What do you do to keep the livestock and yourself fed in a blizzard?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by blufford, Dec 19, 2006.

  1. blufford

    blufford Well-Known Member Supporter

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    An excerpt form the book The Blizzard of '88 by Mary Cable
    ISBN 689115911, a book about the huge blizzard that hit the east coast in 1888.

    "On the whole small town and country people fared better, even in 50 inches of snow, than those in big cities. They were not at the mercy of a system out of control but could deal individually with the storm as they had been taught to do by parents and grandparents. If they were provident and prudent they had ample food put away in the cellar: biins of potatoes and turnips and flour; meat hanging on hooks or salted port in barrels; stacked jars of preserved fruits and vegetables; and plenty of dandelion wine and apple cider. They could stay put until the weather lifted. They were also well supplied with heavy clothing and boots and sometimes, snowshoes; and the woodshed would be sacked with firewood. Even in a farmhouse completely buried with snow, a family could survive for days in a dim twilight, receiving fresh air only through the chimneys. A pig farmer in Tidewater Virginia, finding the ground floor of his house flooded, took his pigs and his wife upstairs, and together they sat out the storm. Unless someone was in need of a doctor, or the roof blew off, the chief concern of country people was to maintain a path to the barn so the could feed and water the stock. Naer Mahopac Falls NY, a farmwife, whose husband was laid up in bed and whose children were too young to help, cut steps in one side of a big snowdrift that lay between the barn and the house. She climbed up that side and rolled down the other, and so was able to reach her 27 cows night and morning all through the blizzard."
     
  2. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

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    We don't get blizzards here (I'm knocking wood right now). But we do get ice storms, wind storms, and floods that block off the roads and cut power. My barns (animal and equipment) are full of hay, my pantry is stocked, my freezer is full, the woodshed is full, we have heavy coats, down comforters, down sleeping bags, heavy boots, plenty of wool sweaters (some of which have seen better days, but they're still warm)... Feeding the animal, ourselves, and keeping warm gets inconvenient when the weather turns nasty, but it's doable. We just sit tight until the weather clears and the roads are passable again.
     

  3. michiganfarmer

    michiganfarmer Max Supporter

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    the blizard of 78 is the only bad one I remember. I was 8. The barn was full of hay. The silos were full of corn, and silage. With no electricity for the silo unloaders we climed the silos and shoveled grain and silage out by hand. We the house heated with wood. The house was full of wood, meat and canned goods. We cooked with LP, and the tank was full. We had a foot path packed on top of the snow to get to the barn. If we didnt need to get the milk truck in every other day to pick up our milk we wouldnt have needed to use the tractors to keep the snow moved. As it was the milk truck couldnt get to us anyway for a week. The county had a V-plow stuck in the road that sat for a week...right in the middle of the road...untill the storm let up, and the county brought in pay loaders, and dump trucks to dig out the V-plow. The power went out about 3 days into the storm. We milked 40 cows twice a day for 4 days by hand. We put the milk in plastic lined 55 gallon barrels that we sat outside. The bulk tank wouldnt run without electricity. We used candles in the house. Dad had some old lanters we used to see to feed, and milk with. Dad had a small generator he used to run the well pump to water the cattle with.

    10 foot drifts were common all over the county. 4-6 feet of snow was common on the county roads.
     
  4. haypoint

    haypoint Unpaid, Volunteer Devil's Advocate Supporter

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    About 12 years ago, Sault Ste Marie Michigan received 60 inches of snow in 24 hours, early in December. Everyone just went out and started shoveling. Once the snow was off the roof, the driveway opened up there wasn't enough room to pile snow from the sidewalks. The road crews used front-end loaders to move snow. Eventually, National Guard trucks were used to haul snow in town to a dumping site, as there wasn't any place for the plows to move the snow. After a few days we were back to normal. We never got a thaw, so the snow just got deeper. Was a bad winter for the deer.
    I often think what would have happened if we'd just climbed up on our roof tops and waited for the "Gub'ment" to come "hep me"?
     
  5. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Well-Known Member Supporter

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    50" of snow. Piffle! That's fluff -n- stuff.

    In all sincerity, we keep several months of human food on hand, and several weeks of livestock feed. Wood stove, water source, etc. We can go for a long time. Skis, sleds and such, as well the 4x4, I could get to a main road and into town as well.

    If I were to be facing true livestock starvation situations I'd slaughter critters for our consumption and to prolong the feeding ability for the remaining livestock.
     
  6. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    My aunt, now deceased, used to tell me how they would go out the second floor with snow shoes to get out to the barn. I imagine if the snow was that deep they could enter the barn from one of the lofts that they used to throw hay out of from the 2nd floor.
    With cows, they just couldn't wait for the storm to be over and the roads opened!
    I know when I first moved here (1992) we had a blizzard and before it came I put clothesline along the fence route to the chicken coops so that I could hold onto it and not get lost in a white out.
    Ann
     
  7. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    We had blizzards here in 1967 and again in 1978 that snowed us in for over two weeks. No big deal with the barns full, basement full of root crops and canned goods. I never enter winter without enough feed for myself and my animals to get through the winter. I heat and cook with wood in the winter, as well as heat my water. Carrying water from the well head when power is out is a real pain, but it can be done and has been done. I sure wouldn't want to be anyplace else.
     
  8. pyrnad

    pyrnad Well-Known Member

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    In Maine we had an Ice storm in 1998. I had no power for 8 days. We used a battery operated pump in the dug well. All the animals were fed and watered. We cooked on the grill, gave water to the neighbors. We used a generator for the heat. Not a lot of fun but we lived through it.
     
  9. wr

    wr Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I would suggest that most of us that live in areas prone to blizzards are quite well prepared. Livestock that aren't in barns, such as large beef herds are provided with more than adequate windbreak and deep bedding, feed has been stockpiled and you will feed additional in extreme cold. I've found in short but harsh winter storms that it's best to wait till the wind dies down to feed because it's harder on the cattle to be drawn out into the extreme cold to feed than it is to leave them in deep bedding and out of the wind. If a storm lasted more than a day, that would have to be impossible. My house is well stocked and I've survived quite well during blizzards.
     
  10. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    My mother grew up in winter country. She had lots of stories of grandpa running ropes from the house to the barn, to the outhouse, and the woodshed, etc., so they could find their way out and back in. She told of at least one year they dug a tunnel to the barn to milk the cow. Most years they would have paths with high snow walls going to the outbuildings. She had stories of people getting lost and freezing to death within a few feet of their door.

    The worst I've had to face was when the creek stayed flooded for 3 weeks. The barn was on the other side of the creek so we had to put a rope across and pull ourselves over in a john boat. The next year we built a tall bridge. It looked funny having a high bridge over a wet weather creek, but it was nice to have it during the wet season.
     
  11. electronrider

    electronrider Well-Known Member

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    Michiganfarmer, I was living in the U.P. when that blizzard hit, I remember all the snow and the bitter cold we had with it. I too was only a kid, and me, my mom, and my dad would all bundle up, and go get wood from the big woodpile, and get it to the small stacks by the back door. We would work in 15 minute shifts, cause mom was worried about the cold. We trudged a path to the chicken coop/barn, and again, would work in short shifts. That sure has me reminiscing, I remember digging tunnels through the yard on the rare occaison mom would let me out to play once the bitter cold passed. In retrospect, all my family has the canned goods, and the means to make it through. I never thought that others would have a hard time, to me it was great fun watching the snow pile up, and the "grand adventure" involved in the simple chores I normally did. hehe thanks for the walk down memmory lane!
     
  12. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

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    Oh the blessings of living in the South! Blizzard? Whats that?
     
  13. sewsilly

    sewsilly Well-Known Member

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    lol, I second that, rosewoodfarmVA...

    the worst thing that ever happens here, is we get iced/snowed in and power outages for 4 or 5 days, about every 6 or 7th year. We're well stocked, have a generator for the well pump and wood heat for the house.

    We, in an effort to entertain ourselves, do old fashioned stuff, sing old hymns, crack nuts, go to bed early... the kids actually hate it when the lights come back on.
     
  14. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    We get blizzards several times a winter. We just wait them out. No big deal. The animals have hay to last them until spring even if other feeds were to run out. We have enough food for six months and then we eat the livestock if winter lasted longer than that... :)
     
  15. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    The blizzard of 1957 was the worst my family faced in western Kansas. Certainly no 50 inches of snow, but the snow fell and the wind blew strong for about 3 days. In town the deepest drift was 21 feet tall. It built up toward the north edge of town where snow swept across a ball diamond.

    Out on our farm IF the snow had packed tightly enough the cattle could have walked into the hay mow of the barn.

    Each year we filled two feed racks to overflowing with the new crop of cane sorghum. I'll try to describe our racks. The north side of each rack was similar to a wind break, i.e. posts and purlins covered with corrugated tin. There were ends added and then posts with 2 X 12 inch boards on them along the front. Above these boards was space for the cattle to put their heads through and other higher 2 xs to keep them out. Kind of like an open roofed building with one side similar to a feeding manger. Each of the feed racks were about 50-60 feet long, 20 feet deep from front to back, and 7-8 feet tall.
    These two racks accommodated our 50 head of livestock. They might have been longer, but provided the space for 50 cows and a bull or two.

    We hauled feed in from the fields with a hay rack on a near daily basis. When it was muddy or heavy snow only then did we feed out of the feed racks.

    Anyway with the blizzard of '57 we had to dig out the front of the racks so that they cattle could get to them. we also had to dig out the area where the feed would be thrown off of the stack to them in the manger like area.

    I had gotten a sled for Christmas of '56 and we used that to haul bundles of feed to the milk cows locked in the barn (two).

    We had two barns which provided indoor shelter, the hay racks for wind break protection, a granary 60-70' long which also provided wind protection. Both barns had mows which were stocked with some feed. The one barn was really old and dad didn't like to put too much weight in the mow, the other was filled, but only used during the nastiest of weather when the cattle wouldn't get out to go to the racks.

    As for us, we had a cellar full of food. We always bought two hundred pounds of potatoes in the fall, a 60 pound can of honey, bushels of apples, home canned fruit and vegetables as well as plenty of food purchased on sale to carry use through.

    We had wind mills to pump water with. For domestic use we had a 1,000 gallon overhead tank with gravity flow to the house.

    Heating was with heating oil similar to kerosene piped into the house from a 300 gallon tank. While cooking was typically done on an electric range we did keep a Perfection 4 burner kerosene stove on the porch for electrical outages. The blizzard left us without electricity for over two weeks. A few years earlier we had a "Delco light plant" and a 32 volt battery storage system so we didn't have a lot of electrical needs in the year of the blizzard.

    Telephones were still the old crank style with the local telephone company being made up of patrons who maintained the lines themselves. Typically each farmer maintained the lines that ran along their own property. Once a year or so everyone on one or two of the party lines would get together and do a major repair. Many marginal posts would be replaced, etc. Posts were typically just 10' posts that also doubled as fence posts. The wire was #9 galvanized wire on insulators. Each phone had batteries to power the earpiece and speaker while the crank generator provided power for ringing others.

    Back to the blizzard, we played a lot of cards and other games to wile away the time when not out working or playing. Expect we were tired enough to go to bed extra early.

    At the end of a two week period of being snowed in and cut off from everyone/everything except by telephone dad and I climbed on our tractor and forged a path into town, just short of a mile away. We restocked a few groceries, bought bread so that mom wouldn't have to bake for awhile, and go what mail had arrived along with newspapers.

    It wasn't long after that year that I received a battery operated transistor radio for Christmas. You see, none of our vehicles had radios and the only ones in the house needed electricity. Our only weather forecasts came via telephone and neighbors that had car radios. I still have my first transistor radio and it still works some 45-50 years later.

    Almost forgot, the snow load almost got the chicken house roof. Before we cleared it it cracked some of the 2 X 4 rafters but remained standing another 35 years, maybe 40 before being taken down.

    A lot of cattle were lost in that blizzard. Many farmers didn't have well stocked feed racks as we did, but daily hauled feed to cattle in pastures. When you can't get to those pastures or the cattle drift through fences---
    At that time not a lot of farmers had row crop tractors on which blades could be mounted. Nor were there many front in loaders in the country yet.

    Wheatland model tractors with low clearance were not to be relied on for getting through snowdrifts. Now a days almost every farmer has a front end loader and a box blade or a back blade and row crop high clearance tractors so feeding in pastures isn't a problem.

    Blizzards make for fond memories and a lot of work. However with each telling the snow drifts get deeper and the temperatures lower.
     
  16. SignMaker

    SignMaker Well-Known Member

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    Windy,

    That was a really cool memory you shared with us. Thank you!
     
  17. blufford

    blufford Well-Known Member Supporter

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  18. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    "Blizzards make for fond memories and a lot of work. However with each telling the snow drifts get deeper and the temperatures lower."

    How true, how true!! :)