The leaves stayed quite green despite fall's advance
The leaves stayed quite green despite fall’s advance

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.

Biglegs Spotted

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)

Black bear cub!
Black bear cub!

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.

Last vestiges of summer
Last vestiges of summer

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

First leaves of autumn
First leaves of autumn

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.


Our woodpile groweth...
Our woodpile groweth…

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.

Frugal Hound scopes the leaf situation on our driveway
Frugal Hound scopes the leaf situation on our driveway

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!

And if you want to make sure you don’t miss a post here, sign up for our handy dandy email list in the box below. You’ll get a message from Frugal Hound if you do…

Onward to October, frugal comrades!

How was September on your own personal homestead?

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  1. I love your attitude toward all the “undone” projects. With such a beautiful setting, I’m sure there is temptation to feel like you need to experience and do (and fix…) everything all at once! I was wondering if you keep any kind of written journal or list of projects you want to work on? At times I think that can help lower the stress (kind of a “to do list” so you don’t have to keep thinking about it) but I also was thinking that I hope you don’t do that! I think seeing lists can also create stress where your “TBD” and keeping it simple may make much more sense. I used to be a list maker but I’ve moved away from it. Just curious on yours or others’ thoughts 🙂

    1. Hi Vicki,

      I’ve taken to writing a list of what I’ve achieved in a day instead of a to do list. I’ve noticed I often achieve a lot that wouldn’t get put on the to do list anyway, and psychologically it takes you to a much better place!

      That said, Before my feet hit the floor this morning I was already mentally making a to do list – I’m about to start the next leg of renovations on my Victorian cottage, it’s Spring and the garden is calling, and it’s Saturday so washing, cleaning etc..are on my mind. So I will have a pot of tea before I decide where to begin 🙂


  2. I’m curious as to what you did with the deer carcass. Did you consider keeping it for meat?
    Glad you’re ok from it. Deer vs car can be very dangerous. We had one leap out and total the front fender when I was younger. Mum had to make a split second decision to swerve (would have landed my passenger side in ditch for possible drowning) or hit the deer. We both felt very guilty that neither of us was strong enough to put it out of its misery. We asked a local vet to go out for it.

    1. Mr. FW followed the protocol for deer hit by cars here in VT, which is to call the local game warden. They then take the meat and give it to someone in need, so it doesn’t go to waste. The game warden also notes the accident for statistical tracking. We did feel so bad for the deer though!

      1. It was usually pheasants where I used to live (northern U.K.), they are incredibly stupid. The person who hits them can’t take the carcass, but anyone else can.

        Also, Bear!! How cool is that. Drove round Yosemite two years running and only managed blackened tree stumps that almost look like a bear ????

      2. Oh excellent! I am glad the deer didn’t go to waste! Sometimes in NH/MA they let you take it home yourself if you can tag it. My husband is trying to get on the local deer carcass waiting list… I am really struggling to see the appeal in this (as a vegetarian) but he is a big hunter and loves venison.

      3. I live in Anchorage and you can sign up for the moose roadkill list. You must be ready, day or night, to go and field-dress moose hit by vehicles. If I recall correctly you get to keep half the meat (which is a heck of a lot!) and the other half goes to the soup kitchen.

        Moose are EVERYWHERE here in town. They’re kind of hard to chase away from a garden. Deer can be startled; moose leave when they’re FULL, pretty much. They also like to eat jack o’lanterns. Goofy critters.

  3. Another update full of wonderful pictures.

    I applaud you two for not letting anxiety take over – with the scale of your property it would be easy to feel like you’re letting it “run wild” if you’re not 100% on top of it. I know I would get anxiety from the sheer size of it!

    Always is a breath of fresh air to read your updates and hear about the day-to-day realities of hitting the dream.


  4. Spontaneous dance parties are the best! So much fun news here–the Moose photo, Babywoods crawling, 3.5 cords of wood, and a Frugalhound sitter. What a good month. We’ve just wrapped up our garden here as the frost warnings begin and finished canning “cowboy candy”–sweet-hot jalapeno slices that are good on almost everything. We probably have about 2 cords of wood, which is plenty since we don’t have a wood stove yet. Not bad for a ‘burbstead.

  5. The deer are crazy at times, we live in an area where we have a large number of deer and I and my husband have had so many close calls. He had one jump and it seemed to slide over the hood of his car. We checked for damage, there wasn’t any and the deer kept running. We have seen a bear, it was a small one when we were moving in back in September, at the edge of the field watching us. We are making plans to plant next year. Fruit trees, berry bushes and I have more than enough room for the tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers and more. Will need to fence it in though as the deer and woodchucks will find it quickly and have it gone. We have maples, beech, oak and only a couple spruce trees that were planted near the house. I love this time of year seeing the leaves change to all of the bright colors. Can’t get that in the city.

  6. Love the wildlife camera photos. So much going on out in the woods. 🙂 Sorry to hear about the run in with a the deer. We’ve had a close call or two while traveling upstate NY. I’ve seen the aftermath of a few deer/car run ins and the have not been good. Glad it was minor for you. If you need a chuckle. Search for “Please Move The Deer Crossing Sign” someone called a radio show asking to have the deer crossing signed moved to a less populated area. I really hope this wasn’t real.

  7. I grew up on a small horse farm in the middle of 70 acres of woods, ravines and creeks. It was lovely. My parents didn’t do much with the woods besides enjoying them. ???? Nevertheless, just keeping the grass, weeds and upstart trees from eating the house, barn and outbuildings required a great deal of mowing, weed whacking and colorful language on the part of my mother. It was a wonderful place to grow up but it also gave me a healthy respect for the amount of work involved in caring for large amounts of land (even if you are doing so rather indifferently, we certainly didn’t chop wood all year because we didn’t have a wood stove.) and livestock. I knew I wanted neither! It is sort of like being the one sibling out of a family of 14 kids that decides they don’t want any kids at all. Ha! In fact, once my boys are in college my husband and I are selling the house with the nice yard and getting a condo downtown. It is ten years away but I am thrilled. Lol.

  8. I love the change in perspective – things left undone is actually an accomplishment! Proof of a life not as wrapped up in the itchy blanket of anxiety and hurry. Keep the long term perspective, and thanks for letting us live “on the farm” (at least vicariously) with you! Love your work!

  9. Wow a bear and a moose! I bought my parents a wildlife camera a few years back. The usual suspects are turkeys, deer, and occasional coyote.

    I’m glad Snowdrop didn’t sustain too much damage. Hitting a deer can be bad news (for both parties involved). Also, I’m sure the colors are really starting to pop right around now.

  10. Thanks for the update. You have a lot going on at your homestead. It is definitely wise to take a long term approach to your to do lists. There will ALWAYS be things that you could be doing but you don’t ever want to forget the reasons you wanted the place in the first place.

    1. For sure! Mr. FW followed the protocol for deer hit by cars here in VT, which is to call the local game warden. They then take the meat and give it to someone in need, so it doesn’t go to waste. The game warden also notes the accident for statistical tracking. We did feel so bad for the deer though!

  11. Do you have emerald ash borer problems up there? I know Vermont is at high risk for infestation. Most of the ash trees here in the Midwest are either dead or infested and dying. It’s horrible.

  12. Great post! I’m curious, how does your auto insurance company in Vermont handle the hood damage made by Bambi : ( ?
    We have a $200 deductible for wildlife on our policy. I hate to say, more than one deer have met their demise on the hood of my Corolla.

  13. I have to be careful when I am reading your posts to not have just drank a sip of coffee in the early morning hours. It would end up all over the place from laughing at your wonderful humor. Your posts hit home even more, because we too live in the outsticks. It is so hard about the deer though. This is time of year that they are more prone to darting out due to male pursuit of female deer. I have heard of a device that can be put on the front of cars to ward them off. Wonderful post as usual! Thank you.

    1. There is supposed to be an at-speed air-driven whistle that scares the deer away. Dunno how well it works, or whether frugalhound might go mad, or whether it works at parking speed.

  14. I’m jealous of the bear sighting! I love bears. I went hiking last weekend, and every time I heard a crunch in the woods, I froze in my tracks, hoping. “Is it a bear?” I asked every single time. Spoiler alert: It was never a bear.

  15. Out west where the summer air is dry and the woods are mostly soft we can get away with burning firewood that isn’t perfectly seasoned. A lot of firewood is dead bug kill to begin with out west. Were all your trees live/green? We split wet wood it a little finer to help with drying, and keep a couple more pieces in the stove/fireplace at any one time. There’s an old saying (my grandmother oft said) “Logs like friends” meaning one log may not burn but two together will. It might make sense to do a couple other things too though, including (hold your nose now) buying some dry wood to mix in or even trading some of you green wood for dry. Also don’t split the dry stuff too small, use it more for the overnight logs. Just a thought. Every stove is different and there is an art to loading every wood-stove for an even hot burn. You didn’t remove all the ash when you cleaned it did you..? (Don’t!)

  16. “there’s no teacher like doing. And making mistakes and then re-doing.” This is spot-on.
    I’m eager to hear if winter gives you a bit of a rest or if you’ll find just as many projects inside as out. I’d be tempted to grab some hot chocolate and spend hours watching the bears.

  17. Oh my gosh, a moose!! We don’t get those down here in Texas, but holy crap those things are huge! Be careful driving out there! I’m sorry about the deer, but glad that everyone is okay.

    I’m sorry you weren’t able to tackle all of your to-dos in September. But that’s hard for just two adults to do on 66 acres of land! I commend you for getting as much done as you guys have in the few months you’ve lived there. 🙂

  18. Thanks so much for posting a pic of your woodpiles! I don’t know if you saw my comment on another post asking for a pic, but I wanted to express my gratitude. I showed DH how you used the metal sheeting and we might do the same.

    1. You are most welcome! Yes, I did see your comment and I was hoping this would help :). It’s pretty low tech: we just lay the metal roofing atop the stacks and secure it with old rounds. Definitely appears to keep the wood dry.

    1. Yes, I am indeed familiar with permaculture and it’s definitely one of our longterm goals! Thank you for the link 🙂

  19. This is so cool! I love your homestead updates! I’m curious to see how much of the wood you go through during the winter. Whatever it is I’m going to have to double it to survive a Vermont winter. The downside to being a born and bred Floridian.

  20. You are educating yourself, and exercising, wildlife safety, right? With all of your fruit and veggies and compost pile the bears will likely come right up to the house. Our neighborhood strongly discourages gardens and composting and requires trash cans be kept inside or in bear proof containers. I have learned to peek out the door at night before I go out because they’ve come up right to the porch. Wildlife is awesome to watch, but it’s totally different when YOU are living in THEIR neighborhood, and even deer and moose can be dangerous.

    I would also encourage you to reconsider burning green wood, especially if you aren’t familiar with the ebb and flow of maintaining your fire yet. Green wood is harder to start, won’t burn as well, and creates a lot more buildup in your chimney. I’ve used green wood on a number of occasions due to mix-ups and it’s a headache. Even just a cord of good seasoned wood to use when the fire goes down or out would probably be a good idea. If not I would suggest investing in some good fire starter and take extra care when building a fire that you have a good long burning base and don’t let the fire go down as low as you would otherwise. Another poster had a good idea of seeing if you could trade some of your wood with one of your new neighbors.

    Do you know how much a cord of wood goes for in your community? Around here the guys who sell are all independent and at this time of year you can get a better price because no one else calls until it’s snowing and they are almost out.

  21. Sounds like another busy month on the homestead. (And yeah! a moose!) Very smart to save some tasks for “later”. I find myself wandering around my 15 acres and thinking “I should cut that tree, mow a path over there, trim back the wild raspberries (damn birds eat all the fruit anyway), mow under my fences, build a permaculture veggie garden” etc. etc and the list goes on.

    We just painted the inside of the house this year, after 4 years. I’ve started keeping a running “nice-to-do” list in a journal and it helps my squirrel brain to know that stuff is written down and that I’ll get to it eventually, or I’ll decide it isn’t much of a priority after all.

  22. I feel for the Prius; glad Mr. FW is okay. When I lived in the sierras, we had the same problem with deer. The worst are the wild turkeys. Those birds are so stupid, they give dumb a bad name. My Brand New Subaru hit one on the 50 freeway, as Folsom was rural then. It also dented my hood, which I also never fixed! Everything was fine, but I will never forget that turkey body flowing up my hood, windshield, and over the roof. It was a very weird experience! Isn’t it nice to know that you have time to fix all of the stuff on your to-do list? My mother used to say, you can always clean and fix, but babies grow up. Babywoods is the priority now.

  23. We are in the process of loosing two of our favorite trees to the Ash Boor Disease. Do you know if it is safe to burn the wood indoors as you plan to do if it has been infected with this disease?

  24. Glad to know I’m not the only FIRE blogger to assassinate a deer with my motor vehicle this year. Or the only one with a big ol’ stack of wood alongside the house. Just one cord for us, thought. We burned through two last year, which kept the core of the house warm, but the bedrooms along the periphery were ice cold! We’ll rely a bit more on the gas furnace this winter.


    1. Have you run the numbers and considered electric heat for the bedrooms? You can get a timer or thermostat between the heater and the wall and have it turn on for a couple hours before bedtime and then down, then back up for the kids to get up and out. Most bedrooms really only need to be heated about 3 hours per day. The electricity winds up being more expensive per unit, but spot heating can be a lot cheaper in the long run.

  25. LOVE the fire wood photos, what effort! You guys should be sooooooo proud. Pretend to be Poor should share her Cowboy candy reciepe with you so we can all have a chance to make it. Do you ever do things like that? Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  26. My husband and I are on the road to FIRE and are considering a relocation to another state where the cost of living is a lot less than our current suburban oasis… we originally thought about a community in NC or TN with a pool, a community center, etc., but the more I read your amazing blog, the more I realize that it’s space and land I want. We have changed course and are now planning on visiting some 2-5 acre properties in the spring. No homestead compared to your gorgeous parcel, but a huge difference compared to our current 60×100 plot of dirt and sod. Please keep up the good posts and fodder for inspiration!

  27. Thank you for the update. Good to see you guys making steady progress. Best of luck to DH in his pursuit of “firewood nirvana”….which is what three years of wood in storage is by definition. IMHO there are few things as difficult or as rewarding in the frugal life as heating with wood. Just a suggestion….there are a couple of different “hacks” in stacking wood to encourage the wood to dry out more quickly by allowing more air to circulate.

  28. Love the updates on your homestead! One of the quirks of farm life is its seasonality; summer is the time to spent outdoors, winter is indoors time, and time for renovations and repairs… On another topic – did you consider getting old windows to cover some of your raised beds in early spring? That way you should be able to grow some early salad greens like lambs lettuce in March.

  29. Sounds like another great month!
    Our baby just started crawling too, and it takes some adjustment. There’s no longer any guarantee that she will be where we left her if we need to step away for a second.

    Don’t stress about undone chores. I have a long list that I happily ignore most of the time.

  30. Someone else mentioned this, but I feel the need to chime in, as you are new to wood heating… using green wood creates a lot of build-up in your chimney which can lead to chimney fires. I – mostly- believed my husband on this, but I *really* believed him after we had a chimney fire in early spring the year our son was born, when we were burning green wood because we weren’t stocked up enough and… newborn! I’d seriously consider getting a chimney cleaner out (if you didn’t do that as part of inspection/ move-in) and keeping some of the – I don’t know what they are called- but they are in little boxes, and you throw them on the fire if the chimney is on fire, and they put out the fire. Because we had one of those right near our living room, and threw it on immediately when our chimney was on fire, everything was fine by the time the (volunteer) fire fighters got to our farmhouse! I will always keep one of those near any wood burning fire place in the future!

      1. That’s good. We had had ours swept in the fall when we had the fire in the spring, though, so I still recommend those fire extinguisher for chimney things. Our chimney was fine after the fire (it was a big old 100 year old stone one) but the fire fighters said the key was getting the fire out as soon as possible….

  31. If he hasn’t already done so, Mr. FW should check out the book Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting. It was an unexpected hit at our library last year. When I finally got my hands on the copy I could completely see why: it’s informative and interesting and I learned something new on every page. As a bonus the photographs are wonderful. All around just a wealth of knowledge in there and a great resource. We’ve been heating with wood for about four years now and it’s one of the best investments we’ve made in our house. Have fun relaxing in front of the fire this winter!

  32. I love reading about your homesteading adventures! I just read The Years of the Forest by Helen Hoover. She and her husband moved to the woods in Minnesota in the 1950s and she wrote all about their life there. It made me think of you; you might enjoy it. =)

  33. Bear, Moose and a kamikazedeer. Signs that nature wants your homestead back 🙂 Joking!
    Good thing Mr FW is ok. Btw’ how did you handle the deer’s corpse?

  34. I love reading the updates on your new life. Your pictures show such beautiful surroundings! And you’re right: you moved to get away from the stress of the city, enjoy the calm, do what you can and the rest will still be there to be done tomorrow…or another day.
    And well done on letting Frugalhound believe she is becoming a great hunter 😉

  35. I don’t know if you mentioned this at one point and I missed it, but have you considered having a composting pile? Particularly with black soldier flies? Apparently they’re amazing little critters at composting (and keeping pests away)

  36. Totally with you on the hood of the car–I drove around with a bungee cord holding my rear bumper on for years–but you might check your insurance. When I hit a deer, the repair cost was completely covered under my collision insurance. A pleasant surprise!

  37. As someone from small-town New England, I’m charmed by your excitement at (almost) spotting a moose. Random tip you may already know: don’t salt your driveway in the winter (use sand), it attracts moose and deer and Mr. Frugalwoods and your car will not do so well in the event of a collision with a moose.

    Oh, and I love your blog, it has provided me with hours of reading since I discovered it a few days ago 🙂

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