The weather has finally broken for most of North America, which has advantages alone. Fewer bugs and less heat make any work we have to do a little easier and if it hasn’t yet, we’re right on the verge of plants dying down, cutting some of our workload and making getting around a bit easier.
The season has more to offer, though, blessed as many of us find it. From the holidays around the corner to seasonal trends, autumn can give us nice boosts to our preparedness.
We don’t have a lot of time left for Halloween (totally my bad) but some of them will be available through Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Others are based solely in the changing of seasons and we have more time yet.
Straw bales, Corncobs, & Squashes
Autumn means we commonly see some decorations that can help us out, especially if we have livestock. Fewer still do it, but there are still neighborhoods and houses that go all out celebrating harvests and holidays.
Straw bales and stuffing from the porch and dooryard scarecrows are sometimes too far gone for animal bedding, but it can be useful stuff as mulch.
Make sure to spread that straw in walkways or stash it for areas of the lawn that end up boggy and muddy, trails our pets and family tear up, and places we want to re-seed with a cereal or different lawn grass. Straw – like hay – has increasingly been treated with Roundup. The herbicide doesn’t hurt monocots, but it will affect broad leaf plants. That means it’s a no-go for pretty much all our veggie garden areas, just in case.
If people are carving jack o’ lanterns, they may be too far gone Nov. 1 for livestock, but it might be worth a peek. Other decorations may include Indian corn and all those fancy/fugly gourds, though, and those are most likely still good for our critters.
Stash the gourds as long as possible if you have chickens. They can be valuable entertainment as well as fresh foods and the boosts of the mature seeds inside if the birds start developing cabin fever.
Goats can have those gourds smashed or split* and will munch them as well. Most domestic game birds aren’t really grazers, but they’ll happily poke through for the seeds.
*Indulge in fun here: Pop them up to entertain nephews with baseball bats or set up a backstop and lead catch for some target practice.
Corn can be ground or soaked for our critters. Or, we can hang it out piecemeal to keep our future-need squirrel farm going.
We could just drive around and scan for any hanging out of garbage bins, but consider leaving a short note ahead of time if you see those decorations.
“I noticed your lovely decorations, and was wondering what you plan to do with them after the season. I’ll pick them up if you plan to dispose of them,” can be fit on a business card or printed 8-12x on regular letter paper. (Sign it if you print it off – personalization can make a difference.)
If you don’t have a drop phone to give a number, create a generic email just for pop-up contacts. It doesn’t even have to reference preparedness, but it’s a good idea to have one (or twelve) for all kinds of networking.
The stores that sell that Indian corn and those gourds will usually drop their prices once they’ve been sitting out a while, and you may be able to ask a clerk when the display is coming down for an idea of when to see if they’ve just been tagged by a distributor/merchandiser and then pitched in a dumpster.
Somewhere approaching or just after Christmas those big bins of mixed nuts will also go on sale.
If you buy butter, your season, too, is coming. Hold out just a little longer and make some room in your freezer, because you may be able to find it for $2-$2.50 a pound again during the big baking seasons.
Finding candy on deep discounts even the day after is pretty rare where I am now, and even decorations and other goodies are getting harder to find with the fast swing between holiday promotions, but your area may be different and online you may find yourself a nice goldmine.
Of all places, Mill’s Fleet Farm has been a crazy good source for post-season sales and feeding somebody’s hard-to-find seasonal favorite for me.
Party supply stores like Oriental Trading Co. also regularly run free shipping promotions with no restrictions on order size and amount, and include discounted items. That runs from inexpensive and cheap (two different things) toys, ornaments, and activities as well as goodies to stash away in canning jars for a bad day.
I also sometimes see those goodies and the seasonal attire, decorations, tableware, candles/lamp oils, and activities at deep discounts in Tuesday Morning type second-chance stores the next week.
Consignment Shops & Classifieds
The change of seasons has a couple of benefits that will reach through to well after Christmas. Here in North America fishing and gardening season is winding down and suppliers sometimes have sales. We may not dive on those, but others do.
Those others sometimes recoup part of an upgrade by selling off their old gear, clothing to bows and reels, ATVs and boats to trailers and tree stands. That can net us supplies for pennies on the dollar.
We might hit flea markets and yard sales for some of those, but keeping an eye on local seller websites and doing quick cruises through Salvation Army, Goodwill, or thrift stores tends to be more productive (unless you just like people, want to get some extra exercise in, or have a dog to socialize – then, go for it all).
We can sometimes luck into really good gear donated solely because it didn’t fit anymore at the start of hunting season or really cold weather, or because a Christmas present led to making extra room.
I tend to keep an eye out specifically for the growing boys’ boots and hunting, camping, packing, and cold-weather gear, but it applies to regular street clothes as well. Some parents also have kids donate some portion of their old clothes and toys after the holiday bonanza, so it’s worth keeping an eye out if you have a little one or a particular interest.
Leaves Fall Down
Leaves are a big boost for those of us who can snag them from our own yards and neighbors.
Trees have nice deep roots, see, and all kinds of lovely micro-nutrients end up in those leaves. That makes for a really excellent compost (leaf mold), whether we bag them, add them to heaps/tumblers, or use them as mulches.
We can mow over them with a bagger (or strategically placed tarp or trash can) to get a head start in breaking them down, and they will deliver those nutrients even faster. Chipping or mowing them also makes them even better for use in worm bins and trenches.
Leaves can also help us protect young trees and tender perennials from the coming cold season. Sometimes we can just pile them up. Other times we may want to build a string or mesh cage around larger plants to help keep the leaves exactly where we want them.
In our own yards, leave some strategic piles and light layers here and there. Lots of beneficial insects use them for protection as the weather shifts.
So do slugs, though, which means we have to be mindful of where we use leaves as mulch.
The slugs and bugs are a benefit if we want to make a pile for covering our poultry runs, though. Pretty much all birds are delighted to rifle through leaves (and other mulches) looking for yummy hideouts.
Pre-Pre-Pre-Black Friday & Cyber Week
You won’t get me into a shopping area starting mid-November and I see fewer and fewer online sales that are all that good, but if you need to make a big-ticket purchase, it may be worth making an appearance on the Day(s) of Craze.
Maybe it’s a chipper-shredder to take more advantage of autumn pruning around the home, or maybe it’s the year you’re taking the plunge into solar or a generator. It might be as little as a couple of gas cans using the Harbor Freight coupon, or stocking up on pet food from Tractor Supply. Whatever it is, big or small, sometimes you can really make that trip into madness pay off.
Just stay extra alert for exhausted, drunk, and hungover people rushing to save money on the roads and in the lots.
You can also go out later on Black Friday afternoon. I got dragged out once about 10-12 years ago and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Clerks look like they’re war-zone evacuees, it’s badly picked over, but the stupidity has largely died down to average weekend if not even weekday afternoon activity levels. Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s still so. (It’s apparently also still a really bad time to go to the movies, though.)
For online shopping, start tracking the price of things you might be interested in, from that low-price air gun to the new computer or mattress. Don’t hesitate to ask here and on subject-matter forums what others have paid.
Especially if it’s going on credit or a budget is tight, what seems like a great sale might not be.
If we know it’s only a difference of X or has hit that level six times previously in the last eighteen months, we can better prioritize if it’s worth the interest or hit to savings, or if we’ll be better served waiting a bit. Autumn has too much to offer for free and discount to blow budgets or get deeper in debt unnecessarily.
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