Homesteading: Preparing for Winter

When maintaining a self sufficient farm, preparing for the winter season can be quite the challenge. Since most crops are not productive during the winter, it is important to prepare and store summer and fall crops for winter consumption. It is also vital to ensure that all animals have food for the winter, rather than paying high prices for feed from farm stores during the colder months.

Factory Tanks
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Storing Grains
It is important to ensure all grains are harvested, dried, processed, and stored in a timely manner. Leaving grain in the field for too long could result in a loss due to wildlife; it could also result in molded grain should the dried grain take on moisture from rain. Adhering to a strict harvesting schedule will give a farmer maximum yields while securing the grain well before winter starts. Dry bulk storage tanks are the best method of storage for farms that produce a lot of grain.

Harvesting Hay and Wood
Hay and wood is a necessity during the winter, especially for feeding livestock and heating the home. Since many homesteads utilize fireplaces as a source of heat, sufficient wood should be harvested before winter storms arrive. Hay should be continuously harvested from the year’s resting fields and stored within a sealed barn. Both hay and firewood can become extremely expensive during the winter, especially if droughts led to a hay shortage during the previous summer.

Preparing Fields
For the health of the field, winter cover crops should be planted. These crops secure the soil during the winter, preventing erosion. They also help to replace nutrients that summer and fall crops have pulled from the soil. If fields are not rotated and tended to carefully, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain healthy crops as the years go by.

Canning Fruits and Vegetables
During the summer and fall, fruits and vegetables will quickly overrun the farm. Farmers will have potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers coming out of their ears. Instead of allowing the produce to go bad, it is canned or blanched and frozen for use during the winter. Canned foods can last for years, meaning that leftovers from last year can be used for the next; this is wonderful when the year’s crops were poor.

Winter is quite the test for new farmers. Preparing for the first winter can be quite hard, especially if the new homestead owner isn’t experienced with proper food storage. Having a fully stocked farm before winter hits will significantly reduce grocery, feed, and heating bills.

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