Tag: cold weather

Happenings Around the Homestead

Whew! What a week this has been! There isn’t much happening around the homestead, as we received a whopper of a snow this past week, which was followed by another snow, extreme cold temperatures, and then on Friday night into Saturday we had sleet, freezing rain, and rain. As I write this on Saturday morning, I suspect it is a terrible mess outside. There have been reports of folks roofs leaking, flooding due to drains on roads being clogged with snow and ice, and roads that are in treacherous shape. It doesn’t seem like it will get much better today, as I am expecting the temperature to hover right above freezing all day. By the time this post goes live, this will all be old news though, and we will be talking about the blustery cold temperatures Monday will bring us again. I am so ready for spring. ūüėÄ

I am sure many of you looked at the pictures I took, mostly of birds, last week.  I also took a few around the house of some monster icicles:

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #3

Monster Icicles #3

I just went out to check on the chickens, and wow it is messy.  The rain is melting some of the snow, and water is pooling everywhere.  It remains to be seen how this will be at the end of the day.

Oh!  I took a few pictures of my winter sowing project!

Winter Sowing - Peeking Through

Winter Sowing – Peeking Through

Winter Sowing Holes

Winter Sowing Holes

Even with a slow week around here, it wasn’t without some homesteading excitement though. I received a packet of seeds from Slovenia! These are minerature blue popcorn kernels (seeds). ¬†Check out the seeds and the envelope:

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

I know, I know. ¬†I am a bit weird to get so excited over popcorn kernels, but I am excited to incorporate this into my popcorn landrace. ¬†Aren’t those stamps cool too‚ÄĹ

 

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew, the cold weather is back again! ¬†If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that we have a doozie of a week happening, with a big snowfall yesterday (total of over 8¬†inches at my home) and some bitter cold temperatures coming. ¬†This resulted in us wrapping the coop with a tarp again to protect the birds from the wind that may come in through my less-than-windproof coop.

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Speaking of that, my aunt brought up a good question the other day. ¬†She can recall growing up not having to do anything special for the chickens in the winter, and I can’t remember my grandpa doing anything special with his henhouse. ¬†So why is it I feel I have to? ¬†Basically it boils down to this: ¬†I am not worried about them surviving the cold. ¬†There is plenty of chickens that make it even in -30 degree weather, but you do have to worry about frostbite. ¬†My Easter Eggers have no waddles or combs to speak of, so I don’t worry about them, but the Rhode Island Reds have waddles and combs that are a larger and more susceptible to frostbite. ¬†They would survive, no doubt, but it is introducing a possible health issue which I don’t want to have to deal with if I can avoid it. ¬†The answer is this: keep the wind and moisture down. ¬†Fortunately I have good ventilation in my coop, perhaps too much, which is why I choose to insulate it further with a tarp for the bitter cold: to keep the possible drafts in the coop to a minimum. ¬†So far our hens haven’t suffered any frostbite that I can see, so I will continue doing this when temperatures are down in the single digits.

Covering the coop this week will probably result in a decrease in the Easter Eggers egg laying.  In fact, their egg production has gone down this week, though I think they laid during the middle of the night twice this week, which ended up meaning the eggs broke and hens ate them.  That could have added 3-4 more eggs to the list, which would put in more in line with the normal production.  This week the totals were as follows: 22 Rhode Island Red eggs and 13 Easter Eggers, an increase of two for the Reds, and a decrease of six for the Easter Eggers.

I was surprised that none of the hens ventured out into the snow yesterday, or at least not that we saw. ¬†I did see what might have been footprints in the snow, but it had already snowed enough more that I couldn’t tell for sure. ¬†They didn’t stay in the coop either, but they did stay in the part of the chicken run right under their hen house, rather than venturing out into the new northern extension.

I don’t mind a good snow like this once a winter, but I do wish it weren’t accompanied by the terribly cold temperatures. ¬†We are now expecting -8 F later this week, which is very cold for our part of the country. ¬†So cold, in fact, there are numerous warnings going out to folks in preparation for the possibility of busted pipes. ¬†In short, this is not something our infrastructure is really built to handle. ¬†Praise God it is just a day or two, right?

Just in case you are interested, I did take some pictures of some of the song birds eating on our deck rail yesterday.  I am particularly fond of the Cardinals, how about you?

Happenings Around the Homestead

Every year about this time I fool myself into thinking spring is right around the corner.  We get a few warm days, and for some reason I believe winter is over.  Well, it is not!  It hit yesterday afternoon (Saturday) with a vengeance, and the temperature dropped several degrees in just a very short period of time.  This morning it is bitter cold outside, and they are saying we may get snow tonight!  My favorite weather forecaster, Beau Dodson, is saying the snow is very likely, as are some bitter cold temperatures mid week.

We attempted to cover the chicken coop with the tarp yesterday, but the wind was so strong it was merely an exercise in futility.

UPDATE: as of 4:30 AM on Monday morning, we have just over 3″ of snow. ¬†We were also able to cover the chicken coop yesterday to keep it a little better insulated. ¬†The chickens sure are enjoying having the new extended run though, as it allows them to get out in the sun, even when the rest is covered. ¬†We’ll see how they like that today with a big snow. ¬†ūüėÄ

Speaking of snow, I have long said that we get a real whopper of a snow storm (don’t laugh my New England friends) about every decade. ¬†A local weather enthusiast, Jason Darnell, did some research that backs this up. ¬†We have only had four single day snowfalls of greater than 8 inches, but look at the spacing:

  • December 22, 2004: 14 inches
  • February 15, 1993: 7.9 inches (yes, I know this is just under 8 inches, but it was followed 11 days later with another 7.3 inches).
  • January 16, 1978: 11 inches
  • March 6, 1967: 8 inches

As you can see, other than a 15 year span one time, we get an 8″ or greater snowfall about every decade.

As an interesting addition to this, in 1984 there was a two day snowfall of 8.2 inches and a one day snowfall of 7.1 inches, so we didn’t really skip that decade, we just had a five year snow prior to that. ¬†Actually, it looks like prior to 1984 we had a span of bigger snowfalls every five years, with a few interspersed one to three¬†year big snows:

  • 1984: one day snow of 7.1 inches and a separate two day snowfall of 8.2 inches
  • 1979: three day snowfall of 8 inches
  • 1978: 11 inches
  • 1975: one day snowfall of 5 inches
  • 1970: ¬†two day snowfall of 7 inches
  • 1967: 8 inches
  • 1965: two day snowfall of 7 inches

This week I did get the first round of winter sowing done.  Here let me share a little bit about that.

The principle is this: instead of using grow lights and having to harden of your plants, you begin by planting outside in mini-greenhouses.  During the winter the varying weather causes the seeds to freeze and thaw, expand and contract, and eventually grow.  The mini-greenhouse offers enough protection to keep the plants alive, and also keeps you from having to harden them off, as that happens naturally.  It made sense to me, after all, this is more how it happens in nature, yet still might give me a jump on the summer.

So, you begin by collecting as many milk jugs and other plastic bottles as you can.  This is a small group I am starting with:

Winter Sowing - The Milk Jugs

Winter Sowing – The Milk Jugs

The first thing you have to do is drill some drainage holes in the bottom of the jugs.  If not, too much water will stay in them and the seeds may rot before they grow.

Winter Sowing - Drilling Holes

Winter Sowing – Drilling Holes

Winter Sowing - Drainage Holes

Winter Sowing – Drainage Holes

Once that is done you need to cut the jugs in half.

Winter Sowing - Cutting the Jug

Winter Sowing – Cutting the Jug

Then fill them with potting soil.

Winter Sowing - Filling with Potting Soil

Winter Sowing – Filling with Potting Soil

Once that was done, I put the jugs back together and moved them outside.  I wish I had just finished them on the day I started them, but time did not allow that.

Winter Sowing - Filled Jugs

Winter Sowing – Filled Jugs

Finally it was time to sow seeds.  I just kind of scattered my seeds in the jugs, but I labeled them inside and outside, plus on the bottom, knowing that the sun will fade the labeling sticks.

Winter Sowing - Adding Seeds

Winter Sowing – Adding Seeds

I then taped the jugs shut with duct tape.

Winter Sowing - The Final Mini-Greenhouse

Winter Sowing – The Final Mini-Greenhouse

And finally I set them out by my raised garlic beds where they would get good morning sun.  Notice all the lids are off.  That is to allow the rain to get in the jugs.  It also keeps the temperature from getting too high on warm days.

Winter Sowing - Round 1

Winter Sowing – Round 1

If you want more details, Wintersown.org is the place to go, but this should be enough to give you the general idea. ¬†Now let’s watch and see if they grow!

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew!  What an interesting week!  Winter has arrived!  As first time chicken owners in the winter, we are learning a lot, not the least of which is how to care for the birds in the bitter cold.  We have received some low-teen temperatures this week, which I felt were cold enough to warrant supplemental heating.  The challenge is doing that safely.

After much reading, I decided to use a red heat lamp – the same lamp I used to keep the birds warm when they were too small to handle the cold. ¬†I have read many comments against this method, mainly because of the fire risk, but also because of the potential of causing sickness in the birds if they go from hot to cold temperatures. ¬†I felt confident the light was secured, and it was far enough away from the birds I felt it would not allow them to get hot. ¬†The truth is, I didn’t think it was making enough difference, so we added a second red heat lamp.

My intent with this was not to heat the coop, it was simply to knock the chill off. ¬†I don’t really want to raise the temperature even above freezing, but just up above the 25 degree mark. ¬†I am reckoning that will allow them to not suffer from extreme temperature changes.

Even with all that in mind, there are many blog and forum posts out there of folks who are a lot further north than I am, yet they do not heat their coops.  Their coops are well insulated, but no heat.  That surely makes me question if I am making the right choice.

All that said, I have only heated the coop a few nights now, but I already have lessons learned.

  1. This must be used judicially.  The birds do not need a sauna.
  2. A better option is a well-insulated (and yet well-ventilated) coop.
  3. These birds are resilient.  They can handle colder temperatures than I thought.
  4. Water, water, water.  The birds must have water, not ice!
  5. Finally, I may not continue this plan.

Whether I continue or not remains to be seen.  I need some more time, and I need to get the coop insulated.  In the absence of insulation, I have to provide, or at least I feel I have to provide, supplemental heating on nights below 20 degrees.

As you can see, I still have lots to learn and decisions to make.

As if that is not enough change for the week, I am also dealing with a dramatic reduction in egg production.  Wow.  The Rhode Island Reds laid 22 eggs, but the Easter Eggers only laid 10!

Never a dull moment, that is for sure.

 

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another slow week around the homestead. ¬†I’ve been wresting with a cough for a couple of weeks now, so I dare not get out and work in the cold. ¬†And cold it is! ¬†It has already reached the mid-teens. ¬†For some, that may not be that cold, but it is quite early in the year for us to experience that in western Kentucky.

As I was going down to work on the chicken coop Saturday (more on that tomorrow), I noticed how healthy and vibrant the horehound and catnip are.  It is such a joy to see plants growing and thriving in the bitter cold like this.  That is one reason I enjoy the mints so much, the thrive all winter long.

We have also received our first snow worth mentioning this morning, with the ground and the roads barely covered. ¬†I thought we might¬†get more snow that we did, but honestly, I am indifferent about it as long as I can safely drive. ¬†My boys, however, love the snow. ¬†I don’t, however, like the bitter cold, which is what we have going on right now.

I guess the last think worth noting for the week is that the wood chippers seems to have moved on, and I am two loads short of what I need.  I do have enough to move forward with my Back to Eden garden though, and I will begin working on it as soon as this cough subsides.

The Chicken Chronicles

I am not sure the ladies knew what was coming when the cold spell hit this week.  While they were protected in their coop, I am pretty sure this is the look Charity got this morning when she opened their door to the run:

Thankfully they are protected from the wind, and if you ever wonder how they handle the cold, just place your hand between two of them on the roosting bar.  It is nice and warm!

Despite the shorter days and cold weather, these hens are still laying, and I couldn’t be happier, though I am still expecting a slow down to come any time now. ¬†This week they laid a total of 46 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds outdoing the Easter Eggers, 25 to 21.

We also had an egg-bound hen again this week, and it was the SAME HEN, Snow White! ¬†I am not sure what is up with her, but I think she must not be getting enough calcium. ¬†Charity and the boys were able to give her calcium dissolved in water, and within 5 minutes out popped the egg! ¬†That happened the first time too, so it seems that is pretty fast acting. ¬†It’s funny, this is the hen most reluctant to let us hold her, but when she is egg bound, we hold her to calm her down. ¬†Perhaps that is what she is after all along, but doesn’t want to admit it. ¬†ūüėÄ

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