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Preparing the Homestead for Winter

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Farm, Homesteading, Household Management, Podcast, Preparedness

What are those must-do items on the checklist when preparing the homestead for winter? In today’s Pantry Chat we’re talking about all areas of the homestead and what steps must be taken before the winter sets in.

Jars of dried herbs on a counter.

We recorded another Pantry Chat on preparing the homestead for winter back in 2020. Check out that post if you’d like to listen to that as well. However, this post is going more in-depth about what we need to think about in more areas than just the farm.

We’ve also written blog posts (with videos) on preparing for short-term power outages, 9 tips to be prepared for emergencies, preparing the gardens for winter, prepping the pantry for winter, stocking the barns for winter, and even preparing for inflation and food shortages.

Household

Clothing

Make sure you get out your winter clothes! Twice every year, we have our big clothing swap. This is when all the bins of clothes come out of the attic and we go through each one to see what fits, what needs to be passed down, and what might need mending.

After going through the bins of clothing, we then make up a list of items we need to purchase and/or mend.

We do this before the weather turns too cold so we’re prepared for the months ahead with this giant task behind us. This may not be as daunting of a task for you if you don’t have ten kids in the house!

Homestead Hack: We wear a lot of Carhartt gear in our family because it’s built tough to withstand all our homestead chores. This year I learned something really great about Carhartt. You can send in your clothing for repairs, such as ripped cuffs, broken zippers, or buttons that need mending and they’ll send them back all mended and ready to go.

A woman holding up a jar of freeze dried food with filled pantry shelves of home canned food behind her.

Stocking Up the Pantry

Stocking the pantry for winter is especially important if you live where you can be snowed in, or if you experience frequent power outages. Having ready-to-eat food that you can heat and eat is important in these cases.

When stocking your pantry, be sure you stock some enjoyable items like chocolate and coffee. Carolyn loves to have delicious teas from Farmhouse Teas to get her through the winter months.

A woman reaching for herbal oils in a cupboard.

Medicine Shelf

Get your medicine shelf stocked up before cold and flu season hits! It’s inevitable that someone in your house is going to get sick this year. So have what you need on hand for the basic cold and flu season.

If you’re a Homestead Kitchen member, go take a refresher course on the Herbal Medicine Cabinet (if you’re not a member, you can grab our Herbal Medicine Cabinet: Colds & Flus course here).

Wood cook stove fire burning.

Backups

Heat Sources

If the power goes out, do you have a way to heat your home? If your primary heat source is electric, be sure you have a secondary backup with enough fuel (or wood) to keep it burning for a good long while.

We do 90% of our heat with wood heat with both a wood-burning fireplace and a wood-burning cookstove. We do have electric heat that kicks on if it’s an exceptionally cold night, but it’s definitely our backup.

A man standing inside a pump house.

Water

Many people are on a municipal water source and will need to have a backup. You should have about a gallon of water per person daily and shoot to have a week’s worth stored up.

Don’t forget your animal’s water in this planning!

Batteries

If the lights go out, do you have backup light sources? Depending on how they are powered, be sure you have plenty of batteries or solar-powered chargers to keep things running.

Generator

If there are appliances such as freezers that you’ll need to keep running in a long-term power-outage situation, make sure you have a generator and backup fuel. It’s also a good idea to know if your generator will power everything you need it to.

We recommend doing a “dry run” with your backup power sources. That way, when you need them, there are no surprises.

A frost-free bib with faucet.

Winterizing the Farm

Water Systems

Be sure to shut your water systems down, drain your hoses and store them up off the ground so they’re not getting damaged.

Do a good walk through the gardens and fields to make sure there aren’t any tools laying around.
Also think about your watering system for your animals. Do you need to consider a frost-free hose bib?

A large tractor turning a large compost pile.

Farm Equipment

We also like to do maintenance on any farm equipment in the fall so they’re ready to go come spring. This includes things like oil changes, new tires, etc.

Black cow eating hay, standing in the snow.

Animals

Feed

Stock up on your feed! We’ve touched on how to stock your barn for winter here. But the basic principle is to have your year’s supply of feed stocked up before winter.

If you can’t quite do this, then start building up by getting a week’s worth of feed, then a month, then a few months until you’re up to that year. It’s better to get stocked up slowly than not at all.

A black Jersey milk cow and an egg laying hen.

Bedding

Joel Salatin says if you can smell something in the barn then you’re mismanaging your bedding. Be sure you’re stocked up for deep bedding to get your barn and animals through the winter.

Barns get exceptionally muddy in the winter, but don’t just get in the mindset of “that’s the way it is.” Try to problem-solve how you can start reducing the amount of mud the animals are exposed to.

Could you add some gutters to redirect rain water off the roof? Could you start regenerating the land so there’s more grass? Could you add a portion of a roof this year that gets you started with additional barn space?

Sometimes making a system “good enough” is perfect for this year. In fact, here’s a blog post on exactly that. It’s called, “Good Enough is Perfect.”

We’ll continue this discussion on getting the entire homestead prepared for winter next week, so stay tuned and we’ll update this post with the rest of the tips!

Picture of a homestead with welcome signs in the driveway.

Josh: Hey, you guys. This is Josh.

Carolyn: And Carolyn.

Josh: With Homesteading Family and welcome to this week's episode of the Pantry Chat, Food for Thought.

Carolyn: This week we are talking about getting the homestead and the household ready for winter.

Josh: That's right. Winter is coming. We actually haven't had a freeze yet, which is unusual, but we've had a few 32 degrees. This morning was just not quite 32, just above it. But it's getting there. It's getting cold and it's time to put our stores up, get ready for winter. And I think there's a few other good reasons to be stocking up and doing our preps.

Carolyn: Stocking up, exactly. Yeah. Now I think we're going into our ninth winter here in North Idaho.

Josh: I think so, yeah.

Carolyn: And I don't think we've ever seen no frost by mid-October or no freeze.

Josh: Well, no freeze. We've seen-

Carolyn: We've had a few light frosts.

Josh: Well, and it's the first time on this property, we're going into our fifth winter here, that we haven't had a freeze in September. So our whole summer has kind of moved back.

Carolyn: Yeah, it really did.

Josh: Yeah and it's going to be really interesting to see what happens. I think we're going to get all in this little lull here, this little Indian summerish thing, and then we're going to get slammed. But-

Carolyn: Probably.

Josh: Some friends of ours harvested a bear the other day, we got some bear fat, and their comment was there was a lot of fat on that bear. So made us all wonder, does the bear know what's coming? Cause I'm not really hearing a lot. Usually we're hearing some rumblings about winter and everybody's got their opinion, "It's going to be a bad winter, it's going to be this, it's going to be that." I haven't heard much, but the bear seems to think that he needs to stay nice and warm.

Carolyn: Yeah. I think we're just all in denial that winter's ever going to show up. I think we just want to think that, "Oh, it's just beautiful. Let's just sit in the sunshine and call it good," because when it shows up it can get cold and bring some additional challenges on.

Josh: Yeah, it really can.

Carolyn: Yeah. So right along those lines, what have you been up to lately?

Josh: Getting ready for winter. What do you know? Let's see here what we've been up to. Well, we put in a retaining wall this year at the beginning of the cellar, you guys might have saw a little bit of that, I did a little video on that, and with that, that actually created a whole lot of space outside of our main crop garden between the house and the main crop that already has a few fruit trees in it. So it's going to become a perennial, one of our main perennial production areas. I'm not really food foresty, but it's going to end up with more fruit trees in it. We're going to move all our raspberries out of the main crop eventually, all our strawberries get them in there.

And so one of the things we're doing to prep the ground, because after the retaining wall we had to grate it out. It's just all dirt, and if you follow along with us, bear dirt is not good. We like to keep our dirt clothed and turn it into soil. So what we're doing is adding shavings. We have access to a lot of wood shavings from a cabinet shop. And so we're spreading those. I've been spreading those out and then getting ready to go and get a whole lot of mycelium, some king stropharia, also known as wine caps, and we're going to inoculate those wood shavings. That's develops a nice biological community, starts to get that going. It actually decomposes the wood shaving so it helps build soil and then it gets that soil covered for the winter. So the rain and snow's not pounding on it or eroding it or anything.

Carolyn: And as a byproduct, we've talked about this a few times, we get mushrooms and we are really liking getting those mushrooms into the house.

Josh: We are. I'm a little curious because this has been the first year I've been real successful at this and I put them in at the spring. All the other ones I've put in at the fall. So I'm going to ask, but I've been told it's fine. So hopefully that's the case. Because if we do, that'll be a lot of... we'll be selling mushrooms next year, cause-

Carolyn: We'll have a lot of mushrooms.

Josh: .... we're hardly keeping up with the ones that are coming in right now, which is great, or we'll have to get out and get some other ones. But these wine caps are just... they're like a workhorse. They do great, they're easy and they will actually convert those wood shavings into soil. So it's another longer term composting method, but a friend of mine out here has been doing this in his whole property and actually building soil just with wood shavings and inoculating them with these wine caps and then planting in it as he goes along.

Carolyn: So I want to go back and touch on something you just said, and this is going to be a little bit of a rabbit trail, but I think it's interesting because I've been having this conversation with people and I'm starting to call this my theory of the abundance economy. There's very specific mindset shift you have to undergo when you start having wild abundance that gets created on a well-managed homestead. And I was having this conversation with somebody the other day who... he wanted to plant a few more types of fruit trees because he liked all these different types of fruit and his wife just said, "No, no, no. Do not put in any more fruit trees. I'm up to my ears in plums already. I can't handle anymore. I don't want anymore."

Well this fits right into this theory of the abundance economy that at some point you have to switch your mindset. You go from this I have this little garden in my backyard and I need to make absolute use of everything that I have. Not a single little bit of anything is going to go to waste. Not a square inch, not a plant, not a leaf off my chard, it's all going to get used and it's going to get used up well. Same thing with the fruit trees. We're going to harvest every single one of those plums or apples or cherries and we're going to get them into jars somehow or other or get them onto the table. But at some point you have so many that you realize you're going to drive yourself insane to be able to try to keep up with that.

But not only that, you don't actually need that much in your pantry and in your kitchen. And so there's this thing that has to happen where we go, we can produce extravagantly abundant amounts of food and we don't have to use it all. That's okay. It can be there to hedge against a hard year when we do need it. You can call your neighbors and say, "I'm done harvesting. Do you want to come harvest the rest of the plums?" You can bless somebody else with it. You can put pigs and chickens underneath your fruit trees or turn them loose in the garden and let them be fed on all of that. We have to change the mindset though and get to a place where it's like, "I don't need it, so therefore I don't need to be trying to grab it all."

Josh: Well, that is a wonderful perspective and it ties into just kind of part of the permaculture ethos or permaculture paradigm, which also ties into sound just economics in general, and I'll reverse discuss that. So in a business, you're always trying to create profit and just don't get too hung up, everybody's worried about capitalism and profit and all that. It works if it's done well and it's done morally. And there's a point in that profits, that is the surplus, what we talk about in permaculture surplus, so we want to take care of the people, we want to take care of the land and we want surplus, it is that surplus that ultimately allows us to take care of the land and take care of the people and create the cycle.

And so we want to see exactly what you're saying. We want to see that abundance not as like, "Oh no, all right, I'm overwhelmed." Like, okay great, cool, you can fill up your shelves, now what do you do? Because now you're feeding back into the system, you're feeding back into the loop and that is sound economics. That's also sound people care. Give it away, sell some of it. Like Carolyn's saying, can feed the animals and then convert it into manure. I mean there's so many possibilities there. And you can use that surplus without an extreme amount of work with building systems. And that's the goal because you know what? Not everybody can have enough fruit trees to grow their own fruit. This doesn't work. So somebody's got to grow more of one thing, we're talking fruit trees in this case, and then put it back into the system somewhere else. And that's exciting stuff.

Carolyn: It really is and it also starts to contribute to things like a barter community where people, "Hey, you can come harvest whatever you want of the mushrooms, but will you give me an hour of your labor in the garden and help me clean up some garden beds?" The really easy simple things like that that can go well. So anyways, there's my rabbit trail for the day.

Josh: I like it. And that is the goal. Really, that's the goal. Not just enough. I think as homesteaders, sometimes we're focused on producing enough for ourselves, and that's the goal, we're feeling that urgency, whatever the reasons are, health reasons, whatever it is that we're doing this life, living this life for, there is this goal of providing for ourselves. Well, the goal really should be to provide more, to provide that surplus, that profit, that extra and then somehow benefit the environment and other people with it and there's a lot of different ways to do that. But that should really be the goal.

Carolyn: Yeah, it really should.

Josh: And then when we hit there, we're not freaked out. We're like, "Okay, well what's the next step?"

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Cool. I like it.

Carolyn: Absolutely.

Josh: Good thinking. What about... Well, was that your what have you been up to or is there anything else?

Carolyn: That's what my mind has been up to.

Josh: That's what your mind is up to right now. Yeah.

Carolyn: We're always thinking about other things.

Josh: Well, there's a lot of things going on though, because there's a ton of harvest and you're kind of overseeing the harvest here.

Carolyn: We are thinking about abundance right now a lot in the kitchen. We've got grapes coming in today.

Josh: Coming in as we speak. There's a crew, harvesting crew, up there.

Carolyn: Pulling in the grapes. And it's been a good grape year because we've had a long enough season to actually ripen them. So that's exciting.

Josh: Hopefully.

Carolyn: So those are going straight into the steam juicer to turn into jelly and to wine. And grape juice, we'll probably make some grape juice. But most of the grapes that we have on the property right now, we will change this at some point, are wine grapes that we inherited when we moved onto the property so they don't make phenomenal grape juice. They're not like the Concord grape juice.

Josh: No.

Carolyn: That's so good, but we only have one nice concord plant and that has been very rigorously voted on. The family voted and said jelly. That's what we want out of the concord grapes. So we're working on that. We're also bringing in the green tomatoes. You get to the point where-

Josh: That's what happens to us.

Carolyn: ... you just have to say, "We're not going to get any more ripe ones, let's bring them in before we lose the green ones." But we have a lot of really fun things that we're doing with them this year. The brand new in The Homestead Kitchen magazine came out last week, the week before, and this issue is all on green tomatoes. So we're doing green tomato enchilada sauce and going to be getting that set aside for winter.

Josh: Love it.

Carolyn: We're going to be doing a lot of green tomato salsa verdes we're going to do, doing a lot of fun stuff out of it. And it's kind of exciting to have fun things to put the green tomatoes too and not just feel like, "Ah, let's stick them all in a box and box ripen them."

Josh: Well, and if you're in the southern part of the country, you may not relate to this a whole lot, but all of us in the northern half of the country, northern half of the world, we just run into this in the season unless we have some complex and advanced systems where we're going to have green tomatoes to put up. So check out the magazine. There's a link to that down below.

Carolyn: Cool.

Josh: Yeah, a lot of good ideas there.

Carolyn: Yeah. The other thing that I'm really getting excited about, and I got to share with you guys because it's coming, is we've been producing a gluten free bread baking book behind the scenes and I'm so excited about this. I've been working with a wonderful part of our team here at Homesteading family who is a amazing baker and mom who deals with a lot of allergy issues in her household. So she has just developed the most amazing recipes for gluten free baking because she's really concerned about getting deep nutrition into her family and not just so many things.

When you get into the gluten-free baking world, yeah you can get these flour substitutes, but a lot of times there's almost no nutrition in them. You're talking potato starch and white rice flour and we want to be able to get that good nutrition in. So we've been working together to write a book that is the... how would you say that? Like the companion book to go with our full master bread baking class for gluten free. So it covers sourdough, it covers regular yeast baking, it covers quick breads, it covers all sorts of things and it is phenomenal. So I'm getting really excited because I'm actually doing final edits on it and getting it packaged up and we've got a designer working on covers and things like that. So it's going to appear and hopefully it's going to appear in a print version where you can actually order a hard printed book.

Josh: Wow, cool.

Carolyn: Be the first.

Josh: Very cool. My mind's always racing 20 miles ahead. I'm always thinking out there somewhere and I'm like, "Yeah, you know what? There's a lot of people that have asked for that in STS, School of Traditional Skills, the gluten free.

Carolyn: Ah, yeah.

Josh: Because that's a tough one to crack.

Carolyn: It is.

Josh: It's tough nut to crack.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: I might have to be tapping your resources a little bit.

Carolyn: Sounds good.

Josh: Well, very cool. Speaking of STS real quick, cause I think this is going to get out in time.

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: So you guys know Sally Fallon Morell is coming back live for a free live training October 27th and so if you're on the School of Traditional Skills email list, you'll definitely get that. But if you're not, you might hop on over there because we're going to be doing free trainings every month. But excited to have Sally Fallon back talking about bone broth and really something that's going to be really cool for Thanksgiving, I think, for that to tie in.

Carolyn: Right. Are you not telling yet?

Josh: I wasn't going to, but we can.

Carolyn: Well, she's going to be talking about how to make really good gravies out of bone broth.

Josh: Yeah. And it's a healthy... It's a gravy that you can be can pretty happy to take your fill on Thanksgiving, which I'm a gravy guy. I love turkey and potatoes with my gravy. So I'm excited about this and I think a lot of you guys will be too.

Carolyn: So yay. You want to join that free training if you can.

Josh: Absolutely. Well, we better move along because we've got a good topic and there's actually a lot to cover here and we got to do our question of the day though.

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: And this is for you.

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: BBayless84 on a Whole Year's Worth of Lard, "I love this video and watch lots of your Homesteading uploads. I'm wondering if I can make tallow from the fat that has risen to the top of my homemade bone broth I make." Wow. That's like bringing it all together.

Carolyn: It really is.

Josh: And "would you have a video on that?" I don't think we have a video on that, but I'm sure you can answer that.

Carolyn: I do not have a video on that, but you can do exactly the process that you saw in this Whole Year's Worth of Lard video with that fat that comes off the top. You can also take your trimmings off your plate. When you're having steak and you get a steak that has too much fat on it, cut some of that off, obviously you need some to leave on there if it's a good grass fed steak...

Josh: If it's a grass fed steak, there's not too much fat, really.

Carolyn: Well, cut a little bit off or if you're trimming a roast or something, and stick all of those things in a bag of the freezer. And then take that with that bone broth cap, the fat that comes off the bone broth, and you can render that all down, you do still want to render it, and you'll end up with a great tallow, something very, very usable in all your cooking or for turning into soaps or candles or whatever it is you want to do with the tallow.

But just remember at the point that it comes off that bone broth, it's not rendered so it needs to be kept in the freezer, it needs to be handled essentially like a raw meat. You need to freeze it again for any sort of storage. Don't try and stick it in your refrigerator and let it sit there for a few weeks until you have enough. So just build up a bag of it in your freezer and you will be good to go.

Josh: Very cool.

Carolyn: You can do that with any fats too. Not just beef fat, just so you know. If you get into a pasture raised chicken or turkey and it has nice big globs of fat, by all means pull that off and set that in there and render it later. Set it in your freezer and render it later.

Josh: Good, good flavors. Good gravies right there.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Thinking about gravy. I like gravy.

Carolyn: We do other things with our fat and our broth besides gravy, in case you can't tell.

Josh: Well, that's why I got to get my plug in because it goes elsewhere and it's hard to get enough gravy around here.

Carolyn: I know we've got to get to the topic, but we've also been perfecting the art of using leftover gravy, which is a rare thing to have in the house, but leftover gravy and turning it into phenomenal soups by adding some more bone broth to it and then-

Josh: Had some of that last night.

Carolyn: ... lots of good chunks and oh, you want to talk about a good soup.

Josh: That was a good chicken soup. Little different noodles than we usually have, but it was excellent. It was really, really good.

Carolyn: Yeah. We took good chicken and the leftover... it was actually a white enchilada sauce that we made and so it was similar to a gravy, flower thickened, and cut that with the bone broth and then added the leftover chicken and all sorts of veggies and some macaroni noodles and it was phenomenal.

Josh: Very cool.

Carolyn: Okay, moving on.

Josh: All right, we better move on cause this is a good topic. There's actually a bit to cover here for the homestead and these are some important things to think about for winter and even a lot of good ideas in here in a world of uncertainty and rising costs that are just good thinking, "Oh, you're really..." But for those of us in the northern climates, a lot of this is pretty important.

Carolyn: Yeah. And we're going to cover a couple of different areas of the homestead, including the household. So even if you don't have acreage, you don't have a barn, maybe you don't have a garden, this is still going to have some things that you should be thinking about.

Josh: Yep. Matter of fact, we'll start there. So getting the homestead ready for winter, but let's dive right in to getting the household ready for winter.

Carolyn: Yeah. So we have some of the basics there like make sure you've got the right clothing. Right at the beginning of winter, right at fall, get rid of the summer clothing you're not going to use or get it into a bin out of circulation. Make sure everything's washed up real well, store it away and get the winter clothes that you need. I just learned something so exciting that I did not know. You guys notice, I don't know what we're wearing today, but a lot of times we do wear a lot of Carhartt brand clothing around here just because it's made for good tough work wear. So we do actually wear a lot of it. Did you know they do repairs for free? You can send them in, they'll redo your cuffs, they'll redo your collars, they'll fix your buttons and they'll fix your zippers for free.

Josh: Wow.

Carolyn: I had no idea. That made me so excited that I was like, "Yay." That's good. So make sure you're looking over all your stuff and getting ready for winter. If that includes sending it in to get fixed for free, do that on the soon side because it is like a 68 week turnaround or something like that. But make sure you're looking through stuff.

Josh: Will they fix my old Pendleton?

Carolyn: I don't think they go outside the Carhartt brand.

Josh: Man. Pendleton ought to take a clue. This is like a $300 thing that Carolyn found at the thrift shop for like 20 bucks. Solid wool. I love it. But it's starting to wear.

Carolyn: It's beyond fixing some of the basics. The thread bear part is coming through. So yeah, make sure that you're just dealing with that and get a little bit ahead. Get what you need for the whole winter for whatever's coming up.

Josh: Yep. Good. Stocking up the pantry.

Carolyn: Yeah, we talked about that a lot last week. Just make sure you get your pantry full on the early side. Don't-

Josh: Your bulk orders.

Carolyn: Especially if you're living a place with winter weather events. We got snowed in for...

Josh: Oh, a good week or more.

Carolyn: Week last year.

Josh: It might have been a little bit longer. Yeah.

Carolyn: And you know what? We had everything we need and we had a blast. The kids still remember how much fun that was because there wasn't any panic of like, "Oh, we don't have this or we don't have that." Make sure you just have what you need to be able to weather whatever's coming your way this winter.

Josh: And I know we're talking winter, but this stuff's all just good strategy all the way around. Teas, really. Stock up on teas.

Carolyn: Yeah. Get yourself a good stash of the things that make winter lovely for you. If that's teas that you like to sit and drink by a fire, do that. You guys know we love Farmhouse teas so I'm getting a little selection of fun ones for myself for the winter to be able to have but get what you need. Same thing, books and activities for the kids. If you've got kids and they're going to be stuck inside a little bit extra, make sure you have something available for them to do so you don't all go crazy during the yucky parts of winter.

Josh: Sounds good. Don't forget to get some coffee in there as well.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Medicine shelf.

Carolyn: Get stocked up. Somebody in your house is going to get sick. That's just a pretty good estimate, just count on that even if you're extremely healthy people. Get stocked up now because the last thing you want to do is start not feeling well and have to run to the pharmacy or the grocery store. Try to figure out what herb that you had made or...

Josh: Well and tinctures. If you're in the membership, go take a refresher on the herbal medicine cabinet.

Carolyn: Get your cabinet filled up.

Josh: If you're not, go check that out either the class or the cabinet and get your cabinet filled up with all your stuff now because you're going to be dealing with those things all winter.

Carolyn: Yeah. And you might as well just deal with it now when you feel well.

Josh: Yeah. Good.

Carolyn: Same thing, make sure your heating, you've got heating backups. The amount of times we have emergencies that come through this country and people are either freezing or whatever it is, it should wake us all up to say, "Okay, we have our primary source. If the power goes out, how are we going to heat our house?" Just something we should all be thinking about as responsible adults.

Josh: Well and hopefully, and I know a lot of people don't, but if you can, have wood. Have wood heat. We primarily heat with wood. We do 90% of our heating with wood. But we do have a central unit and that keeps us from getting a little too cool at night and we could do without it but it keeps things up. Some of you that's what you've got and like Carolyn's saying, make sure you have a backup. You get into... and this just gets into backup power or maybe wood heat is your backup if that's what it needs to be, that's fine and that's good. Maybe you have some space heaters in case the unit goes out, your central unit goes out. Redundancy is always good and it's not good to be cold. That makes life a lot harder to get through. And honestly as we saw in Texas, what two years ago I think...

Carolyn: It was last year but yeah.

Josh: There's a lot of different things that can happen and I think we're facing a time where that's more the reality. More events like that are going to occur so whatever kind of system is your daily norm, have backups for it and have alternatives for it. Start developing redundant systems to help in the situations. Because those people in Texas would've never thought that was going to happen. And we knew some people there and it was tough. It was very, very tough for some folks. Yeah.

Carolyn: So yeah, make sure you're thinking about the what ifs and just running them through your mind.

Josh: Now backups you have, I mean we're talking kind of backups here. So what are you meaning by... Just other system backups?

Carolyn: Just general backups, you know batteries, what do you need? Again, you kind of have to think about your area. I'd love to be able to give you this nice tidy list of what you need. If it's water, make sure you have water. For some of us, water's not the problem in the middle of a winter storm.

Josh: Yeah, but a lot of people are on municipal water and so yes that is power dependent and you need backups.

Carolyn: You just want to be aware that you... get in a situation for yourself and your household that you can weather the storm. Okay, we'll put it that way because winter brings us a lot of storms even on a normal winter. And this winter has a couple of little hiccups that are kind of lining up in the broader worldview and so it doesn't hurt to be a little better prepared.

Josh: Quick water strategy, just real quick cause a lot of people don't even know where to go with that, and so you should have at least a gallon per day per person for drinking water available as a bare minimum for a week at least is a starting point, if you have to start somewhere. I think the average person in a normal functioning household uses about 30 gallons a day. That's going to be pretty hard to store. So you're going to cut down your use if you're in that situation. But still, you'd be shooting at least five to 10 gallons a day for so many days.

Start where you can, start with that minimal so everybody has water to drink, to cook with and then build from there. So that gives you a starting place. I mean, there's a lot of strategy. That's not what this show's about. But I wanted to give people just if they're thinking about this going, "Oh wow, well where do I even start?" Start with that one gallon a day per person for at least seven days and then build from there so that you have drinkable water and then you could even have some non-potable for flushing toilets and doing things like that.

Carolyn: Absolutely. So don't forget your animals in all of that planning. If you have a dog, we all know you're going to give your dog some amount of your water and not watch the dog die of dehydration. So just make sure you're planning that.

Josh: Yeah, well and if you've got other animals, how are they getting water and what do you need? You need a storage tank with 500 gallons or a thousand gallons or something.

Carolyn: There you go. Okay, but now that we have the basics on the household taken care of, we need to move out on the property because there's quite a bit to do to get the barn in the livestock already for winter.

Josh: There is, and I want to touch on one here that's not on the list yet and that is winterizing. Besides the stocking up, there's the winterizing the farm and getting ready to shut down your water systems, drain your hoses, take your sprinklers down. And again, this is assuming you're in colder climates, this is a little easier if you're in a southern climate where you don't have as much freeze. But generally we want to be shutting our systems down.

If you've got water systems that go out in the pasture like we put in this year, you're draining those, you're emptying them, you're putting your hoses up somewhere away under roof so they're not getting damaged through the freeze and the thaw and being full and all that. That actually... well you might say, "Well that's not really a big deal." It actually reduces the life of the hoses and so you're costing yourself money there. And just having that system to deal with cold weather and water because you still need water to your animals. So that's a big topic, but make sure you're thinking that through because that's going to cause you a lot of frustration.

Carolyn: And I think that goes to a very basic principle, but one that's really easy to overlook, especially if you get an unexpected early snow if you live in a snow place, get your tools picked up and put undercover.

Josh: Well, put away a lot of your weed whackers, things like that. You should drain the fuel, run the fuel out of the carburetor. I mean there's so many directions we could go. I'm realizing, wow, we could do a much longer show here. But yeah, that equipment that you're not going to use get the fuel out of it, especially those small engines, those two cycle engines, they don't like sitting in fuel. Put them up, put them away. All your tools, your hand tools, get everything kind of put away, tucked in, little maintenance done on them so they're ready to go for you in the spring. Last thing you need to do is to be maintaining a ton of stuff in the spring.

Carolyn: First thing in the spring.

Josh: Or at least get it put up and then have a plan during the winter to then go through them and do that. That works as well.

Carolyn: So out with the animals, we need to be thinking about a few other things.

Josh: Feed. Stock up on your feed. You don't want to have to be running out in a snowstorm because you got low on hay and you knew it was coming and then somebody had to go to the doctor and work went late and then all of a sudden your animals don't have feed and there's a foot of snow on the ground.

Carolyn: And that's exactly how it happens.

Josh: And that is exactly how it happens. We've been there. We've done it. And then you can't get ahold of the guy with the hay. So stock up, do your best to get well ahead. We realize a lot of people are stepping into this life. You can't just go buy a winter's worth of hay. That should be the goal, but start with at least a week, move up to a month if you can and then have a plan to be replacing whatever your cycle is before it runs out, well before it runs out. That will help a lot.

Carolyn: Okay, so right along with the feed we've got the bedding in the barn.

Josh: Right, and the bedding is really, really important. And Joe Salatan has a rule, if you can smell something not right in your barn, like it stinks, I mean there's a little bit of barn smell no matter what, but if it doesn't smell good, that is mismanagement. That means we are not managing well. And the key to managing animals when you have to bring them in close and tight and under roof is carbon. And what we're talking about is bedding. Carbon, wood shavings, wood chips are the best, hay certainly works.

Carolyn: Straw.

Josh: Straw, yeah. Those things work, but wood shavings are the best. And so you need to have a plan to be adding to that over the winter. You may need a plan to move some of it out during the winter and pile it so that it can compost, but you need a plan and you want to have that bedding on hand. So those of you that are starting to get into animals and spaces and if you're going into your first winter. Second, really, really important to have plenty of carbon there because there's just... in our environment we can't help but consolidate the animals and bring them in together. So they've got to have that what we call deep bedding, working towards that to deal with all of the waste.

Carolyn: And I want to say something about creating systems because I think a lot of times we look at a problem and we say, "That's just the way it is." Mud is a big one that comes to mind when we're talking about animals and winter season, "It's just the way it is." Don't get too caught up in the "it's just the way it is thinking." Start thinking creatively about how do we deal with this? How do we create a system that helps us to get the animals out of the mud or to reduce the mud load in some areas. I know we're working towards that in some areas because there are these kind of swing seasons of spring and fall, fall and spring at this point, where it gets muddy before it gets frozen.

Josh: Well and it can get really, really muddy if you have a lot of animals in a small space and you don't have a lot of dry under roof space for them, which happens. But you can plan for some of that. You can plan to... this is a little bit bigger and this is where this you got to solve the situation where you're at right now, but that's where you don't want to get into, "Well this is just the way it is. So I'm working on just solving this the way it is." Now what can you do to make improvements over time so that you're moving away from that problem and you're creating solutions? So it may take a little bit of minor earth work to drain water off or roof gutters so that's gone. All of those different things go into improving so you're not fighting the same situation over and over.

Carolyn: So just make sure you're always thinking about how you can improve the working situation that you're in. Maybe it's as simple as as soon as you bring your hay in, spreading it out in front of each of the animal stalls so that it's easier for you to do your chores every day and you're doing all the work kind of in one moment and then it's really easy just to throw hay. Maybe it's something as advanced as, "We really need to build a barn addition." We're doing that so we have some more roof space for animals in the winter. But always be at least processing what you can do to upgrade your system and that's how you get to a place where your homestead becomes easier and more efficient and not just the same old exhausting scramble year after year dealing with the mud, dealing with the frozen water. It becomes challenging sometimes in the middle of winter.

Josh: Well, and I know we're going in on this one because again this is another one we could spend a lot of time on, but be willing to take steps, and I think about the barn. The way my mind works, "Okay, I need a barn. All right, I'm going to save up to build a full barn. Well wait a minute, can I come back and build a roof and some posts and beams that's going to be a barn one day and get that done one year. Or even part of one, maybe I can't even... I don't have enough money to build the whole thing but I can build a section that gets some stuff under roof, gets the animals dried out." And so sometimes you've got to tackle it, that's the reality. We understand that we don't all have the resources, we haven't, and so you've got to do it a piece at a time. You don't have to wait until you can build a full barn, you can build it in sections and so that kind of thinking can apply to a lot of different areas.

Carolyn: If you live in an area that gets dark in the winter, lighting out in the barn just works wonders.

Josh: So, so helpful. We were a little slow when we bought this property five years ago. It had a nice big barn and it didn't have any lighting in it and it was kind of like... looking back it was like, "Wow, that should have been one of the first things we did," because we have... the animals are in the barn five to six months out of the year or close to it and it's dark.

Carolyn: It's dark.

Josh: For morning chores and evening chores for a lot of that time. And so we're dealing with headlamps or we're having a little spotlight here and there and really it was a few LED lights and a day's work to light that place up well because we did have electricity to it and we waited like three years to do that. And sometimes you just kind of go, hello.

Carolyn: It's one of those really easy upgrades that will really make a difference in your daily life in the barn.

Josh: Water systems is another one. Making sure you know how you're going to handle water, especially in freezing weather and trying to get water central to wherever your animals are. And that's the other thing, I mean this is bigger planning. Try to get your animals central, especially the colder and more snowy you are. Try not to have them spread out in winter. Try to get them to one place, your feed's all close. One roof or at least they're close to each other and have a watering plan to have non-frozen water, which usually requires a hose bib, a frost free hose bib down on the ground, and then a plan for your hoses to drain them out so you don't come out in the mornings and have frozen hoses. We've spent a lot of time with butane torches and all kinds of different things.

Carolyn: Defrosting hoses.

Josh: Defrosting hoses that didn't get drained well.

Carolyn: Well, we were going to jump into winterizing your garden and getting the garden ready, but I think that we're already getting to a long one so let's put that off. We'll talk about that next week, because I think there's actually a lot to talk about in getting your gardens ready for winter because if you do it the right way, you really save yourself a lot of time on the spring side.

Josh: You make spring, yeah, much easier and you can even be improving the health of your soil in that process.

Carolyn: And we're actually even trying something new this year that we'll let you in on next week when we talk about that at the Pantry Chat.

Josh: Sounds good. It's been great hanging with you guys. Get ready for winter.

Carolyn: Good to talk to you.

Josh: Bye.

Carolyn: Goodbye.

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– Carolyn and Josh 

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