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.

The Romance of Owning Chickens


For years, decades actually, I wanted a small flock of chickens.  I dreamed of  them do their chicken thing – foraging, interacting with one another, hanging out in the backyard, producing beautiful eggs for my breakfast.  It was another step towards producing my own food.  I didn’t come into this unaware of the realities of farming.  I had spent my childhood and teenage years surrounded by farm animals – horses, cows, goats, sheep and chickens.  I was familiar with the smells and maintenance involved.

What I wasn’t prepared for was this –


Ice, practically having to move on my hands and knees to get to the coop.

From the shed door

Snow – every. single. day.


And chicken poop, the quantity can boggle the mind.  Even better when it is frozen into the box and you have to use a putty knife to clean it.


But this is what it’s all about – fresh and delicious.  Found in my backyard.

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Soon enough things will look like this again and all of us will be much happier.

It’s Always Something

140301 RadiatorThere are decided disadvantages to not living in a house full time.  There are squirrels moving into the shed, spiders just taking over each and every room and pipes freezing during subzero nights.  Yeah, the photo pretty much says it all.

This winter is one that will be burned into memory.  It has been harsh.  The cold has been unrelenting.  The roads are heaved and full of pot holes, the house has heaved enough to cause problems closing outside doors.  The oil truck visits weekly, I swear, and there is no end in sight.  Sigh . . .

The issue with the frozen pipe reared its ugly head on Friday – I came up early to warm the house.  I lit the stove and then looked at the temperature in the room to watch it rise – it was 46 degrees in the room with the thermostat set at 54.  Uh oh.  I turned on the water in the sink – nothing.  Beautiful.  I just cranked up the wood stove thinking that I could at least warm the room enough to thaw out the water.  We have a propane heater that we put in the shop to thaw it out another time and that was turned on once Bill arrived later in the evening.  Then we waited.

Saturday morning in the light of day Bill saw the hole in the radiator and called our heating guy.  He lives in town and probably the sound of desperation in our voice sent him over within an hour.  We had put enough antifreeze into the heating system to keep it liquid to 20 below so this came as somewhat of a surprise to us.  Apparently the pictured radiator had been leaking slowly for that past month or two (maybe longer).  The system has an automatic fill on it so when the liquid gets low it automatically refills it.  Enough had leaked so the water to antifreeze level was lowered considerably and it was diluted enough so on a night where the temperature was -8 and the wind coming out of the north the system froze in a room with little insulation.

The fix was something we had been talking about but had put off thinking the antifreeze was the answer.  We rerouted the circulation to a shorter loop that no longer went to the outer room.  In the long run this appears to have been the best solution, now the heat works much better in the kitchen. Unfortunately it took a lot of worry and angst to get us here.  Now I can check that off of the list.

Here’s the thing, it’s always something.  Each and every week there is some disaster (or impending one) whether it’s winter or any other season of the year.  We are caretakers of two very old houses (the newest one being 175 years old).  Things happen, and they happen regularly.  We signed on to the old house thing a long time ago knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  Plans are made for major repairs but it’s this sort of thing that often supercedes those renovation plans.  You end up doing a lot of seemingly little things because of the immediacy of the situation.

Spring is coming.  Really, it will get here and I have a feeling it will be about two weeks long and we’ll be into summer.  Then we can complain about how hot it is and I’ll be thinking about that insulation that needs to go into all those places before next winter gets here.



140112 Titmouse (1)It has been a struggle for me lately to post to this blog.  I’m sure there is enough to say but I’m feeling as though I am in a thick fog.

I’m going to chalk it up to the weather and a lack of interaction outdoors.  The seeds have arrived and I look out the windows at the feeders and the huge snowbank covering half of the garden and think, meh, I’ll just sit here and think. I seem to have been immobilized by the weather – it’s too cold, too windy, too blah.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  The days are getting longer and the sun is warmer.  I will have to get things together to start my plants for the garden soon and we will start to think about sugaring in another couple of weeks.  All of these things are huge harbingers of spring.

Yet each morning I get up, look at the thermometer with its single digit numbers and I just want to get back into bed, roll up in those quilts and hibernate for another couple of months – until the leaves are out and the perennials are coming up.  Maybe I just need to visit a greenhouse somewhere and breathe in the air.  A short term fix for what feels like a long term problem.

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.


Today in the News

140117 (3)Yup, it’s cold.  It’s January folks, and to the best of my knowledge it’s cold and snowy in January – at least where I come from.  We have had some wintry weather for the past couple of weeks but if you watch the news you would think this was apocalyptic.  You would think that no one had ever dealt with frozen pipes and huge heating bills.  DEAR GOD and what about all those potholes!  The leading story I heard on the news this morning was that Justin Bieber was arrested overnight for DUI and drag racing a Lamborghini. Seriously?

I have friends in Thailand that keep me up to date on their current fight to overthrow their corrupt government.  They share information so I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what is going on.  The only news source that I have heard even a few seconds of news about this is Al Jazeera America.

Did you know that there are deadly protests going on in Ukraine? There’s a severe drought going on out west that will probably cause food prices to soar in the next few weeks (although the good news in that was people are starting to become more aware of eating organics). How about the fact that tar sands oil started flowing through that pipeline yesterday?  Hmmm, now the terrorist threats to the Sochi Olympics are getting a little traction but are we hearing anything about the discontinuation of unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people?  That happened a couple of weeks ago. Watch the markets take off when the new unemployment numbers come out showing that we are at the lowest unemployment rate in years.  You know why?  They only count the people who are collecting.  Yup, you won’t hear about that.

The news has become nothing but a distraction.  It tells us nothing. It’s gossip at best, fear mongering at its worst.  It amazes me that people buy into it.  Predict a snowstorm that never materializes and business drops off to nothing (unless you own a grocery store).  I may be showing my age but when I was going to school the six years that I rode on a bus (an hour trip one way) through the hilltowns of the Berkshires we had school cancelled very few days.  I do remember taking a couple of very scary rides.

What I see happening is the news is causing so many people to live their lives in fear. They stay in their homes and worry about the killer that’s going to break into their house.  They stock up on bread and milk at the hint of a storm.  I’m all for being prepared but the last thing I will be doing is spending a crazy hour shopping for things I should already have in my kitchen.

I will continue to get my news from sources other than the main stream media and I will look at the weather maps available and make my own forecasts.  I could do with a lot less hype in my life.  For me it builds my anxiety level and I’d like to keep my blood pressure down.  I think I’ll go take walk in the bracing cold in a quiet field with my dogs.



Too Cold Too Early

131124 Brrrrr


This past weekend was one of the coldest November weekends I can remember.  Having snow is not surprising but having temperatures below 20 degrees with the windchill making it below zero is quite another.

We went out to eat on Saturday night and returned in what I thought was a squall but Rowe was covered in a good few inches of snow by Sunday morning.  I woke up to the sound of the plow going up the road.

We were toasty in the house with the wood stove blazing away but there were things that needed to be done outside before the day was over.  I kept putting them off looking out the window at the snow swirling around the field and the trees being whipped about by the wind.  I kept hoping it would die down and warm just a bit.  Didn’t happen.

I went out and removed the pumpkins that were decorating the grounds (and now looking a little like a Salvador Dali painting melting over the edges of steps).  They were all frozen solid to whatever they’d been placed on, the pots of Kale as well.  With a little kick they were released from their perches and flung over banks or thrown into mulch piles.  A couple I tossed near one of the perennial gardens.  This was done in an effort to see if anything will grow in the spring.  I also picked up most of my solar lamps decorating some of the gardens.

I finished up what needed to be done in about 20 minutes but I’m telling you it felt like it was taking forever out in that wind.  When I got back into the house it took a while to thaw.

You know it’s too cold to go out when Chester looks at you as you bundle up and appears to say “No thanks” and returns to his daylong nap in front of a fire.

Cold End and Start

131121(1)This time of year it’s always a more difficult decision to go to Rowe for an overnight and come home.  It’s not that I don’t relish the quiet and solitude, I just have to relish it in a dark, freezing cold house.  That’s always part of the thinking process – do I really want to freeze for an hour when I get there?

Yesterday I decided to go.  I wanted to see how long it would take to heat the kitchen when starting with a cold wood stove and then see how long I could keep the temperature up in the house using the stove through the night.  You know they tell you all kinds of things in advertising, I just wanted to see if it was true.

Chester and I arrived at about 4:30, the sun was down and it was getting dark fast.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike this time of year – for that reason – the days are too short.  I grabbed an armload of wood on my way through the shed and proceeded to build a little fire in the stove.  It wasn’t as easy a task as I had anticipated but finally kicked in.  Within an hour it was cranking and three hours from arrival the kitchen was over 70 degrees.  I had bought a kinetic fan that is placed on top of the stove and that was blowing the heat towards the other rooms (and it’s fun to watch – who needs electricity?).

When I had walked into the kitchen with my load of wood it was below 50 in the kitchen and the furnace was running.  It was just below freezing outdoors. Without the stove I would have been listening to the furnace kick on and off all night and the temperature in the room would never have been above 62 or so, no matter how high you turn up the thermostat.  I had all of the other thermostats turned to 64.  The furnace didn’t come on until around 4:00 this morning.  I got up to make my coffee around 6:30 and the little fan was still moving, a testament to the heat still in the stove.  I threw a piece of wood on the remaining coals and poof!, roaring fire.  It’s a good feeling when you know that a major investment of time and sweat is going to pay off.

I spent the evening twisting fringe on a throw that will be a Christmas present and thinking about how many other things I can make and have ready for the holidays.  Chester spent his evening on the floor in front of the stove.

With the payoff in the stove experiment fresh in my mind I took Chester out for the morning walk about and was soo glad I had come up.  It may have been cold (19 degrees)  but it certainly was beautiful.

131121 (2)

Bitter, Bitter Cold

130116 (6)


I have to admit I took this photograph a few weeks ago when there was less snow and was warm enough to walk out to the back forty.  This past weekend it was so cold the farthest I ventured was the doorway of the shed.  There is still a lot of snow with a crust of ice on the top of it so I wasn’t that interested in snowshoeing.  The dogs didn’t even stay outdoors for long.  Chester made his usual rounds to see what was up with his peeps on either side of us but he spent most of his time in front of the fireplace.

Yesterday the wind was howling and it got up to 17 degrees.  Mid afternoon with the wind chill is was -4.  By last night they were saying -18.  There’s a big difference between having the temperature below zero on a still, cloudless evening and when it’s there because you are having 30 mile per hour winds.  I rather like those still evenings with the snow crunching beneath your feet and it’s so quiet you can hear your electric meter running.  With yesterday’s wind you couldn’t cover up enough.

This is when I start thinking “enough”, I’m ready for spring.  The seed order will be placed this week and I will plot out the garden on graph paper (a few more times).  Sometimes just thinking about the garden makes it feel like spring is almost here!