Homesteading in the Winter

It is winter here in NC so what does that mean for our homestead? In the area of NC where we live our winters aren’t back-to-back snow storms and freezing weather, but it is a lot of up and down temps and lots of rain. So many days it feels like we are just growing mud, which sadly doesn’t yield much profit. What are we up to then during these months?

First, remember we are not a huge homestead, we work on trying to grow as much food as possible and raising our birds. So that means that we focus on planning the garden, and keeping the birds happy. Step one of prepping the garden was to be sure that the garlic was well covered. We planted the garlic back in the fall and it needs to stay under a nice deep bed until the late spring when it will be about ready to pull out.

Step two is planning what we are going to plant this year. If you look back at last year’s post about starting the garden you can see I have a large area to cover and honestly did not get the amount done I would have liked to. That means this year I am going to try a different approach, starting with checking all my old seeds by sprouting a few of each type that I have left over. This will help me to narrow down what I actually need to buy.

I have already gotten my seed catalog and begun circling things I think we may use. I am still working on narrowing down the best varieties and amounts of each seed that we need, although I have yet to figure out what we need to make it through the summer and have extra to can. The only thing that I know I get right is the number of potatoes I need to order which tends to be a whole crap ton. I get my seed potatoes from Fifth Season Gardening in Greensboro and tend to be one of the customers that get the most.

How is the planning this year going to be different? I am starting earlier, last year I was very late getting going but this year I am starting now! I also have a great journal that I plan to use to help me get my thoughts and goals straight. I still have the map I made last year of the garden with all the measurements and the potential placement of the beds. I plan to start going one bed at a time and re-creating their borders and adding the soil to raise the beds. I will then plant some cover crops that will help keep things happy until I need the bed.

But why raised beds? My garden is in a great place in terms of sun, however, the soil at one ends gets and stays very wet after every rain, which means I need to raise my beds. I raise them in a few ways. I make hügelkultures in some spots, in others a standard raised bed, and in others, some made using fencing to keep the soil contained. I have realized that raising the beds on top of the wet soil helped to keep the beds moist underneath and allowed me to not have to water as often after a good rain.

Other than garden planning I spend this time getting ideas put down of all the things I think we need to fix or improve on. This year I know that we need to fix some fencing and fill some holes on the property. Plus I would like to make some improvements to my chicken coop to keep it as strong as possible. Last year we had some predators get into the coop and kill a good number of our birds in early spring because there were holes in the fencing that we had missed, so this year I want to get out there earlier to double-check everything. We also have some areas where some animals look like they have been burrowing and I would like to fill those in.

What do we do in the winter? A lot of little things to get ready for the spring, planning and fixing things as we are able. As we grow this list will get longer, it may come to include the care of more animals or a larger garden to plan. We are not big yet, we are still slowly learning how to do all of the things needed to be successful and have even more food come from our own property.

What do you guys do? How do you spend your winters? Do you have a homestead? a farm? or just a little garden? I would love to hear about your winter plans and what you are getting ready for.

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