A Mild Winter Means…

Thanks to our very mild winter, we used a lot less firewood than normal. So I’ve got a good head already for next year.

Another consequence may turn out to be a decrease in the quality of our compost. On warm, dry days the goats prefer to sleep outside, rather than in their barn stalls. So this year they spent far fewer days inside, so that they did their business on their bedding far less often.

This is the time of year when I clean out the stalls and sheds and put the material into our compost pile, to produce the fertilizer for next years gardens. We start a new pile every fall with leaves, adding all our organic waste and animal bedding over the next year. We begin using the compost in the spring, eighteen months after we start the pile.


This is the compost pile I’ve been working on lately. If the picture was clearer it would show the steam rising from the top of the pile, as the material cooks.


This is what’s left of the mature pile we started in the fall of 2015, with a chicken atop it.

It’s also possible that the mild winter will mean we have more ticks and garden pests this year, but that may be an old wives tale.


23 comments on “A Mild Winter Means…

  1. hilarymb says:

    Hi Bill – that’s good husbandry you’re doing … and yes compost does have ‘smoke’ coming out of it doesn’t it – always amazes me how hot a pile of compost can get as it matures down … I’m looking forward to reading what happens re pests etc … we’re about to have a freezing spell here – that might stop a few pests here … but then nobbles other things – not good this late in the year.

    Cheers Hilary


    • Bill says:

      The idea that a cold winter helps suppress pests makes sense, but I’m not sure if it’s valid. But if it is, we’re in for lots of pests this year. We had very few days below freezing this year.


  2. For my own area, mild winters do seem to mean a more pest filled garden season. But when I get cold and freeze, I get a good amount.. they say that we are going to have a bad tick year due to the fact that we are having a mouse year.

    I am being a big old meanie, I am feeding the farm cats a full dish in the late evening but not doing a morning top up and this means they are all hunting more during the day.. I want my own personal farm mouse population very low indeed.

    We had the same issue with poorer composting last year during our drought year, but this spring is rocking along! and I have some really great looking two and three year compost that will be used this year and we are going to be building a pile old pile this year, as I am dry lotting the sheep for most of the year as I do pasture replanting and repair work.

    So while the horses and the cow will still be allowed to stripe graze with hot wire, the sheep with their much higher pressure and their lower graze point ,sadly will get very limited graze time this year.. but they will thank me for it, in the next years to come.


    • Bill says:

      Good point about mice. They’re worse than usual for us here this year too and perhaps that’s because they had an easy time of it over the winter.

      My plan is to rest one of our pastures this year too, once the kids go to market. I want to break the life cycle of the intestinal parasites. I don’t know if they’re a problem for your sheep but they can be real trouble for our goats.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A good illustration of how things that happen have ripple effects. Wishing you an awesome crop, regardless! ❤
    Diana xo


  4. We have already noticed more ticks this year 😦 Every time I’m outside They manage to find me .


  5. Nothing better than a steamy compost pile Bill. 🙂 Glad you have a head start on your wood pile for next year.. 🙂


  6. I love seeing other people’s compost piles. They’re a thing of beauty—especially with a chicken on top!


    • Bill says:

      I agree. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in seeing rotting piles of waste. 🙂 I do wish I’d taken the time to get a better shot of the chicken foraging.


  7. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, my compost piles don’t heat up much. Two years to completion but no work involved. Just pile it up and walk away for a couple years. When I first started Terra Nova Gardens, I piled fall yard waste a foot deep over the entire area. One of the neighbor’s stopped and talked with me. He said, “You know piling it that deep will cause it to catch on fire.” The next year the same neighbor said. “if you keep doing that it will kill the soil.” Last year I’m sure that neighbor took some of the tomatoes that were on the free neighborhood garden stand in front of my garden by the road. I haven’t heard anyone try to discourage what I’m doing in the garden any more. Instead they will stop and ask what I’m going to do this year. I suppose they used to think I was the crazy old gardener but now they have seen what the results are and talk to me about what they are doing for this year. Some are very similar to what I am doing. 🙂 Results seem to quiet the discouraging remarks.

    Have a great Spring day in the garden.

    Nebraska Dave


    • Bill says:

      You have a great story Dave. We got similar comments about our methods. The garden won’t grow if you don’t put fertilizer (meaning the stuff you buy at the feed store) on it, they said. We don’t hear that any more. I wonder how those folks thought gardens grew before chemical fertilizers were invented?


  8. shoreacres says:

    I don’t know about garden pests, but there’s no question that a few hard freezes will reduce the number of mosquitos and other irritants. The current issue is our love bug population. They haven’t been particularly troublesome for several years, but there’s a population explosion just now. I drove through swarms of them this weekend, and a nice car wash is on the schedule for tomorrow.

    On the good side of the ledger, lightning bugs are popping up from the Hill Country to the coast. I’ts been some years since I’ve seen so many. I don’t know the cause, but I’m taking it as a good sign.


    • Bill says:

      No lightning bugs here yet, but I’m looking forward to their arrival.

      The idea that freezes would kill off bugs seems so logical that I’m holding on to it, but I do wonder about it. The worst mosquitos in the country are in places like Alaska and Maine, but my guess is that in our part of the world they don’t anticipate such cold weather and are therefore vulnerable. In any event we’ve definitely seen earlier tick emergence this year. I enjoyed the mild winter but it won’t come without a cost!

      Love bugs. Yuck. I don’t miss those things.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Scott says:

    We have tons of ticks. And I’ve even seen lightning bugs.


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