December has arrived on the Homestead. The snow hasn’t flown yet, and the next two days are predicted into the early 50’s even, but it’s coming, and we know it.
This homestead, on the tippy top of a large hill, and with few trees to provide windbreak, gets hit hard each winter. Winds are strong and prevalent, and it’s always at least 5 degrees colder up here than it is even just four miles down below, in town. It’s a tough existence in the winter, but, shhh, I kind of love it.
Winter provides a welcome break from a lot of outside farm chores and instead becomes the season of planning and dreaming around here. In addition, we go to bed earlier, make time for more down-time activities (movies, games, reading), and in general are more rested.
Once March arrives, it’s hit the ground running, so to speak, with chores and excitement galore, so we take advantage of these quieter winter months as well as we can.
December here is all about Christmas and Advent. We bake, we shop, we give, we party and we prepare our hearts as a reminder of the gift we’ve been given in the birth of Jesus.
But prior to all that, there are some things we try to get done around here before the snow flies:
-We do a last cleaning of the barn and chicken coop. Typically we follow the “deep bedding method”(mother earth news: deep litter method) during the winter, providing more warmth and protection from the elements for our animals. It may seem gross, but the manure and urine tends to drop through the litter (we use hay) to the bottom. Each week, we add fresh litter to the top keeping things nice and clean. This method makes for a HUGE clean-out job in the spring because we don’t have a tractor. We do it the old-fashioned way with pitchfork and shovel, and it takes a few days, usually. But over winter it’s a great way to keep the animals warm (and cut down on chores for us) so it works.
-We mulch the garden. This year we implemented the no-till method of gardening and it worked wonderfully. Each fall, we’ll need to mulch with our spent hay, manure, and wood chips (we get for cheap locally), and let it rest and decompose into beautiful soil ready for planting in the spring. I’m really excited about this method. More about it later.
-We trim the goat’s hooves right before it becomes consistently freezing outside. Goat’s hooves need trimmed regularly. Every 30-60 days is recommended. We generally do every 60 because our goats have access to a cement pad as well as some large-ish rocks in their pasture that keep their hooves trimmed in between. When everything freezes outside, so do those hooves. And y’all, trimming frozen hooves are akin to trimming concrete. It will have to be done mid-winter, but having to do it just once when they’re frozen, rather than twice is a big help.
-We water and mulch the blueberry bushes heavily. Once we have our fruit tree saplings planted next spring, we’ll do this for them as well.
-We mow a path down our sledding hill (priorities, man).
-I can and freeze what we’re able. Each year I get a little more done. Like anything, it’s a process, and this is one chore that I believe takes a village to get done in any vast amount. This year we did tomatoes -sauce, chopped, crushed, and soup-ed. https://dandelionsacre.com/make-fresh-tomato-sauce-easy-way/ We also did grape juice, lots of frozen kale, chopped onions and swiss chard stems (a good celery substitute) bagged together and frozen. We also blanched and froze lots of broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and eggplant.
-We hunt. Well ok, not me. Maybe one day when there aren’t little ones under foot, I’ll partake of this pastime. It makes us feel good to put healthy, lean, natural- fed food on the table. And there’s something deeply satisfying and primal about watching the men-folk of the family saunter off with guns over shoulders, into the wilds, to get meat (grunt). Disclosure: do to their busy-ness with other pursuits my guys don’t spend a TON of time hunting, usually just 4 or 5 days, which is probably why we haven’t gotten a deer in three years. Sigh.
-We stock up on coal for the coal stove. We’re lucky to have a coal shed right next to the house to be able to do this, and because our coal supplier is just three miles away, we usually just get enough for a couple weeks at a time. In our old home we had a woodstove. Man, do I miss it. There’s just something about a fire made from wood to heat your home. But I know that Joe doesn’t miss all the chopping and stacking and general hard labor that accompanies burning wood as your main fuel source, so the coal stove works just fine for him. It is nice, and it keeps the propane cost down. Someday he envisions a windmill and solar for this old place. Baby steps.
I’m sure I’ve left something out, but those are a few things we do to prepare for winter here on the Homestead.
What are your favorite winter prep activities?
I’ll leave you with a few pics of winter past, here on Dandelion’s Acre Farm.