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Self-Reliance in December

Version: 1.0 | Last Updated: December 7, 2015

The fourth season of the year is for the homesteader a season of rest and recovery. The harvest is safely stored away under roof, and under the cover of snow lies the autumn seeds, which will become part of next seasons harvest. The homesteader (in the old days anyway) were not whipped by the usual daily rush, some breathing room was allowed.

But don’t think people didn’t do anything in the winter in the past. Aside from taking care of the animals they still had plenty to do. Before the industrial revolution people spent months threshing their grain, and you could hear the threshers from October until the end of December. What used to take months without machines took less than week when threshing machines came, which freed up time for the farmer to attend to other matters.

Here are some of the things self-reliant people of days past used to do in december in temperate (four season) climates:

  • The winter is the time of the forest. Firewood for next winter should be felled, split and stacked to dry, both for your own consumption and if you want to resell it.
  • If you have some forest on your land, timber should be cut for maintenance and repair of buildings on the homestead
  • Hay harvested from marsh lands should be brought home as soon as lakes and bogs have frozen over
  • Cows must be milked even in the depths of winter, and all the other animals must be taken care of. They should get fresh water at least once per day, and their dwellings should be kept warm.
  • Sheep should be fed with fine hey, because from straw they get thin and weak and have trouble birthing their lambs.
  • First thing in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to bed is to pay a visit to any pregnant animals and young offspring.
  • A homesteader back in the old days, just as today, never had any “vacation”. A business man can close down his office, a factory owner can shut off the machines, but a farmer can’t shut down his animals.
  • December is a good time to prepare fox traps and wolf bait (note: fox and wolf hunting may be illegal today in your area, check your local laws).
  • When it’s really icy outside the horse should get spikes on its hoves
  • Just because the lakes have frozen over doesn’t mean it’s the end of fishing. Fishing has always been an important food source in winter for self-reliant people. Winter is also the time for repairing and tending to fishing nets.
  • December used to be a month of baking. Considerable amounts of bread were baked, both for christmas and for storage.
  • The weeks around christmas is still a quiet and calm period on the homestead – almost a vacation so to speak. Only the absolutely necessary tasks were done.