The Frugal Homestead Series Part 1: Why The Woods?

I’ll admit it right now: I talk about our future homestead a lot. If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably sick of me starting sentences with, “when we move to our rural homestead…” In case you’re new here (or you’ve selectively tuned out my near-constant mention of the H word), Mr. Frugalwoods and I plan to buy 20+ acres of wooded land, likely with an existing home and outbuildings, in rural southern Vermont.

The farm we stayed at (thank you to our amazing Airbnb hosts!)

This is a farm we stayed at (through Airbnb) last month in the area of Vermont where we’re homestead-hunting.

We’ll purchase the property as soon as we find what we’re looking for (our most recent search with our realtor was last month). And, we’ll move there on a full-time basis once we hit our version of financial independence in the fall of 2017, if not before. Once we decamp to the homestead, we’ll rent out our Cambridge, MA home. Our lifestyle of ingrained frugality and 65%-85% savings rate are what make this dream possible.

Don't worry, Frugalwoods is also about greyhounds

Don’t worry, Frugalwoods is also about festive greyhounds

I realize, however, that we haven’t delved into the specifics of why we want to do this or how we’re going to do it. I guess both are pretty crucial, eh? In my defense, I never claimed this was a linear blog… Before you shake a fist at the computer and say, but isn’t Frugalwoods about cutting your own hair, eating rice-n-beans, biking to worknot turning your heat on to save money, and generally being notorious frugal weirdos? Well, yes, fair reader. But more importantly, Frugalwoods is about what we want our frugality to accomplish–the “woods” part of our equation if you will.

To that end, and in response to the many comments and emails we’ve received asking us to please, please, please spill the details on the homestead situation, we’re starting the Frugal Homestead Series, of which this is Part 1. Never fear stalwart frugal comrades, we’ll share new installments on a regular basis.

I figured I’d kick off the series with the point of origin for our homesteading dreams: What makes two young, urban hipsters* who’ve lived their entire lives in cities and suburbs decide to up and move to a rural plot of land?

*We are hipsters insomuch as it saves us money (bicycling), is practical (baking our own bread), and/or fits with our aesthetics (Soviet tank pistons and beards).

Hi! We're the headless Frugalwoods team!

This is admittedly a pretty hipster photo of us.

Our Story Thus Far

If you haven’t read our About Us page yet, I highly recommend you do so now. I tried really hard to re-write it fresh for ya, but, I kinda wrote it best the first time. So, check out the About Us and come on back. Frugal Hound will wait here for you.

Mr. Frugalwoods investigates a dumpster

We will miss the city’s Great Trash Finds. Here’s Mr. FW investigating a dumpster

Even though our homesteading goal wasn’t crystallized until early 2014, we’ve been working towards it ever since we graduated from undergrad (8 years ago) and got married (6 years ago). We knew we wanted to live a life outside the ordinary and we wanted options. Frugality gives you options. When you don’t spend most of what you make and when you don’t limit yourself by debt, there are a lot of possibilities open. Thankfully, frugality is a way of life for us, not a struggle.

As I shared in How We Live Frugally In The City, we’ve spent the last 8 years as residents of major US cities: NYC, Washington, DC, and Cambridge, MA (twice). I’m grateful for this trajectory because, without the experience and frame of reference that urban life provides, our homestead plan wouldn’t have come to fruition. I don’t see the homestead as a bizarre deviation from our life path, rather, I see it as the evolution.

Why Go Rural?

Being in the woods and on the trail together are among our best experiences and memories. There’s something deeply soothing and soulfully right about spending time in the woods. Nothing else comes close for us. When we hike, the world fades into the background. There are no unnecessary distractions, no requirements to impress/answer to/appease anyone, and there’s no need for money. In case you were wondering there’s nothing to buy on a hike, which suits us just fine. Hiking gave us the clarity and presence of mind to solidify this decision.

Mr. FW on the Mt. Lincoln ascent

Mr. FW hiking the Mt. Lincoln ascent in the White Mountains of NH

Working from the ideal scenario of Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods hiking all day everyday for the rest of our lives (which isn’t practical for many reasons), we began to formulate a plan that would incorporate the woods and hiking as integral and daily occurrences.

What we devised is something of the proverbial “if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed will go to the mountain.” We realized we need to shorten our commute. Living in the city and driving 2+ hours to reach decent mountains and woods (I’m looking at you, White Mountains of New Hampshire) is not tenable and doesn’t foster a good quality of life.

It was a revelation: why not just move to the hike?

The Adventure

Change is not scary for us. A component of the homesteading appeal is that we’ve never done it before. It’s exhilarating, terrifying, and something of an all-consuming obsession. We crave adventure and this, above all else, is an epic adventure we’re embarking on.

Mrs. FW on the Franconia Ridge summit

Mrs. FW on the Franconia Ridge summit

There will surely be things we fail at, wish we’d done differently, and days of outdoor physical labor when we pine for our lazy desk jobs. But we know this is what we want to do. The easiest thing would be to not do it. To keep living our normal, conventional lives. But we don’t want the easiest life–we want the fulfilling life of wild creativity and passion.

We shy away from saying that this is the last move we’ll make, or the final project we’ll embark on in our lives. We’ll keep ourselves open to what the world has to offer. I firmly believe that remaining flexible and amenable to a diversity of experiences yields a richer life. It certainly has thus far.

Insource All The Things

Mr. Frugalwoods and I are both fiercely independent. We like to figure things out ourselves and prefer to insource everything from cleaning to home improvement to brushing Frugal Hound’s teeth. The great side benefit is that insourcing is incredibly frugal. Coincidence? Nope.

I mean seriously

Frugal Hound pursues her passion of extreme snoozing

Living on our own land will give us the latitude to tinker, create, and otherwise pursue all sorts of random projects. Already on our list: woodworking, welding, writing, gardening, building an Airbnb property, astronomy, preserving and canning foods, cooking, forming hiking trails…. to name a few things.

We’re striving for a life where we work hard, but on projects that are rewarding and produce just enough revenue to support us. By adhering to a lifestyle of low expenses, we’re in a position to support ourselves through these nontraditional means.

The Power of Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods Combined

Mr. Frugalwoods and I make a darn good team. We’re partners and collaborators in every sense. Each of us has areas of expertise that we bring to the relationship and we’re very clear in our division of labor and responsibilities, which allows us each to specialize.

Mr. & Mrs. FW on the summit of Mt. Cardigan

Mr. & Mrs. FW on the summit of Mt. Cardigan

We want to work together all the time. At present, our best hours, our best creativity, our peak energy and viability as humans are funneled into our 9-5 jobs. So much of our time is spent at work and we’re usually exhausted when we get home. That pace and allocation of hours leaves precious little time to pursue anything else of true purpose and depth.

I’m inspired and energized by Mr. FW’s endless font of ideas on a daily basis and he’s similarly grateful for my ability to organize our plans and execute. Working together full-time on the homestead is essentially our idea of paradise. Spending everyday doing interesting things with your best friend is pretty much where it’s at for me.

And with that, I conclude the first part of the Frugal Homestead Series. Next up in the series: “How the heck we’re going to make this bizarre plan work financially” (working title). Want to make sure you’re among the first to receive Part 2 delivered hot and fresh to your email machine? Sign-up in the Frugal Hound email box below and she’ll send you a message.

 What’s your dream? Where are you happiest and most at peace?

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131 Responses

  1. Strandedrocks says:

    “there’s nothing to buy on a hike” — this stood out to me the most because it made me think of last Christmas, when I was travelling in Central America and I was not bombarded with Christmas commercials and jingles and I completely forgot about the whole stress of presents (i.e. junk) and it was just about the friends, family and food. It was great! I see that your future homestead will be a reprieve from the consumer society most North Americans reside in. I am honestly excited to see how and what unfolds. Here in Canada rural homestead are fairly inexpensive, in Eastern Canada it’s even cheaper because a lot of people have flooded westward to the oilfields. My “dream” and I am hesitant to write it down, it sort of makes it more real, is to have a small house in Costa Rica and teach yoga. Surrounded by the noises of the jungle and I drive an old but reliable jeep without a top and I soak in the sun and have wind in my hair. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Your dream sounds absolutely perfect. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking a yoga teacher training program and teaching yoga at/near the homestead, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Teacher training courses are pretty expensive here, though I could get a discount through my studio (since I’m a volunteer). Thanks for sharing!!

      I love the absence of a commercial Christmas too, that’s really my ideal as well!

  2. Mrs. PoP says:

    Replace the woods with the ocean and that’s pretty much what we are aiming for in the early years of our FI. (Mr PoP also wants to move somewhere in the mountains someday, but we’re doing the water first). The ocean and beaches center us like nothing else and the level of independence needed to live aboard a boat and sail around is pretty significant (and hits on a lot of Mr PoP’s tinkering needs), but can also be pretty inexpensive on a day to day basis.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sailing the world full-time would be an incredible experience. But how does Kitty PoP do on the water ;)? I like that you have multi-part FI plans. We’re going with rural homestead as life destination #1, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we moved onto something completely different some day in the future.

      • Mrs. PoP says:

        Kitty PoP is actually an ongoing debate… he’s a Hemingway cat, which historically were the ones that traveled on ships as mousers, so I vote that he comes with, especially if we’re just putzing around the Caribbean or Bahamas. Mr PoP is convinced that would be a recipe for disaster… who knows!?! But due to quarantine issues, Kitty PoP probably couldn’t come with us if we wanted to start a full RTW. Luckily we’ve got a while before we need to figure these issues out, since we think that RE wouldn’t hit until 2018 or so, and we wouldn’t be venturing beyond the Caribbean or Bahamas before 2020 is my guess.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Ahh, gotcha. I can see how quarantine alone might preclude his attendance. Good to have a bit of time to navigate these things. We joke that Frugal Hound is basically the most worthless farm dog ever, but, she’ll snooze happily next to the woodstove. She certainly won’t be doing any homestead chores anytime soon…

  3. Being with a best friend while doing a task, why is that we tend to finish it earlier and to produce better outcomes? I think it’s because of collaboration and understanding. This is what I see in you Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods. It’s really nice seeing you two being grateful for your abilities to organize. More interesting days to come!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Absolutely! We definitely feel like we’re better together and it’s been a great evolution in our relationship. Work is just more fun when it’s something you believe in, done with someone you love 🙂

  4. JD says:

    I absolutely adore your plans for a different lifestyle. It will be great! We are looking forward to paying off our home and moving a bit away from neighbors that are so close we can pass an egg to one another out our window. 🙁

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Why thank you! Hey, that could be handy if you need an egg :). But I hear ya, we live within just a few feet of our closest neighbors here in the city and we won’t mind spreading out one bit.

  5. Cindy says:

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rural lifestyle! It’s a different pace, but since you guys like to do your own things you’ll have no occasion to be bored. Having a piece of land to call your own opens up a lot of possibilities that are just not available in town. We made the move last year and we’re still at the beginning of our journey since we have jobs, but it has been very interesting already.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful to hear that you’re enjoying it already! We know it’ll be a huge transition, but, we’re so excited by the possibilities and options we’ll have once we’re on land. I agree with you–I don’t think we’ll be bored :)!

  6. Gretchen says:

    My thoughts exactly! We crave the rural lifestyle (as long as there is good internet, of course). It is so much simpler, more fun, and to me it’s calming. Can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally agree on the need for good internet! That’s actually one of the factors we take into consideration when we’re looking at properties. Can’t be without it! Thanks for tuning in for the series :).

  7. Mrs SSC says:

    I totally get where you all are coming from. Mr. SSC and I some days spend hours dreaming about our future place. We want enough land to garden, a place to build a workshop for woodworking and beer brewing. I want a place where I can walk out of the front yard and hit some bike or hiking trails after the kids head off to school. I do not want to have to get in a car to get those trails! Removing ourselves from the city will give us a slower pace, where we have more time to ‘in-source’ jobs. We still haven’t nailed down exactly where yet though – right now its western Virginia, but two weeks ago it was northern Idaho!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you’ve got the same plan going on! That’s awesome. I should’ve mentioned that Mr. FW’s workshop/barn will probably also involve beer brewing :). Western Virginia is beautiful!

  8. I think its great that you both are living the life you want to live. I also hope to live out in the middle of no where over looking a lake. I guess we just need the extra elbow room. I wish you both good luck with your future plans.

  9. Robin says:

    You guys are rockstars. We live in a rural area and love it, though we definitely aren’t in early retirement yet. We are making the best of where we are financially until we can retire though – we bought a foreclosure property on an acre of land that we almost have paid off. We also have chickens, bake our own bread, and my husband has started clearing off a little trail for the kids to play on in the woods behind our house. We may not be where we want financially yet, but it’s our little slice of paradise at the moment and we are very happy. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, that sounds great! You’ll have to give us chicken advice… we’re not sure if we want to do animals or not on the homestead (other than frugal hound, of course!). Seems like a lot of work (and expense) for a relatively small return. Do you break even on the chickens, or is it more of a fun and delicious hobby?

      • Robin says:

        We have three chickens for our family of three, and it is one chicken too many. We had far too many eggs this summer, so we were giving them to family, but if you sold them, you might make a little money. If we had two, we would just about break even, but it is our first year having them, so we are still in the learning process.

      • David says:

        Having a few chickens free ranging around the property would be good for your BnB. The guests will love the thought of homegrown eggs for breakfast and will enjoy watching the birds forage around the yard. Chickens are also good insect control including ticks that cause Lyme disease. There’s more to it than the cost of the eggs they lay. Even though it’s cheaper to buy eggs chickens are inexpensive and entertaining pets that provide breakfast.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Those are all great points! I think the chickens would definitely add to the atmosphere (not to mention the eggs!)

  10. Kassandra says:

    Thanks for starting this series as I know it will help people to hone in to what they want their life to reflect both in the short and long term. DH and I have a goal we are working towards of becoming FI in 12 years or less. Once that is complete, then we can slow down even more to savour the world around us. I want for us to live in the present more than we do now and also spend more time volunteering. I am happy that you and Mr. FW are very much in sync. That is a key ingredient in making your goals become a reality.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like a great plan! We’ve definitely buckled down in our day to day lives here in the city to make this a fiscal possibility. I’m a big believer in delayed gratification, and it comes sooner than it sometimes seems!

  11. Pauline says:

    This is such a cool project. And it is very rewarding indeed to work hard and be self sufficient. Sure, you could probably work less and buy the stuff instead but with self sufficiency you can weather any economic climate and be content with what you bring in.
    Why Vermont? Does the weather there make for decent growing seasons?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Vermont isn’t great for growing (though it isn’t bad either). We just like the area and it’s close to the Boston metro so we can manage our current house as a rental property. It’s also beautiful and relatively cheap… both things that put it high on the list 🙂

  12. Sounds like a great plan! Good luck achieving it. The beach and ocean are our happy place. We are working on our plan to make it happen.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I do love the sound of the waves. Not as much as I love the look of the mountains in the fall, but still pretty great. You have a particular beach in mind?

  13. Even Steven says:

    I like the adventure that will come of all this. So you plan to live in the homestead and then build a house by hand for Airbnb to rent? Loving this story even more.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, we want to share our passion for the outdoors with others. A yurt, cabin, treehouse, etc… would provide both needed income as well as a steady stream of interesting people. Plus, a great place for friends and family to come stay.

  14. Awesome, just awesome! I loved your point about you and Mr. FW loving to work together. My wife and I feel the same way, which is why us running our business has become our dream come true over the past three or so years. You’re dead on that it allows each of you specialize and work on the things you want with the person you want to do it with. We’ve talked a lot about moving out of the city and living somewhere more rural here in Nebraska, but therein lies one big problem for my wife – it gets us nowhere closer to the ocean so we shall see where it goes. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh neat, I didn’t realize you worked with your wife full time! We’re actually pretty stoked about how well we work together. I guess it’s the reason we were attracted to each other in the first place. Very different, but in complementary ways!

      Having lived in KS, I know very well the beauty of the wide open plains. I actually spent some time up in the middle of nowhere, NE (near Valentine) at an astronomy convention. Beautiful land, and really dark skies!

  15. I love your decision making process. I tend to think the same way. Embrace the different and realize that you don’t have to commit to something “forever”. Maybe the homestead in the rural area gets boring after a few years or decades, or you miss the city life. You won’t know until you live there for a few years and experience the different seasons and compare your experiences there with experiences elsewhere that you have lived.

    I realize that I can’t predict exactly how life will go or what I’ll be interested in beyond about 2 years. I mean, I know I’ll have a kid at home for at least 15 more years, so there’s that overriding consideration. Otherwise, we don’t know for certain that we will be living in the current house or the current town or even the current state or country more than 2 years out. We probably will, but why worry about committing? If you’re FI, you can live within your means and choose to do whatever you really want to!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      So true! Being FI gives you so many options. One of these followup posts is going to be about the _giant_ list of things we want to learn/investigate/tinker/try. Some are homesteady, like forestry management. Others just need time and space, like my software defined amateur radio astronomy plans.

      Plus, at the end of the day, we’ll be doing it together and for our own purposes. Can’t beat that.

      • That forestry management sounds like a good side gig couples with early retirement. Spend some time in the woods checking on your stock, become an amateur arborist. Selectively cut some timber and make a few bucks. Plus you’ll have an unlimited amount of firewood if you can heat with a high efficiency fuel stove. Of course you already know this… 🙂

        • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

          Yep, I think it’s a solid plan. Plus there’s something epic about tending a crop with a 60 year harvest cycle…

          • Hannah RosieToes says:

            I don’t know much about this, but my pal was given 40 acres from her dad when he recently passed. She was saying that’s she’s learned her dad kept his property taxes really low by being involved in yearly timber harvesting through the state. We’re from WI and I don’t know how this differs from state to state but worth looking into. Sounds like there’s some regulations and rules to adhere by but if it meets your frugal needs and keeps dead/dying wood from just sitting in the woods…then hey!

  16. I think it’s great you both found what is going to make you really happy and are both feverishly working towards that goal. And you both are so young (well to me anyway), and that’s even better! Your hiking/woods is my beach. But with that comes COL that is higher. 🙁 I’m always at such peace when I’m there and know I’m a huge water girl. Still, COL of still something I have yet to reconcile and for that I always feel torn on whether or not I should or could stay in LA long term. It can be unsettling. I’m looking forward to to the rest of this series!

    • Andrew says:

      Get out of LA…. There’s lots of shoreline in this country and much of it has nicer beaches than LA. Ridiculous taxes for terrible infrastructure and 49th in education…. What are you paying for again?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I grew up going to the beach in the summer with my extended family. Great fun! Have you thought about trying to find a more reasonably priced beachy area? I realize as I type those words that they may be an oxymoron 🙂

  17. I’ve lived in the “big” city suburbs as well – (out by Dulles airport), and that was still too crowded and confined for my tastes. I get up in an area where there was *one* stop sign when we moved there (and one stop light when I went to college). I thought I hated that rural life, but I find that the older I get, the more I want to be back in a rural area (not that specific area, I hated that part). There are attractions to city life, but there are also detractors. We spent the last weekend in NYC for a broadway show: I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and way from all the people!
    We can’t wait until we can buy a rural home – but I want to be close enough to a city that we can fly places easily and maybe see traveling theater shows 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I hear you on wanting to still be able to use city amenities once in a while. One of the reasons we like Southern VT is it’s proximity to NYC and Boston. It’s close enough to Boston to make a (long) day trip.

  18. I’ve been hearing about this honesteadig plan, but I didn’t know the particulars, so I’m excited to hear all about it.

    It sounds like a lot of work! It also sounds perfect for you two.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m sure it will be a _ton_ of work, but I think we’re up for the challenge. Plus, it’s adventurous work!

  19. Will says:

    I didn’t know you were looking already. So really the next addition to this series coooouuullllddd be ‘We just bought out dream home!’

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! Maybe, though not likely. The real estate market in New England sort of shuts down in the winter. Not many new properties on the market, and the snow makes it tougher to asses land and timber on potential parcels. Winter is a time for research and money-saving frugality 🙂

  20. I totally get the need for rural, although, I have no desire to homestead. There is something about a small towns. I think it’s a great way to raise kids. Our daughter goes to school in Dolores, Co, population about 800 and we practically live at the public library on Saturday. Last weekend, she had a birthday party from 2-4 and I was planning on hanging out in the library, but they close at 3. The librarian told me I could just stay in the conference room and leave out the side door if I wanted. I was just thinking how I’d never be able to do that in a big city. I think getting to know people and their stories is a great reason to live rurally. Not that you can’t have that in the city, but it’s just different.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Definitely not something that would happen here in the city 🙂 I agree on small towns too. Nothing against the city, we love it’s many amenities and wealth building salaries… but there’s a certain omnipresent anonymity that feels disconnecting.

  21. Michelle says:

    Love love love this post! We want to do something pretty similar. We are looking at homes within national forest next to a bunch of 14ers in Colorado so that we can get our hiking and climbing on.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, that would be awesome! I admit to checking out the real estate market a couple summers ago when we were in CO. Seems like it would be an amazing place to live and be able to enjoy full time.

  22. Mr. 1500 says:

    WIll you miss the community aspect, especially when baby FW arrives?

    I’ve often thought it would be great to do the exact same thing as you’re doing. However, when it comes to children, a little community can be a good thing. Our children occupy themselves for hours farting around with other children in the ‘hood. It is also nice to have good neighbors that we can lean on occasionally.

    I can see the benefits though too. Since you won’t be working, you’ll have no shortage of quality time with your children (it kills me when I tell my children I can’t do something because I have to work). You’ll be able to show them amazing things on the homestead.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      This deserves it’s own post. 🙂 I think if we’re honest, I’d say we don’t know for sure if we’ll miss the community aspect.

      On one hand, we’re surrounded by people all day. Coworkers, neighbors whose house is literally less than 2 feet away from ours, fellow hound owners in the park. Tons of friendly people, literally within reach.

      But many of those relationships are superficial (though friendly) and ultimately transient. People move a lot in the city. In the nearly 3 years we’ve lived here, we’ve gone through both sets of immediate neighbors. It seems like the city isn’t where people put down roots, at least in the areas of NYC, DC and Boston that we’ve lived.

      In contrast, the rural communities I’ve been a part of were much less inclined to turnover, and the residents had much more of a personal investment in “their” town. There were fewer people, but more interpersonal connections.

      As to how this works with kids… I have no idea. Some of the towns we’ve looked at in Vermont have 8 kids in each grade level in school. Could be great, could be terrible! I can come up with scenarios for both.

      But as a kid, what I loved to do more than anything else? Run around in the woods. Be independent. Explore, discover, create, and learn new things. No way to know for certain if my future kids will feel the same way, but I bet they will. And I do want to raise them in the sort of place where I can let them go off exploring all day without worrying about them.

      So yeah, need to write a post and organize my thoughts some more. But that’s the theory. Don’t know if you’ve read Ben Hewitt before (http://benhewitt.net/) but he has an interesting viewpoint about kids and the woods. I don’t necessarily agree with all his choices, but he does eloquently express them. Darned good writer.

  23. Mrs. Maroon says:

    Your version of a paradise for retirement is similar to ours, with a couple changes. We will move to west Texas, particularly because we own 155 acres out there, free and clear! The property has its fair share of trees, but we will be swapping out for mesquite. Similar to y’all, we want to have plenty of space for gardening, woodworking, cooking, and canning. We’d like to add in sewing (if I can get my creative juices going), hunting, and fishing. Like Mrs. SSC, we will also do our fair share of home-brewing too. Good beer is a must!! The biggest difference is that we will swap out your hiking for animals… chickens for eggs, cattle, and whatever animals our children might be interested in showing. Mr..Maroon has an unquenchable desire to participate in all things agricultural. I hope our move out there will help make him feel successful at fulfilling that dream. Now I’ve drifted off into dreamland thinking about how lovely those days will be!!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I think 155 free and clear acres is a pretty good reason for Texas! We’re on the fence about animals. Neither of us grew up raising anything apart from dogs and cats. I have in my mind that small scale animal raising is likely to cost as much as it saves… though you do get the benefit of knowing exactly where your food is coming from. Did you grow up with animals?

      • Mrs. Maroon says:

        We both grew up in the city so just dogs and cats there. Mr. Maroon showed heifers in high school, but wished he would have started sooner so we want to make that option available to the minis. We also ran a small cow-calf operation a couple years ago. We got out when the drought made it too expensive to feed them 🙁 We enjoyed it and would do it for interest even if we didn’t make money. But the chickens are a must for me… I want fresh eggs every day!!!

  24. So cool! I find homesteading really interesting even though it’s not something I ever plan to do. I appreciate the idea though and can’t wait to follow along with your journey. Good luck finding the right property!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! It’s quite exciting to plan for, and it’s a good example of how frugality can enable whatever goal you have. For us, it’s the homestead. But it could be anything!

  25. Jack says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask, do children enter into your plans?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We do plan to have kids, and it definitely plays into our thinking about this move. See my response to Mr. 1500 above for more of my thoughts… though I definitely feel like a larger post on the subject is brewing.

  26. Thom Wilson says:

    That’s great you guys, i really admire your gumption.
    In my experience, it’s hard to give people advice and not sound odious.
    That said, here’s some advice.
    Land that abuts Federal or State land can give you free access to lots more land than you could otherwise afford.
    A home with LOTS of insulation, and double glazed windows can save you a lot of chainsaw time. These can always be added to an existing home, but it’s usually a really big job.
    Maybe plan for a pickup truck – 4×4 best for winter snow & springtime mud.
    Have you considered the personal, business, & property tax implications of living in Vermont, as opposed to say……….New Hampshire?
    Knowledge breeds Frugality. What do you suppose that is in Latin? HA!
    Happy Holiday Cheer

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We’ll happily listen to any and all advice! Good call on the abutting land and a well insulated home. Both things that make our list 😉

      Vermont is more our style of rural than New Hampshire, though we’re not closed to the NH idea. While NH does have no income tax… we don’t plan on having much income to be taxed! So it doesn’t actually make that much difference. Property tax seems to be generally higher in NH, though it varies town to town.

      And we’re still very much in the learning and exploring phase. We’re focusing on Vermont, but I won’t count out NH, Maine, or Western Mass.

      Happy Holidays to you too!

  27. Tawcan says:

    I absolutely love your story and would love to keep track of your progress. Mrs. T grew up on a farm so she’s been talking about buying a large piece of farm land in rural area, build our own house, and become farmers. That idea is a little intriguing from time to time. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      It is intriguing! I don’t think we’re interested (at least immediately) in becoming full time farmers… but hobby farmers for sure. Enough that during the summer we aren’t buying much, if any, produce would be pretty great.

  28. I’m so very excited to read more AND share an area code with you!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Not too many states have a single area code! Even Kansas has more than one! I see so many 802 shirts around Boston, you Vermonters are certainly proud!

  29. Thegoblinchief says:

    As you guys know, the Alchemist and I have a similar homesteading dream, but we’re hoping to take over a family farm in western MI. While it doesn’t have much in the way of hiking nearby, being able to acquire it essentially free takes several years off of her working career.

    Plus, the climate there is ideal for many annual plants, but a lot of permaculture as well (big fruit and wine-producing region).

    If that doesn’t work out, we’d probably end up somewhere in Appalachia, but maybe a bit further south than Vermont. I love hiking, and the rainfall climate in the East is much more favorable than the mountainous regions out West (at least where we could afford to buy land).

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We’d be willing to modify our location requirements pretty drastically in exchange for free land 🙂

      Appalachia is nice. I’m a big fan of the Central Shenandoahs in Virginia, as well as the area right around Asheville in NC. Pretty cheap land, beautiful scenery, decent access to cultural events. And a great growing season!

  30. That sounds like such a fabulous dream and you guys are really working toward it, which is phenomenal! Our dream since getting married five years ago was to be homeowners, which we recently accomplished last month! We are really enjoying it so far. Our other goal is to retire early and travel the world. Time to start working toward that one!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Congrats on the homeownership! Owning a home is an exciting adventure in it’s own right. It’s been a great test for our DIY proclivities and helped us confirm that we’ll be OK fixing things ourself on the future homestead 🙂

  31. Jessica says:

    Great post! I love that you guys have such a clear vision of what you’re working towards. Having a vision of what you want is a fantastic motivator.

    I can completely relate to all of your energy being drained from your 9-5. I have so many things I would like to pursue, but I just don’t have the time or energy to do them right now. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do to change that though.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      It’s tough, isn’t it? I know we constantly struggle with being completely wiped, but still having a full list of todos plus things we’d just “like” to do. For us, we’re content to put off some of the things we’d like to do now for just a few more years. The homestead is within sight!

  32. Having lived the suburban life AND having lived out in the woods, I can resonate with your reasoning for wanting to be out in the country. I’ll be really interested to hear if you guys are gonna go off the grid and all. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yay for country life! Off grid is an interesting possibility–we’re not closed to the idea, but, being on the electricity grid would be good for a number of reasons. It is likely our property won’t be on the water, sewer or gas grids though. We’ll also likely examine the option of doing a grid-tied solar array (more about that in a future installment of the series 🙂 ).

  33. Andrew says:

    Have you considered a tiny house? I think they are pretty cool for one person at least. For 2 you may need a little bigger tiny house.

    A big part of me would love to just go off the grid…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We really like the idea of a tiny house, but, I don’t think it’s going to be practical for us. Since we’re planning on having kids, I’m just not sure where they would fit :). We also really appreciate having some space to spread out in our house. It’s nice to have the room to work on projects.

      We’ve watched a number of tiny house documentaries and I’m totally in awe of the folks who make it work. You’re right though about living in a small dwelling–we certainly don’t plan to get a huge house. Something modest but comfortably sized will be perfect.

  34. This is such a sweet plan, it’s practically GOOEY! I look forward to the next edition. Thank goodness Frugal Hound is so good at delivering those emails! 😀

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awww, thank you Kay! I appreciate that. I’ll let Frugal Hound know she should start setting up the next email now 😉

  35. I really needed to read this today. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I don’t think the route my life is going to take will fit into “normal” standards, and worrying about what people (my family, specifically) is going to think of what I want to do. But this post was a great reminder that I need to follow my heart, and do what will make *me* happiest and what will fit within my values.

    I’m so freaking excited for you guys. Also, I want to come stay at your Airbnb.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m so glad you did read this today–thank you! What you describe is almost exactly what I went through a year or so ago when we were grappling with what we wanted to do with our lives. I was concerned about having that “normal, successful” trajectory and I realized I wasn’t focused at all on what makes me happy. I was doing things in order to check them off my lists of what I thought I “should” be doing with my life. No good.

      It’s been a real journey for me to get to where I am with being proud of our frugality and confident in our non-conformist plans. I definitely think you should follow your heart–you’ll know what the right thing is, it’ll be what makes you feel inspired and motivated.

      P.S. You are welcome to come stay at our Airbnb anytime! Looking forward to it :)!

  36. I love that you guys have found joint purpose in this pursuit. I am bummed that the “woods” won’t be more like a bed and breakfast, but at least you will provide coffee. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! For you Shannon, it’ll be a bed and breakfast :). We’ll have Mr. FW cook us up something tasty and then we can sit on the porch and stare at trees 😉

  37. HMB says:

    Thanks for sharing, I always find it interesting to hear peoples reasons. I like both the city and the mountains/rural areas. I look forward to reading this series. Great blog, from what I’ve read so far!

    – HMB

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! There are definitely advantages to the city and to the country–it’ll be interesting for us to transition from one to the other. Thanks for stopping by!

  38. How nice it will be to spend the best part of your days together! It’s true that by the time you get home from the regular 9 to 5 you’re used up and done (in this house anyways)! I try to keep the home fort going strong so the hubby can have a little downtime in the evenings. Weekends are a whole different story;0) I am happiest and at most peace when I’m home with the family or road trippin’. There’s nothing better than a family road trip!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m also happiest at home with the family :). We’re longingly looking forward to not being constrained by the 9-5 and having the freedom to dictate how and when we’ll work. Can’t wait!

      Family road trips are definitely fun, though I’m not a huge fan of long car rides. I’m too antsy :)!

  39. I don’t want to homestead, but I love the woods! There is something so peaceful about being deep in the woods- away from all the annoying things in life.

  40. The Stoic says:

    Like the two of you, I also find my great enjoyment from time spent in the woods. The clarity and peace that come over you when you are truly present in the woods is something I’ve yet to find in any other setting.

  41. This is getting a little bit into my more academic side, but do you guys know anything about Helen and Scott Nearing? I suspect you’d be interested in them. Many primary sources (ooooh, academic-speak again: by this I mean they wrote a ton of books about their experience moving from NYC to first Vermont (in the 1930s) and then Maine to homestead, of which The Good Life is probably the best known) but this is also a great book that discusses them among many others: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520241428

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I haven’t read The Good Life, but people keep asking if I’ve read it so I think it needs to go on the list! 🙂

      That other book looks fantastic too! I’m reserving it at our library in another tab. Thanks!

      • Heh. The Good Life was pretty popular with the 60s generation of back-to-the-landers, most of whom didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I think it’s a fascinating document; they had, uh, strong political opinions.

        The Gould book is awesome! I teach part of it sometimes and most of my students (who think the good life is getting a high-paying job) think everyone in it is a total weirdo, so you should enjoy it 🙂

  42. I think you guys will love the farm life just as much as you imagine you will. It is a boatload of work, that’s for sure, but the peace, the serenity – it ROCKS. 🙂

  43. I love the idea of a homestead. All the time in the world to work with your hands or with your mind to create new things, whether they’re made out of metal and wood, or put down on paper with a typewriter or a paintbrush. So wonderful! Would the Airbnb be seasonal or year-round? What are the costs associated?

    Love the blog…you have a family of new fans. Expect an email Re: The Frugal Hound Sniffs Interview questions very soon from our dog, the Penny-Pinscher!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yay more FHS! Frugal hound is very excited.

      The AirBnB would probably be year round, though it would likely be busier during ski season, leaf season, and summer vacation. I’m tracking utilization of airbnb properties in the area now (future post) so I hopefully will get a good idea of the market and can make semi-accurate predictions.

  44. Norm says:

    I love the woods and mountains around here, but I sometimes wonder how I would fare out in the real country on a homestead like the one you speak of. I like to visit NYC, but couldn’t live there. I like to visit friends in the suburbs, but couldn’t live there. I like to visit the country, but could I live there? Without being forced into human interaction, my tendency is to lay back and become hermit-like, which is part of why I moved to a dense, small city: It’s good for me.

    Without any reason to see people, I might spend all my time watching Netflix and slowly losing my mind. Which, I mean, it might be fun to lose your mind, but is it good in the long run? Do you ever worry that, one day, someone will stumble on the homestead and find all three of you with long scraggly beards playing some game you invented to appease Ovor, god of the chicken eggs? I would, but maybe those fears are unfounded.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! Ovor, that’s a good one. Would make a decent name for a cream-colored greyhound…

      It’s a fair point though, and something we’ve talked about a lot. Part of the answer is that we don’t want to be really remote. We’re planning to have neighbors, just country neighbors that might be a half mile down the road. And small towns can be all sorts of active.

      We also have awesome technology to keep us in touch with our loved ones AND all ya’ll blog readin’ awesome people.

      Me and Frugal Hound are working on our beards though. Mrs. FW steadfastly refuses to go down that path.

  45. Awesome, fun to read and look forward to other articles. We’re trying to decide mountains or beach for retirement. We love both so much…my guess is we’ll go mountains and visit the beach.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I like the beach, but I love the mountains. I don’t know why, exactly. Something in Boy Scouts must have really made an impression. I’m also a fan of winter weather, and that’s more compatible with mountain amenities. Though I _have_ surf-fished in a snow flurry. Not recommended!

  46. Lane says:

    Hey, definitely look at Maine if you haven’t! We’d be happy to host you, provide some information. DH and I worked together professionally and now we are semi-retired together on our village acre, growing food and raising hens. We remember being 30ish and not having any aches or pains quite fondly. There’s nothing more satisfying than working your own land, I think. Come take a look! We have Maine Farmland Trust that helps young farmers as well as our organic association, MOFGA; we support these generously and they do good work.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We should definitely look into Maine more seriously. MOFGA seems to be an amazing resource! One of our friends also highly recommended talking to them.

      I guess I always thought of mountainous Maine to be really wild country. We’re looking to be rural, but not remote. 🙂 What area of Maine are you in?

      • Lane says:

        South coastal. We were in Boston on Tuesday for the day– about 1 1/2 hours away–geez, too many people down there! I think we are one agricultural zone warmer than Vermont ( zone 5 v 4). Happy to provide more ideas/info; I love to see young people excited about doing stuff themselves!

  47. You said it perfectly with, “The easiest thing would be to not do it. To keep living our normal, conventional lives. But we don’t want the easiest life–we want the fulfilling life of wild creativity and passion.” When my now-fiancé moved across the country to get out of our comfort zones and immerse ourselves in something new, I couldn’t even begin to count how many of our friends said, “I wish I could do something like that,”

    Um, hello–you can. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! And yes, you can! So often we are our own limitations–once you free yourself, the possibilities for what your life can be are suddenly wide open. That’s awesome that you two took a plunge together!

  48. ThomasDV says:

    Sounds like an amazing plan. I currently live somewhat rural (rural living doesn’t really exist in a region with a population density of 1,500/sq mi) but would love to own a large property with large fields and woodlands. My wife on the other hand is quite the opposite, she’s more a fan of concrete jungles like NY.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Maybe you could do a bit of both? Keep a small apartment in the city perhaps (and rent it out on Airbnb when you’re not home)? Thanks so much for stopping by and saying hi!

  49. Seth says:

    I grew up on a homestead deep in the Oregon woods. The Vietnam War and 1st child expectations (from a type A highly successful dad) scarred my Dad sending him 1000 miles from home and a mile up a dirt road, 15 miles from a tiny (100 ppl) town. It suits my Dad. My Mom, not so much. She threatened to leave if my Dad didn’t agree to get electricity. He finally did when I was 7 but my Mom bailed anyway. The hermit/extreme frugality lifestyle is not for everyone. It sounds like you guys are going into this way more knowledgable and realistically than my parents did. When I was a kid I thought it was all normal, but in retrospect some of it seems a little nuts. My Dad would never buy anything new but would spend months of energy and time and even money trying to figure out how to do a project as cheap as possible. He couldn’t see the bigger picture through his frugal mindset: not only would he save time but he would actually save money on many of his projects had he just researched the difference in new and used/homemade. Some if his frugal habits that seem a little off in retrospect- when we got electricity I was allowed one 4 minute shower evety Sunday. This was to save on the electric bill and the time was alloted because this is what he did. Imagine a high school teenage boy taking one 4 minute shower a week. Luckily I could use the high gym showers. We had a huge (over an acre!!) garden that we would spend the entire summer tending to. Every morning In the summer I had a list of chores that my Dad would write up. It would usually take me around 6 hours. He still had a day job at the time and my mom was long gone so I was on my own in the garden. We would eat seasonal veggies from the garden for a couple months but the rest if the year our main meal was what we called Macaroni Surprise. A box of 25 cent mac and cheese with half a bag of frozen veggies. We had this 4 or 5 nights a week until I moved out of the house. The reason we ate such an unhealthy meal so often? My Dad was exhausted from working and maintaining the homestead , and he was so cheap, that he wasn’t interested in actual cooking. I remember being so ashamed of all my old ratty clothes. There was no comporise on clothes. Luckily my Grandma, who was full blown upper middle class and recognized and talked about my Dad’s extreme lifestyle, took pity on me and every September would take me clothes shopping and would buy me a a few things. My Dad would get mad and call it a waste if money but it saved me from some of the embarrassment I felt and that my Dad said I was weak for feeling. Another thing we did, of course, was collect all our own firewood off his 40 acres of timberland we lived on. This was the every weekend project during spring, summer and fall. My Dad used to call it ‘free heat.’ Last year I was talking with my Dad and he asked me about my heating bill. In my house I have forced air. We average around 40 dollars a month for our gas bill which includes our stove. 5 bucks a month in the warm summer months and up to 60 a month in the heart of winter. My Dad, who has greatly mellowed out now that he’s in his 60s, told me he’s done some math and that his ‘free heat’ actually costs him a bit due to gas, insurance for the truck and truck maintenance. He’s starting to be more big picture about things. If he could get an alternate source of heat that runs him around 40 a month it would work just as we’ll but save him hundreds of labor hours. Of course, the firewood cutting was part of the lifestyle he loves so there’s value in that. Another thing that my Das told me recently- he buys his shoes at places like Walmart and refuses to spend more that 15 bucks. He’s been having feet problems lately and my Dads doctor asked him what type if shoes he wears. The doc said ‘you’re whole life?’ My Dad went to a Goodwill and found some nice lightly used brand name running shoes with great support for 15 dollars. He said his feet already feel much better. Big picture.

    I have two groups of friends who would tell me over and over how envious they were of the lifestyle I had growing up. Both these couple tried it- they bought property out in the woods and grew big gardens. They have since both moved back into the towns they used to live in. I think it takes a special personality type. To also need to consider the financial side of every ‘frugal’ decision you make. The garden we had growing up was time consuming and actually took lots of money to maintain. If the goal is frugality rather than strictly the romance of the lifestyle than every single thing you grow in the garden should be examined as if it’s worth it. Most of the veggies we grew could be bought for dirt cheap at farmers markets in our area. Way cheaper than the money and time we spent in and on our garden.

    Judging from your blog post I think you guys have a great plan. Just figure out your priorities and recognize you limitations. And remember the big picture! For me, I highly value my time. It’s not worth spending every weekend in the woods cutting firewood when my heating bill is 40 bucks a month. If rather eat healthy than eat the ‘frugal’ way my Dad did (although I recognize these aren’t mutually exclusive).

    Most of all, make sure you are enjoying yourself.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s approach to frugality. Like you said, it’s so important to keep an eye on the big picture. Sounds like you have a really good outlook on how to save, but also live well. Life should be enjoyed, I totally agree with you. Hope you have a great New Year!

      • Seth says:

        Haha sorry about the rant. This is definitely a subject that gets me riled up. I think growing up with a Dad who was extremely stubborn and so extreme in his ideas really had an impact in the way I choose to live now. The good thing is that we always maintained a good relationship and I actually had a wonderful talk with him just yesterday. He’s care taking his step- grandpa who still lives independently at 100 but now needs help with cooking and shopping and so on. For my Dad this is impressive because it’s nearly impossible to get him to leave his property except for trips to the post office and grocery store. I started a business 10 years ago two hours from where he lives and he has never visited because he can’t bring himself to leave the property. I’m ranting again lol.

        One major drawback to my childhood was that it took me a good 10 years to learn how to manage money- to unlearn some of the bad financial habits my Dad used.

        Like I said before, homesteading us not for everyone. It’s a lot of work and can be very lonely, but if that’s the lifestyle you want then obviously it a great thing. Personally, I have learned I prefer to trade money fir my time in a job I enjoy and invest and shop smartly rather than spend my time on projects I don’t enjoy that other folks can do much more efficiently and cost effectively. Of course, in the end it just boils down to preference. I think your idea of the Air BnB ADU is great. This wouldn’t have worked for my Dad for many reasons but a big one is because he chose to love in a very depressed area in the middle of nowhere with no attractions to bring in renters.

  50. Jeremy says:

    Moving closer to hiking sounds great

    For our honeymoon we hiked 100 miles around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. We washed our clothes in glacial melt, dined on foraged wild blueberries, and even came up with our motto and blog name. And all of these great memories only cost about $0

    Enjoy the trail

    Jeremy

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Your honeymoon sounds absolutely divine. There’s just no substitute for spending time together out in nature. We’re really looking forward to having trails outside our front door! Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  51. That is inspiring for so many reasons! My family and I currently live in the woods, although we are not hardcore homesteaders… yet. But I agree with and try to apply to my life the value of minimalism and simplicity. This coming year, I will push it a little bit further by not buying anything! Should be interesting. 🙂 I will definitely be back to read your blog some more. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh how cool that you live in the woods! Nice! Simplifying our lives is an ongoing effort and I would like to be a better minimalist :). Your plan not to buy anything sounds awesome.

  52. NZ Muse says:

    I love how you have such a clear direction and a plan for getting there 🙂

    Personally I love where we live, it’s where we’ve grown up and having travelled the world, where we want to stay – not right in the city but within commuting distance, and 30 mins to beach/bush/mountains. Now just to get onto the property ladder…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful that you love where you live! Nothing like enjoying the present moment :)! Your distance to beach and mountains is awesome–I can see why you’re happy there. Good luck with the property ladder!

  53. tOM says:

    You might also look at http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.ca/ for another reason to move to a more self-sustaining lifestyle & location.

  54. lana says:

    My dream is to buy an apartment in the south of France and spend my days swimming, fishing and kayaking in the Orb river. I plan on buying a dog and going to different shops for bread, veggies etc every day also… I receive monthly e-mails from a real estate broker and understand the costs etc. Hubby and I are in the last two years of helping our youngest through college. We are saving about 50% of his salary. If I go back to work, mine will be banked as well. We are debt free as well as our children. I wish you well with your dream!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like an absolutely wonderful plan! I wish you all the best and hope that it happens for you!

  55. Sarah says:

    Just came across your blog and love it! I moved from MA to Vt almost 10yrs ago, we live in South Central Vt, side by side with my parents. Each day we talk more about becoming homesteaders! Recently I’ve been bitten by the frugality bug and I really enjoy your blog!

  56. This is amazing. Mr. Picky Pincher and I also want to homestead as part of our frugal lifestyle. There are so many money-saving (and fun!) activities that simply can’t be done as easily if you live in the city, even with a yard. We plan to start homesteading in about five years, and I can’t wait to raise chickens, bake pizza in an outdoor wood-burning oven, and grow a food forest!

  1. December 19, 2014

    […] to sign up for our Frugalwoods email system on Wednesday in the first installment of our Frugal Homestead Series, and lo and behold, it worked! My mom has successfully signed up to receive our emails. This is a […]

  2. December 23, 2014

    […] Mr. Frugalwoods and me, saving money is all about our long-term goal of moving to a homestead in the woods. If you know what you’re saving for and what you want your life to look like down the road, […]

  3. January 5, 2015

    […] how Mr. Frugalwoods and I envision the rest of our lives. Since formalizing our plan to move to a homestead in the woods once we reach our version of financial independence in 2.5 years, I’ve felt vastly less […]

  4. January 14, 2015

    […] The Frugal Homestead Series Part 1: Why The Woods?, Mrs. Frugalwoods discussed the origin of our homesteading aspirations and answered the question […]

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