Snow Days & Stocking Up

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This past week of snow & ice has been a rough one. We’ve had to deal with frozen water lines, hauling five gallon buckets of warm water to all the livestock. Moving hay ahead of time to feed the dairy cows. Our hay barn is on the opposite side of the property from where we milk and feed the girls. Usually it’s not a problem, but with all of the snow in the forecast we needed to move a week’s worth all at once just in case. And we barely made it. By the time my husband got out here with his truck we had already accumulated a good 5″ of wet snow. It made maneuvering around the fruit trees and bee boxes a white knuckle experience. Farming is strenuous work on a good day. But add a half foot of wet snow and your regular farm chores take on a boot camp work out intensity.

A week like we just experienced is a real eye opener. You can see where your weak areas exist and once things go back to normal it gives you an opportunity to fine tune. We know a hay barn right next to the dairy girls is a must. If my husband hadn’t been able to get that hay moved for me, I would have been in a world of hurt. As it turned out, he went sledding with our son later that night and hurt his back. It’s a good thing he added in a few extra bales to that last load.

This is where stocking up and planning ahead really come in handy. Keeping your pantry full for humans and animals alike is more than just a good idea. It makes the difference between a full belly and hunger. While we were “stuck” at the farm we didn’t need to worry about trying to make a dangerous drive in to town to pick up bags of livestock feed (or human groceries). We had already stocked all the barrels and topped them off before the first snowflake fell. Having been through a week like this not too long ago, I had an idea of what to expect. I’d gathered a long watering hose and adapter so I could attach it to the hot water heater in my milk shed. By doing that I was able to provide warm water directly into a spare water trough that I’d situated just outside of the shed. While the other water lines were frozen and no water was making its way into the regular troughs, the girls were still able to come up for water twice a day. And I was able to use that water to fill those 5 gallon buckets that I had to haul across the farm to water all the other animals. It was an intense amount of work, but no one went thirsty. We’ll be installing a second hot water heater in the pig barn later this Spring. That will cut the distance I need to travel in half next winter when things freeze up again.

Today I’d planned on making a trip out to town. I’d been farm bound for the past five days and was looking forward to a change of scenery. Well, my little car just couldn’t make it up the steep hill in my driveway. I wasn’t going anywhere. Except back inside. Because I keep a well stocked pantry, I didn’t really need anything from town. I’d been working my way through an old fashioned baking book, one recipe at a time. I was pretty thrilled to see that no matter which recipe I picked I had all the ingredients stored on hand. Peaches? No problem- I canned 30 quarts back in July. Blueberries? Yup- 15 gallon bags still in the freezer from August. Pears? Apple Sauce? Got them too. Canning and preserving food is highly addictive and well worth the effort to learn. It’s great to pop open a can of summer when you’re in the middle of a snow storm.

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Back in the “old days” it wasn’t uncommon for several families to gather together and have an all day canning party. Everyone brought their produce and jars and working together by the end of the day everyone went home with a good haul of preserved food. Many hands making light work. I think it would be fun to start a “canning circle” of friends to share the harvest and make the time go faster while we canned.

If you’ve thought about preserving food but haven’t done it yet, here is a list of my favorite books:

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving- this is the go to book for water bath or pressure canning

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving:400 delicious and creative recipes for today-Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits & Vegetables- Carol W. Costenbader

Completely Revised & Updated: Stocking Up-The 3rd Edition of The Classic Preserving Guide-Carol Hupping & the Staff of the Rodale Food Center (this gem also has a section on dairy)

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