Sunday, November 11, 2012

winter chill

Our thermometer read 14 degrees at 9am today. And we awoke to no running water - a pipe had frozen somewhere. We of course have water stored for emergencies, but with 4 cows, 4 pigs, etc., I was getting a little worried about getting enough water to them long term should our pipes not thaw! Thankfully, my husband discovered a loose heating element around a pipe in our pump house, reconnected it around the pipe, and our water flowed again at 9:30am.

Elsie awaiting her milking. Her belly's looking pretty round, right? I'm hopinghopinghoping she is indeed pregnant. The family we bought her from gave us a huge window of time that she would be due- anywhere from Feb. through April. She's giving less milk. I wonder if it has anything to do with pregnancy.

The cows do just fine in the cold. We see them lying right in the snow, peacefully chewing their cud. It's very difficult sometimes trying to find information on small farming. You would think that with the world wide web and all, we could find endless helpful info about anything, but it's not so! So much knowledge seems to have been lost when it comes to small family farming. For example, when one needs to understand exactly what kind of cold piglets can withstand, and exactly what sort of shelter they need to protect them from it, the information takes digging and searching for, and we're still not entirely sure. What you will find is site after site explaining what temperatures to set your thermostats at for pigs in big, indoor, industrial operations. The fact is that the enormous majority of pigs are raised industrially these days. And most of the old timers that really know how to raise pigs in the yard, are elderly folks that don't do a whole lot of posting on the internet!

So, we read and reread Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living, the most helpful book in the universe for homesteaders that I've found, and muddle our way through, hoping our piggies and ducks and everybody else, don't freeze into pigletsicles and ducksicles. (However, even wonderful ol' Carla leaves the pigs in the cold thing too vague, saying something like "your pigs will need shelter if it gets real cold". How cold? What kind of shelter??)

I am enjoying the snow. So pretty! And it's nice to have the mud frozen, and the flies gone, are there are far fewer mice keeping me awake at night with all their gnawing and chewing and rearranging of our stuff. I am 12 weeks along! Whew. I've made it to the magical time when they say miscarriage is much less likely. And my nausea and exhaustion are letting up.

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  1. There is a blog called Sugar Mountain Farm ( and the fellow specializes in raising pigs. I found a post about wintering his pigs in -20 degree weather.

    He has a lot of other info about rearing pigs, so you might want to check it out, hope it helps.

  2. Aubrey, pigs can survive in pretty cold temps. We give our pigs a area indoors, so like the sleeping area, maybe drop a tarp down leaving a opening for a yard, or better even is a couple bales of straw. Make sure they have deep bedding in sleeping area. Water! that has always been the hardest thing with us and pigs.. is keeping a supply of water to them in the winter. All your farm animals need a good supply of water kept at about 40 degree's (water trough heaters)
    I have someplace on my hard drive a home made heater for the turkey and chicken waterers.

  3. Brrrrrrr! We have had 60~70 degree weather this past week. Then today it dropped down in the 30's. That cold WI winter is creeping up! love all the snow shot! Glad you guys founf the frozen pipe! Those are no fun! Nick's aunt has pigs. I can ask her what they do for the winter cold. Yay for being 12 weeks! That went fast. :)

  4. Brenda, thank you so much for that. I appreciate your taking the time to share that link with us. That just happens to be one of the few hits we find when we Google keeping pigs in winter! lol So we have read his post. And we're using a deep hay system for the pigs, which seems to be working so far...

    Shari, hmm. I'm not sure how we'd reach electricity out to a lot of those water troughs out there...

    Danielle, wow 60-70 degrees! And here I thought WI was a freezing place like MN. Obviously I was wrong. :p And yeah, time flies- TOO fast.

  5. We just dried I jersey off because she was giving so little milk. We have milked her for a year, and she is almost 6 months preggers, so yes, being pregnant plus if the cow is in the later part of her lactation will cause a decrease milk production. You will want to dry her off at least 2 months prior to calving (if you didn't know that).

    We said it was a sad day in moosville since we will have no more milk until March, and we now have to buy it! LOL


  6. It was a fluke! Lol it's freezing now! Haha

  7. From the sideways view, I'd guess Feb is closer to her due date than April, especially if she is giving less milk. Do you give her grain? It might increase her supply. I only give rolled oats with molasses, non of the crap with a list if by-products and crap. I try to only give my dairy animals food I would eat, after all what she eats we drink.

    We had frozen pipes for 2 days one time. Chamber pots, hauling water, it was a great lil taste of total off grid life!

    I have a box of goodies, but can't find your address. Please send it again.
    With light and love, Kate Talley

  8. Oh...a super simple shelter for piggies is a basic A frame, we closed in the north side, and the open side faced south for plenty of sun exposure. A frame is great! Snow won't be a worry, it slides off and works as an insulation. A bale of straw and that's it. We can have sub zero temps for days, our oinkers did great.
    Sending more love and love, Kate Talley

  9. I was glad to see your thermometer also read in celsius- i can't do the conversion well from the old system! I grew up ( and still live) on a small mixed family farm here in chilly Ontario.I can tell you cattle will weather winter( although Angus and hereford breeds are longer haired and more adapted to colder climates than the jerseys) better and with less shelter needs than pigs can.If you can give pigs a dry, draft free environment with LOTS of additional feed( to help them convert it to heat) you may not need to heat the space they occupy. Having them surrounded by other large animals certainly helps create more warmth. as my dad used to always say though HUGE amounts of food made the real difference in helping them stay healthy through the winter.