A New Year’s Checklist for the Rural Homestead

amish wood cart

The beginning of a new year is all about both traditions and new beginnings. One tradition I’ve found helpful is to revisit my “monthly checklist” of things that need addressing around the home and property during the coming year.

Checklists are a great way to keep tasks from slipping through the cracks when life gets busy. So much of rural life depends on being prepared with the change of seasons, weather, soil, etc. You need to cut firewood ahead of time so it can adequately dry by the next heating season, but not while the sap is still up in the trees. You want the garden tools to be ready – handles tight, blades sharpened, gas tiller tuned up – before the final frost and planting season. Come winter, you need the well house and other outbuildings properly winterized depending on their use, any chimneys cleaned, coolant in any water-cooled engines suitable for the below-freezing temps, and any new cracks in foundations sealed tight to keep out moisture and winter’s freeze and thaw.

Admittedly, everyone has to tailor such a month-by-month checklist to their own home, land, livestock, and geographical location. If you don’t already have such a checklist, but you’d like to give the organization method a try, I’ll share a few items from each month’s list so you can begin to create your own.

JANUARY:
Cut firewood for next winter
Trim brush in fencerows
Mow the lawn once (chops fallen leaves and pine needles)
Consider planting new shrubs

FEBRUARY:
Final small game hunting for season
Prune/trim trees (including fruit trees)
Process previously frozen venison into sausage
Finish cutting firewood for next winter
Check fences and foundations for any freeze/thaw heaving
Pick up downed limbs from winter

MARCH:
Sharpen/tune up gardening tools
Trout season opens (in my state)
Plan out/price spring home improvement projects
Test soil and lime as needed
Check exterior for peeling paint, loose shingles
Clean debris from gutters and downspouts
Freshen wildlife mineral licks

Use our old-fashioned broadfork at least once a season to maximize your soil's air, water and nutrients. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Use our old-fashioned broadfork at least once a season to maximize your soil’s air, water and nutrients. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

APRIL:
Plants in the garden
Mulch around shrubs and ornamentals
Clean, sharpen, shelf chainsaws and related gear
Spring clean garage and outbuildings
Hook up garden hoses and check for leaks
Wash undercarriage of vehicles to remove salt residue
Pick up remaining downed limbs from winter
Spring turkey hunt

Secure dirty or hot fly ash and prevent messes and stray sparks in our heavy-duty steel ash carrier. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Secure dirty or hot fly ash and prevent messes and stray sparks in our heavy-duty steel ash carrier. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

MAY:
Wash windows
Clean ashes from wood stove/furnace/fireplace
Brush chimney
Fertilize lawn
Final pruning of fruit trees after trees bud
Clean driveway culvert
Look for morel mushrooms

JUNE:
Freshen wildlife mineral licks
Garden
Keep up with watering outdoor plants/shrubs/young trees
Apply new thin layer of mulch where needed
Summer home improvement projects

reelmower

JULY:
Adjust mower cutting height for taller cut to aid during dry summer
Garden
Summer home improvement projects
Gather wild berries

Pick small berries like blueberries much faster with this cleverly designed picker. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Pick small berries like blueberries much faster with this cleverly designed picker. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

AUGUST:
Freshen wildlife mineral licks
Garden
Complete summer home improvement projects
Gather wild berries

SEPTEMBER:
Clean driveway culvert
Fill cracks and reseal asphalt driveway (if applicable)
Sharpen knives/butcher equipment before fall hunting season
Check foundation and exterior walls for cracks, gaps
Touch up exterior paint as needed
Gather fall nuts

Our ingenious nut wizard tools help clear your yard and property of messy nuts and seeds. In 3 sizes, at lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Our ingenious nut wizard tools help clear your yard and property of messy nuts and seeds. In 3 sizes, at lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

OCTOBER:
Start sweeping fall leaves from lawn and place on compost area
Tune up generator
Winterize gardening, mowing/lawn care equipment
Check all roofs for loose shingles, metal
Plant fall greens
Freshen wildlife mineral licks
Fall turkey hunt
Gather fall nuts
Search for edible fall wild mushrooms

Build a log rack to your precise needs and specifications in just a few minutes. Durable steel brackets are easy to assemble. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Build a log rack to your precise needs and specifications in just a few minutes. Durable steel brackets are easy to assemble. At lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

NOVEMBER:
Sweep new leaves from lawn and place on compost area
Small game hunt, scout for deer
Clean gutters
Fall deer season (rifle)
Work on next winter’s wood supply

DECEMBER:
Work on next winter’s wood supply
Pick up any downed limbs from fall storms
Small game hunt
Prepare for Christmas
Revisit month-by-month checklist

About doug smith

Doug Smith is a small town newspaper managing editor. He has also been a freelance writer for rural living, country life, tourism, and hunting and fishing publications for the past 12 years. He lives in an 1880s Victorian-style home in the Missouri Ozarks. He drives an old pickup truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, they have two beautiful and successful children, and he can be found any given day around town wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat.