After a low last night of -35, the sun came out this morning and it very slowly warmed up. Some. But, with a wind to make the windchill temperatures dangerous, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time outside. Not like yesterday afternoon, when it was snowing and blowing … and on its way to -35° F. We went to set out round bales for the horses and cows, but it had been so cold the diesel tractor didn’t want to start without a jump. Will got the truck and jumped it, then finally got it started with ether. He let it run for quite a while to warm it up, then engaged the hydraulics to raise and lower the bucket (warming up the hydraulic system). No dice! He got out and happened to look under the tractor. Oh oh! A big puddle of hydraulic fluid sat unhappily in the snow. Bad words! Bad words! He had me drive him up to the house where he had a five-gallon bucket of hydraulic fluid stored in the unheated storage building. He had an empty 2-gallon container, so we poured from the 5-gallon bucket into the smaller, lighter container. Only because it was so cold, it poured like tar — so very slow. Not that we weren’t cold or anything…

Finally, the container was full, and we headed back up to the tractor where Will had to crawl under it with a screwdriver to re-attach the hose to the steel line. Lying in the snow when it’s below zero and snowing is not fun! He finally got the hose back on and poured the thick hydraulic fluid into the tractor. Again, so very slow.

He came into the car, which I had running so he could warm up, as he had to work barehanded part of the time. After a while, he went back out to see if there was enough hydraulic fluid to raise the bucket. Just barely and the bales weigh about 1,500 pounds. So, back to the storage barn to get the 5-gallon bucket. Using that, now much lighter, he poured more into the tractor and finally there was enough for the bucket to operate normally. About frozen, Will took another warm-up break in the car, then went to the tractor and climbed in. There’s no heat in the tractor cab.

Will coming in after the ordeal with the tractor. Yes, he’s cold!

I took the car and drove down to the cow yard gate, parked out of the way, then went to open the gate when I saw him coming with a bale. We gave the cows a bale, as they already had two. But it was forecast to be very cold for a couple of days, so we wanted to make sure they had plenty. And, that we didn’t have to repeat the chore soon. The horses also got another bale, and we came in, glad that was over! Sometimes homesteading isn’t all flowers and communing with nature! — Jackie


  1. Enjoyed this blog very much. I could never survive there! Y’all are some kinda tough and strong!! Your Backwoods Home family loves and admires you two so much. Love the seed. I’m wearing out the packages just looking at them and day dreaming about that big old beautiful garden I’m hoping for. Please take good care of you two.

    • Sure you could. It’s just a matter of getting used to layering up clothes and adjusting your body to the cold. Happy gardening this spring!

  2. Hi Miss Jackie…minus 27 today when I went out. And this was not the only morning. Hurt to breathe deep. We are breaking 13 year records here in Maine. This month has been brutal. Made me think about updating my outdoor clothing. Yeehaw…I get to go shopping on line. Cold is nothing to fool around with. Sorry you and Will had to go through that. Next Tuesday we are supposed to be 43, 43, 43…did I mention 43? I can’t wait!!! Pyro

  3. Thanks so much for the seed catalog. I enjoy all the stories and facts behind each seed type. All I can say is that I live in zone 9. One time I did live in Oklahoma with feet of snow and blizzards and ice storms. Living in far north California now, and on top a 1,500 ft. mountain, we are in a unique temperate/banana-belt zone. For instance, this morning it was 55 F here at the top, but 32 F down below at the bottom which is a half mile away at 1,000 ft elevation. Many, many times, at least in winter, there is a 20-30 F difference between town(10 min away) and here at the top. A serious thought: I thank the Lord for you and your family, Jackie, and for your readers. I thank Him for BHM, and pray for ya’ll and for Dave Duffy. The Lord is so Good!

    • Yes, He is!!! I love to hear all the differences in climates among my BHM family, like you. Thank you for your prayers.

  4. What an adventure you had. I spent Christmas and New Year’s with my daughter in Washington state and had some experiences with cold weather, but it only got down to 0 degrees and I was cold. Keep up the good work!!!!

  5. I have to ask…is there still a difference in diesel fuel, where the #1 can flow better in winter than #2, so in winter, you use #1, and at around this temp is where it barely works?
    On a related note, does warming the hydraulic fluid make any difference or does it become instantly as cold as the metal it was poured into? I realize you were pressured for time too, to get the hay delivered.
    Growing up in far northwestern MN, I recall truly cold winters, and it seems there are less of those to report anymore. But my dad did plow the long drive in a heater-less cab and NOW I have new appreciation for that effort. Why didn’t handwarmers get invented long ago?!?
    One more question: What is your method for the cattle etc, during this spell?

    • Yes there is a difference in diesel fuel. Number 1 is better in the winter but more expensive. We, here, use a blend in the winter along with anti-gel. Yes, hydraulic fluid would certainly flow much better heated up but it was nearly dark and the tractor doesn’t have lights so we had to make do.
      We water the cattle every day when it’s so cold. That way, there isn’t a huge ice buildup in the tanks. When it is less cold, we water every 2 days and break ice that forms on the second day so they can drink. (The ice isn’t that thick when it’s not that cold.) If too much ice forms in the tanks over time, Will puts in one of his wood heated stock tank heaters, which thaws out the whole works. But he has to go down and re-fuel it every 45 minutes or so.

  6. What a horrible day for you guys. Wow. Got my seeds! I was so surprised to get them so fast! I O U $1 for the shipping, came in at $6! Receiving the seeds made my day! Thank you very much. Take good care of yourselves! Deborah

    • That’s fine, Deborah, you owe nothing. We have a flat fee and we figured out that the $5 kind of evens out, overall.

        • We have barns but not “warm” barns. The stock prefers to stay out, except in wet, cold or blizzard type weather. Then they come in. It’s amazing that they don’t seem to mind a bit. They have plenty of old hay piles for bedding and shelter from the wind, which is all they seem to want. They don’t stand around shivering or suffering. You should see how happy our deer are and they only have trees for shelter!
          When a real bad day or night is forecast, our stock all gets shut inside, regardless of what they prefer!

  7. Hi Jackie,
    Sounds like plenty cold where you are. It is here as well. Staying in warm as much as possible.
    Even the dog with a lot of hair doesn’t daly around outside with below zero temps.
    Glad Will got the hydraulics working on the tractor to get the hay to the animals.
    You two are a great team and had the warm vehicle for him to have warm up breaks and get the gate open for him as well.
    I’m sure it’s nice to be inside where it’s toasty but always work to be done whether cold or not.
    Have a good night.

    • Thank you Cindy. Our dogs, also, don’t spend a lot of time outside. I had to laugh today. Mittens went to the door and insisted she wanted out. I let her out then watched her. She only went to the end of the porch then turned around with a disgusted look on her face. Mittens made a kitty-beeline right back inside!

  8. I say it every year. I don’t know how you do it! It has been in low 30’s at night this week here and Sat night going down to 20 in our area.Central West Coast Florida. I know its not what you get but holey moley its cold for here!

  9. Jeepers, such frigid weather to work in! Poor Will (well, and Jackie too). As for the ‘bad words-bad words’ been there done that.


  10. Glad our skid steer is in a garage and has a block heater (and that we are on the grid). Thankfully no issue with hydraulic fluids knock on wood. Diesel is bad enough when it is cold.
    Remember when the spouse had to feed cattle when it hit -60s here (with wind chill, it was close to -30 without the wind). he fed them but they weren’t much interested in eating – hunkered in the cattle shed making use of body warmth. Thus became my new threshold for admitting it is cold outside. Cool, chilly, brisk, invigorating THEN admit it is cold.
    Filling seed orders with the wood stove going must have been heavenly after your outdoor “adventure”.

  11. I think Will must be 10 feet tall and bullet proof! We only had 10 below this morning and during the course of the day both of Dads vehicles and my car failed, even though it finally warmed up to the low 20s. Gotta love winter.

    • Yeah, ha ha. He makes me call him “Lord and master of the universe and all he surveys”. Just as a joke. Really. Today, my car’s heater quit as I pulled out the driveway to mail seed orders. Yep, COLD!! Got her fixed, though.

  12. A trick I learned when I was herdsman for a 80 cow dairy in Delta Junction Alaska. It was a cold winter in 89/90 and we had a lot if -30 to -65 and because the guy I was working for had designed the barn with a chain barn cleaner and the necessity of hauling manure with a manure spreader with a hydraulic end gate we has to run a tractor every day. The motor would start with the block heater but no dice on hydro licks so we tarped the tractor and put a space heater under the tarp before morning milking and it was warm enough to make a run to a manure pile and run the manure off before the spreader froze up!

    • Yep, usually, Will puts a tarp over the tractor and runs a salamander heater under it for awhile. But our friends, Mike and Dara were here, helping pack seeds and they didn’t leave until almost dark, so he didn’t have time. You know the old saying “haste makes waste”…….

  13. Hydraulic issues in our tractor here in New Hampshire too! We aren’t minus 35 but it has been below freezing for a number of nights. Sigh. No rest for the weary or the wicked.

  14. I too tried to get ahead on hauling hay and water. Outside for 4 hours with couple warm ups in house. My tractor hesitated but started. My pasture water pump froze up so had to hook up hoses. The animals just happily watched. Suggested they could at least feel sorry for me. LOL. Good news three days later my pump started working. Said a prayer before I tried it and water poured out. What joy. I thanked God profusely.

    • Oh yeah! He hears plenty from us every day. THANK YOU! Please….. etc. We end up hauling plenty of hoses up from the barn with a spot of ice blocking them somewhere. The cows just bawl at us to hurry up.

  15. Sorry for your troubles! You guys are real troopers. Yep plenty of “bad words bad words” here too when things go awry. Hang in there spring is coming!

  16. Hahah “Bad words! Bad words!”

    I know how *that* goes!

    On a random note, how much hay do your cows typically go through during your cold winters? Any norm? Or does it vary a good bit?

    • It varies with the temperature and quality of the hay. When it’s really cold, they eat all day and a big round bale lasts about a day. When it’s not so cold, the same bale will last two days, and the cows lay around, chewing their cuds a whole lot more.

  17. Isn’t cold weather fun. Here minus 22 overnight and in am minus 5. At least there is no wind. This is shrinking my woodpile. I feed the birds and they came close to gather up the seeds. Surprising to me the cattle act like nothing is bothering them. My seeds arrived-thanks. Needless to say stay warm. Frost bite is a real concern. My chickens went on strike with the cold-no eggs today (all of them are hunkered down). Fortunately none of my livestock waterers froze which is an too common occurrence.

    • Yep, we sure understand that. I had to laugh this morning. Our cat, Mittens, insisted she go outside at -11 with wind. About 10 minutes later, she was sitting on the platform bird feeder outside the sunroom window. And three chickadees were happily eating seed on the other side. I guess she was too cold to chase after them.

  18. Teamwork and glad you got it done:) Things like is a hy you have to really love homesteading:) Stay warm you guys:)

    • Luckily, there’s more good than bad. But if you can’t take the bad, you’d better get out of the ballgame! We sure do look forward to spring, though.

Comments are closed.