The hustle and bustle of summer are coming to a close but that doesn’t mean the work is finished. While homesteading is a year-round endeavor, there are some fall homesteading chores to get completed before old man winter shows up for good.
Warm air is still hanging on as the leaves are turning, at least most days, and while the days are getting shorter, there is still a bit of sunlight to be had. I quite enjoy the autumn chores, it’s a nice break from the overwhelmingly hot summer days and it’s amazing to be outdoors, breathe in the crisp air, and see the beautiful fall foliage.
But we can’t spend all of our time just admiring the beauty, right? So, what do we need to do on the homestead in the fall to ensure a smoother winter? These 31 chores should top the list to complete before the temps dip too low.
Fall Gardening Chores
1 Clear it Out
Pull up the trellises and tomato cages, and of course, all of the dead plants, weeds, and debris from the garden.
Not only is clearing out the garden in the fall a great way to get rid of all those eyesores, it makes planting next spring so much easier. It will also help deter any disease and help with pest control for next year as long as you pull everything up and properly compost it (or don’t, depending on if it has disease or pests).
2 Amend the Soil/ Add Compost
Autumn is a great time to improve garden soil. While you can definitely add amendments in the spring, adding them in the fall means they have time to work without a ton of manual labor. Add a layer of compost to your cleaned-up garden to improve clay soil or balance out nutrients.
3 Plant Cover Crops
Another great way to improve garden soil and control weeds is to utilize cover crops. Plant these in the autumn and don’t touch anything until spring. They can help prevent soil erosion, drown out weeds, as well as adding nutrients back into the soil.
4 Plant A Fall Garden
Of course, it’s not all about cleaning up, right? Aside from cover crops, there are plenty of vegetables to grow in the fall. In fact, crops such as lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli do so much better in the fall than they do in the winter.
5 Trim and Winterize Strawberries
Trimming the berry patch back in the autumn is the best time as these plants set buds and runners now, not in the spring. After you’ve got them trimmed and the lows are routinely dipping into the 20s, you’ll want to winterize your strawberries as well for the best yield next year.
6 Clean Garden Tools
It’s time to put all those garden tools away, but it’s also a great time to clean them up and get them oiled before they’re stored for the winter. This helps get them cleaned of debris and prevents rusting, making sure they’re shiny and fresh come spring.
7 Plant Trees
Planting trees in the fall, while not widely done is very beneficial and almost preferable to spring planting. The trees are dormant or going dormant, generally get a decent amount of water, and have time to set roots and acclimate to their new environment before spring rapidly turns into summer.
Now is the time to cut back perennials, prune raspberries (and other bushes), fruit trees, and the like.
After everything is pruned, be sure to mulch it to help it handle the winter a little better.
9 Save Seeds
Saving seeds is easy, saves you money, and can be done right now while you’ve got plenty of produce still out for the taking (and drying).
Build a new compost pile, make some leaf mold with some of the fallen leaves, or turn your current pile if necessary.
Fall Livestock Chores
Livestock, large or small, need a little extra care and attention once old-man winter visits. To make sure your animals have unfrozen water and can stay at least marginally comfortable, it’s best to prepare in advance.
11 Winterize the Chickens
While chickens do not need heat lamps, taking care of chickens in the winter is a bit different than in the summer. You’ll want to make sure the coop is cleaned out before the cold approaches, even if you use the deep litter method Autumn and spring are the best times to clean out the coop.
Make sure the heated founts or submersible heaters work. Make sure the coop roof isn’t leaking, that you have plenty of feed so you don’t have to travel on bad roads if not necessary, or be subject to shortages, and that your flock is healthy and any birds that need to be culled are.
12 Raise a Round of Meat
The autumn is a fantastic time to raise a round of meat birds and/or breed meat rabbits. It’s not nearly as hot, it only takes 8 weeks to raise meat birds and twelve to sixteen to breed rabbits, allowing them to kindle and grow out.
13 Winterize Bees
While we do not raise bees here on our homestead, yet, if you live in the colder northern areas as we do, you need to take care of your bees to ensure their survival over the winter. Even Southerners typically do some extras for their hives.
14 Winterize Rabbits
Rabbits are pretty cold-hardy animals and don’t need a ton of extra help in the winter, but like chickens, they definitely benefit from some. Make sure the wind is blocked, they have some hay and/or straw to bed in, their hutches are clean, and you have a way to keep their water from freezing whether that be via heated bottles, bringing hutches indoors, or even placing wool socks over the bottles.
15 Repair the Barn and Shelters
Whether it’s the coop, a goat shed, or a full-fledged barn be sure that everything is in working order, not leaking, and not going to let the wind blow straight through like a tunnel.
16 Be Sure De-Icers Work
Whether you have submersible stock tank heaters, heated founts or water bottles, or some other contraption, you need to make sure they work. If they plug in, make sure the cords aren’t frayed, and make sure they heat. We get ours out, make sure they work, and keep them accessible so that when the cold hits, which is always inconvenient and sudden, we can grab them and get them functioning to keep all of the animals with liquid water.
Fall Chores for Around the Property & Home Exterior
Large or small, we all have a few chores that could stand doing before the cold really hits.
17 Repair Fences
Or set them up if you don’t have them in place and need them. Now is definitely the time to get in any last-minute fence repairs or put up any fences. Once that ground freezes it will be nearly impossible to place any posts.
Don’t wait until your goats learn how to escape because you failed to repair the fence and you have to chase them through the snow, it’s no bueno. Get it done now so everyone is safe and secure through the winter.
18 Winterize Windows and Doors
Whether you’re putting the shrink-wrap plastic up to keep the cold out, replacing weather stripping, or putting up new caulking, be sure you get it done before the cold air hits. No one wants the drafts coming in and making everything cold.
This will help reduce heating costs (or in our case wood usage).
19 Service Your Tractor
Whether old or new, tractors need regular maintenance. Making sure they’re in tip-top shape before winter is a good idea.
Whether it’s an oil change, or simply cleaning and fixing any attachments you’ll be glad you maintain it if you need it over the winter or that it’s already done in the spring if for some strange reason you don’t use your tractor in the winter…
20 Check the Generator
Winter is the time when power outages are beyond a nuisance. Be sure your generator starts and runs, that it has fresh oil, that you have fuel available, and that any cords or anything else you need to hook things up (if it’s portable) are all available and in working order.
21 Put Up Lawn Furniture & Declutter Outside
If your children are anything like mine, they probably have all manner of random toys, bicycles, and who knows what else lying around the yard. Have them help gather everything up. Be sure you pick up any of your tools such as shovels, etc as well as anything else that isn’t where it should be up.
Don’t forget to put away the lawn furniture, if that’s your jam as well!
22 Prepare Firewood
Cutting, stacking, and moving firewood is a big chore, especially if you’re like us and heat exclusively with wood. While it’s a tough job, it’s rewarding when that wood stove is blazing and keeping you warm all winter long.
Be sure you have enough cut wood stacked and bring some up to the house so it’s more readily accessible if your woodpile is elsewhere on your property.
Fall Chores Inside the House
23 Clean out the Woodstove
This is something we do every fall, make sure the wood stove is clean and ready for another winter of heating our home. Whether you’re using a fireplace or woodstove, be sure they’re clean, and in working order, and that the chimney or stovepipe is cleaned up before the heating season ramps up.
This is also true for cleaning the furnace, though. Be sure it’s clean, it works, and put in a new air filter for optimal performance.
24 Pull Out the Winter Clothes
While we typically just put the cold weather gear in the back of the closet, a lot of folks store it away in the warmer months. I just don’t trust Mother Nature to continue taking her meds, so I leave it out year-round.
Regardless, make sure that your winter gear is out, any mending is complete, and that it fits! Kids grow fast and we have to make sure that their coats, winter boots, etc fit well in advance of the cold air so they can stay warm. This is also true for adults, though. Make sure your coat still zips and your winter boots are in good repair, and your gloves don’t have holes in them.
While a lot of people spend time decluttering in January after the Christmas holiday and New Year, fall before all of those things happen, is even better.
I have 32 Tips on Becoming a Minimalist to help you declutter the excess so it’s not overwhelming your life!
We freeze our tomatoes and can them after the hot weather is long gone, so finishing up any canning projects is a great idea.
27 Stock the Pantry
Be sure you have all the pantry necessities you need whether that’s your home-canned produce, dried pasta and beans, dried herbs and seasonings, flour and other grains, or whatever it may be. That way you won’t have to worry about shortages, running out in bad weather, or not being able to find something to eat (pantry challenges can be a lot of fun).
28 Fill the Freezer
It’s hunting season and filling the freezer is essential for us. We take every opportunity we can to go out in the field and hunt wild game. We enjoy the experience, it’s healthy, it’s inexpensive (really, you don’t need a fancy getup to go hunt, just a weapon, a tag, and a place to go), and it’s a tradition we are passing down to our children.
So get out in the field, hunt and/or fish, and bring home some meat for the freezer.
Miscellaneous Fall Chores
Foraging in the fall is one of the most abundant times. While there is plenty of plant life available for foraging in the spring as well, some of the best wild edibles are abundant in the fall. Grab a local field guide and get out in the forest and find some of nature’s bounty.
30 Dust off the Bookshelf
We live in a time where screens are almost exclusively referred to as something to do when it gets dark out earlier and earlier. But I really enjoy the fall and curling up with a book and am instilling that same joy in our children. It improves vocabulary, cognition, and imagination.
Whether you pick up a great nonfiction homesteading book or read a fun book of your chosen genre for pleasure, grab a book instead of hitting the remote or picking up your phone, your brain will thank you.
31 Get In the Kitchen
Learn to bake bread, start making more meals from scratch, and just overall get in the kitchen and use up some of those foraged, hunted, and preserved foods from your hunts and garden bounties! Now is a great time to hone in on those cooking skills make the most of your harvest and feed yourself and your family real, delicious, healthy food.