The Long Winter

Have you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books?  They were my favorite when I was little, and I read them again when I was pregnant.  As an adult, I was much more impressed with how simple the Ingalls' lives were, and how much joy they felt from the small pleasures in life.  I was really struck when reading "The Long Winter".  As a child, I didn't really realize that the family was slowly starving to death; all I remembered was that the snow was over Pa's head.  I also remember wondering why we didn't ever get that much snow, since I thought it would be great.

This winter has been something like that.  We've gotten 97.2" of snow so far this season (average is 57"), most of which fell after Christmas.  In early December we had a brief thaw, but it started snowing again the same day that it all melted.  Granted, it's compacted over time, so we don't have 8 feet of snow outside the door, but I have at least 3 feet out in the yard.  The fire station down the street had to plow our driveway so Shayne could bring his car home and I could get mine out to go to work after the most recent blizzard.  We have 4.5' high piles of snow all along the driveway, along the entire front of our 120' wide lot, and in the back next to the garage.  Shayne snowblows a path out to the chicken coop after every snow, since it always drifts.  It's nuts.

I love winter, but I'll definitely be ready for spring when it gets here.  It's been a long, cold winter.  Usually we have a pretty regular freeze-thaw cycle, which tears up the roads, but is a nice break from the frigid temps.  This year, it got cold and stayed there.  The last time I remember a temperature above 40F is early December.  The past two days, it's been about -10F at night.  The water line to the laundry room froze (again), and I had to take my diapers over to a friend's house to wash.  Thankfully it thawed this afternoon and didn't burst.  This is the 5th year we've been lucky.  I still can't find where it freezes.  It must be the 8" or so of pipe that runs under the porch, through the foundation, and into the basement.  I can't even access it to wrap it with heat tape, so l try to remember to shut it off when it's going to be below 0.  Sometimes I forget.

The chickens don't seem to mind the recent weather.  About 10 days ago, production suddenly increased, and now I get 3 or 4 eggs per day.  I've eaten over-easy eggs 3 times so far this week and still had enough eggs to give some to my mom, plus have a dozen sitting in the fridge.  The yolks aren't as orange as they were in the summer when the girls were free-ranging, but still darker than a supermarket egg.  Maybe because my hens' diet is supplemented with kitchen scraps?  In the summer I don't have to give them chicken feed more than once a month; they eat grass, bugs, and whatever else they find.  Now I fill their feeder once a week.  At least.  I'm grateful that none of them have gotten sick or had any health issues in their unheated coop.  I do turn on a lamp with a red bulb (not a heat bulb) when it's going to be below 5F at night, but that's it.  I'm glad my coop design provides enough passive ventilation to keep it from getting too damp in there.  I've seen a few specks of frostbite on their combs, but nothing major.

Only about a month of cold weather left.  Almost there...


Arika said...

I just started re-reading the Little House series about 3 months ago- that's funny :) I LOVED them as a kid, and like you said, I'm now draw to them again, this time for their simplicity and stories about their ways of living. They're still good, even as an adult!

Omar said...

Wow, I'm cold just reading ths.. Stay warm! :)