Starting again

snowy lane and trees Bruce Peninsula Polka Dot Hen Produce
Snow blankets the farm and forest as we contemplate the coming season.

Out the window is a sea of white. The chickadees and nuthatches take turns grabbing sunflower seeds from the feeder. Every once in a while the blue jays and woodpeckers flap in and push everyone aside. Then they leave, or are more often startled off by the dog, and the small birds return. Meanwhile, I sit here and watch it all unfold.

It’s my time of year for quiet and retrospection. A time to look over the past year’s experiences and notes, and to think about what went well. Also it’s the time to look at what could be improved upon this coming season. Which is a nice way of saying, “What just plain failed, stank or drove me nuts last summer?” But with a little more distance and perspective. Continue reading “Starting again”

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.