Dealing With Weather Extremes On the Homestead

The daily, weekly or yearly weather conditions on your homestead can be your best friend or greatest foe. Every year the earth's weather affects the productivity and viability of the farms and homesteads of the world. Unfortunately, the weather is also usually completely out of the control of the homesteader.

Adverse weather conditions affect the homesteader in many ways that differ from those of the average population. Lots of snow may be great for the skier and snowboarder. For the homesteader, that same snow can take longer to melt, delaying planting or flooding fields. Hot summer days make it enjoyable to be outside at the beach for much of the population. However, the homesteader will worry about livestock becoming heat stressed. Rain that is usually a minor inconvenience for others can play havoc with the homesteader trying to harvest a crop.

The best defense for homesteader is to understand their local weather conditions and plan accordingly. Living in Montana, for example, a concern would be the cold winter temperature that is common to the area. Florida would be a problem area for a hurricane and the Midwest states for a tornado.

The homesteader should always choose carefully the crops or livestock they have on their farm. If you have a short growing season, the crops you plant should reach maturity in an equally short period. Certain breeds of livestock are better suited to arid areas rather than the colder regions of the world. For example, a Brahman would remain productive in a very hot area. A Highland would be comfortable in a region with a long, hard winter.

Although you cannot control the weather, you can use various means to make your homestead better able to deal with weather extremes. A windbreak is a traditional way of protecting livestock or crops from high winds. A windbreak can take many forms such as trees (conifers and deciduous), shrubs, crops, snow fencing etc. Any barrier that can slow or redirect the wind can be an effective barrier. The critical factors in successful windbreak design are height, density, orientation, length and plant species used. A properly constructed barrier will decrease wind velocity up to thirty times its height. Trees make a good windbreak because they increase in height and density until mature. A density of 60% or more provides a high level of wind reduction. Field crops can benefit from a density as little as 40%. Densities below 20% will be of little benefit. You should orient a windbreak at right angles to your prevailing wind. You should appreciate that prevailing winds can change throughout the year, so build more than one break for this situation. The best windbreak is long and at least ten times their height.

A well-designed shelter or barn will protect livestock from wind or cold, provide shade and keep them dry. Water storage ponds and irrigation systems allow the homesteader to supplement the water requirements of their crops.