Summer is fading here in New England, and as the last of the hot days rolls past and more leaves start dropping, our minds must turn to winter.
One thing I love about our lifestyle is how everything is a big circle. Each season is spent preparing for the next, looking forward to those seasonal tasks and planning for the future. While at times it may seem exhausting, as your work is never really done, it is so wonderful to reap the benefits of your labor on such a personal level.
With that in mind, I wanted to share the top 9 things on our list to prepare for winter.
Wood – If you have been following our Creating Our Homestead series, you know that harvesting wood has been at the top of our project list this summer. It’s important to always work ahead when collecting firewood, as it needs time to dry and season before it will burn cleanly and efficiently. Check out all our tips in our firewood post!
Firestarters – whether you are just piling up the newspaper or purchasing ready-made firelogs, it’s important to have the easy burning materials ready to get your fires going fast! Check out our kindling bundles and homemade firelogs here!
Winterize the Coop – Chickens may have layers of toasty feathers, but they need a little help to keep warm and to ensure they have drinking water available. It’s important that you use the right heating elements however, so you don’t ebbs up with roasted chickens one winter day! Take a look at our winter chicken keeping tips!
Plant Protection – Be aware of the plants on your property that may need extra protection from your local wild life, and get them taken care of before you find them half eaten! Deer, chipmunks, squirrels and gophers are just some of the critters you may find nibbling on your beautiful landscaping when food sources grow scare. Take the time to protect deciduous plants that may take longer than to go dormant, and softer evergreen so, like rhododendron, that may be demolished by your hungry woodland neighbors. Use gardening posts and fine mesh or wire fencing to create a mini cage around them; and make sure you take in to account the height of the plant. Deer won’t just nibble the branches at their level, they can destroy 6′ or more of a plant by standing on their hind legs!
“Spring” Cleaning – while coming out of winter hibernation to warm temperatures and singing birds may be one of the biggest motivators to giving your home a good deep cleaning, it’s just as important to do before you’re locked up in it for the next few months. It will make it easier to stand the cabin fever if you take the time to organize, de litter and really give everything a good dusting or wipe down. It’s also a good time to swap out seasonal clothing or items that you won’t need until warmer temperatures arrive.
Fodder – Growing fodder is an easy way to get extra protein into your animals during cold months when grazing is no longer an option. Fodder is suitable for chickens, pigs, cows, goats, sheep and horses, although the animal you are feeding will determine how much you need, and how large your trays should be. There are many options for seeds to sprout for fodder as well – corn, wheat, sunflower, barley, oats – the list goes on and on. We’ve been growing fodder to supplement our chickens’ feed for almost a year now. Check out how we got started here.
Prepare Your Tools & Equipment – You should never put tools away dirty, damaged or missing pieces. Gas powered equipment should always be run until there is no gas left. There is nothing worse than going to break out a tool in the Spring to discover you need to spend an hour fixing or cleaning it before you can get to work!
The same goes for snowblowers, plows, and any other equipment used during the winter- the last time you want to find out it won’t run is when there are several feet of snow on the ground! Give all your tools a good look over, clean them up and do any tune ups or maintenance needed before the season starts. You’ll be glad you did!
Check Your Supplies – Finding out you need a new snow shovel, or that you are out of chicken feed, when the roads are covered and you can’t get to the store is a disastrous situation. Take stock of your supplies early; do you have a back up part, extra bolts or oil? How about matches or lighters? Take a look at your food stores, too, and evaluate your needs. If you live close to town and know you wouldn’t be stranded for long, you might not need much. However, if you live a long distance away, in a tricky area or even just far from a main road, it might be longer before you can go shopping again. Make sure you have enough on hand to keep you and your livestock fed.
Power Source – In the event you lose power due to downed branches, how long would you be without power? What is your plan to warm your house, and keep food from spoiling? Having alternate heating and power sources is important if you would be one of the last to regain power.
In our case, we have a wood stove and a generator. Just like with our tools, we are making sure they are cleaned and ready to go when we need them! With a wood stove, plan to have a test fire before the cold settles in; this way if there are any issues, you can have them fixed beforehand.
Being proactive in your preparations will lead to less headaches and problems during a season that can be very unforgiving. Taking the time now to give yourself a good start is something you’ll definitely appreciate later!