I was left home one weekend while my guys went snowmobiling. Now I had commitments that I couldn't miss or I would have been along for the ride!!! :) Anyway, I got to thinking about how important water is to the ranchers way of life. We not only need water for ourselves but nearly 800 animal units depend on us for their supply of water. The only task given to me by the 'guys' was to keep the water open for all the cattle and horses. I noticed the 'thepioneerwoman' has a post on breaking ice which was accurate for her location but mine is quite a bit different. The Sand Hills of Nebraska actually lay on top of the largest underground water aquifer in the Northern Hemisphere, the Ogallala Aquifer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer Our water is pumped out of the ground by windmills. Now these are a bit different than the windmills we are seeing that are generating electricity. Now ours aren't nearly as tall as an electricity windmill and the top part, the head, on our ranch is usually between 6 to 8 feet across. http://www.awwasc.com/
This was the first mill I checked that day and when I drove up I noticed that the ice was melted under the lead pipe. (That's the pipe that the water runs into the tank by) Water that comes out of the ground because it's insulated by the ground is warmer than the air temperature. If we have a steady breeze or a full blown gale, our water in the tank has a portion of it that stays open. Some ranches will even put a smaller tank inside the larger tank so they have a better chance of keeping the smaller tank open. I've had another rancher comment that then the larger outside tank freezes up solid and is much harder to open back up. It a preference thing. When we break ice in a tank, we use an ice bar, not an ax. Again, that's probably a preference thing. It's a very heavy long metal stick with a wedge on the bottom of it. We crack the ice with the bar and then pitch the ice out with a pitch fork. It's also important to throw the ice far away from the tank so the cattle and horses don't have to step around it. If you've noticed my verbiage of heavy and pitch, I hope you can gather that 'breaking ice' is a very physical thing we do. When you multiply this by several mills, it's a pretty good workout. This weekend I had really pretty good weather, nights weren't quite as cold and the wind blew most of the time and kept things open.