ever constant companion. He has learned how to roll down the automatic windows though and I am just waiting for the day when he puts it in gear and takes off.

Louise was apparently not impregnated when we thought she was and it now looks like February before she is due, Her udder is filling nicely and it looks like the calf has dropped lower but I think we have a few weeks left.

We have two outside runs for the chickens with this one being roofed so we piled straw bales on each side to give them a wind break and with the heat lamp we have in their coop they are staying nice and comfortable....and they are back to producing a lot of eggs.
When we don't have a lot of snow we have had ice storms which are pretty but very destructive as they break branches off trees and often bring down power lines. So far we haven't been without power here (though they have all around us) but we have test run the generator and have plenty of fuel stockpiled to we feel like we are prepared. I have never understood how people can go through life expecting everyone else to do thing for them instead of taking care of things themselves. Even around here people crowd the stores when a storm is brewing and strip all of the shelves of every bit of milk, bread, or canned good.

And finally, watching the different animals interact is fascinating. Bandit and Rose the Farm Dog often rub noses with Cocoa and run up and down the fence line playing with her, the cats all lay on poor Bandit and nap with him, and Nike the ram likes to rub noses and play with our youngest heifer Maybelle.
So that is winter at the Stonehouse farm. We have burned about a cord and a half of wood so far, its snowing as I type this, and winter just started......

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