How & Why We’re Preparing for Winter in the Middle of Summer

Last winter snuck up on us quicker than we could say “winter”! Part of that isn’t really our fault considering 2015 was a crazy year and we arrived on our property in September. We had so much work to do once we arrived that we barely had time to get ourselves protected from the elements before the first snowflakes flew… and we are determined to be prepared this upcoming winter, so we’ve started prepping for the cold months long in advance!

Last fall, we were so busy installing our septic system, paving our driveway, demolishing a building for free materials and building a cabin that we had no firewood when our first light snow struck. Crazy – but there wasn’t much we could do about it.

Luckily, we were able to get about four cords of mill end wood from someone local but even that was about 50% bark in a wood stove that wasn’t ideal, so we had a less-than-ideal winter even though we did survive which was the only goal! That said, we do have some winter living tips to share with anyone who is interested in embarking on a similar lifestyle.


They say that in harsher climates such as we are in, that winters are spent trying to survive, and summers are spent trying to get ready for winter! There is some truth to that.

The mentally hard part is that there is so much we want to get done on the development on our homestead, especially in the warmer months, that it’s easy to not think about winter, especially when prepping for winter makes us feel like we’re not making progress on the homestead.

Even while we want to continue to work on plans for our barn / apartment, continue foraging in the woods for wild wood, working on our new solar power setup, canning endless amounts of apricots and cherries, or working on our businesses to continue to chip away at debt, winter is coming whether we like it or not!


In this post, we want to share some of the ways we have to mindfully prepare for winter even during the hottest of months. Yes, as I write this, it’s averaged over 90 degrees this week and the inside of our travel trailer has been about 85 degrees in the heat of the day!

Gathering Quality Firewood

One of the obvious things to do to get ready for winter is to collect firewood. We actually want to use wood heat because although it may be a pain sometimes, we also like the idea of not being dependent on utility heat (gas, electric, propane, etc.).

As mentioned earlier, last year we paid $50/cord for a neighbor’s mill ends (leftovers from milling your own lumber) which was great because we got to pull right up to their leftover lumber pile and go crazy with the chainsaw, but since that wood was 50% bark, it’s more ideal that we go into the forest for our wood. It is possible to find quality wood other places (sometimes it’s listed for free on Craigslist), but since we are just miles from the forest, that’s what makes the most sense.

Although we have a small amount of wood leftover from last winter, as well as the pallet of firelogs we picked up for $50, we started beefing up our supply about a week ago. We ended up getting a permit for four cords of firewood (the maximum amount is 12 cords) that we can gather on our own time.

collecting firewood

For those that may not know, you can collect firewood on forest service land with a permit, but there are a few rules. You can only cut down fully-dead trees. You also can’t cut down cedar, pacific yew or birch (for us at least). You also can’t take home sections larger than six feet in length because the permit really is for firewood, not for taking home trees to make lumber or timber out of. There are a few more rules, but inquire at your local forest service office for more details.

So far, getting our firewood has had varying degrees of difficulty. Today, we were able to drop a tree right on the road, and then use a tow chain to pull the tree to a convenient place to do our work. The tree was large without our sections being too heavy to lift. This is probably as good as it gets!

cutting down tree for firewood

Our other trees were more difficult. Three trees we fell and cut downhill from our truck, which means we had to haul each section of tree (we cut them into 16″ sections which is standard firewood length) up to the car. We try to NOT use our backs to do this but to carry strategically, leaning towards the side of extra trips rather than carrying too much weight.


While firewood getting is quite dirty, sweaty, and tree sappy (don’t wear clothes you care about!), we enjoy the experience for a couple of reasons.

One, it’s a great workout but unlike something like running or weight lifting, we have something to show for our work! It’s exercise that will keep us warm throughout winter without having a high electricity bill.

Two, we are learning how to go into our big backyard to get fuel to keep us warm. Most people are completely dependent on electricity and wouldn’t know how to drag tree out of the woods if their life depended on it. No judgement passed on these people… we are just happy to be making our firewood-getting skills more efficient!


We have quite the pile already but have a bit more wood to collect before winter. We hope to wrap this up within the next week or so, and if we have extra wood for next winter, then that would be fantastic!

Winter / Snow Tires for The Subaru

One thing we didn’t have last winter but wish we did was a set of winter tires for the Subaru. Our non-winter tires got us by just fine, but we’d really rather be prepared for driving on icy roads.

We didn’t want to buy new tires because we estimated a set would be around $900 (tires, wheels, installation, etc.), and we also don’t know how long until we will desire a vehicle upgrade. However, we also knew that there wouldn’t be an abundant number of good deals on used winter tires on Craigslist that would fit our Forester.

Setting up saved Craigslist searches is one way we find great deals on tools and materials, and we finally had a notification of a listing that matched our specifications. We are very well aware of how the Craigslist game works, so we dropped everything we were doing to go get the tires.


In short, we paid $300 for 2-year-old winter tires (came off a similar Forester) that were in excellent condition. This again wasn’t money we were really looking forward to spending, but it really is something we should have had last winter so we’re really just playing catch-up.

Refurbishing a Quality Wood Stove

We already shared this in our month 8 to 10 roundup, but the other thing we’ve already done to prepare for winter is upgrade our wood stove. When we arrived on our property, we bought what we thought was a decent wood stove in a pinch, but it turns out we didn’t like it at all.

A couple of months back, we became aware of a moving sale where there was a Fisher wood stove for $100. These wood stoves often sell for $800+ if I did my research correctly. The design of this stove is more efficient for our needs and should give us a more pleasant winter.


The catch of this stove was that it was in pretty poor condition and needed refurbishing. Jesse was confident enough to take on the project, and I’m happy he was!

All we needed to do was run a wire brush drill attachment over the stove for a bit to remove oxidation and rust, spray paint the stove with a stove paint, and it was as good as new!


The last thing we need to do is switch out the old stove for the new, sell the three stoves that won’t be in use (yes, we have a total of four wood stoves right now… don’t ask!), buy some new stove pipe, and we’ll be ready to rock and roll!

Don’t Be Caught With Your Pants Down in Winter – Be Proactive

The last thing we want to share to anyone who may be new to this type of lifestyle, or who thinks they may want to try out this lifestyle in the future, is to be proactive about winter. If you’re living in the city, there’s really not much to do to plan for winter, especially if you’re in a warm climate. Country-living in a cold, snowy winter climate is much, much different than living in Southern California, so act accordingly.


We are trying to weave winter preparation in with our life this year and even when we want to be doing other things, if there is an opportunity to prep for winter we go ahead and take it. Whether it’s refurbishing a wood stove or scouting for firewood, we try to make these activities enjoyable, knowing that working now will save us from having to bust our butts later! Nobody wants to be caught with their pants down when the snow arrives… brr! Nobody likes this kind of stress!

Get Involved!

Do you have any winter preparation tips? Lessons learned? Any great firewood-getting strategies? We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.


  1. John Brunton says

    Summer is a hot time to do firewood but it’s essential. I have a large stack now that is sitting on the ground and the bottom logs have a lot of moisture. Getting them split and stacked and under tarp during the hot months ensures they will be dried out by the time you need them.

    Pretty good deal on the tires. A few years ago I put studded winter tires on our Forester and it sure changed the ride! Noisy! Even with new studded tires there was one snowfall when the Forester couldn’t make it up the drive.

    One question – if you’re cutting dead trees, why is there sap?

    You guys are having too much fun!!!

    • says

      Good question on the sap in the dead wood. White Fir when it is freshly dead, generally still has pitch pockets (blisters) in the young bark. Gets everywhere! But the wood itself is virtually pitch free. A fairly low energy wood, but better than no firewood!

  2. says

    Build a cart with Bicycle Wheels for getting your Rounds out of the woods! Then Strap it on top of the truck for Transport! Might not be allowed on Forest Service Property or you could use it till told otherwise???
    I love cutting wood, but I do it when it cools off.
    Are you going to be investing in a splitter or using a Fiskars X27? You will become quite proficient with a maul if not.
    Maybe I’m being sexist; but your a cool chick! My wife reads books while I split, cut, and stack. She does run the splitter lever occasionally.
    You really should look into a wood fired boiler if your going to have an out building. Unlimited hot water would be a huge savings and comfort, especially if someone wanted to say fill a hot tub with warm water.

    • says

      We thought about building a cart but in reality, so far it wouldn’t have come in handy. We can either back the truck up to the dropped tree OR there is no way we could get a cart ot the tree due to rocks, branches, steep hills, etc. so making multiple trips with small loads seems to be the best. Props to anyone that has more ease than us – hah!

      Our neighbor has a splitter that he said he can let us use. We love the idea of a sharing economy so we may see if that’s an option for us first before looking to alternative solutions.

      Firewood-getting is no joke and can be a lot of hard, dirty work so I totally get why some women don’t want to do it! I’ve learned how to use my body to get some of the labor-strenuous tasks done and so far have been able to avoid injury. It keeps me in shape, makes the job get done quicker, and in the end helps both Jesse and I get where we are going quicker. And it makes a shower feel REALLY, really nice afterwards, hah!

      We are interested in a wood fired boiler. Our neighbor has one and it seems to be pretty efficient. But we’ll see how things work out ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. says

    Word of Warning:
    Snow tires are a soft compound (push your fingernail in 1). If you run them at over 55 degrees they will literally melt.
    Having them switched on rims will likely get annoying and expensive. I would look for a set of steelies. Keep tires out of sun in off season.
    They are night and day different from regular tires and as close as you can get to 4WD.
    Are they Bridgestone Blizzaks?

  4. Mary Hall says

    Every summer, I lose at least one clothing size from all the work I do to prepare for winter. My work now primarily consists of gardening and food preparation and any house maintenance. It’s great to be able to work to be so self sufficient!

    • says

      Another reason why this type of lifestyle is great! Keeps you in shape! We’ve both noticed increased fitness since gathering firewood like crazy, even foraging for food to can.

  5. says

    We have that same stove. It came with the house we bought a few years ago.

    The front door warped long before we moved here, making this a leaky stove. We may be able to compensate for that by sealing it up, but we haven’t tried yet. What we’d like to do is invest in a glass-front EPA certified stove (which all new stoves are). The ongoing exposure to smoke is hazardous.

    Soot tends to build up on the inside body more quickly than a stove I depended on for heat when I was wintering in Alaska. So, opening the doors tends to bring an unpleasant smell into our home. It’s dangerous long-term, and even just one day of exposure to this was hard on me.

    So make sure your stove is sealed nicely, and keep the logs from tumbling toward the door. We think that’s how the door warped.

  6. Graywolf12 says

    Watch for road construction. They often bulldoze trees into big piles and burn them. They may let you collect firewood when they are not working. Storms often fell large limbs or whole trees on property where the owners can not afford to hire expert companies to remove them.

  7. says

    Here is the trick if you plan to remove some deciduous trees on your property . If you cut them in the summer when in full leaf, the leaves pull a lot of the moisture out of the tree. then cut the limbs off later and strip the leaves off onto your garden for mulch.
    I cut mine in lengths that will go on my saw horse and stack them for winter then cut them to stove length and split them after the heating season for the next winter.
    This pattern has allowed me to clear the trees shading a grove of plum trees so that the produced a crop this year.
    I hope you planted your fuit pits along the edge of your woods for future food forest. True sme may not come true to their parents but if you plant a lot of them you can keep the best and use the others for firewood.

    • Ty Tower says

      So you are cutting say in one summer ,stacking long logs over winter then cutting into firewood lengths the next summer and burning the next winter . Is this what you meant?

  8. says

    The jealousy continues! I love what you are doing!
    I just came back from a roadtrip through Norway. We did both camping and staying in “hytter”/little cabins, mostly on little quiet campings and farms. Once we stayed at a farm which had 4 hytter on their land, along with regular farming stuff. We asked for some wood for our rocket stove and entered a whole new world.
    This Norwegian hunter was farm-sitting for his family-in-law and he was so nice telling me everything I wanted to know. They had a wood burning thing, heating the entire house and watersupply!! Astonishing, in my world..

    And lastly, again I’m jealous, he saw an elk that night!! I sooooo badly wanted to see an elk on this trip! And that night, walking his dog, he saw one!

    Besides this, I’m not a jealous person. I’m really content with what I’ve accomplished ๐Ÿ™‚

    • says

      A roadtrip through Norway! Sounds like a blast! Sounds special to meet the Norwegian hunter. People have so many cool stories if we listen and ask questions. Lots of folks here heat their entire water supply with wood as well which is pretty neat. We have elk here frequently, but not as frequently as moose! Our visitors always want to see moose and sometimes we get to show them one, other times (most times) not! Maybe one day you’ll have the opportunity to see an elk again!

  9. Ty Tower says

    A suggestion I would make when dealing with rusty anything including stoves is activate the rust by wire brush or better coarse sandpaper (40 grit) then paint on Phosphoric acid ,(Ironise , Rustkill) and wash off after an hour , dry then prime with etch primer and paint within a month or so . On the stove ,stove paint is OK straight on but burn it off asap so it settles and touch up as needed. I buy 85% phosphoric acid and water it down 50% for best results . About $50 a gallon but that makes 2 Gallons and that lasts a long long time . Leave neat until needed and water down on the day of use.

    • says

      Thanks for the suggestion Ty! We skipped that step so we’ll see how the paint works out when we fire it up and use it our first winter. Your system sounds efficient.

  10. Jens Hultman says

    From a country in the Frozen North, where we have been preparing for winter every year the last 10.000 years. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Consider building a wood shed for storing the split fire wood. It shall preferably have a raised floor where air can circulate under it. Good preparation to practice your timber framing skills.

    For splitting wood, have a look at this wonderful Swedish invention, the smart splitter:

    We have one in our wood storage in the barn. It’s best for medium sized logs and to produce thin fire starting sticks. In the long run you will want to have a machine that does it for you. My wife love ours.

    Make small fire wood starter sticks in advance. It’s always a pain standing outdoors trying to make sticks with an axe when it’s freezing cold.

    With the hot weather you have right now, you have a chance to dry the wood before this winter if you split it now.

    For the coming years, see if you can cut down fire wood one year ahead, like in October – December 2016 you saw down what you will burn the winter 2017/2018. You split and store it in March/April 2017. We are still struggling to get into this rhythm, but for a change we have fille our wood storage with dry wood before winter this yea.

    Do no cover a pile of fire wood with a tarp. It’s a good way to start a compost, it was one of my first embarrassing mistakes I did. If you don’t build a wood shed, pile the split wood in long, single rows and cover them with e.g. a metal sheet. It’s important that air can flow freely around the wood to dry it.

    Go over your tent and your shed and check that it is wind and rain proof and that everything that should be fastened is fastened. If anything happens, it will always happen when it’s dark, storming, raining and you’e hungry and exhausted.

    Check all pipes that might freeze up.

    Cover your existing raised beds with either hay, leaves or wood chips or even with a tarp. Build new beds. Try to get hold of horse manure and put that in the bottom. Put compost material on top, and then cover with one of the alternatives above. This will give you a head start next growing season.

    Build a cat shelter and put it just next to the door of your RV. I built one for our cats who run in and out of house in summer, but can’t do that in winter. Our male cats sleep together in it and lie there to watch rain and snow fall down.

    Change oil in all vehicles and make sure the batteries are charged. Put silicone spray on the rubber on the car doors.

    Your new oven and your winter tires look great.

    Keep up the good work and your encouraging enthusiasm.

    Best wishes from Jens in Sweden

    • says

      Thanks for all the winter preparation tips! Sounds like you have a lot of experience and we’d love to get to the point where we’re worrying about firewood a minimum of one year in advance. Winter must be no joke where you’re from!

      • Jens Hultman says

        I forgot one thing.

        This year we have got round to build an isolated winter compost. The one we have without isolation gives up in winter. I have built a simple box and have isolated it with polystyrene on the inside. The cover has insulation as well.

        Cover your existing compost with hay, wood chips or a tarp before the frost sets in. Fill it up as long as you can, you can also add other organic material. When spring comes, there is a fair chance that you will have black gold to add to the raised beds.

        Life on a homestead is very much about thinking ahead 6 or 12 months. Our climate in southern Sweden is by the way not that different from yours. Your have hotter and drier summers and slightly more gentle winters than we have. The worst we get in winter is -9F. That’s when you stay inside, get the fire going and play this:


  11. Mel says

    Long time reader, first time comment – I’m curious about how you guys are drying/seasoning your firewood. I’m from Western Michigan where a lot of folks use wood for heat. We have a really humid climate so it takes a year for split wood to dry and 2-3 years for round logs to fully dry.

    From the pictures, your firewood looks on the wet side since the logs aren’t showing cracks in the wood and the bark is still intact. (Unfortunately, standing dead trees don’t dry out much since the bark is pretty waterproof.) Burning green wood isn’t the end of the world; it’s just more inefficient and can lead to flammable chemical building up in your chimney. But I imagine you guys scrub the chimney out yearly, so a chimney fire is unlikely.

    • says

      Hey Mel! We will split our wood to help it dry quicker and because the trees we fell look like they’ve been dead for a while, we think it will season up just fine before winter. I don’t think it will take 2-3 years. At least Jesse says we will be fine so I’ll trust him on that! Last year, we cleaned our chimney out very frequently as we were having some problems with buildup but because we cleaned it out frequently we weren’t worried about any sort of fires. Sorry, that’s the best I’ve got!

  12. Paula Lamontagne says

    We cut out own firewood too. We cut dead trees too. We have wood that is 6 years old on our property and I will tell you that the dryer the wood the hotter it burns and there is no creosote in the pipes. We didn’t even clean our pipes once last winter and chimney is clean. Don’t split it all either. You can add the larger pieces at night and they last longer. My husband built a wood shed this spring and it only cost him the metal for the roof. It hold 10 cords. He keeps the bark on the jackpine to start the fire. Works great. I have been canning for the garden and the forest blueberries and Saskatoons and not the wild cranberries are ready for picking. I make my own cranberry juice and jam. Thought you would like a few hints from some old timers.

  13. Lindsey says

    I just found your blog and love it! My hubby and I are in a similar situation. We purchased 80 acres in Northern Minnesota and are currently living on the land in our RV. He still has a job in the city and I’m lucky enough to work my job remotely. We’re working towards debt-free! We’re also trying to prepare for winter! We’re both from New England so we’re no strangers to cold weather but we’re alittle nervous for the -30 temps our neighbor has warned us about. We’re starting to winter-proof the RV now so the first snow doesn’t send us into a tailspin. Wish us luck ๐Ÿ™‚

    • says

      Sounds like we’re in similar situations except your winter will likely be colder! If you’re off grid as well, let us know if you come up with any brilliant winterization tips! Us not having electricity has made it somewhat challenging but we got by last year and thing this winter will be easy for us. Best of luck on your journey, sounds awesome!

      • Lindsey says

        We lucked out and already had electricity on the property. We had a 50 amp RV hook-up installed after a few weeks of using the generator. We decided to install it because I needed full internet for 8 hours everyday and we were going through gas like crazy running the generator to keep the modem powered up! We also haul our water and just received our composting toilet. We’re very excited, a bit nervous and looking forward to going totally off-grid someday. Hopefully our winterization tips don’t include bugging out and getting an apartment!

        • says

          I totally get the 8 hours of internet a day thing… hah! We were on the internet like 12 hours a day in winter and had the same problem… had to run the generator to power up the laptops, keep internet running, etc. Very nice to have the option of electricity on your property… sounds like things are coming together! I think off grid is great to keep in the back of your head as a long-term option… because we all love options! Why corner yourself into only doing one thing ever? Bugging out in an apartment was our backup plan but luckily it didn’t come to that. I’m sure if you ask around the area to folks with similar living conditions, you might learn a trick or two if you need it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Crystal says

    From the pics on Facebook it looks like you need some arm covers. They are best made from leather but you can also double up jean material and leave a “pocket” to add a ruler or paint stick to the inside of your arm part for extra strength. You can tie it on or add snaps and make it snug.

  15. Luke says

    I think this post is great.
    May I suggest doubling your investment in firewood harvesting time this year so that you have at least 2 seasons worth. Cut and stacked to dry. Ideally you harvest in the spring and it’s dry by winter, but my family preferred the cooler fall harvesting and we’d stock up for the year after next.
    It’s also a smart way to be prepared. Like food storage but for heat fuel. Maybe you won’t need it, but maybe a friend or neighbor will. Maybe you’ll get hurt and need extra time to heal instead of harvesting one year.

    I’m curious why you’re not full force working on your home. These look like great projects, but aren’t you anxious to get the homestead up? I’d imagine having a home shell/exterior built would free you up to work interior stuff all winter when it’s too cold or snowy outside to do much else.

  16. Nick says

    When scouting for firewood, look for Burn Areas. Many times in Idaho the fires blow through pretty quickly killing the trees, but not damaging them. It makes the task a bit messier but it burns well and you can fill your truck and trailer quickly.

  17. Ed says

    I’m lucky here as I have more than enough dead trees every year from wind storms that I rarely ever have to go off my property, but I have gone to logging sites where there is a huge amount of waste wood, clean & dirty (soiled) to get for free. Just cut up 6 dead trees yesterday, mostly spruce or black fir, one birch. I love these as they are nearly dry having aged in the forest for a year or two. My old neighbour cuts fresh poplar or birch or spruce & has to wait 6-18 mths for them to dry (he doesn’t use a covered woodshed for storage & he thinks he’s the wise old country guy & I’m the stupid city slicker).

    But in my forest I do clear paths for my ATV & trailer, which I only got a few years ago but wish I’d had a lot sooner. Now at 60, it helps a lot. (note to future selves).

    My point though in commenting on your firewood, is also to say get it all in advance (I’m 1.5 years ahead now) but to also buy an electric wood splitter. I got a 5 HP electric splitter at a store such as your Harbor Freight, even Costco Online has a brand & I swear by it. 3 years use & many many cords later & it still splits like a dream. I was skeptical but 2 guys walking in to the store encouraged me as they gave great reviews & now I too am a convert. I run my generator, plug in the electric splitter & I’m done in 20-30 mins. I’ve split rounds that are up to 18 inches in diameter & 16-20 inches long, from birch, black or white spruce, hemlock, cedar, pine, douglas fir, poplar, knotty, clear, green or dry. Big knotty pieces might need 2 runs or be flipped, but so far nothing has stopped it. It may be a touch slower than the most expensive hydraulic splitters, but it’s as fast as hydraulic splitters 2-3 times more in cost. For you, with 2 people, it’d be easy. Me, it takes me a few more times to handle a round but I try to handle a round as little as possible, lift, split, lift, stack if possible.

    That WoodEze, sorry to say, is a bit of a joke for real world off grid living. Might be okay for kindly but more work than my hatchet.

    Another great splitting maul is the Fiskar Super Wedge, far better than a regular maul.

    My firewood kit is now complete & includes:
    -2 chainsaws – 1 smaller for limbing & a larger for falling & cutting rounds (for your future selves)
    -5 hp electric splitter with 20″ bed
    -Fiskar Super Splitter (they have 24 & 27″ lengths)
    -Wheelbarrow for moving firewood into house
    -Woodsheds with roofs (& in forest stacking with metal roof sheet as cover)
    -450 cc ATV & Agri-Fab trailer with walking axle (both used, be patient & look online)

    and finally …..

    – BlazeKing Woodstove with catalytic burner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (Your future selves will thank you!!!!! Look online for used stuff but be patient for good condition too for any of the above)

  18. Gwen says

    I was thinking about a tip for seeing the exact location of your driveway.
    If you think you might get snowed in, and will need to dig yourself out, high snow can make it difficult to see exactly where you are AT. I was thinking that you should mark your driveway at several points, like those long flexible stalks with a little flag on top that they attach to kids bikes… nice and long, and hopefully nice and visible when you need to plow through 3 feet of snow.
    There may be other and easier ways to mark yr driveway, but you get the idea I think. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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