“Winter is coming.”
Whilst that ominous phrase may spell looming disaster for the characters of a popular television/book series, for us humble country folk it simply means making minor preparations around the farm for admittedly mild seasonal changes.
It’s significantly colder during winter in this part of the countryside, being farther south (and higher up) from the weather we’re accustomed to in Auckland. I’m sure those living in deeper parts of the South Island, such as Otago, will scoff at this, as might some of our readers in the Northern United States, such as Minnesota and Alaska, who are used to winter temperatures much lower than the Waikato’s feeble average. It barely drops below zero Celsius here (I think the lowest we personally experienced last winter was -2), but that’s still cold enough to make a draughty uninsulated cottage uncomfortable, despite a roaring wood burner.
So, Char recently set to work filling all the gaps between the windows of this old crooked abode. It’s a temporary fix until we renovate (hopefully next summer), but if it can make this single winter a little more bearable, then it’s worth it.
These window frames are almost beyond repair, but at least we can fill the spaces in between to stop the drafts. Notice the large gap before:
Holding our hands up to the gaps, we could definitively feel the draught. And then after a bit of foam seal:
You wouldn’t think it, but now that almost all of the windows have been sealed we can notice the difference. Doesn’t feel like as much heat is being sucked out of the house through these narrow crevasses.
Another task to prepare for winter was to sort out a filter for our barn’s gutter, which kept clogging with leaves and preventing our reserve tank from filling with rainwater. Since we were pretty scarce on water over summer and this reserve tank wasn’t filling properly because of the leaf litter blockage, it’s crucial that we catch enough rainwater over these wetter months to have a full tank for next summer.
Instead of implementing some kind of gutter guard, we opted for a “leaf beater”, which attaches to the top of a downpipe and sheds debris that washes through the gutter. There was a bit of back-and-forth with installing it, as we had to cut various lengths of pipe and adapters to fit everything together and angle it towards the tank. The bulky leaf beater component looks a little bit toilet-esque, but oh well, it does the trick.
Behind its cover is an angled mesh panel which allows water through but sheds debris. Genius. It’s a heck of a lot less maintenance than having to clear out a poorly filtered gutter, and less expensive than a lot of gutter guards on the market. We’ll definitely be attaching them to our cottage downpipes, too, when the time comes to re-do our drainage.
Our carport (if you can call it that) once had a couple of corrugated plastic sheets on the back to allow some light in. They were so old that a storm shattered them into hundreds of tiny pieces and strew them about a nearby paddock. We’d left the exposed hole open over summer, but we’ve since bought some new sheets and tacked them up in preparation for a rainy winter.
This farm is full of patchwork and will be for some time; these temporary (but necessary) structures demand it.
We’ve a hoard of firewood in a woodshed left by the previous owner, but our neighbours say it won’t last much past this winter. Luckily there’s plenty more where that came from. That’s one resource we’re in no short supply of. Slowly that massive stack of tree trunks has been hacked away at into chunks of firewood. There aren’t too many rounds left to split, but I’d better haul it all under cover soon before it weathers too much in the winter elements.
Finally, the biggest preparation for winter – and perhaps our very first renovation task – is to insulate under the floorboards. We had a whack at it last weekend and got about a fifth done, but it’s an awkward job and it’s only going to get harder the deeper we go as the space between the ground and the joists narrows. But that’s another post for another time.
Picking up the insulation was my first experience towing a trailer. It went smoothly. No jack-knifing, no jetsam flying off on the highway. But reversing a trailer… that is so much harder than I anticipated.
“It’ll be easy – just turn the wheel the opposite way you want the trailer to go.”
We’ve been told that we might see snow in the area every now and then. We welcome the novelty. The way we see it is if we’re going to be faced with sub-zero temperatures, we might as well be rewarded with a little dusting of the magical stuff. Bring it on, winter!