From Pipi's Pasture: Doing the winter chores

Pipi’s pasture is covered with snow, and we’re delighted to finally have some moisture! However, the snow means lots more work where chores are concerned.

For example, snow has to be plowed around the house so we can get our cars out, and also on the feedlot and to the hay yard. Gates have to be shoveled out, especially where the snow has drifted, so we can get into the corrals. Hoses, used to fill stock tanks, have to be brought into the heated shop or back portion of the house so they won’t freeze. Then they have to be carried back out, unrolled, laid out, and once the tanks are filled, drained and rolled back up again.

And water has to be checked so it’s open for the livestock — even the cats!

Being out in the snow the past few days has reminded me of winter chores when we kids were growing up on the ranch. I have never cared for winter weather, and back then it seemed to last forever. We may have had some mild winters back then, but I can’t remember them. More often than not, we were pretty much snowed in until spring. Since our country school was less than a quarter of a mile from our house, we didn’t have to leave the ranch in winter.

There were plenty of chore to be done each day. Dad took care of the morning chores most mornings so that we kids could get ready for school, but in the evenings we went to the corral with him. We had 4-H steers to feed so we tied them up in the barn, fed them grain, and brushed them. I can remember climbing up into the loft to throw hay down into the manger for the steers.

While we worked with the steers, Dad let in the milk cow. She stuck her head in a stanchion which was designed to hold her head loosely in place while Dad milked. The cow got grain and hay, too. Hungry cats watched Dad as he milked the cow because they got a pan of warm milk for supper when he was finished.

We started to get cold pretty quick because the barn wasn’t heated, but we waited until Dad was done with all of the chores. Most of the corral animals had been fed earlier in the day when Dad fed the main bunch of cows. Closer to spring, about February, Dad had to “barn” cows that were about to calve. He did this on horseback, putting each cow in a separate stall in a long barn. We watched from the main barn, hoping for Dad to be finished soon.

No matter what had to be done, we kids waited for Dad and then we all went to the house together. My most vivid memory of the winter chores was how cold my feet got. They were so still that it was as if I were wearing wooden shoes.

Sometimes, on weekends, we kids went with Dad to feed the main bunch of cows. This was done by a sled, pulled by a team of horses. We had to go down into the hay meadow where Dad pitched loose hay from a stack onto the sled. It was fed off to the cows and extra hay was taken back to the house for corral animals. This was a cold chore that was made more fun when we kids took along our sleds, and all of us, including Dad, had a big time playing in the snow.

There were other chores, too, such as feeding the chickens with grain that had to be hauled by bucket from a grain bin at the corral. Water had to be carried to the chickens from the house and checked to make sure that it stayed open. We had to carry coal to the house, too, and take out the ashes.

Winter chores—what memories!

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