|A snowstorm in Feb 2013|
With colors turning and leaves falling in the wind, it's time to prepare the homestead for winter. Before long we will have weather like the picture above. Preparing now means that you can rest for a season this winter. Just kidding when do homesteader ever rest!
Preparing the Garden for Winter:
Dig up any potatoes and cure them in preparation for storage. Curing allows the skins to harden and bruises and small cuts to heal. This can be done in your garage or under a porch if it is not too cold. Do not wash the potatoes just brush dirt off after curing.
Harvest any remaining winter squash and pumpkins. If there are nicks or unripe squash or pumpkin they go in the pig pile. They love any treat from the garden.
|Gathering the last pumpkins, squash, and dried corn used for cornmeal.|
|The pig pile of nicked or under ripe produce.|
Winter squash will keep til spring with very little preparations. Start by picking and storing mature squash. The squash is mature if the skin cannot be pierced by you fingernail. Always leave the stems on
During the curing process moisture is lost and the skins harden. Acorn squash should not be cured and likes lower temperatures than other squash. They prefer temperatures of 45-55 degrees anything over that and they become stringy and dry. A green skinned acorn squash should stay green. There are orange and white skinned varieties. The white skinned do not store as well and should be eaten first.
Other winter squash should cure for 10-14 days. They can be stored on a porch with temperature 55-60 degrees and brought in if a freeze is expected.
Squash do not like temperatures below 50 degrees. They can be stored in a side room, basement, or a pantry that is not too warm.
Pumpkin are treated just like squash but do not store as long. When storing both squash and pumpkins do not pile them but leave space between and do not store them on a concrete floor.
|This is a great rack for storing squash. It allows for good air circulation and can be put in the coolest room in the house or in a garage.|
Pull up all garden plants. I make two piles. One goes to the burn pile. This includes all tomatoes, squash, and any plant that was diseased. By the seasons end there is usually mildew and blight on these crops and I don't like to put them in the compost pile. The second pile includes garden plants that are going on the compost pile. This include corn stalks, not used for decorating, and disease free plants.
|The burn pile.|
|The start of the debris going on the compost pile includes both green and brown material.|
Weed one last time. Any perennials weeds you leave are sending energy down to the roots to get ready for next spring. Disrupting those plans will make spring weeding easier.
Put a layer of compost on top of your soil. I don't like leaving bare ground.
Leave cover crops to winter kill and incorporate into the soil in early spring
Install any low tunnels on the fall garden boxes. Be prepared to double lay when a freeze approaches meaning you will lay a row cover directly on the plants under the low tunnel.
I'm not fortunate to have a greenhouse yet but I still have a fall, early winter garden of kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, greens, and lettuce. The fall broccoli is incredibly flavorful..My husband loves it raw with a veggie dip and actually comments on how good the broccoli is. No one ever does that unless they have eaten garden fresh fall broccoli.
Gather and preserve any herbs.
Drain and store your water systems if necessary.
|February 2015 snow storm. The raised bed gardens.|
The Goat Barn
One last cleaning of the stalls is in order before it gets too cold.
After the stalls are clean I lime (purchase lime at the feed store) the stalls by sprinkling lime on the floor of the stall and lock the goats out for a day. The lime helps to kill bacteria and if done through the spring and summer kills fly larvae.
After the lime has set a day, I put down pine shaving. And happy goats can return to their comfy stalls in the barn.
|Some of the 2015 spring kids.|
|Fresh bedding is always appreciated.|
Have the kidding pen prepared and heat light ready for kidding if needed
The buck barns gets a layer of straw for the winter.
|The buck barns.|
Put electric water buckets in the stalls. These are one of a homesteaders best investments. It beats trying to dump out a bucket frozen solid and haul water for the winter. It also gives them access to water continuously.
|A view of the goat barn.|
The Chicken Coop
One last cleaning of the coop and hauling all manure and bedding to the compost pile
Spray the nesting boxes and perches with pyrethrin and neem oil for pest control. I use the same one I use in the garden.
I like using straw (weed free) in the chicken house it seems to last longer. Weed free means less weed problems with your spring compost.
If you want eggs through the winter have a light inside the coop.
Have electric water buckets ready to plug in for freezing nights
The Duck Pen
Provide an area for them to get out of the weather. Large dog houses work great or a small duck house.
Put an electric water bucket in their pen.
I let my ducks roam the field garden during winter and early spring. That allows some grass to grow back in their pen and they are great at hunting out hiding pests.
Don't Forget the Canines and Felines
We have an older lab and beagle. They have a cozy dog house for the day and dog beds in the garage for night. The water for my dogs and cats is a bucket system. We have one in the garage that goes out in the morning and the frozen bucket goes back into the garage to thaw. The cats have a couple cat houses to keep warm.
|I am smiling! This IS my happy face!|
|Belle, the lab, is the best bed warmer. The cats love her.|
Clean Out the Freezer
Make room for the fresh pork of your fall butchered pigs or beef or lamb.
Continue watering your trees as needed until they lose their leaves.
Pines and evergreens should get a good watering up until Thanksgiving or the ground freezes. They continue to transpire through the winter and need an occasional watering.
I'm going to refer you to a previous post on fall orchard care.
The two most important things to do are your fall spray when 1/2 leaves drop and a cooper spray at leaf fall.
The second thing is to paint trunks and lower scaffold branches if snow and sun scald is a problem. Use an indoor latex paint. Dilute it with 50/50 with water and you can add a little Neem oil to the mixture.
I wait for spring to do any pruning
You can spray a horticulture oil at leaf fall if disease or overwintering pests are a concern. Cooper can also be used to help prevent disease.
Get a load of wood and have it chopped and stacked out of the weather.
Roll up and store hoses that are not in use
Gather any tools you have in the fields or garden and store out of the weather.
Drain and cover swamp coolers
Check the strength of you antifreeze in your vehicles and add winter washer wiper fluid
Wash and get out winter gear: Carthart overalls, coats, gloves, hats, boots etc.
Take inventory of your garden and orchard sprays and fertilizers. Winter is a good time to purchase these. Organic fertilizers are fine to store and do not good bad.
Get a a supply of hay for the winter. Don't run low on any feeds in case weather prevents you from traveling to the feed store. Feed is so important to help your animals stay warm so be sure to always feed regularly and have a few extra bags on hand.
There are things I love about each of the four seasons. I hope you find beauty even in the winter.