Photos by Hadleigh too!
Article originally appeared in our Premier Fall 2020 Issue of Trailblazher Magazine.
About Hadleigh: Hadleigh Burch is the face behind the lens at A Little Wild Farm. Her little ‘funny farm’ is home to a menagerie of animals including miniature donkeys, alpacas, pot belly pigs, goats, chickens and honeybees. In her spare time, Burch enjoys knitting with yarn spun from her alpaca fiber, sewing, creating and baking. In the summer months you’ll find her outside in the vegetable garden or tending to her greenhouse. A love for all things wild and inspired by Mother Nature, she is working towards a more sustainable way of living on her farm.
We met the frost in the forest, in the small hours of the morning when the sunlight was just starting to grow bright enough to penetrate between the branches and dead leaves. Our boots crunched across the leaf littered ground, breaking through the ice that had formed over the puddles in the middle of the muddy road. The engine of the old farm truck rumbled and the steam from the exhaust crept out behind us. Today was a day for lumberjacks, and that’s just what we were that morning bundled in our plaid coats, mittens and toques.
There’s something peaceful about spending a day in the woods cutting, splitting and stacking. I think perhaps it’s one of the best ways to cleanse the soul. My husband, Dan, handles the saw work – using his chain saw like a painter would a brush, slicing and cutting through the timber in swift, equal movements. I follow, gathering the smaller of the pieces into the back of the truck and using the wood splitter to break down anything that wouldn’t quite fit in the wood stove. Four years of cutting wood together got us here. Before the snow flies, we will have cut and stacked six cords for the wood stove to heat our home over the coming months.
Fall on the farm is the season of prepping for the inevitable arrival of winter. It is busy days of cleaning pens, adding fresh bedding to shelters, and having heaters ready for water troughs. It’s afternoons of cutting firewood for the house and cleaning the gardens and yard before the snow falls.
It’s a time to make sure the farm and the animals who live here are ready for the change in season.
The drop in temperatures and a decrease in daylight have begun to take a toll as the change in seasons becomes apparent in the chicken coop. We made it through the molting season and have moved on to the, “I don’t think I’ll lay eggs” season. Egg production begins to flat line as the cold creeps in, but here on our farm we welcome this time as a break for our laying ladies who all summer gives us bountiful baskets of farm fresh eggs.
Out back in the pasture, the hay shed has been replenished once more. Small square bales that arrived stacked neatly on the trailer have been unloaded and piled to the roof in the shed off the side of the animal’s shelter. These bales will feed the donkeys, alpacas and goats once the snow falls.
The vegetable garden has been pulled for yet another season; roots, vines and trailings finding their way to the compost pile. The ground has been broken, tilled and will settle for the winter months in anticipation for spring’s warm touch. Our humble harvests have long been eaten or preserved; jars line the pantry shelves and potatoes hang in burlap bags. The tomato plants that inhabit our greenhouse continue to thrive, despite the changes around them, and we will be eating ripened tomatoes off the vine for some time yet!
Busy bumbles and honeybees float on the wind, frolicking from flower to flower collecting the last sources of pollen and nectar. In our little apiary the honey supers have been removed and our honey harvests completed. We leave two bottom brood boxes full for our bee colonies to make sure they will be taken care of over our harsh winter. Now more than ever, ensuring food sources are available is important to their survival. Sunflowers bloom in a circle around our hives, along with borage and yarrow. Thistles in the pastures have gone to flower and the yellow of ragweed covers ditches and banks. Soon the hives will be wrapped in insulation and pushed together to wait out the winter months as we sit with bated breath for the arrival of spring – and the hope that all survived.
As the morning sun begins to sleep in a little later, it greets us with frosty mornings and lifting fog. Setting later, it leaves behind cascading colours in cloud-streaked skies. We take the chill in the air as the perfect excuse to dig out our sweaters, pull out the pumpkin-flavoured-everything and cozy up for our first woodfire of the season here in the farmhouse. We reach for unfinished novels or knit projects still on the needles, we bring out the sourdough starter and bake bread once again. And as the smoke from the chimney trails along on the breeze, it’s the last note needed to know, autumn has arrived in all her glory here on the homestead.
Follow along on Instagram @alittlewildfarm
Psssstttt…. if you love Hadleigh’s writing as much as we do, catch her regular column “My Homesteading Life’ in the latest issues of Trailblazher magazine.
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