Winter is a time of sleep and rest. The work is still there, and it’s not easier…in fact, it’s often harder when you’re dealing with ice and extra shelter and bedding, and worrying about animals being warm enough. (Note: They are…Mother Nature gives them a natural winter coat. It’s not uncommon to see my Great Pyrenees out in 0 degree weather lying in the snow!)
While not easier, the work is less. There are fewer tasks and more time to dream about next year. The garlic and asparagus are sleeping, and the hay is stacked. Hopefully the wood is chopped and stacked as well. All there is to do now is wait. Wait to see which of your goats are bred, and how much your pigs grow even though there’s nothing to graze on right now.
So what’s a homesteader to do? Whether you’re just getting into homesteading or have been doing it for years, late fall and winter are times for planning. This is a time to dream big and think of everything you want to do in the coming seasons. Now’s not the time to be practical or hold back. What would your dream garden look like? What would you grow? What would you never grow again? How would you rotate your pigs? Where would you plant the berry bushes?
Now is not the time for conservative, or even realistic plans. Now’s the time to dream of what you’ve always wanted. What would be perfect? Arching trellises of vining gourds under which children can skip and play (all the while never disturbing the plants, of course!)? Collecting honey from your bees and making your own beeswax candles? Or even getting into harvesting propolis? I had never heard of it before last winter, but at the time, I was certain I would learn all there was to know about its healing properties.
During this season, I like to look through gardening planning books, read about homesteaders I admire (Joel Salatin, Justin Rhodes, Living Traditions Homestead) and think about what my home would look like with shelves and shelves of preserved foods, and dried herbs hanging beautifully in the kitchen. Sometimes I start drawing plans for where I’ll put everything in my garden and where I’ll start the pigs grazing once the grass starts to grow again. I look for signs of which goat will kid first, and we brainstorm names to keep on the candy tradition. After all, when your mama goat’s name is Cocoa, everybody has to have candy names. So far we have Charlie (as in Chocolate Factory), (Baby) Ruth, and Esther (Price).
As the temperatures drop, we find all the long boot socks and the gloves that can keep you warm and get a little dirty. I look with eyes of possibility for the perfect spot for wild flowers and allow myself to dream of what might be. The warm breath of a dairy goat at milking isn’t quite the same as a warm spring breeze, and I really don’t want to wish away this quiet time, but finally, with everything resting, there’s room in my brain to dream of what might become.
Editor’s Note: This article was first posted in January 2019.