Planning for Winter
Just as during the winter months we were busily planning for the summer, now that it is August we are focused on winter preparedness. Living in a seasonal climate means that each passing phase of the year is spent looking forward to the next.
Our garden is in full swing, with zucchinis and cucumbers piling up on the kitchen counters. But we are also growing crops that can be harvested and stored for use throughout the winter months. With four long rows of potatoes, I am pretty sure we should plenty to last us through til spring. Our potatoes are not quite ready to harvest yet, but when they are we will store them in a cool, dark space. They can be kept in a covered five gallon bucket. Potatoes need to be kept as humid space, like a basement, and while they should be kept cool they do not like temperatures below 50 degrees. Potatoes should keep for 4-6 months, but check on them regularly to make sure they are not sprouting or growing mushy.
Carrots, beets, and turnips can all be stored through the winter. We have a few long rows of these veggies and plan to pull them up when ripe, clean them off, and store in five gallon buckets surrounded by damp sawdust. Kept in these conditions they should last until spring.
August is also the perfect time to plant fall crops. Our turnips and beets, for example, we've been keeping up with fairly well in daily cooking so additional seeds should be sown for our winter storage. If we plant now, these more cold-hardy vegetables will be ready by the end of September when the first frosts are starting.
Of course, you can also preserve plenty of crops through freezing or canning. Many vegetables can be pickled or made into kimchi or other long lasting canned goods. Our kitchen set up is not conducive to a lot of canning, as space is limited and our hot plate cooking surfaces can be inconsistent with heat, but we are still able to preserve some produce this way. Crops like zucchini and summer squash can be shredded and frozen, and will be perfect for mid-winter zucchini bread.
Crops aren't the only things to prepare for the winter months. If you live in a climate like Maine has, you've probably already brought in firewood. We stacked four cords this June and installed a new, larger woodstove in our house that should keep us nice and toasty even when the temperature dips below 0 degrees.
In the next few weeks farmers will start taking their second cuts of hay. Second cut is what our goats eat, as they prefer the higher nutritional content of the various plants in the later harvest of hay. Last year, with three Nigerian Dwarf goats, we used about a bale of hay a week during the winter. In the winter months the goats eat little else, besides some supplemental grains. This year, with nine goats including larger Nubian, we expected to go through quite a few bales.
Soon we will be touching up the insulation around our kitchen, putting plastic over windows, and testing our few electric heaters. It may be 80 degrees now, but before you know it the temperatures will be below freezing again!