With temperatures rarely dipping into the twenties so far this December and plenty of rain this week, our sacrifice paddock and the barnyard are thick with mud. To keep the Belties from standing in too much muck while they eat, I regularly move the round bale feeder to fresh footing and spread the remaining chaff over the muddy mess. The stems that remain in the sheep and goat feeder is spread in the barnyard and in the duck and goose pens. Adding wood shavings to the sheep stall, waterfowl pens and Buckeye coop sops up some of the moisture too. Following Joel Salatin's advice, I add enough carbonaceous material to the barn area to keep it sweet smelling.
While carrying forkfuls of hay through boot sucking mud my thoughts turn to planning projects for future seasons on Lilac Hill Farm. In an effort to reclaim this sacrifice field and return it to use next winter I am researching the best combination of covercrops and vegetables to feed my livestock, capture the nutrients left on the land and reduce soil compaction. I hope to fence more of the pastures so that the sheep and cows can stay on pasture until deep snow or a frozen layer of ice demands a move into the barnyard and barn pasture. I am also starting to read about a deep bedding system for the weeks that pasturing is not possible. With hay storage moved to the top of the barn, I could probably move the ewes into the bottom of the barn on deep bedding (adding straw to my need-to-buy list). The Belites will need other accomodations too.
Undeterred by the mud that moderate temperatures, precipitation and bovine hooves churn up, mild weather chores are easier. I have another 2 1/2' of water in the cistern and so as long as I drain the hose at night, watering takes less time without hauling hose from the barn. Eggs don't crack, fingers don't numb and unfrozen buckets are easier to wash so far this December.