Winter Farm Prep looks different for each farm but there are a few things that every farm has in common. My small garden takes an afternoon to prep while the prep for horses and equipment takes much longer. Speaking of the garden, I gather the last of the fruit and vegs then pull up the plants to take to the woods. The garden space is quite small and I’m thinking next year will be used for a butterfly and bee garden. I can always find a pot or three for the tomato plants I grow and the raised beds have herbs; this is the last of my tomato crop:
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a good indication of weather temps across the country. Good but not great. My last farm was shown as Zone 6a (-5 to -10F) while now I’m in Zone 7a (5 to 10F).; the Virginia map is here. January 1996 the back porch thermometer read -35F…yes, that’s 35 degrees F below zero! Fortunately, we didn’t freeze because we kept two wood stoves roiling while Dave and I slept in shifts. He fed the stoves from evening to midnight and I fed them from midnight to around 3 a.m. when he pulled a third shift to finish out the night. Up until then I had a reasonably good faith in those maps but no longer and now use them as suggestions.
It was a lot different prepping for winter then, compared to now but even so, things still need to be done whether you live on a homestead or in a suburb. Apartment dwellers get a pass.
In no order…cover the water spigots and, if possible, turn off the water to spigots not needed during winter months. When spigots freeze, it’s a mess and can result in a call to a plumber. The first winter I lived here I had a frost free spigot put in at the barn and this week am putting heat tape around the pipes for added protection.
Mow one last time. Some folks don’t mow, leaving longer vegetation as cover protection for winter. I usually don’t mow but we usually have a frost by now; since we haven’t, I mowed yesterday the barn and equipment shed lots, yard and still have the driveway to finish. Day temps are in the 70’s for the next week or ten days so grass will still have a bit of growth before frost.
Hay is under shelter as are all vehicles. Last week someone asked if I’d bought hay and seemed surprised when I said I bought hay in May. It’s less expensive and easier to find when one buys first cutting although my hay man, John B., is a prince! When he cut his last hay, he sent word asking if I needed more hay…love that man! My American Curly horses need shelter but no blankets and have the run in shed plus the barn if they choose. Usually, if the day is sunny, no matter the temp, they are in the pasture taking advantage of the warmth. A huge blessing was finding “Shorty”, a farrier/horse trainer, and she has her hands on my horses weekly. An additional blessing is her fiancee Christopher who does odd jobs requiring more strength and skill than I have. Daniel farm sat for me and, among other things, made the shelves he installed in the laundry room, aka pantry . They still need sorting but I’m happy and, especially, over the moon happy with the rail to hang my antique and vintage Griswold, Lodge, Wagner, etc. cast iron cookery. Ronnie, when he breaks from hunting, is supposed to mow the horse pasture.
October was filled with blessings in the form of Joe and Mandy, Mennonite friends who’ve adopted me as their English Granny Widow and come yearly to work. This year they ripped up the upstairs wall to wall carpet (UGH, I despise carpet) then Joe put down laminate flooring. I chose Antique Barnwood and could not be happier! Mandy said, “Next year it’s your bedroom and bath”, to which I joyfully said, “YES!”
October celebrations included parents 69th wedding anniversary and Mom’s 86th birthday. She’s here with her great grandchildren and my brother is in background with Daddy partially shown beside him.
Dustin, Daddy’s youngest grandson, Daddy and I met at the WV cabin for our annual close up the cabin trip.
We have the best neighbors there…love them all dearly! Robert and Kathy are amazing people, true mountaineers who supply all their protein by hunting and fishing. Robert has killed several bear with his Ruger .454 Causell and gifted us a quart of his home canned bear meat. Mom fixed it with potatoes and her home made apple sauce while I contributed home canned pickles.
It was a feast!
Regarding vehicles…including equipment (mowers, Ranger, small equipment, etc.) all are, if needed, given service…oil change, fluids topped off, air in tires and then put away if they won’t be needed over next few months. Oil is changed every 3,000 to 3,500 miles and in vehicles with mileage more than 100,000 high mileage oil is used. Every time the tractor or mowers are used, they are cleaned off before being put away. It only takes a few minutes to blow off dirt, leaves and debris and extends the life of the equipment. If there’s gasoline left in the mowers, fuel stabalizer is put in the gas tank.
Hand tools such as rakes, hoes and the like are cleaned of dirt, sharpened if needed, then dipped into a bucket of sand where spent vehicle oil has been poured. It’s a quick and easy way to put a sheen of oil and keep things ready for spring. Water hoses are emptied then rolled for storage.
My attitude is it’s easier and less expensive to keep stuff running than buy more and if you want to see the devil in me leave my equipment out in the open. I will get riled!
Barn stalls are mucked and one stall is used to store mowers, leaving two stalls for the two remaining horses. Waterers are cleaned, making sure heaters are working to prevent freezing. The fleeces have been boxed, standing ready to be labeled then taken to be mailed. I doubt I’ll have blankets for Christmas but they’ll be welcome no matter when they come home.
Dead tree limbs are removed; safer to do it now than have it fall on me later. Leaves and acorns are raked or blown into the woods, leaving the fire pit area ready for more use. I also check the fruit orchard and prune any small branches that might impede spring’s growth and cut any water weeds that are pulling nutrients from the mother plant. Autumn is a great time for planting new trees and I replace any trees that have died or the deer have ruined.
Soybean crop is cut, winter wheat is planted and the earth is made ready for sleep while the house is next up for deep cleaning. The porches need cleaning and straightening as they were used for storage while the floor was being laid and the pantry shelves were installed. All outdoor wood furniture needs water sealing…a job I enjoy.
Summer clothing needs to be stored and winter clothing brought out. Leather boots need cleaning and oiling and might as well do purses and bags while I’m at it. It’s a good job whilst sitting in front of the fireplace, soothing music or audio book on, hot chocolate at hand.
Life is good!
Once this is accomplished it’ll be time for the studio. I’ve been knitting and have some fiber textile projects started.
This is a whirlwind trip through October and I didn’t even show you apple butter making or farm festival trip or….everything else! Above is me with my grand nephew and grand niece while the oldest grand niece takes our picture. This was the day of anniversary and birthday celebration; lovely memories all.
Grandma Bones says, “Give the ole woman a break. She spends a lot of time taking care of us critters and we love her for it. So what if she doesn’t catch y’all up very often; come for a visit, help out and you’ll see just how much she has on her plate! Speaking of plate…it’s time for a snack.”
Wishing you all a happy home and homestead!