Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer – Farming Stinks in the Winter (Literally)

Farming in the winter time sucks. It’s cold, dark, and everything is frozen. The water freezes not long after you pour it into the birds buckets, and you spend all of your time either chiseling it out, or trying to figure out how to keep the water in a liquid form. The birds poop is frozen, and you can try to chisel that, or give up and just toss more hay on top (that’s what I do). Not only are you cranky about having to go out every morning, no matter the temperature, wind, or snow, but the birds aren’t thrilled either. It’s glares all around.  After the past couple warm winters, this winter has been a bit tough because its actually been cold. It’s been below zero for the past couple weeks. What we haven’t had a lot of is snow. Of course snow also presents its own challenges. Its wet, accumulates everywhere, and you have to figure out if you need to actually to do something with it (think shoveling), or if you can get away with just packing it down by repeatedly walking on it.

All winter, folks have been talking about how we need more snow. Heck, I’ve even caught myself saying it. For outdoor enthusiasts this means they can bust out their skis and snowshoes and go tromping around in the wilderness. I like it because it makes the dark less dark, and after weeks of chiseling ice out of water buckets, it was nice to go outside this morning and just have a thin skim to contend with. The snow provides a nice bit of extra insulation to the goose’s and ducks house, and keeps their inside water ice free, and hides all their poop that’s frozen to the ground. So, when I heard we were going to get snow yesterday, I thought maybe a couple inches and didn’t think too much of it.

What the National Weather Service had said was a bit more than that, and this time they were actually right. They said we were going to get between 4 to 7 inches, and they were almost spot on. We got between 6 and 8. I know, I know, it’s not even foot, so nothing to complain about. Heck, I remember times when I was a kid and we got four feet in a day, and this is nothing like that. Still, the snow was high enough it presented its own special challenges.

When I stepped outside, I quickly realized I was going to have to shovel a path on the porch and stairs before I did anything. Luckily, the snow shovel was where I had left it propped up against the house, and not buried somewhere out in the middle of the yard where you won’t see it again until spring. That done, I starting wading from one bird house to the next. Deciding I didn’t want to carry the water buckets and wade at the same time, I walked around, tromping down a path for myself.

Photo by Stacy Koster The snow was over the top of my feet, and in the duck yard, it was almost up to the top of my boots.


When I let the geese out the snow came up above their bellies. I could tell they were happy it was warmer out, but not sure about the white stuff. When they stepped out of their yard they looked like little big bellied ships sailing low in the water. They quickly became tired of trying to waddle through the snow, and took to flying to where they wanted to get to.

The ducks ran out, and started enthusiastically swimming around in the stuff, ducking their heads down into the snow and popping back up. They started bobbing their heads at me making pointed gestures at their water bucket, telling my to hurry up and fill er up. When I went to let the chickens out, they glared at me, and the snow, taking the weather as a personal affront to their dignity. I cleaned the snow off their ramp and outside perching bar, and stomped on the snow in their yard, flattening it, and spreading hay everywhere. The chickens seemed to agree I had slightly improved the situation, and looked a bit mollified when I promised them an extra corn ration.

I then dumped the snow out of my wagon, and went to get out the hundred pounds of feed and hay I had in the car. Normally, getting it all in the wagon and to the shed isn’t too big a deal, but it was a bit tougher this morning. The snow was up above the wagon’s wheels, making it harder to pull. After some creative language, and a few breaks, I finally got it all back to the shed, and everyone fed.

With the snow falling, and looking cold and pretty, what I really wanted to do this morning was stay in with a hot cup of tea and my knitting. But, the birds must be let out, and fed, and watered. I got on my snow gear, walked out, and shoveled, made a path, and did all that. Now I will settle in with the tea I wished for, and enjoy the cold beauty from my comfy chair, wishing for spring.

Photo Caption: Photo by Stacy Koster

The snow was over the top of my feet, and the duck yard, it was almost up to the top of my boots.


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