Sunday, November 22, 2020

Winter Weather Check List Part 2

Winter Sunset

 Are you Personally Ready for Winter Weather??

For part two of this winter weather check list, we are going to be looking at the more personal centered elements of getting ready for homestead maintenance.  There are more than a few things you might need to address as the colder weather approaches. 

Clothing and Outerwear

The shorts drawer now holds 
gloves, base layers, and heavy 
winter socks

If you are like me, summer means that you have been out in the garden in flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt most of the time.  Maybe you had to grab a hoodie on an especially cool morning, but in general terms, you're embracing the warm weather and your clothing reflects that. Around here, we embrace it so much that I box up my winter weather gear in storage totes, swapping out the summer gear that was stored in those totes all winter.  So for me, an important late fall task is swapping those totes again so I have access to cold weather gear, rain gear, long underwear, and the like all in my closet for easy access.  

Winter boots ready for use
after a good oiling and cleaning

This will also mark the reemergence of cold weather outerwear as gloves, stocking hats, winter coats, etc. all take on an important role in completing the daily chores when weather gets a bit more nasty.  Slippers, Muck boots, or other water proof boots, and winter boots like my Sorels or good Danner Pronghorns will need to be checked and possibly oiled to make them winter ready. 

Nice, warm work gloves for 
the pending winter chores
If you enjoy a bit of hunting or other outdoor adventuring during the fall and winter season, your might also need to address some changes to your adventure box as well.  I like to keep a tote ready all the time for outdoor adventures.  In the summer, this tote includes mostly hiking and camping gear as that it what we generally do.  Now, I will look through it again and add elements that might be useful during these colder months.  Extra Layers, Cold weather outerwear, socks, and the like will find their way into that box. Things that might make unexpected stays a bit more bearable should the need arise. Better safe than sorry right?

Establish a Winter Chore Routine

This probably goes without saying, but you should be making your personal preparations with the tasks at hand in mind.  What exactly will you need to keep doing on a consistent basis?  Not every homestead is the same.  Around here, our main outdoor tasks revolve around taking care of the animals, keeping the fire going and managing any heavy snow fall. 

Our animal situation involves simply the dogs and cats, and the chickens and rabbits.  The mealworms and the worm farms slow down significantly during colder weather and require very minimal maintenance. The biggest tasks to address to keep all our critters going are food and water. We keep all of our food stock in sheds where they are protected from the weather.  Some of these sheds receive supplemental heat during the coldest part of the winter, which makes taking care of them all a bit more bearable. 

These electric heated waterers are about 
ready to be put back into service

Water is the hardest to deal with during cold weather as it will freeze up on you.  We like to use electric heated waterers that keep the water from freezing, but be mindful that it will evaporate into the cold dry air and you need to have a plan for keeping them filled.  This might mean hauling water from inside the house.  Do you have a plan for that?  Buckets that fit in the sink?  I honestly use small buckets and garden watering cans with the rain spout removed.  They fit easily in my sink and offer good control of the water distribution.  This system works well for our dogs, cats, and chickens, but for the rabbits, we use a different strategy. 

Another technique that we have used in the past is a rotation system.  We do this with the rabbits especially since heated water systems for them are very expensive.  So, we have two waterers for each rabbit.  While one is freezing, the other is defrosting and a quick daily switch gives them access to at least an hour or two of available water each day.  We also utilize small cat food dishes and put fresh water in these.  If it freezes, the ice puck is easily removed and fresh water can be added. 

Our house is heated mainly via a pellet stove, so an important winter readiness task for us is stocking up on bags of pellets.  We have an area set aside for storage and try to have plenty of pellets on hand.  Depending upon your living situation, heating your home may involve gathering and storing wood, or maybe filling up gas or oil tanks. Do you have storm windows that need to be added?  How is access to your stored fuel?  Will you need to clear paths in the snow?  Do you have any axes and/or other tools needed in the woodshed for easy access?  Does your heat system need cleaning out?  Our stove needs routine ash removal, so we keep the necessary tools (shop vac) easily accessible all winter long. Keeping the fire going will be a consistent task so plan accordingly. 

And then there is the snow management task.  Do you have a plan for dealing with it?  Snow shovels, plow blades on ATVs, Snow Blowers, salt for ice build up, sand for traction.  Are these things running correctly and/or easily accessible?  Do you have battery chargers for an ATV that may have been sitting too long and enough fuel on hand to keep any of your gas powered tools running?  Have you thought about where snow will be stationed following your clearing efforts?  What effect will snow have on your animals and their living situation?  Do they have good access to sheltered spaces?  

In general terms, here we focus on clearing paths to the animals and fuel storage areas, and we keep the driveway open as best as we can.  Our driveway is long, but not so long that it can't be handled with a snow shovel.  This year I was gifted an old snow blower from my Uncle, so we will be trying that out as well.  We simply pile everything along the edges of the driveway, which keeps management easy as it never has to be moved very far, just to one side or the other. The important thing is to have ready access to these resources when you need them. 

Vehicles Winter Ready 

The final element of our personal winter weather check list is making certain that your vehicles are ready for winter driving conditions.  Check your tires and if you live in a cold enough area, swap out summer tires for winter traction tires with snow studs.  At a minimum carry some tire chains if you don't plan on using studded snow tires. Other traction enhancements included added weight in the bed of pickup trucks.  Things like sand bags or salt bags stationed over the rear axels will help push rear tires down into soft or slushy snow and increase traction.  

The sometimes overlooked element of vehicle prep for winter conditions is a winter car survival kit.  You can find loads of information about this online, but at its most basic, it contains things like blankets, water, and food to help you stay in your car should the need arise.  The concept that I play out in my brain is a white out storm so bad that you cannot see where you're going, or roads so dangerous that you cannot drive on them safely, or you are stuck after sliding off the road and cannot get your vehicle moving again.  Any of these scenarios is within the realm of possibility.  Each of them would potentially require you to stop and hunker down in or around your vehicle until it is again safe to move, or someone comes along to help you. Is there enough resources in your car to keep you warm, hydrated, and some food in your belly should something unexpected happen?  Could you start a fire if there was fuel available? Do you have a portable heat source that would be safe to use inside a car?  

I hope that this list helps you think about some of the things to consider as we approach colder weather.  If you begin with the end in mind, and think of the resources you will need to complete the tasks that you know already will need to be completed, you can enter the changing weather season ready and prepared to keep your homestead and family thriving. Stay safe and enjoy the winter weather and all the fun that this time of year brings. 

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