It's finally winter! With sub-20° nights lately, the farm is looking a lot like it's supposed to in the winter. Days are short, and nights are long; we're in our Persephone period where day length is shorter than ten hours. It doesn't just change the rhythm of our days, it affects the life of plants a lot. Below 10 hours of daylight, and with regularly freezing nights, the vast majority of plant growth comes to a standstill--a few things in our high tunnel will continue their slow re-growth, like spinach and lettuce, but pretty much everything outside in the open fields is just holding. Meanwhile, however, aphid reproduction remains steady! So we've cleared the last of our storage crops and stripped our cold weather greens of what they've got left to give us, and the rest is for the goats and chickens to clean up.
Both mobile chicken coops have been moved onto the growing fields for a month of all-you-can-eat grub and aphid buffet. We get the chickens onto the fields at this time because the pest pressure ends up overwhelming the crops anyway, and the chickens and goats can break these pest cycles by removing all of the host crops as well as taking out a good portion of the population. Meanwhile, they capture the nutrients remaining in the growing plants and compress them into slow-release fertilizer (poop!).
We'll move the chickens out the first week of January, to make sure we're not putting any more raw manure down on our fields after that. We'll turn the open beds under, plant a spring cover crop or continue to prep the fields for planting a few months later.
But for now, it's the resting period for the fields, and the planning period for the farmers. Nutrient management plans to consult, varieties to select, planting schedules and crop rotation to iron out, and upgrades and fixes to get to, so we can do it all (a little bit better) again next year.