Thursday, March 15, 2012

Miserable and mild

Winter in Minnesota is defined by cold and snow, snowsuits and sleds, and, sometimes, misery and strife. The winter of 2010-2011 redefined Minnesota winter, at least for us. The season we're about to end didn't fit our new definition of Minnesota winter. Instead, this past winter found us shaking our heads in disbelief.

Leap Day 2012: Dan finally had snow piles to slide down.

Two weeks later: High temperatures near 70°F.

For us, the winters of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 will be remembered together, like sweet and sour, naughty and nice, hot and cold. Polar opposites: miserable and mild.

• This winter, we plowed snow in the yard twice. Yep, just two times. Last winter, since our wrapped bales were out in the middle of the field, we had to push snow nearly every day to keep the path to the bales clear. I can't even remember how many times we had to plow the yard — or have our neighbor come blow it out for us.

The cows didn't get to play in the snow much this winter.
Only two snow events — one in November and one in February —
resulted in meaningful snow accumulation.

• Mixing feed took hours last winter because (1) it took so long to get the baleage back from the field and (2) extra time was needed for the bales to grind. This year, we individually wrapped our bales and stacked them by our bags. Plus, when it got cold (or colder, since it never got really cold) we switched the ration from baleage to haylage. Without the snow plowing, bale hauling and grinding time, mixing feed seemed effortless this winter.

Winter 2010-11: Penelope marooned in her hutch.

• Last winter, we had calves and heifers living everywhere — hutches, super-hutches, the corn crib, the old mud lot. Only the lot had automatic water; that meant each of the other groups had to be watered the old fashioned way — with pails and hoses. Each pen had to be bedded by hand because either the skidloader wouldn't fit or, in the case of the mud lot, the skidloader would get stuck. This winter, thanks to this summer's overhaul of our heifer housing, there were no calves in hutches, all of the pens had automatic water, and the now-concrete heifer lot can be bedded using the skidloader and big bales.

• Last winter when the heifers got out, we had to chase them through the three feet of snow that blanketed our yard all winter. This winter when they got out — which happened far less thanks to the heifer lot renovation — there wasn't even enough snow on the ground for them to leave tracks. However, they can run a lot farther without snow to slow them down.

We were all smiles this winter!

After surviving the winter of 2010-2011, I suppose I should feel like we earned an easy winter, but I almost feel like we were spoiled by the winter of 2011-12. Either way, both winters — each memorable — are behind us. We'll have to see what next winter brings before we redefine the season another time.

What will you remember about the winter of 2011-2012?

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