Preparing for Winter and What It Can Teach Us About Prepping, by Erik

Ready or not, winter is on its way. As my family is working through finishing our items to get the homestead ready for winter, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to prepping in general.

For our winter “turndown service” of the homestead, we work from a list that has been refined over the last several years so that nothing is overlooked or ignored. The list is prioritized so bigger jobs don’t get put off to the end and critical items get the attention they deserve.

This is also the similar approach we take to prepping in general, and I wanted to share a couple of examples of the similarities as I see it.


We have a variety of equipment and machines that require fuel. Some of these are seasonal, and some fuel is stored long term. So, storage requires some effort.

Lawn Tractor/Mower and Summer Machines

I like nothing more than to be able to put the lawn tractor/mower away for the winter. There should be a national holiday to celebrate this great day!

As we northerners put away the lawn mower and other gas operated summer machines, there are of course different ways people go about doing this. A few that I know of are:

  • Park it and forget it until spring. Just run into the house, turn on the ball game, and have an adult beverage. Yeehaw! While you are inside in your comfy chair, you might want to start searching for a deal on carburetor cleaner and plan ahead for that Saturday in spring when you will be wondering what engineer designed “this thing” and why they made it so difficult to get the carburetor off.
  • Run it out of fuel so that it will remove any stale gas issues and prevent gumming the carburetor up. Now, I know many folks who go this route, but my personal experience is that this does not work. I have cleaned too many carburetors to be convinced otherwise. Though, for sake of argument, let’s say you are able to start the machine up in the spring and while it gets the job done, it just isn’t as crisp running as you remember. Next year, likely it will be worse.
  • Mix some fresh gas with a fuel preservative and run it long enough to cycle it through the system. There is no gumming of the carburetor, and with usable fuel in the tank you can add fresh gas to in the spring and begin your use of the machine. Unfortunately, this means that you actually have to mow the lawn after all. Maybe you can pretend you need to tune up the old beast and spend a couple hours in the shop listening to the ball game on the radio.

With the above choices you can see there are different ways to get the lawnmower put away. While there may be more than one “right” answer, the choices usually have an array ranging from poor to best.

The Right Choice in Prepping

Prepping is no different than our lawnmower example in that there are many choices and paths to follow. However, the right (or better) choice often isn’t all that difficult, nor does it require an advanced degree from the MacGyver school for adults.

Fuel For the Prepper

Fuel for the prepper can mean the difference between getting home to your family or not and having crucial power for the first days to conclude your preps or not. Here are some different choices a prepper could make on fuel, as an example:

  • Don’t pay any real attention to what is on hand in the gas can in the garage or in their vehicles gas tank. Just get it when you need it, since there are gas stations all over the place. If things go bad, hopefully you have enough gas in the tank to get home without a fuel stop. You have nothing to run a generator (with a gummed up carburetor likely) at home though it would come in handy to run the freezer, giving you enough time to can up the contents before spoiling.
  • Keep the vehicles tank always at least half full and a couple spare gas cans around filled. You can get home and keep things going in the short term, hoping things are back to “normal” soon.
  • Vehicles are kept topped off regularly along with having bulk fuel stored, treated, and rotated at home with the idea of keeping enough on hand to last your planned usage for a year or more. You are home and can focus on your plan to switch gears into a prolonged self sufficient lifestyle as needed without worrying about rationing the last bit of stale gas you just siphoned out of the lawn mower.


Who doesn’t like a cold winter day at home to finally get to that Expatriots book you have been wanting to read but haven’t had time or to binge watch a Jaws marathon on the TV! Grab some venison summer sausage, some cheese, and crackers, and life couldn’t get much better. That is as long as your house isn’t 30 degrees inside.

Heating systems need winter preparation. Not taking care of it can yank the remote control right from your hand and replace it with a receipt for the emergency heating service. Here are some different approaches to getting your heater (in this case a forced air furnace) ready:

  • That cold front hit just as the weatherman had been warning, so you turn the thermostat to heat and bump up the temperature a bit. Thinking to yourself that you were just at the lake swimming what seems like a couple weeks ago. Sadly, you don’t hear the furnace start. After smacking the thermostat a few times while cursing, you call the HVAC company. Luckily you are only eighth in line for emergency service, and they should be at your place in 4-8 hours. You miss a half day of work so you can be home for the magic window of time, all for the pleasure of paying hundreds of dollars you could have spent on more summer sausage.
  • Before the cold weather comes in next week, you change the filter on your furnace and make sure the pilot light is happily flickering away. You turn the thermostat on to heat and bump up the temperature so that you can hear the furnace come on and feel the warm air coming from the registers. You are happy with yourself and order that Jaws DVD collection so that you can watch it next weekend while you have your snacks.

Examples of Heating Preps

Similarly with how you approach fuel storage, how you prepare for heating your home in a SHTF situation can make the difference between life and death. Here are a couple options as an example of heating preps:

  • Your gas furnace has been working year after year for the last twenty winters and the inside of it doesn’t look more than twice that age. Your house is away from town, which means your heater uses propane rather than natural gas like the city folk. You are happy that if things go bad, you will have your own supply of propane in your 500-gallon tank and you can run the furnace off of your generator. You remind yourself again that you need to get the gas delivery company to come out and fill the tank, as it is running really low and that you should also get your lawn mower gas can filled back up in case you need to run the generator for the heater. All I can say is that I hope you have plenty of blankets and a forgiving spouse.
  • While your propane furnace works well, you followed through on your decision and had a wood stove installed this summer. Even though you only plan to use it occasionally this winter, you spend the time putting away enough firewood for what you believe would last you through two winters of full-time wood stove use. You had to give up a few weekends of beach time, but you also got to spend some time with your kids explaining to them why you needed so much wood in the first place. You have two heat sources and an experience your kids haven’t let you forget for weeks!

McGyver Tricks In Comments Section

Now, I know there are some holes in the examples above, and I used some creative license to make my point. With that acknowledgment, hopefully I can save you some time in correcting the examples and pointing out the many McGyver tricks you know on how to get a furnace or carburetor working in the comments section. 🙂

What I hope the examples above will show is we can use many things in our lives, like winter being right around the corner, to set up discipline and a thought process in us that will also be applicable and helpful in guiding how we go about being ready, should the worst happen.

One Last To Think About

I’ll conclude this with one last simple one to think about. Are we learning from our normal life chores and building upon them a good practice and applying that to help your emergency preps, or are we just going through some motions to check things off our list? Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • How do you treat your garden hoses and outdoor faucets for winter? Do you disconnect the hose, drain it well, and put it away? Do you shut off the faucets on the inside of the house and ensure it is drained completely to the outside? Or, do your hoses end up in the garbage before they should and you get to practice your fantastic plumbing skills in January?
  • How does it compare to how you treat your emergency water supplies and plan for obtaining water if the SHTF? Do you have enough stored water on hand to last for a short-term event? Do you have a plan that can supply you with a consistent water source that is safe and easy to obtain? Or, do you have a case of bottled water somewhere and a dirty five gallon bucket to haul water from the fertilizer-infested creek nearby?

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 79 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

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Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Good article as well as a great place to add to JWR’s lists of lists . I find spring, summer, fall and winter preparation lists to be most helpful as they keep me focused and it is quite rewarding to have all the basics done. I have noticed that one is almost never done as stuff keeps cropping up, but getting the basics behind you allows time for a more leisurely approach to new things. The more you have taken care of the more time you have to stop and smell the roses.

  2. Grand Solar Minimum Update 10/20/18 – Winter Blast Early – Asteroid Close Encounter – Space Debris
    (YouTube Video)
    Oppenheimer Ranch Project
    Published on Oct 20, 2018
    Duration – 17:05

    Warning: The presenter can be a bit irritating…

    This channel was mentioned previously in this SB article,

    I’m thinking about one of these as a non-electric backup heating resource,
    Mr. Heater Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater,

    1. I have one Anon and it has served me well. However there is a glitch with using an adapter hose from cheap propane tanks like under barbecues to the heater. This can contaminate them with bits of rubber or something. So it would seem to me it would be better to refill the little ones like the paintballers do to get out of overpaying for greengas. That would be a concept though; not something I’ve hiked up and over the learning curve on.

      I have 3 wet seasons with moss damage likely on the roof and about 100 day drought. So near the end of the dry season I get up on the roof sweep the chimney and apply a moss killer product. If I were a little richer living in this climate I would have a metal roof with some copper zinc and/or lead flashing up high for a low labor anti-moss effect.

  3. I’m in the process of building a house… in the mean time my wife and I have been living in a 35 foot trailer. We have propane heat, and a water heater (and refrigerator) that can run on either propane or electric. We do have electric service to the property, so if we had to (and we have) we could run electric heaters. The water is supplied by a well, which has a hose coming off the frost free hydrant. The hose has to be fully drained each time its used in freezing conditions.
    The trailer is not a four season type, with additional insulation underneath. When the outside temperature reaches about 24 degrees we run a small electric heater underneath to keep the pipes unfrozen.
    This experience has vividly illustrated how tenuous simple things like heat and power are. We have experienced electric blackouts in the middle of the winter. The coldest we have experienced was 2 degrees in January, although the last winter was relatively mild. The necessity for back up systems, and back ups to the back ups are essential if you don’t want to huddle in a freezing dark igloo. The heating system and 12 volt lights can run for a very limited time on a 12 volt battery, but we have resorted to a “little buddy” propane heater a few times.
    Getting a large propane tank and a generator to run the heater in the house (and the well pump) will be big improvement. I plan on getting a propane fueled generator too. I’ve thought about getting a wood fired water heater as a back up. Of course a wood stove is a must. One of these days it would be nice to have a solar array with a bank of nickel-iron batteries to run a few lights and a computer or radio. I think I need an underground cistern.

    In any case, I have looked at this experience as a mini-course in preparedness… I often ask myself “what if” questions… what if the car stopped working and I couldn’t repair it… what if the power was off for a week or a month or 6 months… what if I couldn’t get water from the well… what if there was a raging wildfire and no operating fire department… what if we had to depend primarily on rice and beans, would we have to fall back on the old adage of “hunger makes the best sauce” or can we do better… how long would those wild rabbits and quail and doves last once the neighbors started hunting them… how terrible is the taste of a coyote or a crow… what if I couldn’t get propane AND electric power…- what if we couldn’t get to doctor in an emergency… what if the hospitals were either non-functional, or overwhelmed with the injured or a mass epidemic… how would we contact our kids and relatives who live in other states if phone and internet systems went down? … ad infinitum.

    1. Try to use bales of hay stacked about three rows high to enclose your underneath of the trailer. It will keep you nice and toasty. It will separate the outside cold air from the warmer underneath air. We do it all the time.

  4. I can attest to the straw bales insulation process. We use them around our camp trailer too. Only thing I do now different is to put a tarp under them and cover them with a tarp. Once spring is here they will now weigh more than twice original weight. If you wait for them to dry out rot has set in and get broken down unusable for the coming year. Also the buddy heaters worked well for us too. Except we have a dog who’s hair gets up into the grill in front and clogs the air sensor. It starts to flutter, and not stay lit. Take a straw and blow into the grate below the pilot light and around. Usually does the trick. If not disassemble to do a through cleaning. We just got a 1000 gallon used propane tank delivered. We’ll use it to fire the cook range, genset, and incenerator toilet system. We use wood heat now in the cabin we built just the two of us. No septic because the well is to close , which we just drilled at 100 ft and is a mild artesian running 2.5 gallons a minute over the top of the casing. What a blessing that is after 4 years of hauling water from the neighbor 1.5 miles away. With every task I too ask, what if? And try to build it to work assuming no modern facilities are available.

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