This Month On The Homestead: Half Your Wood and Half Your Hay
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.
February shepherded our highest snowfall of the season. Snow poured down on us and stacked itself in great heaps and peaks throughout our property. Our elevation is such that, for every snowfall predicted, we err on the high side of the accumulation estimates. Mr. Frugalwoods and I both agreed that winter just might be our favorite season, which seems almost inconceivable after how glorious fall was. But the muted, still beauty of snow coated trees captivates us. And it’s so much easier to see creature tracks through fresh clouds of powder. The imprints of little feet dot our land, reminding us that this was their home long before it was ours.
A Month Of Illness
If you follow me on Instagram, or even just peruse the photos here on the blog, you might think we live some sort of phantasmagorical life of bliss where we skip outside through magical scenery on a daily, if not hourly, basis. And while it’s true we’re fortunate to live in our dream location surrounded by our dream things (aka trees), we are also real people. Very real people who were sick the entire month save a brief mid-month respite. Babywoods went the first eleven months of her life without getting sick a single time and, let me tell you, the kid is making up for it now.
Starting at the end of January, all three of us were felled (first baby, then mommy, and finally daddy) by the flu–brought to us courtesy of our adorable daughter–despite the fact that all three of us got flu shots this year. We limped along together with this virulent interloper and Babywoods was a wonderful sport. The amazing thing about babies is that they don’t know they’re sick and so there’s no acting or dramatic over-rendering of their symptoms. They genuinely do not understand why they feel bad and they just want to feel good. It’s tragic. There was lots of cuddling and watching Sesame Street together. Normally, we don’t allow Babywoods any screen time whatsoever, but when sick? Elmo to the rescue.
This past week, we were finally turning the corner (I was no longer waking up in the middle of night with coughing fits) when what should befall us? Croup, or a nefarious accomplice. Poor Babywoods spiked a high fever and cough, cough, coughed her way through this week. The hardest part about these illnesses is that they make us into reluctant recluses. We had to cancel play dates, skip church, miss out on parties, and bail on our library playgroup. A small price to pay to avoid infecting the rest of the town! I did keep up our daily hiking ritual as much as possible, though we missed a fair number of days. The fresh air is a balm to my mental and physical health and Babywoods always calms down and relaxes in her sled the minute we hit the trail. A few times we simply walked around the yard, which still gave us the break from indoors that we craved. Plus, for added excitement, we went to see the pediatrician several times!
These illnesses served as a reminder for me to be thankful for our usually very healthy selves. Health is so easy for me to take for granted and so perhaps I needed this bout of sickness to make me realize what a gift it is. What I also learned this month is that some days we thrive and others we merely survive. Accepting the phase of life I’m in is one of my goals this year. Having the presence of mind to simply exist in whatever situation I find myself–and not militate against it–has brought me a new level of peace and lowered stress.
In the past, I would’ve been angry about the inefficiency of sickness. The messiness and the disruption. And while I’d prefer that we weren’t sick, I found a way to savor some elements of it. For example, snuggling Babywoods. As a perpetually curious toddler, Babywoods’ usual mode is exploration. She’s not a sit still type of baby–except when she’s sick. This past weekend, in the throes of croup and fever, she actually slept in my lap–something she hasn’t done since she was a tiny infant. Although it’s pitiful to see her feel so awful, there’s a sweetness in the fact that she seeks out comfort cuddles when she’s sick.
Finding these pockets of gratitude in what’s otherwise a sea of illness is a way in which I’m trying to live always in the present moment and not wish time away. Soon enough, Babywoods will be healthy again and off exploring, and then she’ll be off to kindergarten, and then the wide world. So I’ll relish the moments when she wants to snore her little congested baby snores against my chest. Plus, I got to learn that she dreams about dogs since she said “woof woof” in her sleep.
Updated 3/2/17: we just got home from the pediatrician and Babywoods now has, I kid you not, a double ear infection…
Snow Doesn’t Care If You’re Sick
Snow–along with plenty of other quotidian elements of life like laundry and cooking–doesn’t care if you’re sick. Since we were doused with storm after storm, Mr. FW had to get our there on the tractor and clear snow despite being sick. Thankfully our tractor, which has a snowblower attachment on the back, continues to work beautifully even as the snow grows higher and higher.
Staying on top of clearing after each fresh snowfall–and sometimes clearing twice in the same day–means that the snow never got too tall for our tractor’s capabilities. We’re still considering buying a plow to attach to the front of the tractor, as that would give us more flexibility in the event that snow did pile too high for the snowblower.
Half Your Wood And Half Your Hay
February also marked the proverbial middle of the winter season here in Vermont. There’s an old adage–popularized by Henry David Thoreau–that you should have half your wood and half your hay by Candlemas Day, also known as Groundhog Day, also known as February 2nd.
The idea is that if you stick to this rough rule of thumb, you’ll have enough hay to feed your animals and enough wood to heat your home for the rest of the winter. Having no farm animals, we have no hay. But we do heat our home solely by virtue of our woodstove and we appear to have a touch more than half our wood left.
We’ll consider this a good omen for the prospect of heating our home throughout the remainder of winter. Fear not, we do have oil baseboard heat that we could use in the event that we ran out of wood, so things are not nearly so dire as they were for our ancestral predecessors.
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.
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Onward to March frugal comrades!
How was February on your own personal homestead?
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