This Month On The Homestead: Of Berries and People
If you’re just tuning in, this is a new series in which I plan to document each month of our lives out here on our 66-acre Vermont homestead. After leaving urban Cambridge, MA to chart this wholly different life, we’re experiencing a constant learning curve of exploration! Check out last month’s iteration of the series here.
We reveled in summertime bounty during the month of July! Now several months into our tenure here on the homestead, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are starting to feel like we have a better handle on rural life (albeit a handle that’s a tad wobbly).
There’s still an endless list of projects to complete and skills to master, but we are ever-more confident in our role as digital homesteaders (that’s really the best term I can muster to describe what we do… what do you think? apt?).
The Not-So Secret Garden
Our flower beds were positively resplendent with lilies, irises, bee balm (love them!), daises, goldenrod, tall purple flowers on stalks, short purple flowers on stalks (that’s the technical term), and countless other bounties. I continue my weekly practice of making bouquets for our home, which facilitates a persistent celebration of this lush, warm season.
I’m letting the flower beds run rampant and unweeded; thus far, they’re doing well left to their own devices. There are far too many of them for me to tackle weeding and, for obvious reasons, I am not hiring a gardener. Plus half of the things erstwhile assumed (by untutored me) to be weeds have proven themselves actual flowers, so I’ve decided to simply permit them to turn feral, which is quite beautiful in its own way. Like in the way where you look at them and think “wow, it’s beautiful how much time I’ve saved by not weeding!”
The vegetable garden soldiers on despite an unusually dry month. As of this writing, everything is still alive–and one might even say thriving. Having never so much as planted a seed before, I’m pretty pleased with myself! I weed the garden every few days and Mr. FW waters it a few times a week.
We’d rather not water the veggies, but our recent lack of rain mandates such human intervention. Some nasty-smelling organic fish fertilizer also makes a sporadic appearance. Since veggies far outrank flowers in our agrarian priorities list, this is where I commit my gardening efforts.
Our tomatoes are becoming quite plump, the basil looks pretty chipper, the squash is on a rampage (we did not realize just how, shall we say, HUGE it was going to get… whoops), something is munching on the brussels sprout leaves, the salad greens are delicious, the pepper plants are booming, and the other herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme) are quite bushy.
I plan to make pesto at the end of the summer with the leftover basil and we’ll probably attempt to bring the other herbs inside for the winter. Other than that, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a major surplus of vegetables–it’s more of an eat-as-you-go garden this year. Hopefully next year we can get serious planting done to enable a canning and preserving operation (more new skills to learn, hooray!).
Something we do have a gigantic surplus of? BERRIES!!! OMG berries. The early part of July yielded a plethora of black raspberries and some red raspberries, which we ate with relish. I froze the extras and we’ll pop those out in the depths of winter for a shot of a-seasonal joy. We also discovered one solitary blueberry bush with teeny, tiny adorable blueberries. We ate them all.
As a well-known cherry devotee, I’m chagrined to report that thus far, our cherry stock is all of the poisonous variety (pin cherries and choke cherries). Although apparently you can make jam from them if they’re carefully cooked and strained. Otherwise their pits contain cyanide. So, uh, not sure I’ll be making that jam…
Furthermore, not to alarm anyone, but we appear to be on the precipice of a blackberry tsunami. There are blackberry bushes EVERYWHERE and it looks like most of them set berries. We picked some of the early ripened stock this week, but it appears that most will ripen later on in August. I’ve already spoken with a few friends about coming over to pick berries for their use. It’s going to be epic (now watch, none of them will ripen/they’ll all get eaten by bears). If you’re in the neighborhood, let me know if you’d like to come pick blackberries!
Caught On Camera
In typical city-person fashion, Mr. FW and I are continually scheming ways to capture wildlife on camera. We know our woods are populated by such exotic critters as bear, moose, deer, coyote, raccoon, chipmunk, owl, and more! But we have yet to clap eyes on most of these beasts of the forest. Except for the chipmunks, which torment poor Frugal Hound. Also a lone/random/lost? duck who we happened upon during an evening hike around our pond. Despite being leashed, Frugal Hound nearly enjoyed a duck snack. As I shared on Instagram, let’s just say this was not the Usain Bolt of the duck world…
But a few dreams of the photographical type did come true this month: a coyote, a raccoon, and several deer were caught on our wildlife cam (which was a lot better than the previous pics of us walking back and forth past the camera). Additionally, a micro herd of deer–headed up by a young buck Mr. FW insists on calling “Chili”–has taken to munching the dropped apples ‘neath the apple trees in our yard each evening.
Mr. FW raked up most of the drops (nomenclature for dropped apples, so I learned), but Chili and friends found the remainders. Have you ever seen a deer try to consume an unripe apple whole? It’s an unusual sight prompting an internal monologue on whether or not one can perform the Heimlich on a wild animal…
Naturally, I now have about 8,476 blurry pictures of brown blobs darting across our lawn. Enjoy an example at right!
Invaders; With Stingers!
We also have some not-so-welcome wildlife in the form of a colony of paper wasps, who’ve taken up illegal residence in our potting shed. They made fast work of constructing a nest and, thanks to that, we now have an increasingly large perimeter of un-mowed grass surrounding the shed.
In a valiant attempt to ameliorate the situation (and end a few wasp lives), Mr. FW was promptly stung on the neck. How rude! Hence, we’ve retreated and are consulting the internet/our neighbors on how best to cope with these vile squatters. Our present plan is to just wait them out until winter.
Fortunately, we don’t need to use the potting shed and it’s situated far away enough from the house and the barn that we can give a wide berth when walking past. Yep, we’re from the city…
The Call Of The Winter Preparations
The depths of summer have us preparing for its foil season in every way we can imagine. Chiefly, firewood (and, you know, flinging ourselves about in the sunshine while wearing shorts and drinking white wine). Mr. FW continues his herculean efforts of felling trees, bucking logs, and splitting wood–all by himself and by hand. It’s a mighty task, but thus far he’s enjoying how very different this activity is from anything else he does. The balance we both strike between work with a keyboard and screen and physical labor out in nature is proving to be the balm we’d always yearned for in the city.
This month’s wood-related lesson is on cords! (In case you missed it, last month’s was all about how to put up firewood). So a “cord” is the unit of measure for firewood and it’s actually a precise measurement, not: “well I reckon that there looks like a cord of wood, hot dawg!”
For our purposes, it’s useful to know how many cords of wood we burn this winter to inform our wood supply for future years. And in a commercial context, cords determine pricing. Mr. FW’s ultimate goal is to have three years worth of wood on hand, but since this is our first year, we’ll be going into this winter with just one year’s worth. We don’t know how many cords we’ll burn over the course of the winter, so having that exact measurement will be of supreme utility.
A cord is a stack of split wood measuring 8 feet long by 4 feet high by 4 feet wide. And if your wood stack doesn’t happen to conform to those precise measurements (such as ours), fear not, for there exists this online wood cord calculator. And you thought the internet was just for cat videos! According to this dandy calculator, we’re sitting on about 2.5 cords at present moment, with a loose goal of reaching 4 cords before hard freeze overtakes us.
Babywoods, for her part, is preparing for winter by getting excellent use out of her bebe pool. I’m not sure she really comprehends the concept of water, per se, but she seems to enjoy sitting in there with me. Also, I really enjoy sitting in there with me…
The People Of Our Town
In a twist of irony that’s perhaps not surprising, we’re finding our rural life more connected, community-oriented, and people-filled than our erstwhile urban existence. Although we were constantly surrounded by throngs of people in the city, we never had a true community. Sure, we hung out with our friends, but aside from those specially planned and coordinated interactions, we felt more isolated in the city. Conversely, community abounds here in our tiny town. There’s a monthly potluck dinner, a monthly community lunch, a weekly baby storytime/play group, a coffee gathering every Saturday, continual events/parties, and the list goes on.
As I shared in my recent Day In The Life post, Mr. FW and I both joined committees/organizations and find ourselves happily engaged in various volunteer efforts in town and at our church. We participated in our town’s “day” celebration in July where the whole town turns out at the town center for a chicken BBQ, music, games, a (very short) parade, a silent auction (we won a bean pot!), and fireworks! Also this month was the town’s free summer camp for kids, at which Babywoods and I read stories to the kids (she only shrieked a few times, so we’ll consider it a success).
Girding our desire to live in a small town was the very sense of connection that we’re experiencing. It’s the type of place where I can hand Babywoods over to someone else at a community lunch and they’ll carry her around for me while I eat. It’s the type of place where no one locks their cars (it seems the most likely “crime” would be locking your own keys in your own car). It’s the type of place where folks just stop by the house to say hello (in light of this, I’ve learned to: 1) always be dressed, and 2) always have baked goods on hand). It’s the type of place where we met some wonderful folks at a farm party one weekend and they invited us to their wedding celebration the next weekend.
It’s not utopia, but it is what we hoped for. There’s no movie theater, no shopping mall, no fast food chains, and no beauty salons. In other words, it’s the type of place that’s perfect for frugal weirdos like us.
July also brought a wonderful visit from my parents who, in a feat of travel voracity, embarked on a month-long, meandering driving tour of the US, with a 10-day stay here at the homestead. Babywoods loved playing with her grandparents and it was a treat to show them around the farm.
A New Rhythm To Life
We continue to hone and refine our new rhythm of life, but the prevailing sentiment we express to each other every single day is our amazement at how incredibly happy we are out here. We feel profoundly fortunate.
While there’s a great deal more physical labor to perform, we’re finding it to be a fulfilling aspect of our days. We’re grounded and less stressed with our newfound ability to walk outside and into the woods at a moment’s notice. If one of us feels bummed or overwhelmed, we’ll just take a quick walk. Or do a few minutes of gardening. Or go pick some berries. Or simply stand on the back porch and inhale. Sounds ridiculous until you try it.
What’s new in your life this month?
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I love the pictures!
I hear ya on the squash! Our squash plants are ridiculously big this year. We literally eat squash every day and still give some away.
We have quite a bounty of cucumbers, too. I have been pickling them at night because we eat pickeled cucumbers/onions faster. My basil has gone nuts and I have made pesto a few times already. The WORST part about basil is the cost of pine nuts. They are absolutely outrageous.
I’ve been playing around with sliced almonds as a substitute. I also have a friend who suggested toasting sunflower seeds. Mmmm. Pesto!
I use walnuts!
me too – walnuts for the FRUGAL win!
I third those walnuts!
The price of Pine Nuts is INSANE. I have used walnuts, almonds and even raw pumpkin seeds. I also read someplace that you can freeze pesto.
I go with the walnuts and, yes, pesto freezes beautifully. I just portion it out into ice cube trays and then bag them up.
This is wonderful! The wildlife, the land. Oh, what a lovely dream come to fruition. Thanks for taking us on this adventure with you! We’re doing our best with suburban gardening and homesteading. Most notably, the new compost bin is kicking all sorts of butt this month. The heat is good for something!
I love hearing how much you’re enjoying life on the homestead. It sounds like complete bliss! It’s exactly what I hope for for my family, eventually. I can’t wait to hear how your life grows & changes over the next few months!
You’re really selling the rural life! Sounds amazing (as I look out my office window in a city). Totally get you on not feeling a sense of community in the city even though you are surrounded by people.
I hadn’t really thought about all of the new skills that one would need to learn when moving from the city to a tiny town, but it sounds really fulfilling to be continuously learning and growing in your new place.
A tip for the stinging invaders – there is a guy here in Virginia who removes wasp/bee/hornet nests at no charge. He sells the critters he collects to medical laboratories so they can be used to produce meds for people with allergies. One of my dogs was unfortunate enough to find a yellow jacket nest last summer – he was stung over 30 times! He survived…although he was quite swollen for a while. I had no idea how to get rid of the nest so I called around and found out about our local “Bee Buster”. He came out and removed the nest a few days later for free!!
Maybe try to contact your local beekeepers group to see if anyone performs this service in your area. Good luck!!
When we were burning wood with our wood stove as supplemental heat (not primary heat!) in NoVA, we’d go through almost 3 cords of wood in one season. If you’re using it as a primary heating source, you may go through considerably more. It also depends on the efficiency of your stove – ours was 85% efficient, but an insert rather than a stand alone stove (inserts send a lot of heat into the chimney rather than the room. Good luck! I really miss my wood stove and I want to install one in the new place!
I don’t know about what kind of wood the Frugalwoods are harvesting, but doesn’t fresh wood chopped this year have to age to dry out before use? I have had to chop a tree here and there and the wood was too green to use in the fireplace the same year, but was fine the next year. Something to think about
It does need to “season” to allow the wood to dry out. Live trees, like animals, have a good amount of water in them but if they are collecting and splitting fallen wood it seasons a lot faster since it’s been sitting there (though it dries far more slowly than cut and split wood due to surface area). But if they are cutting down trees for later use, you’re right that it shouldn’t be burned for a year and a half or more. If you burn wood that is too green it will be far less efficient and it creates more buildup in the chimney potentially causing a fire hazard.
Though speaking of creosote and annual chimney cleaning, I wonder if they have purchased a sweeping kit yet for DIY cleaning…
Ah, I love the restorative power of nature! I am also so thrilled that you are settling into your community. It’s so nice to feel like one belongs.
Not much new here–still waiting for the house to sell so I can find my new apartment. Boys and I off tomorrow on Giant Extended Family Beach Vacation. While this is not exactly a frugal undertaking (for the people paying, who are not me), we do generally eat most of our meals home-cooked and favor sitting in beach chairs watching the kids splash over priced entertainment options.
LOVE TINY BLUEBERRIES! We have gotten a few items of garden-food from the garden club at my kids’ school, which has been really fun over the summer. The kids got to play with the house water plants and I made some progress at identifying weeds. I did grow some basil in containers, and by “some,” I mean, “a lot.” I already have several jars of frozen pesto in the freezer, plus what we’ve been eating, and more on the way. (I have been harvesting every time it got bushy, and if we just had eaten it, would freeze instead.) Fortunately, Big Brother is passionately fond of “green pasta” and doesn’t understand why other foods are EVER on the menu.
(I like to add a little shredded chicken. I buy breasts for $1.79-$1.99/lb at Sprouts when the big packs are on sale, throw them in the crock pot with a little broth, cook until they can be shredded, freeze in individual-use portions.)
I think you will really enjoy those chokecherries canned as a sauce. They are super sour (as the name says right) but balanced as you can by sugar or honey and they are super!! Great over ice cream, or mixed with smoothies, over angel food cake, on a muffin…I imagine you have quite a few wild greens growing out there too. Enjoy!!
Loving these posts! So interesting to hear about your homesteading expereinces
Oooh, I’m so jealous of your garden!! Blackberries are sooooo tasty! If you need ideas to preserve them for later, blackberry jam (great with everything) and blackberry syrup (great with pancakes) are quite delicious!! We’re closing on a home here in the city soon, but hopefully we can start reaping something of a harvest by next Spring. So excited!
Glad you guys are enjoying the country life!
I believe those tall purple flowers are referred to as “fireweed” with which you can make a jelly. Perhaps Google and see what you think!
I agree – that’s probably what it is.
As for what is eating the brussels sprouts – cabbage worms! You may see what looks like small white butterflies or moths around your garden. They attack most cruciferous veggies. They are eating the leaves of my broccoli plants so the broccoli heads will require soaking in a brine solution prior to cooking.
To get rid of the cabbage worms use BT (Bacillus Th,,,something). It’s organic and made from a natural soil fungus. Safe for bees and anything that doesn’t eat the plant. Also works on those gigantic tomato worms that I hope you never find out about.
Berries!!! OMG! OMG!! OMG!!! Love. Them. Pies! Smoothies!! And then more pies!!! #wow
So happy that you found such a wonderful place to make home. If you were in Minnesota, I’d say that you found Lake Wobegone. Maybe you have the Vermont version? Are all of the children above average? We already know Mr. FW is good looking, but how much can you bench press?
After reading your firewood-chopping tales last month, I asked my soon-to-be brother in law (who grew up on a farm and is currently building a new house with a wood burning stove) to explain the seasoning, chopping, storing process to me. When I mentioned that you guys wouldn’t have time for it to dry out, he suggested you trade your unseasoned wood with someone who has a good supply. Apparently it can be smoky and not as efficient to burn unseasoned wood–enough so that he said he really just wouldn’t do it. I imagine you guys have looked into it, but I wanted to give this suggestion in case you hadn’t thought of trading with someone.
Have you looked into deep mulch gardening? That may help with both your watering and weed concerns – besides numerous other benefits.
How do you keep the critters from eating up your garden?
As far as the herbs go, rosemary overwinters well indoors, but thyme and sage should overwinter just fine outside, especially if you can find a protected and sunny southern location for them. We’re in zone 5, and you are a little north of that, but I think you should still be fine.
If you can find it, get a copy of The Herbfarm Cookbook, by Jerry Traunfeld. Not only does this have some fabulous recipes, and great ideas on how to cook and pair herbs in dishes in general, but the back third of the book is all about growing, harvesting, and storing herbs. This book turned my husband and me from sage-oregano-thyme-mint-basil herb gardeners into herbal adventurers. We now grow savory, tarragon, marjoram, lavender, and anise hyssop as well as the standard everyday herbs. Next up on my list of herbs to try growing is rose geranium!
I can’t tell how far from the house your wood pile is but I learned the lesson of having it close to the house because ours is hard to get to when the ground is frozen and full of snow (our pile was out in the field – our “timber yard”). When we couldn’t drive to it, it didn’t work out as well as we envisioned. but, if you have a tractor that works on ice, it might work out better. Beautiful farm, I can see why you love it.
Sounds like a busy but fulfilling life you’ve created for yourself! 🙂 We’ve tried a micro-sized version of your gardens and berry bushes and mostly come up empty year after year. We just uprooted the remainder of the blueberry and blackberry plants because the effort and cost of watering weren’t worth the minuscule amount of berries we picked (if the deer, birds, or slugs didn’t get them first). We did get a number of tomatoes off of some cherry tomato seedlings given to us by a neighbor (forced upon us by a neighbor if I’m honest…). We even came back from our huge 3.5 week road trip and discovered the tomato plants had a dozen or so ripe tomatoes waiting for us! Our summer travel plans mean we miss the prime harvest season so we don’t put too much effort into the gardening.
Mrs. Root of Good loves the flowers though. We routinely have nice inside bouquets. I would say gardenias are her favorite – very fragrant flowers!
Love the berries! Not sure about Maine but here in MN and my property in Northern WI we have had a bumper crop of berries. In fact I’m heading to Northern WI this weekend to pick blackberries. That is if the bears and birds have left any!
How beautiful! I’m so happy that you’ve found a place that fits you so well. Community is so important and challenging. We lived in a co-housing community for a while – regular meals, constant interaction with our community – and while I loved it, I also dreaded the conflict that invariably arises when there are that many people interacting regularly. And the meetings. So many meetings.
Have you come across anything yet that you were not able to figure out yourselves? Have you had to hire any part of your homesteading life out?
“No movie theater, no shopping mall, no fast food chains, and no beauty salons” – that sounds amazing! When I grew up we did not go to beauty salons either, we had home beauty nights where my mom would cut all our hair, we would help dye her roots, and we’d all paint each other’s toes. So much more fun – my goal is to avoid beauty salons with my daughter until her wedding 🙂
Your last paragraph says it all. You do sound profoundly happy and grateful. No place is utopia, but we just have to know ourselves to know what makes our soul sing. My favorite line…”you thought the internet was for cat videos.” How wonderful to have this resource at your fingertips….sure beats the encyclopedia Britannica! (Don’t laugh!)
Oh yeah…have you watched the movie Baby Boom yet? It’s funny, you might like it.
Those berries! I visited my stepdad in PA this summer. His garden was just getting started. But the berries! There was a railroad track right at the back of his property. They removed the tracks a year or two ago (stopped running in the 90s). My sister and I walk on the path that is left. There are berries ALL along the tracks. Sadly, none were ripe. They looked like raspberries but considering it was early July, I suspect they were unripe blackberries. I don’t know if my sis (or anyone) has bothered to pick them. Sad really.
Love these homesteading updates.
Chokecherry jelly is really good — I encourage you to try some. You make the jelly from juice, made from the pulp of the cherries, so no poisonous pits. We have pin cherries, too, but they are so small I don’t find them worth messing with — though the birds like them.
I have heard that, because paper wasps are territorial, you can ward them off by creating a fake nest from a brown paper bag. You would hang this in your shed in late winter/early spring, before the real wasps have time to get established. The idea is that, seeing the fake nest, they will assume someone else has already moved in and go in search of a new home. I haven’t tried this, but it seems worth doing next year. You can Google for examples of fake nests.
With all those tomato plants, I bet you end up with enough to can or freeze for use later on. I freeze my tomatoes a few at a time as they become ripe (those we don’t eat or share with neighbors) and when I have enough for a batch, I thaw them and can them. Freezing them whole this way makes the skins slip right off. I could, of course, cook with frozen tomatoes, but I prefer canned, and I also like to turn them into tomato sauce and salsa.
That’s hilarious about the fake nest! 🙂 It’s like a scene from a cartoon…
Try mulching your vegetable garden with several inches of grass clippings. This conserves water AND keeps weeds down. Plus, any weeds that do pop up are super easy to spot against the dry brown grass mulch. 🙂
Hello Frugalwoods ……You need to spray those wasps and hornets ASAP. Try the website raidkillsbugs.com 4info. Any other wasp or Hornet spray is fine to use and do it at dawn or dusk. They can be dangerous and swarm please be careful. This is not a case where you want to use a natural product.
We have also used a large pot (1-2 gallons) of boiling water (not almost boiling) using large oven mitts- use your brewing kettle. Pour down the hole of said wasp nest on a cooler night at dusk when they are in the nest and not as active. Wear as much protective clothing, pour and run quickly. Dad wasps on the ground in the morning. The heat will temporarily kill the grass in the area but it’s a frugal way to get good results!
This is a really interesting comment – “we’re finding our rural life more connected, community-oriented, and people-filled than our erstwhile urban existence” and I experienced the same thing. When I lived 15-20 minutes out of town in a rural area, we were close with all of our neighbors. Now that we live in a small city, we can go a whole year without talking to a neighbor. I guess I hadn’t really thought much about that until I read your post. So interesting the connections we make and so glad you have found a wonderful community!
Thank you for such an interesting story….I have two suggestions…..First for the garden…Save the seeds of your “best” tomatoes and plant them next year. I saved the seeds from an “heirloom” tomato that DW paid too much money for last year. I planted them indoors in February….I planted 24 seeds…and every single one came up. I planted them in the garden and every single one of them survived. They are now over 6 feet high in towers and I have plenty of green tomatoes but none ready to plate yet. Sooo save your seeds…but fair to note …”your mileage may vary”… Second…..Might be a good idea to find some room in the budget for some “seasoned wood” for the wood stove your 1st year anyway and now is the time to shop. In this neck of the woods the first frost makes wood prices jump significantly. And “wet wood” (unseasoned wood) helps to form creosote which will be your mortal enemy when burning wood for heat. In addition maybe ask your neighbors about their wood consumption…..5 cords seems a bit “light” to me. I’m further south than Vermont and my home doesn’t appear as large as yours….and we burned right around 5 cords last year. My apologies if I offend but I would hate to see you guys caught short. It gets cold in Vermont….
You have a wonderful life going on there so well done and good luck. Re the blackberry glut – have you thought about making wine? We have done this several times by picking hedgerow berries (UK) and it was delish when ready to drink. Can be a bit volatile though due to high yeast content when you are fermenting it in the demi johns! Had a couple of flying rubber bungs and lots of froth a couple of times.
You should look in to getting trail cameras. These are cameras that have night vision and motion sensors that you can attach to tree and catch wildlife as they walk past. Just set them up and let them do there thing then come back and download the photos. You would have to look in to the different brands and features to determine a price range.
Yes, we have one, which we love! We just need more critters to walk past it… 🙂
Sounds like a wonderful life. It makes me miss the countryside. Although we do have WAY TOO MANY berries here in the pacific northwest. Currently, I’m eating my way through 5lbs of blueberries.
About the wasps — I’ve had great luck with the wasp killer from Home Depot. The cheap stuff works great. Just stand back and hose down the nest at a distance. Works great, and the problem gets solved in a few minutes.
Mr. Tako…I just checked out your website…we are from the same neck of woods(country so to speak) the PNW.
On the cord question, my husband’s family used wood as their primary heat source, and they usually ordered 10-12 cords for their 3 bedroom home. They lived outside of Montreal, so similar climate to Vermont, right? Maybe a little more severe.
Love your blog, especially your feminist lens!
Good luck with the wasps. My brother in law recently had a colony settle in at the back porch of his rental in Mexico. He ended up moving home to Australia.. haha. I’m sure you guys will figure out a more practical solution!
I LOVE berries. I would live in the Rockies if I could because raspberries and huckleberries grow like crazy there… I imagine even those slightly dangerous but safe if cooked cherries you could do something with , especially if a local friend helped you out.
Also, have you all considered wine making? I bet you could make a delicious blackberry wine!
Sounds quite delightful!
This is all so awesome!!
I love hearing your homestead updates!
You might want to checkout recipes for blackberry freezer jam. You don’t have to go through the canning hassle, as long as you have freezer space!
They are also great to just purée and stick in small freezer batches; great to add to smoothies ( you can fill ice cube trays with purée), add to your oatmeal, etc. if you cook them down and simmer off some water, you have a more concentrated purée that packs a lot of flavor!
I love freezer jam! I just buy berries from Costco since we don’t have bushes here. So good!
Greetings. I have lived in Alaska most of my life and I am an avid canner. I tell you this to prove I know what I am talking about when I tell you that chokecherries are NOT poisonous. Their seeds are, but then so are the seeds of some other fruits we eat. We have a huge chokecherry in my yard and it rewards us twice: once in spring with fragrent berries and again in the fall when I wait until after the first frost when I pick the cherries and make syrup, juice and jelly out of them. I also use them to change the flavor and extend the homemade applesauce I make each fall. You can find recipes on the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension website. Or, you can email me and I will send you the ones I use. Don’t waste them!
Black raspberries! I’d be in heaven! I love blueberries too-Instant Summer!!! Spray that wasp nest; they are very dangerous, aggressive creatures. The wood in the pile needs to age, so plan on getting some good, dry stuff from the local wood guy. I miss living in the country. No matter how good your neighbors in the city are, or how close your friends are; nothing beats the dependability of country folk. The peace of just taking that country walk is another plus.
I’m envious of the berries. They look delicious and like proper food. We’re just back from visiting our dear friends in Provence where the fresh summer berries and tomatoes were the stuff of childhood. Once home, I ordered strawberries from Costco and there were 3/50 that actually tasted like a real strawberry. I’m inspired to go to my local farmers market and see if berries are still available .
I look even your stories and photos ????,
What a great post! Sounds like you guys are loving it and I am so, so glad to read that it is all working out!! I wish I lived closer so I could come and scavenge some berries!!!
So great to read this. I do not comment often but I am really happy for you, reading this makes me sitting here with a big smile on the face! Just wanted to let you know that you are awesome. Got everything you deserved and worked for!
Why let the freeze stop you from chopping/splitting wood? Frozen logs split more easily. You do have to let any green wood dry before splitting tho.
So nice to hear you are happy with your settling in to a new life.
We would wait till the wasp nest was empty during the day and burn them with some kerosene sprayed on, then knock down the nest, when they find the nest gone they go away, You burn to get rid of any unhatched young.
When stock piling your first Winters wood pile, you can just scour the property for already fallen trees, which will be fine to burn as they will have dried out. You can also selectively fell some trees for future wood supplies , they will be lighter to handle and part dry before you bring them near the house for cutting and splitting.
The lighter and fluffier purple flowers look like astilbe. I have tons of those in my gardens.
Looks great and sounds great.
MMM berries. Wish I could walk over and take some off your hands. We’ve been enjoying the fruits in season this year. Blueberries were on sale and we ate a bunch but those blackberries look tasty.
Hope all is going well look forward to seeing you at FinCon again.
I like the look of the feral flower bed — I say let Mother Nature do her thing.
I’m happy you may be getting a blackberry harvest soon, too. Make some pies, maybe. 🙂
Simply looking at all of your lovely nature photos relaxes and grounds me. I’m hugely envious of your blackberry tsunami! Enjoy the rest of August, Mrs. FW!
So many berries! I love hearing about y’all are finding your farming groove. Excited to keep reading this series!
Berries are our favorite! We planted raspberries 3 years ago, and now have so many we can hardly keep up! We go and pick cherries for $1 a pound. This year we froze 100 lbs. They are so amazing in oatmeal! Last year we picked 80 lbs, but ran out in February. Hopefully our supply holds us over. It’s great to hear how you are adjusting to life in the country!
Re: your herbs – in Vermont, only rosemary would need to come in for the winter – everything else will come back next year. Just cut – dry and use for the winter, and enjoy new growth next year.
This was good for me today. I love your writing style, I always learn something and always laugh! My gardens ‘ground’ ( theres a reason for that saying) me and set me up emotionally and spiritually for our long, cold, dark Alaskan winters. Good job on your first year of… just about everything!
One thought re:pesto. I make my version for freezing in ice cube trays from simply olive oil, garlic, salt and leaves. I don’t use nuts or cheese. Then I throw them in soups all winter and/ or throw them in pasta. If you decide you want “real” pesto, you can always reblend with cheese and nuts at the time of use. I just had a batch go off in the freezer (still no idea how but it STANK) and the only thing different about it was cheese inclusion… I like mine just as well and it’s cheaper/ easier.
Re: blackberries- google blackberry and basil recipe- they’re a great combo! Loads of cocktail, jam, dessert option… VERY jealous of those and wish I lived nearby to help you pick them. They’re a favorite but so expensive here.
So far so good! It’s energizing to read your reports, please don’t stop. I thought that life would be less “intense” in your homestead, but I have to admit I was wrong. And I like the variety and diversity brought in by situations. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in winter! I guess life will slow down but something tells me I may be wrong 🙂
I am so glad I found your blog; I have a frugal wood. We have 23 acres where we have made our home. We both work full time but love our jobs. We have two teenage boys, and we are frugal at heart.
I love berries! I wish I could grow my berries in the garden at home. 🙂
I will echo other concerns about wood consumption. I live in New Mexico with mild winters and wood isn’t my only heat source and we go through almost 2 cords per year. It is hugely dependent on your burner (fireplace, insert or stove), and even on the type of wood (check out energy density of different woods). I agree that it might be best to be ready to purchase wood this year (and if so do it soon) or if you have a natural gas furnace it might be cheaper to plan to use it more so you aren’t burning wood that hasn’t sufficiently seasoned. Your plan of having a couple years of wood set out is a good one because that way you know you are giving it long enough.
You should also purchase a chimney sweeping kit if you haven’t already. You need to clean it out annually.
This is probably a little late but maybe valuable for next year. I want to second the fact that choke cherries are not poisonous. Yes, the kernel contains amygdalin which breaks down into cyanide in our tract, but you will be fine as long as you crush the pits. All stone fruits are the same, the seed inside the pit contains amygdalin.
Because we make so much wild plum jelly and blackberry jam we only use choke cherries to make liqueur. We fill a quart mason jar half full of cherries, add about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of sugar, and then fill it up with inexpensive vodka and shake.. Put it in a dark closet, and shake once or twice every day. The longer it sits the better it tastes. You can decant it if you want. We also do this with blackberries and cinnamon sticks. You can vary the amounts of fruit an sugar until you get a flavor you like. The cherry taste a lot like cherry cough syrup, which I love, and makes a great drink added to lemonade. Makes great gifts too!
You guys are great; I too am from Cambridge, have a place in the woods of Vermont that is occasionally rented out via Airbnb those weekends we can’t make it up to Gods country. The difference may be that we’re a bit older than you folks (I’m 53 years old) & just getting our head around the importance of taking the topic of FI seriously. Luckily, we have had fairly solid habits so we’re not starting from ground zero. That said, saving only 10% of ones income does have its drawbacks…. I look forward to watching your progress and the focus it inspires in our family. Thanks for sharing your story.
Oh how fun! Sounds like we have very similar lives! We definitely would’ve gone the AirBnB route if we were weekenders for a longer period of time. Glad to hear that’s working out for you!
You can make jam from blackberrys, I do every year and it´s really delicious. You can make it with frozen berries too.