Winter Farm Update
February 10, 2022
3 min read
One of the benefits of social media is the ability for people often isolated (a farmer in a rural area on an expanse of land) to connect with other people. After a long and mild fall, January came in full swing with night after night well below zero, and when I saw the temperature with windchill was going to be -22 I was able to quickly contact with other farmers in cold climates and figure out not when to put heat lamps on, but how to manage without heat lamps at all (heat lamps, as I’m sure many of you know, are notorious for starting fires). The chickens have done amazingly well – extra food, lots of bedding, and some minimal management of ensuring a certain chicken to space ratio on especially cold nights and we’ve suffered nothing more than a handful of frozen eggs. The chicks from this summer are now full grown and began laying eggs at 5 months old on the dot (December), and with the days lengthening egg production is ramping up. Our older hens have completed their fall molt and are sporting gorgeous brand new black & white checked feathers.
The sheep have stayed in the stables near the pasture as fresh air is critical to respiratory health and they are well insulated by 4-5” of thick wool (made waterproof by the lanolin they naturally produce). They frequently have a layer of ice or snow across their backs from hanging out in the pasture, and even with that I can sink my fingers into astonishingly warm wool to thaw them out. The sheep are also given extra food as they are warmed inside out by their digestive processes, and temperatures below zero are cold even for sheep so they happily plow through as much hay as they please. Our ewes are also kept warm by the development of their lambs, due in early April. The ewes (Ruth, Anita, and Bonnie*) are Dorset-Finn (a common cross) with “a little bit of Corriedale and Polypay”; both Finns and Polypay and known for having multiples, so I’m very curious to see how many lambs we end up with. Our Romney rams (Sarsaparilla and Iliya) have proven to be absolute gentlemen – Sarsaparilla is the eldest and will even wait to make sure everyone eats before he joins in.
The garden has been relatively quiet, but it’s February and that’s all about to change! Seeding begins the second week of February with tomatoes, snapdragons, and some early greens on heat mats in my basement. While they get started growing, we’ll finish putting up the walls and plastic on the new greenhouse over the coming weeks, as well as staining the new seeding tables in the old greenhouse and pruning in the orchard. Although there are still negative temperatures predicted for the upcoming weeks, seeding will be in full swing by March and I’ll be prepping early beds for asparagus crowns and strawberries coming in April. Already sparrows are building nests around the barn – spring is right around the corner!
*Trivia points to anyone who can figure out who Bonnie, Anita, and Ruth are named after!
-Jen Robinson, Farm Manager