Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Year of Newness

Buff Orpingtons enjoying an afternoon of freedom

Making sure that animals are properly cared for during the winter can be challenging. Especially when that care involves a walk of nearly a mile carrying a gallon jug of water. But because the dogs also need at least one walk a day each, adding chicken care to the routine isn't really all that difficult. Knowing that I have to take care of the chickens makes me less likely to shirk my dog walking duties. With two active breeds like the Norwegian Elkhound and Australian Shepherd, neglecting the exercise for them is just asking for trouble.

We've had some really cold days and the forecast is for even colder early next week. So far there has been very little in the way of snow and ice in Meadows of Dan but winter has just begun. I've been going to take care of the chickens three times a day and the other members of the coop co-op also pay frequent visits on the colder days. Not only does the water freeze but we have to make sure the eggs are taken in more often to prevent them from freezing and cracking. I've been putting bag balm on the rooster's combs to try to keep them from freezing but that hasn't been completely successful. I think they object to the feel of the stuff and rub it off during the night. In the mornings and then in the afternoon I give the chickens corn during really cold weather. I don't like corn as a regular animal feed but it certainly does help keep the birds warm during the cold times.

Since the dogs are house dogs, there isn't much extra I have to do for them during the winter. I wipe their paws when we come in to remove salt and road rubbish after walks and check to make sure their pads aren't cracked. The outdoor cat up at the shop gets extra food in the mornings, although this morning we saw the stranger gray tabby hovering around waiting for us to leave so he could get to the food bowl. Emma would have been happy to oblige me by chasing him off, but I figure if he hangs around he will help Penelope keep the mice in check.

Barnabas, the cat here at the house, is getting older so I generally let him come in the back room on the bitter cold nights. He sometimes slips into the main part of the house when I'm not looking and makes himself at home on the bed or in a chair. When Emma first came here she was obsessed with the cat and he lived in fear of his life. If he slipped in she was determined to attack him and there was nothing I could do to distract her. I once put pieces of hot dog in her mouth when she was in her prey zone and she just let them drop out without noticing. A lot of hard work later and plenty of exercise and obedience work, and she will curl up in the bed or chair with Barnabas. Knightley's breeder made sure he was accustomed to cats when he was little so he and Barnabas have been best buddies from the beginning. Barnabas gets extra food during the winter as well

Taking care of me and the house during the winter also requires some extra effort. I use a wood stove for the main heat but there are propane and kerosene heaters for the bitter weather. I try to keep water stored and things ready for the power outages caused by difficult weather. During hunting season I've been wearing an orange and blue coat parka style coat is also quite warm and has a hood and reflectors. It's nice that it's waterproof, too. I add a hand knit alpaca cowl for the worst weather and a wood hat, along with gloves inside wool mittens. Makes it somewhat awkward to do chores but really the only problem I have with bad weather is how cold my hands get. It can sometimes be painful.

Even though it's a bit harder to get the chores done in the winter, I enjoy the change of the seasons. The bare trees stand sunlit against amazing blue skies and when the snows and ice come, it is beautiful as well as treacherous. Shadows slanting across fields that are a dozen shades of brown  grace our evening walks and the brilliance of darting cardinals decorates the evergreens along the way. Although I sometimes long for spring, the shorter days of winter's cold are peaceful on the mountain.

What I'm spinning: Hand dyed Texel wool from Border Springs Farm
What I'm knitting: Finished the Warm Hands Warm Hearts Mittens and doing some swatching.
What I'm crocheting: Everything is resting.
What I'm reading: Kind of in between things
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Torchwood series. Not exactly peaceful!
How the diet is going: Getting back on track.

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