baby steps

Lijah will be one on Friday, and if you ask me he's really acting like it! After a couple weeks of standing on his own only by mistake—and falling as soon as he noticed he was doing it—now he's just letting go of whatever support and standing for as long as he wants, like it's no thing. Of course, he can't walk at all, so once he's standing he doesn't really have a next step, except to eventually sit down, but at least it's handy when, say, Zion pulls the chair he's leaning on away from him.

His language is also moving right along. He asks for food when he's hungry, and he's said (a baby version of) "brothers" a bunch of times. Of course he says "mama" plenty too. That's been going on for a while, but this evening he did something new: a little over an hour after Leah put him to bed he woke up (that's not new) but instead of crying he called out "mama? mama? mama!" with questioning inflection and everything! I was so confused: I didn't know if it was him or Zion! The next time he woke up he cried, as usual.

Do any of the developmental steps include better sleeping?

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this moment

Rascal in a hole he dug in the snow

doggy snow fort

A(nother) moment from the week.

this moment

harvey and zion jumping at altitude

no photo editing, just a nice moment with a flash

a moment from the week

running out

So it's no Long Winter here, but it was thirteen below zero American degrees this morning, which is pretty cold for this neck of the woods. Our neighbors down the street built a beautiful half-shed from pallets this fall to keep their firewood dry, and I noticed this morning that it's just about all the way empty—with snow in the forecast overnight and weeks more of winter to go. Good thing they have baseboard heaters as backup!

Us, we're only dreaming of wood stoves (with our dishwasher out of commission we're dreaming of tearing it out and replacing it with a cook stove). But yesterday when we went out to the feed store to pick up the needful for our hungry hens—they have to eat a lot these days to keep warm!—I also asked for another bale of straw to keep their feet out of the ever-deepening snow in the run (not a lot gets in, but when it never melts it can only get deeper). Of course, as I should have expected, the straw bales are long-gone; we have to wait until more straw grows. That will be... a while. Look to see our consumption of pine shavings expand dramatically this spring! I asked Harvey (Zion was sleeping) if he thought we could grow our own straw some day, but he thought we needed more farm. Next November remind me: four bales.

At least we don't need the straw to fuel the wood stove! (and if you haven't read that story, you absolutely must—if nothing else, it'll make you feel better about our own long winter here!).

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chickens in the snow, ho ho ho

Harvey and Zion in the chicken run wearing snow suits

suited for the job

Even when it's super cold out, we still need to get out and take care of the chickens. All the more so! As I mentioned in passing earlier, this coldest and snowiest winter has added to the livestock workload here at the squibix farm. Aside from needing to thaw out the waterer daily (if not more often), I also need to do a fair amount of shoveling around the coop. See, I made a mistake when I built the thing, and made the door fit pretty tightly in its frame; and even worse, made it swing open—outwards, natch—right above ground level. That means that the four square feet of ground in front of our run is probably the only patch of visible dirt in all of Massachusetts! And keeping that dirt clear isn't easy.

In my defense, it's never been a problem before; somehow we managed without a problem the last three winters. And at least I built the thing strong! While I worried about the porch roof and the gutters and all, I didn't give a thought to the load of snow atop the henhouse and the covered run. And as the weeks passed that load went from this:

the snow-covered coop after the first blizzard of the winter

after one storm

To this:

the chicken coop covered with lots of snow

good thing I built it strong

... and we've had even more snow after that! After the last bout of blowy snow I went in to the run to shovel out some of the snow that had drifted in, in order to give the poor hens somewhere dry to walk, I suddenly noticed how ominously the two-by-fours holding up the roof were bowing. Oh yeah, there's four feet of snow up on top of this roof too!

It's mostly off now (though the piles of junk I put up there for "storage" in the fall kind of complicated the removal efforts). And a thaw yesterday let me chip away most of the ice buildup around the door. But warm weather giveth and warm weather taketh away: I was actually pretty happy to have a thick blanket of snow around the henhouse to provide some insulation, but after just a couple hours above freezing it could no longer stick to the plastic roof.

a thick layer of snow that slid halfway off the roof of the henhouse

I'm glad I wasn't under it when it went!

And even worse, after the one warmish day the temperature took another dive, and tonight is forecast to be one of the coldest of the already pretty cold winter. So after taking that picture above I shoveled some more snow up on the roof to cover the gap. But not enough to collapse the roof. It's a balancing act.

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