January Thaw

It’s 40º F and sunny. Around here, a mild day this time of year is called The January Thaw. Usually, it’s a brief respite in the middle of a cold, dark and icy winter and is much appreciated. But, so far this year it seems as if winter never arrived, we’ve skipped two months, and are into the tail-end of March and the start of springtime. It’s confusing everyone.

At noon today I let the goats and chickens out onto the squishy, half-dead, yet oddly green lawn. The old girls stood in the sun. Betsy preened.

The Gems went further afield.

The goats found green brambles under the grass.

But, even better than the edibles was this scratching post.

The goats are shedding. Already. Their winter garb has two layers: a fuzzy and thick undercoat, and a long, dense top coat. They’ve been carrying this around for months now. It’s hot. It’s itchy. They want it gone. There are at least six more weeks of winter. According to the record-keepers, February is our snowiest month. The boys have a lot of fur. Even if they lose some of it now, they’ll be warm enough if the weather turns. Still, I’m not ready for handfuls of goat hair everywhere. Besides, the birds who collect it for their nests haven’t even arrived yet.

The only animals not confused are the fish. The pond is in the shade and remains frozen.

This is a relief. The koi need to stay slumbering until spring. Sweet dreams, Beast.

Note- tomorrow I’m off to a 3-day writer’s workshop and it will be difficult to do email.


  1. Especially love the photo of the Gems. Photo shop the fence and to me that photo is good enough to hang on the wall. That is a scene on a warm day and glass of tea I’m in heaven.

    • I was having a difficult day and a half hour outside with goats and hens and my sense of well-being was restored. If only my health insurance covered my flock – they should!

  2. Can you bear to brush out that goat wool and keep it for me? I can needle-felt you some mini-goats to cheer you when you’re stuck in the house! Stuff it loosely in a pair of tights, knot them closed and wash and rinse gently and cool by hand or in the machine, no spin! Then leave it to dry naturally.
    Hope you’ve perked up this evening.

    • I use a shedding blade (like for horses) which the goats love and then I have piles of the stuff. Yes, I’ll save it! And, I’ve just cleared out my stocking drawer and have old hose. So good to have a reason to like shedding season.

    • My goats already have this! But, they prefer to rub their bellies against the fence. It’s a plot to fill the fence with fur, knock it down and step out.

  3. Hi Terry, I’ve been following your blog for a little while now. I’m a member of a chicken egg co-op in nearby Littleton, so we are almost neighbors! I had hoped to visit last summer when you had the visiting time, but couldn’t swing it. Will you be doing it again this year, I hope? I love the photos and stories of your chickens and animals. Do the goats give you any milk and/or cheese, or are they just pets?

    We have 20 hens in our co-op coop, Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns and Americaunas, so we get brown white and blue eggs. I’m wondering if you know of a sure fire way of telling when your chickens come out of their molting period. I would think they should be out by now. I think they started in the late October time frame. We are only getting between 6-10 eggs a day at this point. I don’t know if that is a good yield for almost 2 year old chickens at this time of year or not. Do you know how we can tell?

    Thanks again for sharing your chicken experiences!

    • I will be offering chicken keeping workshops again this spring! I’ll be giving a free, “getting started” talk at the Chelmsford, MA Agway on Feb. 25 at 11 am. I’m also going to do a couple of programs here in my backyard this spring, which I’ll be announcing on this blog. As far as the molt – some hens take only a few weeks to molt, some all winter. It’s all “normal!” You’re getting a good amount of eggs for your flock. It’ll really pick up this February.

  4. In North-West Europe winter is also extremely mild untill now. Only yesterday I emptied my water-butt, because finally a period of frost is coming. Indeed this winter is confusing for many animals and plants.

  5. Terry- I’m having some trouble. No, no chicken or goat issues, exactly. But Goat Note issues, YES! I was in need of a birthday card for someone special and thought of them- but I CAN’T for the life of me bring myself to give them away. They’re far too wonderful! So, looks like I’ll just have to give them to myself as birthday cards. And of course: one never throws away a card given with feeling and love. Do you think that justifies it? :)

    • Sean, Happy Birthday (whenever it is.) Do keep the cards. I know someone who keeps the card of Pip on her work desk. Can’t have a bad day with that boy’s face smiling at you.