I can't help but think I picked an un-opportune time to start a blog about gardening and farming. New Jersey is having one of the coldest, snowiest winters that I can remember. It hasn't been above freezing in weeks, everything is snow covered and it's way too early to even think about starting any veggies. There's really not a lot going on here on my little farm right now.
Now, after I just wrote that paragraph, I paused. "Are you kidding me?", I thought. "My chores take ten times as long right now. I'm doing a ton of stuff!". Well, it seems like a ton of stuff, anyway. Really, it just takes longer to do every little thing.
Winter brings a whole new set of challenges to farm life. I may not need to tend the garden, but the livestock still need care. The outdoor spigots are all frozen, the only source of water is the spigot in the basement. I have three hoses linked together to reach from the basement out to the horses' water. They have a heated tub, so at least I don't have to worry about breaking ice for them. For the duck, I have a small rubber feed tub. The little rubber tub is big enough for the duck to have her bath in, but small enough to be easy to dump out, even when it's solid ice.
The chickens are not always so easy. When there is not a lot of snow on the ground, they free range. Problem solved, they can drink out of the duck's tub. When the tub is frozen, they eat snow. Chickens are pretty crafty. But when the snow gets deep, I have to lock them up in their coop.
Chickens are not really good at maneuvering through deep snow, as I learned last year when I had to rescue them, one by one, from where they had become stranded all over the farm after a snow storm. Locking them up keeps them from getting stranded, but it does create other problems. Mostly, water.
There's no electricity in the coop for a heated waterer. Right now I haul their waterer back and forth from the house several times a day. If it stays out there too long, it freezes solid and is impossible to dump out. To tide them them over between trips, I've been filling shallow bowls with snow for them to pick at and bringing them fresh fruits and veggies to eat. They seem content, but I know they're ready for the snow to melt so they can get out and range again.