Winter on the homestead is the time of year that tests your mettle. It’s easy to get your chores done when the weather’s nice, but when an icy wind bites your face off it makes you rethink your retirement plan.
The weather keeps waffling between 70 degrees and hard freezes. That’s normal for us. Mother Nature never makes up her mind in January…or February.
I don’t mind the freezes (too much) as long as they’re short. A hard freeze kills off many bad bugs and larvae, and keeps scorpions in hibernation. But it’s tough on us if we have to haul water by the bucket to the animals.
We watch the weather closely this time of year because it can shift within hours. Since our infrastructure is geared more for hot weather than cold, we have to drain outdoor water pipes, shutter chicken coop windows, and bring out more hay–hay that is precious right now because I don’t think we have enough to last until the first harvest.
Animals need more feed in the winter. During a prolonged freeze (more than a day) we have to check on animals frequently and bring them warm water.
Come March, nature changes rapidly. Within a week you can go from bare trees to blossoms. Another week and everything turns green. Then it’s a rush to get the garden planted.
Goats: All my does should be pregnant. No one has returned to heat, so I’m going to assume everyone is in a family way. We should be getting babies in March.
I decided too late in the year that I needed to sell goats. Long story, short: I couldn’t make a decision which way to go. Should I raise Nubian, Boer or both? Should I keep bucks? I’ve often fancied buying sperm straws and artificially inseminating the does myself. It sure would be easier than keeping a male year round.
After the babies are weaned I am selling all but four goats. Four is what we need to keep our agricultural exemption and that’s all we want to handle. I’m still not sure which breed is right. Each has its merits. But I have my favorites so that’s how I’ll decide who to sell.
Chickens: We had to start anew. We still had two Marans (hens) who somehow survived the slaughter of 2018. To regrow the flock, I bought two sets of Americauna from two different people.
The first set was bought at Canton Trade Days. I won’t do that again. I think we were sold crosses. They do not lay the blue/green eggs I was looking for. Buyer beware.
For the second set we traveled to the other side of Dallas. (A long way from us!) The man was asking half a king’s ransom but they were the prettiest birds I had ever seen. It was a trio, a rooster and two hens. Pure bred and nice enough to win ribbons at the fair. I wasn’t looking for blue ribbon birds, but my chances of finding any Americaunas at all had become slim.
None of the birds I bought were old enough to lay eggs so I bided my time. I got down to my last egg and was forced to buy a carton of eggs from the grocery store. Oh, the shame!
Not a week later, the white Americaunas started laying beautiful greenish-blue eggs. Americaunas are not known as super layers, but these girls are. I suspect they’ll slow down in their second year though.
I have some family business to take care of in February and March and then I’ll concentrate on incubating some eggs for chick sales later this year.
Quail: A funny thing happened when we raised quail last year. What with all the predator attacks, we had a heck of a time keeping them alive. To rebuild our stock we incubated eggs and got a nice batch of chicks. By then though, we were sick of the extra work involved to keep them safe so we decided to put them in the freezer rather than keep them for 2019.
Lo and behold they were delicious! I understand now why restaurants charge so much for them. After we finished our last batch, I turned to Greg and said maybe we ought to try quail again. I wouldn’t mind buying a few birds, hatch eggs, and then harvest the whole lot before the year’s end. This way we don’t have to keep them over the winter.
Thanks to Carole West’s instructions from GardenUpGreen, they were incredibly easy to dispatch and dress. Much easier and quicker than chickens. And the taste is superb. We really enjoyed them. I think the next time we head to Canton, we’ll pick up some more birds.
Garden: I’m too tired to think about the garden just yet. I plan to refresh every raised bed this year. The ph could be a little lower, and I’m sure they all need fresh nutrients and compost. I’m waiting on my soil test kit so I can test the rest of the beds.
Dog and Cat: Nana and Jammy. They’re fine. But I’ll be honest, we feel a big hole in our lives since losing Iko. I was reading someone else’s account on Facebook about a coyote attack on his German shepherd. I recognized the wounds immediately. It looked just like Iko’s. I don’t think his dog made it either. I never saw an update.
It’s been an exceptionally hard time for us. I’m angry and I feel defeated. Iko was so close to getting past all this. He was such a brave boy.
Maybe later this year, once we take care of family issues and get the homestead off to a good start, we can start looking at adopting another dog. Since Jammy is here, we’ll probably look for a puppy this time. Jammy’s nervous around big dogs and strangers. A puppy might be more his speed. Someone he can boss around and train.
On a more morbid note, Greg keeps telling me that whatever dog we get will probably be the last in his lifetime, so I want him to choose. I want him to have what he wants.
It’s a sobering feeling to make end-stage plans, but that’s a post for another day. Those of you my age or older know what I’m talking about. We might be fit and agile now, but past a certain age, these things can evaporate in an instant.
Even I can see that I’m looking for ways to lighten my workload. If Greg decides to exit this life first, I need to be able to do things for myself until I can move to a smaller place.
That settles it. I’m writing a post on exits next month! 😀
So how is your winter shaping up? Are you cocooning, or making new plans for your home and homestead this year?