The Long, Hard, Winter

It’s been a rough winter for us on the homestead. As Ed told you, we lost all our bees. By the way, thank all of you who offered him so much encouragement. We really appreciate it. He has decided that if we can make it through some financial difficulties, he will try again.

So, yes, we’ve had some financial difficulties, which we aren’t through yet (prayers always appreciated), and we’ve had some health issues as well. The health issues have mostly been mine, and I’m still trying to work through all that. The doctors can’t quite figure out what’s wrong, although they have some guesses (prayers appreciated there too).

Weather-wise, it has been a cold, wet winter. I have no idea how much snow and rain we’ve had altogether, but the well is overflowing. Remember that drought last summer? Yeah, we’re over that.

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As you can see, the water is actually out of the well and climbing the cinder block.

In addition to the wet, the bitter cold presented its own challenges. There were several days where the temperature was below zero, and that was without the wind. From what I understand, the local kids have missed at least fifteen days of school due to bad weather.

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Part of the elm tree on the garage and chicken tractor. Thankfully, the rest of the tree is still standing

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Our car stuck sideways in our driveway

When we finally had some pretty days, Sunny Rooster couldn’t wait to free range himself. Unfortunately, he got out one time too many, and all we found was feathers. Chicken Girl is inconsolable. We put all the chickens back in the big coop. One of Moony’s hens decided she liked laying eggs back in her old coop, so she was getting out too. Praying she’ll get over that. Don’t think Chicken Girl could take losing another one so soon.

The coop renovations never got finished last fall. With all the water, some of the posts started to shift, so it looks like we may have to scrap that idea and start over. Whatever we do, it needs to be soon so we can keep any independent chickens from leaving the coop.

A neighbor, who has veterinary experience, gave our chickens some medicine for the mites. They will probably need to be treated again though. She said the coop will need to be scrubbed out because they live in the wood. One more reason for a new coop.

This picture is from a few weeks ago. Chicken Girl noticed that one of Moony’s claws was curling back into his skin, so she decided to clip it. I don’t know what Bookworm was doing. Supervising?

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Chicken Girl, Moony and Bookworm

On a lighter note, Libby is doing very well and has gained all her weight back. She still has no bowel control, but it’s solid so we can quickly clean it up. She’s obviously feeling better, except for some arthritis, and often plays with the other dogs. Both Gracie and Rex enjoy playing with her, but I think Meeko is a little jealous of “his” Libby.

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Libby and Gracie

For some reason, Meeko and Rex, who were both neutered as puppies, have decided they need to mark the house. We don’t know if it’s a dominance thing or an anxiety thing. Regardless of the reason, we need to do a deep scrubbing to make sure they aren’t just coming back the odor, which they can smell a hundred times better than we can. Great. One more thing.

Recently, I had two pleasant surprises that fell right in line with my wanting to “learn it all.” The homestead blogging network that I follow but don’t belong to had a giveaway of the introductory course from The Herbal Academy of New England. I entered but didn’t think any more about it. (I enter things all the time). I was shocked when they emailed me that I had won. So, yes now, I am working through that course, and yes, I’ll be sharing some of that info with you.

The four herb pots that I put in the basement greenhouse for winter are doing very well. The smell of rosemary and lavender is wonderful inside that little enclosure. I should have done it already, but soon, I will get some seeds started. Not sure how much we really want to do this year, but I do have a few herbs that I definitely want to start, so I’ll share that as soon as I do it.

The other surprise was discovering that there is someone here in Braymer who weaves and spins. After I told her of my interest, she invited me to a group of people who are big into fiber arts, so yes, I am learning there too. Got my first left-handed knitting lesson last week, and got to play with a spinning wheel. I need a LOT of practice. So expect to hear more about that too.

Ed has a new series of posts that he is working on that he’ll start sharing with you next week. In the meanwhile, I’m working on my own set of “make your own” posts.

Connie

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Just Plain Chicken Sense

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I picked this up from Facebook. It might be a slight exaggeration but it has been kinda wet this year.

On this day last week, I was driving in fence post and wiring up a fence while wearing a tee shirt, blue jeans, boots and the ever present hat. Actually I was kind of warm. A week later, if I want to walk from the house to the garage I have to dress like Nanook of the North. Such is life in Missouri  Winter, having arrived a tad late, is perfectly willing to catch up.

Cold weather does not, however, relieve us of our responsibility to provide for and care for the animals. So it was Katherine to our bachelor chicken pad. (For those not up on the news we have two roosters and no hens; a situation I plan to rectify shortly) while her mother and I prepared to feed and water the dogs.

The cats, as always, set their own course. Captain decided to go out on one of her walkabouts, but she did not get past the door mat before she was back in. Book Worm got off Connie’s desk long enough to look out the window in awe and wonder. Bookie is at, or approaching, five years old. Every winter she sees snow and then looks at us as if to say, “See what you did?” Adora, AKA Arrhythmia, continued walking post up and down the basement steps and pleading in a loud voice to get in or out as the moment required.

 

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This is a picture of Book Worm taken before our messing up everything by making it snow again. She thought we had learned from last year.

The dogs, including the stumpy grand-dog, were absolutely delighted with the whole thing. Dogs are among the Good Lord’s most amusing and most easily amused creatures. They wake up in the morning, find freezing white stuff on the ground, and begin to run around frantically kicking up clouds of snow.

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This is Meeko and Libby. If you notice, Meeko is favoring that left leg, but he shows no pain when you manipulate it, so I think it is habit. They want us to come play in the snow. I want to go get a cup of coffee.

I am an Appalachian boy raised in a wood heated cabin with no running water and an outdoor toilet. Forgive me if I never quite got the romance of snow. You go walking in a Winter Wonderland. I will sit in my comfortable chair and read To Build a Fire by Jack London.

Our Chickens are Icelandic Chickens. They are supposed to be good layers; something I will not be able to prove until I get some girl chickens. However, I do believe that a chicken bred to survive in Iceland could survive Missouri with a little bit of help. Since there were only two of them, I built the initial coop very small, and wired a light in it to add heat. I was curious to see what survival instincts the chickens brought to the winter by themselves.

Katherine went out, spread cracked corn on the ground, opened the coop door and put the ramp in so that they could come out. No chickens. Oh they were in there, you could hear them clucking contentedly and crowing occasionally but they were NOT coming out. Our dogs and two neighbor dogs on walkabout were dancing in the snow, all about my feathered Icelandic stalwarts.

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This is all you get to see of Icelandic chickens during a snow storm. Note the small water dish at the bottom of the picture.

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If you look carefully you can see the silhouettes of warm cozy chickens and the heat light there to the left.

Birds were chirping and merrily eating the chicken feed in great numbers. Cats were observing from windows and considering trips outside themselves. Last but not least, idiot people were coming out to look and see if the chickens were going to grace us with a visit, but the two Icelandic roosters were snow no-shows thank you very much.

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Most times we look out and the chicken lot is full of birds because the big ole roosters are inside napping today. However Connie ran them off approaching to take pictures except this one young stalwart.

That was yesterday morning and today. Led by Moony, the youngest, they did venture out for a nice scratch snack. Then Moony flew out of the chicken lot just because he could. A little truth about Icelandic Chickens: besides being smart enough to stay in out of the cold, they can fly really well. At this writing however, they are back in there little coop huddled up to their warming light.

There is the answer to what special gift our Gracious Lord has given Icelandic Chickens to survive in harsh climates. He has given them enough sense to stay out of the cold. A blessing he has not bestowed on all humans, it appears.

In closing, an update on Meeko, our gimpy black Lab. The sling is off of him, and though he is still favoring that left leg, he is out with Libby and doing well. This is not the first dog I have ever seen who, after having a leg bandaged, limps more out of habit than anything else. He has started to put the foot down some. If he does not get it, soon I will wrap his other foot. That is a trick my Grandpa taught me while dealing with his hunting pack.

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and we wish you a Happy New Year.

Ed

Where is Winter?

I’m not complaining, mind you, but our January thaw has gone on all month. Tomorrow we are expecting a near record breaking 67 degrees! Looking at next week’s forecast, we may be heading back to winter soon. By next Sunday, they are saying 30 degrees and snow. We’ll see. We know it’s coming, we just don’t know when.

Since the weather has been so nice, it has given Ed a chance to get out and work on cleaning up the fence rows. It is a job that may take several years, because most of the fences have been long neglected. Cleaning them now, means cutting down full grown trees.

Another part of the clean-up involves two junk piles. One is actually a burn pile, but the other is along a fence next to the old chicken coop. It’s the one that the old junker in me gets excited about. There is all kinds of stuff in there, including an old bath tub. Not a clawfoot or anything like that, but metal nonetheless. When we started talking about our front yard garden, we discussed using it in a water feature. Unforunately, the whole junk pile is under a huge tree, part of which had broken off and fallen crosswise of the tub.

Because it was so heavy, Ed was leery of trying to deal with it himself. Enter my son Kyle, aka “Bam Bam”. Kyle was off work yesterday, and asked Ed if there was some work to do outside. Oh yes! We had been waiting for this day!

When I went out to check on them, they had the limb (that is such an understatement) off the tub, and were cutting it up. However, they had run out of bar and chain oil, so they were going to take a break. Kyle was heading back to the house, and Ed asked me if I wanted to ride to the hardware store with him to get more oil. I said I would.

Ed and "Bam Bam"

Ed and “Bam Bam”

Before we went, Ed wanted to show me everything they had done. They had got the limb of the tub, and dumped all the other junk out. Part of that junk was a small tire from a tractor or something. Ed pointed to it and said, “Kyle said, ‘Mom will want that’.” He was right, I do. I picked up a glass tray; the kind used in microwaves. It was dirty, but other wise ok. I took it to the house. While we were out there, I took pictures.

the Junk pile from a distance.

the Junk pile from a distance.

the tub

the tub

What had been in the  tub

What had been in the tub

other junk

other junk

and more

and more

Then I saw the wood in the back of the truck, all from the “little” limb that had been in the tub. Half of it is still on the ground.

fire wood

fire wood

Ed likes this piece. He’s thinking about doing some woodburning on it.
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Later, Ed was splitting the logs and Libby was helping. I tried to get video of her moving the logs around, but she wouldn’t cooperate. She takes fetching a “stick” to a whole new level, but that is another blog post! Meeko just want to be were Ed is, and that’s another blog post too!

Libby "helping"

Libby “helping”

One thing about it. If the bottom drops out and winter comes back, we will have pleny of firewood!

Connie