I’m about to share an embarrassing story with you. It is a tale of a winter gone wrong due to a homesteader not preparing appropriately.
Yes, that homesteader is me.
The cool snap we’ve had the past few days has really put winter heavy on my mind. I keep feeling a nagging worry that we won’t get enough hay. Our hay guy had to start cutting late due to a wet spring. Normally our barn would be full right now, but we’re about 75 bales short. I won’t be at ease concerning the hay until we finally get our last batch safely in the barn. Last year we had plenty of hay until early spring.
More than that, though, I am also remembering how miserable it was last winter during the multiple ice events we had. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I will — we were prepared last winter for our animals, but I was not prepared for winter. I didn’t have warm waterproof gloves. I didn’t have the right boots or Yaktrax. I didn’t have long johns or appropriate clothes. I didn’t have a warm face shield to block out the bitter wind.
Instead I had to wear a ridiculous amount of layers….and I was still cold.
I also had to wear boots that did not fit. Let me just tell you, it is M I S E R A B L E walking around on ice in boots that slip around on your feet and the ice, gloves that let the wetness through to freeze your hands, a thin scarf allowing your face to be burned by the wind, and your clothes so layered that you look and feel like the Michelin man. I dreaded going out every single day during that terrible weather, I froze, and I took more than one spill on the ice.
All because I lacked the foresight and wisdom to prepare myself for the weather. I spent a lot of time readying my livestock for the cold weather. But I neglected the things I needed for me, the human.
When preparing for winter weather, don’t forget to prepare for yourself. You have to deal with the weather as well — not just your livestock.
Heading into winter I brushed it off, knowing that usually we only get maybe one or two short-lived snows a year and our winters are usually mild. Typically we get a snow or two close to spring, and it will melt in a couple of days. And then last winter we got buckets of ice dumped on us.
I knew ice was a possibility, it’s not like this was the first time it’s iced in the area. (People still talk about the ice storm of ’94.) But last year was the first time I experienced that kind of weather while homesteading. We had multiple ice events where it iced — and then stayed frozen for days. I underestimated how hard and cold and depressing it would be.
I thought I would just use layers for the cold, but I didn’t think about how stiff wearing 3+ layers of each item of clothing really makes you. I thought I would just wear insulated socks with my normal barn boots, but that proved too cold so I had to wear my dad’s boots instead. Foolish is the only word for it!
For all my concern about being sure my animals had they needed for the winter — and I’m happy to say their needs were well met — I was far too lackadaisical about my own needs, and the supplies I needed to safely and comfortably (at least as comfortable as one can be on ice) care for my livestock every day.
Not so this winter. Rachel is not fumbling through another winter as a cold, wet, clumsy mess. Nuh uh. No way. I am buying the appropriate clothes, shoes, gloves, and other accessories to make it through winter with at least a little dignity. Yaktrax will hopefully keep me more stable on ice. Warm socks and appropriately fitted, insulated boots will keep my toes toasty. Waterproof gloves and a face mask will go a long way toward comfort. Long johns and extra-warm outer layers will cut down on the obnoxious layering.
These things are equally as important as having enough hay, feed stored to last through weather that prevents traveling to the feed store, straw for bedding, and a means of providing water when the troughs are frozen.
Well, at least almost. I would still rather myself be cold than for my animals to run out of food in the middle of an ice storm. But…I have to look after myself, too.
After all, if I get laid up due to falling down on top of my ice-breaking maul because my shoes didn’t fit and my clothes were too bulky…where does that leave my family and my livestock? Not in a good place.
Maybe this winter will be the mildest one in ten years. (One can dream…) But, maybe it won’t. There’s no way to know for sure.
I’m not one to believe all those hype posts that say winter will be especially catastrophic because a chipmunk sneezed in Amsterdam. Those types of “forecasts” come up every year. I don’t completely discredit folk wisdom either (we saw several black caterpillars this year), but I’m not going to jump on that snowpacalypse bandwagon just yet. That’s no reason not to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Because truly, who cares if I’m wrong? So what if I can go out in shorts all winter this year? What harm is there in having extra supplies? It’s always better to be too prepared than not prepared enough. Chances are excellent that I will need winter gear again sometime, even if not this winter. Unless I move to the coast, but ya know…I’ll take an ice storm over a hurricane any day. (If you are in an area that was just hit by hurricane Joaquin, you have my prayers and sympathies!)
Winter is coming, folks. Don’t forget to prepare. Don’t assume winter will be mild. No excuses — just keep yourself warm.