The beginning of autumn brings in a familiar time of preparing for the fullness of the season leading into winter. While we close the windows and get ready to turn on the heat or start the fire, our bodies naturally are ready for the harvest. It is comforting to our spirits to bring in a full harvest to have our homes ready and prepared for winter. While the official first day of autumn is not until September 23rd
this year, for many of us the season starts earlier with the signs of nature, or even just the signs in our own hearts. Following are tips for preparing our homes for the start into the colder months ahead.
Gather Food. This can be done in the more natural ways of putting up the garden by canning, freezing and drying foods. With the bounty of apples soon coming upon us, it is always a festive weekend our family has by first picking them together on Saturday, then on Sunday we can applebutter and applesauce and freeze apple slices for pies. I usually will make baked apples for desert in the evening as well. If you don’t have a way to gather food from the outdoors, this is also a time to remember that roadside food stands and farmers markets usually have lots of foods to choose from. Many places will even have homemade foods already prepared in jars to sell. Then of course there is always the supermarket to gather our food from. This is a great time of year to start watching for bulk sales, especially for canned food.
Store Food. Once the food is gathered, you will definitely need a place to store it. A pantry is a first option. Next, look for other cool dry places in the house that are safe from animals. A nice set of homemade shelves in a back room or dry basement work great. If space is tight, try to find hidden nooks that aren’t seen openly. Try under furniture or tables with nice long tablecloths, under beds, the bottom of closets or even stacked in a box with a tablecloth over the top.
Cleaning. This is one chore that many of us really don’t care to think about. To help me get into the mood, I’ll put a pot of water on the stove to simmer with some whole cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and orange peels. I’ll also light a couple pretty candles to warm the atmosphere and put in either a good movie or some favorite music to work to. First I like to start with the kitchen and get deep into all the crevices, inside and on top of the cabinets and vacuum the bottom and behind the fridge. After the kitchen, the windows are all cleaned, inside and out. Picture frames and cupboards are then wiped out. Next, I’ll vacuum all the corners of the ceilings, floors, under the furniture, behind the TV or anywhere that can gather those little dust bunnies in the rest of the house. The back mudroom gets cleaned out, jackets are brought out and boots are re-fitted. Each family member is responsible for their own bedroom by deep cleaning and going through clothes that no longer fit.
Clothing. With school starting, now is a perfect time for shopping some great sales. Once each person in the family has gone through their clothes, they make a list of the new ones that are needed. If clothes are basically ok but the hems need to be fixed, socks darned or sweaters mended, I have a special basket in the laundry room that everyone adds to for ‘to do work.’ We then have fun going out and getting new clothing to replace the ones grown out of. Normally it is a little later in the autumn season when the winter clothing is brought out in the stores, so our shopping is broken up into a few trips. Since I love to sew and crochet, I also start to make lists of things to make for gifts later in the seasons. This way, I can gather fabric and organize all of my yarn.
‘Honey Do.’ My ‘Honey Do’ list is comprised of all the things that need to be done outside or related to. Firewood is gathered, chopped and stacked. A kindling box is started. A chimney sweep is called. The edges of the doors and windows are checked for drafts and fixed if there are any. The gutters are cleaned out. Water hoses rolled and put up along with gardening equipment. Oil is changed in the cars. Spare tires are checked for air. Light fixtures are wiped out inside and outside the house.
Emergency Kits. Even though we are safe at home, it is always a good idea to have an emergency kit for each person in the home. We never know when the power will go out because of a storm for a few days. I have two large heavy plastic containers that I keep everything in along with a few gallons of water on top of them that we rotate out each month. If any of our family members are on any specific medications, I keep them all together in the same cabinet just in case we need to grab them quickly. In the first container we keep the following for our family: first aid kit, large flashlight radio combo, waterproof matches, candles, a lightweight pot, paper plates and plastic utensils, Leatherman knife, warm clothes for each person, sanitary needs, disposable camera, paper and pencil, and a few travel sized games. In the second container I keep some non-perishable food that I rotate out every other month.
Emergency Kits for the Auto. It is not only important to have our homes prepared for the colder months, but we should also have an extra security in our cars. I find that a large clear zipper bag that blankets come in works perfectly for these kits. Put in one of the following for each person of the family: hat, gloves/mittens, sweater, socks and boots if space permits. You also want to have a couple non-perishable high protein snacks and a large bottle of water for each person. Make sure a first aid kit is included along with a flashlight (check the batteries!) and a warm blanket. I also keep an extra pair of sunglasses, toilet paper and baby wipes, a couple of folded up ponchos, a roll of orange tape, an emergency blanket, umbrella and a pair of waterproof matches in our kit. (Remember age specific extras like diapers, formula and bottle for babies.)
Lastly, a few extra things that I make sure are done are as follows: current emergency numbers posted by the main phone (including numbers to the power and gas companies, county plowing, school, school bus system, doctors, hospital, friends and family members); our “light” drawer is re-stocked with flashlights, batteries and candles (I keep the matches up high); medicines are checked and re-stocked according to expiration date or quantity (there is nothing worse than having a sick family member in the middle of the night and no medicine to help comfort); extra blankets are pulled out and ready; and the autumn decorations are brought out to start the celebration of the season.