We experienced a mild winter here in Southwest Idaho. The kind where you get a skiff of snow one day and a downpour the next day. Sometimes the weather was cool enough I could walk across our future garden (a sizable patch of tilled up clay) easily. But when the weather warmed up a few degrees my muck boots sunk in several inches.
That messy time of year is my least favorite– yet it’s also the ideal time of year to make plans for future buildings, fences, and ground amendments.
Thankfully the Old Hickory shed that serves as our milking parlor has proven to be in the perfect location. Excess water is draining under it and we’re not seeing any pooling in the attached three-sided cow shelter.
We’ve learned that wood chip mulch may not be a completely effective week barrier, but it’s an excellent ground covering during the winter and spring. It’s actually more effective than gravel when it comes to providing a covering over the mud in areas where we don’t drive often. We’ll likely bring in more woodchips this summer and cover the new garden area with rotten hay and straw to amend the clay soil in our garden area.
Speaking of moldy hay, we’ve discovered that keeping tarps over a haystack is a losing battle. With the amount of wind we get around here, building some version of The Simple Shelter for hay is probably our best bet. We also want to focus on dryland range management to reduce the amount of hay needed each year. As long as we don’t have heavy snowfall, winter pasture is a great option for animals. I think it’s especially beneficial for horses prone to colic under unnatural feed conditions.
Getting feed in the right places is also in the plan for next year. (Do you suppose I can talk my husband into two hay shelters?) I knew I should get more hay bales to the horse pasture at the bottom of a hill last fall, but my desire to haul numerous 1,250 lb. down a hill with a tractor that can just barely make it was waning during the end of a difficult pregnancy. However, hauling it down one pitchforkful at a time is excellent postpartum excercise. My only real complaint is that my pitchfork broke. Seriously. Who makes a pitchfork that breaks after only a couple years of use? (I’m still trying to convince myself that I should go pitchfork shopping with five young children in tow.)
Despite the muddy conditions, I’m thankful we haven’t had to deal with messy winter like the winter of 2016/2017 when during my normal chore routine became an epic journey over a thick layer of snow with an ice crust my foot would slip through every few steps.
Are you dealing with weather related messes this year? If so, are you also finding opportunities to make this season easier next year? I’d love to hear from you— comment below or send an email.