If you live on a farm, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for winter. Homesteader Mara Watts shares her top tips on how to winterize your southern hobby farm for the coming winter season.
As winter is quickly approaching, it’s time to prepare and winterize your southern hobby farm. By completing a few tasks, you’ll have everything organized, safe, and secure.
This type of preparation work does take some time, so it is advised that you start as early as possible. Getting ahead of blustery winter conditions can provide you and your farm with a sense of ease.
From putting the garden to bed to cleaning up around the farm, here you’ll find a few helpful to-dos to get you started.
#1 Winterize Livestock Living Spaces
Spend some time checking ventilation.
Fresh air should move through living spaces, but no bad or heavy drafts. Hang heavy-duty clear tarps over chicken runs to allow sunlight in and prevent harsh winter winds. Large plastic strip curtains can be hung on openings, such as doors and windows, to help keep your animals comfortable and warm. This is especially important for cold-sensitive livestock such as pigs, goats and chickens.
Prep water buckets with insulated bucket covers to prevent water from freezing. Store feed in rodent-proof metal containers, as mice and rats can easily chew through feed bags or plastic storage containers. Old refrigerators and chest freezers are excellent for storing feed bags. They can help to prevent moisture, which can often cause the feed to mold.
Clean stalls, coops, and pens to prepare for new bedding. Lay thick rubber mats on barn floors to give warmth and comfort while your animals spend more time in their stalls. Add clean hay or shavings for extra warm bedding.
Check all pens and fences for any issues. Winter is a time for high predator activity. Ensure all enclosures are secure, patched and ready to protect your livestock from unwanted and hungry visitors.
#2 Clean, Sharpen and Store Tools and Farm Equipment
As outdoor tasks change with the coming winter season, so will the tools and equipment required to keep up your farm. Clean all gardening tools and store them in a dry location to prevent rusting. Sharpen and prepare any equipment you plan to use during the winter, such as chainsaws, log splitters and axes.
Organize your storage space so that unneeded tools are at the back. Place all equipment you plan to use during the winter near the shed door for easy access.
Also, stock up on fuel for gas-powered equipment. Make sure to test all equipment to ensure they start and run well. Service the family vehicle, tractors, mowers, and ATVs or UTVs before parking them for an extended period. Clean any horse or livestock trailers, and cover them with a thick tarp.
#3 Clean Up Around the Farm
Spend a day or two picking up any trash, tools and toys laying around the farm. Clean out the barn, storage buildings and greenhouses of any items you no longer use or need. Take all trash to the dump.
Check and winterize water sources that are outdoors. Unhook and bring in any hoses. Replace them with expandable hoses, as they are easier to bring in and out of the house on cold and blustery days. Expandable hoses can be stored, coiled up, in 5-gallon buckets when not in use.
Deep clean stalls, coop floors and nesting boxes. Replace bedding and fill nesting boxes with clean shavings. Clean food and water buckets, storing plastic waterers until springtime.
This is also an excellent time to remove any temporary electric livestock wire, as it is no longer needed in grazing areas. It is important to ensure the wire is dry before storing, as wet wire will quickly rust.
#4 Put the Garden to Bed
Winter is a season for rest, especially as it applies to the garden. Harvest and preserve remaining crops before putting your garden to bed ---- a term that refers to cleaning up and winterizing the garden.
To do so, begin by removing dead and diseased plants. Removal of tomatoes is recommended, as these plants tend to spread disease if left to decompose in the soil—spread mulch where no crops were planted and sprinkle the garden with wood ashes. Wood ash is great for providing the soil with added potassium. If the ground is bare where perennials were planted, use old hay or leaves to insulate and protect them during the winter.
Empty and clean out plant pots, storing them indoors as the cold can cause them to crack. Give the compost pile another turn before the first freeze. Then walk away and let Mother Nature take over.
#5 Stock Up on Farm Necessities
When harsh winter conditions arrive, getting out to your local feed store can become difficult. Stock up on all of your farm necessities early to ensure you won’t run out. Items such as hay, straw, bedding and livestock feed are good examples of what you can start stocking up on now.
Also, consider gathering medicines and first aid items. Wound bandages and first aid ointments can be stored in a secure box. Supplements are also great for keeping your livestock healthy. Because animals burn more calories in the winter trying to stay warm, treats such as mealworms and pumpkin seeds add supplemental nutrition to their feed.
If you haven’t already, this is an excellent time to begin stocking up on and organizing seed packets. Spend some time looking through seed catalogs, or visit your local co-op to accumulate seeds you’d like to sow for the upcoming planting season. Store in a dry location, safe from mice and rats.
#6 Support Local Wildlife
Not only should you take care of the animals living on your hobby farm, but it’s also a good idea to support the local wildlife in your area. Birds and insects are worth considering during the winter, as they support your farm and garden come springtime.
Leave large logs on the ground to shelter small insects and amphibians. Fill up bird feeders with wild birdseed, and hang birdhouses to provide shelter for the birds. Set out mineral and salt licks for deer to boost their well-being over the winter.
Also, avoid tilling the garden, as many beneficial insects hibernate and take shelter underneath leaves and below the soil. This will help protect them, giving your spring garden a boost from the onset.
#7 Start Planning for Next Year
As you hunker down for the cold months ahead, take some time to plan and prepare for next year. Tasks such as winter sowing and drawing up garden plans will help to jump-start your spring garden.
The winter is also a great time to breed does and ewes for spring kids. On average, the gestation period for these particular livestock animals is around 150 days. Timing is everything on the farm, so be sure to keep track of everyone’s due dates.
And don’t forget to dream a little bit. What are your goals? What animals would you like to introduce on your farm? Would you like to earn money from your hard work? Spend some time journaling and thinking about how you can take your hobby farm to the next level.
#8 Take Time to Rest
Be sure to let your land, animals and even yourself rest during this season. Of course, there will be chores and tasks to be tended to, but observe this time of rest.
Homesteading is a journey, and each season brings new excitement and challenges. Taking the necessary steps to prepare your farm for a season of rest is crucial to the health and well-being of your soil and livestock.
Make the most of the coming winter season. Prepare, plan and settle in as you await the warmer growing months ahead. Sure, it takes some work, but the payoff is well worth the effort.