So, What Do You Do In The Winter?

winterSo, what do you do in the winter?

Ahhh, I love this question and all the dreams it conjures. Beaches, good books, cooking, movies, time with loved ones or even just catching up!

The reality is, it never stops.  After the first frost in October, we start cleaning up the flower beds, spreading compost, mulching. The perennials are cut back, some are divided and potted up. I’ve added some new flowering shrubs and 60 new peony plants. This is a good time to review what worked, what didn’t, and why, so it can be corrected.

November brings more clean up, new beds, more mulch and compost, repairs and tucking all our tools and equipment in. Plans for winter projects are finalized.  We winterize our irrigation systems, pull plastic and get plants and critters ready for winter.  The barn and greenhouse get winterized, we get water heaters out, clean pens and bed down ducks, chickens, rabbits and the old wild cat. The perennials I started in the summer need to be tucked in.  We start on winter projects as time permits. This year’s projects are new fence and clearing trees that are old, crowded, blocking too much light, or harboring insects. I would like to add a new hoop house. When the weather gets nasty, the house gets much needed attention.  Beds are planned and plotted, seed lists made. Pat is busy with firewood.

December is busy, as it is for everyone with holidays. I get our books up to date for tax season. This is the month to get started on winter projects. One of this month’s projects was taking down the old deer fence to make way for the new.  The posts will still have to be pulled out. We also started dropping trees around the back flower beds. This is an enormous, long over due project that will continue all winter. Seeds are ordered from various companies. I get the racks, lights, flats, trays and soil ready. The short days get to me, but the solstice comes this month! I get some housework done on the bad days. Pat is always busy with firewood & repairs.

In January the days are finally getting longer! Plugs are ordered. I begin to start seedlings including lisianthus, cutting pansies and several winter sown perennials. Tree removal continues. Critters always take a bit more time and care when the weather is cold. The attic gets cleaned out to prepare for next year’s dried flowers. Taxes are prepared. I would like to do some house repairs, but I haven’t found the time yet. I do get to some housework, after a day or two you’d never know it.  Although Pat has a mountain of firewood cut, the wood rack needs constant filling.  I’m getting tired of wearing 2 tons of clothing and start pining for spring, even though I am months away from being ready. Our January thaw was wonderful, but we all have such a hard time acclimating to 50 degree temperature swings. The indoor critters have immense cabin fever, the outdoor critters don’t know whether to shed out or hibernate. Yes, in January I whine a bit. But the days are noticeably longer, and did you know that summer has four more days than winter? I love that!

February is here now and I’ve started more lisianthus for our late planting, I’ll start our snaps, stock and several more perennials this week.  Although I’m happy with our progress, there are still many more trees to come down.  Reality is setting in, and this project will continue into next winter.  I’m trying to beat the thaw that’s coming… we can’t drop trees on soft flower beds. With the deer fence down, they are tromping through the fields, doing their deer damage.  The woody shrubs and trees need pruning. I need to go over notes and be sure all the flowers have a place to live by planting season; typically they all do not, so more new beds are planned out.  The new fence line needs to be cleared, measured and I need to make a material list. The website needs a lot of attention in preparation for next season.  The house is a wreck, and has too many projects going on for it’s size.  (Really, what woman has a chainsaw that lives on her table?) I need to take a day or two to clean it up before it drives me insane. Snow, mud and sawdust are constantly being tracked in by way too many little and big feet.  I’m still dreaming of that vacation!

March is our huge seed starting month. We need the weather to cooperate so the early seedlings can be moved out. This is always such a gamble as we do not have a heated greenhouse. Weather permitting (Yes, I say that over and over and over again, but it is so true!) there will be over 100 flats started by the end of this month and these babies take several hours of care a day. More seeds will be ordered. Winter projects need to be completed, the deer fence needs to be started. Low tunnels need to be set up for our beds that will be planted out soon with early annuals.  The early annual beds need to be prepared with drip line and plastic so the ground can begin to warm. (yep! weather permitting!) I would like to test a theory that we can have sunflowers for Mother’s Day in a hoop house. Germination is checked for the fall planted annuals…my nose is pressed to the ground constantly, even though it is still too early. If we have poor germination, they will need to be replanted. The irrigation systems need to be set up and/or repaired, which is a constant, ongoing project from now through fall. Customer service  gets busier, questions need to be answered, dates and times set.  Whatever clean up that didn’t get done last fall needs to be done, which includes the entire area in the front and along both sides of the drive. I am hoping Jerid will be able to get to the gazebo project this month. Supplies need to be inventoried and ordered.

April is insanely busy. We start planting in the fields under protection and are still starting seedlings.  Certain cover crops may go in. The growing cycle begins all over. The flower and garden sheds needs cleaning, organizing. Weeding begins in earnest.  More mulch and more compost need to be spread.  The animals need extra grooming as they start doing some serious shedding out.  They’ll get baths if we have a nice warm day.  I would like to build a bucket washing station behind the garden shed and  need to get a new hot water system installed. Everything that hasn’t been completed over the winter still needs completing. (I am a great one for under estimating time). The under growth becomes greener, bulbs start peeking up and we see the glorious signs of spring.

And then May is here in all it’s glory and the season begins once again. I have so many dreams for this season and I am already planning next winter’s projects in my mind, somehow along with that vacation.

And that’s what we do all winter.