Saturday, January 15, 2011

Adult Snow Day

So, the phone rings this morning, about 45 minutes before I would normally head to the farm for the day. Turns out there was enough snowfall over night, combined with drifting, that my little 2 wheel drive truck would likely not make it down the road from the highway. So I am having my first day "off" in a few months.

Now while this did make me smile, it was a very guilty smile and I do not really like the time off because it means most of what I normally do has to be done by my should-be-retired using the snow-blower to open the paths and road up so that these chores can be done. Not only that, but its still pretty cold here at -27 C. But at least its not windy like yesterday where the windchill had the temperature down around -37 C (although I swear it felt colder at times).

Still, I must say that I feel an exhilaration being outside even in those conditions, an exhilaration that I do not recall in my youth. Back then it would have been hard to get me outside at all, never mind enjoying it so much. Now, I must point out that in a lot ways we are operating little more than a hobby farm at this point. We are tending to less than 20 head of cattle, 6 hogs, and around 130 chickens. This can still be a fair amount of work though, when real winter returns like this. For example, it will have taken at least 2 hours to clear the driving areas of snow today. This must be done whenever there is enough snowfall or drifting, such has been the case twice this week. I know this kind of thing is faced by farmers all over the north, and I am not complaining, merely pointing out that at this time of year the smaller amount of animals we have does not necessarily mean a lot less work.

From a certain perspective though, I still have things pretty easy. I'm generally only out there for 5 or 6 hours a day during the winter. I was doing just 2 or 3 as that was enough to do the lion's share of the work that needed doing, but when I realized that putting the calves and their mothers back in at night was taking dad around an hour...when it just takes me minutes...I decided to find ways to fill in the couple of hours until the early evening when they need to go back in. So now, to fill in that extra time, I have been building a fire in the wood stove in the old house that I grew up in. I then "cook" up some rolled barley for mom's chickens, giving them a warm meal for their gizzards once a day. This seems to be really helping them to lay more regularly during what is becoming a bit of a cold winter. We have our two male barn cats in the old house while a stray female is around, and they just love it when that fire gets stoked up. One of them sits on the oven door, basking in the direct heat from the oven. The fatter one sits on top of the stove until it gets too hot for his feet, then he gets up on the adjacent pantry, laying up there snoozing and absorbing the less intense heat. I must remember to take some pictures of these handsome, if nosy, young fellows, though I have been meaning to do so for months.

But back to my snow day, after a bit of a guilty nap, I figured I should take advantage of the time home to catch up on some cleaning in the kitchen and general tidying. Nowhere near all that should be done, but some of the blatant tasks. I also had the chance to have a look at my one operating worm bin here at the condo. The few worms I brought out from the farm seem to be doing quite well but I see I must bring some more. I also rooted through the one finished bin, loosening the wet castings up so that some of the moisture can evaporate, as well as fishing out 5 or 6 worms that still remained. It never ceases to amaze me how long worms can survive with very little attention, even in finished castings.

I'm quite excited about the amount of castings that I have for the next growing season. All together I must gave enough to fill one large Rubbermaid tub, although it is all quite wet so could be mashed into quite a dense little clump if that is what I wanted...which I do not. Suffice it to say, there is easily 3 times as much as we had last year, which yielded a very nice tomato patch. In addition, I found a naturally occurring deposit of worm castings in one of our old barns late this fall. These worms had been protected by a thick pile of plywood which had been forgotten and left laying flat over a thick layer of cow manure. So before the snow fell I was able to gather about 6 large sacks of dry fluffy worm castings...just perfect and ready for the garden come spring. This should mean one kick ass garden this year. I'm kind of excited.

Back to my day off. Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters.


Teresa said...

Snow days are always nice for me because then I don't have to go to work and can stay home and do all that farm work that needs done. I'm sure your parents and the cats and the chickens all enjoy your longer days on the farm. Sounds like you've earned one day off!

linda said...

Sounds like you deserved the rest:) I'm impressed by the amount of worm castings you have so far. Is it enough for most of your garden?

Aimee said...

you are doing a lot more work than I am, and in worse conditions. I have been feeling sorry for myself for having to spend 45 minutes a day out in the rain, wind, and mud. Guess I've got it easy!

Jerry said...

Turns out I got 3 off, Teresa! Making up for it now though, was up shoveling off the roof today, for example.

linda, thanks. And its hard to say just how much is enough. Im sure I have enough to do a light sprinkle but probably only enough to do a large patch decently. I think a lot of the found castings will be used in the greenhouse. there's PLENTY for that.

Aimee, I know 45 minutes in the rain, wind and mud can feel like hours.