Monday, November 7, 2011

...and So It Goes...

The freak snow on October 29, 2011 served as a wake-up call that winter is indeed on the way. Preparations must be made and routines changed…’cause cold weather is coming, whether we like it or not. The heavy frost that has become a nightly occurrence only serves to reinforce this notion.

The issues of heat and water are always factors here on the hill. In summertime we have to protect FROM the heat, and wintertime we have to try to retain as much of it as possible. Water must be supplied at all times. A new choreography is imperative during the colder months.

This time of year, the COLD nights (which only get colder as the season progresses toward winter) require that we prepare accordingly. The hoophouses and greenhouses must be closed to conserve what little heat we can for the sometimes frigid overnights. Occasionally, we add a layer of row cover to the plants, as well. Any irrigation used in the daylight hours must be dis-connected and drained. The door to the brooder for the chicks must be closed so they don’t get chilled. This requires at least one walk-about in the late afternoon/early evening. The hens must also be “tucked in” for the night, but they don’t like to squander daylight, so we must wait until dark to close their door.
Then (completely unrelated to the weather) we must close the gate on the sheep. We spend a LOT of time walking!

Despite the cold and dark, I like the “evening close-down”. The sunset is generally beautiful this time of year.
The silhouettes of the bare trees stand in stark relief against the vivid sky. The stars have often begun to show themselves before I get back to the house. I am always in awe at what a beautiful place this is.

Mornings have us contending with frost and ice…and cold fingers. The layers of coats, coveralls, gloves and hats that we so willingly left behind in the spring have all made their way back to their hooks in the laundry room. Many days it is much too cold in the early hours to work outside for long, so we do inside chores before making the morning run to open everything that was closed up the night before. Since it’s not quite cold enough for the stocktank heaters, we find ourselves hauling water in buckets. In some ways, the “opening act” is even more critical than the evening shut-down process.

Once the temperatures have risen above freezing, we can begin to irrigate in the hoophouses and greenhouses. This is a crucial task for the day. No water and warm….hot….temperatures can mean fried plants. Nothing bums me out more than fried seedlings. I hate that! It means we have to start the process all over again….all because I had a “senior moment”!

On a sunny day, even in February, it is possible for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees in the hoophouses. (yes, the UN-heated structures) This allows great growth, but requires a good amount of irrigation as well. So, after making sure all the connections in the irrigation system are not leaking, we can set the timer and go on to completing other tasks.

Before too long, it’s time to dis-connect,

drain and do the evening performance once more.

…and so it goes…

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