Winter always sneaks up on us. It seems to come out of nowhere, sliding in on the breeze that rustles through the autumn leaves, turning the world from golden to brown.
For homesteaders, the autumn also sparks a sense of urgency as they realize the amount left to do before the real cold and snow arrive.
Here are seven tips to get wintering homesteaders started:
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Energy is probably the most important aspect of homesteading during winter. You need to ensure sufficient supplies.
Stock up on emergency lights. Consider a range of energy sources including solar lights and candles, too.
We always regret running out when the time comes to replace batteries. Grab a couple of them every time you run to the store during autumn. Don’t forget to get a range of sizes.
Chop, collect and store fuel for the fires from whatever sources possible. Remember to use up reusable fuel sources like pinecones and paper, too.
Where hard freezes are imminent, consider stocking up on spring water for both your household and your animals.
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Staying hydrated is always more difficult in winter, but even more important to keep our bodies functioning at optimal immunity.
Try out those submersible heaters for animal troughs if you want to avoid boiling pots of water on the stove all winter.
In the case of a garden, a little preparation in late autumn goes a long way. Not only will the weeding, fertilizing, and cold protection measures make for hearty winter vegetables and beautiful winter bulbs, it also makes way for a thriving spring garden.
Cover the flower beds and vegetables with mulch (a 5-10 cm layer of grass cuttings, for example) to keep them warm and retain moisture. Toss the flower beds, weed as much as possible, and prune. This will also neaten things up for the cold months and reduce the amount of hard labor needed until spring.
Looking after the animals is just as important as keeping the family warm and fed. The pets and livestock need food, shelter, and warmth like us, no matter the weather. This takes some planning, especially when there is the possibility of being snowed in.
Make sure you stock up on some extra food early and take measures to keep them warm. Try these:
Change animal bedding (like hay) to a more sustainable method, like Meredith’s Deep Litter Method, which will save you time and effort during winter.
Throw out some scratch grains for the chickens, so they can stay warm with the extra digestion. The same applies to the garden birds if you can spare a few extra grains each day.
Add a deep-set solar heater to the animal’s water troughs if you expect hard freezes in your area. It could save you so much effort in the long run and is also more sustainable than stove-top solutions when there are other important things to do around the homestead.
Make lists of what you need to do, buy and remember. Stick to it.
Be sure to include things on your shopping list that you will lose access to if you are snowed in for a couple of weeks – like pet food, extra coffee, long life milk, and enough water to keep you hydrated and able to prepare food (especially if your regular water source is bound to freeze over).
Winter often forces us indoors for longer periods, and earlier bedtimes. Take the time to read a good book, play games together, do puzzles, find some craft projects and have fun. Research homesteading improvements for the coming spring.
Why not start a personal blog with all that extra time? This helpful and humorous blog post from Mother Earth News, for example, provides some out-of-the-box Handy Winter Homesteading Tips. Who knew that a handful of tin cans laid in the fireplace would be a super way to radiate more heat into a room, for example? Try it!
Homesteading can be tough, especially when we have to contend with harsh winters and a seemingly endless to-do list of homestead maintenance.
Sometimes it is better to skip cleaning the barn and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee with your loved ones instead.
Have a good laugh together and voice what you are grateful for out loud. A happy heart makes for a healthy body, too, and wintering homesteaders sure need to keep their strength up during this magical time of year.
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