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Prepare for the Big Freeze

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The end of this week the sky shall fall white flecks of doom. Oh yes, it’s coming. Soon we’ll all be waving our hunter orange hats in destain while screaming “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”.

If you weren’t hatched with a thick beard and muffs like our Ameraucana, Snowbird, then it’s time to drag those winter duds out. The goats seem to have put their winter gear on over the past couple of weeks since the nip has been in the early morning air.

The loose mineral has definitely made a difference over the block licks last fall. Our thinnest doe who will be three this year has a slight limp. I’ve mostly dried her off and put a foal coat over her. I can’t find a thing wrong with it. Trimmed, clean and without wounds—just lame. In the meantime, she won’t loose as much energy to keep warm and produce milk while she is healing. I’m down to two milkers now.

My beloved mushroom walks are over. Songbirds have fled. With these good and happy things the light has faded. I hate it being dark before dinner. But I still love the silence which winter brings. Desolate and secret. A snapping twig can be heard for hundreds of feet on a clear, crisp night with a dead wind.

I yawned while walking to the barnyard last morning. The cloud was so thick I was blinded. Those ground ice crystal towers that make the satisfying crunch when stepped on are waiting to spring up any day now. At lease those deer tracks are easy to spot in a light snow on a face-fog morning—just don’t step on a crispy crystal.

It’s time to prioritize. What needs to be done before snow? What chores, projects and other time-sucks can wait until the ground has froze-up?

Take anything that cannot be frozen inside. I took the medications into the house from where they were stored in a cabinet closer to the animals for easy access. While you’re at it, check the kit for expired or low items which may need restocking. Vets are Garden hoses! Lay hoses on a gradual long slope to empty them out then coil them up where the plow won’t find them.

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Last night I scraped up pine needles and leaves to lay over our strawberry bed. MULCH! MULCH! MULCH!! The very last of the garden goodies are coming in today.

I buttoned up a new coop which needs new latches and siding—but that can wait. They have another bout of poultry lice from the damn wild turkey population. They have been locked into a 70×80-foot enclosure for the winter to keep them safer and healthier.

The goats will be moved closer to the house this winter so I can keep an eye on the maternity ward come spring. My husband has all the shed wood cut on the sawmill and stacked waiting. Fencing must also be run. But those things can be done with frozen ground. Fencing will be run from tree to tree—so no pounding posts.

After a recent windstorm the barnyard looked like an explosion went off. Ok, I lie—it always looks like that but it was slightly worse. The last thing I want to see come spring is that mess again. I have filled my little old Tundra four times over with scrap lumber, cracked buckets and bits of fencing from all over the damn yard.

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I took down a standing-shelf greenhouse and collected plastic stuff that water could freeze in and crack. Many buckets, extra chicken feeders and water fountains mostly from when the flock was twice its size. Upside down and stacked undercover, and out of eye-sore sight.

The brooding and chick rearing things must be rounded up, cleaned and stored so they are easy to fetch come March. They will be a joyous time after the deep freeze. The teeny and improbable peeps inside the thick shells as they find a spot to begin the arduous task of chipping out.

Then the very last week of March through the last week of April the goats will kid. That’s what my winter wait is worth. It’s like having newborns to bottle feed each spring. I enjoy the last nights on the barn floor with my round ladies.

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Easy Girl was so sweet last year laying on me between contractions, humming sweetly and wanting my attention. She was so in need of encouragement I saw very little of the birth—she kept her soft goaty-snout within a couple feet of my face and pointed her rear end away. Then, little Lucy-Lu joined our herd around 3:30AM a just after April fools. Snd a fool she is! Black and white with a muzzle and cap almost identical to her sire.

Buy that hay and bulk grain now before the prices shoot up. Make sure it’s in a good place where the mice won’t enjoy it too much. We bought about 100 bales at $3.50/bale only to have the goats strew it all over for bedding. They hate it.

Last week we had to buy a second load of 100 from a Quaker man in Knox. It’s the bast hay we’ve ever seen. Soft ribbons of timothy, pressed clover heads and all lush second-cut—no thick, coarse stems unfit for precious, dainty goat-lips. At least my very sturdy, fearless and flexible daughter was there that time to help load the much-heavier bales to the top of the hay trailer.

While speaking of feeding animals through winter, quit paying to feed animals you don’t need! Catch those roosters and make a chicken dinner. Drop prices on any livestock for sale. Get down to your bare minimums. Figure out the very favorites then look at the rest to consider the overall diversity, female to male ratio, and housing space to strike a balance that you can afford to keep fat and happy through the coming freeze.

Did I mention the firewood needs chopping and the generator needs a tune-up? How’s that old plow truck looking these days? And how’s that level of pre-winter anxiety? You’re welcome.

KEEP CALM AND FARM ON. We farm girls don’t take days off.