Farm Life: Preparing the Harvest, Part 1, Snow

In case you think I made one of my usual typos, I really meant “Preparing”, not “Presevering” the Harvest.  While we are still bringing in the 2011 garden, we have already starting our preparation for 2012.  Farm Life is a year-round experience.  Winter months have a difference focus from the other seasons.  Most garden books will start with the soil.  Before you can Plant the Harvest, Tend to the Harvest, and Preserve the Harvest, you Prepare the Soil. 

Winter around the fire pit

So what does snow have to do with this?  First, we happen to have our first snow of Winter this weekend.  Second, snow is “A poor man’s fertilizer”.  Third, the process of freezing and thawing the ground helps to loosen the soil and draw the nutrients into the root zone.  Fourth, freezing kills insects and some of the eggs that would lead to destruction of the garden.

Dogwood, red leaves not yet fallen

In the Appalachian Mountains, our heaviest snow occur in October and March.  This is when the Gulf Stream is active.  We have had several humid, warm days this week.  Then, comes a cold front, pushing all of that moisture out of the air, like a plow pushing a pile of snow down the road.  These snows are deeper and wetter than mid-Winter, when we have light dustings regularly, but usually only a few inches at a time.  Today’s forecast for a mix of rain and snow.  We expected to wake up to flurries which would turn to rain.  The Canadian winds turned down the thermostat a couple of degrees, so all the moisture turned to flakes, about 8 to 10 inches of white.  However, this time of year, the temperature will rise in a day or two, quickly melting this covering.

A walk to the mailbox

Snow, and rain, are natural fertilizers, though quiet diluted.  The H2O molecules bond with nitrogen in the atmosphere, pulling N to the ground, where it splits off as the H2O drains through the dirt.  The nitrogen remains near the surface, where the plants’ roots will take it in to help with growth.  Linda learned the saying “snow is a poor man’s fertilizer” from her New England heritage.  Farmer’s in New England were poor.  If you have every traveled there, you probably noticed all those rock walls.  The fields are made up of lots of rocks which were too small to bother pulling out.  Organic matter from past crops and leaves were the closest material to build up the soil.  They might have had some manure from livestock and poultry.  And, if they also fished, they could add rotten fish guts, bones, and shells for fertilizer.  Poor men use what is around.

We will be augmenting the soil with lots of manure as we pull out the now frozen tomatoes, peppers, etc.  But, today, we can enjoy the quiet of a snowy day, and think about all that free fertilizer coming down with every flake.  But, don’t sit too long, the deck should be cleared, the snow sliding off the roof moved away from the house, and the driveway made passible with the snow blower.  Until the snow stops, a walk in the woods is refreshing.

Mailbox takes a Hit, Sorry Vicar

In case you think that farm life is all toil, we do take time to enjoy the seasons.  Sunday morning, after breakfast, before the sun rose above the eastern mountain to thaw the snow, we got out to Larson Ski Bowl (e.g. behind the garage) for some cross county skiing with the dogs.


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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5 Responses to Farm Life: Preparing the Harvest, Part 1, Snow

  1. Mother Suzanna says:

    OH, MY, we heard the East Coast had snow while speaking with our friends, the Chengs, in DC area today. We wondered if you also had the storm. By the pictures you posted, I’d saw you certainly did! So rain is “poor man’s fertilizer”? Enjoyed your description of preparing the soil. Living on the West Coast, I’ll have to continue to go our to the Smart Station and fill my bags with compost!

  2. The Vicar says:

    Save the mail boxes! At least they are still standing. Hopefully it’s a quick fix once the snow melts.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Fortunately, because we used “modular” construction techniques (e.g. we were too lazy to cut the board), the 2×4 is 8′ long. I have more of those around. All I need to do is to drill a 1/2″ hole for the rebar anchor, the 1/4″ holes for the lag bolts. Easy job, once the snow melts. And, I was concerned about the plow pushing the mailbox stand into the ditch!

  3. Barneysday says:

    Great post. Loved the pics. Reminded me of a past life in New England, now that I think of it, a way past life. Friends are still without power in New England. No gasoline, no house heat, they happen to have a travel trailer and are living in that. Restaurants for miles around are still closed.
    In our place, we have stockpiled some food, lots of water, and a stand-by generator. Heat and stove are propane, with the tank 10 feet away (the minimum allowed by law.) So in some instances, are likely better off.
    Keep writing, great pieces.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Though our electricity flickered off momentarily many times during the heavy, wet snowfall, our power stayed on throughout the day. On Monday, many of our coworkers and clients, who live in more civilized areas talked about their power being out for hours at a time. Certainly New England had two to four times the amount of snow we had, and a lot more power outages. I do not want to get too much in the homesteader-survivalist theme, but I do wonder how complacent some communities become. The lack of general preparation baffles me at times. I grew up with earthquakes and several days, at least, of emergency supplies on hand. Hurricanes, blizzards, and potential political chaos are much more predicable on the East Coast. Yet, how many folks wonder why their credit cards do not work when the gas stations, restaurants, and stores have no power.

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