The past week running up to our customary Christmas fest yesterday, was even more hectic than usual, with all the preparation for the big meal and gift giving on Sunday, added to all the routine work that must be done each day. The weather though has not been too bad and has not made our work exceptionally difficult. We do all our work without any power. We move hay to various spots for the animals either carrying a bundle on a fork or on the sled or when their is no snow, with the wheelbarrow. Water is pumped (electrical pump) to the barn and sometimes has to be bucketed a short distance to a water tub from the barn or from our house. So when it gets cold and snowy or rainy or icy, then it is more difficult. Cold is probably the worst as then we have to contend with the possibility of frozen pipes or buckets and water troughs and sometimes walking surfaces get icy too. But work was relatively easy last week.
The chickens are well though somewhat affected by the cold and last week was also better for them. The lay rate has dropped off somewhat however, likely because the hens are under a bit of stress from the cold weather and then, from that, a somewhat reduced water consumption. The Barred Rock and the Rhode Island Red breeds are once again showing their disinclination to be good winter egg layers and this is very unfortunate as these two old heritage chicken breeds were once very good all year round egg layers. The breed lines that we have gotten have not been properly maintained. More attention should have been paid to selecting hens to gather hatching eggs from, by getting eggs from older hens that were proven layers and from good hens that weighed enough at the end of lay to make a decent roaster. Also the mortality rate in the Barred Rock breed is alarmingly high and since the other chickens in with them are mostly ok this would seem to be genetic too, as is the propensity to lay a lot of eggs. These hens should lay around 250 to 280 eggs per year.
The 2017 seed catalogue from William Dam Seeds arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. We’ll have to start thinking about our seed order for next season. We have to get an idea what seeds we already have and what we want to plant and make up orders ready to be sent off when we get the money to pay for them. We should also be budgeting for the purchase of various fruit trees, apple, pear, cherry, peach, nectarine, plum and also nut trees of various kinds, Carpathian walnut, hazelnut, pine nuts and more. We also have to plan for getting day old chicks as eventual replacement laying hens. So many catalogues to look at and ponder and drool over and a lot of work to narrow down our selection so that it will be affordable and not so ambitious that we cannot get it all into the ground.
We’d welcome any suggestions as to what anyone would like to have us grow or for any other suggestions on anything we do. A bit of criticism can be very useful and helpful to keep us relevant.