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Homesteading in January

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Homesteading in North Georgia usually looks a whole lot different in January than it does this year. The cold we are experiencing - which some describe as 'record breaking' - is putting a wrench in the works for many in terms of early kiddings for goats, plans to start early on the spring hatching, and the annual opening of the greenhouse.

Many people like to start preparing the ground for spring planting towards the end of January, but more than likely it's frozen solid and unlikely to be thawing any time soon.

Don't despair! You may be out of luck as far as digging and planting goes, but you can still prepare.

Do you have any seeds left from last year?

If so, go find them, open up your packets and check for mold. Discard any that are unusable, then repackage the remainder in dry paper bags and put them somewhere dark, like a pantry or kitchen cabinet. Be sure to mark the bags with names of the contents!

Did you collect and preserve any seeds from your heirloom produce and plants last year?

If so, great! Congratulations, this is the true ethos of homesteading! We homesteaders like to be as self-sufficient as possible, and heirloom seeds speak to us. They ensure that no matter what happens, we have seeds to grow next year, without having to purchase more. Collected and stored correctly, the seeds will continue to produce for you, year after year.

If not, there's never been a better time to learn about heirlooms. The Seed Savers Exchange is a great resource for education and heirloom seed purchasing, and their catalog is nothing short of a work of art.

Renee's Garden is another amazing site with beautifully created seed packet art and very reasonable prices. They have a range of heirloom varieties that is second to none and the produce from their seeds is always spectacular.

Have you planned your garden yet?

Drawing out a scale model of your garden area on a sheet of paper can help you decide what to put where. It's the best form of indoor gardening for this time of year! It will also help you see what kinds of vegetables you want to plant, and indicate which varieties; for example, pole or bush beans?

You can then lay your seed collection out alongside this plan, and you will easily be able to tell what it is that you need to order.

Many seed companies are offering special deals at this time of year for free or reduced shipping, so get these bargains while you can. You will also find, when ordering heirloom varieties, that the most popular ones sell out fast, so be sure you don't miss out.

The cold is hanging on...

We have a ways to go yet, so don't be tempted to start planting until the ground can really be worked. In the mean time, start piling up fertilizer where your garden is going to be so that it can all be tilled in. Rabbit poop is the perfect way to enrich the soil, as it does not need to be composted and is easily available and cheap. If you keep bunnies for pet, meat or show, it's a great free by-product that will save you a ton in commercial products.

Also, don't forget to keep any ashes from the winter fire to put around your tomato plants. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes to the fruits!

Katy Light has a 44 acre homestead in North GA, where she raises goats, bunnies and chickens. Find her blog at www.poppycreekfarm.com. She can be reached at katy@poppycreekfarm.com.

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