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Fall Preparation on Our Bio-Diversified Farm

It is true, the days are getting shorter, the nights colder, and the leaves are starting to facilitate their beautiful hues. These things can only mean one thing: Autumn is amongst us.

As much as I love the summer with the hot days and barbeques, there is something special about fall. Especially in the Catskill Mountains, there are few places that can rival the colors and freshness of our area.

The chunky sweaters, pumpkin spice and apple smells, the crispness in the air are all so inviting. It makes me want to snuggle up on the couch in a big fluffy blanket and sip some herbal tea and catch up with some old friends.

But I can’t. Why? Because I own a farm.

As much as I love fall, it is just another sign that old man winter is right around the corner. There is much to do to get the farm prepped for the upcoming wintry weather.

First and foremost is hay, we have to make sure our animals have enough sustenance to endure the chilly climate. We are not where we want to be with our hay count yet, but we still have a little bit of time left to get more stocked up in the barn.

Second is water. We have a spigot in the barn that is hooked to a hose that can reach all the water buckets. It has frozen in the past and we have had to use the spigot outside the barn instead. It is much more work but the animals always need access to fresh water all year round.

Some things that we have done to try to prevent the freeze of the indoor spigot is putting a heat lamp and making sure that the hose is completely drained of residual water. Sometimes it is just too cold no matter how hard we try to prevent the water from freezing.

Next is creating a place for all the animals to stay during the windy winters.

We have a fantastic old barn that we have put a lot of time in restoring. However, it was originally designed for dairy cows and not for sheep, so we have to improvise pens from what we have been given. Usually, Farmer Jay, my husband, will build up wooden pens along the walls of the barn and section them off to create groups.

This system has worked for us in the past, but we are pushing over 100 sheep right now and need to make it more efficient to group them.

One thing that we will be making more of are jugs. A jug is a small pen that a new mother would be put into right before lambing. This is to help her bond with her babies and for us to make sure she is getting all the nutritional requirements she needs.

Our older more experienced ewes are left in the larger groups. They have a much better idea of how to clean, nurse and bond with their lambs.

The chickens do not get to run around outside their coop in the winter. It is for their own safety because the typical predators will be much hungrier when their usual food resources are scarce. This makes our chickens easy targets because they are not well equipped to escape in the snow. They definitely appreciate the doors opening in the spring.

Nothing changes with the horses with the exception of setting up the heated water trough. They have access to the back of the barn where they can come in and out as they please.

Oprah, our sow, gets a nice comfortable sty in the corner of the barn. She knows the routine by now and will gladly come down the barn to be housed for the winter. She loves the extra attention of seeing all our visitors.

Autumn is a beautiful season, but it is a reminder that the hardest part of the year is yet to come. We prep for winter to make sure our animals and fed, cozy, and ready to take on the winter strife.

What are some of your favorite things to do in the fall?

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