November is that time of year when you can finally relax a bit on your homestead. It’s not too hot and not too cold, a little extra wind some days, and of course, the rain and mud are always around as soon as the ground starts to dry out a bit.
This is when I have more time to work with the horses—one starting under saddle, three having a refresher in manners and groundwork, and two just still trying to touch. It’s a process. A long one.
If you’re not training horses, there’s always fence repair and new fencing for your perimeter or your livestock of choice, and barn and shelter repairs. Your goal is to make everything temperature- and snow-proof.
This is also an excellent time to mark dead trees on your property, either for firewood or removal for a pasture or field. If you wait too long, they’ll all look dead.
And of course, it’s time to finalize all your winter preps.
Ideally, you should already have a stockpile of wood for heating. Depending on temps each winter, we use about four cubic feet per day for three months. That’s a little over two cords of wood, and I like to have some extra on hand. We start over the summer, cutting and splitting trees downed from storms, and usually have at least two cords ready for winter. I certainly wouldn’t want to start with less than that, although there are nice days even in winter when you can add to your woodpiles.
You don’t need to store firewood inside, but it should be off the ground a bit. We have a couple stacks with a long board up on concrete blocks, or stacked on an old piece of sheet metal; a few are simply laid on top of a line of smaller logs.
We also leave it our firewood open to the elements through September. Once fall arrives, we cover it with tarps and weigh them down with rocks—which works pretty well until the deer run through and knock it down or a big wind comes up. This year, I set them up with a rope across the top and a tarp draped over that; I used clothespins to keep the tarps attached—just like you’d do if you were sleeping in a hammock in the woods. Works like a charm.
Here’s another tip: bring in wood from the farthest stack early on. That way, when it’s 15 degrees, you’ll be closer to the back door.
Of course, you always need to winterize your water supply. We use a heat lamp in the pump house, as well as insulation, to keep the water flowing and to prevent damage to the pump and pressure tank. Our outside spigots in the back of the house are covered, and all hoses are removed and drained. We do not cover our hydrants, simply because we use them all the time and they aren’t prone to freezing.
Your garden should be finished, or close to it by now, unless you still have some winter-hardy spinach or kale or whatever. If you have a greenhouse, and I highly recommend it, here in southern Missouri you’ll need to have heat lamps there too. I’ve successfully kept herbs growing there over the winter—in fact, some have been going now for three years. You can also overwinter hanging baskets like petunias, verbena, or impatiens. Forty degrees last night, yet my greenhouse is 20 degrees warmer; the cats love it.
Speaking of pets, if you have any that live outside, like barn cats, make sure they have places to go—unless you’re willing to move them into your house. Yes, we do that occasionally. Just for a short warm-up. We also have two kitty houses on the porches; one is stuffed with straw, the other is insulated. They can also go in the barn, hay shed, or greenhouse. If you have an outside dog that isn’t a hairy LGD, you can do the same thing or, better yet, bring them inside. Dogs are pack animals, and you are their pack. Cats don’t give a damn. Make sure they get a little extra food, and keep the water dishes full and thawed.
Fall is also a good time to indulge in some of those activities that brought you out to a homestead in the first place: target practice, hiking, fishing, crafting. Or even fall cleaning and window-washing, if that’s your thing.