The geese and ducks have a heated house but choose to stay outside - those down jackets they are wearing have done a good job. No signs of frostbite on their bills or feet.
The chickens and guinea fowl have a heated coop and every bird has been roosting near the sources of warmth. Tyrion, our bantam rooster has slight frostbite at the rear of his comb from the time he spends outside of the coop during the day with the hens. Swayze, our buff orpington rooster, also has a few discolorations on his comb. Otherwise, every bird has done well through the cold.
The alpaca and llama have stayed close to the ground to avoid wind chill and to soak up the biological warmth of decomposing hay.
The pigs really do not like the cold and have been nesting deep in hay bales, under blankets, next to their heaters. Although they wag their tails while grazing in the sun on 20 degree days, as the shadows of night approach they squeal and run for warmth.
Hazel and Tofu, our new pigs, are now best buddies. We’ve removed the dog barriers we used to separate them during acclimation. They eat, sleep and play together in the pasture all day. Both enjoy their belly rubs. come when called, and look forward to visits from their humans. In some ways, pigs are more social than dogs and really want to spend time with us. They are good, good pigs. Photos below
The rain, snow, and freezing temperatures have made the alpaca paddocks an icy, muddy mess. I thought the issue was poor drainage due to compacted soil but the issue was our last hay delivery. The alfalfa bales, although eaten completely by horses , are only nibbled by alpaca, creating enormous piles of chaff. That chaff accumulates on the ground and absorbs water, creating a foot thick sponge of composting alfalfa stems. Over the weekend, I spent 6 hours with a pitchfork removing 18 wheelbarrow loads of alfalfa from the paddocks.
We finished up the tree house and two observation platforms last weekend. All the safety features are now installed and family members feel much more comfortable with railings, hang grips, and benches in place. The next step is the tree house roof to minimize snow accumulation.
With the coldest weeks of winter approaching, I’m spending more time indoors. I reorganized the farm library, sorting it by animal and plant type for easy access. I’ve cleaned and replaced all the gaskets on the cider/winemaking/beer equipment. I’ll be brewing winter celebration ale next week.
There’s something special about reading next to a roaring fire on a cold winter night. I’ve been reviewing selections from the permaculture literature to help me with the homestead design I’m doing as part of my University of Massachusetts coursework. This week’s assignment was to analyze the food we consume every year and determine the layout of farmland necessary to grow it. Here’s my analysis
We determined that it is possible to grow 100% of our yearly food at the farm, although we will still be dependent on the community around us for supplies such as seeds, tools and electricity.
The weekend ahead will be filled with freezing rain, so after I care for the animals and plants, I’ll be putting away the final holiday decor and catching up on my writing - a few book prefaces and my winter semester final homestead design project. The third week of January generally brings -10 to -15 temperatures on the farm. We’re getting ready to hibernate.