Tasks and Homestead Chores to Complete Before Winter

The woodpile is a mixture of ash, cherry, birch, and poplar.

Fall is in full swing here in Vermont — the woodstove firing, the hills and mountains alight, the leaf peepers swarming — and our work over the summer has put us in a good position. But we still have a number of homestead chores and yurt tasks to complete before winter.

Put a door on the outhouse

The shingled, humanure outhouse — sans door but with a view! Homestead chores for winter
The half-shingled, humanure outhouse — sans door but with a view! Yurt and woodpile in the background.

Though the view of the woods from the toilet and the summer airiness has been great — so freeing! —we obviously want a front on the outhouse to keep the weather and winter winds out. Originally we tried to brainstorm a design that would allow us to take the door/front off again in the summer — to regain the open-air, au naturale experience — but we’ve abandoned that idea for a more practical (conservative?) approach.

With 1-inch pine, we’re building a shiplapped board and batten door. Photos to come once the work’s been done!

Prepare the gardens for next spring

The real all stars of the main garden this season were the sun gold tomatoes, the purple string beans, and the sunflowers. In the herb garden next to the yurt, the basil rocked it.

But because we were just moving into the yurt at the same time the gardens needed to be established, we didn’t have as much time and energy to invest in the gardens as we would have liked. Next year we’ll be able to make the garden much larger and hopefully much more productive.

After pulling out this year’s plants, we’re going to try the sheet mulching/lasagna gardening method. We’ll lay out the footprint of the garden, cover it with cardboard, and then pile on several inches of compost and organic matter (leaves and hay mainly). This will knock out the weeds and then spend the winter breaking down and integrating with the existing soil. By spring we’ll have a healthier garden base.

For inspiration, check out this awesome video that documents the permaculture sheet mulching process for UMass Amherst’s on-campus garden.

Put walls on the shed

The work shed, constructed of yellow birches, stores tools, lumber, a work table, and plenty of random stuff. Homestead chores for winter
The work shed, constructed of yellow birches, stores tools, lumber, a work table, and plenty of random stuff.

The shed has been game changing. Finally a covered space to store our tools and lumber (and to stand in and watch rainstorms). But we don’t want to store the chainsaw in a snowdrift, so walls it is. We want to keep the rustic look to match the birches, so we’ll avoid plywood and use rough cut boards instead. It won’t be fancy, but it might be yurt fancy.

Install the sink

maple butcher block counters with sink hole
Still Life #2: Counter patiently awaits sink, or, An Emptiness Within

Doing dishes outside has been perfectly fine, but we are more than ready for a sink and faucet. Once the sink is functioning, we will be in yurt heaven. We have the sink (a 15×15 bar sink) but need to finalize the design for the graywater system.

Finish chopping wood

The woodpile is a mixture of ash, cherry, birch, and poplar. Homestead chores for winter
The woodpile is a mixture of ash, cherry, birch, and poplar.

Of all our remaining homestead chores, this is probably the most basic and important — to stay cozy all winter! We have about two cords of wood cut, split, and stacked, but we were hoping to have 3+ by this time.

So, onward!