Memories of Preparing For Winter

Jerry Apps
With the turning of the leaves, Jerry Apps is transported back in time to the days of preparing for winter on the home farm.

With the turning of the leaves and shorter days, my childhood memories on the farm come flooding back. In those days it seemed that almost everything we did was in preparation for the winter that never failed to come with its frigid temperatures, deep snow, and cloudy, dreary days.

By late October, the oat bin was full, as was the corncrib and the silo. The barn’s hayloft was piled high with hay, the straw stack stood tall outside the barn. We piled straw around the foundation of our farm house. “Keeps the cold out of the house,” Pa said. 

We spent several days in the oak woodlot north of the house, cutting dead oaks with ax and crosscut saw. Making wood, it was called. We heated the house with two woodstoves, heated the pumphouse with a stove, and kept another stove going in the potato cellar to keep our potato crop from freezing before they were sold.

The cellar under the house was filled with garden vegetables: potatoes, rutabagas, onions, carrots, and several shelves of canned fruits and vegetables that Ma had worked hard on preparing during the hot days of July and August. A huge crock of sauerkraut stood in the pantry.

Usually, in late October, a cold rain began in the morning and continued all day. Pa would say, by late afternoon on such a day, “Looks like we should keep the cows in the barn tonight.” This meant carrying in forkful after forkful of straw so the cows in their stanchions would have a comfortable place to spend the night. Now I knew winter was close at hand, as the cows had been outside from late April, coming in the barn only for morning and evening milking.

The last reminder that winter was just around the corner was when we dusted off the woodburning stove that spent winters in the dining room and summers in the woodshed. With the help of several neighbors, we hauled the Round Oak heater, which was about five feet high into its winter place in the house. With the stove and its stovepipes in place, Pa opened the stove’s door, tossed in some rumpled-up paper, a few sticks of wood, and lit the fire. “By golly, she’s workin,” Pa said as a smile spread across his face.

We were ready for winter.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: When I was a kid, preparation for winter consumed much of our time spent on the farm.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to or contact him at