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Preparing for winter is easier and less expensive if you start doing it in the Spring and Summer. With daily obligations making many people short on time, it can be all too easy to put off winter preps. This can lead to more expense and a lot of stress. Putting off some maintenance tasks can turn into repairs that could cost thousands to fix. Prevention is a key part of making wise use of your time and money for the long term.
I am going to share a few things that I consider to be important to early winter preparation. There are obviously many other things that will need to be done right before cold weather and snowy conditions. I have concentrated on listing things that you can do anytime throughout the Spring and Summer months to be better prepared for Winter 2019-20.
As winter approaches we will have other posts that address those tasks that you need to take care of when you start feeling a chill in the air.
Gas and Oil Discounts
During the summer months, heating oil and gas can be priced lower. The savings will vary a lot depending on market conditions but it is basic supply and demand principles. Also ask about quantity discounts. If you need a set amount of fuel, then getting it just a bit at a time may cost you quite a bit more in the long term. Some companies also have minimums for delivery. Sure you can go to the gas station and fill up a few 5-gallon cans of kerosene and dump it in your tank or you can pay the oil company to come to your house and deliver 100 gallons without doing anything but make a phone call. The oil company my Dad uses takes cash or cards on delivery so you don’t have to do anything but call and pay. That saves a lot of time versus buying it a little at a time.
In my area the gas and oil companies offer the best price to those over 55. They will ask for info when you initially order and in our area they will see if the discount applies. You may have to ask about discounts or explore your heating company’s website for more info.
Cut trees for firewood now
If you have live trees or a source of them for firewood, then you should be thinking about getting those on the ground now so they can have a chance to dry out. It is even better if you get the trees cut and cut into rounds and split ASAP. Dry seasoned wood is the best and it can save a ton of money on the heating bill come winter time. Matt is already talking to me about the firewood needs for our house and for my Dad for the winter. My Dad loves to burn a fire in the winter and always has. He has oil heat too, but he loves to heat with wood whenever he can.
Even if you have to buy your firewood rather than gather your own, there is a good chance you will get a better deal buying wood from your local woodcutter or handy person in the warm months. If you are willing to buy green wood really early in the year and allow it to dry out, you can likely save even more.
Clean your chimney now.
It is really easy to just stop burning fires and not clean your chimney until one day you realize you want to start burning fires again. Cleaning your chimney and wood stove at the beginning of the warm season means you don’t have to do it later or worse yet, that you don’t forget and start burning fires, anyway.
Chimney fires are very serious and scary but also very preventable with some maintenance and glancing up your chimney once in a while to see how it is doing. You may find that you need to clean your chimney more often than recommended, especially if you burn a lot of smaller fires, damp firewood, or have a small diameter chimney.
Buy your fall and winter clothes during the hottest months
I told you how I shop in my previous post. Well I am telling you right now to buy all your Fall and Winter clothing from now until the first part of August. Even after that if you are willing to buy last years color or style, you can save a lot of money.
Anything cold weather related can usually be found cheaper in the summer
Give your house an inspection
You don’t want to get stuck trying to do even moderate home repairs in the winter time. It is just too inconvenient and worrisome. Take the time to look over your home and make a list that you can tackle over the warmer months. Sometimes Matt and I have specific things in mind for days we are stuck inside or the weather is so so. Having a list also helps when figuring out how to pay for things. Remember that when it comes to your house, prevention is worth a lot. A small leak that is stopped as soon as it is noticed is one thing but letting it go on for a month or two can result in thousands of dollars in damages.
I will tell you right now that we have quite a list to work through. No matter how well made your home is, there are maintenance issues that have to be addressed or they add up to a much larger problem later on down the road.
In our case, we built our house so whenever anything comes up, no matter how minor it is, guess who we have to blame? You may be 70 years old kicking yourself for something you did at 25 if you build your own.
Check your home for cracks and air leaks
Not only will checking for cracks and air leaks save on your cooling bill this summer, it will also save you money on heating costs and make your home cozier on those bitterly cold days when even those with a furnace could use a little extra help in the heating department.
Heavy Duty Window Insulating Film
Great Stuff Foam Sealant
Evaluate walkways and access to your home.
Over the years people’s abilities and needs change. Uneven sidewalks, pot holes, gaps in the pavement, and steep access can all be a major safety concern when it is wet, snowy, and icy. In fact these are hazards no matter what you age but it is a lot harder for older folks to recover from falls generally.
Too many people have found themselves falling and then living in a care center afterwards. Repairing walkways and removing hazards is helpful. A few bags of ice melt put back is a good idea too because then you have some on hand from the beginning.
Source your bulk animal feeds
Even if you cannot get grains until late in the Summer or early Fall, now is the time to find the best source for your dollar. Local farms or Cooperatives that do bulk orders are all excellent options. If you live in the right climate and have the space, I recommend planting sorghum for ruminant feed. A small sorghum patch and a little hay for variety will winter a cow over so you have a calf in the Spring.
Consider livestock and pet shelter needs
One thing on our winter prep list is to construct some shelters that are mobile and a barn where we can put up all our birds at night. Due to lack of hunting and people feeding wildlife, the predator issues have become more serious where we live. Building anything takes time but making it a priority and working towards it now when time is on our side will make it easier to get it done and we will have less to worry about during the cold months.
Get preps organized and make a list of what you are lacking
How was last winter at your place? Did you get a lot of bad weather? How did you and others in your household handle it?
Now is the time to think back on what was not ideal the winter before. I know that we had some snow storms here that were pretty long lasting and it was amazing to see the general reaction of others. People were going crazy after two days of being stuck. To be honest with you, Matt and I had some fun and got stuff done too. I wrote a lot, and he took pics and documented. We had plenty of food and beverage. We stayed put for 8 days and could have gone 8 days more without even being the slightest bit uncomfortable.
While prepping for food and beverage was helpful, we also don’t panic at lack of socialization and a state of isolation. That is one thing that seems to be a deal breaker for so many. You have to get used to being away from society a bit even if you are in an urban environment. Running out just because your stir crazy can be really dangerous during wintry conditions and it contributes to clogging up the roads and making it harder for emergency personnel to get to those that truly need help.
If SHTF you are going to need to stay within a very small circle or even just with your family. A winter storm is a good time to practice and realize how you deal with your own time and thoughts without others around to influence or support you.
Evaluate your power outage preparedness level
One of the most common winter weather related issues is power outages. Having a few of the following items can help make things easier if you have to deal with an outage of any length.
- Extra batteries
- Flashlights and another lighting
- Small power center for keeping small devices charged. I like the Jackery Explorer 240. It is lightweight, has a good power supply, and supports USB, 12V, and 110 plugins so you don’t need any adaptors. The price point is also very good for a lightweight lithium power center.
- Water needs. A lot of water systems do not work without electricity. A few rain barrels and a gravity fed water filter like the Hydro Blu can take care of water needs during an emergency
- A way to cook meals that do not require electricity is something everyone should have. For us, I have a Camp Chef Outdoor Oven and a Camp Chef 2 Burner stove that you can get various accessories for. Now that it is warmer we have been cooking a lot of meals outside.
Camp Chef Outdoor Oven
Camp Chef PRO60X Two – Burner Stove
Avoid storing items that you will not use for next winter
If you have not put away all your cold weather gear quite yet, it may be time to consider if things are worth storing or not. Can you get another season out of items or are you just holding on to them because you can?
After moving back to North Carolina from Alaska in 2007, I have made it a seasonal habit to donate or toss items. We don’t usually have a lot because if you practice this; you don’t have a bunch of stuff hoarded.
Consider the state of your preps
Is a lot of your food nearing the expiration date? What do you need to put back to stay adequately supplied through the cold months?
Do you know how to cook a few decent meals with the foods you have put back? Do you need to eat and replace some items?
Take a look at heavy bed linens and blankets and consider your needs for the following season.
I have made a lot of the blankets we use but we still buy a few lighter weight blankets. During warmer months, you can get wonderful blankets and quilts at a deep discount.
I always wanted an LL Bean quilt because I have been so impressed with the quality of their flannel sheets over the years. Well I cannot justify spending $150 for a single quilt, especially living in a cozy and well insulated cabin where I can get by with something that costs far less. I picked one up for $42 on clearance and that was for a Queen size!
You can also get a flannel sheet and some cotton fabric and sew them together to make a lightweight blanket that will last a long time. These can be constructed in less than a day on a regular sewing machine. You can put batting in between if you want a very warm blanket but where I live that is often too thick. Homemade quilts and blankets really don’t have to be complicated to be functional and warm.
Start throwing together a tote of supplies for cold weather entertainment
Being stuck inside is something that some deal with better than others. Over the course of the Spring and Summer, throw back some items for comfort and entertainment when you catch a good deal. Having some entertainment will make it less tempting to venture out to socialize or grab something at the store during inclement weather.
Now is the time to think about the needs of older family members that live alone.
I know all about having to take care of two households. Luckily I have my husband to do a lot of the things that are always needed when it comes to my Dad’s household needs. If you have parents and older relatives that live alone they it may be entirely up to you to point out when something needs attention. I know my Dad’s response when I ask him “Why didn’t you say something or ask us to help with that?, is to say ‘I didn’t want to bother you because you are busy’.
Older folks can also be pretty stubborn about letting someone do something for them. They really don’t want someone to do the things they feel that they can do themselves. My husband and I used to take care of my grandmother and she would comment often about feeling bad that we had to do a lot of things for her.
Losing the ability to do things is something everyone goes through if they are lucky enough to make it to old age but it is never an easy thing to admit you need help when you are used to independence.
When the stubbornness leads to a lack of safe or hygienic living conditions, you have to step in or sneak in there and do things before they get too bad or an accident happens. There are no big rules on how to do this except that you need to do it as compassionately and respectfully as possible and be very patient.
Have you started considering your winter needs? What would you add to the tasks I have listed?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.