Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Water and Ice

From December 18, 2011

Winter dawned this bright, Sunday morning.  The air was crisp and cold, the ground a-sparkle with millions of tiny frosty diamonds, each one a testament to the cold in the air.  I was up first, enjoying the stillness of the lonely morning. 

It wasn’t long before my husband emerged, looking for his morning coffee.  He wondered aloud if the chickens had survived the first night of real cold.  -17 was the reading on the local weather reports.  We could be having frozen chicken for dinner…

I quickly donned my winter jacket & boots and headed out to the barn.  If those chickens didn’t weather the cold well, I didn’t want my nine-year-old discovering the fact!  On the way across the pasture I noted that there was no water accessible through the thick ice the cold night had left.  Both troughs were completely frozen over. 

On approaching the barn I heard the familiar clucking and cackling of our two hens.  Both girls were alive and evidently doing well!  They were happy to see me when I entered the coop, coming much more readily than usual to my feet.  I soon saw why – their water was also frozen over, though not solid, I hoped.

The coop has a heat lamp, near which their water had been placed, but the cold of the previous night had been too much for the shallow water to withstand.  I looked around for an implement of some sort that I could use to break the ice and reveal the life-giving water below.  Improvisation proved vital as I picked up a small metal bucket and began whacking the ice for all I was worth.  I soon broke through, and the chicken’s trough quickly became a small sea filled with ice bergs of varying degrees of floatation.  With the first sign of refreshing liquid, the chickens began to drink.  They seemed to savour the refreshment, filling their beaks in turn, then lifting their heads to swallow the water in delight.

Making a mental note to return to collect the two eggs the girls had left in the roost, I left the birds to their morning bath and returned to the outdoor troughs to dig for water there as well, grabbing a small shovel to help with the task.  I began with the old bathtub by the barn.  Being somewhat sheltered it generally is the last to freeze, and the easiest to de-ice, which was somewhat disconcerting once I discovered how thick the ice was even here!   Perception is a strange phenomenon…a shovel that seems quite light on initially lifting it, becomes unbearably heavy when one is wielding it like an axe when there is a dire need of fire wood.  The trick in trough de-icing, I quickly discovered, is staying dry.  Fortunately, the shovel has a long handle.  Over my head and down onto the ice, slowly chipping away to expose the water, which splashed in direct proportion to how much was exposed.  Once the ice was reduced to a few inches around the sides of the tub, I moved on to the trough in the middle of the pasture.  Fully knowing that the ice here would be the thickest, I set to work and was not disappointed.  As I worked I wondered what I would have thought just a few years ago if someone had told me I would be doing this on a Sunday morning in December.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined it!  Yet here I am, living more than the dream, and loving every minute of it.  Yes, even the cold Sunday morning minutes spent digging water out of icy troughs for my animals.  I thought back to 7 months before when I had questioned my ability to follow through with the dedication and longevity required for the adventure I still looked forward to embarking upon.  God had turned my head towards a herd of horses that day, and reassuringly whispered, “This is who you are.”  Yes, this must indeed be who I am - who He made me to be.  Who else in their right mind, could go out into -17 degrees to spend half an hour working up a sweat to dig out water for a bunch of animals…and come in happier than when she went out! 

As a post-script, that afternoon the strong men of our family carried water out to fill the heated trough, preventing any recurrence of the morning’s activity.  I enjoy my new life on the farm, but I’m not crazy!


  1. are growing soft on me.....-17 and you are freezing? How ever did you survive Cold Lake.
    Hint for Whooper 'water', if you have snow, he can eat the snow instead of having water, you could add bringing him a bucket of water a day or something like that. Depending on trough material, the ice block can crack a plastic trough and ruin it. =)

  2. Ha ha! I am guessing that comment was left by Petra. :-) Well, I survived the cold north, but I never liked it. Plus, smacking ice in a huge trough of water, the water splashing back on you, makes it that much colder. I have never gone ice fishing and never plan to! LOL!

    The trough by the barn is an old bathtub, so it's probably fine. The old plastic one might be cracked come spring, but we have the heated one now, and it survived several Cold Lake winters, so it should do nicely here.

  3. Wow! I didn't even know about this... And I live with you!!
    Well written Mum!

  4. I think you were still sleeping...

    1. That would make sense... It's a good thing that you went out. 'Cause back then (and even sometimes now) we don't always go out on Sunday mornings 'cause of the rush to get ready to go.