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Farm Estate Update

Tips on Snow Management From an Upstate New Yorker


Holly WellesI've seen more than my fair share of snow living in upstate New York, and year after year, I use the same strategies to manage my property. These tried-and-true, time-tested methods have worked for me in the past — if you're expecting a blizzard, you should take notes. There's a lot to do after a storm passes through, and it's best to work smart, not hard, as they say.

While heavy lifting is inevitable, you can alleviate some of the burden if you plan ahead and stockpile the right supplies. With a little preparation, you don't have to spend half your day clearing your paths and driveway. No forecast will intimidate you, as long as you employ your leaf blower, cover your car with canvas and follow some of the other eight suggestions below.


1. Check Your Pantry for De-Icers pickle-jar

You don't need store-bought chemicals to melt ice on your car windshields. A lot of items you'll find around your homestead will work just as well, like table salt, pickle juice and vodka. If you fill a sock with table salt and rub it against your windows, you'll prevent frost from forming, and pickle juice and vodka work as a spray.

2. Shovel Decks With Caution

If your homestead has a deck, you'll likely want to shovel it of snow to avoid moisture from seeping into the boards. Without waterproofing, this is a possibility, but most modern builds account for winter weather. Regardless, as you're clearing a path, use a plastic shovel to remove snow without damaging your decking materials.

3. Shelter Your Plants

When temperatures drop and the weather takes a turn, you can preserve your plants with the proper precautions. Among other techniques for protecting your homestead, these are relatively simple, and you can handle the task in an hour. Just   bring in container plants, add mulch and cover any saplings susceptible to fros

4. Cover Your Car With Canvas

There's a quick and easy way to deal with snow and ice on your car — don't let it pile up on your car in the first place. Drape a canvas drop cloth or plastic tarp across your vehicle overnight when you're expecting a storm to pass through. In the morning, pull it off and deposit the snow in your yard — simple as that.

5. Keep Roof Care in Mind

Protecting your roof is a top priority during the colder months, as snow accumulation can cause damage to your roofing materials and compromise the structural integrity of your homestead. My family has always used snow guards on our own property, which catch sheets of snow and ice when they slide down my roof.

6. Remove Weak Branches

You likely have no shortage of trees on the extensive acreage of your property, and maintaining their health is essential. A snowstorm could burden their branches with heavy snow and ice, and breakage has the potential to harm you if you're in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Always take care to remove weak limbs.

7. Employ Your Leaf Blower

Your leaf blower can double as a useful tool for removing light snow. While it isn't effective for clearing away wet, heavy accumulation, you'll find it's a quick way to manage your steps, walkways and cars after powdery precipitation. Other equipment you might own like a wet/dry vac will work for snow removal, as well.


8. Use Safe Shoveling Techniques

For some, shoveling your property might pose a risk to your health. I hear horror stories every winter about someone in my area hurting themselves when out shoveling, whether its a slipped disk or a different injury. Remember the following points before you begin your work:

  • Warm up by stretching your lower back and hamstrings
  • Bend with your hips and knees, not your lower back
  • Never twist your back, but pivot your entire body instead

I can't stress these points enough. You should review other articles on the subject and make sure you're watching your motions while you're clearing your paths or driveway. While it's important to take care of your property, taking care of yourself should be your priority.

Start Preparing Today

When a blizzard is in the forecast, you can feel confident your property is safe from the dangers of snow and ice. As long as you take my advice and follow some of the suggestions above, you'll manage winter weather without trouble. Just remember a proactive approach is best, and gather supplies in advance of a storm.

While snow is often inevitable, you don't have to wait for it to harm your homestead. Start preparing today.

Guarding Your Homestead Against Pet Damage


Holly WellesYou adore your furry four-legged buddy. However, you don't love hairy furniture, ripped up rugs or yellow stains all over your green lawn. How can you enjoy the love and companionship of your pet without the headache and expense of paying for costly home repairs?

Keeping a clean house when you have Fluffy and Fido running through constantly presents quite a challenge. Thankfully, you don't need to throw up your hands in despair and resign yourself to a home that's less than fresh.

By taking a few simple preventive measures, you can keep a tidy homestead while still enjoying your best friends' company.

Protect Doors From Scratching

Does your dog beg to use the outdoor facilities by scratching up your entryway? Dog scratches look unsightly and also create a dirty appearance.

To protect your doors, simply invest in a bit of clear plastic to cover the area where your dog scratches. You can easily make a door guard yourself by picking up clear plastic at a hardware store or special order one from a pet store.

Alternately, those with fenced lawns or plenty of acreage between their home and the nearest roadway may elect to install a pet door so your canine companion can let himself out with no human intervention needed.


Easily Clean Furniture

If your shedding white Samoyed leaves your couch looking like a blizzard hit it, take a tip from the This Will Change Your Life files. Take an ordinary pair of plastic dishwashing gloves and dampen them. Then, run your gloved hands over sofas and end chairs to rid them of the extra fluff. Voila!

After de-furring your couch, drop the gloves in a dishpan full of water and wait for the fur to float. To avoid clogging your septic tank, scoop the fur out and toss it in the trash. In the case of super hairy cold-weather breeds like huskies and malamutes, knit yourself a new sweater.

Select Damage-Resistant Flooring Materials

Even if you keep your dog or kitty's toenails neatly pedicured, the hardscrabble of little pet feet means an unsightly scratched-up mess of a floor. When remodeling time rolls around, choose your flooring wisely, with durability and scratch resistance in mind.

Carpet can be comfortable. However, it often traps stains and odors. If you must go plush, invest in a quality carpet shampooer or spot cleaner for the inevitable pet accident.


Tile floors look elegant and resist scratching, but can also send your furry pal flying. While this can lead to raucous laughter, it can also result in a costly trip to the vet. Consider opting for textured stone tiles that offer at least some traction.

Toilet Paper isn't a Toy

Do your kitty's paws fly over the toilet tissue roll faster than Usain Bolt runs? As much as you may fall solidly into the "over, not under" crowd, consider hanging your tissue under to dissuade Fifi from amusing herself with a full train of TP.


Alternately, you may opt for a small clip to hold your toilet tissue in place and fancy it up by folding it at the tip hotel-style.

Landscaping Tricks for Dogs

Both dogs and cats can damage lawns, but the greater size of most dogs coupled with their love of digging to China can quickly turn your grass into a nightmare. In addition, dog urine leaves unsightly dead spots everywhere!

If you dream of a lawn as green as a verdant summer field, opt for a clover carpet. Clover doesn't stain the way grass does when exposed to dog urine. If your dog's digging creates ankle-twisting craters in your lawn, consider adding a bit of brick or stone to favorite digging spots to stop Rover in his tracks.


For a training-based solution to urine control, lead your pooch to a spot on your property where lawn damage doesn't matter and give him a treat each time he uses the potty there.

Before long, your beloved companion will learn to confine their business to that one spot instead of around your prized begonias.

Preventing Pet Damage on the Homestead

Now that you know how to cat- and dog-proof your home, you can sleep well at night, hopefully with your beloved buddy by your side. With a little time and effort, people and pets can live in harmony — and cleanliness.

How to Properly Insure Your Farm Equipment

Holly WellesFarm equipment is a significant investment, even if you purchase used and stick to the bare minimum needed to run your small homestead farm. It's essential to properly insure that equipment in case of an emergency, but insurance is costly as well.

There are some ways you can save money on farm insurance and also make sure you have enough coverage if a catastrophe strikes. The cost of insurance varies by location and the natural disaster risks in your area. For example, in Iowa, the cost to insure farm equipment is between $4 and $6 per $1,000 of value.

Here are some things to consider when choosing insurance for your small farm.

1. Add on to Homeowner's

If you only own one piece of farm equipment, such as a small tractor, you may be able to add a rider onto your current homeowner's insurance. A rider is a provision on your current policy that covers a specific scenario. The cost to add one may be considerably lower than taking out a separate policy. Talk to your insurance agent about the best options.

Ask for a breakdown comparison, so you have a clear picture of what each policy does and doesn't cover, as well as the cost of various policies.


2. Take Out an Umbrella

Many homesteaders make their small farms profitable by hosting groups on their property, teaching classes or selling the products they grow and make. If you participate in any of these activities, talk to your insurance agent about the best way to protect yourself. For example, if someone gets hurt on your property while taking a tour, what does your insurance cover?

You have to make sure you have enough coverage in case of a severe injury as well. An umbrella policy may be your best bet to keep your assets safe and cover medical costs if someone gets hurt. You never know when an accident might happen, even if you take every precaution imaginable. It's unfortunate, but there are also people who will file false claims to get a few bucks.

Experts recommend you have at least $1 million in farm insurance.

3. Reduce Your Coverage

While you want to make sure you have enough to cover you in case someone gets hurt and decides to sue you — even if you didn't permit them to be on your property — you also don't want to overinsure. For example, if you rent your farm equipment, the company you rent from may have some provisions in place to reduce what you'll owe in case of a catastrophe. Ask about their rental protection plans and loss-damage waivers, which help cover the costs of damage to equipment.

You'll still need coverage of your own, but this may reduce the amount you have to get. Also, if your house would only cost $200,000 to rebuild and you have insurance for $500,000 on the structure, you're paying too much. You could easily reduce that by half and still have enough to rebuild, even with rising costs. Of course, you'll want to revisit the amounts every year or two, as the costs of materials and construction tend to increase with inflation.

Farm Equipment

4. Insure Your Livestock Separately

If you own livestock, you'll need to make sure to get a policy that covers them. If a tornado comes through and sweeps up all your cows, the cost of replacing them isn't minor. Livestock insurance is a bit like crop insurance, and the USDA partially funds it. If your animals are of high value, such as a horse you stud out for high fees, you may want to cover those animals on individual policies. However, you can also lump them into your blanket coverage for the farm as a whole if they are typical value animals.

One of the advantages of insuring animals or even farm equipment individually is that you can set a declared value. Make sure you have enough to cover replacement costs for the equipment if it gets destroyed in a fire, or for animals in case a natural disaster takes their lives.

5. Be Aware of What the Policy Doesn't Include

Insurance doesn't necessarily cover everything on your property. Be aware of this, and question your insurance agent about what your policy will and will not cover.

For example, farm insurance rarely covers fences, so if a tornado takes them out, you won't get replacement costs on them. If your policy doesn't cover fencing and you want it to, ask for a policy extension that takes care of it.

The policy may also not cover outbuildings that aren't explicitly mentioned. There are also standards about access to a water source you'll need to consider. Just because there's a pond on your property doesn't mean fire trucks can readily get to it to put out a fire.

Insurance also doesn't cover malfunctioning equipment, in most cases.

Balance Cost and Risk

Since many homesteaders live on limited budgets, you have to look at the risk of carrying less insurance versus the costs of insurance. Never go without insurance on something you can't afford to lose or don't have the money to replace. Talk to your insurance company about what your options are, and be upfront about your budget. Most companies will be willing to work with you to try to reduce costs without risking your livelihood.

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