Well folks, it is undeniable. Winter is right around the corner.
Whether you dread these shorter, colder days, or embrace the sense of hygge it provides, there are things you can do to prepare. Here's a short list of things you can do outside your home to be ready for the impending snowy months ahead.
-If you haven't already, now is the time to remove vegetable plants and debris. The most important reason to do this is to prevent any residual plant viruses or bacteria from overwintering in your beds and cause problems in the spring. If you do remove the dead matter, it is suggested you do NOT compost, but rather dispose of in your trash or a local outdoor waste facility.
-Remove annual plant die-back, and most debris from perennials. The only exception is anything with seed heads. This is a wonderful source of winter food for birds, and
may spurn some lovely volunteer plants in the spring.
-Leaving leaves on your lawn over the winter can cause problems with snow mold, and
will not likely break down enough to give you a clean spring lawn. Many communities have preplanned leaf cleanup, but another alternative is to throw them in your compost pile, or use as natural winter cover over strawberry beds or other snow-sensitive perennials.
-I like to remove all of my yard decor before the snow flies. The main reason being that
moisture and freezing can ruin them, but also with kiddos running around the yard in winter, I worry they'll stumble upon something and hurt themselves. Any that are looking particularly worn or cracked can be brought inside to repair, or tossed.
Now is the time to get those gutters cleaned! Although spring seems far away, ice dams that can develop due to clogged gutters and melting snow should be prevented NOW. Hire someone, or get on the roof yourself (or use extended hoses designed specifically for this purpose), and deal with this unpleasant job as soon as you are able. It's worth it.
Get hoses emptied and coiled, then stored in the garage before the first hard freeze. It is also advisable to shut off your outside water sources from INSIDE the house, in case you have a leak.
You'll regret not doing this when the weather is warm, because the task of removing screens and putting on storm windows is cumbersome, at best. Plan this in advance. Some people keep this a calendar item from year to year in September to avoid forgetting. It is also a good time to wash the interior and exterior of your windows and screens...we need all the natural sunlight we can in the winter!
SHOVELS AND SCRAPERS
The best time to do a shovel inventory is BEFORE you need one! We store our shovels in the back of our garage in summer, and move them to the front in late fall. We check them for broken handles and blades, and make sure to buy anything we need before we need it.
This is the same for car scrapers. If you've ever been stuck scraping your windshield with a credit card, you know how this feels. We make sure our cars have emergency kits and scrapers by the first week of October. We usually throw a blanket and collapsable shovel in the back, too.
We typically do a heavy duty garage clean-out in spring and fall. We move all outdoor furniture inside, hang bicycles from the ceiling that won't get use, sweep, and make sure all winter gear is easily accessible.
Fall is also a great time to get your outdoor tools in order. Run your mower with STA-BIL, and store, oil and sharpen garden tools, and get your snowblower out and ready.
Take a moment to check your that your furnace works (a quick 5-minute cycle will usually let you know), and ensure that your filter is clean. Write the date you installed a new filter on the filter itself, as a reminder.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, it is a good time to do a complete overhaul of your vehicles, inside and out. Make sure your tires are winter-ready and safe, your wiper fluid is full, and your oil is clean. Wash the windows and head and tail lights, and get the interior tidied up. We always make sure we have hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and an extra mask or two in each vehicle, as well. (And don't forget that scraper!)
When the weather is still pleasant, take a walk around your house and check your furnace and dryer vents on the outside of your house. Sometimes critters take advantage of these warm places, but also debris and even plant growth can inhibit clear venting.
We only feed birds in the winter, as advised by local bird groups. We allow natural foraging to take place, and leave seed heads on any plant that produces them, but come winter when food is scarce, we have a heated birdbath and many feeders to keep our feathered friends happy. In the fall, we take sterilize our feeders in a bleach/water solution and clean and dry them completely. Conjunctivitis, in particular, can be passed between birds on feeders, and mold and mildew of seed debris in largely ignored.
A few years ago, we lost our oldest and largest tree to a spring storm. Although in that case, it could not have been prevented, we did hire a certified arborist to spend some time shoring up our trees and teaching us how to maintain them ourselves. Tree loss isn't typically covered by insurance, but can still have an affect on energy cost, house value, and certainly the beauty of your home. If you aren't in the market to hire someone, you still have time to read and learn how tree trimming is beneficial, particularly in advance of heavy, wet shows.
I hope these tips have given you and idea or two you can use. If so, please let me know!
I will be holding a second class, called "Organizing for Everyone" this Tuesday at 10am at the Black River Beach Neighborhood Center. It is FREE, and I hope to see you there!