Can it nearly be time again for Autumn? As I write this, it’s raining steadily outside and the window is cracked open because I am addicted to fresh air (aren’t we all?!). There is a lovely, fresh breeze blowing in and I realised, it’s officially Autumn TOMORROW!
I admittedly love this time of year with it’s short days, cool winds and in Wales, tons and tons of Rain. I’m going to say it – I Love Rain – and I don’t even care that it sounds crazy! The only season I struggle with is Summer because both Lee and I are useless in the heat but the colder, frostier, damper months? Ah! That’s the time for us!
But I digress (big surprise!). When welcoming the cooler months, there is some prep that needs to occur to help the house and all family members make the transition smoothly – this goes double if you have a Homestead or a Kitchen Garden. Heck, even if you’re a Windowsill gardener, you still need to take action! So, here’s how we’re getting ready:
- Keep an eye on the Weather – Before you can do anything productive outside, you need to know which days will be best for this work. Get an app for your phone or just look up what it’ll be like on what day. I do this for inside work too, like….
- Meal Planning and Batch-Cooking “Winter” Foods – This is what we call anything that isn’t a salad, pizza, quiche or, let’s be completely honest – “Pizza Toast”. You can, of course, eat all of these things in the Winter but we are comfort food people. I plan for Cooked Dinners, Cawls, Soups, Meatloaf, Crumbles, Roly-Poly, “Chicken” and “Steak” Pies, etc, etc. The cosier-sounding it is, we want it in our bellies!
- Stock Up – This time of year isn’t normally as volatile weather-wise as deep Winter (Post-Christmas snow) but with people starting to stock-up for a ‘No-Deal Brexit’, things may be in short supply later. Get them now and dedicate a stockpile area. That way you have what you need (as long as you plan ahead) and potentially insulate yourself from price increases for a while.
- Get your Christmas chocolate NOW – Right now is possibly the BEST time for buying Christmas chocolate. I’m talking Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, Tins of Chocolates, etc, etc. The very best deal on Chocolate Oranges we found on Hotukdeals (*not sponsored!) where Tesco is selling them at 75p each. Needless to say, we have most definitely taken advantage of this deal!
- Think about what you’ll need to make your Christmas Pudding – Traditionally, Stir-Up Sunday (The last Sunday before the beginning of Advent – the 24th of November) is the day to start making your Christmas Pudding! This year, we’ll be using this recipe and I will share how it went (and tasted!) later. We just want to get the key spices, dried fruits and molasses ready as these items surge in cost before Christmas.
- Start making Christmas Gifts – I cannot bear knitting or sewing anything heavy in the Summer which makes this time of year wonderful for making gifts! This doesn’t just have to be Christmas gifts, with the evenings getting longer you’ll have plenty of time to craft to your heart’s content. I have a list of gifts to make which i’m starting this week and thankfully, a lot of time to get round to doing them!
- Sort out your Harvest – Now is the time! Get yourself into gear and get out there! Of course, wait for a break in the weather first but then get out there and take some buckets with you for produce! Check what needs to come in now and what can wait a little longer.
- Know when to Harvest certain things – Things like Parsnips and Carrots like to sit in the ground until they have their first frost (some gardeners even like to leave them in the ground over Winter), then they can be Harvested and brought inside. Plants like Cucumbers are coming to the end of their season now and we even have some Sunflowers who are still waiting to bloom! We will use the seeds later for bird seed and to incorporate into bread recipes. Be sensitive to changes and sense when your produce is dying back. If in doubt, look it up.
- Be a Good Steward and store things correctly – Everything that comes into your home is precious and this is the mission of the Housewife – Be a Good Steward. At this time of year with all the Harvest coming in, if your house is anything like ours – things are more than a little chaotic and it takes two (or more, depending on your plot) to work at caring for all the food coming. We are sun-drying foods like Corn and giving our Gourds (Pumpkins and Squash) a nice skin-tightening sun regime while we can. We are also sun-drying seeds from our produce to avoid having to buy seeds for next year. Be sure to look up how to store produce once harvested and how to store the seeds – some like it really cold, so do your due diligence now!
- Prepare your Soil in Advance – This year, we’ve had disappointing Carrots. Like, really disappointing, so we turned to the all-knowledgeable Youtube and received an excellent suggestion – thoroughly fork your ground after Harvest AND before planting. By Forking the soil, you’re breaking up clumps and allowing the roots to grow deeper – resulting in a longer, straighter carrot/parsnip. We also dig in manure to enrich the soil, make sure our borders are tidy and that there’s no remaining root systems about before calling it quits. With soil, the old adage is correct – “Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail”.
- Waterproof Coats, Shoes and Bags (and while you’re at it, give everything the once-over!) – Wordy, but sensible. When you waterproof items, you have a great opportunity to check the seams, eyelets and that the general condition of the item is good and will serve you well when you need it. If not, repair it or as a last resort, replace it.
- Make sure everyone has enough warm clothing – This is a no-brainer but to those with Children (or for anyone who hasn’t been KonMari’ed to within an inch of their lives!) you need to make sure that everyone has at least 2 outerwear items like Jumpers, Jeans, T-Shirts, etc and several pairs of underwear. For most of us, this means that we need to try things on (to make sure they still fit! – Or is that just me?!) and that they’re in a good state of repair. If not, repair or replace as needed.
- Put Hats, Scarves, Gloves & Umbrellas in an accessible place – Wales often sees 4 seasons’ in a day, especially during Spring and Autumn where the weather can (and will!) do whatever it wants! Keep these things handy and be sure to give them a once-over for quality too.
- Stock up on cold and Flu remedies – You can never have enough. Lee has golden blood (just like his Dad) but I do get sick. Lee/Dad may feel unwell for 12-24 hours (24 hours being a week-long Flu to the rest of us!) so it’s good to be prepared. We’ve found the best price for Cold & Flu medicine is Aldi and it works brilliantly when you need it. Also think about tissues! We have reusable tissues that I made which work great and can be washed alongside everything else. We only buy tissues for my Dad who doesn’t like the idea of the reusables but that means a pack lasts 1 Trillion years (or thereabouts!)
- Think about how to Heat/Vent your Home – As I will expand on in point 22, this is the beginning of an expensive time of year. We have alternative ideas for warming your home (i’ll write about this more during late Autumn/early Winter) but you must also consider how your house will respond to a LOT more moisture. Rooms must be kept warm enough to drive out moisture but must also be vented well enough to release moisture and keep the home fresh. This is a delicate balance to strike. Typically, we look at it this way: When showering or drying clothes indoors, crack open a window. Air your bedrooms out in the morning and open a window when cooking. When sitting/resting, close windows and add heat.
- Have several drying back-ups – We don’t have a dryer so we make the best use of the washing line (which can still effectively dry clothes when it’s cold outside), an indoor folding airer and radiator hangers. We also dry larger items over the shower rail, if needed. When drying clothes in the cold, remember – DOUBLE SPACING. If there’s 4 rails per side of the airer, put the item over 2 rails, not 1. 1 is for Summer and warm days, 2 is for everything else!
- Put your outside tools and furniture away – This goes along with Good Stewardship. Care for the tools so they can care for you. Our neighbour who gardens alongside Lee, often leaves his tools stuck in the mud or laying on a path. The tools wear very quickly and breakdown so Lee brings them in, cares for them by sanding away rust, cleaning and oiling them. We then store them in a shed where they have protection from the elements and are good to go in the Spring.
- Clear your paths and scrub away moss – Soon the frosts will be here which will turn your already slippery path into a skating rink. Take some saltwater and a stiff or metal bristled broom and scrub the path. In the Winter, apply more salt to keep the path clear.
- Do an Autumn Spring-Clean & Inventory – After Harvest the house is a wreck. Everything needs a deep clean and now is the time to do it! Get everything spic and span and ready for the Winter work. Also, take an inventory of your cupboards so you know what you have, especially since you’ve added harvestables! If your home has shutters and gutters, make sure these are cleaned too (especially the gutters if they’re accessible).
- Get your Motor ready – The car is essential to us as both a primary mode of transport for both Lee and I and also the means by which we earn an income. Without it, life would be very difficult so make sure you get out and service your car, check the tyres and fluids. Make sure your lights, heater and blowers all work and keep a blanket, tow rope, flashlight, warning triangle, first aid kit and tyre-kit in the car. Also, keep the number for your breakdown company in the car and on your phone. The worst time for car trouble is Winter, there’s nothing more miserable than breaking down in the freezing cold!
- Get out your heavy blankets! – I love heavy blankets and just blankets in general ❤ I love making them and I love snuggling up in them! Get your thermal sheets and blankets out and make sure they’re clean, neat and fresh. If they need mending, mend them and if they need freshening, shake them out the back door and hang them on the line (on a dry day). On a damp day, shake them out and hang them over the airer or shower rail and give them a spritz of homemade fabric freshener. Does the trick, every time!
- “A Stitch in time, Saves Nine” – My Mother used to say “Don’t put off ’till tomorrow what you can do today” and she was right! Fix that thing now and keep a list of what needs repairing. Yesterday, I darned 7 socks and 1 pair of thick tights which had been on the to-do list for several weeks. Do I feel accomplished? Heck yes I do! (until the next thing comes along)! My Mother also said “Like the Cleaning of a house, it never ends” and she was darn right about that one, too!
- Cut costs with reduced heating and lighting – From this point on is where the bulk of your heating and lighting costs come into effect as we touched on in point 15. I will elaborate later in the year with a seperate post but for now, consider, “How can we keep warm and lit for Cheap?”. Start now by buying or making Candles, changing out your light bulbs for energy efficient LED’s or even solar bulbs and keep jumpers, thermals, slippers, thick bed socks and blankets on hand. Hot water bottles are winter-wonders and think about early/late season heating with Terracotta Pot warmers. We’re going into our second year with them and they’re great. All small savings but these do mount up!
- Consider further cheap Warmers – I’m talking about insulating your windows with plastic sheeting, putting draught excluders or heavy curtains over front & back doors, adding draught excluder tape to older windows and doors, putting panels (tinfoil mounted on cardboard) behind radiators, thermal lining curtains, etc, etc. This is more towards the Extreme frugality category but the savings you can make for small compromises are excellent.
- Make a wish list for items you need – Now is the time where you may find end of season sales, Pre-Christmas Discounts (Black Friday) and Boxing Day/New Year Sales. Keep a list of what you need handy so if you spot a deal, grab a bargain.
- Start Saving/Collecting for Christmas – I’ve mentioned the ‘C’ word several times in this post but Christmas (oh, there – i’ve said it again!) will come hurtling along and will very soon be upon us. Now is the time to start saving for gifts, for food and for any miscellany. This time of year is EXCELLENT for foraging pine cones and bright leaves used for crafting decorations. Winter brings gorgeously green Holly to decorate and scent our homes. Save by making changes and preparing yourself (somewhat insulating yourself) from the need to spend on short notice. The longer you have to prepare, the better the deals you can find and the more flexible you can be. These days, time seems to be in short supply but we still have the same 24 hours a day we’ve always had. Unplug, come back to the land and look around at what you already have, what is supplied by nature and what you actually need. Even with gifting, you’ll find the ‘need’ aspect affects your gift giving as it certainly has for us. Now we like to give practical, pretty things rather than random tchotchke. Almost all our gifts are homemade and the recipient knows that it was crafted and gifted in love. Prepare now, take your time and see how you and your purse feel by New Year. This may well be a new Autumn tradition for your family!
So, these are the things that we’re doing to get ready! I’ve made some promises in this post to share Christmas Pudding and Winter Warming tips/reports which i’ll make good on in due course! I’m just so enjoying watching our beautiful view change as the Autumn rolls over and colours everything differently – this is such a beautiful time of year!
Hoping that you’re all having a good weekend and a that you all have a stunning start to Autumn!