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?