By Jennifer Woolwine

Homestead Winter Preparation- What To Do Before The First Snowfall

Homesteading

baghdad to barnyard

December 2, 2022

Now is the time to ensure your homestead is ready for winter weather. Doing so can save you time, stress and headaches later. Check out our list below for our most recommended homestead winter preparation tips before the snow starts falling.



CLEAN OUT AND WINTERIZE THE BARN & COOPS

Winter is coming! It’s time to start preparing your barn and animal shelters for the cold, harsh weather ahead. Clean out any debris, remove old bedding, and make sure there are no holes in the walls, floors, or roof. Check for drafts around doors, windows, and lofts. You can use insulation products such as fiberglass, radiant barrier insulation, spray foam insulation, or rigid foam insulation to help insulate the walls and floors against heat loss and keep your animals warm.

CHECK THOSE FENCES

With winter weather on the way, you must ensure that all your fences are repaired before the first snowfall. Why? Trust me; you don’t want to lose your livestock during a winter storm! Also, you don’t want to have to repair a fence when the temps are frigid, and you’ve got snow up to your knees or worse! That’s why I try to stay on top of things by checking our fences and fixing anything that needs to be repaired before winter arrives.



STOCK UP ON WOOD

An essential step of homestead winter preparation is firewood. We heat our home primarily with wood heat, so it is crucial to have plenty of chopped wood stacked and ready to go. This should be done before harsh, cold weather sets in. We have almost 30 acres of timber on our property, so we cut most of our wood depending on the number of projects we have going on at the farm. Running a homestead always has its challenges, so we also get firewood locally if we don’t have time to cut it all ourselves. Outsourcing saves us a lot of time and energy, primarily since the wood is delivered dry and ready to stack and be used.

When stacking wood, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Set aside small pieces and scraps of bark for kindling
  • Save cardboard boxes
  • Stack your firewood where it’s close and accessible from the house or your outdoor stove.
  • If you don’t have a woodshed, ensure your wood is covered and secured, so it doesn’t get wet. The last thing you want to deal with in the middle of a snowstorm is trying to start a fire with damp wood



WINTER GARDEN PREP

The first step in preparing your winter garden is to remove all weeds and plant debris. This includes removing any dead plants and roots. You may need to dig up perennials if they are not growing well. Remove any diseased leaves or branches. This is a great time to finish planting any spring bulbs before the ground freezes over. Don’t forget to apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of each plant. Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from sprouting.  We use a mixture of straw, wood chips, and leaves from fall cleanup. Finally, ensure you have something to cover your winter veggies with on those cold nights. Even in snowy climates, you need to provide some protection. You can use straw or hay bales, cardboard boxes, low tunnels, plastic wrap, old tires, buckets, or blankets.


EQUIPMENT CHECKS

Homestead winter preparation includes checking all your equipment like tractors, snow blowers, chainsaws, ATV’s, trimmers, heated buckets, stock tank heaters, extension cords, etc., and ensuring everything is working correctly and stored safely.  It’s also a good idea to check your propane tanks, water fixtures, batteries, and gas cans and pressure check all tires.  Having your equipment serviced before putting it up for the winter is also beneficial to protect its longevity.



HOMESTEAD WINTER WATER PREPARATION


The last thing you want to happen during the cold months is to have to deal with frozen pipes. If you notice water leaking from your outdoor spigots, now is the time to make those repairs. Whether you utilize heated buckets, trough heaters, or an automatic watering system, you’ll want to check the heaters ahead of time. Look for worn-out wiring and loose connections, and make sure that your electrical outlets aren’t overloaded.

Winterizing your garden hoses is easy. Simply drain them, roll them up, and store them inside. You don’t want to leave them outside over the winter because they could freeze and burst. My favorite saying: work smarter, not harder friends!



STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES


Stocking up on supplies is a necessity for homestead winter preparation. Keeping your animals fed and comfortable throughout the cold months is essential, but hay and bedding aren’t cheap. In fact, hay is our largest expense on the homestead, so we stock up all summer long and make sure we have enough hay to last until the first cut the following spring. We also stock up on straw, feed (scratch, layer pellets, black oil sunflower seeds, grain, chopped forage, etc.), supplements, and first aid supplies to last all winter.

Here’s a list of medical supplies to keep on hand:

  • Leg wraps
  • Betadine
  • Gauze/Cotton
  • Bute
  • Banamine
  • Saline
  • Vet wrap
  • Triple antibiotic or wound ointment
  • Digital thermometer
  • Latex gloves
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bandage scissors
  • Antibacterial scrub
  • Tube of electrolytes
  • Stethoscope
  • Hand sanitizing wipes
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Oral syringes
  • Eyewash



TO BLANKET OR NOT TO BLANKET- THAT IS THE QUESTION

Every year around this time, I hear many questions about when to blanket horses. There are posts all over social media arguing one way or the other. Most horses DO NOT need blankets to stay warm, even in the most frigid of temperatures. However, some horses DO require a blanket to keep warm. Elderly, sick, injured, or underweight horses are much more likely to need a blanket’s extra insulation. Clipped horses will also need blankets to compensate for the hair being removed. If the temperature drops rapidly overnight and the horse has not yet grown his winter coat, he may benefit from a blanket temporarily. If your horse has access to shelter, access to free choice hay is eating and drinking normally and is not shivering; you most likely do not need to blanket that horse.



FINAL THOUGHTS: ENJOY THE DOWNTIME

If you’re running behind on homestead winter preparations, don’t worry; there’s still time! From cleaning out the coops and barns, stocking up on supplies, and performing equipment checks- it can be overwhelming with the endless list of things to do.  So, to stay organized, download our free Homestead Winter Preparation Checklist so you can be sure that your homestead is ready before the first snowfall.

Remember that getting everything prepped and ready to go now will save you stress and headaches later. Plus, once you’re done, you can sit back and take advantage of the downtime and start moving slower in these wintery months. Downtime is so important because it allows us to recharge our batteries and get ready for the next busy season. What are your favorite ways to unwind in the winter months?

xo, Jen
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  1. Sandy says:

    These are all such great tips, Jen! We only had a horse, a cow & steer but your advice is so important to keep your animals safe! We, also, heated our home with a wood stove and spent much time gathering wood to get through the winter! Hay was expensive and sometimes hard to find so we needed some farmers we could count on!

    • Thank you so much. I’m so glad you found them helpful. It’s so important to reach out to our local farmers. Not only are you supporting your community, but most of the time, our local farmers are more affordable and will work/barter to help you out too! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a veteran, wife, animal rescuer, homesteader, blogger,  and mental health advocate. You can follow her homestead adventures on all social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard

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