Adventures

A Storm Story

FRIDAY

It’s Friday and I’m not at my NYC market - instead I’m laid up at the farm wrapping up recovery from an infected abscessed tooth that’s knocked me down pretty good. This is what happens when you run a farm solo - if the farmer goes down, some part of the farm operation does, too.

So the first big storm of the season is coming in tomorrow evening through Sunday and while it’s promising 18 - 24” of snow, the unique part of this storm is that it will be sub-zero temperatures throughout the whole thing. Now is the time to check animals and shelters and shore-up/build/fix anything that needs to be done.

Have I told you about a pig named Destiny? I ran a herd of 10 pigs this past season and went to the butcher in two batches. The second batch was supposed to have 7 pigs. It only ended up with 6, thanks to the small size and wily ways of the last pig. She headed back to the woods/pasture where I raised her and there she has remained to this day. I’ve named her Destiny’s Child, or Destiny for short, as she is a survivor. Her woods were supposed to double duty this year as the place to over-winter my small sheep flock, thanks to all the trees and the comfy shelter… now she’s got the place to herself and the sheep have a temporary yard in the north pasture.

Destiny and friends during acorn feeding, early Fall 2018

Destiny and friends during acorn feeding, early Fall 2018

What does this have to do with the storm? Well Destiny needs lots and lots of fresh straw to bed in for insulation, as she does not have the benefit of a hog-pile (or cuddle-puddle), and the sheep’s shade shelter needs to be reinforced for snow-load.

Hay and feed delivered today - we’ve enough to make it through.

Temp is rapidly dropping so I’m heading out to work on the shelter with my father, who has come up for today and tomorrow.

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SATURDAY

Temp is still dropping fast. My nitrile + super fancy cold weather performance gloves (which I rarely use) are only protecting my hands for about 20 min at a time. It’s about -11F without windchill. Had to abandon the original plans for the sheep shelter (and the hours spent in the cold trying to make it work yesterday and this morning), and went with an acceptable plan B.

I’m able to get all chores done and milking before the storm really gets going. Dad worked the Saratoga market as usual in the morning and handled outdoor afternoon chores before barely beating the storm back to his home in Selkirk, over an hour away.

I’m grateful for the reprieve as I am still so tired from the infection. I fell asleep at 7pm last night. Resting up because it’s just me now until my creamery volunteer comes in on Tuesday afternoon.

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SUNDAY

An incredibly bad picture of the snow depth at the end of the storm. With the drifting, it’s up to and over my knees on parts of the farm.

An incredibly bad picture of the snow depth at the end of the storm. With the drifting, it’s up to and over my knees on parts of the farm.

Sweet lord this storm just doesn’t stop. I went out first thing to check the sheep, slogging through maybe a foot and a half of snow, maybe more. They were all doing fine, but it looked like one of the Romney/Scottish Blackface cross ewes had her head was stuck in the hay feeder. She’s a bit of a spaz, so it’s possible she was just freezing up around me, but it’s miserable out here and I can’t tell for sure, so I head back through the snow to get the bolt cutters from the barn. The trek back is exhausting getting through the snow with the storm still whipping around, so I decide to cut a path down the lane with the snowblower with the bolt cutters tucked in my jacket.

The ewe is out and about, not stuck in the feeder. None of the sheep are using the shelter. Of course.

First round of outside chores is done with toboggan - the biggest challenge is cutting a path down and through the woods to the doelings and dry girls with their hot water. It is -9F before windchill.

All is well.

On my way back up after post-storm chores

On my way back up after post-storm chores

My t-shirt after the first chore run of the day.

My t-shirt after the first chore run of the day.

When I get back inside, despite the subzero temps and wind, I am completely soaked with sweat. I do a full change and send up a thanks that I have 2 pairs of insulated coveralls that I can switch out today. You know, like bringing two bathing suits on vacation so you always have a dry one, but much colder and more tiring.

As I warm up, I realize how exceptionally dumb I was.

While to me this all seems like more of the same just with shittier conditions, it’s actually very dangerous to be outside today. Frostbite can affect exposed skin in 10 minutes in these conditions. What if that skin is wet from the waters I’m delivering? I’m in the middle of a storm, subzero temperatures and wind, traipsing through the woods with buckets of water, and I’m alone. With a farm full of animals that depend on me. What would happen if I slipped or tripped on something hidden under the snow and hit my head in these conditions? Damn.

On my next chore run, I text my best friend (who happens to be in Los Angeles) giving them a check-in time and the contacts of neighbors that could look for me if they don’t hear from me by our set time. Much smarter. (Thanks, Jude.)

-9F and a sweaty farmer after the snow

-9F and a sweaty farmer after the snow

By evening chores, the storm has stopped, the trails have been cut, and I’m exhausted. All is well. I’ll clear the snow tomorrow and get back to the normal Winter schedule.

Checking instagram as I warm up, I see people posting about “how a chilly day is a great day to make this hearty stew full of local seasonal vegetables.” I snort and eat my frozen pizza before I pass out. I’m too tired for irony.