Farming

Winter on the Homestead- A Question

This time of year, most people have their smaller farms and gardens ready for the winter. Things have been a bit warmer than usual, and that is what prompted the following question from Victoria:

This was the first year my husband and I started up on our 5 acres. We wondered what you would do this time of year. It is finally getting cold here and the leaves are just falling.

Victoria.

Victoria, if I had a five-acre homestead, this is what I would do to get ready for the winter. Some of this, mind you, can be done during the winter period.

1. Clear Out the Garden

You can get a jump start for the spring by getting your garden cleared. Start by taking out what you don’t want. You can pull the plants and let the chickens loose if you have them; be sure to pen them in. Chickens are good for getting the things you missed. They’ll scratch at the dirt, get bugs and weed seeds, and they’ll even fertilize to boot.

Oh, and depending on where you are located, you can still plant some things in the winter!

2. Mulch All Your Garden Beds

Once your garden is clean and weed-free, turn your beds! This is an excellent time to get mulch and compost out there. Getting a good layer on all your beds will help keep the weeds away once spring rolls around, allowing you more time planting and less time pulling.

3. Get Your Compost Piles in Order

If you have compost piles, and assuming you just put all the compost on your garden beds, this is a good time to get them going again. Get them into your compost pile right away as you pull what plants need to go. Make sure you have the proper mix of carbon and nitrogen in the pile to get things going. You want to be sure your piles start right so the heat will kill unwanted weeds, fungus, and bugs.

4. Fix Irrigation and Drain Water Lines

If you get a freeze and you have water in your lines, you will have a lot of busted pipes out there. Now is a good time to drain and then blow them out. You can also start repairing anything that is broken. I usually space this out over the winter, so I’ll have something to do. One thing a lot of people seem to forget is their hoses. Be sure you bring them inside!

5. Clean Up Your Perennials

Do you have any perennials in your garden or beds? I like to keep herbs close by the house – other things like mint and rosemary love those, but both can run wild if you let them. This is a good time of year to cut them back and get them under control. Also, take the time to trim anything else that has gotten out of hand. Just don’t do any heavy pruning. The stress of severe pruning and the coming on of the cold can kill a plant.

6. Fix What Broke

Things break. Sometimes a lot of things break. Winter is a good time to start fixing them. It may not all get done right away, and this is something else that I will spread out over the winter. I usually have more than anyone tool. For example, I have six grafting tool kits. When something breaks, I move on to another tool kit because I may not have the time to stop and fix it right then. It’s a bad practice and not one I recommend. This is the time of year I start fixing everything.

8. Fix Your Fences

I’m forever riding fences. It seems that some asshat is always cutting the fences to cut through the property. This is a good time to start fixing your fences on smaller homesteads. An old cowboy once told me that the easiest way to collect firewood is to put up and watch all the trees that fall on it.

Take time this winter, and every winter, to get your fencing back up and in top shape. You may need to upgrade or expand. Also, cut back any plants you have growing near your fence.

10. Split and Stack Your Firewood – For Next Year

If you have a fireplace, you should already have enough wood for this year. During the winter, it’s a good time to spit and stack your wood for the following year. We tend to keep three years’ worth of wood stacked and ready to go.

Closing Thoughts

If you can, take a short vacation. Get away from it all. As this is your first year, take a couple of weeks off. After your vacation, you and your husband should sit down, go over what worked and what didn’t work at all. Take time to fix what bothered you. If something didn’t grow, think about why and how to get that seed to produce next year. Don’t like where the chicken coop is, move it.

Also, your workflow is something I would go over as well. You only have so much sunlight in a day. Use it wisely. Plan out what you will do next year and how to schedule it, make it easier, and get into a better routine.

Hope that answers your question!

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