The hens are taking it easy these days. They still pop out a few eggs here and there, but mostly they’re fattening up for winter, staying warm, growing new feathers, and doing whatever else it is that chickens do in their free time (dust baths? gossip? flirt with the new rooster?). Yup, that cute little chick that hatched this summer is most likely a dude. Oh well, I don’t discriminate; I love them all equally. Even when they don’t lay eggs.
It gives me a chance to chill as well. There are less eggs to wash and pack and deliver. There’s still cilantro, pea shoots, mustard greens, escarole, calendula, and radishes in the field, but I can harvest on my own schedule, and a killing frost should come soon enough.
Everyone asks what I do in the off-season. I wish the answer was jet off to Puerto Rico or Mexico or some other warm place; some farmers do actually do that. Unfortunately, keeping chickens through the winter means they still need to be fed, and brought water, and hopefully have their eggs collected (fingers crossed). There’s lots of work to catch up on that got put off in the busier months: updating the website, keeping records, making plans, crunching numbers. There’s seed to be cleaned and organized.
Finally, there’s time to savor and enjoy the fruits of my labor: baking with my own eggs and creating salads from my own greens and flowers. Seasoning with my own dried herbs and pickling my own radishes with my own coriander. They are simple pleasures, but so satisfying. It’s a good feeling to be able to opt out of some holiday shopping in favor of gifting some hand-dried herbs or seeds. I may even have enough extra seed to donate some to the local school garden. I have the space and energy to experiment in the kitchen with making herbal tinctures, salves, and teas, fermenting mustard and hot sauce, and dreaming up future product lines.
Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to the return of the sun and its warmth, but it can take its sweet time; I’m happy to spend some time hibernating and resting up for the next busy season. I think the chickens agree with me.