Winter on the Farm
As the warm months drift away and the cold weather settles in, our farm schedule becomes a bit different. Our daily focus on growing food, sunflower harvest and bee tending changes to animal maintance, reflection of our growing season and planning for next spring. I also have a bit more free time to work on spinning wool, weaving and just playing with this wonderful woolly gift from our sheep. Since we spend more time indoors, it also gives us an opportunity to package all of our seeds we sell on our website ( it takes forever haha).
We usually start off the the fall season by removing and winnowing out all the sunflower seeds. This year we harvested about 1200+ sunflower heads in different sizes and varieties. We remove all the seeds by hand, winnow ( blow out petals and chaff), then store in a tote until ready to package. This process is done in the unheated barn because its such a mess so we try and get is done before winter sets in and we can't feel our fingers as we work.
We then hand stamp all the seed packs and fill them. This takes a good amount of time so we usually stretch this job out through winter. All the packs will be ready and stocked on our website by spring. Having more time to work inside gives me the opportunity to create all the listings for our new products and promos we are planning for the following spring.
Now to the Animals....
Our sheep and cows spend all summer grazing the nice green pasture so they are almost maintance free in the summer. Feeding is one chore that picks up in the winter months. The sheep prefer to graze, even when the grass is yellow, but we still supplement them dried pasture grass. We do not feed alfafa to the sheep or cows, only baled pasture grass. We start off feeding them once a day to give their stomachs a chance to adjust to the change in food, then when the nights drop into the teens we feed twice a day. We also supplement grains ( NON-GMO and NO spray of course) as snacks and on cold enough nights. The grains help their bellies stay warm as they digest as well. We then drop in stock tank heaters into all the waters to make sure everyone always has fresh drinkable water.
Although all our animals are dressed in their warmest winter parka, they all have a dry cozy place to hang out if they choose. The sheep have all 4 stalls in the barn packed with straw and the cows have a huge 2 stall lean-to they can nestle into ( although they dont mind the cold weather). One more winter chore is cleaning these stalls every other day to keep the animals healthy and dry.
The chickens go from free rangining to getting all cozy under their own coop heat lamp and being fed an array of snacks to keep them from getting bored. Alot of the left over sunflower pieces go into their coop so they can pick through it. We make sure to give them lots of veggies and sctrach grains to supplement their lack of bug eating through the winter. They also get a heated water bowl.
Our bees are now nice and tucked into their hives for the winter. Each hive has a huge pile of sugar fondant ( bee food) stacked in their hive that we refill all though winter. This gives the bees a chance to feed all winter and keep warm so they can in turn keep their entire colony warm as they cluster together. We check them weekly for moisture content ( TOO much moisture in the hive will kill them).
Mother Nature ultimatly makes the descison on the success of the hives and wether they make it through winter or not. We do our very best to supply them with as much as we can. This also includes wrapping some of the smaller and weaker hives in insulation board for extra draft protection.
Spending so much time indoors really fuels our fire for next spring. We start to dream big and draft all our ideas on paper. Our plans seem to grow by the week, which makes spring truly our busiest time of the year. We try and remind oursleves to take in this time as a much deserved break from the manual labor that goes into our days. Each passing year we learn a bit more about how to work smarter not harder and we get a bit better at living a regenerative, sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle!
Now...off to go clean muddy, wet winter stalls ( the biggest winter chore of all)!