I have been pretty busy this winter, but haven’t had much to post about. We had a somewhat mild winter for most of November and December, but then got pummeled by the Polar Vortex and a bunch of snow the last few months. Here are some updates of our farm:
We have a lot going on here, and I’m dreaming of spring; Doing a lot of planning for this year’s garden, and planning to order some new hens in the next few months. Right now we’re just trying to keep ahead of all this snow.
We got more snow yesterday. Which happens here in the U.P. We got an end-of-March storm, which only gave us about 4-5 inches of snow, but it came with a little cold snap. Our maple sap collecting has gone awry because the temperatures dipped. We went to get sap the other night before the snow started, and there were little icicles from the taps into our buckets. Tomorrow is supposed to be warm enough for the sap to flow, but otherwise the next week is not supposed to get much above freezing during the day. Ideally you want temps in the 40s during the day and 20s at night for optimal sap production. When I looked at the weather, it said those temperatures should come back around April 10th. I decided to cook up what I had today – we had just over 2 gallons collected so far. We’ll still leave the buckets up for now and see what happens.
It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter. We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.
This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen. General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell. The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January. The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters. Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.
Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:
Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.
We are now getting tons of eggs. With winter we are somewhat over-run. We are currently getting at least 15-20 chicken eggs a day from our 35 hens. That doesn’t count the 5-6 duck eggs per day we get from the 6 ducks. In the fall we started selling the eggs at the local farmers’ market, but that only runs June-October. So for now, I sell what I can but we still have a LOT. So we eat a lot of eggs. The chickens are possibly laying less because it’s wintertime – in the spring their production may even go up. But the eggs are very pretty – we get all sorts of shades of browns, some almost pinks, some white eggs, and varying shades of greens. Here are some cool pictures of the eggs:
We’ve been really busy this winter with the holidays and other stuff, so I haven’t had a chance to post anything in a while. We’re in the middle of a typical U.P. Snowy winter. We get a lot of lake effect snow from Lake Superior. Here are some pictures of the past several weeks.
Our ducks are getting huge. We’ve had them for three weeks already. I swear they have quadrupled in size. We have gone through I think 5 brooder boxes. The ducks ruin the boxes after awhile, so they have had to have replacements. Here is the last box we made for them:
Here is my son posing in a weird pose, and Downey checking out the box, so you can get a sense of scale:
We had the ducks in a spare bedroom, and then that got too much. They are slobs, as I’ve said before. We want to get them outside, but the weather is not cooperating yet. Here is what our yard looks like today:
So the ducks are in our shed, which has a cement floor and is on the way outside, anyway. Instead of making them another box, my husband created a duck corral of sorts:
The ducks get really messy – they play with their water and then they stay wet and then they poop, and they stink. So we like to give them a bath (plus they LOVE the bath). We started in this little tub (which is actually a cat litter pan):
We had a leak in our bathtub so we had to use the pan the first time. We now use our actual bathtub – they all fit in at once, and we have been making the water a little deeper. They will dive under and swim around and splash – they love it. The last time, instead of trying to dry them just with a towel, I put them on a pile of towels after the bath and then ran a hair dryer over them. They loved that. I was dealing with a pile of ducks upstairs without a camera, so unfortunately I don’t have pictures of that.
Today I gave them some pine shavings – we’ve been just using paper towels over the cardboard floor of their corral, and we are changing it every 2 hours or so, it seems. I thought at the very least, the pine shavings will keep the smell down a little.
We are supposed to have warmer weather this next week – they are calling for temps in the 60s next weekend. So we will be able to get them outside then. We have an old dog shed, that was actually being converted to a clubhouse for my son. Our plan is to use that for temporary duck housing until we can get them something built of their own. We have a heat lamp we can set up if needed for if we get colder temps. The ducks are getting white feathers growing in under their yellow fuzz, so they should be ready to go out soon. That is the plan as of now – we will have to see what happens on the weekend. Our weather has been so schizophrenic this spring that you never know…
Oh, and we have chicks due to hatch on Tuesday! So bird-in-the-house season is in full swing.
All of our snow was gone… I knew that we could still get snow, since it’s only March. We got pummeled with snow last night. This morning we woke up to a huge mess. The weather people said that we were expecting 8-10 inches. Today when I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens (who are NOT happy about this turn of events), the snow came over my boots. So I took a stick and measured it. At 8 am we had received 13.5 inches of snow. And it was still coming down. Luckily I don’t think we got much more.
In the night we knew we were getting some snow – we have a metal roof, and while we were in bed we kept waking up to strange noises. We realized that it was snow falling off the roof – snow that had piled up on the roof was falling off of the roof in little avalanches, since it wasn’t very cold outside. We didn’t realize just how much snow we had gotten till we got up this morning.
Because there was so much snow, the trees were weighed down – which means that we lost power for most of today. It’s back on now (which is why I can finally post this). We dug the cars out and parked them across the street so my husband could plow the driveway. The problem is that under this snow, we had mud since it had been so warm. Our truck is currently stuck in the mud at the back of the driveway. So that’s another thing we have to do in the next few days – get someone to come pull the truck out of the mud. Here are some photos of our big St. Patty’s day snow.
I hope it goes away soon. I was so excited by the spring weather we had.
Update – we got our truck unstuck. We just had to wait for the mud to freeze, and it was easy to get out.
In winter I would go bananas if I didn’t have green things growing, so I have a lot of houseplants. I have a few sunny windows in my house, most get partial sun. I have two windows in my bedroom that are south facing. Unfortunately, my cat Wizard likes to lay in one. He would eat any plants I have there, so I only get to use the other window, near my dresser, for plants. But when I start garden seeds inside in spring, he gets temporarily banished from his window. Here are some pictures of my indoor garden:
Today it’s cold – about 4 degrees F. It is supposed to get up into the 20s though today. I thought it was a nice sunny day for some pictures of our snow. It looks pretty but I can’t wait for it to melt away. Our side door is under a spot where our metal roof drops snow. From plowing that and the rest of the snow away from the door, our driveway is packed down enough where we have to go down to the door. If you’re standing in the driveway you are a few inches above where you would be if you were inside the house, if that makes sense. I hope you enjoy my photo tour.