For most of us, winter means less light, shorter days and more time spent inside. If you’re like my farmer husband, that might give you a bit of cabin fever.
But like most things in life, it’s all about perspective. While you’re not getting as much done outside, the slower pace of the farm during winter means you can use the time to connect with family, relax and rejuvenate — and get a few things done inside the house and barns to set you up for success when the spring rush starts.
Speaking of spring, there’s not one farmer I know of that has time for “spring cleaning.” At that point, our boots are back on the ground and we’re back out in it, which is why I use winter to get my new year organization done.
Here are some tips that might be helpful:
Make your time useful. Unless you’re a type-A organizational freak like me, you most likely don’t enjoy decluttering and cleaning spaces, and the thought of wading into it might be overwhelming and make you wonder where to even start.
Work on the places that drive you crazy the most. Do you get mad every time you have to dig through the mess in your giant toolbox for the right tool? Are your closets so stuffed with boots and outerwear that you can barely get the door closed? Does the inside of your truck make your spouse cringe?
Tackle those things now. Think about how happy it will make you when you’re in the busy season, and you don’t have to stop to sort through a mess to find what you need. Set aside time for each task, put on some good music, pop open a beer and get it done.
Here are four suggested areas to start:
1. Your machine or equipment shop. This is a big one, so break it down by sections. Spend an hour in each section a day, do this for a few days, and boom, it’s like a whole new shop.
2. Tack room or animal barns. Sort through old gear and organize feed, supplements, vet supplies, tools, blankets and buckets, etc.
3. Vehicles. Work top to tail — trunk, glove box, consoles, bed and toolboxes.
4. Mudroom/laundry room/coat closet. There’s not a farmer I know that doesn’t have a problem with a room full of outerwear where only 20% of it ever gets used. It’s almost impossible for us to part with old jackets and busted boots. Get rid of them, y’all.
If those Carhartt bibs haven’t fit you in three years, then it is time to give up the ghost and hand them down, or donate them to someone who can use them. Busted boots that are way past their expiration date won’t do your feet or your joints any favors, so toss them and invest in a new pair.
These are tasks that get put off forever, but once they are done, they make such a difference!
Stockpile some winter memories. Cold weather is the perfect time to make some warm, cozy memories whether it’s through movie marathons, bonfires with s’mores, baking cookies, chili cook-offs, game nights, pub trivia, brewery tours, a cozy wine-tasting room or something else.
Gather up your friends, visit your grandparents, corral the nieces and nephews, or make your spouse and kids feel special. No need to spend lots of money; the simplest things can make the best memories.
Tune up yourself. The greatest asset you have is you. Without your health, you’re really going to struggle to manage the farm, your business and your life.
Take the time in winter to prioritize your physical and mental health, and get a tuneup.
Knock those yearly appointments out. Almost every farmer I know over the age of 30 has had cancerous or precancerous spots removed from their skin. This is a real thing, so make sure you get checked.
And while you’re there, have them set reminders for appointments for the same time next year.
Do at least one activity that clears your head and sweeps the cobwebs from your soul. That could mean taking a hike to suck in the clear air, meditating, going to church, doing a yoga class or volunteering. Do whatever makes you feel alive, calm, centered and grateful.
As I’m now trying to balance life with a newborn — baby boy Benjamin joined the herd on Sept. 8 — I’m trying to focus on a few things myself.
Organization is key to trying to stay ahead of the chaos of living with a new baby.
Managing my health became paramount with all the pregnancy and its postpartum complications.
And every day, I try to take two minutes to take a deep breath, say a prayer and enjoy the memory I am making of holding our sweet little guy.
I hope you get the chance to make the most of your winter season, and I wish you a happy, healthy and successful new year!
Watson-Hampton farms with her family on their fourth-generation family farm in Brandywine, Md.