Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Winter's Day

As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, we're stuck inside more often and most people assume we'd get cabin fever. Well, G gets a bit of cabin fever, and I get a bit of annoyed at not having any quiet alone time because he and the dog are always stuck inside with me (not sure if that counts as cabin fever or not LOL).

A typical winter day looks like this:

  • 8-10a: try to ignore that the freak dog is whining to be let out, one of us eventually gets up to open the door and gets the fire & coffee going
  • 10-noon: the other one gets up & we get breakfast going, since the days are short there's no real use getting up before the sun
  • Noon-4ish: do the outside chores while we have light. Normally this is firewood-related or shoveling snow, but sometimes it's a trip into Manley or cutting lumber for indoor projects, etc.
  • 4-ish: when it starts getting too dark or cold to be outside, we'll either work on the indoor projects, or research/plan future projects, or general housekeeping for a few hours. If it's been a really cold/hard day outside, we'll just veg... G gaming on the XBox/PS3, and me reading or playing a PC game (or napping).
  • 9-ish: we'll cook & eat dinner
  • 10p & 3a:  "magic hour" when we have unlimited bandwidth on the satellite, so we'll either watch something on Netflix/Hulu (movie or TV), or do any large downloads (like updates, PDF books, or YouTube). If the satellite uplink isn't cooperating, we might watch a DVD, play a game, read, or go to bed early
  • 2-4a: Bank the fire and go to bed
Since I'm a chronic insomniac & ultra-light sleeper, I'm usually the one who gets up first (darn dog!!) and goes to bed last. Since G sleeps like the dead, he's usually only the first up if I'm totally exhausted and sleeping really hard.

Likely, we'll have a bit more structure to our days once we get critters since we'll have to go out to give them (non-frozen) water and food, gather any eggs before they freeze solid, milk the goats/sheep, and generally make sure everyone is happy, warm and healthy. We're only planning to overwinter our laying/breeding flock, and don't expect them to produce in the winter... with marginal daylight and the cold, best to give them a break and let them put the majority of their resources into staying warm & alive.

P.S.  And what the %^$* is with the freakin' weather?!?!?  It's been majorly windy and warm (around zero), definitely not normal for late November. At least the snow isn't that deep yet, since it's blowing around at high velocity like a sandblaster and all sorts of stuff on the decks keep getting blown off so we have to hunt for it. Not just light/small stuff either!


Misty Pines Homestead said...

Around zero uh? Sounds pretty cold to us down here lol.I don't know about having animals up there,I'd be afraid they would freeze to death,but,if others have them and they survive thats great.Keep the fires burning girl!

Plickety Cat said...

LOL - yes, zero sounds cold to most folks who don't have winters in the sustained negatives. They'd be dressed in heavy coats, while we're still doing chores in a jacket. :D

The only critters I'm a little worried about are the poultry & fowl. The goats, sheep and rabbits are all really cold hardy (warm-blooded mammals); but birds are slightly less so.

Still, if the ptarmigans and grouse can survive in the wild up here in the winter, I suppose our birds should be able to survive, too.

Of course, we'll be getting the cold hardiest breeds of all our animals and providing them with a dry, clean, draft-free environment with plenty of bedding to snuggle in. Plus we'll be making sure that we always have enough critters together to huddle up for added warmth, too.

Quinton said...

I'm just wondering how you can make enough electricity to do all the things that you list. Gas generators are pretty poor and you don't have very much light for solar production.


Plickety Cat said...

We have a 3kw system with 2000 aH battery bank that covers our normal power needs for several days because the CFL & LED lights, LCD TV, laptops, modem & satellite dish don't consume much power.

The XBox & PS3, as well as the corded power tools are the big power hogs and we normally only use them when we are also running the generator to recharge the batteries. When we can't or don't want to run the generator, we just don't use the game consoles for a few days and play movies and DVD games on our laptops instead.

Eventually we'll have PV and turbine hybrid to help charge the batteries. With only 23 hours of daylight in the winter, it isn't uncommon to produce more PV from moonlight than from daylight, but there is normally plenty of wind to keep those batteries trickle charging ;)

Plickety Cat said...

That's 2-3 hours of daylight in winter... not 23 hours (that would be summer!) Darned sticky keyboard :/

Anonymous said...

Ever thought of adding your animal coup to the outside of your home near the wood-stove? My plan is to route a pipe to their "barn" and send heat their way. It won't be a great deal of heat but it should take part of the chill of at -40, no?

It shouldn't stink up the house either.

Plickety Cat said...

Our woodstove is in the center of our cabin, so that wouldn't work; But it may be possible to build the layer coop in the back porch once we enclose it so the girls have a bit of waste heat from the house. we've also considered an outdoor wood boiler near the barn and using that for animal-safe heating and keeping the water troughs thawed.

We don't want to give the animals too much heat since it will make them less cold hardy, but we also don't want them to get sick, frostbitten or die of hypothermia either. It's a fine line and a hard decision. I would hate to have the animals used to a warm barn, then have something happen where we can't keep the temps up as much as they're used to... a few days at colder than normal outdoor temps, or a a busted boiler, and all our critters could die if they aren't used to the cold :(

Anonymous said...

I would like any advice you have for keeping chickens warm in the winter and keeping eggs from freezing. We live outside of Fairbanks and while we are gone all day at work, they eggs freeze. Is that just all part of it? I enjoy reading your blog. My husband would love to live "off the grid" Happy Thanksgiving!

Plickety Cat said...

From everything I've read and been told by friends who have winter chickens, the best things seem to be:
1) Close all the coop vents except the ones up high so that there are no drafts near at their level; and make sure that the bottom of the coop and the doors are well-sealed. Chickens can handle the cold, but not wind or drafts.
2) Use the deep litter method rather than cleaning out the coop frquently.
3) If you have larger breed hens, use a 2x4 (wide side flat) for their roosts so that they can nestle their belly feathers over their toes to prevent frostbite.
4) Keep the nest boxes at least a few inches above the floor with a thick layer of nexting material in them.
5) If you have electricity, set a light on a timer so that it comes on a couple hours before you leave for work, and keep the coop door closed; the girls will normally lay in the morning soon after first light, so you should have time to gather the eggs before work. If some eggs do freeze, you can still eat them if you thaw them and cook them soon (or scramble with a little salt & sugar and refreeze them).
6) If you have other larger animals, consider sectioning off a portion of a combined barn for the chickens so they can benefit from the heat of the larger livestock without risking food contamination, etc.
7) Try to get chicken breeds with minimal combs and wattles, since they are susceptible to frostbite. Coat combs and wattles with a thin layer of vaseline to help prevent that.

Hope these tips help... let me know how it goes!

Enjoy your Turkey Day :)

Marybeth said...

That's for taking the time to post this because I was really wondering. I have to admit I always wondered about what you do during the winter, and the show Alaska the last Frontier made me wonder even more. Now to get some pictures!!!! How's the pine allergy going for G BTW? I walked past a Christmas tree the other day, and now I'm wheezing. It made me think of him. You guys are a lot busier than I am. I have to admit I'd be content to sleep all winter. I think I should have been a bear.

Plickety Cat said...

Hey MaryBeth, the spruce allergy seems to be under control since we're mostly bundled up handling the firewood. I think the worst of it is definitely the pollen, which makes him even more susceptible to the sap in the spring because the allergen load is too high.

We pretty much hibernate as well, at least from our perspective. We're definitely less productive in the winter than we are in the summer; but we can't stop altoghether unless we want to freeze out here ROFL!

Misty Pines Homestead said...

Just a drop by to say I hope you had a good Thanksgiving!I am so behind on everything lol!

Anonymous said...


It has been a while. Weather here is nothing but wind. We still don't have snow and tomorrow is the end of Nov. We are springing fires that are fueled by the high winds.


Plickety Cat said...

We have a tiny bit of snow, maybe an inch. We had that wind a week ago and it was terrible. Weather is definitely odd this year. Hope we aren't in for an unusually late fire season! Very hard to put out forest fires when the water keeps freezing before you can get there!

Anonymous said...

You might want to think about a rocket mass heater for the critters. Not to pamper them but maybe bring the building from -40 to -20 and make it a little easier on them. They do not use much wood either.

Plickety Cat said...

A rocket stove might work. We're trying to keep open flames out of the barn since that's a high risk with dry straw, bedding, and dust... but if we put a rocket stove in a closed-off room and then ran the flue under a cob berm in the barn, that might work for a little extra heat.