Prepping for Winter & The Return Indoors

Up here in Michigan we had beautiful fall weather for about two weeks and then mother nature smirked and drop-kicked us right into winter, which became fully apparent when I found myself driving home last week. In snow.

So by “prepping for winter” what I really mean is, “shit I actually should have done before it started snowing, but will now have to do in sub-freezing weather.” Which, if we’re being honest, is basically par for the course around here. Winter prep is a little depressing and I hate doing it before I actually have to. And now I actually have to, so here’s what’s on the list:

The Orchard

I didn’t plant any new trees this year, and of my 8 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 3 peach trees, and 2 cherry trees, I continue to get an awesome peach harvest…


And then only a handful of apples, a couple of pears, and one lonely cherry this year.


I’m not sure if my soil is better suited to peaches, or if peach trees just produce more fruit as young trees, but these have done so well that I’m considering adding another row of them to the orchard next year. I’m hoping the apples, pears, and cherries catch up as they become more established.

The nice thing about winter prep in the orchard is that the fruit trees don’t require much in fall. I did spray the peach trees with a copper fungicide last week to combat peach-leaf curl. I had this issue two years ago, and then it was much better this last summer with regular applications of my general fruit-tree spray, but it’s also recommended that you use a copper fungicide in fall (when 80% of the leaves have fallen, so I was probably a little later than preferred) and then again in spring when the buds are full.


I’ll also double-check the stakes for all of the cages surrounding the trees in the next couple of weeks, as I’ve had a few blow over in the wind in previous years. Other than that, the orchard is all set for the winter.

The Vineyard

Grape harvest this year was also small…


That’s about it. Just a few grapes from my Concord vines that are doing better than any of the others (which isn’t surprising as they thrive in this region.)

This was only year 2 for the grapes though, and it takes a couple of years to get them established. I’m hoping for more fruit in years 3 and 4.

Like the fruit trees, the vines themselves don’t need much in fall, but I’ve got a little more work to do on the trellis system to tighten and secure the wires before winter.

The Garden

Oh, the garden. My mom and I spend so much time planting, prepping, and weeding the garden in spring and I certainly love having fresh produce right in my back yard all summer…


My tomatoes did well this year (not well enough to save and can any, but enough that I had fresh tomatoes any time I wanted them) and I made good use of all of my zucchini


There was also a really fun weekend in late summer when my mom and I harvested some corn and grilled it with burgers for lunch…


On one hand, all that spring work is worth it for those little moments of joy that come from just walking out to the garden and picking something to eat. On the other hand, my mom and I both agree that we kind of burn-out in spring and by summer (and harvest-time) we’re not supper motivated to utilize the harvest to it’s fullest extent.

I mean, we had one good weekend of corn, but the rest I didn’t pick until too late. Almost all of my cucumbers, cabbage, and green peppers were over-ripe before I picked them. The green beans grew like crazy this year, but not until late in the season and I think I only ate a handful of them.

To be fair, I’m pretty good at picking tomatoes, basil, and chives for breakfast sandwiches regularly throughout the summer…


And I made a concerted effort to chop and freeze my onion harvest this year…


Also, because my garlic often sprouts before I use it, I tried a couple of new ways to preserve it, including freezing chopped garlic in oil…


And “pickled garlic”…


I haven’t used any of them yet (because I’ve still got a dozen or so fresh heads to use up first) but I’ve done better this year at preserving some of my harvest than in previous years.

As far as getting ready for winter in the garden, most of the work that needs to be done is cleaning up the beds, but I also planted garlic for next year…


And, of course, this year I had the mess left by The Great Greenhouse Disaster of 2017…


I did finish up the foundation, but I’m still working on fixing up all of the panels so that I can put the thing back together. I’m not sure if I’ll get it rebuild this winter, but it’s optimistically on my list (along with fixing the sections of fence that were crushed when the greenhouse rolled over them.)

The Animals

While most of the work for the other parts of the farm come in spring, when it comes to the donkeys, chickens, and bees, a lot of the work needs to be done around this time of year.

For the donkeys, there’s hay to stock up on…


I’m super grateful to my mom, who came with me this year (and also suggested we spike some hot cider with rum before unloading the truck) and also to my neighbors who helped with the hauling and stacking of hay bales in the barn. I’m lucking to have people around me who help make the work easier.

I also spent a few hours cleaning out the barn, spreading new straw throughout, and getting all of the heater waterers set up for winter.


Just for reference (and because my mom reminded me of it over the weekend) this is what the barn used to look like back in 2013, the week before the donkeys came to live on the farm…


I’ve got a few more barn-chores on my list this winter, like building a storage box for “open” hay bales (which the chickens like to spread around and create a mess) and making a secondary chicken waterer for inside the coop using “poultry water nipples” (swear to god I’m not making that up, it’s a real thing.)

But for now the most important thing is that I’ve got 50 bales of hay tucked away in the barn, which means the animals will be fed through spring.

The House

In summer I spend as much time as possible outside, which means all of my indoor projects go on hold around March. Then the darkness sets in, I find myself indoors more often, and all of the sudden all of those house-projects I’ve been neglecting for the last few months (or years) are RIGHT IN MY FACE.

Which is good, because five years of living in a house with only plywood subfloor in half the rooms is enough.

As soon as I’m done with winter-prep it’ll be back to the kitchen. (This is where I was at in spring. Still looks like that, but with more dirty dishes all over the place.) I still need to:

  • Install the range hood and venting system
  • Finish the cabinet trim
  • Tile the backsplash
  • Caulk and finish painting all the wood paneling
  • Build a window seat
  • Finish the doorway trim
  • Install new lights
  • Tile the floor

Also, I’m planning to re-side the back of the house in spring and replace a number of the mismatched kitchen windows, so that’s on the list as well.

Vying for second place on the priority list are the upstairs bath–which literally just needs to have the floor leveled and tiled and the new toilet (that I’ve owned for 4 years) installed– and building/installing the laundry room pantry.

I’ve also had the crazy idea about diving my mudroom (which is huge) into a smaller vestibule and a storage area, but that’s a project I won’t be starting until the kitchen, laundry room, and upstairs bath are done. Probably.

The one thing I can say is that after almost six years, I’m at the point where I want things done more than I want to start new projects, which might be the first time that’s happened to me ever. So. We’ll see how that plays out this winter.

Wish me luck.

21 Responses

  1. Whole, peeled garlic cloves freeze well and can still be sliced or crushed. I also like to ferment them for about a week, then move them to the refrigerator.

  2. “shit I actually should have done before it started snowing, but will now have to do in sub-freezing weather.” HA!!! No Shit!!

    Store your garlic in a cool, dark, dry place and it won’t sprout as quickly..and you can still use it sprouted. 😉 I did not get mine planted yet this year, first time in a decade.

    I keep a bale of straw and one of hay for the chooks. Made ‘bale bags’ out of feed bags to contain the ‘cut’ bales. They were tricky to sew up but work great. Would but don’t think I can post a pic here tho.

    How and when do you prune your fruit trees and grapevines?

  3. Poultry nipples are a great idea and super convenient. Just be prepared for more maintenance than the traditional double walled fount. Be careful about letting them freeze, as the lubing nipples are plastic and will crack easily. Also be mindful of your water pressure in the lines. You want your ball float in the standpipe to sit about halfway up and the pressure to be just high enough that water flows when you tap the nipple with your finger, but not so high that droplets form at the end of the nipple. Too high pressure in your lines will lead to wet yucky litter which then creates high ammonia in the coop, and higher incidences of e. coli infections in your flock. Also consider how you’re going to keep the nipple line clean. Since the lines are opaque it creates a dark environment that builds up biofilm easily, which can harbor bacteria and clog the nipples. You’ll probably need to flush the lines every couple weeks during warm weather with a citric acid or peroxide solution to keep them clean.

  4. Goodness, I know how much work a garden an 7 chickens are! Add on donkeys, building a climbing wall and taking much needed vacations…I don’t know how you do it.

    You don’t watch much tv do you? 😉

    1. Ha, no TV, but I do sometimes binge-read books to the point that I have to institute a book-ban any time I’m in the middle of big projects. Right now I’m not allowed to read anything new until Christmas! 😉

  5. Wow! And I get testy about raking leaves. Perspective adjusted!

    Envious of your orchard & vinyard, and looking forward to the progress in the kitchen and master bath! I keep chopped garlic in oil in fridge all the time. Guess I should get some planted …. seems most everything cooked at our house has garlic!

  6. For one less thing to do, buy bale bags. Super convenient, heavy duty (we use them for moving around hay during horse shows and trail camping) and fairly inexpensive.

  7. “five years of living in a house with only plywood subfloor”

    I will not count back and figure out ow long its been since I ripped up the wall-to-wall carpeting.

  8. Wow I didn’t even know you could freeze garlic. Just curious, are the donkeys fine in the barn over the winter? Do you have to keep the heaters running 24/7? Good luck and it sounds like you have the winter prep under control :D.

    1. They move freely in and out of the barn in winter… no heaters. They grow very thick coats for winter and stay nice and warm.

  9. Wow. That’s a lot of work but I’m sure it paid off. Do you cover your veggie patch with a tarp for winter? I’ve been wondering if it’s worthwhile so it’s a little easier to till the ground in spring.

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