Winter on the homestead can be the perfect time to catch up on skills and projects that have been pushed to the wayside during the year. Especially indoor projects! When you aren’t resting, I hope that these projects inspire you to keep your love for creating, exploring, and working alive.
As the world turns and we finally see late summer, I can’t help but start dreaming about my winter homestead. Winter projects make me feel like I have a better hold on my time management, simply because I’m forced inside to deal with everything that’s been piling up while we have been enjoying the long, summer days!
I hope that these ideas inspire you to grow your homestead. And hopefully, they make the chill of winter seem a little less bitter. Spring is coming, friends.
Winter season homestead activities, tasks, and projects
We all know that work on the homestead doesn’t ever truly stop. Even in the winter, there are animals that need to be fed, gardens that need to be tended to, and other random tasks that pop up because of the weather. So let’s start there.
In the winter, you can stay up to date on things like your chicken coop, compost pile, vegetable garden, fruit trees, and farm equipment. After you have sealed your chicken coop, protected crops, and trees, and put the equipment to bed, you can transition to maintenance mode. Are there supplements your chickens need? Are there quick modifications you can make to your coop before winter’s chill truly sets it?
I talk more about tending to chickens during fall in this blog post. If you’re on the hunt for a supplement to keep your chickens from physical duress during cold snaps, check out the electrolytes we use on our chickens!
What about your garden? If you’re planning on harvesting crops during the winter, do you have ways to water and protect those crops from colder weather?
Finally, maintaining farm equipment. There’s nothing like a grueling harvesting season to wear down farm equipment. While you have the downtime (and hopefully a heated shop) look into ways you can maintain your equipment so it’s ready for operation come spring.
While those three tasks don’t even begin to sum up things you can do to prep your homestead for winter, I got into a lot of detail about how to do more tasks in “Fall Homestead Projects.”
Planning for Spring
When the cold winter months drive you inside, soak up the rest you’re forced to take. Grab a warm blanket and a warm drink and just rest.
And when you’re stir crazy (because comon’ – we know every homesteader can’t keep still for too long) here are a few ideas to help you plan for spring.
Order seeds. Garden beds aren’t going to plant themselves. If you haven’t already, consider doing some shopping around in seed catalogs that are available to you. Take the extra time to even map out your garden beds. Be sure to consider what space you’re working with, how much light that space gets, and most importantly what zone you’re in.
While you’re at it, try your hand at estimating the yield of each plant. You can even consider how much of that you could put away for your family! How much do they eat? What’s the best way to preserve it? Thinking through these things will help you in your next step.
Do a pantry walk-through. I know some homesteaders like to do a sort of pantry challenge right before the peak of preservation season. But on our micro homestead, we do a pantry challenge in the middle of winter. It’s the only way I can remind myself that this food isn’t to sit and look pretty – it’s meant to be consumed!
During a pantry walk-through, you can get a better idea of what you’re family is eating, what you run out of too quickly, and how that food is holding up in the preservation method you chose. This is also a great time to see if you’re running low on things like canning lids, vacuum seal bags, and other preservation equipment. Now that preservation season is over, you will have a ready recollection of what tools you used.
Other spring projects. If you’re a researcher like me, you know it can take time to find the information that’s truly beneficial to you. So while you’re inside escaping the winter weather, look into other spring projects! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
– Growing your compost through something like a worm bin has grown in popularity in the last few years. And as a micro homesteader, it’s a great way to utilize space!
– How will you start seeds? Winter sowing in plastic buckets is a great way to get greens through the winter. And direct sowing is a great way to save space. Begin researching how you will start that spring garden! If you live in a zone with a longer warm period like I do, think of everything you could do with a long year of planting!
– Crop rotation. Again, this goes back to planning a garden. Use your notes from previous years and make sure you aren’t depleting your soil of nutrients needed for future plants. Our 2023 watermelon suffered because of this. Our fruit had blossom end rot because of a lack of nutrients in the soil. To combat this, you can rotate your crops and even test your soil for nutrients and amend your beds accordingly.
New skills to develop during winter
Sometimes, the busiest times of the year don’t provide great learning opportunities. Let’s take those lost moments and give them room to grow while you’re locked inside for winter!
– How to operate power tools. This is a great skill to practice around Christmas time. Who doesn’t love a thoughtful, homemade gift? You can also hone this skill set in repairing things that break during the winter or preparing things like raised beds. Making Christmas gifts is a great, stress-free way to hone this skill. You can then take what you’ve learned and sell your skills as labor in the spring! Throw on a coat and head out to your garage or shop. Remember to wear proper safety equipment and ventilate adequately based on your project.
– How to process harvests. Have you ever had a batch of berries or tomatoes that didn’t make it into jars during the summer? Can them now! Hunted meat, like fish, can also be canned. Brush up on these skills while you have the downtime!
– How to start seeds indoors. For our 2023 garden, I used a wire shelf and $20 grow lights I bought at Lowes to germinate all of my seeds. As the weather warmed up, I transplanted them into solo cups and eventually into my garden. But let me tell you – transplanting seeds is not for the faint of heart! There’s so much time and attention young seedlings need just to get started. And transferring them to bigger pots requires skill and finesse. Learn the ins and outs of starting seeds indoors while you’re stuck indoors! I have heard of homesteaders having success with regular old shop lights and leftover solo cups.
– How to use essential oils. I’m not here to tell you which essential oil company to use. I’m just here to encourage you to start using them! Essential oils are a great jumping-off point for taking your medicinal needs into your own hands. (However, they aren’t the ultimate solution. So if you are battling something like a chronic illness or issue, don’t be afraid to seek out a medical professional you trust. There are medical professionals willing to meet you where you’re at.) And there’s a learning curve to them! Take the time this winter to figure out what oils are best suited for certain applications.
– Dream of ways to generate homestead income. All of these skills can be used to generate income for your homestead in the spring. Sell planter boxes using the power tools you can now confidently operate. Sell baked goods and canned goods from leftover harvest. Sell seedlings. Sell products made with your essential oils.
A few things to get you started…
These are some of the tools we use on our urban homestead. I hope that they encourage you to learn how to operate power tools, process your harvests, start seeds, use essential oils, and generate income!
* These are affiliate links. When you click on the link or make a purchase using these links, I make a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Learning Life!
This Ryobi tool set is a great starter power tool set. Ryobi tools are not meant for things like home demolition. But they’re perfect for everyday use.
A water bath canner and accessories is the perfect way to start canning! You are restricted in what can be water bath canned, so make sure you check out the “Nothing like a good book” section for book recommendations on canning. But water bath canners can typically stay on your glass stove top with no issue. Water bath canners also take less time to process. All around a great food preservation method to master!
This grow light is the closest grow light to what we actually use. Such an affordable way to get started growing seeds indoors!
An essential oils set is a great way to get a few oils for an affordable price. It’s also a great way to leap into learning about essential oils! Pair it with a diffuser and you can make an easy, healthy living swap this winter – essential oils instead of candles!
Nothing like a good book
Again, I love to research! Here are a few book recommendations on topics we’ve already been talking about. These are affiliate links. When you click on the link or make a purchase using these links, I make a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Learning Life!
The “New Book of Ball Canning and Preserving” has both recipes and techniques! Ball is renowned as a resource for food preservation and this book proves that.
“Gentle Babies” is my go-to recommendation for women looking to get into essential oils. Children are particularly sensitive to oils because essential oils are so potent. Learning how to create doses and recipes for little ones is a great way to introduce yourself to oils.
“The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” will make your head swim! The recipes and information in this book are also great ways to grow your knowledge and understanding of essential oils.
“The Chicken Health Handbook” is an incredible resource for every backyard poultry farmer. The wealth of information that is in this book is worth the investment. Because let’s face it – Google is fine, but it isn’t going to get you the answers you need to the illnesses and diseases that may actually be affecting your flock! If you farm poultry in any capacity – I recommend you add this book to your resource list.
Other winter challenges
I write a little bit about winter challenges in this blog post. If you’re looking for more things you could be doing and learning while you’re stuck inside this winter, keep reading!
I have never gardened using a cold frame. But if you live in a climate that gets a lot of snow like I do, they may be a worthwhile winter project for you! I have also seen homesteaders simply cover their colder crops using things like PVC pipe and snow-resistant, breathable materials. There are plenty of ways to garden year-round, and planning ahead to use methods like this is a great way to accomplish that!
I don’t have that many herbal remedies at my disposal. And at the beginning of 2023, the FDA was scrutinizing many over-the-counter herbal remedies. Now is the perfect time to learn how to use them! And I’m not just talking about essential oils. I encourage you to look at herbal remedies you can find, make, and source yourself!
See how long you can go without your area grocery store. The grocery store is a matter of convenience. Where else can you get produce and pre-made sauces all in the same place? Grocery stores also take a lot of the guesswork out of things. End cap displays remind you of little things you may not need. Specialized displays gather ingredients for you so you feel like you aren’t wasting time (hello, baking section during the holidays).
If you want to truly see how independent you’ve become, consider ditching your grocery store. Since taking food sourcing seriously, I have shifted my entire mindset on where food comes from. I now source my meat from my own state. I support mom-and-pop stores to find things like bulk goods. I try to get out to my farmer’s markets for produce and freeze what I can for more options down the road. These are all things you can start analyzing and practicing this winter!
Track your progress over the last year. In Winter 2022 I had to buy eggs from my grocery store because I didn’t think to put any eggs away. And at the time, my hens weren’t laying enough for us to sustain ourselves through the winter. Going into winter 2023, I set a goal to preserve so many eggs and worked to meet that goal. And what do you know? Just by doing that, I have already made more success over the last year!
I encourage you to do the same. Sometimes progress looks like just realizing where we could be doing better and taking one step to make a change. Progress doesn’t have to be some grand transformation. Especially when you’re working with the seasons! Just get started!
Create an emergency kit. You only need to know three things to create your homestead emergency kit. 1) Where do you live? 2) What emergencies occur there? 3) What animals do you raise?
I live in the middle of a city, not too far from several train tracks. We usually see tornadoes and intense winter weather. I raise chickens. I need to prepare for those three things. Since I live near train tracks, anything I prepare needs to be packaged for immediate retrieval so I can leave as soon as I hear about a train derailment. I also need to bring weather-appropriate clothing and winter gear, since those are the weather patterns I will most likely be against. Finally, I need to make sure all of those plans are amended to include what my chickens may need (aside from everyday use, like other medical care).
If you want a few more ideas for how to get your emergency kit started, check out this blog post.
Stereotypical Winter Activities
- Make sweet treats to pass out to friends and family. Our favorites are sugar cookies and fudge!
- Tour area Christmas light set ups.
- Go caroling.
- Sled in the snow! Ice skating, hiking, and snowboarding are also options if your climate allows.
- Build a snowman.
- Decorate the Christmas tree as a family.
- Battle the crowds for some Black Friday shopping.
- String your own garland with dried fruit or popcorn.
- Attend a Christmas parade.
- Host a game night, like Dirty Santa or board games.
- View a production of “The Nutcracker.”
- Remember those less fortunate by collecting items for the homeless or sponsoring children who may not be fortunate enough to have Christmas gifts this year without aid.
- Visit your shut-ins, chronically ill, and widows and widowers.
- Have a snowball fight.
Your Winter To-Do List
If you’re reading through this and thinking, “Wow! this all sounds like a lot of work!” You’re right! It is a lot of work! But that’s where a plan comes in.
In my ebook “Making a Micro Homestead – a City Slicker’s Guide to Getting Started” I include several growth pages and calculation pages to help you craft a vision for what your urban homestead will look like and how much money you will need to get there. What’s even better? This is a FREE resource! Send me your email and I’ll send you the PDF file so you can spend your winter planning and your spring crushing your goals.
And that’s not the only free resource I’ve created. Just search “free” on my blog and you can peruse the other great resources I’ve created!