Putting Away the Summer

I don’t know where the summer went, but it’s gone. Never mind that the temperatures are still on the high side and most leaves are still on the trees, we’re looking forward to pumpkins and warm sweaters and cocoa – rewards for a busy summer.

There are a lot of things we need to do to prepare for cooler weather. Or I should just spit it out: Winter’s coming!

  • Cleaning out the coat closet should be a family affair – and soon. Have your children try on last year’s coats and cold weather gear, then make a list of what needs to be replaced. There’s little more frustrating than discovering on the first snowy day that Junior’s snow boots don’t fit anymore. I don’t mean you should run out and try to find boots and mittens right now, but do keep your eyes open at garage sales and thrift stores. You could come up with a frugal buy or two that will relax your budget. Keep an eye out for good deals on warm socks, long sleeved shirts and sweaters, too.
  • As you put away summer clothing, check to see if it needs repairs or special handling. Most clothing stores well in plastic bags, but make sure it’s freshly laundered. Stray bugs can do a number on your clothes if they’re sealed in with them. If you want to try the vacuum packed version of storage bags, use a heavy plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner to withdraw as much air as possible, then close the bag quickly.
  • Bargains can be found now on garden tools, paper, pens, pencils and fresh root vegetables if you haven’t grown your own.
  • Whenever you’re ready to clean up the dying garden and get the kitchen in shape for a meal instead of a canning session, get a five gallon bucket of sandy soil and a couple of quarts of (used!) motor oil. Mix the two together – as in pour the oil into the bucket of soil – and stab your shovels, hoes, rakes and tiller tines into it a few times, then hang them up or the winter. They’ll get cleaned and oiled for winter storage at the same time.
  • Gas powered lawn mowers and other equipment should be emptied of gas and cleaned. Make sure the gas cap is firmly on, tilt the lawn mower and run a water hose full blast on its underside to remove caked on grass and debris. Wipe the top of the machine and clean off oil or other spills or dirt to help the finish last longer. Check the blades and sharpen them if they have nicks or wear.
  • People powered mowers and equipment need a good cleaning, too. Oil and adjust them before putting them away for the season to save yourself frustration, time and money next spring.
  • Lawn furniture is made to withstand a lot of weather, but most should be kept “under wraps” for snow, ice and cold. Metal and wood needs to be protected from moisture as well as dirt. You can make your own big plastic bags to cover them if you have old shower curtains or plastic table cloths. Use duct tape to fasten them around the furniture.
  • When you water the garden or lawn for the last time, drain the hose and roll it up. Water left in it will freeze and weaken it. If you use a hose to wash a car or windows, use the shortest one you can to make draining easier through the winter.
  • Don’t forget things like planting pots. Make sure they’re clean, dry and in a safe place.
  • Check your landscaping. Put stray rocks and other landscaping materials back in place, touch up paint on the house exterior, turn off fountains and pond pumps if there’s danger of them freezing. Drain the pumps so they’re not damaged.
  • One last thing: Put a quarter of a cup of vinegar in a gallon of water and wash the windows!

When you’re all done, take a few moments to daydream about watching the leaves and/or the snowfall while sipping coffee in your living room.

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