the way out here

Frozen in my tracks

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 11/25/20

Anyone with animals dreads the time of year when the waterers and spigots begin to freeze. The season of chipping out buckets and filling hot water just to pour over stuck water lids has officially …

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the way out here

Frozen in my tracks

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Anyone with animals dreads the time of year when the waterers and spigots begin to freeze. The season of chipping out buckets and filling hot water just to pour over stuck water lids has officially begun. But besides the water, it’s also that time of year when even the ground has become frozen and solidified to the point of snapping blades of grass like shards of crystalline glass. For someone whose recent ambitions have required digging post holes, this presents the unique problem of attempting to dig through frozen earth to set piers for the foundation of the final chicken building I have yet to erect.

For anyone without a large machine with an auger, this is not a task to consider for very long if at all. Construction at this point then, excuse the pun, has been put on ice. Even cleaning pens has become a more daunting issue than before with the layer of dung and moist bedding freezing to the floorboards in places. The way out here, we cannot afford to be halted by these types of obstacles, but as the cold sets in, it separates the hobbyists from the committed.

To the rear of our property rests abandoned piles of trash from the previous owners. Having finally exposed much of it from its protective mesh screen of brush, my wife and I rented a dumpster to excavate the refuse and, finally, have a clean property. With the cold snap, even this task has become an onerous one as the plastic bags become brittle and cling to the earth they have lain upon for so long. And with the wind that accompanied this chill, the uncovered landscaping fabric of our garden was also recently laid back by the wind against the far fence line.

Winter, although not here quite yet, seems to be heralding its arrival with the force of its disruptive and destructive power. Homesteading this time of year can—for our family, it has—become fraught with deadlines and ultimatums. The threat of what work we have accomplished being so easily undone by nature, or even so simply being halted by nature in its progress, is the opposing challenger in this ongoing brawl to survive not only meagerly, but in all hopes, vivaciously.

The heavy punches of nature tend not to have as much endurance as the seasons they interrupt. As tough as a hard day or two are with a flash freeze or even dusting of snow, they serve as healthy reminders of the season that is to come—the season that has been anticipated all along. The grace in these reminders is that, most often, they are followed by a moment of reprieve, just as we have experienced with the warmer weather that has followed our first hard freezes. In light of these waning days of warmth, the tasks mentioned march forward. One may expect to see me shoveling refuse from our chicken pens and collecting it from our property line in the coming week. Re-staking and burying our landscape fabric before the winds return will be another hurriedly attacked task revealed only through the misfortune of it occurring to begin with.

There will always be work to be done on the homestead no matter the season, but the way out here, it is dealt with by priority and with the zeal of knowing that nature is our neutral antagonist. While it cares not whether we survive or keep up with the unstoppable animus of time, it provides all the resources a homesteader could ever need if one knows simply how to utilize them. So as the sun may appear duller in these final days of fall, you can bet I’ll be making as much use as possible of the darkening days and tumbling temperatures.

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