Prepare Your Home(stead) for Winter

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wonter Preparation

I woke at 5:15 this past Saturday. Something I rarely do. I’ve never bought into the romanticized notion of waking up before the sun if you live on a farm. But, this morning was different. A long productive work week, a relaxing movie and dinner with my sister, a chat with my friend and fellow suburban farmer about kids and school; life and the future, plus a hot soak in the tub and a sound restful night’s sleep was the perfect storm of circumstances my body needed to raise me at that hour. It’s okay though, because this weekend was about switching gears.

The first weekend in November is our traditional “get ready for winter” weekend. Regardless of the weather, it’s the time when we close the door on hot weather, cooling clothes and light meals; and hunker down to cozy blankets, fires and hearty stick to your ribs meals.

It was still dark when I woke. Not even a sliver of daylight crested the horizon. I could feel the cold air hang over me and knew the predawn hours had dipped towards freezing. I lay in bed for awhile, thinking, snuggled down under a mound of blankets, our cat nestled at my neck, planning the day ahead. There would be much to do, making ready for winter.

When I finally emerged from my warm cocoon, at 5:30am, the furnace had already gone off several times (and it was set at 60). I slipped into a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, pulled on a pair of warm socks and headed for the living room. Although we had stacked our outside firewood racks to overflowing I hadn’t put the wood grate back into the firebox. In spring and summer my firebox is home to a tiered wrought iron candle holder, but on the first weekend of November, the candles come out and the firewood grate goes in.

I went outside to gather some kindling and wood. It was colder than I expected. My neighbor’s rooftops sparkled with a light frost in the faint steel gray morning. I could hear the distant hum of wind machines in the orchards up the road. Not a good sign for the citrus farmers this early in the season

By 6:30am the fire had taken the chill out of the air. The house glowed with comfort and security as the flames flickered and jumped; and the wood popped and crackled. There’s just something about the first fire of the season that makes you feel settled and settled in.

I went about my chores at an even steady pace, not rushed or frantic. This was our switching over weekend and there would be plenty to do.

By 7 the sun had barely pushed aside the darkness. Not even the hens stirred and the roosters hadn’t crowed yet. I, on the other hand had arranged a fireplace, started a fire, folded and put away two loads of laundry, stripped my bed of its warm weather bedding and put them in the wash.

The beds were remade. Thick flannel sheets took the place of crisp cotton ones. Lightweight cotton blankets that kept us cool in warmer months were washed and stored to make way for the down comforters and wool blankets that would keep us warm all winter. It’s just the right combination to keep any cold night at bay.

I replaced the filter in the furnace. I always buy two, that way when I install one I have another as a spare.

By mid-morning, I was ready for a short break, and fixed myself a cup of hot chocolate, not being a coffee person and sat next to the fire for a few minutes. Every time the fire waned I could feel the cold air sneak back in. This would be a day of vigilance and stoking.

Cut up carrots, potatoes, onions mushrooms and lamb stew meat were put into the crockpot along with broth, herbs and seasonings. The concoction would bubble all day. The heart warming stew was just the ticket for the first really cold weekend of the season, when the day’s chores were through.

Sweaters, turtlenecks, flannel shirts, fleecy pull over’s and vests take center stage in the closet now; pushing aside lighter weight t-shirts and cotton sundresses.

Light weight jackets were moved out to make way for winter coats, along with hats and scarves and gloves. I’ve gotten into this habit over the years of keeping hats and gloves in the pockets of all my coats and jackets. Matching scarves are wrapped around each coat’s hanger. This way I can always find the hat, gloves and scarf that goes with a particular jacket when I’m dashing out the door.

The trucks were outfitted with their cold weather equipment too. Umbrellas for rain, blankets and an emergency kit stocked with winter necessities just in case. When I run errands I’ll buy a few jugs of water; part of the emergency kit.

Unlined muck boots were pushed to the back of their shelf and lined winter boots took their place by the back door.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I finished, but I was pleased with the progress of the day. Most of it was spent indoors. The cold temps and chilly wind prevented me from tearing down and moving my berry beds (part of the garden re-arranging); a project for another day.

When night fell I was beat. Brianne and I ate our stew in bowls in front of the fire. We watched a mini series about our 2nd President, John Adams and were grateful for the warmth and shelter of our little farmhouse.

Over the years I’ve put together a checklist, of sorts, of chores I need to do to switch the seasonal gears. It’s a great reminder of what needs to be done.

Winter Checklist

Turn mattresses
Replace summer bedding with winter bedding.
Wash and store warm weather bedding and blankets.

Move warm-weather clothing to back of closet. Bring cold-weather clothing forward.
Check coats and jackets and match up with hats, gloves and scarves.

Living Room:
Replace lightweight throws for heavier ones.
Replace candle holder with firewood grate.
Move wood basket near fireplace.

Replace furnace filer. Buy spare.
Set thermostat to 64 degrees.

Hot Water Heater:
Turn temperature control up slightly

Outdoor Spaces:
Clean gutters.
Brush off and store patio furniture cushions.
Cover BBQ.
Move patio furniture under eaves
Check flood lights. Replace bulbs where needed.
Replace muck boots with lined winter muck boots.

Bring crockpot out of cupboard.

Stock with umbrellas and blankets.
Put winter emergency kit in.
Stock with water.

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