Our weather station here at Villa Westwyk measured a balmy 82 degrees F on October 14. Two days later we got our first frost and we haven’t seen anything above 50 degrees in weeks. The Average temperature for the last month is 38 degrees. The last two winters we did not see freezing temperatures until on or near the Winter Solstice. Sure technically, winter isn’t here until the Winter Solstice, but we’re certainly feeling it already. We weren’t quite ready for winter here. That can be a problem for a Permie Witch.
We had plans to set up a poly tunnel to enclose our laying chickens in their tractor coop, but that hasn’t happened yet and this morning it was 22 degrees. When the rains return the temps will be warmer, but chickens aren’t fans of the rain like the ducks and geese are. So the tunnel gives them a respite from the rain as well and lets them get more exercise, otherwise they are prone to just sit in the coop all day, which means I have to muck it more often. Also in the polytunnel we can do a deep litter method and get all that good composted material come spring for putting on our raspberries, blueberries, black currant bushes, and more. Material management is part of so much of what I do as a Permie Witch, to include “making” it like with the deep-litter method during winter with my poultry.
And since we’ve just gotten the freezing temperatures and there’s been no rainfall, our seasonal streams and ponds that help support our ducks and geese are bone dry. I caught them just sitting in the river bed waiting for the water. It was so pitiful. No running steam means the Permie Witch has to go out extra and make sure the water fowl have extra water. When they can’t bathe because pools and troughs just freeze, they drink even more water. Having extra barn chores is not where I want to be since I’m under contract to write a book right now. Even though I know those outdoor breaks are good for a writer who spends so much time sitting at a desk.
But here’s the thing, the animals are prepared. It’s the Witch who is not. The animals already have systems in place to set themselves up for winter success. The ducks and chickens have slowed their egg laying to conserve daily energy. They’re plumped up cold-weather feathers that arrived shortly after the Autumn equinox are doing the job of keeping them well insulated. The geese are so hardy, they will likely laugh at us (honk-honk) when we do get around to setting up that poly tunnel. Lastly, we’ve culled the number of geese we have so their winter home is more spacious, but are happy to lay beneath the arbor or against the barn.
My chickens don’t need a heat lamp. They don’t need to be closed up air-tight (yikes! That’s like asking for illness!). I’m sure they would love to have the polytunnel just to get out of the rain (or snow), but it’s not necessary. Trees and bushes around the property do that for them as well.
Even when the weather is inclement, my animal partners on this covenstead do what they need to do to survive and even thrive. No Permie Witch required.
I’ll continue to improve systems and infrastructure to make sure my livestock have only one bad day in their life, including through winter. But I don’t need to pressure myself about this project or that project, since small, slow solutions and nature’s ability to survive do a lot of that work for me. So now I can work on getting the Witch ready for winter, which is mostly all about shifting my perspective. I’ve got a book to write. Pond creation and polytunnel construction can wait until the sun is higher in the sky and we’re not having to put on snow suits just to feed and water the animals. Oh, and the word count reaches 60,000 words. 😉