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.

Mr. FW pulling Babywoods (in her game sled) up the hill to our house

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.

Our snowy barn and snow-buried garden

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.

Snow Removal

Mr. FW on snow removal detail

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’s walking track, freshly plowed by Mr. FW

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.

Our pre-snow driveway on December 1st: you can appreciate the task Mr. FW has in driving the snow plow on this baby!

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.

Wood Update

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.

The final crest of our driveway: now firmly encased in snow

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.

Also, you can still sign-up to join the over 9,200 people participating in my Uber Frugal Month Challenge! You’ll start out with Day 1, so you won’t miss a thing.

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?

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  1. is the wood stove connected to a water boiler to a hydronic baseboard heat or is it forced air? I have friends in rural central PA who claim their wood stove to water boiler/hydronic baseboard system uses about two pieces of wood a day which seems low, but then their temps aren’t nearly as cold as yours. Another friend in that area is thinking about converting to the system because oil heat is so expensive (two winters ago when it was super snowy, he was spending upwards of $300 a month on oil)

    1. Hey Tara,

      i saw your comment and thought I could share some info that you could relay to your friend who is/was heating with oil. My father ran a mechanic’s shop in my hometown and what oil that was not recycled he gave away to people who heated their homes with oil heaters. They came and pumped it themselves, so he did not have to pay to have excess pumped and he was able to help some local citizens out in the winter months. Win/Win. This was late 90’s early 2000’s, so I am not sure if shops still perform these actions. But, it might be worth having your friend ask around!


  2. Very impressive! I am enjoying not having to shovel my own snow. I don’t like renting. It is not my forever plan. But I am enjoying the perks of it for now.

    I botched a sewing project (just the muslin, not the “nice” fabric) but made a serviceable chalkboard out of an old glass frame which I find very satisfying.

  3. We have a -20 on our thermometer this morning here in CO. For last winter, I made window coverings. I found flannel sheets at the thrift store and cut to fit the windows. Then I put bubble wrap in between the layers of fabric and “tied-quilted” them together. I hang them against the windows with the 3M hooks and they make a big difference during the really cold weather.
    BTW: is there a way to be notified of responses to our comments?

  4. Good grief, that’s a lot of snow! And until May, you say? Brrrr. I’m thankful for our position near the equator. 🙂

    And go you guys for clearing your own snow! I had no idea it could cost $75 a pop. That’s a big chunk of savings. How much did the tractor cost? I’m sure it’ll pay for itself over time. It’s fantastic that the wood heater is working splendidly too!

    Our urban homestead trucked along in December. Mr. Picky Pincher tiled bald spots on our floor and his dad installed our kitchen window frame. We also installed fancy-pants blinds (which we bought on sale)–which Zap the Kitten thoroughly enjoys destroying. But he’s cute, so meh.

    We really need to get a move on our gardening aspirations. We want to set up four raised beds so we can start planting in the spring (which is basically March here in Texas). But said raised beds haven’t been built yet, so we’ll need to get on that. On the plus side, we’ve built up our three compost bins nicely, so hopefully we can have some quality soil in a few months.

    1. Hi Mrs Picky Pincher, have you heard about keyhole gardens? They are perfect for arid Texas, raised beds that recycle/compost while growing veggies. You can build them yourself and they would love the contents of your compost bins. We’re planning on starting ours in Southern California in a couple of months.

  5. Our personal homestead didn’t see us much in December! We were out and about traveling for most of the month!

    I’m really liking the idea of the blazed trails through your woods. It would be so cool to know all of the trails and their distances so you could customize a suggested hiking route for any guest.

  6. I must admit, I cannot get enough of the beautiful pictures that keep rolling off your homestead. I’ve always been a fan of winter’s beauty. Although, snow removal is not my favorite thing, looking out upon a fresh blanket of snow is breathtaking. Our homestead hosted Christmas Eve and had plenty of fun, festive activities along the way. We love hitting up Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane each year. My daughter and I get season passes (for her birthday) and we use the heck out of them. We also did our annual trip to downtown Lancaster to see Santa climb the Marriott. It’s a local tradition. And thanks to you and Vistaprint, we hacked our Christmas cards and used business postcards this year. Thanks for the tip! And keep those pictures comin’!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  7. Your land is gorgeous! I love to see the pictures of you and your family enjoying it – it is such a motivating reminder that focused frugality truly pays off!

    We dream of a wood stove; our rental is currently outfitted with a finicky pellet stove. Do you find that you need to get up throughout the night to add wood? That would be a major drawback for me.

    My husband and I have recently both transitioned to working from home. We’re in upstate NY and are thrilled each time we get a new snowfall, knowing we don’t ever really need to leave the house! Another perk of simple living 🙂

  8. Once again another enjoyably amusing post. The idea of walking your own trails on your homestead is so rewarding and another reminder where frugality can take you!
    I wa struck by two bits of your post that I would enjoy hearing more about … “ancient stone walls,” and “old logging trails” I suspect you truly have these on your property? That is so exciting to have proof of how others have lived on your property. Have you done any kind of research on them?

  9. Wow, that’s a lot of snow! I don’t live in an area with much snow (thanks California!), but it looks super amazing from the pictures on your post and especially the view from your porch (from Facebook!).

  10. Hi, Mrs. FW. That red tractor looks great for the snow! No snow here, temps have dropped to 32 degrees, which for us, is verrry cold here in south Texas! In December we traversed our city’s botanical gardens in short sleeves and enjoyed seeing the bareness of the gardens. We did, however, see loads of citrus fruits on the trees while other deciduous trees were trimmed back showing bare limbs. Even after 20 years of living in down here, it’s still strange to us to not have snow!

  11. Great writing! You should consider writing a book on frugality and simply leaving. You have a great way with words. Very poetic. It makes me want to keep reading forever! 😄

  12. Hi – Have you mitigated for the indoor (and outdoor) pollution caused by wood burning stoves? I would be interested in learning what you have done.

  13. Well we don’t have a homestead, but we are supposed to get our first snowfall tomorrow! I’m ready for snow, not because I particularly enjoy going out in it, but because it’s pretty to watch from inside my warm home.

  14. We use a wood stove to heat our house as much as possible. Firewood is free for us and propane is expensive. We load all the unspoilt wood and on a long weekend rent a logsplitter. It only costs $75 for the weekend and if we work all weekend, we can cut 4-5 cords. It’s a lot of work and I keep suggesting we just buy one and cut slower:) It saves money just renting the splitter though.

  15. Oh wow, so much of that white stuff everywhere. No thanks! We’re hours away from getting a taste of that in Raleigh and I’m not looking forward to it much (forecast calls for a good chance of sleet mixed with snow). At least the kids will enjoy playing in it if it’s more snow than sleet.

    That’s amazing that you’re able to heat with wood alone. Must be a huge money saver versus oil heat.

  16. Two questions: How did the bulk oatmeal work out? I love my Bob’s thick cut from Amazon but not super cheap. Two and this is just curiosity but your land is so big I am surprised the perimeter is not bigger. So cool you are making your own trails, next you get to name them! Happy new year.

  17. I love Babywoods in the game sled! My mom took or sent us out in all weathers and because of that we developed a lasting love and appreciation for Nature. You are really giving her a great gift!

  18. Beautiful! While we adore our city life, it is fun to live in the woods vicariously through your eyes. I’m also enjoying the Uber Frugal challenge so far! The daily emails are a lovely reminder to stay on track. I’m cheating a little bit as I’ll be in Haiti for a portion of the month…but the trip is a frugal one, paid for entirely by credit card rewards points. Woot! Looking forward to the rest of the updates and seeing how you all fare as well!

  19. All those snow photos make my shoveling arms tired. Poor Mr. FW! I spent my childhood winters shoveling massive amounts of snow, and subsequently snow is no longer a pleasant occurrence. I hope Mr. FW gets some extra appreciation for all that hard work.

    I’m very glad I no longer live in a place that gets a lot of snow!

  20. We are on the other side of the mountain from you and are just about back to bare ground with a nice layer of ice. Have you checked out the sand situation at your local town shed? In many Vermont towns, the town shed (where your town’s plow trucks are stored and refill with salt/sand) will have a pile of sand for public use. This is sand that is paid for by your property taxes. We throw a tarp in the back of our truck, grab a shovel or two and load it up. Folks without trucks seem to prefer filing 5 gallon pails. With a 1/4 mile driveway and no truck, you might get to the point where you need to order a load of sand for yourselves, but it is definitely worth checking in at your town shed first.

  21. Takes me back to all my years growing up in Maine. My Dad always plowed the drive and I certainly got to do my fair share of shovelling. For me it was all fine in January – but when we were still dealing with snow in late March and April – that got old quick! Good luck!

  22. Thanks for the posting. I realize the benefit of sparing $75/storm to pay for snow removal a la carte, but how much was your tractor/snowblower attachment combo up front? I also have a very long driveway in Maine and pay about $50/storm…I’d love to find a more frugal alternative! How did you find this machinery?

    1. So the tractor came with the house–it was part of our purchase. But, I know folks who work out all sorts of different solutions for doing their own snow plowing. Some put a plow on the front of their truck or even on a UTV.

  23. I’m hoping for some real snow soon down here in CT! We’ve had a couple of storms but only an inch or two each time. Great plowing combo-we just use a snowblower since our driveway isn’t as long. There’s definitely nothing like the beauty of the woods after a nice snow!

    1. Fortunately, nature takes care of this–there’s a natural regeneration process that takes place in the forest. And, we’re actually required to harvest in our woods as part of maintaining a healthy forest–too much old growth doesn’t allow new saplings to grow.

  24. Beautiful photos of your land! When I visited a friend who moved to the country, I was amazed that she knew her way around every inch of their wooded property, all the trees and plants and critters and scat found there. It comes from walking the woods and building trails every day.

    We’ve had our second ice storm in 4 weeks, and I’m thinking about installing a small wood stove. It’s good to always have a reliable source of heat and way to cook if the power goes out.

  25. From the many friends and family that heat with wood…you need to have equal amt of wood to the sq footage you are heating. More if you use it in a separate cookstove. They also use dried (shelled) corn cobs in cook stove especially in summer.Late father in law was raised in Vermont and this is how he always did it also.

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