Skip to content

Staying ahead of the weather

December 16, 2008

Or saying goodbye to fall and HELLO winter.  This post is about what garden chores we did last week and into the weekend since it was predicted that we would be in for a cold snap.  Now I know some of my readers live in much colder climates, so I know this doesn’t qualify as realllly cold.  But for here, it is pretty cold.  This morning it was 13* in the greenhouse, and 12* outside.  The only time my hands were warm today was when I was milking or washing dishes.  (I would rather milk)  The next snow storm may knock out our power, so I’m making this post really long. 

In our winter gardening regime we keep looking for a variety of vegetables that will grow to harvestable size before our rainy season begins and will hold up to weather that can get down to these temperatures like we are experiencing this week.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  We grow several varieties of each vegetable to see what does OK.   Our gardening endeavors are important to us, but our main thrust is livestock.  So animals needing care trump gardens.  It is that simple.  I won’t make the time to grow many vegetables that need cold frames or row cover in the winter.  I do grow a few veggies that need row cover in the summer for pest control.  But, I’m trying to minimize that.  I find that I just can’t keep up with that chore.



//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Bye, bye grass, see you next year.

We knew last week that the cold blast was coming.  So we brought the cows closer to the house making it easier to feed and water them.  I don’t want to put them in the feeding shed yet, so at this point we are taking feed to them.  Since we are feeding outside, we will feed them in our low fertility areas that need more animal interaction.  Namely manure, hoof action, and any seeds and stems from the hay that doesn’t get eaten.

We leave carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, celeriac, and Daikon in the ground for winter.  I hill the rows with soil for freezing protection.  But, I don’t like to do this until I have to because it gives the voles more cover, and they can do a lot of damage in a short time.  With out the extra soil covering, the dogs, cats and hawks have a better chance of hunting them. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
I hate to cover the greens, but it is necessary. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Hilling the beets. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Melvin found a vole in the beets. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Ummm, yummy beet fed vole. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
We harvested the remaining cabbages and brussels sprouts from the garden.  Two wheelbarrows of cabbage, and one wheelbarrow of brussels sprouts stalks.  We built a quick makeshift root cellar in the barn out of more straw bales.  Most of this cabbage will end up in sauerkraut.  Always keeping garden notes, I took note that the outside cabbage was rotting from the frost and rain, where the heads in the greenhouse I harvested were in better shape.  They had frost damage, but no rain damage.  Same age, same varieties, 1* difference in temperatures, the only difference was the rain. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
We harvested enough assorted roots for the house and the milk cow to last for 7 to 10 days.   

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
We were hoping to get our rows of roots hilled before the cold hit and we really wanted snow before the freeze.  We got our wishes.  We don’t have much snow, but the ground is soft and easy to dig underneath this snow, and the snow is offering even more insulation.  This shows a double 90′ row (180′ total) of Red Cored Chantenay carrots, and 4, 90′ rows of Harris Model parsnips. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
In this garden are double 75′ rows of Joan rutabaga, Lutz beet, Red Cored Chantenay carrots all snug in their dirt mulch and snow blanket.  Shorter rows of celeriac and Daikon are also in this garden.  What is probably toast is my celery.  We have eaten our fill of it, and I dried some, and with the celeriac I find I don’t miss it so much. 


//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
He can’t stand the ice in his toes, but he is afraid he might miss something if he doesn’t shadow my every move. 🙂 


//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Arrghhhh – the most time consuming job of them all, keeping the snow off of the greenhouses.  Most of the time it slides off by itself.  But, they are predicting a foot of snow for Wednesday, so I think I will help it a little.  A 3′ shop squeegee works pretty well.  Some of it can be pulled off, and if you have to hit the plastic, the rubber squeegee protects the plastic cover. 

I got the snow off as high as the purlins today, and tomorrow if it doesn’t slide off, I will finish the job. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
As you can see it is a little dark with the snow.  Some items in here are toast just like the celery outside.  Most of the kale looks OK.  The only dud is White Russian, which is supposed to be cold hardy, but I have never found it to be so.   

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Lacinato  and Lacinato Rainbow seem to have come through the best.  But, the cold weather is just starting.  I keep good notes and see how they all do. 


//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Lettuce that was covered up.  I don’t know how this will really do either.  We have already eaten tons of salads from these plantings.  If they succumb it won’t be the end of the world.  Each year is different.  We have lots of stored, canned and frozen vegetables too, so we won’t be hungry.  When it is this cold it is a little hard to sell a salad at dinner.  //" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Chicory that is doing OK, it should make it. 

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Charmant savoy covered with discarded cabbage leaves.

I’m trying several different approaches with the cabbages this year.  I harvested some, I covered some (with sheets or leaves from harvested cabbages), and I left some uncovered.  We’ll see.  I’m hoping the ones that aren’t covered will do just fine.  Giving me an even more trouble free winter garden.  I’ll keep you posted.


//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
Ruby Ball.  Last year these did really well throughout the winter.


//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
January King.  This one is supposed to make it through until March.  It usually does, but the heads are so beautiful, I covered about half and left half.  (fingers crossed) 

So we feel fairly snug in our food supply.  A combination of many growing and storage methods.  We’ll do just about anything to avoid going to the store.  🙂

I’ve just about got my pantry tally ready for a complete list of what we grew this year based on what we think we will eat.  Hopefully I’ll get that post done soon.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2008 12:15 am

    Wow, you look very well set up! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss my garden. My grocery bill has been ridiculous. The stores jacked up the prices several weeks ago and blamed it on transportation fuel prices. However, even though the price of fuel has gone down, the prices in the store remain high especially with the holiday nearing. On the bright side, it motivates me to set up my garden for next winter. I’m closely following you this winter to get my winter gardening 101 information!

    I got a kick out of your vole exterminator. When ever we watch a nature show, we always root for the subject animal. So, if we’re watching a show on polar bears, we root for the bear. If we’re watching a show on seals, we root for the seals. Anyway, when I saw your doggie going after the vole, I thought this is a show on dogs … guess who I rooted for!

    Keep warm over on your side of the mountain. We don’t have much snow, but lots of ice and bitter cold. Even though you have your stove for heat, I hope you don’t lose power. I’m counting on our pipes to stay free flowing. Hope Della and the others stay warm. And you, too, of course! 🙂

  2. December 16, 2008 12:17 am

    I hope the storms don’t knock out your power. In these last few very busy, sometimes very trying weeks, blog surfing for twenty minutes while my little one nursed to sleep seemed to be all that kept me sane. lol Yours was the first blog I always checked.

    This was a fantastic post. Loved seeing your vole hunting dog. My favorite barn cat is such a good hunter, she had three of her kittens eating one mouse each, all at the same time the other day. She’d come back from the fields, drop a mouse off and then head back out. Amazing. Especially since this is the season that I leave a little dish with food in it in the barn for them. She doesn’t even touch the food.

    How do you handle vermin in your straw bale root cellar? Just barn cats and the dogs?

    Do you use the Ruby Ball for saurkraut? It would make a pretty kraut, but I’m curious about the flavor.

  3. December 16, 2008 5:17 am

    Have you read THE GOOD LIFE by Helen and Scott Nearing. They were homesteaders who lived in Vermont and then Maine and did a lot of wintertime gardening. If you haven’t read it, I think you would enjoy it.

  4. December 16, 2008 6:26 am

    This is my first year trying to grow a few things in the winter. I have mache, spinach and kale. We’ll see, I noticed I can harvest some kale, I’ll have to decide what to make.

  5. December 16, 2008 10:41 am

    It seems more wintry where you are than here. Hope you don’t get that foot!

  6. December 16, 2008 11:09 am

    Hi! Just wanted to let you know I got the ornament you sent for the ornament swap today. I like it very much. Thank you.

  7. December 16, 2008 12:13 pm

    I’m still experimenting with storing cabbages myself, here in northern Nevada. I make kraut out of the ones that split, but I also want nice firm fresh heads for soup and slaw throughout the winter. So I keep playing with storage methods, and love seeing your experiments too.

  8. December 16, 2008 1:23 pm

    You are such an inspiration to me. I want to grow up and be like you! Seriously how you live is my goal for 2009


  9. December 16, 2008 3:04 pm

    It just blows my mind how much food you can raise. Not only with the livestock but that’s some serious gardening too. You always inspire me and inform me and I love all of the pictures. Beautiful farm you have, even with all that work to do. Love your posts.


  10. December 16, 2008 3:21 pm

    I’m always impressed at how organized you are. It does pay to think ahead that’s for sure. Our power was out for six hours this morning and we WERE NOT organized. At least it came back on before we froze the place up and now we’ll GET organized in case it happens again:(

  11. December 16, 2008 5:29 pm

    Your incredible harvest continues………..amazing Nita –

    I miss my gardens, especially the fresh greens. Hopefully we can do something about that for next winter. Just ran out of time this year. Tom asked for a salad this week for dinner- I cringe at the thought of buying vegetable at the store, even the organic ones.

    Your snow photos are so pretty – hope you don’t get buried……we are in for snow tonight, friday and sunday. I was hoping for a white christmas!

    Do you raise most of the feed for your dairy cow such as root vegetables ? Do you feed her any commercial feed at all?

    Thanks !

  12. Emrys Prussin permalink
    December 17, 2008 4:14 pm

    Hi There
    I love the pictures you’ve put up. I have a question thats not directly related, its about pickinling carrots. I wondered if you had a good recipe and/or tips.

    Emrys Prussin
    Vacouver BC

  13. December 18, 2008 10:33 pm

    Paula, I know what you mean, I look at the vegetable prices at the store, and we are incredulous, all that work is like a gold mine. Ruth Less can’t believe she eats $6 – $8 of veggies a day! And that doesn’t even count our meat and dairy. We’re living like kings 🙂

    On the vole thing, it is just part of the food chain, our best vole hunting kitty, Cybil disappeared this summer 😦 So the dogs have been kind of picking up the slack, so I have to sacrifice a few roots because they dig for the critters and the cats just nab ’em.

    Della peeks out now and then and heads to the water trough and then back in the shed. We never got much snow until today – so much for all day coverage on the news!!

    Stay warm!

    Sarah, thank you – you made my day today with that deer story. It reminds me of a neighbor, I should post about. I’m jealous of your kitty, we are getting low on cats again. Hank is back and he is hunting, but it takes about 5 or 6 cats to keep things at bay. I never have any trouble with the straw bale cellar, it must be because the cats do sleep in the hay stack, so they probably are heading off any trouble. We also don’t store much grain, so our rodent population is pretty low. When we had all the laying hens though, it was a different ball of wax.

    Ruby Ball or any red cabbage makes great kraut, but I eat most of it cooked the German way with apples and vinegar. 🙂

    Joanna, I have read THE GOOD LIFE, did you know they were mentors to Eliot Coleman? Very interesting couple. 🙂

    Susy, umm spinach, mine got leaf miners, and then some bolted, so I’m just babying it along. Do you like the mache, it always seemed so hard to harvest, and felt kind of slimy. I haven’t been in the greenhouse now for two days and I’m wondering what the kale looks like now, after 8*F. Sigh time will tell.

    TC, I’m afeared it’s coming your way! We didn’t get the foot, but we have just enough to get in the way. One of my town girlfriends, told me “oh now, you will have time to relax, since you can’t do anything outside!” Too hard to explain how much harder chores are in the snow… Stay warm.

    Bethany, you’re welcome!

    Sadge, I’m with you, I don’t want
    to make kraut out of all of it. I like eating it fresh throughout the winter too. I root pruned all the outside cabbage, and didn’t do the heads in the greenhouse, thinking they wouldn’t be as susceptible…some of those split! I’m looking forward to comparing notes. 🙂

    Linda, Grow up! What are you talking about girl! 🙂 I should just answer your chicken question here – We have never had a lice problem with our chickens, but we do rotate their permanent quarters, and don’t put young chickens in with old ones, since the young ones are more susceptible to parasites, external and internal. You could try diatomaceous earth for them to dust in, sometimes that helps. Sorry to take so long.

    Chris, thanks, you’re on your way too, you know. It just takes practice, and failure over and over again. Did I ever tell you my favorite quilt book is about quilts from West Virginia?

    Linda, I’m not as organized as you think, just lucky this year. I could have done a lot of this earlier, but I like to push the limit. Luckily we haven’t lost power yet, but probably soon. We don’t have to worry about the freezing because of our wood heat. But, you are so much colder up there. BRRRRRR

    Debi, we lucked out snow wise this time. I think we only have about 7″, just enough to be annoying. Maybe more is coming this weekend, it might stay for Christmas. 🙂

    I do give Della a little COB (2# a day) but she gets roots that we grow, she does better, and we know what she is eating, and of course, she gets the best hay! 🙂 I feed her parsnips and carrots, I tried mangels, but they had too much sugar and gave her diarrhea, plus they were hard to keep since so much of the root is out of the ground. I was looking for something inexpensive, and easy to harvest and store. I got my tips for FEEDS AND FEEDING, by Morrison ( an older edition)

    Emrys, I never have pickled carrots, except in sauerkraut, but there is a good recipe in NOURISHING TRADITIONS, by Sally Fallon.

    Anybody reading this have any good recipes for Emrys?

  14. December 31, 2008 9:36 am

    Wonderful blog – and what a great life-style! I really appreciate all the details about over-wintering vegetables, and your other food preservation activities. We’re also in a cold climate (zone 3-4), so stocking the winter larder is a year round obsession. Over the years I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s ideal to be eating straight out of the garden as many months of the year as possible, but it’s always a bit of a gamble. Boy do I hate voles – and deer.

    RE – The Nearings and their books. I met Helen many years ago when they were still in VT. I love their books, and found them quite inspiring, though I was a little dismayed recently to learn that they had a trust fund and spent winter months in a Manhatten apartment…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: