What do we do all winter when there is “nothing to do” on the farm?

Joel, our oldest son,  has been busy this winter building building bee hives to expand his honey production. In this picture he is cutting recessed handles into the sides of the bee hives using a jig on the table saw. There is an amazing amount of work that goes into building the hive boxes and assembling all the frames that go inside the boxes. It is a great job inside by the wood stove for those cold rainy days when we don’t want to work outside.

We bought a 2007 Isuzu reefer truck for delivering eggs and pet food to the stores. Our egg delivery van had become too small. The truck has been a wonderful provision. We bought it for 25% of its value at an auction. It had a leaking fuel injector sleeve which is why we were able to get it so cheap. To the left of the truck is the framing for some new lambing pens that our son, Nathan, was building for his sheep.

Daniel, age 16, had diesel mechanic class as part of his homeschool experience. He loves working on motors and is interested in crop farming. It was a great educational experience for him. It took the mystery out of a diesel motor as we took the head off the engine block, had it repaired and reinstalled the head again. The head is a thick heavy metal piece on top of the pistons that has the valves, fuel injectors, and cam shaft. The motor is only a four cylinder diesel with a turbo charger. In spite of it being only a four cylinder motor, it has plenty of power and gets a respectable 11 1/2 to 12 MPG on our egg delivery route which includes driving through the heart of D.C. The Isuzu truck is easy to work on. The cab tilts forward giving easy access to the entire engine. They even provide a “chair” to sit on while you are working on the motor – the front tires. I had never worked on a diesel motor before, so it was a learning experience for me, too. We had a good repair manual and took things one step at a time. It is not as difficult as it appears.

To stay in shape during the winter we work out in the “gym”. The exercise machine is rather low tech, consisting of a 6 pound metal weight fastened to the end of a stick. You swing the 6 pound weight and smash it into a piece of wood, making the wood split in two. It is entertaining and satisfying being able to watch big hunks of wood fly apart while you work out swinging the weight on the stick to get your heart rate up, tone up your muscles and burn the fat. We like our work out machine better than the high tech do nothing exercise machines with their fancy electronic readouts. Not only does it provide entertainment and a feeling of satisfaction as you work out, it will also give us a warm feeling next winter when it is cold – something one of those fancy do nothing machines in the gym can’t do.

So why would we split wood by hand while the wood splitter sits unused in the background? We do use the wood splitter on the harder to split pieces, but we have a lot of straight grained oak wood that splits easy. I timed one of the boys and he made 12 pieces of firewood in 60 seconds with a splitting maul and he was not trying to see how fast he could go. It is much faster than the wood splitter on easy to split wood. Notice how the chunks of wood are set up in rows. We start with a chunk of wood closest to us. We split that one and move to the next and then the next. You can split wood as fast as you can swing the splitting maul. Forget the old chopping block. It takes too long to only set up and split only one piece of wood at a time. We also dislike an 8 pound splitting maul because it tires us out too fast. A 12 pound maul is even worse.

Kara, our oldest daughter, made 50 seedling flats for the greenhouse. They will hold the plastic trays with the individual plant cells. We used plastic flats in the past, but they are flimsy and break easily. These should last a long time if they are stored in a dry place in the off season. The flats were made out of scrap pieces of wood that we had laying around. Kara has a bunch of onions, cabbage, and broccoli started.

We also stay busy all winter taking care of the hens, sheep and cows. The hens have been laying a lot of eggs all winter. What you see is just part of a week’ worth of eggs. The right side of the walk-in cooler is also almost full of cases of eggs. The hens are laying over 1000 dozen eggs each week. That is why we needed a bigger truck!

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