Sunday 10 November 2013

Living in the deep freeze.

High Prairie is found here:
55°25′57″N 116°29′10″W,
our climate is a sub arctic climate.
That means in layman's terms that we live in a deep freeze for 5-7 months of the year.
The average temperature of a household freezer is around -18C,
ours fluctuates anywhere between 0 and -52C.

We have had our first little blast of winter this week,
our daytime temperature was around -17 and at night would dip down to -27C.
There is just no easing into winter in this way.

A question that I regularly hear is "how do you survive?"
Well, I will use this blog to give you a little insight into what we do to survive the winter.

The first thing I would like to say is that our house is actually heated,
and we have hot coffee.
Two essentials for ranching here.

The first initial evaluation about how cold it actually is,
 can be heard when you walk on the snow.
The sound or crunchiness gives away a lot of clues..
The crunchier the snow, the colder it is.

If you have icicles hanging on your eyelashes, it is cold.
When you breath freezes on your is cold.

Toque (woollen hat) and mitts are not optional, even if they look ridiculous on you,
who cares when it is that cold?

Winter boots that warm to -40 or lower are an essential.

Dressing in layers until you look like the Michelin man is the way to go.

All vehicles whether they are trucks, cars or tractors all have to be plugged in.
The block heater keeps the oil in the motor block in a liquid state.
If you do not have a block heater, then the oil becomes like butter and your engine will not start
or may even be damaged if you try to start it cold.
Plugging in the tractor or vehicle is one of those chores you always wish someone else will do early in the morning. Running outside in your jammies and a coverall to plug in the vehicles is not really a fun activity.

All our watering stations have a heater.
If the stockwaterer does not have a heater of its own,
we hang in a heated flotation device.
If the stockwaterer freezes in the winter,
it requires a lot of work and energy to defrost and de-ice everything to get it functioning again.
In the worst case scenario you may have to wait until next spring before you can use it again.

The animals stay outdoors,
 they get fed a high forage ration that will create some internal heat.

Their coats are adapted to the climate and they are thick and fluffy trapping air between the fur forming an insulation layer.

We provide straw for additional bedding,
 for the animals to snuggle into.
This is particularly important for breeding bulls and rams, considering that their "crown jewels" are prone to freezing.
Frozen testicles are not conducive for reproduction.

The animals also have natural shelter such as bush to get out of the wind,

 and provide some protection against the snow.

If they do not have natural shelter we build a shelter belt for them with bales.

The dogs get additional meat, fats and oils to supplement their diet to create more warmth,
they can cozy up to the sheep and share the straw bedding.

The more vulnerable animals can come into the barn,
even though our barn is not heated, it does break the wind.
If the animals really need some added warmth then a heat lamp really helps to get 
them all warm and fuzzy again.


 So, even though I feel sorry for myself today..
Winter is also beautiful.
The air is crisp,
the skies are stunning and the northern lights are an added perk.

Until the first snow falls, I always feel some trepidation about the upcoming winter,
however once it is here,
 it is simply a matter of embracing it.
Appreciating the stark beauty,
enjoying the warmth of the house,
and accepting  that
 everything takes a little more time and effort to do in the winter.


  1. Thank you for this post - here in Manitoba I am learning to love parts of winter although my first inclination is always to hate it. Everything is harder to do in the winter.


    ps - it's toque, not took :) a weird word for sure.

    1. I knew it. I tried last night a few times how to spell it, even the abc function did not find the right word. I looked and looked at toque and just could not get it figured out. Thank you because it really bugs me when a word looks funny!


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