Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter Hay, Eggs, and Water

The hay racks are empty.  The hay pile stored in the pig shed is long gone.  The stack of hand baled hay in the barn is down to the last row.  I purchased hay for the first time in mid December, buying two giant round hay bales, and I officially broke into the last one yesterday.  It will last three weeks or more, but then it will be gone too, and we are months away from green pastures.  Are the animals nervous?  

Nah.  All they care about is getting to eat plenty right now.  I'll buy more hay when the time comes.  Considering this is the second winter with animals, and this is the first time I've had to pay any money for hay, I think we're doing pretty good.  A months worth of hay for four goats and two donkeys cost me fifteen dollars.  Look how adorable those shaggy donkey foreheads are.  Of course they are worth it!  

Brandon built the goats a new hay basket.  He used an old fence panel made from heavy wire, and bent it into a square and hung it on the gate.  I can scratch hay from the nearby bale, and use the pitch fork to fill the basket.  The goats can pull the hay from the holes in the basket with their lips.  They waste some, as they don't like to eat hay once it's been stepped on, but then they sleep on what falls to the floor.  I read that each goat should have three to five pounds of hay per day.  I fill the basket with hay twice a day, and everyone seems to get plenty. 

I counted, and in a single day of being snow bound I took sixteen pictures of sleeping cats.  Cats really know how to enjoy a warm fire and a cozy blanket!

I enjoy looking at my snow covered domain from the second floor window.  I can see the paths we make in the snow during our daily chores.  I can also see the fly on the window!  It's three degrees outside and we have flies in the windows.  It's not fair!  These cluster flies are hardy bugs, for sure.  

See that tiny brown egg?  What's up with that?  The hens are starting to lay more eggs now that the days are longer.  Especially the hens that lay blue eggs.  This morning Brandon made breakfast and bragged about how it was made from only blue eggs.  He thinks that's special because I normally want him to use the blue eggs last, because they look pretty in my basket.  I gave a dozen eggs to a friend once, with one blue egg, and she told me later she was peeved when her husband used the blue egg first.  I know! 

The chickens have spent their snow days closed up in the chicken coop.  They don't like to come out into the snow anyway, so I put some fresh hay on the coop floor and gave them a feeder full of pellets and a bucket of water.  During the previous cold spell, I fed them outside like usual, but they spent most of their time in the barn pooping on everything, so this time I let them stay in their own space.

Nice tail feathers, Cogburn. 

The guineas are sometimes bullies, but even after being locked up together, with three roosters, for several days, I didn't see any evidence of abuse.  I'm hoping this time together will force MJ, the little hen that was raised with the dodos, to become more of a normal chicken.  She's afraid to sleep with the big chickens still, and I find her sleeping on the floor of the coop instead of roosting.  

It's so cold I've been really appreciating my face mask.  Balaclava, not baklava, right? 

How much snow did we get?  I don't know, but it was chest high to a corgi!

I was trying to capture the sparkles in the snow.  Can you see the sparkles?  With the sun at just the right angle, it looked like diamonds spread on the snow. 

The sunset through the greenhouse plastic made it glow.

Some places the snow was smooth or rippling.  Other places were cris-crossed with rabbit tracks and tiny bird feet prints.  When I pull the tarp from the hay bale in the morning, little birds and mice make a run for it. 

I was talking to my horse owning friend about the challenges of providing water to animals in the winter.  He said his ten cows and several horses will empty a hundred gallon water tank every day during this cold weather.  He wrestles hoses every day, trying to keep them drained so they don't freeze.  

I put a bucket under the bathroom faucet and one under the shower and leave them drip through the night so the lines don't freeze.  In the morning, I carry the full buckets outside and fill up the animals heated buckets.  Between the goats, donkeys, chickens, and dog, I carry about four gallons of water a day.  It's really not bad.  I'm glad I don't have any cows!  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Walks in the Snow

We have been enjoying long walks in the snow.  I even got to miss a few days of work due to icy roads.  It's one of my favorite things about living so far away from town.  No one salts or scrapes our road, so I'm stuck at home with all my animals for days at a time.  Some folks start feeling trapped or cut off, but as long as we have plenty of provisions, I don't mind at all!  Brandon thinks we should invest in a four wheel drive vehicle.  It's smart, but I love snow days!  

I think the hay I piled against the house foundation, plus the snow, must block the cold breeze under the house, because our water never froze up during this last cold spell.  Unfortunately, this meant I had no excuse to not washing dishes or laundry.

Wendigo is in her element when there is now on the ground.  She lounges in the snow, chewing sticks and playing games.  She blends in well, too.  On our walks we could see coyote tracks in the snow.  Wendigos paw prints are much larger than coyote prints.  She never seems upset when the coyote's sing at night.  I hope they have an understanding about boundaries.

The sky looks turquoise when the ground is white.

Puck, you have a few flakes on your face.

We explored our narrow strip of forest too.  The tiny stream was flowing, and familiar stumps and bramble piles looked strange with their snow caps.  The dogs found lots of sniffs to enjoy, but we had to keep moving so our toes didn't freeze.  

It's going to warm up today, and the snow will be gone soon.  This could be the last snow of the year.  It was a good one.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Goodnight, Dodos.

Is everyone enjoying this heat wave?  I think it was nearly forty-five degrees today!  After days that dipped to single digit temperatures, it felt practically balmy.  We climbed above freezing temperatures on Sunday, and our waterline thawed out just in time for us to butcher the fourteen monster sized meat chickens.  We guesstimated that each bird weighed about ten pounds.  

My morning chores seem so much easier now that I don't have to chisel ice from the meat chickens water bowl, or line their coop with fresh hay.  I sort of miss their funny dodo honks and grunts, but I'm glad to stop feeding their voracious appetites.  The birds had plenty of fat on their organs, so I think I was feeding them plenty.  

We will enjoy chicken dinners for months to come thanks to those silly birds. 

The meat chickens were twelve weeks old, and grew to twice the size of normal roaster chicken from the grocery store.  I'm not sure we will try raising that kind of chicken again though, especially in the winter with our current set up.  They never got to eat any grass or bugs because they weren't the kind of chicken that would roam around and help themselves.  They were so defenseless I couldn't let them have free range, even if they would have wandered more than a few feet from their food bowls.  Of course, they made a lot of meat in a short time, and weren't that hard to take care of.  

Goodnight, dodos.  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

In the Glow

Brandon is on his way back from New York early, due to the blizzard that is hitting the city right now.  He was able to see everything and meet with the people on the top of his list, despite having to make a run for it to avoid the snow.  The last I heard, the roads were closed in the city and it was still snowing.  

I know I'm supposed to feel bad for being left behind in this frigid weather, but I couldn't help but enjoy myself the past few days. In the evenings I stoke the fire, turn out the lights, and roll out my yoga mat in the glow of the Christmas tree and firelight.  

I have also been enjoying my new essential oil diffuser.  It was a gift to me, and makes soothing smells and pretty lights.  

I have a fuzzy electric blanket that the cats and I enjoy in the TV room.  So, despite the cold house (the temperature in the kitchen was 48 degrees this morning!), I have warm places to go.  I did not miss pounding the cold pavement in New York. 

I won't mind a break from the freezing temperatures though.  I found one of my old white hens dead in the chicken coop yesterday.  Little Buck gave me a fright this morning, when he didn't emerge from the barn to eat with the rest of the herd.  I think he was just enjoying his warm nest in the hay, but the goats are normally anxious for their breakfast.  

Wendigo follows me around bumping my backside with a squeaky toy, enticing me to play, so I think she's handling the cold just fine.  

I'm fantasizing about a complete garden overhaul.  I'm rethinking the fence, the layout, terracing... all that stuff.  I'm ready for a big project, and I want a design challenge.  I keep dreaming up additions and alterations we could make to the house (warm ones!), but we don't need to act on those just yet.  The garden though, could really use some attention so we can increase our production.  I'm about to break out the measuring tape and scrounge up some graph paper!  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Chicken Friend


I have a new friend.  A chicken friend.  I'm friendly with all the chickens, but MJ and I are developing an extra friendly relationship.  Isn't she cute?  She's like a scruffy looking penguin, only stupid.

MJ is the heritage breed chick that was raised with the dodos AKA meat chicks.  She isn't afraid to get close to me, and thinks biting my fingers is what turns them into food.  She isn't trapped in the coop with the dodos anymore, and each night I have to find her, pick her up, and carry her to the mobile coop with the layer flock.  I was worried she wasn't getting enough to eat, so I carried her to the barn and gave her her very own pile of food.  We are now best friends.  

I haven't had a chicken friend that would let me pick her up without protest since Mrs. Hall, my first chicken.  The dodos don't run away from me either, but they don't run.  MJ must of have learned her tame ways from her weeks with the dodos.  That's about all she learned though.  She seems confused by everything now that she's out in the world.  She doesn't mind to share her meal with Wendigo. 

Only my youngest hens are laying eggs now.  The eggs freeze and crack if I don't find them fast.

I got home from work early enough yesterday that I could do my chores in the sunlight.  When the sun starts to set, the cold is so intense!  My cheeks burn and my breath makes frost on my high collar.  I can watch the water I put out for the birds freeze.  I go back outside at least once after dark to make sure everyone is tucked in safely.  The goats sleep in a pile.  I reach through the fence to touch their ears, checking for warmth.  Wendigo sleeps on an old down sleeping bag in the barn, nestled next to a wall of hay.  I touch her ears and toes while she sleeps to make sure she isn't cold.  She feels warm.  

The chickens and guineas sleep side by side on their perch.  We've stapled a tarp over the coop walls to block the breeze.  I haven't noticed any frost bitten combs or wattles. 

At night the donkeys stand against the wall, out of the wind.  Their tails are tucked tightly against their backsides, and they look cold.  They don't appreciate my warm hugs. My horse owning friend said to feed them lots of hay.  He said that's how they stay warm, by eating.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I'm Prepared

Happy New Year, folks!  Since I was bragging about how prepared I was for the holiday frivolity, of course, I got sick just in time to drain some of the energy from the holidays.  I did nurse my flue with ample quantities of hot tea and Netflix, and rallied enough to participate in the family Christmas festivities.  

Thankfully, when I'm not feeling my best, I can count on Brandon to help with my chores.  Like coaxing the goats to pose in funny holiday hats!  

You would think that the goats would be grateful to have their ears warmly tucked inside a hat during this cold weather.  Not so!  They tossed their heads and pranced around and made the photo shoot very hilarious.  Silly goats.   

It's so cold here.  Colder than I'm used to, for sure, and looks like it will stay that way for the rest of the week.  I carry warm water to all the thirsty animals, and now have a collection of ice sculpture, from dumping the frozen water from buckets.  

I collected all our extension cords and managed to scrounge together enough electric buckets for the goats, donkey, and dog, so they don't have to wait until I bring them a warm drink anymore.  The meat chickens, which are weeks past their butcher date, are the only ones with frozen water now.  

Well, not the only ones, since I have a frozen water line to the kitchen sink!  When we opened the trap door in the kitchen floor to examine the water lines, a steady gust of frigid air blew in from underneath the house.  One of the things on our to do list is to chink the cracks in the stone foundation, so at least there isn't a cold breeze constantly blowing under the floor boards.  In a desperate attempt to protect the plumbing, I spent some time piling old hay along the outside of the house foundation.  

Someone on the inter-web suggested placing bales of straw along the foundation of a house to block the breeze.  I'm not sure if a pile of hay has quite the same insulating effect, but I think it made a bit of difference in the velocity of the air underneath the kitchen.  Not enough to thaw out the sink, though.  And now it looks like weeds grew unchecked around the house.  I bet the mice will love it!

Brandon left this morning for a week long trip to New York city.  In the days leading up to his departure, he obsessively checked the weather, and worried about leaving me alone.   If I were him, I would have been much more worried about driving in the city when it's well below freezing and snow is predicted.  I plan to be in my cozy office in town by day, and safely tucked inside with a toasty fire, a hot beverage, and plenty of warm cats by night!

I'm not worried to be left alone, even with all these animals to care for.  I have plenty of firewood, hay, and bags of food for all the animals, plus groceries for myself.  The pipes that freeze are already frozen, so as long as I keep the water dripping in the bathroom I won't do without.  If the worst happened, and frozen pipes burst and I have to turn all the water off, I could dip water from the hot tub to keep the animals hydrated, if I had to.  If the truck won't start, then I'll just stay home!  I've got friends and a good neighbor I can call on, in a pinch.  I have Netflix.  I'm prepared.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bring on the Nog!

Brandon asked me this morning if it felt like Christmas to me, yet.  It really does.  Yesterday was our office Christmas lunch, and funny gift giving and stealing game, and last Saturday was our family tree decorating party.  I'm firmly in the holiday spirit.  Bring on the nog, I'm ready!  

I took a day off work last Friday, wrapped all my gifts, and spent the evening with my parents preparing for the family to gather the next day.  I tricked my mother into vacuuming all the flies from the windows (Merry Christmas to me!), and we decorated with my collection of holiday bling.  I even wrapped a long red ribbon around one of the posts in the living room.  It doesn't look like a stripper pole, either...

The mantel shelf behind the dinning room table was decked out with cedar boughs and all the trimmings. The stockings were hung with care.  Santa has already filled Brandon's stocking, but mine is suspiciously empty.  

I had to throw the card board box that holds the artificial and pre-lighted tree in the trash, because it was stored on top of the goat shed, and a chicken used it as her nightly perch.  Thankfully the tree was fine once I shook off a few chicken droppings!  I had the tree set up and ready for my nieces and nephew to decorate.  It's become an annual tradition, to come to our house and decorate the tree while the adults enjoy a cup of cheer.  We popped some popcorn and made long strands of popcorn and cranberry garland.  This year my nephew was tall enough to reach the top of the tree!   

Mom was inspired to make some of these three dimensional paper snowflakes.  So pretty! 

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
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