*Starting the construction of our new chicken coop, the one that will find most of us (human, dog, cat, and pig) and farm members alike being again well nourished by copious amounts of eggs-yeah!! The new coop is being made from a nice wood privacy fence that was taken down in big pieces and then given to us. We have opted for a permanent home with access to four large pasture areas to rotate them through rather than a mobile home. With a small clutch, 40-50, we think this will still work to keep the birds on good pasture continually. This time around, the fencing will be predetor proof so we don’t see a repeat of this spring’s sad chicken wipe out.
*Working out the details of just what kind of hen’s will be coming home to take up residence in the new coop. The children can’t help but request the “punk rock” and “brain” chickens, both different Polish chicken breeds or all the other birds in the catalog that aren’t chickens, the quails and pheasants in all their beautiful variety. In the end, we compromised. The adults chose again the breeds we went with before, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, and Silver Laced Wyandottes, all breeds that are fair sized when mature, lay a good amount of eggs, know how to forage, and lay well in winter. We also know that the Orpingtons will brood, a trait we want some of our birds to have. For the kiddos, a few funny haired Polish and some Araucana/Americanas. Of all the chickens we had before, it was only the Araucana/Americanas that were blessed with names–Harry, Ron, and Hermione in turn since the oldest boy and I had just finished the Harry Potter books.
*Delivering the last remnants of all the free-roaming poutlry to the butcher. As much as we love the site of a few birds in the yard, they have repeatedly made landscaping and gardening in our huge sheet mulched garden by the house impossible, not to mention the constant annoyance of finding them on the porch or front yard play area sitting all day or roosting at night…birds tend to leave a lot of mess behind them! This included our wild mutt banty/barred rocks. They truly were great in so many ways. They had enough smarts to survive the predators of spring, they had babies, they never came to eat the grain the regular layers and meat birds relied on, and still layed eggs year round, right through the winter when they were mature. They also never stayed in any kind of fencing we tried, and in the end, this is why they had to go. The other birds to go were the lone duck we still had waddling around, and a lone goose that our friends gave us and who just recently went from calm, squawking duck pal to the meanest goose around. His hissing sounds, nose to the ground line drive towards you, and little beak bites were more intimidating than you would imagine. Andre thought it was quite amusing, but I was honestly afraid of that bird, not to mention the kidlets. He had them up in trees one day, afraid to come down–not good! I have vowed to never have geese here again; Andre is holding out to see how great the bird tastes come Easter. I am sure I won’t change my mind either way!
*And not everything has gone to the birds around here. We will be putting new-used plastic (some that our friends at Country Garden Nursery lost during the snow from their big hoop houses) back on our little greenhouse and starting seeds in the next couple weeks! Some lettuce babies that were started in cold frames are getting transplanted out, and some new things will then be sown in the ground in the cold-frames, probably radishes and swiss chard. All in all, the over-wintered veggies are looking good and slowly putting on growth. We have continued to harvest turnips/tunrip greens, cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts (ugly as can be from aphid damage this fall, but still tasty after peeling them down) and leeks, leeks, and more leeks for the family. We are letting the rest of the veggies in the fields put on growth, so our winter vegetable palatte is limited in ways, although we have a tad winter squash left and some dried and frozen tomatoes as well as saurkraut to round things out. Part of the excitment of the changing tides around here is that expectation of late winter/early spring harvesting that we will begin in March, not just for CSA members, but for us as well!
*And in non-farm goings on, we are spending the nights by the fire, playing games together or doing our own things. I love the winter for this down time at night, something we don’t have when days stretch out until 10:00 and the warmth comes from outside instead of inside. We are, in this respect, equally excited for the year to come, but content with the blankets piled high and the crackling of the fire a constant sound, the feeling of foraging for freshness instead of swimming in it, the endless pages being read and the comforting arms of the home wrapped around us. Perhaps you won’t trust me any longer if I say this (that is if you have been following along here), but isn’t this the best time of the year?