Friday, January 21, 2011

What's New at the Farm? Snow and cold

January is on the downhill side and I can say I’m glad. I’m not one to wish away time, but we are all anxious to get into the longer days and warmer temps. It’s been a bear lately with the cold and the wind blowing – I don’t seem to want to get out quite as much as I would have once. I think a lot about snowshoeing down to camp but that’s as far as I’ve been getting. I do spend a lot of time tending the wood fires and tending the henhouses full of birds – winter activities include dealing with frozen water and the always needing to button up the houses against drafts and vermin. The hens are starting to  pump lots of eggs out so I’m thinking about getting the incubator out. Got my first duck eggs this week!

The snow continues to pile up outside my office window and the thermometer seems to be stuck just over zero. The weather patterns of the past few years gives us plenty of cold temps but only after copious amounts of snow. Typically when the ground freezes we get an appreciable amount of winter insect kill and have less insect problems the following spring. Remember the spring of 2010 when large numbers of ticks were expected as they didn’t die from last winters’ cold; we did see lots of them in April, and they were hungry as they hadn’t eaten all winter. We did not see any after the initial flush but I blame that on the numbers of domesticated birds we have wandering around the property.

Cold temps help keep agricultural insects down as their mortality rate rises with freezing temps. An insect that is exposed to freezing temps, well, in a word, dies. Actually if the insect freezes and its cells freeze, it dies. Caterpillars (as a rule) die, but houseflies do not. Flies become active once the air temps warm up, whereas if they froze their cells, their dead and they’re not coming back. There’s more to this subject than I’m going to address here, but the gist of this is that in a normal winter, we’d lose many insect pests to freezing temps.

By looking at the snow banks that are threatening to go over my office window, I think it’s safe to say our ground water for spring should be right where we want it to be. A dry spring is nice for getting on the ground early, but irrigation in May isn’t a whole lot of fun.  A normal spring would see us getting on the higher ground in April and all but the lowest ground in May. The soil must be fairly dry to use our heavier equipment on without compacting the soil and yet not bone dry either. A happy medium is, well, a happy medium.

As the winter continues we all look forward to spring and everything we must do to prepare for it. As much as we can do now, before spring, will aid us in completing our given workload and allow us some time to enjoy spring. I’ve got to put together another dozen or so birdhouses and have them ready to go when spring arrives so the birds can use them as soon as they reappear. We’ve got around 30 or so swallow houses here on the farm, and cleaning them out usually takes place in the winter. It was my intention to bring them in late last fall, clean them and do any repair work or modifications I needed to do and store them out of the weather until spring. That was my intention anyways; perhaps I’ll do exactly that this coming season.

Until next week, Brian

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