Homesteading is a great and practical hobby that’s gaining a lot of attention and interest from people. We hear about the benefits and fun there is to homesteading. But what we don’t hear are the downsides — one of which is the winter season.
Winter is the most challenging time for homesteaders, as the climate is not ideal for growing crops and raising livestock. Notice I used the word “challenging” instead of “worst”? That’s because there is a way for homesteaders to survive the winter, and it’s preparation.
Knowing what you have to do before and during winter is the key to surviving the season.
There is much to do. So, grab a notebook and pen, and start making a to-do list to help you prepare for the winter!
Probably the most important thing to do is attend to the needs of your animals for the winter season. Considering the weather and temperature, they’ll need a little more maintenance than usual.
Make sure you make preparations to make sure your livestock is safe and warm.
- Stock up on feed
Before the winter, make sure you store enough feed and other essential supplies for your animals. Remember that this is the season when crops become short in quality and quantity, hence causing prices to rise.
You wouldn’t want to run out of food for them and leave them there to starve! This would be bad both for them and for you since they would be less efficient to produce eggs, dairy, or meat.
Animals need more nutrients in the winter. This is because they use more nutrients and energy than usual trying to fight off the cold to stay warm. So make sure you store more than enough supplies you need throughout winter.
- Provide a warm and dry shelter
Most homesteaders have an outdoor area for their animals. This is because most are usually good at adapting to weather conditions. However, if the temperature tends to drop really low in where you live, then a better option would be to have an indoor shelter for them.
Make sure all the essentials are provided in the coop for your animals. Make extra efforts to make the place warmer. Here are a few things you can do:
- Cover up big openings
You want the area to be as warm as possible. Temporarily cover up any opening where the cold air could enter, but make sure there is still good ventilation.
Pipes and other big openings must be insulated. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to purchase anything expensive to do this. You can utilize cheap and recycled materials such as styrofoam or cardboard.
For openings, you will need to enter and exit the coop, use thick and clear plastic as a cover.
- Refrain from cleaning the coop during the winter
Before the winter, it is best to clean up the coop since that’s where your livestock will be staying for a while. Make sure it is neat and clean because you will not be able to tidy it up again until after the cold season!
During the winter, the best practice is to add more layers of straw or hay throughout the winter, covering manure and waste products. You call this the “deep litter” method. What happens is ‘heat is generated from the manure when it breaks down into a compost’, helping keep the animals warmer.
- Always have lights inside the coop
Light generates heat, so it is best to always have lights turned on inside. However, make sure to secure them so they don’t cause any untoward accidents such as fire.
Another advantage of having lights in the coop is to ‘simulate longer days’. During the winter, the quantity of eggs laid by a chicken decreases greatly. Having that light basically ‘tricks’ them into thinking the days are long, which could help them continue producing more eggs.
- Get a heated water bucket
Your livestock needs to be given food and fresh water every day. The problem is, the water could freeze in extremely cold temperatures. Getting a heated water bucket can solve that problem!
- Clean up your garden
Clean up your garden by getting rid of dead plants and weeds. Cut back perennials as well so you won’t have a problem with pests after the winter season.
- Set-up a ‘cold frame’ for your plants
The purpose of a cold frame is to serve as a housing for your plants and vegetables during the winter season. It shields them from the cold and terrible weather conditions. This will help you grow your garden even during winter.
Some materials you can use for a cold frame are straw bales, old window glass, or wood.
- Store your garden tools in a safe place
Some garden tools are made of materials that can easily crack or break in extremely cold temperatures. A good practice would be to store them indoors where they will not be exposed the cold.
For additional safety, you may opt to store them in containers.
There you have it. See, the winter season doesn’t seem so bad now. All it takes is adequate preparation for what’s about to come. When you have ticked off all these things from your “Surviving Winter 101 To-Do List”, then you can enjoy your winter without worrying about your garden.