Winter officially doesn't begin until December 21, according to the calendar, and except for those two early snowstorms in October, we've had pretty nice weather. This weekend is expected to have daytime highs in the low 50's around much of Montana and the weatherman is calling for almost 60 early next week. So if you've been putting off some of your winterization projects around your house and yard, maybe take advantage of the pleasant temperatures and get 'em done!

1. Hoses. Surely you've disconnected any garden houses from your house by now, right? It's probably the number one cause of frozen and burst pipes.

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2. Hose bib covers. For added protection, consider slapping one of these foam covers over your hose outlets. They're super cheap (Lowe's has them for $2.28) and they can help when temperatures really plummet later this winter.

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3. Clean and inspect your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America says,

Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people. 

A reputable chimney sweep will also be able to alert you to any other conditions that may affect the performance of your woodstove or fireplace. Many homeowners choose to update their old fireplaces with cleaner-burning (and much more convenient) natural gas or LP fireplace inserts. You'll get all the joy of a fireplace without the mess of wood.

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4. Change your furnace filter. Experts like Bob Vila say your should change your filter for your gas forced air furnace every 90 days, stating,

A clean furnace filter makes a big difference in air quality. What’s more, the fresher the filter, the more efficiently your HVAC system runs, resulting in lower energy bills.

Pets, dusty conditions, and other factors may shorten the life of your furnace filters, so check them often. Filters are an inexpensive way to keep your HVAC system running well and they're super easy to change.

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5. Seal or caulk old windows. Windows can be a major cold spot in your house, especially with many older windows that simply don't keep cold air out very well, compared to new designs. Consider caulking gaps around the exterior of your old windows. Those plastic window film kits (available at any box store) really do help keep out the cold drafts too.

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6. Prepare trees and perennials for a winter nap. While some arborists say fertilizing trees in late fall is a good idea, the MSU Extension Office says that homeowners should NOT fertilize this time of year:

Withholding water and fertilizer and limiting heavy pruning in the fall will encourage trees to harden off properly. This includes evergreens, such as pine, fir and spruce.

The exception would be watering evergreens later this winter if there is no snow cover. They say that even if the ground is frozen, giving them a drink on a warm mid-winter Chinook day can be helpful. If you haven't done so already, now would be a good time to make sure any sensitive perennials are covered with an appropriate layer of mulch.

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