Friday, 17 December 2010

An update on the weather

Friday 10th December saw the weather turn fresh (warmer), there were even concerns of flooding as the roads quite literally ran with water. However many of the roads were still covered with compacted frozen snow which made driving conditions absolutely treacherous.

Farmers contracted out by the council tried to make the most of the fresh spell which was forecast to continue right over the weekend. Diggers and ploughs came into the area to try and remove some of the inches deep compacted frozen snow off the tarmac roads. Many wagons needed to make deliveries, not only to farms but also to households who required heating oils, coals etc, the roads were going to have to blacken more than they were at the moment to enable the deliveries to get in.

There was some headway made and tarmac did rise to the surface in places, however the fresh didn't last as long as it might have done. For all it felt so much milder the cold in the ground must have prevented further snow and ice from shifting. There was a massive difference to be seen on the Friday, every time I looked up more snow had moved and yet on the Saturday it appeared to be just the same and so on for the first few days of the coming week.

Yes, the snow must have been moving slightly but it was no where near as apparent as it was on that Friday. Where ever tractors, feet or traffic had been travelling over the white stuff it was all left as a solid frozen mass. Fields were greening up, hill ground and any rougher pastures found sheep scratching in and 'working' to get a bite as heather and rushes began to poke through, any dips and hollows remained white as did dyke (wall) backs. The oldies would be telling you it was hanging around waiting for more to come........

Shep managed to get out and about without fear of sliding off roads, a trip away East to dose and innoculate hoggs away on winter keep followed by a trip over West to dose and copper in lamb mule ewes, on roads which were a pleasure to drive on. What a difference in the weather though. Close to the seaside on my venture east saw a lot of snow still lying, as much if not more than ourselves. The trip over west saw me enquiring whether or not they had had any snow. But then you just have to travel a few miles down the valley from here and the snow is hard to find.

Sunday 12th December saw everyone waiting with bated breath to view the weekly television weather forecast which is screened after our weekly farming programme on a Sunday evening. Concerns grew as a threat of heavy snowfall was predicted for the coming Thursday (yesterday).

The 'fresh' had come as a god send enabling everyone to 'come up for air', restock where necessary and prepare for whatever the weather was likely to throw at us. Not just farmers and shepherds I may add, householders too. Those who required fuel deliveries to heat their houses were finding the wagons were back on the roads, some had to leave bowsers to be filled at properties which had clearer roads, these bowsers being led in by tractor so saving unnecessary accidents for the wagon drivers or none deliveries. Feedstuffs were delivered to farms, some being unloaded at the farm ends, or neighbouring farms due to wagons not able to travel on the icy farm roads. Groceries were sought, just in case! Pantries (larders) are kept full through the winter months so many were not short of food but it always pays to ensure there is plenty in and so an opportunity to restock is not missed.

A great help when no one is sure what the future weather is likely to be.

Shep even met one farmer loading his sheep and taking them home. His main farm is 12 miles away, further in bye,yet he owns a large lump of hill ground in this area too. For all he was able to get fodder to his sheep in the bad weather he said it was taking 3 hours out of his day to travel to them by tractor and so when there was a lull in the weather he decided to gather all 100 of them up and transport them by livestock trailer back down to his home farm where he knew he would be able to access them. Not a foolish move by any means.

For some the forecast of more heavy snow was almost too much, worries and fears came to the fore. Will the fodder last the winter? Where will we find some more fodder? Will the wagon get in with feedstuffs for the farm animals? Will the sheep carry their lambs through? Will there be enough money to pay the extra costs? Will we ever be able to visit friends and family before Christmas? Will the family get up for Christmas?

There is nothing we can do about the weather and in many ways there is no point in worrying, however, if you care then you will undoubtedly worry and for all there is nothing can be done about the weather we must all prepare for it and have plans and back up plans for dealing with it. Minds are racing, thinking weeks and even months ahead towards possible scenarios, trying to conjure up plans of action to help alleviate the situations should they arise. For instance, there is no point in waiting until you have no hay for your sheep before ringing around to see it there is any to be had. The hay sheds were rapidly depleting and many have already being making enquiries and placing orders for more fodder. Should it not be needed then all well and good, a huge expense but at least it was on hand. However, should it be needed then that is even better, your animals did not go hungry, you had the foresight of mind to plan ahead and prepare for the worst.

So why so much concern? Why the unspoken fear, concern and trepidation? THE WINTER ARRIVED TOO EARLY - that's why. Winter will often arrive in January, very often in February and not unheard of in March, but November? Snow is not unheard of in November, neither is frost. However the amount we received is unusual and we are a long way away from springtime, so much can happen in the forthcoming months.

Last winter dragged on, a good old fashioned winter which commenced in December and trailed on beyond the spring. Almost everyone in this area used up all their hay and silage, their feed bills were much higher than usual and not a scrap of feed left on the farms. The past spring and summer were poor ones. The early growing season never arrived and hay and silage crops were poor. Many farmers went into the winter with sufficient to see them through on a 'normal' winter, therefore they already know that they do not have enough fodder to see them through an unusually early winter unless it should now become fresh and the weather warm up. Many are carrying huge concerns upon their shoulders.

You can imagine the relief as the week drew on and the threat of heavy snowfall lessened to a threat of snow showers, many were waiting with bated breath to see what would arrive.

Thursday saw a covering of snow and nothing more, enough to make the ground look more uniform but not enough to cause any concern. The arctic blast saw the snow and slush practically freeze as it fell. Roads are once again lethal due to black ice and white ice!

We are in for a spell of hard weather, forecast for the coming week at least. Hard frosty weather. Hopefully everyone will be able to go about their business with care. Water pipes will probably be freezing again in cattle sheds and outbuildings - a time consuming pastime which can seem never ending trying to get the water to run for stock to drink. There is rough ground showing so hopefully sheep on hill ground wont need as much hay as they were receiving when the snow was so deep, however, they will still need a bite. The costs and use of fodder hasn't come to an end yet but in some respects life is looking up a little.

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