If you have owned a ranch long and possibly work a fulltime job like I do, then you know that the weekends are for playing on your ranch, right? WRONG.
I knew this going into the ranching business, since I grew up on one myself. They are typically very time consuming. I went into this weekend thinking I would just have to feed and check the cattle, since temperatures were predicted below freezing. The weekend started out as usual, we headed for the ranch. We soon found out that the rural water (water lines that run out to the middle of nowhere) had a line frozen somewhere between my in-laws’ and the neighbor’s house. Meaning that our cattle were going to be out of water throughout the night until the rural water district could find the problem.
Now, in our biggest pasture we recently installed a new water tank, the kind made from concrete and a giant recycled rubber tire with the water coming in from the bottom to prevent freezing. No problem, right? WRONG again. Saturday morning I went to the ranch to check on what I would now call the ice tank, because it had more ice than anything else.
So I called the cows over to a small pond, where, in the 12 degree weather, I began chopping the ice. I proudly stepped back after chopping what seemed like half hour to see that I had made a hole just about big enough for an infant to swim in. It wasn’t a total loss, I at least got both of my feet wet. I walked away thinking the cows would applaud my hard work. The first cow stepped to the watering hole, sniffed the water and turned to look right at me, as if to say, “I’m not drinking from the ground.” I made a mental note of her ear tag number. “Look at me that way again,” I thought, “and you’re going on my sale-barn list.”
We went to inspect the ice tank, only to find out that the valve was covered in ice. I decided to wait for the weather to warm up and for the rural water district to fix the frozen line. The water company informed us Saturday afternoon that the water was functional. So, we headed back to the ice tank to see if it was functioning properly. I walked up to the tank, half-way thinking that it would be somewhat full, only to see that it still had the same amount of ice. With further inspection I could see that the valve was under ice, but I couldn’t tell that anything was wrong at that point. So we decided to fill the other tank (our backup tank for the summer time) with the frost free faucet.
Sunday morning I brought a longer water hose to reach the ice tank, to try to help the thawing process. Just a word of advice, when it is 6 degrees, the ice doesn’t thaw fast, but I have other stuff to do. For instance, go home and rest up for my 8 to 5 job. So I string the hose out to reach the tank and turn the water on at the faucet. Nothing happens. What? I know the water works to this point. It turns out I managed to get the only frozen hose from the barn. I didn’t think about it, it was just hanging up all nice and neat. So now I’m on plan C, put the water hose in the truck and warm it up. Once I have a floorboard full of water (and finally a useable hose) I begin running the ice cold water over the ice. Really, it seemed like I could see the water freezing. The water thawed the ice to uncover the real root of the problem. The line from the ground had frozen hard enough to break in two. Crap! Plan D, go to the garage and find the parts. Naw, never works. Plan E, wait for the lumber yard to open up, wait it’s Sunday. Plan F, go to the farm supply store 30 miles away when they open.
Now if you are like me, you just want to be left alone in the hardware store. I found the remedy for that, see what you do is walk in dripping wet from the knee down on a Sunday with the temperature just above freezing. Holding a broken water line with a valve and a float still attached to the other end. Stand in the plumbing section and try to get some help, just try. I swear they must have a signal for that.
--“Code red, code red, we have a cranky rancher wet in the plumbing section, can’t seem to find the 3/4 to 1/2 adapter.”
--“Is he still wearing his stocking cap?”
--“Yup, then I ain’t helping him, you go.”
--“I ain’t going, you go. I went last time.”
The checkout lady barely said two words to us. Even without their help, I managed to find all of the stuff .
I was so proud of my find in the hardware store. There was a piece of metal around the water line to help protect it. Works great, except when you have to cut the water line. So we found this small hack saw. The “mini hacksaw” they call it. Now, this is a great product but I liked it a little less after sawing the line in two, with what I thought was the slowest hacksaw of all time since I could only move it in 1 inch increments. I thought, “man I wish this water line was out in the open.” Question: You know how to tick off an already ticked off rancher? Walk up after he’s spent 15 minutes sawing a water line with the mini hacksaw and say “That’s a really good job, but why didn’t you just move the piece of pipe?”.
Oh yeah, after I finished with that we had to move a cow that didn’t want to take her second calf. That’s right, the first calving of the year was actually two, twins. But that’s another story. Just another weekend on the HandHranch.