As I was driving home to Lava Lake Ranch last night, I glanced up at the digital thermometer in my rear view mirror and already knew I would not want to get up early the next morning. Negative 15 degrees. Mind you, this is without the wind chill factor! I refuse to have a thermometer at the ranch, as sometime I just don’t want to know. It seems easier to shrug on the coat, heavy boots, gloves and hat, because to me, anything under 10 degrees is just darn cold and being aware of the exact temperature makes it seem even worse. I wonder if Southern states, experiencing the same cold snap, are just as shocked by the 20’s as we are by the -20’s.

When I see such low numbers on the highway, I take heart in two things. First of all, the ranch is 2 miles off the highway, and those two miles often make a difference in temperature. Sure enough, as I turned off the road, the thermometer continued to climb and by the time I reached the house, it recorded a balmy -2 degrees….Woohoo! I have a theory to explain that thirteen degree difference, although I lack scientific research to back it up. The ranch is bordered by over 6 miles of Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is primarily comprised of lava rock, so I surmise that the lava rock retains heat during the sunny days, and generally makes our area slightly warmer. Secondly, we are surrounding on three sides by high mountains, as if they were hugging us to stave off the cold.

At this time of year, we are preparing for our first wave of new born organic lambs, and so weather is always a concern for us. We already have 3 babies on the ground, who evidently were not aware that our lambing date is still a week away. I am always amazed at how well our animals tolerate the cold winter weather here in Idaho. I’ve had others ask why we don’t lamb during warmer weather. We do have two calculated reasons for our lambing dates. The first being that when animals are grass finished (all of our lambs are), we have to estimate the end of the natural forage availability and then work back to the desired weight and age, which is dictated by their birth date (as well as food availability and weight gain). We’ve also found that warmer weather usually brings wet, sometimes freezing rain, which seems harder for the animals. It also seems (in my opinion) that when it is so darn cold, it is more sterile than a warmer, mucky environment.

While the chilly temperatures can make getting out of bed tough, the gorgeous sunrise and cold mist held down by the thermal patterns surrounding us make bundling up worth it. Plus, the ewes, lambs, horses and dogs survive without indoor heating year round. I was always taught growing up to feed your animals first, and then to thaw yourself out over breakfast. I do hope it warms up a bit as lambs continue to arrive.

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