Last night was the last night of cold.
We bottomed out at around eight below zero early this morning. And that was like a summer breeze compared to previous mornings.
It has been bitterly, frigidly, dangerously cold. Several sunrises brought the farm to a new day at temperatures of fifteen below. Add to that the horrendous wind chills of thirty-five below zero, and the four inches of snow on the ground, and you had something reminiscent of the Canadian tundra.
When I chose to spread my wings and move out on my own twenty years ago, it was a toss up between Kansas and South Dakota. Okay, I admit it: I grew up on the Little House books, and have cherished a soft spot for the Dakotas ever since I was about nine years old. But I’ve also actually visited South Dakota a couple of times, and each time, the magic and magnificence of the huge land and vast sky laid hands on my heart. It’s a good place, a high place, and a place where I knew I could have been happy.
And then I thought about the winters, and I decided to settle in Kansas instead. Warmer. Not quite as wild. Not quite as physically demanding or mentally intimidating.
And now, here I was, fighting true prairie elements in my tame little Kansas corner.
It has been Endurance City around here. As always in Arctic cold, my chief struggle has been keeping water sources open. That means water tubs for the goats, water bottles for the rabbits. It means hauling bucket after bucket of steaming hot water from the house to the barn and corrals. Then, before I can pour the water, it means breaking out the rubber water tubs, frozen solid overnight, by brute force and shear will power, like some sort of cavewoman. It means thawing out the bunnies’ bottles five or six times a day, half-filling them with tepid water, and hanging them back on the cages, to repeat in two or three hours’ time. It means keeping up with heat lamps, muscling bale after bale of hay out to the barn, throwing chunky armfuls of more hay into the two bucks’ huts, layering up, switching out gloves and socks.
My washing machine froze, an near-disaster situation at my house. I dug out space heaters. I cranked up the central thermostat, and didn’t even care how much propane we might be burning through every hour. Banner wore his fleece coat all the time, indoors or out. And, confession time: I cast propriety and appearance to the frigid, northwest wind, and bummed around in my sheepskin slippers all day long. Unless, of course, it was time to trek out to the barn again in my insulated boots.
It was cold!
It dragged on for more than a week. At the end of that time, we had all come through. The barn and huts are a mess, and the ground is a filthy, slippery morass of ice and slush. But we made it through. My washer is even working!