Snow with historic arctic blast temperatures.

2022 Arctic Blast – Part I

Bracing for Impact

Snow with historic arctic blast temperatures.
The morning after the storm blew in – 2/23/22

A Whole New World

Our life prior to homesteading rarely had us thinking too much about weather reports.  Truly, since we lived in the desert, the only time we cared about the weather was when we were planning something like a trip to the zoo.  (We never even thought about the phrase “arctic blast” in the desert! ) However, once we moved to Tennessee and started our homestead, weather forecasts became important in our lives.  As a matter of fact, weather was one of multiple considerations when choosing a state to homestead! 

Checking the daily reports was a part of our life. As you can imagine, weather affects just about everything that happens on the farm.  When will it be warm enough to hatch out chicks? When will it be warm enough to plant the garden?   Last frost? How quickly will the temperatures change during season transitions (because that will affect the goats’ health)? There are so many things that the weather affects about the decisions we make about all areas of the farm!

We intentionally chose Tennessee because it had mild winters (average December temp is 29 degrees) and summers (average July temp is 89).  So, we were not really ready for the single-digit weather that was predicted to make it sub-zero with wind chill.  Our animals had never lived through these low temperatures before. We had never dealt with such extreme cold weather here.  We began to make a plan and then three days before, we put the plan into action. Then we would be ready for our first ever “arctic blast”. 

First Things First… The Lonely Goat

First concern was our newly acquired buck, Prince.  He is a pretty guy.  (He looks like he should be in the arctic (and ready for a blast) with his coat being all white.) Goats are herd animals and do best with at least one friend.  He is only 10 months old and since we just bought him, we didn’t have a buddy for him yet.  Our plan is to keep one of our own come the spring kidding season.  But that wouldn’t help Prince now.  This is his temporary quarters until we get to build out a bigger buck area in the spring.  As you can see, not really ideal for single-digit and sub-zero temps.  Prince ran the risk of getting too cold with no one to cuddle with and get sick or worse.  So, we modified his hut. 

 

We took some old pallets and secured them to the sides of the hut.  Next, we stuffed hay into the pallets until it was compact to insulate his home.  

As you can see, Prince was amenable to this situation.  Plus he had tons of hay inside for a nice cozy bed. 

I know it doesn’t look so pretty, but aesthetics wasn’t the priority.  The best part about using this cube was that it was a quick, easy and affordable solution to a three-sided, draft-free structure to house a goat.


Lastly, most of the storms we have come from the southwest.  We purposely set his doorway to face north to avoid him getting wet.  Now, this typically works.  However, this storm would be raging in from the north – just our luck.  So, we needed to minimize the wind blowing directing into his hut.  We also needed to insulate the top.  Therefore, we took two old feedbags and hung them as “curtains” to his doorway.  Then we took hay and lay it on top of his hut and covered it with a tarp to try to keep the warmth in.  This gave him the ability to get in and out easily but cut down on his exposure the high winds of a blizzard. 

For our buck, the only other thing remaining to do, since he didn’t have a “cuddle buddy” was to make him a goat coat.  Typically, goats are just fine without one.  In all actuality, it’s advised to NOT coat a goat. They just fluff up and can keep toasty warm if they are in a dry, draft-free structure.  But temps were going to plummet 30 degrees to well below freezing (wind chill) in just the span of a few hours. 

So, I got busy!  With a moving blanket, velcro, and fabric, I made a goat coat.  Prince was ready for the arctic blast.  

Rabbits Like Cold Weather, But What About the Arctic Blast?

I am not sure how they feel about blizzards. We have three hutches.  We bought this one from someone premade, so it wasn’t like the others.  It was exposed on all sides, which works well during the summer, allowing lots of air to pass through.  The other two are enclosed on three sides.  The rabbits in that area would only need protection from the wind whipping around to the front. So, we took exact measurements of the hutch so that there would be no “guess-timate” regrets.  (We all have had those before.) Then we made a trip to the local hardware store to get tarps, bungee cords, and zip ties. 

Once we got back home, we got to work on the hutches wrapping the back and the front, attaching to the chicken wire/hardware cloth with zip ties.  The front we attached only at the top and minimally on the sides so that we could roll it up and secure when working with them or when weather got a little more clement.  Since this was on an incline, at the back the tarps draped all the way to the ground and we secured it with tent pegs so that it would prevent wind from that direction. 


This is what it looked like when “buttoned up” and ready for the storm to blow in. We actually folded the tarp in half in the front so that we wouldn’t have a lot of tarp to deal with when feeding and watering the bunnies.

As you can see from this picture, we then only needed to secure the tarps with the bungees.  When the bungees weren’t being used to keep them down, they help up the tarp when rolled up (as in the above image).

The last two preparations we needed to make for the rabbits was to replace their water bottles with throw-away luncheon bowls.  The water bottles’ spouts would have frozen up solid in a very short time with the temperatures we were expecting.  With these bowls, we only needed to pop out any frozen water and refill with warm water.  This worked wonderfully. Lastly, we threw extra hay at the bottom for them to snuggle and hide from the wind.  Clean up with be a bit nasty as their “bunny berries” can’t go through, but that’s a fair trade for keeping them warm and alive. 

Here are the rabbits snug and ready to hunker down.  Even though they are way too old for nesting boxes, I gave it back to them in a way to snuggle and keep each warm. 

 

Continue to read what happened after the storm: 2022 Arctic Blast – Part II

Rabbits snug with hay on the floor and plastic water bowls.

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