Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer – Ode to the Humble Water Bucket

I wanted to start off with an Ode to the Humble Water Bucket, but as I got started I realized not a lot rhymes with bucket. You could go with suck it, muck it, tuck it, duck it, etc., but that wouldn’t really express how I’ve been feeling about this essential tool for the past few weeks. That comes with another rhyming word, which, I can assure you is uttered frequently when dealing with buckets in the winter.

Water, after all, is something the birds have to have. They all have water buckets in their yard, and in the summer I kind of forget about them. Sure, I dump them every morning, but then just fill them up with the hose and move onto the rest of that day’s chores. Winter however, gives its own set of special challenges.

You go out there in the dark, and try to pick the bucket up, and realize two things. One it’s frozen to the ground again. Two it’s frozen solid. What to do? Well, I start off with kicking it to try to loosen it from the earth’s icy grasp. Failing that, I pour warm water around and kick some more. Once the bucket is loose, you have to pop the ice out. Normally I pour a bit of warm water inside the bucket, then flip it and pour some over the bottom, and then stomp on it until the ice falls out. This usually works great, and takes out any irritation I have started off the day with. My technique has worked fine the past couple winters, but, frankly, they were warmer and things weren’t quite as frozen. It being colder this year, I have managed to break the bottoms out of all my buckets, and the four new ones my husband got for me from the store last week. Which has led to some amusing texts between us about there being a Hole in the Bucket Dear Eliza (if you don’t know this song, there’s a great YouTube video of Kris Kristofferson singing it with Ani Defranco, go watch it and come back), but mostly there’s been frustration and a great deal of colorful language regarding breaking another one. Thinking I should refine my strategy, I have taken to thawing them in the bath tub.

The technique is pretty much same. I spray some warm water in the bucket, and then flip it and spray some around the bottom until the ice falls out with a satisfying thunk. Now, I was leaving the bucket shaped ice brick in the tub. I was interested in learning how long it would take a 2 gallon ice chunk to melt, but once I’d head out to finish up farm chores, I’d totally forget about my experiment. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but it actually takes a long time, and my kids were complaining about trying to take a shower with giant ice cubes. So, I have taken to carrying the ice outside, and throwing it off the front porch. This is pretty fun, and you can place bets with yourself about how far you can pitch it.

That said, it’s best to avoid knocking ice out all together. So, I have an aquarium heater for the ducks inside water, and I try not to fill their outside water bucket up to the top, so there is less to bang out the next day. It works, but my ducks are kind of sarcastic about the whole thing, and they don’t know how to take turns. I fill up their outside bucket for them, and the Saxony ducks all pile in for a swim. The little ducks can’t even get their heads in for a drink, so I shoo the big ducks out, the little ducks pile in and have a bit of fun. Eventually, the Saxony ducks get tired of this, and chase them back out. Then, they start splashing everywhere and spray me in the face. Silly ducks.

The chickens already have a heated waterer. So, they are good to go. Geese are a bit trickier because they chew on everything. I’m pretty sure that if I put an aquarium heater in their water they’d chew the cord, electrocute themselves, and start a fire. Since their water isn’t heated, I spend the most time defrosting their buckets. They have outside water, and then I place a water bucket in their shed when I put them to bed at night. I did find one that has a heated bottom, with a wire wrapped cord, so they can’t chew through. I’m sure it will work great, I just haven’t a way to plug it in. It’ll get it figured out just in time for spring to warm things up.

So, don’t let winter and frozen buckets get you down. The water in the bucket can be kept unfrozen with an aquarium heater, or get a bucket you can plug in, or accept the challenge of defrosting them daily. If you are defrosting them, have a bit of fun with it. Place bets about how far you can chuck the ice, or time it to see how long it takes to defrost in the bathtub. Winter won’t last for forever, and it’ll be spring soon enough. Then you’ll be standing in the sunshine with the water hose, the ice a distant memory, at least until next year.


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