It is winter and thus the time we all can experience a little "cabin fever", depending on where you live, of course. Here in North East Tennessee the winters are very mild comparatively. I still find myself getting a little cabin fever in the winter months though. I am definitely an outdoors person, so even on a warm and rainy day like today, I feel a little cooped up, sigh...
On days like these I am indoors and so to keep myself busy I will tidy up the home indoors, listen to music and write if I get the chance. Writing is definitely not as therapeutic for me as being in the garden or with our critters, but it is therapeutic none the less. So I thought I would take my readers on a short journey of what we have been doing on our farmstead as of late.
We have been blessed to have met some wonderful and committed members of our communities that have volunteered with us, completing various agriculture activities in exchange for farm goods. These folks have been busy here and there on various tasks from cutting up down and dead trees to helping in the grow beds, cleaning them out from last years crops and building new erosion control barriers. We all learn from one another and in turn these relationships build a stronger community of skill sets, resiliency and food security. I appreciate each person that comes to the farm, everyone has something to offer, I really enjoy this aspect of creating the CSA.
A CSA fills multiple needs in a community; feeding families local, nutrient dense food, sharing skill sets with volunteers, being physically active, eating healthier, creating emotional health by being involved with each other in communications, which often times helps those that live alone. These are just a few ways a CSA can positively affect a community.
O.K., I got a little off the subject of the goings on at the farm, but after all, we are growing the CSA and the volunteer interns are a big part of the success of the CSA
Some of the projects;
Approximately 6 weeks ago the new beds were completed on the East side, filled with organic materials and will sit all winter resting and growing millions of microbes.
A few weeks ago I built 3 new 100 ft. x 4 ft. beds on the South facing slope.
Yesterday these beds were filled with composted materials and are now complete.
Next weekend two more 100 ft. beds will be added on the South slope and 2 more 50 ft. beds will be completed on the West slope. This will complete all of the added growing space for this year, next year is a different story! LOL
We have reconstructed our hoop house footing, the goal is to complete the hoop house before Spring, (was supposed to be done already, sigh..it will get done this year, God willing) so we will keep working on it. We will be depending on volunteers to help with the green house plastic when the time nears.
All of the bare root plants, tubers, etc... have been ordered and my seed bank is full for the 2018 season. So just a couple small orders and this seasons crops will be complete!! Exciting! I am one of those growers that plans months in advance ;) That is one reason why a CSA is a good fit for me. It requires an immense amount of planning and preparation and I thrive on the fast pace. ;0)
The dairy goat birthing nursery has been completed as we await the first birth from one of our Does on this farm.
The piglets got an addition built onto the first sow shed for added protection from the elements.
One more small project that has to wait for a dry day will be finishing the electric fencing of the hog lots, which will give them fresh forage.
Which brings us up to speed on the farmstead! The truth is as many of you know, the work never ends and the chores can quickly pile up on a farmstead, but winter is truly a time of much needed rest indoors.
Whenever I start to get a little frustrated at the weather, I tell myself that this is Gods way of slowing be down!! LOL!!
So today I will be grateful for a little cabin fever...
Housing/shelters- Ventilation is very important in designing your livestock shelters. The shelters should keep them dry and out of cold winds, but also vent well to decrease ammonia build up.
Provide ample insulation that will keep the animals at a minimum of 4” off of the ground or cement. The cement or ground will pull heat from the animals that lay directly on these surfaces.
Clean, dry straw is a good insulator that will provide a comfortable place for animals to lie down on and helps to insulate against the harsh elements.
Another neat trick is to use deep litter (thermophilic composting) methods to keep certain species of livestock warmer in winter. The basic principle is to create layers of livestock manures, then clean straw and repeat the process all winter. As the animals are defecating and urinating in the bedding, you simply turn it over every few days, allowing the microorganisms to breakdown the waste beneath and adding clean straw to the top. This method generates heat beneath as it composts and allows the animals to benefit from the heat generated from their own waste. It is important to turn it each time you add clean straw and to have proper ventilation for an aerobic, healthy composting to occur while keeping ammonia levels at a minimum.
The deep litter method works well with the FLOORS of chicken coops, goat and sheep shelters. For larger livestock, mucking out each day is advised because these species have wet manure and A LOT of it, so daily cleaning and weekly sprucing up and adding fresh straw or shavings is essential for good health. For chicken coops, the nesting boxes need to be cleaned and fresh shavings added daily, this will keep hens healthy and happy and the eggs nice and clean.
Water- All animals need water in cold temperatures, especially if it is freezing! Animals will quickly dehydrate in cold weather.
If there is no power outlet near your water tanks or buckets there are a few things that can help prevent the buckets from freezing.
There are several options for barns or livestock shelters with a power source nearby;
Electric water heater, de-ice devices, electric buckets, etc.…
Feed- Animals need more feed in the winter months with cold temperatures. The colder it gets the more energy they use to stay warm. Without high quality nutrients animals can deteriorate in body condition, thus making it harder for them to stay healthy. It is important to keep good quality hay available on a free feed basis and provide either grains or energy blocks that contain protein, fat and minerals. The roughage is the most important.
A few more tips;
Heavy duty plastic livestock curtains can be used on shelter openings to help reduce drafts in the shelters that do not have doors.
Keep hooves trimmed to prevent damage and rot that can be caused by muddy, wet ground in pens.
Avoid penning animals inside barns. Animals will take care of their needs if allowed clean dry bedding and ample room to exercise. They will also gravitate toward places that warm up in the day; example, our dairy goats like to hang out against the outside wall of their shelter on sunny days.
South facing shelters are the best in terms of living in an area with cold weather in the winter. This allows daytime sun to dry out and warm up the shelter, naturally.
There have been many articles written on this subject, these are a few things that we have used in the past and/or are using presently that have proven successful on our farm for our furry friends.