I always look forward to the winter months. It’s not necessarily because I love winter weather, although I must admit, I’ve always been more fond of the crisp chill of a January morning than the oppressive heat of an August afternoon.
I look forward to winter because it serves as a well-deserved break after a long year of planting, tending to animals, harvesting, canning, and other enjoyable (but exhausting) tasks on the farm.
However, that’s not to say that winter is a time of total laziness! I always keep a lengthy to-do list of tasks I want to cross off during the winter months, so that I have things to occupy my time even during the darkest, coldest days of winter.
If you’re wondering, “what do homesteaders do during the winter?” you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the most common wintertime homesteading tasks.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than cooking all day during the winter months. I find it relaxing and comforting to fill the house with delicious aromas!
Winter is a good time to try out those recipes you’ve been saving all year long. It will also let you use up some of your home-canned or frozen produce and meat! Baking is a great idea, too, especially around the holidays.
I find that I don’t cook and bake as often during the summer months because it’s just too hot, so winter is always a welcome return to the hobby for me.
2. Whip Up Some Herbal Remedies
You might want to start researching some of your favorite herbal remedies now! Whether you want to simply start diffusing your own essential oils, or you want to learn how to make those essential oils, winter is a good time to do so.
3. Plan Next Year’s Garden
The key to planning next year’s garden in the winter months is to not get too ahead of yourself – and to not start too early! I try to keep detailed notes about my garden every year, both as I’m planting and caring for the garden and as I’m harvesting. That way, I know what needs to be adjusted in upcoming years.
Return to those notes toward the end of winter, and begin making plans for next year. What do you want to grow? Where will you grow it? What crops did well last year – and which ones do you want to replant next year?
You’ll start receiving seed catalogues, if you’ve signed up for them, as early as January. Take advantage and begin planning (but don’t order seeds and transplants too early, or they might die or lose their viability before you can get them in the ground).
4. Start and Order Seeds
As a corollary to the last point, winter is also a good time to order and then start some seeds. There are some plants that don’t do well when started indoors – you’ll be better off starting them in your garden. Some good examples include pumpkins, cucumbers, and zucchini.
However, others, like tomatoes, need to be started indoors at least six weeks prior to the last estimated frost. Plan ahead so that you have all of your seeds, potting soil, and seed containers long before that date.
Remember that it can take some time for your seeds to get to you, so don’t wait until the last minute.
If you have any seed starting equipment that needs to be purchased or repaired from the previous year (such as LED grow lights or heat mats) you may want to take the time to mend or replace them now.
5. Repot and Fertilize Indoor Plants
If you have any indoor plants – or plants that you are working on growing from cuttings – you might want to repot and / or fertilize them now.
This isn’t something that’s always necessary (some plants are dormant during the winter months, so you don’t need to fertilize them at this time). However, there are others that need to be repotted once they’ve outgrown their initial containers, and winter is a good time to take advantage of their dormancy to do so.
6. Grow Indoor Greens
I enjoy eating salad year-round, but I hate having to go to the supermarket to buy my leafy greens. Therefore, I’ve started growing a variety of salad greens (including lettuce, kale, and arugula) indoors so that I can enjoy them all year long. You may want to consider growing other crops inside, too, like herbs.
7. Feed Livestock
There are some tasks that are year-round on a homestead. One of these is feeding livestock. Your basic day-to-day chores won’t change much just because there are fewer daylight hours.
However, you will need to dedicate some extra time to breaking open frozen water troughs (unless you invest in heated waterers) and collecting eggs several times per day so they don’t freeze.
One other task you’ll need to tend to during the winter months, as well as throughout much of the rest of the year, is basic livestock maintenance.
For example, we always share our sheep in February so that they are ready for lambing in March. We breed our pig in December. There are some chores that never end, no matter how cold it gets!
8. Maintain Water Supplies for Animals
As I mentioned in the last post, you’re going to need to maintain water supplies for your animals. Water is always an issue during the winter months, so plan ahead and make sure you have heated watering troughs and other facilities in place so you don’t have to spend a ton of time on this homesteading chore when it’s twenty below zero.
Most canning is done in the late summer and fall, but there’s nor reason why you can’t put it off until winter. There are many kinds of foods, including tomatoes and onions, that you can freeze and then can later, when you have the time, during the winter months.
Some crops aren’t even ready to harvest until the end of fall, like carrots and parsnips, so winter canning is ideal for these veggies, anyway.
10. Build New Bee Hives
If you raise bees, winter is a good time to build new beehives. You’re stuck indoors anyway, so why not do some basic carpentry so you can install your hives next spring?
11. Process Honey
If you harvested any honey, in most cases, it can wait until winter before being processed. This could include anything from extracting honey from the comb or rendering beeswax for candles.
12. Make Homemade Baby Products
Do you have a baby – or a baby on the way? If so, winter is a good time to get ahead. You might want to whip up several trays of frozen baby food, or perhaps make your own cloth diapers – both of these are great ways to spend your time during the darkest days of winter.
13. Make Homemade Cleaning Supplies
Last winter, I found it incredibly difficult to buy cleaning supplies – as I’m sure many of you did – with the onslaught of hygiene supply shortages. As more people turn to a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, you’ll likely find that making your own cleaning supplies becomes more popular, too.
To make your own cleaning supplies, you usually only need some basic materials like paper towels, vinegar, dish soap, and bleach. You can create a stockpile during the winter, and then use them throughout the rest of the year.
14. Deep Clean the House
Some people save the deep clean until the spring, but I find that it makes much more sense to wait until winter! Of course, you can’t throw open the windows, and beat those rugs out like you might be able to when the weather is warmer, but that’s ok.
Winter is a good time to deep clean the house and get into all those long-neglected nooks and crannies.
15. Deep Clean Barns and Coops
This one might be a bit more challenging for some folks, but for others winter is a good time to clean out the chicken coop and barn. This will mostly depend on your weather, of course.
I find that it’s easiest to clean stalls and barns at the end of fall, when the weather is nice and cool but it still hasn’t frozen up yet. The beauty of doing these tasks in the winter is that you won’t have the smells to contend with!
16 Dehydrate Food
Just as winter is a great time to do your own food, it’s also a superb time to dehydrate some items for next year, too.
Get ahead and create a stockpile! You can dehydrate dozens of foods with a dehydrating machine or just by using your oven at the lowest possible temperature.
17. Make Blankets, Rugs, and Clothes
Do you like to weave or sew? If so, you might want to make some blankets, clothes, and rugs during the winter months. It will keep you busy – and keep you warm, too.
18. Practice Tying Knots
If you’re anything like me, you probably know next to nothing about tying knots! Winter is a good time to teach yourself how to do so. Knots are invaluable on a homestead.
Whether you’re trying to hike or put up a tent, or you simply want to keep your livestock contained, knowing how to tie certain types of knots is important.
19. Make Soap
If you’re ready to experience the luxury of making your own personal care products, winter is a good time to do so. Consider making your own soap – it really doesn’t take that long, and you can stockpile it for the upcoming year.
Check out some of our articles on soapmaking:
- How to Make Liquid Hand Soap
- How to Make Liquid Dishsoap
- How to Make Homemade Laundry Soap and Fabric Softener
20. Make Tonics and Cough Syrups
Although we’re pretty lucky to rarely get sick in my house, every now and then, one of us will get a doozy of a cold. It’s important to have cough syrups and tonics on hand, but I’m not a huge fan of the store-bought variety. You can make your own with natural ingredients to fight the flu and colds in a more holistic way.
21. Break Out the Crockpot
I always love experimenting with my Crockpot during the winter months. There are several tasks I save specifically for wintertime – like rendering lard in the crockpot and making soup. A Crockpot or similar kind of slow cooker is great for this!
22. Preplan and Cook Some Freezer Meals
Just as I like to spend time cooking and baking during the winter months, I also find that it’s a great time to stockpile the freezer so I don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen when it’s hot out.
Take the time to make a few freezer meals – things like casseroles, pastas, and marinated meats freeze especially well. In most cases, they’ll last several months without losing flavor or quality.
23. Knit and Crochet
If you enjoy knitting or crocheting – or have always wanted to learn how to do it – winter is a great time to learn. You can make anything you want, whether it’s a hat, scarf, or blanket – and you’ll have plenty of fun gifts to give away at Christmastime, too!
24. Work on the Vermicomposting Bin
You should keep working on your outdoor compost bin all winter. Go out at least once a week to turn your pile, and make sure it stays adequately moist (though not overly sodden).
However, winter is also a good time to work on the vermicomposting (worm composting) bin indoors. It’s a great way to keep the composting action going when you don’t want to schlep out to the compost bin in the dead of winter.
You can even keep a vermicomposting bin in your basement or a hallway closet! When done correctly, there are no odors to worry about.
25. Bake Bread
I’m a big fan of sourdough, so I like to take advantage of the winter months to bake some bread. I throw it in the freezer and I find that it lasts remarkably well until the following spring.
26. Make Butter
Another product you can make during the winter months is butter. Homemade butter is easy to make, especially if you have access to the raw materials, and you can freeze it for use later in the year.
27. Clean and Maintain Tools
While the end of the gardening season can be hectic, it’s important that you don’t neglect the cleaning and maintenance of your tools. The key here is to make sure you still do it!
Winter is a good time to clean, sterilize, and maintain or fix any of your tools and gardening equipment, such as spades, shovels, racks, planting pots, and seed starting trays.
28. Make Cheese
If you’re going to make your own butter, you might as well make your own cheese, right? You will need to invest in some basic cheesemaking equipment – and it doesn’t hurt to take a basic class or two! – but ultimately, cheesemaking is a great way to spend those long winter nights.
29. Clean the Chimney
Make sure you check your chimney, and have it cleaned before you start a fire in your fireplace come winter.
30. Practice Winter Foraging
You never know what kind of medicinal herbs and edible plants you’ll find during the winter. Take some time to research which options can be found in your area. Some common winter foraging foods include black walnuts, and tea berries.
You can even hunt and trap during the winter months! Research the regulations in your area, of course, but keep in mind that many meat- and fur-bearing animals can be hunted and harvested all winter long.
31. Grow Winter-Hardy Crops
If you truly love gardening and don’t want to take a break from the outdoor garden plot during the winter months, rest assured, there are plenty of winter-hardy vegetables you can grow.
Some to plant in the late fall for a spring or summer harvest include garlic, onions, asparagus, and carrots. Just keep in mind that some are better suited to areas that experience warmer winters, while others are best grown in an old frame.
32. Make Bone Broth
Just as I save all of my lard rendering for the winter months, so, too, do I wait on my bone broth. We butcher chickens in June, July, and August, most years, so I always have plenty of bones left to make broth come November. Usually, I cook them down in the Crockpot, and then can the broth in a pressure canner later on.
33. Create Some Yogurt
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or know-how to make your own yogurt. You can even do it in an Instant Pot! Making yogurt is a great way to spend those long winter months.
34. Can Some Jellies and Jams
Winter is also a good time to pull those frozen berries out of the freezer to make some delicious jams and jellies. Again, they make great gifts!
35. Practice Fermentation
I’ve been wanting to give fermentation a try for a while, and I think this winter is going to be the time I finally give it a go! You can easily learn how to ferment food to make things like sourdough, pickles, and sauerkraut right in your own kitchen.
36. Plant in a Greenhouse
Depending on where you live, you might be able to grow plants in a greenhouse all winter long. In other climates, greenhouse growing might be possible only toward the tail end of winter (like where I live).
Either way, gardening in a greenhouse is a great way to either extend your growing season, or to get a jumpstart on next year’s.
37. Mend Clothes
I tend to save all of my mending for the winter months, too. From socks with holes in them to jeans that are looking a bit tattered, wait until winter to do your stitching. You can curl up in front of the fireplace – or your favorite television show! – to do so.
As you’re working on your winter cleaning chores that I mentioned above, you might as well take the time to declutter. There’s no feeling that is more frustrating than being cooped up in the house, surrounded by a ton of clutter.
Whether you donate your unused items or simply throw them out, take some time to declutter and you’ll feel the stress melting away.
39. Home Repairs
I have a long list of home repairs that need to be done this winter. We have a doorknob that doesn’t turn, a few spots of molding that need a bit of paint, and a few other basic home repairs to do.
Winter is a good time to do these tiny tasks, particularly those that don’t require you to move a lot of furniture or use heavy chemicals or paints that will fill the air with fumes (those are best saved for summer, when you can vacate the house entirely).
40. Read a Few Homesteading Books
I tend to save most of my reading for winter, too. Consider picking up a few books on homesteading to educate yourself during the “off-season.” The only downside to doing this is that you’ll find yourself chomping at the bit to return to the farm in the spring!
41. Practice Gun Safety and Target Practice
If you have guns in the house, it’s important to be safe. Take advantage of the extra time in the winter to learn more about gun safety and to practice shooting at a target.
42. Build Up Your Emergency Kit
You should have several emergency kits built and ready to go, with at least one in your vehicle and one in the house.
The contents of your emergency kit might vary depending on what kind of emergency you want to be prepared for, but generally, you’ll want to include items like bottled water, nonperishable snacks, first aid items, and fire-starting equipment.
43. Practice First Aid and CPR
As with the last idea, it’s important to brush up on your first aid skills several times throughout the year. Winter is a good time to do so. If you can, take a CPR refresher course. That way, you’ll be prepared for anything the upcoming year throws at you!
44. Build New Facilities
My husband always uses the winter months to start building any prefabricated items he needs for the following year indoors. One year, that was beehives. The next year, it was roost bars and nesting boxes for the chicken coop. Last year, he built lambing jugs.
Whatever you might need, consider building it indoors (if you have the spac to do so) during the winter months. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed with chores come spring.
45. Set Goals and Get Organized
Another one of my favorite things to do each winter is to write down a few goals I have for the upcoming year. This helps prevent me from becoming overwhelmed in the spring, when it seems like I have a million things to do. It also helps me get (and stay) organized. Plus, it provides a helpful dose of inspiration during the dreariest days of the year!
One other thing my husband and I do during the winter months is to reevaluate our pricing and sales strategies from the previous year. We run our homestead both for our own sustenance and as a business – we raise a variety of products for sale to the general public.
Therefore, we like to take the time in the winter to work out ways to grow our business and to figure out how we can be more organized and productive in the upcoming year.
And a bonus tip?…
Make sure you take some time to relax! I’m always the worst when it comes to relaxing – it seems like there are always a million things I want to do. However, winter is nature’s rest period, so make sure you take advantage of the lull, too.
Get some rest, and you’ll be chomping at the bit to get going on your homestead when the weather warms up in the spring!
Rebekah is a part-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies.