Now, one thing that you certainly will not hear me complain about is the reality that most years we get to experience the four seasons in Ohio. I say most because there have been some years where spring and/or autumn somehow manage to get skipped. Thank you, climate change. Overall though, we get all four seasons. I would go a bit nutty...well...more so than normal, if I didn't get to go through those transitions. Perhaps this is the nature girl, earth mother, hippie chick side of me coming out. Maybe it's simply because I enjoy the changes the seasons bring. I can't really put my finger on it and honestly, it doesn't really matter.
I especially look forward to autumn. The leaves, the smells, the landscapes...pure delight. We had a pretty nice autumn this year and then WHAM......winter arrived. I am SO SICK of this freakin' cold weather! We have had more snow this winter than I remember in years. I should say, I actually like the cold, snow, and just winter in general, but this is rediculous!
|The view from out our back window today. Brrr......|
Alright, that's enough random Rachel chatter. On to the main point of this posting! What do farmers like us do during the winter? We get asked this all the time. Well, for starters we burn a lot of wood. A LOT. In my opinion, nothing beats wood heat. We are lucky enough to have a large earth stove that just cranks out the warmth. My parents put it in the house over 30 years go when they were building the place. It's older than me! We use a lot of good oak and black locust wood for really hot burns. They are some of the best. You never want to use any type of evergreen in a wood burning stove due to the sap these trees produce. It smells good, but it's not good for your stove or your flue. Plus, many tend to have very soft wood that just won't burn very hot.Making sure there is a good, dry, steady supply of firewood is a year-long task. You can't just go out into the woods in September, chop down a tree, and think you're going to have wood that burns well in December. The woods needs at least six months to a year to dry and season properly so it burns the way it needs to in your stove. Burning wet wood not only leads to dangerous creosote buildup, but it doesn't burn well at all. It just smolders, hisses, and spits. So please, make sure you are using dry wood when you burn.
|Our woodshed. Sorry for the glare...|
|Willow insisted on standing right in front of the wood I wanted to get a picture of. This is a giant stack of wood cut this year curing out for next year's fires.|
Keep livestock in a draft-free barn. It's amazing how warm an animal can stay with the right amount of straw and no drafts even on the coldest nights. The flip-side of that is how fast a healthy animal can die if they're too exposed to the cold and wind, even inside a barn. Also, look into heated water buckets or some type of heating element to keep their water from freezing. Trust me, both the animals and the person giving the animals their water everyday will thank you!
|One side of our barn. The door is mostly closed to keep as much wind out. Again...sorry fort he glare!|
The honeybees are hunkered down in their hives, clustered into a giant ball beating their wings to produce heat to keep the colony warm. The key here is making sure there is enough food, i.e. honey, to make it until the first nectar flow of the spring. Supplemental feeding is sometimes, okay... frequently, needed. I like to make my own feed for my bees. I will make up my own sugar syrup to feed and then mix in beneficial essential oils to help give a leg up. Sugar patties can also be used. Sometimes despite your best efforts, a hive just doesn't make it through the winter. If they do die, you can buy replacement packages of bees or try to collect a swarm in the spring and early summer months. I have a gut feeling I may loose a hive or two this year. Looks like I'm going to be ordering some bees!
So, what else??? Well, we eat off of the bounty that we grew and preserved during the year. I love this part! We are rewarded for all our hard work weeding, chopping, and then preserving, with wholesome, hearty, and nutritious food that we raised with our own hands. I love that the kids get to experience how to grow and save food. I want them to realize that supper doesn't just come from the store in town. I watched my parents preserve from my earliest years and now my kids get to experience the same thing. I sure hope they appreciate it!
|Freshly canned sauce and crushed tomatoes from the garden. So much better than that stuff in the cans at the store!|
|A couple of the many catalogues we order from every year. Decisions, decisions...|
|Come spring this is one of the garden spaces that will get filled with veggie plants.|
I think it's pretty obvious that people who farm don't just sit around during the cold months while the gardens lay quiet. There is so much to care for and plan for the upcoming year and thereafter. The plants and soil are resting and building up strength for the moment they realize, the days are a bit longer and the warmth has started to return. It's all part of Mother Nature's master plan. We live in such a crazy, chaotic, technological, mechanized, industrialized, sterilized, commercialized world. I think too many of us loose sight of the fundamentally natural and normal parts of life, and the great world we live in. A bee on a dandelion. Spring lambs enjoying their first taste of flower. Digging in the dirt. Enjoying a good, wholesome, home-prepared meal. Walking barefoot through the grass. Enjoying the simple warmth of a fire. The taste of that first sun-ripened tomato. The ability to actually see the stars in the night sky. Family. For me, these are just a handful of things I can think of right now that make me so thankful for the life I am so fortunate to have. God willing, we can continue to grow and enrich our lives even more with the simple things that nature provides, should we choose to pay attention, accept, and enjoy it.