Up here in Michigan we had beautiful fall weather for about two weeks and then mother nature smirked and drop-kicked us right into winter, which became fully apparent when I found myself driving home last week. In snow.
So by “prepping for winter” what I really mean is, “shit I actually should have done before it started snowing, but will now have to do in sub-freezing weather.” Which, if we’re being honest, is basically par for the course around here. Winter prep is a little depressing and I hate doing it before I actually have to. And now I actually have to, so here’s what’s on the list:
I didn’t plant any new trees this year, and of my 8 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 3 peach trees, and 2 cherry trees, I continue to get an awesome peach harvest…
And then only a handful of apples, a couple of pears, and one lonely cherry this year.
I’m not sure if my soil is better suited to peaches, or if peach trees just produce more fruit as young trees, but these have done so well that I’m considering adding another row of them to the orchard next year. I’m hoping the apples, pears, and cherries catch up as they become more established.
The nice thing about winter prep in the orchard is that the fruit trees don’t require much in fall. I did spray the peach trees with a copper fungicide last week to combat peach-leaf curl. I had this issue two years ago, and then it was much better this last summer with regular applications of my general fruit-tree spray, but it’s also recommended that you use a copper fungicide in fall (when 80% of the leaves have fallen, so I was probably a little later than preferred) and then again in spring when the buds are full.
I’ll also double-check the stakes for all of the cages surrounding the trees in the next couple of weeks, as I’ve had a few blow over in the wind in previous years. Other than that, the orchard is all set for the winter.
Grape harvest this year was also small…
That’s about it. Just a few grapes from my Concord vines that are doing better than any of the others (which isn’t surprising as they thrive in this region.)
This was only year 2 for the grapes though, and it takes a couple of years to get them established. I’m hoping for more fruit in years 3 and 4.
Like the fruit trees, the vines themselves don’t need much in fall, but I’ve got a little more work to do on the trellis system to tighten and secure the wires before winter.
Oh, the garden. My mom and I spend so much time planting, prepping, and weeding the garden in spring and I certainly love having fresh produce right in my back yard all summer…
My tomatoes did well this year (not well enough to save and can any, but enough that I had fresh tomatoes any time I wanted them) and I made good use of all of my zucchini…
There was also a really fun weekend in late summer when my mom and I harvested some corn and grilled it with burgers for lunch…
On one hand, all that spring work is worth it for those little moments of joy that come from just walking out to the garden and picking something to eat. On the other hand, my mom and I both agree that we kind of burn-out in spring and by summer (and harvest-time) we’re not supper motivated to utilize the harvest to it’s fullest extent.
I mean, we had one good weekend of corn, but the rest I didn’t pick until too late. Almost all of my cucumbers, cabbage, and green peppers were over-ripe before I picked them. The green beans grew like crazy this year, but not until late in the season and I think I only ate a handful of them.
To be fair, I’m pretty good at picking tomatoes, basil, and chives for breakfast sandwiches regularly throughout the summer…
And I made a concerted effort to chop and freeze my onion harvest this year…
Also, because my garlic often sprouts before I use it, I tried a couple of new ways to preserve it, including freezing chopped garlic in oil…
And “pickled garlic”…
I haven’t used any of them yet (because I’ve still got a dozen or so fresh heads to use up first) but I’ve done better this year at preserving some of my harvest than in previous years.
As far as getting ready for winter in the garden, most of the work that needs to be done is cleaning up the beds, but I also planted garlic for next year…
And, of course, this year I had the mess left by The Great Greenhouse Disaster of 2017…
I did finish up the foundation, but I’m still working on fixing up all of the panels so that I can put the thing back together. I’m not sure if I’ll get it rebuild this winter, but it’s optimistically on my list (along with fixing the sections of fence that were crushed when the greenhouse rolled over them.)
While most of the work for the other parts of the farm come in spring, when it comes to the donkeys, chickens, and bees, a lot of the work needs to be done around this time of year.
For the donkeys, there’s hay to stock up on…
I’m super grateful to my mom, who came with me this year (and also suggested we spike some hot cider with rum before unloading the truck) and also to my neighbors who helped with the hauling and stacking of hay bales in the barn. I’m lucking to have people around me who help make the work easier.
I also spent a few hours cleaning out the barn, spreading new straw throughout, and getting all of the heater waterers set up for winter.
Just for reference (and because my mom reminded me of it over the weekend) this is what the barn used to look like back in 2013, the week before the donkeys came to live on the farm…
I’ve got a few more barn-chores on my list this winter, like building a storage box for “open” hay bales (which the chickens like to spread around and create a mess) and making a secondary chicken waterer for inside the coop using “poultry water nipples” (swear to god I’m not making that up, it’s a real thing.)
But for now the most important thing is that I’ve got 50 bales of hay tucked away in the barn, which means the animals will be fed through spring.
In summer I spend as much time as possible outside, which means all of my indoor projects go on hold around March. Then the darkness sets in, I find myself indoors more often, and all of the sudden all of those house-projects I’ve been neglecting for the last few months (or years) are RIGHT IN MY FACE.
Which is good, because five years of living in a house with only plywood subfloor in half the rooms is enough.
As soon as I’m done with winter-prep it’ll be back to the kitchen. (This is where I was at in spring. Still looks like that, but with more dirty dishes all over the place.) I still need to:
- Install the range hood and venting system
- Finish the cabinet trim
- Tile the backsplash
- Caulk and finish painting all the wood paneling
- Build a window seat
- Finish the doorway trim
- Install new lights
- Tile the floor
Also, I’m planning to re-side the back of the house in spring and replace a number of the mismatched kitchen windows, so that’s on the list as well.
Vying for second place on the priority list are the upstairs bath–which literally just needs to have the floor leveled and tiled and the new toilet (that I’ve owned for 4 years) installed– and building/installing the laundry room pantry.
I’ve also had the crazy idea about diving my mudroom (which is huge) into a smaller vestibule and a storage area, but that’s a project I won’t be starting until the kitchen, laundry room, and upstairs bath are done. Probably.
The one thing I can say is that after almost six years, I’m at the point where I want things done more than I want to start new projects, which might be the first time that’s happened to me ever. So. We’ll see how that plays out this winter.
Wish me luck.