Daily Stuff

I have to laugh whenever someone says that I’m “retired.” First, I’m a little young for that, and second, if you’re on a homestead, you will NEVER retire. NEVER.

On a typical winter’s day, after starting the coffee, I feed the small critters, a dog and two cats. At least one cat inside, but on most mornings, the other one is outside. Speaking of, the dog needs to go outside too for a few minutes!

I try to get the fire in the furnace started before feeding time; it depends on much the constant meowing is annoying me . . . My perfected method of fire starting is (after emptying the ash pan) to throw all the little stuff in, add a big wad of newspaper or whatever I can scrounge from the burnables trash can, put a couple logs on top, and then use 17 matches to get it going.

I exaggerate. I normally only use seven . . .

By now, I’ve started the caffeination process of two cups while I read the news and catch up on email and so forth. The fire needs tending about every 15 minutes and, with any luck, the blower will kick on in about half an hour.

Or so.

Next, I layer up and whistle to the horses; they answer. If the temp is below, say, five degrees, I’ll take the farm truck to the barn. Otherwise, I use the Mule and spend another ten minutes getting it to A) start, and B) actually move. It prefers reverse.

I unlock and open the gate, providing the lock isn’t frozen, and open the barn and turn off the alarm. After doling out everyone’s grain rations in their buckets, I have to wrangle down a bale of hay.

This generally involves reaching and pulling until one works loose, then I jump out of the way in case more than one has chosen to cooperate.

I load up, making sure to have a hammer somewhere close at hand, and mosey on over to the pasture. Chestnut knows her spot, so dropping off her bucket is easy. I move around to the other side, by the gate, and take in Cody’s and Cav’s buckets. Cody still isn’t particularly interested, but Cav lets me hold the bucket while he eats. About halfway through his breakfast, I set it down and try to encourage Cody to eat.

That doesn’t work so well, so I ignore her and go get the hay, spreading it out in three different piles. Next, I have to break the ice on the water trough. The end result is available water, wet gloves, and ice freezing to my glasses.

Once back inside, I have to feed the fire again, and then I have regular household stuff, just like everyone else. Cleaning or dishes or laundry or meal planning and grocery list making. You know. Stuff.

If it’s bitterly cold, I’ll go back out to the pasture around noon with lunchtime hay. If it’s not, I’ll spend an hour or so doing chores out there or working with the horses.

And sometimes, after lunch, I’ll take a nap. Hey, it’s winter, amiright?

But there are also things to tend to in the greenhouse, and garden planning, and projects in the barn. And cooking dinner, and more dishes. And the constant, every hour on the hour, feeding the fire. See, if it goes out, we get cold. And it’s a right bitch to get started again.

By evening, I’m beat. It can be a real struggle to put on and take off six layers of clothing; I get plenty of exercise just doing that . . .

So we watch a lot of movies. Or I do some leather work, which I’m just getting back into, and I may yet give that knitting thing another shot. Or not. We’ll see.



Prep Monday—Winter

Look, it’s only January 3 and I’m already running behind—what an accomplishment, huh? And yes, I did take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s, thankyouverymuch!

Now let’s talk prepping:

Winter on the homestead has traditionally been about regrouping, resting, and of course, carrying on the daily chores. And we’re nothing if not traditional (forget the WiFi for a moment and the addition of Alexa to our household)!

For me, living in the ‘burbs, it was always hard to get motivated when the sky is gray and the wind is blowing and, well, it’s COLD. I do tend to sleep a bit more, even out here in the sticks, but there are still things to do.

Animals and livestock need to be fed and cared for—and horses worked with. The cats will let you know this, just in case you forget and their bowls are not filled at a precise time, that time being as soon as your eyes start to open at zero-dark-thirty. And then they’ll want out, and in, and out, and in . . .

I have less desk work now, since I’m closing Rocking Horse Publishing, but yes, of course I still write. And I’m taking up leather working again. Played around with decorating a lighter case just last night. I swear, too, I’m going to conquer this thing called “knitting.” One of these days . . .

But winter is a good time to learn new skills and practice old ones. Even outside, as long as you’re dressed for it. I shot my bow over this past weekend—it had been a while, so I lost a couple arrows. And the weather was good. I can deal with almost anything except lack of sun. That’ll put me to sleep quicker than a football game or a golf match.

And if you use wood for heat, you know that you have to keep the woodbox full. That’s an every-other-day event, but it’s not time-consuming and, if you want to be warm, you’ll do it. Our furnace is in the lean-to, right off the kitchen, and the wood piles are about 15 feet from the back door. And covered. Also important!

Don’t think you have to be busy all the time during this season. You do need to be timely when it comes to chores—don’t put things off if the weather is cooperating. Take advantage of sun and warmer temperatures when you can, and use the time to rest and rejuvenate. Within a couple months, you’ll be prepping your garden and making repairs, sunup to sundown.