Category Archives: Winter

Winter Farm Update

Perhaps this post should be sub-titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” because we have seen a bit of each this winter.

Chickens

The chickens mostly fall in good category. Egg production slowed down in late November as usual and we were only getting 2-4 eggs a day, but as the hours of daylight have been getting longer egg production has been gradually increasing. We are now gathering between 7-10 eggs a day. We had more than enough eggs for us, so we didn’t have to buy any this winter. The lack of snow this winter has made the chickens happy because they tend to stay inside when there is snow on the ground.

The bad, or at least sad, part is that our rooster died on Thanksgiving. He was one of three birds left from our first batch of chicks we got in 2013. Toward the end of summer we noticed that old age seemed to be catching up to him, so we were not surprised by his death. So far the flock seems to be doing well without him. I was never especially close to Cocky because he seemed to feel that he had to protect his flock from me. I did learn, after being spurred in the leg by him a couple times, not to turn my back on him. We sparred many times over the years, but I did respect him as protector of our flock. While I don’t miss having to look over my should when I’m in or around the chicken yard, I do miss hearing his Cock-a-doodle-do’s.

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Cocky and Honey

Bees

Bees fall into the UGLY category. At the end of summer we had eight hives most of which seemed to be thriving. Over fall and winter we have lost all of them. We are baffled as to why the bees are dying. Every hive has had lots of honey in it, the hives have top ventilation to prevent moisture build up and our winter temps haven’t even been that cold so it doesn’t make sense that they are freezing to death. Some even died before temperatures got cold.

It is sad and it is frustrating to have so many losses, but we have decided not to give up yet. We have ordered three more packages of bees to arrive in May so we can try, try again.

Garlic 

At this time it seems that the garlic falls into the good category. The new location seems to be good since despite lots of rain and snow melt we have not had any flooding in that area.

The main reason that I am including garlic in this update is because several readers were interested in knowing how the weed guard that we used when planting the garlic worked out. (You can read about it here.)  Unfortunately it did not work out as we hoped it would. All was well until after the first big snow storm in early November. We then had a warm up, and as the snow melted, the weed guard became saturated. Then we began seeing rips in it. It seems the wind was getting under the exposed edges and ripping the wet paper. It became so tore up that we ended up removing it completely and mulching the garlic with straw before the ground froze.

If we use this product in the future we now understand it is important to make sure all of the edges are secured – perhaps by burying them in the soil.

Hoop House

This is another one for the good column. This new addition is currently under construction. It has come a lot farther since this photo was taken last week. Our plan is to have it ready so we can start our garden plants in it this spring. I plan to write a post on it’s design and construction once it is complete and will likely write about it’s uses in the future as well.

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The Boys

The boy’s also fall into the good category. Most of our time at the farm this winter has been spent with the boys, more specifically training Ranger.  This pup has so much energy that it is important that he get out and use it up. We have found that he requires a minimum of two hours a day outside, but on most day it’s three or more hours of walking, running and hunting.

We have been using a training collar that has three settings – a beep, a vibrate, and a shock. The collar, along with voice commands, is working well with training him to stay on our property, but it is going to take a lot more training and time before he can be trusted not to leave the farm. Beagles have a strong hunting instinct and if they pick up the scent of a rabbit or other small animal (there are many on our farm) it is difficult to call them off.

We are not hunters so we will not be training to hunt rabbits or squirrels.

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He and Trooper do enjoy hunting for field mice together. This is something that Scout and Trooper would do for hours at a time and we are happy that Ranger has become Trooper’s new hunting buddy.

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Watching the boys hunt mice can get a bit boring, but it is interesting to observe how they work together.

Trooper who is mostly a watch dog uses both his nose and eyes for hunting.

IMG_6222Ranger, who is a hunting dog, primarily uses his nose.

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So while Ranger has his nose buried in the dirt trying to sniff out his prey Trooper might capture it as he sees it trying to escape.

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Now what do I do with it?

After consulting with our vet we did have the boys immunized against diseases that they could catch from mice.

I think it is largely as a result of all this outdoor activity that Ranger has become such a great house dog. While at home is is content to settle into his or our bed for a nap, or he might seek out a little cuddle time from one of us. If he does get bored he will find a rawhide to chew on or bring his ball for a game of catch. He does however let us know when it’s time to get out a expend some of the built up energy.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to put him to the test. We needed to go grocery shopping so thought we would see how well he would behave if we left him out of his crate for a couple hours while we were away. Our strategy was to make sure he was tired out first, so my husband took the boys to the farm for about an hour before we went shopping. Before we left for shopping we also made sure that some of the things that might be tempting to a puppy (shoes, slippers, books) were out of his reach.

We were so happy when we returned home and found the house in the same condition that we left it in. The Boy’s, especially Ranger, were rewarded with lot’s of “good boy’s” and another nice long walk (run, play, hunt) at the farm. We have since left him  on three more occasions and have come returned home each time to find that he was a “Good Boy”. 🙂 It may be time to get rid of the crate.

Thanks for reading.

How has your winter been so far?

 

 

Then and Now

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While we are in the midst of what is forecast to be the biggest snowfall we have had yet this season, I thought I would take a look back to see what was going on in past years at this time.

I found that last year on January 29 we had already tapped maple trees and cooked our first batch of maple syrup.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2018/01/29/making-maple-syrup-2/

And in January 2018 we had so much rain that we were concerned that our garlic crop was going to rot in the ground (it didn’t).

https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/01/28/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iv/

In contrast today’s storm total will end with probably between 6 and 8 inches of snow on the ground followed by a mass of bitter cold air by mid week. Over the last few days we took some additional measures to make sure we were ready for what may come.

Driving As winter approached my husband had taken the van in and had new snow tires put on the rear, but since it is a rear-wheel drive vehicle we find that when the roads are slippery it is best to have extra weight in the back of the van to keep it from sliding. A couple of weeks ago my husband loaded up the back of the van with firewood to add extra weight and when he bought several bags of chicken feed  this past week he left them in there as well. He also filled up the gas tank which adds quite a bit of weight in the rear. I am happy to report that he had no problems driving through today’s snow.

Firewood – We have be steadily using up our supply of firewood so before the snow came my husband wanted to cut up a couple of dead trees. Yesterday after he had them cut down and into logs I joined him at the farm and helped split the logs. Our wood supply has now been restocked.

Water Worries – With temperatures dropping well below freezing frozen pipes and broken water mains are always a concern.

  • We filled up a couple of five gallon buckets with water and left them in the bath tub. We want to have this water on hand in case there is a water main break in our community. This water is not for cooking or drinking (those supplies kept separate)only flushing toilets.
  • When the temperatures drop down into the teens at night we leave the water trickling at night to prevent pipes from freezing.

Fun – My husband charged the snowmobile battery – can you guess what he’ll be doing tomorrow.

How is the weather in your part of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk In The Park And Gathering Vitamin C

 

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Rose Hips

While walking at Columbus County Park last Friday with my sisters I couldn’t help but notice the thousands of bright red rose hips still clinging tightly to the wild rose bushes. “I’m coming back to pick rose hips.” I announced. I just couldn’t stand to see all that vitamin C going to waste – especially during flu season.

So when my sister J.B. called me on Sunday and wanted to come visit I asked if she wanted to go pick rose hips. The weather was great and she agreed to go.

Columbus County Park is an old farm/homestead that was granted by the previous owners to the county for use as a public park. What a grand gift it was. It is over 400 acres some wooded – some meadow, with a deep valley that the Belle River runs through. The main walking path is a 2.5 mile loop that tracks through the woods, down into the valley, along the river, back up the hill, along the neighboring farm field and back up through the woods. There are other paths throughout the park – some designated for horseback riding and others for mountain biking. There are areas for fishing and canoe launces along the river. There are areas designated for hunting. There is a sledding hill, a play scape, and a lodge with a pavilion that can be rented for events.

On Sunday we took the main path down into the valley and along the river where the rose bushes were waiting. We stopped and picked rose hips for at least 1/2 hour before finishing the loop. Sadly I forgot to take picture while we were picking (the photo above is of our rose bush at the farm and was taken around the time of our first frost last fall). I did, however, remember to get out my camera as we ascended the hill. The first three pictures (below) are taken from the same vantage point. The first photo is the path that lay ahead. The second photo was the view as I turned to my left, and the third photo is looking back where we had come from.

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This last photo was take once we were at the top of the hill. The fence and pine trees on the left separate the park from the neighboring farm filed.

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As we picked rose hips we drew the attention of other walkers. Some inquired as to what we were picking and why. Perhaps you too are wondering why I wanted to pick rose hips.

Before I answer let me make this clear: I am not a Doctor. Nothing that you read here should be taken as medical advice. If you are sick you should seek help from a medical professional. You should check with your medical professional before using any type of medication or herbal supplement.

Rose hips are known to contain high amounts of vitamin C. You can check out this article from web md for more information. Vitamin C is said to be a great aid in the prevention of colds and flu, however if you read the web md article you will realize that vitamin C  is destroyed when heated and quickly diminishes during storage. While rose hips have other beneficial properties that can withstand heating, processing and storage, it is the vitamin C that I want to capture. My solution is to make rose hip tincture. Simply put tinctures are made by soaking herbs in alcohol to extract the beneficial properties of the herb.

Here is how I made the tincture. After cleaning the rose hips I crushed them and put them in a pint-size jar. I then fill the jar with Everclear. Vodka or brandy can also be used for making tinctures but Everclear has a higher alcohol content and is said to  extract more of the beneficial properties. I covered the jar with a tight fitting lid and gave it a good shake before storing it in a dark space where it will sit for at least two weeks. The instructions say I should shake it every day, but I do it as often as I remember when walking past. After at least two weeks (probably longer) I will strain the rose hips out and we will use the remaining liquid (tincture) as needed this winter to help ward off the bad guys (cold and flu bugs).

Rose hip tincture is not the only weapons in my flu fighting arsenal. It stands along side of elder flower tincture, that I like to make into syrup by mixing it with our raw honey, and hot pepper juice – a recipe I found here.

I have been grateful for the mild winter we have been having thus far, but it seems that change is in the air as the snow storm that arrived today brought along much colder temperatures. Brrrr!

How about you? Has your winter been good thus far? Do you have any special recipes you use to prevent or treat colds or the flu? I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading and be well. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Eggs Year Round

If you have been following my blog for a while now you may remember in this post from last spring I mentioned that we were adding to our flock with hopes that they would continue to provide us with fresh eggs through the winter. At that time we bought 12 chicks – 8 buff orpingtons and 4 black astralorps. When they were just a few days old one of the black astralorps became sick and died. We lost a second astralorp during the summer to some kind of predator, likely a hawk that carried it away, and we lost one of our young buffs due to an injury that wouldn’t heal. Thus we ended up adding 9 new layers to our flock.

I am happy to report that our plan has been a huge success. From December 1st through today our flock has provided an average of 7 eggs per day. Way more than my husband and I use.

Our current chicken count is 24. Here is the lineup –

  •  1 rooster and 23 hens
  • 2 of the hens will be 6 years old this coming spring (probably no longer laying)
  • 2 of the hens will be 4 years old this coming spring (probably laying few if any eggs)
  • 7 of the hens will be either 2 or 3 years old this spring ( we have had so many buff orpingtons it is hard to keep track of which ones we have lost) (should still be laying but maybe not as many as they once did).
  • 3 hens that will be two years old this coming spring (should be laying regularly)
  • 9 hens that will I year old this spring and just began laying late this past summer (laying regularly)

Having excess eggs has allowed us to continue to share them with family and friends. A couple days ago when we dropped some off for a neighbor he told us “these are the best eggs.” My husband replied “because we have happy chickens”.

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We keep happy chickens by allowing them to free range. They have plenty of room to spread out and peck and scratch and do what chickens love to do. Yes, there are risks involved and some times we lose chickens to predators, but thus far the rewards have far outweighed the risks.

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During the winter months it becomes more of a challenge to keep “happy chickens”. While we allow them access to the outdoors every day, when temperatures are bitter cold or there is snow on the ground the chickens seek protection from the elements.

This year my husband made them an additional sheltered area. He pulled our trailer near the chicken yard where it would be stored for the winter. After he blocked up the wheels to keep them off the ground, he  covered it with a large tarp. The tarp drapes over both sides all the way to the ground. He placed bricks on the tarp, both on the ground and on the trailer, to keep it from blowing in the wind.

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Underneath the trailer he spread straw and hay for the chickens to nestle in or scratch and peck through. He also places their food dish under the trailer each day.

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Thus far we have had an unseasonably warm winter and snow has been scarce, but on the days that we have had cold winds or snow, the chickens have taken advantage of this shelter rather than stay in the coop all day.

Do these look like happy chickens? 🙂