A Day In The Life Of The Frugalwoods: Homestead Edition
You all are a smart bunch so I decided over the weekend that I should ask what you’d like to read here on Frugalwoods. I put the query on our Facebook page and, lo and behold, you responded with gusto! Large thanks to all who shared an idea–if you haven’t yet, feel free to add to the conversation. I’ll be working my way through your suggestions!
Today, I bring you a Day In the Life story, requested by a number of readers who enjoyed my original treatment of this subject back in October 2015.
I re-read that post in preparation for penning a new iteration and–whoa–life has changed for the Frugalwoods family this year, to put it mildly. In a matter of months, we went from urban, working professionals to homesteading parents in rural Vermont. So, you know, just a few minor transitions.
Diversity Of Days
One of the things I appreciate most about our new life is the diversity of our days. Back in the city, each day was a fairly predictable oscillation of the hours around the clock. Work began and ended at the same time, our routine hardly varied with the revolution of the seasons, and our time felt forever crunched by the rigidity of our 9 to 5’s.
Although our weekends were sometimes populated by spontaneity, our weekdays most certainly were not. Prior to decamping to the countryside, I never realized how hemmed in we were–both physically and mentally–by city life. We had no outdoor space, few windows in our home, constant noise pollution, and scant opportunity for true contemplative solitude.
Here in the country, we experience the polar opposite: endless land for ranging, mega windows, and a silence borne by the absence of close neighbors, traffic, planes, and most trappings of modern life (of course between Mr. FW’s chainsawing and Babywoods’ exclamations, we still have plenty of aural interludes).
My time is now entirely my own, which very well might be the life change I enjoy most. The ability to alter my days in response to the weather, my energy level, Babywoods’ mood and nap schedule, whether or not I’m inspired to write, what needs to be done on the land/in the house, and innumerable other factors is remarkably refreshing.
I also sincerely love being a work-at-home freelance writer, blogger, and mom–it’s the type of job that I can’t believe I get paid to do! I choose to do this work because I derive so much satisfaction from it and because I need an intellectual outlet–a work of the mind, if you will.
Vacillating between the physical tasks of my life–such as weeding the garden–and the stationary, mental exercise of writing and managing my small business (comprised of, well, me) is the perfect juxtaposition. I’ve always craved this balance and feel immensely blessed that I now have it. When my writing starts to falter or I simply cannot deal with another email (now you know why I’m so slow to respond… whoops), I hop up and run outside to harvest berries.
And when I’m hot, tired, and getting eaten by bugs, I leave the garden and retreat to the cool solitude of my office. Of course, since I have a bouncingly exuberant 8-month-old with me at all times, my transitions usually aren’t quite so smooth, but you get the gist.
When we moved to our homestead, the seasons and the weather suddenly rocketed in importance. Previously, it hardly mattered what was coming out of the sky–we simply went to our office jobs no matter what (except in cases of extreme snow).
Now, however, we’re becoming keenly aware of each day’s meteorological offerings. This is an element of homesteading that Mr. FW and I hankered for because we felt utterly divorced from nature in the city and stuffily managed by climate-controlled interiors.
The season is also suddenly top of mind for us. As it’s currently summer, our days are awash with managing the garden, putting up wood (see my detailed explanation here), mowing the grass, brush-hogging our fields and trails, savoring the balmy weather, and repairing anything that needs fixin’ out of doors.
We know that winter is coming–in a literal sense–and we want to be prepared, both in actuality (with wood, stored food) and mentally for the long, cold season indoors. Soaking up the bounty of summer is paramount.
Another tenet of our nascent rural lives is our involvement in the community. We’ve never been busier or more engaged with our neighbors and we’re thrilled! One of the many reasons we chose to move to an extremely small town (population circa 700) is our ability to connect, engage, and just generally be involved in the vibrancy and well-being of our community.
The ethos of working together is strong here and we are so deeply, profoundly grateful to all of our new friends who are helping us navigate this wholly divergent life. In the two months we’ve lived here, we’ve donated more food, time, and money than in all our years living in the city. Furthermore, we’ve met more of our neighbors than we ever did in our dense, urban environs.
Mr. FW and I have both joined committees and organizations and we find ourselves doing wonderful things like reading stories to kids at the town’s free summer camp, writing brochures for town/church events, setting up tents for the town fair, bringing flowers to church, making food for town potlucks, donating watermelons for the annual watermelon roll, and more. This is such an enriching, fulfilling aspect of our new lives and we can’t wait to become even more involved as the years elapse.
A Day In Our Frugal Lives
Given the wide-ranging variety of each day, it’s tough to boil down a precise “day in the life” for us now, so, the below is an imperfect amalgamation of how we pass our time on weekdays.
Some days are more productive than others–some days we thrive, others we merely survive. Plus, we no longer adhere to a rigid timetable so these clock designations are rather approximate, except for our bedtimes–we’re sticklers for sleep around here.
7:00am: Wake up!
Thanks to Babywoods, our alarm clock is now obsolete! She typically arises between 7-8am everyday and we just get up when she does. I’m a huge fan of waking naturally and really have no reason to do otherwise. The only day we do set an alarm is on Sundays to make sure we’re on time for church (of course the one time we forgot, Babywoods slept uncharacteristically late and we dashed in during the opening hymn… ).
7:00am-7:30am: Morning prep.
Mr. FW and I go into Babywoods’ room to greet the day and she either smiles or screams, depending on her mood. Babies, what can you do? I change and dress her (and possibly change her crib sheet depending on what transpired during the night… ) while Mr. FW goes downstairs to take Frugal Hound out for her morning constitutional. Then, Babywoods plays on her play mat in our bedroom while I shower and get dressed.
Parenting sidenote: having dedicated play spaces in every area of the house makes my life easy–anywhere I go, Babywoods has a safe, fun zone to explore. Since she’s not mobile yet, I use foam mats with toys atop them and blankets around the edges as bumpers for when she topples out of her seated position. I started this practice when I was packing for our move to Vermont and realized it’s a genius way to ensure she’s occupied and happy while I do my housework. It also enables me to leave her alone for a few minutes so that she can experience the self-reliance of playing unsupervised.
While Babywoods and I prepare ourselves for the day, Mr. FW bustles around the kitchen turning on NPR, feeding Frugal Hound, and cooking the human breakfast: our classic 0.10 per serving oats topped with either a banana or berries from our garden. Paired, of course, with our frugal fuel: coffee and seltzer.
7:30am-8:30am: Breakfast repast.
Babywoods and I venture downstairs to find breakfast on the table (have I mentioned how much I love my husband?). As soon as we arrive, Babywoods KNOWS it’s time to eat and begins to frantically claw mommy in anticipation. Mr. FW settles her to nurse atop the My Brest Friend (ok this thing seriously is my best friend since I can nurse her hands-free) and we all eat breakfast together.
Mr. FW and I are not talkative people in the morning, so we prefer to read news and work on our laptops while we eat. I also find that I usually experience a spurt of creativity first thing in the morning and most of my best writing takes place during breakfast. If I can start a post or get the basis of an idea hammered out in the morning, I can polish and edit later in the day. Thus, having this dedicated time to write is important to me.
After Babywoods finishes nursing, we cuddle until she starts flailing towards her toys. I set her on her play mat next to the kitchen table and she plays at our feet while we continue our breakfast. We feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to integrate Babywoods’ baby needs into our routine without sacrificing the allocation of time that works best for our productivity/creativity. I think our success is due in large part to the fact that Mr. FW and I are quite routine-oriented and so, from a young age (like probably 5 weeks old), we’ve followed this routine with Babywoods–hence, she knows what to expect.
8:30am-10:30am: First nap for Babywoods; writing time for Mommywoods.
The timetable of our day largely revolves around Babywoods’ nap schedule because we have the luxury of doing so and that’s our preference. Since our daughter needs a nap about an hour and a half after getting up, this is the ideal opportunity for me to continue my writing. Apropos enough, I’m writing this post out on our porch during nap #1.
Although I do sometimes write while Babywoods is awake and gleefully playing, it’s easier for me to focus and have uninterrupted flow while she’s napping.
10:30am: Errands or chores.
I rarely wake Babywoods from a nap, I just let her arise naturally, so the first nap is anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. If I needed to stick to a timetable, I guess I could wake her up, but I have the immense privilege of being able to slot in my work when it fits with her schedule and not vice versa.
After bebe wakes up, she and I might run errands–to the grocery store or to a baby play group or to drop something off in town (like homemade pies for the town fair!). Or, we might do chores together. On Mondays I do the laundry–although since I hang our clothes outside to dry, wash day is very weather dependent.
Other exciting undertakings include washing dishes, cleaning the house, paying bills, organizing our calendar for the week, thinking of ways to capture more wildlife on camera, cooking baby food, baking bread, trying to get Babywoods to ride on Frugal Hound’s back, processing whatever we’re harvesting from the garden at the moment, creating grocery lists and meal planning with chef Mr. FW, making phone calls (no cell service here, so VOIP it is!), brushing Frugal Hound’s teeth, etc. Clearly, it’s a ridiculously glamorous life I lead over here, folks.
I find that doing active indoor tasks with Babywoods awake is usually a recipe for success: she delights in watching me do stuff and I talk/sing to her the entire time while she plays at my feet. Of course other times she’s in a funk and wants to fussily cry in my lap while wiping her nose on my shirt. You know, classic baby.
The Beauty Of Working From Home
Since Mr. Frugalwoods works a more standard weekday schedule, he often retreats to his upstairs office while Babywoods and I make a racket downstairs. Working from home is an ideal situation for Mr. FW–we get to spend so much more time together than we did when he had to jet off to an office.
Although he still works just as many hours, he doesn’t have a commute and he can pop out for quick breaks to play with Babywoods during the day. When he was commuting to his office in the city, he barely saw Babywoods on weekdays since our mornings were truncated and she went to bed almost immediately after he got home in the evenings.
It’s also a tremendous relief for me to have him at home. If Babywoods is yelling with wild abandon (technical term: pig squealing) or if I’m desperate for a second pair of hands, he can come help me for a minute. Such as the time Babywoods started bleeding and I panicked, he rushed downstairs, deduced she merely had a tiny bug bite, wiped off the dried blood, and returned me to a state of normalcy.
12:00pm-1:30pm: Second nap for Babywoods; outdoor chores for Mommywoods.
Babywoods is what I would call a “high sleep needs” baby–the kid requires a lot of shut eye. So, about an hour and a half after waking up from nap #1, she typically devolves into a fussy, tired, eye-rubbing baby who needs to nurse and then nap.
While she takes her second nap, I often do an outdoor chore. I might weed the garden, harvest whatever crop is in season (asparagus, rhubarb, berries, arugula, spinach, etc), or collect flowers for our house. Our land is dotted with flowers both wild and cultivated and it’s marvelous to have fresh flowers adorn our home.
Then, I’ll usually eat lunch out on the porch while working on my laptop. High-speed internet in the woods = amazing.
1:30pm: Snacktime, playtime!
Following nap #2, Babywoods eats lunch and then we play! She’s a fan of her baby pool and on warm days, we’ll fill it in the mornings and let the sun heat the water. We splash around in there for awhile until she’s had enough water for the day.
Then I’ll continue on with my noisy indoor chores while she’s awake–vacuuming, folding laundry, baking bread, etc. Some days I get more done while she’s awake than others. Her little baby temperament fluctuates and, although she’s generally a really happy kid, some days she wishes to be held and carried (resulting in mommy accomplishing less with her one free arm). I find that parenting is equal parts following a schedule and extreme flexibility. Not a day passes that I don’t express gratitude for the ability to stay home with Babywoods and shepherd her through her baby milestones.
Being stay-at-home parents was one driving force behind our financial independence goal and, now that we’ve been at it for eight months, we’re both convinced it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We’re not perfect parents, but we adore being with our daughter every day. Watching her grow and seeing her personality develop is a gift.
Over the course of my brief parenting career, I’ve spoken with countless other parents who sincerely want to stay home with their kids, but don’t have the financial capacity to make it on one salary. I think a lot of people discount stay-at-home parenting for financial reasons, but frugality can make it happen. Of course there are many, many other reasons why people continue working–the intellectual stimulation is why I work–but if it’s money specifically that’s holding you back from staying at home, consider if extreme frugality could make that dream reality.
3:00pm-4:30pm: Nap #3 for Babywoods, yoga for Mommywoods.
I told you this kid sleeps a lot! I keep thinking she’ll drop or consolidate naps, but so far, she’s a stickler for the three nap system. Fine by me!
This last nap of the day is when I try to practice yoga and edit the writing I did earlier in the day. I’ve been doing yoga for close to ten years and it’s a crucial part of my life. I used to think of it as a luxury, but no more: it facilitates my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health. When I step onto my mat and commit to a practice, I always leave feeling rejuvenated, clear-headed, and more positive about my life. If I’m slumping due to any number of reasons, yoga is my answer. I’ve never once regretted practicing.
At first, it felt decadent to incorporate yoga into my day–shouldn’t I be doing something, oh I don’t know, more productive?! But I’ve come to realize that as a work-at-home mother, I must carve out time for myself and I must care for my body. Hence, yoga is not an optional thing, it’s as necessary as any of my other chores.
The paramount nature of yoga in my life was something I worried about with our move to the country. In Cambridge, I had an awesome deal with my favorite local studio: I worked at the front desk and took out the trash in exchange for free classes. The studio was within walking distance of our house and I went in the evenings after Mr. FW got home from work. While there are several yoga studios in close proximity to our homestead–and many more a 30-minute drive away–the class times aren’t super convenient for me and I’m loathe to pay the $20 or so per class. In the future when Babywoods is older I might try to work out a similar bartering system for free classes, but it’s just not conducive to my lifestyle right now.
And so, I did what I always do in times of need: I turned to the internet. Lo and be-freaking-hold, there are a TON of free yoga classes available online! One of my favorite sites is Do Yoga With Me (I like their advanced Vinyasa Power Yoga classes) and I’ve also found quite a few great teachers on YouTube. I’ve practiced for so many years that I can certainly direct my own practice, but, I thrive on the commitment of following along with a class. It keeps me on my mat for the duration, it exposes me to poses I’ve forgotten about, and I learn something new about my body every single time.
Sidenote: if you too practice yoga at home, please let me know what resources/websites you use!
4:30pm-5:00pm: Screaming baby playtime.
The time betwixt the final nap and dinner is the toughest interlude for Babywoods. She’s tired (despite taking three naps), she’s irritable, she’s hungry, and nothing is right in her minute world. So basically, this is anarchy hour for us. I do everything I can to entertain/distract Babywoods until it’s dinnertime.
We play, we cuddle, we sing, we read books, I carry her around, I set her down, we go outside, she wails and beats her tiny fists… you get the picture. Coupled with this is Frugal Hound’s evening whine routine–she too wants her dinner and starts to let me know about it. Loudly. My two little beasts feed off of one another in the verbal complaint department…
5:00pm: Baby dinnertime and bathtime!
Babywoods chows down on her homemade baby food and smiles with wild abandon. After her little repast, I give her a bath (mostly to rinse off the food she gets all over her body… eating is a contact sport with this one).
5:30pm: Family walk/hike.
Mr. FW is often finished with work for the day at this point, or at least can take a break. We saddle everyone up–which entails popping Babywoods in the Ergo and leashing Frugal Hound–and venture forth to hike our land.
Some days we’re ambitious, other days we just walk around the yard or up the driveway to check our mailbox. It’s a chance for Babywoods to relax before bed, for Frugal Hound to accomplish some good sniffing, and for Mr. FW and me to delight in our woods. A goal of ours is to get out and about on our land at least once every day. It’s just too beautiful not to.
6:15pm: Babywoods bedtime.
After our walk, Babywoods is ready to nurse, cuddle, and snuggle on down to sleep for the night.
6:30pm: Chore/elective activity time.
Some evenings Mr. FW or I attends a town meeting, church committee, or other such gathering–we alternate based on who wants to attend what on which night. Other nights, we’ll both put in a few more hours of outside labor if the weather is fine and we have chores to do (thank goodness for our outdoor outlets, into which I plug the baby monitor!). If I’m trying to finish up a writing project, this is another block of time for me to crank out words on a page.
Mr. FW’s manual labor includes chopping wood, felling/bucking trees, clearing brush, brush-hogging a field, mowing the lawn, weedwacker-ing the garden, or any number of other tasks. He too thrives on diversification, so stepping away from his computer to perform physical tasks provides him with a welcome sense of balance.
Alternately, if it’s rainy or we’re particularly exhausted, we might play a board game–Scrabble and Lost Cities are our favorite two-person games at the moment.
8:00pm: Dinner and TV.
During the summer, we find ourselves eating our final meal of the day quite late in order to take advantage of the longer hours of sunlight. Since our seasonal focus is on farm chores, cooking every night is not a priority right now–we happily eat leftovers and super simple meals in summertime.
Mr. FW typically cooks a huge batch-o-food once or maybe twice a week in order to sustain us. A salad with cold grilled chicken and homemade lemon ginger dressing is a favorite right now. We’ll grill up a ton of chicken once a week and then portion it out each evening atop a bed of greens. Same goes for the dressing: we whip up lemon, olive oil, ginger, and whole-grain mustard for a refreshingly summery taste. Other nights, we’ll warm up a frozen meal that Mr. FW cooked during the winter–we’re still working our way through our chest freezer supply of homemade chili, chicken tikka masala, and split pea soup.
After eating, we cuddle on the couch and watch a show–for free might I add–thanks to our free TV methodology.
9:00pm: Dishes (boo).
The only real bummer about life out here is that we don’t have a dishwasher… I know it’s a luxury and I know many, many people survive without one. But, suffice it to say, we are installing a dishwasher soon. Until that day, we wash up each evening and clean the kitchen together.
9:15pm: Reading in bed.
We’re both avid readers and this time to decompress and read for pleasure is something we greatly value. I also feed Babywoods one final time before turning in myself. Parenting sidenote: this is called a dream feed, whereby she doesn’t really wake up in order to eat and goes right back to sleep after finishing. It keeps her full ’til morning and gives us all a complete night’s sleep!
10:00pm: Lights out.
Babywoods isn’t the only one who needs a lot of sleep! Night, night.
This Is Life For Now
As I write this, I am entirely cognizant of the fact that our lives will radically change and morph with each season, permutation of the weather, and developmental stage of Babywoods’ growth. And that’s what we’ve signed up for. Mr. FW and I want to live a life that isn’t a carbon copy year-round, where our challenges and pleasures are different with each passing month. I look forward to revisiting this topic in a year or so when we’re in a new iteration of life–of homesteading, of parenting, and of finding our purpose through meaningful work.