The days lengthen slowly

We were given a winter prediction of warmer than average and average rain (not snow). Things are not as predicted, but I am ok with that. It has been cold and we have had lots of “snow days.” Not block you at home snow, just pretty to watch snow. I awoke this morning to a new coating on the yard, the third morning this week. It stayed at or near freezing all day and snowed off and on all day. The cover would thin or nearly go away as the sun came out, then it would cloud and snow again. When I went to get the mail at the top of the driveway, it was snowing hard and the sun was out. I looked for a snowbow but didn’t see one. As I went out to secure the hens at dusk, it was coming in again.

The lengthening days have all of the hens preparing to start laying eggs again. After buying a dozen at the Farmers Market last weekend, I got 4 from the Olive Eggers this week, 2 dark olive and 2 lighter green, so both of them are laying. Today there was a green one and a brown one (might have been the pinker color, it is too difficult to tell by house light). As I stood by the coop waiting for them to coop up so I could lock their door for the night, I noticed that 8 of the 9 have healthy red combs and wattles again. One is always reluctant to go in at night, she isn’t as healthy looking at the others and she has a very small, pale comb. I fear she may not be well, but she is a chicken, not a pet. If she shows real signs of illness, she will be isolated from the others to prevent spread, but if she is just not thriving, she will live out her life with them until the flock is replaced next fall or winter.

It is about time to sort through the seeds and see what else needs to be purchased as garden planning begins. After letting the chickens have garden time at the end of the season, they kicked most of the good soil out of several of the boxes, so some early spring work will have to be done to get ready, but not while the ground is mostly frozen. I have accumulated a good pile of cardboard to prepare the area that wasn’t planted last year after digging out the mint. That area will give me another 4 by 8 foot bed to use. As I plan to move the compost pile back to the northwest corner, I have started using that area between the fence and the bed planted with the garlic to put kitchen scraps until the garlic is harvested and that box moved. I need to get daughter and grand daughter on board to decide what they want to plant this year as well.

After my post yesterday, the state announced they were opening up Covid vaccines to the federal guidelines and I have pre-registered for mine. Now I await the call that will send me to the designated location to get it.

Happy New Year

The year ended with business paperwork showing an abysmal year for the shop. A putting away of last year and a clean house to start the new year. The last of the Christmas roast that had been frozen was thawed and warmed for supper last night with Huevos Rancheros on the schedule for the morning. We stayed up to watch the ball drop over the empty Times Square.

I started my double challenge spinning while watching another 30 minutes of new year festivities after midnight.

Yesterday, I knit the first square for the blanket as a test, using wool spun in November and December, and though it will be part of the finished blanket, it doesn’t count in the challenge. The wool I am starting with is BFL, 2 ounces each of the two colors above, Parrot Head and Kingfisher. One will start a new square after enough is spun and that will be my official one for the challenge, the other will be added to the square under them to provide the finishing corner of the blanket when all the quadrants of 4 breeds each are sewn together. The two spindles are “new” (within the past 5 weeks) and the fiber new at Christmas, so that satisfies the second challenge.

The morning brought an awakening thought that I had no eggs, so no Huevos for the Rancheros. He got cheese enchiladas and sausage instead. Our weekly curbside groceries were ready shortly after and again, the substitution or lack there of was a problem. It is frustrating that simple common sense can’t be used in offering substitutions. But it did get me the collards and black eyed peas that I will enjoy tonight as hubby has ham, au gratin potatoes, and something green. I enjoy corn bread with it, but have gotten frustrated that I make an 8″ skillet of it and half ends up going to the chickens before it all gets eaten. Maybe I should look for a tiny cast iron skillet and divide the recipe so that there are only 4 slices instead of 8.

The new year started rainy and cold but the rest of the week looks lovely. Tomorrow there is no official Farmer’s Market, but a few vendors have offered pre orders with a short window pick up. We will drive in to get eggs and some veggies. Next week, the winter markets begin.

Let’s hope that the vaccines get distributed fairly and quickly and that there are no more incidents of deliberate waste of them. Let’s also hope that the “adults” that hold positions in our House and Senate, act like adults and move the election result to completion. This year has to be better than last. A new grandson last January, socially distanced meet ups with our children and their families a few times, and my spindle spinning and knitting have gotten me through the past year.

Weather forecast?

Years ago when I worked in Virginia Beach, one of my co-workers had a short knotted rope with a small square of wood suspended at the bottom. On the wood was printed the forecast. “If it is wet it is raining, if it is white it is snowing, if it is swaying it is windy, etc.” That was probably as accurate as a forecast can get. We were told it would be a mild and wet winter. I know, technically winter started yesterday, meteorologic winter began a few weeks ago. I disagree with the mild part. We have had some very cold weather already and an early ice/snow storm. Several days, the high has occurred sometime between midnight and dawn with the temperature falling all day like today.

Our farm is in the Virginia Mountains, southwest in the state, so not as subject to snow as farther up the Shenandoah Valley and east enough to miss the Greenbrier and Highlands cold and snow, but still in the mountains. We often get wind advisories with the wind gusting in from the northwest, like today. Our farm did not come with a farmhouse and we built our home here, so it does have modern heat, a heat pump, but we also have a Rumford fireplace in the living room and a woodstove in the basement with heavy stone masonry done by Son1 and DIL, so if we keep fires going for a few days, the stones hold some heat.

All of these stones came off our farm and were hauled most without the benefit of the tractor, though some of the ones in the basement done later did have the benefit of hauling with the tractor.

So this first official week of winter is all over the place. It got up into the upper 40s yesterday, today, and tomorrow and predicted to go into the low 50s on Thursday with nights in the mid 20s until Thursday when we will see mid teens, rain turning to snow, and only 21 as a high on Christmas Day. White Christmas’ are rare here, but it might happen this year. In preparation for this, I went out and wrapped the fig with a lined cloth shower curtain folded to make several layers, then rewrapped the plastic so that the wind can’t blow it open again. We have a rolling wood rack and it and my garden cart were piled high with firewood, additionally, a dozen and a half short logs carried to a stack in the basement, the kindling basket was filled with sticks from a dead tree that came down across the fence. Both the fireplace and woodstove were set with fires that just need to be lit to hopefully keep the cold at bay until late in the weekend when warmer temperatures will prevail again.

I don’t think I want to be outside on Christmas Day, even to make a trip to the woodpile, so I hope enough is in the garage and basement to keep the fires burning.

When I was working outside in the cold wind, I realized that all nine of the hens were inside the coop, so I turned them out into the yard to forage. They will have to spend Christmas Day inside, especially if there is snow on the ground and 21 degree temperatures with wind.

I am glad we are on the day lengthening side of the Solstice, maybe we will start seeing eggs again in a few weeks. When they started molt, they quit laying, then a couple started again with a few eggs a week until a couple weeks ago when the amount of daylight was just not enough to stimulate egg production. I have actually had to buy a couple dozen at the Farmer’s Market in recent weeks.

I hope all of my readers have a Merry Christmas and go safely into the new year.