People think that this time of year is “quiet time” on the farm. It’s true to some extent. There’s no garden to tend, no produce to can, no butchering or birthing going on. The bees are resting and, usually, the weather is nasty so we’re stuck inside. But on a farm there’s always something to do. Late winter is when you get started on spring chores.
January is a big planning month. The seed catalogs come in, so you start thinking about the garden. If you plan on ordering bees, this is the time to contact the apiary…they sell out early and you don’t want to miss your chance. Do you need to increase your chicken flock? Are you adding some new projects? I always have a couple of things in the works. This is the time to be thinking about all of that.
February is when you start acting on January’s plans. The garden is planned out? Get those seeds started so that they’ll be ready to transplant after the first frost. Did you order bees? They’ll be delivered sometime in April, and they’ll need a hive to live in. And if you have bees already, you’ll be wanting to add some boxes for them to fill with spring honey. Are you adding livestock, expanding a pasture, building a shed? Whatever project you have going, there’s always some prep work to do.
March is when the babies start being born…I don’t have sheep or goats, but lambs and kids usually start in February, calves and foals in March. I try to not let the hens set till late March so that the chicks are born in April…and if I order chicks, I try not to have them delivered till May because they need to be kept very warm for the first few weeks. March is also when you direct-sow your cold-weather crops…radishes, spinach, lettuce, kale, peas, potatoes, etc. You want to do that as soon as you can get into the garden; these plants can handle some cold.
In April you can direct-sow the more tender crops. They’ll germinate in a week or two, so don’t get in too big of a hurry. You don’t want them nipped by frost. It really is better to wait an extra week or two. My garden is in a slightly soggy part of the property, and our soil is heavy clay, so we can’t get in to work it till it dries up some anyway. But there’s a lot more than the garden to think about. April is when things really start to get moving. There are fences to mend and barns full of manure to clean, and lots of general tidying up to do. All winter, when the weather is nasty, we stay inside and pretend that all those outdoor chores aren’t really piling up. But pile up they did, and now they need to be dealt with.
I want to build a cold frame this year, next to the house, to get a head start on the growing season. I haven’t been in the beehives (you don’t open them up when it’s cold out) so I don’t know what my winter losses are, but I’d like to add another three or four hives to the apiary. I want to add some ornamentals to the garden, such as Indian corn and birdhouse gourds, maybe some broom grass. I’d also like to set up a tank to raise some kind of fish…tilapia probably. I’ve been thinking about these things since the whirlwind of Christmas ended. And now it’s February…time to put some plans into action. And even before I start on the projects I’ve been thinking about since Christmas, next year’s projects are already being formed. There really is no end to it. There’s always something to do on a farm.