The days are getting longer as we enter the hard winter months. I consider January and February as the two months of hard winter. November and December are the months that start winter and March and April are the months that start spring but January and February belong only to winter.
During the hard winter months there is not a lot progressing on the farm, we mostly huddle down and wait. We wait for the weather to warm up, we wait for the days to lengthen, and we work at maintaining our health and the health of the animals.
Hay for Horses
This year was not a good year for haymaking which means hay is in short supply. We bought most of the hay we needed in July before it became really wet and obvious that it would be a bad hay year. I say most because we have an extra horse this year that we hadn’t had before. I calculated how much hay we would need but I forgot that when given free rein on hay horses are really pretty pigs. I figured a 1,000 pound round bale would last two horses about two and a half weeks when apparently they can eat a round bale in a week and a half. This harsh reality burned about a month off my hay supply.
I am feeding small squares now and rationing how much hay they get. They are no longer fat like they were when I let them free range on the round bales but now they are maintaining their proper weight. They are also pissy about their new diet it but last year I bought 50 pound small squares for $3 while right now the price is $7 -$10 for a 50 pound bale. Needless to say they are sticking to their regimented diet for the remainder of the winter.
There is nothing new with maintaining the goats over the winter. Mainly we bring them in at night, give them hay, break open their water, and make sure they have a good salt and mineral block. The block is important for the does to keep them healthy while they, hopefully, develop healthy babies. Goats need copper and selenium in their diets to stay healthy. We discovered this a few years ago when one of our goat kids was born with a little lump on his throat. It didn’t bother him in anyway but it was a deformity that we wondered about until Trenton’s uncle Kenny told him our goats needed a better mineral block. He had raised goats a few years before and had the same problem until he provided goat specific minerals and then poof no more lumpy babies.
The girls huddle together in the barn at night and Franky, our buck, has also been enjoying time in the barn. The good part about Franky in the barn at night is that he gets handled more when we bring him in and put him outside in the morning. The bad part is that he is not always docile. Right now his behavior is mostly playful but there are times when I can see him think about being more aggressive. He is on my watch list for aggressive behaviors. We have a strict no aggressive males on the farm policy but I would like to get one more breeding season from him at least.
I think the chickens dislike the winter the most. They are unhappy about the snow, cold, and darkness of winter. Of my 17ish flock I am getting 1-2 eggs a day. That is enough to keep us mostly in eggs but not enough to sell to anyone. We were able to clean the coop with a mid December thaw and the fresh straw to pick through kept them happy for a few days but now they are back in their winter slump. I’m hoping with the longer days they will start laying soon. We are also trying to decide if we want to incubate chicks at home this year or buy a few chicks to freshen the flock.
Kids (The human kind)
Lucian, Fiona, Penelope and I unloaded a trailer full of firewood on Sunday while it was above freezing. It was nice to have all the kids out working without them crying they were cold within 10 minutes. Penny sat in her sled and watched us work while I hauled the wood and Lucian and Fiona slid it closer to the end of the trailer so I could reach it. Lucian and Fiona have been enjoying going sledding down one of the giant snow banks created when we plowed the driveway. They sled each day when Lucian gets done with school and come in rosy cheeked and wet from rolling in the snow.
I have been hastily knitting birthday presents for a while but I think I am done now and can work on more leisurely projects. I’m looking forward to warmer weather. Before long it will be sugar season and we will start tapping the maple trees. The kids love hiking out to collect sap and I do too. Penny is old enough now to go out in the sled so I hope we do better on sap this year. Last year we didn’t tap as many trees as we usually do so we ran out of syrup a long time ago.