February: buried in 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.

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

We did make it outside a few times

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!

Our apple trees were reduced to bushes by our heaps of snow–also note the critter tracks

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.

Our driveway: does not care if you’re 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.

Winter sunrises defy earthly beauty

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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  1. I’m jealous of your real winter! The coldest it got here in Texas was maaaaaybe 30 degrees. Lately it’s been in the 70s–it’s like Jack Frost skipped us completely. Sigh.
    Sorry to hear you all got the flu. That is the absolute worst, especially after getting a flu shot in the first place!

    February was pretty good on our ol’ suburban homestead. We bought organic, non-GMO seeds and hope to build our raised beds this weekend and next weekend. And that means a garden is in the works!!! It feels great to finally be on track to grow our own food. Ahhhh.

    February was a bit spendy for such a short month. I went kinda crazy for my birthday celebrations and we spent quite a lot of money setting up our own beer-making equipment. Although February was expensive, we should reap returns on our purchases moving forward so I’m not too upset about it. 🙂

  2. Here in Montana we were also buried and snow and lost a whole week to sickness. Even though I hated everyone being sick, it was so much easier because we are semi-retired, work from home parents. Because when 7 people are throwing up, no one is going to work or school.

  3. What a beautiful home and beautiful attitude for life. There are always blessings to be found even in the ordinary days of life. Thank you for sharing your month.

  4. “Plus, I got to learn that she dreams about dogs since she said “woof woof” in her sleep.” AWE!!!!! Actually I said “awe” 100 times during that post. I’m sure that’s no fun having the whole family sick, but I always think sickness teaches us something, mainly for me to slow down (although I’m not sure you could go much slower?). Every time I read your posts I get more and more excited to visit (save for perhaps picking up some germs from babywoods! 🙂 )

  5. I always stagger when reading of the amount of work it takes to care for and maintain your property…jI wonder, does it ever overwhelm? Or does that youthful energy and enthusiasm you possess just take care of all that? I love to garden and work outdoors, but I just don’t think I could cope with the likes of your winter snow/driveway maintenance! Bravo to the two of you for having the wherewithal to care for such a gorgeous piece of land.

  6. So when you are sick, you just make Frugal Hound do all the household tasks, right? I sometimes tell my “Nurse Dog” to go get me tissues and medicine, and she just barks and licks my face. I don’t know where she went to nursing school!

  7. The dreaming of dogs is the cutest! Our daughter loves to wake up and lay in her crib and say “hello” to all her friends and teachers i.e. “Hi Momma, Hi Dada, Hi Mamy, Hi Gigi, etc…”

  8. Your sunrise pictures are absolutely incredible. I don’t know if I could do a whole winter in Vermont, put the sunrises sure would help. I love your attitude about living in the present and taking joy in what you do have.

  9. Beautiful home and property! Some of my ancestors came from Burlington or close by. Always wanted to see the state. (I live in awesomely beautiful Oregon.). Only bad thing about renting out your home is taxes. I sold my wonderful old Craftsman-style home (filled with beautiful garage-sale antiques) last year to my renters, who wanted it for over 5 years. (They had to wait until economy perked up to get their loan.) Since I hadn’t lived in the house for 2 of the last 5 years, I’m paying over $15,000 in capital gains. Ugh, could have been worse, financially. I am widowed, so the gov’t couldn’t charge me up to the $30,000 or more they’d liked to have had. (I’d MUCH rather have my husband still here than the savings, though.)

  10. I’m sorry all of you had to suffer through a sick February. Sick babies are truly pitiful. I remember when Toddler BITA used to cough herself awake and then look so bewildered about the fact that she was awake when she really, really wanted to be asleep. One thing I don’t miss at all about babyhood – the nosefrida snot sucker thingy. Toddler BITA did not take kindly to it and I used to have a near panic attack knowing that I had to deploy it.

  11. Sorry to hear that you all got the flu despite the flu shot. That happened to my friend’s household too. The strain they got wasn’t in the shot. It’s hard to have the flu but harder to see your kids sick 🙁 Glad you are well again!

  12. I’m not sure about the efficiency of your tractor, but our plow truck is my BFF in the winter. My husband was away for a big storm and I had to shovel by hand, a task I do not miss. Plus the truck is practical for frugal adventures such as picking up things from the side of the road. My husband also has a small side job plowing for friends and family, though it is often a pay it forward activity.

  13. February in Northeast Mississippi has been extraordinarily warm…which apparently isn’t exclusive to our area. My husband and I took a trip to Washington, DC and it was equally warm last week. As in, warm enough that if I weren’t on a clothes buying ban, I would have swiped up some tank tops at the most convenient location. On the bright side, the crowds and the rates are low that time of year and warm weather is perfect for sightseeing. Everything here is blooming out in full on spring fashion and my hens are laying with a fervor. (I was warned they would slow production during the winter). Unfortunately, winter in the South likes to psyche us out. Just when everything is bloomed and we’re unpacking our summer clothes, we’ll get hit with one last ice/snow that will kill all the blooms and wreck everyone’s fruit trees and berry bushes for the year. :/

  14. I am so sorry you have all been sick! And you are absolutely right about enjoying the blessings you have…your snow is gorgeous! Here the whole winter has been like one long, gray and dreary November but now thanks to your perspective I am reminding myself that we haven’t been snowed in once!

  15. Sickness with toddlers is no fun. Sometimes kids get sick a lot more when they start on cow’s milk…especially if it is regular store-bought (even if organic) homogenized and pasteurized. Mainstream medicine is just starting to accept this fact (ear infections spike with the intro of industrial dairy, too) so you can google it if you’re interested. We noticed it with both our kids, switched to less cow’s milk in general, and when we drink/cook with it only use farm-fresh non-homogenized whole milk from grass-fed cows. Seriously, it was like night and day. Just a thought, all kids are different, but if you did happen to start Babywoods on milk right when she started getting sick more, you might give it a try!

    1. We had the same problem and I had the same thought. It isn’t always the cause but I would have never figured it out of someone hadn’t suggesred it to me. I was firmly entrenched in “milk is good for EVERYONE!!! YAY!” and my kids’ intolerance of it came as a huge surprise. It continues to this day and they are 14, 11 and 8. They tolerate goats milk just fine.

  16. Sorry to hear about your month of sickness! We’ve been there when one person picks something up and then it slowly spreads to the whole house. Did Babywoods recently start playing with more or new friends? We found that daycare was the big reason for young illness. Our son would bring something home and we’d all suffer. I never knew a cold could be so rough until I caught one from a baby…

  17. so jealous of your snow and real winter but so not jealous of your illness. goodness, that snow is beautiful and fluffy and white! it’s always a study in frugal delight to read what’s up there and how you are managing your frugality through life’s ups and downs. a true inspiration. i find since i participated in the frugal month challenge, i have just spent much less in general. probably not ultra-frugality, but a definite leaning into a more frugal life and a simpler one. for lent this year i am giving up 40 things…one each day for someone else…probably donated to goodwill at the end, but it’s amazing after the challenge, how much less i really really need. especially where clothes are concerned. like most people, i have more than i need or wear…why not share during this season?

  18. I usually have a stomach of iron and hadn’t had a bout of stomach illness since about middle school. I didn’t even really get much morning sickness with pregnancy, so when we all came down with a stomach bug right after our kiddo’s 15 month doc appointment it was a bit of a surprise. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my husband worriedly staring at me and saying, “You’ve thrown up more in 24 hours than you did in your entire pregnancy. Do I need to take you to the hospital?”

    This is to say, be careful with what the kiddos bring home and thank you for not spreading it around! We’re pretty sure our kiddo picked that one up at the doctor’s office (by chewing on the toys they have there) so be wary of that too. Glad you all survived reasonably, and I hope March treats you more kindly.

    That story about Babywoods woofing in her sleep is just adorable.

  19. Great pictures once again, Frugalwoods! Sorry about your month of sickness, hopefully Babywoods would get better from the double ear infection real quick. That sounds painful to have!

  20. “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.” Thank you so much for sharing this insight! These words are going above my computer screen right now to keep me inspired towards this goal. May you be blessed with as much good health as you have of wisdom and love (i.e., a considerable amount).

  21. Half your wood and half your hay…man, that is some awesome folksy wisdom. We’re about to get a fireplace but I wonder how often we’ll use it in Arizona. I think three logs may get us through the whole winter. 🙂

    Sorry about all the sickness, too!

  22. Oh no I’m sorry you were all sick!!! Yes, being sick definitely makes you appreciate your health! I had baby #3 in October and was super sick for 6 weeks after that. Then, my baby got it (cough/cold), followed by my older two kiddos.

    Overall, we had a great February! We’re in Charlotte and the weather has been spectacular, so we’ve been spending tons of time outside!


  23. Yep, we were no screen time as well, until I was 8 months pregnant with number two. I was just too tired to keep up with our, running around all the time and gave up naps,20 month old. I needed one hour during the day to just sit. 🙂

  24. Hi! Enjoyed reading your updates …thank you for sharing 🙂

    Curious…how much snow do you think you have gotten this year? We have been robbed and have had spring like weather already to the point the peepers are out!

  25. The snow looks beautiful. I miss seeing snow, but I don’t miss driving in it. I always liked the way it squeaked when I walked in it, and mostly, I liked seeing fresh, unbroken snow on a quiet morning.

    I’m sorry you were all sick. My daughter and her family had an illness start with the baby, go to the toddler, then to mom, then to dad, so they spent about three weeks with someone sick, and it wasn’t fun. And a curse on all ear infections! But isn’t it sweet to hold a sleeping, snuggling little one? It’s too bad that they often have to be sick before they’ll consent to being held like that.

    It is very, very easy to take health for granted, just like taking it for granted that one can get an education or always have food on the table. One of the “benefits”, if one can call it that, of growing up with a mother who had constant health issues, was that I learned very young just how valuable being healthy really was. My kids grew up watching their dad deal with juvenile diabetes and that taught them the same lesson. I cringe when I see currently healthy people who are indolent, eating a terrible diet, smoking, drinking heavily, or doing drugs — they are stealing their own health.

  26. Oh no- poor babywoods 🙁 I hope she recovers quickly from her ear infection and she can get back to health. It is too easy to take health for granted. I have finally realised it it one of the most important thing we can invest in. I also love walking, but if there’s a gym class I want to do or an exercise piece of equipment we’ll genuinely get use of, it is being bought! In a frugal way, of course. Our abs roller arrived after Christmas and has only had 3 or 4 days off since arriving 🙂

  27. Big healthy hugs to the entire family and especially babywoods with her new double ear infection! So sad!
    Our yard has been under snow all February. Then there was a very odd warmup which caused tons of flooding everywhere. Thankfully we have a sump pump and a huge irrigation pump to move the pond in the backyard I dubbed Dog Poop Lake, or else we would have had a flooded basement like many of our neighbors. February was an inactive month for me. Sadly I tore my ACL at the end of January, waited 2 weeks for surgery and now in recover for 2+ weeks. Lots of time to work on fiances and read blogs though!

  28. As someone who enjoys the winter (even though I live car-free in Duluth, Minnesota!), I appreciated your positive outlook on this month. So many people seem to view winter as something that we have to suffer through until summer finally comes. However, I think winter is beautiful and gives us a break from the chaos of summer.

    I also was intrigued to learn more about the “half your wood and half your hay” quote. I hope one day to have a woodstove, but I still like the sentiment.

  29. I do not miss sick babies although the cuddles will always be longed for. My daughter has blessed me with her 3 yr old Cocker Spaniel. Poor puppy has an ear infection. Who would have known? I will add puppy is quickly becoming expensive. We have only had our heat on 7 night’s this winter. Those 7 nights literally doubled my light bill. The lower winter bills are welcomed but I am depressed with no cold weather. The holidays were kind of sad. 70 degree Christmas s just feel wrong.

  30. Your homestead is absolutely gorgeous! I’m impressed you kept up the hiking while you had a plague. I love stepping outside while I’m sick and I swear the fresh air instantly clears my sinuses, but I live in Australia. Our definition of winter is hitting 3 or 4 degrees overnight (about 38 fahrenheit) . I can’t imagine stepping out in snow, no matter how gorgeous!

  31. Looking after a sick toddler is so hard when you feel sick yourself. Hope you all get better soon. But you’re right: it’s moments when you have to do something outside of the routine that good things can arise, such as getting to snuggle on the couch together. For this past week I have been potty training my toddler, so for the first few days we stayed home all day. I was kind of dreading being stuck in the house, but it was actually great, because I got to spend all day playing with him and being fully present with him. Normally I’d be running around the house, washing dishes, vacuuming, etc., but since I had to monitor him closely, I just let all the chores slide and really enjoyed interacting with him.

  32. So sorry you were all sick too–and it was so good of you not to share with your peeps!

    Did you have lab work done for your flu diagnosis? No vaccine is perfect–it very well could have been the flu. But there are any number of other nasty flu-like viruses that circulate and mimic the symptoms–parainfluenza, adenovirus, and RSV, to name a few.

    Your description of Babywood’s cuddling while ill reminded me of my boys when they were little. It’s so sweet when they slow down and seek comfort, although it’s sad that they feel terrible. And her dreaming about dogs! Awww! My son used to nurse in his sleep well past his actual breastfeeding days, and it was kind of nostalgic to observe.

    I had a respiratory bug early in the month, and realized how very much I take my normal state of energy and good health for granted. It’s good to remember how foundational our health is to everything else in our lives!

  33. So sorry to hear about the sickness making the rounds in your house! One thing I’ve been dying to ask is how you guys deal with health care. If I recall correctly I think Mr. Frugalwoods is still employed by his previous employer, in which case, it’s a moot point. But if he’s doing contract work then I’d be curious to know how it’s handled.

    I am very fortunate to work for a company that has great benefits, but the flip side is that I’m afraid to ever take the plunge and pursue our own dreams of a mini-homestead in the woods without those benefits. If healthcare coverage isn’t something covered by an employer, I think it would make for an interesting and helpful post. Like taxes, healthcare is one of those not so sexy responsibilities, but doesn’t seem to be discusses as frequently.

  34. Talk about good timing for a post! After having a bit of a rough day today, this post made me feel a little better. Life is not always going to be rainbows and butterflies, and sometimes it’s not even remotely close to what we had planned. Which I’m sure you weren’t planning on having the whole family sick for a month. “Some days we thrive and others we merely survive”. Today, I was just (barely) surviving.

  35. Sorry to hear about the sickness! My one-year-old son has also had his fair shar of croup, ear infections and tummy bugs in the past few months. I do enjoy the baby snuggles though. I hope poor Babywoods is on the mend soon.

  36. Here’s hoping you all recover quickly and fully this time.
    It has been a rough winter- I’m even sick enough that I made a doctor’s appointment for myself for the first time in many, many years. There are some things I just can’t treat on my own.

  37. Ugh, we’ve spent most of February sick too. My one year old got struck with a high fever (102-104) for three days over one weekend, and then some kind of gastrointestinal illness struck this past weekend. My 13 year old had to come home early from a sleepover; my nine year old missed two days of school due to vomiting, and just yesterday the one year old started throwing up too. I had to come home early from work and work from home to help with picking up older kids because the little one couldn’t leave the house (my husband is a SAHD). Here’s hoping that Babywoods – and my family – have a better and healthier March!

  38. Awww. Double earaches. God help her. How painful. Woof, woof, how precious. Hope y’all get well soon. And continue to have lots of wood left. Poor Mr. Frugalwoods having to go out and plow while he is sick in the cold. BTW have you learned how to operate that equipment yet?

  39. Sorry to hear you guys are sick. Unfortunately that’s just par for the course with little ones. Expect it to happen again, and again, and again.

    I think I’ve spent (nearly) half the winter sick for the past four years… it’s not fun. I guess that’s what life with kids is like.

  40. I’m so sorry to hear you guys have been sick, Mrs. Frugalwoods! And a double ear infection! Hope you’re all feeling better soon. It seems like every winter, we get hit with several bouts of illness in a row, and they last a lot longer than I think they should. 🙁 (LIke Mr. Tako just said, half the winter sick for the last four years sounds about right!). My little one just picked up Hand, Foot, and Mouth from somewhere, and has had to miss a whole week of school. (He is so itchy I am praying I don’t get it!). Hang in there–the toughest part of the year is coming up, but then summer which makes it all worth it!!

  41. Hey, I hope Babywoods is better now. I hated it when Jr got sick when he was little. There is nothing much you could do to make them feel better. Ear infection is the worst! Our kid cried so much when he had that problem. Hang in there.

  42. I sure do miss being a stay-at-home-mom. I loved those years. My youngest is 17. I have given the frugalwoods website link to all of my children and have told them to read it.

    Hope Babywoods is feeling better soon. Not fun when they are sick.

  43. I enjoy reading your stories, you have quite a gift! Thank you for sharing it and your life with us!

  44. Thank you…..so sorry to hear that all of you have been sick, but better now, there isn’t anything fun about being sick….Your snow is beautiful, we had none this year except for one day a very light dusting on the driveway….not even enough to have to sweep off.ha,ha my kind of winter….but we sure have had some cold days here tho…..but I will take the cold instead of the snow…..you don’t have to shovel the cold……and I have had my share of shoveling snow in past Mich. winters 🙂 I think we all are looking forward to spring and summer…for sure I am…..

  45. Being sick blows. Coming from someone who has severe allergies, I feel like I’m sick nearly 80% of my days, but being able to push through and rest are really incredible things that don’t get enough credit.

  46. Well, I guess if I had to be sick or take care of a sick little girly, I’d like it to happen in the country, in the woods, with the snow falling and a fire in the wood stove (with a pot of chicken soups simmering and a loaf of no-knead bread baking). We love our country cabin (that we do not live in full time) for its’ peace and serenity and down home snug feeling. Ours is a get-away that costs us a pretty penny in the Catskills, but it’s a sanctuary for us, our grown kids and grandchild and they (and we) all love it there. So happy to see your move to the country has been as wonderful as you’d expected it to be. I would love to live at ours full time now, but we have a business to run elsewhere. The thing about children is that they are lots of work, worry and expense, but they are family and they’re yours forever if you do it right from the start. I think you’re doing it right. How lucky you are. Onward.

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