Like it or not, fall is here! It’s time to prepare the homestead for colder weather. Winter can be a time of rest on the farm, as long as you spend some time preparing for it in the fall. So, what needs to be done around the homestead right now? Here’s our list of 15 essential chores for fall.
1. Make plenty of compost for next year’s gardening season.
Now’s the time to collect all of your garden waste and fallen leaves to add to your compost pile for next year’s gardening season. You should also spread any finished compost you have onto your garden beds now to get them ready for next year.
2. Put up the harvest.
If you have a fall garden, it’s time to think about harvesting crops as they’re ready and preserving them for winter use. Remember, apples, squash, pumpkins and other fall crops are in season right now, so if you don’t grow them yourself, buy them in bulk at the farmer’s market and put them up as well. You can freeze, dehydrate, ferment, or can your produce, or store it in a root cellar.
3. Inventory Your Seed Collection and Save Seeds for Next Year.
Let your beans dry right on the vine and save them for next year. You can save seeds from lots of different crops and fruits, so do your research and save yourself some money on next year’s seeds. It’s also a good idea to inventory your seed collection and organize it so your ready to go when it’s time to order your seeds for spring.
4. Fall is a Great Time for Decluttering.
Chances are good that you haven’t really organized any of your closets or cabinets since spring. Fall is a great time to organize and declutter. Sell or donate anything you can’t use.
5. Process Meat for the Winter.
I tend to think of fall as a warning that winter is coming. That means it’s time to stock up and prepare. If you have animals to process before winter, do it as soon as the temperatures drop. It’s much easier to put them in the freezer than it is to care for extra animals when freezing temperatures arrive. We also try to add some venison to the freezer this time of year, too.
6. Maintain Your Chicken Coop.
With freezing temperatures coming, it’s time to do some chicken coop maintenance. First, give it a good thorough cleaning and put the litter in your compost pile. I don’t use heat lamps on my homestead, but I do add plenty of deep litter to the chicken coop. I also winterize the coop by putting plastic around the outside to stop cold wind from getting in. Just be sure they still have good airflow in the coop.
7. Prepare Your Berry Patch for Winter.
Your berry patch should be trimmed back in the fall. If you live in a relatively cold climate, add a thick layer of mulch over the plants to protect them through the winter. As the mulch decomposes over the winter, it will also enrich the soil, which is excellent for next year’s production. Other perennials and fruit trees should be pruned, mulched, and/or divided in the fall, too.
8. Repair Your Fences as Necessary.
If you need to add any fencing around your property, do it before the ground freezes. It’s also time to repair any fencing as required. Trust me, you don’t want to be out fixing fences or chasing livestock when there’s heavy snow on the ground. Take the time to see to your fences now.
9. Maintain Outdoor Lighting.
Same situation here. Outdoor lighting is vital in winter when it gets dark so early, and the last thing you want to be doing is climbing a ladder to change a light bulb when it’s freezing out. It’s better to get it over with before cold weather hits.
10. Your Rabbits Need Some Attention, Too.
Rabbits do pretty well in the cold, but they still need a bit of preparation. First, rabbits that live in rabbit tractors should be moved indoors for the winter. If they have outdoor hutches, take steps to protect them from the cold wind with plastic or some other material. If you breed meat rabbits, it’s easier to suspend your breeding program during the winter as kits are pretty susceptible to the cold.
11. Prepare Your Heat Source.
If you heat with wood, propane, or some other fuel besides electricity, now’s the time to stock up. Don’t wait until the first cold snap to get things in order, or you might be left in the cold, literally. You should also clean your chimney, fireplace, and/or wood stove to make sure they’re ready for winter use.
12. Winterize Your House.
Walk the perimeter of your home and inspect the caulking and weather stripping around your doors and windows. These things can wear out or dry up over time, so be prepared to replace them as needed. Adding storm windows or plastic to your windows will also help to keep your heating bills down in the coming months.
13. Take Care of Your Garden Tools.
We’ve already mentioned adding compost to your garden beds and putting your dead plants in the compost pile, but don’t forget about your garden tools. Collect your trellises, tomato cages, garden stakes, and all of your garden tools and put them in a safe place for the winter. If you have a greenhouse or cold frames, make sure they are maintained, so they’re ready to go in the early spring. Oh, and now’s the time to put up your lawn furniture, too.
14. Service Your Generator.
If your generator hasn’t been used all summer, pull it out now. Check to make sure everything is in working order and do whatever maintenance is needed. You need to be able to count on it if your power goes out during a winter storm.
15. Pull Out Your Winter Wardrobe.
Go ahead and pull out your family’s winter clothes. Do the kids’ boots and jackets still fit? Probably not if they’re anything like mine! Make sure the entire family is equipped with the appropriate gear before the weather turns freezing.
Of course, you’re going to need to add or take away things from this list depending on your situation. The point is to start thinking about things now, so they’re taken care of before the first cold snap hits. Hopefully, this list will help you prepare so you can sit back and enjoy the quiet months of winter.