Winter Activities and Thoughts on the Urban Farm

I need another one of these
I need another one of these

My goodness, the New Year came to Olympia with a shiver.  I know, I know, nineteen degrees is nothing for those of you who live in the northern states, but it’s cold enough for us moderate western Washington residents.

And it’s cold enough for our critters.  The first chore every morning is for this urban farmer to go out and chip the ice out of the water containers and put fresh water in….and then I do it again about nine a.m. because the water has frozen again by that time.

Yes, I could get those electric water container warmers, but those cost money, and they cost money to run electricity to, and I’m not big on spending money.  So we do it the old-fashioned way.


As I mentioned in an earlier post, keeping our quail, rabbits, chicken et all alive during the winter is our main goal, and I’m happy to report we haven’t lost any of them this winter and we only lost two quail last winter.  Not bad…two quail in over a year.  We had one rabbit dig out of the rabbit area and we never found her, so chalk up one rabbit to our losses, and those losses will annoy the hell out of me the rest of this winter.

And those losses will inspire me to be better prepared next winter.


Right now Bev is watching a video on putting compost piles in the aviaries.  Evidently others have done it and it is great for not only adding heat to the aviaries but also for being a continual source of food for the quail.winter in my little slice of heaven 017

And I’m planning my carpentry jobs for this spring. I want to build two more aviaries and also a grape arbor, so I’m doing the planning not so I can hit the ground running when the weather warms.

In another month we’ll move the frame for the greenhouse and then all we’ll have to do is put plastic over it.  It should be up and running and ready for planting by the end of February….and then we’ll go to the Seed Exchange at our local Urban Farming Center and pick up some organic seeds gathered by local farmers.


For those of you who didn’t know, rabbits, chickens and quail love to eat fir boughs, so yesterday we made our weekly walk around the neighborhood picking up fallen branches.  Saves on buying feed, which is always a big consideration during the winter when the animals really aren’t producing for us.  Dandelions are also gourmet food for our critters, which we use often in the fall before the freeze stops their growth.

No shortage of fir boughs around here
No shortage of fir boughs around here


We need to buy a new incubator in the next few months.  This summer we will have over 100 quail, and we need to hatch as many of those 80+ eggs that we will get daily.  The ones we can’t incubate will be sold to neighbors.


We just took one of our rabbits to the vet to have an abscess taken care of.  No doubt about it, animals can be expensive, especially during the winter.  We don’t make any money from our chickens or quail during the winter month.  We don’t keep a light on sixteen hours a day during the winter to induce egg-laying, so basically all those birds are just eating our money during the winter.  Just something to remember if you are considering having critters on your property.


One question people always want to know is what needs a building permit and what projects do not need one.  In Olympia, detached structures under 200 square feet do not need a building permit. We have not needed permits for any of our chicken coops or aviaries because of that 200 sq ft limit and that pleases me because I really dislike that building code rule.  For your purposes, always check with your city to find out what you can and cannot do in your area.


I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.  If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to share them in the comment section.

PS….after I wrote this we lost a rabbit.   I’m not sure how it died but I hate losing animals.  I take it personally and I’ll feel this loss for days. Dammit!  But the weather has now warmed up so at least the remaining animals and birds get a break from the cold.