The End of July and Thinking of Winter

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Photo by Unsplash/Amelia Bartlett

It’s the end of July, which for me, means thinking about winter and everything I need to do to prepare for those days of semi-frozen mud, wind chill, and not being able to put on enough layers to stay warm for more than two minutes outside. And that’s assuming we get a proper winter – it’s been hit or miss on the “winteriness” of Ohio winters for several years. Granted, I don’t fancy slogging through knee-deep snow to get to my beasties, but I do appreciate the extended freezes that kill many of the insects that would plague man and beast during the next summer.

I’m pretty sure that every farmer, whether growing a crop or raising animals, has a list of Things To Get Done Before Winter. Not going to lie, my list is always longer than the time I have to complete it. I tend to overestimate my abilities/strength/motivation to complete projects and underestimate the time needed. A farmer friend gave me some distressingly true advice – take the time you think you will need to complete a project, add 1 to the number and the next period-of-time word. So a project I think will take 2 hours, schedule 3 days. 3 days? Make that 4 weeks! I’m telling you, it’s been accurate more often than not, in my experience!!

Several projects in sight in this picture! Clean out the old hay and fix the hay feeders are two of them. Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

Off the top of my head, here is my unofficial list of Things To Get Done Before Winter: clean the old bedding from the barn. Set a new fence to keep the animals out of the creek (and give them a new pasture on the not-creek side of that fence). Collect all of the sheep panels and corral panels that have been used for temporary pastures. Install a gate across the old horse feeding area in the barn so the sheep can’t get in there. Pull off the cattle panels from the hay feeding area and reattach them with chains (I made the mistake of using the U-shaped nails, then realized I wouldn’t be able to open them up to clean out the old hay…sheesh…). High mow all the areas around the buildings and the fruit trees. Get my pottery studio up and running. Put the garden to bed, finish the new hugelkultur area in the perennial garden. Haul an astounding amount of brush to the brush pile. Reassemble an old snap-together plastic shed for a sheep shelter. Set a really long fence to separate a hay pasture from our “back to nature” ground. Send any remaining fleeces off to the fiber mill. Finish graveling a walking path. And that’s just the outside projects I can think of!

We have the materials on hand for fence installation, but then it got hot and humid. Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

Looking at that list, many of those projects can be done solo, and, even using the above-mentioned time adjustment, can be completed in relatively short order. The “big deal” projects can be scheduled so there is help available. My next task (very difficult sometimes!) is to stay focused on each project long enough to finish, which means pacing myself, taking the breaks I need, and staying hydrated. There’s always a large element of self-care necessary in farm projects – taking longer to finish a project safely is better than pushing too hard and not being able to finish that last little bit. I’m confident (overconfident?) that I can get these done before the end of November if I don’t try to do them all at once! The weather is always a factor, too – if this hot and sticky weather keeps up, I’m stuck with only being able to get a couple hours of work done in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Breathing gets difficult from about 10:00am – 5:00pm when it’s hot, sunny, and humid. But there is plenty to do inside as well, so there’s that.

 These little trees don’t need to be in my yard – time to mow! Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

What’s on your Things To Get Done Before Winter list? Any projects that just “gotta get done” before the weather changes?