Before you know it, winter will be here. The cold, snowy weather that makes doing anything outside extremely unpleasant. And on my homestead, it sneaks up on me every year. Every year I promise this will be the last time, and it seems that despite my attempts to get organized, there's always something pulling me away. Taking my attention. A new project that has me "putting off" what I should be doing to make this winter better than all of those before it.
So, I'm putting this out there. Over the next couple of months, I'm making a commitment to follow through on all of these tasks. They will be done before winter hits, and if you're a homesteader like me, or someone who simply wants to be prepared when winter strikes, I recommend you follow along too.
Build up my stockpile of wood
Let's face it. You can never have enough pre-cut firewood. I use firewood to heat my home, and we've also got a closed-off outdoors area where we barbeque, even during winter. Having a source of fuel to keep your home warm and cook your food is a smart idea. And however much you're thinking you need, I can tell you this. You're going to need four or five times that amount. I've built my own woodshed to keep my supplies out of the elements, and off the ground. It's also where I keep most of my tools, like the axes and our chainsaws. For a quick fix you could even stack up firewood along the sides of your home (so it's offered some protection by the overhang of your roof), but I'd really recommend buying a waterproof tarp to ensure it stays dry.
Give my home a winter "once over"
There's a long list of tasks you should really get to before winter hits, but there's a few that are critical. Get someone out to sweep out your chimney, or buy the appropriate brush and rods to do it yourself, and give it a good clean. Get a ladder and go around your entire roof, clearing out the gutters of any branches, leaves and other debris, so the down pipes will work once it starts to rain. I even like to get a hose up and give our roof a good hosing down, then get up in the roof to check for any leaks. It's much easier to plug a leaky roof on a sunny day at the end of summer than it is during a massive winter storm. You will thank me for this later, trust me. Once you're done it'll also pay to check the insulation on any pipes that will be hit by the cold, so these don't burst. Oh and ensure you've got everything you need to deal with the snow. Plenty of ice melt, salt, and a shovel and snowblower that are in good working order will help tremendously before the first snow drops.
Start building your food supply
The time is now to be filling freezer after freezer of meats and ready to eat meals. Hunting once the temperature drops below zero is not fun, I'd much rather be able to grab a handful of deer steaks out of the freezer than spend a day trudging through the snow. There's also a nice little benefit if the grid goes down, when you're experiencing freezing weather you won't have to worry about keeping it all frozen without power. My wife actually likes to pre-cook lots of our winter meals, so we're not spending hours fussing around in the kitchen. As a rough rule of thumb, we keep meals like servings of pre-made pasta sauce with ground beef for 2-3 months frozen, though they could probably last longer too, so when we need an easy meal we can boil up a little pasta, defrost the rest and it's hot on the plate within about 10 minutes. One less thing we need to worry about in an emergency.
Wash and check all your winter gear
Despite being cleaned before going into storage, when you're pulling out clothes that haven't been looked at for 6+ months, they're going to need a good wash. Get everything out now, and either give it a wash or a chance to air out. Any mold can be killed with vinegar, but if it's ruined your clothes now would be a good time to go buy yourself a new jacket, or whatever. Same goes for all your thermals. Wash it, and make sure it's all in good working order, the elastic is still functioning, and you can still fit into it all. Check all of the linings and seams on your boots, and that there's no play in the sole. When I pulled out the new pair of boots I bought last winter I was a little shocked the rubber sole was peeling off. The glue had given out. It's been repaired now and works a treat, but the more I can get organized before winter, the better.
Go crazy checking your electronics
Without working batteries, your electronics are useless. Do a stock take in your home, and check everything is in good working order. I try not to store anything with batteries in, as they tend to leak eventually and ruin that particular piece of gear. But now is a good time to check it all, and ensure your Q5 Taclite is fully charged. Open up the back and either replace the batteries, or remove them altogether. Swap a new set in and check it all still works, and take the batteries out and put it back into your stockpile. The only things that should have batteries in are things you're actively using, like your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Don't let your stockpile go to ruin
I've mentioned this before but it's very important. Everything you've got sitting in your stockpile will be ruined if you let it freeze, unfreeze, freeze, unfreeze. This is especially critical if you've got perishables stored in an additional building, like the shipping container we use as a backup storage unit. Now is the time to move your perishables and any food items to an area of your home that will be kept warm enough to stop them freezing. It's a big task, but it also gives you the chance to do a full stock-take of your shelves, and you may even notice that there's some items missing that you thought you had. We did this a couple of weeks ago, and unfortunately found a nice little family of rats had chewed through the solid plastic containers our oats were in and they we're enjoying the endless buffet. The damaged food has been tossed and we've heavily baited everything to stop this happening again.
Get your car ready for winter
The final step in my plan is to give my car a once over. I'm pretty handy but I'm no mechanic, so I usually just drop it into my local auto shop for a tune up. Fix anything that's needed, like the almost thousand dollars on a new automatic transmission my baby needed a few weeks back, so she's good to go. I've also got a couple of "in-car" bug out kits that go into my trunk during winter. Mostly fire-making gear, bedding and winter clothes, and enough food to last 2-3 days. You will want to keep an eye on this though, as anything stored in your trunk will most likely freeze. Which is usually fine, but once it thaws out you will need to toss it.
Once these are done I should be pretty prepared for the winter. How about you?