At the time of writing, we are only a few weeks away from the chillier winter months. While a sprinkling of snow can leave your farm or homestead looking like a dreamy winter wonderland, many of us know that the reality of the situation is far from dreamlike. With crops and animals to look after in the brutal cold, as well as our families, the winter months can be long and demanding. Still, a little preparation goes a long way, and that is where we come in. Now is the time to get to work, and we have some tips to help you get winter ready.
Create a to-do list
You don’t want to be caught out by the cold, so for all of your regular farming chores at this time of year, create a to-do list now to keep you on task with the jobs at hand. While some of these will be covered in this article, there may be specific chores that are relevant to you, so start to get to work on that checklist early.
Stock up on animal supplies
You will be busy supplying your family with everything they need to survive the winter months, and the same applies to the animals in your care. Stock up on what you need now. This includes having plenty of straw bedding at hand to keep your livestock animals warm and cozy, and enough to replace it when it gets wet and uncomfortable to sleep on. A layer of sawdust is helpful in keeping the bedding dry, as is sand, as both absorb moisture, so be sure to gather an ample quantity of both to mix with the straw.
Remember to have plenty of feed on hand too. When temperatures drop, your animals will need extra nutrition to keep their energy levels up, so purchase enough grain, milk, hay, and whatever other forages you use to keep them well and satisfied. For further tips on managing the needs of your livestock, check out this winter guide to help you plan ahead.
Mend broken shelters
The pasture-grazing months are almost over, so you will need to get your animals inside before the brutal chill of winter hits your farm. Now is the time to check your animal shelters to ensure your livestock are able to reside somewhere that is waterproof, clean and comfortable. Thoroughly inspect your shelter, and if there are cracks in windows and walls, leaky roofs, or damaged doors, ensure you complete all the necessary jobs in good time. After all, you don’t want to be taking on these repair jobs when the full force of winter strikes. And you don’t want your animals getting out, either.
Store your tools and equipment
You need to properly store away any tools and equipment you use to preserve their functionality. You don’t want to lose smaller pieces of equipment, either, especially in the event of a snowfall. Not only will you end up on an impromptu treasure hunt looking for them, but there are also the health and safety aspects to consider for both your family and livestock should any sharp implements lay in wait underfoot. Gather them together in good time. Ensure your outhouses and garages are safe and secure, make any repairs necessary, and purchase new roofing, garage doors, etc., to strengthen your defenses and protect your equipment from the cold effects of winter.
Protect your plants and crops
Now is the time to plant for the spring, so if you work in agriculture, you will be busy in the fields getting everything ready to harvest next year. To ensure the best results, you do need to protect your crops and plants from the winter chill. Jack Frost threatens to bring your good efforts to ruin, so you need to lessen your plant’s vulnerability from the cold. Before the big freeze, hydrate your plants to prevent desiccation. Cover any tender crops with upside down buckets and a helping of mulch. Cover your larger plants with frost cloths and plastic sheets. And to seal in moisture, spray any vulnerable plants with anti-transpirant, which can be purchased from your local garden centre or farm supplier.
Stock up on food
If you live somewhere remote, you need to stock up on your staple items in the event that roads are difficult to traverse in the winter months. This means clearing out your pantry of any foods left over from the summer and autumn months, to make room for anything your family will be eating over the winter. While you may be able to source some of this from your farming, be that crops, milk, or the typical Christmas turkey, you may still want to stock up on non-perishable goods such as canned foods, and any other items you can heat up on your woodstove. You might also take the opportunity to learn a few recipes now, so you can warm up your families bellies with some lovely soups and stews to counter the winter chills.
Create an emergency plan
In the event of a power outage or other emergency, you will need to have a plan of action. This will include stocking up on anything that will protect you and your family, as well as having contact numbers at hand should you need any assistance. In terms of supplies, you might consider such things as fuel for your generators, extra batteries for your flashlights, a car charger for your cell phone, and a battery-powered weather radio. Battery-powered headlamps are also a good idea when you need your hands for your regular farming chores. You should also ensure you have the correct insurance coverage for your farm, so talk to your insurance company ahead of time to make sure you are properly covered for claims you may have to make in the event of damage to your farm.
Seal your home
You need to take care of yourself and your family in the winter months, so as you have done with your animal shelters on your farm, ensure you batten down the hatches on your family home. For starters, you need to reduce the number of drafts entering your property, so you should install weatherstripping around any area where cold leaks are detected. You should also purchase a tube of caulk from your local hardware store, and seal up any cracks that can be found around your home’s foundation. You might also consider loft insulation, as this will prevent any heat escaping through the roof. You can do this yourself, but if you are in any way unsure, you may want to bring in the professionals to get the job done now before winter arrives. And on that note…
Call in the professionals
For any jobs you can’t manage yourself, call in the service professionals. Considering the number of problems that can arise during this time of year, you may want to bring them in early before they get booked up with home emergencies. This is especially vital for any jobs that definitely need doing, but it’s still worth calling the experts as a preventative measure. With this in mind, you should get somebody to check to check your roof. The last thing you want when you’re sitting down to eat your Christmas dinner is a deluge of rain from above, so it’s worth asking a roofer to fix or replace any missing tiles. You might also want to get your boiler looked at, as you don’t want it breaking down in the middle of the winter chill. And you should start to check your radiators now, and bleed them, to ensure heat circulates properly. If there is a problem with them after bleeding, you will need to call out a plumber to discover where the issues lie.
Stock up on winter fuel