This past weekend, Daylight Saving Time ended, and now it officially seems like the growing season has come to a close. I must say, for myself, this is brings a sigh of relief. I spent the weekend cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed, though while cleansing the palette, I already began anticipating what I’ll be growing next year. (I’m a perpetual list maker—I can’t help myself!) Maybe on your farm, you’re still trudging on ’til dark, but soon enough, you’ll enter into the season of rest, as well.
As dusk approaches at an earlier and earlier hour, it’s important to take time each day to look around and savor the parts of the farm that truly make us joyful. The short, dark days of winter can be tough for us outdoor folk, who sleep easier at night when we’re able to be in the fresh air and do some honest physical work.
In the off season, you’ll likely spend time indoors catching up on farm planning and finances, reading up on that new husbandry technique or cooking up some produce you canned during the harvest season—all of which are huge bonuses to this time of year. But to avoid the crankiness that you and I have both experienced after being cooped up inside for too long, I challenge you to get out and take in the world (aka farm) around you before it gets dark. Here are some ideas to get you on your feet.
1. Forge a new nature trail.
If you have several acres of land, there are likely some corners of your property you don’t frequent often. Put on your hiking boots—or your snow boots, depending on the weather—and get out to explore those areas. Maybe you’ll find a new wildflower or an animal’s nest, or maybe your treasure will simply be to revel in the nature that is your farm.
2. Photograph the farm.
Although it might seem counterintuitive with most farm life having died off, late-fall and winter are some of my favorite times to take my camera outdoors. I love capturing subjects that demonstrate the contrast between things at rest and things that are still very much alive and vibrant: a bluejay perched upon a bare branch, red hawthorn berries covered in the first frost, wintergreen peeping up through a bed of dried leaves. With a keen eye, you will find pieces of your farm that are photo-worthy and maybe return home with a work of art to decorate your hearth.
3. Practice wildcrafting.
When you aren’t busy cultivating crops, you have time to forage for the wild edibles that Mother Nature has provided. Even during winter, you’re likely to find things that can be put to use in your kitchen or medicine cabinet: chickweed, cattails, watercress, wild leeks, rosehips and burdock root. Take along a trustworthy plant-identification book and see what goodies you can find—making sure, of course, that you properly identify a plant before consuming it.
4. Gather craft supplies.
Part of your winter will likely be spent in a DIY tizzy, and what better supply store than your farm? Before cozying up at the craft table, head outdoors to respectfully and sustainably collect useful items: pinecones, branches, dried leaves, deadwood, crop residues and berries. Your options are only limited by your imagination and the craft project at hand.
Sometimes just being outside, not doing anything, is enough to fully enjoy a winter day on the farm. I find this time of year the perfect opportunity to daydream and plan my worldly travels—which might or might not happen one day—but nonetheless, the fresh air is invigorating and the dreams are inspiring. After all, as John Muir says, "The world is big…”
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