This Month On The Homestead: Snow Removal, Snowshoeing, and… More Snow!
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.
We had a white Christmas! And a white New Year’s! And I think it’s going to be white until about May. We love winter and we love snow, which is a darn good thing because we have quite a lot of it right now.
Winter’s glory is muted. It’s an understated–but no less profound–beauty. One that you have to pause to enjoy. The overwhelming abundance of summer and the riotous colors of fall and the innocence of spring are all lacking in a wintertime landscape.
It’s stark. But it’s not bleak. The clean lines of a snowscape cutting across our land is breathtaking. The absence of leaves allows us to peer through the woods, seeing the individual poles of each tree. Conversely, in summertime, the woods are an impenetrable thicket of growth and green. Snow obliterates the crimes and successes of the past season. Gardens are buried. Unfinished projects are hidden. The world is all fresh, powdery, cold. And each new snowfall erases our imprints on the land. Against nature, we’re meaningless.
Wintertime On The Trail
With this backdrop, we venture out almost every day to snowshoe across our land. Every time we walk through our woods, it’s like it’s the first time. Every permutation of every day alters the landscape in some way. Where the sun slants through branches, how the snow drifts across the trail, my mood–all of these things combine to make it novel each time.
We never stop marveling at the wonder of owning our own woods. In order to hike, we used to drive for hours–now, we just walk out our front door. I hope we never stop experiencing profound gratitude for where we live. If you’re interested in the logistics of our treks, I detailed our tactics for wintertime sporting here.
Thanks to Mr. FW’s hard work, we now have a 1.5 mile open trail circumnavigating our land. Some of this trail was previously kept open, but there were quite a few downed logs and small trees obstructing the pathways. With his chainsaw, trimmers, and loppers, Mr. FW has steadily worked to open up the entire circuit. He also flagged the trail to ensure we know which way to go. Eventually, we’d like to blaze (that’s when you paint stripes on trees) all of our trails so that we can send guests and friends out on their own. Just the other day we took a new loop through our woods and realized we could blaze another trail. I love the interconnecting system of ancient stone walls, old logging roads, and erstwhile paths that bisect our land.
Mr. FW and the tractor both got quite a workout this month in the arena of snow removal. The one con of our house–the quarter-mile long hilly driveway–requires tender care and maintenance, particularly when snow is involved. Ever of the do-it-yourself mentality, Mr. FW ably attached the snow blower to our tractor and taught himself (thanks to the internet) to effectively snow blow our driveway. Success!
Since we’d have to pay someone circa $75 per plow, doing it ourselves nets us a monumental savings. It’s an excellent example of the power of DIY to eliminate an expense for the longterm.
In addition to the driveway, Mr. FW clears a path from our front door to where our cars are parked and then down a hill in the opposite direction to our barn. This runway is useful for walking to our cars since, like most of our neighbors, we don’t have a garage. But more importantly, this is Frugal Hound’s take-out runway.
Frugal Hound, being a lean greyhound, was truly not designed for snow. But, thanks to her super warm greyhound winter coat and Mr. FW’s plowing efforts, she stays (mostly) warm and has a lovely little track to traverse. Along with snow blowing, Mr. FW is close friends with our snow shovel, which he employs on our front steps and around the entryways to the barn. I do not participate in snow removal because he is just so excellent at it ;).
We’ve also had several bouts of rain this month, which creates layers of ice atop our snow. So far, there’s been enough subsequent snowfall to attenuate the ice on our driveway, but if we keep getting more ice, we may need to order a load of sand for our driveway. Snow atop ice creates adequate friction, but problems arise when ice is the top layer.
This doesn’t bother us in our hiking pursuits since our snowshoes (which have metal teeth on the bottom) allow us to walk over just about anything. We’re grateful for our snow tires as well, which help both the Prius and the Subaru manage the driveway with ease–most days.
We did have a terrible ice storm hit us the night before our church’s Christmas pageant and we couldn’t get out of the driveway that morning. Sad as we were to miss the pageant (the hilarity alone would’ve been worth it), there’s no sense in endangering oneself on super icy roads. Another element of our immense gratitude is that we don’t have to go anywhere.
As of January 4th, we’ve used one cord of wood in our heating endeavors, which is on track with our wood projections for the winter (wondering what a cord of wood is? Wonder no more). Since this is our first winter on the homestead, it was a bit of an estimate as to how much wood we’d need, but we seem to be trending just fine.
We do have oil baseboard heat, which we could use if we ran out of wood. But hopefully it won’t come to that! Mr. FW plans to harvest more wood this winter to store for future years because in an ideal situation, we’d have several years worth of wood put up. However, since we moved here in May, Mr. FW couldn’t harvest quite that much this summer. As we’ve learned repeatedly this first year, you do what you can and just don’t worry about the rest.
Our wood stove continues to serve as our only source of heat throughout these cold, cold nights (and days), which we’re thrilled about. The wood storage rack Mr. FW built for our porch is working out nicely as is our now-wheeled wood box. So hooray for heating with free wood! Ok, not free in terms of labor… but free in terms of cold hard cash!
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–sometimes daily! 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 January frugal comrades!
How was December on your own personal homestead?
Never Miss A Story
Sign up to get new Frugalwoods stories in your email inbox.