To overwinter animals means to keep them overwinter. This is harder in some places than in others. It means making hard decisions about which ones are worth the heavy investment to keep.
Io, the black milk cow, will be kept all winter long. Zeus is a steer and is destined for the freezer. I would be lying if I said that it did not make us a little sad. He is gorgeous, he always has been, and now that the weather is cold his coat is thick and soft. He is just beautiful. Everybody loves to look at Zeus. Realities being what they are, we need to remember how much hay it takes to keep a steer fed from October through May.
For now Zeus and Io spend the nights in the pen in the barn and are out and about during the day. If the weather becomes too windy for them, or if we have warmer temps that result in freezing rain instead of snow, they go back in to the barn until the weather passes.They let us know when they’ve had enough. Instead of wondering around the pasture, or laying in the snow chewing their cud, they huddle up next to the door to the barn and pitifully moan until we suit up and go out.
The weather has been strangely warm, it is an El Nino year, so we’ve spent many days hovering within a degree or two of freezing for our day times highs. This means less snow and more ice. Lots of ice. We are expecting a major shift in the weather starting tonight when we dip down into more normal temps and more normal snowfalls. Two years ago, we had six feet on the ground by Christmas so this is strange. The twelve inches of snow we are expecting over the next few days is welcome. The mud and the ice and the general darkness that a lack of snow means is starting to wear on us.
What we have had no shortage of is wind off the lake. It is like the November gales have spilled over into December. We have seen harsh winds with stinging frozen rain that is just painful to walk out in and means that we need to keep our skin covered like we do when it is below zero. Very early this morning some coyotes chases a deer through our pasture and the leaping buck knocked down some step in posts for the electric fence. When light came, the boys had to go out and repair it in strong wind. I came along and provided moral support.
Speaking overwintering, we need to process the ducks in the barn. They are from a neighboring farm and were not selected to be overwintered by that family. We have had them for a while now and they have been pretty cozy in the barn but their time is coming. They are fun to watch, they always look like they are talking and yelling at each other. There is a fair bit of fighting between them. Zeus did not like them at first but is coping with their presence and their noise. As much as we’ve enjoyed them, their little drama is coming to close. Jack named them “Christmas Dinner Senior” and “Christmas Dinner Junior”. I am pretty sure that you know what that means.