Ahhh, it's in the upper 50s outside, the snow has almost gone (with stubborn patches refusing to melt along driveways), the kids laugh and race their bikes down the path in the backyard, and I sit in a chair listening to the sounds of spring and soaking in every ray of sunshine that hits my face. Oh wait...that was last weekend. This weekend has a bit of a different forecast: 20s and more snow on the way. Is winter really still here? Ugh, last weekend was such a tease for me! I'm a warm weather girl through and through; give me 90 degrees and cold lemonade over below freezing wind and hot chocolate any day! Alas, if winter is going to drag it's frigid temps through our bones here in Xenia, at least we are having a cloudless day of sunshine on this last day of February. Glass half full, I guess.
It's been a long, hard winter here at Full of Graze Farm. Quite different from the winter that closed our first farming season. This year we seemed to have endless snow. Don't get me wrong, if it's going to be cold, windy, and gray, we might as well have some bright white snow to make up for the dreariness. But enough is enough already. We spent the great majority of the "off-season" trudging a half-mile down to our layer lair to ensure the girls had water they could actually drink and not just a block of ice to peck at; as well as attempting to collect their eggs before they had all froze and cracked. It was a challenge.
At times, it was so bitterly cold that Sean could hear the eggs cracking as he made the half-mile trek back from the hen house. A few moments in the air and those eggs didn't stand a chance. Needless to say, production slowed and we had a mere few dozen to offer customers during the week.
The subzero temperatures brought on quite a bit of stress to our ladies. Many of the hens got frostbite on their combs and began to molt. This is a process where they shed their feathers and grow new ones. It's perfectly normal, but does cause a drop in egg production. In a situation where production is already low because of less daylight hours and cold temps, the timing of the hens' molting was not ideal.
But the worst winter blow came about a month ago. The electric fence has been off because of the height of the snow, leaving our hens vulnerable to predators. Peter headed out to do chores and much to his dismay was confronted by two dogs. One was inside the fence, circling the hen house. Wild dogs? Stray? Neighborhood mutts on the loose? We currently do not know. But what we do know is, they killed all but two of our hens! Gone in one night. These dogs were not afraid; they barked wildly at Peter and stood their ground. It wasn't until he fired his shotgun in the air, that they finally took off into the woods and disappeared. He found two lone hens huddled together on top of the nest boxes as he investigated the situation. Devastating, to say the least.
"Is this really worth it?", I find myself continuing to ask Sean. It seems like so much work for so little reward sometimes. But Sean is ever the optimist. He knows that everything in life that is worth anything must be worked hard for; there is always bad that comes with the good. It's the life of a farmer and we will not give up.
The two surviving hens have been added to a new flock in Hillsboro, Ohio. In fact, they have started laying again - overcoming the trauma of the attack. New hens are being raised by a local farmer and will head out to Full of Graze Farm in the next few weeks. Broiler chickens have been ordered and arrive this spring! Yes, it's still freezing outside and I prefer to stay huddled under the covers, snuggling with my three little ones, but I know spring is around the corner! And with the beginning of March comes the beginning of a new farming season. We will learn from our past mistakes; we will be more diligent in keeping our fences up and running effectively; and we will remember why we started doing all of this in the first place. We believe in this way of farming - this way of life. Our children need better than factory produced, processed, fake food. We are determined to pass on a sustainable food supply to our children, and yours.
It is a new year, a new season, and new life is coming soon to Full of Graze Farm! We are excited to share it with you!
One of our customers beautifully prepared these two meals with one of our chickens (top), and one of our turkeys. We are proud that our customers are satisfied with our products and create such delectable meals! Now if only we could sample....mmmmm :)