Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Preview

Well we've had a taste of winter with cold winds and temperatures that flirted into the minus double digits a couple of times last week. We got a little snow, maybe an inch down in the valley and 3 inches up on the mountain but now that the weather has warmed up again it's all melting. The cold weather was a good reminder that soon all the animals will be inside for a good part of their time and so we have to make sure that their homes are dry and secure. There are also the practical aspects of keeping animals over the winter, such as:

1. Do I have enough hay and grain stored for a long winter?
2. Do I have enough bedding, either straw or shavings?
3. Can I keep the water troughs ice free?
4. If I'm lambing in a blizzard in the night, do I have light and heat available for new lambs?

There are always other things that crop up too like protecting against predators during the hungry season. We've already noticed that the foxes are very interested in our hens. There are lots of tracks in the snow around the greenhouse and a small rat hole through the plastic so that will bear watching and I think that getting a small electric fence hooked up round the perimeter may not be a bad idea. We may consider moving them all over to the property at some point and putting them into the barn.

With the snow come the beginning of one of my favourite times of year, seed catalogue season.  :)  There's nothing like sitting snuggled up in a cozy house while the wind and the snow blow outside, dreaming of warmer days and the Spring flowers to come. We're less than 3 weeks away from the Winter Solstice so nearly at the hump. Soon the days will begin to lengthen and gardeners everywhere will be buying potting soil and coaxing tomatoes out of the soil and into the light.

Do you ever think about the soil under your shovel? Or under the city. What is now highway, building lot and urban sprawl was once productive farmland. In many many areas of our planet we're eroding, covering over, poisoning and neglecting the very thing that sustains our lives on this planet. Soils purify water, grow our food and allow us to raise livestock. Shouldn't we take better care of it? In North America school children learn about the great dust bowl of the 1930's when so much topsoil simply blew away with the relentless wind and the lack of rain. Farms failed, famine was rampant and coupled with the economy many families lost pretty much everything they had in the Great Depression. You'd think that since it's less than 100 years ago we'd pay better attention to such things, but instead farmers who want to build up their soil naturally are oftern ridiculed and told to 'Get with the program" by the big business end of farming. Why rotate crops, use natural fertilizers like rock powders and manure when you can spray on chemicals that are easier? Why don't we want to do that? Because it's not good for the soil in the long run. I want my farm to become more productive over the years, and more fertile. Not less. I want to leave my grandchildren with the best soil in Nova Scotia. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants and animals which leads to less disease, naturally.

If you're interested in taking a few minutes to learn about soil, here's a short documentary you may like. Available in several languages, I'll include the English link. It's just over 5 minutes long.

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