Winter on the farm

In nautical terminology, “the doldrums” refer to an actual place – waters near the Equator where sailing ships were often stuck for days or weeks in windless seas. In common parlance, however, the doldrums mean “a state or period of stagnation, inactivity or depression.” And so here we are in deepest winter.

Raised Beds 02 sml

Our dormant raised beds, slumbering under snow.

Although this winter hasn’t been nearly as snowy as last year, we’ve definitely descended into the grey gloom of February. We are so lucky here in Colorado to have blue sky days more often than not, but perhaps our reliance upon those blue skies means that the unrelenting greyness affects us more. We’re glad we opted not to settle in Oregon. (#sorrynotsorry, Oregon.)

Snow Tracks 02 sml

It’s like a real-life nature program.

Snowy ground means it’s much easier to see who (or what) might be creeping around our property under cover of darkness. Birds, rabbits, coyotes, deer, feral cats, foxes and more have all made their presence known; although neighbors have claimed that mountain lions are “common” here, we’ve still never seen any evidence.

Chicken House 11 sml

The hens don’t venture out when there is snow on the ground.

The aforementioned coyote and fox tracks are often spotted near the chicken house. After a vicious fox attack last summer, however, we fortified the run and thankfully haven’t lost any more birds. We remain ever vigilant; these predators are far craftier than they’re given credit for.

Turkey 01 sml

Can we call this a shot of wild turkey?

To the north of Quiet Farm you’ll find a road called Wild Turkey Lane, and it’s aptly named. Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) typically travel in flocks (unlike this solo adventurer above), and they’re pretty common in our area. Although the wild turkey is native to North America, they were introduced to Britain via Spanish trade routes and were therefore incorrectly associated with the country Turkey, hence the name. And urban legend claims that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey as America’s national bird, rather than the bald eagle, but that tale seems to be mostly fluff.

Corral 01 sml

Our animal corral, awaiting goats or perhaps a milk cow?

There isn’t much that can be done outside in winter. We have only the chickens to care for right now, and they simply need fresh water, ample food and clean bedding. Raising livestock in winter is not for the faint-of-heart; no matter the weather, hay might need to be brought in, animals could need to be moved to winter pasture, and dairy goats or cows would still need to be milked regularly, unless they’d been dried off. Livestock is a full-on commitment that we’re not quite ready for just yet.

Rough Legged Hawk 01 sml

A red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in an abandoned apple orchard. 

One upside of winter is that birds are much easier to spot in bare trees! We have a strong and varied raptor population here; of late we’ve been watching both an adult female and a juvenile Northern harrier hawk (Circus cyaneus) hunting over our pastures in early afternoon, though we don’t have any photos yet. (The Harrier Jump-Jet, developed by British aeronautics company Hawker Siddeley in the 1960s, was named for this bird.) We definitely want to encourage raptors at our farm to keep our excessive rodent situation under control.

Fruit Trees 02 sml

Hopefully our nascent orchard will survive the winter.

Last spring we planted fifty fruit trees on our property, both native plum and Nanking cherry. We babied these trees with plenty of water and coddling all last year, and we’re very much hoping for new growth on the trees come spring.

Cedar Waxwing 01 sml

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) outside our kitchen.

At the moment, winter seems endless. But there are signs of life everywhere if we look hard enough – new grasses sprouting, the ground softening and thawing, the sunlight arriving earlier and earlier. And soon enough, it will be spring and the earth will come back to life and it will be time to plant again. We must remember to be fully present in the season we’re in, and not always wish for the future. It will come in good time.

8 thoughts on “Winter on the farm

  1. This happens to be one of the regions in which turkey is not native, or at least they hadn’t been. It is hard to say, since their range fluctuates. They are here now. Some are feral. Some might be feral, but look just like turkeys elsewhere. They are quite prolific. We are concerned about how they damage landscapes. No one will hunt them in the neighborhoods, but they are easy to get without hunting anyway. They are so stupid that anyone who wanted one could get close enough to clobber one with a stick while its friends watch unconcerned. If they show up in the yard, it might be easy enough to guide one right into the freezer.

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    • I know that domestic turkeys aren’t the brightest but I can’t speak for wild, and I’m not clear on whether it’s legal to hunt these. Like so many animals (deer! humans!) I’m sure they can be destructive in large numbers.

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      • I really don’t know if the wild turkeys are as stupid as the feral turkeys because I do not know if what looks like wild turkeys are really wild or are just some other type of feral turkey. The ones that we know are feral are grayish white. Those that we think are wild, but could be feral too, are dark brown and turkey colored. If I had to compare the two groups, I would say that they are all about the same. That sort of makes me think that the brown turkeys are feral too. It seems to me that such a species would go extinct if it really were that stupid.

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  2. To beat the winter blues, I started tomatoes and peppers. The peppers are Ghost peppers, 160 day plant. Have to start early to harvest any peppers at all. The tomatoes are Siberian seeds, 60 day plants. I start them to take cuttings for new plants. They do well in the greenhouse, nothing better than a fresh tomato mid winter! Won’t be long, only a month away from planting sweet peas, and other cool weather crops.

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  3. Pingback: Farm update: February 24 | Finding Quiet Farm

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