The winter months are definitely slower on the homestead. We have a lot of snow and cold here in Wisconsin- which calls for spending most of our time staying inside and trying to keep warm. That also means it’s time for indoor projects and spring planning!
Kitchen Cabinet Face Lift
Let it be known: painting kitchen cabinets is the worst homestead project ever. Worse than shoveling manure, worse than bathing a skunk-sprayed dog. Well… maybe not that last one. We’ve spent the last couple months painting our yellowish-maple cabinets to farmhouse-white.
And we see the light! We just finished the last coat of paint this past weekend, Karl declaring: “I don’t even care anymore how they look, this is the last coat!” Just to give you an idea, I added it up and it took us 48 man hours to paint just the doors… not counting the sanding, washing, and de-glossing, plus painting of the cabinet boxes themselves. If you’re thinking of painting your cabinets, I hope you really want them painted. Like, really.
I really did. We’ll be adding hardware and re-hanging them soon. I can’t wait to see how they look with everything pulled together! Stayed tuned for our kitchen cabinet reveal and breakdown coming soon!
Cold-Weather Chicken Keeping
This is our second winter with chickens- and they definitely don’t seem as what-the-heck-is-this-white-stuff phased as they did last year. They have an area around the coops that we shovel so they can stretch their legs and have some room to roam around despite the snow. There have been three times this winter where I’ve looked out the window to see a chicken has jumped the path and landed in the deeper snow. Boy they don’t like that! I’ve had to put on my boots and trudge outside to save the snow-bound chickens. Of course, they’re grateful for the rescue. Silly birds.
Bolivar, the rooster at the bottom of the pecking order, has been having a bit of a rough time this winter.
The use of heat lamps in chicken coops is a fairly controversial topic because they cause many coops to burn down every winter, and some will argue that chickens have lived since the beginning of time without them. True. It is a risk.
We do use a heat lamp on occasion, and have made sure it is as secure as possible. Triple secured. Our aim is to keep the chicken coop at about 28 degree F or a little higher (this is the lowest temperature that they seem comfortable at). The chickens themselves will keep the coop about 10-15 degrees higher than the outside temperature, and the heat lamp will raise it another 15-20. So, we only turn it on when the temperature is lower than 10 degrees F outside.
Like clockwork, as soon as we passed the winter solstice (when the days start to get longer) they picked up laying again. Thank goodness- because we ran out of preserved eggs about two weeks ago (I freeze them in these containers). It’s so nice to be getting fresh eggs again!
Winter Honey Bee Check
So far, so good. The honey bees made it through the couple weeks of deadly cold we had (-30s with wind chill). We recently had a couple days in the low 40s (a rare treat!), so all the animals, including us, and including the bees were able to get out and stretch our legs. It was refreshing and great for the spirit!
And the bees were flying all over the place. Bee poop littered the snow! Bees are extremely hygienic and won’t poop in the hive, so it’s great for them to have a couple above-freezing days in the middle of winter to come outside and do their business. You’re wondering what bee poop looks like, aren’t you? I know you are. There it is!
On solid surfaces like our car windshields and the hives it looks like yellow specks or streaks… like pollen mixed with glue. In the snow it looks like golden yellow drops of food coloring. Anyways- we’re so glad to see them alive and hope they pull through the rest of the way!
And thanks to the wax we harvested this fall, I’ve been busy making beeswax birthday candles, lip balms, and lotions!
Garden Veggies: Going, Going…
Almost gone. We’ve put a pretty good dent in a lot of our winter food stores- we’ve eaten almost all of the fresh apples and just last week I used the last red cabbage to make this incredible Roasted Ranch Cabbage.
We tried storing carrots for the first time this fall (in rubbermaid totes with sand) and it worked wonderfully! We’ve eaten up almost all of those too- my favorite way to eat them is roasted in the oven so they get browned and caramelized. And then I put them on top of my Harvest Cobb Salad with other goodies like pork loin, bacon, pepitas, feta, hard-boiled eggs, and apples. Recipe —> HERE!
We’ve still got potatoes and plenty of canned apples, peaches and pears plus a freezer full of meats, kale, and green beans. Our dried foods are still going strong- we’ve got lots of apples, pears, mushrooms, kale, and beans. We’ll be eating well until spring!
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