Well into winter, January was a relatively calm month here on the farm. We had our first snowfall, and like the kid I am at heart – I got so excited in anticipation I could hardly sleep. One eye on the weather app, one eye out the window watching for that first snowflake! Nights are cold, days are too, with the exception of a few sunny days bringing temperatures up into the 50’s and 60’s. On really cold, dreary days, inside projects like soap making, crafting, food prep, and reading take precedence. If the internet cooperates, we look for information on Youtube videos, mostly on gardening and freeze drying. Sunny, mild days are perfect for outside tasks like working on the “Poultry Palace” and making walkways. Tom is welding shelves for the barn and getting it ready for its final bit of enclosure. We’ve ordered the rough cut and secured an extra hand to help with the labor so hopefully, this project will go quickly. The Rabbitat got a good cleaning out and extra bedding added. The hens have come off their winter doldrums and are laying beautiful brown, tan, blue and olive colored eggs.
Winter on the farm is a much slower pace than the other seasons, but not without its activity. Like the earth, we take this time to recharge our bodies, our minds and our souls for the coming spring which brings a burst of activity. With shorter days and longer nights, this is a perfect opportunity to snuggle in and get a few extra hours of rest. Outside, under a blanket of snow or hard frozen ground, earth is regenerating, seeds are overwintering, many trees and plants lie dormant. All this in preparation for new growth ahead. Animals, both domestic and wild, have slowed their pace, conserving their energies for keeping warm on a long winter’s night. Many birds have migrated south for warmer climates, many stay put and survive on the resources provided by Mother Nature or a kind hearted homesteader eager to see a flurry of activity around a bird feeder. Farm animals, many accustomed to grazing in grass filled pastures, are dependent on well-stocked hay barns and grain bins.
Sochi In The Snow
While winter brings a time of rest for most everyone else, the livestock guardian dogs and farm dogs are on full time duty. Sochi is having more trouble moving around, at eight years old, she is showing her age, so on very cold nights, she gets a warm spot in the people house. The other dogs (Cami and the livestock guardians) spend most of their nights barking and warning off potential predators. They catch up on their rest during the day where they have heated spaces in the new dog house and the hay shed, or their favorite spot in the sunshine.
This is our third winter here at Magick Moon Farm. Each year we feel a little more prepared to handle extreme weather conditions and our growing animal population. Nothing shows our accomplishments better than a well build shelter, padded with bedding where our animals can nestle in and be protected from the elements. Being the “mother hen” that I am, I often flashlight in hand, trek out in freezing temperatures just to make sure everyone is tucked in safe and sound. Once assured that all is well and everyone is safe, I can then relax my mind and prepare my body for a long winter’s nap.
Three Different Parasites from a Goat Fecal. Ug.
This winter has not been without challenges and disappointments. A very warm and rainy autumn made perfect conditions for the dreaded barber pole parasite which took its toll on our buck pasture. We lost two of our boys, Apollo and Gregory, due to the inability to properly eradicate the parasites from their systems and fight the anemia and pneumonia which eventually claimed their lives. Here on the farm, we always strive to learn from each experience. The struggle with parasites made us realize the importance of rotational pasturing and learning to do our own fecal monitoring. We purchased a microscope (AmScope) and I have been successful in learning to identify several parasites and how to determine the effectiveness of my de-worming protocol as needed. Three new pasture/grazing areas are in the works so that some can lie dormant while others are providing new growth and fodder. It is our hope and expectation that these measures, along with our ever growing knowledge of proper nutrition and exercise for the animals will help us grow and maintain happy, healthy livestock for our little farm.
As we look to February, we will see what the groundhog has to say, and hope for an early spring! We will be scurrying to build out the stalls in the barn in preparation for kidding which will start late in the month. With seven does bred, I can hardly wait for the arrival of bouncing baby goats.
Sebastapol Goose - pretty sure it's a female!
I have been watching the Sebastopol geese for signs of mating. Still not sure if I have a pair, but pretty certain that at least one of them is female. According to the breeder, they should start nesting in the next couple of months. Out of the four silkie chicks that hatched, one is a cockerel, and three are hens and I look forward to breeding and raising more of this funny, fuzzy little chicken. The other egg-layers have been separated into breeding pens with the goal of hatching out pure Cream Legbars, French Copper Marans, Buff Orpingtons and Lavender Orpingtons. I will also cross breed a few to get some olive eggers. The end goal is to have a beautiful assortment of eggs and chicks to sell at the Farmer’s Market and to replenish our aging flock to ensure continuation of egg production.
Frost on the last of the Garden - Collard Greens
Think of winter as a time to prepare for renewal. Push past the darkness and dread that shorter, colder days can bring and meditate on healing and learning. In addition to routine things, like chores and doctor visits, try something new like a good book or a new recipe. Reach out to an old friend or make a new one. Take a few minutes before you go to sleep to offer thanks for days past; clear your mind and ask for an good night’s rest and guidance for tomorrow. Spend some time away from social media and work. Weather permitting, bundle up and go for a walk, or just stretch out those muscles so they don’t get too weak. Breathe. Relax. Prepare. Look Ahead. Until next month…