Days Are Getting Shorter, Time To Get Ready For Winter

Reader Contribution by Susan Berry
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Being a native of Massachusetts it is never too early to prepare for the onset of Winter as far as I’m concerned. I catch a lot of flack from friends and family here when I say that, they remind me that our Summers are short enough as it is without rushing the next Winter. But, when a storm hits and power goes out for five days and the roads are a mess I like to be sure I have plenty of food, heat source and power source.

Our coop after the February blizzard of 2013.

Now that the gardens are providing their abundance I am gearing up for canning season. There are many folks who can year round but for me, I do all my canning in about a three month period when my gardens are producing and local farms are open selling the veggies I don’t grow myself. I will go full tilt, sometimes starting at 7 am and finishing the days canning at 11 pm. 

For my husband and I the most important part of prepping for Winter is making sure we have plenty of firewood. Our house is less than 500 sq ft and the furnace that was installed is run on propane. For us it is very costly to heat with propane so we got a wood stove two years ago and heat with that 90% of the time. It has been a wonderful ease on our budget to heat with wood rather than an alternate fuel. Our home is surrounded by oaks and though we do not drop healthy trees occasionally a Summer storm or hurricane will blow through and fell a tree, so we take advantage of that and cut our own wood. When trees do not just drop in our lap, we buy cord wood in the Summer months when it is less expensive and stack and tarp it for Winter use.  

We also have a small generator to keep our fridge and freezer going in long term power outages, so year round we always have a five gallon can of gasoline available since hurricanes can take our power out for long periods of time as much as a Winter storm can. 

Other necessities to prepare for Winter are to bring out and clean all our blankets and quilts, stock up on batteries and be sure our storm alert radio is working well. In late Summer I also bring out my cast iron pots and pans and make sure they are cleaned and seasoned. I don’t typically cook year round in cast iron but I am working on changing that, but when there is no power like during a blizzard last February, I so enjoyed being able to cook in my pans on top of our wood stove. The top is just large enough for my camping coffee percolator and one or two cast iron pots. I was able to make a pot of beef soup from the beef and veggies I canned during the previous Summer and I made a loaf of bread in the dutch oven on top of the wood stove, it was great!  

In October before the Holiday planning and festivities take over all my time, I make a couple of batches of sourdough starter. When it is at the point of maintaining it I store it up in sterilized canning jars in my fridge. Then when those chilly days first arrive, I have starter ready and waiting to make a warm delicious loaf of sourdough bread to enjoy with that hot bowl of stew. Mmmmm! 

Beef Burgundy

Beef Burgundy Soup

Sourdough Baquettes

I also like to do some Winter prep to my raised beds and gardens. All Summer I build a large compost pile out of our grass clipping, manure and shavings from our chicken coop and the spent plants from the beds . I let this cook all Summer, adding to it as we go then in early Winter usually before the first big snow fall, I spread the compost in my raised beds turning it in to about 6 inches deep with a garden fork. Even if it has not completely composted, since there are no plants growing the beds over the Winter, it finishes composting nicely over the Winter gaining all the additional nitrogen that comes from the snow and then in Spring I save lots of time not have to amend my beds, I just plant as soon as the soil can be worked. I have been practicing this method for three years now and have been very successful with it, gaining 2-4 weeks in plant growth and vegetable production.  

There are so many more ways to prepare for Winter and being ready makes getting through those longs cold days and nights much more enjoyable. So start planning and doing now if you live where there is a Winter and get through it calmly, securely and prepared. If you are in Florida or California and you are reading this then you can prepare for Winter by sending me some oranges. You may get a snowman in return, I’ll overnight him. Enjoy your Summer and don’t forget….THINK SNOW !! 

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