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The Drifter Collective


5 Steps to Winter Farm Prep

winter farm care

Running a successful farm requires dedication and planning. No plants or livestock would thrive if you didn't wake up early every day and give all your energy to your farm. No matter what sized property you have, it wouldn't give you nearly as much joy if you cared less or didn't plan for the future.

Farmers plan for each season well in advance. You may think about what you'll grow in the spring, who you'll need to hire to help harvest in the fall and what work you'll need to do to support your animals and plants under the summer sun. Winter also involves a bit of planning, which may seem strange to those new to farming. You might think you can snuggle up under a blanket after fall ends, but there's plenty to do on a winter farm.

Help your future self by reading about these five steps to winter farm prep. Once you've arranged for the upcoming cold weather, you'll know what to expect and how to plan your way around the freezing temperatures.

1. Clean Your Property

When it's warm, you spend most of your time outside. Your livestock may roam grassy hills while you weed and water your crops. It's easy to forget that your farm needs care inside your barn and other structures. A good rule of thumb is that, when the leaves start to fall from the trees, you should clean your property.

Take a good look around the inside of your barn and throw out or sell anything you don't need. Cleaning it top to bottom makes it a nicer place for your animals to wait out the winter weather and store whatever you'd typically keep outside.

Remember to clean other structures as well, like any sheds or garages. It's one less thing to distract you from your work as you go about your winter farming routine.

2. Plan Your Winter Crops

You don't need to retire your love of tending to crops just because it's cold. With a little research, you can plan your winter crops and harvest them in the spring. Kale, lettuce and carrots are just the start of what you can grow in the winter, so figure out what you'd enjoy the most and have fun while you watch them grow.

3. Can Your Recent Harvest

Many farmers use their storage areas to hold onto their fall harvest, but that's a waste of valuable space. After you've harvested all your fall crops, can them for the winter so you can take your time enjoying or selling them. You'll have extra space left over for things like fertilizer and food for your livestock.

4. Check Your Roof

The roof on your home and barn may not be something you think about often, but it handles a lot during the winter. Melting snow seeps into cracks, freezes and melts again, ripping them open even more. This process can happen on a microscopic level and lead to big holes, which is why you should consider checking your roof to ensure you catch any potential problems before you have an emergency. 

5. Reinforce Your Fences

When it gets cold outside, animals will want to head towards your barn to escape from the weather. You'll need to reinforce your fences and repair any remaining holes so that your property is protected when you need it the most. A sound barrier also holds up well against rising snowbanks, which you may deal with if you live in a snowy climate.

Consider Your Current Winter Farming Plan

How you decide to prep your farm shouldn't interfere with your current plan. Take care of what you need to do and consider efforts like studying cold weather crops and reinforcing your fences to ensure your property is ready when winter comes. Instead of waiting inside for a chance to get back to what you love, you could spend this winter out on your land.

Weather Damage: Should You Repair and/or Replace?

weather-damage
Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

No matter where you live, the weather has the potential to cause damage to your home and property. When you use your land to grow crops or house livestock, you likely have more than one building to care for, which makes upkeep tedious and expensive. Before you grab your toolbox and head off to fix something, take a moment to determine whether or not you should repair or replace it. Doing so will save you time and money down the line.

When to Repair

Before all else, you'll want to assess the issue. If it's a smaller problem, like a couple of broken roof tiles, you'll likely be able to quickly repair it at a low cost. Most of the time, minor damage requires a minor fix. Remember that building materials are made to last, so there's no use replacing them unless you need to.

When it comes to cutting down on costs, repairs are generally more budget-friendly. A replacement can set you back significantly, especially when it's an unexpected expense. To prevent the need for a replacement, you might want to add a few preventative measures to your home.

You should also consider the overall design of your house before you decide to replace anything. The roof is one of the key architectural features of every home. If your roof becomes damaged, you'll need to think about what a replacement means. A new roof will change the look and feel of your property, so if that's important to you, opt for a repair instead. Doing so will allow you to maintain your house's appearance and structural integrity.

When to Replace

Sometimes, the damage is too much to repair. If your property has sustained significant destruction, a replacement may be the only solution, especially if the structure in question is older and in need of a remodel. If you have multiple buildings on your land and live in an area prone to heavy rain, wind or snow, you should set aside an emergency fund for replacements. Water damage alone can cost thousands of dollars, so it's best to have the money just in case.

A replacement is generally a big commitment, but that doesn't mean it's not necessary. If the repairs you want to make will stop the issue only for a small period of time, it's probably in your best interest to choose a replacement. Doing so can save you cash down the road, as you won't have to keep repairing the damage. A replacement is also a great solution if you need a new foundation or siding anyway. It might be helpful to look at the weather damage as an opportunity for a remodel if that's something you were already considering.

It Depends on the Situation

Again, it's necessary to determine the extent of the problem before you make a decision. Minor damage is likely reparable, while significant destruction tends to merit replacement. Consult a local contractor to see what the best option is for your situation and budget. Doing so will ensure that you make the right choice for your property.

5 Quick Tips to Prepare Your Landscaping for Spring

gardening-supplies 

While you may feel like Old Man Winter will never relinquish his grip, the robins will return before you know it. Now is the time for preparing your spring landscaping projects. Beautifying your home's exterior makes it more pleasant to return at the end of a long day, and it improves your property value significantly. 

What do you need to do to get ready for the coming season? While the earth renews itself after its long winter's nap, you can help it along the way. You can also create considerable curb appeal, even if you're not looking to sell. Here are some preparations you can make:

1. Perform a Thorough Cleanup 

Before you plant, you need to prepare your canvas like an artist. It's time to break out the rake and clear away the accumulated debris. Plus, leaves left lying under winter's blanket can cause snow rot disease, so quickly brush away any autumn strays. This process also aerates the soil, making it receptive to treatments. 

Then, you'll need to help any bald patches grow back by planting grass seed and using environmentally friendly weed killers to combat invasive growth. It's a wise idea to apply lawn food to give the soil and grass the nutrients it needs for a healthy growing season. 

flower-bed

2. Prepare Your Flower Beds 

If you want your landscaping to look professional, you'll need to get your gardens ready for planting. Believe it or not, there's more than one way to wield a hoe, so learn the most efficient technique for your needs. You can prevent the need for a weed killer later if you take care of those invasive pests manually before they grow out of control. 

Once you break up and aerate your soil, take a sample to your local center for a test. The associates can tell you what you need to add based on your unique profile. Apply organic fertilizer or compost from your home bin. Then, apply a coat of mulch to help preserve soil moisture. While you do so, inspect your landscaping drip lines. If you notice any broken parts or leaks, repair them to save on your water bill. 

3. Trim Back Overgrown Shrubbery 

Did you know neglecting your landscaping could put your family at risk? Thieves typically spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home, and they look for cover while they do so. If your shrubbery can conceal them as they crack open a window or door, you could face a burglary — or worse. 

Keep the plants closest to your home trimmed low enough to see over the top. Also, look skyward toward your treetops. Are large branches overhanging your roof? They could fall in a storm, causing considerable damage. If you don't have the necessary equipment to trim them yourself, hire a professional service to protect your home. 

4. Repair Decks and Patios 

It's a wise idea to inspect your decks and patios at least once per year for damage. Use a screwdriver to check for rot by probing around posts and foundation blocks. Any soft wood is suspect — call a contractor if you're unsure if you need repairs. You don't want a second-story structure to collapse when you have guests over for a barbecue. 

Also, test your railings by safely applying pressure. They should support your body weight, so repair any wobblers promptly. If you find cracked boards, you can replace them. Remain aware you may need to stain your deck afterward to make it a uniform color. 

5. Touch Up Your Paint 

When it comes to ROI, you can't do much better than paint to bolster curb appeal. Choosing the right color can raise your home's value by over $6,000. If you don't have the inclination — or budget — for a full exterior paint job, focus on your doors and shutters. Cracked, peeling shutters can result in a haunted house-like appearance. A smoky charcoal or black front door attracts buyers like a magnet — or merely creates an elegant exterior. 

Get Your Landscaping Ready for the Robin's Return with These Tips 

Your landscaping techniques can increase your home's value and bolster curb appeal. Celebrate the return of warm weather by planning your spring landscaping chores today. 

How to Reduce Your Homestead's Carbon Footprint

wind-farm 

Living off the land provides plenty of advantages for your finances and health, and it equally benefits the environment. Lowering your reliance on external entities lets you gain control over how you interact with the land. You may wonder how you can improve your current strategies and shrink your homestead's carbon footprint even more. Look no further — here's how to turn your environmental impact from decent to excellent.

1. Thrifted and Homemade Clothing

Buying new outfits is fun, but producing clothes requires numerous resources. Cotton is a water-intensive crop that can deplete residential water supplies, and synthetic fibers create carbon emissions due to coal-based production methods. As the "fast fashion" trend increases, more harmful gases enter the atmosphere.

You can save money and conserve natural resources by buying clothes from thrift stores and sewing. Look for clothes made from fibers like burlap and jute when you go shopping instead of choosing synthetic polyesters or acrylics.

2. Composting Food

Composting is a great way to improve waste management techniques. It's easy to create a compost pile if you don't already have one. The main components are organic matter — like food scraps and leaf litter — and water. Remember to include items like newspapers and cardboard to create an even balance of wet and dry goods. You can fertilize your lawn without synthetic products once your compost is in good shape.

3. Renewable Energy

Gradually divesting from the energy grid is the best way to switch to renewable power. You don't have to rewire your entire electrical system to embrace renewables like solar or wind. Make a steady transition by replacing electrical elements as they need upgrading or dividing components into phases. You could try out a solar-powered backup generator to see how it runs before installing an entire array.

Wind turbines function best on rural land with free airflow — consider this energy alternative if your property fits the bill. Hydropower requires a little more work to implement, but you can achieve it if your homestead sits near running water.

4. Homegrown Meals

If you own cows or chickens, you're already making good progress with sourcing local food. Although animal products contribute to the production of methane emissions, the footprint is considerably less prominent when the goods come straight from your backyard. You don't have to ship in eggs or milk from miles away, which slashes fuel pollution. There are also fewer chances for items to spoil during shipment, limiting waste.

Shop at farmers markets or join a community-supported agriculture group to buy directly from growers. They'll receive monetary support while you get to enjoy delicious and healthy foods.

5. Recycling and Reusing

Plastic, rubber and other inorganic materials surround you. Sometimes it's hard to avoid products containing them. That doesn't have to stop you from being eco-friendly, however. Recycling and reusing are the next best options for handling inorganic waste. Composting fits into this category, but you can also take garbage to local collection centers if it's unrecyclable.

Repurposing objects for daily use can be incredibly useful. Egg cartons transform into mini-planters or jewelry holders, while an empty gum container can hold everyday objects. You can even substitute an old shower curtain as a drop cloth for craft projects.

6. Rainwater Collection

Set out a barrel the next time it rains and collect the water for use around the home or garden. If you want a more intensive method, you can install a whole-home system for treating and using water. Doing this improves your management strategy and conserves local sources. 

Consider a few factors, such as roof pitch, tank size and water application, before implementing a system. What you use the water for determines how you'll need to treat it. Fitting your rain barrel with a mesh screen will reduce the amount of debris that enters, which means you'll spend less time filtering.

Take Simple Steps to Make Your Home Sustainable

Creating an ultra-sustainable homestead is easy with some creativity and skill. You'll learn efficient ways to complete chores and do business while prioritizing environmental preservation. Without a healthy planet, there can be no homesteads — everyone plays a part in protecting natural resources.

6 Healthy Energy Consumption Tips for Off-Grid Homes

light-bulb 

Off-grid homeowners relish their independence from traditional energy providers and high utility bills. Having freedom over your power usage lets you experiment with renewables and decide which ones work best. It's still advisable to be mindful of how much electricity you consume, though. If your rates run too high, you could run out of energy and end up in the dark.

You may have battery storage and backup generators at the ready, but there are more options for managing your energy consumption. That way, you can enjoy your off-grid lifestyle without worrying about losing power.

1. Do Chores the Old-Fashioned Way

Reduce your electricity consumption through tried-and-true methods. Handwash your clothes and air-dry them instead of using laundry machines. Give the dishwasher a rest and clean the dishes in the sink a few nights a week. Whip up homecooked meals on the stove instead of using the microwave for instant foods. If you spill crumbs on the floor, pull out your dustpan and broom rather than running the vacuum.

You don't have to do these things every time you have household tasks, but a few times a month could make a significant difference in how much electricity you use.

2. Try Efficient Lighting Solutions

LED lights are miles beyond incandescents when it comes to lighting abilities and lifespans. Replacing your current bulbs will decrease the amount of lost heat and illuminate your space more efficiently. Some farmers even use these lightbulbs to help them grow crops, which can improve growth rates for your garden. You could produce plants all year long instead of waiting out the winter months.

You'll spend less money on buying replacements for blown-out lights, and you can control the brightness with preprogrammed dimming capabilities. It's a win for aesthetics, the environment and your wallet.

3. Utilize Natural Heating

Opening the windows and letting the sun in is the easiest way to warm up a room. Check the windows and doors for drafts and plug any gaps. Proper insulation is also key to keeping a comfortable home. Fixing these problem areas enables you to make the most of natural heating solutions.

If you have a fireplace, use it instead of the HVAC. Always close the flue when it isn't in use — this prevents air from escaping. This vent is much like a window or door. It brings cold air in and lets hot air out, which makes your HVAC unit work harder and consume more power.

4. Install a Solar Water Heater

A solar water heater allows you to wash clothes, take showers and cook meals with much less power consumption. They generate electricity through sunlight, which they use to heat water and transport it throughout your house. These units can be expensive to install, but the added efficiency is worth the cost. Using a sun-powered heater can cause on-grid users' energy bills to fall by 50% to 80%. You can assume the gains for off-grid homeowners are equally attractive.

5. Unplug Unused Devices

You may have a habit of leaving things plugged in when you're not using them. You're not alone — millions do it every day. Though you may not think about it, these appliances still use electricity when they're off. This phantom energy contributes to your overall power usage and depletes your battery stores faster.

Turn off lights and appliances when you leave the room, and remember to unplug them. Setting a timer lets you do so without having to remember it each night.

6. Buy DC Converters and Appliances

DC appliances don't need to use inverters, meaning they use less energy than AC ones. Inverters produce AC power continuously and use a lot of watts to do so, which increases your electricity consumption. Each inversion results in a small energy loss, adding up to major inefficiencies. By using DC-powered devices, you'll require fewer watts and receive a fuller breadth of electricity.

Revamp How You Use Power

Consuming less power is great for the environment — and clean energy is even better. You'll do yourself and the planet a favor by managing your electricity usage. Off-grid living can be a breeze with the right tools and knowledge.

5 Best Winter Wine Pairings

wine and food

When the weather outside is frightful, the only thing more delightful than a crackling fire is a hearty meal replete with perfectly paired wine. What wines work best this time of year? What dishes do they complement perfectly? 

If you're throwing a dinner party or preparing an intimate evening for you and your special someone, keep the following tips in mind. Your pairings will make you forget the howling wind outside. 

What Makes Winter Wine Pairings Different?

You might think that the only wines to serve during the winter are hearty reds. While it's true that many dishes, like roasts and stews, pair nicely with a beefier brew, you can enjoy white wine during this season, too. For example, Verdelho, a full-bodied, dry white, pairs perfectly with Chinese delivery or Asian-fusion dishes

However, wines with thicker and heavier textures pair perfectly with winter meals. In general, people gravitate toward wines you can serve at room temperature during this time of year. Some mulled and spiced wines taste best when heated, but Riesling or Moscato won't stand up to the test. You need a dark, dry red to manage the additional ingredients. 

Suggested Pairings for Wintertime Meals 

What can you whip up with winter wine pairings? Check out these meal combinations that are suited for a variety of dietary restrictions. 

Keto — Easy Sausage and Cabbage Soup with Merlot 

If you subscribe to this high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal plan, you might think alcohol is off the menu. While it's true that all drinks do contain sugar, you can enjoy a glass or two of vino on occasion. You need to exercise self-control and limit it to the occasional indulgence instead of a daily drink. Cabbage comes into season late, meaning yours will remain packed with vitamins and minerals. This recipe is the perfect comfort food to pair with wine on a frigid day. 

Vegan — Easy Thai Noodles with Albarino 

Who says winter needs to mean consuming meat? It doesn't matter if you're celebrating Meatless Monday or adhering to a cruelty-free lifestyle for environmental reasons. You can enjoy this hearty Asian dish to warm up on a cold day. Albarino is a heavier-bodied white that holds up to the spice in Thai foods. It's also not a well-known varietal, which makes you look trés sophisticated when you break it out at dinner parties. 

Gluten-Free — Harissa Chicken Traybake With Pinot Noir 

Anything baked in the oven is ideal for a cold winter's day. You can even leave the door open after retrieving your food and heat your house a bit, too. If you're avoiding gluten due to celiac disease or an intolerance, you can chow down on this dish without any worry. Pinot noir is perfect for enhancing the flavors of poultry and mushroom dishes. 

Nut-Free — Shepherd's Pie With Cabernet Savignon 

What says comfort more than shepherd's pie? You won't find any peanuts or other allergen-including legumes in this dish, but you will find tons of flavor. You don't have to top your meal with cheese — but since cabernet pairs well with both beef and cheddar, why not? 

Vegetarian — Fettucine Alfredo With Pinot Blanc 

You don't have to kill a cow to get cheese — which is lovely if you're a vegetarian. This meal will genuinely stick to your ribs after you spend hours shoveling your sidewalk. Pinot blanc is another often-overlooked white with the perfect degree of bite to stand up to such a filling dish. 

Celebrate Old Man Winter with These Fabulous Wine Pairings 

You can pair more than reds with meals in the winter. However, that doesn't mean they don't also taste fabulous. If you're unsure of what to eat and drink to warm your belly and soul, try one of the above pairings. 

Homestead Improvements: Where to Spend Your Money

farm-construction 

Are you thinking of tackling a bit of home improvement? Depending on the climate where you live, it could be the perfect time of year. What improvements give you the biggest bang for your renovation buck? 

When it comes to valuing improvements, two factors come into play. One consideration is how different upgrades improve your resale value. The other condition to explore is how much energy you can save. Tackle the following projects for maximum impact. 

1. Seal Your Windows 

When you sit by your picture window in winter, do you catch a chill? If so, it's time to caulk up your windows or look into replacing them. If you live in an older home, you may need to buy new. However, many small cracks fill in a snap with the use of caulk. To apply, cut off old caulk, and clean the area thoroughly. Tape off any areas you don't want to splatter, like your glass. 

2. Inspect and Repair Your Roof 

Twice per year, you do well to inspect your roof for any damage. While you do so, take time to seal any cracked mortar around the joints of your roof. Unrepaired leaks can lead to mold and drywall damage. Over time, water damage can severely compromise the structural integrity of your abode. 

3. Renovate Your Garage With Storage 

When you ask many homebuyers what features they appreciate, additional garage storage invariably makes the list. Many buyers have multiple toys and tools they hope to secure within. Plus, insulating your garage and upgrading your door can improve your home's energy efficiency and save you money on heating and cooling. If you live in a cold climate, it also keeps the winter weather from damaging your vehicle. 

4. Upgrade Your Appliances 

Since 1992, engineers follow Energy Star guidelines for constructing appliances to use fewer resources. If you're still using a dishwasher built during the 1980s, you're throwing away money on utility bills. Upgrading these devices beautifies your home while saving you money. You can also look for features like ice makers on refrigerators that many buyers find desirable. 

5. Paint 

A fresh coat of paint can make an old home appear new again. Plus, you can complete many painting projects in a single weekend. If you plan to paint your home's exterior, check the weather forecast. Overly cold conditions can cause clumps, while hot, sticky weather can result in runs. 

6. Spruce Up Your Landscaping 

Your landscaping serves as a welcome mat of sorts. If your trees and bushes are overgrown, your homestead will look shabby. Take the time to remove any branches overgrowing your rooftop — if they drop, they can cause significant damage. Keep bushes cut below the level of windows. Thieves look for cover when they try to break in. 

7. Redo Your Floors for the Long Haul 

If you're tired of cleaning your carpets, why not invest in a longer lasting and less labor-intensive flooring material? If you have pets, the dander sticks in the nap, causing an odor. Bacteria can accumulate, especially if you wear shoes in the house. Why not consider a quality tile or hardwood surface instead? A hardwood floor can last for generations and only needs refinishing when there is significant damage like warping. 

Spend Your Money Wisely on These Homestead Improvements 

If you want to get more bang for your buck, spend wisely on these improvements. You'll improve your home's value and your comfort level! 







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