Friday, December 18, 2020

Gail Force

A few days ago the weather forecast said there was a 30% chance of snow with only light accumulation. Over the next 72 hours I watched the forecast slowly grow in percents and inches. The night before it snowed, there was a suggestion of up to 9 inches would fall in the night, with another 4 the next morning. And that is what I thought I was waking up to.

Instead the lowest point of snowfall was 25”, with drifts well over 4 feet tall. We got SLAMMED. And yesterday was the hardest day’s work I have ever done on this farm. And thank a thousand tiny gods I wasn’t alone. We started digging paths to move around at 8:30. We dug out every coop, barn, and made sure every critter had a path from their shelter to their food/water stations. Roofs were raked. Chicken waterers brought inside to thaw by the wood stove. And by the time I realized we needed to stop for a breakfast break it was already 1pm.

Shoveling snow like that, across acres and standing on roof… It completely drains you. Total body exhaustion, but by the time we were having dinner we had that perfect knowledge that all the work we did was necessary and important work. Both of us felt it was a great day. Outside, using muscle and hope, dragging snow off barns and cracking through icy covers over drinking fonts. It was the kind of work that feeds you. And I am reminded again why I chose this life. It’s never boring. Each day brings work, adventure, and import.

That work was appreciated again today when watching the sheep walk down their tunnel to their water and grain, when the dogs zoomed around our ant colony for morning chores. When the horses got hay safe and warm in the morning light. It’s easy to feel fulfilled when the entire morning is being of use, even to an anxious dog nearly tripping you as you balance buckets on lumpy snow.

Happy to report that 41 bales were delivered hours before the snow fell. The barn still needs more but this is a nice band aid on a bleeding cut. Having that hay put up and another cord of wood stacked while still burning the first feels safer, and better, than years earlier.

I hope you guys are safe and warm in your own homes. Looks like it’ll be a Winter Wonderland for Yule!

And now for a -2 degree night! Wish the pipes luck!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Hay Shortage

There's a serious issue happening around here right now, a hay shortage. And by here I don't just mean Cold Antler Farm. The oddly dry summer in Washington county meant grass simply didn't get enough rain to grow well. Hay wasn't is now rare and expensive in these parts; when and if you find it.

The 130 bales I set aside to get a jump start on winter feed are nearly gone and it took a lot of searching, calls, favors, and luck to find a possible hay delivery for the farm this coming week. I am optimistic but I don't like to say this farm is okay till the little barn here is back to full capacity (100-130 bales).

Hay is something the horses and sheep need here. So that is some good news! That I was able to find someone to deliver around 100 bales within the next two weeks. The problem is that it isn't enough so I am not sure what the next steps will be. Either way I will be using all the money I have to buy in that hay and hope to earn it back soon as possible. Or I need to sell livestock.

It's a problem that is being addressed fast as possible. We have a lot of farms like mine in the same boat. People who don't have storage space for hundreds of bales and buy as they go, planning ahead a few weeks at a time. I am hoping that people either ship in hay from the south or west, or maybe go in on big loads? I'll keep you posted but wanted to share this story in case anyone local has a hay source or some to trade or sell?

That is the biggest news around here right now. The farm's mortgage is only paid through October so I am still tryin to cover last month nearly halfway through this one. It's frustrating and a little scary. Not overly so. Like I said, I'm trying to be optimistic. But a lot of change is possible. Keep me in kind thoughts and stay safe out there!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Welcome December!

The first week of December brought snowflakes and real cold to the farm. Tonight the lows will reach the teens and the pond is frozen with a banket of flurries making it appear like a perfect piece of broken glass in the barren woods. During morning chores, while cracking through the ice in the pigs buckets, I noticed how instense a cardinal looks under a gray sky and leafless bush. What an amazing gift of color and sound. The night are growing darker and it feels like midnight at 6PM every day, but if you look for it the frozen ponds and songbirds bring promises of light's return. And in the meantime if you can focus on the care and comfort of animals, making the home cozy and safe, and eating more than your share of cookies - you'll make it to the solstice just fine.

It's a weird holiday. Not as sad as ones in my past but the pandemic makes it feel like a holiday trapped in the snowglobe, and not in a cute way. We are all so sepeatated from each other. I have been getting so many cards and hanging them in the window on strands of twine. Shannon too, she gets cards from friends and family and we string them together like reminders we're not alone in this season. But the pandemic makes everything feel tighter, a little scarier. In rural America there's a figth between people who still don't believe Covid will ever hurt or touch them, and those terrified to go to essential work every day. I am grateul to be on this farm and able to make soap and work on art from home. It's been tight, but sometimes a big sale or luck comes through and it's enough to order some gifts without guilt and still pay the electric bill and that is the real light of this season - to still be making it. The OCtober morthage is paid and I'm savig for the Novemeber one and I hope to mail it off soon. That's a bit of good news. Hoestly, all of us still living and whole right now have good news.

I'm trying to practice yoga daily, which has been amazing for my anxiety and heart. Stretching went from a chore to a release and the best massage I can give my body, inside and out. I look forward to the yoga mat now. Shannon is the reason. Her practice slowly became mine. And I can tell you how much easier it is to lift my leg over fences or stand on one foot to scrape poop off my boot. Little gifts can't be discounted!

I hope you are all safe and sound. I hope your holidays are kind and small. I hope you find warm light and promise of another spring not too far off. Be kind and open and gentle with the world right now. We all need it more than ever.