Tag Archives: chickens

Winter Farming…

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I’ve never given much thought to winter farming until this year.  In the past few years that I have visited the farm at Christmas, I guess I’ve been so involved with family gatherings, that I failed to notice the activities and daily outdoor comings and goings of my brother-the-farmer, my brother-the-farrier, and my sister-the-chicken-wrangler/cattle baron.

This year, I arrived in snow, and the temperatures were sub-zero.  I wasn’t particularly effected, because my efforts regarding outdoors were just running from a heated house to a pre-heated car.  That’s me.  The year ‘rounders have a whole different thing going on. 

The brothers who work outside were rugged up in gear I have not really looked at before…ski-pant-type coveralls, hoods with masks that are called balaclavas, moon-man type gloves that are semi-rubberized, and super-duper fuzz-lined, waterproof boots.  Carhart is a big name in outdoor wear, here.  Even my sister wears those coveralls to take care of her chickens.

I noticed the men were engaged in stapling plastic to the outside of the barn windows to keep the cold out and the horses alive.  They plow the snow off of driveways and around the horse track.  The farmer brother drives a skid-loader with a round bail of hay over to my sister’s from the folks’ to feed their cattle.  He comes over in the mornings to water the cattle and to give them grain.  My sister closes up her chickens each night and lets them out each morning.  She rugs up, too, and carries water and grain out to the chooks.  To keep them warm in the wickedly cold days and nights, she rigged up a lightbulb in their coop and set up a heated water bowl.  Everyone goes out to start the cars and let them run before departure.  For the ones that go to work, that can happen at 5:30 AM.

One of the hazards of winter farming here, is that the fuel can freeze.  That’s what happened last week.  When there is a sister available, one of us can go pick up our brother or follow him in case of a breakdown.  I don’t know what would happen otherwise, and I shutter to think of it.

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There is no plowing or planting or harvesting involved in winter farming, but there is maintenance.  Keeping everyone and everything alive is the goal.  Getting in and out of the driveways to go to work or in case of emergencies is the goal. 

I feel embarrassed that I haven’t been more appreciative of the effort winter living takes.  In the future, and even when I return to North Carolina, I intend to take a few moments to dwell on that thought.

Farm Days…

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It’s been a busy week here on the farm in southern Wisconsin.  Bell and Chime Choir practice was on Sunday evening.  Even though I got to wear the cool, white gloves, I was a disaster, seemingly belling and chiming at random, but by the end of practice, I had definitely improved.  With my sister on one side, a friend with strong musical talents on the other, and finally, color-coded music, I managed to get through three of the four pieces with only a few mistakes.  We’ll see if it stuck when I go to practice this weekend.  The big performance is next week.  I’ll try not to embarrass myself and others.

Then there was the Rock County 4-H Fair.  The temps were high, and it was steamy, but my sister-in-law and I trudged through the stock barns.  I love a good fair, and I love seeing all the animals and exhibits.  This one did not disappoint.  We saw cows (duh, it’s Wisconsin), goats, chickens, bunnies, and the token pony.  Then we looked at all the kid art and projects, and wound things up throwing ping-pong balls into small rimmed fish bowls filled with colored water.  The game was rigged, of course, but we left with Spot, who will live out his fishy days in a horse trough.

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At my weekly visit to my other sister’s-in-law, we drank decadent coffee from the chocolate shop, walked the historic town square, and went to listen to her sister’s accordion band, the Junction Jammers, play for a retirement center at the town’s band shell in the park.  The hot weather had broken, the cloud cover kept the temps down, and the music was lively.  The town of Monroe was settled by the Swiss, and it shows all over, from architecture to food.  If you ever visit, be sure to go to Bummies’ for a delicious braunschweiger and limburger cheese sammy.  You’ve heard of Swiss Colony Cheeses?  They’re headquartered in Monroe.

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I finished the week making a hardware store run and apple picking with Dad, and carrying down items for a Garage Sale from the attic for Mom.  The folks are active and busy every minute.  Both read, keep up with current events, walk the half-mile horse track, and climb up and down the stairs of their 100 year-old farmhouse, from attic to basement, like they were, well, much younger.  They are amazing, and it’s a gift, plus good genes.

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Tomorrow is Krumbkake making day at my sister’s.  That’s pronounced kroom’-kock-ah.  It’s a Norwegian pastry, and an aunt and cousin will be here.  I’m not sure what the Krumbkake will be for…I think an upcoming church event.  From my understanding, they are thin cookies fried on a double-sided iron that looks something like a hamburger press with fancy designs inside.  The designs emboss the wafer.  Then each is rolled into a cone.  We were cautioned to have band-aids to protect our fingertips.  Hoo-boy.

There’s nothing like summer on the farm.  And, with a nod to Garrison Keillor, that’s the news.  Blessed be farm days, and more to come.