Snowstorm!

What a snow we had this weekend! It began Saturday evening, just as predicted by our local weather forecasts. At first, it was more like falling slush—and not particularly impressive, at that. When we got home from shearing at my friend Melissa’s (Oak Creek Farm), we continued to watch the progression of the storm from our windows. By the time we went up to bed, we didn’t have much more than a dusting of white, perhaps a half inch, and thought we had dodged the bullet once again.

Waking up on Sunday, however, quickly showed how very wrong we were. Not only had it continued to snow heavily during the night, but the winds had picked up, blowing the snow into huge drifts across our acreage. By the time we went out to feed at noon, I knew the snow would complicate every aspect of our chores—and I was right!

First, we stopped in the Sheep Barn where the bred ewes currently bed down. Although they were happily out of the snow and wind, there was still an impact there. We were supposed to start this group on grain yesterday, but there was no way for the ewes to get out and to the feeders. Their entrance was blocked by a three-foot drift across the door! Even if they could have gotten beyond the doorway, they would have encountered drift after drift on their way to the feeders in the Pond Pasture. As a result, I poured their grain over their hay bales and into tubs that we positioned around the floor. This wasn’t ideal, but at least they could each get to some of the grain. We will have to deal with the drifts at some future time!

Feb. 1, 2015: Unbred ewes drifted in to their shelter

Feb. 1, 2015: Unbred ewes drifted into their shelter

The second group—the unbred ewes at the Storage Barn—fared a little worse. Although they had snow-free shelter, much of their outside run-in shelter was full of wind-blown snow. Besides that, they were essentially drifted in, unable to access their water to the left of the shelter. I cleaned out as much snow as I could and stomped a path to their water. Honestly, I probably could have skipped the latter task, as the winds quickly filled my tracks, and none of the ewes seemed interested in going outside for a drink of water. Instead, they stood inside their shelter and nibbled at bits of clean, white snow, using that as their water source. (Heaven knows there was plenty of it!) They were truly thrilled to get their allotment of hay. After that, I was off to the ram shelter.

Even getting to the ram shelter was a challenge! Rick and I climbed drift after drift, slowly making our way to the south-facing lean-to that the boys call home for the winter. As we approached, I was disheartened to see only white inside the shelter. Where were the rams? Yet as I neared, the white blobs within the lean-to began to move, stand up, and shake off a bit. Each of them left behind a dark crater in the snow where they had bedded down. Their feeders were filled with bits of hay from the day before and lots of snow—and my first focus was to clean out their feeders.

Feb. 1, 2015: Romney ram, Goliath, glances up after I cleared his face of the bulk of the snow

Feb. 1, 2015: Romney ram, Goliath, glances up after I cleared his face of the bulk of the snow

As I worked on the feeders, I also worked on the rams. Their cover of snow blocked their vision and forced them to carry extra pounds they didn’t need. As they came up beside me, I rubbed off the extra weight and cleaned off their faces as well as I could. I couldn’t get it all off, but it helped! Those boys were particularly happy to get their hay, since hay means warmth through the digestion process. Most of them have a half-year’s growth of wool on them, and that added insulation makes them physically able to withstand the cold. Besides that, the shelter blocked the wind, if not all of the snow—and for sheep, the wind is the worst. I knew they would be fine.

Rams munching their new bale of hay in their snow-filled shelter.

Rams munching their new bale of hay in their snow-filled shelter.

Today is another day of digging out. Since we now have the main driveways plowed, we will shift our focus to making pathways to each of the shelters where the sheep reside and providing them with better access to water and feed. It will be awhile before things are back to “normal,” but as long as our sheep are sheltered from the wind and have plenty of feed, they will do just fine! Now, if only Rick and I could figure out a way to stay warm during our digging.

Skirting progress: I’ve finished skirting the white Romeldales and am about 2/3 of the way through the colored Romeldales/CVMs. My goal is to finish so that we can release fleeces to our customers at the end of next week—but we’ll see how it goes.

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