I knew it was going to be cold last night. I wore layers and checked the forecast to make sure it wasn’t going to snow or worse – rain and then freeze. And then I went to bed. Around 3 AM I woke up wide-eyed, remembering that the faucet at the barn was on. We leave it on to keep the heated water trough full but on very cold nights it must be turned off. A glance up at the ceiling confirmed my fear. Our projection clock also shows the outside temperature. The sensor is a little too close to the house and it showed 21°F, a guarantee that the water in the hose and faucet would now be ice, taking up more space than the liquid form of water and probably putting too much pressure on the spigot parts. Much of it is metal but there is also rubber and plastic. I wasn’t about to climb out of my warm bed to go outside at 3 AM so I went back to sleep wondering if I got lucky this time.
The next day I discovered the answer. No. I can see the barn from our kitchen window and the spray of water coming from the “frost-proof” spigot now that the sun was shining and the temperature was above freezing. I bundled up and headed outside inspect. To my surprise, water was shooting out of the spigot, not at the hose connector, the part with plastic and rubber parts, but the actual metal of the spigot itself. Fortunately I was able to close the valve to stop the leak and I’m sure I’ll be able to replace the head assembly but it probably won’t be as easy as it seems.
So don’t forget that those frost-proof spigot/yard hydrants are great but they can’t take much of a freeze. You have to remember to close the valve in order for it to be truly “frost-proof.”
We knew to be suspicious of the forecast of up to 12 inches of snow that was expected to fall this week. The weather in east Tennessee is apparently extremely difficult to predict. The forecast changed yesterday from snow to only rain and then hours before it hit, the forecast changed again – this time to ice. That’s the one we want the least, because it creates insane road conditions and threatens our electric service. Our horses are of course dry in the barn, munching on yummy square bales of hay. It’s tricky keeping their buckets full and unfrozen; we hope to be able to have heated buckets in the stalls in the coming weeks.
We have a supposedly freeze-free faucet now and although it helps, it’s hasn’t been fool-proof. There have been several times where we haven’t been able to get it to work at 5 degrees below freezing. I eventually figure out it worked best when you close the faucet value but open the hose shut-off valves. This allows the water to drain inside the pipe so it doesn’t freeze. Still, I plan filling the trough carefully. Four equines can go through 100 gallons of water, the capacity of our trough, in about 4 days in the winter. On long cold stretches, like we’re accustomed to seeing in east Tennessee, we are in danger of running out of flowing water and having to carry buckets from our house. So in the AM when I let the horses out (if it isn’t precipitating), I take the ice from the buckets (if clean) and dump it back into the heated trough.
First, I put the buckets into the trough. I dip them below the water line and then slosh the buckets back and forth and side to side.
After a couple of minutes, I turn the buckets upside down and usually the solid chunk of ice slides out into the water.
Part of our routine in the winter. Can’t wait until spring!
Take a look at the picture below. We have one of those cool 110 gallon Rubbermaid water buckets and ours has an automatic filler with a float valve (like a toilet). The hose we’re using to keep this bucket full is looking compromised so I haven’t been leaving the water on all day in the heat. The picture below was taken after a hot day with the waterer turned off. You can see the water line near the top of the bucket. Those two horses of ours sure drink a lot of water! Just a reminder to make sure those buckets are full each day.
BTW, we love this bucket and the waterer. I’ll write about it someday and include some other pictures and tips on how to keep the water clean.
We’ve had a few days where the weather has been freezing much of the time and we’re having trouble getting water through our hoses now. When we know the temperature will dip below freezing, we open the nozzle end and turn the water supply off at the spigot so when ice forms inside the hose and expands the water, it has a place to go. We also cover the spigot end with some fabric and a bucket. The pipes are already insulated. Now we don’t normally need water in the morning because we fill all the horse buckets when we clean stalls. The hoses sit out in the sun all day but lately don’t always thaw before we need to use them for water. What seems to work is not only opening the nozzle end when we’re done but also disconnecting the hose end at the spigot. It helps that our property slopes where the hose lays; the water mostly drains on it’s own. The reason this is a pain is because the spigot end always has lots of water in it so my hands/gloves always get wet and I don’t like being wet AND cold. I don’t mean to whine. I know you guys up north have it WAY colder than we do in the south. I’m just so looking forward to spring. Come on spring!
I did try one thing that helps, though. I had some pipe insulation (Home Depot or Lowes for around $2 for 6 feet) collecting dust so I wrapped it around the nozzle end of the hose (see picture above). I don’t know if it helps keep the ice away but it’s so much nicer holding onto the pipe foam than our ratty old garden hose.
Do you have any tips on dealing with garden hoses in the winter? For us, they are a necessity since we don’t have faucets everywhere we need water each day.