September for some means back to school, pumpkin spice lattes and anything autumn related. For us, it generally means we have very limited amount of time left to get everything we need prepped and ready for winter. Yes, you read that right. WINTER.
Because we live in Virginia we don’t have to worry much about long winters. However, that does not mean we get to slack off on prepping for the inevitable storm that knocks out power or keeps us home bound. Part of living a Self-Sustaining or Homesteading lifestyle is being prepared. A lot of what we are doing now is really through trial and error. Last year we didn’t have enough wood to heat our home so as a result Greg planned out how much wood we would need and scoured Craigslist for Ads of people asking for trees to be removed from their lots.
This year we have been blessed to have a friend who has a large piece of property and has generously given us permission to take down or remove the dead trees that have already fallen. To say this opportunity has been a life saver is a huge understatement. Because of their generosity we will be able to heat our home throughout the entire winter without having to pay for propane! If you don’t have a friend who can help, see if you can barter your services or time to anybody in your area who has trees they need removed.
Here are some helpful hints for First timers:
- Check with the owner about property lines: It is super important that you know where the property lines are if you are going alone on to some property you aren’t familiar with. You can also double check online with your local GIS maps about where property lines end. The last thing you want to do is piss off their neighbors and ruin a relationship.
- Stick to what has fallen already or what the owner has approved to be cut down: We always double check with the owner to verify that we can chop down certain trees. Also be aware of power and telephone lines.
- Bring a Wood Splitter along if you can: Bringing a wood splitter along has helped us tremendously in getting more wood for each trip we make. Ours is currently a loaner from very gracious friends and we easily double our haul when one person is stacking and the other cuts. This cuts down on trips and gas!
- Bring a Buddy: This is the number one safety tip. Sometimes, because of our work schedules, Greg has to go out alone which makes me very nervous. Before he starts any work, Greg tells me exactly what area he’ll be in and then texts me before he starts followed by a text every 15 min to let me know he’s still kicking. If he doesn’t text, I’ll text/call until I get a response (Think Stage 5 clinger status). Anything can happen and it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are so they can send help.
- Get familiar with the types of trees and how they burn: Before I married Greg, I had no idea there was a method to using a wood stove. I figured if it burned in it went. Boy was I wrong! Each type of bark burns differently (So does paper!) and if you want your wood stove to maintain a long and healthy life, get very acquainted with what you’re using in your stove. For a helpful guide on which types of trees burn efficiently check this link out.
- Try to get kindling ready before it snows, not after: One of the things we realized last winter is that it is much easier to have a stack of kindling ready to go once the season starts then realize you’re out and have to go make some. During one of my Girls’ Night, Greg took it upon himself to get a structure going that will help us not run out this year. ( Look below, Not too shabby!) These pieces are smaller and will help get the fire started going much more efficiently than if you tried a bigger log
Greg and I definitely feel much more prepared about this winter then we did last year around this time. Even though Self-sustaining means you are doing most of the work on your own, it does take a community of friends and family to help you. We have leaned heavily on our friends and family with their wealth of knowledge to get us to this point. We’ve come to realize that this is going to be a long learning process and we’ll need to be patient with ourselves. At the end of the day, you do feel the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work is going to pay off.
If you have any helpful hints or advice, we’d love to hear them!