First Snow

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Leafhopper Farm is getting snow today! It’s the earliest I’ve ever seen snow in Western Washington since moving here in 2009. As a hill country dweller, it’s not out of the question to have snow by the end of October, but unusual. Frosts have been showing up for a few weeks, and many less hardy plants in the garden have wilted into the ground for overwintering. Kale is still strong, along with mustard greens, calendula, and even nasturtium. This blanket of white will have an impact on all the crops left out in the cold. Luckily, cold frames and cloches will keep a few greens alive through the winter for us to enjoy. I got out and covered the beds in below photo last evening to save them from the snow. The rose has dropped her last late bloom in surrender to the coming cold.

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Later in the afternoon on this snow day, the participation developed into a constant downfall of white flakes which are starting to stick. I’m so grateful for the firewood I’ve managed to get split in time, along with the awareness that this cold front was coming, giving me time to prepare. Usually snow does not fall often in the lower elevations, but this winter should be a heavy snow year, and this early winter wonderland was expected. November can be our coldest month, and in the past, temperatures have trended in the 20s. With this snow, we say good-bye to the last warm days till next spring, and the farm will hibernate, well, some parts anyway. Livestock is active year round, and the younger animals are hardening off to the cold just in time for these arctic conditions to set in.

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Our ducks have feathers now, and will go outside next week. The young chickens are rotating in a small outside paddock, and should be ready to join their fellow egg layers in the main coop within a few more weeks. The goats stay inside when it’s this cold and wet out, owing to their sensitivity to drastic temperature change and dampness. They will be out browsing any time the weather holds, and enjoying hay and grain treats while enclosed in the barn with a nice layer of straw to bed down in.

Labor intensive projects are also still happening on the farm, including prep for the new stream buffer fence that’s going in this winter. We’ll erect over 650′ of new wire fence, complete with new gates and proper posting braces. Back in the livestock arena, there is still a plan to build a portable coop for future chicken systems, and duck den design for the quackers. Eventually we’ll need to completely rebuild all the livestock stalls, but the current run down sheds are holding, and with any luck, after the completion of minor roof repair work this summer, these shelters will stay up for a few more years.

Though the cold does slow us down, work must go on, and will, through all the season as we celebrate each unique step in developing this active permaculture environment. Winter is a time of introspection and resting, or not, depending on the needs of a young farm. At Leafhopper, when there’s daylight, there’s a task to be done. It is nice sometimes to take a moment for warming up by a wood stove, or taking an evening to enjoy stories with friends. This is the winter season’s gifts, along with snow. As an advanced alpine skier, Liz will get some time out on the slopes of her beloved Cascades, and she hopes to see you out there enjoying the winter sports!

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