Thankful for heated buckets
By Sandy Kucharski
Bump into anyone on the street or in line at the grocery store and the hot topic of conversation most of this winter has been the cold weather. While I totally agree that it’s been a brutal winter and, like everyone, I’m tired of it, I feel that enduring a winter like this one builds our character and defines us as Midwesterners.
Although my daytime gig is not an outdoor job, having my horses in the back yard requires that I spend time in the elements each day. Caring for our small ranch worth of animals requires a solid hour for morning chores as well as lighter duties in the afternoon. No exceptions. No sick days. No snow days.
I look at how I’m dealing with this winter in terms of survival, and I feel like I’m winning the battle so far. I’ve met the challenge and seen my horses, donkeys, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats come through the extreme weather we’ve endured up to this point unscathed.
Have I experienced difficulties this winter? Sure, but I’m kind of a “glass half full” girl, and I tend to find the positive in any given situation. So instead of listing my grievances about the winter of 2013-14, here’s a few things I’m thankful for:
- Heated buckets: Water is vital to a horse’s health. An adult horse requires an average of 5 to 10 gallons of water per day. Since you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, they need to have clean, fresh water available to them at all times. That presents quite a challenge during the coldest winter in 30 years. Five stalls equipped with reliable, heated buckets has saved me the hassle of thawing each horse’s individual bucket each day, and gives my precious ponies constant access to the water they need.
- A dependable, frost-free hydrant: Carrying water from the house daily to fill five, 5-gallon water buckets and keep a 100-gallon trough topped off can be done, but it’s certainly hot the preferred method. Having daily access to running water in the barn is a necessity that I’m thankful for every time I pull the handle on the spigot.
- My Carhartt insulated bib overalls: Regardless of the fact that I shuffle like a toddler just learning to walk when I wear the thick, quilted pants, I’ve remained toasty warm while mucking stalls and shoveling snow. It’s amazing how much more efficient you can be when you’re not fixating on maintaining your body heat.
- A well-stocked hay loft: A good growing season and a minimal amount of equipment breakdowns has allowed us to put up enough hay to fill the loft, insulating the stalls from above and fueling the horses’ internal furnaces with every feeding. As a bonus, it also provides a cozy kingdom for barn cats Allis and Chalmers.
- Kevin’s 1947 Farmall Cub tractor: Our entire snow management program relies on the little red tractor that my son inherited from his Grandpa and restored a few years ago. He maintains it religiously, but I think it runs for him on heart.
- A great neighbor with a 2013 John Deere 5040 tractor: With as much snow as we’ve had, Kevin has run short of places to push the snow with “Little Red.” Fortunately, our neighbor, Gianni, has a front loader on his new machine and has come over several times to scoop us out, creating a mountainous landscape of snow along the driveway.
I feel a sense of accomplishment for having survived the winter, thus far. Although my animals and I will be glad to see the snow disappear and the grass return, I’m not looking forward to what lies between the two … mud season!