As the summer comes to an end, it’s the time to prepare for fall and then winter. The Farmers’ Almanac isn’t the only source predicting a cold winter. I’ve also heard it may start early. That means you should get a jump on your winter chores and stocking up supplies. With the supply chain problems, you want to buy your winter supplies before the rest of the country does. Here are some things we are doing.
Around the Homestead
After we harvest our final garden crops, we’ll clear the raised beds. The remaining greenery will go to the chickens, except for members of the deadly nightshade family, which will get composted. Then I will clean out the chick coop and spread the months of chicken poop and hay on the raised beds. This will help power next year’s crops.
The fall is also a good time to build additional planting beds. This will allow us to get an early start next year. We also collect some fallen leaves to add to our raised beds and compost. They both benefit from the added organic material, which will largely decay by spring.
The goldenrod is just starting to bloom, which means I’ll be conducting our final honey harvest soon. I will also switch the hive entrances from wide open to only partially open. Next, I will test the hives for varroa mites and treat those that need it. The goldenrod will provide the bees with some good nutrition heading into the colder weather, but I will supplement their feed later this fall using both pollen patties and in-hive feeders. Once it gets cold, I’ll wrap the hives in tar paper again to cut down on the wind and so the black will heat up in the sunlight. It’s also important to make sure hives tilt forward enough so that any condensation that forms in the hive will run down the walls and then out the front of the hive. I plan to treat the hives with oxalic acid in late December.
Once the last of the blooms are gone, I will wait until the weeds in our meadow are dry and woody, as opposed to green, and will then knock most of them down using a metal blade on my weed whacker. (It’s too steep to mow.) This keeps trees from growing up in it.
Before the first freeze, we’ll do things like drain and bring the hoses indoors, plus any other winterizing chores. We learned long ago to bring in the rain gauge before it freezes and cracks.
Extra Livestock Feed and Bedding
Last year, I made the mistake of not stocking enough bedding prior to the winter. This meant I had to buy straw midway through the winter, and it was nowhere as good as the straw I purchased earlier in the year. This year, I am building up a stockpile of straw that I hope will last until late spring or early summer. It’s stacked on a pallet and covered with a tarp. The ends are open so there can be some airflow.
I like to have several months of animal feed on hand at all times, but I stock up even more in the winter. Not only do our chickens need more calories during colder weather, we don’t want to be caught short if we get snowed in.
Planting Cover Crops
If you have a large garden or fields of crops, you can consider planting a cover crop like rye. We won’t be doing this, bur last year we took advantage of the cold weather to plant clover. We ended up with dense fields of clover this year. I think it is more robust than grass, and it certainly does a better job of feeding the wildlife, bees and other pollinators.
Fall is also the time to plant anything you want to over winter in the ground and will then produce a crop next spring or summer. This could be flower bulbs or garlic, but it could also be winter wheat. We are considering planting some garlic.
I’ve harped on this several times this summer, but be sure to lay in a good supply of fuel before the cold weather hits. If you heat with propane or fuel oil, fill your tanks. Likewise, make sure your firewood is dry and ready. I have seven stacks, each of which will last about a month. Come September, I will cover two. As I use one up, I move the cover to another, so I always have a supply of good, dry wood. Come September, I will also move a big stack of firewood inside and place it next to both stoves. This not only ensures it is dry, it means we’ll be ready for an unexpected cold snap.
If you have a secondary heat source, which is recommended, stockpile fuel for it as well. This may include kerosene or small propane tanks.
Buying Warm Clothes
I’m all set on warm clothing, thermals, wool socks, parkas, etc. I have a pair of insulated boots I’m looking forward to wearing again because they were so comfortable.
In my experience, you can sometimes find winter clothing at back-to-school sales. Take stock of your family’s needs and then shop carefully. You may find some needed items at good prices.
Prepare to be Snowed In
Over the past two years, we’ve never been snowed in more than a week, but locals tell us there have been blizzards that saw some people on mountains snowed in for a month. As preppers, we’re ready for that. We’re also ready to help our closest neighbors.
Prior to last year’s blizzard, I tested our generator and made sure I had plenty of ethanol-free gasoline on hand, so we can keep or fridge and freezer running. I also moved a pallet into the garaged and stacked it with firewood so we would not have to go outside. That worked well.
When we lived in the great white north, the snow melt always sold out after the first snowfall. If you spread this stuff on your stairs, sidewalk, or driveway, buy it this fall, before the snow flies. If you have moved from somewhere warm and are facing your first cold winter, stock up on any other snow-related items like snow shovels and vehicle ice scrapers. Also, figure out if you are going to plow your driveway or pay someone else to do so. In the latter case, you are probably better off signing a contract before the first snowfall than paying on an as-needed basis.
If you’re experiencing temperatures in the 80s or above, you can hold off on this one for a month or more, but remember to add winter clothing and possibly a sleeping bag or wool blankets to your vehicle emergency kit. Consider a folding or collapsing shovel and some sand or kitty litter to help you get traction if you are stuck. I even carry dry kindling in my truck so I can start a fire in wet conditions.
If you live in an area where snow tires are required, swap over to them as early as allowed by law. If you need to buy new ones, get shopping now, before scarcity drives up the price. I find it is easier to mount both sets of tires on rims so you can swap them on and off yourself, if necessary.
This could be a winter of discontent around America. We could see anger over rising inflation, high heat bills and the cost of electricity. November’s midterm elections could add an extra element of anger. Have a plan to survive any protests or an increase of crime.
If you carry concealed, make sure you have a holster that is accessible when wearing your heavy winter garb. If you carry inside the waistband, it can be almost impossible to draw your weapon when wearing two layers and a long parka. Wearing an insulated overall or coverall also presents challenged. Test out your gear now and consider buying a shoulder holster, pocket holster, or other rig you can use even when engulfed in cold-weather clothing and outerwear.
I also like to go with a heavier bullet when the possibility exists of a conflict with someone wearing multiple layers of clothing that can clog a hollow point and prevent expansion. If a bullet will not expand, then I’d rather carry a .45 than a 9mm.