It has been very cold lately. Usually it never even gets this cold at any point in the winter. It’s already made it to negative 6 degrees F here. At least the wind hasn’t been too bad.
Icicles have been forming on the cow’s whiskers. We’ve had to break up the ice on the pond so the ducks could get a drink two times a day. The ice is so thick we use a heavy 7/8th thick steel bar to break it, then scoop out the ice chunks with a flat shovel. The chicken waterer keeps freezing so we keep exchanging it with one we keep in the house.
Despite all of this, the egg production is still pretty good, though we’ve been feeding more scratch grains to keep them warm.
We keep topping off the water barrel we keep in the barn for the cow. She’s still lactating (and for another 6 weeks or so), so she is still drinking 15-25 gallons of water per day. She’s drinking more since she is on dry hay mostly now.
Some may wonder how I do this. It’s pretty simple. I have a cheap submersible pump I bought from Harbor Freight a few years ago. It is connected to a hose that goes through our well head. Then it couples to another hose. I use 3/4″ “Farm Hose” which is more durable and flexible than typical garden hose. The pump is turned on and off by a radio-controlled switch (called a Safelink) so we can turn the hose on an off in the barn or around the farm. It takes about 20 seconds once you turn it on but then water comes out. Once the barrel is filled, we then disconnect the hose from the well head and “walk out” the line so that no water freezes in it. This takes about one minute. The whole cow watering process in the winter takes about 10 minutes, most of it waiting for the barrel to fill. And such a solution costs a fraction of what it would have cost to run underground pipe and install frost-free hydrants everywhere I wanted them.
That’s the think with small scale farming. If you do everything the way a big scale farmer does, it will cost more than what you produce, and it won’t be worth your time. With a farm as small as ours the frost free hydrants and the underground pipe would never pay for themselves, not to mention the expensive high-pressure pumps needed for such systems.