Winter Prep on Our Small Farm
Fall is a busy and challenging time for us at our small farm.
Children start doing schoolwork (we homeschool), butcher our meat birds, decide which chickens need to go before winter, prepare all the animal housing and feeding stations for the upcoming winter, and make sure the garden has been taken out and prepped for the coming spring……PHEW!
Because we homeschool and the boys are in junior high, the schooling aspect is much easier than it would be if they were much younger and needed more hand holding. We also start very slow as there are so many things to do here to prep for winter. I am fortunate that they are now old enough to help with a lot of the more strenuous tasks. When the snow flies we catch up on some of the school lessons and settle in to more of a schedule.
We have been raising and butchering our own meat chickens for a few years now and it has now become much easier to deal with. Since both my partner and I were born and raised in the city, for the first few years, the dispatching of animals was very difficult, especially for me as I have been most involved in the raising of the critters. We have now figured out how to get in the mindset that these wonderful creatures are allowing us to eat. We give them a very good life and they get dispatched as quickly and humanely as possible. Our egg layers do occasionally get named as they stay with us for several years.
It is important to us to ensure that the animals in our care have a good house for the winter and can supply them with food and water, so the way we water and feed them needs to change with the weather. No more automatic waterers! Once it is freezing, we use rubber bowls of varying sizes depending on the animal. We give them water several times a day and simply turn the bowl over and push the ice out to fill with fresh water. This has proved to be the best way for us dealing with pigs, chickens, and dogs. The feeders now need to be placed under cover, so they do not get filled with snow. That part is relatively easy.
The garden is a lot of work in the fall even when all the food has been taken. We have been trying to improve our soil for years now. Each year gets better, however it still needs work. We turn in dry leaves, compost and slowly but surely it improves. We will also grow a cover crop in the garden this spring to till in for green manure and see if that helps as well.
Winter brings time to do more food processing as well. I’ll be juicing with a steam juicer, running through more loads in the freeze dryer, get the dehydrators fired up for the herbs and try to put carrots in the freezer before my boys eat them all!
Living on a small farm is a lot of work but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
May God bless you and your families,