The Polar Vortex…


As you might have heard, a good deal of the midwest and eastern coast of the United States suffered through the first really tough storm of the new year.  Storm Ion, they called it, or this Polar Vortex.  I think it would be best called a REAL winter.  Seems like the last several years we’ve had super mild winters so to finally get some real snow fall and cold temps, I think we were long overdue.

It was nice to know it was coming, so we spent the day before really getting everyone ready.   We moved the goats into the big barn where it is much warmer and nice for our little mommas to be.  We brought the rams in to the sheep barn to be with the rest of the flock, and make it easier to feed and water everyone.   Plus, we wanted them to have a little more protection from the elements.   Shetland sheep, especially, are a very hardy and primitive breed of sheep, and a nice three sided shed like the boys have, provides a good deal of shelter from the rain, freezing ice or winds.  But when they started to predict temperatures well below zero and high wind chills, I thought it best not to tempt mother nature and bring the boys into a real barn.


Hey Mom!  Let me help!  Jessy loading up a bale of straw for more deep bedding to keep the sheep warm and give them a place to rest that isn’t on the cold ground.

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As you can see, Ratchet and Evee had a lot of fun being out in the middle yard and helping with chores!  SInce everyone is locked up in either a barn or a paddock, it was safe to let them have free range of the place!  Ratchet is very good around the livestock, however, Miss Evee is not so good.   She’s still a little fearful of the ponies, especially, and will harass the sheep a bit too much.  It’s kind of weird, she pays little mind to the goats.   I think it’s partially because of the baby goats being inside last spring for a week or so when they were just newborns.  She looks at them as one of her pack, like the kitties she is kind to.  But sheep and ponies and chickens are evil.  We’re still working on that all.  However, that’s what’s nice about times like this, she can be out and about, off leash, and learn to live the animals in the paddock alone.  Ratchet was full of the crazies and so, he kept her very busy, racing about in the high snow and barking!  They are a silly pair!


We got a total of 20 inches of snow, from the first little snowfall of the year and then this storm.   We watched it pile up on top of our wheelbarrow…  well over 10 inches from this snowfall.   But I would have rather had the snow then the bitter cold winds that fell the next day.   It was dreadful!   Our lowest temperature was -16 one evening.  And the windchill was well over -50!  It was bitterly cold and wretched.  I did not allow the girls to go out at that time, it was just too dangerous.  The animals were all bedded down, with heat lamps in each building, lots of straw, extra hay and grain and warm water just before the worse hit.  Going out there, and opening the doors would be worse than just letting them be for the long evening and into the morning hours.   Strong healthy, hardy livestock can stand a half day or even a day of harshness when an emergency strikes.  And we didn’t loose a single soul, not even a hen.  Everyone came through it, fit as a fiddle.

We were lucky.   Several friends had losses through the storm!  This kind of bitter cold is very hard on livestock. Especially, if something goes wrong.  If a door blows open and you don’t know, or one of the animals injures another in tight quarters, it’s hard to keep an eye on them 24/7.  We’re just very thankful that everyone seemed to understand the seriousness of this storm and behaved.  I think that separating the goats and the sheep helped.   They are not the fondest of bedfellows in good weather and cramped in the sheep barn all together might have been unpleasant.   Thank goodness we have two nice large barns for everyone!  DSC_0922 DSC_0927

My little wild men.   Cody and Shadow seemed to enjoy being outside for the beginning of the storm, so we let them.   They are pretty smart critters.   Maggie gave them a little hay to eat out on the tundra and you would have thought they said Thank You, because they were kicking up their heels and eating their hay with the blizzard raging and snow piling up on their backs!  Silly boys.  The sheep were smart.   They took one look at this stuff and stayed in the sheep barn or hung out in the little ram shack.  I guess the ponies figured as long as we were out, they would be out.


Once again, we had to spend a good bit of time, scraping and chipping at the buildup on the stoop to the sheep barn.   You would have thought we would have learned last year!!!  But of course, it got away from us and so we took turns working at getting the door shut.  Maggie did the most of it, chipping and chopping and working it out of there.   Please remind us in the summer to MOVE THAT DARN DOOR UP!!!  Haha…  Or chop a couple inches off.  It’s perfectly fine most of the year, but for a wee bit, it won’t shut properly and it’s ALWAYS when we have a bad storm coming and we want to close everyone it.

We managed to get it shut and after we were all done with chores and extra bedding and feed, we locked the 8 sheep and two ponies in with a bale of hay and a big bucket of warm water.  It was frozen by morning, but they had drank a good deal of it, so we know they were fine and hydrated.  I would have been more worried if it was bone dry!  DSC_0939 DSC_0942

Silly Ratchet!   He was snow plowing with his face!   They were so silly, just running all over the place and being total puppies in the snow.  It was fun to watch them play so hard.


Little Emma peeking out from the little shack.   She and her mom and Aunt were hanging out in there most the morning, eating and just watching the goings on from a nice warm location.  I love going in the barns and buildings, they are always a good 20 degrees warmer without even the heat lamps.   And they cut the wind very nicely.  We plan to do a little more insulating and hole covering this spring and summer so that next winter, they are even more pleasant.


Miss Ebony and her family and new hubby were very very content to stay inside their little home.  Maggie shut their outside doors to their yard and they didn’t mind one bit.  In fact, she said there wasn’t a single track outside.  They are not dumb.   WIth a heat lamp, warm thick bed of straw and food and water in their little house, all they missed was maybe having cable tv!  She checked on them just before we retired and said that they were all buried in the straw, in a big hog nest that Miss Ebony surely built, just snoring away the storm in happy family contentment.  Oh, to be a hog!  I’ll bet that pile was warm, indeed!


Finally, it was getting dark and the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping.  Time to give up the ghost and get in the house and stay warm.  You can barely see the big water trough and the pump!  It’s about 20 inches tall.


The next night, when the temperatures plummeted…  I was letting the dogs out in the twilight and I saw how beautiful it was outside.   The air was so cold, and it was so quiet, it was eery.   The ram boys refused to keep their door shut, instead battering it so hard we finally gave in and left it open a crack.   They had a heat lamp and were much more content to be in there with the opportunity to peek outside if they wanted to.  Boys.  Shesh.  Still, I thought it was the most beautiful picture of the storm.


Of course, two goofy dogs in sweaters was a pretty close second.  Silly doggies.   You can bet they liked their sweaters when it was time to go outside.   I’ve never seen them pee so quickly and want RIGHT BACK IN…  haha….. normally, they go out for a while, running around their yard and being silly pups.  But not this day.  It was in and out as fast as they could.  I don’t blame them!  It was super cold!!!

Well, we lost our water for a couple days, it froze outside near the well.  No pipes burst or anything, so that was good.   We were prepared, I suspected that -16 would be a hard temperature for everything.  Unfortunately, our sump pump hose also froze up and we noticed in time to turn off the pump, but then the basement started to fill up!  (The pump was running hard, trying to pump but couldn’t, so we didn’t want to burn it up as well!) Our friends Justin and Steve came to our rescue one evening and we got it all pumped out!   We managed to get a temporary drain tube set up and get it all empty, but that’s another story!   The snow plows took out our lovely mailbox, but thankfully, we found it a few days later, buried in the ditch!   It’s in pretty good shape, just a dink or two.  Old Blue would not start, even though she tried and we had to get her jumped…. not once, but twice!   Our friend Jerry put a new battery in her for us after the second failure and I’m glad to report she’s doing fine now.  They tested the old and it wasn’t totally shot, but certainly not ready for these bitter temperatures.  He said it would be fine any other time of the year, but just didn’t want us to worry.   It’s nice to have wonderful friends.

We weathered the storm fairly well, though I will admit, it was a challenge for certain.   But I’m so happy that we came through without any injury, with all our critter friends safe and sound and we managed to stay warm even though the temperature difference from in and outside was over 70 degrees!  Big Red performed well, only getting a little overpowered on that miserable night of -16.  But how can you blame him?  I mean, it’s a 2,000 square foot house and Big Red is only burning a couple logs at a time…  pretty impressive that it was still tolerable inside, if you ask me.  We did go through a good deal of wood those couple days, but it was still better than freezing.  We did a lot of sleeping and just movie watching, staying warm and under covers.   We didn’t even get any mail or UPS deliveries for three days!  Pretty nuts!  Thank goodness for a nice full pantry and lots of things to keep us amused.

I hope you all had a relatively good experience through this storm.   I did feel very badly for folks that missed work and had more substantial losses.   So many folks were affected by this beast.  It was nice to be on Facebook and keeping tabs on family and friends…  that really did help out.  We could check in and they could check in, it felt as if we were all a little more connected than we might have been without it.


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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


The Polar Vortex… — 1 Comment