Getting ready for winter when you live in the city is one thing, but winter readiness on the homestead is another matter. Not only are there more needs to fulfill and a wider variety of possible emergencies to consider, but there is often more distance to travel for goods and services.
Out on the homestead, you need to up your game. You don’t want to wait until a blizzard is bearing down on your homestead to make the 70-mile round trip to the feed store, take the risk that they might be sold out of what you need, and worry about your livestock facing the elements back at home while you search for another source.
Begin by making sure your winter readiness includes everything you need. Start with personal items that you cannot go without. It goes without saying that you will need food and water for human consumption. Boxed or canned food that can be eaten hot or cold are great choices, and you can never have too much clean drinking water. Consider keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer and a quart or two of shelf-stable milk on hand, as well.
Make sure you keep adequate stores of toiletries and hygiene items on hand throughout the winter. Stock up so that you don’t have to beat everyone to the stores when inclement weather is imminent.
Do not forget medications. Winter is not the time to practice “just in time” inventory management. As soon as your prescriptions are diminished enough that your pharmacy will refill it, do so. Foul weather, car trouble and sick kids can happen in the blink of an eye, so leave yourself enough wiggle room that unexpected events do not turn a snowstorm into a medical crisis.
Have winter clothing on hand, too. Go through your closet and make sure last year’s long underwear still fits, there are no holes in your wool socks, the zippers work on your winter parkas, and that you have the hats and gloves and waterproof footwear you will need for cold and snow.
Remember your pets. They will not care if snow is falling and stores are closed when they run out of dog chow and kitty litter.
The time to fill up the heating fuel tank, have any needed well or septic maintenance done, and make arrangements to hire someone to plow your driveway is now — before the weather forecaster is wearing earmuffs and a sweater. And before the phones of the service providers are ringing off the hook.
Out in the shed and garage, you will want to have what you need to remove snow and ice from your car windshield, house roof, porches and decks, sidewalks, paths and driveway. Depending upon your neighborhood and climate, this could be anything from roof rakes to rock salt to ice creepers to shovels. But it is about much more than stocking up. It is about making sure your vehicles are winter ready. Check out the tires and change them over to snow tires if needed, make sure there is enough antifreeze in the radiator, and take care of any repairs and maintenance before the weather turns to winter.
Do not forget emergency supplies, from batteries to lanterns. But again, it is about more than buying and storing goods. If you have a generator, make sure it is running well. If you burn wood, see that the stove or fireplace and chimney are clean and safe. If there is a chance a winter storm can drive you from your home — if you have no way to heat it without power, for example — be certain you and your household have a rock solid evacuation plan.
Having all of these plans and supplies in place in preparation for anything winter throws your way is a great start. But if you are a homesteader with livestock, there is more to be done.
Your barnyard animals will need to be fed, watered, sheltered and corralled. Some of them might need medications, supplements and health treatments. In a worst case scenario, they might even need emergency intervention of some kind.
Make sure your fences, posts, gates, doors and chutes are ready for cold and can withstand a snow load. Pull up portable electric mesh fencing before the posts freeze into the ground. Ensure that infrastructure — barns, sheds, run-ins, chicken coops and other shelters — are in good condition, and tend to any shingles or siding or door latches that might need to be tightened up before the winds of winter howl across the homestead.
If you use heated water dispensers or heat lamps, get them out ahead of time and make sure they are operating. This way, if you need replacement bulbs or parts, there is still plenty of time to send away for specialty items.
As with food for humans and pet, staying ahead on hay and grain during the winter months is crucial. Even if you cannot store enough for the entire season, store as much as you can, replenishing and rotating as you use it.
Before winter hits, go through your stores of emergency treatments and medications. Replace items that are dried out or contaminated or expired, and add any new items you might need for livestock maladies and injuries to your kit.
Make sure you bring products sensitive to cold indoors if your barn or tack room will dip below freezing in winter. Even if it is not damaged by the cold, many gels and pastes are easier to use when thawed.
By preparing for winter in advance, you can save time, money and anxiety for everyone. If you can sit back and relax in the face of snow and cold instead of standing in long lines for basic groceries or braving icy roads on your way for essential supplies, everyone wins.
What winter readiness advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: