Folks often ask me if I’m enjoying all my time off from farming in the winter. I try not to laugh too hard. While it’s true the pace is a little slower, my days are still full of farm work. Turns out the animals want to be fed all year, not just in spring and summer. Feeding chores always take much longer when the weather dips below freezing and I try to give them a bit more attention than I have time for during the rush of spring planting and the endless demands of the summer garden. Once the animals are tended, I have a list of building, repair and fencing projects that I have to put off till winter. And then there’s the planning. I spend most of December working on a comprehensive garden plan for the coming year.
This year, I have also been working on a holistic management plan, using the framework from Holistic Management International. As a part of that process I mapped out our property. I was able to get a rough outline using google maps and the distance measuring tools it supports. For the finer detail, though, I had to actually walk and pace out the landmarks. This was a fun process, getting to know our woods a little better. I did the bulk of the mapping on a nice fall day and then drew out my map on graph paper.
The next stage of the holistic plan is a rotational grazing plan. We are hoping to work our goats and cow into the rotation with our pigs. To do this we need to add a bunch of fencing in order to utilize some areas that will be more beneficial to the goats and cow. It also means carefully planning which species will graze where, for how long and in what succession. Lots of factors go into this planning and it needs to be flexible. Nailing down this plan is my task for the next couple weeks, hopefully done in enough time to allow me to construct the required fencing before tick season begins!
One pleasure of the off-season, is the dark evenings when the family all settles down early and I have some time for reading. Since I don’t have any background in agriculture, a few farming books are always on my reading list. Always learning and improving! On my list this year are The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips, The Family Cow by Dirk Van Loon and Holistic Management by Allan Savory. And then, I can’t ignore the spiritual aspects of agriculture so I’m also reading Food & Faith by Norman Wirzba, Soil and Sacrament by Fred Bahnson and Grounded by Diana Butler Bass.
All told, the pace of winter is certainly slower, and not nearly so punishing on my body, but I’m certainly still working. Every day I’m striving to improve the farm and to educate myself and get us all ready for a productive, sustainable year.