Pre-Winter Homestead Preparations

The weather man was right. He said snow was in the forecast for higher elevations here in Central New York State. Three miles down the road it is raining hard. But at my house the wet snow is coming down sideways. The ground is white.

I don’t mind winter. In fact, I like winter. But I don’t like having to drive to and from my job in the city five days a week, in the winter. I’d rather stay home and work in my shop. I like working in my shop, with the wood stove cranking out the British Thermal Units, and the snow blowing outside, and my home just a short walk away. I’d rather write and illustrate a couple more Whizbang how-to books in the winter than go to my city job every day. I could be very productive in the winter.

But, if all goes well this winter, I will still be productive, on the weekends. I hope to make big progress on a Whizbang Cider Press and Apple Grinder plan book. And in my shop I am now getting set up to produce a new Whizbang product that is still top secret. I think it will be big. I hope it will be big. Really big. Every serious gardener in the country will want this item. No. Every serious gardener in the WORLD will want one of these things! At times like this I have to reign in my Walter Mitty inclinations.

My goal is to grow my home business and quit the city job. In time, I might actually be able to do this. But not quite yet. And before all of that, though, with snow and cold in the forecast, there were things that needed to be done here on our little homestead.....


I informed my 14-year-old son, James, that the rest of the pile of firewood (our home-heating fuel for the winter) needed to be split by last weekend, or our agreement (to pay him) was off. He enlisted the help of his brothers and got the job done. Splitting firewood is, as I have written here before, good work for older boys. Here are a couple of them on task:

That is Robert with the splitting maul held aloft, reveling in his youthful strength and ability. He and his brothers expend twice as much energy as needed to get the job done. But they have an abundance of it to expend. Me? I’ll split a few chunks for old time’s sake and go back to stacking.

Marlene helped stack a lot of firewood too. I took a picture of her but can’t post it here because she did not approve of it. All pictures of Marlene must be approved by Marlene before getting posted to this blog. That’s the rule and I comply. Of course all pictures of me have to be approved by me. ;-)

But I really wanted to show you the picture because Marlene had two different colored gloves on and I thought it reflected the practicality of our rural life. Unlike a glossy magazine picture showing some illusion of country life, complete with nifty duds, and matching gloves, we just make do.

But wait! We were able to find a compromise. I figured out how to crop the picture on my computer. Here it is:

Now all of our firewood is stacked and under cover. Just in time. Here’s a picture this afternoon (three days after the above pictures) taken in the same general direction as the one above with Robert & James.


Earlier this year I posted an essay in which I showed you my squash plants, mulched with sheets of old steel roofing. Now, here is one of the many squash we harvested:

That particular squash is a Marina Di Chioggia, a warted Italian heirloom variety. Some might call it ugly. But its ugliness is only skin deep. Underneath that warty exterior is a beautiful, golden, sweet interior.

Marlene typically bakes big squash like this in the oven. Then she scrapes the insides out, adds some butter, and sometimes a little maple syrup.


This was a good grape year. The last time I showed you a picture of my Concord grapes on the vine, they were green. Well, they ripened and sweetened and here is what they ended up looking like last week:

After the killing frosts, when the leaves turn brown and start to fall off, that’s when the grapes are their sweetest. And that’s when Marlene makes grape juice. I hope to post an essay here shortly about making grape juice.


I grew some red kidney beans this year. Two days ago, with snow in the forecast, I pulled up the row of leafless stems with dry bean pods attached. I piled them on a plastic tarp, carried them into my shop and dropped them on the floor. Soon, I will get to removing the individual pods and I'll let them further dry down. Then I will shell them and harvest the beautiful bright red beans. Some of the beans will be planted next year. The rest will be used to make chili... homemade chili.

What a remarkable system: Plant a few beans in the ground and harvest a lot of beans. Save a few to plant again the next year and eat the rest. Repeat this procedure year after year, generation after generation. Absolutely amazing!


We were late getting our potatoes dug. But not too late. The day before the blowing snow arrived we finished digging the last row of spuds. Now they are in my shop, drying down. This next weekend I will crate them up and take them down into our basement. We will eat our own homegrown potatoes through the winter and into the spring. Then, just like with those beans, we can plant some of the potatoes and grow more.


One crop we did get harvested before the last minute was onions. Once again, the Copra variety of onions that I always grow did very well. They are big. They are fairly sweet, and they are excellent keepers. I have several net bags of these hanging from nails in the ceiling of our basement.


Those last days before the first snow storm of the season blows in are busy ones on a homestead. But this is the “reward” time of year. The work is now pretty much done. The larder is full of wholesome, homegrown food. The firewood is split and stacked by the door. Now the snow is here and the roads are slippery. We are inside, warm and comfy, watching the show out our window.

Put all of these things together and what does it add up to? We call it “the good life.” And in the midst of a crazy world, we are very thankful for it.


Kristianna said...

I always enjoy your posts! I especially enjoyed this one. No snow in our area, yet.


Unknown said...

I love posts like this. What good ants your family has been! My friend in Homer has been giving me reports on the weather up there. She hates snow! Oh well. She'll learn to love it. Here in SE MO we had our first frost this morning. I love snow, but am not ready for it yet! But I sure love this season of prepration. I love that winter kinda gives you permission to stay at home and cozy-down and just enjoy your family and do "quiet" work.


Unknown said...

Oh, and I might be showing my age here, or just my ignorance, but after several mentions now of Walter Mitty I finally had to "google" him. I understand now! And also better appriciate a children's parody my librarian cousin did called "The Secret Life of Walter's Kitty."

Ya learn somethin' new every day.

James said...

Good to see the boys have the 4-wheeler running again! Last time we saw it, it was on it's end and had no engine... they sure can absorb a lot at that age... when they want to.


Anonymous said...

What beautiful colors you all have in your area! The leaves, the drying grass, the purple grapes, the delicious orange and green squash! What a bounty!

My family is in the deserts of Arizona. It has a special beauty. But I really appreciate a place with four seasons. Very lovely. Thanks for sharing. Essays such as this one reming me why we choose to live in the country and deal with the costs of it, like driving to a city job.

Keep up the photo essays this winter, I enjoy them.

Barb J. said...

I love it when the harvest is in and we can sit back and rest for a moment. You have a great harvest! We are still working as it is just now starting to get cold in the Carolinas (at least in our part of it). We still have some lettuce, cabbage and carrots that we are covering on cold nights. Of course, we probably won't get snow until January!

Mrs Flam said...

*drool* I Love You Harvested Pics. Someday I hope to have the same.

Anonymous said...

Herrick -

Ah, the "good life" indeed! Here's a great recipe for those beautiful onions. I made this all summer (I had to get my onions at the Farmer's Market), and I'll probably be making it all winter too, because teen-age boys love it! Mix 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. coarse salt or sea salt, dash of Cayenne pepper, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup beer, 1 large egg Slice onions into thin rings, dip into batter, and fry in hot oil till golden and crispy Don't forget a generous sprinkling of salt while they're hot!
My own son won't eat them, but his friends love them, and so does my husband.

Carla Hays

Anonymous said...

I hope you have the new Whizbang product patented if its as big as your say it is.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

We will try that recipe Carla. Sounds good!

Thanks for the advice anonymous, but my "new Whizbang product for gardeners" is not patentable. It is a homemade version of an old garden tool that is still available but ridiculously overpriced. I will actually be posting a free how-to blog telling anyone who is interested how to make their own inexpensive, yet very durable and effective "new Whizbang product for gardeners." Then, for those who need a little help, I'll offer a dandy parts kit. I may also offer already-made versions. Stay tuned...