Winter Homesteading Safety Tips

Reader Contribution by Ryan Tollefsen and Unity Home Group
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Photo by Pixabay/Michael Gaida

Life on a homestead can be difficult in winter, especially if you live in a remote area. The farther you are from a town or city, the more self-reliant you must be when the cold weather arrives. Knowing what to do before winter, and how to handle tough situations throughout the winter, can help make your life as a homesteader more satisfying and less stressful. If you live on a homestead, here’s what you need to know about staying safe when winter comes. 

Stock Up on Supplies

The farther you live from a town or city, the harder it may be to reach town when you need supplies. Having supplies on hand can keep you out of dangerous situations that require you to drive to a store in poor weather conditions. When stocking up on supplies, focus on non-perishable items. Many people preserve their food throughout the growing season, to have food on hand when winter arrives. Whatever you can’t supply for yourself, buy before winter arrives. 

Don’t just stock up on the necessary things; stock up on treats for yourself and the people you live with. That may be coffee, chocolate, sugar and other standards that people consume throughout the day. The more you have on hand when a big storm hits, the less likely you are to venture out into the snow. Keep the supplies up off your floor and in pest-proof containers. When storing items that come in cardboard boxes, place the boxes in tubs to keep them safe from mice or insects. 

Stay Safe from Snow and Ice

Snow that piles up on the roof in large mounds can fall off the roof and bury someone underneath, so if you live in an area that receives a lot of snow throughout the winter, be aware of snow and ice on the roof. Icicles can be their own problem, causing ice dams that lead to leaks in the attic. Icicles often develop when warm air in the attic causes snow on the roof to melt and roll down into the gutters, where it re-freezes.

One of the most effective ways to prevent icicles from forming is to insulate your attic properly, to keep the warm air in the lower part of the house. The easiest way to insulate your attic is to fill the space between the joists with loose insulation, until the joists are completely covered. You can also fill the space between the joists with fiberglass batt insulation. If you’re not familiar with insulation techniques, talk to an expert before doing it yourself. If you insulate incorrectly, you could reduce air circulation in your attic, which could lead to moisture problems. 

Practice Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous but invisible threat. During the winter, fuel burning devices that keep us warm need to be handled with care. Inspect any heaters you plan to use, clean out your fireplace, and make sure to test your carbon monoxide alarms (or get them if you don’t have any).

Know Your Resources

Have the phone numbers for emergency services in your area on hand in the event of a disaster. If you don’t have a land line, this may be a good time to get one. Cell phones often go out when towers lose power. If you have family in the area, ask them to check on you in the event of a major storm. This way, you’ll know that someone will be sure to check on you, even if your home loses power and your lines of communication are cut. 

Photo by Pixabay/Mark Martins

Manage Road Access

Prepare your snow-clearing tools, like your snow shovel and snow blower, before the winter arrives. If access to your property is limited, you’ll need to make sure you can drive in and out even whenever it is snowing. When snow starts to fall, remove snow early and often. It becomes far more difficult to shovel your way out of your house once the snow has built up to insurmountable heights. Keep melting salts or chemicals on hand, if you use them. Don’t forget that rock salt can injure animal paws, if you have many pets in the area. Be thoughtful about your use of melting chemicals and rely on your snow shovel or snow blower when you can. 

Mend Your Fences Before Winter Arrives

If you have livestock or pets, you probably have fences on your property. Mend fences before winter. If your fences have weak points, they are likely to become points of entry or exit when the snow starts to fall, and once your property is covered in snow, mending your fences will become far more difficult. 

Protect Your Livestock and Pets

Livestock and pets need to be kept warm and given food and water throughout the winter, and their water needs to be kept above freezing temperatures, so they have access to water when they need it. Repair your barn (if it’s needed) before winter arrives, and keep the watering trough in the barn where it is unlikely to freeze. If your animals are not allowed to move in and out of the barn throughout the day, use an outdoor irrigation system designed to prevent water from freezing in the winter. 

Plan for Emergencies

When stocking up on supplies, include a three-day supply of water (a gallon per person per day) and a three-day supply of emergency food, not to be used unless it is a true emergency.Make sure the food you select is easy to prepare, requiring little or no cooking. Keep a big supply of firewood on hand, and stock up on medicines, just in case you’re sick and unable to leave the house. 

Winter can be a fun but challenging time on a homestead. For more information about how to stay safe this winter, communicate with other homesteaders in your area. Share tips and tricks to find out what works for your neighbors and friends. Most of all, stay safe and healthy this winter!

Ryan Tollefsen is the founder and team leader of Unity Home Group. As an avid supporter of sustainable living, he aims to help homesteaders navigate some of the lesser-known challenges of finding the right place to build roots for their homestead in his guide to assessing off-grid land. Read all of Ryan’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

Mother Earth News Winter Comfort Foods is packed full of comfort food recipes that are wholesome and hearty. Sharing a meal with loved ones is not only a simple pleasure, but also one of the most meaningful. This issue will definitely bring the family closer together.

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