Depending on the location of your homestead, winter can mean two very different things. Either winter is a dip in temperature that requires pants instead of shorts, or it’s a downright frigid time when going outside involves a lot of preparation.
Wherever your homestead is, winter brings with it lower temperatures that can quickly do harm if you’re not prepared. Whether your winter season is in the 40s or the -40s, you can prepare for the cold with age-old traditions and tactics. Here are some clever ways our ancestors stayed warm all winter.
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1. Cover Heads and Feet
A lot of heat escapes the body through the feet and head. Our ancestors understood this and would rarely be seen outside in the elements without a hat or head covering. Walking barefoot through the ice and snow was also avoided (when possible) to protect from frostbite.
The same is true for our current climate. Walking around the house during the winter in bare feet can significantly lower your body temperature. Wear wool socks to keep your feet warm and toasty all winter. Adding a hat or even a hoodie during cold weather can increase your comfort as well.
2. All Day Baking
Generations ago, there was no convenient premade bread to pick up at the grocery store. Baking bread and stoking the oven was required (even on the warmest days) to prepare food. The stove would often work all day long to prepare bread and hot meals for family members working outside.
We can do the same by using our ovens to create baked goods during the winter. Making a hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner also brings comfort on the coldest of winter days. Using the oven not only heats up the kitchen, but it also adds warmth to the home.
When the baking is done, leave the oven door cracked open to allow the warm air to escape into the room for added heat.
3. Natural Insulation
Our ancestors made their homes warm during the winter by adding some natural insulation on the outside of the house. Stacking up hay bales near drafty windows or ground floor walls would help keep the wind from cutting through the home. They also would gather fallen leaves into bags or sacks during autumn and stack those up against the sides of the house.
You can also do this to help cover that drafty window or door that isn’t used during cold weather. Consider stacking these items in an area that won’t see constant rain to avoid a sopping wet bag of leaves next to the home that could do damage if it rots.
4. Drink Warm Beverages
There is a reason why many of us like to eat soup, stews, and tea in the winter: they help keep our bodies warm! Drinking warm beverages is another age-old tradition during the colder months.
It not only warms up our hands, face, and mouth but also can increase your body comfort when it is bitterly cold outside. A cup of coffee, tea, cocoa, or warm milk can help relax the body and warm it up right before bedtime as well.
5. Close Room Doors
Many homesteaders still do this old-time practice of closing off parts of the home during the winter. Our ancestors actually chose to live in just one room to conserve heat. Closing the door to an unused bedroom and shutting the vent to that room will help focus the heat back to areas of the house that are used daily.
It was not uncommon for our ancestors to close entire rooms of their homes during the winter to keep the home warm. If you choose to do this, make sure that the room doesn’t get too cold and that no pipes are running through the room’s walls that could be compromised.
6. Keep Moving
Our ancestors rarely had time to sit around all day. There was always something to do and something to take care of. The same is true for us homesteaders who have chores and animals to tend to outside. Part of keeping warm during the winter is staying active.
There could be wood to chop, snow to shovel, or animals to feed. Getting out of the house and moving your body is a natural way to keep warm during the colder months.
7. Use a Humidifier
While past generations didn’t have modern humidifiers, they did have their own version to use on the wood stove. Our ancestors would raise the humidity level in their homes by adding a kettle of water to sit on the top of the stove.
The water would boil, and the steam would add to the warmth of the room. We can do this now with the convenience of electric humidifiers that can raise the humidity of each room. If you have a wood stove, consider using a water kettle as well.
8. Heat Up Your Bed
Bed warmers were commonplace back in the day to keep sleeping areas comfortable. While you probably don’t have an antique bed warmer, you do have the option to make your bed nice and toasty. Add a wool or fleece blanket to the bed to keep you warm at night.
Investing in an electric blanket can also be nice if you’re willing to pay for the added electricity it uses. Another easy way to warm up the bed is to add a warm water bottle or DIY rice bag to the bed a few minutes before you get in. The warm temperature will preheat the bed for you, making a warm space for sleep.
There are plenty of ways to stay warm during the winter without turning up the furnace or needing more firewood. While some of these tips may seem commonplace, many new homesteaders may not know all of these clever ways our ancestors stayed warm all winter.
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