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!!

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