Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Getting ready for winter in the country

It's a fact.......... There is more weather in the country.

For many years I wrote for the Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter and each year there would be society members who were having their first winter on a smallholding. So every now and again I did a bit about getting ready for winter. After searching around C found it on a memory stick, I've done a few alterations and updated and
this is it

Getting Ready For Winter –For newcomers to the countryside

(And a timely reminder for the rest of us.)
Getting ready for winter in a city probably means buying a new coat, if you live on a smallholding in the countryside a bit more preparation is needed  
 In towns and cities there are pavements, in the country we just have MUD! So the first thing is to make sure your welly boots are waterproof, check they haven’t cracked underneath which you might not notice until you step in a puddle.
Find your wooly hats, gloves and scarves and warmest old coat or waterproof. It's no fun being cold on the daily animal feeding rounds. C swears by a boiler suit for working in.
We may never again get a winter like 1963 or 1981 (I don’t go back as far as 1947!) but we’ve had electric off for a week on two separate occasions in the last 20 years so you never know.

If you have an all-electric house or heating that uses an electric pump, it’s a good idea to get in an alternative, a calor/propane gas heater is good or get the chimney cleaned in case you need to open up a fireplace. A couple of hot water bottles are useful.

The same goes for cooking. A camping gas stove with a spare cylinder is always handy. Everyone feels better with a hot drink.
In the longer term a wood fired Rayburn or a woodburner will ensure that you are never without warmth and a way of heating a kettle.

For lighting, keep a supply of candles and matches somewhere easy to find in the dark. Tea lights only last 4 hours but a night light candle will burn for 8 hours. Have some spare batteries for the torch or buy a wind-up torch for emergencies. A gas camping light is handy if the electric is off for more than a few hours.

If you raise your own meat losing all your freezer stocks can be a real problem if the electric is off for a while. Try not to open the freezer. You might think of investing in a generator just in case. 

If you know you are in an area that could be cut off in snow then a good stock of food will be needed.

Make sure your animals have some shelter. Chickens hate drafts but need good ventilation. Put a shelter around the feed hopper if you feed them outside. For a few sheep, lay out some bales in the shape of a cross, this will let them get out of the wind, whichever way its coming from. Elderly goats will appreciate a goat-coat and some warm water to drink. Lag outside water taps if you can to stop them freezing up. Carrying buckets of water from the house to your animals soon becomes hard work. Try not to run too low on feed stocks but make sure spare feed is in a dry, rat proof container.

Rats and mice can be a big problem in buildings and in the compost heap (and in the house sometimes too). Ideally bait boxes should be laid much earlier in the season but they will still work. Using proper boxes means less risk to pets. 

On the house – clean out guttering and make sure drains are not blocked by leaves. If you have a septic tank check that the outflow is clear.

If we do get snow, be careful clearing paths, shoveling snow in cold weather can aggravate heart conditions! ( This has suddenly become relevant here, when I wrote it I was only thinking of old people!)

 In cities "Chelsea Tractors" are much despised but nobody will complain about you having a 4 wheel drive vehicle in the countryside when the roads are covered in snow and you are the only person who can pull someones car out of the ditch or get through to the shop.

Finally, a battery or wind-up radio will keep you in touch with what’s happening if the electric goes off. Local radio stations usually give information about school and road closures during bad weather.

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 Copying something written 10 years ago is a lazy way of filling a blog post, but as John at Going Gently always says" Hey Ho !"

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