Sunday, February 2, 2014:

   In sub-zero temperatures one of the biggest challenges is keeping water in front of the livestock.

   Stock tanks freeze.  Even the ones with de-icers in them need the ice to be broken out.  The creek freezes over and you have to keep a pick hanging on the woven wire fence so whoever feeds the sheep and young cattle can break out chunks and make a hole for the stock to drink through.  You have to hang the pick on the fence because if you set it down it’ll freeze to the ground and then you may not get it up again until spring.

   The little girls make sure that there are holes in the ice that nearly covers North creek so the hens and ducks can reach water.  The sow must be watered twice a day, when she gets her breakfast and dinner, because although the spring tank continues to run – you can hear the water under the ice, still running down the overflow pipe – the pig nipple in the sow’s pen has a long stem to reach through the side of the barn, and when the temperature drops much below twenty the stem valve freezes.  In the tire tank pasture there is always running water, even if there is only a six-inch hole in the ice for access, at which time we stick a boot in and make the hole bigger.  But the real time-consumer is getting water to the lactating cows.  They do not have a source of constantly running water, and filling their tanks means running hoses from the frost-free spigot on the retreat house.  You have to take your glove off to attach the hoses, and the water feels warmer than the air, which it is, by a long shot, but then your hands are wet and the water that sprays on your coverall freezes and makes them stiff.  After you fill the tanks you have to – quickly – detach all the hoses and hang them on the arbor to drain, pulling each one straight on the slope behind the barn and walking its length twice to be sure it’s empty because if one of the hoses gets ice in it how are we going to water the cows?