Winter is no laughing matter when you live off-grid and in a cold area. Since most areas in the states do tend to have cooler climes, this means most of us self-sufficient livers are shivering come winter time. But a little cold never hurt anyone… it is when the big storms hit, when you are snowed in for weeks on end, and when the fuel starts to run out in the generator that you suddenly realize just how dangerous winter can be.
In winter, heat means life. If you cannot provide it in addition to your regular provisions of food, fresh water, and cleanliness, then you run the risk of actual death. There are ways you can be prepared for the risks winter brings with a little foresight and some good organisation. Let’s talk about how you go about preparing for an emergency winter situation, should the worst ever happen in your homestead.
Homestead Winter Preparations
There are a number of winter preparations you will perform as a matter of routine. These involve animal preparation, stocking food supplies and securing a fuel source. To be prepared for an incoming storm or winter emergency, here are a few more tips to consider.
You need access to fresh water on a constant basis. In a snow storm you could, theoretically, drink melted snow… In a flood, it is likely that any ground-sourced water will become contaminated. Additionally, winter will tend to freeze your water supply, so storing enough water for an emergency isn’t the only problem… you also have to store it separately from ground water, and in a place where it won’t freeze. You can set up a rainwater catching system that can help.
Second to water, fire or a heat source is essential to keep you alive in a winter emergency. If you depend on lumber as your fuel source then a winter stick might not be enough in an emergency. It may get damp or frozen; it may rot and become unsafe to burn. To negotiate this issue, charcoal should be produced in the autumn months and stored inside the house so you always have something to burn. You should also prepare by learning the best woods to burn for heat. See our Firewood heat values article for details of this.
The third thing you are going to need is a secure food supply through the storm. If you have an outdoor pantry then winter is the perfect time to bring it inside, just in case. Winter emergencies are part of the reason we work so hard during harvest to preserve foods. If you don’t stock enough then trade up for it in autumn. There will be very little hunting to be had in winter and killing too many animals will impede your progress come spring.
Provided all of the other things are set up properly; the only other issue you may have in a winter emergency on the homestead are first aid issues. If roads are impassable you are on your own, so basic knowledge of first aid is essential.
As well as the usual items (bandages, antiseptic, non-alcohol wipes, small scissors, safety pins) add a few more things to your first aid kit. We suggest an emergency blanket, hand and foot warmer packs, waterproof matches, and a first aid book that contains details of how to treat cold-related health concerns like hypothermia.
Stay safe out there folks. The homestead in winter can be a harsh place.