Yesterday it was snowing here. We didn’t get much accumulation, just a dusting as each of the other snows this year have been. This snow triggered a memory of one of my first blog posts, a voyeuristic peek into the bare woods that nearly surround our homestead. Our 30 acre farm is primarily hay fields. There is a rock bar at the top of the property above the barn, a sink hole that swallows our two creeks to the west of that rock bar. The upper part of the property is returning to woods, the west side and south edge of the property are wooded, the upper east side belongs to a neighbor and it is also wooded. These woods give us a sense of isolation, we can’t see our neighbor’s houses at all in the summer and can see their lights at night in the winter, but the winter with the falling of the leaves, clears the view the brush obscures during the summer and we can see the wildlife that a mountain side farm supports.
Last summer, we thought we were going to need to build a boat if the rain didn’t stop. It rained well into the time of the summer that is usually too dry here and it affected the garden, severely reducing the produce from some of the crops. The young pullets and cockrell that we had started in March spent most of their day under the coop and the design of the coop, allowed rain to enter the drop down window on the east side.
I struggled with an idea for sheltering that window so that the chickens didn’t get wet when perched below it inside. My solution was to tack an 8 foot tarp just under the roof on that side, stretch it over three flexible poles that were anchored to the fence with cable ties. That seemed to work for a few months, providing shade and rain shelter on that side of the coop. This winter, however, we have had wind. The farm is in a hollow on the south flank of John’s Creek/Salt Pond Mountain and it funnels the wind sharply across our land. The wind tore the tarp free at two points and the flapping raised 3 of the fence stakes from the ground on the coldest day this winter, when our high only reached single digits. The fence came down, the ground was too frozen to hammer the stakes back in, but the chickens were cooped to try to keep them from frostbite. Unfortunately, the rooster and one hen suffered some on their combs and wattles anyway. Our winter has alternated between mild, up into the 50’s days and frigid windy weather. Today is the later, the sky is clear and gorgeous and 22 f.
The coop problem however, still exists. Generally the rain comes from the west and the west side of the coop has two glass windows that can be raised opposite the perches and an overhang that helps shelter them from all but a horizontal driving rain. The fence posts have been reanchored, but the fence is really inadequate and has no real gate. I guess when the weather and budget allow, we will begin the fencing for our pastures and at that time, perhaps the orchard in which the coop sits and the garden on the edge of it, will be fenced as well and the chickens will be able to have a larger area to free range. Right now, their free range must be supervised because of our dogs, the neighbor dogs and the coyotes.
For now they have to enjoy the bugs that hide in the old hay in their run, the pumpkins and other treats that I offer and the supervised outdoor time they can be afforded when the weather permits supervision.
Life is good on our mountain farm.