It was seriously cold this morning as I made my way across the road to the barn. I honestly worried that I was going to freeze my face off (okay so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much!). It’s a familiar story on any farm across Maine this today. Morning chores in the frigid and windy temperatures, breath whipped away by the wind, toes cold inside boots despite the layers of socks, and fingertips numb with the biting cold inside gloves or mittens.
The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Chill Warning through 10am this morning. It was -11° with a wind chill of -28°. I’ve made my birds as comfortable as possible─their coops are in a draft-free corner of the barn─with a heat lamp, and I rotate bowls and buckets in order to keep dishes thawed and water available at all times. In just a couple of weeks I will begin a lighting regimen and soon those chicks I bought last September (now nearly 5 months old) will begin laying eggs for the upcoming 2016 season. And they are looking very fine indeed!
Currently Runamuk is home to about 40 chickens and a handful of turkeys, 5 beehives, 2 cats and 1 dog. That’s a very modest menagerie, but I take pride in the process of feeding and caring for the animals. It’s humbling to put the needs of the animals and the farm before my own comfort. I am just a steward, caring for this farm and the landscape it encompasses. I work hard to care for the animals, the house, and the land, and in turn the farm supports me (at least I hope it will someday).
The cats have scarcely set foot outside the farmhouse since the first snowflakes covered the ground. I tell them every time I feed them that they’re freeloaders and they’d better start pulling their weight else it’ll be reduced rations for them! But Murphy has been a champ, follows me about the farm, across the road to feed and water the birds in the barn, snowshoeing down through the fields or lounging nearby as I plug away at Runamuk’s business plan sitting at a desk in the office.
It’s the bees I worry about most. It’s been just over 2 weeks since my last hive-check (January’s hive-checks revealed 5 of 5 hives still alive and going strong, though low on stores), and it will be at least another 2 weeks before I open the hives again. If we get a warm-up I will make my way across the road to the apiary to see if any bees are flying and that will give me an idea of who’s alive and who’s not, but aside from that there’s nothing more I can do for the bees until spring.
This is going to be a big year for Runamuk, I’m making a big investment into 10 more hives, I’ve taken on an apprentice to help share the workload and I’m planning to grow and preserve more food than ever before in hopes of sustaining this farmer throughout the year with greater independence and self-sufficiency.
Looking on the brightside, the recent snow combined with this gawd-awful cold has created a great snow-pack for Runamuk’s upcoming Winterfest. If you’re in the area, bring the kids and the sleds next Saturday to join in some wintery shenanigans!