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Not much to say the last couple months. It's winter. Aside from a couple downright frigid spells (when we had to replace the rabbits' water bottles two or three times a day, because they froze solid), this winter has been mercifully warm. It's been wet, too, which has led to a little discomfort in the barn, because the barn roof leaks. The floor has had chronic puddles. I've neglected combing out the rabbits, because the grooming table is frequently wet. With the high humidity, every metal surface--cage bars, feed dishes--collects condensation. I can't dump litter trays without stepping in the mud around the compost bins. Even the rabbits feel damp and sticky.

Remodeling construction on the house has been progressing nicely, and it offers day-to-day excitement. The kitchen is beautiful and spacious, and I can't wait to start using it. It's been over eight weeks since we had a kitchen sink, and we're still waiting for the new countertop so we can plumb the new sink. I will really enjoy reconnecting the dishwasher; if there ever was any novelty in washing dishes in the bathroom sink, it wore off about eight weeks ago.

Winter is mostly a time to plan. I've got a busy spring ahead of me:

  • We have to get a new barn. I don't want another winter of clammy bunnies. The barn--and at least one fenced pasture--are also prerequisite to getting alpacas.

  • It's time to prune fruit trees! Pruning should be done in late winter, but I'm not sure that will be enough time to handle all of our trees, so I'm starting now. I've begun working on the dwarf apple trees; with the leaves down and the surrounding weeds dormant, it's easier to see what needs pruning than it was this summer. I started by removing several trees that were leaning badly. When I was able to break them off at ground level with my bare hands, I realized that the plastic trunk guards that had been placed around the trees had been working to hold moisture in; instead of protecting the trunks from string trimmers and marauding rodents, the guards were facilitating rot. Today I'll start removing some diseased branches of plum and peach trees (black knot fungus?). There are also some large peach branches that Tom marked last fall for removal; he didn't want to take off too much until the trees were dormant. Then there are the broken branches in the old apple orchard, and the vertical water sprouts growing in so many trees and.... I'll be busy.

  • I need to learn about spraying. After last year's heavy fungal infection, I must get on a spray schedule. I guess I'll be calling the county extension agent this week.

  • Once the grass is growing again, we'll resume sheet-mulching. We've collected a shed full of cardboard (the kitchen cabinets were delivered in nice big boxes) and we'll get another truckload of wood chips--once the construction dumpster is removed from the driveway....

  • We'll be putting in a big garden this year, so we have to prep the soil sometime after it warms up and is dry enough to work. Tom dismantled the lean-to at the end of the barn that had previously been used to house pigs or chickens, and he used the reclaimed wood to build a few frames for raised beds, so those little patches will be ready for planting. I think we need a tiller to handle the rest of it. I've ordered my seeds, and I'll be starting tomatoes and peppers indoors in March.

  • We have one section of our property that is not fenced. We had a survey done this fall, so we know where the property line is now, and we're planning to put a fence along it--which will be an opportunity to learn how to build a fence.

  • Our house has a lovely huge deck in the back. Unfortunately, its paint is in very bad shape. Refinishing the deck has been on our punch list since we moved in, and I hope we can get to it this spring.

Whew! I didn't realize we had so much to do until I wrote it down. I guess I'd better get working!

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