The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Getting Cold

A large part of our country is experiencing some bone chilling weather. Frank was just saying this afternoon that he is glad we didn't move up north. Since returning from Alaska we have grown used to relatively mild winters. This time the weather heading our way is not going to be mild. We are slated for some low single digit weather over the next few days and that is unusual for this area of the country. Those temperatures, combined with a combination of ice, sleet and snow could make for some dangerous weather and probable power outages. With that in mind, we have been battening down the hatches for us and our animals.

 We started a few days ago with the barn and the goats. We rolled over the small shed the buck and wethers use for shelter so it would be on grass covered ground instead of poop dirt.

Then we put in a thick layer of old hay for bedding.

We will have to be pumping or carrying water for the next few days. It is nice to have a barn that we can shut down to keep out most wind and precipitation. This keeps the does warmer than it otherwise would be. The last time we had a farm and goats we had a lofting shed. It was great and we learned a lot there, but we really enjoy this barn.

We don't have electricity in our barn or chicken house so we provide them with the shelter we can. We are wondering how the chickens will do in single digits. Their house is enclosed which will protect them from wind and precipitation. We really hope they do well.

Next we covered the vents under our house to keep the bitter cold out.

We topped off our gas tanks and added a gasoline additive to both vehicles to help with condensation in the tank and gas lines. Then we put the truck in the barn to keep it from getting iced over. Frank tackled a project he has wanted to do for a while. In the past when the weather got 
cold, we plugged in the block heater on the car using an outlet on the outside of the house that is not protected from the weather. Frank has wanted to have an outside outlet under the carport that is connected to the garage. To do that he had to empty a shelf or two and deal with the short wires connected to this outlet. The man that built this house and garage didn't believe in extra wire. He left the absolute minimum needed to connect any outlet, switch or light fixture. This makes any work of this kind difficult, not to mention having to twist and turn and work through a shelving unit. Tedious to say the least.
Putting the outlet on the wall outside was a breeze compared to getting  
the wires out there to begin with. Frank also used a vise and some ingenuity to create a wide hook to hang the extension cord on out of a open eye hook. This is a great addition to make things easier and safer to work with. Now the car is under the carport, ice free and easy to plug in. This is not a very noticeable project, it already looks like it has always been there. But many times it is the small details that make things run so much smoother. We have the jeep ready in case we need to make an emergency run. It just works better in ice and snow. It was bought in Anchorage, it likes the cold.

Another preparation Frank made was to fill our water jugs. Some needed to be emptied and refilled with fresh water. We figure this will give us about 50 gallons of potable water. These containers have a spigot in the lid. They are made to be set up on a cabinet on the side with the spigot. I hope we don't have to use them, but if we do, they are very convenient. We have other water stored, but this is our ready water.
If the power goes out we will fill up the bathtub and washing machine right away. 
This will give us water to flush the toilet with as well as take a sponge bath if the need arises.We will also make sure our Katadyn water filter is full, along with a few more pitchers and buckets. This will last us quite a while.

We got up this morning to a layer ice covered by a layer of sleet that quickly became covered by a layer of snow.

About mid-morning Frank realized we needed to check the grey water drain line. It has begun gurgling again over the past few days and we have had plenty of precipitation. With lows forecast in the single digits tonight, we didn't want the drain line to freeze up in a puddle and prevent us from  
running water to keep the water lines from freezing. So, there was another snowy chore to do. He went out and got a hoe and made sure there was a good channel for the water to drain from. He found a few chunks of soap. This is what he calls the cholesterol of water drain lines. It can clog it up if you're not careful.

When we headed out to do the chores, we found that the overnight ice, sleet and snow had essentially locked up the chicken house door for us.

I had to call Frank over from his gray water chore to help clear off of the steps so I could gain access to the chicken house and give them some warm water. Frank headed back to the drain line and I headed up to the barn.


The goats were ready for some breakfast and so was Pearl. Having the barn shut down really makes a difference in the temperature and comfort level when the snow is coming down.

Pearl and the cats are really enjoying the snow. 

Frank had the water running briskly through the gray water ditch to make sure there was a free channel when I finished up at the barn.

We also checked Frank's radio antennas while we were outside. There is a layer of ice on them and they are sagging some, but don't look dangerously heavy. We hope the freezing drizzle forecast for Saturday night and Sunday doesn't add to the problem. Some interesting information for those of you following the radio information. Frank was able to listen to Spain, Florida and Texas this morning. He participated in the Texas net sharing the weather conditions in our area. There are also some of the regulars in our area talking on the VHF repeater which covers a large area. After a while they started checking on each other to make sure all is well. If someone had not been heard from by noon, phone calls for welfare checks were made. Radio can be a great hobby, but it can also be a very effective life saver, especially in dangerous times like severe weather conditions.

The snow is pretty, but this time, we are not very excited about it. The cold is and will be dangerous for man and beast in much of the country for days to come. There is still some freezing precipitation heading our way with an increased chance of losing electricity. It may be good practice for being prepared for winter without the luxury of power, but like everyone else I know, I really enjoy the comforts electricity brings. We pray that everyone in this weather system is safe and warm and prepared. Even though there are many challenges with this type of weather, some that can be deadly, it is a good time to review, take stock and see where you may have deficiencies in your preparations. We pray for your welfare and safety.

Until next time - Fern


  1. I so enjoyed this post. Its all the little things that can add up to a difficult time in Cold and Icy weather. One thing I did years ago was to put old carpet on the chicken perch in winter. Dad and I tacked it on to the perch rails with carpet tacks and then come spring it was easy to remove. We got outdated carpet samples from our local home furnishing store. Your information is so practical and I told Ralph about the house vents. He is going to check them tomorrow when he gets home from work.

    God bless you and be safe.

    1. The old carpet squares are an interesting idea. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I kept chickens in northern Minnesota for several years. The chicken house had good ventilation, no drafts, no insulation & no heat. I did have an electrical heater for the water to keep it water thru the long winter & used the deep bedding method. The birds did ok but did not like the snow. If I was not quick enough the eggs would freeze solid.
    The goats did ok too, their ears suffered during a long bout of sub zero (f) temps but that did not seem to bother them.

    1. I surprising how well animals adapt sometimes. Maybe we should take a few lessons from them.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you and you too. I think you're supposed to get a little colder than it is here tonight. I hope your does hang onto their babies until it is a little warmer. I am hoping the same with One Stripe.
      Take care,

  4. Love this post. Reminds me of the good old days, where the average temperature averaged -4 F. The best part was working side by side with my husband, and it is so obvious that you are a well-yoked team. We recycled carpeting to cut the wind into the sheds for the animals, and piled hay over the pipe that took the grey water away, to keep it from freezing when we didn't have enough snow cover. Sometimes the temperature would dip to -40 and the ground was bare.

    I hope your winter will be mild and short. Best wishes for the holiday season.

    1. Thank you for the compliment of being a well-yoked team. Frank and I have always done everything together, from building a house to running our little farm. It is definitely a different way of life for most people. We would rather be together doing anything that needs to be done, than anywhere else.

      I'm so happy our low temperature last night was 19 degrees and not the 4 degrees they were forecasting. I was still praying for continued cloud cover when we went to bed last night and am grateful for the blessing of warmer cold temperatures. We haven't seen any negative temperatures since Alaska and don't miss them at all. The spring we lived in Barrow all the month of April I would ask Frank if it was going to be zero that day. It finally arrived on April 27th and I celebrated getting up to zero. Now I celebrate the 20 degree range.

      Have a blessed holiday season.


  5. This is a really good post on preparing for frigid winter weather conditions. We always have concerns for our animals too, especially regarding temperatures. I think of the Little House books and how Laura Ingalls described their animals. Not that anything about preparing for winter was mentioned, but that they didn't have electricity and their animals seemed to do fine in their outbuildings.

    I'm glad you didn't have any damage from the weather. It skirted us to the north, so we missed the possibility of ice storms this time.

    1. A summer or two back, Frank and I read the complete set of Little House books for the purpose of seeing how they lived back then. We found them to be very enlightening, beneficial and entertaining.

      I'm glad the weather missed you. We're ready to thaw out and walk in mud again instead of ice, sleet and snow.