Friday, 22 November 2013

Stretching the Limits

This bright green baby lettuce is a sight for sore eyes!  It's looking very frosty just now (I just trudged out in the snow to check on it).   I hope that it survives the cold snap we've had - I'll report back in a day or so.

Everything is white outside ~ the only green is of the pine and spruce variety and even those are laden with their share of white, too.

We've been waffling between snow, melt, then snow and melt again for quite some time, but now, it's white (and white it should stay) until we crawl out of "hibernation" in Spring.  We are under heavy snowfall warning for today - the perfect day to tuck into some sewing.

Inside the greenhouse, nestled in cold frames, are seedlings, trying as hard as they can to grow to maturity.   It's a very slow process that won't end well I'm afraid, as I can't seem to keep up with brushing snow off the roof (which blocks the sunlight needed for growth).

Apparently, this weekend we are to enjoy temperatures ABOVE zero which just may aid my snow clearing efforts enough to keep these lovelies growing a wee bit longer.  Micro greens?  How about microscopic greens!?

The hens are fully in the coop at the moment as temps are simply too cold for them to be outside.  just last week, they enjoyed the last of the spoiling apples.  I've processed enough for this year, and it's so lovely to share with feathered friends ~ they savour them as much as we do, most especially as their diet has changed so much in recent weeks.  No outside greens here!

We cleaned out the coop's deep bedding recently, and the resulting pile of "compost in the making" is cooking along nicely!  I LOVE this compost thermometer because it helps me make higher quality compost much more effectively.  I'm still learning, so this guides me in my efforts...  I want the pile to be good and hot for at least 10 days to kill off any pathogens and weed seeds, then it will settle in the active zone for a few weeks and finally, drop to steady...  this pile is now totally buried under snow, but I'm going to brush it off to check the temp today.  

Notice the varied material below.  The bulk of it is coop bedding which of course has plenty of hot chicken manure, but also, a large amount of wood shavings and shredded paper plus a little bit of peat (great for soaking up moisture in the coop).   Now that we use wood shavings in the coop vs. straw, the smell is WAY better when cleaning out the deep bedding.  Also, straw tends to mat something terrible in spite of all our efforts to reduce capping.  Wood shavings are THE way to go!  Straw can be added to the mix when we layer to create a compost pile (which adds more diverse carbon sources).

In layers, we dump wheelbarrow loads of the bedding layered with plenty of leaves, kitchen waste, garden trimmings, spent greens, chopped up shrub/tree prunings, shredded cardboard, and (most importantly), duff from the natural wooded area in our windbreak tree line.  This inoculates the pile with healthy soil biology, so necessary for good finished compost.

Here the pile will sit all winter under the protective cover of cardboard and snow and will hopefully be ready for use in Spring.  I'm already dreaming of top dressing my garden beds!

I'm reading more now as the snow falls and winter settles in for good...  I have book list a mile long since taking my Permaculture Design Course and am slowly making a dent in the stack.  Our instructor recommended SO many good books during the course but as it was Spring and Summer, time for reading was slim, indeed.  Too much to do out of doors!

Additionally, I'm learning how stellar nutrition can make a tangible difference in the health of our hens.  Suzy at Chiot's Run posted about fermenting chicken feed and all I can say is WOW!  

We started soaking our hen feed and their egg production has gone up dramatically in spite of our frigid temperatures.   I'm thankful for the extra eggs, but I'm more concerned about our chickens' health during winter when they have no access to the ground to forage for insects and greens.  They rely on me entirely for their nourishment, so it's important that I am providing them with healthy, varied food to stay warm and healthy all winter long.   With soaking, we are going through less feed and I'm hauling less water as the hens seem to be getting moisture from the grain.  

I'm told that sprouted grain is higher in protein and also, is better for gut health.  Combined with worms from our thriving worm farm and greens and herbs sprouted in the garage under grow lights (the next project for the weekend), the hens should come through winter in good health.  If you haven't tried soaking your animal feed, give it a whirl.  You'll be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Lastly, I've been putting away oats and lentils for winter storage.  I barter my time with a local couple who farm organically (John and Cindy Schneider of Gold Forest Grains) in exchange for the crops that they grow (wheat, spelt, barley, oats, rye, lentils, buckwheat & flax).   I'm thankful for the opportunity and am glad to be helping out a hard working local couple (albeit in a very small way).  

I'm also slowly working on an urban design project and am learning so much in the process.  What a great way to come face to face with what one doesn't know!  That old saying about having to know something well enough to teach it really proving true.   I'm forced into filling those learning gaps and although that's quite a challenging process, it's very rewarding, too.   Hopefully, the homeowners will like my design and at least implement some of it.  I'll keep you posted!


  1. The snow looks so beautiful. I would love to spend a season in the snow, a whole year summer through to summer to see the changes unfold, I think it would be magic, even though it is everyday for you. We only have 2 seasons where I live Hot and Cool! Which I love too!

    I have been following your blog for a long time, and the changes I've seen in you and your lifestyle are amazing. Such hard, but such rewarding work. I love reading about your journey.

    1. Thank you so much XO The snow is rather pretty, actually! Shovelling is a bit of a chore, but I look at as exercise when I'm not able to garden for physical activity :)

  2. How lovely is your snow? I have never seen snow in real life :)

    My Dad taught me to ferment grain, the chickens love it. Being a farmer, he knows these things :)

    1. Tania - you should take a flight to Alberta and visit during winter - a nice trip to the Rocky Mountains would be so pretty, but you'd probably freeze to death given how hot it is at your place in summer!

      That's neat to know that your Dad taught you about fermented grain.

  3. I will have to share this information on fermenting grain for the chickens with the hubby. I wonder if it would be good for the geese?

    I love the days in winter, when all the trees look like they are covered in diamonds. You know the hore-frost. (did I spell that correctly?)

    1. Misty, I love hoar frost, too. It's spelled H-O-A-R and I only knew that spelling because I looked it up a few years ago!

  4. You are probably a bit 'over' the snow every winter but it just looks so beautiful to an Aussie who is sitting at the computer sweating in the humidity after a storm hit here last night. It sounds like the sprouts are as good for the chooks as they are for humans. I will keep that fermented feed in mind if I get a couple of chooks next year.

    1. I don't think I could EVER get used to the heat in Australia :) I much prefer winter over any temps above 30C!

  5. That snow looks like something I only ever see in a movie, glorious but not sure I could stand a whole season of cold hehe. My chooks don't know how good they have it in their balmy temps at the moment.
    My girls have been looking in awe at your snow pics as I scrolled through and they asked why our chickens were eating apples lol! Thank you for all of your lovely comments lately, I am trying to get back to managing my time a little better and visiting more often and also replying to your kind are such a beautiful 'virtual' friend my dear x