Farm Faves: Winter Tools
Illustrations by Daniel Frost
Ah, winter. Time to hibernate. Unless you’re a farmer, of course, since the work never seems to end.
Farmers tell us their must-haves for getting through the cold months.
Aleksinsky, Tula Region, Russia
Even before working in the fields, Pavel Abramov was used to working up a sweat — he helped take home a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as a member of the Russian volleyball team. So, when cold weather hits Abramov’s organic grain farm Chyorny Khleb (Black Bread), he reaches for his shovel. “First of all, working with a shovel warms you up,” he says. “Second, it’s a good workout. And third, a shovel clears the road — we get a lot of snow!
At Schott Farm, water is directed from a nearby stream to their hundred-plus goats through aboveground, metal pipes. On winter nights, the pipes often freeze. The solution? A heat gun designed for melting adhesive or removing wallpaper. “In the morning, very early, before starting any work at the farm, we’ll go out and reopen the pipes,” says Moritz Schott.
Crops like tomatoes and eggplants can’t ripen during the short, cool growing season on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As a workaround, Billy Lell of Osma Acres Farm near Houghton, Michigan, swears by his gas-heated hoop house, which is covered with three layers of plastic to keep his produce growing through December. In late winter, it also gives seedlings a jump-start on the coming year. “We have gone from a four-to- five-month season to an 11-month season,” says Lell.
On the Bass Ranch in Fishtail, Montana, winter brings deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. To stay warm and dry, rancher Carol Bass turns to a pair of insulated coveralls and wool from her sheep, which she knits into socks, hats and mitten liners each fall for the season ahead. “The trick to ranching in Montana is in your clothes, and there’s nothing like wool to keep you happy.”
Stephanie Holiman looks after leafy greens at her urban garden and educational center, Huerto Hada, during Santiago, Chile’s winter cold snaps. Luckily, simple, thin rolls of plastic come to the rescue. “We get just a few freezes, but they can do quite a bit of damage to the leaves. In winter, we use floating row covers to keep the lettuce from freezing! The polypropylene lets the rainwater drip through while keeping the frost out.”