I have just checked the outside thermometer and it is registering -5, that’s a whole 2 degrees warmer than when I first checked it at 6.30 this morning!! It’s a bit of a shock to the system to say the least, but I am well prepared this year and so I donned my salopettes, warm snow boots, thermal gloves and hat, thick coat and went outside. It is a little difficult to walk when you are trussed up like the Michelin man but at least I was warm 🙂
First job is to break all the ice in the water buckets about 15 in total and as yet I have not defrosted the rabbit water bottles, I need a plan of action for those this year, we have tried insulating them with various materials but they still freeze, I did have a thought about fixing them to the inside of the hutch hoping that the warmth of the rabbits might keep them thawed, something to work on today I think.
We have had confirmed reports of a fox seen leaving the premises last night, the dog has been yapping for a couple of nights in a row and we wondered what was out there and now we know for sure so the fox trap will be baited today. In fact both traps will be set one in the back paddocks and one in the front where the activity seems to be at the moment. The fact that he is in the front means he is after my new intake of pullets and although they are shut in at night we all know how determined a fox can be if he is hungry.
Of course I can’t mention the cold outside without saying how beautifully warm it is indoors this year 🙂 The Rayburn is doing a wonderful job of radiating warmth all through the rooms, with the added bonus of a constantly simmering kettle sitting on the top, ready whenever you are, for a cuppa 🙂 I think as it is so cold out, today’s jobs will all be indoors, some cleaning and a bit of baking, I need to use up some of the duck eggs that are multiplying by the day, if I make a batch of cakes for the freezer now, then when the birds stop laying in Midwinter I will not mind in the least. A few batches of homemade soup may be in order too, last week I made the first pot of Leek and Potato soup, our favourite, with a freshly made loaf of bread, it was lovely and at least we appreciate the Winter for that if nothing else!
A flock of sheep have moved into the field next door, I love it when they move them down our lane, they stop the traffic from each end and then you hear a barely audible rumbling of hundreds of hooves as they come past the farm and go off down the road. The horses get very excited to see them,I have no idea why, and started charging round the paddock like yearlings. Of course those sheep are nothing like ours, they are out in the open ground with no shelter and graze on whatever is left in the field, ours by comparison are totally pampered with a field shelter and regular hay nets and feed, they spend their day bleating at us for more food and attention. I have not had a close look at the flock but they are usually ‘in lamb ewes’ who will spend a couple of weeks out there before being taken in ready for lambing in the New Year. Taking part in lambing is something I would love to do, even the thought of a cold, long night does not put me off, I would imagine it has to be the highlight of the farmers year to successfully bring all those new lambs into the world, just about the greatest job satisfaction I could imagine.
The horses will start coming into the stables overnight very soon, at the moment they are being rugged, the thoroughbred is heavily rugged. This is to stop them losing too much weight trying to keep themselves warm. If you ever wondered why they are dressed like that, then now you know, sometimes they will have a full head covering on too, this is to stop them getting too muddy if they are being ridden. It takes quite a while to groom a horse that has been out in a muddy field before putting on his tack so the less you have to do the better. The little Shetlands will stay outside all Winter, the only time they would come in is in a sustained wet period, they are more than able to cope with the cold temperatures but constantly standing in wet mud can cause foot problems and so there is a stable on standby for them to come in at any time.
The ducks have been giving me a bit of grief this week, I decided to let them free range while it was damp, that way I would have to feed them less as they were able to forage all day for worms and slugs, but as the week went on they got wanderlust. First they ventured out to the front under the apple tree to pick over any remnants of windfalls, but by yesterday afternoon they were making their way down the front drive and out onto the lane! Needless to say that today they are staying securely inside their pen. The chickens are getting just as bad, they have discovered that if they hop up into the muck heap at the back of the orchard, freedom is theirs for the taking! I quite like seeing them roaming around all over the place but it is not very practical if someone comes to buy some and I have to round them all up first, they are not as easy to herd as ducks and I swear they deliberately torment the dogs by getting as close to the dog run as possible without losing a feather or two :p