Winter on the homestead is a little more complex than winter in the city. We aren’t just caring for ourselves and our homes, but we have another whole section of life to manage. From the livestock to the barn to the garden… everything has to be prepped to survive the cold winter months or we lose time, money, and possibly lives. There are some winter homestead essentials that I find very important to cold-weather survival and I would like to share them with you.
Preparing for Winter on the Homestead
If you are an off-grid homesteader, you have some extra chores in addition to what this grid-loving homesteader has to complete. I love reading about brave people, like Jim Beaty, who abandon the grid for a truly back-to-our-roots lifestyle, but I haven’t taken that leap just yet.
Winter Homestead Essentials
When you are preparing for winter on your homestead, you want to focus on animal care, food stores, first aid, and garden protection.
Since most herb and vegetable gardens aren’t producing during this time of year you will need to have a supply of food preserved and ready for the season. You will also want to ensure that your garden is protected and prepped for next spring.
Your animals will need a little extra care to get through the cold weather and it is always a good idea to keep emergency first aid supplies on hand.
Look through this list of winter homestead supplies to see what you might still need for your family this winter. Please remember that each homestead is different and, therefore, will require different supplies/equipment.
1. Food Preservation & Preparation Supplies
Bountiful spring, summer, and fall gardens often produce more food than can be eaten in a seasons-time.
There are some basic tools to keep on your homestead that will allow you to preserve, store, and prepare your fruits, veggies, and meat for use throughout the winter.
- Water-Bath Canner– A water bath canner can be used to preserve high-acidity (low pH) foods like jams, jellies, and some tomato products.
- Pressure Canner– Pressure canning should be used to preserve lower acidity (high pH) foods like green beans, meat, fish, etc.
- Food Dehydrator– Use a dehydrator to preserve meat, milk, herbs, make fruit leather, and more!
- Solar Oven– A solar oven can be used to cook & dehydrate food as well as boil & purify water even on the coldest days as long as there is sunlight.
- Root Cellar or Pantry– You will want to have extra food stored in a root cellar or pantry for use during winter emergencies if at all possible.
- Heat Source– You need a heat source for cooking and for heating your home. If you don’t have electricity or gas, this probably means that you need to stock up on firewood. It is a good idea to have some firewood on hand for emergencies even if you use electric or gas heat.
- Cast Iron Skillets– You may want to have some cast iron cookware on hand in case you need to cook over an open fire in the event of a long-term power outage.
2. Winter Homestead Livestock Essentials
It is important to prepare your animals for the cold months that lie ahead. Here are my top supplies and tips for overwintering livestock and honeybees.
Supplies for Overwintering Beehives
I try to stay pretty hands-off with my honeybees, but I do like to take some steps to prep them for winter. See more about overwintering honeybees here.
- Solid Bottom Board- It is a good idea to swap out your screened bottom board for a solid bottom board in the winter. This help to reduce drafts that come into the hive.
- Quilt Box- A quilt box can help to insulate the beehive.
- Sugar Cakes- Sugar cakes can be fed to the bees if they are running low on their own food stores. Learn to make them yourself here.
- Entrance Reducer- A wooden entrance reducer helps to decrease the cold air that is able to enter the beehive.
- Mouse Guard- A DIY metal mouse guard can be placed over the wooden entrance reducer to help keep mice from making a home inside the hive.
Supplies for Winterizing Livestock Shelters
Farm animals tend do pretty well in the cold, but they do need a dry and draft-free shelter. See how I winterize my chicken tractor here.
- Windbreak- Use thick plastic sheeting as a windbreak for your animals by securing it to the open walls of the shelter.
- Insulation- Straw can be used as insulation either as bedding or by stacking straw bales beside the shelter.
- Artificial Heat- I recommend NOT using artificial heat in your livestock shelters. If you decide to heat the coop or barn, please look at these safe alternatives to heat lamps.
Feeding Livestock in Winter:
This is where my brain jumps to immediately when I hear “winter homestead essentials”. What do I need to feed and water my animals properly in freezing temps?
- Homemade Winter Chicken Treats- I like to make lard cakes or suet cakes every now and then for my chickens when it is cold out. See my recipe here.
- Homemade Treats for Horses & Goats- Horses and goats like to get these tasty baked treats all year round!
- Homemade Rabbit Treat- Can’t leave the rabbits out! Make these simple treats for your bunnies in the winter.
- Fodder System– Growing fodder is a great way to keep feeding your animals fresh greens throughout the winter. Grab some fodder trays and seeds to get started!
- Tank Heater- A submergible stock tank heater works great to keep your livestock waterers from freezings which, in turn, keeps you from needing to bust ice each day. You can also choose a heated waterer or a heated dog bowl.
3. Winter Homestead Garden Essentials
- Cold Frame– Build or purchase a cold frame to help extend your growing season.
- Prep Back to Eden Garden– Make sure that you are caring for your Back to Eden garden area through the winter so that you will be ready to plant in the spring.
- Frost Cover- Use a frost cover/shade cloth/row cover to protect your cold-weather garden from the elements.
- The Homestead Garden Planner– Use this time to plan and prepare for next spring’s garden. Use this planner to lay out all of your ideas.
4. Winter Homestead Emergency Essentials
- Vet First Aid Kit– If you live 30+ minutes from the nearest town/vet, then you NEED an emergency kit. You should really have one on hand even if you live next door to your vet. It is much better to have wound spray and medications in the barn than to have to make a trip to the store every time your animals are wounded or sick.
- Waterproof Flashlights– Waterproof flashlights are a must! And don’t forget the batteries!
- Emergency Candles– Buy several emergency candles to keep on hand in case your power goes out. In a pinch, you can even burn a stick of butter, a crayon, an orange peel, or vaseline!
- Water Filtration System- A Berkey water filtration system is a must-have on my homestead year-round. They also have water bottles with filters to use in an emergency situation.
- Generator– If your homestead is like mine and does use electricity, you will want to have a generator on hand in case of a power outage.
- First-Aid Kit for the Family- Have a small first-aid kit put together in case there are injuries on the homestead.
5. Apparel and Supplements for Homesteaders
- Insulated Bib Overalls– I love these Carhartt insulated overalls! They keep me warm and help keep my jeans (or pj pants) clean while I’m doing winter farm chores.
- Heavy Duty Coat- I have a heavy waterproof coat that I wear to do my chores. Every now and then I will use this on as well.
- Insulated Chore Boots- The Sloggers that I use in the summertime don’t cut it when there is snow on the ground. For the cold months, I like to keep a pair of insulated Muck boots.
- Insulated & Waterproof Gloves- I’ve tried doing winter chores without gloves because I think I’m tough and can handle it, but I’m not and I can’t. Get some good insulated work gloves.
- Supplements- I COULD NOT keep up with all of my responsibilities as a mom, a business owner, and a homesteader if I still felt like I did before I took control of my health. I highly recommend finding supplements that work for you to keep you on top of your game. I currently use a mix of probiotics, magnesium, homemade fire cider, and homemade elderberry syrup to keep my body in tip top shape.