Encouragement for moms Homeschooling Homesteading

9 perfect things to do on a long winter evening

We all know it; it’s just hard to remember. . . there is joy to be found in every season. And there are wonderful things to do in the winter. No doubt.

It’s just hard for me not to long for warm garden dirt under my nails; tall grass rippling in the sun; sweet new life chirping and mooing around me on the farm; a beautiful morning swim in the lake; and a juicy, fresh tomato sandwich for lunch. You know the kind. Perfectly toasted homemade bread. Generous amounts of butter. A deep red slice of tomato that is so wonderfully large it overflows the edges of the bread.

But it’s February. In New England. So I need to have a 4:8 Attitude and enjoy another few months of winter.

9 Great Things To Do on a Long Winter’s Evening

I decided this evening I will enjoy the toasty fire and make a list of all the wonderful things I need to try to make sure I do with the little bits of winter that remain. So here’s my list, in no particular order. Well, except #1 is my favorite endeavor ever. Any season.

1. write.

So yeah, writing is of course the first thing a writer thinks about. But I’m not talking about necessarily writing a novel. Take the long hours of winter evenings to write a letter to someone who would appreciate your handwritten thoughts, maybe an elderly relative or a friend of a friend who is serving in the military. Or consider journaling.

Carve out your own spot, with a good wintery view, and start documenting details about:

. . .  milestones you, a child, or your spouse encountered recently,

. . . dreams of what you’d like to accomplish in the seasons ahead,

. . . favorite recipes, finally getting them organized in a binder that you can keep in reach in the kitchen.

. . . memories of your last year or memories of your childhood–either way, someday your children will love to know.

I value journaling now more than ever, after loosing both mom and dad in a brief one-month window a year ago, and being left with so many unanswered questions.

2. craft.

Knit, sew, braid a rug? It so happens that I have 4 daughters who love to do one or all of these things, but I’m, well, let’s say a little “challenged” in those areas. But I love sitting down and dwindling away a few hours with a few daughters in front of a table full of art supplies.

Even if you’re craft-challenged, like I am, you too may love making mini art with a child–check out these mini Artist Trading Cards my daughters and I enjoy making together.

What better time than the long chilly nights of winter to cuddle up with a child or spouse and learn a new skill?

What better way to get inspired for spring than to start planning Easter crafts? Read here about our family’s favorite Easter traditions. Or check out these amazing all-natural egg dyes. Or just hop on over (see what I did there?) to my Easter board on pinterest.

Or just use the long evenings to make something beautiful, like the all-recycled-denim blanket my daughters pieced together from scraps of denim in my fabric box I keep tucked away in the barn attic for just such a time as a long, cold, dull week of winter..

Consider taking on a long-term project that you can put away when springtime arrives, bringing more busyness with it. Then revisit your craft project and pull it out when chilly autumn evenings find you with more time on your hands once again.

My Engineering student, my oldest daughter, recently taught herself intarsia knitting on long winter nights.

If you’d like to support an eager college student who’s craftiness helps her pay her tuition, go here to check out her beautiful hand-knited hats for sale.

3. read.

Whittle away an hour on a dark winter evening tucked under cozy blankets with your child and a great book between you. Or commit with your spouse that one or two nights a week will be reading night and you’ll sit close, each with your favorite current read in hand. If another family member is in on the plan, you’re more likely to make sure you make time for reading just for fun, you know instead of washing the dishes or cleaning out the fridge, or any of those silly things that we sometimes decide to do instead of just sitting and relaxing.

I would never require a child who was still getting good at reading to do any of the winter-evening-family-time reading. No, it was all sheer enjoyment of being lost in a great classic, with mom doing all the “work.” I was also shocked at how well a small toddler could follow along on a rather complicated story. And an amazing bonus I learned early on was that after I finished reading a classic to them, that would have been totally impossible for them to “get into” on their own, they almost always wound up revisiting it and reading it totally independently. What a fabulous way to teach your child to appreciate well-written, somewhat difficult books at an early age and foster a life-long joy of reading great literature.

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I asked my daughters what were their favorites that I read to them over the years. They all agreed on these:

The Hobbit, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia (especially The Magicians Nephew), The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Johnny Tremain, Witch of Blackbird Pond (I know, if you don’t know of this classic, you may think it doesn’t sound appropriate for little ones, but trust me, it’s not at all what the title leads you to believe and all ages will love this story), and Little Women. Ironically the last one of the list was always my daughters’ favorite, even before they realized that we are the real-life Marsh family, even down to my second daughter named “Jo” and our attic with a dress up trunk. (Truth, I have a sweet friend who every once in a while calls me “Marmee.”)



But then one daughter chimed in that I really should tell you their favorites when they were learning to read to me as well:



Or maybe you’d like to sit down with a good back-to-basics-living blog to scour on a cold, dark evening? I like reading The Prairie Homestead, The Elliot Homestead, Reformation Acres, Oakhill Homestead, Melissa K Norris, and, for insight to an urban homestead, you’d like Weed Em and Reap.

And, of course there’s always Pinterest for making handy boards of all your homesteading topics you want to read more on later.

Jill Winger, Shaye Elliot, and Quinn Veon are a few of my favorite pinners. And here’s yours truly’s Homesteading board, and of course my Backyard Maple Syrup board is a sweet read.

I’ve never lied, our family’s efforts to live a more “simple life” are never simple. I’ve said time and again that simple joys require hard work. It turns out some of the harsh realities and hard work of winter are part of the hardships I share honestly in my posts about  the two reasons you may decide to never own a homestead.

4. tap.

Mind you, it still gets dark very early in February in these parts, so you have to have taps in by 5 or carry a good floodlight with you.

But you may be surprised to know that you do NOT have to live in Canada or New England to successfully make delicious maple syrup. You don’t even have to have a sugar maple in your backyard. In fact, you can tap up to 22 different varieties of trees! (My resource library for subscribers has a detailed resource list of all 22 varieties.) And as long as you have a few days that the temperature is above 40 in the day and freezing at night, you CAN make syrup.

Recently there’s been lots of talk about when to tap over on the Maple Syrup Making facebook group I run. The quick and easy answer is that you need to watch the weather and experience consistent nights that are below freezing with days that are above 40 degrees. But the long answer is much more detailed. Feel free to join the group and follow some fascinating threads on the subject if you’re interested.

Around here, we had two–yes, just two–days that sap was flowing last week. We collected enough sap to make one quart of syrup. Then we’ve cleaned up more buckets and we’re ready for the season to kick into high gear. Then, of course, the lazy days of winter will be filled with maple-infused busyness which will usher us right into early spring.

5. build.

While you’re waiting on the sap to run, a long winter evening is the perfect time to build a Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter and save hundreds of dollars on your backyard syrup production this winter. You can read all about our experience in this post: One Tip that Will Save You Hundreds on Your DIY Maple Syrup. 

Everything you need to know to build this awesome money-saving devise is right here. And to make it easy for you to save hundreds, I’ve compiled this list of all the items we purchased to make our RO filter:


Or, if you have no desire to tap a tree (yeah, I do forget sometimes that not everyone is a maple fanatic), why not build a robot with a child? I’m serious. Amazing Mindstorms kits (see below) make it possible for even a young child to assemble and program a robot, made of legos, to move, turn, pick up things, and even say something. Our family has seriously had life-changing experiences thanks to building robots. Seriously. I explain in this post. 


6. clean.

Well, if I’m being honest, I dislike this idea more than #2, if were talking dusting and vacuuming. But I love cleaning our wool rugs this time of year. Read my post on the topic and check out my youtube video for the full scoop.


7. plan.

Head over to Quinn’s resource of a fabulous set of beautiful printables that all homesteaders–big or small–will love, on Reformation Acres.

Put your dreams of next summer’s garden on paper, diagraming where you want to plant each item.

Make records of what you canned last fall and even jots down details about how to can. (I know I sure would have treasured them if my mom ever documented that kind of information for my daughters and I to use some day.)

Gather some great seedling containers and get your seeds started. Play in dirt Yay! Finally! Even if it is bags of dirt I bought at Agway and plopped on my barn floor–since there’s a foot of snow everywhere outside–this feels good.

Try some one of these 6 Ingenious Seedling Planters I shared last year.

8. watch.

Winter is the perfect time to sit back and binge watch the Back to Basics Living Summit I had the joy of being a part of last summer.

In this summit, you will sit under the tutelage of 32 different experts, and learn great insights into 32 different aspects of this homesteading way of life: the 2017 Back to Basics Living Summit. Whether you are a homesteader yourself and want to expand your knowledge or you’re just dreaming of one day getting to enjoy this hard life, where you feel totally insecure and smelly most of the time, this Summit is totally for you.


If you’re not sure but think The Back to Basics Summit might be great for you, you can hop over to this post for more I wrote about the summit (and my cool, FREE garden trellis I made last year).


Or, if you’d just like an introduction to the basics of backyard maple syrup (which was the topic I presented in the summit), just dive into my course: Maple Joy.


9. listen.

Catching up on podcasts is a great way to spend a long winter’s evening. Just last week I was on Melissa K. Norris’s Pioneering Today podcast sharing all kinds of great info about backyard maple syrup.


Of course you could also enjoy a great book, on audio too.


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But most importantly. . . enjoy.

However you choose to spend a long winter evening, have a 4:8 Attitude. Enjoy a warm fire. Enjoy the still, quiet beauty of winter, because soon enough Spring will dance in through open windows and beckon you to join her under a blue-sky canopy of promising days. I promise. But for now, while Spring is quietly gaining strength you can do the same. Strength in waiting, relaxing, crafting, reading, and planning for that sweet day, one day soon, when you join in the jubilation that Spring will bring

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:11a

Many readers often ask what camera I use to take the images you find here on SoulyRested. I love my Nikon; you can read more about my camera on my Resources page and even purchase your own here.

Glance at my Resource Page if you’d like to get a glimpse of all the supplies I use and recommend for everything from gardening, to homeschooling, to chicken care, to nature journaling, to maple syrup making.

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I hope my focus always encourages you, because simple joys require hard work. Let’s face it, we all need all the encouragement we can get! As soon as you subscribe (in the box at the end of this post), you’ll have immediate access to my Resource Library, which includes many useful printable–including ones about crafts and how to clean a braided wool rug–my FREE EBOOKs, and amazing recipes for things like whoopie pie cookies, maple sap switchel, and my grandmom’s perfect pie crust.







4 Comment

  1. Love the list of books to read to kids or have them read to you! And the audio books. Thank you! I love reading out loud to our kids, but don’t always know what books to pick out.

    1. You’re very welcome, Danielle. The lists could have been much, much longer, so I decided to limit them to the books my daughters remembered with the most fondness. As for audio books, truly I don’t think there’s any better way to introduce kids to the classics then to listen to a great audio book whenever you’re in the car.

  2. I love garden planning on winter evenings! In fact, I almost think I like the neat and tidy winter planning process (no weeds!) more than the real life summer labor out in the hot sun (Alaska girl transplanted to southern Ohio, here). And we were all excited to see a Mr. Putter book on your list – we thought we were the only ones who have discovered these gems! I don’t love everything Cynthia Rylant has written, but the Mr. Putter books are wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well I can’t say I agree on the love of planning… I let my gardener daughter do all the planning–she thrives on it. No, there is no better day than an August day in NH spent in a lush green garden with dirt under my nails. But YES to Mr. Putter and Tabby. (And Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke!) We loved every one… well, except, I wasn’t fond of Takes the Train. It bothered me that he was blatantly dishonest in that one. We also loved every Henry & Mudge book.. We read those until the pages were falling out. My youngest daughter’s favorite books to read to me when she was a brand-new beginning reader were the Puppy Mudge books. Glad to “meet” another Mr. Putter fan and enjoy your final winter days of garden planning! 🙂

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