Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Ready for Winter

The fresh snow on the peaks last Monday morning added a sense of urgency to our preparations for winter. We actually get started in May, soon after the past winter's snowpack is filling the creeks with run-off.

It takes the better part of the summer to bring in enough firewood to fill the woodshed. We try to have around 6 cords of firewood stacked and ready by early fall. Since this is one my least favorite tasks, we spread it out and around all the other chores of the season.

Once the cattle have left, we spend several weeks taking down temporary electric fences, mowing areas that did not get grazed, and moving the horses to fresh fall pastures. Over the course of the previous winter, we pile up horse manure which now needs to be spread back on the grazed pastures, in the orchard and the gardens.

Our hay barn can hold around 500 bales and even though we don't normally need this much, we fill it completely in case the winter is especially hard or the following year's hay crop is down. Our barter with the cattle owner brings us hay for the horses in exchange for summer grazing for his cattle. Its a great trade and a great feeling when the hay barn is full.

There can be times during the winter when it is impossible to get out so we make sure that the pantry and freezer are full of food and medicinals. This year we put a quarter of beef in the freezer which will probably provide us with several years of tasty stews, soups and more. Throughout the summer I collected wild and cultivated medicinal plants and prepared extracts which we use through the year. I have red clover, all heal, fever few, horsetail, meadowsweet, skull cap, and mullein ready.

We also make sure that the trucks are ready for winter and are packed with emergency supplies. This year we added new tires and windshields to the preparations.

We move a lot of snow over the course of the winter and our little Kubota tractor does a fine job of it. Several weeks ago, Don changed the fluids and filters and attached the snow blade to the back. She's ready!

One of the final tasks is cleaning the wood cookstove from top (on the roof) to bottom. It is a really messy job that takes around 3 hours. Last Friday was the day and I'm glad it is done. We usually have to clean it again once during the wood season and that's even more challenging with snow on the roof.

It has been a relatively mild fall but the weather reports are calling for a major change this week. Winter is knocking at the door but I think we are about ready.

From Fleur Creek Farm