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We’ve been enjoying amazingly warm temperatures for the time of year, but sadly that’s coming to an end this weekend. So I figured it was time to update my winter prep post from 2013. As I pointed out back then, I don’t remember ever making any special preparations for winter when I lived in England. But here it’s a very different story! If this is your first winter in Canada, here are some of the things you might need to think about.

Snow removal
Get those shovels ready by the front door and if you own one, make sure your snow blower is working. Be prepared for icy windshields (windscreens) and have an ice scraper ready. You’ll also want a container of ice melter to make your paths less treacherous to walk on. You may prefer to hire someone to clear your snow. If so, start looking early as many people who offer this service are fully booked very quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone local to take of our plowing the last few years. As we have a gravel yard, after the first major snowfall we drive back and forth over the snow to pack it down and make it easier for plowing. We didn’t do this the first time we used our snow blower and we had gravel flying everywhere! If you live in a rented apartment, snow clearing should be taken care of for you. And if you get little or no snow where you live, feel free to  ignore this section!

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Keep warm inside…
Have your heating system inspected and serviced. Heating contractors get very busy at this time of year. Our propane contractor told us he’s just done 60 installations in one month! This is probably people switching over from oil heat, as we did in September. We live in a rural area without natural gas.

and outside…
Dig out the winter coats, boots, scarves, gloves, thermals… If you don’t own any (or can’t find them!), prepare for a shopping trip. It’ll soon be time to bundle up.

Getting around…
Winter vehicle maintenance is extremely important. Have your winter vehicle fitted with proper winter tires. I was late calling to make an appointment for a tire change this year so I’ll be negotiating a week or so of winter weather with my summer tires. Check tire pressure, oil levels and make sure your windshield washer fluid is winter grade. You’ll get through a lot of this very quickly. Also consider fitting your vehicle out with an emergency kit: food supplies, blankets, flashlights (torches), emergency flares, plus a shovel and tow rope in case you ever need to dig yourself out. If your area has really cold temperatures and you have to park your car outside, check to see if your vehicle is fitted with a block heater. You can plug this into an electrical outlet overnight to help protect the engine and make your vehicle easier to start. My car is housed in a heavy duty canvas garage, but I still plug in. And if I’m going to be at home for a while and not driving anywhere, which usually happens over the Christmas vacation, I run the car engine every other day to try and avoid flat batteries.

Winter driving

Don’t try and drive anywhere when it’s like this! (Insane British tourists near Algonquin Park, winter 2004)

…or staying parked

If you have vehicles you don’t plan to drive this winter, call your insurance company to remove the collision portion of the insurance. Then it’s time to “winterize” them. This also applies for garden equipment such as lawn mowers. If you still have gas (petrol) in the tank, add some fuel stabilizer such as Stabil, which you can buy at Canadian Tire and other auto stores. Remove vehicle batteries or keep them on a trickle charge. There’s nothing worse than trying to start up your pride and joy in the spring only to discover the battery is flat.

Outdoor clean-up
Clear any supplies from outside that might not survive the cold temperatures– car cleaning products, deck stain, paint etc. I’m no gardener, but I notice that lots of people protect their trees and shrubs with burlap or special tree wrap. I’ve also seen temporary “screens” used to shield trees that are close to the road.

And once all this is done, put your feet up, grab a Bailey’s and give yourself a well-earned break. Now you can start planning for the spring!

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