Winter on the Farm

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I didn’t care much for winter before we moved to the farm, but now I love it. When we lived in town, I didn’t dress for the cold, since most of the time I was just hopping from car to house to office. Here, if you go out you’re going outside for a while, so I dress for it. I’m not cold, I’m warm, and that makes me comfortable, so I can appreciate how lovely the woods and fields look under the snow. Another thing I love with the low sun angles is that you can see the lay of the land. Especially at dawn and sunset, the shadows on the snow show exactly where the low spots are in the fields and exactly how they drain.

Chores are pretty light around here in the winter. The cattle come up for water and grain each day so I can count noses and make sure everyone is healthy without having to go further than the barnyard. Once a week I trek out to the outwintering area to flip hay feeders onto new round bales. I like to do this before the previous bales are quite gone, so the cattle have a warm dry spot to lay in what’s left of the old hay.

The bales were placed out in the field in rows last fall, about 30 feet apart in each direction. I put an electric fence around them. One side of the fence is attached with handles, so it’s easy to move it back as the cows finish the bales in a row and are ready to start a new one.

The chickens don’t like cold and snow, and won’t go outside. Our coop is built into one corner of the barn, so I let them run in the barn during the day. It’s messy, but I hate to keep them shut up all winter and would rather do some extra cleaning than have unhappy chickens. On sunny days they sit in a row at the open front door of the barn, soaking up the rays.

The donkeys are feeling sorry for themselves. They’d like to be out with the cows stuffing themselves with hay all day long, but that makes them incredibly fat. So they have their own pen in the barn with an open door so they can come and go as they please. They’re usually out, but are always there waiting for me at feeding time. Donkeys don’t like diets!

Ann Larkin Hansen is the author ofThe Organic Farming Manual, available here.