We are in the middle of our seventh year here on our farm. It’s the coldest winter so far, and we are in the middle of a couple larger projects that are part of our “first 10 years on the farm” plan for the farm. The metal sided barn is being converted into our food handling, processing and storage facility by adding electricity, water, equipment and refrigeration to it. This project is nearing completion. We’ve also broken now frozen ground on our third high tunnel, and are hoping for a January thaw that will allow us to complete the 96’ by 30’ tunnel soon. The barn project will enable us to handle, store and sell more of our produce and fruits every year. The newest high tunnel enables us to rotate our annual crop production more effectively.
This cold winter has slowed these projects almost completely. More time is being spent on firewood and frozen water buckets. Keeping the house warm and the animals alive is more pressing and occupies a lot of our time right now. We have a wood stove on the first floor and a larger wood furnace down in the basement. We haven’t used that in a few years, but we may have needed it this year. The wood stove has done all the work the past couple years. As for the animals, the poultry and goats all need fresh water daily. That means rotating buckets of ice into the barn, letting them thaw loose, then dumping the lump of remaining ice out. It is very easy (and costly) to crack and ruin the plastic buckets here, so care must be taken when handling the 2 gallon chunks of ice and “debris”. Half of the buckets are thawing out, half are filled with fresh well water for drinking. Every morning and every evening, about 150 chickens, 50 ducks, 40 geese, some turkeys and some peacocks get their water this way. The goats browse daily, but have been coming inside for the night lately! We do spoil those girls a little bit. Our birds are divided into several small houses and pens which all sit inside of a 1-acre yard that includes a small retention pond. There are 2 freeze proof spigots in the yard, but 1 has frozen solid again.
As for firewood, we have a small pile of cut wood from some trees that were finally removed, cut up and split a couple years ago. Bringing these pieces up to the house does require some effort, either in a wheel barrow, cart or the back of the pick up. Some of the pieces need some more splitting, which can also warm you up when you do the splitting. The pile is a mixture of some mulberry, osage-hedge, hickory and oak. Wood here moves from the big pile of wood in the back, to the wood shed in the yard, to the side porch wood pile, then to the wood pile on the side of the stove, then into the stove, and then finally all the ashes from inside the stove get carried to somewhere outside the house, which is the final step in the process (plus all the adding of the water for the various water chambers on top of the stove that boil away into the air). Some of the wood in that wood moving process is from an old cedar tree that stood near the orchard. It was already dead and had had all its branches cut off at about a foot or so long before we moved in. It stood impressively at more than 50 feet tall and it was thickly covered with a trumpet vine right to the top. Hummingbirds and many others loved it. Eventually high winds blew it over a couple years ago. When it burns in the stove now, the cedar smell is very pleasant. The stove needed some wood and I just added a big chunk of dry cedar. It was a great tree.