Homesteading doesn’t have to stop just because it’s winter. The garden may be put up, and the outdoor projects put on hold, but there are many useful ways to keep your hands busy and pass the time all winter long.
Here are six ideas:
1. Bee hives.
Constructing bee hives and honey frames is a simple, but very time consuming process – and winter is the perfect time for it. If you plan to keep bees during the spring, you’ll have to start early to get all of your equipment assembled in time. If you’re not an advanced woodworker, it’s common (and cost effective) to buy all of the hive pieces already cut, but you’ll still need to assemble them. Hive boxes need to be nailed together, glued and painted, but the real work comes in assembling the tiny fragile honey frames and attaching a paper thin wax foundation where the bees will begin their work. A simple work bench, a tiny hammer, and box upon box of tiny brad nails are all you need for tools. You’ll then need patience and time as each of anywhere between 40 and 60 frames are assembled for each hive you plan to keep.
2. Crochet blankets.
Perhaps one of the easiest crafts to learn, basic crochet is great for anyone with two hands who can count to three. Simple repetitive motions help you feel productive as you sit by the fire to pass the time. Working on larger crochet blankets has the added benefit that it, by definition, keeps a blanket (the part which you’ve finished thus far) on your lap, helping you stay warm. There are dozens of beginner blankets online, easy enough to be made by grade school children. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the sky’s the limit and projects can become more complex if you choose. Or, keep it simple, and pull out that half-finished blanket each winter for slow additions that keep you warm while you work.
3. Felted hats.
While you spent most of the summer trying to keep things in your life, literally and figuratively, from tangling, felting is just the opposite. When felting, your goal is to get wool to tangle intentionally into an attractive shape such as a warm wool-felted hat that can last a lifetime. If you’re intimidated by the complicated patterns and precision required for knitting, perhaps give felting a try.
While there are a number of ways to felt wool, wet felting is a great way to start. The simplest projects layer wet wool on top of a child’s ball, wrap it to keep it in place, and then have you bounce the ball around the house. The impact causes the wet fibers to tangle. Needle felting is also an option, and the wool is placed over a foam hat form, and stabbed repeatedly with specialized barbed felting needles that hook the wool and tangle it into layers.
4. Hooked rugs.
In a cabin mid-winter, regardless how warm the air is from the wood stove, a cold floor will dampen your mood and make you acutely aware of the winter chill. Hooked rugs are a simple way to keep your feet warm while adding an attractive accent to any room. The process is simple. Beginning with a backing such as burlap, you use a rug-hooking hook that looks a bit like a very small metal crochet hook to pull loops of cut wool strips through the burlap. Each loop forms a loop in the rug, either small, tight and compact, or big and fluffy. While rug hooking is physically very easy, having the artistic vision to take small loops of wool and design an attractive masterpiece can be a bit of a challenge. Start with simple patterns and designs, and soon enough you’ll be ready to tackle more complicated artistry, such as the elaborate shaded flowers so common in antique hooked rugs.
5. Soap making.
As a hot stove-top task with shelf-stable ingredients, soap making is an ideal wintertime task. If you’re looking for the most basic home soap craft, then try melt-and-pour soaps. Just melt the soap down and pour it into a beautiful custom mold to create unique gifts for your family. Once you’ve mastered molding your own soaps, try making cold process soap, which involves mixing lye and a fat base, including anything from fancy store-bought almond oil or shea butter, or simply making a basic tallow soap out of your own rendered fat. While you’ll need to be conscious of safety — using eye protection, gloves, long sleeves and working in a well-ventilated area — soap making is easy to learn at home.
6. Home remedies.
Winter is a great time to bolster your supply of home remedies. Tinctures that start with dried herbs and alcohol need only a cool dark place and time to extract. Herbal teas can be mixed, and recipes refined to combine good taste with the medicinal properties you’re seeking. Beyond these simple tasks, there are also more complicated remedies, like healing salves, that take time, heat and patience. Salves start by infusing herbs into oils, such as olive, almond or sunflower. Those infused oils are then mixed with emulsifying wax to make them into smooth creams or solid lotion bars and lip balms. These topical remedies can be used all year round and are a great way not only to keep your hands busy in winter, but also to keep them moisturized.
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