After this past week’s weather the scurs and the Weather Eye generated much hate mail. Will their performance this week be met with more approval or will they be waiting for the frozen eggs to melt off their house? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-single digits above zero and lows near -10. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the low single digits above zero and temperatures rising overnight. Cloudy Friday with a good chance of snow. Highs in the upper teens with lows in the mid-single digits above zero. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a moderate chance of snow in the forenoon. Highs in the mid-single digits above zero with lows in the mid-teens below zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the low single digits below zero and lows near 10 below. Monday, sunny and warmer. Highs in the low teens above zero with lows near 5 above. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the mid-teens above zero. The normal high for December 21st is 24 and the normal low is 7. The scurs are thinking there is so much time left to shop they should probably take a week off and think about it yet.
The winter solstice will arrive on the 21st, signaling our shortest day of the year at 8 hours and 54 minutes of daylight. The good news is that the days will start getting longer soon afterwards. The bad news is it’s very gradual at about a minute a day once we get to Christmas Day. Without sitting there to document the time of the sunrise and sunset each day, it’s pretty hard to tell for a few weeks. In the meantime we can enjoy the holidays and look out on the white countryside while the city folk look at the buildings and the snarled traffic. They can have it.
Ground froze rather quickly last week before some who were still thinking about fieldwork got a chance for the most part. Snowfall amounts of 5” – 7” were common across much of the region with a heavier band just to our north. The snow provided a nice blanket for the alfalfa and other perennial forages and just in time for the cold snap that is upon us. Fortunately hay is in plentiful supply in spite of the past summer’s frequent rainfall and subsequent difficult haymaking. Note there are no claims as to the quality, only the quantity.
The bird feeders are getting a workout with winter’s sudden arrival. While still a few too many house sparrows for my taste, the cats may think otherwise. They enjoy a good sparrow meal whenever they can catch one. There has been a pair of cardinals in the yard for the last 10 days. The male must be the one that was here over the summer because he keeps bouncing off the windows. The difference now is I think he wants to come in because it’s so cold. There was another pair of cardinals spotted on Monday morning so the more the merrier. The red color of the males really pops on a sunny day against the snow.
Ruby and Fudgie are indifferent about the sudden arrival of winter. Fudgie has been stiff and not getting around like she was a month ago during lawn mowing season. She’s content to get back in the house quickly, especially if she can lie on the rug where the floor heat warms her up. Ruby apparently didn’t realize how cold it was Monday morning, lifting her paw and whimpering on the way to the barn. Border Collies notice everything. The Big Dubya had put the star up on their grain leg a few days ago. Ruby was having a hissy fit by the sliding glass door Sunday night. Sure enough, she was barking at their star. Gotta get up purty early in the mornin’ to put one past a Border Collie.
Saturday and Sunday meant it was finally time to get serious about barn cleaning. We were prepared though. The spreader was accessible, the chains were on the tractor and a round bale was placed in the feedlot before removing the bale spear. The weather was miserable although with everything almost ready to go, I got eight major loads out of the main barn and finished the job by 3 p.m. The pens had to be all put back in place, bedded and the young stock moved into them but it went far more smoothly than it sometimes does. Fortunately Mrs. Cheviot was home to help move panels, gates, feeders, sheep, etc. Seems as though that takes as much time as the cleaning and hauling especially when you do it yourself.
Sunday we pitched out the lambing barn quickly before the weather decided to change its mind. “Quickly” is a relative term. We’re not the manure-pitching machines we once were. Instead we know enough to take age-appropriate sized forkfuls. Like many farm folk our age, getting our arms to go much above our shoulders without pain can be a challenge. We paced ourselves, filling the bucket on the skidloader, dumping it in the spreader and coming back for another one. A slower process perhaps than we’d like, yet it’s better to live to fight another day.
About the time we were finished, the Big Dubya saw it looked just like farming and stopped in with his tractor and blower. We’d just concluded hauling the last load but, being neighborly, he helped us button up the lambing barn in short order. Then after we’d told him we were sure he had plenty to do at home, he made a pass with the blower before leaving. Thanks to his generosity, it made my finishing up moving snow go a lot faster. It’s nice to have neighbors and it’s even nicer to be one.
See you next week…real good then.