When the sun is shining, the chickens begin exploring new territory along all the shoveled paths. They seem hungry for the warm and shining sun. So do we! They stray further away from the cozy security of their coop and their packed down run. If they feel extra adventurous, they make the long journey out to the compost pile. Oh, the scratching and digging they do when they get there! Delighted by all the peelings, bits of greenery, and crusts that fill the heap. Though it continues to snow here in the north and the temps are still plummeting to 20 below ( on some days), those chicken gals know that spring is on her way. On the days we do get that intense sunshine, any ice on the roof begins to melt quickly. Snow and ice slide off a metal roof rather easily, but once in a while if we’ve had a winter of heavy accumulation, it will build up in the roof valleys. Rick spent some serious time this past weekend roof raking and breaking up any ice jams. Miller likes to be out keeping an eye on our work and progress. Such a good dog, that Miller! This weekend we will clear the benches in the greenhouse and check the big furnace we use for heating it. It may look like we’re still knee deep ( waist deep?) in winter, but spring’s a comin’.
When you have a winter like this, snowshoes are not just recreational. You strap them on when roof raking the greenhouse and hoop house, otherwise you may sink into the 8 ft. accumulation that is piled up below it. You wear them to haul the sheep bedding that gets shoveled into sleds and dragged out into the field. Snowshoes are worn to tramp down the chicken runs so the chickens have an opportunity to get out from their coop and see the light of day.You wear snowshoes each and every time you travel away from the beaten ( shoveled) path. Otherwise, you may very well disappear. That’s just the kind of winter we’re having. No big deal, last year it was the winter of ice grippers. Flip flops? Sometime in the very far future!
This winter Rick’s been working on the restoration of an old house in town. He found some newspapers, from 1914, tucked into the walls. Years ago, people often used what they had to help insulate their houses; newspapers, rags, sheep fleece, what ever was available to cut down on the drafts. It’s always interesting to read some of the advertisements and about the things that were happening in your area 100 years ago. Sure would have loved to get our hands on this farm, though isn’t it sad to think that someone was having to sell their beloved place due to health issues. The social column even named some of the old families from here in Montville! Don’t you love that you could go down to Perry’s to purchase some native smoked Alewives, pure leaf lard, and a few Belfast made cigars? Cornflakes and sugar cured bacon? Put that on the list for this week’s shopping! Here are a few pictures and some old news from long ago.
Could not post this yesterday because we were busy with these two. Born first thing in the morning, twins, a ram lamb and a ewe. We spent the morning helping Bella get her lambs dried. Bella is a good mum, and almost always has twins. I think she appreciated the help of getting her lambs dried and toasty on such a cold day. Then we spent the rest of the day getting ready for the next storm ( which didn’t amount to much), hauling in wood, clearing paths, buttoning up some of the sheds because of the predicted high winds. By the end of the day, we were too tuckered out to post the news of the new lambs. Apparently more snow is on its way, we’ll see what we get. What a winter it has been! By the end of next month the greenhouse will be fired up and the first of the season’s seedlings will be started. It was 20 below yesterday, I only hope it will warm up before we start heating the greenhouse. Oh my goodness! We’ll keep you posted as new lambs arrive, and as the horizons of spring come into focus…….it could be awhile.
We’ve been continuing to take walks across the bog , right now it makes for a great snowshoe outing. At the beginning of winter and before the epic snowstorms, I took a picture of the wild cranberries that grow there. Right now, like everything else, the plants are buried in snow. Every year in late September we walk down to harvest the berries. We freeze some, make cranberry sauce, and use them fresh in muffins. Wild cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpum, is a low growing, trailing, Maine native that is the same plant grown commercially. There are several selections that are grown for specific traits such as flavor and heavier production of fruit. It was originally known as ‘crane berry’, due to the shape of the petals and beaked anthers of the flowers that look like the head of a crane. The runners are up to 6′ in length, with upright stems coming off of them. The upright stems bear most of the fruit. In winter the leaves turn an attractive reddish brown to purple and add color to the landscape. Groups of the plants that would otherwise be overlooked in summer, standout in the fall and winter with their bright foliage. The addition of the red berries make them a worthwhile consideration to any landscape. A bog is not needed to grow them. They prefer moist acid soils in full to part sun, and can be found growing around bodies of water and along roadside ditches. We have many wild plants in our area which we harvest from late fall into winter. The berries have a better flavor after a cold period. It is said that the berries, juice, and extracts are useful in the control of urinary infections. They are also an incredible antioxidant. There has been some evidence that they play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and platelet aggregation. We love their tart taste, and we love having a native plant that produces berries to forage from. Heading down to the pond on a beautiful Fall day to gather the fruits of wild cranberry, well it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Here’s a simple recipe for those wild cranberries you may go scouting for this Fall:
Cranberries, 1 pound
Sugar 1 1/2 cups
Water 2 cups
We often prefer to use maple syrup instead of sugar and when doing so, use 1 cup of maple syrup.
Pick over cranberries; wash and drain. Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes
Add cranberries and simmer gently without stirring 5 to 7 minutes or until skins burst. remove from heat and cool. Makes about 4 cups.
If you tap your maple trees this Spring for maple syrup, and harvest cranberries from a wet or boggy area this Fall, and pair them together , you’ll have
created a delicious foraged dish from the wilds of your own woods. Not bad!
While the moon was still bright, a new life was arriving to greet us. Our first lamb of the season, born to “Took”, a first year mama ewe. She delivered her lamb without a glitch, and right away
began the ritual of cleaning her new babe. In no time this little lamb was on her feet and suckling away. Bella, the next in line to lamb and Took’s stall mate, and a veteran mama, looks on. Everyone loves new lambs!
Our sheep flock is kept close to the barn in winter. We bring them home from their summer pasture, and this allows us to keep a close eye on them as we near the lambing season. Also, sheep don’t travel far in deep snow, and for what? No green grass to lure them over the hills or down into the lower field. No, they are quite happy to have a smaller area to roam, along with their reliable humans visiting them twice daily with hay and grain and fresh water. Green grass and sunshine are good, but their winter accommodation are not bad either. I am always struck however, at how different the sheep fields look in winter. So, here are a few photos of the sheep pasture in the winter. So different from those summer months when they’re speckled with sheep and strung with fencing ( which we spend endless hours during the summer months moving for intensive grazing purposes). This is the time of year we get the flexible flyer out, take a running leap from up by the barn, and sail down to the lower field. This often means going up and over a stone wall and , if you’re like me and prefer to sled without too much steering involved, through the hedges that divide the upper and lower fields. No fun unless you lose your hat and maybe one of your gloves along the way. All this fun takes your mind off of the long wait for spring and new plant growth. In another month, we’ll start sowing some of the seeds that have been ordered. Onions, leeks, parsley, and even some greens that will go into the hoop house as soon as the soil can be dug. With almost 3 ft of snow on the ground, it’s hard to believe those days are in the not too distant future. But I believe they are, I really do!