Monday, October 19, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

It's mid-October and the red stuff in the thermometer seems to have stalled at 42. That's not right. We live in what I'd call southern Virginia. Temperatures are usually in the 60s or 70s this time of year. This unusual cold snap, combined with four days of driving rain, has caught us totally off guard. October is usually spent cleaning up the garden, preparing the house and outbuildings for winter, and, with any luck, pulling in a second harvest of honey from our two hives. (I will get into our bees in a later post.) All of this has been put on hold, temporarily, I hope.

We live in a 113-year-old farm house. The place is hardly what you'd call air-tight and heating it is a costly nightmare. To save money we try to hold off as long as possible before turning on the furnace. We're a little chilly right now to say the least. I'm sitting here dressed in several layers, topped off by my fleece bathrobe with our puppy tucked inside (I kid you not, he's wrapped himself around my waist like a belt). I look like a hobo minus those fingerless gloves, which I'm beginning to think would be a good investment. Andrew just brought me some coffee, I took a sip and the steam fogged up my glasses. Last week it was 75.

That's right, 75. Andrew was finally able to start and finish the re-roofing of our chicken coop. He pounded the last nail in moments before the wind changed direction and the rain started. At least the girls are cozy. As for the garden, I have to assume the peas and broccoli are doing a little dance of happiness for the dip in temperature, but the peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini are all whinging. We had an amazing summer harvest and were able to "put up" plenty of vegetables for winter so I'm okay with hot-weather plants calling it quits, but still. There is plenty of clean up to be done. The garlic needs to be planted.

Meanwhile, on my neighbor's farm there is a little trouble. They are away for 10 days and have left our children in charge of their chickens. In their barn they have some month-old blackstar chicks which will be placed in their outdoor coop once they are fully feathered and have a little meat on their bones to keep them warm. Outside in their coop they have an assortment of older hens plus seven Rhode Island red pullets that we started for them two months ago. Before they left on their trip they added the fully feathered pullets to their coop. I would have done the same thing—this time of year the weather is sunny and plenty warm for young birds. Anyway, this surprise cold snap took its toll. The older hens handled it without a feather out of place. Unfortunately, the pullets all perished, wet and cold to the bone. Not sure when we'll tell our neighbors. Not the kind of news you want from home while on vacation.

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