Hens in Winter

The snow squalls have passed through and the very cold air is here.  Once again the hens are loaded up with water, food and treats in anticipation of weather they will suffer through gracefully.  I have 12 hens in a 12 hen coop.  For the most part it seems to be the right size but with blasts of cold like this it seems like you could add another dozen and they would all be fine.  They roost very close together when it’s cold.  Hunkered down with their feathers covering their feet very close to their neighbor.  I swear all 12 can fit on one roost that’s 4 feet long.  I always feel bad for the girls on the ends but in my mind they swap spots as the ones on the ends get cold.

There is a heater in the coop for their water (5 gallons) and their feeder holds 5 lbs of pellets.  I throw their treats in through a small opening rather than opening the coop to keep the wind and cold out.

The wait is on for spring, although I don’t mind the cold I do fret about the animals but they all do much better in it than one would expect.  I check for non-existent eggs just to make sure they don’t freeze but I don’t light their coop so we are just waiting for longer days and the natural rhythm of egg laying to begin.  The true signs of spring are the house plants growing again and the chickens laying.  It’s those longer days and everything knows.

One Fine Day

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The weather broke here if only for one day.  Long enough to get outdoors, move some snow, clean the coop and then do some snowshoeing.  The temperature got to a balmy 36 degrees which felt downright tropical.

The snow is deep.  Anywhere from 3 to 4 feet, then there is the drifting.

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Chester always wants to go with us.  I was afraid he might quit halfway through this hike.  It’s one thing to be on snowshoes, quite another to be sinking up to your neck with every step.

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The sky was so blue and the sun so warm it was hard to remember how much we’ve complained about the snow.  Truth be told I love winter when it’s like this.  If it stays above 20 degrees and the wind doesn’t blow I can be outdoors.

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What really amazed me was Chester still relentlessly following us around with that ball after the hike he just took.  He carried it the whole way then sat with the snowshoes in the sun waiting for the next adventure and hoping it involved that ball.

Thank goodness for days like this.  It’s like a reset for your soul.  Spring is on its way it just may be June before all of this snow is gone.


Baby It’s Cold Outside

150108 SunriseI went to bed last night with the temperature around -5, this morning it was -8.  I lit the stove with the coals remaining from the overnight burn and sat down with my morning cup of coffee.  The temperature in the kitchen was a balmy 59 with the furnace running almost constantly.  Ahhh, the joys of living in an old house.

I’ve heard comments about the cold all day yesterday and last night.  They cancelled school for today in Boston because of it.  Yes, it’s cold but the wind should stop today and the temperature will rise to the more seasonal teens and twenties by the end of the week.  I feel like people have forgotten the winter of ’14.  We had this bitter cold weather for weeks at a time.  For us frozen pipes were a weekly problem with repairs that were continuously made to the heating system.  Yup, its cold – it’s January.  It’s the time of year when handwork seems to be the best option.  There’s nothing like having a heavy hooked rug sitting in your lap on a cold winter’s day or doing some kind of project that calls for a physical workout.  Think I’ll warp the loom today, that’s always something that heats me up.

Being the multitasker that I am I’ll bake some bread and a goody for the rest of the week.  I don’t usually eat most of what I’m cooking but there are always people to share it with that appreciate it. It will also heat up the kitchen.

So I’m off to feed the chickens and gather their eggs with Sophie following along.  If I’m bundled up enough I will stay out longer than necessary.  There’s something bracing about breathing in air that freezes your nose.  The squeaking, crunching snow beneath your feet is something I love the sound of and I’ll use the opportunity to fill the bird feeders.  God knows they need that seed just to survive the cold this time of the year.

I’ll come in, make a little soup and bread for lunch and wind a warp.  All in all a perfect winter day for me.


A side note.  There will probably be an inordinate number of sunrise pics this year.  I made a commitment to photograph it everyday (even on cloudy days) to watch the sun move through the sky.  Little things in long spans of time – must be the gardener in me.




Spring Has Begun

unnamedFor those of us now anxiously waiting for spring yesterday was not what we needed to see.  It snowed, it snowed like crazy.  Those torrential downpours you see in the summer?  Yeah, that’s what happened here only snow.  Six inches in less than three hours.  We just cleared away four or five in our yard on Sunday.  I’m just tired.  And cold.

This morning the sun was shining brightly, it was 18 degrees.  I opened the door to take Chester out for his walk and the first thing I noticed was birdsong.  Not just any birdsong but spring birdsong.  Robins, woodpeckers, chickadees all singing their spring twitterpated songs.  A robin was sitting on a branch of the cherry, a flicker was chipping away at an old maple in the backyard, cardinals were fighting over territory (there’s nothing more beautiful than cardinals in the snow).  Chickadees were singing their spring phoebe song.  Sigh, they know.  Even though there’s over two feet of snow in my yard today and most of the tree limbs are covered just hearing them makes me smile and think warm thoughts.

Time to stop listening to all of the bad weather hype and listen to the birds in your backyard, they’re telling you that spring is just about here.

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When the Weather Starts to Warm

This winter has been brutally cold so far this year.  This past weekend the temperature rose to the mid to upper 30’s and it felt like spring was on its way.  It was the kind of weather when staying indoors is not an option and Bill decided it was time to cut trees.

Saturday’s tree is along the ridge going down to the back forty.  The trees there have always been too close together and because they are on the east side of the garden and quite tall they shade the southern half of the tilled area until almost noon.  There is a tree that we will keep for it’s shade and I will just plan the garden accordingly but this will begin to bring earlier sunshine where it’s needed.

The first thing done when felling trees is to look it over to make sure you have a good idea where it it will fall.  This tree only had limbs on one side of it and was leaning over the bank so it was not difficult to discern where it would go.  Bill made the first cuts on the side the tree would fall then sawed the other side as you can see in the video.

The next phase is to cut the limbs off of the tree

IMG_0099Once that was finished we use the logging winch on the back of the tractor to bring the log up to the spot where we will chunk it up and split it for firewood later.

Okay, originally I thought that this was a really pricey add on to the tractor but after about a month of tractor ownership you realize if you are going to use the bucket for anything you need weight in the back of the tractor.  If you are going to work in wet, muddy areas you probably are going to need to winch yourself out at some point. If you are going to cut down large trees using a winch becomes a safety issue at times. It turns out that what I thought was a pricey toy really is a workhorse and we have never looked back.  As you can see from the last video it has made Bill’s life a lot easier.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

131124 BrrrrrI think this pretty much sums it up for me – brrrrr.  I am officially sick of the cold. Really sick of the cold.  And sick.

It’s still winter and I’m okay with that but . . . where’s the snow?  I would take feet of snow over the cold and wind.  In fact I’m still hoping for that whopping blizzard.

In the mean time I just want to snuggle under a nice wool blanket with a cup of coffee and a good book.  Maybe with a little dog in my lap.


Winter is Here

130116 (19)From Saturday into Sunday we had about 12 inches of snow in Rowe.  It was very cold, getting into the single digits overnight so the snow was light and fine. When we arrived on Friday night we cranked up the wood stove to get the chill out and banked it for an overnight burn.  Saturday we went and picked up a few supplies figuring we would be snowed in and then went to Russell and Carmen’s to pick up maple syrup for Christmas presents.  When we arrived we found out the beef had come back from Athol.  Since it was all mixed together and Russell was out showing off the nine-point buck he had shot the night before we knew we would have to come back a little later.

When we returned to the house we worked on a couple of indoor projects waiting to go back and pick up the beef.  Bill turned up the heat in the ell remembering that the antifreeze wasn’t good for the temperatures that we were having outdoors and with the stove going we still needed to have warm water running through the system.  I had to add to the bird feeders outside, make sure everything was full.  The birds know when bad weather is coming so they came in droves to eat.  Later in the afternoon we went back over and picked up around 150 pounds of beef, packaged and frozen.  We checked out the bucks head on its way to taxidermy and talked about where he had taken it and the other 3 that were still out there.  It was beginning to snow as we went back to the house but before we left Bill told Russell he was concerned about pipes freezing with the stove running and not having cranked the heat up overnight.  Russ told us he had a two really large BTU heaters if we ran into trouble.

Well, we ran into trouble.

About 5:00 or so, when the snow was really coming down we realized that the heat wasn’t circulating through the ell zone and that we were going to have to do something or we would be dealing with burst pipes. It was 9 degrees out.  We called Russell again and he drove over and unloaded his heating rig (this was big time – ductwork, heater, exhaust piping, thermostat, yeah).  They ran the heat duct into a back shop and set the thermostat at 70, we kept the heat as hot as we could with the stove and found a couple of fans to circulate it all around the zone.  Russell had dinner waiting for him at home so he gave Bill a little instruction and left.  Bill and I discussed the worst case scenario and the fact that I would have to stay to keep the fire going so the water pipes wouldn’t freeze and deal with having the situation remedied by someone else.  By 10:00 the hot water was flowing and we were breathing a sigh of relief.

With all of the holiday celebrations all around us we sometimes forget that these are the kinds of things that are the best gifts. Having friends that we do so much with and can count on in a near disaster. Bill and I returned the equipment to Russell’s shop yesterday while they were at a holiday party.  On the ride over and back we talked about how important our friendships are in this rural area.  Life is different here.  People drop what they are doing to help out their neighbors and friends.  There seems to be more of an attitude about all being in this life together and many hands make light work.  I felt blessed to have them in my life this past weekend.

The icing on the cake was being able to thank Russell on the phone last night for helping us and his comment was “That’s what we do.”


I still think I need to make him an apple pie.


Two Dog Night

131114 MoonriseThe days that I go up to Rowe during the week are dwindling.  I went up yesterday to work on a couple of projects and this is what it looked like when I arrived.  The sky was beautiful but I really wasn’t expecting snow on the ground.  It was cold – 26 degrees when I got there.

This is when going up there is not as much fun as other times of the year.  The house is cold and takes forever to warm up.  It’s dark early as well.  I arrived at 4:30 yesterday and felt like it was about 7:00.

I started coming up to Rowe during the week when we got Chester.  He needed to really run around mid week and this was the way to go.  I can play with him for a while or he runs over to see his girlfriend.  During the milder seasons I take him for a swim at the lake.  With the days longer I can garden or can something, hike around the property or visit with my sister.  It doesn’t matter what’s for supper because it’s just me.

We don’t have heat on the second floor of the house but all of the beds have electric blankets.  This is fine when you get in but it’s pretty brutal when you get up in the morning. When I go up by myself the dogs sleep on the bed (that never happens when Bill is there).  This morning approaching 5:30 or so I woke up to realize I was right on the edge of the bed because Chester kept moving over to snuggle up to me.  He doesn’t usually do this, he just curls up on a corner of the bed and stays there.  He must have been cold.

For many years I’d hear the expression “It’s going to be a three dog night” and always thought people would invite all those dogs onto the bed to keep them warm but I realized last night my dogs were having a one person night in order to keep themselves warm.


When the Weather is Bad

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Garden in August 2009


A couple of weeks ago I was reading the blogs of young farmers across Ohio, New York and Vermont lamenting the loss of their crops due to an unexpected frost.  They had started all of their long growth veggie plants indoors, nurtured them, fussed over them, dreamed about their potential.  The weather warmed a couple of weeks early and in the eagerness that befalls us all when we think spring is here they transplanted everything into their newly tilled beds.  They were watered in, possibly staked up, fussed over some more.  The following week we had 3 days of below freezing weather – all of their sprouts were lost.  That’s a true hit for a small farmer.  You try to do everything right, avoid starts coming in from some other state or parts unknown.  You want to know how they were cared for, no one will love your little plants the way you do.

A similar thing is happening to me right now.  We’ve had very rainy, cold weather for the past week and a half.  Yes, right after I transplanted my starts and put my seeds in the ground.  I waited, I always do.  The official Memorial Day weekend this year fell on May 25 and 26 this year.  Too early to plant I said to myself, I’ve been burned before and the soil temp wasn’t high enough to germinate seeds.  I waited another week.  The weather wasn’t great but between a couple of rainy afternoons I got everything into the ground.  The following week was hot as blazes, it felt like late July.  Things were looking good.  The waiting is the most difficult for me.

It turned fairly cool a little over a week ago and it’s been raining a lot.  The sump for the cellar was running non stop last night as it does when the water table is extremely high – not a good sign.  I woke up this morning to a temperature of 48 degrees.  The rain had stopped right before dawn and I walked the garden with the dogs.  Beans and corn are up for the most part, rhutabagas as well.  Radishes, onions and all of the tomatoes look okay for now.  No potatoes yet which isn’t what I’d like to see and the Long Pie Pumpkins will probably have to be replanted.  I take heart in the fact that it’s still early enough to get a harvest from those things I have to replant but I’m also just waiting for signs of blight on my tomatoes, they’d rather have it sunny and warm you understand.

If I had to survive on the things I grow myself I would be scared right now.  There are so many crop issues that this weather has effected.  Things are slow to grow.  The fields are so wet that haying will have to wait (with a little prayer that it won’t rain like this for a while). Some times it’s difficult to put yourself into the shoes of your ancestors, so many of mine were farmers.  How must they have felt has they stood in the middle of their corn field with the plants 2 to 3 inches tall and fully a third of said field under water?  We take for granted that someone else is growing our food for us, they are the ones taking the risks.  We complain if the price of things go up or if fresh veggies are more difficult to come by but think about if food production was your whole life.

I’m convinced the day will come when a very large percentage of what I eat I will have to grow myself or in cooperation with my neighbors.  I garden because I love it but I also know that you can’t just decide one year that you are going to grow your own food.  In New England (and probably everywhere else) each growing season is different.  Every year I learn something new because I have to deal with some problem from the weather or pests.  You learn, you grow, you change.  The variety of food I grow is different from what I grew 10 years ago.  Part of that is that my garden has expanded over the years, part of it is there are things that just don’t do well in my particular spot.  Each year I try something new to see how it goes.  There are winners and losers.  I’m hoping that things warm up and dry out a little now or we will see what really survives in an adverse weather year. I’m also praying for a little more patience, things have a way of working out.