The garden is getting ready to hibernate for the winter. We harvested the last of the squashes and two handsome pumpkins that surprised us as volunteers this year. We also picked the remainder of our shelling beans that were left to dry on the vine.
The chickens are going through a seasonal change and have decreased egg production. The six meat birds that we still have will go into the freezer soon and we welcomed a new flock of egg layers to the homestead. Come spring they should be ready to lay, which will allow us to harvest six more for the freezer and gradually replace our entire flock with younger-more productive layers. I am a bit sad since I got somewhat attached to our first flock. Chicoletta, my favorite hen, will remain with us until old age–she is more of a dog really! The rest our birds are very well cared for and highly respected but they are viewed as a food source and not pets.
I winterized the chicken coop by cleaning it out thoroughly and added two bales of straw for the “deep litter” method. This is the first year we will try this method. It is appealing because it is very hands off (although we should add a bit more hay once in a while), it keeps the girls warm during winter and in the spring, their bedding will be wonderful organic compost that is almost ready to go into the garden. I say almost because it still needs to “cook” to kill all the bugs. We will let it sit in a pile and spread it during the fall, so it will add all the nutrients to the soil but there will be enough time for any potential pathogens die.
We also found a purpose for our old coop–hay storage. It is super secure, so no critters can play house in it and it has so much ventilation that it should remain fungus and mold free, we hope!
One big project we hope to accomplish in 2015 is fencing the front yard. We hope to accomplish this in a few weeks, which will allow the chicken ladies the ability to “free range” in our garden, and help us clean up the yard and get it ready for its winter slumber.
We have had a busy summer cooking, canning and fermenting. The pantry is stocked and so is the freezer. With exception for an occasional mushroom hunting trip here and there, our food preservation season is over. It has been a good year for us. The garden was very generous and our CSA and the farmstead were plentiful.
Paul and I decided to challenge ourselves and eat only what we preserved. Starting October, our shopping trips will be limited to buying milk, broccoli and apples–staples our children can not live without. Paul and I will shop from our pantry. We already opened a can of beans to make my version of huevos rancheros–yum!
It will be a neat challenge for a few reasons. First, we can see if we preserved enough. It will be interesting to know when we will get low on our supply. Secondly, It will help us to prepare better for next year. I am a bit terrified that we will be eating a lot of canned zucchini salad. So being creative with meal planning will be the key. Last but not least, it will allow us to experience “self reliant” living a bit more.
A few other changes/goals we hope to accomplish during the winter season is to use our wood stove more for heating, to hand make most if not all of our Christmas gifts and learn a few more skills/crafts. Paul has been intrigued by leather working–shoe making specifically. I am a bit curious also, I have a pattern for super cute knitted/leather slippers that I am itching to make for the kids, if all goes well, I hope to make them as part of their Christmas gifts.
I personally love the fall and winter. All the holidays to come are my favorite–all the soups to be made, pumpkins to be carved, pumpkin pies to be made, Christmas tree to be decorated and of course, a time to reflect on the past season and plan for the next. Things tend to slow down a bit during the colder months and we hope to take advantage of that and truly enjoy spending quality time as a whole family, doing crafts and playing games in front of a nice fire while sipping on hot chocolate.
Happy Fall Everyone! Thanks for reading!! Visit us on our Facebook page!!