Although it happens every year, for us, the onset of winter is always fast and unforeseen. The cold snaps usually catch us behind on cleaning up the fields, finishing up the last of the building projects, and winterizing equipment – which includes fitting 300-lb chains on the back wheels of the tractor, toting in the washing machine we use to spin our greens, disconnecting the pump from the water rig, getting the heater into the pump room, and tuning up our 7-foot snow blower.(The equipment world, as you can see, does not run on metric.)

The building projects were spare this year, though nonetheless currently at a standstill – we’re waiting for warmer weather before we scrape the topsoil off the rock we’re building our smokehouse on. And the fields! We had a chance to remove all the plastic mulch (we’re abandoning it for good next year), till open patches, wind up the drip tape, and get the big silage tarps set up on the spots we’ve chosen for our first spring vegetables. (The tarps will keep those areas just dry enough for us to be able to plant in April, when we’re fighting the wet, cold spring.)

 

But only Melissa did or will do most of those things. John has done what most other small-scale organic farmers do, and got himself a job off the farm: there are organic farmers who are paramedics, chefs, and roofers. There are those who make just enough during the summer to be able to spend the entire winter on the farm, and go through December, January, and February the old-fashioned way: as a lean time, a long time, and cold time. Winter costs money. Animals needs to be kept warm, sheltered, fed, and watered, but its cold, so meat production slows down and the pile of eggs begins to shrink. Potatoes, squash, carrots, onions, cabbages, parsnips, turnips, and beets are in supply, but there are only so many to sell and so many to eat.

 

But there’s a bright side. Because there’s also sausages, ham, bacon, beef, chicken, preserves, pickles, and tomato sauce – all the things put by on a day or two here and there amid the hectic days of summer. Winter is also for planning: on how to make your farm grow, on how to be able to dispense with the job someday. We’ve definitely got plans for improvement and expansion; right now, we’re concentrating on laying out an efficient, productive, well-timed farm that can be run by two and a half people. We’ve got plans, too, for the back thirty, the bakery, and the barn. We just have to get through a few more winters to get there.