It’s my favorite time of year. The colors, the crisp air, bonfires, warm soups and, even the ever present autumn cliche: Pumpkin. Spice. EVERYTHING!
It’s also a busy time on the ol’ farm.
Not only is there a lot that just didn’t get done with the crazy summer schedule, and getting our homeschool legs under us, but there’s a lot that needs done every year to prepare for a smooth and restful winter.
With frost the past two nights, and a forecast for snow at 3000 ft, winter is definitely knocking on our door!
Here’s a basic list of the things we do to get our 100 year old farm house, and grounds ready for winter.
1. Clean And Mend Chicken Coop.
We clean our chicken coop every spring and fall, by shoveling out the bedding and droppings into a compost pile where they can “cool” for use in the garden next year. We replace it with several inches of clean pine shavings. This is also time to replace light bulbs, cover windows with plastic, make sure water heaters are in good order, and in our case, secure the big blue tarp on the roof. We’re just so classy.
We planned a new roof for the coop this year, but had some very expensive and unexpected repairs to the actual home, so the chickens get to be the trashiest neighbors on the block for one more winter.
We’re also using this time to enlarge the chicken run, and fix our rookie mistake of fencing the run with chicken wire. Real fencing, folks. Free Range chickens can be charming right up until they scratch up your spring plantings and poop on your front porch, and picnic table, playhouse, lawn mower seat. . .you get the idea. They’re sort of gross.
2. Winterize the Rabbit Hutch
Rabbits are generally much happier with winter than summer, so they don’t need much. We’ll give them a good deep bedding to burrow in, and make sure we have extra water bottles on hand for when they freeze. During freezing weather we only fill the bottles half full. Twice a day we take out a fresh bottle and bring the frozen ones back into the house to thaw.
3. Cover Windows With Plastic
We still have (possibly original, definitely old) single pane windows in our house. We use clear shrink film on the downstairs windows, and 6 mil “clear” (it’s NOT clear) plastic in the upstairs bedrooms to help reduce heat loss. It’s not the most elegant solution out there, but it does make a significant difference.
4. Drain and Store Hoses
It’s hard to believe we were still watering the lawn just a little over a week ago! And the hoses are still strung all over the property. Time to drain, roll and stash them in the shed.
5. Stock Fire Wood
We have electric heat, unlike a lot of the older homes in our area, so we’re lucky to not be entirely reliant on wood heat. But is there really anything lovelier on a cold winter evening than snuggling up next to a crackling fire? I also like to have enough wood on hand to see us through a power outage. We were without power for five days once, before we lived in a home with wood heat, and we had to find friends to stay with. I like the thought of being able to stay home and welcome friends next time.
6. Run the Mower Out Of Gas
We could also use an additive to stabilize the gas, but we generally use the mower to clean up the last round of leaves (if the snow doesn’t get ahead of us), so we’re usually able to time it right to just go ahead and run the gas out. And speaking of leaves…
7. Rake Rake Rake
Shade trees are awesome. They really do improve the quality of life in summer. To the point that we usually don’t even need to use the AC. In fact we didn’t ever use one until the crazy hot summer of 2015, and only a few times last summer, largely because we have huge shade trees on the sunny side of our house. Huge shade trees full of leaves. Which will fall over the course of six weeks or so, and need to be raked or otherwise removed several times. We’ll use some of the leaves to mulch garden beds, some for jumping in, and the rest will get mowed into the grass. Good times.
8. Put the Garden to Bed
The garden. Let’s just not talk about how that went this year. Suffice it to say there is a lot of clean up to be done. Weeds and spent plants need to be pulled and burned, rabbit manure spread, fence mended, and perennials need pruned and mulched.
9. Clean and Store Garden Tools
After the garden is put to bed it’s time to clean and store garden tools. I’ll admit I suck at this. I usually run around the yard picking up shovels and rakes after the first dusting of snow, and hastily toss them in the shed. This year I mean to actually clean, oil, and properly store my yard and garden implements, before I have to find them under the snow. This is also a good time to stage snow shovels, ice-melt and sleds near the front door.
10. Snow Gear
While it’s not exactly a “farm” chore, I also like to take this time to pull out all of the winter coats, boots, etc. to see what we need to replace. Outgrown items can be cleaned up and sold, donated or stored for a younger child. We did some of each this year. Can you believe we somehow accumulated three pairs of size 4/5 snow bibs over the years? I gave away two, and stored one for the toddler to grow into. We shifted some gear from oldest to middle kid, and know what we need to replace before snow. If you’re down with used gear, this is a good time to find stuff on craigslist of facebook selling groups. We just snagged a good pair of boots this morning. It’s also a good time to hit discount stores for the best variety. We waited a little too long on Costco coats last year, and the girls didn’t get the colors they wanted. Horrors.
11. Finally we have to make a dump run.
We accumulate trash. It seems like every spring and fall we’ve managed to accumulate a bigger-than-the-weekly-can heap of broken outdoor toys, ragged tarps, and other bulky refuse. I try to have it hauled off before it’s buried under snow to grow mold all winter.
I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting to list here, but these are the most relevant to our household, and top priority. Everything else will either wait, or be forgotten and we’ll mitigate in the spring. Life does go on.