Spring is the magical time of year when the birds begin to chirp, the mornings grow warm, and the world comes back to life.
We’ve always got to tackle traditional house cleaning, and now we must add spring chores to the list. Spring chores can be demanding and messy jobs. There’s no avoiding them, but we have strategies to make them a little easier. Here are eight of our favorite tricks.
8 Tricks to Make Spring Outdoor Chores Less of a Hassle
1. Winter Damage Inspection
Winter causes small issues that could become severe damage when the weather warms up. You must inspect your buildings, fences, and vehicles for those problems. This will be faster if you triage your inspection. You want to focus first on the three areas that are either most vulnerable or present significant risk if the damage isn’t spotted early and fixed immediately:
Roofing can be damaged by ice dams that form through melt and refreeze cycles, leaving it vulnerable to leaks
Gutters get damaged by ice and may become loose or off-balance during the winter.
Foundations might crack during temperature changes and can cause severe structural damage if left unchecked.
After checking these priorities, move on to the exterior paint and siding of your barns and other outbuildings. Winter damage to these is typical but presents less risk. Finish by looking at fields, yards, and landscaping for anything that needs replacement or repair. Above all, be systematic in your inspection to complete it quickly and accurately.
2. Barn Spring Cleaning
For this chore, consider creating a barn mock-up outside. The concept is simple: Find open space outdoors and mark a scale version of the barn’s contents. Move everything you can out, placing it where it goes in the barn. Once the barn is empty enough, let out the animals and clean the interior. After you’ve cleaned the barn, inspect, maintain, and clean each item before it goes back. After the first couple of times, you won’t need to mark off anything in your outdoor space. You’ll just remember.
3. Fence Repairs
Winters are hard on fences. Ground freezing and thawing can loosen and settle posts, which can damage your slats and wires. And large properties have many fences, making this a time-consuming task. The variety of potential fence repairs is too wide for a single trick, so consider these expert repair tips for various problems you might encounter this spring:
Keep a set of fence repair stakes on hand to shore up fencing immediately after finding a problem. Buy brightly colored fencing pliers and pocket knives so they’re easier to find. Reinforce a leaning post by bracing it, breaking out old concrete, and pouring in a new foundation with the post held in the proper place. Clean fences with a mild detergent and portable power washer. This will reveal cracks and other potential problems so you can repair parts instead of replacing them.
Finally, for fences away from your main buildings, bring everything you might need to the job site so you don’t have to go back for a tool or part you didn’t anticipate.
Spiders come inside for the winter too. That means the nooks and crannies of your barns and sheds fill with webs, dead insects, and dust. Pulling them down is a simple enough physical task, but it leaves you choking on the motes it tosses into the air.
It seems like everybody has their combination of goggles, a good hat, and a face covering to make this chore less of a sneezy and dusty experience. But the best solution comes in two parts.
First, spend $10 on air masks. Use what you’d wear for interior painting or leftovers from the pandemic. They work better than any scarf. Combine them with safety goggles and a long-sleeved shirt, and you’ll be good to go.
Second, be ready to clean off immediately after. Take a shower or jump into the lake to get rid of the dust and reduce an allergic reaction.
5. Cleaning The Drains
We haven’t yet invented a drain cover that won’t let in a fair amount of hay, dirt, manure balls, hair, mud, and pebbles in over the winter. When the spring thaw comes, the excess water pushes it all down until they come together and clog the works. Some people have invented devices they claim make clearing those clogged drains easy, but none of them are as fast or effective as putting on a glove and cleaning them out by hand.
A lot of experts suggest putting on breeder sleeves before getting elbow-deep into that mess. But you probably already know that glove’s likely to break halfway through and become another piece of trash you have to deal with. And that’s assuming you can reach the clog once it’s been pushed down by spring runoff.
Instead, invest in an old-fashioned drain snake, the kind you probably already have for your toilet and kitchen already. Get the larger model, and use it along with your favorite natural or store-bought drain cleaning solution. Alternate between the two until the drain is good to go.
6. Trail & Field Clearing
You’ve stayed off your trails all winter, but they’re still littered with branches and rocks. It’s a hassle to deal with every year.
“Small to big” is the rule for clearing both. Clear off small twigs and stones using a grid search pattern to minimize how long it takes. Once that’s done, hook up a bin to your tractor or ATV and pick up everything portable that’s larger.
Finally, bring out the tools to move any large branches, boulders, or other debris you can’t lift independently. It’s best to do this one section of your property at a time: this field from small to large, then this half-mile of trail.
Late last fall, you spent a few hours weatherizing your property. You put up the storm windows and doors, purged the pipes you won’t use, installed or activated extra heating and ventilation for your livestock, and a dozen other tasks to keep everything safe from the cold. Now it’s time to undo all of it.
Tricks to simplify this process fall into two categories. The first is to install things each fall with removal in mind, using fasteners that are easy to unfasten and writing things down so they’re easy to remember four to six months later. That’s not exactly something you can act on this spring, but it’s good to remember for next time. Second, during the spring, see how many of the following tips you can work into this chore:
1. Prioritize according to what’s likely to need maintenance and repairs. Do the time-consuming items first and the quick fixes closer to the end.
2. Do everything you have to wash at once so you only have to set up and tear down your washing equipment one time.
3. Keep an eye on the weather to air dry and air out fully before the rain makes you stop.
4. Put away things you’ll get out in the fall, to simplify weatherizing as much as you have deweatherizing.
8. Equipment Swap
While you weatherized, you also rotated your equipment. Snow tires went on the car, along with boots and parkas. Now, it’s time to switch everything out again.
The best way to simplify this task is in the fall. Before you pack everything up, think about the order in which you’ll want to access them in the spring. Make a checklist in that order, then put everything away accordingly. For example, you might want to put away the patio furniture last so you have something to sit down on while taking breaks from unpacking everything else.
You may need to get creative with storage space if you have a lot to swap out, but it can save you hours of unpacking and repacking compared to just cramming things in randomly.
You can also do this with your winter things now.
We know these chores can be cumbersome. But if you attack them with a thought-out, systematic plan, you’ll finish before you know it.
You’ll have the inside of the house to work on next. But if you unclogged your barn drain, indoor cleaning will seem like a breeze.
Christian Carrington is a Midwest-based journalist who writes for several publications.