After a warm Fall and early Winter painting, installing pavers and digging drainage ditches which I hadn’t gotten to during the Summer, Mother Nature sent a whopper of a snowstorm to keep things interesting.
In mid-December I had tried to start the snow blower bought towards the end of last March and only used twice, but it wouldn’t start. Since it was still under warranty, I had it picked up and repaired. The snow blower wouldn’t start because a wasp nest completely filled the carburetor! Surprised and yet not (since wasps build nests everywhere here, including in the door hinges of vehicles if they are parked outside), at least I was prepared one day ahead of the snow storm.
It snowed for over 24 hours (Jan. 23-24), and at times the snow fall rate was over 2 inches per hour. Despite the awesome snow blower (24 inches high and 30 inches wide), I had to do the driveway and animal paths twice because of the large amount of snow piling up. By 6AM Saturday morning there was already over a foot of snow in the driveway. It was perfect snow, light and fluffy and easy to shovel. Usually the snow here is wet and very heavy so it was a delight to be out in this gorgeous snow. Good thing since it took days to get everything cleared! It was also good luck that the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as originally predicted since the snow fall amount was much greater than predicted.
The driveway itself only took 4 hours (two hours each time). Since there are a lot of small buildings (run in shelters, hen houses, hay shed, hay feeders, etc.) it takes a lot of time to clear the roofs so they don’t collapse under a large snowfall and some areas have to be hand shoveled. As a precaution I had packed the hay feeders with hay in advance so I wouldn’t need to move hay up to the barn or run in shelters for several days.
After spending over 8 hours getting the snow cleared on Saturday, the whole job had to be done again on Sunday as if nothing had been done. By the time the driveway was done the first time, there was already over a foot re-accumulated in the “clean” driveway. All day Monday and Tuesday were spent moving piles from areas that had to be hand dug as the snow only throws so far and making some of the paths wider. Quite a nice view standing on the wether’s shelter and tossing snow off the roof as far as it would go.
The whole farm is on a slope that runs down to the pond and creeks so drainage is always an issue once the snow melts. This snow storm was perfect, with sunny days and close to freezing temps so that the snow mostly sublimed rather than melting and creating ice every day. Of course it came to an end with 2 inches of rain a week later, turning the whole farm into mud with the consistency of quick sand.
None of the animals like snow removal implements of any kind, neither human nor machine powered but approve of the end result. When the snow is this deep they wait for paths to be dug for them. This snow was a good 4 inches above my knee and thus exhausting for me to walk in it. I can only imagine how hard it would be for a shorter animal such as the goats or for deer. The chickens don’t like snow but will go out in it for short periods of time if it’s not very deep. Like the goats and sheep they will eat snow to get a quick “drink” while they are out and about. I bring my animals warm water several times a day as I think it’s better for them to drink water that’s closer to body temperature when the outside temperature is cold. They do appreciate it and will drink large amounts of warm water.
Rabbits raced through the paths and at times they would jump out and skim across the snow with their built-in snow shoe feet while all the other local wildlife were in hiding for several days.
Spring is trying to make a return. Still some hard frosts at night but the days are reaching the 60’s some days which is a welcome change. Boot removing mud is everywhere as is typical for Spring. The wetness makes it impossible to do much of the cleanup needed as just walking makes huge ruts in what one hopes will someday return to grass. This is my eternal battle, trying to keep grass growing and yet continually losing it a section at a time. Around here pasture once lost is almost never regained due to traffic, preferential eating of the newly emerging plant life or the mysterious compunction to sleep on bare or newly seeded ground. As I do every year, I am contemplating installing french drains near the barn and more permanent paving than gravel for the path up the hill to the chicken yard and barn. Maybe this will be the year! Spring is so beautiful and yet there is always a period in which I am over whelmed thinking about all the work needed to cleanup from the winter. Maybe that’s why so many people move south!
One of my one year old laying hens prolapsed and I decided to put her down. I could have pushed her insides back in and tried to tie it up to see if it would hold until it had repaired itself, but thought it unlikely since a chicken is programmed to push eggs out every day. Several days later I lost a very old hen to reproductive system tumors, so the farm is down 4 laying hens in 2014. However, new chicks are coming in several weeks! This year I’m trying several new (to me) varieties that are bred to hatch well during the winter: Faverolles (French) and Chanteclers (Canadian). Tried to get Faverolles last year but they didn’t hatch at the right time for the rest of my order. The Australorps from last year are doing well despite the cold winter and their huge combs. I was afraid they might get badly frost bitten (knowing from personal experience how painful frostbite is) but they have only a few very small spots of damage and they seem happy and are laying well. I love the way they run to me when I call them – just like groupies at a rock concert, running with their wings outstretched and screaming (“wait I’m coming too!!!!) if one gets too far behind the rest of the group.
On April Fool’s Day I rescued a middle age cat that had been trapped by animal control and was being held by a vet I often use. No one had showed up to claim her in 4 weeks and I thought an older cat would be hard for the vet to place so I took her home. After a few days my current cat Ozzie was getting used to her and found her very intriguing, and she was settling in but still unnerved by his fixed stare and the way he would pounce up to the fence that separated them if she started eating. On day four the vet calls and tells me the owner has shown up and is looking for the cat! I take her back of course, glad that she could be returned to her original home but it was sad too. She was very sweet and well behaved, and think she would have made a nice playmate for Ozzie. He had a great evening checking out all the toys she had used during her visit.
Foxes are showing up on the game camera almost every night the last several weeks after no signs of them most of the winter. Racoons have returned to view as well. A neighboring farm has seen tracks of a pack of 5 coyotes and has been finding deer they took down. Last April I lost 2 of my oldest goats (>100 pounds each) to coyotes, the first time in almost 20 years here at the farm that I had ever lost a goat/sheep to a four legged predator. Since then I’ve been locking them into corrals at night which is a bit of a challenge with goats as they are programmed to whack things with their heads/horns and need a fair amount of space or they beat each other up as part of their social hierarchy maintenance. After several months of putting up the corrals and making adjustments the arrangement is working well, other than the extra work it entails (letting them out, locking them in and daily cleanup). A bit of extra works certainly beats finding mostly eaten carcasses in the pasture!
Had to reschedule shearing due to rain, but since it has been so much colder than normal think overall it was a good thing. Will try again on Good Friday. Poor egan stepped on something and really messed up her foot. Have been cleaning and re-bandaging it for about 3 weeks now as of course the barn area is 4 inches deep in mud. I’ve perfected the art of duct tape booties through the years and hers goes all the way to her knee. It keeps her foot clean and dry over the bandage and it’s loose enough to allow some air to enter from around the top. She is finally walking normally so I’m hoping to stop bandaging her next week. She’ll be happy as she is tired of my cornering her in the barn to con her into eating Ibuprofen for the pain and changing the bandages!