Springtime on the homestead is a time for embracing the promise of a new growing season. Winter feels like a million miles away. It is easy to be lulled into complacency by the return of green grass, migrating birds, budding flowers, and shirtsleeve weather—so easy, in fact, that the end of the summer season can sneak up on us!
As a homesteader, I know this all too well, and I expect you do too.
There are some things you can and should do now in order to avoid being caught unprepared this fall. It may seem too early to take cold weather seriously, but if you get these tasks taken care of now, you will be glad you did.
1. Clean and organize your stock of home-preserved foods.
Soon you will be working long hours to put up the coming season’s harvest, and there will not be time to worry about defrosting the
freezer and rotating the products so the oldest foods get used up first. This year’s strawberries will get thrown in over top of last year’s parsnips, and the whole freezer will be chock full of disarray and frost by fall.
It is a great idea to get it ready for the season now—defrost and clean, then organize and record the new layout as you place the food back into the freezer.
Canned goods should be inventoried, organized, dusted, rotated so that the oldest gets used first, conveniently arranged, and ready for this year’s harvest.
2. Get your firewood bucked up and split and stacked.
If you are experienced at burning wood, you already know it’s a great idea to get it done as early in the season as possible.
The general rule of thumb is this: the drier a stick of wood, the more heat you will get out of it. Burning well-seasoned firewood will result in using less wood, which costs less money and requires less work.
The long hot days of summer are the best time to get your wood dried, and the lower prices and higher availability which often occur early in the year create the optimum opportunity to buy it if you do not harvest it all by hand.
3. Clean and repair winter gear.
All those ripped pockets, wonky zippers, missing snowshoe rivets, broken ski boot laces, and threadbare gloves need attention before being marched into another season of duty.
You will not want to be standing in the “I-need-this-yesterday” lines at the repair shop or dry cleaners this fall when the first blast of real cold and snow is imminent. To avoid doing so, it is wise to tend to your winter clothing, accessories, and equipment well ahead of time.
4. Rotate your fuel
Rotate fuel for backyard, farm and garden equipment and ensure your supplies are adequate. You need enough of whatever you use for fun and work around the homestead—portable propane tanks, gas, and diesel—to make sure you don’t run out at inopportune moments.
Fuel is pretty important for many homesteaders. Having a good supply for use in lawn care, firewood processing, and farm work is crucial. Nobody wants to stop work for a fuel shortage, or pay the higher prices of summer fuel.
Keep an eye on the shelf life, particularly that of gasoline. Make sure it is dated and always use the oldest product first. Additives are often recommended for increasing the life of fuel.
5. Make livestock arrangements now.
Make livestock arrangements now. The lives of farm animals typically change dramatically late in the year. Whether they are raised for meat, resale, dairy, or breeding stock, most of what happens to them will take place in the fall.
Autumn is the time many animals are sent for meat processing, and reservations need to be made months in advance at some slaughterhouses, particularly the smaller and more rural operations.
Fall is also the time many farms turn their attention to barnyard breeding. Depending upon the type of livestock and many other factors, farmers often match up their own animals with those on other farms. Those in high demand may book up early, making this another case where the early bird definitely gets the worm.
Don’t overlook transportation plans. Half-ton steers—or even fifty-pound miniature goats—are probably nothing you want to throw in the back of your station wagon for a fifty-mile trip. Whether you go with a hired trailer or a homemade rig, it is not too soon to get it set up.
Homesteaders are always busy, and it is tempting to push fall and winter tasks to the bottom of the list. But they will never be easier to do than they are right now. If you take the time to get these five things done now, there will be less worries for you to carry around all summer, and you will be glad you did.