We expect snow in October – that’s why I put a set of snowball pads on my horse when I reset his shoes this week. But knee deep?
It began snowing Wednesday night, and there were 5” of heavy wet snow in the morning. I shoveled the walk. By evening there were 15”, and I shoveled again.
When I awakened this morning the power was off. I never understood how a house that is this far from town could be all-electric, but with no power we had no heat – and no coffee.
It was a struggle to make the 100 yards to the tractor through snow that came over my knees. Then I had to sweep that 20” of snow of the tractor and cycle the glow-plugs twice to get it running. It was even a struggle for the tractor to pull through that snow, and it bucked and pitched its way as I broke a trail from the bunkhouse for Ted to walk to the main house.
The generator was still sitting down in the calving shed from last spring. It is too wide to ride in the tractor bucket, so I had to bolt on a couple of the long teeth that we use for handling hay. Climbing off the tractor to open and close gates on the way to the shed drove the snow up under my overalls and over my boot-tops. My gloves were quickly soaked with the wet snow, as the temperature was sitting right around freezing.
I had to lock the differential on the tractor to pull the modest hill from the calving shed, and make several runs to get up to the garage, where I unloaded the generator and pulled the rope. It hadn’t been used since last year, so required a shot of starting fluid to fire. But it was out of gas.
On the way up to the shop I met a string of cattle that were looking for some feed. I led them back down through the field, opening and shutting three more wire gates – one of which had been grown over with grass before it was buried by two feet of drifted snow. There was enough tall old grass along the ditches and fences in that next field for those cows to make out. We’d have had to haul fresh batteries up to the bulldozer and spent the rest of the day plowing to have fed them hay.
Back at the shop I pulled off the hay teeth with numb fingers, and grabbed a couple of gas cans – this time fighting my way with that big tractor to get to the gas tank.
Finally I arrived back at the garage and fired up the generator. A friend had recently installed a transfer panel and run a heavy cord out into the garage to connect the generator to a few essential circuits. In minutes the furnace and the coffee-maker were running.
I had set out some sourdough the night before, and by 10:00 we were sitting down to a fresh hot batch of frybread, washed down with fresh-ground coffee.
As we ate we watched through binoculars as a drama played out on the county road.
A pickup was struggling up the road slowly through the snow. When he got to our mailbox he could go no further. But soon we spotted road graders plowing the road from both Big Timber and Livingston sides. The FedEx truck was right behind the Livingston grader, and weaseled his way past the machines as they each turned around for the return trip.
A UPS truck seemed to gotten stuck in the snow-berm thrown up by the grader, so a suburban turned around to pull him out.
By afternoon the sun was bright and the air had warmed to 45o. Water was dripping off the roof.
We had a ranch visitor who needed to get back to town, but her Explorer was no match for that snow. When she and Ted were ready I hooked a tow-rope to their rig and pulled them up our drive the mile to the county road.
By the time I returned to the house, power had been restored and I could shut off the generator.
This much snow is not unusual for winter or spring this country, but not this early in the year, and not carrying so much moisture. We’d have liked to connect the big tractor-mount snow-blower, but snow this warm and wet would just plug it up. Warmer weather is forecast, and the ranch will be a sloppy mess for a few days.
We received more moisture in this storm that we got all last winter put together. And we already had a couple of inches of fall rain. This is the start of an excellent mountain snow-pack, and enough soil moisture to make spring grass and a good crop of hay – something we haven’t had for a few years.
There are plenty of jobs that need to be accomplished yet before winter, but today wasn’t the day for any of them. It is far too much work to do anything more outside in this snow. A good day for writing and bookwork.