Winter Prep on the Homestead

Fall is here and winter is coming fast! We are getting down in the 30’s at night so that means it is about time we got the wood stove installed, skirt the tiny home, collect fire wood, plan our water supply and grey water filtration, and prep our animal’s winter supply of food, bedding, and water. We have heard rumors of last winter getting down to -30 degrees! That said, we are doing everything we can to ensure a smooth, stress-free, and warm winter.

The Wood Stove & Fire Wood:

This past week we installed the wood stove since the temperatures have been dropping. I am so proud of Grant for his homemade wood stove project. His vision came to life and is working spectacularly! First, he researched the best designs for wood stoves with an oven and cooktop. He read Design Principles of the Wood Burning Cook Stove which provided him insight into the most efficient stove design.  Then, with free materials (two different size hot water heaters that were being replaced), some scrap 1/8″ thick plate steel, and a welder he got to work building his first wood burning stove. We have cooked multiple meals in it already and it has been cooking to perfection! In order to get the oven to 350-400 degrees the fire has to be raging pretty good which takes about three logs. Heating up the fire for cooking  makes the tiny house about 75-80 degrees so we have to open the windows and door to cool off a little. I am happy to know we will be plenty warm this winter though!

We started “Firewood Friday” to keep us on track to collect the four cords we need to be prepared for winter. We currently have two cords so we are half way there! What a workout hauling firewood is though! My goodness! I got my 10,000 steps in walking firewood from the woods to the truck and my biceps were feeling it! We only collect wood that has fallen or someone cut and left unused. There is PLENTY of recent deadfall to choose from without having to cut down live trees. We have found it easier to keep the logs in 8′ lengths and cut them down when we get home. It is less trips back and forth in the woods. Also, we put a piece of plywood down when we cut the logs to firewood length so that we can collect the saw dust for our composting toilet.

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Skirting the Tiny House:

Unlike a conventional home, tiny homes are elevated off the ground a couple of feet and will need to be enclosed for winter to help insulate and keep cold drafts out! Thankfully, our plumbing lines are ran internally so we will not have to worry about freezing pipes. We only did this after they froze last winter. 🙂 Sometimes you learn the hard way! We purchased 3″ foam board insulation and tin sheets for skirting. We are halfway done with this project. All that is left is cutting the insulation into strips and then gluing them to the tin sheets that are already in place. This space can be a breeding ground for mice and other vermin so we are showing our cats the awesome new hang out spot so they hopefully find endless meals and entertainment and keep any potential vermin problems to a minimum.

Water:

We are still working on the spring… we got distracted and we haven’t made a lot of progress recently. Grant plans to keep working on it until the ground freezes, but we have been graciously allowed to use water from a nearby well so we will be hauling water for the winter and transferring to our indoor 55 gallon tank week by week. The water won’t freeze inside our tiny home so no worries there!

Grey Water:

We currently have a five gallon bucket which we collect our sink and shower grey water in. We use all organic, biodegradable products so we have been giving this water to our apple trees. They are loving it and really doing well compared to how they looked on week one! The water is filtered through the thick layer of mulch covering the base of our trees and into the soil and roots.

Obviously, during the colder months a bucket of standing water will freeze so we have been brainstorming options without adding antifreeze or other nasty stuff to the water like some RV’s use in their grey water collection tanks. Our plan is to create a grey water pond. First, it will go through a filtration system consisting of large to small rock gravel, into a reed bed, and then into a pond. This will all be started at ground level and be dug down to 8 ft. deep. It will have a glass angled roof at, or a few feet above, ground level so this enclosed earth structure will also be a greenhouse. Light will come in through the roof so it will be important for us to clear the roof of snow. We just began digging so I will write a full post on that once it is completed.

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Livestock Needs:

The last key component to being prepared for winter is our animal’s feed, bedding, and water. We calculated our hay requirements for three sheep to be just over one ton which can range in price from $3-5/ bale. The weight of the bales varies but we want small rectangle bales that I can move so they are about 45-70 lbs. per bale. Hay should cost us $100-120/ ton. So for three sheep it will cost us a little over $150 for a winter supply of hay. It is on next week’s list to find the best deal and go pick up at least a ton of hay, if it will fit in one load with the truck and trailer! We are cutting all our own grass to pile up and store for the chicken coop. The chickens will appreciate a nice layer of grass straw to keep them warm throughout winter. It also helps keep the floor of the coop a bit cleaner. Lastly, without the ability to use an electric water bucket for the animals we are planning ahead for the best ways to keep water during the freezing months. I’ve found that if you use an old tire, stuff it with grass straw, and then put a black watering bowl inside the tire. This could be a new oil pan or any other bucket that fits inside the tire. The key is that it is black to help heat up in the sun. I have heard of using an old pop bottle with salt water in it or even ping pong balls to float in the water. Having something floating in the water will help deter freezing since there will be more movement. This will be an experiment and we will surely have to break out ice from the buckets most mornings, but hopefully this trick will help a little bit. If you have any tricks you know for keeping water from freezing in the winter please leave me a comment below! We know that being a few feet below ground level will help regulate temperature. We plan for our barn to be one story below ground so that we will not have to deal with freezing temperatures in the stalls of the barn.

Well, that covers our winter prep list. Fall is in full swing here on the homestead! We are dreaming of winter; me of warm tea and reading near the fire and Grant is dreaming of skiing down Vulcan Mountain. We love it here and are looking forward to the adventures winter has to bring.

 

 

 

 

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