The Homesteader’s Blizzard Checklist

blizzard

Homesteading isn’t for the faint of heart.

Especially if you live in blizzard country.

Now for those of you who are apartment homesteaders, or maybe reside in a warmer part of the country, feel free to enjoy this post with a sense of satisfaction that you don’t have to deal with these issues. ;)

But if you ARE homesteading in a more wintery part of the country, I just want to say- I feel your pain.

I had no idea of the power of a blizzard before I moved to Wyoming. Snow storms? Sure. Literal white-outs where you can’t see your hand in front of your face? That’s only in movies… Right?

If only I knew…

The first winter at our homestead was a doozy.

blizzard

That is our house. And behind the massive peak of snow is our front door. Let’s just say we were very thankful that the house has 2 doors. The other door’s drift was only half that size.

The view from inside the house:

I seriously considered bringing a shovel inside the house that year in case we had to dig from the inside out!

Thankfully since that first year, we’ve put in tree rows, snow fences, and a deck, which has helped to greatly reduce the drifting. Eliminated? No way. But definitely reduced.

So I’ve put together a Winter Storm Preparations checklist for all of you homesteaders that live in colder climates.

I’ve learned (often the hard way) that it is way easier to go out and do a little prep before the blizzard hits, versus trying to play catch up when it’s storming so hard that you can’t see the barn from the house.

And because no one should have to dig a frozen hose out from under 5 feet of crusty snow. (Trust me, I know.)

The Homesteader’s Blizzard Checklist

When a severe winter storm is being forcasted here are a few things you can do to make your life easier:

  • Fill all animal waterers to the top. Watering is far more enjoyable when your fingers aren’t trying to freeze together and the hose isn’t cracking.
  • Dig out tank heaters or heated water bowls & make sure they work. We have a small heated dog bowl for the chickens in the winter. They love it and so do I.
  • If previous tip is not applicable, find your ax. For our big tanks, we do things the old-fashioned way… Lots of ice chopping. But it’s a good workout…Right?
  • Drain all the hoses and put them in your barn or garage. Because, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, worse than an empty water tank and a frozen solid hose. Ugh.
  • Muck out the barns and/or coop. After a good blizzard, there is often NO WAY to drive a wheelbarrow around our barnyard for days (and sometimes weeks…) Therefore, I always feel better starting out with a clean-ish barn.
  • Move animals inside, if needed. Our rather “delicate” goats get moved to a pen in the big barn during bad weather. I know, they’d probably be fine with their lean-to shelters, but they act so pitiful that I can’t help myself.

  • Fill hay feeders full and make sure you have plenty of easy-to-access hay. If you store your bales outside, it might be a good idea to move some into the barn so they do not become buried. Remember that animals will eat more hay during cold weather to stay warm, so make sure they start off with full feeders.
  • If you have poultry, plug in heat lamps and make sure you have extra bulbs. Mine always break at the worst possible times…
  • Chain up your tractor and/or vehicles if need be. It’s always easier to chain up when it’s not freezing cold and blowing 100 mph. Ask me how I know…
  • Dig out your muck boots and warm clothes. Carhartt coveralls, tall insulated boots, and a silk scarf are a must at my house.
  • Make sure you have enough food, water, and toilet paper in the house. This is usually the least of my worries since we always have ample amounts of food stored in our pantry and freezers. But, it seems that most people frantically run to the grocery store whenever a storm is predicted. My suggestion is to always have supplies stored up.
  • Think ahead. What would you do for heat or water if the power was to go off for a period of time? It’s good to have a game plan thought out ahead of time for such instances.
  • Get ready to stay warm. If you have a wood stove, make sure to have plenty of firewood chopped and brought into the house.
  • Have a little entertainment handy. In Wyoming, road closures are a very frequent event. The first day of being snowed in is always fun. The second day is a little boring, and by the third day, you’ll have a whole new understanding of the term “cabin fever”. Have a stash of movies, boardgames, books, projects (baking bread is always cozy when it’s snowing. I canned applesauce during our last storm), to keep you busy if you are stuck inside for a while.
  • String a rope from your house to your barn. Okay, okay, I’m kidding on that one… Little House on the Prairie fans will know what I’m talking about. ;) Actually, during that first blizzard, I totally understood why the old timers did that. In fact, it was such a white-out one day that our dogs got lost in the front yard and started barking because they couldn’t find their way back to the house (only about 40 feet away…) So maybe that rope wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Like I said, none of these things HAVE to be done before it starts snowing, but man, life is sure easier when they are!

It’s barely November and we’ve already had 3 decent snow storms at our house. No real blizzards yet, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s going to be a “tough” winter like everyone is saying…

Honestly though? As much as I complain about the snow, I have to admit that hubby and I still get a little excited when a “big one” is predicted in the forecast. (Let me rephrase that: We like it when they come in December or January. By May, we are getting a little tired of snow…)

There is just something about the real, raw excitement of battling the elements that brings a little bit of adventure to life. And that is what homesteading is all about.

This post is a part of Farm Friend Friday, Living Well Blog Hop

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Comments

  1. I remember my first {winter} year here in Wyoming, I was stranded in a little town for a week because of the snow, I couldn’t figure it out, a little snow storm….until I drove home and witnessed what really happens in open land with no trees….yeah…it buried school buses…thanks for the great post.

  2. Roxanne Hill says:

    Good tips. I have one for mucking. I use a plastic sled to move poop out of barn and also to move square hay bales around.

    • EXCELLENT idea Roxanne! Why have I never thought of that?! :)

      • I LOVE using my sled for moving things around in winter. We brings loads of wood to the house in it – even little kids can pull it if it’s not stacked too high. After our first winter, I had to buy the kids a new sled – for just them!

  3. You said it best on your Facebook page – jaw-dropping photos!!!

    That photo of the wall of snow in your front doorway is amazing!! It’s incredible, comical, and somewhat eery(sp?).

    Poor dogs. Being so close to the house and having no idea where it’s at. So sad. :(

    Great post!

  4. Wow those are amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing. We get snow, but nothing spectacular here in the interior. I’d say your checklist would apply to our -40 to -50 degree weather preparations too. Love the little house in the prairie reference :)

  5. I grew up outside Chicago, so I’ve seen some snow. But never as a homesteader. For me blizzards just meant listening to the radio waiting and waiting to hear if our school would be closed.

    I confess to getting a little envious just reading your list. I’m sure the reality of dealing with a frozen hose is not good, but having the land and livestock that actually make that a problem remains just a distant dream for me.

    • I can totally relate to that, Beth. I didn’t grow up with land and livestock, but I literally craved it for years and years. I completely understand what those longings are like! But, I want to reassure you that God does fulfill dreams. Sometimes, I can hardly believe that I am where I am, on the Wyoming plains with a bunch of critters. Your time will come!
      Wishing you all the best! :)

    • I am glad I am not the only one waiting for the day to get livestock! ;)

  6. I don’t see a problem with that wall of snow covering your door. It just makes for extra insulation, right??!!

    Good article. :-)

  7. We live in mid- missouri. It seems like our snow is less frequent…:( we do like a good snow fall now and then. We have experienced many of the things you talked about on the homestead. Frozen water hoses, bales of hay covered up, chicken lights go out. But over the years we have learned to be prepared for the worst (most of the time the worst passes to our north). But we are ready. Love your post it made me laugh. I read the Little house series just last year! They were great!

  8. Well, we’re not quite that blasted here, but the last couple of winters have brought record snowfalls. I admit, I’m glad I have friends with critters instead of having them all myself. The garden goes to sleep in winter. ;-)

    • Laurie, I will admit that every so often, I have thought about how easy it would be without the critters. But, we are still crazy enough to love it nonetheless. ;)

  9. Oh my!!!!
    I thought we had it bad in Chicago last year when our blizzard was waist high. You had us beat by a country mile!
    ~

  10. Wow. That front door photo is insane! I thought we had it bad here in Colorado…

  11. i enjoyed reading this. here in Texas we don’t worry about blizzards but we do get ice storms- the last one left us without power for 2 weeks. hurricanes down in florida left us with out power for 2 weeks also. so good tips all around :)

    • Ooooh, yes, hurricanes and ice storms are definitely of the same category! It seems like each area definitely has it’s challenges!

  12. I _love_ inclement weather! Looking at your big storm photos makes me really, really jealous. :)

  13. This is our 3rd winter here in Wyoming and everyone thinks we are NUTS for loving winter so much LOL!

    We’ve only had one good snow so far … but there’s supposed to be another coming, I guess. Some people are saying 3-5″, but others are saying less than 1″.

    We haven’t had snowdrifts THAT high on our door yet {probably cuz my husband works nights, so during bad storms, I’m out once or twice, clearing off the porch and making a path to the road so he can do his walk to work}, but we’ve had several of our neighbors recommend that we do keep our snow shovel inside, in case something like that happens. Even with 2 doors. So, we do lol

    Jason’s also gotten into the habit of throwing the snow up against the mobile home skirting. Helps keeps critters from under our mobile home … but also helps keep the floors just a tad warmer. ;-)

    • Oh yes, good tip about using the snow as extra insulation! And what a good wife you are to be outside clearing off a path for him!! :)

  14. I know the idea of a rope from the house and barn sounds silly; until you endure a blizzard that causes a white out and rips the O2 right out of your lungs. A more modern concept would be a couple of walkie talkies. They are more reliable than a cell phone and work great to keep tabs on the person outside working. We had a very bad blizzard in colorado in early October 98. It started with rain, on to freezing rain and then full blown blizzard. Our fence lines were under snow for weeks and we had tunnels to get to the barn. We were sure glad for a nice cozy barn for our horses. It would have been helpful if we had more temporary pens set up to get them out with more exercise. It was weeks before we could safely turn out and see the fence wire. We had one section that never cleared until March. They can hit fast so prepare ahead for sure:)

    • Deb- the walkie talkies are a brilliant idea! And I definitely know what you mean about those white-outs. It makes me truly realize why they used the ropes in the olden days!

  15. Steve Cameron says:

    They are more reliable than a cell phone and work great to keep tabs on the person outside working. We had a very bad blizzard in colorado in early October 98. It started with rain, on to freezing rain and then full blown blizzard. Our fence lines were under snow for weeks and we had tunnels to get to the barn. We were sure glad for a nice cozy barn for our horses. It would have been helpful if we had more temporary pens set up to get them out with more exercise. It was weeks before we could safely turn out and see the fence wire. Keep up good work.

  16. Great post. This is our first winter with our goats and I am just getting ready to order heated buckets ;) We are in Ohio so things aren’t as extreme though. . .
    Just curious what kind of dogs you have. The look beautiful but I am not sure what breed they are?
    Thanks.
    Theresa

    • We have 2 Blue Heeler mixes (mostly Heeler with a little bit of something else in there) and a Redbone Coonhound mix. They are the wild bunch for sure!

  17. Wow, the open front door view is shocking for so early- I thought I’d share what the Nat’l Oceanic weather site says to expect this year:
    La Niña conditions are expected to gradually strengthen and continue through the Northern Hemisphere (US) winter 2011-12 ( pretty much what happened last year- )BUT, roughly one- half of the ENSO models predict La Niña to strengthen during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter – (and 1/2 don’t).
    Now I have no idea what all the statistical models mean, but generally:
    “ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory” is what they are going with.
    If that helps any.
    LOVE your blizzard preps! After over 1 million homes going without electricity on the east coast (New England areas), even some are still out until this Wed., I would definitely plan on worst case circumstances possible.
    What the heck do you do when there is so much snow and no electricity for water warmers or heat lamps!?

    • Good to know Illoura! Thankfully those pics were from several years ago, not this year (yet!).

  18. Jessica T. says:

    Love the blizzard prep list! I have a mental list very much like yours… it’s such a good idea to prepare for all the possibilities for Wyoming winters – whether they are predicting a storm or not! You never know what when the next “big one” is going to hit. :) (Sometimes the ground blizzards can be as bad or even worse than a predicted storm!)

  19. We used to get drifts like that when I was growing up in Alaska. One of our first homes was quite a ways out of town and we frequently would lose power for a week or more. My dad build a huge wood box next to our extra strength wood stove on the non-drifting side of the house. The wood box was actually inside the house with a door opening to his chopping area outside so any wood chopped would be immediately available from inside the house. When we moved to the “city”, my mom chose the house that was closest to an electrical power exchange so we would be the last to lose power and first to get it back LOL.

  20. The shovel inside the house seems a good idea, as well as the rope to the barn. You can never be better prepared for worst case scenario. I just hope it doesn’t come to that. All tips you posted are great help and I am sure we all benefit from them. Let’s be safe!

  21. Allen in AK says:

    Brought back fond memories of growing up in Buffalo Wy. I remember jumping out of the second story window to dig out the front door. Here in Juneau, we get more snow but not the drifting like back there. We just had a fun day gatting 14 inches in 12 hrs. Then it slowed down a bit. We have to do similar planning, although not for livestock. We tend to get power outages a lot. Avalanches taking out power lines, or blowing trees down into the lines etc. Multiple heat sources are a good thing. Envious of your patch of dirt. I miss all the critters and mostly the raw milk source. Just cant seem to find up here without driving 1000 miles to Anchorage area…

    • Yes, Buffalo definitely gets some winter weather, too! I’m betting Alaska has it’s own share of adventure. :) Would love to see that state someday. Bummer about your lack of raw milk sources. Hopefully as awareness arises, it will become more readily available. Thanks for the comment!

  22. Well that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about here in Wellington, New Zealand – getting stuck in a blizzard. I do have to worry about earthquakes though, and am always checking to make sure I’m prepared for one of those.

  23. WOW! We never see snow like that here in West Virginia!

  24. Hi from Laramie!
    Oh you got to love Wyoming winters:) That photo of the drift out your front door made me laugh out loud! What a great site!

    • Oh yes- living in Laramie you know allll about the Wyoming winters! Thankfully, our door hasn’t drifted in like that since we put up snow fence and a tree row- but we still get some impressive drifts other places! :)

  25. Good list Jill! There is something about preparing for a blizzard, on a balmy-warm-before-the-storm morning, and it is much more work than most people realize. I have one more thing to add to the list, and that is to have candles and matches in a handy spot for when the power goes out. I keep mine in a cute tool box my son made in a class in junior high. It has a handle on it, three candles, wood matches, and a tiny mini-mag flashlight fit in it perfectly. It is always kept on top of the fridge. There is nothing worse than stumbling around in the dark looking for all those supplies.

  26. Your front door picture reminded me of the first time I ever experienced snow. I was 10 years old. We had moved from the very deep south, to almost 25 miles from the Canadian border. Snow is pretty in pictures, but I was 10 before I knew what “cold” meant. My father had to climb out my second story bedroom window and dig his way in to the house. Our front door looked just like yours. That was my first snow fall.

  27. I spent the best ten years of my life on 28 acres in rural Oklahoma. We had horses, chickens, a cow and big garden. I will always be thankful for what I learned about me! Found out I was stronger and capable of doing so much. I now live in a small town in Northern Ut, but the Oklahoma experience is still with me.