Friday, February 13, 2015

Winter on the Farm

I thought I would write this blog post to give you an idea of what we're dealing with in New England this winter.  Ironically, it was the winter that almost wasn't.  Christmas was in the fifties, and no snow until mid-January.  Then wham!  Here in Connecticut's northeast corner, we've been hammered with huge amounts of snow, at least once a week.  

Now I'm somewhat of a winter person.  I love to cross-country ski--an activity that I can do right from my backyard, or drive five minutes to a local park where they groom trails.  It's the kind of skiing that requires real snow.  There are no snow machines for cross-country trails, just the natural stuff that falls from the sky.  There have been years when it's been hard to find much snow around here for skiing, and it's an incredible form of exercise.  You don't have to wear very heavy clothing, because the physical activity keeps you warm.  It's just you on your skis in the cathedral of the snowy woods.  

And let's look at the advantages of snow when it comes to horsekeeping.  The horses stay amazingly clean from rolling in the snow, and having no access to mud or dirt.  Manure piles that stick fast to bare frozen ground are easy to scoop off a layer of snow.  Hooves are sparkling clean and healthy.  If you can get to a trail to ride, there is nothing as exhilarating as a gallop in the snow.

The downside?  It's pretty hard to push a wheelbarrow around my paddock.  I'm pretty meticulous  when it comes to keeping the paddock clean, and I try to pick up all the manure piles every day.  In the winter, when it's dark in the morning and dark at night, it's a challenge.  Many a night I am out searching for piles in the moonlight.  And this year, I have invented the poop-sled--an old plastic toboggan that has been repurposed for hauling manure through the snow.
Here is a shot of the paddock, with the poop sled in the foreground.  You can see the paths the horses have made--leaving islands of virgin snow covering most of the paddock.  My version of the Virgin Islands.

Of course I needed a place to dump all the manure from the poop sled, so an area had to be shoveled for a temporary manure pile.  Hubby will move it all in the spring when everything thaws.

Getting to the water trough is always a challenge in the winter.  Our plow guy shoves all the snow from the driveway into a huge pile in the path of where the hose has to run from the hydrant to the trough.  Which usually means excavating a tunnel through the plow pile.  I can also get to the trough from the horses' side of the fence, but that does me no good with the hose. 

There's a gate under there somewhere.  Not going to be opening it anytime soon.

Belle is taking it all in stride, up to her knees in the white stuff.
 And I've taken advantage of snow days, hunkering down in the studio.  One afternoon yielded this quick little oil study of the scene from my studio window.
Winter Landscape Study, 5 x 7 oil on board, $100.