Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unfortunately, we NEED winter weather!

Let me see, it's January 11.  That means we're twenty plus days into winter.  For really the first time since winter solstice, it felt like winter.  The temperature never reached 30°.

For this area, that's a normal temperature reading.  BUT I prefer the weather of a couple of days ago when I was working outside wearing just a t-shirt --no jacket-- and jeans.

We need winter weather here, much as I hate to admit it.  On the ski slopes of nearby Mt. Bachelor, there's not even 4' of standing snow and only a total of 90" over the whole season so far.  Snow pack in the mountains is what feeds our rivers and from the rivers comes the irrigation water that is so crucial to turn this high desert area into the lush agricultural region that it is.  Generally, over the course of a typical winter, more than 20 feet of the white stuff falls in the mountains.  The slow melt of that is what feeds the rivers and ultimately our aquifers and irrigation ditches.

I read a description this morning of the reasons behind this warmer weather we and much of the US is having--indeed, last week more than 1000 high temperature records were broken.   It has much to do with a La Nina effect and jet stream flow.  I'm not going to describe it here but if you're interested, here's the link  .  The story basically says that the combination (and mostly the jet stream flows) have blessed (or cursed, depending how you look at it) the winter weather thus far. The story does say that things are lining up to change some and fairly soon.

Winter around here, especially cold temperature winter, generally means lots of ice breaking ( or trough heaters on timers) to keep the horses watered.  We have yet to turn on our trough heaters (the eleven we use really push the electric bill up).  I would love to get through the winter without them.   It also means breaking ice in at least one of the ponds for the same reason.  We have one field with about 25 horses and some are too lazy to come in to the three troughs we have set aside for them.

Most of the past few years, we have had frozen pipes under the house, too.  With luck, that has been remedied with replacement and moving of the mains.  All I can do is keep my fingers crossed about that.  In all the years of my life, we've only lived in one other place that wasn't connected to a city water system.  That was a well but here we have a 20,000 gallon cistern that we have water delivered into regularly.  Because of the economy, we don't fill that cistern very often.  It's sort of like getting oil delivered except we get the entire load carried in--it would take five plus water trucks to fill the cistern and with a new delivery man, it's not quite as bad as filling an oil tank but still expensive.  The cistern, because it's not filled, is subject to freezing, too---so we walk a narrow path and add our toes to those fingers crossed I mention above.  Funny, winter is all about water for us.
Our cistern and our old water man, Ron

We have around 70 horses here and most are either miniatures or ponies.  People often ask us how the animals deal with the sometimes brutal weather we have.   Well, they do very well.  In twenty-one years of raising horses, we've only lost one specifically because of the weather and that was a freak accident: a youngster who was running, slipped on the ice, skidded into a water trough and broke his neck--while we watched.   It was awful.   Other than that one instance, as long as the critters have access to water and are fed, they do fine.  At 30°, they are much more comfortable than at 80°.  We no longer provide shelter for most of them because we've learned they don't use it except for a wind break.  In our last place, we had many shelters and the horses only used them as over-large poop boxes.   Nature gave them thick coats and long hair in the sensitive places and as long as we don't have windy, icy rain, we rarely see an animal shiver--even the babies.  Those winter woolies keep them toasty.  They all have trees to break the wind and when it is forecast to be really cold, we double up their hay---they are happy.

So for us and the's hoping that we have tons of snow in the mountains, that will keep the skiers happy and us too.  It can stay up there. And if the days would get to 40° regularly on the ranch, then I'll be happy.  Working outside is so much more pleasant when the sun is shining and I don't need gloves and hats and boots and heavy outerwear.

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