The Fourth Season of Homesteading, Part 1

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, things have gotten away from me. Autumn was extremely busy on the farm where I work and then the holidays were busy as they tend to be. I’m back with a vengeance though and I’m going to be stepping it up a notch for 2015! (more on that later!)

So winter is firmly here in central New York so my garden is under snow for the season. But what do you do with this fourth season when you are homesteading? The first three seasons of homesteading are pretty straight forward: planting in spring, maintaining and harvesting in summer, bulk of the harvest and crop storage in fall. So what do you do in the winter? I can’t have animals in my tiny little city plot and I don’t have room for a greenhouse. I do still have a job, I haven’t reached self-sufficiency yet, but what do I do with all of the time I would have spent on growing food the rest of the year? For part one of this series I’m going to focus on taking time for education in the winter!

Classes

Our local Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute often offers courses during the winter. This year they are offering a community design course. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York winter conference is generally in January. These farming conferences often offer a plethora of workshops on many useful topics! If you are looking for something that involves less cost and travel, there are free online courses available throughout the year on coursera.

Books

You don’t have to take a class to learn something. There are lots of great books on permaculture, ecology, and sustainability. Personally, I love nothing better than curling up with a book on a bitterly cold afternoon. Here are a few on my shelves these days:

  • The Third Plate (Dan Barber): this book compares the standard American diet with the more sustainable organic, grass-fed, free-range alternative plate. Both of these diets tend to be meat-centric and treat vegetables as side dishes. Barber explores the sustainability of a variety of food production methods and the ways that changes to our food culture could result in a “third plate” in which meat is the side dish and plant-based foods are the majority of the plate. There are some fascinating anecdotes about Barber’s own farm to table business and the ways that he has struggled with producing food that is sustainable.
  • Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Wendell Berry): this incredibly beautiful book of memoir explores Berry’s personal experiences with food and farming both while he was growing up and later on his own small farm. There are also some selections of his fiction later in the book that are meant to draw connections between food, farm, and farmers.
  • Cooked (Michael Pollan): this is a really interesting account of cooking methods by the elements – cooking with fire, water, air, and earth. There are some really interesting accounts of traditional cooking methods, as well as health and cultural aspects of traditional ways of eating. I was really inspired to try some new foods and new ways of cooking them!
  • American Terrior (Rowan Jacobsen): traditional European foods are often tied to a specific geography. Wines, cheeses, and many other foods have often been thought to express some quintessential characteristic of the region they are made. Jacobsen explores the reasons that this idea of terrior hasn’t developed in America the way it has in Europe. This is a really interesting look at the reasons that the land food comes from can drastically affect both the flavor and the nutrient content of the food we eat.
  • Ecopreneuring (John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist): a really inspirational book about how business and life calling can be combined. This is a great book for me because it is less about making a profit and more about building a business that is in tune with the life that you want to live.
  • The new organic grower’s four-season harvest: how to harvest fresh organic vegetables from your home garden all year long (Eliot Coleman): I haven’t gotten very far with this book yet, but it seems to be a really informative book on sustainable growing methods throughout the year. The appendices look like they will be really good references too!
  • Farmacology (Daphne Miller, M.D.): this book was written by a doctor, not a farmer, and has some really interesting discussions of sustainable farming methods and the effect that those methods can have on our health and healing.

Podcasts

Podcasts are great because they allow you to multitask. I love to listen to podcasts while I’m working out, knitting, or doing housework.

  • Permaculture Voices: interviews of farmers, homesteaders, and permaculture experts. These are some really inspiring and informative conversations.
  • Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture Podcast: this podcast includes discussions on a variety of permaculture related topics. It is interesting but often seems like it is a little unfocused.
  • A Way to Garden: on a variety of gardening topics from heirloom plant varieties to growing mushrooms to container growing (primarily seems to focus on organic methods)
  • Sustainable World Radio – Ecology and Permaculture Podcast: there are some great interviews in this podcast – from homesteading to building sustainable housing to ecology.
  • Living on Earth: this podcast by Public Radio International covers a variety of sustainability topics such as food production, environmental conservation, and climate change. I always learn something interesting from this podcast!
  • Chicken Thistle Farm CoopCast: this is a really interesting podcast from a couple of homesteaders who talk about topics related to what is going on at their farm. There is a lot of really great information in this podcast and some really great stories about what it is really like to homestead!

So what do you do with yourself during the winter?

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9 thoughts on “The Fourth Season of Homesteading, Part 1

  1. The winters here in western North Carolina are mild compared to your neck of the woods, so I generally spend time cleaning and organizing my tools and equipment, as well as re-arranging my garden beds and removing unwanted weeds from my yard. A cool winter day here is the perfect time to remove invasive plants like English Ivy, which was covering the majority of my backyard when I moved here four years ago.

    I also spend a lot of time planning and preparing for the spring season. Looking over past years’ garden logs, I compile whatever information I found useful, incorporate it into my new notes and discard (mentally, not physically) the stuff that wasn’t as helpful. It feels like I have been at this for a very long time, but I know I am only beginning to scratch the surface of knowledge that can be applied to my suburban “homestead.”

    The “Third Plate” book sounds like a very interesting read. I have also come to the conclusion that a meat-based diet is not as healthy as a plant-based diet, despite the common nutritional dogma of today that claims carbohydrates are the enemy. I don’t think anyone can argue that meat-based diets are sustainable with our current production systems.

    Personally, I am quite happy to eat more plants and less animal products. It means I can feed myself without worrying about how to feed anything else. All the food from the garden goes directly from the ground to our plates, instead of being inefficiently utilized by another creature that we intend to consume. I’d by lying if I said I enjoyed beets more than a good steak, however!

    I enjoyed your post today. Here’s hoping for a short winter so you can get back out there in the dirt!

  2. Pingback: The Fourth Season of Homesteading, Part 2 | living on a green thumb

  3. Pingback: Root Vegetable Resource Roundup | living on a green thumb

  4. Pingback: The Fourth Season of Homesteading, Part 3 | living on a green thumb

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