Winter

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Whee…I’m coming through.”

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“Oh yea, I double dog dare you!”

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“Abby”

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“We want to play, too!”

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“Gangway…here we come”


Skipper and Summer play in the snow and scare Abby who decides to watch from afar. (Behind a bush.)

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Despite having crossed over into her senior years, Abby is as frisky as a pup!

It doesn’t get better!

We have fresh snow, two dogs and sunshine.

We can’t go into the woods, though. It’s deer hunting season. Every deer in the county knows DH and I don’t hunt. Their tracks are everywhere. They are everywhere.

We’ve flushed out full-antlered bucks. We’ve flushed out whole herds.

One of the deer is the smallest doe DH has ever seen. He saw her this summer and thought she was a fawn, until he saw the baby. DH was on his tractor and the fawn and tiny doe walked almost up to him. They weren’t the least bit afraid as they strolled by DH and the tractor on their way to a neighbor’s cornfield.

But, as beautiful as they are and as much as we love seeing them, the deer are a danger to our deer-running dogs who’ll hopefully give chase over car-ridden highways, past trigger-happy hunters and livestock-protecting farmers.

Until hunting season ends, the dogs have to be leashed or kept by the garden where they won’t be enticed into harm’s way.

Today though, nobody minds. Not with snow to run through and a dad who can be coaxed into throwing the ball.

It’s a most wonderful TIME of the year!

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Abby is on the alert. There is a groundhog hole on the other side of the brush.

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“Tag, you’re it!”

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“You can’t catch me.” Buster’s smile says it all! He’s so pleased with himself, he doesn’t notice Abby isn’t trying to catch him.

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Buster makes dog “snow angels”.

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Buster’s ball. We got it for the horses, who wanted nothing to do with it. Buster found it and fell in love. We like it too. It wears Buster out more than a regular ball.

More posts about the dogs:

My Big Fat Animals

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

Thanksgiving dinner rolls…and a bad dog!

“Bad Boy Buster” and Dog Whispering

Saving Kitty

Posts about the cats:

Playing Cat and Mouse

My Big Fat Animals

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

The Cat Box

Cat Ladder

DH’s Cat Ladder Goes International

Saving Kitty

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Skipper and Summer are getting winter coats.

The horses are shaggy. It’s getting dark earlier. The temperature is dipping down into the 30’s. The cats have gotten lazy. They spend their days asleep, curled up in warm balls. Our gardening has come to an end.

It is a time for reflection, for noting our successes and failures and for making plans for next year.  We will have a garden journal and note planting times. We will grow more potatoes and onions and less tomatoes. DH is getting another quince tree, two persimmon trees and cherry trees for his birthday.

In the meantime there is work to be done.

HOW TO GET THE GARDEN READY FOR WINTER

  • Cleanup: Many unwelcome pests stay warm and cozy in old plant debris, so removing it eliminates their hiding places. Rake heavy accumulations of leaves and twigs from under shrubs, roses, aspen trees and plants that had leaf diseases. To lessen the chance of disease, cut back the old, ripened leaf stalks, clean up the flower bed and remove and discard plant refuse that accumulates around the plants. Cut back perennials.
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    Shredded leaves over my tilled garden.

  • Mulch: Apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of light, airy mulch, such as pine needles, shredded cedar, shredded leaves or compost. This helps accomplish two main goals. Plants such as strawberries, other berries and some herbs can overwinter if properly mulched. Mulching can also keep the ground from freezing and cracking and may prevent weed growth.

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DH cleaning horse stalls, getting manure to be dried and added to our compost pile.  His tractor has a manure attachment an Amish neighbor made for us.

  • Out with the Old: Some plants should be pulled when they are done. They only use up precious space, bind soil or make the next spring’s preparation harder and longer. Pulling the old plants for winter preparation should be done right after a hard frost.
  • Clean Tools: Clean all tools before they are put away for the winter.  Hot soapy water should suffice for most tools. Pat dry and hang up to store most tools. Dirt on tools just encourages rust on some tools. Clean all tools even if the tools seem clean. That way they will be prepared for next spring’s garden start.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN COMPOST:

Instead of paying a company to haul away leaves,  compost the leaves and return the nutrients to your garden.

Materials used for compost should include a mixture of brown organic material (dead leaves, twigs, manure) and green organic material (lawn clippings, fruit rinds, etc.). Brown materials supply carbon, while green materials supply nitrogen. The best ratio is 1 part green to 1 part brown material. Shredding, chopping or mowing these materials into smaller pieces will help speed the composting process by increasing the surface area.

Moisture is important to support the composting process. Compost should be comparable to the wetness of a wrung-out sponge.If the pile is too dry, materials will decompose very slowly. Add water during dry periods or when adding large amounts of brown organic material. If the pile is too wet, turn the pile and mix the materials. Another option is to add dry, brown organic materials.

Oxygen is needed to support the breakdown of plant material by bacteria. To supply oxygen, you will need to turn the compost pile so that materials at the edges are brought to the center of the pile. Turning the pile is important for complete composting and for controlling odor. Wait at least two weeks before turning the pile, to allow the center of the pile to “heat up” and decompose. Once the pile has cooled in the center, decomposition of the materials has taken place. Frequent turning will help speed the composting process.

Bacteria and other microorganisms are the real workers in the compost process. By supplying organic materials, water, and oxygen, the already present bacteria will break down the plant material into useful compost for the garden. As the bacteria decompose the materials, they release heat, which is concentrated in the center of the pile.

You may also add layers of soil or finished compost to supply more bacteria and speed the composting process. Commercial starters are available but should not be necessary for compost piles that have a proper carbon to nitrogen ratio (1 part green organic material to 1 part brown organic material).

In addition to bacteria, larger organisms including insects and earthworms are active composters. These organisms break down large materials in the compost pile.

For most efficient composting, use a pile that is between 3 feet cubed and 5 feet cubed (27-125 cu. ft.). This allows the center of the pile to heat up sufficiently to break down materials. The surface area of the materials effects the time needed for composting. By breaking materials down into smaller parts (chipping, shredding, mulching leaves), the surface area of the materials will increase. This helps the bacteria to more quickly break down materials into compost.

Finally, the number of times the pile is turned influences composting speed. By turning more frequently (about every 2-4 weeks), you will produce compost more quickly. Waiting at least two weeks allows the center of the pile to heat up and promotes maximum bacterial activity. When turning the compost pile, make sure that materials in the center are brought to the outsides, and that materials from the outside edges are brought to the center.

With frequent turning, compost can be ready in about 3 months, depending on the time of year. In winter, the activity of the bacteria slows, and it is recommended that you stop turning the pile after November to keep heat from escaping the pile’s center. In summer, warm temperatures encourage bacterial activity and the composting process is quicker

What to use for compost:

  • Leaves
  • Some manures (cow, horse, sheep, poultry, rabbit, llama)
  • Lawn clippings
  • Vegetable or fruit wastes, coffee grounds
  • Shredded newspaper or white, unglazed office paper
  • Trimmed plant materials
  • Shredded stems and twigs

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