The fields lay dormant, the animals are less active and the earth is at rest. For most, winter on the homestead means daily chores may take longer to complete each day, but there certainly are fewer of them to tend. Although that does leave plenty of time for dreaming, planning and even relaxing, there are numerous things that can be done in the final few weeks of winter to make for an easier spring on the homestead.
Here are five items to put on the checklist for the end of the winter season.
1. Create an action plan.
Where should the homestead be by the end of the year? Start by brainstorming ideas and putting them in writing. Prioritize the few that need to be accomplished this year and, for the moment, save those that should be put off. Think realistically. Multiple large projects may seem feasible, but could lead to burnout or worse yet, be completed with less-than-quality work. From gathering materials for a building project to ordering spring chicks for increasing the backyard flock, getting a plan in place is essential for a smooth spring.
In this planning stage, consider negotiating bartering agreements for skilled labor that needs to be done on the homestead or for supplies that are not locally available.
2. Evaluate the property.
Looking to increase the garden plot, the orchard or the fields this coming year? Map out the locations and evaluate the potential yield as a result of the increased areas. Some areas can serve dual purposes with careful planning. Use these winter weeks to read up on effective land-management strategies that will increase the production of the existing property when appropriately utilized.
Seed orders will be arriving soon, so be sure to have the potting shed or potting area ready to go. This includes performing necessary maintenance on grow lights and other greenhouse apparatuses. Cold frames should also be prepared for use. This is the time to check trellises, tomato cages and other gardening tools. Make repairs, sharpen shears and replace these items if necessary.
3. Rotate stored supplies.
Having a ready supply of food and other necessities is a trademark of self-sufficiency, but rotating these supplies is sometimes neglected. There are few things more discouraging than having to dispose of supplies that are no longer fit for use on the homestead. Inventory the food storage areas, including all pantries, root cellars and freezers. Plan the next few months’ worth of meals using foods that will be replenished with this year’s harvest. While completing the inventory, take time to clean the storage areas thoroughly before they are refilled.
4. Work ahead.
In the busy months of spring, summer and fall, it is often difficult to find time to replenish homemade goods that are used throughout the year, such as laundry soap, cleaning solutions, medicinal ointments and other products. The slower months of winter present the perfect time to work ahead and leave the stress of adding one more item to the to-do list behind. Estimate the needs of the household and start from there. Keep careful records of what product was made, including the amount produced, and also note when it runs out in order to plan more accurately for the following year.
Clothing needs can also be addressed early to avoid hassle during the busy summer months. Reinforce buttonholes and knees, and replace worn-out clothing items by purchasing or making ahead for the warm summer months.
5. Perform seasonal maintenance.
Seasonal maintenance is a normal part of the home life; however, nonessential repairs are often left for those days when the problem is no longer bearable or nothing else more important fills the time. Patching and repainting drywall, mending frayed linens, tightening door handles, oiling hinges, and reinforcing loose handrails all add to the comfort of home but are often neglected. Even repairing or replacing the screening material on removable window screens and doors will save valuable time.
The above-mentioned items are certainly not the only things to consider doing in these last few weeks of winter. Any work that can reasonably be done ahead is work that should be done now, leaving more time for the necessary work around the homestead in the busy spring months.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below: