What’s not to love about fall? Leaves turning red and yellow, and then turning loose. The comforting sight of wood smoke curling up from a chimney. The tidiness of a well-stacked woodpile standing firm along a fence row. A well-stocked pantry lined with colorful jars of home-canned food. But scenes like this don’t happen automatically. They take preparation, because it won’t be too long until winter will arrive with all its fury.
The worst thing that can happen is to find yourself facing winter’s wrath without being prepared. That’s why now is the right time to make sure everything around the house and acreage is in order. Miss one key area now, and it can make for a hassle or even difficulty later on. That’s why it pays to use a checklist.
I use my written seasonal guidelines to make sure my equipment is ready to go when the trees need pruning, the grass needs mowed, or the leaves need raked, mulched or blown. When those times arrive I’m often too busy to fret the small stuff like sharpening blades or tightening handles … I just need to grab the tool and go.
My fall and winter checklist includes the things I do to prepare my homestead for winter. Your needs won’t be exactly the same, but perhaps you can use my list as a guide or starting point to formulate your own seasonal checklists. As an example, making sure to clean the tiller and empty or treat the remaining gasoline come fall is important when the next growing season arrives. The same holds true for the wood furnace and gutters, or cars and trucks and other equipment with gasoline engines. If you own livestock there’s some obvious benefit from preparing shelters and water sources long before the first snow flies.
Here’s my fall checklist as an example. I break the tasks down into four categories: Home indoors, home outdoors, yard and garden, and garage and equipment. If you have livestock you would also want to include a category for barns and animal care.
1) Replace furnace filters
2) Check flues for birds nests
3) Clean glass on wood stoves
4) Check stores of candles, lamp fuel and matches
5) Clean oil lamps
6) Check supply of batteries and flashlights
7) Store up on firestarters (wood burning)
8) Sharpen all kitchen knives used indoors
1) Check storm windows for summer wind, storm damage
2) Check roof for loose or missing shingles
3) Disconnect and store garden hoses and check outside hydrants for leaks
4) Insulate any non-freeze proof hydrants or faucets
5) Remove leaves away from foundation
6) Check flashing around flues at roof line
7) Clean leaves from roof line intersections and valleys
8) Remove leaves from gutters and downspouts
9) Brush chimneys
10) Assure ample supply of kindling
11) Cut and split or buy more wood if needed (wood burning)
12) Replace any burnt out exterior light bulbs
13) Touch up any missing exterior paint
14) Assure a supply of ice melt on hand
Yard and garden:
1) Clean debris from any culverts, outside drains
2) Check asphalt and concrete for cracks (fill and seal if needed)
3) Mulch young trees and flower beds
5) Clean up garden debris, stow away tomato cages, beanpoles, etc.
6) Deal with fallen leaves
Garage and Equipment:
1) File chainsaw chain and fill with fresh fuel and oil
2) Sharpen axe, maul and hatchet and tighten handles (if needed)
3) Touch up edge on snow shovels, check handles
4) Drain or treat gasoline in lawnmower, clean deck and sharpen blades before storing
5) Drain or treat gasoline in tiller, clean and sharpen tines before storing
6) Check supply of oils and lubricants, windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, etc.
7) Check all vehicles and liquid-
cooled motors for adequate antifreeze.
8) Clean battery cables. Fill windshield washer reservoirs.
9) Assure fuel supply for outbuilding heat sources.
Along with making sure I’m ready by checking my fall/winter checklist, we also maintain a winter emergency box in our house. The box contains a couple additional flashlights including a crank-powered flashlight, extra batteries of varying sizes, a few candles, a container of lamp oil, a couple olive oil lamps, extra wicks for oil lamps, a box of ‘light anywhere’ matches, and a crank-powered radio. You might also consider some water purification tablets or portable water filter. In our case, we keep 15 gallons or potable water on hand in three five gallon drinking jugs (which we use in the summertime while camping) and drain and replace with fresh water regularly, and a 50 gallon plastic rain barrel full of water suitable for bathing, washing clothes or other household uses.
As with any task, looking at everything on the list can seem like a daunting and major undertaking, but if you start now and work at it steadily it won’t be overwhelming and you’ll be ready long before the first serious snowflakes fly. Check out Lehmans.com/beprepared for lots more ways to get ready!
Editor’s Note: This post was first published in 2011.