Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barnyard mysteries

Hmm... it has been an interesting morning.  We have sunshine and moderate temps today.  The lull between storms.  A couple of inches of snow yesterday afternoon and more ice and snow expected tomorrow.  Oh, the joys of winter in the midwest.  At least the temperature seems to have gotten over this sub-zero nonsense.
But the cold has taken its toll.  Our frost-free hydrant in the barnyard is frozen.  So I had to carry the waterer for the chickens into the house to fill it in the bathtub in the basement.  Justine, I will be sure to clean the tub well after the hydrant thaws.
But more mysterious is the heat lamp in the chicken coop.  We have a ceramic heater (just infra-red, no light) on a thermo-cube that only comes on when it is cold (I forget the cut-off temp, I think it is 25 or 30).  It helps but isn't terribly effective.  So, with the really, really cold temps we've had, I replaced the regular lightbulb in the coop with a heat lamp.  We've only turned it on when the temps are forecast for below -5F because it produces enough light to keep the chickens awake all night (even though it isn't supposed to because it's coated red) and they eat us out of house and home!  But, back to the mystery.  I know the light was off last night when I closed up the coop for the night.  However, this morning, it was on and no one else has been outside.  And it is on a pull chain that we have tied to the side so it doesn't make contact with the bulb.  Mystery!
V's guess is that there was a bit of frost built up inside the fixture and the last time it was turned off the switch didn't fully switch to 'off' and the warm up was enough to melt the ice and turn it on.  That is possible but I find it weird that it happened at night and not on some of those sunny days when the coop has been fairly warm.  Who knows.  Maybe one of the hens was cold and too smart for her own good.  Or just fluttering too high off the roost.
The ladies have been laying well.  We have been getting 8-10 eggs/day.  Not too shabby from 13 hens, 9 of whom are 3 years old.
I've got some little seedlings up under the grow lights.  Some chard, kale, bok choy, lettuce and spinach destined for the greenhouse.  I'm itching to start my main season crops but I know it's still too early for that. But, just having little seedlings up helps with the winter blahs I've been having.  But sooner than the tomatoes and peppers I long to start, I'll be starting my cool season broccoli and such.  I ordered some romanesco seeds and I'm excited to see how it does.  They look so awesome in a fractal-ly delicious way.
I hope you are all 'weathering' the winter well.  The weather seems to have been so extreme just about everywhere this year.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Still in the deep freeze

I know we're not alone in being stuck in the depths of winter. I had planned to start some little things inside to put out in the greenhouse in February.  Well... it's February and we're still having overnight temps in the minus teens.  I don't care how hardy something is, it's not gonna survive overnight with temps like that.  The sun is shining today so I'll try to get out there and water while it has the chance to be warm.  I did have a few little spinach seedlings that had somehow survived out there but I haven't checked recently.
But, I'm an optimist and this afternoon (after belly dancing class) I'm going to start some kale, chard and lettuce for the greenhouse.  Maybe by March it will be warm enough for it to survive.

I'll be honest, I'm getting tired of cold weather.  And snow.  I know there are people struggling with ice and I'm grateful that we haven't had to deal with that this year.  And there are people struggling with crippling drought.  We'll take the moisture we're getting with the snow. I just wish it wasn't so regular.  It seems like every three of four days we get another inch or four of snow.  And the wind this year seems particularly nasty.  But enough of complaining about the weather.  It has it's beauty as well.
Sunrise this morning, shining off the frost on the trees.  Stunning!
 I caught this guy at the bird feeder yesterday.  By the time I got the camera he was up the tree, eating snow off the branch.  Must have needed to wash down all that birdseed.
The titmouse is fluffed up against the cold.   I do think they are adorable.

Things haven't been totally rosy here.  We've had some bad news and a few problems around the house.  A friend of ours slipped on his basement stairs, fell and hit his head and now is minimally responsive in a coma.  That was over a week ago and not much change in his condition.  We're all hoping and praying for the best.  And my cousin's husband got his hand in the table saw while working on a project and ended up losing a couple of fingers.  (those things terrify me every time!)  We've been lucky in that we are all healthy.
A few "mechanical" glitches around the house involving a non-working furnace this morning (intake vent blocked by snow!) and a clogged sewer pipe last week.  The sewer issues, of course, necessitated a trip to the home improvement store in the middle of a snowstorm to get a 40 ft sewer rod and poor V working outside at the clean-out pipe in terrible, snowy, windy, single digit weather. But all those problems we (or should I say V) were able to fix ourselves.
I have been working out much more regularly.  Justine and I hope to do a few runs this summer while she's home, including another shot at a zombie run.  Maybe I can survive this year!  Regardless, I do need to get in better shape and I've been working on it.  My schedule is 30 minutes on the elliptical 3 days a week, 20 minute zumba with the x-box two days, belly dance class one day and a day off.  We'll see how long I can keep that up.  I missed a day last week because of the sewer problems but I'm trying....

All in all, we're doing OK.  Hope you are all faring as well in the seemingly endless winter.