Your animals are all settled in, your garden is producing well, and you're already thinking about next season's improvements. But of course, you still need to maintain what you already have. With a little bit of attention and care, you can keep your farm infrastructure well-maintained and able to function smoothly.
Plant a Cover Crop
One simple way to keep unused pastures or garden plots healthy is by planting a cover crop. Also known as “green manure,” cover crops build fertile soil, suppress weeds, and help control pests and plant diseases.
- For fall cover crops, make sure to plant them about four weeks before the first frost. Winter rye is the exception: it can be planted right up to a frost.
- You must make sure to mow cover crops before they set seed, let the remaining stems and leaves dry for a day or two, then turn them under by hand or with a tiller.
- Wait two to three weeks before planting vegetables.
How to Maintain Fencing
Intact, functional fencing is critical to keeping your animals safe and your neighbors happy. Electric fences are especially vulnerable, as worn or broken wires can endanger your animals or render your fencing almost useless.
- Walk the fence line often, checking for damage and repairing it promptly.
- Replace rotten posts and reset any loose ones. Make sure gates are latching properly.
- If you have an electric fence, take a voltmeter with you on your walks and test the fence for voltage drop at various points.
- Check the insulators and replace any that are worn, broken or missing.
- Adjust tension as needed.
- Check the ground rods to make sure they’re still making good contact.
How to Maintain Farm Buildings
Just like fencing, your barns, coops, and animals shelters will periodically need attention and repair. However, buildings are typically lower maintenance than fencing. When you make your rounds to inspect fencing, take a look at your animals’ quarters as well.
Making repairs as you go is the easiest way to keep up to date on building maintenance. Of course, if something is a safety or predator issue (such as a hole in the wall where a weasel can sneak through and get your hens), it might need immediate attention.
However, all too often we find ourselves too busy to grab a hammer and some nails and fix something right that minute. So, carry a small notebook with you on your maintenance rounds. Make note of needed building repairs, then schedule some time to do them all at once.
Revisit Your Farm Plan
In all the hustle and bustle of daily farm life, don’t forget your original farm plan. Revisiting your goals and even your resources (perhaps your soil is improved, or you now have more usable pasture) regularly will help ensure you’re staying on track. And if your long-term goals and dreams have changed, taking stock of where you are and where you want to go can help you smoothly transition to your new track.