It's a grey, muzzy 61 degree day here at Whippoorwill Creek Farm this December 24th and winter has yet to come out in a show of force. We've had a few chilly spells and once in late October we had snowflakes in the air for about a minute, but really, so far, nothing. It's been warm and dry, following our warm, dry fall and our warm, dry summer. I don't want to read too much into it, but if this trend continues we may have some trouble when spring arrives. Our farm is pretty drought resilient now, but everybody needs rain at some point.
On the upside, the mild weather has allowed us to get some extra work done around the farm at a time when the ground is usually frozen solid, along with fingers and toes. At the end of the year, it feels good to finally finish up some of the too-long-lived projects that have languished on the farm for months (years?), to close the door on the old in preparation for the new. Last spring we rented a wood chipper and, with the help of family, we cleaned up downed timber and partially filled a wagon with chips. We put the chips in this particular wagon because it had a mechanized way of unloading it.
Unfortunately, that part of the wagon broke in April, as soon as we tried to use it to unload the chips, meaning that we would have to do it by hand. And so the wood chips sat. And sat. Eventually, after an extensive attempt to repair the wagon, we bit the bullet this past week and decided that we had no other choice. To be honest, it wasn't that bad - just a lot of manual labor - but when you have a great idea that falls apart due to a weak link, it is galling, really galling.
Anyway, the first trees that benefited from the manual-labor chips were 100 oak, maple, hickory and birch that we planted in the spring and which were nearly overtaken by weeds over the summer. The new mulch should help keep the ground around them moist and free of weeds for the next couple of years, giving the trees time to get some size. We finished the load happily mulching the trees in our yard. Now the wagon sits, finally empty, our muscles sore but stronger, and trees mulched.
We also worked updating some badly neglected fencing on the farm. The new fencing replaces a woven and barbed wire fence that my father and grandfather put in in the early 1950's. Our new USDA-sanctioned (and mostly USDA paid for) 'wildlife friendly' fencing will be made up of 3 strands of smooth high tensile wire that is much safer for deer and birds to move through than the old barbed and woven wire, while still keeping the cows home. We were prompted in this direction after finding both a deer and a hawk fatally trapped in the fences in the last couple of years. The contract is with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and will help us to replace much of the
interior fencing on the farm with this new style over the next 5 years. It will be a lot of work, but we've decided that it is better for both the wildlife we want to encourage on the farm, and for future generations of farmers on this land. The new fence will be easier to put up or take down and will minimize the amount of metal to be scrapped once it reaches the end of its life (farm "trash" is a major issue). I have also been putting up permanent gates that have, for years, been made up of rusty barbed wire or cumbersome cattle panels (large panels of heavy wire welded together). We acquired a set of new-to-us gates from the neighbors as they cleaned up an old property that they purchased. And so, while the gates don't match and aren't very pretty, they swing and are a lot more effective at keeping the cattle where they are supposed to be. Plus they are easier to open and close, a perk that Beth thinks is a big plus.
My other big winter project, finishing the trim in the house, took a giant leap forward several weeks ago when I completed the barn wood walls in our dining room, essentially finishing the trim downstairs. Now I just have the entire upstairs to do...gah!
And as the year ends, we want you to know that we are so grateful you all read these rambling missives. And we want to thank again all of you who have taken the time and energy to visit us, and those who have read Beth's book. Happy Holidays and a great new year to you and yours from us here at Whippoorwill Creek Farm. Stay warm, safe and healthy and come see the baby goats in the spring!