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Winters in Montana are long and cold. The last things we want run out of in a Montana winter are firewood and food. It currently might be the middle of summer with temperatures pushing 100 degrees, but we’re busy preparing for winter. We live in a rural area and have access to a road that eventually gets plowed after a snowstorm so we are able to leave the homestead in the winter. BUT there were a few times last year that the snow fall was so deep that even with 4 wheel drive we couldn’t drive down the road to get to town even if we wanted to.
Knowing we can’t always just leave home and go to town whenever we want or need to means we need to plan and prepare for winter more than folks living in town.
Stocking up on Firewood
The number one focus of our preparing for winter right now is firewood. In the winter we can always drive to the grocery store to buy food if we need to but driving up into the mountains to cut down firewood can be next to impossible. Not to mention cutting down firewood in the snow on a slick mountainside is just dangerous! We know this first hand since unfortunately we did have to harvest firewood a couple times in the winter a few years ago. Since then, we make sure we are well stocked with firewood before the first snowfall of the season.
Last year we split a log truck load of firewood with some friends. We didn’t have time to harvest our own firewood due to remodeling our new homestead and moving. This year finances are pretty tight (thanks to our well pump and pipe that needed to be replaced earlier in the summer!) When I wrote 7 tips to save money heating your house with wood, I mentioned we occasionally find firewood for free on Craigslist. This summer we hit the jackpot for free firewood!
My husband found an ad on Craigslist advertising that a mill about an hour away was giving away free firewood for the month of July. My husband borrowed a friend’s dump trailer, hooked it up to our long bed pickup truck and made two trips. He calculated based on the measurements of the truck bed and trailer that we got about 2.5 cords in each load. That makes five total cords of firewood for free! Well we did have to pay for a half a tank a gas per trip but that’s not bad for all of that firewood! It just happened to be extremely smokey from forest fires in the region when he went so you can see our visibility was quite low due to smoke.
The wood hunks were all various sizes. Some are small enough to fit in the firebox of our woodstove. Some of the wood needs to be cut down, but that’s an easy job compared to having to fell and limb a tree in the mountains!
When we were out huckleberry picking the last few weeks, we actually remembered to bring a chainsaw along. We were able to find a couple dead trees to cut down for firewood. Each time we came home with a couple gallons of huckleberries AND a truck full of firewood! The firewood we got in the mountains was larch and fir, which burns longer than lodgepole. Most of the free mill firewood is lodgepole, which is still a good firewood in this area since hardwoods like maple and oak aren’t native to our state. The larch and fir will be cut and stacked in a separate pile to be used for overnight or those days when we have below zero temps and need a wood that burns longer and hotter.
Stocking up on Food
The other project keeping us busy right now preparing for winter is preserving food. We’ve been busy harvesting and preserving food from our garden, local food given to us and foods we forage in the mountains. In another month, archery season opens. Then we’ll be busy hunting in the mountains for grouse, deer and elk. We always butcher our own animals so that will be another project. Butchering wild game is definitely a welcome project though because the animals we harvest provide enough meat to last us for the whole next year.
I love this time of year since it is so fulfilling to see the pantry shelves and deep freezer fill up with food we preserve. All our hard work this summer will pay off this winter when we’re snuggled warm inside the house during a snowstorm eating our homegrown and wild harvested food!
What do you do to prepare for winter?