TLC For the Farm
I set annual mandatory assignments for myself as our family’s primary homemaker. The porch must be scrubbed when the field dust settles after planting season. The windows washed again ahead of my daughter’s fall birthday party. And the carpets steam-cleaned every November before my beloved Christmas decorations infiltrate nearly every room of the house.
Something like a deep household cleaning, our farms also need regular maintenance. We call it our land improvement list: Cut brush from fence rows. Remove or trim trees invading field edges. Improve land drainage. Evaluate more sensitive lands for enrollment in conservation programs. Confer with the Farm Service Agency when necessary, because as with tillage practices and pesticide applications, farmers have rules to follow for land improvement, too.
With frozen ground underfoot, the winter season ramps up our farm maintenance efforts outside for our backhoe, excavator and chainsaw operators. Meanwhile, those of us devoted to bookwork feel the chill of spreadsheets and tax time documents in the office. Thank goodness for hot cider K-Cups and chocolate. But back to the backhoe and its heated cab.
The desire to keep farms well-maintained and healthy motivates our commitment to annual farm clean-up. The tillable land around here stays farmable when you prevent or fix the encroachment of trees that can rob water, nutrients and sunlight from crops. The removal of undesirable or invasive woody species, such as Russian olive, from pastures and field edges helps grasses re-establish and native trees thrive. The resulting healthier land enhances environmental stewardship and improves farm profitability and land value. The preservation of grasses and desirable trees also creates wildlife habitat. The latter makes great perch points for the bald eagles that frequent our farm this time of year.
In short, when the crops don’t grow, we still have plenty to do on the farm. Between farm clean-up, winter meetings and workshops, hauling grain, machinery maintenance, cattle chores and bookwork, the days fill up pretty quickly. Land improvement alone can consume a decent amount of winter’s daylight hours. Those hours in the frozen fields bring a gratifying result, as does that freshly cleaned window at the kitchen sink.