January 23, 2014

Seasonal Living

There is a rhythm to the seasons that I've long thought we humans should be a part of. I'm not speaking of sports seasons: football, basketball, hockey, and baseball seasons; nor the consumer seasons where we buy Christmas items in September or swim suits in February; nor revolving the year around school with first day, graduation, and summer, winter, and spring breaks. I'm not even referring to what the calendar says when it declares a particular date "the first day of .....".

I'm speaking of the seasonal changes in weather and how they shape our way of life. Gardeners will understand this quite well, and farmers. The rest of modern society pretty much considers weather either "good" or "bad" depending on one's personal preferences and how convenient or inconvenient the weather is at the moment.

For the agrarian, the seasons not only influence the whens and whys things are done, they also give a comfortable rhythm to life. I've mentioned longing for this in a number of my homesteading posts, and I'll refer you to a really interesting read on the subject, The Seasons of America Past by Eric Sloane. It contains many things we probably wouldn't have thought of such as fence mending, well digging, and soap making; all had their seasons.

Odd as it may seem, we're just now getting to this, as in, this is the first year Dan and I have looked at the upcoming year in terms of seasonal chores. Until now we've been in what I call the establishment phase of homesteading. Planting, harvesting, breeding, and kidding have been part of this, but we've had to focus on things like repairs to the house, fencing, and outbuildings, all of which need to be done ASAP.

Earlier this month we started a seasonal chore list. It goes month by month and is of things we routinely do (or should do) during that month. Our coldest months are January and February, while our hottest are July and August. Of course weather and Dan's work schedule are factors, but even so, we wanted to develop a seasonal guideline for what needs to be done. This is just the beginning, but here's what we've got so far:

  • rake leaves & mulch garden
  • spray fruit trees
  • transplanting
  • garden planning & seed ordering

  • check & mend fences
  • prune & spray fruit trees
  • plant cool weather vegetables

  • start seeds (cold frame)
  • clean gutters
  • plowing
  • goat vaccinations 

April (last frost date around April 16-20)
  • plant warm weather veggies
  • transplant seed starts
  • kidding
  • spot seed pastures
  • plant field corn

  • hay, 1st cut
  • clean out goat shed & chicken coop
  • kidding

  • clean deep freezer
  • set eggs if broody hen
  • canning & food preservation

  • blueberries
  • peaches
  • canning & food preservation

  • figs
  • 1st apples
  • elderberries
  • plant fall garden
  • more canning & food preservation

  • elderberries
  • late apples
  • plant fall garden
  • clean woodstoves
  • clean gutters
  • firewood splitting
  • & more canning & food preservation

October (first frost Oct 20 - Nov 1)
  • persimmons (if not eaten by wildlife)
  • muscadines
  • fall plowing
  • plant winter wheat
  • firewood

  • goat breeding
  • butchering
  • begin to clean up garden

  • rake leaves & mulch garden beds
  • clean out goat shed & chicken coop

This rough draft is not a complete list and apt to change. Our list is a starting point which we hope to fill in better (and likely rearrange) as we go along. At the beginning of every month we'll have a planning meeting, where we can look at this list plus monthly chores such as hoof trimming. We'll also have a better idea of where to fit in things like building projects. The beauty of this will be that we don't have to try and figure everything out every time we need to do something.

Hopefully this will all come naturally some day. Until then, we have another tool to make life a bit easier.

Seasonal Living © January 2014 by Leigh 


Unknown said...

We have had 6 weeks of hot dry impossible weather and our neighbour comments that the weather has been great this summer because it hasn't rained. His grass is as dead as ours but he doesn't grow any of his own food so he doesn't care! Matter of perspective I suppose

Quinn said...

I definitely think in terms of seasonal tasks. Have to, really. There's a pretty narrow window for getting a lot if things done.
I didn't realize that your climate allows for garden activity nearly year-round! I find the relatively short growing season here in MA one of the major challenges of producing food. Learning, learning.

Leigh said...

Liz, funny that folks like your neighbor don't think that the food they buy needs rain too! What a bubble the consumer world lives in. I hope your heat hasn't been too damaging in terms of your own food growing.

Quinn, well, some years we can grow all year long. The past two have been mild and I've harvested even leafy greens in winter months. This year, t'ain't so! Even my winter hardy veggies are frozen to death, or at least to dormancy. We're still able to harvest those root crops however!

I'd love to see your list of seasonal chores some time.

Renee Nefe said...

I was just thinking last night that I need to grow more green beans this summer. The question will be where. Last summer my plants didn't do all that well. But that was probably due to late start. Gonna try earlier and two locations to see what works best. Gotta watch for blossom end rot this year so tomatoes come in well.

Leigh said...

Renee, start adding eggs shells to the place you plan to plant those tomatoes! Also look for some calcium foliar spray in the garden section of the store. Blossom end rot is often a symptom of calcium shortage.

And I need to start thinking about some of those "wheres" too.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I like this list, Leigh and I would do well to use it as a basis for my yearly planning. I think this is why "Farmer Boy" is my favorite of the LHOTP books. It's a year in the life of a farmer and everything Mother Wilder does depends on the season. Make hay while the sun shines!

Woolly Bits said...

I think people, who don't grow anything themselves are totally removed from observing certain seasons. and if you buy your stuff in the supermarket, you wouldn't notice them anyway - pretty much everything is available all the time! I am surprised though that you clean your freezer in summer! I try to do it during the colder season, when I don't have to rush to keep stuff frozen while cleaning it:) the colder the better for this!

Leigh said...

Candace, I have longed to live by the seasons for a long time. Funny how it has actually taken some effort to figure all this out! But I know it will be routine soon enough.

Bettina, I try to clean my freezer when it has the least amount of stuff in it. That would be at the end of winter eating season and before summer preservation! (It really ought to be done twice a year, however.)

Meredith said...

I'm not a fan of cold weather since I grew up in NC, and I used to HATE winter. As I've fallen more deeply into the natural rhythm of nature I've noticed that I feel more at peace with ALL the seasons instead of picking favorites. Now winter is a time to relax after the bustle of planting and harvesting in the spring and summer!

Leigh said...

Meredith, that is an excellent observation. We truly need them all as part of our personal rhythm as well as our homestead rhythm.

daisy g said...

I love how your list helps you stay organized and on task. What a feeling of satisfaction you'll have when your list is checked off.

Sarah said...

A great idea! I have a list like this for household chores but it makes sense to include the garden and outdoors work as well! Thanks for the food for thought!

Leigh said...

Daisy, you'd think we would have thought of this a long time ago, but we get so caught up in those one time building and re-building projects that the plain and simple routine gets neglected. We're hoping to change that this year. :)

Sarah, thanks! Doing a monthly list check should really help a lot. Hopefully we'll clarify this as the year progresses.

Anonymous said...

You know, I took all of this knowledge with me when I left the farm and it fuels my life in this small town. I don't have livestock or have to mend fences but the rest still holds true.

I love our snowy winters (here in the high plains) because the garden is fallow and I can catch up with myself.

Debby Riddle said...

I love Eric Sloane's books, such treasures

oldjove said...

I am just realizing (as a new homesteader) that we have changed our view of weather and the seasons now that they directly affect our lives. I love your list and I can see myself doing the same thing. Like you, we have so many 'asap' things to do to the homestead such as replacing our water tower and building a fence and chicken coop and making a list is the only way everything will get done.