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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass
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Snowing again
National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Warning for my area starting early Feb 15 into the 16th. Snow started coming down about noon. By 4:30, we had about three inches of wet, sticky snow. Temp was 34 degrees, ground is frozen and there is some snow pack remaining from the last storm. Oh, yes, it poured rain late on the 13th. That day started off with some snow that turned to rain. Some of the snow pack melted before the temp dropped and what was left of the snow froze solid. Friday, Valentine's Day, my gift was weather warm enough to hook hoses up and flush two weeks of messy poultry life from their feeding area. The swail where water drains off the feeding area is clogged with snow, so the water doesn't drain away as in warmer months. I would have fired up the Flame Weeder to melt the snow, but the wind was so terrific, it would have continually blown the flame out. I had to be content to clean the area and put fresh hay down.

Since I can't sleep because the wind is howling, I though I might update my blog.

It feels as if every other day it is snowing! Or frigid! Farmer's Almanac says Feb 17, winter's back is broken (I could check to be sure, but I have misplaced my 2014 copy). I can only wonder what the Almanac could possibly mean when we are getting 12 - 14" of snow! In Poor Richard's defense, the Cardinal and Chickadee have changed their winter song for spring mating. What do they know that I am unaware of? All this harsh winter weather has been happening for weeks. Drought in CA. Snow in GA. People without electricity or heat because of this "unusual" weather pattern. Add this stress to the cost of fuel and groceries (now on the increase due to the drought in CA), the stress on the average family will be huge. I think of the children and elders who have and are displaced from their homes with all this bad weather and can only wonder what the outcome will be.

Millions of dollars of damage to the power infrastructure that has to be paid for. Our power bills will increase dramatically since the cost will be passed to the customer. That is probably why my "delivery fee" for electric is sometimes more than my cost of electric usage! The cost went up after tropical storm Irene when we lost power for four days. Seems NSTAR didn't have the replacement parts for the transformer that blew up when a tree fell on the power lines. That seems a bit off, doesn't it? Either NSTAR is badly equipped or the transformer was so old, it was obsolete.

About this "Polar Vortex" that has recently been coined as a new catch phrase, I might have come up with a solution. If huge fans were to be installed (instead of ugly, noisy windmills), pointed towards the north and all the hot air from Washington, DC were funneled into the fans, the Polar Vortex might be blown back up into the Arctic (that doesn't look as if it is spelled right, blame it on spell-check). With all the hot air in DC, seems we might be able to heat most of the nation along with blowing the Vortex right out of the US!

Outside temp is now 29 degrees. There is another four inches of snow on the porch railings. I shoveled them off at about 5 PM. I hear the wind howling, the north window screens are covered with snow and ice. I will probably have to put the hair dryer between my storm window and primary door to melt the ice away so I can get outside tomorrow morning. It will probably be noon before I can get outside to feed and water my flocks.

Tomorrow, temps will remain below freezing and drop into the single digits after sunset. Sigh...will be a real chore getting out to feed and water once the snow freezes into cement. Not one of the news broadcasts discusses how hard it is for farmers to feed, water and care for animals in the extremes of winter. Tractors freeze, hydrolic hoses break, tires go flat from the cold. These problems can be fixed, but many don't have indoor access for repairs and if they do, how does one get a tractor from outside to inside? With a tractor! HA! Can't win for loosing! This is why I am so happy I don't rely on tractors.

At least this storm came over the weekend. Monday is a holiday so there will be plenty of time to clean up before the predicted (possible) rain/snow comes on Tuesday. Another storm is brewing, coming possibly on Thursday. If all storms do come along, there will be four in one week. Seven days, four storms. Oh, boy!

I have a friend who lives north of me in the suburbs "snow belt". She and her husband are retired. She keeps chickens and goats. They have had a winter cold, her husband has it the worst. Her barns are downhill, so there is a water shed when the snow melts. Of course, the snow melts in front of the barn doors and into the yards. My friend is a little thing, she doesn't weigh more than a feather pillow and wears children's sized clothing. For her to get out into this weather is so difficult for her. With a sick husband, it is harder than usual. I would help her but she lives over an hour north of me, just too far to drive back and forth.

I am hoping my neighbor up the lane will come plow my car out sometime tomorrow. He as kind enough to come after the last storm when the snow was so heavy. I was able to shovel the snow from the storm before that one, the snow was light and fluffy. The poultry yards have to be shoveled, paths to the yards have to be cleared, front walk, steps and an area in front of the steps. Snow from roofs have to be removed, the most important is the roof of my trailer. This involves an extension ladder that has to be moved in the deep snow for access. The trailer roof can't be walked on. You have to use a roof rake to access the snow.

 It feels like I have moved a thousand cubic yards of snow this winter!
Snow, sleet, freezing rain
Feb. 13

I got through chores today before the snow changed to rain. As I walked BB the dog, the snow flakes were mixing in with something that resembled sleet. I put his jacket on before the walk since he would get wet from what was falling out of the sky. At least his feet didn't freeze this morning as they did yesterday when the temps had been 2 degrees at daybreak. We got inside and I dried him off with a towel, his feet were soaked as was his tail and tummy. He went to bed and I covered him with a blanket to warm his damp body. My snow pants were wet but I had put a rain jacket on so at least my sweater s weren't wet. I hung the wet clothes up to dry. I decided to write a story about a Mallard duckling I saved two springs ago. I thought I had started this story earlier, before my computer crashed, but I couldn't find it, so I began it again. It is finished and I shall send it to the SPPA for publication in the next Bulletin.

The snow converted to rain about 11 AM. The wind came up at noon. Things are pretty wet outside and the wind is whipping the rain from the east...as in Northeaster. The outside temp is 39 degrees now. I am not looking forward to late-day feeding at all!

As sunset approaches, the temps are predicted to drop and the precip. will change back to snow. Since the ground is covered with very cold snow and the ground is frozen (as is the pavement), the driving conditions will deteriorate just in time for the evening commute. At least some communities have cancelled school, so the kids won't be in sliding-all-over-the-road busses. It should be a very snarled commute tonight and tomorrow morning.

My neighbor called and asked me to take him to an early-morning appointment at the hospital tomorrow. We have to be there at 6 AM. I agreed to drive him, but told him he had to call me at 5 AM to be sure I was out of bed. I am well known for turning off the alarm and climbing back into bed! I don't think the traffic will be heavy at 6 AM in the morning and we should be home by 8:30, so I can do chores after the appointment. Four studded snow tires will assure a safe trip back and forth to hospital.

Boy, the wind is really wailing outside right now! I hope the birds are dry and warm, there are many places for sheltering them. Ducky Lucky is locked under the duck house so she can exercise and eat, so the birds can't get under with her. I would leave the door open, but some of the wild Muscovies that have moved in with my ducks have been seen beating up DL. I won't allow that, so they are locked out till about 3 PM when I go out for late day feeding. DL is my first Muscovy. She came over from the neighbor's yard the first year I had chickens (2005) to eat. Seems the guy who had her was too cheap to buy her layer pellets. Ducky Lucky moved in with my chickens. I have no idea how old she is, but she came up lame two summers ago. I have kept her confined in her own area since, but she shows little improvement. Now, she sleeps in a large dog kennel at night under the duck house. Each morning, I give her a large water bowl with hot water and feed in the water. I have started to give her about a quarter of a slice of bread twice daily since she doesn't have much interest in other feeds. Since she started getting bread, she shows some signs of growing strength. I don't know what else to do for her and wonder how long she can continue in this manner.

I figure my door will be frozen solid in the morning since the wind will blow rain and snow on it all night. I will have to put the hair dryer between the storm and interior door so the door will thaw enough for me to get out. This often happens during a Northeaster. Who ever was the idiot that set this trailer up so the door faces north was just that...an idiot.

Kitty is hiding now that the wind and rain are here. He came early for breakfast, quickly ate and disappeared. I do wish he would go into the grain room or into the camper, but he won't! I feel so badly for him in these coldest nights and horrid days. He lives by the scruff of his neck and I keep him well-fed and watered.

Well, time for lunch and then back outside in this awful storm. Yuck!
2 degrees 6 AM
Bone chilling cold at night. Sunny, bright and wind-less days make outside not so bad. The chickens are not suffering much since the wind has gone. But things change in New England. Just wait a few hours.

Today, it will start with snow, go to rain, wind blowing up to 50 mph gusts, then go back to snow after dark. Temps will drop below freezing once the sun sets. With the snow pack, the frozen ground and all the street drains either filled with snow or ice, it will be a real mess by 2 PM. Roads will flood and freeze b/c the blacktop has been so cold. I don't see any chance that the streets will be passable. The snow is starting to come down outside my window now. I will break my first rule of the day today. Wash before going outside. I am heading out before any personal care so I can beat the rain. The temp has risen to almost freezing, so the rain is not far behind.

I saw the mess left in the southern east coast areas by this storm that is encroaching on this area. I feel bad for those southern folks without power, roads a mess, trees down in the streets and no heat. Yesterday, I was at the local grocery store (a rare business these days, small, family owned store), picking up essentials for the storm. A pick-up truck parked next to me. They had a new pellet stove in the back of the pick-up. I wonder if those folks know a pellet stove doesn't work without electricity? Hmmm...

Well, gota get outside before the deluge of water. I sure hope everyone does well in the storm and has no adverse effects.
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!

House fire
This was not in the place where I live, but next door.

Friday night, there was a wood stove-related fire in the house I co-own. The other property owner lives in that house. He is a known drunk, has not cleaned the wood stove chimney in almost ten years. I know, for I was the last one to clean that chimney in 2003. He is neglectful, not clearing the front of the wood stove area of the stove for "crumbs" when one loads the stove. Probably hasn't cleaned anything in ten years!

Friday afternoon, he emptied out the ash tray from the wood stove and put the ashes into a plastic bucket. Then he left the bucket in the basement. His metal bucket was already full of ashes. He didn't empty that bucket, either. A fire started in the plastic bucket, spread to the "crumbs" on the floor, igniting a pile of newspapers next to the bucket and filled the house with smoke. The batteries have been dead in the smoke detectors for many years, so no alarm was available to wake him. Don't know how he woke up, but he did call the fire dept. Of course, the firemen broke all basement windows to vent the smoke. So, there was no glass in the basement windows to keep the cold out. He put rags over the windows to "keep the cold out". Gross negligence, plain and simple.

I have some rigid foam insulation and cut panels to cover the basement windows from the outside. I propped up some wood to keep the panels from blowing away. This will keep the domestic and hot water baseboard heat pipes from freezing. My domestic water comes from his house. I would have to pay any repairs to the house, since he wouldn't get any thing fixed. He is a drunk and doesn't care.

Since this reduces the sale value of my half of the property, I am, to say the least, incensed (pun intended). I will get a copy of the fire report from the Fire Chief and pass it onto my attorneys for leverage. Don't know if it will help me, but at least it is evidence of his lack of diligence.

*******Let me ad this to the original post. This man drinks to excess. He has lost his driver's license for OUI in Maine, has been in and out of trouble most of his adult life. He is considered the neighborhood drunk. No body likes him very much for he is a cheat and a liar. I know alcoholism is a disease, my father drank and killed his liver before he was 65. This is no excuse for lack of diligence with other's property. He and I have a very dark relationship (if that is what one calls it) and do not get along at all. He has been doing all he can to prevent me from farming on the property we co-own. That, in itself, is yet another story. Let it be said that if he would attempt to pull himself up out of the drunk gutter, he might become a better person. 

Yesterday, I got the 8' step ladder and the roof rake out and pulled the snow off the top of the duck house and farm stand roofs. These roofs are of fiberglass and not as sturdy as other types of roofs, so I am always concerned that snow pack could cave them in. That wouldn't be a good thing!

I slid the snow into a wheel barrow and took the excess snow to the path where I pull the water jug sled and the mail walk way into the yard. I used the snow to "groom" the path so now there is snow and not mud. Bad fro the sled to pull it over mud or any other hard surface. This morning, the new snow added to the snow pack and it was easy to pull the sled over the newly groomed path.  Worth the time to do this.

The two pullets that have damaged backs from the raping young roosters are in the house, recovering from their injuries. They are progressing nicely but I won't let them outside till the weekend when the temps moderate. Even tho' they are in a cool room, they are now accustomed to above freezing temps and it would be cruel to put them back with the flock. So, extra work keeping them fed, watered and their kennels clean. At least they are laying some eggs!

Well, gota get some things done this afternoon. Eggs to get counted & boxed...egg customers to contact for egg delivery.

Stay warm and upright!

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