Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Warm and cold, inside and out.

Today I'm thinking warm thoughts because after one delightful day of 30 degree temperatures which felt positively tropical, we're back to double digit temperatures on the other end of the zero.  I'll get to outside the house by the end of the post to talk about chickens, but I'm starting with bread, and heat. Obviously, starting with bread. I'm making sourdough regularly now, and over all I'm very happy with how it's coming out, especially when baking in the dutch oven. The catch is that I'm having problems with the bottom crust peeling off and not coming up easily even when using plenty of cornmeal below the dough. I think I'm going to just have to use parchment. That said, that should work fine, and for now I'm not feeling creative, I just want the crust to stay on.

The nice thing about baking is it warms up the house, and warm bread warms the body quite nicely. It's also a good time. The wood stove is also doing it's job just fine. At this point in the year I've cleaned the chimney 3 times, inside pipe and outside pipe. It's been very important this winter as we've kept the fire going non stop since Christmas. Last night was the closest to out it's been since then, and I still built it back up from embers with kindling rather than needing a lighter. Before next burning season we are definitely going to need to replace the gasket kit. At this point it's still sealed tight, but having had a run away fire in the past that's not an experience I want to re-live. The way to avoid that is good and consistent maintenance like the chimney cleaning and gasket changing. One of the challenges to the stove being lit 24/7 is clearing the ashes out. Obviously the tray is burning hot, so we have to move fairly fast. I use a nice heavy leather fire glove, but that lets heat through slowly, doesn't keep my hand comfortable long term. So far I have yet to burn myself on the stove that way. All of my stove burns have been just not moving deliberately enough and brushing the side of my hand, or a knuckle as I put wood in the stove. I've always been very careful about my hands because I played violin for a long time, and I think I've nicked up my hands more this winter than at any time in my life because of how often I've tended the stove very tired. That said, I'm happy that I've kept the Lady of the House and the Critter warm, and we're still over half a tank on the oil which is a great step up from last winter where we were taking showers at friends houses by March. At this rate, I think we'll be ok on oil 'till next winter. We'll see how it actually turns out though what with not counting unlaid eggs.

Over this weekend the Critter was sick so I didn't get as much done as I'd like between wanting to take care of him, spend time with the Lady of the House, and not getting good sleep. Also clearing the new snow that fell. However, I did do the most important of the weekend tasks, and that was clearing the worst of the snow off the roof of the chicken coop. As you can see it no longer has over 3 feet of snow on it, it's now just a few inches. The thing I definitely have learned from being given this coop is, while a shallow roof is easy in a lot of ways, it does require more care in the winter or in rain storms to prevent leaking and roof collapse. Roof shape is always a balance though, and I thought the comparison of the 45 degree angle house roof to the nearly flat chicken coop roof was a good one.

That said, the chickens are doing great right now. They're just going about doing their chicken thing, and since I'm not home during the day I'm not sure what they're up to most of the time. The Lady of the House found some chicken feathers in the snow up by the house, so they must be jumping the fence and going to visit the area of the porch and house during the day and putting themselves back in at night. Right now we're starting to get some eggs, and right now by the time we get to them they're frozen solid and cracked from the freezing. I look forward to it not being in the negatives constantly so we can start getting our eggs again! To be fair, at this point, I just look forward to it warming up for myself, and seeing the land grow green again.

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