If you Google Fall on the Farm, many of the results will be fall farm festivals that conjure thoughts of apple and pumpkin picking, corn mazes and hay rides. For those working in production agriculture, fall is always a busy time of year as the harvest is brought in, and the farm is readied for winter.
For grain farmers, this is the time of year when they harvest their crop. This means long hours in the combine and meals on the go. For our family, it means the end of the growing year and farm market season. We spend our evenings harvesting the last of the produce, like squash and potatoes, and picking apples from our trees. We also spend time cleaning up the gardens – feeding bat-sized zucchini to the sheep, clearing the dead vines and plants, tilling and composting. We rake leaves and pile them on our strawberries after the first frost to help insulate them.
It’s also the time of year when we breed our sheep for lambing in January and February. All of the sheep are sheared, have their hooves trimmed (pedicure time!), and are wormed. We place a marking brace on the ram that marks the ewes’ backs that have been bred. Then we turn them out together. For many who raise sheep, Fall is the season when fat lambs, or lambs that are ready to be butchered are sold.
For the chickens, we are cleaning out coops and laying fresh wood shavings and straw. We don’t heat our coops in the winter, but we do ensure that there is adequate insulation to store the body heat the birds give off. We intentionally raise breeds that are hardy to Minnesota, to prevent undue stress from cold weather. We also set the lights in the coops on timers to trick the birds into thinking there is longer daylight, as chickens need a minimum amount of light each day to lay an egg. Roosters we don’t intend to keep for breeding purposes are sold or butchered.
Like most families, we put away the outdoor toys, the picnic table, and lawn furniture. We winterize the lawnmower and get the snow blower ready. Our children are busy with school activities, dance class, and 4-H meetings.
We love apple picking, corn mazes, and hay rides too – once all the other work is done! Our priority each fall is to ensure our livestock and land is prepared for the winter months ahead.
Happy Fall Y’all!