Winter Green

January 4, 2012 § 3 Comments

The icy weather has arrived. Everyone around here was hunkered down today, the chickens standing on one foot while warming the other in their belly feathers, the goats fluffed and eating constantly, the dogs nipping outside for short runs and then waiting by the door to be let back in, their frosty breath melting the ice on the window.

This time of year, when there is not much forage to eat for any of our animals (except perhaps the cat) I like to try and diversify their diet however I can. The goats, who in the summer eat grass, leaves, brush, bark, and brambles, are stuck with plain old dry hay in the winter, and oh boy, maybe even a dried oak leaf or two that blows through the fence. Luckily, this particular post-new-year week is an excellent time to forage for another source of green; Christmas trees!

When I was little, we would throw the spent Christmas tree in the burn pile, and in the late winter, burn it along with other brush collected on my parents’ property. But plenty of people can’t just have a fire in their backyards. To the dump it is then, to be chipped. That is better than nothing, but certainly a chore, and so the other night I made on offer on my local Craigslist: leave me your address and your tree, and I will come pick it up for you, to become a delicious healthy meal for my goats.

So this morning, when the chores were done, the truck warmed up in the chill and we made a run to a gentleman’s driveway where he had left his tree. Thanks, kind stranger!¬† And if that weren’t enough, we found ourselves behind another man on the way to the dump with his tree and he agreed at a stoplight to hand it over. Back at the farm, the goats munched happily on their needly salad.

For the rest of the day, Andy fenced while I worked in the greenhouse, a relief from the biting wind. It was actually pretty warm in there, and I had to take off my hat as I worked. The greenhouse is unheated, suitable only to overwinter hardy herbs like parsley and sage. There are even some volunteer cilantro seedlings in there that aren’t really growing, but provide a fresh nibble here and there in our otherwise creamy winter meals.

Today I made a rich bed by digging out the north side dirt, then mixing in a generous amount of very well rotted manure. Then I planted a bunch of different leftover seeds; lettuce, arugula, and swiss chard. With a second layer of plastic over these, they will germinate and grow without the need for heat in the greenhouse. The double insulation will keep the air around the plants 15-20 degrees higher than the outside temperature, and allow modest harvests of these greens throughout the winter months.

And at the end of the day (4:00, these short days), it sure feels good to get in to the house and light a roaring fire, working on projects that have been pushed back for months and now are finally on the bench.

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