Fall Homesteading Chores

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

creamer's field fall walk

As summer fades in many parts of the country and trees start to show their brilliant fall colors, our minds turn to preparing for a change of seasons. Autumn is a favorite time for most – long walks spent admiring nature’s glory gives way to reflecting on what has passed in the summer just gone and what is yet to come with the approaching winter.

No matter where you live there are always chores and preparations to be made for the coming fall and winter months. The list below is just a sampling of the kinds of things you should be thinking about to ready your suburban homestead for the coming months.

(This is by no means a complete list, as different parts of the country have different requirements, but a way of getting you thinking about the cycle of a homestead and how a homestead’s activities are affected by the seasons.)

In the Garden

Gather fall leaves to feed your compost pile, or pile them around plants that are less cold tolerant to help keep them warm during the winter. Even pine boughs can be used to lessen the damage from freezing and thawing temperatures.

If your garden is new or limited in selection, take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables for canning and freezing.

Pick and store beans that have dried on the vine. Even small amounts can be used to enliven soups and stews, or made into small pots of baked beans. Any beans not picked young and at their peak can be left to dry on the vine.

Trim vines and berry canes of debris and dead canes. Cover with mulch or straw.

Pull up, clean and store garden trellises, stakes and tomato cages.

Cut back spent perennials and lightly prune fruit trees, removing broken branches.

Pull all dead and dying annuals; chop and add to compost.

Plant garlic for a wonderful spring harvest.

In temperate areas, cool weather crops with short growing times can still be planted.

Rake and lightly till garden areas. Add compost, leaves or mulch to enrich the soil over the winter.

Clean, repair and store gardening tools.

Clean and store rototillers and cultivators.

Clean, repair and prepare cold frames for planting cool weather crops.

In the Barn

To extend your egg production, set up lights in the chicken coop to give hens the illusion of longer days. Simple, inexpensive timers can also be installed to automatically turn lights off. If freezing is a problem, set up heat lamps over water troughs to keep water thawed.

Final batches of meat chickens should be ordered so they finish off before the weather turns too cold.

Put down thick layer, 3 to 4-inches, of litter (straw, shavings, leaves, etc) in chicken coop for winter bedding. Don’t forget nesting boxes.

Enclose rabbit hutches or move to a protected area to protect against cold winds, rain and snow.

Wrap pipes, especially in the garden, chicken coop and outbuildings, to prevent bursting from freezing weather.

Check all livestock supplies and reorder if necessary. Pay special attention to supplies needed for newborns.

Check lighting and repair or replace bulbs for winter use.

Administer any seasonal booster shots or vaccinations.

Around the House

Make sure alternate power sources, like generators are in good working order.

Relocate outdoor clothes lines to more accessible indoor locations like basements or garages.

Lay in a supply of firewood to take the chill off early fall temps and to augment the use of your furnace.

Air out cold weather bedding like wool blankets and down comforters.

Check weather stripping and replace or add where needed.

Store garden and lawn furniture and BBQ’s so cold winter temperatures don’t cause damage.

Inspect any equipment used in winter, like snow blowers or snow plows and service if needed.

Review household expenses for services or regular purchases you seldom use – then cancel or alter contracts or monthly plans to fit your budget. Make sure plans have not been altered or prices raised without your notice, causing you to pay more.

Fall is a great time to start the de-cluttering process. Choose one cabinet, closet or drawer per week to clean out and organize. Donate cast-offs to charity or plan a garage sale.

In the kitchen: Rotate stockpiled food items, especially canned foods, bottled water and emergency supplies.

Update family phone lists and emergency information. Include any new work, school, family or neighbor information.

In the Kitchen

If you live in an area that is prone to harsh winters with power outages, school and road closures, stock up on staples and enough food to last several days to a week. Don’t forget about pet and livestock feed as well. Running to the grocery or feed store may not be an option if the weather gets really bad.

Clean and reorganize freezer in preparation for fall harvests.

As a homesteader, autumn gives us time to assess what has worked in our quest to be self-reliant and what may still need our attention. It also gives us a break from the constant list of chores to plan, start new projects, or learn new skills.

Enjoy this time of year; pour over every new seed and livestock catalog that arrives in the mail; dream beyond all imagine, before you have to stop yourself, take a deep breath and reexamine every aspect of your overall homesteading plan.

A great way to remind your self of seasonal chores is to make a chart of what you want (or need) to accomplish in any given season. That way you can “check-off” completed projects while still being reminded of those yet to finish. Keep your chart handy on an Excel spreadsheet so you can add to it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: LizMarie

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