It’s cold out! This morning the thermometer said -5F. The wind chill is about 20 below. Shiver!
It’s important to make sure that in extreme cold, livestock are properly cared for. At Maggie Mae Farm, we keep hardy, heritage breeds that do well without a lot of intervention. Regardless there are some important factors to consider.
- Livestock and pets that are routinely kept indoors may not have an adequate winter coat and will need closer monitoring in extreme weather. At MMF, we do not bring our animals in at night. Instead, we have three sided run-in shelters that allow the animals to choose when THEY want to come in out of the cold. As a result they are all covered with fuzzy wool, hair and thick pelts and seem to spend more time out on the pasture than in the shelters.
- Dehydration is a huge issue during cold weather. Keeping water troughs ice free is a never ending battle during New England winters. We use drop in heaters during the coldest days and nights.
- Minimizing the possibility of your livestock being wet goes a long way to keeping them warm. Make sure they have a dry place to lie down.
- Livestock need additional calories to help keep them warm during cold weather – sometimes up to double the normal feed rate may be necessary.
- Fitting the chickens with hats and mittens is difficult at best…
For myself, cold weather is easy to tolerate – a roaring woodstove, a hot cup of tea and dreams about the (swiftly approaching) growing season make for a pleasant afternoon even when the temperatures make it nearly impossible for humans to spend much time outside.
Looking for something new and interesting to try growing this year, I’ve set my sights on the Rat-tail Radish. Instead of an underground, fleshy, bulbous root, the Rat-tail is grown for its prolific edible pods. A popular vegetable in the 1860’s, it was found in kitchen gardens all over Europe and North America. Unfortunately, by the turn of the century it was being grown in a small number of American gardens as a curiosity.
However, the edible-pod radish is making a comeback. A hardy annual that steadily produces prolifically if kept picked (like green beans), the Rat-tail radish will produce even as the weather grows hot, unlike traditional underground radishes that prefer cooler weather. Pods are tender, crisp and retain a radish flavor while exhibiting the texture of a juicy chili pepper. They are eaten raw as well as cooked, becoming mild flavored with the addition of heat.
As a huge radish fan, I am always disappointed when they stop producing as the summer heat bears down. I’ll be excited to give these a whirl, giving me the opportunity to have radishes all season long!
(See, did you forget about the ice and snow for a few minutes?)