Growing up on a farm I learned valuable life lessons again and again. Daddy schooled me on animal husbandry as I followed him around doing chores and I observed and learned. He was counting on that. And here are three of the most important rule of thumb for winter preparations for animals I have never forgotten.
- An animal must have a place to get out of the wind, a draft, the windchill factor. Even if you have a shelter, it could be drafty. You will often find your animals not in the shelter, standing on the outside because, one, it is either sunny and they do like to stand in the sun even on frigid days, or they are standing outside because it keeps them out of the draft inside. (Stand in your building and see one windy day if there is a “bone-chilling” draft.)
- An outside animal most generally can survive if it has been used to being outdoors. Mother Nature helps them prepare their winter coats, like our winter gear, if they have been outside to do so. Mother Nature also provides them with instincts that help them know how and where to hunker down. And they will, like the deer, the rabbits, birds, and wildlife on our farms, they just know-how.
- They must have water. So going outside and busting the ice in a tub, using smudge pots under a water tank as we did for our hog waters, or today, heated buckets to keep water from freezing is such a big help. Imagine, like my horses, if you stood and ate hay for a half hour and found out the water tub was frozen over and you couldn’t get a drink to wash it down, creating less food, less water to create energy for warmth. Snow and ice can be water to a thirsty animal, like the deer. No one busts the ice for them. But nothing beats a good drink of freshwater.
- Stopping drafts in drafty farmhouses were just as important for us as it was for the farm animals. She would place folded newspapers or paper towels in cracks around window and door frames to stop the cold air from coming in and diluting our warm air. And rolled up towels or rugs at the bottom of doors.
- She would hang a blanket over our poorly fitting antique front door, which lacked proper weather stripping. The door was too nice to replace-wood with gingerbread.
- She would open the cabinet doors to sinks to help keep water pipes from freezing. And instruct Daddy to place straw bales around the foundation to stop foundation drafts and help keep water-pipes from freezing.
- She would leave faucets dripping if they were particularly prone to freezing or run water from every faucet before going to bed and immediately upon rising. Rule of thumb: “Moving water doesn’t freeze as fast,” she schooled us.
There are many things to do in your barn or farmhouse to help during cold, frigid temperatures. We are thankful today on our farm for new modern devices like heat tapes, heated water buckets, heat guns, better windows and doors, insulation in the walls and ceilings (our farmhouse had none until my parents installed it), and so on. But we loved that old house and looked at all we learned on the farm -survival skills.
So Here’s the thing: I’m so thankful to live in a farmhouse these days with insulation and a forced air furnace that keeps each room toasty during a winter blast. Perhaps, these tips will help you at your barn, in your farmhouse, or with your farm animals as they did me all these many years later. Take the time to school your children and grandchildren, let them tag along, you’ll be surprised one day how much they remember. And waking to free-flowing water from a faucet that generally freezes to make your coffee or tea with is a victory in itself—such satisfaction to outsmart Mother Nature.