Winter farm desk

Winter desk

This is my winter desk. It’s the same year-round, but for most of the year, the warmer, outdoors part, it’s just a chair in front of a computer where I pop in to check stuff. In the winter, it becomes a mildly monkish workstation, a place to be a bit of a modern DIY scholar and scribe… To someone who’s loved books and reading from way early on, the Web is a completely over-the-top place. Billions of people surf around, but I wonder how many have a first-hand inkling of HOW MUCH STUFF IS REALLY IN THERE. It has EVERYTHING, just kinda piled up, like an endless, fantastically-stocked, 24/7 garage sale of ideas to put in your head. I don’t know if it’s ultimately a good thing, this type of extreme abundance, but it sure is interesting. And great for looking into things. So, I spend a good deal of winter time online, much of it related to farming. I bookmark a lot, and save (as in, download) pages that I think I should have around if the Net somehow went away. I seldom print, or take many notes on the computer, steno pads are perfect for all that, writing things out helps keep the volume manageable. And that’s about it, the modern, simple (but tech-entangled), tiny farming research station. Handy…! (Bonus game: What makes this not just any computer station, but a GARDEN station? Can you spot the soil thermometer? :)

Wrecking and building

Barn detail

Made it back to the new farm to start demo for the new seedling room. I don’t get to do much bigger construction work, and this is really just interior framing and insulating, nothing complicated or structural, but it’s a fair-sized project, involving new windows and doors, what I’d still call big rough carpentry fun! The barn is a small one, 24’x30′ (7.3x9m), about 20-30 years old. The structure is simple, basic, easy-to-understand—what you see is what it looks like. The beam in the pic is one of a dozen or so that support the upper floor. What could be clearer! We’re turning half of the lower level, with its poured concrete floor and concrete block walls, into a fully winterized space that’ll hopefully be home to new herb seedlings by the end of January!

A little winter rain…

Warm and wet

Just when all the cold was getting a bit monotonous, we get some crazy weather changes to keep things interesting. By late morning, the packed snow on paths had turned to ice and puddles. Today was the first of two days forecast to be “unseasonaby warm,” with rain and 50°F+ (10°C+) daytime temperatures. By tomorrow, most of the snow will be gone… The day after, it’s back to double-digit subzero and…more snow! Meanwhile, this morning I was happily sliding around outside in a T-shirt and shirt…!

Christmas bear…

Christmas tree bear ornament

Hmmm… Christmas. I don’t think I’ve heard more people unenthusiastic about the Holidays than this year. Of course, here in the country, I run into a tiny fraction of the people I used to when living in cities…so maybe it’s different right in amongst the masses! For a variety of reasons, the Farm was extremely quiet this time around. I looked at the Tree—it’s been up since early December—as a sign of the times. Until a couple of years ago, the decades-old tradition was to cut one from the strip of woods at the north end of the farm. Then, suddenly, we got an artificial tree. It’s deluxe, tall and slender, and a perfect fit for the narrow corner between two doorways in the kitchen-dining room. It’s the first thing you see when you enter the house. I don’t remember why the change, it wasn’t me that did it. I think it was just convenience winning out over a dwindling connection to the tree-cutting tradition. In any case, the new guy is a fine looking facsimile tree that needs no watering, poses no fire hazard (I think it’s fire-retardant, you know how crispy these old farmhouses can get), and due to location delivers way more upfront Christmasy ambiance than the real trees used to from their old spot further back in the house. The decorations are elaborate and cheery as well, with a designer old-time feel, the classic balls and streamers and tiny Christmas lights, along with tons of little, antique-looking doll ornaments: puppets and wise men, songbirds and Santa bears. They’re all mostly plastic, but quality, non-plastic-looking plastic. All in all, a beautiful (and practical!) MODERN farmhouse tree that should last for years and years! Great. Then again, it’s up to people, not  trimmings, to make the season. Happy Holidays to all! :)

Chickens want in

Cockerels want in

It’s officially WINTER, finally, and now the days get longer… Yay. Chickens and snow are the only real farm action around here at the moment, although things are going to get real busy really soon! Meanwhile, there’s always CHICKENS. On one hand, the 25 girls are productively laying away in the chilly but still kinda snug chickenhouse. They do eat eggs, with gusto, but I don’t think any of them have turned into egg-breaking fiends, although the investigation is ongoing. And then there are the guys, past their meat-bird prime, and now a bit of a puzzle—if you’re not gonna eat ’em, why are they here?—but fun to watch, especially on ice (and still really economical on feed). Every day, they come up with a new, apparently random decision on whether to head out into miserable weather, or not. Today, they decided to exit the coop, but then made straight for the main lower barn door, where they’ve been trying to get in for hours. If they want back in, why wait till dark, why not GO HOME NOW? Do they expect me to lead them? Carry them? (Can chickens really play checkers?)

Demo to go

Transporting tools

The plan was to spend tomorrow at a nearby, soon-to-be tiny farm, helping build a winterized seedling room in the barn. Day 1: a little demolition and clean-up. This didn’t work out because of a snow storm warning, so after an overnight visit to a nearby town, we returned and I unpacked. False start. Still, this was another mini milestone for me, a first, loading up my tools for an off-farm job! This is all gear assembled bit by bit while working on projects here on the farm, guided by the tools I’d borrowed from Bob. Every purchase, I knew exactly what it was for and how it would come in handy again. Although I’m far from an experienced rough carpenter/farm fixer, choosing tools yesterday made me realize how much I’ve learned. The feeling of place and context really struck me, how the little memories of using each tool tied into the overall tiny farming fabric. It may seem ODD to be celebrating such basic stuff, but it reminded me how unsettlingly disconnected things can get: the job you go to every day, the weekend shop project at home, the weekly grocery run, endless other routines that have no real connection to each other, except in your head. Not like on the tiny farm, where one thing leads another… Hmm. :)

Snow days

Snowy road

Another day, another 6″ (15cm) of snow. This time, it came down in a proper, visibility-reducing mini-blizzard for just a while. I haven’t been listening to the news, which includes weather news, so I’m not sure whether we’re setting any records for early, wintry behavior, but compared to the last five-six years, this is something different. White Christmas, coming up!