I had big plans for this month.
February was going to be my month to start working in my greenhouse. I was going to get ready to plant my cold season starts.
There are shelves to build, and I want to put a garden box on the floor. It also needs some plastic and gravel on the ground for weed control.
December and January were mild in temperature. I was actually feeling concerned because if it doesn’t get cold for a prolonged period of time we tend to have more insects, and plant diseases. But just as February began, it started to snow and it hasn’t stopped. Consequently I had to change my plans.
I spent a lot of time outside shoveling snow this month. First I got to shovel off about two feet of snow from the greenhouse roof so it wouldn’t collapse. I also cleaned the gutters so that the snow could slide off on its own better.
Mostly this month has just been a lot of shoveling and taking care of our chickens.
Due to the snow our chickens have needed a little extra attention. We are in gardening zone 6 but the Master Gardeners and old timers in this area all say its more like a zone 4.
I was raised in the middle of the high country of Wyoming, a true zone 4. Now that we live in Northern Idaho I often compare the climate to the climate of my youth.
I find that frost comes much later in the fall and the snow is often gone by early March here in the Inland Northwest. Most of the after it snows the temperatures warm up and it melts within a few days. This year however, spring seems so far away.
Chicken water in the winter takes extra work.
We don’t have access to water outside the house in the winter. Even in the summer the spigot is about a quarter of an acre away from the chicken coop. Normally we just run a hose across the property, but in the winter it becomes a little more difficult.
Lucky for me I found a simple little water jug with vertical nipples from the farm store for the birds to use in the winter. It plugs into a power source to keep it just slightly warmer then freezing.
I had to bring the oyster shells into the house and defrost and wash them. The chickens need oyster shells for calcium to build strong eggshells. The container had been exposed to the elements and the chickens no longer had access due to it being frozen. I also washed all the dummy eggs.
Shoveling the enclosed chicken run was a top priority. It doesn’t have a cover on it yet so there was quite a lot of snow in there. The girls have been free ranging since last September but now the snow is so deep they don’t venture out much. They need to be able to come out of the coop so they can get some exercise.
We also have to keep the coop cleaner in the winter because it is so wet. The chicken coop is water tight but since the birds stay inside so much they just make it wet when they poop.
It helps to keep the moisture level down and the eggs clean if I clean out the pine shavings about once a month. I also give the birds fresh bedding. A sprinkling of Zeolite powder on the fresh bedding helps adsorb some of the moisture and odor.
There is folklore that “In years when the Mountain Ash bears heavy fruit the winter will be hard”.
There is a large number of Mountain Ash trees in our area. Last summer I watched them grow heavy with berries. One of our trees actually broke a large branch due to the weight of the berries and it landed on our scarecrow and busted him in half. I have been watching the trees and taking note of the “wives tale” for a few years now. When I told my friends about my plan to see if the folklore was true they all told me that we had a forecast for a very mild winter.
Due to how the winter started it seems we were on track to have a mild winter. Now things have changed and the snow is deep and the temperatures are cold.
In January hundreds of birds ate all the berries from the trees in a single day. l feel sad for them since most of the food reserves are gone now and the snow is going to take a long time to thaw.
I know spring will come but its going to be weeks before we see the ground again out there. For a fun project the kids and I hung suet up in the trees for the birds.
Since there is not much to do outside we will continue to plan and dream of our garden plans for the spring. Hopefully next month I can show you my updated greenhouse!
Can you garden where you live this time of year? I would love to hear about your garden plans in the comments below.