Archive for the 'winter' Category

Getting Ready for Winter

Sharon September 25th, 2009

Note: I’m headed offline for the Sabbath and Yom Kippur today - I’ll be back on Tuesday.  If you’ve inquired about the Garden Design class and not heard back from me, yes there are still spots available, I will reply to you on Tuesday and my apologies.  The same if you are waiting for materials about apprenticeship – I’m sorry, I had a lot of queries and a busy week or so and I’m behind – I’m not ignoring you, though! 

I thought it might be useful for me to go over all the steps we take (over a fairly long period of time) to get ready for winter – some of you probably already do all or most of these things, but there are always those people who have been accustomed to other ways, and who knows, someone might pick up (and I’m sure those who comment will offer some great ones I haven’t thought of) a new idea.  So here goes – I’m dividing it up into categories, since we get ready for winter in a whole host of ways, and this makes it easier for me to remember things.

1. Personal/Physical/Clothing: This is actually the most important category for us – we try and remember that it is always much easier to warm your body than the room or the whole house, and to start at the immediately personal level.  That means shifts in attitude, practice at accustoming ourselves to lower temperatures, and having appropriate tools and clothing.

a. We play heater-chicken, seeing how long we can go before lighting a fire or turning on heat, but also how long we can leave the windows open.  This helps us accustom ourselves to lower temps – so while a night in the 40s feels very chilly in early October, by January, that would feel warm.  

b. I dig out, clean and sort through our winter clothing, and hunt up anything we’re short of.  Standards of our winter outfitting are winter pajamas (fleece footie pjs for the boys, worn with long underwear underneath in the coldest weather; fleece and flannel for the grownups, with big foofy bathrobes over them), lotsa layers and lots of wool.

c. I begin serious mitten and hat knitting – they get lost a lot, so more is better.  The stuff from previous years gets aired out and I dig out the fingerless gloves that allow yours truly to continue blogging in her 50 degree office.

d. I dig out the bricks we put in the cookstove oven to warm the beds at night – we wrap them in flannel and put them between the sheets.

e. Down comforters, flannel sheets and wool blankets are cleaned and aired. 

f. I encourage the kids and adults to spend as much time out in the autumn sun as possible, synthesizing vitamin D.

g. I’m always a tea junkie, but we move to hot beverages on a large scale – hot cider, teas, cocoa (we’re none of us coffee people) or just hot milk with a little molasses and cinnamon. 

h. We try and make sure everyone gets up and moves around plenty – it is tempting when it is cold not to go out, but we try to force ourselves to get outside, because the house always feels a lot warmer after you’ve spent some time in the cold fresh air.

i. I dig out and size boots, snowshoes, yaktrax (ice grippers) and cross country skiis. 

2. The House: This seems obvious, and probably what most people think of as getting ready for winter. 

a. We get the chimneys cleaned, and clear out the porch, which has had gardening things on it – now it will hold self-water containers with cold tolerant plants and root cellared veggies.

b. we keep the windows open for fresh air as long as humanly possible, but eventually we do cover our windows (which are good ones for the most part, the ones that aren’t are being replaced as we can afford it) with bubble wrap or plastic (we staple it to wood frames and use it for multiple years to avoid waste).  I’m fairly slow to do this completely, simply because often into November and some years even early December, we have warm enough days to occasionally throw open the windows.

c. We bank the house with hay bales – it makes a big difference in heat transfer up from our stone basement.  The bales old hay, and used as mulch in the spring.  These also insulate the garden beds around the base of the house.

d. When it gets really cold, we shut off a portion of the house – the guest rooms (we have a large farmhouse) and move mostly into the better-insulated, smaller portion of the house.  If we ever find housemates, this will change, but we will still close a portion of the place off.  When we shut up a room (they will get opened when we have guests) we also cover up the windows entirely to reduce heat loss).

e. We put up the curtains and window quilts to reduce night-time heat loss, hang blankets on some of the less well-insulated walls, invite the cats to sleep on our beds.

f. We make any warmth-saving repairs – we try and do a little more each year that makes the old part of the house better insulated and sturdier.  This year will involve some window replacements and re-doing the porch doors, which are pulling away from their frame.

g.  We bring out the draft dodgers to block off any leaky spots.

3. Food Storage and Edible Gardens: in autumn we get ready for winter as though we would live the winter through on our stores.  In the summer we take care of our garden, all winter long, the garden takes care of us.

a. I set up bins and boxes and bushel baskets to hold the porch produce, and bring out old blankets to cover things that are best kept from light. 

b. I take one quick run through the jars of canned and dried food, and make sure everything is in good shape, all seals are solid and there is no mold or any nasty stuff.

c. I set up pop-up greenhouses or other season extension protection over beds of the hardiest crops, to extend my season of fresh greens. 

d. I move the self-watering containers filled with hardy greens into the sun porch to provide us with salads all winter.

e. I take advantage of autumn sales and bulk purchasing to make up for any bad crops or refill depleted portions of our pantry.

f. I gradually put most of the garden beds “to bed” pulling out diseased plants, cutting down (or letting the goats in to eat) the remaining stuff, and mulching plants I want to keep. 

g. I start building new beds for next year, and I dig holes for new trees we intend to plant in spring.

h. I preserve the last flush of eggs for those periods in winter when there are few. 

i. On trips to town, we take leaves on the side of the road for mulch and compost. 

4. Health: A lot of us get sick in the winter – and since my husband goes off to university and my kid to public school, we expect them to come home with a few bugs every year, but try to keep it to a minimum.

a. I strain my summer tinctures and begin digging roots after the first hard frost, but before the ground freezes.

b. I stock up on vitamin D, collect rose hips and elderberries and put up C rich fruits.

c. I restock the first aid and vet kits with all the necessaries after a summer of use.

d. I try and can a few stews and soups that are ready to eat so that if we’re all laid low, we don’t have to rely on take-out pizza.

e. I make plans for emergency Eli pickup at school, if by some chance he gets sick there – since we have only one car, and Eric isn’t always available, I make sure I can barter car use in an emergency with neighbors.

5. Winter Holidays: I should really be like my Mom, and start planning for next year’s holidays on January 1, but I find I’m not that organized – but with three birthdays and Chanukah in a six week period, plus Rosh Hashana and Sukkot in the fall giving us 15 “festival dinner with guests occasions” between September and December, it helps to plan ahead – particularly if you are going to make your own.

a. During the summer I make extra jam and preserves in small jars to give away as holiday gifts, as well as making raspberry, currant and wild grape liqueurs, goat’s milk soap and other odds and ends.

b. As much as I can, year round, I keep an eye out for new gifts being sold used, especially nice books and toys.

c. As soon as it cools off enough to touch wool, I start making mittens and hats for the boys.

d. I stock up on holiday ingredients – making sure we have enough pumpkins to make pumpkin pie, sprinkles and other decorations for birthday cakes, etc…

e. We butcher turkeys close to Thanksgiving and Chanukah.

f. I try and schedule all the events early, so that things don’t get too crazy. 

6. Barn/Livestock:

a. We make any needed barn repairs and begin bedding the animals more thickly as it cools off.

b. We butcher cull livestock and fall poultry before the animals are spending most of their day in the barn – we don’t want them to be overcrowded.

c. We begin tracking heats and planning our breeding schedule. 

d.  We put the winter’s hay and grain under cover in the hay barn, and encourage our cats to keep the rodents out (we also set traps). 

e. We bring sunflowers, oats and amaranth into the barn and hang them from the rafters to dry for winter feed. 

f. When it gets truly cold, we move the rabbits off the porch and into the barn. 

g. I begin kicking hens off nests, as we don’t want any hatches in the cold weather.

8. Pasture/Garden/Woodlot:

a. We have a neighbor with a tractor mow the pasture, to cut back any plants the sheep have left. 

b. We begin hauling our wood in from the woodlot, and the kids start taking kindling walks, to collect the winter’s starter fuel.

c. We stack and chop wood.

d. I order seed so that in February or March, I can frost seed the pasture for improvement purposes.

e. I put ribbons around the sugar maples so that I can find them all in February, when they have no leaves.

f. I plant bulbs, garlic, walking onions, potato onions and jerusalem artichokes.   Some years I also plant winter rye or wheat as well to be grazed by the chickens.

g. I dig out the sled for bringing wood in from the woodlot in winter.

h. I plot trees to coppice and some standing dead trees to be left for wildlife.   

Then I put soup on to simmer and a pumpkin pie to bake and enjoy winter!

There’s probably more, but I can’t think of any now.  How about you?  What are you doing to get ready for winter?

 Sharon