Monday, February 16, 2009

I Finally Gave Into Winter Weather

This is long overdue as I actually gave-into cold temperature a while back. My fingers finally cried-out for an end to having to work tying knots and weaving tree saplings into the roof and walls of the winter sheep pen in 10 F/-12 C degree weather (i.e. on good days). They had it… and they put the foot – or better digit – down and demanded no more work in below freezing weather. They said that it didn’t matter whether the sun was out or the fact that work had begun occurring in the middle of the day as opposed to in the evening to take advantage of warm sun rays… it was just too cold, period! So there you have it: completion of the sheep round house had to be suspended until Spring.

However, because I try to be a good shepherd to my flock, I had to temporarily cover and winterize the round house for use by the sheep this winter. Of course, my fingers wined and complained, but they had to be ignored except for the purchase of nice new mittens to be worn during frequent warm-up breaks. Why mittens and not gloves that might give me increased dexterity and allow me to work with protected fingers you might ask… well it’s simple, yet inexplicable and unusual: my hands and fingers freeze to death when I wear gloves. However, they stay much warmer if I work without gloves and take frequent breaks to warm them up inside mittens. Yes, I have tried different gloves, including different sizes and different kinds. But it doesn’t matter... it’s all the same… gloves suck or more likely they freeze! I love my mittens though… don’t like the price too much (a nice $86), but they are worth every penny. First off, they keep you warm no matter how cold, be it at 32 F/0 C, 0 F/-18C, -25 F/-32 C; second you can handle snow and ice, deep them in the sheep water bucket and your hands stay dry (did I mention warm too); third you can handle wood, metal, sheet metal, etc., but because they are leather w/ extra layers nothing penetrate your hands (and yes they keep staying warm); fourth… well I shut up since I think you get the point: mittens rule on my little farm!

To return to the main topic, the sheep round house got a nice cover, both walls and roof, of something I don’t love, but must admit its usefulness and as far as I know unrivaled quality: plastic. The original plan was to cover roof and walls with sustainable natural materials. But to support these and ensure their durability, I had to provide a good skeleton, which was taking a toll on my poor fingers as mentioned above. So the plan got postponed to the Spring when the weather should allow for a bit warmer temperatures – all I ask is for 30’s-40’s F/0-10 C. So the plastic went up.

But for all the goods of plastic sheeting, it wasn’t easy and took a few days. The draw-back being, among the fact that I hate plastic for being a manufactured and a petroleum based product, that plastic sheeting is darn slippery. Also and although I got 10-mils, it is easily punctured, which is not good if it rains or if snow’s melting… poor sheepies –they got a nice weather proof coat, but it isn’t made of plastic! To overcome the fragility of plastic sheeting, I devised a spider-web like belt around and over the roof, used staples on the walls, and rocks along the bottom of the walls. That worked, even during the unusually strong winds we’ve had this year!

I must admit that last week a section of the roof collapsed under the weight of melted snow and water – yes we had a warm spell of well above freezing temperatures – Indian Summer? – and I should have probably put in some work on placing more sustainable materials. But given the melt down lots of manure had to be handled and cleaned-up. I do try to be a good and “clean” shepherd!

As you can see in the photos the sheep round house for the winter is up and staying -- it’s not running anywhere fortunately -- and the sheep love it.

Did i mentioned my favorite and most personal touch is the vent system on top of the reciprocal roof opening!