Winter Warmth & Winter Preps

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


This past weekend was two days of endless work; about the turning of a season, the changing of months. There is still much to do before winter sets in and I still have lots of projects to finish, but am on track to accomplish it all. There’s many stories rolling in my head, but I’ll just post a few comments and pictures for now.


Saturday morning was all about fire and warmth for our small farmhouse. I don’t heat exclusively with wood, but the fires that burn warm the house long into the night. That bit of heat keeps the furnace from running until the very early morning hours when the temperatures are the coldest, which helps keep the heating bills manageable

For years I have gotten my firewood free from a local farmer. It’s nice to have a source for seasoned, split wood. If it weren’t for them I’d have to buy wood and that might be an expensive proposition. Firewood in my area is more about aesthetics than function for most people. Bundles of perfectly cut & split logs can be found at almost every store in town. But, I much prefer gathering my own. When I was young we lived near an abandoned walnut orchard and every October we made a day of gathering and splitting branches and trees that had fallen during the year. For some strange reason I always enjoyed the work. It’s a kind of ritual I look forward to. And, this season’s haul of wood was no different. I didn’t have to cut and split it, of course, but between the loading and unloading; hauling and stacking there was plenty of work, along with dirt and sweat to make up for not actually having to split my own.

With every fire I burn this winter a silent prayer of thanks will ride on smoke across our valley.


I harvested the last of the winter squash. What few I left on the vine to get a little larger didn’t really grow much at all so it was time to pick them and ready the bed for a planting of cool season crops. The squash crop was not large this year, but there will be plenty for baking with maple syrup, brown sugar and spices or cutting up and adding to savory stews. A few of the varieties I had not grown before and I will enjoy seeing what they taste like. It took about an hour to pull up the vines and make a compost pile before pulling the weeds. Every so often I would come across another squash that had been hidden in the overgrown mass of leaves and vines.

When the pile of weeds was taken away I moved into the chicken coop to clean out the nesting boxes. They were sorely in need of new bedding.

When Brianne was showing sheep we had a routine of cleaning out the trailer at the end of the show season and using the shavings for winter bedding in the coop, then in spring the boxes would be cleaned and that bedding would be added to vegetable beds or the compost pile. It was a strange kind of circle of life.  But, with no lambs around I bought a bag of shavings. One-by-one I cleaned each box and spread the litter across the old pumpkin patch. It will be tilled in to feed the soil with good quality nitrogen. When the trees start to drop their leaves they too will be tilled in to add organic matter to the soil.

The piles of weeds scattered around made perfect places for the chickens and Sophia scratch and peck looking for tidbits and bugs.


After several hours of straight work I was ready for a rest and a glass of tea. I pulled a chair out to the barn and sat in the shade of the peach tree. I love this time of year. It is so easy to get lost in the work of the day. My favorite CD of instrumental mountain music was playing in the background and with the sun casting an umber hue over the farm I couldn’t help but melt into the scene.


As I sat sipping my cool drink I noticed a few stray apples hanging from the tree. They aren’t very large but they were ripe enough to pick before the birds got to them. And, an apple turnover never cares about the size of an apple, does it?

With my break over I raked in front of the barn, throwing everything into the raised beds. I always find it amazing how much the soil in each bed shrinks over the growing season. Each spring I level off the beds with a good layer of new soil and by the time late fall rolls around it has sunken at least six inches.


My small potted patio garden is up about an inch. I planted two old wash tubs with broccoli raab, kale, chard and radishes. I usually plant salad greens, but decide to try something new. It’s easier to take care of this small garden by patio light rather than trek out to the garden by flashlight, now that it get dark before I get home from work.

The less fun part of my weekend of winter preps involved buying heater filters, paint for the new barn door, outdoor light bulbs, stocking up on cat food and chicken feed, scrubbing the fireplace screen and replacing my fireplace candles with the firewood grate. The more I have to be in town the more I prefer being at home, puttering on the farm.

It was a full weekend of work and dirt and sweat, but I’m feeling better about going into winter. With the busiest season at work approaching it was a relief to get so much done. Now I can look forward to the changing seasons (and weather) with confidence, and few other projects I’ll write about later.


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