Kindling, Tree Falls and Being Prepared

Howdy Y’all!

Here’s a fortuitous shot of the farm dog, Brady. He’s been extra attached to me since Covid started and I’ve been home almost 24/7. I was trying to take a picture of our hearth for you guys to write this blog post and there he was, glued to my face. He just loves me, what can I say? I tell my sons, “What’s not to love, I mean really?” Hahaha!

Well, we’re predicted to get anywhere from 6″-18″ of snow tonight into tomorrow, then some freezing rain on top of that. Now that’s covering some bases with that accumulation range, isn’t it? That’s because we are right on the line between the 6″-12″ and the 12″-18″ predictions. I think it’s because the meteorologists don’t want to be wrong. Which, if we are being honest, they often are. This is the first real snow storm we’ve had this winter, which is pretty unheard of in NH. The first day of February. Yes, very late for that first storm. We have had very little snow this winter thus far and we are predicted to get buried in it from February to the end of April. I was hoping for a nice early planting season, but it’s not looking likely. And I’m just not excited to be shoveling a ton of snow and having to rake the roof every 2 inches that fall. Just not looking forward to it.

But, I am well suited to this having lived this winter cycle for the last 43 years of my life. It is also a bit easier now that the boys are man sized and taller than me. I’m still stronger than they are, but they at least have better leverage for things now that they are taller. It’s great to have three men to help out around here when the need arises. They are basically in charge of shoveling all the paths and the driveway when it’s less than three inches of snow. They usually hope for enough to have the snow blower come out so they don’t have to do all that shoveling.

A large part of winter storms is getting prepared for them. There are actions that need to be taken to ensure that we get through it in comfort. I start with making sure the chickens have an unfrozen bucket of water and plenty of food. The animals always come first in a winter storm situation. My priorities are to get them squared away, then start on what we might need. I can get them comfortable and not have to go see them again until the storm is done. Their coop is very toasty, draft free and cozy.

I love how puffed up they are in this picture. They capture air between their skin and feathers and the air heats from their body and they stay plenty warm. This is why chicken coops don’t need to be heated as long as they are draft free. If the roost in wide enough, as you can see this one is and Ginger is taking full advantage of it, they can hunker down over their feet to keep them warm as well. No combs or waddle freeze bites happening and it has been 0 degrees the last few nights. They are just fine out there without supplying heat. Definitely helpful is to have breeds of birds that are cold hardy also, it pays to choose birds that suit your climate.

After those birds are taken care of, I move on to the wild feathered friends. I make sure the two feeders are filled that we have. As I was filling them, I heard the birds in the surrounding trees chirping their thanks to me for doing so. Or, maybe they were yelling at me for taking so long to get it done. You probably noticed that the suet cube holders are empty. I have looked at three stores to purchase more and have not been able to find them. So, I decided that I am going to be making my own. It is going to be my snowy day project tomorrow put those together, which I think will be a fun way to pass some time. I also have three books and a blanket to crochet. Did I mention that it has been a long time since we’ve had a snow storm? The last storm we got gave us about 2 inches, and I had my seed catalogs out, with the hot tea and candle going enjoying the day to not have be doing anything but what I felt like doing. One of the things I love about winter is the time to sit and do some relaxing activities during a snow storm.

As I walk by my sad little herb garden many times a day, I am longing for spring. Is this not so pitiful? All my pots are cracked and broken and in dire need of replacement. Another of my projects that I’m planning for spring is to make my own cement containers for my herbs. And I think I am going to to try to make them sit on this stump level, and since the man who cut it left the top tipping downhill, I will need to adjust the size of the pots to sit more level on the stump.

Here you can see another of the very large stumps that we have left from tree removal. This was the huge, ancient black cherry tree that was actually the towns tree as you can see how close it is to the road through the fence. I have been trying to get the town to cut it down since we moved in. When we had multiple trees removed before we moved in, I got a quote to remove this tree. Because it would require a police detail, it was quoted at $2,500. To remove that one tree? No, that was not going to happen on our dime since we don’t really own it. But it was hollow in the center and covered in poison ivy. It leaned WAY out over the road and was so dangerous. The night it came down, my son and husband heard it go. We ran to the door and opened it and went outside. There was a police officer already there, and we discovered he was just about 15 seconds from it landing on his car. The tree was twin trunks and only one fell, but with that one down, the other half was very dangerous because it didn’t have the other half to counter balance it. Scary stuff! Though it was laying in the street, the police let traffic go by anyways as it was about 48 hours before it was removed and the other half was also taken down. The town paid for it, as I held them to the fact that I had been told they would deal with it when it hit the pavement. It did take out a few rails on our fence and also crushed our mailbox.

When you can’t sink a post because the ground is frozen, you use some Yankee ingenuity and put the mailbox in a bucket. This works great because we just pull it in when we are going to get snow so the plows don’t knock it down. Looks a little finagled, but works just fine. You do what you have to do, right? We also got quite a lot of firewood from that huge tree. We had to be careful with what we kept to split for firewood because my husband is allergic to poison ivy and you might remember I explained the tree was covered in it. Make no mistake, the vines are also covered in the oil of this awful plant, and if he touches them, he will end up on steroids for sure. It’s kind of a pain in the butt honestly because our property is covered in this vine and it’s hard not to be in contact with it when doing any kind of clearing.

Let’s get back to storm prep, shall we? Okay, on the homestead, in NH, it is a pretty good bet we are going to lose power at least once every winter. The longest we have been without power was 8 days, that was a few years ago. The absence of power will be accompanied by the loss of our well water as well, along with furnace. We have a propane stove and oven, so we are still able to cook, but even if we didn’t we would still have an option to cook. We have a woodstove, which is, in our eyes, a necessity living in the north country. I think that woodstove heat is not only the best, warmest source of heat, it’s also necessary to keep pipes from freezing and keeping us warm in the event that we lose the power. There’s also the ability to cook on top of it if necessary. We lost power for 6 days on Thanksgiving back in 2014, and I cooked the whole Thanksgiving dinner, except for the turkey which my husband prepared on the grill, on top of the woodstove. We also keep lots of bottled water on hand this time of year so we will have drinking water in the event we have no way to get the water out of the ground. We do also have a generator, but it is not powerful enough to run the furnace and well at the same time. Getting a more powerful gennie is on the list, but for now, we make it work when we need it.

I added to my morning chores chopping the kindling to restock the kindling basket and get it ready for the fire we will be burning all day tomorrow. My wonderful husband brought in lots of wood yesterday, so we’re good for that for a day or so. The brave farm dog is terrified of funny things…the ping of the canning jars drives him under the bed (and he doesn’t fit under the bed!), or the beeping of the oven, or the insta pot or canner releasing steam, nope, he’s outta there! He is also afraid of the woodstove after a flaming chunk landed on him three years ago. He used to practically hug the thing when it was radiating heat before. This dog doesn’t forget anything that he’s afraid of, ever. So, he will not lay in his bed (which you can see the corner of in the above picture) when the stove is going. Nope, not even if the door is closed, just not gonna do it.

The squadron of shovels is ready for some teen boys to expel some of their youthful energy shoveling the copious inches of snow. I have the ice melt ready for the paths and sand for the driveway. I made sure there is plenty of gas for the snow blower and it’s ready to go. My husband is the one to use the snow blower, but it might be time for him to teach the oldest to use it so he can be ready to help when needed. It’s a blessing that my husband’s employer is letting him work from home two days a week, so he’s around more hours on those days without his hour-long-each-way commute. Of course, I also have a very well stocked pantry in the event that we need to stay put for days during a storm. I am not one of those people panicking at the grocery store buying beer, bread and milk before a snow storm. I might get a loaf rising in the oven, but I don’t feel the need to stand in those crazy lines for the basics. We always have it, and I feel like that is part of being a prepared homesteader.

Gonna wrap up here. Keep your chins up out there. Covid has us all not feeling quite right and stressed, but hopefully we will see an improvement in the near future. Until then, plan your spring, keep ready for your winter and keep on keeping on. Be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.