January 17, 2022

Definitely Winter

December was mild, but almost on cue, January turned down the temps and turned up the rain. Winter had arrived. In the middle of last week, our customized local ten-day forecast included this little "wow, really?" for Sunday—13 to 19 inches of snow!

I think it will enlarge if you click on it.

Now, I realize that this might be unremarkable for some of you, but here in the Southeastern US, it's almost unheard of. Our annual snow event is typically 2 to 4 inches and usually melts within a day or two. In the 13 winters we've lived here, our homestead snow record stands at 7.5 inches in January 2011, before turning to rain. This snow to rain pattern is typical for us, so our real winter weather hazard is freezing rain and ice as temperatures drop at night. Ice can coat power lines and tree branches, which then crash down on roads and power lines, and knock out electricity.

Of this forecast, we took note, but didn't get too excited because we've had predictions of a foot or more snow before, and haven't found the computer generated prediction models to be terribly accurate. Even so, we made sure we had everything ready for frigid temps, lots of precipitation, and possibly a power outage. I filled a wheelbarrow with kindling while Dan filled the wood boxes. I did a quick pantry check and decided to do my shopping early. Folks were mostly buying up foods they could prepare without electricity: fresh and canned fruit, breads, crackers, snacks, canned and lunch meats. We topped off the straw bedding for the critters and put up the plywood draft blocker.

Most of the year the hay feeder is open on all four sides. In winter, the plywood
blocks drafts from the door and provides a cozy sleeping spot for the girls.

Even though we close the barn doors at night, they aren't airtight and let in cold drafts when the wind blows from the north. Blocking those keeps the barn warmer.

We also decided to cover the hay chute.

View from by the hayfeeder.

We discovered that it acts like a chimney and creates a cold draft!

Seasonal hay chute cover in the hay loft. I prop it open to drop down hay.

The next morning we awoke to 5.5 inches of snow, which was still falling. 

Early morning view from the back door.

I don't know how much rain we got before turning to snow, nor the actual snowfall, since the ground was warm and initially melted it, like it does. 

The protected side of the barn, facing south.

The outdoor temp was 28⁰F (-2⁰C), while it was 34⁰F (1⁰C) in the barn. A sharp frigid wind was blowing out of the northeast. 

A first, snow on the inside of the barn,
even though the barn doors were closed!

The chickens refused to come out and the ducks refused
to go in. You just can't make up a critter's mind for them.

After barn chores, I swept off the solar panels.

Not just snow, the solar panels were coated with ice.

Our panels make electricity as long as conditions are bright, but I'm not sure about the ice. I'll have to watch the charge controller read-out to see. By afternoon the precipitation changed from freezing rain to fluffy falling flakes.

How much snow did we actually get? By the time it stopped snowing, our measurable amount was 7.25 inches. That doesn't beat our homestead record, but that's okay too. The sky brightened enough for the panels to top the batteries off, and two chickens finally made it outside to check it out. The goats just looked at it.

The forecast for the next several days is nighttime temps falling down into the teens, with maybe more snow next weekend. Winter is definitely here.


Mama Pea said...

Whew-ee! Your pictures make it look like a scene out our window here in Minnesota! It gives me a warm, happy feeling to read of the effort you and Dan put into making sure how ready all the livestock (and humans!) were before the storm hit. You two are the definition of good homesteaders in the true sense of the word. Stay home, stay safe. :o)

daisy g said...

Yes, it looks like a winter wonderland! We were thrilled to get enough snow that it is still on the ground! Looks like I'll be making a snowman today.

Glad your critters are cozy. Our chooks never ventured out of the coop yesterday. I may have to shovel them a path today.

Enjoy the magic!

wyomingheart said...

We have been watching the cameras on the ridge, and we are very happy to be in Florida today! It’s still snowing up there, and the temps are staying below freezing for the next 42 hours. You and Dan have certainly prepared for this nasty spell. That old adage …pray for the best, but prepare for the worst. Sure helps to get through tough times, when we follow that truism! Sending some sunshine your way! Stay warm!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, every critter here (including humans) is quite snug! I'm happy with the simple non-tech ways to achieve that, but equally thankful for internet, where we can watch the radar and monitor predictions. They might not always be right, but it isn't a good idea to ignore them!

Daisy, chickens are so funny. You've got me thinking I should build a bunch of little snowmen in the chicken yard. I wonder what they'd think about that!

Wyomingheart, you're in Florida! Good timing, lol. Great idea to have cameras on the ridge.

I agree with you about being prepared. We figured out awhile back that looking for averages wasn't as useful as understanding extremes.

Ed said...

Being a weather forecaster is the only job in the world where you can be wrong more than you are right and still have a job in the morning.

From the same store before it hit you, we went from getting 18 inches to just a little over 8 inches.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh - I have watched the predicted weather in the SE US with an eye towards what might happen to you - simultaneously gratified and sad that it came true (I do love your pictures - especially of the barn - but snow too long can be a bother for a lot of people, like me).

Sounds like you were very well prepared. I will be interested to see what your feedback to solar panel situation is as this strikes me as always being one of the great weaknesses of solar.

I am back at The Ranch this week where over the last month they had over a foot of snow or more, to the point that power was out for 13 days. Fortunately my parents' house was not affected, but a great many people were. I think people here are more used to "being ready" than those down the hill, but still very much dependent on short supply lines and power.

Leigh said...

Ed, back in the days when we watched TV, we had a weather forecaster who used to ask people to please not call him up every time the forecast was wrong. "It's only a forecast and we're doing the best we can!" All said in good fun, of course.

I'm glad it wasn't as bad for you as originally predicted. For something like that, it's a welcome relief.

TB, I suppose it's all part of seasonal living!

The ice on the solar panels melted with just a little bit of sun. This time of year they're at a steep angle, so the snow pretty much slid off. I swept them off again this morning, but there was no more ice.

One thing about our system is that I wish we'd invested more in batteries. We have 705 amp-hours, which isn't long for the load (fridge and freezer). Either that, or a generator or alternate source (wind? gasifier?) to fill them.

Annie in Ocala said...

Brrr! Cold here to but no snow. A rare thing here... Like a dusting every 10 years or so. The barn pic is so pretty! The wind is howling and the goatie girls are enjoying the oak leaves an twigs blown down to the point of breaking into neighboring paddock (1 strand electric and not a problem) Extra food and hay for everyone today! Funny about the chooks and ducks.... And your caption for the pic is priceless! We'll see what the rest of the winter brings. I've read from more than one history source that my area had a tex/feb/21 type event in the 1880's and always keep that in the back of my mind... Keep up with the preps.... It pays us back!

Courtney Conover said...
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Courtney Conover said...
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Leigh said...

Annie, weather is a fascinating study. In one of his books, Eric Sloane mentions colonial farmers' journals that record freezing temps in every month for a year. Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, The Long Winter is based on personal experience that is documented by historical records. Considering that we've only kept official weather records for several hundred years, I think we're only scratching the surface in regards to patterns and cycles. It definitely pays to be prepared!

Courtney, hello and welcome! I'm very glad you figured out the blackened date thingy. I found it frustrating and disappointing to deal with. Thank you for your kind words about my blog!

Henny Penny said...

Your barn looks so warm and comfortable for the goats. I did the same thing, adding extra hay on their bedding. We don't really have much of a farm but we do make sure the animals we have are safe and warm at night and during bad weather. Winter weather has finally arrived here too and it really hurts after having such a warm December. I love your barn!

Leigh said...

Henny, thank you! Keeping critters safe and comfortable is a top priority. We don't really consider our place a farm either; it's just home. :)

Retired Knitter said...

Not being a farmer or knowing any farmers, I wonder when the weather conditions are too cold for goats or chickens or ducks. When your preparations aren’t enough. I guess it has to get pretty darn cold before it is too cold for livestock - and then what do you do. I am guessing in more northern areas the animals adapt over time.

Leigh said...

RT, I think farmers more northerly than me have better experience to answer the question of "too cold." Every thing in the south is governed by the assumption that it "doesn't get that cold" here. (Ha!) The usual advice is to keep them dry and out of drafts. Goats create some of their own body heat during the long digestion process for high cellulose hay. We also use the deep bedding method in our barns, where manure, urine, and straw or wasted hay accumulate thickly. It begins to decompose and produces heat, which helps.

Every time I worry about our livestock, I think of wildlife that doesn't have the advantages we offer. Their biggest danger isn't cold, but starvation. So I suppose outdoor animals are somewhat equipped for it, as long as they can get food and water.

tpals said...

Sending warm, snuggly thoughts to you and the animals.

Leigh said...

Tpals, thank you! We've had sun and temps in the mid-30s, but the snow is slow to melt so none of them wants anything to do with it. :)

Chris said...

As an Australian, I always marvel at the snow that regularly falls in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter can get cold here, but we're lucky to get a frost or two. What's interesting however, is that in all the years I've been following your blog - I'm not used to seeing much snow there either. This white stuff called, "snow", managed to surprise me in a whole new way, lol.