Short on Snow

South Field Shed – Click Image for Big Panorama

It has been a low snow year. I’m not complaining in the slightest. The long warm fall right up to the New Year let us get a lot more done on outdoor projects. The only tricky thing is we had some water lines freeze that should have been well protected by the deep snows. Adding a layer of hay over them solved that.

We had a similar low snow winter several years ago. That is it was low snow to start with. Then on Valentines Day we got dumped on with three feet of snow. You never know until spring sings. Even then there could be a foot of snow in may.

But back to this year’s lack of snow. In the photo above you can see the breeding herd in the south field shed. An interesting thing about the animals is that even though there are sheds with roofs, side walls and plenty of fresh hay they still prefer sleeping out under the open sky. They even do that during a snow storm.

When the winds pickup harder than usual the pigs seek out places in the lee of structures. I purposefully place round bales in storage to give them wind breaks. I also built our terraces and sheds in the lee of trees, stone walls and other things that help to lift the wind up over the animals and us.

The open central court yard of the south field shed can be amazingly warm even on very cold days. Part of this is due to the wind break of the trees and building lifting the moving air up above the area. Another factor is the warmth coming up off the composting bedding underfoot – warm toes floors. Then there is the enormous bio-mass of about 30,000 lbs of pork radiating heat. In the morning when the pigs get up (they’re late risers) the area steams from their body heat and the warmth they had trapped under them in the bedding. I imagine capturing that warmth and moisture for heating greenhouses…

Up in the background you can see our old brown delivery van. Behind that our tiny cottage which is just six inches longer than the van.

On the right are some of our chickens, out during the mid-day to see what tidbits they might scratch up. At night they roost in the corner of the south field shed where there is a stall that is not very accessible so we don’t use it for pigs. The job of the flock of chickens is primarily acting as our organic pest control. They free-range out in our fields during the summer months eating the insects.

Behind the chickens in the far distance is our old farm house and the butcher shop rising up from the foundation of our old hay shed.

In the far distance, across the home fields and beyond the north field rises Sugar Mountain where our maple sugar bush lies in the embrace of the east slope.

Outdoors: 2°F/-11°F Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/65°F

Daily Spark: Every path has a few puddles. -Anon

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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9 Responses to Short on Snow

  1. Jessie N. says:

    Is it just me, or is there a heart shape in the middle of the open hay bale in the near shed? Cheers, Jessie N.

  2. Patricia R. says:

    re. the warm composting hay, I’ve read that in yore times seed starting was done under glass in a sunken bed filled with manure and hay– a real hot-bed!

    • You are so right. I’ve done this and it works very well. The rotting hay and manure make for warm toes for the plants and release good greenhouse gasses. In fact, it works very well for more than just seed starting. I’ve done warm frames that grew lettuce, spinach and other cool tolerant plants all winter here in northern Vermont. The only tricky part is removing the snow almost every day. We get snow most nights, even if it is clear there might be a quarter inch of new snow from the snow dew and usually it is more than that. To make it even better have some sort of night cover for insulation.

  3. Skeptic7 says:

    Do you have to worry about chickens attacking the pigs or the pigs attacking the chickens?

    • Because the chickens and pigs grow up together and because they are on pasture with its large open areas it isn’t a problem. If they were confined in pens and not familiar with each other then all bets are off.

  4. Simon says:

    Do just open pasture or do you rotate them on a regular basis. We are starting and only have 15 acres of woodland and pasture. We were going to use 1 acre plots and rotate them biweekly with movable shelters. Both the pigs and the chickens. Our pasture is 50% grass and 50% legumes/brassicas. And I tried to make it a good mix of cool season warm season perennials.

    I really appreciate this blog and your site, the information is great.

    God Bless you and your family,

    Simon Manning

    • We do managed rotational grazing. We only manage the larger animals, the sheep and pigs. The poultry (chickens, ducks, geese) naturally follow the larger herbivores, co-grazing with them. We co-graze our pigs and sheep together. Having some shade in the form of brush, trees and woods in each paddock is good.

      Your grass/legume/brassica mix is excellent.

  5. Jeremy Tolk says:

    I love the title to this post. It made me get the image in my head of a dwarf standing on a snowbank. Maybe one of Snowwhite’s dwarfs.

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