Winter is a trying time for homesteaders and farmers, especially those who are new to the lifestyle. Not only do the severe weather and cold temperatures prevent you from planting and harvesting crops, but wintery conditions could damage your home or property.
Despite the pitfalls of the off-season, motivated and proactive farmers can still keep themselves busy. It might take a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, but there are ways to maintain productivity — and even increase it — during the winter.
Urban Farming & Gardening
Indoor farms and gardens are quickly gaining in popularity due to their low cost, compact nature, accessibility and aesthetic appeal. Considering that homeowners have been growing houseplants and even limited crops indoors for years, it only makes sense that this trend would catch on amongst homesteaders.
Growing crops indoors is also a viable option for those who have limited property to work with. Would-be farmers and homesteaders trapped within the confines of city life can try their hand at the trade before making a commitment and relocating into the countryside. And those who simply can't afford to move their families are still able to enjoy the hobby of gardening.
Taking Care of Your Livestock
Most of us bring our cats and dogs indoors when winter weather becomes too harsh. Unfortunately, this isn't a viable option when your farm includes pigs, cows, horses and other livestock. While you certainly can't bring them inside, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure they're comfortable during this time.
Start by inspecting the indoor livestock facilities you do have. Barns and other structures should be equipped with heating and proper ventilation as well as the correct feeding equipment to maintain the health of your animals during the winter. You can also take advantage of breaks in the weather to perform any necessary upgrades or large repairs to these structures.
Investing in Modern Equipment and Technology
The winter is a great time for capitalizing on the hard work put in during the spring, summer and fall. By investing in modern equipment and technology, you can ensure your readiness once the weather clears.
It's important to know exactly what you're looking for when you're perusing the market of modern equipment. Thankfully, the additional amount of time you spend indoors when it's cold can be put to good use by researching your equipment options, contacting local dealerships, and furthering your knowledge of technology in general.
Heavy-duty backhoes and excavators will get the job done, but their added size and expense might not be necessary when a smaller vehicle will do just fine. A skid steer loader, for example, is less expensive but also has multiple applications. Not only will it save some of your hard-earned dollars, but its versatility makes it a real workhorse all around the farm or homestead.
Performing Maintenance on Your Equipment
Many farmers take advantage of the winter to clean and maintain their fleet of farm implements. Some even take the time to design and build a full-scale workshop on their property, but old pole barns, sheds and garages can be used just as effectively. In either case, this ensures your equipment is ready to go as soon as the snow melts.
There are some key areas to inspect when maintaining your farm equipment. Changing the oil and any other fluids is essential to the long-term health of the vehicle's engine, which should also be examined closely for any excess wear or damage. Taking care of these responsibilities during the winter could potentially eliminate downtime during the prime farming season.
Planning Logistics for the Upcoming Season
Winter is also great for planning the logistics of your upcoming season. Livestock farmers in Australia, for example, have access to a number of IT tools that help them optimize shipments, determine delivery routes and even locate cattle. All of these strategies are meant to improve the overall healthiness and efficiency of the beef industry as a whole.
You can also take this time to layout schedules and timelines for the planting and harvesting of crops. Taking care of details like this during the off-season works wonders when trying to maintain your productivity year-round.
Following Mother Nature's Lead
Just like generations past, it's important that modern farmers and homesteaders heed the suggestions and warnings of Mother Nature. What seems like dull, idle downtime can actually be turned into a worthwhile and productive opportunity for future growth.