August 2019

Garden baby: barely taller than the okra plant

This series has been on hiatus the last few months because I’ve struggled with what to write. I am not a real homesteader. At least, not in the sense that folks expect when they hear the word “homesteader.” It evokes an antebellum existence of no electricity or running water, of growing and raising all of one’s food, of an internet-less, canning jar-laden life.

I want to tell you about our month on our homestead, but I’m in a bind because I think you think I’m a much more competent homesteader than I am. In truth, I’m mediocre. Subpar. I don’t knit. I don’t make soap from scratch. I don’t weave the wool of my hand-shorn sheep on a loom I built from trees I harvested with an artisanal ax. I don’t even have any sheep. Or a loom. Or an artisanal ax.

But I love the 66 acres we live on and I love the mediocre homesteading I squeeze in. So here’s a new tack. Here’s me writing about not doing things, but loving these things, and wanting to share how different my life is now than it was four years ago when we lived in the city.

Starting Seeds: The First Step To Vegetable Goodness

I was about to tell you how much we’re harvesting from our vegetable garden right now, but then I realized I never told you about how we planted our garden. So I’ll back up.

The toddler tower–and the seed tray tower–that Mr. FW built

We started most of our plants indoors last spring, which means we planted seeds into these seed starting trays coupled with this under tray to give them a fighting chance in our short Vermont summer growing season (these are affiliate links). In past years, we’ve had a haphazard system of seed trays resting upstairs in our guest bathroom and scattered throughout the kitchen on tables.

Since the goal of starting plants indoors is to keep them warm and alive, this scattershot approach didn’t work because:

1) It was difficult to get our seed starting grow lights the correct distance from the plants (too close and they’ll scorch; too far and they’re not effective). This despite several inventive lamp stands built by Mr. FW.

Note: we use these heat mats because some seeds (namely tomatoes and hot peppers) require warmer soil temperatures in order to germinate (these are affiliate links).

2) Our children are curious and attracted to everything in our home that isn’t a toy. Seed starting trays and lamps, apparently, are fertile territory for such interest. Two toddlers + trays full of dirt + unwieldy lights with cords = what could go possibly wrong?!? As I vacuum up dirt from inside our heating vents, I’ll tell you.

Given these twin challenges, Mr. FW designed and built a right proper seed starting tower/shelf (pictured above). I forgot to take a picture when all the racks were filled with seed trays, so this photo shows just one row filled. Fear not, we filled them all and had some stuff sitting on top. Sidenote: Mr. FW also built the pictured toddler tower of power.

The tower/shelf is huge and sized to fit in our kitchen’s breakfast nook (which we use for neither breakfasting nor nooking). With this contraption, our seed trays were lofted from inquisitive critters and received sunlight from three sides. Mr. FW outfitted the tower with hooks from which to hang lamps. Voila! We started seeds like pros. Substandard pros.

Storing The Seed Tower: An Odyssey

Remember how I said the seed tray tower was huge? And designed to perfectly fit in our breakfast nook? Turns out, these two attributes are where its size stops being a good thing. After we’d planted everything in the garden–and hence no longer needed the tower in our kitchen–we figured we’d pop it in the basement. Nope. The staircase down to the basement has a landing and the tower was too long and too tall to make the right angle turn.

Glamour Shed: now giving shelter to the seed tray tower

No problem, we thought, as we carried the (heavy, awkward) tower out to our barn, for we have a barn with an upstairs dedicated to farm equipment seasonal storage. The barn stairs are a straight shot up with no turns. Excellent, we thought. However. These stairs had a railing, which impeded the tower. No problem! We didn’t like that railing anyway! Mr. FW sawzall-ed the railing off. Excellent, we thought! Nope. As further evidence of our non-pro status, the tower still didn’t fit up the stairs. We sat down on our (now railing-less barn stairs) to discuss options:

  1. We leave the tower in the kitchen year-round. We vetoed this because it blocks the sunlight, which we dearly love in the wintertime.
  2. We leave the tower outside somewhere. Mr. FW vetoed because the wood isn’t pressure-treated and so the tower would rot.
  3. We leave the tower on the main floor of the barn. Dual veto because we JUST cleaned out the barn and made space on that floor for all of Mr. FW’s woodworking equipment.

As we trudged back to the house, deflated, we passed Glamour Shed. I paused, I looked at Glamour Shed; she looked back at me, dolefully as only a shed can do. I sprinted back to the barn for a measuring tape. Sure enough, Glamour Shed is the perfect shelter for our seed starting tower and so in there it sits until next spring.

Finally, We Go To The Garden

Unripe paste tomatoes in our garden

That sorted, let me tell you what we planted this year:

  • 144 tomato plants (a combo of cherry, saladette, paste, slicers, and a mystery seed packet)
  • 40 hot pepper plants (early jalapeño and cayenne)
  • 12 ground cherry plants
  • 12 okra plants
  • Lettuce leaf basil
  • Lime basil
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe

This year, we didn’t direct sow (plant seeds straight into the ground); we started everything indoors and made prodigious use of the seed tray tower.

We bought our seeds from The Sample Seed Shop and they had great germination rates and were cheap. The only downside is that some of the seeds (roughly 1-2 out of each packet) appear to be for the incorrect plant.

Not really a problem for us since we planted tons, but might be a problem if you’re trying to plant just a few of the exact same thing.

Not So Fast Because…

Prior to planting, one must prepare for planting. First, Mr. FW cut down all the vegetable plants still hanging around from last season. He didn’t pull them out because we’ve read it’s better to leave the roots in the ground and not disturb the soil. In theory, this approach should reduce the weed pressure. After pulling out last year’s plants, he flame weeded the entire garden bed using our infamous, and eponymous, flame weeder (that’s an affiliate link).

Over the next several weeks (this was back in May, by the way), he flame weeded (wed?) the garden weekly in order to incinerate each fresh flush of weeds. The reason for doing this is that it’s easier to flame weed when the weeds are small. Our weed pressure seems to be less than last year and the spots that’ve been gardened in the longest seems to be the least weedy. Overall, we’ve spent a lot less time weeding this year, so hopefully this trend of not tilling up our mounds and rows will yield ever-fewer weeds and weed-like things.

Now We Rake In Fresh Veggies and FEAST!!!

Not so fast. First, we have to harden off our bitty veggie starts by letting them have playdates on the back porch. Innocent indoor-started plants need time to acclimate to such treacherous things as wind, sunlight, and cooler air. After spending several mornings basking in the fresh air, we let the starts graduate to an overnight camp-out. Then, they’re ready to be planted into the earth.

Our tomato trellis system

After planting, we tend all through the summer in the hopes of maybe, possibly harvesting a few things come August.

If nothing else, gardening is a lesson on delayed gratification, patience, and a willingness to work hard on something that might get eaten by bugs and/or a groundhog (more on her/him in a moment).

Here’s what it takes to bring veggies to fruition:

Weeding: once the plants are in the ground, we revert to hand-weeding since flame-weeding would, uh, set our vegetables on fire.

Trellising: since we planted what most rational people would consider an absurd number of tomato plants (144, in case you forgot), we had to DIY our trellising as traditional round trellises would: 1) not fit in our rows; 2) cost about $1M for all of our plants. Mr. FW bought metal fence posts (they look like long metal stakes) and used sisal twine to train the plants up the twine, which connects to cross wires at the top and the bottom. This seems to work well to keep the tomatoes organized, upright, and with leaves-to-themselves.

Watering: for the most part, rain takes care of this. When we experience infrequent dry spells, Mr. FW pulls the hose down from its normal resting spot–next to the baby pool–and waters the plants.

The Frugalwoods Fruit Situation (FFS)

Our first blueberry harvest

In addition to the aforementioned vegetables, we’re amassing something of a perennial fruit empire (if an empire can be small and prone to pests).

When we moved here, we inherited:

  • Ten apple trees, which produce annually with a bumper crop every two years (or so it seems from our meager data set).
  • Three plum trees, which Mr. FW resuscitated via pruning. They’re producing enough plums for us to eat a plum a day, but not enough for us to bother processing.
  • Untold numbers of unruly, wild blackberries. I pick these and freeze them, which is the easiest way to process food.
  • Several black raspberry bushes, which Kidwoods consumes straight off the vine.

In spring 2018, we created a berry-lovers paradise by planting:

  • A bevy of blueberries (28 bushes to be exact)
  • Three Saskatoon berry bushes (which have since died)
  • Three honeyberry bushes
  • Four cherry bushes
  • Three black currant bushes

This year yielded our first harvest from these cultivated plants and we picked enough blueberries to allow toddlers to gorge themselves on fresh berries, make pancakes, and bake several loaves of blueberry bread (don’t ask me for the recipe, it didn’t turn out well.. I mean, we still ate it, but we complained about it).

Our blueberry bushes are hale, hearty, happy and mostly untrammeled by toddlers because they’re behind a fence. Yep, fences work for deer, bears, and small children. Don’t plant food without them. The Saskatoon berry bushes perished for an unknown reason, the honeyberry bushes produced about three honeyberries, and the black currants did swimmingly! We harvested enough currants to make currant jam (delicious), currant cordial (will be ready at Christmastime), and eat them raw (they taste awful).

Maintaining Our Fruity Paradise

Kidwoods harvesting black currants

In an effort to keep this stuff alive, we weed it, spray the fruit trees with organic clay surround, and–as noted–keep it behind fences.

Mr. FW really likes this weeder, which is designed to root out weeds with deep taproots (affiliate link). Just such a weed–Common Mallow–took up residence in our blueberry patch and we were having trouble digging it out until we bought that vicious-looking weeder.

It’s Not All Behind Fences: Learning The True Meaning Of ‘Turkey Trot’

However. Our entire yard is not fenced in, which means the apple and plum trees have to fend for themselves. The other day, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a phalanx–a battalion, really–of wild turkeys advancing on the apple trees. Without regard for personal safety or decorum, I bolted out the back door, grabbed a toy (foam) bat, and ran towards the flock scream-singing Flight Of The Valkyries.

And the turkeys? They stood their ground and stared at me with their beady bird eyes. I continued my sprint, gesticulating with the (again, foam) bat, while increasing the volume on my butchering of Flight Of The Valkyries. As I closed the distance between the wild things and me, I had a belated flash of panic:

  1. Do turkeys bite? If so, how hard?
  2. Will they rush me and flap their wings in my face?
  3. How much do I care about our apple trees right now?
  4. Why is the only bat I could find made out of foam?
  5. There are many of them; there is but one of me.
Turkey captured on our wildlife camera. These things are not small!

I hesitated; they sensed my weakness. I looked back at the house–my safe home where I could get on my computer and BUY apples–and that’s when I saw her. My three-year-old–armed with her magic wand–wearing undies, rain boots, and a hat, barreling down the hill after me, shrieking with delight.

Pumping her little legs, waving her wand, she was fearless in the face of our feathered foes. Fearless because she believes in the infallibility of Mama. Fearless because I had a… bat (which she’d been repeatedly told not to use as a hitting device). So we charged on.

Just as I started to consider whether or not I was willing to bump a bird with my (foam, toy) bat, the turkeys retreated. In their fashion–which is to say, slow, awkward, with a lot of unnecessary squawking–they scuttled into the woods and left the apples un-pecked. Kidwoods later told me that chasing turkeys was the best, most special part of her week. Child entertainment/education(?) and fruit protection rolled into one.

General Land Maintenance

Giving chase to the turkeys. Note that they’re not even bothering to move quickly…

Remind me not to go an entire season without writing one of the posts again… turns out, a lot happens over the summer. To keep up with our 66 acres of land, most of which is forest, Mr. FW:

  1. Graded our 3/4 mile-long dirt driveway, which is prone to deformation following rainstorms.
  2. Fixed a culvert on our driveway. Twice.
    • A culvert is a large metal tube that goes under a driveway or road to allow water to flow underneath the driveway/road as opposed to on top of it. As you might’ve guessed, numbers 1 and 2 are related.
  3. Mowed the fields.
    • We have a two-acre cleared area around our house that we mow in order to keep it from returning to forest. If land here is left to its own devices, it will grow trees. Lots of trees. Trees are awesome. We have hundreds of thousands (millions?) of trees on our property and we love them. We do not, however, want trees up in our gardens as they’ll deliver unwanted shade. To decrease the amount of grass/weeds that require mowing, we keep planting more fruits and vegetables.
    • We have a cleared upper field that we like to keep mowed to prevent forest takeover. It’s really, really tough to clear forested land; since this parcel is already cleared, we aim to keep it that way.
    • We have a cleared trail down to our pond that requires brush hogging in order to–you totally guessed it–prevent forest takeover.
  4. Mr. FW and Kidwoods loading the second bay of the woodshed with a little help from tractor

    Maintained the tractor.

    • Our Kubota L4400 does yeoman’s work alongside Mr. FW. It’s the machine that tills the earth, boxblades the driveway, brush hogs the fields, carts the firewood, skids the logs, clears the snow. We’d be lost without this thing.
    • Mr. FW takes judicious care of this machine and has it on a spreadsheet-monitored schedule of maintence that he performs himself. Since we last spoke, he took the snowblower off the tractor, lubed and oiled it for the next season, attached the boxblade (to grade the driveway), took the winter chains off the front tires (oiled them and hung them up in the barn), then he took off the boxblade and attached the brushhog (to mow the fields). Once the fields were mown, he took off the brush hog and attached the winch to skid the logs he fells for firewood.

Maple Syrup Clean-Up

All told, we made 3.5 gallons of finished maple syrup

We made maple syrup for the first time this past spring and so this summer, we cleaned up those supplies. Mr. FW pulled the taps out of the trees (it’s reportedly not good for trees to leave taps in all the time). We left the sap lines up, which should make it easy to reinsert the taps for next sugaring season.

Then, he cleaned out our evaporator (we have a Sapling from the Vermont Evaporator Company) and emptied what remained in our sap storage tank.

Stalking A Ground Hog

The observant, ever-present witness/spy to all these labors is our yard ground hog. This creature–previously referred to, unapologetically, as a furry football–seems to live underneath our picturesque, center pine tree.

This might be ok. This also might not be ok if he/she has tunneled underneath the tree and weakened its root system. This will definitely not be ok if the ground hog realizes that its next door neighbor is our prolific vegetable garden. Things appear to be in stasis at present, but I’ve got my (foam) bat at the ready should needs must.

Solar Check

Solar panels ahoy!

After moving here, we decided to get solar panels mounted on our barn roof. My full write-up on the panels is here and I include a solar update in this series. This is the only way for me to remember that: a) I have solar; b) you all would like to be updated on it.

Summer is solar stock-up time and in June we generated 776 kWh, in July 907 kWh, and August raked in 861 kWh. For reference, in January our panels generated a paltry 70.4 kWh. Since our electric company offers net metering, we’re able to bank our summer sunshine for use in the wintertime, which keeps our electric bill low year-round, even when the sun isn’t shining.

This has been your solar production update. You’re welcome.

Want More Fotos?!

Tomato hand

While I only document homestead life once a month (or less… ) here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram (almost every day!) and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity. Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods.

Some folks have asked about this and yes, I do try to post a picture to Instagram every day and–unlike most other things in my life–I actually have a pretty good track record.

If you’re craving more homestead pics, Instagram is your best bet.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post here, sign-up for my handy/dandy email list in the box below. You’ll get a message from me if you do… On to fall, frugal comrades!

How was your summer?

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  1. You’re doing great as a homesteader! And I’m not saying that because there is ample evidence you may come at me (or the turkey behind me) with a foam bat! Keep going, don’t give up and recognize how much you’ve learned already.

  2. Mrs. Frugalwoods – don’t sell yourself short as a homesteader, and definitely keep up the This Month on the Homestead series! I love being able to follow along with the good, the challenging, and the entertaining moments… and as someone with definite garden envy, I would personally love to read more about how and what you grow!

  3. Before you challenge turkeys again, I recommend that you watch My Life As A Turkey, the story of a fellow who incubated Turkey eggs and then raised them until they became independent. There’s an unexpected twist at the end of the video so I recommend that you don’t have your children watch it until you determine if it’s ok for them at their age.

  4. Great post, Mrs. FW! I am intrigued with the flame weeder system. I recently learned that black currant bushes are illegal in many towns in Massachusetts due to white pine rust disease. I wonder if Vermont has this regulation.

  5. Saying you aren’t a homesteader because you have electricity and running water is like saying a novelist isn’t an author because they use some fancy laptop instead of a feather and inkblot! You are a homesteader and your stories are fascinating! I, for one, am going to dream of rolling around in your berry-lovers paradise because berries! Yum yum!

  6. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Please don’t hesitate to post because think you’re not some arbitrary definition of a “real” homesteader, or because you think people don’t want to read it. We do. I check your blog everyday for new posts (have it bookmarked) and always enjoy them immensely. As a married mother of a two year old from Kansas, I relate so much to some of the stuff you post and love reading it.

  7. I was already laughing out loud during your turkey battle, but I absolutely lost it and started crying when your daughter turned up. How sweet and hilarious that image is to have her running out to help you! I had a similar incident earlier this summer where I tore outside in my nightgown, sleep cap, and hiking boots, waving a big stick to chase off some rabbits that had made their way into our suburban vegetable patch. (My husband compared me to Farmer McGregor afterwards.) I like to imagine my own daughter joining me in the garden protection squad in a couple of years!

    1. Oh, and thank you for the trellis photos! I kept checking Instagram but never saw them so I’m glad they turned up here. I think whatever we do next year is going to involve some kind of wire/wire fencing. I went to tend the tomatoes the other day and realized they’ve grown through the chain link fence separating our yard from the neighbors’. (Whoops…)

  8. That was the best turkey story ever! I applaud your every effort to raise a family on a homestead. You do a wonderful job, it seems to me, on whatever you tackle. Keep your chin up and provide those opportunities for your lovely family!

  9. What a fabulous job of being farmers! You should be so proud of your many accomplishments. From time to time you ask for post ideas….what readers want to know. Since I for one cannot get enough Frugalwood info, let’s get personal. You are quite forthcoming with how you spend your money. I’m always inspired. I’d love to read more about how you make money. Do you make money from your blog? Does Mr Frugalwood still work a paying job? I remember reading about him commuting at one time…is that still in play? And what about the excruciatingly high cost of medical insurance? I’d love to know more.

    1. Good questions! And yes, I LOVE hearing what readers want to read about! Keep the suggestions coming! To answer your questions in brief:
      1) Yes, Mr. FW still works for his employer (who he’s been with for almost 12 years). He works 100% from home, which fits our lifestyle really well.
      2) Yes, I earn an income from Frugalwoods. In the past, I also worked as a freelance writer and I wrote a book. But right now, my income is solely from Frugalwoods.
      3) We are financially independent but both choose to work (flexibly, from home, around our kids’ schedules) because we enjoy our work and find it immensely personally fulfilling.
      4) Our health insurance is through Mr. FW’s employer.

      I hope this helps :)!!!

      1. I remember that when you were first talking about moving to the homestead, one of the goals was for Mr FW to be able to work part-time, so that he had more time for other pursuits (giant telescope, etc). Is that still a goal? Are there things like great health insurance keeping you from making that move? Or now that you live where you want to, does 40 hours seem easier? It would be great to hear more about how your goals in FIRE have shifted now that you are there.

  10. First of all, I like reading about you and your family and life experience. Don’t care if it fits the definition of “homesteading”

    Second, your seed frame almost looks like the frame of a loom! So maybe hubby could build you one

    Thirdly, a sheep or two would be decorative and fun

    Fourthly, (is that a word?) what, no zucini? (can’t spell that!)

    Thanks for sharing your life with us,

  11. Critter experience from my almost-entire-life of living in the country:
    1 – Groundhogs – excellent sense of hearing, extremely poor eyesight. Love to eat apples (and soybeans). SKUNKS like to move into the dens they’ve burrowed. I’ve never had them get into my garden but never say never.
    2 – Wild turkeys – spurs on their legs are a formidable weapon. Much larger than those on chickens. Hens run off at the slightest noise, Toms are less skittish. They eat bugs (most welcome), nuts, seeds, and occasionally peck a tomato. They do like to dust themselves so they can be a hazard in the garden until plants are of a certain size and firmly rooted. I can get within 5 feet of the Toms that visit my homestead-that-like-yours-really-isn’t-a-homestead. I do feed them (as well as birds and squirrels). You can harvest a Tom but wild usually are not as large as domestic (see prices for wild turkey meat in catalogs/online – not cheap). Mine get good sized cuz they are well fed lol..
    3 – Possums – also eat bugs, nuts, seeds but are not welcome to live under my deck (one is not “screened in”). Do they did up the yard – I say no, better half says yes. Google says I am correct but I don’t have a Y chromosome lol.
    4 – SKUNKS – they do dig for grubs and are not welcome in the yard proper. Their aroma can certainly ruin sleeping with the windows open. And if you have a dog(s), have the dish soap/peroxide handy to mix up de-skunking “shampoo”.
    5 – Raccoons – vermin, will dig in the yard, eats the eggs of wild turkeys, wood ducks. Disease carriers, messy, only slightly less welcome than skunks. Can injure domestic pets and cause havoc for chickens.
    6 – Coyotes – keep your cats inside at night. Dogs too as coyotes are pack animals and if you see one, most likely more you don’t see. People may not agree (those with LGDs) with dogs inside. They eat most anything and are savvy beyond belief.

  12. I forgot:
    Rabbits – Can be a garden detriment, especially enjoyed by sunflower and green bean seedlings. We don’t have a lot of them as they are prey for other critters and birds of prey (hawks and bald eagles which we do see occasionally).
    Squirrels – eat nuts and cicadas (every 17 year event here). Also like strawberries and I presume wild raspberries (as do other critters). Known to bury nuts in the yard and garden. High value entertainment for adults and children.

  13. Great writeup on the garden. Even though we expect to just stay in the suburbs for a while and not move anywhere rural, we do plan on turning the backyard when we move into a garden.

    I laughed about your blueberry bread. Same thing happened to me last week! Ugh it was awful. There must be a decent recipe out there.

    1. Instead of Blueberry Bread, I would suggest King Arthur Flour’s Blueberry Muffins. Automatic portion control, no slicing required, use fresh or frozen berries (or other fruits), and the batter will keep in the fridge up to a week, letting you bake 2 or 3 fresh when you want them!

      The site has TONS of information for newbie and veteran bakers, fantastic customer support , and is employee-owned in Vermont!
      They make great flours, too.

  14. Beautiful sunset! It goes without saying that the turkeys are entertaining to watch. We have geese where I live that halt traffic to stroll across the street. Nature doesn’t work on our timetable for sure!

  15. I have always believed homesteading to be a broad term for people wanting to experience a different life in a rural environment. Some homesteaders have chickens, goats, and a large crop, some have a “truck” garden & chickens for their own eggs, but have a job-maybe to which they might commute. I had hoped my husband and I wanted our own little homestead, but it would have been what we wanted it to be and he would have still practiced law.
    Like anything else, your life wherever you live it, will be what you make of it! I enjoy your posts and your photos!!

  16. I love reading these! We lived on a hobby farm when I was little, growing fruits, vegetables, and a few heads of livestock (which we never ended up eating and so they lived to a great old age), so my perspective on farm life was from a kid’s magical view. Your adventures on the homestead have inspired me to ask more questions of my mom, who was a city girl transplanted to the north woods of Minnesota, and probably about your age when we moved. We’ve had great conversations about what it was “really” like on that farm!

  17. Sorry to hear about your Saskatoon berry bushes dying! I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (the berry’s namesake), and they had a rough year here, too.

  18. Ha ha, I love the turkey story! For the record, I also love the homesteading series because we’re attempting (ish) somewhat of a “homestead in the suburbs” idea, so it’s refreshing to read about other people just figuring out things as they go like we are, rather than feeling like the only people in the (homesteading) world that don’t know the best way to do everything (or any way to do some things, admittedly).

    This month, we finally moved our chickens out of our garage, where they’d officially overstayed their welcome for the past 2+ months (because it took my husband 4X the time and 4X the money we thought it would to build their Chicken Palace). BUT! They’re finally out where they belong, and now our next project is reclaiming the garage. And trying to figure out if our area allows for dwarf goats…

  19. Your vivid description of chasing the turkeys with your accomplice at your side had me stifling back giant laughter – please always keep up with the ‘This month…’ series because I absolutely LOVE hearing about the antics on your homestead.

  20. You are doing awesome as a homesteader! I’m not into the hardcore homesteader, off-gridder (is that a word?) life either. But I love raising my laying hens and picking food out of my yard. I love saving money and living my best life possible. I can only dream of having a solar electric system right now, but it is in the plans for the next five years.

    Side note: Wild turkey tastes great. Roast or deep-fry like a normal turkey.

  21. As someone who is living in a home with a YARD for the first time ever (and a decent sized one for Greater Boston) and has plans to make it productive (you know, as soon as I learn how to use the lawn mower), I am SO GRATEFUL for your tales and adventures in homesteading. It makes me feel, well, not alone, in the learning curve and it makes the idea of taking on these big ideas so much more accessible! And that you share what and where you’ve learned these things is so so helpful!

    Please keep up the homesteading posts as they add so much to my life. And I hope to yours, so you can see how far your homestead has come :).

    PS – in our attempts to reclaim our (comparatively) little 1/2 acre from 15 years of disuse and overgrowth, I might have shared the post about flame weeding with the hubs over here. :whistle:

  22. Aw, we have a groundhog that lives under our shed. He’s a tidy little creature we named him Fat Joe and he’s like family to us. Then again, we live in an urban environment and he eats our weeds and keeps the cats out of our yard.

    1. I, too, was thinking “didn’t they eat chard and rice every day??
      All of those vegetable plants! Can you donate to a food pantry? I’m surprised at all the things you DON’T grow, though! Just curious- don’t you guys like carrots, green & red peppers, beets, potatoes, radishes, corn, asparagus, onions, cucumbers, squash, herbs, lettuce? Or is it just too much time or effort, or cheaper to buy? Not meant as a criticism- wondering is all!

  23. The honeyberries will produce more and more. We have had them here in northern Alaska for over a decade and they are still going strong.. The only thing we do is sometimes trim back the stems that die off, and once in the middle of summer I spread some poopy chicken straw around the base to keep down weeds and, when it decomposes, feeds the soil.

    If you are looking for a low maintenance farm animal, consider Baby Doll Southdown sheep. They are miniature sheep, far smaller than our great Danes. They are not aggressive and are fun to have around. They will et you garden, however.

  24. I await the emails for the “This Month on the Homestead” series ravenously. One, they are inspirational and give me ideas for my own novice gardening adventures. Two, even if I never plan on doing a certain activity (sugaring) I have LOVED reading about what it actually takes. I no longer complain as much about the price of maple syrup and I’ve grown a strong preference for the real stuff now. Three, your sense of humor and creative story telling skills speak to my soul. I’m going to have Flight of the Valkyries stuck in my head for the rest of the day, and my husband is going to be wondering what is going on when I start randomly smirking. (Hint: I will have the image of the epic Turkey Battle of 2019 on Frugalwoods Hill in my head)

  25. So you are a city girl living in Vermont and I am a 5th generation Vermonter temporarily living in Florida in a city of almost 1,000,000 people. I think you are doing great! Please keep sharing your experiences with us as we love to hear about them.

  26. I think you should just refer to yourself as a “modern day homesteader”. I laughed out loud at the image of your daughter running after you screaming in her undies. Too funny. And I’m sure she thought it was the best thing ever.

  27. See, I think it’s totally OK to homestead the way YOU homestead. Just like we all have our own version of FIRE that works for us, it seems like we can all have our own version of homesteading that we enjoy. Even for those of us who live in city blocks or suburbs, there are always homestead-y things we can do. I love baking my own bread, making my own jam, kombucha, sauerkraut (I got it right, finally) and I plan to tackle the jungle that is supposed to be my garden next year, after having a nice talk with our local horticulture expert (who moved now, boo).

    I enjoy reading your blog, trials and tribulations and everything thrown in. I’ve been adding my own imperfections to my own blog, which I think helps it be more personal and relatable. Frugalwoods has always been one of my favorites!

  28. Please tell me you made a note that the turkeys didn’t move until the magic wand was deployed. Having the right tool makes all the difference! Waving a coat like a demented matador is also an effective method.

  29. The story about your daughter charging after you in boots, underwear, and a hat made me laugh SO hard. It’s the sort of thing my daughters would get a thrill out of too. 🙂 Makes me wish we lived on a bigger rural homestead, rather than a smaller urban homestead. In the NW, where turkeys decidedly do not live wildly.
    We get, um, raccoons? Is that equivalent? 😀

  30. Thanks for keeping up the homesteading series. I find so much value in reading it. My partner and I are officially moving to our homestead in WA state in June 2020! It’s 10 acres of paradise and we cannot wait to get there. We really have no idea what we’re doing either, so reading your blog with your very honest disclosures about knowing/not knowing what you’re doing is so refreshing. Thanks for sharing your world with us and please keep it up!

  31. I hear you haven’t truly LIVED until you’ve chased down turkeys with a foam bat. So check that off a bucket list. And your daughter! That made me smile so much — the silliest things turn into the most beloved memories. Ahh childhood. You’re doing so well. And yes, you’re totally homesteading. It can’t be easy to do so much of the childcare while Mr. Frugalwoods is focused on the other things. I hope you know you’re doing important, hard work and your girls are benefitting tremendously from it. <3

  32. I cannot believe you chased away your turkeys (points for doing it hilariously). One of my fondest homesteading ambitions is to eat a turkey. I saw some in the woods over by the bank but I think my neighbors have eaten them all.

  33. So, as a non-native English speaker, it took me a bit of time to correctly understand what the foam bat is! I kept envisioning some sort of large black bat (the mammal) made of foam and I was wondering how that is an object you casually have laying around. It made the whole turkey chasing story even more hilarious. In regards to homesteading, I very much consider myself a homesteader despite living in a huge city because I have a garden, rogue chickens, make kombucha and sauerkraut and have successfully made cheese and butter. And of course I aspire to have a farm with everything one day!

  34. Hi, hello from Ireland. I have blackcurrant bushes and you should try making blackcurrant fool. I then crumble meringue on top to make blackcurrant Erin mess. Really easy desert for large numbers as little work involved.

  35. Love your vivid storytelling! Your family is so blessed with these experiences and the memories! Thank you for sharing with us.

  36. Greetings from New Zealand.
    We freeze our blackcurrants, for making into cordial. Great as a hot drink in winter (loads of Vitamin C!), & also in summer diluted with soda water.
    Love your stories & photos : )

  37. I think one of the things I love most about your writing is your willingness to discuss the imperfect and difficult; it’s very relatable. Hearing about your experiences trying new things, working your way through challenges, taking stock and sometimes changing course makes these things feel so much more approachable. Like, maybe I will try to plant some food in my garden next year, because even though I’m a total novice, it’s likely that at least something will work out, and at the very least I’ll learn something.

  38. I have to laugh at your homestead impostor syndrome. I have it too. We live on much less land than you but I just made dinner with kale, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, and herbs from our home, but feel like I’m not really a homesteader because I didn’t plant enough potatoes to get us through the winter. 😂

  39. You do realize that the “real homesteaders” living fully off the grid with no internet don’t write blogs, right? That most of us are much more interested to read about your adventures and skill-building than we are about judging you for your imperfections? I am married to a wonderful man who doesn’t align with my views on certain aspects of minimalism so I love reading about your imperfect life. Keep on doing you.

  40. Your turkey story is priceless. I am sorry for the drama but I have had a sad weekend and this story has brightened my day. I can visualise your and your daughter in hot pursuit. I had a neighbour who kept geese and those birds were horrible. I can only imagine the turkeys and after that experience I would be careful about approaching. those birds armed with a foam bat.

    Blessing as you gather your crops and prepare for the winter.

  41. Have you considered doing a cover crop? Flame weeding is fine but it doesn’t give back or enrich the soil for next year. A cover crop such as clover is thick enough to supress weeds then when you are ready to plant you dig the clover into the soil as a natural booster. No weeding, no tending, and healthy nutrient soil. Iv just planted my veg, as much as I am game this early into spring (Australia) and sadly as its a rental I don’t have much in the way of soil preparation but ill be blogging about my success with my compost and vermicomposting systems in a small courtyard garden.

  42. I wondered if your future homesteading plans include livestock, and if not, why? Really enjoying following your homesteading journey from my seaside home on the South Coast of the United Kingdom. A world away in more ways than one but I am living out my homesteading dreams through you 🙂

  43. One of my favorite posts in the history of Frugalwoods! I’ll come back to this one during winter when everything is brown and/or snowy and marvel in all of the plants, wild turkeys, and wild toddlers with magic wands.

  44. You might consider reading the book The Nourishing Homestead by Ben and Penny Hewitt–I haven’t finished reading it, and I’m not a homesteader (I’m barely a gardener) but they mention some really interesting gardening techniques that helped them cut way down on weeding.

  45. What an amazing amount of work. I’m equal parts inspired and pooped reading about your journey! Alas, the local deer are our gardening nemesis. Figured out some years ago that the farmers market is a better investment than home gardening, unfortunately. Thanks for sharing!

  46. I’m dying over the turkey story! I can just see it all unfolding. :). We have a flock of about 70 in our orchard and they frequently bring traffic on the driveway to a halt.

  47. Just for some city perspective, we have a tiny city yard in a suburb 5 miles from Boston. I purchased just 3 tomato plants around Memorial Day from Ocean State Job Lot, 3 for $10. For all of August and September, we have had way more tomatoes than our family can handle, and have been giving them away. The extent of my tending them is watering once a day, tying them up/ staking (a bit). And the removal of one huge (very hungry) caterpillar! Also, I plant them in the composted soil from my bin, which I think makes a huge difference. Sometimes less is more?

  48. Did your honey follow any plans for the toddler tower of power? I want to try building one, but there are so many different plans out there I don’t know which to follow.

  49. We all do what we can. My fiance and I are modern homesteaders. We don’t do most things from scratch, and we LOVE technology, but we work our land, and we take care of it.

    Be careful with turkeys. They will need you up. Lol!

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