It’s March. I live in New England. Last year at this time there was a pile of snow at the end of the driveway. Today the temperature is going to rise past 80º F. As disconcerting as it is, I’m enjoying this unseasonably warm spring. This morning I walked out to the mailbox, barefoot. I’m wearing a t-shirt and capri pants. But, I worry about my animals.
The goats still have their winter coats on. They can handle very hot temperatures in the summer just fine (after all, this goat breed originated in Africa,) but they’re not designed to sit in the sun cloaked in layers of fur. I’ll be checking their water bucket a couple of times today to make sure it’s fresh and clean. A goat, even a thirsty one, will refuse water if it is even the littlest bit contaminated with a speck of dust. I’ll also go out and give the boys a good rub with the curry comb, too. This heat makes them so itchy!
Pip enjoys the morning sun, but later today you’ll be seeing him in the barn, where it’s shady and the concrete floor keeps things cool.
The Beast has emerged from her winter slumber. Koi can’t digest food when the water is cold, so in the spring Steve uses his digital thermometer to check the temperature. (If you’ve got the gadget, use it!)
It’s now safe to feed the fish. The Beast eagerly scarfed down her first meal of 2012. I don’t know if the heat will affect the toads that lay eggs in the shallow end. I hope it’s not too hot for them.
The hens have no difficulties coping with cold temperatures, but heat is another story. My barns are sited and designed to handle hot weather. They have excellent ventilation, cool concrete floors, and their backs are in the shade.It’ll be warm today, but not in the dangerous numbers, it won’t be humid, and the ground remains cool in the shade, so I’m not too concerned. However, if you have one of those small, prefab coops, with the wooden nesting boxes that jut out of the side, do keep an eye on your hens. A hen might sit in the box of upwards of a half hour before laying. A broody hen will stay in there all day. It can become deathly hot.
Topaz is thinking about going broody. She huffs up and stays put for an hour. Eventually, she lays an egg and leaves the nest. She’s got an Orpington’s thick coat of both downy and glossy feathers. Add to that the rise of her internal temp with broodiness, and she could have problems. I’ll be checking on her today.
Candy still has on her thick winter coat – she’s only just begun to shed – and rabbits die from heat stroke, so she’s the one that I’ll keep the closest eye on today. Steve has already taken down the wooden sides on the hutch that keep the snow out of her house in the winter. Now a cool breeze can blow through. We’ll be putting the shade tarp up soon. Meanwhile, she’s a smart old bunny, and knows to hunker down on the cool dirt in the shade.
The other animal to worry about is Scooter. He is a sun worshipper. He likes nothing better than sprawling out and baking every inch of his little body. He has no sense about it. When he starts to pant I shoo him inside.
The garden needs attention, too. Over the last two weeks, I planted cool-weather vegetables – parsley, greens, carrots and spinach. Unusually for this time of year, the bright sun has dried out the soil and I have to water. But, there’s still a danger of freezing and burst pipes, so I have a very, very long hose snaked out to the garden from the house.
It’s worth it, though, look a parsley sprout!
That’s not the only thing that’s green and growing. The peach tree is filled with buds.
Daffodils are blooming in the sheltered path along the stone wall.
But, beauty always comes with a price. The warm weather has spurred the first crop of pests. I’ve hung up the fly strips, which are a surprisingly effective, low-cost, low-tech, no-chemical control.
I’m ready for today’s sun and heat. A friend is coming for a visit this afternoon. I think we’ll have iced tea, while sitting with our bare feet in the pond.