Getting Ready for Winter at Ash Lane Farm

Connie haying

Connie haying

Here at Ash Lane farm, we don’t have many animals to care for. We have about fifteen chickens at the moment and two sheep.

The barn was, when we moved in, a junky building that had been designated the “tear down building.” Then I discovered, after moving some junk, that there was working electricity and running water. We decided that the building could be renovated with a lot of work, but that it would be easier to work on this one than build a new one.

So we cleaned the barn out. There was a day that my brother was here; he helped me move about a dozen old, decrepit bicycles from one end of the barn. None of them were even close to being able to being recovered for riding, so we took them to the metal recycling place to get rid of them.

We got four hens and a rooster that winter to start us out with farm-fresh eggs. Now, I’m here to say that I do NOT eat eggs, for the most part, but I love everything else there is about eggs – the hens, gathering eggs, looking at nice brown eggs in the fridge and cooking with them.

We have grown to our current number of chickens, plus one gorgeous rooster, Rupert. Norm has gradually weatherproofed and animal proofed (as much as you can with wild animals around chomping at the bit for tasty hens and / or eggs). I have helped as much as I can, but the ideas and the skills come from a clever husband. We then made one “room” in the barn for baby chicks that we raised each spring, except for this year.

The “baby” room has been changed, now, to the feed room and a haystack in half of the room. The change came because I received two lambs this spring and Norm started cutting hay for winter-feed.

During this time of revamping the barn, we have left the east half of the barn alone. It was more ramshackled than the west section, being thrown together at a later time than the rest of the building; it was of poorer quality. The rafters were rotting, the roof was nearly non-existing and the walls were sucking in like I do when I don’t want my tummy to show as much. Norm decided that he was going to tear down that part of the building and add on to the south side, making the barn square instead of long.

However, once the lambs arrived, Norm started looking at the east end and decided it would be easier to re-build rather than build new. So this summer has been a time of struggle and effort to straighten out the sides, put in new rafters and beams and re-roof the east end.

The barn is finally finished, tied together, weather proof throughout the total building and looking very nice, if I don’t say so, myself. The next projects will be a better door on the east, a new door on the south and a window put in on the south side of the lambs’ quarters for better sunlight.

Norm has also been haying with the few tools that we have here at the moment. He cut hay with a Jari (sickle-bar mower that is a walk-behind machine), raked it up with old-fashioned hay rakes and carried to the barn with either the lawn tractor and trailer or the larger trailer and the big tractor. He used this for the smaller patches, but we got a neighbor to come to cut the larger of our pastures. This fall, Norm purchased a dump rake for next year’s supply of hay so that it won’t be quite as much manual labor for hay. All this hay is natural grass, with no alfalfa. I am hoping we can plant a patch of alfalfa in the next few years. We do have some clover in the grass that is slowly adding in amount each year.

So we have hay for the sheep to eat, but will also will use this hay for bedding for the hens and the sheep.

On top of getting ready for winter for the animals, we got a large metal-sided pole barn for Norm to use as his wood-shop and storing the tractors. This was delivered about two months later than promised, so it’s a struggle to get it winterized before it gets too cold out. But this means that once the shed is ready, I will have my garage to park the car in; right now Norm is using it for his workshop and storage of wood and tools that are stacked together so he can’t use them easily.

For the garden? We can almost forget the garden! It did reasonably well, but for some reason the tomatoes were behind most everyone else in the area and the cucumbers did not do as well as before. I think we need to move them next year. We did get some potatoes (about 10 pounds) but they were a disappointment, as well.

I was hoping for enough produce to have tomato sauce for the whole year, scads of pickles for my brother and us and potatoes to last at least until the middle of the winter!

Thanks to neighbors, I have been able to do almost all of that. I was gifted with cucumbers so got several quarts of dills for my brother and a few for us; I got extra tomatoes when my sister gave up the fight and said “ENOUGH!” to hers. All the tomatoes are in the freezer for later canning, but I believe I have enough for a winter’s supply of sauce. My neighbor buys potatoes from a farmer that is within the 100-mile radius so I will buy 100 pounds of russets to store and use this winter.

So we are ready to tuck in for a winter that “promises” to be a tough one. We will have meat (I plan on purchasing a butchered hog from a neighbor and still have beef from the last steer we purchased from another neighbor), tomato sauce and pickles. With this bounty, who could ask for more?

Hoping you have a good, well-supplied winter with happy animals.

About cpthegreat

Connie (aka Spinning Grandma) lives on Ash Lane Farm in southwest Minnesota. She is an expert on spinning, weaving and knitting and a former history interpreter.