It’s wintertime on the ranch. The time of year where things slow down and we take more time to ourselves, not as many projects to do and the days typically consist of waking up later than usual, feeding cows, doing one or two projects then enjoying the evening curled up on the couch reading a book that has been neglected all year. This winter in particular has been extremely snowy and cold. Sean can never recall a time where there has been this much snow on the ground for such an extended period of time. We have become accustom to negative digits at night and barely reaching the teens during the day. However, winter has it’s own beauty and timing for a reason, which we do enjoy. We have been sledding, sat by the window and watched the snow flutter down, seen frost bitten mornings that stuns you with it’s beauty and tried to get Cecilia to enjoy playing in the snow (still hasn’t really enjoyed it yet).
Icicles on the side of the house
Cecilia, not having fun
Sean always heads out the door in the morning to feed the cows since they are completely out of stock-pilled grass and even if we did have stock-pilled grass at this point there is so much ice on the ground it would be difficult for the cows to get to the feed. This year Sean is feeding quite differently then before. Instead of firing up the cold tractor everyday he instead harnesses his team of horses to get the job done. Now, none the less, the team can’t work everyday due to sore feet, so Sean feeds about 50% with the tractor and 50% with his team of horses.
The days that he decides to feed with the team he keeps our beautiful Belgian’s in the barn overnight so they don’t get too dirty outside. He then starts the hitching up process of criss-crossing straps and harnesses. Once they are both harnessed up Sean then directs them to the feed wagon where they gracefully step into place so Sean can then hitch them up to the tongue of the wagon. After everything is double checked Sean is off in the snowy landscape to start feeding the hungry cows.
Babe and Bell (the Belgian horses) are quite the team. They were trained by the Amish in Wisconsin and are wonderfully gentle horses. Babe is more calm (on the left) and pulls steadily. Bell has a tendency to get excited a pull faster and then get lazy and slow down to a snails pace, so it’s a good thing Babe is her partner to keep her steady. Both the horses have been very easy to work since they had such good training. Sean absolutely loves the feeling of working with such magnificent animals instead of the hardness of a cold tractor.
Once they take a short stroll down the road which leads to our meadows they approach the hay stack where all the hay is kept for the winter. The cows eagerly follow in anticipation of their breakfast and bellow since Sean never moves as fast as they wish he would. With much skill and several attempts, Sean backs the team up to one of the round bales, once he successfully is backed up enough into one of the bales he pinches the bale with long metal spices that insert in the center of the bale. He then uses a hand crank to pick up the extremely heavy bale and once it’s lifted far enough off the ground he gives his team a little click and they are off to the feed ground to unroll the bale. (This is his brother helping him feed cows)
After all that work they still have to unroll the bale so the cows can eat it. He hacks away at the frozen strings attached the bale that keeps it held together until they all break lose and he pulls the strings out of the bale (cows will choke on it).
Once the strings are all taken off they start forward with the team unrolling the bale as the cows happily follow behind and eat the hay falling to the ground. It doesn’t always go perfectly and the bale won’t spin or the hay won’t come off but with some maneuvering it eventually falls off.
After all that work for one bale Sean will go back to the stack yard and do the same routine between 7-14 times depending on how many cows he has to feed but to him feeding with the team is all worth it.
These are the things that we do during the winter on the ranch. It keeps us occupied enough that we aren’t dreading everyday of winter, but it will be nice when spring arrives 🙂