Every year we thing we are ready for winter. And every year we are not.
A few things to think about when it comes to winter on the farm.
- How do you heat?
- How long is the driveway?
- What needs snow cleared?
- How much water do you need?
How do you heat?
Out here On the Ranch, we heat mostly with wood. We have baseboard electric heat as well, but nothing beats the heat of a wood stove. Bonus: it continues to provide heat when the power is out like it was for 10 hours earlier this week.
So what does that mean? Firewood. I can’t tell you how much you need, but decide how much you need, then get more. Particularly if you have a shop or any other outbuildings that you heat with wood. We have a few different stoves to keep fed between the house, studio, cabin when guests visit and of course the hot tub. And let me tell you, it is a whole lot nicer to have extra than to be calling around trying to secure a load of firewood at -20 with 2 feet of snow on the ground.
If you collect wood yourself, you’re going to need a decent chainsaw, some saw chaps/pants, eye and ear protection and way to haul it.
When it comes to firewood, the rule of thumb is more, More, MORE!
How long is the driveway?
Really, this one and what needs snow cleared are part of the same. Living in the city during a big snowfall is no big deal. You have your trusty shovel or push snowblower and the city takes care of the streets. Ultimately, not a big deal.
Out on the farm, things are a bit different. Here our driveway is almost 1km long. The city isn’t coming over to clear anything. And while I did walk the whole length of the drive with the snowblower once just to get out, its not a good solution.
You also need to decide what else besides the driveway gets cleared. Do you need a path to the barn? Parking? Turn arounds? Paths for animals? Here, my bale tractor is not 4wd so I also have to clear the snow in the hay stack in order to get to it.
That being said, you can get by with a few items that make life a whole lot easier. I am going to assume you already have a tractor with 3 point hitch and PTO.
If that is the case, you can get a back blade for the tractor that can range from pretty cheap, to crazy expensive. Either way, it will push snow. The key here is to make sure you plow a wide berth. The tractor and blade solution isn’t like a truck mounted plow that can throw snow up and over the bank. Essentially, with each snowfall your driveway gets a little narrower. Too narrow and you’re hiring someone to come in and dig out those edges.
You can also step it up and get a PTO powered, 3 point hitch mounted snow blower. I got one of these a few years back at the auction for cheap, but they can get pretty pricey too. Needless to say mine is pretty bare bones and I would love a bigger one with hydraulic controls, but the price was right and it clears snow. The beauty of this snowblower is that the edges of the driveway don’t start to close in. It’s not fast driving backwards but it can move a lot of snow.
When we first moved all we had was a small John Deere lawn tractor and in a pinch you can buy a front blade for them, or for your quad. This setup has worked pretty well for us for smaller snow falls but once things get over 6 inches or if the snow is wet and heavy, forget about it. We used it as our sole method of snow removal for a season. It worked, although we did have to hire out the snow removal for a couple of larger dumps.
And of course you can always hire out but that is usually limited to the driveway and can add up pretty quickly in areas of big snow.
How much water do you need?
No big surprise here, but livestock needs water. This one can take some creativity depending upon where your farm has electricity and water hook ups. You can get some pretty fancy set ups for water, but we don’t have those. We have a couple of water tanks with heaters in them so they needed to be set up near the house within reach of taps and power.
Keep in mind, unless the cows, horses and goats are living together, you’re going to need to be set up in multiple areas. For us, the only thing we winter is cows, so the set up works.