Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Winter Farming

Saturday was our final day for the 2010 season.  A sincere thanks to all who stopped by this year, you made it a great one for us!  Although I'll miss the weekly interaction with my customers as well as the income, it's kind of exciting to look forward to my first weekend off since May as well.  Our lovely farm stand is enclosed, but it's not heated, and I was very lucky with the weather this year, only having snow the last day.  Today looks like a winter wonderland out there, and with temperatures expected to stay pretty chilly, it's a good thing that all the jars of goodies and winter squash and other storage veggies are safely in my pantry or basement to keep them from freezing.   (If we  were still open, I would have needed to bring everything to the house anyway, but this way I don't have to lug it all back down there!)

I have heard so many comments lately to the effect that since we're closed for the year we'll finally be able to relax.   Although it's surely not as hectic as the middle of summer with the garden, the stand, canning, and making hay all at the same time, a farm is a busy place 100% of the time.  Now that the pasture has finally worn out for the year, we need to start feeding hay and bringing the horses and cows into the barn.  This means more feeding chores twice daily, not to mention the additional chore of cleaning stalls since the animals are now inside.  Inclement weather means every creature will be spending more time inside voluntarily, so the pig pens and poultry houses will also need to be cleaned more frequently.  There's also the ever-present challenge of making sure all the critters have access to fresh, clean water, which will soon mean breaking up ice and putting out rubber pans to prevent the plastic bell waterers we normally use from freezing and cracking.  And as far as a nice, long winter vacation to someplace warm goes, we just can't do it (at least not together!) unless we have someone who is capable and willing to take care of horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and peafowl twice a day for as long as we're gone.  I love my animals and our lifestyle, but in some ways it is like a marriage- you have to fully commit to being a diversified family farmer and understand it's a year round obligation, not just a fair weather one.

 So besides feeding, watering and stalls, what will I do all winter?  Plenty!  I have pages I'd like to work on to expand our website, and I'll put out a few email newsletters as well.  The seed catalogs have already begun arriving almost daily, and  I'll have to plan what we'll grow.  Planning a market garden is a big job, we have to figure out what did well last year, what didn't that we won't grow again, which new varieties sound promising, which crops we might be able to transition to heirloom varieties, what we didn't grow last year that customers requested and how much seed of each type (that we didn't save ourselves) will need to be purchased.  Although we stick to a few catalogs, I compare prices and varieties and have it all sent out before the groundhog will be looking for his shadow.  Our home is a lovely 100+ year old farmhouse, and winter is usually the only season we have time to spend working on it.  Winterization is always a big chore, and this year we've planned projects upgrading things like insulation and windows.  It's also a good time to paint the interior, sew new curtains, and other small upgrades.  I also hope to spend some time in the workshop doing things like finally building a new hutch for my rabbits.  Perhaps we'll even get to the new bookshelves we've been planning for some time. A million other projects, too!  And like everyone else, the holidays are almost here and we'll want to celebrate by spending time with family.  And of course, I'll be blogging all about it throughout the winter!

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