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Winter’s Coming: Are Your Home and Property Ready?

With average temperatures in the U.S. in the mid-70s (if you live in the south, it might still be considerably hotter), the idea that winter is around the corner might seem unbelievable. But autumn is officially here, which for many is a relief, given the record- breaking temperatures we experienced this past summer. Autumn is a wonderful time of year, isn’t it? Kids are back in school, Thanksgiving will be upon us shortly, and it’s a great opportunity to prepare for what will inevitably be another long and cold winter.

Part of your preparation should include two important things:

  • Putting your garden/farm to bed for the winter
  • Tips to save as much energy as possible

For experienced preppers, some of these tips might seem a little obvious, but for newbies to this way of life, hopefully you’ll find this information useful. Timing is important with this. If you have planted fall veggies, you can do most of the prepping before your last harvest. The exception will of course be your tools, which won’t be cleaned and put away until you have picked the last of your spinach, cabbage, broccoli, greens, and Brussels sprouts.

Putting Your Garden or Farm to Bed for the Winter

Surely you have heard the expression, “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.” Before you do anything, you will want to collect anything and everything that can be added to your compost pile. Although you’ve probably done a lot of back-breaking weeding this summer, you’ll probably need to do this at least once more.

If you aren’t already doing it, as your deciduous trees begin shedding their leaves, rather then bagging them, add them, along with twigs and rotten fruit, to your compost. Large branches can be ground or chopped and made into mulch. Nutrient-rich, your leaves, twigs, and rotten fruit will mix very nicely with your soil for next spring’s planting season.

Your Perennials, Trees and Shrubs Need Extra TLC

For those climates that experience freezing-or-below temperatures, lots of snow, and heavy winds, your garden or farm will need extra TLC to survive.

Protecting the roots of your trees, perennials and shrubs starts by creating a layer of protection with several inches of organic soil and then covering it all up with a thick bed of mulch. Extend this bed out at least four inches. If your region sees lots of heavy wind, stake down any trees you think are vulnerable.

Trimming Things Back One Final Time

Having cleaned, prepped and secured everything, now it’s time for a final trim. Trees, and in particular those bearing fruit, will thank you for trimming them back. How much varies according to the needs of each plant or tree. Trimming helps to further protect them from heavy winds, and come spring they’ll show their gratitude by giving you healthy buds. As for your shrubs, you should cut them to whatever length you’d like them to be come springtime.

Your Tools Need Prepping, Too

Once your tools have seen their last use, it’s time to clean and then sharpen them, if needed. Add a thin coat of any lubricating oil to them, which will prevent them from rusting while they’re not in use. To prevent your hose from freezing and cracking, drain it. Once everything is cleaned, dried, and lubed, put everything away in your storage shed, kiss them goodbye, and thank them another wonderful year together.

Energy-Saving Tips

It is difficult to know where on the prepper scale you are. For that reason, these tips will be geared toward the general reader or the newbie prepper. Again, some of these tips may not apply to you.

Your Furnace

If you heat your home with a furnace, it is recommended to replace the filters once a month. If this suggestion seems excessive, remove it and do a visual inspection of it. Having a dirty filter can obstruct airflow, which in turn increases the energy used to heat your home. Before you use your furnace for the first time, make sure it’s clean and properly lubricated. Throughout winter, continue to check for cleanliness and lubrication, which will continue to save you energy.

Your Vermont Castings Stove

If you heat your home with one or several Vermont stoves and want to get maximum efficiency, maintaining them is key. Luckily, this is pretty easy.

About every three weeks, as you see mass accumulation of debris and ashes, shovel it out. This ensures that the bricks remain as exposed to the fire as necessary, which makes for optimum heat.

To clean your Vermont stove, on a day when it’s not in use has completely cooled off, scrub the insides with steel wool. Rinse it out and let it air-dry. If you notice any rust accumulation, rub the rust spots with metal gun oil and allow it to soak in. This forms a barrier from what was once a weak spot.

Caulking and Sealing Weak Spots

Although it seems like something obvious, it does no good to heat your home if you are allowing a percentage of it to escape through cracks. On a day when there is a breeze going, go around your entire home and check for leaks. Any place where you can feel air coming in is an obvious place where warm air can escape. This could be windows, doors, vents, and around electrical conduits. If you use caulking, it is important to know that this doesn’t last forever. What does, right? Exposure to sunlight degrades it, and what was a strong barrier a few years ago can now be a weak spot to allow warmth to seep out.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use

As we know, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when we will be forced to find alternatives to fossil fuels. There are far too many signs that point to the inevitable truth. Before it gets to a place when we are forced to live without oil to heat our homes or the availability of supplies to maintain the furnace or Vermont stove, why not be a step ahead of the game? While you could think of this as a time to stock up on things, the other option is to do as people did not all that long ago.

This tip applies whether you live completely off the grid or are still dependent on public utilities. If you have ever considered taking up the art of quilt making, this would be a great time to start. Not only do the finished products keep you and your family warm and cozy, getting a group of women together to make them generates lots of heat.

In lieu of that, layers always work well, too.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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