Winterizing the Farm and Garden
At Hillside there are many tasks that need to be done to get ready for winter and the cold weather that comes with the season. In October and November we move all the animals in closer to the barn, out of the pasture, and start to provide hay as their main diet. Hillside had 1,200 bales of hay delivered to feed the livestock through winter.
On blustery cold days like those we have been experiencing the last couple of weeks, the animals are fed a bit extra in order to keep their internal furnaces burning. Simple science: the colder the temperature, the more fuel you need to keep your body at homeostasis; that’s why people crave big hearty soups all winter. Larger livestock such as our cows, horses, donkeys, alpacas, Murphy the llama, sheep, goats, and pigs receive a few extra flakes of hay to munch on; our chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks and geese are all given a treat of cracked corn. Older animals like Heidi the “Momma Goat,” get special winter coats as extra protection to keep the wind off. Another reason to move the animals into the barn is that as the temperatures dip below 32 degrees, the water buckets freeze. In order to make sure that the animals don’t become dehydrated, Hillside has invested in heated water buckets and stock tank heaters to ensure a constant supply of warm water for the livestock and poultry.
The best way to be prepared for winter in New England is to choose wisely the breeds of animals that you keep. Our Belted Galloway cows are a prime example of a winter hardy animal, they stay fat on hay alone for feed and they have thick long coats to keep the cold at bay. They will often be seen with piles of snow on their backs during a snowstorm, because their fur insulates them so well that their body heat doesn’t escape enough to melt it. In fact, the cows prefer to be outside at all times.
The garden was put to sleep back in November, but the greenhouse keeps warm all winter long. The Tilapia in the aquaponics set-up have enjoyed the heat of the greenhouse until the end of December, when thankfully I moved them into the barn classroom in case we had any power outages, as we experienced this week. The greenhouse isn’t empty though, as planting for next year's garden starts in just a few weeks.
Next year I hope to keep a few poly-tunnels up in the garden on the raised beds with winter hardy vegetables such as carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, and swiss chard growing, for harvesting throughout the winter and early spring.
-Jennifer Mitton, Farm Manager