I know I’m a little late posting this, since we are at the end of October, but we have just recently been connected back up to reliable internet service at home, so now I can finally get my posts out there!
Here in Canada we are fortunate enough to have four distinct seasons (fall being my obvious favourite!), although sometimes they blend together or some can be quite short. As I type this in the third week of October, we have come off a really warm weekend that felt more like summer, but the forecast is predicting typical fall weather, cool and rainy, for the rest of the week. We know that fall can be unpredictable, so there are some things we like to do in order to get ready for the cooler seasons.
David and I have been heating exclusively with wood for a few years and we are lifers now! It started when we forgot to schedule a propane fill up during peak season, so they were unable to top our tanks up for about two weeks. We had one wood stove in the basement that we used occasionally but we had to rely on it for heat during that time. After that, we decided that heating with wood was more predictable, easier to control, and less reliant on others. Sure, we had to rely on someone else to sell us wood, but if we had to, we could cut down our own trees to burn in an emergency. Currently we heat only with out two wood stoves, and they provide enough heat to keep us comfortable.
Now every summer/early fall we arrange for firewood delivery, which then gets stacked in the basement and outside. Moving and stacking the wood is an all day job but we know that it will last us all through the fall, winter, and even into spring.
Before any fires are built in either wood stove, David takes apart the chimney pipes to clean them out. Creosote build up can cause fires, and since we live in a wood home, that is NOT something we want to risk! There are companies that will come clean the chimneys, but David has the tools and the skill to do it himself, so he will spend a few hours one Saturday in the early fall to make sure they are safe to use.
clean out the gardens
I am certainly no expert when it comes to gardening, but I do know that you need to remove all the dead plants before winter. Once my flower beds have stopped blooming I cut down almost every plant, simply because I dislike the look of dead flowers in the garden. I leave the hydrangea bush alone, but my phlox, bleeding heart, bulb plants, and wild flowers get cut down to the ground.
In the veggie garden, I pull out the dead tomato and bean plants because we till our soil in the spring. I know fall is the best time to plant garlic bulbs, but we opt not to since tilling the soil is more important to us. This spring I planted extra garlic so that we can make it a whole year without needing more.
Since we have chickens we compost their waste into the veggie garden, making sure to mix it well in the soil. We have also dumped dead leaves and grass in the soil to provide extra nutrients as it breaks down.
The chickens get fresh mulch on their floor (and the old stuff is composted) with a few extra inches added for both warmth and as material for dust bathing. We also perform a quick check of the seals around the windows and doors to ensure no rain or snow can get in. The chickens have a small heater to keep the indoor temperature warm, but not too warm, and a special heater for their water dish to prevent it from freezing solid.
freezer and pantry stocking
I am not really big into freezer cooking, but I do make sure there are at least several cups of frozen stock in the freezer. Also in our freezer stockpile are bags of garden produce, which is already pre chopped so it is ready for casseroles or soups. Since I make and gift Christmas baking I like to start it now and begin freezing it so that I have one less thing to do come December. I also freeze things baked goods to serve guests at Christmas, and make sure to have extras in case of unexpected visitors.
Since we do a lot of soup, stew, and chili in the fall and winter, I try to keep my pantry stocked with all the dried goods we like. This includes beans, lentils, rice, home grown dried herbs, etc. We have mice coming into our cold storage and pantry spaces so this is the time I ensure all our dry goods are sealed in tight containers and that the root cellar veggies are secured in their large bin.
closet clean out
Once we are out of tee shirt and skirts/shorts weather I will go through mine and David’s clothing to see if anything can be donated or discarded. Often I will find clothes we didn’t wear all season (donate!) or some that got stained or torn beyond mending (into the rag basket!). I also take time to go through my winter items and see if there is anything I no longer want or doesn’t fit.
We have a hanging shoe organizer in our coat closet which is used for shoes in the summer, and then winter gear in the colder months. I swap out all our sandals, running shoes, water shoes, etc, for hats, mittens, and scarves. The out of season items get put into a basket on the top shelf of the closet, while those we need are easy to see and reach.
I swap out our usual rotation of cotton bed linens for the flannel sets and take a few minutes to make sure everything is still in good shape. If not, (or if we decide we don’t need as many sets of sheets) it either gets donated, cut into rags, or thrown away.
I certainly do not do all these tasks over one weekend! They all take a bit of time and care, which is why I start as soon as possible. That way I am not rushed once the cold weather comes!
What do you do to help your family prepare for the colder seasons?
Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.