Saturday, 3 March 2018

Let It Snow?


No. Forget cheery Christmas songs, this is March. It’s supposed to be Spring. Please make it stop snowing.
I know this imported Siberian weather has been around for less than a week, but it feels like forever, and the snow just makes it worse. A whole four days back I took advantage of the sudden cold and moved hay bales, ten to the trailer-load, because the mud was solid and I could get traction. So, there’s an upside. Just the one, mind you.

Earl enjoying his frozen food

The downsides...
The animals need water, the liquid stuff, not the crunchy version that has suddenly become the default. The water troughs froze, taps on the water tanks froze, the hoses to get water from place to place froze. At least the sun was out. For two days, we laid hoses out in the sun, lined up down the slope so that any ice inside would melt and drain. Then the sun stopped coming out.

By Thursday, a bucket of water would start to freeze over within an hour. We now have an ice-cube graveyard, although they’re not cubes but bucket-shaped cylinders of ice because it was easiest to tip out the frozen and refill, adding a kettle-full of boiling water to each and then carrying out across the fields. The outside tap had to be defrosted by carefully dribbling hot water from a kettle. The re-freeze time was five to ten minutes.
The start of the ice-mould graveyard

Thursday afternoon, the snow arrived. Just as the first scattering of flakes were coming down we drove over to the nearby reservoir as we had been told the water was freezing on the shore. By the time we got there it was frozen all the way across. We lasted less than five minutes, taking photos, before the wind chill forced us back into the car. The wind was driving fine dry snow over the top of the spillway at the reservoir, and creating swirling fake-mist along the road.
The reservoir, viewing along the spillway

Not a lot of snow settled at first – this was horizontal snow, carried on the wind, keeping clear of the ground and really just passing through as fast as it could. To look at, it was barely snowing at all, but in those quiet corners where the wind couldn’t scour it out, drifts built up quickly. At the end of the greenhouse, where the hen Leopard Neck has her chicks, the snow was up to knee height by the end of the day, and as fast as I could clear it, the heap re-formed. I didn’t tell my partner I was taking a shovel to feed the chicks.



Friday was better – still bitterly cold with a howling easterly, but obviously warmer, because the outside tap remained unfrozen for more than an hour. Even so, most of the day went on carrying water out to the animals, and bringing back iced buckets to empty out and refill, and maintained a supply of warmed feed for our small group of elderly sheep.
The most striking thing about those two days was the near-continuous commitment to feeding and watering the animals. The second most striking thing was scraping the ice out of my beard after every trip outside.
Piper thinking about going out - you gotta be kidding me.
This morning (Saturday) when I first stepped out the air felt still and warm. By the time I had done the first basic round of checking on the animals the breeze was picking up. When I stepped out again after breakfast, there was light rain falling. The big freeze is over, the mud is emerging from under the snow as if it has been in hibernation, and tufts of grass are poking up.

The normal Cornish winter has returned – warm, wet and muddy. I’m sure I’ll be complaining about it in a day or two, but for now let it rain.

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