Winter here in Canada is long, cold, and so beautiful but it can also be quite harsh if you are not prepared.
Winters living in the city are very different from living rurally, this became very evident during our first winter in our rural home.
Issues Faced During Our First Winter
During the first winter, we had lots of cold, below freezing, snowy days and we ran into a few issues:
- Tractor breakdowns
We have a long driveway and we knew that clearing the snow with only a shovel was out of the question. So prior to that first winter we did our research and purchased a second-hand John Deere 216 with a snowblower. The tractor is fun to drive and does a great job clearing snow but we didn’t anticipate the issues with it breaking down often or getting stuck on multiple occasions. The first time getting stuck our friends came to our rescue and used their pick-up truck and chains to pull us out. When we continuously got stuck after that, we purchased a winch that hasn’t let us down yet. So although my husband spent more time fixing the tractor than moving snow with it, it still was needed and worked wonders when put to work.
We have two Applegate Livestock Equipment farm gates on our property. These are great but we learned if they’re touching the ground (which ours was) in the winter they have the tendency to freeze leaving the gates unable to open. This often made entering and exiting the property quite difficult. We’ve now raised the gates, so hopefully, this will no longer be an issue. I do however suspect as the snow rises and reaches the bottom of the gates, this will continue to be problematic.
When we first left the city of Toronto we had a small compact car that was great for city living. On one of our initial visits to our new property which took place in winter, the driveway was icy and we struggled. This made us re-think our vehicle and decided to switch to a larger vehicle that seemed like a better option. Our car is all-wheel drive and although 4 wheel drive would be nice, it’s not needed. Winter tires are a must!
- The dark of winter
During the winter it gets dark here pretty early, and when I say dark I mean almost black-out dark. There are no street lights or visible lights from neighbouring properties. The plus side to the darkness is it’s great for sleeping. and stargazing.
- Power outages
We experienced a couple of power outages during our first winter. During these times we were so grateful for the wood-burning stove that kept us warm. I would definitely recommend for anyone living rurally to have multiple ways to warm your home. Our house does have the wiring for a backup generator but we’ve yet to make the purchase. So far it has not been needed as the power was always restored somewhat promptly.
Some things that are no longer a concern, that we had to deal with when living in the city: We don’t have to clear the sidewalk or stairs for mail delivery and we can clear the driveway on our own schedule. In the city, we had a shared driveway, so there was the pressure to constantly maintain it.
We didn’t know what to expect when it came to road maintenance in rural areas but to our surprise, the roads are very well kept and cleared pretty fast.
Preparation for winter is a must, learn what you can do ahead of time to prepare your home to be ready for winter. The more you learn and prepare, each winter will become a bit easier.
Have your furnace serviced and ensure it’s ready and safe for use. We have an oil furnace so we like to ensure our oil tank is topped up prior to the start of winter.
- Sweep the chimney
If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you’re likely looking forward to using it to warm your home. Inspect and clean before use and on a regular basis. Doing this will help prevent a potential fire as creosote can build up, leading to a dangerous flue fire.
We didn’t want to rely on professionals to clean the chimney every year, so we purchased a chimney sweep kit that will allow us to do this on our own.
- Clean out your gutters
At the end of fall, once the majority of the leaves have dropped it’s recommended to clean your gutters. We did this by getting on the roof, with a leaf blower and had a pretty easy time clearing. Leaves and debris left in the gutters over winter can cause damage to your gutters and downspouts if left to freeze. We have found an extension ladder to be a very useful option giving us easy access along the edge and on top of the roof to clear the gutters.
- Shut off outside water systems
Pipes can easily freeze and burst in the cold of winter. Before they have the chance to freeze, be sure to shut off all exterior water systems, such as hoses, pool pumps, and sprinklers. Also to prevent damage, be sure to drain the hoses of any remaining water.
- Prep your supplies
It is very important to prep your supplies and have items available just in case: extra firewood, lighter/matches, food/water, candles/flashlights, a generator, snow shovels, etc.
Stay proactive in the fall by getting prepared for winter. Doing this will result in a much easier long, cold winter that lies ahead.
Expect the unexpected and be ready!