Winter is a dangerous time on a homestead, especially in the northern part of The United States. The temperature drops and the snow begins to fall and it will be your job to keep your family and livestock warm and fed.
It can be a constant struggle to keep enough food, fuel, and water for everyone in the winter. The key is to stay ahead of it, because falling behind is just asking for trouble. I hope that these tips will help keep your homestead survive this winter!
When it is cold, I always open the drapes during the day to let the sun in. Even if the sun is weak, it can make all the different in keeping the house warm. Anything that makes contact with the sun will absorb the radiant heat and release it slowly throughout the evening.
On that same note, make sure that you are closing the drapes at night. Closing them will help keep the warmth in and the cold out. Windows are where your house loses most of its heat, so do your best to limit the loss. Without the drapes, you can feel the breeze coming in through our leaded windows on a chilly day.
If you are baking or cooking dinner, leave the oven open when you are done. This lets you use the heat that you already created for another reason to be used to warm the house. You spent time or money to create that heat, so you might as well get the most use out of it.
Pioneer homesteaders would use the over to cook and warm their house at the same time. They would often keep a soup or stew on the stove for hours to make good use of the heat.
We have a few rooms in our house that are not heated and get very cold. Leaving the door to those rooms open is like leaving the door open to the outdoors, letting the warmth out and the cold in. I make it a point to shut these doors whenever someone leaves them open to help preserve the heat.
On a homestead, you can expect the power to go out for a few days every winter. Having a generator to keep your furnace and stove running could save your family from a few very cold nights.
If you don’t already have a generator, I highly suggest that you invest in one when you can. I’m not saying that you need something fancy that will start up automatically, but you should have something to use in the case of an emergency.
You should make sure that your pantry is always stocked with as much food as possible. As a homesteader, you should be canning and preserving enough food to last your through the winter. If you run out of food, then you will need to go to the grocery store and spend money. More importantly for me, you are putting your ability to survive back in someone else’s hands. I overstock my pantry when getting ready for the winter and I suggest that you do the same!
You never know when you will run into car trouble and need some help. I always keep a set of jumpers, some kitty litter for traction, an ice scraper, and a warm blanket in my trunk. You don’t want to get yourself in a situation where you are stranded without these basic car survival items.
Winter is the most common season for accidental barn fires in colder climates. The reason is that you are trying to keep your livestock and water warm with heaters and people aren’t always careful of where they are putting them.
Make sure that you keep your barn free of any sawdust or other flammable substances before you start using any heaters in your barn. As a safety precaution, you should always be using the safety care that comes with lights and heaters. This will reduce the cages of starting a fire and help ensure that your animals don’t get themselves hurt for being curious!
We ran out of hay halfway through winter our first year on the homestead. We are lucky enough to somewhere that we could purchase enough hay to get us through, but it was much more expensive and very poor quality. Make sure that you are prepaired for winter by stocking up on food before the cold arrives. Driving a fully stacker hay trailer on ices is not something that I would recommend anyone try on purpose.
If you have a greenhouse, you will need to grow less and can less in the warm months. This will give you more time to work on other projects, like making money.
I have been trying to convince my husband to build me a greenhouse for 4 years now and I am almost there! I would love to serve my family fresh vegetables year round. You won’t truly appreciate this idea until you are halfway through your first winter on a homestead and you are eating nothing but pickled foods.
Mulching your plants is something that is very simple yet often overlooked. You want to make sure that you keep the roots of your plants warm enough to survive the winter. It is also important for locking in the cold during warm spells, because you don’t want your plants to start growing yet.
You should be mulching your plants early in the fall, before the cold sets in. If you lay the mulch early enough, you can even extend the growing season a bit. If you can’t purchase mulch, spread leaves across the area to give them a small layer of protection.