Planning for November
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like this year has flown. How on earth is it almost November already? And then on the other hand, I was in Amsterdam in February just before all the madness started, and that seems like an age ago.
I know that officially winter does not start until December, but we treat November as the first month of winter just like the Celts did: with our climate here in Ireland and the cycle of the year with the sheep, it makes sense to us here on our farm. In any case, whether you subscribe to the Gregorian or the old Celtic calendar regarding seasons, there is no doubt that November means longer nights, colder temperatures and a change of pace on the farm.
Those evenings where the night seems to draw in ever earlier also means that our farm work is done earlier because we work by daylight when the animals are outdoors. It leaves more time for leisurely evenings and cosying up in front of the fire.
What I’ll Be Doing At Home
Long nights in front of the fire need fuel, so I have ordered logs for the fire and I have bags of coal for burning on hand. If you use another fuel source for heating as we do, now would be a good time to check that you have enough (I was on the ball this year and got my oil tank filled while the prices were good!) and get those chimneys swept before we get into the fire-lighting season – this is currently on the top of my to-do list!
Though I don’t want to yet, it really is time to start thinking about Christmas - there is such turmoil this year and being a little extra prepared will do no harm. If you are confined by restrictions, shopping online is a great option and most retailers are online and can deliver. Let’s try and support local, especially this year.
If you need to order gifts that do need to travel from outside the country, delivery and processing times have been lengthened so I’ll be factoring that in. I heard through the grape vine that Santa is having some staffing issues with Covid in the North Pole, so we’ll be sending our letter to him super early.
Because I won’t want to be dealing with the flurry of festive grocery shopping in December, I’ll be starting to think in terms of Christmas food and drink too. Most of the Christmas treats we look forward to can be bought in advance (but let’s face it, they’ll need to be hidden!) and stowed away. I’ll be cooking a chicken (free-range, sourced locally) again this year because there will only be a few of us together, but if you want a turkey on your table, order it early to save drama closer the time.
I have stored some onions, pumpkins and potatoes from harvest time, so weekly throughout the month I’ll be checking in on those. If rot or mould creeps in, it can devastate my store so checking frequently will prevent disappointment.
What I’ll be Doing in the Garden
The garden has at this stage mostly been put to bed but it is a great time for planting bulbs and trees too. If you are planning on expanding or adding to your garden, those long winter nights are perfect for browsing through gardening books and making plans. There are countless Irish garden centres and plant suppliers countrywide and online. If you are just starting out as a gardener, they are a great place to visit and will be happy to answer questions.
The trees that are still holding on to their leaves will be striped of them fairly quickly by the more blustery winds that come with November, leaving branches bare. Most of the berries will be gone from the trees too, so I’ll be starting to feed the birds: suet blocks, nuts, seeds and mealworms too.
I’ll be tidying away garden furniture and any decorative bits that I have around so the wind doesn’t do any more damage than necessary. I’ll be putting the hoses away too in case the temperatures freeze – I don’t want to have to buy new hoses in the spring time because they have split!
All those leaves I mentioned earlier can be collected up for use as mulch in the spring too: making leaf mould is something I have never done but there are so many leaves around already, it seems like it would be a waste not to. From what I have read, leaf mould is an excellent soil conditioner so that is another item on my to-do list this month!
When I get into tidying mode in the garden I can be pretty ruthless, so while I wait for all of those wonderful leaves to fall, I have to keep reminding myself to leave a little untidiness. There will be lots of creatures overwintering in the garden and I want to give them a place to bed down for the cold weather and get comfortable. Frogs, toads, hedgehogs and all sorts of invertebrates will be looking for shelter so I will be leaving some strategic piles of logs and leaves around.
What I’ll be Doing on the Farm
At the beginning of October, we put the rams out with the ewes for tupping (or breeding) season. Chests emblazoned with brightly coloured raddle, the boys strut their stuff and get amorous with the lady-sheep, and the resultant lambs will be born in March. Tupping season is still on-going and set to last into mid-November at least, so for now, I’ll be checking all of the groups of sheep morning and evening to make sure everyone is healthy and happy.
As the sheep munch through the last of the grass of the year, we’ll be closing off paddocks –as they are finished being used until the spring, any temporary divides that have been put up will be taken down, drinkers will be cleaned and brought in and we’ll be securing pens and gates for the wintertime.
Group by group, the sheep will be brought into the sheds as the grass is finished. I expect that this year we’ll have our first groups of sheep housed by the end of November, so lots of preparation still needs to be done to have the sheds ready and waiting for them. We made lots of silage during the summer, we have lime left over from last year (this is used as a disinfectant) and have already purchased and taken delivery of straw for bedding the sheds so we’ve got our supplies stocked up and ready for the girls to be brought in.
Every month brings with it changes in the weather and lists of things to do. As fruits and vegetables come in and out of our season, we can adjust our menus to reflect the most flavourful produce and ensure that we are enjoying the bounty of the moment. Right now, as we come into November, we’re still enjoying apples, chard and kale from the garden. I also have a sneaky supply of rocket for salads in my little polytunnel that is still doing really well.
This is just a snapshot of some of the items on my list for November, but there will be lots more as the month goes on. I’d love to hear how you are getting on… what are your goals for November? Do you have any projects that you will be taking on? You can get in contact with by social media or you can leave a comment below – We’d love to hear from you!