This Month On The Homestead: Trail Building 101 And A Second Birthday Party

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 and enjoy the best and worst (ok, mostly the worst) moments of our first year on the homestead here.

November 2017

Our snow-dotted woods

Snow fell for the first time this month, reminding us of the winter season’s edge we’re teetering upon. A powdered sugar dusting coated our world for a few days in early November, before it melted off in deference to the true harbingers of this season: dead and dried leaves.

Stick season set in once again after nature did a test run of snow and we returned to that ambiguous state of bare trees and muddy ground that could be spring or could be fall, with no indication of which is correct other than the calendar. This is ideal hiking weather as it’s not too cold and not too hot and the brush has largely died back.

Thanksgiving

November was a month of festivities as we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Babywoods’ second birthday! Both were done in our trademark simplified, frugalized fashion and centered, of course, around the food. I shared our full Thanksgiving menu last month, abbreviated though it was since we didn’t host anyone this year and instead had a quiet, cozy holiday with our little family of 3.5… Plus Frugal Hound, of course, who was most aggrieved that we didn’t cook a turkey this year, being as she is a certified turkey freak and a dog who sees no point in foods that are not meat.

While I love our usual tradition of hosting Mr. Frugalwoods’ family for Thanksgiving, we enjoyed the opportunity to simplify this year, a welcome change, as I feel our to-do lists are endless right now, what with our second baby on the horizon and the publication of my book looming. Both take a great deal of my time and energy these days. All my spare moments are dedicated to the physical work of organizing and cleaning out our home (my nesting instinct works in reverse and I’m compelled–seriously required–to declutter), plus setting up a nursery, and the mental work of writing.

Babywoods’ Second Birthday!

Not sure why I’m wearing this hat, but these pancakes are incredible

Babywoods turned two at the end of November (!!!!!) and I know the cliche is that “time moves so quickly” when your children are young, but I actually feel it is quite the opposite. In many ways, time moves slowly and deliberately, our days populated by a thousand different activities, conversations, outfits, meals, hikes, outings, art projects (“art” would be a strong word for it… ), and, naturally, tantrums. The minutiae of child-rearing is slow and sometimes painful. But I accept it and embrace it. I’m sure I’ll look back when Babywoods is older and feel that the time flew, but my experience in the present is that it does not. It’s a mindful, plodding pace that forces me to focus on each and every present moment. Perhaps it’s that the days are long but the years are short?

For Babywoods’ second birthday, we celebrated with a low-key, no stress, no expense party for just the three of us. We went to our favorite free playgroup (hosted in the gym at the elementary school) that morning where Babywoods gallivanted around with her toddler crew. Next up was her two-year-old doctor appointment (she’s doing great!) followed by a pancake lunch Mr. FW cooked up using this divine recipe, along with blackberries Babywoods and I picked in our yard this summer. She spent most of the meal picking the blackberries out of the pancakes, so maybe next year we’ll just give her a pile of blackberries ;). We wore the same party hats we’ve been using for every birthday for at least five years now and I put two candles atop her little stack of pancakes.

We’ve been reading her books about birthdays, so she totally got the concept, except for the part about how you blow the candles out… Babywoods opted to snuff them with her bare hands. Undaunted, she devoured her little pancakes and then we Facetimed with both sets of grandparents. Her grandparents very kindly sent her a few birthday presents and she gamely opened them while they watched over the internet (sidenote: Facetime is the most wonderful thing in the world for long distance grandparents!).

Our birthday girl, feat. the hats we reuse year after year after year…

Since we’re not fans of too many presents at a time, Mr. FW and I opted not to buy her any gifts–she was very excited with the presents from her grandparents and I don’t want to set an expectation of tons of gifts for every birthday or holiday. This was the perfect level of stimulation for our wee toddler and she took an excellent afternoon nap after all these festivities. I’m in favor of calibrating celebrations to a child’s age and developmental level and see no need for a huge party or big cake or pile of presents for a kid this young. She’d end up over-sugared, overwhelmed, over-exhausted, and very likely in tears. This was an ideal, laid-back party for her and we all had a lovely time.

My friend, who has an older son, recently told me that her philosophy is not to have a birthday party until the kid asks for it on their own, which sounds like a great idea to me. When Babywoods requests a party with her “buddies” (what she calls her friends), I will happily oblige (with a homemade cake, of course). But until that time, I think we’ll keep it simple and expense-free. For more on my birthday party philosophy and frugalization tips, check out: Our Thrifty And Simple Baby’s First Birthday Party.

The Frugalwoods Hiking Trail System

Mr. FW and Babywoods on the trail last winter

My main outdoor activity this month was hiking with Babywoods every single day. I have a ‘get outside’ philosophy that extends into the winter and the only days we stay in are when heavy rain or snow is actively falling. November was pretty temperate and so we were out there on the trail. But let’s be clear here, I am super pregnant and pushing a toddler in a jogging stroller, so these are not exactly epic, long, or arduous hikes.

All of my hiking inspired Mr. FW to… build more hiking trails!! That’s kind of how it works for us these days–I use stuff and he fixes/repairs/creates it. A worthy trade-off since I’m pregnant and toting a two-year-old ;).

Mr. FW’s trail building skills transcended a new level this month and I am beyond impressed with the work he did. He’s a person who decides to do something, teaches himself how to do it, and then just DOES IT. I love that about him. There’s very little hesitation or waffling or procrastination. It just gets done. Trying to be better about this myself…

At any rate, trails! I mentioned this trail building pursuit on Instagram a few weeks ago and a number of folks asked me how exactly one goes about building a trail and so, allow me to tell you. I mean, I was probably going to tell you anyway because that’s what we did this month, but hey! I’m always even more excited when people actually want to know the stuff I’m writing about.

Trail Building 101 with Mr. Frugalwoods (as written by Mrs. FW)

“When building a trail, think like a deer and go for the path of least resistance.” -Mr. FW

No reason to make it any more difficult than it needs to be! Since we’re not, like, trying to actually get anywhere with these trails and are merely looking for paths to hike in loops through our property, Mr. FW seeks out long-abandoned existing clearings through our woods that he can groom into hiking trails. Primarily, these trails were once logging paths utilized by loggers to bring trees out of the forest. When you want to bring commercial timber out of a forest (a process called skidding), you have to do it all in one piece–in other words, a whole tree at a time, as opposed to how Mr. FW brings in trees for firewood in bucked rounds (a fancy way of saying “cut up into pieces”).

Hiking our land

In order to bring a whole tree out of a forest, you have to drive a rather large skidder (a heavy logging vehicle) into the woods to retrieve it. This action leaves a number of marks on a landscape, which are apparent to the trained (or in this case, amateur-but-persistent) eye. I will note that there’s been a resurgence in lower-impact horse logging recently as this causes much less disruption and destruction to a forest (the downsides being that it’s slower and involves a real live horse–a pro or a con depending on your perspective on horses 😉 ).

Several decades ago, our forest was logged and so there are old logging roads bisecting our woods. Naturally, nature has enjoyed a resurgence in the intervening decades, rendering these roads nearly imperceptible. But they are there! The advantages of utilizing them for a trail system are that they’re much more cleared than the regular old untrammeled woods and, in many cases, they bisect and intersect, creating lovely loops.

“Read the book Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England, by Tom Wessels.” -Mr. FW

Mr. FW cites this book as the single most influential resource in helping him figure out our forest. Having also read this book I can attest that it provides an excellent education in forestry, trees, and how to understand the age and dynamics of a forest. So, if you too want to understand a forest near you, check out this book!

The relevant element of this book for trail building purposes involves the identification of the logging roads I just mentioned. It’s not like these ‘roads’ have signs proclaiming, “Hey! This Is An Old Logging Road!” Rather, they’re almost completely overgrown and indicated by very nuanced signals. These signals include: basel bump scars on trees (a fancy word for “scars on the lower parts of trees”), which indicate log skidding, certain types of lower vegetation that typically grow in disturbed soils (aka soils that a skidder once drove over), and the age of tree blowdowns (fancy word for “a tree that has fallen over”) as logging road tree blowdowns are of a younger vintage than regular forest blowdowns.

These are all indicators of an old logging road. And let me tell you, it’s often not obvious that these were ever roads at all as a forest is quite adept at re-populating itself. Once Mr. FW locates what he posits is an old logging road, he then hikes it several times in both directions to figure out if there is in fact the skeleton of a road present. An absence of old growth trees and a roughly cleared pathway can often be found and will provide the foundation for a hiking trail.

“Time to get out your chainsaw.” -Mr. FW

This is a perfect example of a patch of trees that had fallen across a trail, which Mr. FW cut with the chainsaw. Also that is me pulling Babywoods in the sled last winter, but you already knew that.

After he identifies and walks a trail several times, Mr. FW then gets out his chainsaw (and chainsaw safety gear, I must add!!) and gets to work on the largest trees lying across the path. Since these roads were cleared just a few decades ago (which is not a long time in tree years), there aren’t any large trees actually growing in the path, but there are most certainly trees that have fallen over into the path (how rude). The best–and really only–was to clear these is via chainsaw as they’re much too massive to drag or roll or pull out of the way.

He cuts the fallen tree at either end of the trail, bucks the log, and then rolls those log rounds into the woods. Unfortunately, these trees are too old and rotten to serve as firewood, but they contribute to the regeneration of the forest’s ecosystem by decaying in the woods. He also utilizes his chainsaw to cut down any new growth trees that’ve sprung up in the middle of the hiking trail.

The chainsaw portion of trail clearing is by far the most labor intensive and skilled element of the process, but it’s also the most necessary. When we first moved here, we climbed over or around the fallen trees across our trails, but this gets old fast, especially when you’re hiking with a kid either in a jogging stroller or strapped to your back. Plus, some of these fallen trees are so monstrous (and multiple) that it’s not possible to climb over them and so you’re stuck circumventing the trail through the woods, which really defeats the purpose of the trail in the first place. Often, a single tree will fall and bring down several other trees along with it, creating a massive pile-up of tree debris taller than me! It’s often not as simple as cutting away a solitary fallen log–it’s more like a tinker toy pile-up of intersecting trees and their respective branches. In Babywoods’ words, “a big mess!”

One of our trails

We live on 66 acres in rural central Vermont and the vast majority of our land is forested (save for a few cleared acres around our house and barn and then another few cleared acres in our upper field). There are hundreds of thousands of trees (at least) on our property and I love them all, but sometimes they’re in the way of a good trail.

“A trimmer with a good blade is a requirement.” -Mr. FW

Next up it’s the trimmer’s turn. Mr. FW wields his bladed trimmer up and down the trail to remove all undergrowth, small trees, and other vegetation choking the path. Anything too small for the chainsaw but too large to step over gets chopped.

“Buy some paint and blaze away.” -Mr. FW

We have yet to perform this final, finishing touch on our trail system, but hope to do so in the spring. A blaze is a small painted stripe on trees every 100 feet or so to inform a hiker that they’re still on the trail and still going in the correct direction. If you’ve ever hiked in a state or national park, you will note that all trails are blazed with different colors to aid you along your journey. It’s a simple, cheap, low-tech, low-impact way of denoting trail systems and ensuring that hikers don’t get lost.

We’ll select different colors for each trail and blaze them accordingly. In the longterm, I want to draw maps and put little wooden signs at the start of each trailhead so that our friends and visitors can hike our woods without our guidance. It’s one of my goals to share our land more broadly and enable friends and neighbors to hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski our property anytime they’d like.

“And then you must maintain.” -Mr. FW

Another of our trails

The final step, which is ongoing and constant, is the maintenance of these trails. A great deal of Mr. FW’s work this month was focused on maintaining and improving the trail he built last year, which is our longest trail by far–a loop around our property’s perimeter.

Our land now proudly sports approximately five different trail systems, some of which intersect and loop. I imagine we’ll likely double this number in the coming years, but for now, this gives us ample options for traversing our woods.

Having the ability to hike our land regularly–usually every day–is a prime reason for living out here. While it’s labor intensive, building and maintaining these trails is the realization of a major life goal for us: hiking right outside our front door!

Want More Fotos?!

One of our woodpiles

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–usually 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 December, frugal comrades!

P.S. I WROTE A BOOK! I’m a little bit excited, can you tell?!? My book is now available to be pre-ordered, for which I will mail you a signed bookplate. Check out this post for all the details.

P.P.S. We’re taking my Uber Frugal Month Challenge as a group during the month of January 2018! To save more money than you ever thought possible and transform your relationship with your finances, sign-up to join us. Also note that the Uber Frugal Month will go on hiatus after January, so now’s your chance!

How was November on your own personal homestead?

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54 Responses

  1. Chris Upchurch says:

    “We’ve been reading her books about birthdays, so she totally got the concept, except for the part about how you blow the candles out… Babywoods opted to snuff them with her bare hands.”

    Wow! Babywoods is hard core!

  2. So cool. I love to hike. I’m still a city slicker though. Never considered what goes into making a trail. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mrs. Kiwi says:

      Yeah! This made me glad our neighborhood maintains the trail in my backyard! All I have to do is go out my back gate and I’m on the trail (albeit a short one).

      This month we mulched our garden with all our leaf clippings and got it ready for winter. And planted our garlic! Of course doing this we left our fence open and the dogs got in and ate all the carrots we had for winter! They love their veggies so I can’t be too mad.

      Happy birthday to babywoods! I love your low key, but special celebrations!

      • Louise says:

        It’s funny how that is! I first thought about this a few months ago when I was reading Nature’s Metropolis. It prompted me to write a post on how even though I think of hiking as “going out into nature”, it isn’t really. Since I’m hiking on trails that are maintained…it’s actually just navigating another part of the manmade landscape.

  3. Sounds like a great month on the homestead indeed! I love the idea of making your own trails – that is so awesome! And frugal, to boot – no need to pay fees to hike in parks. 🙂

    November was a good month. We hosted Thanksgiving for 15 people. It was our first time hosting and I was so nervous! We had a few food duds, but overall everyone was full and happy.

    We also planted our fall/winter garden. It’s definitely not coming up as well as our spring/summer garden, but we’re hoping to see some squash soon. I also started a few potato slips so we can plant potatoes this month. In fact, I plan on planting them today or tomorrow!

  4. Andy says:

    Yes! So glad you guys made this 101! My parents just bought 14 acres in rural Maine and I’m super looking forward to trying my hand at creating some trails on their property. This info will be invaluable, so thank you!

  5. Laura says:

    Loved the trail blazing post.

    I grew up roaming my aunt and uncle’s 100 acre property in Eastern Ontario. In many ways it was similar to yours. They had an extensive garden that fed them all summer long and stocked their freezer for the winter. Over the years they also established an extensive and elaborate trail system that allowed them to hike or ski their large property. There were many destinations and scenic stops along the trail with the highlight being one they called “the cathedral” – an a sudden circular opening in the trees that drew one’s eyes to the heavens.

    My uncle was a teacher until he retired many years ago. This means he had his summers free to garden – a lifelong passion. Once he had an established a vegetable garden, fruit orchard, and large flower garden, he began to “garden the bush”. My aunt would usually say this with a VERY elaborate roll of her eyes and comment on how crazy he was since he couldn’t seem to confine his gardening passion. He eventually had many mini-gardens throughout their extensive trail system designed for pausing and reflecting. Most had a place to sit for a bit (i.e.: a log or stump) to allow for a rest, or some reading. Some had themes. For example one was a “Marian Garden” in which all the plants/flowers were named after the Virgin Mary (my uncle is a devout Catholic). When I was younger, I nicknamed these places “thoughtful spots” in the spirit of Winnie the Pooh.

    My aunt and uncle are now in their 80s. And while they still garden, they have scaled back their gardening efforts considerably. Those trail gardens remain one of my many favourite memories about spending time at my aunt and uncle’s property. Enjoy your property!

  6. Happy birthday to Babywoods! Baby FAF is turning 3 in a couple of months, and we haven’t decided if we want to throw him a birthday party yet. But I still can’t believe how fast time goes by. What have I done all those three years? I asked myself that question the other day.

    It snowed in DC for the first time last week. I was so excited to see snow because it means that Christmas is really coming to the city. Your writing is so descriptive and beautiful!

  7. Joyce says:

    We moved to rural Vermont on 4 acres this September, our village has a pop of about 1800. This last snow storm was a bit trying but we are shoveled out now.
    November found us still working with workmen to get the house temporarily buttoned up for winter, (think rotten boards around the chimney letting in rain!) Come Spring, the temp fixes will be ripped out and permanent ones in place. Lots of work to be done for sure. I have painted two bedrooms and one powder room. Decisions about what to do next, based on true need, payback and financial outlay.
    Strangely enough, house proud me is learning to let some stuff go.

  8. Emily says:

    Wow! We love to hike, but always on marked trails. Can I ask a stupid question? Without a blaze, do you ever get lost? Mind you, I have worst sense of direction ever, but I don’t think I could get home on these trails! So cool you guys are doing this!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Not a stupid question at all and the answer is yes :)! Not often, but it does happen. Fortunately, we spend enough time on our property that we’re both pretty adept at getting un-lost eventually. We have some hills, slopes, and ponds so it’s easy to eventually orient yourself. It would be hard to get really and truly lost since we always have a general sense of which direction our home is in :).

  9. I love trail hiking, building and anything in between. I tend to stay outside as much as possible too. Great post, I enjoyed reading it!

  10. Anne says:

    Please tell me that you have given all of your trails delightful names? Pretty please?

  11. Mary Ann Gonsalves says:

    Happy Birthday Babywoods #1. She’s such a cutie! I get much joy from reading your posts! I’ve pre-purchased your book, and am taking the Frugal Challenge for the 3rd time. I wish the Frugalwoods family a very Happy Holiday – looking forward to hearing about Babywoods #2 when she arrives. Keep up the awesome work you do on your blog. I love it and very much look forward to your posts! Blessings to you Frugalwoods Family and Frugal hound too!!! You’ve accomplished so much since you’ve moved to your homestead!

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Love this part: “We’ll select different colors for each trail and blaze them accordingly. In the longterm, I want to draw maps and put little wooden signs at the start of each trailhead so that our friends and visitors can hike our woods without our guidance. It’s one of my goals to share our land more broadly and enable friends and neighbors to hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski our property anytime they’d like.”

    That is so nice. 🙂

  13. Erin says:

    I’m so excited to hear you mention Reading the Forest Landscape! I ADORE that book and the way it makes me feel like a forest sage (though I am emphatically not). More than anything else I’ve read recently, it’s full of peaceful wisdom, how to look carefully and be rewarded by a not-so-secret natural history that I wouldn’t have seen before.

  14. Marina says:

    Happy Birthday Babywoods 1!! Glad she’s doing so well. “the days are long but the years are short” – so true. I’m sure you already have this in mind for a future piece but I’m excited to read about how you will balance having both a toddler and a newborn!

  15. Jess says:

    Well I’m pretty committed to being a city slicker but the thought of having my own set of trails in the backyard sounds amazing!

    Reminds me of a book I read as a child called chasing Redbird which is about a kid clearing trail system in her backyard. Might be a good book to read to your children when they’re a little bit older.

  16. Ilene says:

    Your party for Babywoods was inspired! Someone told me of a huge, violent fight with a13 year old because they hadn’t come up to the child’s expectations. Much better to establish that birthdays are loving, life affirming celebrations that do not involve huge displays of spending. Great parenting on this, Liz!

  17. Ashley says:

    From my experience with a now almost 5 1/2 year old. Time picks up as they get older. I feel the first year was the longest. Now, they fly by. Ever since he was 3 the years feel shorter. Maybe because its easier?

    • Jay says:

      My first child is about to turn 9. I distinctly remember scoffing at all the “enjoy every moment, it goes so quickly!” that we got in the early years. The early years with him were so. very. slow.
      Then, just as he was about to turn 4, we had our daughter. Things sped up a little, then our son started kindy, then school. Now, we have another daughter, who just turned 2. I don’t know where the last 2 years went! NOW I feel like the baby years do go quickly! It might be that it seems to go quicker the more children you have. You’re so busy with the older ones! Middle child starts school next month, and it feels like the blink of an eye :’(

  18. Happy birthday Big Babywoods! She has Mr. FW’s eyes — anyone else getting that or am I blind?!

    Ah clever parenting hack! Don’t throw the tots a party unless they can ask for one! I see parents go all out for a 2nd or 3rd birthday and the child is clearly unaware of it all.

    I saw your Narnia photo on Instagram! Pretty epic!!

  19. amanda says:

    I love the post! We just bought land and a little house in the woods and I can’t wait to get out and start exploring. What footwear do you recommend hiking in? (I know you have the Muck boots. are those for hiking too?)

  20. Linda Osti says:

    Time really does seem to pass so slowly when they’re young, but then so incredibly quickly as you look back at the years…
    This quote sums it up: “The days are slow, the years are fast.” I’ll embroider that on a pillow some day for my own daughter!

  21. Oldster says:

    We are moving from our house on Main Street to a 3+ acre lot that is still in town. It is bounded by a river and has a rail to trail system on it’s edge. Looking forward to the walks and bike rides on paths I didn’t have to cut. I am, after all, an Oldster. Kudos to Mr. FW and his wilderness skills, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it!

  22. Beth says:

    If you’ve never read a book called We Took to the Woods you might enjoy it. Their adventure reminds me of yours

  23. Sarah says:

    I share your sentiment about not going overboard for young children’s birthdays. My daughter will be 6 this month and it will be the first time we hold a party for her with her friends invited. Even then, we are just having a traditional retro-style party of a few games and simple tea party rather than super expensive hiring out a soft play center etc. For her previous birthdays she was more than happy to just have her extended family come round for tea and cake and enjoyed the extra attention from them.
    My 14 month old baby will enjoy unwrapping some of the toys we stored from when her older siblings were a similar age- new to her 🙂
    Sarah

  24. JD says:

    Every time I read about your homestead, I want to move to Vermont!
    When I was a kid and spent a ton of time at my grandfather’s farm, we used to hike out across the pastures and go into the woods. We never feared getting lost, because the farm animals had access to the woods, and they created neat little trails for us. The quiet in the woods, the shade from the hot sun — I miss that! And now I need to read that book.
    Oh, yes, when I was in fifth and sixth grades, I attended summer church camp that was in the woods and was fairly primitive. Our counselors taught us trees — we had to learn the bark, leaf, and seed pods/ flowers of the surrounding trees and be able to identify about 12 kinds by the end of the week. Some kids got bored, but I loved it!

  25. Kris says:

    We have the same feeling for birthdays. We don’t feel the need to throw a huge birthday party for him like what our friends and family do for their kid especially when they are turning 1 or 2. They won’t remember it anyway and all they will rely on are pictures and videos. Keeping it low key is great with immediate family members around. Our son is 1 and has this shy personality in particular when we take him to huge gatherings or when we sees visitors at home that he’s never seen before. So low key birthday is great for him.
    That’s neat that Mr. FW is trail making around the homestead. Hopefully you have cool names for the trails. Frugalwoods Trail should be considered!!

  26. Angela says:

    You guys really are the coolest. I love the care and attention you’re putting into the trails.

    Also, at three, birthday parties are a huge topic of conversation (my son is 3.5 and it’s ALL he talks about. He’s got it his 4th birthday planned out). His older sister was the same at that age. Just a friendly warning it will be coming up soon 😊

  27. Man, so cool. If I had my own network of trails I’d feel like a king. I just put it on my bucket list. “Get your own darn trails”

    And the expression on BW’s face in that kissing pic is priceless!

  28. What a great update! It’s so exciting to hear about the work actually involved in building and maintaining trails, as we usually just use the ones we find.

    I agree with Anne, I hope you give/have given them some awesome names! 🙂

  29. Jim Wang says:

    Once again you’ve inspired me (well, mr FW!). We are on 12 acres and I’ve never thought to build a trail around the property… until now! Thank you 🙂

  30. Caroline Bowman says:

    Birthday parties for children really are for between the ages of 3-4 to around 10-11. Outside of those years, they’re either far too little to understand and get very overwhelmed and it’s all terribly stressful OR they’ve actually generally got a few good friends and would be happier with a more intimate or targeted celebration. My eldest (a fairly socially awkward child generally) took his 2 best buddies and his brother to the movies and got treated to all the popcorn and slushies and expensive cinema food (totally never, ever happens normally LOL) they could eat and they had a great time. Best of all, I wasn’t *with them* (I was hovering in the mall, giving death stares to anyone walking near the cinema and assessing them as potential child abductors). It reaches critical mass in terms of enjoyment around 6-9. This is when they want everyone they’ve ever met and lots of exciting junk food and to scream wildly for a couple of hours!

  31. Jane says:

    Aw, such a sweet photo of you guys kissing Babywoods. I hear you re not wanting to give too many gifts at once. I was thinking about what to give my 3 yo for Christmas, and then my mum called and told me all the stuff she’d bought him. The minimalist in me was silently hyperventilating! So he’s getting one tiny present from us and that’s it.

  32. Mary S. says:

    Hi Frugalwoods! As a PNW follower who is trying to spend more time volunteering with our own amazing trail maintenance/building organization – the Washington Trails Association – it’s super interesting to read about your trail methods. We’re not allowed to use power tools or anything that can cause a spark so it’s mostly done by hand (or by someone with special certifications/not volunteers). And I would hazard a guess that blazing is not done here anymore (at least, I can’t say I’ve ever seen it on Washington trails), but different ideas and methodologies for sure. Also, so interesting to read that this is your prime hiking season! This is a shoulder season for us, so icky rain and avalanche dangers have begun, which I’m trying to learn more about and how to avoid.

    Absolutely fascinating! I love these posts, they definitely make me want to visit Vermont sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Very interesting! We volunteered with our trail club back in DC and did some trail repair work and it was indeed all by hand–much more feasible with a team of people than when it’s just one lone worker :).

  33. Norm says:

    Awesome. It’s kind of a dream of mine to buy a big piece of land, make some trails, and donate it to a land conservancy. Not a cheap proposition in our area, but maybe one day!

  34. Amy W. says:

    Love that book, Reading the Forested Landscape, loaned our copy out and lost track of it and just bought it again on Ebay.. . amazing book. Also love the AMC book on how to build trails. Sweet pictures… Happy Holidays, Frugalwoods Family.

  35. Mr. Tako says:

    Great post on trail blazing Mrs. Frugalwoods! It’s certainly nice to see more from Mr. Woods. I wonder if we’ll see any guest posts from Mr. Woods in the future.

  36. Linda says:

    Great post! We just finished a trail on our small plot of land. Getting outside, walking between the trees and breathing fresh air helps to keep me grounded. It is nice to fling open your door and head over to it. We did small minimal family birthday celebrations, but would opt for a “Suprise Destination” every other yr. This added a fun element of anticipation that was fun to watch. They were never disappointed.

  37. Thank you for so much information on trail building! We have started to clear out and create trails across our property and just used our snowshoes for the first time this weekend 🙂

  38. Jean says:

    Another wonderful blog post.
    I loved reading about your trail making.
    Happy Christmas from Brisbane, Australia where we are now in temperatures over the 30’s centigrade. A bit different to your Christmas. No snow.

  39. Sally says:

    I am AMAZED that someone will cut the underbrush from the forested areas! Many areas have long since stopped this practice due to various reasons, thus the huge fires in many states. I am very happy to see that Mr. FW takes his forestry seriously and takes on the onerous task of cutting and clearing the underbrush, thus preventing many potential outbreaks of uncontrolled fires. Kudos to the Frugalwoods Family!!

  40. Lindsey says:

    We have some forested land that was also logged several decades ago. My husband actually found one of the more overgrown trails using the google maps satellite. Most of the other trails had been used for ATV paths by the previous owners so were easy to find but still require regular maintenance to keep the thorny blackberry thickets from re-invading.

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