This Month On The Homestead: Sunrises, Community, and Ice

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.

January was icy and crisp. But mostly icy. The snow no longer melts and each new snowfall gently folds itself on top of the last. There’s no ground that isn’t white. Very few plants–other than trees–poke out of their snowy cocoons. And it’s gorgeous.

An otherworldly January sunrise

I’m sitting at our dining room table as I write this, looking out our gigantic picture window onto the yard, which is an unblemished field of rolling white. Trees jut at the perimeter, offering greens and browns, and in the case of one stubborn beech tree, a few loitering autumn leaves that missed their seasonal memo.

I snowshoed through the yard with Babywoods just yesterday, but our tracks were erased by last night’s snowfall. Such is life in permanent snow–our impressions on the land are meaningless and soon gone. What’s more, the sunrises and sunsets of winter are unparalleled. Vermillion, orange, fuchsia–the sky is on fire in the mornings and settles into a pastel quilt each evening. I never knew a sky could offer so many different iterations of color.

The Coziness Of Winter

Mr. FW reading to Babywoods

Cannot be overstated. It is fast overtaking fall as my favorite season. Mr. Frugalwoods builds up the woodstove every morning and we bask in its warmth as we watch the snow fall. Winter encourages creativity and durability–qualities I think summer lacks. We cook huge steaming pots of soup, cradle warm coffee mugs (ok, actually these thermoses, but ‘mugs’ sounded better), and bake fragrant breads.

I do yoga in front of the woodstove while Mr. FW reads books to Babywoods in our overstuffed leather chair. We nest and cuddle together against the harsh realities of sub-zero temperatures. But we don’t suffer cabin fever–we go snowshoe hiking almost every day and revel in how different the trails look and feel after each snowfall.

Babywoods loves her sled and has taken to snoozing in there while we pull her up and down the hills of our land (it’s going to be a rude awakening for that child when she has to walk along beside us 😉 ).

When You Are Encased In Ice

Snoozin’ while hikin’

January brought an unusual thaw-rain-freeze pattern that encased us in ice. In a normal winter, it simply snows repeatedly and snow piles atop snow. This year, however, we’re experiencing bouts of warmer temperatures, which are not a boon. What happens is that it’ll be too warm to snow, so it’ll rain, but then temperatures invariably dip back below freezing, which then coats everything in a skein of ice. Not good.

This isn’t much of an issue for us people since we use our metal-spiked snowshoes to tromp around the yard. And after a few unfortunate falls on the ice while doing his outdoor chores, we bought this pair of metal crampons for Mr. FW to affix to his boots. The ice is, however, an issue for our cars (despite their snow tires). As regular readers know, we are engaged in an ongoing dance of diplomacy with our quarter-mile long, hilly, steep, gravel driveway. I say ‘diplomacy’ because we mostly co-exist peaceably, but there are times when weather gets the best of us.

Before we even bought our homestead, we knew this driveway would bring us some amount of grief. However, the overwhelming upside is that we can’t see the road, we can’t hear the road, and we are beatifically surrounded by trees as far as the eye can see in every single direction. Ok, but back to the ice situation. We toughed it out with what amounted to an ice luge of a driveway for awhile and drove as cautiously as possible in our studded snow tires. But we reached a point where it no longer felt safe to operate a car on a bobsled course.

Our ice-coated driveway

Reasoning that it would be far more expensive to buy a bobsled hire a tow truck to pull our car out of a ravine (on our own driveway, no less… ), we ordered a load of gravel and sand from our neighbor. Our town garage has a pile of sand that residents are allowed to take a 5 gallon bucket from after each storm and we use that sand/dirt on our walking paths. However, there’s no way we could, in good faith, take enough free sand/dirt to cover our entire ski slope-esque driveway. Lucky for us, our neighbor was able to swing by and coat the driveway with gravel/sand for just $65. A bargain for our safety and ease of travel. Of course it has subsequently snowed, which creates snowpack on top of the gravel, which is actually good for traction. Mr. FW valiantly snowblows the driveway in our tractor after each snowfall while Babywoods and I watch from the window by the woodstove.

The one upside of total ice coverage is that, when the sun comes out, the optics are amazing. We’re talking arctic sunshine splendor. Each individual tree branch, each individual fir, each individual icicle is coated in a thin layer of icy magic, which shimmers when the sun hits. See below photo of our yard for an illustration. Even in the most challenging weather, there is overwhelming beauty and wonder to appreciate.

Winter Is The Time For Learnin’ and Plannin’

Since nothing’s doing out on the homestead in winter (except for recreation and, of course, snow removal, oh and wood procurement), Mr. FW has heartily thrown himself into the old Vermont adage of learning and planning during these barren months. I am ostensibly also doing this, but let’s be honest, mostly I am writing, doing yoga, and chasing Babywoods around.

The unbelievable shimmer of ice in sunshine

Mr. FW attended the Vermont Maple Sugaring Association’s annual conference one Saturday in January, where he learned about all things maple sugaring. We have a fair number of maple trees on our property and would love to one day tap them and make maple syrup.

In addition to this formal learnin’, we’ve been chatting up our syruping neighbors for their tips and advice. I use maple syrup (which I currently buy from our neighbors) in our homemade whole wheat bread, so it would be divine to make enough syrup for our household usage every year. A future goal to be sure!

And next month, Mr. FW is off to a workshop on how to prune apple trees. This is a good idea considering we pruned our apple trees last year based off of YouTube tutorials and books. Not the same as having an in-person demo.

The Warmth Of Community

I’ve previously waxed poetic about our wonderful community here in tiny, rural Vermont, but they deserve more adulation than you all would care to read about. Living here makes me realize that true community was missing from my life for, well, almost my entire life. Before we moved here (“here” being essentially the middle of nowhere), I had some moments of minor–and not so minor–panic over how we’d ever meet people or socialize or connect with the community. Our closest neighbor is at least a mile away and we didn’t know a single person in a 100-mile radius when we bought our homestead.

We measure our icicles in baby-lengths

I have been so pleasantly surprised to learn how very, very wrong I was to worry. We’ve made more friends here–and have a larger network of connections–in 8 short months than we did in all our years in Cambridge. We had some very good friends–and fabulous next-door neighbors–in Cambridge, but we lacked a true network. Now, we’re integrated into our community through our vibrant church, our active community center, and the baby playgroups we attend.

Vermont’s population is small and our surrounding area is even smaller and nearly everyone knows everyone else and is happy to connect. One of the more fulfilling aspects of our new friendships is that they’re multi-generational. In the city, we were mainly friends with people our age, because that’s who we knew. Out here, however, we recently went to a double birthday party for two friends who were turning 30 and 70, respectively. That was a perfect illustration of the nature of abiding friendship that transcends the confines of age.

Earlier in January, we had no less than three potlucks to attend in a single week: a potluck lunch at church, a potluck surprise 40th birthday party, and our town’s monthly potluck dinner at the town center. Everything is a potluck here–there are no nearby restaurants or take-out places and everyone prefers to cook for themselves anyway. As you can imagine, this suits us frugal weirdos perfectly well. Socializing is done at one another’s homes, at the community center (which is also a library, coffee “shop,” and a store that sells goods made hyper-locally), at church, and while hiking through the woods together.

Fog: another eerily beautiful element of winter

Recently, two friends started coming over one morning a week to take care of Babywoods for an hour or two. This is a wonderful boon for us work-at-home parents with no childcare. Our friends–who are unrelated and refer themselves as an adopted grandmother and granddaughter–are aged 9 and 60 and spend time together on a regular basis.

They’ve decided to make Babywoods their third musketeer and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a perfect opportunity for Babywoods to interact with different generations and I’m delighted at how much fun she has and how much she learns from her two “buddies.” The generosity of this act is profound as they don’t charge me anything for this gift.

Mr. FW and I are working to become involved in our community and he’s now serving on the governing boards of two different local non-profit organizations. I periodically make brochures, programs, and fliers for various local events and for our church. We hope to increase our involvement over the years and I look forward to building decades-long relationships based around this interwoven ethos of community.

Something I’ve realized is that, while we were literally surrounded by people at all times in the city, we rarely connected with them. Everyone was busy and there were simply too many people to make any concerted effort to build a genuine community.

My top 2016 Instagram pics

Out here, conversely, there are few people and so those who step forward–to volunteer, to help, to be friends–are welcomed with open arms, and given a job to do! It’s exactly what we hoped for and I’m grateful every single day that we landed in such a special little place.

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 me if you do…

Onward to February frugal comrades!

How was January on your own personal homestead?

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67 Responses

  1. While winter can certainly be tough – it sounds like you all are making the most of it. Understand you’re getting a big storm today and part of me wishes I was back in New England next to the wood stove, watching the snow come down….

  2. We live on a mile long one car wide private road with about 15 other people. Not quite as extreme as being on your own with such a long driveway, but we have some of the same fears when it comes to navigating to the road. We’re the last house before a hill. Those down the hill are pretty much stuck there until ice melt. I’m glad our house isn’t one more down or my life in winter would be painful.

  3. Wow, that’s an incredible sunrise. The pictures at your homestead are incredible! I like your approach to winter. Many (myself included at times) use the cold weather as an excuse to hunker down and not do anything. I like your approach to learning something new and doing something creative. January was a great month at my house in KC. Everyone was predicting a bad winter. We get a lot of ice here since the temps don’t get quite as low as further up north, but we’ve hardly had any snow/ice and temperatures have been pretty moderate so far. This past Saturday it was 70 degrees out, which is unheard of in the middle of February. Love the random warm days that make it feel like spring.

  4. Don’t have a homestead, but your baby pics remind me of life in Ireland. (I hear it’s the same elsewhere in europe.) Babies are bundled up in winter so you only see their chubby red cheeks, and left OUTSIDE of shops on the sidewalk while mum shops inside! The reason? Shops have such narrow aisles, you can’t take a stroller inside. 🙂 Shocking to us when we saw it, but normal for them.

  5. That baby is so bundled! Love it! Man, I wish I had her life–getting cuddled and read to in the morning, pulled around in a sled to view my domain, and bundled up to enjoy the winter wonderland around me!

  6. I love marveling at the beautiful pictures you are able to capture on your homestead. I imagine the pictures don’t even do it justice.

    January down here in PA was a big of a disappointment with mostly rain and dreary weather. It didn’t help that Mr. MMM was out in LA filming a movie for the entirety of the month. My daughter and I had a great time, though. We snuggled by the fire, played Monopoly, and enjoyed some classic movies together. We were also participants in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge! We were able to squeeze out a bit more frugalness from our lives – especially with my husband being across the country 🙂 It was a lot of fun and I hope you host one each January! It’s the best way to get on track for the year.

  7. We just tapped our maple trees yesterday (we’re a bit south of you here in the Midwest). Our two trees yield enough to last us the year. We mainly use the syrup for weekend pancakes–a tradition since we started maple sugaring. We also use it for some baking and sharing. It might feel silly to tap just a tree or two, but you could make enough for yourselves for the year, and sugaring on a small scale is inexpensive since we don’t need a lot of equipment. I highly recommend it!

    That’s wonderful you’ve found such a close community of friends. That is truly invaluable!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, our climates are so vastly different! We are in the middle of a blizzard right now! That’s great you get enough from your two trees to last the year. We will definitely start small when we do tap.

  8. Leah says:

    I encourage you to tap just a handful of trees this year – 5 max. Maple syruping is quite simple on a small scale, and you’ll learn lessons to help you scale up. You might not make a year’s supply but will have a start.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Babywoods is getting so big!! and just so you know Beech trees do that every winter and don’t lose their leaves.

  10. Laurie says:

    When we moved to New England seven years ago from the South, everybody told us that the best way to make it through long winters was to get outside. Sounds like the Frugalwoods are embracing that philosophy! I agree with you. I love the warmth and snuggliness of winter, the fireplace going while snow falls outside. Enjoy the blizzard. 🙂

  11. Sarah says:

    Sounds like an incredible month!! Our month was good, too! My husband quit his job and is now self-employed again. We are super excited about this opportunity. Hoping in the long-run it allows us more time together as a family – the ultimate goal, right?! Building up the business takes work, but thankfully a lot of the admin can be done at home and I can help out with that. I love that you share your frugal adventures, as being frugal is what ultimately allows a life of freedom!

    Hope you have a fantastic February!!

    -Sarah

  12. Your life sounds just beautiful. It is so nice to hear how you’re enjoying each season in turn. And it’s so refreshing to learn you’ve found such a great community. We’d love to move to a more rural home but do worry about meeting people. I love hearing that you’ve been able to build meaningful connections in a smaller community.

    And that picture of the sun shining on your snowy land is a framer for sure. Gorgeous!

  13. You make winter sound great. Having moved away from the cold and now enjoying the warm in the south I think I’ve grown soft when it comes to snow and freezing temps. We actually enjoyed some 80 degree weather this weekend which was amazing. It makes things very nice to let the little one run off some steam. Great January recap!

  14. Cindi says:

    We’ve been in that snow then rain and ice cycle here in Colorado as well — it can be hazardous, but sounds like you are coping well. And I can so relate to the idea of making more friends and connections in a small town than in the city. It was the same for us when we moved here 3 years ago. We now know so many more people and are involved in more things than we ever were in the big city suburb we lived in for 14 years.

  15. Marion says:

    At some point down the road, you might want to consider a reasonably priced pickup truck for use on the homestead. Especially if you get into sugaring in any quantity.
    55 gallon drums, with half the top cut out, laid on their side in a cradle, filled with sand/salt combo and a trenching shovel, stationed strategically along the driveway might prove helpful.

  16. Damn I felt more relaxed just reading this post! I can’t imagine how quiet it must be there, especially moving from Cambridge? Did that take a lot of time to get used to? Even when I visit my parent’s house in suburban Detroit feels so much quieter than LA. Apparently I need planes taking off and landing to sleep now. Babywoods in the sled is so cute. Yeah that would be a rude awakening to not have the anymore!

  17. A couple of weeks ago I spied a photo you posted of your lovely pond in the Fall (in the UK here we would call that a lake!). Anyway it just took my breath away and I was filled with admiration for what you have both achieved. I would rather look out at something like that everyday than a row of designer clothes/mega size tv/fast car etc. I am a few years older than you both (quite a few actually!) but I am going on the premise that it’s never too late to start.

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that I would thrive in a tiny cottage on own small piece of land and have created a plan to step up the pace with my frugality, increase my earnings and sell most of my stuff to enable me to buy my own little slice of heaven.

    I just thought you should know that a lovely family in the woods is making a big difference to one motivated individual all the way across an ocean.

    Linda xx

    • Bev says:

      Good for you, Linda. So wonderful to hear your story. These two frugal weirdos inspired me, as well. While I am 60 yrs old, they inspired me to live my dream and to know that it’s never too late to start. Aren’t they just the nicest people! And we are fellow Vermonters, too. I encourage you to go after your dream. Yes, a small place to enjoy nature is beautiful to anyone.

  18. Kandice says:

    Your pictures ARE gorgeous. Have you considered trying to sell them (another passive income stream)? Twenty20 is a good place to start.

  19. Uhm, can I just say that Babywoods looks cute as a button in her little baby snowsuit? I am dying from the fuzzy cuteness, oh my stars.
    I love the smell of winter. It’s that scent of burning wood and cider that’s so warming. 🙂 Unfortunately we don’t get “winter” in Texas; it was 80 degrees yesterday–I kid you not.
    Ooooh, I’d love to see what you do with those maple trees. 🙂 It would be so awesome to have your own maple syrup! There’s no comparison for the real stuff, either!

    January was a pretty good month! We were able to cut our cost per meal down to $3 (it’s now at $2!). Mr. Picky Pincher has been slowly taming our yard as well as grouting tile in the kitchen. We’ll need to build four raised beds either late this month or in early March. We’re excited to start growing our own food, and since it’s always so warm in Texas, we should have a pretty active growing season.

    Luckily, our rosemary bushes seem to be in season all year ’round, so I use those for fresh cooking and creating homemade air fresheners (sans weird chemicals).

  20. Cari says:

    It’s so great that you have such a wonderful community! I live in NH, near Portsmouth and it’s very hard meeting friends it seems. That is one of my goals for 2017 (among living like a frugal weirdo), to meet people in my community! I stay-at-home but don’t have children yet so it seems even harder but I’m happy to make multi-generational friends as well, I just need to find them 🙂

  21. julie says:

    We went sledding after we cleared the sidewalks and driveway. My dad has been visiting, so he’s been taking our dog out for multiple hour long walks per day. She loves the snow! He knows the names of all the dogs in the neighborhood and where they were rescued from.

    I found a pair of snow pants in the children’s section on clearance a few years ago at Target for $10. They are pink and purple, and I love them because I can just pull them up over my pj pants when I need to go outside 🙂

  22. Rachel S says:

    Beautiful post!! Very poetic and dreamlike! Question: have you considered writing a book, or are there plans in the near future for that to happen? Even just a collection of your top 100 blog posts, organized in some way, would be wonderful! I would buy it and I would buy several copies for my family and friends. While I send links out of some of my favorite posts, I would like to gift them with a book so that they can share my passion! Just an idea!

  23. Cindy says:

    Gorgeous photos !! My grandmother was a widow and hated to stay alone at night, but wanted to keep her home, so she had dinner with us every night, stayed over, and drove home in the morning. My children adored her. In fact, she gave my son a fuzzy tiger blanket when he was 12 and he is now 45, married, and it’s still on his bed. She was in a nursing home for a week before she passed, and every night we watched tv with her and my son laid in bed with her. She was tiny and he was a tackle on the football team. She so enriched their lives….wish I had realized it then.

  24. Jill says:

    Your posts make me so happy. We’re currently snowed (iced) in with a snow day – no work, school, or daycare. A few months ago that might have resulted in cabin fever, but we’ve been honing our “do more with less” attempts. Homemade muffins are just out of the oven, a pot of frogmore stew is ready to simmer, and we’re reading by the wood stove. I love reading about your happy, simple lifestyle – simple, but so rich in all the ways that matter.

  25. Your place looks beautiful! Although it would be hard to live in Vermont because we don’t like the cold. This is what happens when you grow up in Texas. Prefer 100+ degree weather.

  26. I love this post! It sounds like you’ve created the perfect environment to raise Babywoods!

    I, to, fight with my driveway every time it snows. It’s a short, but steep driveway and any snowfall over three inches and my car is stuck at the bottom. Ugh. I’m ready for summer!

  27. Joe says:

    The community support sounds awesome. That’s the problem with living in the city. You make casual friends, but you can’t really depend on anyone.
    But winter being your favorite? That’s nice… Personally, I am so tired of the cold and rainy weather and I just can’t wait for spring. 🙂
    Enjoy it while you can.

  28. JD says:

    Love the photos — they remind me of the ice storms in the upper south where I grew up — so, so dangerous, but so beautiful.
    Our winter has been warm too many days for us to really enjoy “winter” here in the deep south where I live now, but we’ve had a few nights in the 30’s, so it has felt good to bundle up some days. I have had success in staying below my budget by a bit in January and through this part of February, even though some unexpected expenses cropped up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I finish this month more under budget than ever.
    I’m happy for you to be getting into the community of a small town/rural area. That kind of place is what I grew up in and live in now. Everybody knows everybody, it seems, and knowing your friends’ parents and kids about as well as you know the friends is just normal. My birthday falls a week from my grandmother’s, and we shared a number of birthday parties when I was a kid, although she was 60 years older than me. Also, I so appreciated it when a man I used to work with called me one day to tell me my daughter’s fence was damaged while she was out of town on business. She lives across the street from him in her own house, but of course, he knew whose daughter she is and how to reach me– it’s a small town.
    Thanks to your description, I’m now longing for a wood fire, some cold weather, and some hot chocolate!

  29. Ms. Montana says:

    I love winter too! It give me a chance to rest, and get work done inside. We finished building out our master bath. Especially when the weather drops below zero, I feel no obligation to leave the house. If the temperature gets into the 30’s we will go hiking with the 5 kids. But even they seem content to do more reading, coloring and playing inside.

  30. Nancy says:

    Wow, Liz, this brings back so many memories! My parents lived on a 13-acre hillside in rural Vermont (fairly near where you are, I think) for years, and they had a third of a mile wind-y, hilly driveway with a hairpin bend near the top. Dad worked several miles away and had to get up and down that driveway every day, and it was a continual challenge. They had sand barrels placed at strategic spots and also saved ashes from their wood stove to treat that icy driveway. He also drove a truck and kept a plow on it through the winter so he could always plow out on the inevitable snowy days.

    They were very involved in the community and it was a joy to them. They were older than you during those years but it didn’t matter…..friendships were strong and activities rewarding. Nothing quite like small-town Vermont! You are doing all the right things and it is a joy to hear the younger generation keeping the traditions going! (Dad used those cramp-ons on his boots too. They were lifesavers.)

  31. Mrs. BITA says:

    I lived in Southern India and now in California, so I have no experience with snowy winters (I find the idea of living through a true snowy winter mildly terrifying, to be honest), but you make winter sound idyllic. Your homestead is gorgeous and I’m glad you’ve found such a great community to be a part of.

  32. Julia says:

    You guys would make Helen and Scott Nearing proud 🙂 Reading this reminds me of when I longed for the life and community they built (and all the syrup they made!) in the Vermont woods while reading “The Good Life.” That life seemed distant and improbable to me then and it does still today even though your story is much more modern and relevant 🙂 It seems to be a romantic but unlikely lifestyle to me – perhaps because I can’t imagine NOT living my busy city life, even as much as it bores and tires me? Your story gives me hope that it IS possible, though.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh gosh, I think the Nearings would be horrified at our ineptitude, but I appreciate the compliment :). It is a radical change from the city, so before you take the plunge, make sure you enjoy a simple, quiet life!

  33. Carissa says:

    Making maple syrup is so fun! Choosing the best trees, the daily hikes through the woods to collect sap, the boiling days hanging out by the fire and taste-testing the sap as it boils down…. And of course the syrup is the best. We’ve found it to be a VERY popular Christmas gift. ☺ We only tapped about 13 trees the past few years, and found it to be enough for our annual usage and some gifts.

  34. Tj says:

    Wet. Our January in the Pacific Northwest was very wet. We are over 100 inches of rain so far for this season beginning in September. We live off the grid and very rural and have stayed busy keeping the rain off of our 10 plus mikes if gravel roads. We have to keep culverts and roadside ditches clear during the heaviest deluge. While you have snow gear we have rain gear. We had to pay our first installment of property tax, so our checkbook took a beating, but it is of course an expected expense. Our truck decided to die, and fixing the engine was not, but it is still getting worked on so we have not yet seen that bill, but it is sure to be big.

  35. Love the pictures Mrs. Frugalwoods. Some of those are really amazing!

    It sounds like your family is really settling into the country life! Congrats. I figured you guys would do just fine as country dwellers!

    Now, I just need to get my rear out of the city into a nice country home too! Some day!

  36. Lena says:

    Hello there, it’s nice to read that you are both enjoying this life you worked so hard for. It keeps me motivated to pursue my own goals. Thank you for that!
    How is Frugalhound managing the snowfall? 🙂

  37. January was a final flurry of activity actually at home, as I started a new job in February after 8 months being unemployed. I’m into the second week of the job and so grateful our finances gave me the time to search for a job and company I want to work for. It does mean I have to reduce my volunteering that I’ve been doing (mostly as the hours of my job clash with their service hours) but I will still be able to lend occassional support and it’s been a fantastic way to me lots of different people, also spanning a range of ages! Volunteering is obviously a good way to help others, but selfishly I can honestly say I benefitted at least as much as the charity did 🙂

    We do get some picturesque sunrises and sets but they do not quite compare to yours!

  38. Bev says:

    Don’t you just love these cozy winter days and storms. We do the same as you and so enjoy being home, watching movies, cooking, baking, enjoying our fireplace (gas…sorry!), and just being cozy. I know the ice issues, as our drive is 300 ft off of a private road. But it sounds like you have it under control. Loved the pic of Mr. FW, his glasses, and reading to Babywoods. Beautiful family. And I agree with the other comment….write a book. I’ll buy several.

  39. Florentina Sapunaru says:

    You can try to put ash on the road. It melts the ice very well. Do not throw away the ash from your fire place, just use it to melt the ice. We are doing it all the time and it is working!

  40. Love the pictures, Ms. Frugalwoods!

    I’m currently out for work in Hawaii, so my January was very warm and sunny. There was, however, a flash flood yesterday so it was a bit rainy.

  41. Echo says:

    Hope you guys are keeping warm out there in the woods!

    Just so you know, you are an inspiration to us city living people.
    I cannot wait to get out in the woods and away from all this stress.
    I plan to model my next few years quite a lot off the beautiful lives you have built for yourselves.

  42. Rebecca says:

    Wow… I love your blog, and this post, but I have to admit, reading this hit me with a pang of longing. I know I shouldn’t compare my life to someone else’s, but I can’t help but wish I had yours! Everything seems so perfect. I hope I can build a life that looks something like this one day.

  43. Christine Hewitt says:

    Mrs Mummy Frugalwoods is growing up – she’s addressed the idea of Babywoods actually walking as part of the daily outside exercise! That’s a whole new experience let me tell you. And a baby lead attached to the arm will be very useful – yes they have such things for toddlers here but am not sure what they are really called. We trained our dogs to walk to heel many moons ago but it took a bit longer with keeping the children in tow she says laughing. There’s an old saying quoted laughing by grandparents – you spend two years teaching children to walk and talk followed by 16 telling them to stop.

  44. Sandra & the 2 Spaniels says:

    Needless to say, California is now drowning in rain-after our prolonged drought.
    The driveway issue is with most rural properties. I had one similar to yours in the sierras: where we got lots of snow & ice! Re-graveling needs done every summer-especially the bare areas that bear the brunt of tire turns. Have you also thought of a nice big bag of kitty litter? I always carried 2 bags of clay litter in my trunk. 1-it provided ballast around icy turns, and 2-if I got stuck, or I needed traction, I could spread some litter around. It is not harmful to the environment either. I still never drive to Tahoe without 2 bags of litter in the winter. Special stuff!

  45. I am going to really start pitching potlucks for everything!! Getting together for homecooked meals sounds especially cozy in the winter. Usually winter around here (or maybe just around those I have in my social circle…) usually means getting together in pubs and blowing money on comfort food and beer – hence why I get even less social in the winter! Time to start really sellling the idea of potlucks in a way that even spendy folks would want to join in instead of going out! I’ve said no to every invite I get that involves bars and restaurants, so I’m hoping this idea kicks off for the sake of socializing while still trying to be epically frugal!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes to potlucks! They are basically just comfort food and beer, but in someone’s home :). Much cheaper and cozier.

  46. Nicki says:

    I grew up in Wisconsin and never appreciated the winter as much as I should have. It’s amazing how the white reflection off of the snow makes everything seem incredibly more alive. I also enjoy how you reflect on the pace of life in Vermont. I often think that it is assumed that city living is better than country living, but until you have experienced both you can’t really say what style is best for you. I love being able to drive into a city and have some of it’s advantages, but country living with it’s natural rhythm and pace is a beautiful thing once you let yourself enjoy all of it’s benefits. It’s truly amazing how the internet has allowed for new living arrangements, such as yours, where you can enjoy local community and a world of people with common interests.

  47. AW says:

    Wow, I will leave you to enjoy the cold weather and icy driveway while I enjoy the California sunshine (or rain of late but we need the rain and it’s still 60 degrees). But I am sooooo jealous of the community you are a part of in Vermont. I have never really had that either. We bought our house a year and a half ago and we still only know one neighbor by name. And this is on a crowded suburban street where there are houses all around us. We might smile and say hello politely but that’s it 🙁

  48. I love reading these posts and would love to retire to something like this in America. Being from Australia these sort of landscapes and lifestyles are a lot harder to find and require a lot more isolation to move to a destination with 66 acres.
    We are closing on our 1700sm block (up from 232sm) next month that is more out of town and I hope we can enjoy something close to your lifestyle.

  49. My boys have been so happy the past week where we’ve finally gotten some real snow-not just a few inches/thaw/rain/freeze we’ve been having in January. Right now there’s about two feet of snow outside, and several snow forts in the front yard. Sadly it’s back to school on time today, but we’re expecting more snow tomorrow. We live on an acre and a half of woods, so although it’s not a homestead we still have plenty of privacy to look out the back window and see nothing but trees. Despite the downside (driving) I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that it doesn’t snow. There’s nothing like having hot soup or stew and homemade bread/rolls after it’s snowed, or making hot cocoa for little ones coming in from playing. Although I don’t mind vacationing in warm places, I wouldn’t want to live there full time.

  50. TPOHappiness says:

    I love your ice-coated driveway. Here in Texas we don’t really get many scenes like that. Eventually we’ll move further north but for now its sunshine and 70 degrees.

  51. kat says:

    I found the same thing when I lived in the boonies, you end up having more friends than in a city because people will make time for you and theres so much more of a connection with people. I miss that. It sounds like a great way to live there in Vermont, its very beautiful.

  52. It sounds like your new community is lucky to have YOU and the mr. as well…I think it bodes well that you and Mr. F have made the effort to join in the activities of your surroundings and seem to be making a true contribution as well as taking advantage of all that is offered. Small town Vermont always sounds idyllic and it’s sweet to know it’s true in practice as well as theory. The photos are beautiful and I am so envious of your snow. We’ve had only one snow this year and much warm record-breaking temps…meh.

  53. Mrs. COD says:

    Love these wintry descriptions and the incredible photos, but most of all I adore pics of little Babywoods all snuggled up! I’m not a huge winter fan typically, but now that we haven’t had any snow since the new year, I’m starting to miss it! Perhaps because it’s my first year as a stay-at-home mom and not a teacher, I was looking forward to the bliss of not having to drive in snowy weather, ha! At least our kids got to sled and play in snow over Christmas and New Year’s 😀. Cheers to savoring your remaining winter weeks/months in lovely Vermont!

  54. Suzie says:

    With your new rural wisdom, do you have any advice for people in the city who would like to build community? I’m moving to a big new city this summer and I’d love to get really knitted together with the people in my local area. Inter-generational friendships and pot lucks sound awesome! But I just wouldn’t know where to start.

    • Diane C says:

      Susie, when I was feeling the same way in a new-Ishmael city, I started volunteering at our library’s book sales. Then I was asked to join the Friends of the Library Board. Eventually, I became VP. Then I joined a larger, umbrella library board () We have two libraries. This group advocates for both. Then I became Co-Chair of Community Service Day (1200 volunteers, 50+ projects, 1 day). I still do all three and then some. I’ve made more friends than I ever could have imagined.
      When I lived in an even larger city and worked full time, I volunteered at golf tournaments and at my local polling place. That gig actually paid a small stipend, but was a wonderful way to meet my immediate neighbors.
      All of these activities were very frugal to boot. Good luck to you!

  55. I love hearing about life on your homestead! It’s so interesting to see how different life is out there than in the city where I live. How far away is your closest restaurant?

  56. I can’t believe Babywoods sleeps in the sled. Despite our best efforts, our little one pretty much refuses to sleep anywhere but her crib in complete darkness.

  57. Tracy says:

    It warms my heart to read about the non-city community! And please excuse me while I drool at your amazing landscapes.

    Vancouver in January? We’ve had more snow this winter than I remember since I was a kid. (Which honestly isn’t much…I know…but a coworker skied to work!) It’s brought out a wee little bit of the community feel in my neighbourhood. I live in a complex with a courtyard, and the shoveling has been a welcome opportunity to actually have a conversation with some immediate neighbours. While shoveling the city sidewalk, I was greeted more times than the whole rest of the year walking around the city.

    I’d love to live in that wonderful non-city-type community you describe, but until I either move or figure out how to cultivate it here, I’ll enjoy the snow-induced greetings and be grateful for my wonderful coworkers (I’m lucky) and folks at various groups I’m regularly involved in.

  58. Gwen says:

    Community is the best part of rural living. Along with the dark and quiet. I have lived in r ural and urban settings in canada and the US and finding true commuity is actual hard in both. Things have to align in a certain way but when they do it is such a more fullfilling life. One feels like one has a place. A slot thats just made for you and cannot be filled by anyone else. You are valued and special for who you are. In the city people this is not so. Also community teaches us about tolerance. Because even though small rural communuties are racially homogenous often they appreciation of human diversity is practiced more because we are all different and the nuance of those differences are really captured in a small community. I live in BC Canada. Small town procter near nelson. I could go on and on. I so enjoyed this post because it captures why i value raisng my family in community….but your days sound relaxing…i have 4 kids including 15 month old twin boys. No staying still and drinking hot chocolate. More like trying not to have babies burnt. Avoiding spashes while trying to get a sip in. 4 streams of input non stop into my poor brain…but i love it. I’ve never been happier (or more frugal) staying in our log house in the woods with the four kids and the wood heat and living in a real life snow globe.

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