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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass

February clear & frigid: 4 degrees
4 degrees this morning. Frost on a lot of tree branches, metal railings. I woke at 6:15 AM after spending the night in the Lazy Boy recliner. I remember hearing the weather man on the 10 PM news, that was all till I woke up. At least the recliner is comfy and I can sleep almost prone.

I rounded up the trash, got dressed and took the trash (last week's too!) to the curb for pick-up. Birds are silent this frigid morning. The sky is pink in the east before the sun comes over the horizon. Snow crunches underfoot, the crust yielding to my cramp-on equipped boots. I go everywhere with cramp-ons since the wet snow turned to cement and walkways and driveways are solid ice.The new snow covers the ice and one can easily have a slip and fall! Rain coming along with snow and high winds starting late Thursday. It will be a mess since temps will stay below freezing till the storm comes up from the south.

Yesterday, I called the fire department, looking to speak with the Chief. He was at meetings all day, I left my phone number with the request for their report on the house fire next door. The fireman who answered the phone took my info and said the Chief would call me. No call. What else is new? My town is not well known for following up on official requests. I shall do a follow-up call today, see if I can get a copy of the fire report.

My attorney did call me and I told him I would forward a copy (should I get it) of the fire department's official report on the fire in the house. Meanwhile, I have no idea if any of the windows have been replaced. I shall wait till later today to ask if any windows have been repaired and replaced in the house. I have running water, so the water pipes haven't frozen yet! Rigid foam insulation is a wonderful thing!

It seems that taking water out
in the car to the far away yard has been a good idea. I have not had any severe pain since I began to drive rather than drag (on the sled) the water. The far away pen is about 350 feet from my front deck, maybe more. There is a dip in the landscape where I pull the sled, making it difficult to navigate the sled while walking on the mogul-filled path. I put the sled in the back of the Volvo. I drive to the far away yard gate, put the water jugs on the sled. It is a short distance, flat and easy to get the water jug loaded sled  to the feeding & watering area.

I had hoped to hook up hoses yesterday and clean the feeding areas. There is too much snow and nowhere for any excess water to drain. So, the water would freeze on the feeding areas, not a good idea. Birds don't like to ice skate! With the rain coming on Thursday, my feeling is I shouldn't add any extra water to that area, so cleaning will have to wait.

Seems temps will be at or below freezing Thursday night, so any rain that falls will quickly freeze...but the ground is frozen and there is nowhere for the water to go except on the ground. This will be such a mess by the time it is finished! I can see me, rain gear on and cramp-ons to keep from skating across the yards. Oh, yes, the winds will be high. The weathermen won't say just how high, just "high" Oh, Joy!

In the past, the winds have been so gusty, the fiberglass truck cap (set up on two-high cement blocks) flipped right over. This cap weighs about 200+#, so that was some wind! Fortunately, I found some help to put the truck cap back on the blocks. I can't lift the cap alone, that is for sure! There are two truck caps, set alongside each other. They are on cement blocks, stacked two high. The shelter gives protection from snow (unless it is wind-driven) and collects solar heat. Under the caps I have put trampoline tops (without the metal frames) to cover the ground. Since the trampoline tops are porous, water will go through (unless the ground is frozen) and drain away. The surface is easily swept or raked off. It is an easy surface to keep clean of droppings. In fall, I have some sliding glass door panels that are put on the north side and held upright with metal fence posts. Some combination storm windows keep the east and west sides protected from drifting snow (somewhat). I use a push broom or rake to clean off the droppings when it is too cold to use a hose to flush the surface.

I have used hay bales to close off the north, east and west sides in the past, but, in spring, I am left with rotted bales of hay with breaking strings to dispose of. Plus, there often are briar or other pricker vines in the hay, since I buy "mulch hay". During the winter, the chickens like to pick at the inside of the bales and move the hay around while searching for insects.The briars and prickers have caused a lot of bumble-foot in the chickens. FYI, bumble-foot is an infection in the birds' feet. This will cause problems with egg laying and overall health since it is an infection. Hard to cure, bumble-foot is not worth the price I have paid for hay.

The glass panels and combination storms present a challenge for storage during the warmer months, but the trade-off is worth the challenge. Keeping the birds sheltered during the high winds and extreme cold is a high priority with me, so I do all I can to keep them comfortable.

Keeping me comfortable while outside is another subject. My friend, who lives north of me in the colder, snowier part of MA and I discuss how long it takes us to dress to go outside. By the time we are dressed, we need a NAP!  I know I sometimes feel like a stuffed toy, but I am seldom cold. Under all, I have normal undies, a pair of fleece lined tights, an undershirt. Then a turtle neck, sometimes cashmere or silk, a cashmere pull-over sweater under my ski pants. Two pair of socks, one is either fleece or wool. A heavy, winter coat with a hood. For a hat, I put on a baseball cap and a fleece watch cap over that. I need the baseball cap because it has  brim and keeps the sun out of my eyes. I bought some knock-off Muck boots that have insulation inside. Mostly, I am warm enough unless the wind blows. Of course, when it rains, the outfit changes to rain gear with heavy sweaters and bibb overalls to fit under the rain gear. Gloves are another situation. I like gloves with vinyl or some other water-proof covering on the fingers. This gives a good grip in wet or frozen conditions. I have tried many different gloves, but the ones I like the best are called "The Bamboo Gardener". The label says these gloves are made from Bamboo and Rayon. I like the bamboo factor, that is a renewal source. I get these gloves at the True Value hardware store. The gal who owns the family-operated store is a good egg customer, too. However, these gloves are not for winter, so I have silk glove liners to wear if it is very cold (as it is this morning). If I get my gloves wet, I can expect to have red fingers when I get into the house. If it is very cold, wet gloves stick to the metal handle on the coop door and the sliding glass door on the duck house.

9 degrees, 8 AM. I am waiting for warmer temps before I go out with water and feed. The birds won't like it at all outside. Their coops are nice and warm, heated by body heat and solar gain. Both coops are insulated, but I expect water bowls will be frozen this morning since they are on the floors and the coldest areas are the floors.

I hope I can get this post open to the public for comments...seems last post wasn't!