Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

Cold is Just Cold

The last few days, we’ve had to suffer through some ridiculous cold weather. Now, we Canadians, especially those of us who live on the prairies, where the wind can cut through a person like an icy cold knife, and sucks the breath right out of your lungs, are pretty used to cold weather. It’s part of life up here. Still, this last stretch of days was a bit crazy cold, even for us.
There are extra considerations to keep in mind, when it gets as cold as minus forty to fifty. For that matter, there are special things to consider when it’s anywhere in the minus thirty range. When you must travel anywhere, even if it’s just a few miles, you make sure to have warm clothing in the car. Heavy boots, a toque, mittens and a scarf are all life savers if a vehicle quits and leaves you stranded. We also have a candle and matches in our vehicles, as the warmth of a candle will make the difference between freezing and not. If you own animals, there are all sorts of extra things to keep in mind.
We keep our horses outside. Of course they have shelters so they can get out of the wind, no matter which direction it blows from. There are some that shiver when it gets cold, so they have blankets on. Those that don’t need … don’t wear one and prefer it that way. Food is fuel, so they have twenty-four hour feed at their disposal and we provide warm water for them to drink. On top of that, they’re bedded deep, and don’t have to lie on the snow if they so choose not to.
When it’s bitterly cold out, it’s caring for them that’s difficult. Bundling into warm clothing is imperative. You’d be surprised, how quickly brain freeze becomes a thing, when walking against the wind. The problem with that is, when a person works hard, even when it’s minus fifty, they get hot and sweaty, so sweaty. Still, it’s imperative to keep the warm clothing on. There’s never a happy medium when it’s brutally cold out. The horses can stand behind their shelters, but there’s no such thing for the person feeding. On top of the cold, there’s extra work as the horses must be fed in the shelter of their windbreaks. It would make no sense to expect them to stand in the wind and freeze, not when they can remain in the calm of the shelters. Minus fifty in the wind, minus thirty-two in the shelters, it makes sense to take the time and effort to feed them where they won’t have to suffer the effects of the wind.
Picture it if you can, gimpy me, dragging bales of hay into the shelters, being mugged by horses that are suddenly starving, despite having access to twenty-four hour feed. Feed is fuel, so it’s important to allow them to eat as much ordinary, grass hay as they want. The bales I fed in the shelters were a little richer, not much, but still different enough that the horses seem to think they’re a treat, and they don’t have to leave the shelter to eat. By the time I was done, I was both freezing and sweating from the exertion. Oh well, that’s life on the prairies when you have animals. No matter how cold, how much snow one must slog through, animals need to be cared for. That was day one, of the polar vortex that covered all of Manitoba.
Day two was somewhat more difficult. Why, you might ask? Well, we had a bit of snow, and it’s really hard to pull a toboggan with five, five gallon buckets of warm water when it snows. The glide affect disappears. No problem, I thought. I’ll just use the pickup truck to carry the pails. Then the problem showed up and my brilliant plan was toast. It was so cold, the truck simply said ‘heck no, I won’t go’. It barely turned over, and that was that. The truck wasn’t about to go anywhere. Of course we’re good vehicle owners. We don’t expect a vehicle to start, when it’s freezing out. The engine block heater was plugged in, sadly, it quit working and there was no way it would turn over and start. I was back to the toboggan to get the horses watered. I started at ten in the morning, and finally finished by four in the afternoon. I would take out two and half pails of warm water at a time, come in and warm up for twenty minutes, then out I’d go again. That’s a whole lot of pulling a toboggan in one day. All I kept telling myself was this. ‘It’s good exercise. I love horses. It’s good exercise. I love horses.’
The next day, I had to do it all over again. ‘Yup, such good exercise, horses are awesome … so worth it. I’m getting such a great workout.’ And it was such a good workout in the bitter cold, suck the air right out of your lungs, instant brain freeze, bitterly ridiculous cold. Funny thing is, the horses were bucking and skipping about like it was a sunny day in May. If only I had a camera, or a phone that doesn’t mind being out when it’s polar bear weather. If I had, then I could’ve videoed our Lucky Jim and Aurora as they bucked and crow-hopped all over the place. There I was, freezing my butt off, while they were having the best fun ever. What am I saying? There’s no way, I’d take my mittens off to take a picture, never mind a video. Exposed skin freezes in less than ten minutes at minus twenty-eight. I can guess that’s halved in minus fifty. Whatever it is, I wasn’t willing to test it.
Thank goodness that hubby got the truck running. It took a bit of old-fashioned trucker ingenuity, but after a half hour of heat under the engine, the oil warmed enough to allow the engine to turn over. That day, I didn’t have to pull the toboggan back and forth in countless trips (seven, by the way). We were able to use the truck to haul the water, and boy was I grateful. I doubt that the horses appreciated the effort, yet it’s a great feeling to know they’re comfortable, well fed and watered. It’s what you do when you care for animals. You see to their needs, no matter what. Thank goodness we’re out of the vortex and back to normal winter. I’m much happier with anything in the minus teens to twenties. That minus thirties business with wind chills that create minus fifty or worse is for the birds, the King Emperor penguins sort of birds.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB