We live at 9,750’ elevation and receive significant snowfall each winter. Our snow season can also run 6-7 months in duration. When we bought our property back in the 70’s the HUD report said we averaged 264” of snow each winter. Weather patterns have changed since that report was made but we still have substantial amounts of snow so it is still wise to pre-prepare for the annual event in advance. I have a check list that I go through prior to the first snow because once snow starts it is usually too late to make preparations.
First on the list is do we have enough firewood since we heat our home with a woodstove. We burn anywhere from 9 to 11 cords of firewood a winter. A cord is 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and eight feet long. I always take inventory to make sure that we have the necessary amount on hand but I like to keep an extra 2-3 cords un-split on hand in case we require more. I cut those logs to 48 inches long and keep them nearby and accessible. Our wood shed holds almost 6 cords so that firewood is always dry in case we have wet snows.
Has the necessary maintenance been done? Has our chimney and wood stove been cleaned and checked for problems? Are the exposed exterior portions of our garage, wood shed and house plus the board walk and picnic table all sealed or stained as needed? Are all the yard tools hung in their proper place and equipment put away so it is not buried or inaccessible when the snow arrives? Have the driveway markers been put up so I don’t run off the driveway with the tractor/snow thrower when the snow builds up? Have I gone down the driveway to pick up loose rocks and sticks so they are not picked up by the snow thrower? Has the snow thrower been serviced and ready to go? Are the garden boxes ready to be covered with snow and prepared for next season? I usually plant my spinach in the late fall so when the snow melts in the spring it will sprout and is hardy enough to withstand the late spring frosts and snows. Are garden carts and wheel barrows stored properly? Have I shut off outside water and drained the garden hose? Is the pantry adequately stocked?
I usually do a last minute inspection of our property to make sure all the branch piles have been hauled off to the community burn site or mulched. Once covered with snow it will be too late to deal with this contingency. Are the raspberry, currant and gooseberry plants all trimmed back as they will be covered with 6-8’ of snow and ice? Have I stored the utility trailer in a place where it can be accessed? Have I disassembled our mist system we put up each summer as part of our wildfire mitigation? Are the log splitter, wood mill, pressure washer and mulcher all serviced for storage so they will be ready to go next spring? Are the water cans and water storage containers emptied so they don’t freeze and split? And lastly have I found the snow shovels and put them in a location where I can get to them when needed?
Then there are things like the tractor and our vehicles that need to be serviced and made ready for the winter months. We take our vehicles to a mechanic to get them ready but the tractor I do myself. When it is 10 degrees outside with the wind is blowing it is not a good time to try to service a tractor. We have our vehicles serviced in town but I like to put a good coat of wax finish on the exterior before it gets too cold. After going through my mental and written check list I always manage to forget a few items that when discovered usually have to wait for springtime and hopefully are not that important.
When the snow finally arrives I like to have the assurance that I have done all I could before hand to be ready for single storms that may dump up to 6 feet of snow. We make sure there is emergency water on hand where it won’t freeze. During the winter is also when I do my inside projects. This winter I will use the lumber I recently milled out to make two stand up closets for our clothes. I also hope to make two interior doors and a new solid wood front door. I also use that time to clean and sharpen chain saws I use through out the summer. I clean, sharpen and adjust my wood working tools as well as those tools I use for mechanical projects and outside hand tools.
Anyone who may have the mistaken impression that homesteading in a semi remote area where climatic conditions can be harsh might be mistaken. There are endless tasks that constantly need to be addressed and what I have learned is no matter how well prepared I am I always manage to forget some obvious and vital preparation that it is too late to deal with when the snow starts flying. Getting ready for our long winters requires a lot of work. I have found that by doing most of the preparation done before winter starts it leaves time for those inside projects as well as spending time snow shoeing and sledding throughout the winter. The least amount of snow we have received has been around 120 inches and the most has been around 340 inches. When living as we do being prepared is clearly a virtue not to be ignored because of the hard work required in getting ready.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com.