Monday, February 20, 2006

One month till Spring

Well, we made it through this past cold spell all right. I was worried about the chickens, and they were indeed "frosty" when I checked on them, especially after the second -40F night, but I didn't lose any of them. I shoveled most of the bedding against the coop wall and threw down a bag of fresh wood shavings on the floor. Then I lowered the brooder lights (I have 3 lights with 125w bulbs) closer to the roost. When I went to check on them the first cold morning (when it went down to -35F), all the eggs were frozen, but the chickens had burrowed down into the fresh wood shavings and stayed warm. They lined up for me to hold them inside my coat! I held each one and warmed their feet. My rotten roosters especially like being held, but I prefer to hold the poor bald hens. I know I have way too many roosters, but I don't think my tiny flock would have made it this far through the winter with lower numbers. At least the roosters keep everybody moving.

I have been doing research on solar heating, and I am going to put together a solar window heater for the big south facing window in the chicken coop. I can't find anyone that has used solar heat for any of their livestock buildings up here, but I certainly think there is enough sunshine at this latitude to use solar energy for multiple applications. The chicken coop will be a good starter project. I need to figure out how to store the heat produced by the window heater for overnight use. I know I can certainly scrounge the materials I need to make it. I want to look around at kinds of insulation for the interior of the coop, as well -- moisture resistance, R value and all that. When I get it all done, I'll post pictures and full instructions. I have to do something because we got a letter from the electric company saying they are raising their prices big time because of their fuel transportation costs. I'm going to replace all the light bulbs in the house with those more expensive energy efficient bulbs, too. I have had people give me conflicting comments on the performance of those bulbs, so I'll just have to try them for myself and see how cost effective they are.

Looking at the picture (top) of my grandfather's barn being built back around 1930-1931 got me thinking about getting work done, and while I may not be able to do much outside because of all the snow, I have been busy inside. I ordered most of my seeds, plants, and seed starting supplies. I am still thinking about getting some strawberries and a couple of crabapple trees, but I'm not sure yet. I went to Fleet Farm in Marshfield and bought shop lights for starting seeds the end of April down in the basement. And I will have plenty to keep me busy once the snow melts -- like cleaning out the chicken coop and hauling all the winter's bedding out to spread on the field. I have over 150 kinds of seeds, not including the plants I've ordered to put in the garden, although some of the seeds are old and may not germinate well. I created a database document of all my seeds and sorted it by type of plant. Then I sat down and graphed out the garden using wide rows, raised beds, and blocks in two half acre sections. It took me about two good weeks playing around with this and that factor before I came up with a planting and rotation plan I am happy with. I'll have to wait and see how it works now. I'm using interplanting with companion plants for pest management and possible enhancement of food flavor. With the raised beds and wide rows, everything will be intensively planted. The block sections are for flour corn, sunflowers, pole beans, spring wheat, and pumpkins. It will be interesting, no matter what happens. If I can get a third half acre section turned over, I'll put the beans there.

I guess I'm starting to come down with Spring fever!