Whining

I’ve been sick. Sicker than I’ve been in quite some time thanks to a visit to pick my grandson up from daycare.  I forgot what a hotbed of germs those places can be and the fact that once your own children fly the coop your immunity goes with it.

I had a good nights sleep last night, felt rested and was thankful because I knew there was snow waiting to be cleared.  The driveway was cleared at 4:45 this morning and I have appointments and work tonight.

Peggy called me this morning to tell me some loom tales and offer her sympathy.  Taking care of it all by myself couldn’t be good, I assured her I was fine.

I grabbed my keys on the way out to feed the goats and chickens.  There was a crust of ice on top of the 6 inches of snow/sleet that had fallen overnight.  Heavy shoveling.  I opened the car door, inserted and turned the key – nothing – deader than dead.  I have a little jump box so figured I’d jump it so the car could thaw out.  Had to clean the car off first, my battery is in the trunk.  Put the cables on, go turn the key, nothing.  I called Bill and he told me I should charge the battery with the charger for a couple of hours.

Ugh . . . . . . .

I shoveled through the bank in front of the garage to get the charger out.  Shoveled to the car to get the charger close enough.  Dragged the charger to the car and searched for an extension cord.

At this point I’m thinking to myself – assisted living has never looked so good.

I fed the goats, then cleared a narrow path to the barn.  The boys were causing enough of a ruckus just knowing I was outside.  The shoveling was slow, I was out of breath and thinking maybe I’ll just lie in this snow bank for a few minutes til I feel better.

Again – assisted living never looked so good.

As I was finishing up shoveling out the chicken coop I could hear the thunk, thunking of a pileated woodpecker in the trees next to the driveway, then heard it call from across the road.  I looked around at how beautiful it was with the ice on the trees and noted that the temperature was milder than usual and there was no wind.  Chickadees were in the trees waiting for the seeds I toss out on my way to the coop and I reached in to get the warm egg laid by the only hen that seems to be laying at the moment.  Those eggs are precious little gifts right now.

Okay, assisted living wouldn’t be that good.

My sister and I often talk about how long we will be able to stay in our old, drafty, cold houses by ourselves.  I’m fortunate to have help on the weekends but the weekdays can sometimes be a reality check.  Honestly I didn’t mind the physical aspect of the work this morning it was the mental exercises that had to take place in order to do what needed to be done.  These were things outside of my usual daily routine and my brain just was not in problem solving mode.  Let’s hope the car starts and the day improves from here.

 

 

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.

An Eye on the Weather

This morning’s sunrise was fleeting, maybe 10 minutes, but always worth it  You know what they say about red skies at dawn.

The past 5 days have been the kind of weather I could do without.  This is the time of year when we watch the forecast obsessively yet try not to be taken in by the hype.  Those dire warnings that pop up every couple of hours – winter weather warnings, high wind advisories, wind chill frostbite warnings send people out in droves to fill their tanks with gas and get that bread and milk.

This past weekend we saw about a foot of snow and sleet but the real news was the frigid temps that followed that precipitation.  Minus 8 degrees with 20 to 30 mph hour wind gusts made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable couple of days.  We have the wood stove but the idea that we have to bring wood in, after breaking the frozen chunks apart on the pile never really occurs to us until it happens. (Yes, the wood is inside the shed that is attached to the house and the pile remains frozen together).

There is always the worry that the pipes will freeze.  We were blessed with the wind and snow drifted up against the house banking it and allowing the ell to stay warmer.  The old timers used to bank their houses with leaves or hay in the fall for just that reason.  The stone foundations are pretty drafty.

Then there are the animals – and the worry about their well-being.  The goats have very heavy coats this year, their space is fairly tight and their water is heated.  They seem unaffected (that doesn’t take into account how affected we are in taking care of them).  On the coldest, windiest morning the hens didn’t get off of their roost or make a sound when they were fed.  They were just hunkered down keeping their feet and each other warm.

Yesterday felt like a heat wave at 13 degrees with no wind.

January is the longest month of the year for me.  It’s dark, cold and very often windy.  The days may be getting longer but it won’t be noticeable until mid February, although I must confess to taking notice of the time the sunsets to convince myself that the days are indeed getting longer.

We have people who take care of us.   Our town is small enough so I know every member of the road crew personally.  Almost every morning this time of year I wake up to the sound of the plow going by the house.  It is always comforting to know that their job is to keep everyone as safe as possible in awful conditions.  There is also the guy who plows my driveway and back yard – he’s a kid really.  I grew up with his grandfather plowing the same yard (he still does on occasion).  They are always a phone call away from getting me out of my yard.  If I have to be somewhere at a particular hour I let them know ahead of time and I will be at a different spot in the queue of driveways to be plowed.  If I cannot walk to the barn because of ice they are here to sand.  There’s a lot to be said for dependability.  Of course they are also neighbors and have always felt like family.

So a flash flood warning just came up on my phone and the town payloader just dug out drainage spots in the banks.  The forecast says highs in the 40s – until Friday when it all freezes again. The signs are all there that I will be hunkered down in the house for a few days weaving.  Winter weather does have its advantages.

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.

 

The Romance of Owning Chickens

Paul

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

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

From the shed door

Snow – every. single. day.

Poop

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.

Eggs

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

140915 Coop in Garden

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

Aftermath

150203 Squirrel Tracks

As much as some people hate winter I have to tell you that yesterday’s snowstorm was pretty amazing.  This morning is one of those bright, clear, blue sky days.  It’s really cold.  It’s really beautiful.

We have a red squirrel that seems to love looking in the windows of the house.  There’s a pile of snow in the corner of the house and the ell that is above the window now and it looks in on us several times during the day.  This morning I looked out as the sun was coming up to see the evidence of its peeping. I love how even its tracks to the table are.

I know how incredibly destructive these animals can be but must admit I also think they are one of the cutest rodents there is.  It’s a special treat to me to look out the window and have one staring back less than a foot away.  Of course it’s not so good when the dogs see the squirrel at that close a range.  They tend to be loud and rather destructive to the woodwork.  Fortunately they are oblivious most of the time, not expecting to see a squirrel that close while in the house.

Surrounded by wonder and beauty, that’s so much of what happens here on so many occasions.

Birds and Snow

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You can always tell when the weather will be bad by the number of birds on the feeders.  The chickadees demanded I put them up about a week ago while I was doing a walk about.  I relented figuring it was cold enough so the bears might have entered into hibernation.

Yesterday the activity stepped up and we all knew it was because a storm was coming.  They are much better forecasters than any human being (that and the joints were screaming).  This morning the snow started in earnest at about 9:00 and it went from nothing to blizzard almost instantly.

The birds continue to come, all varieties now, loading up.  Their feast for the holiday.

We have people travelling from all over.  Some are beginning to arrive, some I’m hoping will wait until tomorrow with the snow coming down the way it is now.  They predict up to 12 inches and at the rate it’s falling now I wouldn’t be surprised.

Here’s hoping everyone stays safe this coming long weekend and enjoys time spent with friends and family.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Another Blast of Winter

140313 (1)March – In like a lion, out like a lamb.  I take solace in the fact that it hasn’t reached the 15th of the month yet, there’s still time for the lamb part.

It was 7 degrees this morning with the wind whipping through the field creating snow devils everywhere.  It looked way too cold to venture outdoors for anything.  The feeders are very busy this morning.  It was particularly fun to watch because it seemed to be quite the party.  Many different birds all on the feeders at the same time.

We are working on a number of renovation projects in the house at the moment so this weather gives me reason to stay indoors and work on them.  There is nothing worse than knowing you have to paint when the weather is beautiful outside.  I will get it done before that happens.

Right now I think I will make myself another cup of coffee, think about the chores at hand and watch the party of birds on the feeders.

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A Burning Question

140216 Chester snowshoeChester doesn’t care if the snow is too deep to run in, he still wants you to throw that ball.

The photograph looks a little bizarre because he was moving when I released the shutter.  I typed that line and wondered “Are we even releasing a shutter anymore?”  Are we?  This looks like a double exposure to me but I know it’s not.  Hmmmmm . . . .

Snow

140118 Snow (2)Saturday we had the most amazing snowstorm.  I have been whining lately about our January thaw.  Mud season is my least favorite time of the year and I felt like we were in it last week.  Everything was brown and ugly, not what I want to look at out my windows.  Walking was a difficult slog.

This storm started suddenly.  It was fairly warm out and the snow came down hard with huge flakes.  Bill and I spent most of the day outdoors just enjoying its exquisite beauty.  There is nothing the dogs like more than us being outdoors in the snow.  Snow makes everything a whole new game.