December definitely spoiled us around here – from temps in the 40’s, sunshine and the ability to scrape unfrozen manure from the barn every day, it definitely wasn’t as beautiful as the winter wonderland we currently live in but it was a tiny bit easier.
I think we’re hitting the same stretch just about every Michigander hits at some point during the winter: moving south starts to look very tempting. If living in a more southern climate sounds tempting, then farming sounds downright easy – little to no snow, no ice to break off water, less days of feeding hay and more grazing… Less cost, less headache and more being warm. Sign me up.
*Sigh* It’s not to be, however. The reality is that we all choose to live, survive and die as Michiganders despite the extreme discomfort, extra work, and clothing it requires. Last week we fixed a broken pipe that was backing up into our basement – thankfully that’s fixed and we’ve had little to no issues with keeping our well thawed this winter (fingers crossed)!
This week, we finally got around to putting a secondary heat source in the house to back up our wood stove when we leave for more than a few hours at a time, and to avoid using a space heater for a half hour before taking a shower. We had a plumber install a 25,000 BTU vent-free propane heater in what we call our “blue room” (it’s painted blue – we’re very creative) and what is now serving as Cecilia’s playroom and sometimes a makeshift office for us. It’s lovely!
And, we installed it just in time for smoke to start back-leaking into the house from our brick chimney! We cleaned the chimney but it seems there’s something blocking the chimney and not allowing a proper draw outside. It could be anything from an animal that fell in there, or a nest, or the stainless steel chimney liner could have come apart somehow. We’re not sure and hoping for the sunshine today to melt the snow from the roof so we can have someone come out and take a look from the top down. For some reason, no one wants to climb onto our two-story metal roof when it’s loaded with snow and ice…can’t imagine why.
In the meantime, we haven’t had a fire for 5+ days now, which is our primary heat source, so the house has been a balmy 45-55 degrees during the day, even with the new heater. I don’t want to think about how cold it would be without the new heater! But, I have my portable heater in the milk parlor so we do have a little warm relief during milking and an electric mattress heater to pre-warm the bed at night! 🙂
Other than the not having heat thing, it’s been a busy week on the farm!
We were able to attend the West Michigan Grower’s Group meeting to discuss the grant recently awarded to the WMGG, MSU Ag Extension and Local First. The grant is designed to help support and promote local farms, food and the local economy, primarily through CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). CSAs take the form of the customer buying into a “share” of the farm in return for a share of it’s fruits. It’s a term usually used to refer to seasonal vegetable shares but we were invited to participate since our raw milk cow share program operates on the same premise. It’s a great opportunity for us to connect with other local producers, combine marketing efforts and to grow our businesses together.
The WM Grower’s Group meets monthly, usually on a member farm, to share a potluck, friendship, resources, information, tips, and tricks. We have attended a few meetings in the past but are officially joining the group as part of our participation in the grant and because it’s a great group of people. Most farms are vegetable producers but there were a respectable amount of flannel shirts (not worn ironically), unshaven beards and crying babies on hips that we felt right at home. Right now, the big thing on the calendar for the grant project is the CSA Fair that will be hosted by the Downtown Market Farmer’s Market on Saturday March 21 from 9am-2pm. More details to come soon!
Lastly, we were also invited to hang with the awesome people at Nourish Organic Market & Deli on Saturday to share raw milk samples, information about our farm and connect with their customers. Dan was unable to get the time off of work, but I had so much fun chatting with folks over a cup of hot cocoa and talking all things local, food and farm-y. We were so grateful for the opportunity and to every person who braved the cold to visit, shop & chat!
Until next week…stay warm!