Saturday, January 13, 2018

Flooding in the Pasture

"Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative" ~Oscar Wilde

Your pardon, Mr. Wilde, but had your livelihood depended as directly on crops and livestock as it did writing plays and poems, you may have had a vastly differing view. Weather plays such an integral part of our lives, I noticed recently that many of my posts begin with what the weather is doing and how we are dealing with it. "Old-timers" often remark on the weather I suspect for much the same reason. It had a tangible bearing on their lives. It also helps draw people together in several ways. Shared experiences help us to bond with one another. Alternately, large weather events cause most of us to feel concern for the welfare of others.

This is normally dry land. The stream lives roughly 100 feet beyond our pasture fencing.
Not so right now. 
This post in entirely focused on weather. For the past several weeks, Maine has borne uncommon cold temperatures. Normally, the temperature drops gradually from October through January, varying by 10 degrees or so from day to day. As the temperature declines, snow falls. Whether we see a few inches or a few feet during those storms, we deal with what nature drops. Come the first week in February, we expect a snap of several days, maybe a week, where the temperatures plunge below zero. Though unpleasant, the people and animals living on this homestead are able to deal with our expected weather patterns.

This year was vastly different and is causing much conversation. We enjoyed an unseasonably mild fall, seeing days as warm as 60* F into November. We hoped that signaled a mild winter ahead. We were disappointed. By the end of December, our temperatures dropped severely, the worst days dropping to -25* F overnight~ this without the added consideration of wind chill. What is wind chill? When high winds are present with severe low temperatures, conditions intensify. The thermometer might read 40* F, but if the wind speed is 20 MPH, it will feel as if it is about 18* F outside. We were reaching temperatures as low as -8* F regularly, with wind chill factoring in to make it -30* F some days. In that kind of extreme cold, frostbite can set in within a very short period of time. That kind of cold freezes water buckets solid within hours, necessitating constant replacement. Vehicle batteries won't turn over. Fingers in gloves can take an injury without it being felt. For our animal wards, without the time to acclimate to the cold and develop good undercoats for protection, the situation can very quickly become life threatening. Animal care becomes an around the clock venture. The unseasonably cold temperatures lasted over two weeks for us. They paused long enough to drop a couple feet of snow with the help of Blizzard Grayson and then returned to below zero.

This week our weather changed. We enjoyed three days of normal cold temperatures; 20*-30* F days and nights hovering in the single digits. On Friday, we warmed to 40* F and then the rain came. Torrential rain, melting the banks of snow and filling water bodies. Authorities are advising to avoid travel if possible. The good part is that frozen paths are clear for the first time in months and ground can be seen again. After days in the negative temperatures, 30's-40's feels pretty good for the animals. Unfortunately, this break is not staying. The rain is due to stop tonight and tomorrow we expect the high to be around 16* F during Sunday. Sunday night is forecast to drop to -6* F. Monday warms to a balmy 16* F, again. Fluctuations of 40 degrees in a 24 hour period is harder on the animals than the people. Once more we worry for how they will cope with this change.

I don't know what the rest of this season holds for us, but we hold out hope that things get back to normal for all of us.

Thanks for visiting with us today. I hope you are warm and dry wherever you find yourself.
~Sean and Sonja 

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