Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.
The past few days of mild weather have been a reprieve from the blast of frigid Arctic air that took hold of Maine earlier this month. They have me dog-earring pages in my pile of 2014 seed catalogs, observing my beehives for signs of life, opening up the doors of the barn on the sunniest days, and driving down back roads visiting farms. While I realize how important it is for the cold to return, I am deeply grateful for these warm stretches we seem to get in Maine in mid-January.
Frostbite in Backyard Chickens
Since I got chickens, I’ve been looking at weather in completely different way. This is especially true during the winter when I’ll admit to obsessing just a bit about how protected my girls are from the cold. After the chilliest night we had a week or so ago, one chicken developed a mild case of frostbite on her comb. This is not uncommon on chickens with large combs and in her case does not require treatment – in fact I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know it’s there. For information on prevention and treatment of frostbite in your backyard chicken flock check out this insightful piece from the Chicken Chick here. For information on proper shelter and tips on keeping water from freezing see this recent post I did with tips on keeping chickens thru the winter.
Clayton Berry's lakefront property "The Shanty" on Crystal Lake. Complete with all the comforts of home (wood stove, bunkbed, picnic table), this ice house has been a star of the lake for nine years.
In January, Crystal Lake in Gray is peaceful, majestic, and most importantly frozen. By 10 a.m. on any given day, it will have attracted a few locals seeking a quiet outdoor experience that as a bonus offers dinner from the depths below. Ice fishing is a wonderful way to enjoy a relaxing day with family or friends outdoors in Maine.
To find out what ice fishing is all about I tagged along with Craig I. Gerry of Wild Wings Guide Service, who was one of my hunter safety course instructors. Gerry’s uncles taught him how to ice fish almost 50 years ago.
Image of a Maine lumber camp from the Patten Lumbermen's Museum.
People have been growing beans in Maine for over 500 years – since the days of the first American Indians. From Saco to Caribou, they have been served for breakfast, lunch, and most famously Saturday night dinners in homes, churches, and formerly logging camps.
Phaseolus vulgaris, or the common bean, is arguably one of the most important vegetables in New England’s culinary history. For the region’s earliest settlers meals were largely dependent on beans and other crops they found either domesticated by their New World neighbors or those they brought over and were suitable with the region’s soil and climate conditions.
Young kelp, two to three weeks old in the Gulf of Maine.
In Maine when the weather turns cold (or frigid might be a better description), indoor farmers’ markets, year-round CSAs, and a pantry full of preserved foods only offers so many options for fruits and vegetables. This is when consumers turn to the supermarket freezer aisle, where ample amounts of healthy frozen fruits and vegetables are always available. According to the results of a Nielsen Homescan survey released last June, some 90% of people say they bought frozen vegetables at least once in the past year. That is not surprising considering how convenient frozen produce is, but most of those fruits and vegetables traveled a long way to get to your local grocery. One of the few exceptions, Maine grown wild blueberries, which are frozen fresh at harvest, thus maintaining their flavor and antioxidant goodness at their peak.
More people want to know where there food came from and are looking for healthy sources of fruits and vegetables year-round. This is where Tollef Olson and Paul Dobbins of Portland-based Ocean Approved and their sustainably harvested fresh frozen Maine seaweed products come into the picture. Kelp is a good source of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, iodine, and fiber. Mild in flavor, kelp is a versatile ingredient that can be substituted into a number of recipes from pasta to soups and salads. Though primarily only available to restaurants (all the Flatbreads in New England use it) and food service organizations (including those that supply Bowdoin College and Mercy Hospital); Whole Foods Market, Harbor Fish Market and Browne’s Trading Company carry their products, and they can be purchased online.
According to the Farmers Almanac this winter will be milder than normal across the north with the coldest periods in late January, and late February. With temperatures forecast to be in the negative realm the next couple nights I thought, as someone who keeps chickens, it might be prudent to share a few tips on keeping chickens during a Northern New England winter. The two most important issues are shelter and keeping the chickens water from freezing.
Shelter – Chickens are pretty hardy so you just need to provide a shelter with a roof and four walls (in my case one of those walls is built out of hay bales in my barn) so they can stay dry and out of the wind. Put down a few layers of bedding (hay, straw, pine shavings…) so they can nestle into it, this provides more warmth than the floor (whether dirt or other) and in the spring will give you a nice addition to the compost. Also provide roosts – chickens will roost together and fluff themselves out to stay warm. Roosts should generally be between two and three feet off the ground. I do not recommend using a heater (a) they don’t need it (b) if you use it and then lose power during a storm chances are the chickens will not have been able to acclimate to the temperatures as they normally would have and will freeze to death (c) with all the hay, straw, etc. there is an opportunity for a coop/barn fire.
Water – I use a few waterers year-round. During the winter I bring one or two of them into the house during the day and switch them out throughout the day (about every 2-3 hours – this is only necessary when it is below 20) with one in the barn. I keep the largest metal waterer on a heated waterer base during the day, so the water is kept above freezing. I do not leave the heated waterer base on at night or when I am not home. At night I empty out a couple of the waterers and in the morning fill them with fresh water replacing the waterers, which have frozen overnight in the barn. I have heard the large black rubber tubs you can buy a Paris Farmers Union, Tractor Farm Supply… keep water warmer longer than the metal ones. I have not tried this, but I can tell you my experience has been the larger the waterer the slower it is to freeze and metal waterers freeze before plastic ones. For more information check out this article on Delicious Musings or this one from Backyard Chickens.