Jan. 24th, 2009 | 11:51 am
The bitter cold and wind this winter is making an indelable mark in our memories this year. There's just nothing to stop the wind out here on the edge of the prairie. Luckily we have a pretty good windbreak around our house and farm buildings so that one can be outside even on sub-zero days and have a bit of shelter from the wind. It has got us thinking good and hard about a north windbreak to provide some shelter to our fields, both for the benefit of the farmers and the benefit of our crops. We also get to see first-hand how much soil erosion happens even in the winter in semi-snow covered fields. We have snow drifts allover the farm with patterns of black soil imprinted. We know it is not likely from our farm, since there is barely any bare land here, but all the corn and soybean land around us ( and everywhere else in corn country) is bare, black soil. A reminder to us to cover as much ground as we can with a fall cover crop or green manure.
The poor chickens are stuck inside the barn most of the time, and most are also molting so are left looking small, bald, and slightly miserable. Days will go by without even one egg, or the egg will already be frozen by the time we get to it. Although we did get an Araucauna egg today--that was a first since we moved in last October basically! The light green-blue was an especially beautiful surprise of color today. I have heard the same egg drop-off from larger organic egg producers--stories of 3 dozen eggs a week from 500 layers. We are doing our best to treat our hens as queens, but there's not much we can do about the cold. The 2 barn cats hang out in the lean-too greenhouse that gets pretty warm for them during the sunny days, although the younger one loves to "roost" next to the chickens and eat kitchen scraps. It's a hilarious sight to go out and see him crouched in the middle of all the hens. He's definitely after their food, but spends quite a few nights in there with them as well.
Despite the cold, we are still enjoying ourselves and quite content to be here, even in the midst of a memorably hard winter. Doing A LOT of farm planning, which is exciting and semi-frightening just in terms of how much work there is to do and making the budget stretch to cover all the capital improvements needed. It would be even more frightening to go into it with our eyes wide shut though. There will be a crew here next season to help! Three lovely ladies with farm experience, and both Adam and I will be here full-time. The stillness and quiet of January will vanish rapidly come March and April.
Last week brought the MN Organic Farming Conference, with a special Thursday session on Winter Hoophouse Growing by Eliot Coleman. It was good to see this esteemed author in person and hear about the myriad of season-extension techniques they are doing in Maine. It did prompt us to think harder about getting a moveable hoophouse. They give you so much more flexibility--we wouldn't have to get our fall tomatoes out early in order to plant a fall spinach crop. However, they can be 3 times as expensive as a plain old hoophouse. Food for thought for the future as we plan to put up at least 2 more hoophouses in the coming years. What I wouldn't give for some fresh hoophouse spinach right now...
Be well and stay warm!
We need more of these here: