“November is the pearl-grey month, the changeling between warm crimson October and cold white December; the month when the leaves fall in slow drifting whirls and the shapes of the trees are revealed. When the earth imperceptibly wakes and stretches her bare limbs and displays her stubborn unconquerable strength before she settles uneasily into winter. November is secret and silent.” –Alison Uttley
October came and went, bringing with it vibrant colours of leaves and harvest, the pure white of the first snow and taking with it the last breath of life of Mother Nature before she surrenders for the winter months. Now we welcome November, the gateway to winter month. The month where nature shuts down and prepares for its winter hibernation. Where animals are on the move to prepare for the cold and inevitable winter ahead of them. Where we ourselves start to prepare for what lay ahead for the next five to six months.
Here on the farm we are ready for what Mother Nature has to throw at us this winter. If you listen to all the old farm tales or the almanac, it would appear as though we are in for a winter! Each morning I wake to a blanket of fog outside. I drive to work, which is my least favourite thing to drive in after snow. And while some days there seems to be a lift and the sun peeks her face down upon us for the afternoon, when I get back into my truck to drive home I find myself once again in a fog. The farmers say that this means three months from now we are in for some heavy precipitation. So be ready for January, we are expecting a crap load of snow!
All of our animal housings have been winterized. The chicken coop has its usual heat tape and insulation coverage on the nesting boxes. We have moved all the chickens into one coop for the winter so there might be less maintenance for us. It has stressed everyone out a little and the shorter days and colder nights don’t help. We find ourselves down in egg production already and hopefully this isn’t a sign for the long winter ahead. In the summer we would have almost a dozen eggs a day, now we are lucky if we get three eggs. It was a hard wet summer for our girls and you can see it in the way their last moult has hung around. We have started to add a little vitamins to their water, provide a little more protein in their feed with black oil sunflower seeds and to top up their dust bath with ashes from our woodfire.
The pigs seem to be unfazed by a change in the weather or light. They still line up at the fence and squeal away when it is meal time. The wet summer was hard on their pen and it had become a muck hole. The only thing at this point to make it better will be a good hard freeze. The three little pot belly boys have grown in their winter hairs with the cool down. They have come such a long way from the pigs we first brought home that day from the rescue. They are friendly, less timid and more and more are enjoying the scratches and love I feel the need to give. The other four meat pigs we have been raising are quite big now. They are about the weight we would like them to be for butchering but we are holding off until we maybe get a deer or two so we can do all the messy bits at once. That will be a day I think I will need some girl time in the city. As much as I know it is a fact of life and that’s why we had them here, and as much as a I did my best not to get attached, I still find it hard to even think about. Perhaps some year I will toughen up and be a real farm girl. But for now, I think a pottery class in the city followed by lunch at a vegetarian restaurant is in my near future!
All the animals got to enjoy the spoils of Halloween. I had posted on a local Facebook page about collecting pumpkins after Halloween to feed to our animals and got a great response. In total I brought home fifteen pumpkins that the pigs and chickens have been munching on all week. We also did our final peruse through what was left of our ripening tomatoes in the garage and collected what we could use and fed the rest to the animals. We made one last big batch of salsa from our Summer tomatoes to add to the pantry.
The change in seasons also brings along a new favourite time of year for me, hunting season. I had always been against hunting growing up. I hadn’t understood the true meaning behind what it is to the majority of people. It’s not about getting the biggest rack off a buck. It’s not about shooting something for the sake of taking its life. It’s about having a respect for nature and an appreciation for all that it has to offer. Last year was the first year I went out hunting. I would camo up, sling my rifle over my shoulder and make the trek out to our back cut lines. It was a good forty minute walk to get out there, get settled in and then begin to watch. And the wonders you see when you give yourself up to nature. I had never heard the way snow fell. How it sounded different when it hit the trees than when it landed on the ground. The way the birds and squirrels chatted. The way you could hear a deer creeping through the grass and the warning blow they would give when you were spotted. It was such an amazing experience and such a great time of reflection being out there alone in the wilderness.
I did get my first buck last year. I had watched him for a couple of days from the tree stand, waiting for the right opportunity to arise. On the second last day of hunting season, right before the sun was to go down, I took his life. He didn’t suffer. He went down right away. We went and took his body back to the house, cleaned and gutted (which I helped with every step of the way). That night we cooked up the heart, and it was delicious. Every piece of meat off that deer was cut and packaged for the freezer. What we couldn’t eat was frozen for the dogs. There was no waste.
This year we have several bucks on our property here, and when the time is right, we will try to get one to once again fill our freezer for the winter. And we will respect the fact that Mother Nature has blessed us with the opportunity to do so.
This year I also went out for my very first goose hunt. It was such a different experience from what deer hunting had been last year but it was a good time with good people. While we didn’t have anything to bring home afterwards, it was great learning all the ways your setup is key and all about how geese think. We built blinds to sit in and had decoys out on display. Depending on the way the wind is blowing, makes big difference in how you set up your decoys. Geese sit with their bodies facing into the wind so they can pick up scents off the air. I cant wait again for next year to give it another shot.
This month has also found us with time to sit and enjoy each others company. We keep the wood piled high in the house for our wood stove and it is by far my favourite heat source. I have knitting projects I’m finally getting around to finishing up, some mid day baking getting done and of course a whole new slew of books that need to be read. Winter may be cold and harsh at times, but with all I have in my life to be thankful for, I know this winter will be filled with warmth.