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Winter is my favorite season on the homestead. I love being buried in the snow and cuddled up by the fire. One of the best parts of winter is that the garden is tucked under the snow, the animals are happy to be left alone, and I can finally chip away at all the weekend projects I’m always intending to do!
Most homesteaders don’t have unlimited time at home to work on projects though.
Even in the winter, many of us have to head off to work every day. But you can accomplish a lot in just a two-day weekend. All you need is a few free days and a little motivation. Here are some excellent projects to tackle:
1. Meal Prep
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Meal prep is a love-it-or-hate-it project. But even if you don’t want to have a month’s worth of meals in your freezer, it’s a good idea to have 2-5 basics on standby. Take a weekend to make a few meals for those times when you really don’t have time to cook.
2. Clean Out the Freezer
Winter is a great time to clean out and defrost your freezer. All the food you take out will stay relatively stable in the cold weather if you store it in coolers on the porch or in the barn. Your freezer will work better when it’s clean, and you’ll save power because a clean, defrosted freezer doesn’t have to work as hard as a messy one.
3. Sourdough Bread-Making
Long, slow winter weekend days are ideal for projects like letting slow-fermented, sourdough bread rise. The oven will add a little extra warmth to the house too. Sourdough bread pairs well with warming winter soups like borscht or chicken noodle.
Try Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” or Jeffrey Hamelman’s “Bread” if you need tips for succeeding with sourdough baking.
4. Coffee Roasting
Once you learn the process, roasting your own coffee is easy and fun. The whole house smells like a cafe and you’re guaranteed to have the freshest coffee on the block!
Try experimenting with unroasted beans from all over the world to find your favorite cup – I prefer Haitian coffee, personally, for its incredibly smooth flavor and rich nuances.
5. Soap Making
If, like me, you have about 3 gallons of frozen goat’s milk in your freezer from the summer’s abundance, try making goat’s milk soap. This project won’t take more than an hour or so of actual labor.
In fact, you can make several batches of soap in one weekend if you have the materials at hand. Homemade soap makes a fantastic Christmas gift too.
If you have a lot of milk coming in from goats, cows, or sheep, spend a weekend exploring cheesemaking. Mozzarella, chevre, and cream cheeses are the easiest to start with.
But if you focus on cheeses for a whole weekend you could end up with a nice supply of homestead-fresh cheeses to sell or share with friends.
7. Smoking Meats
Home-smoked meats are amazing. Smoking meats can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but a winter weekend at home is the perfect time to experiment with this project. If you have an older woodstove, it may even have a smoker shelf in the stove itself – no need to set up a specific smoke shed.
Don’t try smoking meats in your woodstove on exceptionally cold weekends unless you have more than one heat source though. Smoking needs to be done for long periods at low temperatures.
Sometimes you just can’t get all your canning done in the harvest season. I like to do most of my marmalades, and specialty jellies in the winter. I’ll also can brandied pears, applesauce, and borscht in the late fall and early winter.
But when I’m really overwhelmed during the summer and fall, I’ll freeze batches of relish, tomatoes, and soup for winter canning.
You may be thinking “that’s not a project, that’s just an escape.” But ice fishing is a valuable task on our homestead. Fresh fish is an essential part of our diet. A weekend of ice fishing can provide a lot of delicious meals.
Of course, it’s also fun, but it’s the weekend! You deserve a little fun.
10. Making Herbal Wines
I love making herbal wines. These are wine infusions that can be used to add interest to a meal or as a gentle medicine. And a winter weekend is the perfect time for this project.
One of my favorite, warming winter blends involves infusing cacao nibs and 1-2 chili peppers in a big bottle of dry red wine. I like to use cabaret sauvignon.
Put all the ingredients in Friday night and strain them out Sunday evening, you’ll have a delicious, circulation-boosting wine to drink at home or bring to holiday parties.
11. Hide Tanning
Whether it’s the hide of a deer, a home-raised rabbit, or the squirrel you just hit with your car, hide tanning can be a great way to let nothing go to waste. Try learning to tan with eggs instead of the harsh chemicals in commercial products and spend a weekend processing furs and hides.
12. Build a Rabbit Hutch
If you don’t have rabbits, you make want to consider raising these low-cost meat animals. If you do have rabbits, you know that another hutch is always necessary. Building rabbit hutches is a basic, low-cost project that can add a lot of productivity to your homestead.
A rabbit hutch isn’t that hard to construct. It’s an easy project to tackle in one winter weekend.
13. Plan Next Summer’s Garden
The best way to succeed at gardening is to start in the winter. Design the layout, order seeds, and clean your tools. If it’s late winter, spend some time preparing your seed-starting area.
Make sure you have everything you need to make your garden grow. Planning your garden in winter means you’ll be ready to start planting as soon as it’s planting time.
14. Build New Hives
Whether you’re currently raising bees, or waiting for a hive to arrive in the spring, winter is a great time to build a hive. You can build it cozily in front of the fire and toss the scrap wood into the fireplace.
15. Paint a Room
Indoor home improvements can change the whole atmosphere of a house. In the winter, nothing brightens the mood like a freshly painted room. If you’ve been putting off patching the drywall or painting the walls, now is the time. Give one of your rooms a facelift over the weekend.
16. Process Honey
If you’re a beekeeper, winter is an ideal time for straining out your honey. It can take a while for all the honey to strain but the result is gorgeous.
At the end of the weekend, you’ll have jars of clean, fresh honey and a pile of beeswax. Try infusing homegrown garlic in some of your raw honey for an immune-boosting treat.
If you have a pile of beeswax, or just a pile of discarded, old candles, make a few candles of your own. You can dip some, use proper candle molds, or just use old toilet paper rolls stuck in a tray of sand.
Homemade candles bring extra brightness to the home. If you spend a weekend making candles, you’ll have candles all winter long. Add a few drops of essential oils for scented candles as well.
18. Splitting Wood
One of the most consistent tasks in the homesteader’s winter weekend is wood processing. Devote a weekend to finding and hauling out an old tree. Or, just splitting and stacking the wood you stored last fall.
This is an ideal activity when winter storms are in the forecast. Split, stack, and restock the firebox. Then you’ll be all ready to face the storm.
19. Make Herbal Remedies
Winter is a great season to make herbal lung tonics, cough syrups, and herbal salves. We harvest all of our outdoor herbs in the fall, right before the frost. Then, we dry them for a while.
On cozy winter weekends, I pull down herbs, gather whatever other ingredients I may need, and get to work. It’s great to make your winter remedies in winter because you know better in the season what you may need to stay well.
20. Candy Making
My kids love candy-making weekends in winter. The whole house smells like a candy shop and there are so many treats to sample. I like to spend a weekend pouring chocolate, rolling truffles, cooking up toffee, and rolling caramel right before the holidays.
Then, I have a pile of easy-to-assemble gifts and a house full of happy kids. The homestead feels like a winter wonderland.
While you’re meal prepping for the freeze, prepare some fermented foods as well. Fermented foods last well in cool storage and add plenty of nutrients to a winter diet. Saurkraut, pickles, kvas, and kimchi are some of the easiest naturally fermented foods to start with.
22. Practice Shooting
Wild animals can get daring in the winter. Winter weekends are great times to practice gun safety and target shooting so that you’re prepared if you need to protect your livestock.
If you have a gun that hasn’t been used in a while, now is the time. Clean it, look it over for any issues, and spend some time getting used to firing it again. Don’t wait until the wolf is at your door before pulling out your firearm.
23. Make Cleaning Supplies
If you aren’t making your own cleaning supplies, now is a great time to start! You can use vinegar, rubbing alcohol, lemon, and other common ingredients to make effective cleaning solutions to keep your house sparkly clean.
You’ll be glad you tackled this winter weekend project come spring when you start your spring cleaning. Speaking of…
24. Deep Clean
Most people wait until spring to do that deep cleaning, but there’s so much going on in the spring on the homestead and much less going on during the winter. Why not put your downtime to good use?
Clean those rugs, wash the curtains, scrub the walls, do a thorough decluttering, and pull out the drawers and scrub them clean.
You might not think of winter as a good time for foraging, but it’s an excellent time. There are lots of plants you can find for a variety of uses. Look for fungi, conifer needles, birch bark and branches, nuts and seeds, rose hips, and much more.
26. Make Yogurt
There’s nothing like delicious homemade yogurt. Take a weekend this winter to familiarize yourself with the process. You can freeze any excess so you have a ready treat come spring.
It seems like everyone wants to live a more minimalist life. Winter is the perfect time to go through your possessions and toss out those things that don’t “spark joy.” Donate or sell the stuff you don’t want or need.
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