Yes, this really is how neat Brent makes me keep our city pantry.

As many of you know, Brent’s famous for making lists for me. I thought I’d share with you a few of the things he wants me to accomplish at the farm this month. The combination of getting so many lists along with being genetically lazy has made me a sort of expert at chore shortcuts. So I thought I’d share some of those too.

Here’s my latest list:

1. Take down outdoor Christmas Decorations. There are only so many times I can use the “I’m waiting for a January thaw” excuse. Mostly because there is no January thaw in Sharon Springs. We have several wreaths on the outside of the house (yes, they’re artificial…we inherited them) and I’ve found one of the best ways to store them is in large, clean, round garbage pails. They stack nicely and don’t get crushed. And they have handles so they’re easy to carry up and down from the attic. (Be sure to measure the bottom diameter for correct size since the bottom is often narrower than the top.) Also, save the tubes from Christmas wrapping paper, or mailing tubes. If you have Christmas table runners or tablecloths, roll them onto the tubes rather than folding them. It saves ironing time next year. Wrap in saran wrap to keep clean, or if you have several sizes of tubes, roll the linens on a smaller tube then slip into a larger one for protection.

2. Clean out the attic. Putting away holiday decorations is also a great excuse for straightening up the attic overall. Here’s our rule: for every box that goes into the attic, one must come out. And every box must be clearly marked with its contents. You think you’ll remember next year that you put your spring sweaters in that Amazon box in the corner, but you won’t. Trust me. Tip: Tie a Sharpie marker to a long string and hang from a rafter. That way you’ll never be tempted to leave a box unmarked because you don’t want to go downstairs to get a marker.

3. Clean the copper cookware. To be fair, this is on my list every month, but I only really get to it every three months or so. Since we don’t like chemicals, we use lemon halves dipped in table salt to polish our pots and pans. And because we’re cheap, we save all of the squeezed lemon halves we use for cooking to later use for polishing. We toss them in a plastic bag that we keep in the freezer. They often have just enough acidic juice left in them for polishing. (Also, because we’re really really cheap, we zest all of our citrus, even those used for juice or snacks, and keep the zest in a bag in the freezer. You can never have enough zest, and why waste any of it?)

4. Bring wood over to the house. John lets us use his tractor to move the wood from the barn to the side of the house (I drive, of course.) Brent used to hate it when I would bring an armful of wood into the house, dropping twigs and pieces of bark as I went. So I started using those big blue Ikea bags. Not only do they hold more than I can carry in my arms, I can also dump all of the “bark crumbs” directly into the fireplace. Instant kindling! Footnote: Brent has since given me a canvas log tote for Christmas. Romantic, right?

5. Clean out both city and farm pantries. I got a jump start on this by cleaning out the farm pantry over Christmas break, but I’ve been working on our city pantry since New Years. One of my pet peeves, (yes I have them too) is too many nearly empty spice jars. This is the time year to use them up, since fresh herbs aren’t always readily available. My trick for consolidating them is to make my own blends. You know that if you’re making something Italian you’re almost certainly going to use a combination of dried oregano, basil, and parsley. So if you’ve got less than a third of a jar of each, use a funnel to combine them into one. The same goes for thyme, crushed rosemary, sage leaves & parsley. You’ll probably use that blend in stews. By consolidating now, you’ll clean out your drawers, and save time searching for jars while cooking. Just be sure to label them with a Sharpie marker and promise yourself you’ll use them up by herb planting time.

So, what are your chores for January?

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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Josh, I was just wondering but where did you get the IKEA dog food bags? Do you have a dog?

Sheila - the gypsy b

How fun it was to read that I'm not the only one who uses those hideous, but very sturdy and useful, IKEA bags to bring wood into the house. We fill five or six of those bags with wood and then stack them on the covered back porch. When a bag is emptied, it is refilled from the stack and then rotated back into use on the porch. They're not pretty, but they get the job done with much less mess!

Sue Ann

I invested in some very nice, big full bows from a floral shop for my outside Christmas decorations in the early 1990's. Tip: I crush tissue paper left over from presents and stuff them in the loops of the bow before packing them away for the season. This keeps the bows looking like new year after year while they are stored.

Carol Riley

Just thought I would tell you I hang all my table linens on wooden hangers in the closet. Works great! Never wrinkled and you can see each one when you need it. Carol Riley

Frank N. Tucker, III

The "LISTS" can be a useful thing. I find that when I make one for myself, I don't forget what I need to do ( or put off for later ). I wonder if Brent will let you make your own one day?


Can't wait for the new season to start ,enjoy you both so much! Moving in less than a week..just had surgery 1 week ago,…My list..Heal and then spend the next 6 months looking for things that other people packed.

Kathy Buffington

I am so happy that others enjoy making and using lists! I find it so calming to check the items off and to see the results build…I use the "1% Rule" – Some projects that I don't have time for I work on by doing 1% of the work on it every day or every chance I get. Several 1%s will result in improvement and encourages me to keep on … I want the house in order so with warm days I can be outside!

I'm putting buy you book on my list,too.

I love your website….

Donna OShaughnessy

My list

1. Stalk Brent and Josh just enough to get them to read my blog but not so much they feel the need to hire more security. (As if Polka Spot was not scarey enough)

2. Buy Beekman Soap and have it analyzed in order to copy the recipe, make it as my own and sell it with my South Pork Ranch label. (IF you read my post about my ugly soap making on my blog you will see you have no worries )

3. Send pictures of our Red Wattle hogs to Josh and Brent so they will fall in love with them like we did and allow us to GIVE them a breeding couple (They are critically endangered AND very tasty !)

4. Lose weight. (I just added that one so it would be less threatening to you and you would stop dialing 911 to report a new stalker in your life)


I NEVER get the winter blahs — because I clean Linderhof from cellar to attic! I like the tip of the marker hanging from the attic rafters because those stairs are not fun to go up and down — my copper, like yours got polished a week or so ago.

Great tips all!

And I'm a list maker as well —

Ann in Baltimore

Ha Ha! I'm a list maker too, so I can empathize with Brent. I actually enjoyed reading his list (and your short cuts too, Josh!) More of Brent's lists please!


I'm soooo sick I have double ear infections n such and I asked my daughter to pick up your book "I am not myself these days" omg for sumthin for me to read, even in my cheratussin and inhaler blind state I understand u too much altho I havent gone thru as much. I hope to visit with u and bring some homey midwest charm to ur wonderful ny charm asap. Love u both muahzzz 🙂


I cleaned out my coat closet this weekend. I found a large tray-like produce box and put it on the floor of the closet to hold my "odd" shoes that don't fit on a shoe rack or in a shoe box – hiking boots, trekking sandals, etc. Now, instead of reaching around in the dark (where spiders lurk?!) hunting for the odd shoes, I can just pull out the tray.

I use citrus skins to clean and polish my stainless steel kitchen sink. The oil in the skins gives the sink a nice shine and it smells wonderful, too. Grapefruit skins work especially well.

I just love you guys and I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of Farmer John's baby goats. Soon?


Forget the winter chores, am I the only one that is jealous that you have a pantry that big in the city?


If copper cookware is needing to be cleaned once/month, then (IMO), maybe it's better to have something less….labor-intensive. Like my Farberware (lasts FOREVER) Low maintenance. Just sayin'…


Our family uses as little chemicals as we possible at our farm too! Have you ever heard of Bio Green Clean? It is quite the product!

Randi Thomson-Story

I am thinking of ordering birthday and anniversary cards for the entire year for all those on my list. Then when they arrive, I will put a sticky note on each one saying who it's for and the date of the special occasion. Then I will file in alphabetical order.

Gary Moore

Well, in Brent's defence, the pantry does look nice that way. I just organized my storage closet off of my balcony and I like to (just a couple of times really) leave the door open while I'm out there and admire the neatness of the closet.Hmm, Brents long lost brother?lol


I feel inspired as thank you:)

We are about to undertake a remodeling project (ourselves w/ minimal help) in which we are taking a very under-utilized and awkwardly designed space and creating a new smaller bedroom and a more normal sized bathroom as well as a laundry/storage room.

My hope is, that as long as I can survive the disaster my home will be through probably April that I will manage to be more organized and it should also give me the chance to go through existing things that must be moved in the process of remodeling. So, that's my winter project, and it's nice to read about what others are doing. Very inspiring.

Dean Robinson

No resolutions but I have set a goal of bring out all my unfinished quilt tops and start finishing them. I've been living in the land of UFOs – "unfinished objects."


My fiance' and I have OUR chore list. On today's agenda was tearing our kitchen floor down to the subfloor!! What a mess!! He is currently working on staining new shutters for our living room windows and I just finished making dinner. The lists don't stop, but they are fun when we accomplish them together..


I just spent 1/2 hr going thru my "junk" drawer in the kitchen trying to finding something. Had senior moment and now can't remember what it was. My point is I started to toss things because it was so cluttered. Which therefore made me forget what I was looking for. Now I have a slightly organzied junk drawer and am without that one special "unforgettable" item. Knowing my luck I will remember tomorrow what it was I needed and it will be in trash with the other things I tossed. So in the immortal words of my dear Mother: NEVER EVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY. Now I just need a better memory or better yet organization so I know where I keep things. And yes Mother I am becoming like you and I know you are looking down at me laughing. Go ahead laugh I deserve it for laughing at you.


Can we start a book club? Here's my current fav: 'The Dirty Life; on farming, food and love' by Kristin Kimball.


My chore is trying to figure out what to do with the dusty ledge near our staircase, it has a nice window behind it. It is too high up for me to reach, even with a ladder. It could be pretty, I just don't know what to put up there. It's about 3 ft X 3ft. Any suggestions?



A neighbor just yesterday gave me what they considered "out of date" spices- about 100.00 worth! I did just what you recommend, Josh.

This month's #1 on the chore list is: get the garage ready for 25 baby chicks to arrive! Not much of a chore, though…we're so excited!

Jo Griffith

I just finished un-decorating before the impending doom of an ice storm; everything is labeled and ready to go to the loft at the barn. Never thought of using up spices/herbs like that, Josh. Great idea!Also finished Bucolic Plague; what a fun read!

vicky tracy



I love the way you both inspire me, after reading your chore list, have decided to tackle my pantry. Great idea to blend spices in the same jar. Wonderful idea to freeze citrus peels and zest to use later.

I started making my oun yogurt thanks to your step by step instructions. So easy to make and so much better then store bought.

Looking foward to the new season.


I needed to create a garden planner for all of my raised beds and order seeds. This was a fun chore though since we got 10 inches of snow and all I have been dreaming of is spring!


1. Thanks for the tip on what to do w/all the lemons from our neighborhood tree. There's only so much lemon marmalade that my hubby the cook can make. But is is yummy.

2. I agree, you should wait for warmer weather.

3. That pic is actually spooky. I imagined Dr. Brent's pantry, all the labels facing forward ala Julia Roberts movie about the crazy husband, but without the violence of course…(Movie was Sleeping with the Enemy, I'm exaggerating of course.)

Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the only once in a relationship with a perfectionist partner who gives me lists (albeit verbal) of things to do. 🙂 Love you guys.


Actually, I have vowed to spend the whole year simplifying. I am eliminating some "thing" every day. It is illuminating to look at possessions with a critical eye and really seeing them. Each day, I review an item that has become part of the scenery or a piece of clothing and I ask myself if it is part of my current life. If not, I recycle, repurpose or eliminate. This has led me to attack closets and drawers when I have time. And my surroundings are changing, less cluttered, more serene.

Donna " mingy&q

Thanks so much for the tip about storing the wreathes GREAT!! Idea.

My list for January is cleaning out the basement especially old ornaments we don't use and getting rid of some of my teenagers as well … I have four of them !! And a 3 year old as well .. Shouldn't I clean some of them out ;)!!

Andre Jones

I like your tips and will utilize some of them. I like your idea of storing Christmas wreaths in plastic garbage pails!

The bright snow reflectance from outside filters in the house, and makes everything brighter, and more pronounced; so, minimizing clutter, and making things cleaner are part of my chores-like the Amish say "Cleaning the corners."

I have animals and everyday chores need to be tended…I check for any stress and up their food rations if necessary.

Other than that, it is my time to do some painting, wool spinning, an keep up with writing my memoir; as it is almost impossible to do those things once spring arrives.


I also use lemons dipped in salt to polish my copper utensils! I hate to use a good new lemon for this purpose so I'm also in the habit of saving them after they have been zested and juiced.

I spent the weekend re-routing pipes in my attic. One result: the space above my water heater in it's closet, which is about 1/3 of the total space in that closet, is now available to store extra towels. I need more storage space in my home so I'm looking for other wasted space I can recover with a few simple changes.

You touched on another concept I wholeheartedly agree with Josh — it's worth it to buy properly sized storage totes, boxes or other containers to store things in. I look for durability and stackability as well as proper size. I got rid of so much clutter when I started doing this. Money well spent!

Natalie Martinez

I too have a very, very old farmhouse, I take the winter months to do what I call "paint touch-ups". Woodwork and white railings and spindels get a fresh coat as well as any walls that have nicks or marks that cannot be cleaned, it's right up there with spring cleaning!


My January project: Count the days until season 2 of "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" begins again!


Thanks for the tip on spice blends! I try to go through these every six months or so but your idea to combine to make common blends is perfect. I keep all my baking ingredients (nuts, dried fruit, seeds) in mason jars and use the Brother PTouch to label them. For some reason, I had never thought to mix the blends with leftovers. THANKS!

Heather Jean

I've dubbed January clear the clutter month in my house. One nook and crany at a time, old stuff, ill fitting stuff, things that haven't been used in a LOOOOOON time…out they go! Add this to chicken/duck maintenance and home remodeling and phew, I need to add some fun in so…

My other chore, that is not really a chore, but is quite fun, is to plan my spring garden. Out with the graph paper, and internet seed researching! I get the whole family involved thinking of what new things we can try this year – we plan out everything, even picking the recipes we'll make with our bounty!


Love the tip about saving the lemons. We use the tractor to move the wood also. The tractor sits outside the basement door (I know that would drive Brent crazy- it not being in it's regular parking space!)with the wood covered by a blue tarp. When the tractor is needed, the wood is emptied into bins near the woodstove in the basement. It is kind of a hike from the hay barn where the wood is neatly stacked. Bringing a tractor bucket full saves time and effort.

Deb Catello

Thanks Josh! I love the idea of wrapping the table runners around the paper tubes. I just saved them to put the left-over paper in. You are so right about the zest. It is great in just about any home-made cookie, cake or bread, as well. Take care!!


Thank you for the cardboard tube organization tips. What an excellent idea to roll up the linens instead of folding them and having to spend hours ironing them next holiday season.

Trase Passantino

Very helpful tips!

I still have to take down the indoor Christmas decor. My husband has grown fond of it and is reluctant for it to get packed away again. But this week, I may just have to do it while he is at work, or we will be celebrating Xmas year-round.

We need to resolve our chicken waterer issue – we are using a 250 watt infrared heat lamp to keep it from freezing, and that is a lot of electricity. We'll be using a thermostatically controlled outlet once it arrives, but we are also trying to come up with a heated base that will not melt the waterer. We use a top-loading plastic model that we prefer over the others. We tried buying a heated poultry fountain, but it is flimsy and getting returned tonight, after giving me a 3 gallon bath out in the coop early this morning. Boo! Hiss!

We need to expand our goats hay feeder area and will be building a longer feeder on one of the barn walls, complete with a lid to keep them from pulling from the top and dropping so much wasted hay on the ground. We have seven goats now, and at least five are pregnant, so lots more are on their way, and their current feeder is not big enough to accommodate them all.

I was able to check "new curtains for our son's room" off of my list yesterday – sewed them while he was napping. 🙂

I can't wait for the new season!


I also take lemons and put them in the garbage disposal…turn it on… what a lovely scent.

Tracy Best

1. Dye hair. Seriously, this has to be done today or sooner. Roots = evil.

2. Make February's birthday cards

3. Plan garden and make raised bed(s)

4. Clean up the potting bench

5. Start beer making

I think I'm going to have to add "clean pantry" to my list, too. Sigh.


Gee, you're becoming a regular Martha Stewart! (btw, I'm reading the Bucolic Plague,and smiling through every page).


Connie Loyd

Okay I see everything he wants you to do now my question is ………..What chores does he get assigned? after all shouldn't it be a 50/50 deal?

Just sayin'!

Tony Joseph Pinho

Just cleaned out large closets. Found a brand new place setting for 8 that I had purchased 7 years ago:) Ended up filling and throwing 2 bags into the garbage and donating 4 bags of clothes etc. to Salvation Army. I felt year mew beginnings!

suzanne spina

Good tips.

I am redoing my pantry/mudroom completely as we speak, paint, closets and all. A much bigger production than I anticipated naturally. It makes me feel better when things are organized and neat AND look stylish too.

Don't think of yourself as cheap reusing the lemons. You're smart. You must know only the very best cooks save everything.


I am inspired now to get out to the second floor of our outbuilding and go through ALL of the tubs full of Xmas decor. And do I mean TUBS FULL! There must be a zillion ornaments…the plastic kind from that store…that I will never use. (The family didn't listen to me or notice all those years that they didn't go up on the tree.) I vow to separate the good from the bad, throw out the broken and donate the useable to the local church thrift store.

Thanks Josh for the inspiration…or should I thank Brent.

Also, I want to teach my dog to NOT bring his food bowl into the living room to eat it all over the floor!