The Winter Homestead

call duck in the snow

Last month, I asked my newsletter subscribers what kind of things they’d like to see me write about this year. I got some great answers – thank you to everyone that responded!

Several asked for more behind-the-scenes type posts, more information on how daily life goes on around here, and how we deal with farm-related challenges that arise.

With that in mind, today I thought I’d share a bit about how this winter has been on our little homestead/hobby farm.


peaceful snowy evening

First up: the challenges. The biggest one has been the freezing record low temperatures. Several mornings I’ve woken up to the outside water spigot being frozen (along with our shower) and so have had to tote buckets of warm water from the basement down to the animal areas. This is not fun.

By lunchtime, everything is frozen again, so the process has to be repeated.

All of the animals are given extra hay and snuggly places to keep warm. The bunny cages are covered up with old sleeping bags at night to give them a more insulated area and protection from the bitter wind. They also have lots of extra hay inside and out of their little wooden houses.


Ducks in the Snow

Ducks are cheerful little creatures that are pretty happy no matter what the weather is! As long as they have plenty of water, they’re content. Some days we fill up their little pond by the bucketful, but on the very coldest days they make do with buckets of water.

They have several buckets in various places, but still like to hop in everybody elses too – as you can see by the photo, below!

call ducks in Lilys bucket


raccoon in the goat lot

Predators are a huge threat this time of year. I know they’re hungry and just acting out their natural animal instinct to survive, but we can’t allow them to dine on our critters.

We keep everyone closed up tightly at night. We’ve only had one fox incident and one hawk incident during the day (in eight years of poultry keeping); usually the danger zone is right after dark.

Twice this winter, we’ve had chickens killed by a raccoon. One evening at dusk, right as I was putting on my coat to put everyone up, I heard a lot of quacking and a duck completely vanished. The raccoon in the picture below was cornered by our goats two days later, so he was a prime suspect.

raccoon cornered by goats


All of the animals get bored being cooped up (just like us humans!) and tired of the same old, same old.

They all enjoy big piles of hay to munch on, scratch through or burrow into. The bunnies look forward to fresh spinach salads each day, the goats get apples, cabbage and other fresh produce and the chickens get flock blocks to eliminate potential pecking due to boredom.



I also try to remember that it’s a tough time for birds and squirrels. I leave out extra scratch grain and layer crumbles – away from the general chicken area to avoid parasites & disease and also in a place that the cat won’t find them easy prey.

Bird in Snow


Winter is full of challenges, but there’s a lot of fun to be found in it too! We’ve had a great time building tracks for sledding:

sledding in the snow

We’ve made snow ice cream, maple snow candy, snowballs, snow angels, snowmen….

Once we’re all snowed out, we head inside and enjoy hanging out by our wood stove in our cozy, warm living room.

bandit by the fire

Winter is cold and long and dreary and gray, but it makes spring that much sweeter when it finally arrives!

If you enjoy pictures of our farm life, then be sure to follow me on Instagram!

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Jan Berry is a writer, herbalist, soapmaker, and bestselling author of The Big Book of Homemade Products, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, and Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and a menagerie of animals, where she enjoys brainstorming creative things to make with the flowers and weeds that grow around her.

  • Kathyinozarks says:

    I so enjoyed your post-reminds me of when we had our farm critters-when we were younger-those water buckets get heavy-

  • RedSetter says:

    I’ve definitely enjoyed your tour of the farm and look forward to reading more.

  • Farmer Doug @ Ladybug's Mew says:

    Love it! Thanks for giving us a peek into what goes on behind the scenes when you’re not inside ‘creating’, Jan. :)

  • Kim from GA says:

    Thanks for sharing your life with us “city slickers”. I had no idea what extra effort y’all have to put in to ensure your animals are safe and warm. They surely are well cared for.

  • deerlady1112 says:

    Thanks for the great pictures. I totally understand about the predator critters. Last week my husband removed 2 opossum’s from the pen and yesterday he removed a raccoon and I removed another opossum. Take care! Spring is closer today than it was yesterday. ;)

  • Jane says:

    I love your goats Jan! What breed are they?

    • Jan says:

      Thanks Jane! They are Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They have such sweet personalities and are so clever! (Sometimes too clever – one of them is an expert latch opener!) :)

  • Peggy says:

    Hi! I am so glad to find your blog. My husband and I bought a little farm a year ago for our retirement. We have sheep, alpacas, Pygmy goats, 3 calves, and laying hens. Except they haven’t started laying yet. We are having so much fun. I love, love the animals. I’m also a former preschool teacher. I think I read that you were too. Nice to meet you, Peggy.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Peggy! Yes, I was a preschool teacher once upon a time. It sounds like we have lots in common – it’s nice to meet you too! :)

  • Peggy says:

    Also, we have had a terrible winter where we are. As I write this there is several inches of sleet covering everything and snow expected tonight. We give our animals extra hay too and put our calves and triplet Pygmy goats in barn with their mother.

    • Jan says:

      We got more snow today too. I do see some spring bulbs trying to peek out of the ground in spots though and my lemon balm is showing a bit of green. It won’t be too much longer until spring! (Yay!)

  • Jennifer Schuster says:

    I live in Wisconsin on a “hobby” farm. I was so refreshing to hear that I was not the only one with frozen in door water and struggling to keep my creatures (goats and chickens) safe through this winter! There were many times this winter I wondered if the city life in a condo would be better! Thanks for helping me remember why I moved to this cold old farmhouse!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Jennifer! I have to admit that I’ve had many a daydream about living in a beach house this winter! :) I love my animals and the farm life, but winter can get tough. We can handle it though! I’m so thankful that spring is ALMOST here!

  • tammy Harban says:

    Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy it. I borrowed one of your photos for one of my blogs, but gave you credit. Hope you don’t mind! You can let me know and I can deleate it if you don’t want me to have it. I’m a new blogger and found your photo and it was perfect. :)

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