Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 4, 2010

Winter Comes to the Farm

The weather has changed and it has changed to winter here on the farm. This will be our second winter, since we moved up here in January at the beginning of the year. Like most farmers, we welcome winter. Winter is a good time to slow down, think hard, plan ahead and maintain. Those are our goals for this winter.

Winter is different than other seasons on a farm. There is a lot less tending of plants at this time of the year for one thing. There are many fewer hours in the workday for another thing. We still ‘work’ seven days a week, since the livestock are a constant here. But once we get them all fed and check to see that they have somewhere cozy to lounge and sleep most of our labor is done.

So far, the most difficult task sequence on our farm is working out how to keep the water everybody needs from becoming frozen. This is one of the reasons why we’re hard at work insulating the chicken coop. We have a space heater in there, and it would do the trick set on low, but that we haven’t finished the insulation. And of course, the liquid nails don’t adhere below a certain temperature in their setting-up phase. So we have to wait for a warming trend in the weather to prepare for the colder weather to come.

The pigs are still having their water delivered several times a day. This involves filling the big buckets at the kitchen sink, since we have necessarily turned the outside spigots off. Then we load the buckets into our farm utility vehicle. The manufacturer named it a ‘mule’; our own sense of humor and place has us calling it the ‘onager’ as often as not. We trundle the onager out to the piggeries and dispense affection and water alike to our porcine compatriots. They seem to enjoy our visits as much as they look forward to being freshly watered.

Walking with pigs is new pleasure we’ve discovered since we got them all out into our forest. They love to amble and frolic alongside us when we ‘walk the line’ to check for obstructions which might block the current. It can be something as innocuous as a few leaves blown up against the lowest wire, or something as obvious as a freshly fallen branch. It’s worth keeping the line clear, since the pigs respect the very minor zap the fencing provides and will stay in their pigging runs where it’s safe. This time of year, big brownish animals in the woods are shot for sport–and we wouldn’t want that fate to be visited on our Tamworth-Old Spot cross foraging swine.

The barn kittens have found a number of sheltered locations in the barn where they can tuck themselves away from the drafts and make optimal use of each other’s body heat. We made them a box, which they sometimes use. We left them some woolly wraps, which they sometimes use. We know they have a secret hideaway where bad Uncle Buck can’t get at them. And we know they’re warm enough–since their energy is exceeded only by the heat generated from their tiny paws.

This is the leading edge of winter. I’ll pass more information and vignettes along as they accumulate.



  1. Yup, not having frost-free watering in the barns is a serious drag. Years of hauling water in two five gallon buckets from the kitchen through the snow drifts killed much of the romanticism of farming for me. A winter without any critters is going to be a nice break.

  2. We had some type of device that we floated in the animal water which kept it from freezing. My memory is vague on this. I don’t know the name of the device or even what it looked like– but I do know that it was a wonderful thing and we were very happy to discover it. There was a special chicken waterer too. I will try to do a little research.

    • Thanks. That would be a huge help to us.

  3. This looks like a cool project for a solar heated waterer:

    The device at the top looks something like what we had for the sheep but apparently, it is expensive to run and not very eco.

    I believe we had something like this for the chickens:

  4. Thanks Liz. I forwarded to MAP. Anything you, or anyone, can find on the subject is most welcome. More options gives us more of a chance at success.

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