Hillbetty revival

The months of November and December are some of my favorite months, not only for the holidays and time spent with family and friends over amazing meals, but as months of reflection and rest.

As daylight wanes and all the homestead goodies are packed away into the cellar, everything slows down, including this hillbetty. These are the months of reflection on what I tried that didn’t work, what I did that flourished, and where I want to go in the coming year with this hobby farm of mine.

As I take a rest, I also plan the rest for space.

In small-space homesteading, it is easy to carried away into the realm of using every square foot of the property to produce. Fallowing soil is the practice of leaving soil unplanted for a period of time, usually 1 to 5 years, to allow regeneration. The nitrogen, carbon and organic materials in the soil will return, enhancing nutrients and moisture retention.

This year’s garden was half-size, as I allowed half of the garden plot to lie fallow. In the next year, I will plant only half again to allow the garden to replenish soil nutrients and stay healthy. The plot is large enough to provide more than enough for my family at half capacity. The value of rest comes in the healthier plants with larger productions in the smaller space.

The critters also take a rest around this time of year. As the days get shorter, the egg production of the hens slows way down. By early December I will have the heat lamps on the coop as dual functioning temperature control for ice prevention in their water supply and light stimulation, but in the month of November, I leave them to rest. The daytime temperatures are still so warm that heat lamps bring the interior temps to levels uncomfortable for the chickens. I have embraced these months as hens’ break, too.

The catfish will go into their lethargic stage. Not quite a hibernation, but their metabolism and activity slow down to appear almost dormant stage. I do miss the feeding as my favorite farm chore, but they remind me of the importance of rest.

I will be tucking in the young trees I have planted this year for their winter rest with an extra layer or two of mulch for cold protection. I consider this chore more of the rest category than the hard work of digging and planting in the spring.

It is not all sofa surfing and Netflix bingeing, though. I keep a journal, or scrapbook of sorts, for my little homestead that I started two years ago when I bought the place. These months of reflection allow me to document this year’s plants and progress and sketch out plans for the upcoming year.

I will research for the next phase of building out the homestead. Where do I want to focus my energies in the winter and early spring prep work, or what was on my to-do list that did not quite make it to fruition this year?

At this stage in my young homestead, I don’t quite have the year-round needs. For now, I will enjoy these months of rest, reflection and research.

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Melanie as a born-again Hillbetty attempting to revive her Appalachian roots. She lives in Creston with her two dogs and 21 chickens.

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