Three-Week Winter

I honestly thought we were not going to get winter this year. It happens. When February 2nd rolled around and the ranch still looked like this–

I had a bad feeling that it was not going to be a good water year. And then we had our first winter storm–three days before we were supposed to drive to Nevada for the Ranch Hand Rodeo, where I have a vendor booth. The highway was closed for two days, but when it opened we assumed the worst was over and headed south. While we were gone, the cold snap hit, and it was much colder than anticipated, or we would not have left. My mom texted on our first day at the rodeo to tell me that when they fed the cattle that morning, it was -38 degrees F. Cue really bad feelings.

When we got back to Montana, the first big question was, could we get to the ranch. My folks  spent hours on the tractor to open up a road across a field to give us access. The official driveway was too drifted to tackle.

We made it home and took over feeding. It was still well below zero and we had to suit up.

There was a lot of snow. We’re supposed to give vaccinations soon, but with the condition of the chute, that isn’t going to happen for a while.

We spread straw so that the cows had a comfy place to cozy up together and weather out the temperatures.

My husband and stepdad worked for days to open up the driveway, working against time because once the melt started, the field would turn into a bog and we would have no way out of the place. Finally they broke through and we had an escape route. 

Today’s temperature, 25 days after our first storm? Almost 50 degrees F. The cows, and the feed crew, are very happy.

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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

25 thoughts on “Three-Week Winter”

  1. It has certainly been a strange winter. I live in KS and we have had lots of snow. I’m a feedyard inspector for the State of KS so some of my area has had 42” of snow since Christmas. I know that’s not a lot for where you live, but that’s huge for us here on the Plains.
    Try to keep warm, spring is approaching in a few hours.

  2. Wow, Jeannie! It’s posts like this that really make me stand in awe of the men and women running ranches 150 years ago. They fact that they survived and somehow kept their stock alive as well is amazing. Glad you and your hubby made it safely home. I hope the thaw continues.

    • I think about that all the time, Karen. They were such hardy people. We have tractors and technical gear to keep us warm. They had a team of horses or mules and wool.

  3. Wow this is crazy. I am glad that everyone and everything is ok. We must persevere and continue.

  4. Fascinating post, Jeannie! I love seeing your life away from the computer! Ha! I complain about the snow we got this winter, but being out in the open and with the wind makes it worse for you! Add with livestock that need you to take care of them–dang! At least when it snows here, I don’t have to leave my house if I don’t want to.

    But like you said–50 degrees! Heaven!

  5. We’ve had a remarkably mild winter here in Texas! Stay warm! Spring is on its way. You’d be shocked how green my grass is right now.

  6. Crazy!! It has been a strange winter everywhere. Here in MI we have had every side of it, from no snow and warm to negative 30’s to tornadoes. I don’t ever remember such a wild one like this before. I’m glad you survived and are well! Bring on spring!!

  7. Yup it looks the same way here in parts of Nebraska until the Thaw hit and now we are dealing with flooding. Pray that the farmers will be able to work the land again in the future.

  8. Y’all really did get it bad. I love seeing the snow pictures and always hope for some here (but not in the amount you and a lot of the country has had), but we haven’t had any in several years in my part of Texas.

  9. Wow, Jeannie! That is a huge amount of snow! I can’t imagine how trying that was and still is. Your next blog will probably be about needing a boat. 🙂 Hang in there and keep the coffee going!

  10. I have been hearing how cold it has been in Montana but my gosh your post and pictures really show it. I was thinking of the pioneers too but I imagine what you had to do was hard enough anyway. Here in Pennsylvania we had very little snow but it rained all winter whichis a real oddity. To tellyou how little snow we had, I never once had to shovel my driveway–not normal for the Northeast.

  11. We didn’t get the bitter cold Montana did but we did get wind driven snow in February and colder than average temperatures. Like you our driveway was drifted shut. Our recently overhauled tractor wouldn’t start so we had to call the neighbors to plow us out. The tractor mechanic was able to get to us, too. The last three days have been sunny and much warmer—-spring is here! We just have to ignore the snow banks and drifts that still dot the countryside and my yard.

  12. I live in North Central Texas. My peach trees are in full bloom. Hope a hard freeze does not get us. It most likely will though. Tonya Lucas and Stephanie Jenkins Ortiz Cerrillo are familiar with the area. Tonya is my cousin. Stephanie I count as a friend and reader buddy.

  13. Crazy weather. I remember winters like that in Northern New York. Went to visit sick family members 2 weeks ago. Left TN in 50 degree weather and his -5 weather there. Hit snow and heavy fog on the way south. Not nearly as bad as you had it, but I don’t have the clothes for it. We got caught in a blizzard when we moved to Colorado in 1982. We were in Iowa. It was negative 100 degrees with wind chill. Nothing was moving. We made it to a hotel as they closed the interstate. Our room never got above 50 degrees and the snow blew in around the door. It is hard to believe the early settlers as well as the Native Americans were able to survive these conditions without solid warm structures.

  14. Wow, that must have been tough on everyone. I am so glad you made it through. IT does make you wonder how pioneers survived.

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