The Changing of the Seasons
I don’t have to consult the calendar to know that fall is upon us. This morning I woke up to a cool house, and while looking out the window I was greeted with a drizzly picture of our backyard. Yes, fall is here, and it’s time to start getting ready for the winter.
I love the fall. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air, or the promises of family gatherings over the holidays. Whatever the reason, the change of season is no less busy than the summer, and sometimes the preparation for the upcoming winter can be just as busy.
As you have probably noticed in my previous posts, I love lists. Creating checklists helps for me to gather my thoughts and writing them down gets them out of my head, and starts a plan. So here is my checklist of what I will be doing over the next several weeks to get ready for the change of seasons, in no particular order:
1. Swap out car ‘go’ bags
In the summer, we have go bags in our car for emergencies. But even more important is the go bag in the winter. Depending on where you live will determine what you have in your bag. We keep a 2-liter bottle of water (not all the way filled to allow for freezing), a change of clothes, extra socks, a blanket, a small shovel, a flashlight, a heavy duty ice scrapper, a pair of warm gloves, a hat, non-perishable snacks, small first aid kit including medicines, a candle, tow rope, a bag of cat litter, cell phone adapter, a couple pencils, pens, spiral notebook, and jumper cables.
Some of these items just get transferred from the summer kit to the winter kit, or replaced. But we have small storage containers that easily hold all of these elements in the trunk of the car. Staying warm and dry is crucial in cold weather so extra clothing is necessary. Some things that are in our bags may seem like overkill, but with the distance we need to drive to get to populated areas, we don’t take any chances, it just isn’t worth it. I have gotten stuck, or been in a 3 hour traffic jam because of the weather, and knowing that I have a few things to help myself or even someone else is not only peace of mind, it’s smart planning.
2. Clean out the gutters
With the trees beginning to go dormant, the leaves start falling and inevitably clog up the gutters. Once most of the leave have fallen, get up on the roof (carefully) and clean out the gutters so the winter snow will be able to melt and go down the downspouts. I try to cheat and use the leave blower for the lighter debris first, and then get the heavier muck out. This is also a good time to check the roof, since you’re up there, and look for any missing or loose shingles.
3. Get the water tank heaters and winter hoses ready
One thing I really dislike about winter is busting ice in water tanks for my animals. So in order to combat this, we use tank heaters for all of our outside animals. It’s a lot easier to get this ready now before it gets too cold, so I get the heaters out and ready to set up for the horses, and the extension cords are plugged in and ready to go so all I have to do when the weatherman tells me of a potential freeze, is grab the heaters out of the barn, drop them in the tanks, and plug them in.
We do the same for our chickens, but we use a heated water, so we just swap out the waterer that’s in the hen house. I do leave the regular waterer outside in their yard so they will have options.
We also have a hose winder that we keep hoses on for winter time watering. This way we can drag it out of the garage and hook it up without the hose being frozen. We don’t have an outside water spicket close to the barn, so we have to use the one attached to the house. So we detach the hose from the house, blow it out when we are done using it and wind it back up on the hose caddy, and put it away on the garage until we will need it again. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra hoses, because inevitably your hose will freeze at least one time over the winter so plan ahead and have a spare for watering your animals. Or you can always do the backup…the kitchen sink. I have done this on occasion and although it’s a great work out, it isn’t something I enjoy doing.
4. Re-caulk windows, and cover up the AC unit
It’s a good time to check all of the windows inside and out for any missing trim, or caulk. Our windows are older, and since I hate being cold, I also use the window film on all of our windows. This stuff works great, and is cheap! I can usually do all of our windows for about $30.00 and it keeps the heat in and the cold out.
Now is the time we also cover up the AC unit to protect it from heavy snow. I LOVE my air conditioning, and don’t want to have a problem with it next spring, so we always keep it covered in the winter. But if you are going to have your furnace serviced or checked out, have your AC unit checked and then cover it up for the winter.
5. Have winter tools ready to use
Pull out the ice melt, salt, shovels, brooms and ice scrapers. We have a small area in the front of our garage that these items live permanently, so we just have to find any items that may have wandered to different areas, and put them in their place. This is when we check everything too, and make sure all of our items are in good shape, and ready for the winter.
It’s the wrong time to buy things, but if you need them, well you have too. But I like to buy new shovels, ice melt, etc. at the end of winter when it’s on clearance for cheap.
6. Put away the summer jackets, bring out the gloves, boots and coats
I like to try and stay organized and have less clutter, so I put away the summer stuff, and bring out the winter items. We keep everything by season in storage bins, so all I have to do is transfer the stuff from the closet to where they need to go.
We also keep our blankets in storage containers, so we bring those out as well so we have easy access to them in case the winter nights get cold, or the power goes out.
7. Stock up on animal feed
I hate running out of food not only for my family, but for my animals as well. This time of year we buy extra hay, grain and feed to get us through the winter. We continue to buy it as we need it, so we don’t go through what we have stocked up on, and we always have extra just in case we can’t get to the feed store for a few weeks due to weather, or if we were able to get to the feed store, and they were sold out. I try to keep a month back up on all my grain and feed and hay.
During the winter I also add extra feed in the cold to keep my animals full, and the extra calories help keep them warm. I also go through my horse items, and check their winter blankets. I bring them out so they are easy to get too in case the weather changes fast.
8. Winterize the garden
I love my garden, however by this time of the year, I am ready for it to be done. I clear out everything by pulling most of the remnants of the growing season. Usually I have a good stockpile of canned or frozen veggies, so even though it may not be everyone’s idea of winterizing, but I pull everything that is left, and leave it in the bed. (I have raised beds for my garden) Then I take old newspaper and spread it out over the stuff I pulled, cover it with some composted dirt and let the bed be.
For my strawberries and rhubarb, I put down some pine shavings, and cover them with compost as well. I have no idea of this is a good or bad thing, but it works for my garden, and I keep getting a good harvest so I keep doing it.
9. Stock up the pantry with canned and non-perishable goods
This time of year the grocery stores and big box stores have some pretty good bargains on pantry items. So when I find a good deal, I stock up. I want to make sure I not only have enough for our normal meals, but always add extra when I can to keep our pantry stocked, and always make room for extras. I don’t think you could ever store enough food and water, so I keep storing and stocking up especially when items are on sale that my family will eat.
10. Change out the car tires, and stock up wiper fluid
If you have summer tires, or your tires are getting thin, now is the time to get new ones or swap for the snow tires before the snow comes. Also don’t forget about having extra windshield wiper fluid in your car. It’s always a good idea to have a gallon in every vehicle, and a few more in the garage, just in case. You can also stock up on gas. Purchase a 5 gallon gas container, and fill it up the next time you buy gas. Add some fuel stabilizer to it, and stick it in your garage. Do this once a month for 6 months, and you will have an extra supply of gas when you can’t get to the gas station. Just remember which gas is the oldest, and rotate it. When you use it, replace it and put it at the end of the line.
This by no means is a complete list, even as I am writing this, I am thinking of things I can add to my list! But hopefully this gives you a general idea of things you can do now to help prepare you for the winter. By taking the time to get ready now, you won’t find yourself struggling if you need these items, or the power goes out. Try to keep prepping and planning, and you will have a head start on whatever this winter decided to throw at you and your family.