Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Kansas Blizzard Of 2011

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: weather, snow, farms,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.Well, the great Kansas blizzard of 2011 appears to be over. Some folks say that the Kansas blizzard of 2011 was of a magnitude not seen for years. I'll admit that it was the first real blizzard that I've experienced in Kansas, but it wasn't the worst I've experienced in either North Dakota or South Dakota. Still, when the temperatures are in the low teens and the wind is driving the snow sideways at about 25 miles per hour, you definitely have a blizzard on your hands, and it is hard on people, machines, animals and plants. Yet, blizzards are characteristic of the plains states so the plants, animals and people that live there have sufficient adaptation to plow through in most cases.

Kansas Blizzard of 2011 Getting the tractor out  

Courtesy Karen Keb 

Down in my part of Osage County, Kansas the snow amounts were no where near as dramatic as they were further east and into Missouri. The accumulation at our relatively sheltered farmstead ranged from 4-foot drifts in the lee of the wind to an inch or less in smooth open areas. In the yard and animal pens we received a fairly uniform 10 inches of accumulation -- enough to require shoveling out of feeders and gates and plowing paths. Truth be told, I enjoy snow and the work that it takes to keep the farm going in spite of it.

Last night when I got home from work, I set to on some of my favorite chores -- the encore performance this morning was met with subzero temperatures, calm air and a gorgeous sunrise.

Kansas Blizzard of 2011 pushing snow 

Courtesy Karen Keb 

When I pulled our trusty Kubota out of the shed, the hay spears were still on the loader arms so I swapped them for the utility bucket instead of the snow bucket (visible in the background) because I need to unload bagged feed from the truck. The box blade is useful for pulling snow away from buildings and for pushing it off the lane.

Kansas Blizzard 2011 Snowy Border Terrier Named Molly 

Courtesy Karen Keb 

Molly, our 7-month old Border Terrier loves to romp with us while we are out doing chores. She has seen snow just twice before yesterday, and she doesn't let it hold her back. Molly also has a wonderful knack for staying out of the way of equipment such as the tractor, but she loves racing up and down the plowed corridors and then leaping over the snow piles and into the soft powder.

Kansas Blizzard of 2011 sunrise the morning after 

It cleared up sooner than expected last night so the temperatures dropped further than expected. Chores were completed and the snow was plowed once again when I paused to take in this icy sunrise. How can you hate winter when you get to experience something so glorious?

Kansas Blizzard 2011 The Morning After 

Our little 104 year old farmhouse survived the blizzard in style. The new mudroom addition stayed snug, warm and dry. It was nice to be able to shed my ice-encrusted coveralls in a proper mudroom and pop them into the drier so they'd be comfortable when I next needed them.

Kansas Blizzard of 2011 Heading off to Work 

Last night on the way home from work I had a little trouble getting the big Dodge through a couple of drifts. I heard the maintainer scrape past this morning about 4:45. Thanks Mr. maintainer driver for making my trek to US 75 this morning an easy one.

They say it will be even colder tonight, although the winds are scheduled to be calm. I hope it stays calm for the sake of the plants, people, animals and machinery.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

2/18/2011 9:39:18 AM

Hi, I found your site while reading about Mulefoot hogs online. We're just beginning our farm in central Missouri, and want to add some Mulefoots. Where do you find your organic grains to feed them? I'd really like to avoid pesticides, until we can grow our own grains. Also, we're buying piglets - but how large do the full grown hogs get? Thanks, and great site! We'll be checking back often. Check us out -

hank will_2
2/9/2011 12:14:05 PM

Hey Green Bean -- We simlly adore this little dog. She is so full of joy. She cuddled up with a frozen newborn lamb I brought into the house the other day and licked its face like a mom would do. i love the way she doesn't mix it up with our other dogs and sits off to the side watching rather than being in the thick of everything. She loves to come into the chicken yard with us -- she tries to play with the birds but they peck at her and she steers clear. Really cool dog.

green bean _2
2/5/2011 11:34:09 AM

Loved your story and your Molly. We have a 12 year old border terrier named Marley and she is so wonderful. I know you will have years of fun with Molly.

hank will_2
2/4/2011 12:40:15 PM

Erin -- I remember shoveling that alley once ... part of Maryland too all so we could get vehicles out to Cottage Grove and then 55th street. They left Maryland so long that it took a huge IH Payloader to shovel the 3-feet of snow pack out of the street. By then all the parked cars had been shoveled and the loader pushed snow back in. Still, it was nice to have a street again after a couple of weeks.

erin c. midtlyng
2/4/2011 11:14:25 AM

Dad, We cleared a good portion of the alley, but since the plows have not come through the street at the north end of the alley, my car is not going anywhere. The drifts are so high that some cars are completely covered. Of course, the north side of the city is already getting their alleys plowed. Grrrr!!!!!

hank will_2
2/3/2011 12:10:25 PM

Erin -- did you shovel yourself out? Dave, I love it when the "old" technology works. My '64 IH truck starts up with 1 pump in the bitter cold and no pumps above about 20. You have to tweak the choke and manual throttle settings a wee bit, but weak battery or not, that truck pops right off too. What would guys like the two of us do without projects, eh? I love the appliance parts depots ... always amazes me that you can actually get that little malfunctioning gizmo fairly easily usually.

hank will_2
2/3/2011 12:07:32 PM

Cindy -- When I was young, I shoveled miles of snow with a heavy steel grain scoop and heavy steel push shovel. Sometimes it was our place and sometimes it was a neighbor's. The tractor bucket and tractor-mounted plow make it so much easier and fun too. But I still shovel paths and clear out the gates by hand. Good exercise but makes me stiff these days. *creak* It is cool toi live in a place where snow is normal ... proof that it is possible to clear streets and keep things running in spite of the weather. :)

cindy murphy
2/2/2011 5:19:26 PM

Hey, I want one of those Kubota things! Not that I necessarily need it; the area we have that needs plowing just isn't that large - but it just looks like it'd be a blast to drive. We received somewhere from 15-20 inches (depending on which report you listen to). I think the Lake Effect is supposed to kick in so who knows what we'll end up with. Everything's been cleared today though - even got the low pitched roof lines raked, so if anymore comes, it'll be a fresh start. Lots of x-country skiing on tap in the next few days - oh, yes! I love winter. Very, very cute puppy, Hank! Our lab is lovin' what the Blizzard of 2011 left behind. Hope everyone stays warm in whatever neck of the woods they're in.

nebraska dave
2/2/2011 3:20:52 PM

@Hank, Plants, animals, and people. My old '93 Cavaliar ground to life at -20 wind chill this morning. After a minute of shake, rattle, and roll, it smoothed out and purred like it always does. The sun came out today and eveything looked so bright, clean and fresh. I ventured out to get a tray motor for the microwave and a water shut off valve for the clothes washer. It seems there are always things to fix especially with old appliances. I still haven't been able to get the driveway shoveled off. School was canceled again today as well as church tonight. The roads aren't really that bad but I guess the fear is from the plummeting temperature that's been promised by the weather people. Have a great Kansas winter day.

erin c. midtlyng
2/2/2011 2:42:33 PM

Uh yeah, the VWs aren't moving anytime soon. Our street hasn't been plowed yet and the alleys are last to be taken care of . . . and I'm parked in a garage . . . in the alley . . . we'll see if I get to work tomorrow. ;-)

hank will_2
2/2/2011 11:58:08 AM

Hey Erin -- You know if I lived within 50 miles I would trailer it over and fight you for the controls. :) I remember a couple of Chicago blizzards myself pretty well. Once it was deep enough to high-center our Jeep CJ-5. Stay warm! Love Dad

erin c. midtlyng
2/2/2011 11:52:59 AM

Can we borrow the Kubota? We have 20 inches and 5 foot drifts in front of the house.