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Tips for Preparing Your Farm for Winter Storms

After seven years of owning and maintaining a 13 acre horse farm in New England, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way about preparing our horses, our farm equipment, and the farm in general for snow storms.

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For the horses:
– Set up extra portions of grain and hay, making sure all feed is close to where the horses are.
– Bed a little extra – if the storm is really bad, you won’t be sure when you can get to cleaning their stalls. It could be the same day, but it may be the next day or two if the storm is bad.
– Don’t forget to think about WATER! Heated buckets work great, as long as there is electricity of some sort. If you don’t have heated buckets, putting hot water into water buckets can make them last longer before freezing.
– Blanket your horse appropriately for the expected temperatures. Having an extra one or two on hand in case the one the horse is wearing gets damaged is a bonus.
– Sometimes an extra something (like the Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Balls) helps with boredom if the horses are stuck in because of snow.

For the farm equipment:
– Fill up all the vehicles’ gas tanks. It helps to decrease the worry of running out.
– Get a generator! We lucked out and the first time we lost power for five days in a row was in October, because of a hurricane. That taught us! It would have been that much more miserable having to truck in water if we were doing it through snow drifts and freezing temperatures
– Test run the generator, making sure it’s full of gas and can easily be started.
– Hook up the plow and/or put buckets/snow blowers onto tractors.
– The second best investment (behind the generator) that we made was tire chains for one of our tractors. It’s like driving a tank at times – great grip in the snow and ice. I can’t tell you how many times it has pulled the truck/plow out of situations where it is stuck.
– Have heavy duty chains for such a situation, where you can use vehicle A to pull vehicle B out of snow banks
– If possible, put tractors in covered areas (or, better yet, an insulated covered area) – diesel doesn’t always like to start in the cold.

For the farm in general:
– Put out snow stakes. This needs to be done early before the ground freezes!
– Plan where snow piles can be pushed into.
– Detach all hoses that could freeze and render water spigots useless. Ours go into storage as soon as nightly temps fall below freezing, and don’t come out until mid/late spring.
– Turn up the heat in any heated/insulated areas. In case of loss of power it will take longer to cool off.
– Make sure there is ample human food for a few days, too!
– Have outerwear that’s waterproof, or have two sets of outerwear that you can rotate through in case it gets cold and wet.
– I’m lucky to live where my horses do, but make sure you know who will be taking care of your horse in the event that the roads are closed to everyone but plows and emergency personnel. Communication is key!
– Don’t forget to have fun in the snow! It makes everything beautiful, even if cleanup is a pain.

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