Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farming in Winter

   It is really winter now! We have about six inches of snow on the ground. The animals are doing good and staying bedded down in their straw. The chickens won't set foot outside in the snow, but I opened their door today so they could get some sun anyway. The cat is loving the snow, burying her face in it and trying to find the mice underneath. Chore time has gotten a bit longer as we have to trudge through the snow carrying the water buckets and hay. We also took time to wipe the snow off of the pig tarps so the pigs wouldn't get the smart idea of climbing on top of the tarps. Sammy the big boar is the bright one that would think of that to get out!
   During our tours and programs in the warmer months, people ask us what we do in the winter. I guess it seems a strange question to me sometimes, but I suppose I can see why it would be confusing to some. Nothing is growing, right? Well, we do still have the greens, beets, carrots, and onions in the hoophouses this year. We harvested some today for orders. And, we will be able to continue to plant in there all through the winter as long as the ground isn't completely frozen.
   As for the rest of our time...there is A LOT to do! This is the time of year that we buckle down and do a pile of paperwork that has been put off all year. We plan our next year's seasons based on how we did this year, totalling figures, and researching new crops. We also sit with our seed catalogs and write up our dream orders, then cut them in third for the realistic order. Our dreams for the next year are always bigger than our daylight hours! We also work on the inside of the house, painting, plumbing, and fix it stuff. And, we are still filling orders every week for corn meal, wheat berries, whole wheat flour, sorghum flour, and turnips.
   We also go around the state giving talks to other farmer groups, for seminars, and educational talks to non-farmer groups. That leads me to talk about the Spence Farm Foundation, a not-for-profit founded in 2005 that teaches about sustainable farming. We volunteer, along with a great group of other folks, to provide the educational programs for the Foundation. We host talks and programs in the winter also, including maple syrup making, building soils, organic gardening, and other farmer and consumer training. You can check out their website at http://www.spencefarmfoundation.org/. There will be some updates on the calendar soon and also updates to the website, so keep checking to see how the organization is growing!
   Other work we do during the winter includes cleaning seed for planting the next season. We save some of our heirloom seed for that purpose, growing heirloom plants so we can save the seed. We also research new equipment, plan new buildings (1830's cabin project is underway for Spence Farm Foundation), and work on our existing equipment and buildings. We are creating a washing station in the small barn to wash our vegetables in an enclosed area next year.
   In a couple more weeks I will begin planting in the basement. I have shelves set up with lighting and heat tables. I start hundreds of tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, leeks, and all kinds of varieties of plants in plant trays that have small compartments for each plant. I reuse some soil from the year before and also use some of the compost we created two years ago. Some of the plants will be transplanted into the hoophouses in February and some will be transplanted into the fields in April, May and June. The planting downstairs is time consuming as is the watering and care taking, but I love going down there on freezing days and seeing the little plants sprouting up. It is like having an early spring!
   That's just some of what we do in the winter. There is a lot more, but that gives you an idea. Farmers keep farming all winter if they are growing the kind of produce and foods like we are. Keeps life interesting all winter!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, how "cool" is all that! The farming never ends. Even the basement gets in on the act. Hopefully you can time finishing all your indoor projects at the exact moment winter leaves for good.