I love to work outside even on freezing cold days…unless it’s windy. There is something about the cold wind that cuts to your core and chills you to the bone.
In truth, those bone-chilling days are pretty much the only times I can force myself to do all the indoor homesteading activities I otherwise procrastinate on. But, each time those indoor workdays come around, I make good use of them by doing a long list of valuable and enjoyable homestead work.
If you are wondering how to spend those too-cold-to-work-outdoors winter days on the homestead, let me share all the ways I stay busy while being warm and cozy indoors.
I love cooking and making edible specialty items on cold days. These experiences are so sensual, if you pay attention to what you are doing, that they can help you forget how nasty it is outside!
1. Cook Dinner Ahead
I love to cook. I usually prepare at least two meals a day for me and my family. Yet, sometimes I get so busy working outside that I forget to defrost the roast or start the slow cooker in time. Rather than just throw together a 15-minute pasta dish or resort to take-out, I head to my freezer.
That’s where I store all the meals I cook ahead on cold days. I make hearty stews, slow-cooked lentils or split peas, chili, meat or veggie curries, soups, and freeze them for later use. That way when the day comes that I need a quick yet still cooked from scratch meal, I’m ready.
2. Bake Bread and Breakfast Pastry
Cold days are the perfect time to make bread, or time-consuming things like croissants, to freeze for later use. You have to crank up your house heat anyhow. So, you can put your sourdough starter close to an air vent or your wood stove to bring it to life. You can also proof your dough the same way.
Plus, when you pre-heat the oven and bake, or cook flatbread on the stovetop, that will add some bonus warmth to your kitchen. When that piping hot bread comes out of the oven, you can use it like a hot rock to warm your hands.
3. Make Dessert
My rule on desserts is that I only eat them if I made them or if a friend or family member made them for me. Otherwise, I just say no to store-bought sweets. But, I still love sweets occasionally.
So, when cold weather sets in, baking a few batches of cookies or brownies and freezing them in single-serving sizes is a great way to stay stocked on home-baked goods.
4. Make Tea, Herb, and Spice Blends
Another great thing to do on bad weather days is to blend herbs and spices. So, collect all those herbs and spices you’ve been drying since summer, plus a few store-bought items, and blend away.
You can make curry mixes, garam masala, five-spice mix, herbes de Provence, or whatever other spice blends you prefer in large batches. Make tea blends designed to calm, energize, or entertain. Then, you have them ready to use when you need them for the rest of the year.
5. Ferment Things
You know all those fruits and vegetables you’ve put up for the winter? Well, why not take a few of them back out and use them to make ferments?
You can also ferment your spices to make things like fermented mustard or gochujang. Save a ton of money by making your own kombucha too! If you are really adventurous, sake is also a great winter ferment.
6. Make Fancy Vinegar
You can make your own vinegar using food scraps. Or, you can make vinegar you already have more fancy by infusing the vinegar with herbs and spices. These can be used for salads and marinades. Or, you can put them in pretty bottles and give them away as holiday gifts.
You can even make the classic cold and flu prevention vinegar often called fire cider or four thieves’ tonic. It’s basically vinegar infused with every pungent anti-microbial you’ve got. Ginger, garlic, turmeric, horseradish, and more can all be infused in raw vinegar to extract their potent properties.
7. Make Cordials
Similar to making fancy vinegar, you can take cheap liqueur and transform it into high-quality cordials. Turn whiskey into a Drambuie substitute using rosemary, coriander, and honey. Make limoncello with cheap vodka or rum. These make great gifts and are perfect for holiday parties.
8. Make Aged Cheese
Unless you have a perfect cheese cave or cheese fridge, making aged cheeses is much easier in cold weather. You can use your basement, an extra cool spot in your house, or a partially insulated outbuilding for the affinage.
As long as temperatures stay above freezing and below 60°F, you can make a quite nice 60-day farmhouse cheddar, with limited risk for spoiling, in winter.
I don’t know about you…but my house gets pretty chaotic in spring, summer, and fall. I am so busy gardening, taking care of livestock, constructing things outside, and just enjoying nature that I spend almost no time indoors.
Come winter, I can barely tolerate being in my house until I restore order and add beauty. Of course, I am also completely broke at this time of year due to the holidays and saving up for my seed, compost, and mulch purchases. So, one of the main indoor homesteading activities I get busy with is being creative inside the house.
9. Create a Beautiful Homestead Office
I thought I left the office behind when I started homesteading. Now, I realize that even outdoor people need an indoor space to keep track of gardening records, plan projects, organize books and more. Just because you homestead doesn’t mean you don’t need an organized office space to do your electronic paperwork.
Take some time to put your office in order or to create a designated office area if you don’t already have one. The space doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be functional for you.
10. Try Easy Homestead Hacks
Sometimes the easiest projects are the ones that make the biggest impacts in your life. Turning an old sweater into garlic storage, sorting earrings with a puffy envelope, and other simple tools can make your life easier in 5 minutes or less.
Try simple homestead hacks that won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time and may make your life much easier.
11. Make Your Home Healthier
Did you know that even small quantities of mold can mean serious health conditions for sensitive people, according to the CDC? Winter is the perfect time to remediate mold issues completely and make your home healthier.
12. Winterize Your Home
While you are at it, why don’t you take steps to stop the cold and damp from getting in? Do a full inspection of your home. Identify areas where cold air seeps in or moisture accumulates.
Then, find solutions to stop those seepages. This will keep mold at bay, lower your utility costs, and keep you more comfortable in cold weather. Simple solutions like weather stripping, patching, or caulking can cut costs and prevent small problems from getting bigger over time.
Reflect and Skill Up
Homesteading is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. It’s a very long list of skills and systems that are honed and perfected over a lifetime. Unfortunately, during the busy growing and livestock raising and processing times of the year, often there’s no time to change your systems or improve your skills. You just have to keep up.
In winter though, nature’s dormant time, you can (hopefully) slow down enough to step back and look at the big picture. You can celebrate what’s working, make plans to fix what’s not, set goals, and do research to improve your skills and systems.
Here are some ideas to consider on cold days as you reflect on your year and plan ahead.
13. Take a Minimalist Approach
It’s hard to be a minimalist homesteader. We require a lot of special tools to make all the things other people buy. Plus, we have animals and gardens to tend to. Yet, there are still ways you can embrace the minimalist mindset to improve your quality of homestead life.
Cold weather days are a perfect time to step back and look at your homesteading practices and make improvements. Here are 20 minimalist practices I use to simplify my homesteading activities.
14. Right Size Your Homestead
Modern homesteading can come in all shapes and sizes. It can focus on a few key activities to cut your budget and connect you with nature. Or it can be an ‘all in’ kind of activity where you try to provide 100% of the things you can’t just buy once. It can also be anything in between.
Spend a little time reviewing your commitment level and your time inputs. Make sure that the homesteading you are doing is the right match for your needs and your available time and resources. Be realistic and right-size your homestead to work for you.
15. Plan New Activities
At first, everything about homesteading is new and exciting. But after a few years, it will become easy. When things are too easy, they become boring.
Most of us need some novelty in our lives to grow. If you want to stay excited about homesteading long term, reflect on your routines. Find ways to free up more time. Then give yourself permission to try new things every year.
Personally, growing staple foods and raising animals has become pretty automatic for me. So, I’ve been able to cut down the time I spend on those activities. That made room for new interests like growing exotic spices, working my way through more heritage poultry, goat, and pig breeds, and creating a cut flower garden.
16. Deepen Your Skill Set
There are plenty of indoor ways to get training – self-taught or online – that you can do to deepen your skill sets in winter. Costs can range from free to just a few hundred dollars for a skill that will save you thousands and give you peace of mind.
Here are some ideas to help you skill up for less in cold weather:
- Best Youtube Cooking Channels
- 5 Ways to Improve Your Gardening Skills
- 15 Survival Movies to Entertain Yourself While Learning Survival Skills
- 10 Indoor Homestead Skill-Building to Beat the Winter Blues
It’s a whole lot easier to weather the cold indoors when you have indoor homesteading activities planned for how to use your time. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help keep you busy until warmer weather beckons you back outside.