This Month On The Homestead: Moose and BTUs
If you’re just tuning in, this is a recurring series in which I document each month of our lives out here on our 66-acre Vermont homestead. After leaving urban Cambridge, MA in May 2016 to chart this wholly different life, we’re experiencing a constant learning curve of exploration (and plenty of stupid novice moments). Check out last month’s installment here.
Although I was mostly homesteading-in-absentia in September thanks to my travels, we were still able to squeeze in a fair number of farm-type things.
It’s also true that sometimes homestead life looks remarkably similar to life anywhere else–just with a lot more trees and a lot fewer people.
Since moving here, Mr. Frugalwoods and I have been on amateur wildlife spotting detail, bolstered by Frugal Hound’s incredibly
worthless useful assistance. We’re learning to identify creature tracks in the mud and Frugal Hound helpfully tracked a wily beast’s prints through the yard with vigorous sniffing. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that the tracks were her own from the previous day…
Additionally, we endeavor to spot critters when we hike, but thanks to Babywoods and Frugal Hound, we’re so loud crashing through the woods that I think every animal in a 10 mile radius hightails it.
That leaves our wildlife camera to serve as our beacon of wildlife capturing. Sure we’ve had one bear, many deer, a pooping coyote, itinerant foxes, and more. But this month, we netted the ultimate beast of our region: the storied moose. Or more accurately, moose legs. Our cam is positioned at about deer height and moose are decidedly taller. But it’s a moose nevertheless! We first deduced we had a moose afoot thanks to a series of tracks on our driveway and were thrilled with the photo confirmation.
Other featured creatures this month: a pack of turkeys, beautiful fawns, and a black bear cub!
Things We Didn’t Do (could fill a book)
A lesson we learn over and over again in our new rural life is that we cannot do everything. The scope and scale of our property, coupled with our naïveté and the fact that we both work other jobs (plus care full-time for Babywoods!) means that each month delivers a list of things we didn’t do. It puts us in a perpetual mode of discovery as we note the projects we want to tackle next year.
Rather than feel frustrated, we’ve decided to take a longterm view of our homesteading existence since we plan to live here for decades to come. Among other things, we discovered that we have quite a few edible mushrooms gleefully growing in logs around our property. Alas, we didn’t forage for them this year, but it’s a goal for the future. I also wish we’d been able to glean more of our blackberry crop and plant more veggies in our garden. I never did figure out what to do with our tangle of flower beds, nor did we prune the decorative bushes surrounding our house.
Despite these undone tasks, or perhaps because of them, Mr. FW and I remind ourselves that one of the reasons we moved here was to enjoy a slower, simpler life. And a major component of that life is not allowing stress and anxiety to take over. And so it is with deep breath acceptance that I tally up our undone chores. Rather than see the undone as failure, I see it as opportunity. I’m grateful to have so many demands on my time.
It’s worth noting that we are learning as we go out here. Despite our years of researching, reading, and preparation, there’s no teacher like doing. And making mistakes and then re-doing.
On The Inside
As the weather crisped, we turned our attention to a few indoor projects. Most notably, we finally hung up (most) of our artwork and pictures! I had grand plans of painting the entire house before doing this (or at least patching the 1 million holes in our walls… ), but that is clearly a project for another year (decade?). TBD. For the time being, we tried to strategically hang art over the existing holes. Mild to moderate success on that one.
Another indoor activity: Babywoods began to crawl! She’s now ridiculously mobile and takes great delight in chasing after Frugal Hound. Good exercise for them both.
In The Community
We continue to enjoy the vibrancy and friendliness of our new town. I hosted a community meeting here at our house, which ended up including dancing and wine, so it was my kind of meeting.
We also found a neighbor to swap pet sitting with, which was something weighing heavily on us. In Cambridge, we were fortunate to have a whole network of people for whom we pet sat and who watched Frugal Hound for us in return. When we moved up here, it was one of our biggest worries. Frugal Hound is a sensitive little hound soul and wouldn’t do well carted off to a kennel when we travel.
Plus, free pet swapping is the frugal weirdo’s preferred mode of pet care! So, I watched a neighbor’s cats for a few days and she–very kindly, might I add–took on Frugal Hound while we traveled.
A Sad Thing
Unfortunately, not all wildlife encounters out here are positive. A deer leapt in front of the Prius as Mr. FW was driving and sadly, did not survive. Happily, Mr. FW was unscathed. He was slowing down to turn into our driveway when the deer jumped out of the woods, and we’re grateful he wasn’t going any faster.
Snowdrop (the Prius) sustained only minor damage–the nose of the hood is now bowed inwards, but since it doesn’t seem to affect drive-ability, we’ll just leave it that way. No reason to fix superficial damage on a car (unless there’s the potential for rust, which in this case there is not). The deer also knocked loose one of the headlight enclosures and Mr. FW purchased JB Quick Weld to put it back together again. We used JB Weld on Frugalwoods-mobile’s (RIP) front headlight once, so I’m hoping Snowdrop will be similarly amenable to this very cheap fix.
I just know you love my woodpile updates, right?!!!! I can’t help it, I’m so proud of Mr. FW for single-handedly felling, bucking, skidding, splitting, and stacking 3.5 cords (thus far)! Wondering what on earth I’m talking about? Check out my previous explanations of our new heating-with-wood vocabulary.
This month, I wish to discuss the BTU (British thermal unit) with you fine people. Different species of wood have different energy densities (measured in BTUs), which means that they burn at different rates. You unlock the energy in wood by burning it. It’s like a lithium battery vs. an alkaline battery–they’re the same size, but the lithium battery contains much more energy. For example, equally sized pieces of ash and pine have different energy levels (the ash being much greater).
Given that not all woods are created equally, BTUs are yet another factor Mr. FW considers when identifying trees for firewood. On our property, we have a plethora of ash and white pine–along with a fair bit of sugar maple, some hop hornbeam, beech, birch, and more. But the prevalence of ash, coupled with its relatively high BTU ranking, makes it a prime choice for firewood.
Another reason we like ash is that it’s a drier wood, which means it seasons quickly. This is a good thing–especially for our first winter–since we didn’t have the opportunity to put up wood years in advance. Wood burns at its most efficient when it is fully dried out–a process that takes months, even years. Hence, ideally, you burn wood that you cut at least a year prior. Since we don’t have that luxury this first winter, we’ll be burning slightly “green” (aka less dry) wood, which is why we’re favoring ash. Mr. FW’s wood splitting efforts will continue all winter long as we endeavor to get to that desirable spot of having three years’ worth of wood on hand. We’ll get there someday!
Want More Fotos?!
While I only document homestead life once a month here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity. Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods!
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Onward to October, frugal comrades!