We’re still a couple of weeks away from the official first day of winter, but apparently the weather hasn’t gotten the memo. Today I’m talking about cold temperatures here on the farm, how the chickens and ducks are adapting to it, and some surprising discoveries in the garden.
There was a cold snap this week that froze the ground solid and iced over the top of the duck pond. It got down to 25 degrees! Because of the way the hills and forest surround our house and lower field, the winter sun doesn’t hardly hit the ground around us at all. Long after the rest of the neighborhood thawed we were still glittery white with frost.
Going outside to do chores took a lot of stern determination on my part. As much as I prefer these cold and frozen days to the rainy and muddy ones, at heart I am a house cat. When it gets cold all I want to do is curl up and nap in front of the fireplace.
The chickens were unimpressed with the weather, and disappointed by the fact that they couldn’t scratch up the ground. They set up camp every day tucked close to the southern side of the house, right up against the cement foundation, soaking up what warmth they could. I think the chickens are house cats at heart, too.
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The Puddle Ducks, on the other hand, find duckish delight in all and everything. They crunched through the grass on their webbed feet and pushed around blocks of ice that Avery and Iris broke apart from their pond. For whatever reason the cold weather seemed to have put them in the mood to lay their eggs in new and uncharacteristic locations. I found them in depressions behind the night-scented nicotiana and in the middle of the catmint. Under some rusty metal. Right in the middle of the gravel pad outside our back door. I don’t understand it, but then the ducks are always doing things I don’t quite understand.
I think they like to keep me on my toes.
In garden news, even with the wintery weather my much-beloved citronella geranium is still alive! I thought for sure this week would be the end of it, but it seems to be holding on. All the cuttings I started indoors are doing well, too — growing long and lanky in the dull winter light. There are times lately when I feel very much like an aged grandmother from the old country, with all my potted geraniums lining the windowsills. I just need a kerchief on my head and a soft old cardigan sweater with baggy elbows and I’ll be set.
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Also still doing well is the cottage mallow. If you’ve never heard of it before, cottage mallow is also called zebrina or malva, and reminds me just slightly of old-fashioned hollyhocks. I’ve got it planted by the back door and it is profuse and green, and despite the weather it’s purple and pink flowers are still blooming. I don’t know if this is normal for cottage mallow or if I should have cut it back to the ground earlier and because I didn’t I’m now risking it’s eternal salvation, but it makes me so happy to see it there, blooming in the dead of winter, that I’m just going to leave it (also, it self seeds with gusto, so I think it will be OK either way).
The rest of the garden seems to have hunkered down and gone to sleep until spring. I wish I could do the same, but I’m told that in fact I’m not a house cat, and I don’t get to hibernate until the sunshine comes back to warm us all up again.
Too bad. The chickens and I think that’s definitely the better way to go.