"Winter starts here in January now, you know?!"
That's what the boss said in our last meeting. I'm becoming acutely aware that he isn't wrong. After such a ridiculous November/December, I find that, as of late, I am snow blowing the farm nearly as often as I would be mowing the grass in the summer.
It is certainly not unwelcome! While I have other things that I would like to be devoting my attentions too, there is something zen about a couple of hours behind the snow blower. It's much like weeding in the summer - An irritating activity if you are just sitting and thinking about it being done, but amazingly therapeutic to actually do. A quiet activity that you can devote your whole self to; getting lost in your thoughts, or examining plants, albeit they are weeds, in a level of detail you would normally not have time to do. And they are amazing. They are just as amazing in their complexity as any of the vegetable plants that we grow.
And so somehow snow blowing is like this, like weeding. As the snow is chopped by the auger and thrown through the end of the chute to find itself in flight again and gently returning to earth you can watch it and wonder at it. Making cuts along side the hoop houses you can stare at the formations that cling to the curved sides of the house, like some sort of terrestrial barnacle attached to the rocky shore line. The patterns that appear on the side of the cold frames, each unique, each equally beautiful, remind you that the greens growing inside are probably a little put out that these chilly little patterns are obscuring the already diminished amount of winter sunlight. But it is all part of the environmental cycle, and this chilly interruption to our everyday farming expectation is actually an essential part of the system, allowing the soil to rest and reminding us that we ought to also.
Inside the barn is a different matter altogether. The sheep greet us every morning waiting for us to through their hay out into the paddock. Each day it lands in a different spot so that as they eat, the sheep might also deposit a little nutrients onto the ground in a new location. Our hope is for an even distribution of this 'black gold' so that we can till it in, in the spring readying the soil for the coming plants.
The goats, still thinking about food, like a good teenager. Brandy, of course, is still holding out. Keeping us on our toes, she continues to leave us guessing as to when her little one(s) might appear. By our best guess we should have had kids in the middle of December, but without the convenience of a marking harness, like we use for the sheep, our best guess is all we have.
By this point in the winter the poultry have figured out that there is less snow in the barn than outside, and every day we have a little more trouble getting them back into the coop, and everyday we notice a few more of them roosting on the manure rail just above the sheep. They have such a 'hard life'. The rail is just hight enough that it makes it difficult at best to try and pull them down, one chicken at a time, each night to redeposit them in the poultry palace. And so each night there are a couple more that are allowed to sleep in the barn, not that it is anywarmer.
The biggest challenge for the farmers is finding all of the new nesting spots when we collect the eggs. As new chickens move from the poultry palace to the barn, they all vie for the best nesting spots, sometimes sharing one or two. At times we strike it rich finding nests with two dozen or more eggs in one spot, other times we discover an egg here, or there, tucked behind a hay bale or under a table.
While the sheep don't seem to mind the poultry sharing their space, one poor hen learned a hard lesson about where it is acceptable to lay when you are sharing space with a much larger animal, after being accidentally kicked by Amall the llama. It turns out that sunning on the ground behind an already somewhat neurotic llama can lead to unintentionally mimicking a 'place kicked' football when a door nearby shuts and the llama suddenly jumps not sure what has happened. It is also a lesson to the farmers that Amall's kick is connected to his nervous response. This can be valuable information when working in the paddock with the llama - there is more than one reason to stay near the front side of the animal!
On the farmer front, we have been making great strides reorganizing and cleaning the barn. There is still quite a bit of disarray and many things still need a permanent home, but it is looking better and better everyday. I am hoping for some sort of grand reopening party just after President's Day. . . but we will see.