Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ice out and other signs of spring

The farm pond is officially one year old and last weekend was its first official ice out.  It happened fast too.  On March 23rd, the pond was frozen solid.  I'm sure I could have easily walked across it.

7 days later after a couple days in the 50's and 60's and some rain, I wandered back to the pond and except for a small raft of floating ice that the wind had blown to the far southeast side, the pond was free of ice.

It was a chilly but sunny day and the dogs and I took a nice 3 hour walk around the farm.  Peters Creek was wide and spilling over the bank that day.  A pair of mallards has been visiting the creek daily and if you look carefully at the picture below, you can see them just on the horizon as they took flight off the creek as I walked by.

Even though the ice is off the pond, the ground is still quite frozen.  When it warms up during the day, there is a thick layer of squishy slick mud on top, but underneath the goo on top, the ground is still quite firm.  So it will be some time yet before plow meets earth around here.

Last weekend also brought about a long overdue project.  Last fall, I started a new batch of laying hens.  They came to the farm as day old chicks during the first week of October.  I set them up in the 8'X12' brooder pen where I start my meat chicks in the summer.  Starting the pullets in the brooder pen meant I could let my older layers and roosters have full run between both pens in the layer barn.  This gave the older chickens more room during the snowy months when they don't have a chance to go outside in 2 feet of snow.  Most winters we will see some sort of brief January thaw and I figured that would be a good time to divide the two pens in the layer barn and move the young pullets over just before they started to lay their eggs.  Well this winter wasn't like most winters.  We never had a thaw and the weather stayed cold and snowy.  It was too frozen to try and strip pens and get the pullets moved over.  And so the pullets stayed in the brooder pen.  I moved a bank of nest boxes over when they were ready to lay eggs.  The brooder pen does have fold down roosts for them, but they are less then adequate for long term use.  Then as the snow started to melt I started having issues with water coming in the brooder pen.  Issues that I never have had in the summer with the meat chicks.  That was a pen management nightmare, but I was able to keep on top of things for the most part.  FINALLY last weekend I was able to strip out the pen in the layer barn and move the pullets to their new abode.  Their tiny little chicken brains were totally freaked out by the move, but after one week, I think they are finally adjusting.  Another week or so and they will get to start free ranging in the yard with the older birds.

This past week also brought the first groundhog sighting of the year.  OK, it was down the road a bit, but I'm sure a few of the farm residents are out and about too.  Two nights ago, I did evening chores to the sound of spring peepers.  Yesterday, a walk back in the field found the garlic shoots starting to emerge.  Spring is progressing step by step.