Tuesday, December 30, 2008
So this morning the alarm went off at 3:30am and we drug ourselves out of bed, suited up in our Carharts and went out into the early morning to crate up the flock. This sounds fairly simple, and it really should be, but somehow it tends to be more of a Keystone Cop episode.
Regardless, at 4:20am, Sean set off down the road, sharing the trip with 52 hens and one rooster. I hope its going well, because they will be in that van for more than 3 hours together. Its a ridiculously long trip, but there aren't many lockers that will process chickens at this time of year. Sean will return late this evening with 2 coolers full of farm-raised, stewing hens ready to go into the freezer and we will look forward to homemade chicken soup, chicken and noodles and our own chicken salad sandwiches for 2009. Such is the cycle of life on the farm.
It was very strange for both of us to be away from the farm for such an extended time, but thanks to Jesse, our fabulous farm-sitter and my parents, we were able to take the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Colorado for the first time in several years.
When we left Iowa the temps were in the single digits and when we returned, it was nearly 40°. In between, we missed thunderstorms, snow, ice and heavy fog. In Denver the weather was nearly perfect. The only shortcoming of our trip was, missing out on a side-trip to southern Colorado where Sean's sister and SIL have the most amazing little bakery.
It was a great trip, and a real treat to spend some quality, holiday time with the Skeehan clan, but there is no doubt that it is good to be home.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
We are currently experiencing a new aspect to the chick cam. I was working on the computer and kept hearing a strange sound coming from the chick cam monitor, it sounded like static, but it hadn't beem there earlier in the day. Strange...then it occurred to me, it's not static, its sleet hitting the metal roof on the coop. The winter storm that they have been predicting has finally arrived. The forcasts say we should expect up to an inch of ice topped with a couple inches of snow, followed by wind tomorrow. This is a bad combination and more than a little alarming as it is almost exaclty a year ago that we experienced a terrible ice storm that left us without power for five days. Here's hoping that we don't have a replay of that little adventure.
I've been trying to upload a picture of the chick cam screen, but the storm is interferring with our satellite connection. Will try to get one posted when the weather allows. We are currently experiencing thunder sleet, so that nighttime walk down to the boiler is looking less pleasant all the time. It will not be one of those poetic moments on the farm.
Friday AM update: success at last. This is what we see on our chick cam monitor. It's not the best photo, but it will have to do. Our little digital camera doesn't know what to do with a monitor screen. The weather update this morning is better than we expected. Looks like we got about 1-2" of sleet, but not at least not the 1" of ice they were predicting. We have power and we have internet...what else does a "wired" farmer need?
Yep, now for the second year in a row we've seen Bald Eagles flying over the farm.
It has become fairly common to see them around the DM river area, but we (ok, I) still get down right excited seeing them winging it aross the sky here in Marion County. It was cold enough today that the laying hens were loafing inside the coop, so no worries there. Our hens are large enough that we don't generally have problems with hawk predation, but an eagle could cause us some serious trouble. Regardless of that possibility, it still gives me a rush to see such a ruggedly beautiful bird returning to the area.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I just completed my first project knit from my own handspun yarn. I started with a wonderful wool-blend fiber called Day's End from Abi, and was taught to spin it by my uber-cool (and very patient) friend Maggie.
Then I fumbled about until I figured out how to knit (seriously, had no clue) and then with Maggie's guidance, jumped into knitting with DPNs (double pointed needles, yikes!)
Now I finally have a finished project made from my very own handspun yarn. For those of you with less imagination...its a hat (and it's even the right size).
So now that its a toasty 1° outside, I have plenty of fun projects to keep me busy indoors!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tonight is the Full Cold Moon, also called the Long Nights Moon, as it is the full moon closest to the Winter Solstice, when the nights are truly at their longest.
Last night as the nearly full moon rose up over our snowy landscape, I think you could nearly have taken a photograph without a flash, it was so bright and clear outside. The moon shadows were crisp against the snow and the bare tree branches looked like black lace against the glowing sky. It was truly one of those magical nights.
I get to see a lot of late night scenes at this time of year. Over the winter we use a wood-fired boiler as supplemental heat for our house. The boiler stands sentry in the back corner of the packing shed (about 70 yards from the house) and the water lines run underground up to the sunroom. It is a pretty great system, no risk of house fire (makes the insurance guys happy), or dragging wood through the house. But it does require a late night (9 or 10pm) stoking to keep things warm. So every night, just as I am starting to get sleepy and thinking about going to bed, I have to get up, put on my coveralls (sometimes over my pajamas), boots, hat and gloves and trudge down the hill in the dark to feed the fire. I never think fondly of this chore from within the house, but once I am outside, the complaints are usually silenced.
Unless there is a storm blowing, it is often a beautiful time to be out. The winds are still, the skies are clear and the stars are bright. Sean thinks I'm crazy to go out without a flashlight, but I never use one and I don't turn on the outside lights. There is so much to see beyond those tiny circles of light. Blue loves this nightly ritual. She leaps and frolics in the snow like a kid, all the while watching for rabbits or deer to chase, after which she always returns to my side, well pleased with herself for protecting me from the wild beasts.
And when we finish our nighttime chores, we return to the warm glow of the house. I get a hot cup of tea, Blue gets a "cookie" and we all settle in for another cozy winter's night on the farm.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Pasta coming off cutters onto bamboo skewers for drying
We made about 9 pounds of pasta so that will be 18 packages that we can take to the upcoming Winter Market (minus the ones we eat between now and then!)
Our new pasta drying system (much improved over covering every horizontal surface in the cabin with bed sheets and drying pasta!