Chickens In Winter
Winter has been in full force with freezing temperatures and a coating of snow. In spite of the weather, production continues in the backyard egg factory. This can be attributed to the coop light. The six hens that make up the work force lay about three eggs a day. Some days there are four eggs, sometimes two and other days there are none.
It has been my experience that chickens are very cold hardy. The hens layed two eggs on a day where the high temperature was 8 degrees Fahrenheit. It is somewhat surprising to me based on their jungle fowl heritage. The coop does provide shelter from the wind as well as ventilation. My flock visibly dislikes walking on snow and they don’t venture too far from their coop with snow on the ground.
Another key to keeping up egg production is keeping a constant supply of water for the birds. My somewhat inelegant solution is to use a tank deicer that is made to work with a plastic stock tank. This keeps the water from freezing in the automatic bucket waterer. On the coldest nights of the year when the temps dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the nipples on the bottom of the bucket freeze even though the water in the bucket stays liquid.
On these days, I resort back to a traditional fountain waterer. I end up putting fresh water in twice a day because the water freezes. This is only necessary a few times a year.
Honey Bee Hives In Winter
There isn’t a lot of activity in the bee yard this time of year. After winterizing the bee hives, there is not much to do until spring. I’ll be checking to see if the colonies survived the winter in late February or March when there is a warm day. With the swarm this year, I had five hives going into the winter.
You can see in the picture that the hives are sheltered from the wind by the side of a large pole barn. The honey bees are now consuming their winter stores of honey that they worked all summer to produce. Compared to the constant take offs and landings at the entrance of the hives in the summer, the apiary is peaceful and quiet.
Tomatoes From The Garden In February
My new favorite thing to do with all the green tomatoes that I harvested before the first frost is to pickle them. That’s right, pickled green tomatoes. Preservation by pickling has allowed me to enjoy tomatoes from the garden in February.
I found the recipe on the Pickl-It website and was inspired. The vigorous brown berry cherry tomato vine had loads of green tomatoes at the end of the season. For the purposes of pickling, the greener the better.
This is a win because even if allowed to ripen indoors these tomatoes would taste sub par. The pickling process turns them into something spectacular. These tomatoes get better with age. After two weeks of fermentation they were ok, but after two months the flavor matured. Small amounts of hot peppers, garlic and onions were added to the brine along with the tomatoes.
Note On The Pickl-It Jars
I have been impressed with how well thought out the Pickl-It jars are. Since my initial post about lacto fermented foods, I have made additional batches of pickles, carrots, carrots with beets and dill, pickled black radish and of course the pickled green tomatoes. Using the Pickl-It system has produced great results for me. When I first bought the jars, I thought I would never use the rubber stopper. However, they have come in handy for storing the pickled vegetables in the fridge.