Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer
Now that daylight saving time is over for the year, leaves are showcasing their majestic colors and the crisp air signals winter is near, the experts want to make the transition less daunting.
Julie Sawyer, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent for Macon and Haywood counties for almost six years, shared some practical winterizing tips. Sawyer says start on the outside, move your way inside of your home, stay positive and do a little at a time. She suggested recalling some childhood memories as that nostalgia may bring some fun to the chores. In her family, getting wood ready for cold weather was a family affair.
“In my family, gathering wood was always a fall activity,” said Sawyer. “We would all go out and someone would saw the wood that was usually on our own property. Then we would put it in the truck, haul it back to the house and bring it in and stack it to have it ready for winter. It was a chore, and I think it was kind of expected; but we actually enjoyed it because it was something different. We were outside, just having family fun and once inside, our reward was being warm.”
Sawyer advises having your chimney checked by a professional chimney sweep to remove creosols and debris that may be a fire hazard and to make sure everything is in working order.
“If you are going to burn wood, you want to have a plan where that is going to come from and where you will store it.”
Tackling outside tasks
There are some basic jobs for winterizing the home that may be overlooked. Start by performing a visual inspection, make a checklist, and then begin. Clean out gutters so rain or snow will not get clogged and freeze, leading to other problems. Remove leaves, getting them away from the house to prevent a fire hazard and to deter rodents.
Detach all outdoor hoses from the faucet. Drain to prevent freezing, roll-up and store in a safe location. Remember to remove your outdoor chemicals and store those safely. Sawyer says, “I have learned the hard way to get all my sprays and tanks. I’m bad to put those in the storeroom that is not insulated from the cold and then those all freeze. So drain all those things and put them away. And of course, move your potted plants inside.”
For doors and windows, a little prevention can lead to energy efficiency. Check to see if there are gaps in doors and seal those. Sawyer says the best thing for drafts under the door is whatever works for the individual.
“You could certainly buy something or you can go to any of the many craft websites where there are tons of draft dodgers ideas. It could be a rolled towel, a fabric sleeve filled with rice or corn or something heavy that is going to keep it in place and fill that gap. Get as creative as you wish, and they can be a lot of fun to make.”
Weather stripping is a good deterrent for leakage on doors and windows. Put up storm windows and doors if you have those. Remove window air conditioners and seal the windows. If those are left in the window, seal the casing, and make sure there is a covering to prevent cold air from entering. Local power companies and rural electric memberships have good resources on how to save energy and often will provide a free energy-saving home inspection. Call their residential customer service number or go to their website to see what rebates are being offered for energy initiatives.
For information on outside planting for the fall and winter, email County Extension Director Alan Durden, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting things organized inside
By now most people have been reminded by friends and family to make sure all clocks have been adjusted. In the same manner, fire departments and home safety professionals remind everyone to change the batteries in their smoke detectors.
Sawyers says it is also a good time to pull out another quilt for the bed or to decorate the house for the upcoming holidays and to change out clothing. “I don’t know about most people, but we have a lot of dust in our house. So, I like to make sure all my nicer summer clothing is clean. Then, I put them together and cover with a plastic bag so the dust won’t settle on them all winter. It can be a leaf bag – you can definitely improvise.”
She recommends vacuuming and cleaning as the best prevention for destructive moths. No matter how clean a person is, it is easy to forget dusty corners and rugs where moths can lay eggs. She stresses it is not always what is visible, so it is best to pay particular attention to places where clothing will be stored. And, when winter items are removed from storage, inspect them for any damage.
Since clothing such as wool sweater should have been put away clean to prevent yellowing, the best revitalizer is fresh air. Unfold them, shake them out and consider old-fashioned line drying if available. New dryers have a touch-up or refresh cycle that is convenient. Some of the at-home dry cleaning products are also a good alternative. Sawyer suggests following the manufacturer’s directions for best results.
“Aside from just good fresh air, I would recommend you buy the packs that usually have three or four towelettes,” said Sawyer. “They have a dry cleaning chemical on the towelette, and you just put that in the dryer for a set amount of time. It’s similar to what they do at a dry cleaner. My son is a junior in high school, and I use those on his ROTC uniform.”
Containers are a perfect way to store clothes and shoes since they are sturdy and easily stackable. They can store winter shoes that have been cleaned and polished. The cycle is switched for each season, and the current shoes may be displayed separately in clear plastic shoeboxes. “I usually also take a large container and put all of my well-cleaned summer shoes in there,” said Sawyer. “If they are leather, I put a little polish to get the scuffs off, make sure the bottoms are clean and then store all those in one container together.”
Preparing food for the season
The Extension offers seasonal gardening, sewing, and cooking classes among others. By now everyone has already canned and preserved what they were going to store for the winter. Sawyer reminds homemakers to use those products by planning recipes to incorporate the frozen or preserved products. For highest quality, she recommends using preserved products within the year. They are safe indefinitely as long as they were canned properly, but they do lose quality in flavor, color and nutrients. Foods that stay in the freezer long periods begin to form ice crystals and get a little freezer burn.
Fortunately for this region, there is access to foods that are not normally in season in this area. Typical cold weather fare includes leafy greens – cabbage, bok choy, kale, and chard. These vegetables are available in the early spring and again in the fall. Other fall produce includes pumpkins, acorn squash, turnips and beets.
“Because I am always promoting increasing fruits and vegetables on your plate, I have been demonstrating a very simple kale salad recipe that is just super easy,” said Sawyer. “It adds that leafy green to the menu. It has a really good flavor and has a dressing made with soy sauce and includes slivered almonds. This could be a nice holiday addition for Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, I promoted a soup that was primarily a bean soup and at the end I put in kale.”
“It’s a good time of year to cook once and eat twice. It is colder outside so leaving something plugged up cooking all day like your favorite crock-pot recipe warms up the house and fills it up with really good aroma. Cooking things like beans which are super healthy, high in fiber and high in protein, stretches for two meals. So, whether you eat that two days in a row or freeze half to bring back out, it just saves you time in the kitchen.”
The extension promotes local food programs and has many recipes available on their website https://macon.ces.ncsu.edu/ or by emailing Sawyer for the Healthy Family Newsletter at Julie_sawyer@ncsu.edu
“I think the holiday season can be very hectic, so I encourage folks to really dial it back,” said Sawyer. “Think about what you are actually capable of accomplishing and bring people in to help you who want to help. Ask your kids ‘what would you like to help prepare? Do you want to add something to the menu?’ My 15-year old daughter likes to peruse cookbooks and come up with fun, off-the wall items. Just take stock of what you’re really capable of accomplishing and make sure you leave time to enjoy what you are doing.”