Friday, August 2, 2013

Local Dinner

You Can't Get More Local Than This!
Squash, potatoes and onion fresh from the Windwomen Farm garden...sweet corn from Stanton's Farm...butter made at Windwomen Farm from Meadowbrook Farm cream and pork from Cold Antler Farm...

It's Been Too Long...


August has arrived and it’s been too long since we have brought you any news from the farm.  It’s amazing how busy you get with school year endings, multiple trips to Texas, family reunions, unusually hot, humid temperatures, a plethora of chickens...life in general, I guess. We started a few blogs but we never finished them, so here’s one that is actually complete.

Both hives made it through the winter but didn’t survive the visits from the bear this spring and the resulting daily moves in and out of the garage, in the back of the truck...We thought we had it made when we built and placed them inside the “bearricade”. But, when we checked on them a week later, they had vacated the premises.  The “bearricade” structure won’t keep ursine prowlers out of the hives indefinitely, but at least we’ll hear
the cowbells that are hanging from the top before we hear the tell tale sound of breaking Styrofoam.  We’re guessing the bees moved on to more stationary homes.  We were lucky enough to get two packages of bees from Betterbee in Greenwich, NY, to replace them, so we do have happy pollinators buzzing around.  We started each re-populated hive with two frames of honey that the previous tenants had left.  We then harvested the remaining frames and collected about 4 gallons of liquid gold.  Now that the weather has become cooler and dryer, it’s time to once again check in on the buzzing hoards.

The laying hens have survived the heat with only two lost to a fox or coyote...disappeared without a trace...not too big a loss.  BUT...much to our dismay, two of the six Ameraucana chicks we purchased in April have announced to the world that they are roosters.  Too bad the mystery marauder didn’t take those guys instead.   Due to the unusual heat and the fact that some of our hens are walking around with canes, the coop egg production is lower than it was in the
winter.   Hopefully, cooler weather will restore egg production back to former levels, especially as the younger hens mature.
Our first foray into meat birds has come to a successful conclusion.  The freezer now has 24, 4-6 pound birds waiting for the the house chef to bring out the full flavor of our own yard raised birds.  MB is not the house chef...just sayin'. During the 12.5 week growing season, many discussions regarding the design of the chicken tractor took place.  A partial redesign is definitely needed.  Let’s just say the morning of July 18th was “sweet” because there was no need to get up at 5:00 am to let the chickens out and move the coop!!!  July 17th evening was rather nice too, because the chickens didn’t have to be “put to bed”.  Let’s hope, the satisfaction of enjoying delicious home raised meals overpowers the less glamorous aspects of raising the birds. 

The progress in the gardens has been hampered somewhat by the bizarre weather.  The cauliflower and broccoli never really had a chance, too hot, too fast.  The potatoes were growing along beautifully and all of a sudden, something turned the plants brown and stick-like.  But, thanks to our friend Jenna, we discovered that we still had potatoes underneath, albeit somewhat smaller than desired...

The tomatoes have finally started to kick it into gear.  There is nothing like fresh tomatoes from the garden.  They really are the taste of summer!!

The garlic was successfully harvested in mid-July.  Planted in November then left alone until the scapes begin to wind their way around and were cut (delicious!) and then it was left alone again until the bulbs were harvested.   It doesn’t get much easier than that.  A little bit of weeding and you are good to go.  The bulbs are drying in the greenhouse getting ready for their winter storage in the root cellar, aka basement.

Our trio of canine companions is now a duo.  The "big dog", Frannie, succumbed to fast acting cancer.  She enjoyed her 13 years living in the country, protecting her people and property from perceived threats.  She is missed. 



Emmett has recovered from a hot spot that slowed him down for a while and kept him inside during the heatwave.  He is now happily guarding the grounds from the marauding chicken hunter!!  Walker, the puppy, does her best to distract Emmett and get him to play with her.  When he is certain it’s safe for the chickens, Emmett will engage in playful activities, tug of war and play tag.  It is very thrilling to watch two dogs run all out in a playful game of "who's got the brussel sprout stem". 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spoke Too Soon...

Well...after the wonderful day of spring, winter has reared it's cold, ugly head again...we have seen rain, ice and snow squalls over the past few days...there were a few sun sightings, but not enough to offset the damp, gray, drabness that is the first two weeks of April.

MB and I decided a while back to expand our farming experience to include meat chickens.  In anticipation of their arrival and building on the knowlege base we acquired putting together our first coop, we began construction of a meat bird B&B last weekend.  It's a smaller version of the large, fixed in place, structure that we built for the laying hens several years ago...a 10' x 10' hoop coop on wheels...an official chicken tractor.  We planned to complete it this weekend in time for the arrival of 25 cornish cross chicks.  An added bonus was the arrival of MB's niece...she's always willing to pitch in and help wherever needed.  Little did she know...in fact, neither did we...

Saturday morning we awoke to find one of the bee hives "tunckled" over and we quickly righted and restacked the hive bodies and looked for clues to who the culprit was.  Other than being gnerally in an upside down state, there wasn't too much mass destruction of frames and hive bodies and there was a nice trail of frames heading out towards the eastern woods...a few of the frames had the wax, pollen and honey licked off of them, but no real chewing marks.  Because of the minor manifestation of mayhem, we decided it must've been a raccoon and strapped the hives to the boards and blocks they were sitting on so that the coon couldn't tunckle things over again...

WRONG AND WRONG AGAIN!!!!!

We went back to working on the chicken tractor and after putting in a long day of that and other chores, we settled in for an evening of Downton Abbey reruns.  Two episodes into season one, I was ready for bed and left MB and niece finishing the second episode.  Emmett was outside being the guardian farm dog as he usually is in the evening and early morning and I heard him barking and growling in a way that said, "This ain't no deer!  Pay attention!"...then I heard the sound of a styrofoam beer cooler falling off of a table...

"Something's knocking over the beehives!!!!"

MB and niece ran out the backdoor with flashlights in hand as I grabbed the .22 and ran downstairs...when I got there, MB said that a bear was there standing next to the downed hives and when they came out it looked at them and ambled off, "like a black shadow in the night."...it didn't amble too far or too fast enough for us because Emmett was still keeping up his fuss...and frankly he's our only barometer...

Eventually, we decided it was safe enough to focus on the damages...Two hives upended and very high likelihood that ursa major would return.  What to do...?  We decided that since the hives had to be righted and restacked...yet again...that we would bring the truck around and put the hives into the back of the truck...besides, it would be good to have a truck between us and the bear...we could then park the truck with the hives in the garage safe from further predations.  In the morning the truck could be pulled out of the garage...before the bees started flying around...and we could reassess the situation...GOOD PLAN...the challenge...it's 10 pm, it's dark as a cavern, the hives are upside down and the bees are pissed...

To make the saga short...we did it!  And Emmett quit barking...



Now we have a hive trolley so that we can bring the hives into the garage at night and put them back out in the morning...until we finish building a hoop coop to put them in...



A bearricade of sorts...

;))

Officially...

Officially, Spring began about three weeks ago. Mid-week it finally decided to show up...All the snow was finally gone, even in the shady spots on the north side of the house, and the piles made by the plow. There was still ice in the rain barrels, but the hand pump should be able to go in it anytime now. No more schlepping it from the house to the coop through the snow...yahoo!

The beehives have made it through April 12th....once spring bear season slacks off and the nectar flow begins it will be safe to say they really made it. Until then it’s day to day.


Another true sign of spring is sprouting garlic. Such an easy plant to grow and care for...put the cloves in the ground in the fall...harvest the scapes in the spring...harvest the heads in July...



Happy Spring to all...the dogs are certainly enjoying it!




Monday, April 1, 2013

March Is Over! WAHOO!!!!

It's all half frozen mud and clouds that block both sun and stars....leaving you barely hanging onto the hope of Spring by the time all 31 days are gone....

But...it really makes you grateful when the sun hits you full in the face!

Monday, February 25, 2013

They're Peeking!

Look what I found in the greenhouse today...








Kale, spinach, lettuce and radishes are all peeking....

The carrots are a little shy though...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back in Production



Now that the number of daylight hours are increasing, the avian ladies of Windwomen Farm are settling back into their nest boxes. We have 14 hens, but 6 of these girls are more than 4 years old, so 6 or 7 eggs per day is the best output we can really expect.  The team has had record lows this winter...1 to 3 eggs per day with some zero days sprinkled in there.  But, they are ramping up on a grand scale!  Yesterday I gathered 10 eggs...definitely a winter record!  The picture above is the last 2 days harvest! Nice!

Now if I can just stop dropping them on the way back to the house....

Planting the Greenhouse




Yes...we have a greenhouse here at Windwomen Farm...the igloo looking structure in our profile picture is a passive solar greenhouse made by Growing Spaces, a company out of Pagosa Springs, CO. it is an 18' diameter geodesic dome, with 24" high raised beds around the perimeter, an 800 gallon water tank that is the thermal mass for the passive solar system and a small active solar system that powers the lights, fans and the fountain in the water tank.

We bought the kit and installed the greenhouse in 2009...I will post a future blog on the construction...Using the greenhouse has been a steep learning curve, but very rewarding...every year we get better and better at it...learning how it is symbiotic with our outdoor beds because it extends our growing season and allows us to have okra, habaneros, poblanos and other hot weather loving crops, in this short growing season, that are critical to this expat from Texas because all of these are vital to proper Texan haute cuisine.

The goal is to plant, grow and harvest year round, but despite having well read copies of, The Winter Harvest Handbook and Four Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman, we have not yet reached that pinnacle of vegetable gardeningdom for various and sundry reasons...

This year's reason was because we had a minor case of wilt on the brandywine tomato vines that we grew in there last summer.  Early last fall, I decided to treat all the beds and beds structures with hydrogen peroxide and then MB and her niece DB, took some llama manure from Wunsapana Farm and top dressed the beds, with it and our own compost.  Then we let the beds rest until last weekend.

With the occasional help of a small propane heater during the ultra-frigid (10 degrees F or lower) late January, early February nights, the bed temperatures in the greenhouse reached 45 degrees F.  The magic minimum temperature that seeds of cool weather crops need to germinate.  So I planted the first succession of kale, carrots, spinach, radishes and lettuce...I was so excited to get out there and actually dig in the dirt that I forgot the peas and mache...ah well...there is always next weekend...and the weekend after that...and the weekend after that...

WOOHOO!  We're on the downhill side of winter!!!  And in a couple of weeks we'll be seeing green peeking out of the dirt before the snow is fully melted!!!


Have any of you started planting yet?  Transplants indoors, in a greenhouse or outdoors for those of you in more temperate or even tropical regions?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dog Dynamics

It's now been a little more than a week since the established dog dynamics at Windwomen Farm were thrown to the wind.  Prior to Saturday, February 2nd, the routine of the household was well established.  Get up, open the back door, dogs go out, open the back door, the dogs come in, feed them and then they each go to their own scheduled events...Frannie, the old black shepherd, will head to the living room, lie down on the rug and promptly go to sleep.  Emmett, the blue merle Aussie/BC cross, looks up at you with pleading eyes and asks to return outside to patrol the perimeter and protect his patroon from trespassing foxes, deer, rabbits...can you say,"SQUIRREL!!"...This routine was repeated again in the evening...except for the "Get up" part...All was "calm, well ordered, exemplary", to quote a favorite movie line.  Even the cat, Cinder, knew when it was time to come to MB's desk chair for pets and to beg for more food.

Now life at Windwomen Farm is totally dependent upon the actions or lack of action of Walker, the new puppy.  When Walker is asleep, everything is calm and orderly.  When Walker wakes, a hasty trip outside is necessary.  This time it's not as simple as opening the back door, you must go too, no matter the weather.  The trips outside at 9:00p, 11:00p, 3:30a (when Buck the rooster crows...God know why...) and 5:00a in the morning, are beautiful with moonshine on the big snow flakes, but very chilly...it helps when the trips coincide with a hot flash, but alas...those are pretty hard to schedule...And then there was Nemo...that storm set us back on the potty training by about 3 days...

Of course, Walker is never quite ready to back to bed after each constitutional...she makes the rounds and gets an official rebuff from both Emmett and Frannie before she settles back in.

After 5:00a, and breakfast, Walker is ready to play...if Frannie is in the vicinity, Walker sucks up to her...she knows who is CEO of dogdom on the farm...Frannie tolerates the fawning monster for about 5 minutes, then sends her packing and retires to MB's office for some peace and quiet.  Once the brown-nosing is over, Walker sets a trajectory for Emmett and her approach is that of a steamroller...Emmett is her personal chew toy for about 10 minutes, then he gets up and the game is on!  There are windsprints through the kitchen to the living room and back again, tug of war skirmishes and wrestling matches that could rival any in the WWF...all of this will be banished to the outdoors in a few weeks but the reward is definitely worth the short term turmoil...





An exhausted puppy is a good puppy...Emmett has a worthy playmate...the antics are pretty funny (for the most part) and awfully cute...


But...sleeping through the night again is one routine that can't be re-established soon enough!

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's A Comin'...

Looks like a big'un blowin' in folks!

They're calling for up to 20+ inches in our neck of the woods...the Heldeberg region of the New York state Appalachian mountains.

We're all set with provisions and contingencies...propane for the house, greenhouse and to run the backup generator in case power goes out.  Plenty of wood for the stove in the shop and the fireplace. The truck is gassed up and ready to plow the drive and the lane.  The snowblower is gassed up and ready to cut the "luge runs" out to the shop, greenhouse, chicken coop and hives.  The hives are blockaded with straw bales to help keep them protected from wind and snow and the coop is covered with greenhouse plastic so the girls are protected from the wind and don't have to walk around in the snow.  Top it off with frdge, freezers and cool storage full of veg, fruit, dairy and meat....a nicely stocked wine cellar...some beer...

We...Are...Ready....

Of course, now it probably will only snow a couple of inches and that would just be all good too...

For those of you under the storm/blizzard warning areas...how did you prepare?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sad Farm Dog and the New Farm Apprentice

Our farm dog, Emmett, used to have a playmate that lived on the 5 acres next door.  Mater would come over on occasion and he and Emmett would play until they couldn't move...it was a good thing...Mater did not pay the chickens any mind because he was raised so close to them and Emmett was raised with them...

But, now Mater doesn't live there anymore.  Frannie, our other dog, is too old to really play with Emmett although she tries on every now and then.  Emmett has managed to keep himself busy by becoming the farm guardian dog and that worked until it got too cold for him to be outside long...

Now he spends the frigid days watching over the farm out the window...


I am totally projecting human emotions onto him, but he looks sad and bored, doesn't he...

So,  MB and I talked about it, did a little research, went out yesterday, and came home with...


Our new farm apprentice!  

Meet Walker...best guess is that she is eight weeks old, Mom was an aussie or australian cattle dog cross (we met her too) and looks like dad was at least related to a Labrador somewhere along the line...she's bright and seems to be socialized well with both humans and dogs...she has made herself right at home as you can see below...




Typical baby, plays hard for 5 minutes and then takes a nap...

Wish us luck...THERE'S A PUPPY IN THE HOUSE!!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

From Scratch Magazine




I signed up for the online magazine "From Scratch" today...what a good find!  It was recommended by our friend Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm.  The magazine interviewed her in it's premier issue.  It is chock full of good info and it's free!  Read It Here!

While you are at it, take a look at Jenna's blog, Cold Antler Farm...she is a gifted writer and author of several books...her blog has a following in the thousands!

As Promised...Greek Yogurt...

The past couple of weeks have flown by...the nine to five and daily homestead chores, sometime take priority over writing.  Henny Penny rejoined her coop mates the week before this last bout of posterior biting cold.  Under cover of darkness she was taken from the chicken ICU and placed into the dark hen house with all the others.  On Sunday morning, when the hen house door was opened, out she hopped just like all the others.  None of them appeared to pay her any mind as they got down to business scratching around in the coop.  That's the beauty of chickens, if you change things in the dark, they are oblivious to the difference the next morning...Let's hope things continue to go well for her, not sure if another trip to the chicken ICU, aka MB's office, will be welcomed.

We usually make a batch of greek yogurt on the weekends.  As with most things, the quality of the ingredients is critical to making a good end product.  All of our milk is delivered fresh from the dairy, just 3 miles down the hill.  Homemade vanilla extract, local maple syrup, fruit jams and honey from our bees are used as flavoring.  Making yogurt is much easier than you would think. 


I know...I know...you are thinking, "Yeah right...easy like puttin' socks on a rooster...".  

No really...it does take a little bit of time and planning, but it is easy and the excellence of the end product makes it all worthwhile.

To make a batch of yogurt you will need the following:

A stainless steel (SS) pot with a thick bottom to "scald" or re-pasteurize the milk. Alternatively, a SS double boiler may be used. Do not boil the milk. This gives the milk a "cooked" flavor, and increases the probability that it will burn on the bottom or boil over. In addition to the thick bottomed pot, I use a fabulous invention called a simmer mat, pictured below.




This baby pretty much guarantees NO MORE SCORCHING!  WOOHOO!  It is available online from Lehmans and other kitchen supply sites.

You will also need the following:

A utensil of your choice to stir the milk while it is heating and cooling
A kitchen thermometer, digital or dial, with at range of at least 0 to 225 oF (-10 to 110oC)
A whisk
A ladle
A canning funnel is handy but not mandatory if you have steady hands...just saying...
A bowl or large mixing cup (2 cups or larger)
4 canning jars with lids (quart size), sterilized in boiling water or washed in a diswasher with an antibacterial cycle 
1 canning jar with lid (pint size), sterilized in boiling water or washed in a diswasher with an antibacterial cycle
1 medium sized "cooler" such as a Coleman Playmate or the old styrofoam ones, etc.
2 large bowls, 2 quart size or larger

Take 1 gallon of the freshest milk you can find...raw, whole, skim or anything in between...try not to use ultra-pasteurized milk, it will not give you reliable results and don't get me started on what the ultra high temperatures do to the proteins and the good biological denizens of milk! Pour it into your thick bottomed pot or double boiler.  Heat the milk over medium heat.  You can go to medium high if you are using the simmer mat or a double boiler.  Scald/heat the milk until the temperature is 185-195 F (85-90 C).  Again, do not boil the milk.  Stir often to minimize the skin that often forms when milk is heated.


Once it has reached temperature, take the pot and place it in your sink that has been filled with just enough cold tap water to cover the sides of the pot, but not enough to overflow into the pot.  Stir and cool the milk to 122-130 F (50 to 55 C).  The milk will cool quickly.  I generally remove the pot from the cooling water when the temperature is at 140 F (60 C).  It will continue to cool while you prepare the inoculant.

Now take the mixing bowl or the large measuring cup and ladle about 1 cup of the milk into it.  Then take 1 cup or 1 container of the freshest plain yogurt you can find and put it with the milk and whisk thoroughly.  The yogurt must have live cultures.  It should only have milk and a list of the live cultures on it...Several of the big brands are good...Dannon, Stonyfield, Oikos and Chobani...regular or greek, it doesn't matter...unfortunately, the local organic brands are not always the best to culture with, mainly because they often have been on the shelf awhile.

When you have whisked the milk and yogurt into a homogeneous mixture, inoculate your pot of scalded milk by pouring the mixture in and stirring well.

Ladle the neonatal yogurt into your sterilized jars. Put the sterilized lids on and tighten them well.  Fill the cooler with about a gallon of water that has been heated to 130 F (55 C).  Place the jars into the cooler, making sure that the water only reaches to the bottom of the lids.  Put more heated water into the cooler, if the water does not reach the bottom of the jar lids.  Because our water heater is set to 130 F, we can use hot water straight out of our tap to fill the cooler, if your water heater is set lower than this, you will have to heat the water up on the stove to get to the incubation temperature of 122 F (50 C).

Close the lid of the cooler and go away for a minimum of 3 hours...we incubate for more than 12 hours because we usually time our yogurt prepping in the late afternoon or in the evening on Saturdays.  We have let our yogurt incubate as long as 24 hours without any issues.

SO!  In 3 or more hours you will have a beautiful batch of yogurt!  You can stop here and add a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite jam, some fresh or frozen fruit, maple syrup, honey, eat it plain...whatever floats your tastebud's boat.  OR, you can keep going and turn it into thick, yummy, decadent greek yogurt!  I guarantee that if you have a dedicated yogurt hater in your household, this stuff will make them a convert with one bite!  WOW!  I made myself so hungry writing this that I had to go get some out of the fridge for myself!  Excuse me as I type with my mouth full....

Essentially, all that makes yogurt "greek" is draining some of the whey out of it.

The picture below show the draining process of the yogurt.  Two hours of draining two quarts of plain yogurt will yield 1 quart greek yogurt and 1 quart whey.





To drain yogurt, take a double thickness of butter muslin (available at kitchen stores or online, a clean, large handkerchief works well too), and line a large sieve or bowl with it.  Pour 2 quarts of the freshly made yogurt (before refrigeration is best) into the middle of the muslin.  Gather the muslin up by the corners and tie up the corners with a large rubberband, clean string, etc. to form a sack, of sorts, and suspend the sack over a bowl to catch the whey that drains out.  We suspend ours from the faucet as seen above, but I have suspended it from upper kitchen cabinets by opening the door and using a wooden spoon weighted down on one end with a pile of dishes inside the cabinet.  You can get inventive...use what is available to you in your own kitchen.

After 2 hours...don't go any longer or you will wind up with a nice batch of yogurt cheese, which is a nice substitute for cream cheese, btw...take the muslin sack down, place it in a clean bowl and untie the corners of the muslin...this is what it will look like...


Grasp the muslin by 2 adjacent corners and roll the yogurt out of the muslin into the bowl.  Scrape any remaining yogurt, that clings to the muslin, into the bowl.  Whisk the thickened yogurt to a uniform consistency, flavoring can be added now, if desired, or you can always flavor it later.  Now package your greek yogurt into jars, the size of your choice.  1/2 pint canning jars are a perfect size for  breakfast, lunch, snack or dessert.  Refrigerate.  This yogurt will stay good for 2 weeks, maybe more, ours is always eaten long before that.

And there you have it!  The best greek yogurt you have ever eaten!  Here is a picture of ours flavored with blueberry freezer jam (the best!) made by our friend LD.  It's so good we barter for it!




Now I know what you are asking...,"What in tarnation am I gonna do with this here quart of whey?"...



We use the whey as a supplement to our dog's food.  We store it in the fridge in canning jars and pour it on their dry food and they lap it right up.  It is also good for chickens, pigs or other critters you may have.  We also use the whey as an ingredient in our soap, our homemade bread, and as cooking liquid (like stock). 

If worst comes to worst, as a last resort, you could put it in the compost pile.

But, that would be sad...you should cook with it...really...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunny Winter Sundays and Bad Bread



It's nice to know that the farm is being watched over by Emmett.  He chased a bear away after it knocked over one of the hives this last spring and has managed to keep all denizens lurking at the edge of the woods with thoughts of wreaking mayhem, well, in the woods.  That dog certainly has and continues to earn his keep.  

Nice sunny winter weekend days are good for making things like bread, but sometimes that does not turn out so well...much like the leavened bricks in the picture below…oh well…the chickens will have a banquet or we’ll prop up a corner of the hen house with them….one or the other…




After the bread fiasco, we turned to something a little easier to make…greek yogurt!  Using milk, freshly delivered to the house from the dairy just down the hill, makes this homemade yogurt out of this world good.  We make it most weeks and take it to work for breakfast and/or lunch.



We have two and a half gallons of yogurt incubating until tomorrow when we’ll strain it into proper greek yogurt, so thick and tasty, it’ll make you wanna slap yo mama…You’ll have to forgive me, I’m from the part of Texas where cajun cuisine meets good southern fried cookin’ and back home colloquialisms just ooze out of me sometimes…



Seriously, add in real maple syrup, vanilla, honey or your favorite jam…it's as good as ice cream.  It even tastes great plain!

I will put up a post on how to make your own homemade yogurt this week…one more way to control what you are eating, it tastes better than any of the supermarket yogurt brands and it will save you money!

We’ll talk about the vagaries of sourdough bread making another time… ;)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Keeping the Farm Warm


When temperatures are projected to be below freezing, these mid-winter nights generate the need to take extra measures, beyond feeding and watering, to keep critters and plants warm...

Most of the chickens will go into their house to roost at night without any assistance.  However, there are a couple of hens, the lowest in the pecking order, that will roost on a perch in the coop, all huddled together for the warmth.  So, we go out after dark, on very cold nights, with flashlights and head lamps,  to put the silly girls inside the hen house so that they partake of the warmth generated by a 100W light bulb and their flock mates.  It's much easier to catch chickens after dark...just pluck them from their roost and tuck them into the hen house...saves a lot of cursing and running around...just saying...

Last night though, much to our delight, they were already in the house, so we counted ourselves lucky and shut the hen house door to be sure they stayed in there and to retain the heat.

Now the greenhouse isn't growing any vegetables at this time, but there are rosemary, marjoram, thyme and chili pequin plants in there that are dormant, patiently waiting out the winter.  The geodesic dome structure will typically stay 15 - 20 degrees warmer than the outside temps at night, so when they dip below12 degrees, a small propane heater works perfectly to keep it above freezing.  We lit the heater and moved on to the workshop.

The workshop is a hunting lodge that pre-dates the house by several decades.  It is now our woodworking shop and has 2 cats that live there to manage the ever present field mice population.  The shop has a beautiful wood-burning stove that warms it up nicely.  We stoked the stove and fed the cats. 

The dogs accompanied us on the rounds, seemingly oblivious to the cold temps.  All was well and the farm was bedded down for the night...

Morning on the farm arrives very early because, Buck, the rooster, has yet to learn to tell time.  He crows when it's dark, light and anywhere in between.  Buck's announcement that he was proud to be in a house with 12 hens didn't go unheard in the pre 5:00a hours this morning, the first day back to work following the holiday break.

FYI...Closing the door to help keep the chickens warm at night also means that the door must be opened in the morning so they can range around during the day.  The heater in the greenhouse also needs to be turned off because the sun will heat it right up during the day.  While you are at it, you might as well stoke the woodstove too.  And since you are out, and wandering around the snow-covered farm in the cold, early morning; it's not a bad idea to marvel at the crisp crunch of the snow as you walk from one place to the other and the sparkles on the snow that look like someone just tossed out a handful of diamonds.  But, to tell you the truth, returning to a warm house with hot coffee waiting for you is the best part.

Actually, there is a critter who has it all going on...she doesn't have to deal with the cold, rarely pays her dues in mice and she just ignores the dogs.  Feed her in the morning and she'll find the warmest spot in the house, right in front of the heat register!!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013



Happy New Year! The chickens received a couple New Year’s Day cabbages for a treat. As the cold grey days of January begin, a sprinkle of green is a welcome sight. Even the dogs get into the act.



Our attempt to grow our own winter cabbage for the chickens was not too successful…the chickens raided the garden and ate them during the summer! Hopefully our next attempt will be more successful as we try to keep the chickens out of the cabbage bed!!!