Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adventures in Winter

Here we are, approaching the end of the year and the beginning of a new one.  And, of course, it went and got cold on us.  We really should have seen this coming.  After all, it normally gets a bit cooler in the Winter months, doesn't it?

On the other hand, it does surprise us how quickly our perspective changes with respect to temperatures.  It wasn't that long ago that we would proclaim 28 degrees F to be quite cold.  But, now that we've experienced colder temps, we think it is quite nice to go outside and work in it.  I think Tammy is more disturbed than I am when I look at the forecast and say things like: "Hey!  The high on (Xday) will be near 20.  That should be pretty nice."

Sun after ice fog always provides for good photo opportunities
It got downright balmy a few days ago with temperatures above freezing and some nice sunshine.  So, what do we do on the farm when *that* happens? 

In this case, we took the opportunity to water the spinach and kale we are overwintering in the high tunnel.  While we were at it, we did some weeding and bed prep for early spring planting.  Then we put the winter blanket on the spinach and kale.  It was nice outside, but we could remove jackets inside the high tunnel.  We won't complain.

While we were at it, the hen room got some cleaning done and the bedding went into an area where we'll cover crop the field for the summer.

Cardinals and snow go together
We've had the normal gathering of juncos and sparrows on the farm.  There are a couple of downy woodpeckers and a nuthatch here and there as well.  But, we were quite pleased to witness a good sized flock of cardinals the past few days.  They didn't want the person wielding the camera to get too close, but we still managed to catch one of them in a picture.  It's enough to make us consider putting out a feeder with some sunflower seed.

And speaking of juncos, they do have a tendency to get into outbuildings when we open a door and then bounce themselves off a window trying to get back out.  I kept trying to tell one particular junco to calm itself and just go out the HUGE garage door that was open instead of beating its little head on the window pane.  It didn't listen, so I had to go and get it.  We're pretty certain it is telling its flock about the scary red-hatted guy that grabbed it and tossed it out the door.  Honest, I was trying to help. 

Seeds still attached to the trees collected some ice crystals
During one of the 'warmer' days, we spent some time reorganizing the truck barn so the truck could actually get parked in it.  What a novel concept!  On the other hand, our farm reminds us of one of those old tinker's carts.  Pull a string and it explodes into a full-out display of all of the wares the tinker has for sale.  When it's time to go, it all packs back up so it can be taken elsewhere.  In our case, the farm isn't going anywhere, but we do tend to pack things up to get as much as we can under cover for the winter.  Once Spring comes, it will be a bit like a minor explosion as we pull things out for use.

Always fun to see what frost will cling to
On the other hand, most days have been pretty cold.  But, that doesn't mean we don't do things outside on the farm.  When temps get below zero, we need to check for eggs multiple times a day to avoid losing eggs to freezing.  And, of course, we need to frequently check to be sure waterers have not frozen shut.  We learned the hard way to stop using the outdoor faucet to fill buckets when it didn't get closed all the way one night.  The constant drip overnight resulted in saturated soil by the house and a nice puddle in the basement.

While that wasn't entirely a product of the cold weather, we can tell you that it is cold enough that if you spill water on your pant leg it will freeze almost immediately.  It felt a little bit like wearing baseball catcher shin guards for a few moments there.

A milkweed pod gathered some ice fog as well.
We spent time on one of the coldest days putting up plastic around the hen room in an effort to hold in the heat they generate.  When days get nicer, we open up the door to give them the option to go outside.  In general, they don't take it.  Instead, they look at us and say something like, "What were you thinking?  I don't do this white stuff.  Shut the door, it's drafty!"

We're soft-hearted, so the outdoor cats (Mrranda, Sandman and Cubbie) all get to come into the basement of the house when temps get down into the -10 degrees F range at night.  We figure they can chase the mice down there for a bit.  When they aren't in the basement, they find ways to get in the way whenever we want to work outside.  What can we say?  They're cats.

To finish up this blog post, we should mention one absurdity that one of the people who purchases eggs noticed yesterday.  The temps were cold, but our eggs were in coolers.  That isn't so odd, since a cooler can insulate and keep things a bit warmer for longer.  However, they noted the ice pack in the cooler as well. 

All we can say is this - we're required to keep eggs cold.  If the coolers ride in the car with us, we intend on heating the car.  As a result, we throw an icepack in the cooler for the times the cooler and eggs might be in the heated part of the car or in a heated building while we deliver.  But still, we have to agree that the use of an ice pack in December seems to be a bit of a redundancy when the outdoor cooling system is working so well.

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