Preparing for winter, are you ready? Fall always feels like the busiest time of the year for us. Most of the garden is dying off, we're finishing outdoor projects and we're cleaning things up to lessen the winter chores. Sometimes it all feels overwhelming but thankfully I'm a list person. Because of this I tend to have a pretty good idea of what all needs to be done and how much time we have to do it. By the middle of November everything has been taken care of and is ready for winter.
Where to start?
Preparing for winter isn't as hard as it may seem. I find it best to start by jotting down everything that comes to mind when you think about winter and your homestead. Did you have any inconveniences last year and is there a way to avoid them? What things do you need to put away and protect? Do you have projects that need to be finished? What do you need to stock up on?
If you're a list person like me maybe you made a list last winter of things you wish you would have done. Getting in the habit of keeping notes can go a long way to helping you around the homestead. Keeping a homesteading journal is a great way to do this. It doesn't have to be anything fancy and you can write in it however often you choose. But it will be a great resource when making decisions in the future.
Once you have a list you should sit down and prioritize it. What's most important thing to accomplish? What are things you can hold off on? If you have several projects to finish list them in order of importance for completion. If it requires money to complete (like building materials or stocking up on food) give an estimate on the cost.
Then get to work starting with the most important and working your way down the list. If tasks are large break them down into manageable pieces and do a little bit every day.
Things to consider
Should you downsize?
If you have animals on your homestead downsizing can be a huge help in the winter. Preparing for winter doesn't have to include downsizing but it is an option for some.Fewer animals means less feed and less chores for you to do. Mr. Everything and I sit down and discuss our homesteading animals at the end of every summer. We figure out how comfortable we are with our numbers. Currently we only raise birds (chickens, ducks, geese and two guinea hens) for eggs and personal enjoyment. Our bird raising had gotten out of control this year and we wanted to downsize to make things easier on us. We ended up rehoming half of our ducks and half a dozen chickens. Now our numbers are more manageable and we don't have as many pens to clean.
Downsizing will look different for everyone depending on what they have on their homestead. Maybe you're happy with your current animal numbers. That's okay too. There are other ways to make winter chores easier without downsizing.
Now that you've addressed the number of mouths to feed you'll be able to calculate the bedding, feed and other supplies you'll need to get you though winter. If you can you should stock up on supplies. For us that looks like buying feed in bulk and getting enough bedding materials to get us though February. This is both a money saver (buying in bulk = discounted pricing) and a time saver. Sure, in most cases you can just run out and get supplies when needed. But in the winter you have piece of mind that you already have it and you wont have to go out in bad weather if you suddenly remember you need something.
This is one of the things I strive for when preparing for winter. I tend to look like a hoarder or a dooms day prepper come winter but I'd rather have my bases covered.
It's also a great idea to stock up your own panty if you haven't already. Mr. Everything and I invested in a chest freezer years ago so we could stock up on necessities for the winter months. We freeze a variety of things including meat, bread, cheese and vegetables. We also have a stocked pantry with canned goods, popcorn, rice and varieties of tea to keep us going.
Non food items to stock up on are toilet paper, laundry soap, batteries etc. This is one reason I love being a Costco member. It makes sense to buy some things in bulk, especially in the winter.
Put the garden to bed
Unless you've set up and are tending a fall/winter garden chances are everything in the garden is dying with the first few good frosts. Now's the time to transplant, divide, and cut or pull out plant matter and prep your beds for winter. Again this will look different for everyone, depending on their growing zones and gardening styles, but to keep a healthy and nice looking garden it' requires some work. This is also a great time to start moving your gardening tools to a greenhouse or shed. This will make your life easier come spring. Plant overwinter crops, layout manure, or certain fertilizers to prep the garden beds for new plants come spring. Lay down a weed barrier where you want to keep out weeds.
This step is all about cleaning up and making your life easier in the spring.
Clean up the yard and tools
From gardening you can segue into general yard clean up.
- Rake up fallen leaves and compost them or use them as mulch under trees.
- Pick up scattered tools, outdoor décor and solar lights that you don't want out in the winter elements.
- Give the yard a general clean up.
- Lay down gravel where needed
- Add salt to locations that get slippery.
Winterize the house and out buildings
Once the weather starts to turn make sure your house and out buildings are buttoned up.
- Install door sweepers and draft blockers on exterior doors.
- Switch to heavier curtains to insulate windows, sliders and French doors.
- Install foam weather stripping around outdoor plumbing.
- If you can, shut off water to unneeded water spickets.
- Start using heat lamps with your animals and give them extra bedding.
- Consider closing off animal runs unless the weather permits an outing.
- Repair and clean any winter gear for your animals, such as blankets and water heaters.
- Empty hoses and coil them up to store out of the way.
- Depending on what you use for a heating system you may need to stock up on wood or pellets.
- Think about having back up sources, like space heaters, for areas where your main heating system doesn't reach (like my office).
- Change out bedding to thicker blankets and flannel sheets.
- Bring your winter coats to the front of the closet.
- Get a new door mat to wipe dirty shoes.
Preparing for winter doesn't have to be overwhelming. If you've prioritized your list correctly and broken down the big tasks into steps you should be well on your way to getting it all done in a timely manner. After all the work is put in you'll be able to enjoy winter and not feel bogged down by it.