Wednesday, December 8, 2010

our antlers are cold

It's a calm night here at the farm. I'm bottling Irish Stout and feeding the wood stove. I usually am at the stables, but tonight I canceled my riding lesson due to the temperature. It's twelve degrees now, and by the time we hit pre-dawn it may very well drop below zero. I wanted to keep an eye on the animals on this unusually cold night we're having. To make up for the low temperatures everyone's getting a few extra calories and a place to hunker down and stay out of the wind.

The chicken's wire windows have been covered in plastic and cracked corn has been added to their diet. I up their usual feed an additional third when it gets like this, and I do it for two really important reasons: a full chicken is a warm and content chicken. With snow confining them to the coop. close quarters can lead to fighting. So if everyone has enough, they tend to remain calmer and snooze instead of squabble. Also, extra fuel means extra heat. The birds are warmer with corn in their stove piping. The only other cold weather routines I have is plenty of fresh, thick bedding on top of older bedding to create compost and heat under their feet (a deep bed poo-composting coop is a warmer coop) and add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to their water (helps with the coughs).

The pig has her heat lamp still. She loves it like her own personal tanning bed. I turn it on and let her bath in it a few hours before I turn in. But by the time I do my last night rounds of closing the chicken coop door and turning off the lights in the barn: she's already under her mountain of hay. She's also getting some cracked corn in her pig ration, and all the extra human food I can manage. It's served her well - she's doubled in size!

The sheep remain sheep. No matter how cold it gets they seem to prefer the hill to the barn. The original three still use their small shed we built in Vermont, nearly three years ago, and the Scots seem to venture in and out but until the snow gets really deep or it gets really stormy: I think they'll remain outdoors as they like it.

Gibson seems all healed up. This weekend I will let him work a few of his sheep for the first time for a few minutes. I'm ready. He's ready. The sheep are ready. I know this because tonight when I took him out for an evening pee (his, not mine) he took a lunge at the flock from our side of the fence and all 8 took off up the hill in a fever. We felt both our hearts race, it was the first and only time I ever moved that many animals (even for a moment) with dog power. He saw them move and lunged at his leash to round them up. I told him a quiet, "That'll do" and brought him inside. He sat by the front door pouting for an hour. He now knows just outside the red paint is everything he's ever wanted, but he can't have it just yet. Love hurts, baby.

photo from http://www.oldtimefarmshepherd.org

10 Comments:

Blogger GirlSavorsLife said...

In the early morning of winter,I can tell, by looking out the window and at the sky, how cold it will be. The clearer the skies and brighter the stars, the colder the temperatures. A hazy, cloudy sky usually means warmer temperatures with a chance of snow. Not sure which I like best, unless I'm getting ready for an early morning jog, then I hope I don't see stars.

Sounds like you and your brood are ready for the cold and are cozy in your respective homes. Hope Gibson continues to heal fully.

December 8, 2010 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

The furnace keeps shutting off. Some tube to the vent freezes and closes down.... i was on the phone for the third time this week with the repair guys...

December 8, 2010 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I must have missed it - from what is Gibson healing up?

December 8, 2010 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

He hurt his elbow at the office, playing rough with the other dogs, running around and jumping off rocks. He's okay now.

December 8, 2010 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Working dogs think they're impervious. :)

It amuses me to no end to hear you talk about your sheep. Sheep and goats are so similar, and yet worlds apart. If my goats never got cold, slept outside and were easy to corral, that would be like nirvana. But then they'd be sheep!

Hope you all stay warm this night.

December 9, 2010 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

ha ha ha Gibson pouted for an hour by the door. I love when you can tell dogs are pouting - I could just picture him. You've got quite an operation going there - and from one single woman to another - it's so impressive you do it all your own.

December 9, 2010 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Cary said...

Jenna, how do you keep the chicken's water from freezing? Do you recommend a water heater? Thanks!

December 9, 2010 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

I admire you, Jenna. I really do. You are accomplishing much for one so young and it's a delight for the rest of us to read about your farm adventures. Thanks so much for giving us a daily glimpse into your world. Blessings, Debra

December 9, 2010 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Chicky said...

Jenna - Do you use regular store bought apple cider vinegar in the chicken's water? And how much water gets the 1 teaspoon of vinegar? The reason I ask is because I've read you're "not supposed to use" or "can't use" regular store bought apple cider vinegar & it has to be the all natural kind with sediment in the bottom...but living in a small town on a small budget, I don't know if I'd be able to find the all natural stuff. Just curious - so many opinions out there it's hard to tell what's fact from fiction.

December 10, 2010 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Chicky said...

Cary-
We bring in the coop water at night b/c right now the coop is too small for anything other than a small waterer (going to rebuild that coop next summer so it's roomier for the ladies :)), but we use a heated dog dish for the water in their run. We have it hooked to an outdoor-grade extension cord b/c their "living arrangements" aren't close to the outlet. We elevate the dish with leftover patio bricks to keep them from roosting on top; had good luck so far.

Check out www.backyardchickens.com too - lots of good info.

December 10, 2010 at 8:06 PM  

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