Chickens in the hoop house, finally!

Keeping chickens warm and safe during a Bruce Peninsula winter is challenging. This is only our third year, but each year we learn a little more.  It helps that our birds are pretty hardy; especially after surviving last winter’s frigid temperatures.

 

Chickens and their mobile coop during early winter
The chickens stay outside as long as possible in the fall. Rocky (front girl) gives me the stink eye – like this weather is my fault.

 

We like to keep our birds outdoors as long as possible into the fall. They are fine in the colder temperatures as long as they can get out of the wind and don’t get wet. We provide a covered area they can hang out in as well as their mobile coop. Yes, it’s an old truck cap. It works.

Things get tricky when the fence battery gets cold and has to be switched out with a warmer, charged one every morning. Man, that thing is heavy. Being off-grid, we are loathe to add any extra power draws during the dark time of the year. Charging a fence battery can use a lot of power we’d rather use elsewhere, like for lights and running water.

Traditionally, we move the chickens into the garage just before Christmas. This allows us the chance to get away for the holidays and have a chicken sitter. We know the birds are secure, and the sitter can easily tend to their needs and collect eggs. Win-win. Mostly. Continue reading “Chickens in the hoop house, finally!”

The Winter Homestead Lifestyle

Snowfall on polka dot hen produce homestead bruce peninsula
The first winter snowfall covers our homestead in white frosting.

Well, it’s been a quiet winter so far here on the homestead. Nowhere near the spirit-crushing amount of snow and cold temperatures we endured last winter. Yet. Thank goodness. That was a challenge. We’ll see what February brings.

Still, this season does bring a change in daily life that we both look forward to and dread at the same time. Fire building we look forward to – constantly carting wood into the house, we dread. Snow is really great for skiing and snowshoeing; blowing it off the driveway is not so enjoyable. Walking the dog takes on new meaning. However, we all agree that snow days are awesome.

 

Polka Dot Hen Produce hoop house in winter
Snowfall in January blankets the hoop house.

 

It’s our first winter with the hoop house. Paying attention to snow accumulation is the new pastime. We’ve only had one large snowfall followed by warming temperatures that made us a bit nervous. Heavy snow is the enemy. By pushing up and out on the plastic from inside the structure, the snow is persuaded to let go and slide off. I use a special broom with curved bristles (that I already owned) and a step stool for this job. I also use muscles that have been dormant a long time.

 

Snow accumulation on solar panels
Pretty isn’t it? Not a lot of watts being generated, though. Clearing the solar panels is a daily job in the winter.

 

Winter around here means less sunlight which in turn means less power. The days are short and often overcast. The solar panels need to be cleared each time it snows. Our backup generator gets a workout.  Not so much the vacuum and washing machine. And now it’s snowing again.

On the plus side, all of the seed catalogues have arrived! So I’ll pour another cup of coffee and settle in by the fire to plan next season’s vegetable selections. Then I’ll strap on the snowshoes and walk the dog.

Walking the dog on the Bruce Trail in winter
Walking the dog on the Bruce Trail in winter.

 

 

Irrigation Irritation

Zucchini and tomatoes grow in a hoop house
Prickly zucchini leaves are located too close to the water line header.

Written by Peter

Picking up the irrigation equipment order was a journey full of holes. Early in the day, I lost precious time trying to locate a local irrigation salesman who’s business has yet to embrace modern standards of advertising, especially when it comes to LOCATION. From the third parking lot deep in Old Order Mennonite Country, at least I finally found him on the phone.

He drawled, “Aww–you’ve come all that way, and now you’re actually pretty close to us. I’d like to meet you, but I have a family reunion and I have to leave now or be late.”

Ironically, that made two of us. I zoomed away towards the store where my order waited, passing many places I’d loved to have stopped if the time thief hadn’t stolen my savings. I arrived at the store with just enough time. It was a good thing the order was pre-packed, because it was expensive and took many lines of typing to put into the computer.

An elderly salesman gathered my order, and added a few new items I’d chosen. Sheepishly, he then informed me, “Uh oh–I think I just accidentally deleted the order.”

Not funny. I tried to think sympathetic thoughts, while he re-entered the entire order, line by line, with the speed of someone who’s first language did not require typing. Upon purchase, I whisked the boxes to the car and ignored the first rule of parcel pick-up: check your order. Upon returning home many hours and hundreds of kilometers later, I realized he’d accidentally double-billed me on one item. That would prove to be easy to remedy; at least I had everything I ordered.

Everything except the irrigation kit! During the initial phone order, I’d included numerous non-essential items and add-ons to customize the kit to our needs. But I never added the actual kit order number. So there was no kit inside the boxes I picked up.

Nevertheless outside, temperatures were climbing, plants were drooping, and watering by hand was still the only lifeblood of the tomatoes. Continue reading “Irrigation Irritation”