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Winter chores

barn chickens chores deep farm horses ponies rural sheep snow Uncategorized winter

"Up, up, Nite Nite!"
this little pony is full of energy
2 feet of snow!
2 Feet of Snow in the storm after Christmas 2010!

We’ve been having snowstorms weekly since Christmas.  It makes for a beautiful and bright landscape.  The fences are down, though, in certain pastures and so little Nite Nite, the Shetland Pony, is frequently found ranging about, for the fun of it, because she can step between the gaps.  Fortunately the rest of the herd is not escaping, instead just entertained by her progress.  Usually one only has to go out and rattle a bucket to simulate grain or pull hay out for the others and she trots up as if to say, “Hey, can you help me figure out how to get in there with everyone else?”

Today I was trudging through the snow to take care of everyone in the hen-house and everyone in the barn and I had an opportunity to use “visualization” techniques to lighten my load.  I imagined that instead of stepping/crunching/collapsing/pulling my feet in and out of the deep terrain, I was lightly treading upon soft grass…the kind that we won’t see until sometime in June!  You see, these days there is a nice crust atop the deep stuff and the paths are a mess…so while one is carrying full, slopping ice-cold buckets, one gets to trudge along and enjoy a vigorous cardio-workout in the course of taking care of the animals.  And yes, sometimes it is more work than I would like it to be!

Because I enjoy the animals, and the fresh air is a wonder for clearing out the cobwebs of too much indoor-living at this time of year, I don’t mind the chores.  I have some wonderful new overalls that are insulated, along with my insulated oilskin jacket, two (yes, two) neckwarmers and a warm hat so that I can hardly tell the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperature.  My boots are fabulous Bogs, though they have a few tears they still keep my feet dry and warm.  And lastly, my hands can luxuriate in the leather gloves that I have written “Mom” on in permanent marker, lest they are abducted by anyone in the household that is not mom!  Upside down they say “Wow” which is amusing and a lift when I need it!

Chickens
The chickens and peafowl live here

So I set out into the cold and frosty farmyard and knock buckets together to free the ice from the sides and top off grain hoppers with more grain and oyster shell for the chickens.  The chickens like some hay tossed into their yard, too, along with some scraps from the house.  They are wonderful garbage-cans because they eat almost every kitchen scrap, aside from raw potato and coffee grounds.  They particularly love meat and so I gave them some enormous hunks of suet this past winter.  I’ve been giving the peafowl some suet as well.  They are separated from the chickens now because my female, Jewel, was being pecked by someone or someones in the coop and her wing was a bleeding mess.  She and her beau, Fig, are in their own house now and she is healing well.  I know that they will be happy for spring, though, as they really need to get out and stretch their wings.

Chickens in the snow
My chickens wish that the grass were green and not white!

The barn is bustling with baa-ing sheep that would like more hay and grain, please.  The horses are impatient about getting their morning breakfast and hay, but who can blame them?  They have nothing to graze on except any hay that we put out the night before and so they are usually ready for some fresh munchies.  Until the girls got an electric bucket for Christmas, we were having to break ice out of buckets everyday for the horses as well.  But now they have one large heated bucket which is positioned under the outdoor spigot and it makes the water-chore of taking care of the horses SO much easier!  We just lift the spigot handle and wait for the bucket of water to be topped off.

Yogi, the Shetland wether
Yogi, between bites of yummy hay, pauses to smile for the camera

Kittens and bunnies are waiting for some attention in the tack room.  Wasabi, the black kitty, is always campaigning for more food but I have her number.  She has to be carried out of the tack room to “work” for her living during the day.  We tuck her in at night with her friend “Niska.”  The two of them are supposed to be mousing during the day, and we think they do, but during the winter they would rather just stay in the tack room the whole day and have their bowl filled with kitty-kibble.  The bunnies “Cecily” and “Bean” are of the same opinion.  Their grain is hoovered between meals and we are trying to give them more hay, less grain these days.  The vet had told me that they should be eating Timothy grass and very little grain at all.  They have a grain-habit, though, that is not easily kicked.

Jackie "minds" the bunnies
Jackie is "minding" the bunnies in the tack room

I have two groups of sheep right now.  One group, my breeding group, consists of Maggie, Ruva & Lily and Balrog, the recently acquired Ram.  They are Shetland Sheep and I got Balrog in the middle of December.  Well, things don’t seem to be going so well in the breeding-department.  At least, not that I can tell.  I wish that something would happen, but I’m afraid I missed the window of opportunity because we got him so late.  There was some “hoof rot” in the fall which really messed up my plans for breeding the sheep.  When Maggie, then Lily, came down with what we thought was hoof-rot, we had to treat with antibiotics and soaks for almost 4 weeks to ensure that we had rid the flock of any potential spreading of the disease.  It was most inconvenient as the day that it reared its ugly head was the day I was going to pick up Balrog.  Live and learn, live and learn.

Breeding Group
Here is Balrog, purchased from "Contented Butterfly Farm" in Windsor, VT

The other sheep group consists of the two wethers, Yogi and Gandalf, and the two ewe-lambs Nikki and Pansy.  We don’t want Nikki and Pansy to be bred because they are so young(born last April).  This fall I will want to breed them, but not until then.  So they hang out with the two boys that are wethered and spend a lot of time eating hay.  Tonight when Sarah Jane and Charlotte were doing the evening chores they found that Yogi & Nikki had discovered how to get into the barn and up into the hayloft!  The girls said it was quite something to go upstairs and find them in heaven-on-earth for sheep!  The funny thing, they said, was trying to encourage those woolies to go DOWN the stairs.  Apparently they required pushing…!

Least favorite of all chores, though, is the winter mucking.  It’s just not fun.  The stalls are easier than the paddock as the shavings help keep things “pluckable” with a mucking rake, but the paddock is almost a lost cause.  The freezing of the manure in the paddock means that you really can’t pick it clean unless there is a bit of a thaw.  So it’s a rather untidy time in the barnyard.  But perhaps that whole topic is best left for another post…my daughters and I hold different opinions of what the proper way to clean a stall is.  There is nothing like arguing about whether more or fewer shavings is a more efficient way to keep stalls clean and Sarah Jane and Char would like to see it tested on Myth-Busters someday.  I am pretty sure my way is the better…..!

The white landscape does make it appear quite pristine and certainly beats a dull, brown, winter-dead pasture and lawn.  And then there are those days when the sun comes out and the sky is bluebird-blue….Jack Frost has left the world a-glitter…it makes me smile from the inside-out and I say “I Love New England!”

hay for the chickens
me, hauling hay to the coop for the chickens and peafowl

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