This Month On The Homestead: Flowers, Wood, and Gender Roles

Our woodpile grows...

Our woodpile grows…

Welcome to the first ever installment of “This Month On The Homestead,” a brand-new monthly Frugalwoods series about, uh, this month on the homestead. As you can see, the title is quite descriptive.

Our transition from urban city-slickers to rural homesteaders is filled with daily mistakes learning experiences, new friends, us doing stupid things with farm equipment innovating, and more! I’ve shared our greatest hits (in photo form) on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (although sometimes I forget to post to Twitter… ), but I haven’t done much in the way of updatin’ here on the blog. Hence, my brilliant idea* to commence “This Month On The Homestead”!

*Actually, it was Mr. FW’s idea after I mused “if only I had a way to update people on what was going on out here!” Then he reminded me that I have a blog. Yep.

As I write, I’m sitting on our back porch, enjoying some rhubarb cobbler I baked with ‘barb from our garden, relishing the breeze, and listening to the dulcet mooing of our neighbor’s cows. Moo.

Ruthless Prioritization

In our first official month out here on the land, we quickly realized that ruthless prioritization is the name of the game. Without it, we run the risk of becoming totes overwhelmed and doing squat. Not squats, which would be useful for the gluteal region, but rather the singular “squat,” which is to say: zilch.

Babywoods next to the Iris

Babywoods next to the Iris

In light of this focus on prioritization, we’re fast recognizing the merit and flow of seasonal work. Mr. FW often works outside late into the evening (thanks to our long hours of daylight) and we made the decision to relegate all of our “inside-the-house” projects to the wintertime when there won’t be nearly as much to do on our land. I have a growing list of indoor projects including: installing a dishwasher, replacing an aged toilet, painting the walls, organizing the basement, and hanging up our art. But I’m content with waiting to tackle these things until the weather mandates we secret ourselves inside. No sense wasting these beatific summer weeks behind closed doors.

One quasi-indoor endeavor I am addressing this summer is cleaning out our outbuildings–aka the barn and the potting shed. The previous owners left quite a few boxes behind–some of which are filled with trash and recycling and others of which contain useful household items I’m guessing they never unpacked from their move. I’m working to sort everything out into piles destined for the dump, to donate, and to use.

Recalling how very cold last winter was, and how very much we relished being warmed by our woodstove, we determined that putting up firewood is priority #1. In an ideal world, we would’ve put up this wood months (if not years) ago in order for it to properly season, but, we didn’t live here months or years ago. We live here now and so we’re taking the wood project in hand now. For those of you in the club of not being entirely sure what “putting up wood” means (of which I was recently a member) allow me to expound!

Heating With Wood: A Brief Overview By Mrs. Frugalwoods

Our woodstove: chillin' summer-style with wildflowers!

Our woodstove: chillin’ summer-style with wildflowers!

Our woodstove has the capability to singlehandedly heat our entire home (a theory we tested and confirmed this winter when temps dipped to -25F). We have oil-fired hot water baseboard heat as a back-up, but it’s vastly cheaper (ding, ding, ding!) to heat with wood–especially when the wood is harvested for free on one’s own land. Plus our name is Frugalwoods. Hence, you can all guess why we’re doing this. Another wonderful thing is that our woodstove is modern and thus, doesn’t emit toxins into our home (a danger of heating with an open fireplace).

In addition to the thriftiness of it, there’s also something deliciously nostalgic and quaintly romantic about heating with a woodstove. Plus it looks cool. Additionally, selectively harvesting wood is part of healthy forest management–something we aim to do!

To get our wood procurement started as safely as possible, Mr. FW studied logging for several years via the internet. Then in May, he took a weekend-long hands-on safety and directional felling course (directional felling = bringing down a tree where you want it to fall, as in, not on top of self/others/your house/a cow/etc). For local folks interested, it was the Game Of Logging course offered by VT Coverts. Before going any further, I cannot emphasize enough the preeminence of safety in all chainsaw-related endeavors. Mr. FW uses all recommended safety gear including steel-toed boots, a helmet with ear and eye protection, as well as chainsaw chaps, and gloves.

In order to get from tree standing in our forest to firewood in our stove, Mr. FW follows a number of steps:

Taking out the bucked rounds

Taking out the bucked rounds

1) He first selects a tree to bring down, which is a surprisingly complex decision.

Variables impacting tree selection include: type of tree (different types of wood burn differently and ideally, you want firewood with a high BTU), the ease of bringing it down (is it likely to get caught up or bring other trees down with it?), ability to skid the log (that’s a fancy way of saying ‘get the log out of the woods’), menace/danger trees (this is my term for trees that are likely to fall down and block, say, our driveway), and the health of the tree (ideally you bring down a dead or dying tree, but not one that’s so far gone the wood is rotten).

2) After picking a tree, he then goes through a rigorous safety calculation as to which direction will be wisest to fell the tree.

It is possible to control a tree’s fall direction–to an extent–through the use of the notch and wedge system. Using a chainsaw, he first cuts a notch at the base of the tree and then pounds wedges in.

Mr. FW bucking a tree he felled

Mr. FW bucking a tree he felled

3) Once the tree is down, Mr. FW bucks it in place.

“Buck” simply means to remove the tree’s limbs and saw the trunk into foot-long pieces.

4) Following bucking, he loads the rounds into our tracker bucket and drives them down to his splitting station next to the barn.

If we had more equipment, he could skid the logs whole out of the woods, but for the time being, this approach works well enough.

5) Now it’s time for splittin’!

Mr. FW is valiantly splitting logs by hand, using a splitting axe, for the simple reason that we don’t own a hydraulic splitter. Ever the frugal weirdo, he decided to try out the old school manual method before dropping the dough on a splitter (we have our eyes peeled for a used one… ).

6) Finally, he stacks the splits (split logs) onto pallets in our yard and covers the stacks with pieces of steel salvaged from old structures on our land.

This arrangement allows the wood to “season,” which is the process by which it dries out. Un-seasoned, wet wood is referred to as “green” wood and it doesn’t burn as efficiently as properly seasoned wood. The wood will hang out in the yard drying until after the first frost, which will hopefully kill the bugs. Then, it will migrate into our wood shed and eventually into our basement, and finally, upstairs into the stove!

And there you have it: a very brief–and probably wildly incomplete–outline of how to put up wood!

Division Of Labor

Mr. FW splitting wood

Mr. FW splitting wood

One of the most interesting aspects of our new life here on the farm is that a gendered division of labor has evolved. In the city, Mr. FW and I filled essentially all of the same roles on a regular basis. Now however, we’re discovering that our labor is, by necessity, sometimes divided. As ardent feminists who believe in an egalitarian marriage where each parter pulls equal weight, this is novel territory for us to chart.

The most recent example? I tried to split wood. I tried really hard. I lofted the axe, assumed a wide-legged stance, hefted with all my heft and… nothing happened. Or more accurately, the axe got stuck in the stump. After unsuccessfully splitting wood for awhile, we decided to leave the task to Mr. FW.

It’s not that I don’t want to split wood, and it’s not that I’m not strong–it’s just that I seem to lack the mass required to bring the axe down with enough force to actually split the wood. Perhaps my strength will grow and perhaps next year I’ll be a splitting fiend. But perhaps not. Accepting that there are things I can’t physically do is a humbling experience. Coupled with the acknowledgement of things I can’t do, however, is the opportunity to take on different chores in their stead.

For instance… Mr. FW has always served as our sole cook, but I’ve decided to assume some of our cooking since he’s often out splitting wood late into the evening. He’s teaching me to cook (a slow and arduous process to be sure… ) and I pleasantly surprised myself by making this Focaccia bread on my own last week! I will say that learning new things is certainly the prevailing theme of life out here.

Trash Talk

My floral arranging set-up on the porch

My floral arranging set-up on the porch

Another skill to master! Also in the catalog of urban v. rural differences, our town doesn’t provide trash and recycling pick-up. Hence, I take both down to the town transfer station every Saturday morning. Recycling is free, but trash costs $2/bag.

Since we’re now composting and since most things are recyclable and since we’re ultra-frugal, we fortunately average about 1 bag of trash every 2 weeks (it would be less except for my barn-cleaning-out project, which generates a fair amount of trash).

My New Favorite Chore

Surprisingly, it is not taking the trash to the dump ;). We inherited a shockingly large number of flower beds in our yard and its nothing short of incredible to watch the panoply of blooms that spring forth each week.

May and June saw yellow Globe Flowers erupt, pink and purple Lupine blossom, a Lilac bush, Day-blooming Jasmine, purple Columbines, purple and white Irises, orange Poppies, pink and white Peonies, Lady’s Mantle, purple Bachelor’s Buttons, Pink Bistort, and a frankly absurd number of wildflowers. A new friend came over to help us identify these flowers since we didn’t know the names of most and I’m trying to commit them to memory!

One of my arrangements (atop a free sideboard, no less)

One of my arrangements (atop a free sideboard, no less)

Every week, I walk around our land and clip flowers to create arrangements. I then sit on the porch with Babywoods, strip off the leaves, and arrange my findings into vases. It’s a rather zen ritual for me and I’ve come to consider it my favorite chore. Flowers are the most ephemeral, fleeting visions of delight. What I love most about this little undertaking is that it’s not a necessity. There’s nothing mandating that I collect flowers–I do it simply because I want to. It’s quite indulgent, luxurious, and wonderful to have something in one’s routine merely for the pleasure of it.

I’ve always loved fresh flowers in a home, but I’ve never been willing to pay for them. Now that we’re inundated with floral abundance, it feels like such a gift to adorn our home for free! Finding outlets for our flowers is another goal of mine–I donated some to the local plant sale (which raises funds for our community center), gave away bulbs, I do the arrangements at church some Sundays, and I love gifting bouquets to people. If I were more organized/had more time, I’d find more places to donate flowers–that’s a goal for next summer!

A Garden Grows (sort of… )

Frugal Hound scopes out the veggie garden

Frugal Hound scopes out the veggie garden

June was also vegetable planting month. As previously shared, I decided to focus our gardening efforts on getting a vegetable patch underway. We planted tomatoes, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, peppers, spinach, arugula, mesclun mix, brussels sprouts, and squash. Nothing has produced any fruit yet…. but it’s all still alive!

Diligent watering, weeding, and fertilizing are hopefully contributing to the health of our nascent crops. Simply getting this veg garden weeded from its erstwhile jungle-like state down to bare dirt and then planting stuff feels like a massive accomplishment. Back pats all around.

Endless, Abundant Gratitude

We are infused with it and we live in its presence every single day. In addition to this series serving as my repository for the absurdly large number of photos I take on a daily basis (my phone is constantly running out of storage space… like every other day), these posts will provide a monthly reflection of our gratitude for the ability to pursue this life. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to live here and imbued daily with a sense of awe over the natural beauty surrounding us. Living with abundant gratitude for the simple machinations of our life is all I could ever want.

How was June on your home front?

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95 Responses

  1. Cool update! Growing up we heated our house with a wood stove for years. I spent many hours helping cut wood. Maybe again someday 🙂

  2. Katie says:

    I love hearing about your adventures in homesteading. 🙂 While I don’t want to homestead quite so vigorously myself (I think I’d rather laze on the porch), this post makes me want to sigh with contentment. So happy you guys are living your dream!

  3. Brittany says:

    Gardening is becoming one of my favorite pastimes and I’m looking into taking a Master Gardener course in the fall.

    I recently saw a gardening t-shirt saying “If you were a plant, I’d remember your name” I thought it was pretty funny and I think I might have to make one with that phrase for myself!

  4. LS says:

    I grew up splitting wood by hand. If you can stand the work I would keep doing that rather than use a splitter. Once you get good at it and the logs are clean it can be a zen-like experience.
    Will be interesting how you find the work and the life long term.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Mr. FW definitely describes it as zen-like–there’s just something wonderful about that repetitive, simple motion (or so he says!)

  5. Poppy says:

    The best thing about you being on the homestead is you’re writing more often again! I love sharing my morning coffee with a new post.

  6. Sandra & the 2 Spaniels says:

    What a great post on the everyday requirements of farm ownership. Most people picture Martha Stewart, looking spiffy & clean while she goes gardening or picking fruit. Believe me, mucking out stalls is not picturesque!! But being on the farm offers peace and a sense of accomplishment that cannot be beat. As for “ardent feminists who believe in an egalitarian marriage where each parter pulls equal weight,”-some things are just biological. Men carry their strength from the waist up, women from the waist down. Mr FW might be able to whack those logs up, but Ms FW would roll them down a river better. 😉 Glad that all of this is working out.

  7. Wow has your woodpile grown! And your flowers are beautiful. What a treat to have fresh beauties all the time 🙂
    You guys are doing great work, even if there is a division of labor. We’re still in the city, but we have a division of labor too–he chooses what he’s willing to do from the list and I work on the rest. We do about half and half, it just is easier to motivate him when he gets to pick. (He usually vacuums and I get to clean the bathrooms.)

  8. Wonderful, wonderful post! Blessings to all of you in your new endeavor.

  9. Mrs. FI says:

    I absolutely love this. Keep the updates coming! So glad you guys are enjoying your new home and all it has to offer. And for sharing it with the rest of us so we can enjoy it, too! 🙂

  10. Yowza you guys have been busy! So impressed you got a garden in. We have never had the stability to plant one but my kids’elementary school has one. One afternoon a week in the summer, one can come help with weeding and watering and then take home whatever is ripe. So far, we have taken home garlic scapes, one pepper, some Swiss chard, and a small mountain of kale. Most of which I have processed into pesto and frozen for the winter. The kids even ate some of it! Big Brother was particularly proud of his Swiss chard-picking skills (it was a very attractive red variety).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yum, pesto! And how great that the school offers that for the kids to get hands-on-dirt learning!

  11. It’s so hard to split up physical work on feminist terms! I always want to help Mr. Picky Pincher out, but there are many things (lifting heavy things, chopping wood, etc.) that I physically cannot do. That sucks, but hey, you just gotta do what makes the most sense.

    I love your little homestead! I drool over the beautiful green trees. 🙂 It’s our goal to save up enough to homestead here; it’s a 10+ year away goal but it’s going to happen!

  12. Nora says:

    Beautiful post. I love it. Flowers are my favorite part of my house and those peonies are dreamy. We have one peony plant so I leave the flowers on it – one day I’d love to plant more!

    My husband is dreaming of a log splitter. He collects wood when friends drop trees or when we get them removed from our home (suburbia = paying a lot to have someone with cranes remove the trees, rather than have them hit your house) and then splits it by hand. We borrowed one from a friend before and it was horrifying but efficient machine.

  13. Lisa says:

    In terms of the flowers, you might look and see if there are any local nursing homes or hospitals. I’m sure there are many places that would love them to help brighten up the rooms!

  14. Great update! Such cool photos. I loved the Frugal Hound’s twin photo your shared on twitter. Got to love the game cam.

  15. Ahh you have to quite blogging about rhubarb…you make my mouth water instantly! 

    And the pics of babywoods…such a cutie!

    Wow I can’t believe how much goes into harvesting wood! I like how self-sustainable it is for you folks though, that is awesome. It is funny you bring up a hydraulic splitter, for some odd reason a neighbor of mine (in the middle of Charlotte) had one he was using in his driveway. When I was walking by I looked over and thought how unique it was to see this in town, but he was splitting wood right there. And then I was wondering if he rented it or where he got it from. Can you rent them from a hardware store?

    Anyway, thanks for the post and I look forward to the new monthly series!

  16. The chaps for chainsawing are SO IMPORTANT! I am so glad Mr. is using them. (A few weeks ago I had to rush a 13-year-old to the hospital because he had dropped a still-moving chain saw on his thigh during the family activity of getting wood for Grandma and Grandpa to burn through the winter….CHAPS FOR EVERYONE! (He’s fine, learned a good lesson and will have a wicked scar, 17 stitches)).


  17. Lisa says:

    I was hoping for a picture of your focaccia!! It’s interesting hearing about your adventures, thanks for sharing. I live in the south but find myself choosing projects based on the season too.
    Are you able to let Frugal hound go off leash and run on your property?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sadly, Frugal Hound still must be leashed–we don’t have any fenced-in areas where she could safely roam, but we hope to one day!

      • julie says:

        Could you get one of those tie ins (I’m not sure what they are called exactly). We have one for our dog when we go camping. They are about 25 feet long and come with stakes (we just wrap it aroudn a tree). She gets to run around, and we don’t have to hold a leash the whole time! I got one for about $10.

  18. sfmitch says:

    Love the blog. If you keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

  19. Laura Kubiszewski says:

    I enjoy following your blog. I have been gardening for decades and am ALWAYS learning something new. Every year has successes and failures.
    When/if you have time over the winter I would highly recommend watching the Back to Eden videos on youtube. This guy is awesome. Learn from him
    now rather than 30 years after you start gardening as i did. His videos are pure common sense and simplicity.

  20. Caligirl says:

    It says a lot about gender dynamics that women ponder things like not being as good at splitting wood or as fast or reckless or whatever but men seldom lament the fact that no amount of effort or prep will allow them to make even a second-rate version of Babywoods. And no amount of willingness to spend will get anyone a machine to substitute for a woman’s body. Not that we want to get into a competition over these things. But once you do go the route of considering gender roles, it seems like that particularly cool trick that women perform kind of trumps the rest.

  21. Melinda says:

    Having left the city, working girl mode for life on 4.5 acres and retirement 16 years ago has been a huge learning curve. I didn’t even know how to use a weedwacker let alone go out into the pasture to actually apply it. Now, I’m a weedwacker junkie which is a good thing with acerage. I always love reading your blog, but your new homestead series will be particularly enjoyable as I nod my head through your adventures having “been there”. Our land is a part of my soul. My heart beats with it. Thanks for your great writing. You are gifted

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! Yes, “huge learning curve” is exactly how we feel right now (and probably will for the next few decades or so 😉 )

  22. Justin says:

    Very cool Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods! 🙂

    Now that Mrs. Root of Good has joined me in early retirement, we’re living a somewhat similar life (on a smaller urban scale) on our little third of an acre in the city. That’s about the right size for us to maintain without too much effort (we don’t have your energy 🙂 ).

    Lots of wild flowers and other blossoming goodness that provides the ingredients for the missus’s indoor bouquets. She’s the yard person in terms of weeding, flower beds, watering (we collect rainwater and AC condensate!), fertilizing, etc. She also does laundry very well (I’m lost when it comes to sorting and folding clothes for the three different ladies in our house).

    I’m the lawn mower. It takes me almost half the time because I can muscle the mower around the yard and up some side slopes much quicker than her because I’m 2x her size. I also do the plumbing and auto repair/maintenance – 2 tasks that occasionally require some serious muscle to break loose things that are stuck together.

    We both wash dishes and cook fairly often, with each of us focusing on our own specialty dishes. I’m the Italian and Mexican guy, sometimes dabbling in the plates from the Orient; she’s the southeast Asian pro in general, though I’ve perfected my pad thai to the point where I’m the one in charge of that dish.

  23. Casey says:

    I am so glad you are updating us on homestead life! As a lifelong suburban/city girl myself, I find it FASCINATING! You have inspired me to cut more blooms from our own inherited peony and rose bushes!

  24. RoseRelish says:

    Beautiful post. The part about your indulgent, luxurious daily habit of clipping flowers was awesome. The simplicity of it. Taking joy is something relatively mundane, but also so very fulfilling. That’s the goal of slowing down – to rediscover small, simple pleasures. Thanks for that part of the post in particular.

  25. Chris says:

    Just some ideas to share – You could procure a burn barrel and burn your paper trash. My mom takes off both the top and bottom of cans and smashes them.

  26. Chris says:

    Oops, of course the cans would not be burned. lol

  27. Ann says:

    I see you have installed the same soap stone wood stove as we. We have enjoyed it one Winter already & love it. It makes me feel good that you chose the same stove. Hub is always good @ doing our homework/research & finding the best product/deal to serve our needs & purposes. Last Winter we had a bad ice storm & hub had 7 trees taken down from our front yard. He split it into firewood & the jibbles he ground into garden mulch. We enjoy your blog. Blessings your way ( <3 )

  28. Danell says:

    I enjoy reading about what you are accomplishing on your homestead. Mostly because I am not having to do all of that work myself! 🙂

  29. Kristiina says:

    Nice update! We are in our second year of homesteading and love it! Last year we spent a lot of time learning our land, gardening and raising chickens. THis year we added pigs and it has been so much fun! We are also going to try to master winter gardening in our greenhouse, we currently don’t heat our greenhouse so we are exploring the best, low cost way to do that. I love hearing how you all are coming along! Thank you for sharing!

  30. jill says:

    Sounds like your family is “settling” into a routine driven by the seasons – that sounds wonderful. It’s inspiring to see you break your vast list of to-do’s into must-do’s for now – you’ll get there.

    I’m also a small lady and leave most of the splitting to my husband, but I’ve found that using a metal wedge to get a round started or a wood-splitting maul to add some extra weight behind my swing makes splitting 100x easier – still hard work, but makes me feel like a badass. Either way, sounds like you’ve each got plenty of things to keep you busy.

  31. All sounds so great!

    Living seasonally makes loads of sense whether you live in the country or the city. If nothing else, energy levels really fluctuate depending on the season.

    Re the gender thing, don’t forget that you’re still less than 12 months post partem so you won’t be as strong still as your pre-pregnancy self, especially if you’re still breastfeeding too. I hear you though, it’s frustrating sometimes not being able to keep up physically.

    Love that you have to pay per bag to get rid of your rubbish (from an environmental perspective, not financial obviously!). Is that common in the US?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It is actually rather uncommon to pay for trash disposal here in the US, but I agree with you that it’s a wonderful incentive from an environmental perspective!

  32. Diane says:

    We have heated with wood almost all our married life, now with an Austrian cookstove – a Tirolia. . . not sure they even make those anymore. When I was young I used to do all the splitting with a maul and a wedge but I am paying for it now with arthritic shoulders so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. We now have a hydraulic splitter since our firebox is small and logs have to be split to a specific size – so much faster and easier than splitting manually but I did enjoy splitting back in the day.

  33. Cindi says:

    I’m so glad you’re going to be doing these posts to update us.
    I’m also glad Mr. FW is using those chainsaw chaps. My hubby got a pair after a near-miss with the chainsaw. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, but it scared him enough to go out and get a pair that day — a sound investment.
    We were fortunate enough to inherit a hydraulic splitter — using it, I can split wood! Otherwise, I don’t have the strength.
    I’m envious of your flowers. Our little homestead was solid woods when we bought it and I am only gradually establishing trees and flowers.

  34. A tip on splitting wood for the ladies, which I learned after we moved to the mountains. Instead of trying to wield the ax overhead and hit the right spot with enough force to split the log, I found it works just as well and with less hazard to tap the blade of the ax into the log, then lift the whole thing up — ax plus log with ax wedged in it — and then bring the whole thing down more forcefully. It may not work with the hardest of hard woods, but it works perfectly with pine. 🙂

  35. ZJ Thorne says:

    That sideboard is also beautiful! I love that you are arranging flowers because it brings you joy.

    I don’t live with my girlfriend, but we still divide up chores based on our relative strengths and delights. I am far better at grocery shopping and lugging things around. She is far better at making delicious food and opening jars. It’s nice to pass off on things that are just harder for me.

  36. SisterX says:

    I’m a little jealous, I really enjoy splitting wood but we don’t have a wood stove here. I’m sure if you kept at it, you’d be able to split logs regularly very quickly. Learning how to do it can be tricky (I’m a short woman), but it’s rewarding.
    Also, pro tip: Babywoods will happily help you move the logs when she’s older if you make it into a game. I just had a family reunion and my cousins and I discussed the summer we helped our grandparents move a winter’s worth of wood into the cellar. We remembered it fondly.

  37. The roles on our homestead sometimes fall along traditional gender lines, like me doing more housework, sewing, decorating, etc. & Phil building the barn with my son, Mojo, and so forth, but they are both wizards in the kitchen & I do split my share of firewood. Our taks aren’t divided certain ways *because* of our genders, but sometimes it does work out that way. Sometimes it’s just more efficient or desperately necessary to have the person who’s quickest or best at something just get it done, while other times it makes sense to teach each other, work together or take turns. It’s all an experiment… Glad you’re having fun with it! 🙂

  38. Miser Mom says:

    My dad owns a hydraulic wood splitter. One of the advantages of these is that even youngsters can use them, so that they can be social things as well as utilitarian. When my pre-teen sons would go visit my dad, one of the things they *loved* to do was split wood for him. It would keep them entertained (seriously) for hours, and would help my dad. An axe in their hands would not have been quite as . . . viable an entertainment alternative.

  39. Elliot NZ says:

    One thing I’ve never heard you mention in your blog is anything about travel. Either overseas or around USA/Canada. A lot of frugality/early retirement blogs I’ve read propose to retire early and travel extensively. Mentioning that material goods don’t bring them happiness, but the experiences and the appreciation of the world and different cultures brings them real value.

    You mention in this post that ” I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to live here and imbued daily with a sense of awe over the natural beauty surrounding us. Living with abundant gratitude for the simple machinations of our life is all I could ever want.”

    Does this mean you are content never really travelling that much and just happy staying in Vermont/Cambridge and living a simple life of keeping up the homestead, writing your blog, etc?

    Do you ever feel the need to travel overseas to somewhere like here in New Zealand to go on hiking trips or to Nepal to hike in the mountains, etc?

    I know everyone is different but living a very simple life of chopping wood, growing vegetables, etc I’d personally feel like I’d be lacking something.

    Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Elliot 🙂

  40. Great update Frugalwoods. I enjoy watching your transformation from city slickers to country folk. It’s almost humorous sometimes, but I remind myself that it’s all new and different for you.

    It’s also interesting to read about your changing(?) thoughts on gender roles. Do you find that city life enables or facilitates feminism and country life discourages it due to the physical labors involved?

    On average, I would guess there are more ardent feminists in the city than the country. Your own posts seem to be softening on hardline thoughts about gender roles.

    In my own family, I’m the chief cook and bottle washer, lawn mower, repair man, stay-at-home dad, and do-er of all things heavy and physical…so I cross a lot of traditional gender lines. 😉 Curious what your thoughts might be.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh I definitely don’t think that country life “discourages” feminism–to the contrary! Living a rural life necessitates an active, working partnership along with hardy self-reliance. Doing jobs along traditional gender role lines isn’t a disavowal of feminism, I’m simply observing the changes and evolution in our physical labors. The articulation and expression of feminism is far more nuanced that simply the physical work we do. So no, my thoughts aren’t “softening” in that respect.

  41. Tara says:

    As far as wood splitting, it can happen eventually I’m sure. When you see women competing in power lifting, you know women can split wood too, just might take more upper arm strength training to get to that point. I’m watching the Olympic trials right now and seeing the female gymnasts and how strong they are is inspiring. 😃

    Did you know that burning wood is carbon neutral? I thought it was bad for the environment, but it turns out that burning wood releases the same CO2 that would be released if the tree rotted and broke down into soil. The only danger to a wood stove can be fine particulate matter but a maintained wood burning stove alleviates that problem. Do you guys plant new trees to help make up for lost trees (to keep fuel source going) or are cut trees in an area you wanted to clear anyways?

    Also, how do you keep bugs from hitching rides in your pretty flower arrangements? I have flowers in our yard I want to cut and bring in but in the past there were always a few hitchhiking bugs that I had to take them outside again. :/

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes I’m optimistic I can build more strength :)! Our forest is actually over-populated with trees right now and we need to do even more thinning, so taking firewood serves a dual purpose for us.

      In terms of bugs-in-flowers, I’ve been leaving the flowers outside on the porch for awhile before bringing them inside. I also put the arrangement together outside, which gives me a chance to kick out any bugs I discover. Though of course some still make their way indoors….

  42. “He who choppeth wood is twice warmed,” as my husband says regularly after his most frugal workout. We are in the mist of a New Zealand winter, which is very mild compared to your winters. But we light our woodburner every night and adore it. We live on an urban section, so our wood is scavenged from other people felling trees in the area, and from prunings from our own trees. My husband loves doing it so much that we have about three winters’ worth stashed away! The hoard looks terrible, but we don’t care. Love your blog.

  43. Mary says:

    Keep trying with the splitting! I’m not much weightier than you and I picked it up in my late forties. But I do refer to the smaller, easier to split stuff as “ladies’ logs.” And I leave the chainsaw arts to my husband. You might try using a splitting maul with wedges.

  44. Suze Wannabe says:

    I grew up with a wood heated house too. I could split wood at 10 but only once it had dried a bit after 6 months or so. Many afternoons after school getting the house warm and dinner started and nights in the snow chopping wood. In the winter, you might enjoy watching a social experiment called ,”Pioneer house,,”. Number one survival skill was cutting wood in summer to make it through winter.

  45. Marion says:

    Just about the time you start using the stove again, Babywoods will probably be walking. I recommend a fence around the hearth area to keep her safe. They can be purchased or the Mr can hone his welding skills creating on.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes, I had that exact same thought! And fortunately, someone locally was giving theirs away for free, so I have it ready to go in the basement 🙂

      • Riley says:

        I was scanning the feed for that same comment! I grew up in a wood-stove heated house and my grandparents did as well. Unfortunately a few cousins burned their hands on Nana and Papa’s stove so I’m glad you have a plan for that!

        I absolutely love reading your posts and am working on convincing my husband that we should make a similar rural exodus 🙂

  46. Gardening is HARD! I’ve dabbled over the years and rarely get anything to grow besides chives…but I do love chives on my potatoes. There’s no shame in division of labor, sometimes its way better for our sanity.

  47. Karl Nelson says:

    I don’t know if you have seen this, but thought it might prove helpful for easing the wood splitting. Mother Earth News, a while back, suggested using recycled tires to make this job easier (

  48. Nice wood stove! That’s awesome you are hoping to heat your home mainly through your own harvested wood. Our suburban wood collection efforts are quite different. We can just look for professionally felled trees that people are often looking to get rid of. But it isn’t our primarily heat source at this point. Kudos for trying to learn how to split wood. I do love the frugal synergy of it all. And who needs a gym membership when you’ve got wood to split?

  49. Barb says:

    Love your blog
    We early retired to the country and heat with wood. I also cannot split with an axe but one of my favorite chores is splitting using a wood splitter. Plus stacking wood. I find it surprisingly calming. We borrow our neighbour’s splitter (we exchange alot of favors) which works well since we don’t use it frequently, just when we take down a tree.

  50. Charlie says:

    The heating with wood, I grew up with my Dad kicking me out of bed at 7:00 after I worked past midnight the night before to go cut wood. Spent many a long hour hauling and splitting wood. Since growing up I got smarter and when I have concerns about the direction of the tree falling, I use a steel cable and two come-alongside to keep tension on the tree. I cut the notch on the side I want the tree to fall in, and then apply some tension. Cable run should be at least 25′ or longer than height of tree. Then I cut on the back side on a 45 degree downward toward the notch. In this manner, I don’t get the tree falling back in my direction. No trying to put six guys on a rope and pull the tree on their heads. You laugh but I saw a neighbor try that, not a smart move. Just bought a house with the fireplace to burn the wood, will need an insert so the heat comes into the house, not up the chimney.
    Have plans for a fruit orchard, berry batches and a fair size garden. Going 100% organic is my goal.

  51. Anne says:

    Reminds me of my childhood! What made a big difference was when we started stacking a winter’s worth of wood in the garage (2-3 cords) so we didn’t have to wade through the snow in February. Don’t worry about the garden not producing yet – with the vt short growing season most vegetables ripen around August. suggest you put hay between your new garden plants – it will cut down on your mid season weeding by about 80%!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes, I keep meaning to get wood chips or mulch or hay for our garden, but alas, just hasn’t happened yet. Fortunately, I’m enjoying the weeding so far–very zen-like for us city folk 😉

  52. Sara says:

    Check out the Kindling Cracker on Amazon. I saw reviews on it and added to my wish list so I don’t forget it if I ever find myself in need of such an item. In a tract house with no fireplace at the moment… It may give you the slight advantage you need to crack that kindling yourself.

  53. beth says:

    The wood will become easier to split with every day that it is left to dry. When Mr Frugalwoods starts cutting trees in the winter and the logs are left to dry for a season it becomes easier to cut, split and stack. The dryer the wood is the less it weighs and the easier they are to work with.

    I enjoy stacking firewood. It is very relaxing and will give you a break from household chores.

  54. Marie-Josée says:

    Thank you for the update. I love reading about your adventures in the homestead. And Estelle is so cute! My husband is just two inches taller than I am, yet his feet are twice as thick and wide as mine as are his hands and wrists, his neck and shoulders are huge and he is much, much stronger than me. Biology rules!

  55. TomTrottier says:

    Your firewood will season (ie, dry out) faster in a solar heater! Stack them East-West, e.g., against the house, and put some clear plastic to keep the heat in. Provide ventilation top & bottom for the humidity to escape. The plastic also protects the firewood from the rain.
    There are “splitting axes” which are about 8lbs vs the regular 2-3lb axe and more effective. You can also use aluminum wedges in the most recalcitrant logs. The splitter axe usually doubles as a sledgehammer on the other side.
    A hydraulic splitter, with its own engine, is nice, but there are also splitters that run from a tractor or land rover power takeoff.
    (BTW, 2-cycle engines create 40x the pollution of a small car….)
    Chopping firewood warms you twice!

  56. Kelly says:

    For how long do the logs/per tree last? I must say that the splitting logs is really tasky.

  57. John says:

    If you’re able to build this, it may be a great solution for splitting-

  58. Sabbaticalia says:

    Ah, yes, “innovation”. Code for “someone said ‘Here hold my beer’ and actually survived to retrieve his beer”. 😀

    As for the garden, pick up a copy of “How to Grow More Vegetables” subtitled “(than you ever thought possible)”. Great explanation of the Grow Biointensive method, which gives a larger harvest for a given area with less water and less care required.

  59. Thank you so much for sharing! I just love reading your updates (and living vicariously through you). I love the idea of heating your home with wood that had to be felled anyway. I have only picked spinach, basil, oregano and 2 snap peas so far, but I’m hopeful that the cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes are coming!

  60. Rob says:

    Not sure if any reads the comments this far down but we had a wood stove for a number of years and while it was a cheap way to heat (we bought rather than split) The house got a thick layer of dust over everything, and I mean thick. You could wipe the wall and leave streak marks. Asked a lot of friends and none of them had that issue, don’t lnow why

  61. I’m going to love this new series! I love seeing how other people live in the country.

    Your daughter is adorable!

  62. Carmen says:

    I have been reading your blog for a long time but never commented before. Just wanted to let you know I am enjoying immensely your transformation into homesteaders, and I am cheering you on. Good luck!

  63. Kristen says:

    I am happy to hear that I am not the only female who tried with all her might to cut wood, without success. My husband had a hard time accepting that I just wasn’t strong enough.
    We love our wood stove but since we work out of the house most days, we can’t use it to heat all the time (we won’t leave the fire unattended and the dogs just don’t have the skills for it!). I know you will love it.

  64. ThoDan says:

    Perhaps a less heavy Splitting tool would work much better for you, i know that a too heavy Splitting tool didn´t work for me

  65. MrRIP says:

    I must admit I was a little bit scared that there would have been nothing to do for you in the long term in the homestead and life would slowly become boring. I guess I’m totally wrong, and I’m super happy with that!

    One question: is it normal in the U.S. to leave stuff in the house you’re selling? Shouldn’t the items you found in the barn be returned back to the owner? Or, in case they didn’t want them, shouldn’t they have told you about their existence?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, homesteading is a lifestyle that ensures you’ll absolutely never be bored… the list of projects is literally endless! The previous owner let us know they were leaving some things behind in the barn and it’s no problem for me to sort through the stuff.

  66. Some friends of ours installed a wood stove to heat their house and it was amazingly warm in there throughout the winter. They used a space heater in their upstairs bedroom, but otherwise kept the heat off during the winter. They would often cook meat or beans atop the wood stove during the day to make it do double duty.

  67. L says:

    Definitely keep at it with the splitting – you will definitely get it, it just takes some practice! The learning curve is harder for those of us who can’t beat the wood into submission with huge muscles. With some practice you learn the little tricks, like where to hit the wood based on the grain.

    The hardest part is splitting the complete round, so maybe Mr. Frugalwoods can split some rounds in half for you to practice with? Or, you can start with some nice straight-grained pieces he has already split and work to make them even smaller for kindling. As you build muscle and muscle memory the bigger stuff will get easier.

    This probably came up in Mr. Frugalwoods online logging studies, but in case not or if other commenters are interested – make sure you are not splitting with a chopping axe, or vice versa. A splitting axe should have a wider head and a less steep angle to the edge than a chopping or felling axe. (Not as wide or dull as a splitting maul, which is a different tool).

  68. Janelle says:

    I grew up with a wood stove and I have fond memories of helping dad and mom so that was a “must” on my list when we were house hunting. We bought a home that is only wood heated (new clean epa approved).

    That was almost ten years ago. Fast forward to now and we are having discussions about installing a central heating system. It took us almost eight years to figure out that my chronic cough every winter (which started after about two years) were due to the wood stove. I’m talking terrible coughs that resulted in thousands of hours and dollars in trying to figure out what they were (reflux? Allergies? Asthma? COPD?). We tried inhalers, steroids, breathing machines, even a colonoscopy since we suspected GI at one point. Nothing helped.

    Long story short I finally saw a lung specialist who helped me figure out it was caused by the wood stove. The tiny minute amount of particulates that were released each time we opened the door were irritating me and leading to painful wracking coughs. It wasn’t until I coughed up plastic lung particles we were able to get a diagnosis and those were biopsied and sure enough ash was the main components. Which is crazy because there’s so very little in the air and we have one of the safest wood stoves possible.

    I asked why I was the only one suffering. And he explained that children that grow up around wood fire are more apt to suffer later in life. My husband did not, I did. 13 years of my young life, my home was wood heated. I didn’t have any issues at all as a child. No asthma or allergies. My parents had a very nice updated wood stove too and my mom was a fanatical clean person. We were healthy homesteaders. It didn’t matter. He explained that this was actually very common hundred years ago and that while romantic, wood heated homes are not healthy in the long term and that babies and children under five are at the most risk for having problems later in life because their lungs are underdeveloped. Also epigenetic research is revealing that children who are around smoke regularly will have offspring more prone to asthma. Of course I feel terrible now that both of my babies have been exposed and while they don’t show issues now, they may later in life. Or their kids will. But I am determined to fixing it now. I had inklings of this when I moved in, came across a few articles and really just chose to ignore them assuming our wood stove is modern and we are all healthy.

    When I took the time to research, sure enough many of our forefathers and mothers and their children had lung issues at young ages due to wood heat. And of course their issues started sooner and led to terrible suffering until they died. For whatever reason, it is no longer talked about and we rather stick to the romantic stories. But even with upgrades, exposure to wood stove heat can cause issues with lungs, heart disease, cancer and more. In my state alone (Washington) there are about 1100 deaths a year and an added 190 million dollars in health care due to exposure of fine particles of smoke. And children playing outside around chimneys or in neighborhoods are also at risk. Also, smoke and fine particles from chimneys eventually settles on the ground and children breathe this.

    In the meantime, we invested $1100 into a really great air filtration system (I recommend rabbit air) and my cough went away in two weeks. For the first time in a long time, I could sleep and enjoy winter. We set one up in the living room and another in my kids room. So it helped. But we will still need to move towards central air to protect my children’s immature lungs too. It is not worth the risk to me after the reearch I’ve done. Even minimal exposure can be harmful and babies are the most vulnerable. We are also considering selling our home and moving to a mild climate where no AC or heater is needed. Or at least not often.

    Believe me, I’m heart broken. But thought I would share so you can be aware. It is actually very hard for me to tell people because we did nothing but sing the praises of wood heat in the beginning and we have 25 cords of firewood stacked that my husband did himself (you need about eight for each winter). But I wish someone had told me early on.

    Good luck!

    • TomTrottier says:

      FWIW, swimmers seldom have active asthma. Swimming increases your lung capacity a lot. I only found I had asthma after 50 when I underwent some tests for my heart. Much earlier, I maxed out lung capacity machines at 5 litres plus.
      So put your kids in a swimming program, especially in swim meets. Might save them from drowning, too….

  69. We truly miss our wood stove, and have plotted how to put one in our new house – whether removing/replacing the gas fireplace it came with or putting one into the basement when we finish it. We had to (and will still have to) purchase wood though – there are no trees on our property and won’t be for many years – it was still worth it to us!

  70. I just got here…But I really like your story…Looking forward to hear more from you!

  71. NZ Muse says:

    We built a run for the chickens, which we’ve been putting off for ages!

    It’s winter here so indoorsy things like printing pictures for the walls and tidying the spare rooms. Can’t wait for summer so we can get cranking on the veggie garden.

    Aren’t fires great and cosy???

  72. Dylan says:

    I’m new here, but I can already tell that Mr. FW is my new hero.

  73. SharonW says:

    An easier way for splitting wood with less upper body strength is to use a maul and wedge. You can choose a heavy splitting wedge to make up for less down force. Also chose a maul with enough weight to help you. As a bonus, a maul and wedge always feels safer to me, since you don’t have a sharp edge moving fast. My mom was the primary wood cutter in our house for years, and she use a maul and wedge with great enjoyment.

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