Home Garden Hacks, winter, farm
Photo by Rolf Hecken
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Winter is a time of rest for at least some projects, but it brings its own set of challenges. It is the season of keeping the animals fed and their water open, plus figuring out how to stay warm yourself. But it’s also a time to bring your schedule down a couple notches, visit with friends and neighbors, and allow yourself to recharge before spring. Use these home garden hacks to make the most of this slower season.

Winterize Your Beehives

Button up your hives for the winter so they don’t have to expend as much energy keeping the colony warm during cold snaps. Wind saps the energy out of the hive, which makes buffering them against the gusts imperative. Stack hay or straw bales around them on the windiest sides, typically the north and west ends in most parts of the country. Some beekeepers even wrap their hives with tar paper to secure seams. But be sure to provide adequate ventilation or your hives will suffocate or mold with the added moisture. In addition to the bottom entrance, drill a 5/8-inch hole or two in the top box to allow moisture to escape. And don’t forget to dig out the hives if the entrances become drifted shut.

Add Humidity To A Room

Winter air is exceedingly drying, so you need to be conscientious about adding humidity to your home. When you take a shower, forgo the fan and leave the door ajar, if possible, to allow the steam into the rest of the house. You can also set a tea kettle or pan of water on the wood or cook stove for a constant stream of moisture. Add orange or lemon peels and spices to the water to give the house a wonderful fragrance.

Boost Your Immunity

On their own, honey and garlic are renowned for their antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities, and together they make a delicious team in support of your immune system. Chop two to three heads of garlic and place them in a half-pint jar. Cover it with raw honey and place it in the refrigerator for three weeks before using it. The result is a mild and sweet remedy for common winter health troubles. Take a teaspoonful up to three times per day.

Grow Sprouts Or Microgreens

It’s difficult to go months without fresh vegetables from the garden, but you can grow sprouts or microgreens on your counter for a dose of spring in the middle of winter. For sprouts, use a quart-sized jar with a screened top. Soak the sprout seeds in 2 cups of water for eight hours, then strain and rinse them a couple of times per day until they grow to the desired size. Store in the refrigerator.

For microgreens, use mung beans, broccoli or pea seeds, and plant them in containers or trays. Place these under a strong light source, and when they are 3 to 4 inches tall, cut them and use them in salads or eat them straight.

Bake for the Neighbors

There’s nothing like baking in the oven to warm the home, and making treats for friends and neighbors is a good excuse to do just that. Make big batches of bread, cookies or cinnamon rolls. Having the oven on warms the kitchen, and when you are finished, leave the oven door ajar to take advantage of the leftover heat. Package your goodies nicely and make a trip around the neighborhood to warm the hearts of your friends.

Get Outside: Home Garden

Yes, it’s cold outside, but winter will only seem longer if you’re cooped up the entire time. Bundle up and do something, whether it’s going for a walk (which is a great way to start the New Year!), cross-country skiing, sledding down the best hills, or practicing the fine art of building a snowman. Kick off the season by stringing outdoor lights, and build a bonfire to celebrate the Winter Solstice on December 21 to welcome the longer days.

Stay Warm With Wool

There’s a Norwegian saying that states, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” If you want the best way to ward off the winter chill, wear wool. From coats to withstand the harshest conditions to moisture-wicking undies, wool is the ultimate cold-weather fabric. Choose the softest fiber to wear close to your skin, such as Merino or alpaca, and dress in layers. And don’t forget your head. A wool hat will do wonders to keep your body heat from escaping.

Use Heated Pet Dishes

One of the greatest challenges in the winter season is keeping fresh, open water for the chickens. The standard waterer quickly freezes, and not everyone wants to either change it multiple times per day or invest in an expensive heated coop. The quick solution is to use a heated pet bowl during the times of freezing temperatures. Whether inside the coop or in a protected area outside of it, make sure the bowl is on a solid base where it won’t tip over. Fill it with water and plug it into a ground fault interrupter (GFI) circuit. It’s also a good idea to protect the plug connection, wrapping it to prevent water from reaching the joint and keeping it off the ground. This setup does a terrific job of keeping the water open even in sub-zero weather.

Make Your Own Hot Chocolate

Cold weather means hot chocolate season, and it is easy to make your own mix to keep on hand when you need to warm up after returning from farm chores or having fun on the sledding hill. Sift together 1 cup of dried milk, 1-1/3 cups of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. Toss in a handful of small marshmallows if desired and store in a quart jar. To make the hot chocolate, add 4 to 5 tablespoons of the mix to a mug and pour in a cup of boiling water. Mix and enjoy!

Organize Your Seeds

One sure way to make it through the long, dark days of winter is to think about spring. This is a perfect time to organize what seeds you already have, since many varieties will last for years, so you can order those you need. While some organizational systems can be rather complex, an easy and compact method to sort your seeds is to group them in Ziploc bags. This way you can see what you have while keeping them in an airtight container. Put similar seeds in the same bag and keep them all in a larger container. This makes it easy in the early spring to grab your bag with lettuce seeds, for example, when you head out to the newly tilled garden for the first plantings of the season.

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