I thought I'd give you a little farm tour this morning. The farm is still pretty busy in the winter, though nothing like the high-gear of early spring and summer. I'll add some pictures from around in a separate post.
They laying hens are spending more time inside the coop, they don't like the cold and they are spoiled with a heat lamp inside. Today I will be mixing a little milk with some left over stale corn bread and making cereal for the hens. When the weather gets colder, little treats keep them happy and happy hens lay better eggs.Oatmeal is a favorite treat too, I love to bring a steaming hot tray of oatmeal out to the hens in the winter.
We also are trying a little test run of some freedom rangers as laying hens. The last batch we processed had a few little hens that wouldn't have even been worth the effort to butcher. After a little research, it looks like the heritage gals will probably make suitable layers. It's worth a shot, and they are pretty little things who will be laying eggs much sooner then the next batch we get in. We plan on ordering some more hens later this month, so that in June we will have young pullets to replace this year's hens. Many of our hens will be past production age this coming May, so we have to have a flock ready to replace them. By keeping some freedom rangers, we will have more of a buffer and less drop off in egg production. Well, that's the theory at least.
The rabbitry is packed full of little kits right now. We have two does with litters just about to be weaned. We also have a litter of kits that will be ready for the CSA in a couple weeks. We have one doe who should kindle (give birth) in about a month since she was just bred, and another who we will likely pair up next week. We are shifting our production to be more rabbit-focused, we don't have to order kits like we do baby chicks and overall they are just a more sustainable meat for us. Now that the barn is cleaned from chicken season, I can start to look over how we can arrange cages to add a few more does. We'd like to up our doe population quite a bit, but it's going to take some maneuvering to make sure our barn has the space for the increased population. We're going to try and graze our batches of kits next year, which will free up some space in the summer months. I'm also doing a little research on sprouting grasses for the winter time. I'd like to get more fresh feed into everyone, since the enjoy it so much.
The sheep are, well, themselves. All bleats and grain begging. They are sweet and we love to keep them. We recently re-did their stall to make more room for the horses, and built a new hay feeder for them. We're still not sure how overall our sheep fit into our business enterprise, but we really like to keep them. Their personalities make us laugh and they are easy keepers for the most part. I'm hoping to graze them a lot more next summer utilizing the portable electric fencing.
The greenhouse is green and growing, though a bit slow. We do have grow lights in, but had a malfunction with the heater out there and are using a back up for right now. I need to put up some more storm plastic to stabilize the temperature a bit. It's on the list for the next week. The short days in December keep many of our plants in a resting state- as soon as we pass the solstice it will ease a bit. In January/February we will see a lot more growth. I'll start more seedling in January, I'm thinking of trying some super-early peas in the greenhouse to have them ready as early as possible. At the very least, there will be greens of many shapes and sizes with any luck.
There's still some canning to do, I have a batch of sauerkraut I started weeks ago that needs to be processed. I'm making some special treats for the CSA too- a chocolate blackberry sauce based on a ball recipe that a friend gave us as a gift. She brought us a chocolate raspberry sauce (for ice cream, biscuits or yogurt) that is SO delicious I think it's the perfect addition to next week's share. I still have some summer berries frozen, so I'm looking forward to canning not in the 100 degree heat.
The farm is always busy, but in the winter the pace is different. It's not about pushing and production, it's about sustaining and keeping everyone comfortable. The winter work is still plentiful, but it's more about comforting all- including ourselves through the cold weather and low light. Keeping firewood stacked, laying fresh bedding, feeding hay and breaking ice on water buckets. It is a contemplative season. We reflect, improve and plan.
So on that note, another cup of coffee is in order before splitting some fire wood and setting to organize the garage. I have a date to start pouring over the seed catalog later.
It's easy to get caught up in the rush of the holiday- but perhaps we should take a lesson from the hens and just settle in under the heat lamp with a bowl of good farm cereal.