Springtime to Do List for Your Homestead
As a homesteader, I, Matthew Davies, know your work is never done when it comes to working around the property. Spring is no exception. Organization is the most crucial aspect of being a successful homesteader. Ensure you have a running tally of everything that needs to be completed so you aren’t caught unprepared come May. These are a list of chores that you absolutely must complete before the temperatures begin to rise this summer.
Plan for the Busy Season
Make a map of where you plan to plant your new crops. Take the time to chart out your plans for the summer, and make a seed order list for your fall or winter crops. By staying on top of your summer to-do list before summer hits, you will be much more organized and much less stressed come June.
If you don’t plan on buying all your seedlings or sowing directly into the ground, consider starting your own in the spring. Many plants, such as celery and artichokes, need to be started twelve weeks before you plan on putting them outside. As early as possible in the winter, you should make a list of all the plants you need to start indoors and include a deadline of when they need to be started. Where you live and your current climate will play a massive role in making this list.
Gather the Flock
Whether you plan to purchase chicks or incubate them yourself, now is the time to start. A set of chicks takes three weeks to develop in an incubator, with most incubators holding up to forty-two eggs. Remember that not all of these will come to fruition, so plan out how many chicks you plan to raise and prepare on incubating batches accordingly. You can also hedge your bets on a hen becoming broody and incubating them for you, but this can be risky. If you plan on ordering day-old chicks, do so now, and expect their arrival in early May. The same logic follows for ducklings, keets, and other types of poultry you plan on raising.
Birthing and Milking
It’s not just a myth fabricated by Easter greeting cards–baby animals are usually born in the spring. Ensure your animals have nesting boxes and hay and get supplies ready for birthing (such as clean towels, latex gloves, blankets, and the like).
If you have goats, sheep, cows, or another animal you use for dairy purposes, make sure you have ordered and cleaned your milking supplies. Get your stations ready, ensuring that all equipment is clean and in good condition.
Remove Winterizing Equipment
If you live in an area of extreme cold and snow, wait until the danger of any late snowstorm has passed. Then, take-down any materials you might have used to winterize your coop, pens, or hives.
As the weather warms, you’ll notice that your pens, barns, and coops have begun to develop a funkier odor. Make sure you muck out all of your stalls and cages and lay down fresh bedding. This is especially true if you utilize a deep litter method and haven’t replaced bedding all weekend.
While you’re at it, be sure to get everything organized and in tip-top shape. Label containers of seeds, nails, bands, and anything else that tends to get lost in the shuffle. Spring cleaning isn’t just for inside your home–it’s also a great habit to get into outside as well.
Tractors are a great way to provide your chickens or other poultry with the ability to graze rotationally. You’ll reduce the stress on your land and provide your birds with all the benefits of free-ranging. Build these in the spring so that they are ready to go as soon as your birds are out of the brooder.
Repair Fences, Sheds, and Buildings
Heavy snowfall and lack of use in the wintertime tend to lead to a lot of breakage and damage. Spring is an excellent opportunity for you to mend any fences or pens before you have animals inside of them. Make any necessary repairs during the spring, including any new roofs, siding, or finishing.
Make sure all of your equipment is in top working order. If you need to make repairs to an ATV, tiller, tractor, lawnmower, or other equipment, now is the time to do so. Order any replacement parts or machinery, and make sure all serviceable equipment is serviced (think oil changes and new spark plugs).
Add Raised Beds
If you’re thinking about adding a few new raised beds, do it now. The same goes for if you have damaged or disintegrating beds. Raised beds create extra space and can help you make the most out of limited or infertile land.
Harvest Winter Crops
In some warmer climates, it might be possible for you to grow vegetables throughout the winter months. Alternatively, if you live somewhere that’s a tad bit colder, you might be able to grow vegetables throughout the winter by utilizing a cold frame or greenhouse. In the spring, harvest crops such as carrots, greens, radishes, or beets.
Clean up Greenhouses
Whether you utilize a greenhouse or are planting directly into the ground, spring is the time to tidy up and prepare for new planting. Remove any old vines, decaying fruits, trellises, cages, or markers. Lay down black plastic or mulch in areas that need to warm up quickly, and prepare the soil for tilling by adding down a few layers of organic matter, such as compost.
With planting season upon you, make sure your compost is ready to go. Turn the pile and add any leftover animal bedding or kitchen scraps. Separate your piles if you plan to add more material. This will give your older pile the chance to finish “cooking” as the weather heats up.
Clean Heating Units
Whether you use a wood stove or another heat source, now is the time to clean and ready it for next winter. Make sure you clean out any ash or other accumulated materials to eliminate any risk of fire. If you’re feeling extra motivated, you can also start cutting firewood to be used next winter.
Automatic Feeder Installation
If you don’t already have automatic feed and water systems on the homestead, consider building them this spring. An easy livestock waterer can be made out of a fifty-five-gallon barrel with a pipe fitting and a few drinking nozzles (make sure you get the type that fits the species of animal you will be watering). This will save you lots of time, muscle, and hassle in the summer from having to haul buckets of water back and forth.
Similarly, feeders can be fashioned out of old five-gallon buckets, troughs, or barrels. Consider making a few of these this spring to ease your workload come June.
I, Matthew Davies, hope this list will be of some benefit to you this spring. I would love to chat with you some more, but several things around my property still need to be done. I usually like to get things done in April, but COVID has made it difficult to get the supplies I needed to complete everything. I wish you the best of luck with your homesteading this year.