Monday, March 9, 2015

Winter Farm Update aka Our First Farm Winter

[Forgive me Dear Readers... this post has been sitting in my draft box for 2 months.... and here I am posting just a couple of weeks before the 1st day of Spring... sigh.]

We had a three day blizzard in November and then a green Christmas. Crazy.
The chickens, which are usually all buttoned up in the coop for the duration of winter enjoyed many days free-ranging in the yard. Which is good because temperatures dipped sharply with the new year and they’re closed off in the coop with a heat lamp again.
We’re using the deep litter method, which means we’re not cleaning out the coop…. which means it’s smelling pretty ripe.
Good thing I’ve got 3 kiddos to feed and water and gather eggs.

Winter shows us the truly amazing blessing of our outdoor wood burner. Oh yes. It’s -11 degrees out right now and a balmy 74 degrees in the house.
My boy is in short sleeves and none of us are wearing socks.
It’s a bit to get use to after living 20 years in a drafty century-plus old house that we kept only as high as 66 degrees during the day…. And 64 degrees at night.
Sometimes it gets too warm and we have to open a window.
The other plus is no heat bill. None of us really mind the trek out to the wood stove because all of us enjoy the benefits of wood heat…. We feel the difference!
Downside- we need to be mindful to dress warmer when going out and about away from the farm.

And you know what they say about heating with wood…. It warms you twice. Once when you cut it and again when you burn it.

A few weeks ago it was so bitterly cold that the remaining water in the chicken waterer froze in the time it took for Lu to walk the 40 yards from the coop to the house. So we’re thankful for the heat lamp we have going 24/7 in the coop to keep the water frost-free.

We had the most amazing hoarfrost too. I enjoyed a sunrise hike around the property that morning. Everything coated in fuzzy frost. Breathtaking.

Shoveling is a lot more work here at the farm than it was in town. We expected it and for the most part we welcome the exercise and diversion from schoolwork.  It helps that I’ve finally perfected my homemade hot cocoa recipe. It only took me two years. [My secret ingredient is instant chocolate pudding powder…. A tip from my sister.]

It does help that for our first farm winter we only have chickens to look after.

Our 7 remaining chickens are doing quite well. Egg production has been down the last couple of days with the extreme cold but we’re not hurting for eggs. We’re adding unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the waterer twice a week to help keep our hens healthy and the kids like to pull their favorites out of the coop for some lovin’ and hugs every so often. When the weather warms up into the 30's we let them out to free range again for a few hours a day. Which seems to combat their cabin fever. We also make sure they get some good treats often…. Like these mealworms that we have renamed Chicken Crack for obvious reasons—the hens straight up LOVE the stuff. We add a couple handfuls to the feeder which also helps to keep the ladies eating well. We make sure they get our fresh fruit and veggie leftovers and even give them their very own cabbage every couple of weeks or so. The cabbage is not only nutritious but also provides “fun play” for the chickens because we hang it from a string…. It’s like a cabbage piƱata.

We sent all three roosters and three of our hens (that had stopped laying) to the processor back at the beginning of December and now our freezer has some of our very own farm-raised meat in it. We’re pretty proud of that. We've cooked up a couple of the hens already along and served them with some of our own canned pickles and apple sauce. It was almost a complete from farm to table meal. We're looking forward to a true farm to table meal later this summer.

In other farm news, I placed the biggest seed order for me ever a few weeks ago. The seeds arrived the end of January and I'm in the process of plotting the planting and starting of it all. I'm over-the-top excited. Our garden is going to be the biggest it's ever been. We’re going bigger in some areas and smaller in others. For example, 37 tomato plants was really too much. Really. But the Zinnias… one can never have enough flowers. Never.

I’m also going to try my hand at winter-sowing. I’ve been doing a lot of online reading about it and am saving our milk jugs. I'm hoping it goes well. I'll try to keep you posted.

So there you have it…. Our first farm winter. Even though the farm seems to be fast asleep under a blanket of snow there is always stuff going on and needing doing.
And of course, we like it that way.


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