This Month On The Homestead: Apple Cider, Tomato Sauce, and a Jack O’ Lantern
October is the reason why I live in the New England countryside. I mean, I guess there are other reasons, but October ranks pretty high.
It’s the most idyllic, most stereotypically “autumn,” most mythologized, most steeped-in-Americana of all the months. And I love it.
Welcome to my recurring series in which I document life on our 66-acre Vermont homestead, which we moved to in May 2016 from urban Cambridge, MA.
Wondering about the financial aspects of rural life? Check out: City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown.
October: A Time For Food Preservation
My hands are dry and calloused. My kids have dirt under their fingernails. There are 12 quarts of canned tomato sauce on my kitchen table and a repurposed changing table of unripened tomatoes in our breakfast nook. There are cherry tomatoes in my dehydrator at this moment, homemade bread in my pantry, and apples on my counter destined for a pie.
On the bar are two half gallons of fermenting peppers (hopefully on their way to becoming hot sauce) and two flats of unprocessed cayennes and jalapeños.
There are two carboys of hard cider fermenting in my office and three gallons of soft cider in the fridge. The basement is home to yet uncounted quarts of homemade applesauce, apple butter, pickles, maple syrup, and tomato sauce.
The freezers contain okra, blackberries, dried tomatoes, dried apples. All of it grown by us, all of it picked by us, all of it preserved by us.
Sometimes, I don’t know why we do all this work. Sometimes, I want to chuck the vegetables into the compost pile and run back inside. But other times, I see our kids devouring dried tomatoes and picking their own ground cherries and harvesting currants (presently becoming cordial in our pantry) and I know why we do it.
We do it for love and for a legacy for our children. I’m still about ready to launch the rest of our green tomatoes into the yard for the flock of turkeys that’s taken up residence in our lower field, but I know that come snow, I’ll be grateful–and probably wistful–about these days spent processing and preserving. Until then, I’ll tell you what we’re making.
Preserving Apples Three Ways
You guys. I made applesauce. From apples I picked from our apple trees. Move over Little House On The Prairie. I do not cook. I do not craft. This applesauce represents the pinnacle of both for me (rivaled only by the hand turkey I made out of construction paper last Thanksgiving).
Our apple trees set a ton of fruit this year and Kidwoods + Littlewoods eat a ton of applesauce (plus I bake with it), so I decided to make it happen in the kitchen. This whole cycle of growing and preserving our own food is so new to me, so recent in my life that I feel the need to take completed jars of applesauce out on the porch and photograph them for the internet.
Listen, I’m so happy this stuff didn’t explode or taste weird. Mr. Frugalwoods and I want to evolve in our homesteading so that we’re growing and preserving more and more of our food, but it’s a years-long process of figuring out what will grow in our climate, what we can preserve (plz appreciate pun), what we’ll eat, and in what quantity.
As it turns out, quantity is more crucial than we realized: see the 65 quarts of pickles still in our basement from last summer’s cucumber bonanza.
We’re trying to figure out our family’s annual consumption and then work backwards to plant the right number of plants and preserve those plants in the right way. We’ll get there. Or not. Either way, I have some boss lady applesauce up in here that’s sugar-free, free-range, organic, whole-food, gluten-free, hormone-free, ethanol-free, free range, free trade, tomato-free (I think), artisanal, grass-fed, cage-free, cruelty-free, MSG-free, and dang tasty.
2. Dried Apples
One of the easiest preservation methods: I peel and core apples, set the slices on the dehydrator trays, sprinkle with cinnamon, and let them dry. Apple chips make excellent, year-round, sugar-free snacks for children and parents alike. This year, we bought a second dehydrator at a garage sale (to accompany this dehydrator) to increase our dehydrating efficiency (affiliate link).
I don’t know what we did to deserve such luck, but, one of our trees produces gigantic apples. These things are softball-sized, which make the best dried apples because I get the most resulting apple for my efforts of peeling and coring!
The rest of our trees proffer diminutive, craggy fruit, deformed in the way you’d expect from an organic, novice-tended orchard. But our Red Duchess is off the charts. Grocery store apples, I call them. The other day I realized I’d packed apples three ways for Kidwoods’ lunchbox: applesauce, dried apples, and fresh slices. She ate it all.
The size of these apples is also the source of my turkey-chasing ways. The bird-bandits are stalking my Red Duchess (never mind the FIELD of wild blackberries and wild apple trees available for them to consume). Nope, they prefer my prize-winning tree.
The other day I mom-voiced them as I tore across the yard–fruit picker aloft–and those turkeys have yet to return. I will point out that Mr. FW did not have similar luck scattering the flock in my absence. The turkeys regard him as an annoyance, not a legitimate threat. Me, on the other hand, they know not to cross. Apparently my defense of these apples is strong
3. Apple Cider
The most labor intensive, time consuming, and satisfying way to preserve apples. At right is a glimpse of our cider pressing process: me trying to help Kidwoods turn the mashing crank (with notation from her that she’d prefer to “do it myself.”) In case you’re wondering, yes, she hit herself in the face with the crank (several times), but was undeterred from her DIY approach.
We ended up with about 15 gallons of cider, some destined to be hard, others left for soft. I never thought I’d make my own cider. I never thought I’d have my own apple trees. I also never imagined I’d wear overalls non-ironically. Yet here I am. And I could not imagine my life any other way. Somehow, I’ve landed right where I’m supposed to be.
Kind friends came over to help on cider-pressing day and together, we picked bucket after bucket of fruit from our trees. We hauled and rinsed and mashed and pressed and poured until cider flowed. Kids ran wild, apple cake was baked and eaten, and the tractor bucket filled with apple mash.
There’s more to say about my gratitude for our friends. There’s more to explain about how we ended up here and with these apple trees in our care. There’s more to share about how it feels to look at a piercing blue sky with a baby on your back and apples in your hands and leaves in vermillion, mustard, and orange. Thankfully, I said a lot about cider pressing here and also here.
Then There’s Tomatoes Two Ways
- Tomato Sauce
We made sauce! From our tomatoes! And it tastes excellent! I feel so legit, busting out my homemade jars of sauce, but let’s remember: I had to carry them out to the garden in a cardboard box and set them up in the dirt in order to take this picture. So let’s not be too impressed.
Let’s have no delusions about how I spend my days. What these pictures don’t show are the tomatoes that rotted on our countertop and dripped tomato residue(?) onto the floor.
What these pictures don’t show are the hours spent picking pestilent worms off our tomato plants. What these pictures don’t show are the hours it takes to crush tomatoes and cook them down into sauce and hot water bath can them.
It’s not glamorous, it’s not organized, and things occasionally rot and stink up our kitchen. Just keeping it real over here. Also, our kids could consume this much sauce in about a week, so we’re not breaking any money-saving ground here, people.
But my goodness is it delicious. Turns out, this sauce maker we bought was indeed the right tool for the job (affiliate link).
2. Dried Tomatoes
I slice cherry tomatoes in half, plop them on the dehydrator trays, and dry them on out (affiliate link). The kids eat dried tomatoes like candy and I love sprinkling a few on my salads. Of all the things we preserve, dried tomatoes are by far the most popular and the most likely to get gobbled up.
Having two dehydrators this year was awesome because it allowed me to designate one for apples and one for tomatoes. Otherwise, the tomato guts mingle with the cinnamon from the apples and things get weird.
Burned First Fire in Woodstove
We tried to hold out, but the cold winds snaked through the cracks and forced our mortal hands to build a fire in our woodstove in early October. It’s glorious, that first fire of the season. The memories of last fall, of last Christmas, of last Thanksgiving, flood me as the scent of woodsmoke permeates and the flames lick the glass, beckoning me closer.
It marks the end of a season I’m all too happy to see go: the season of planting, harvesting, and preserving. I’m ready for good books, a warm drink, and solitude by the stove. Oh who am I kidding–I have two toddlers–I’m ready to read THEM books, and make them snacks, and snuggle them next to the stove.
Sugar Wood Harvesting
If we accomplish nothing else, we will teach our kids how to stack wood. As I shared in last month’s installment, our house wood woodshed (that’s the wood we burn in our wood stove to heat our home) is full. Nine cords of wood await burning for the next three winters (three cords per year is our average). That done, it’s time for sugar wood. Listen, I don’t make up this lingo, people, I just try to impress you with it. Ok, so ‘sugar wood’ is the wood we burn to make maple syrup. We tap our sugar maple trees, we extract the sap, and we boil it down, down, down on our evaporator until it becomes syrup.
This past spring, we ran out of wood before we ran out of maple sap, a sad situation to be sure. We use different wood for making syrup than for heating the house because you need quick-burning soft wood to make syrup (versus slow-burning, house-warming wood). So this log right here, held by Kidwoods, is soft wood, which is also known as a pine tree. We aim to fill up this–our sugar wood shed–with around 3-4 cords, which should hopefully hold us through the sugaring season (that’s what making maple syrup is called).
As of this writing, the sugar shed contains around 1.5 cords of wood, which is double what we had last year. We’ll aim to put up more before the snow flies.
TLDR: here’s my kid helping my husband load the wood shed with wood we’ll use to make maple syrup. And I must say, she actually did help. I unloaded logs from the tractor bucket (with the baby on my back), handed them to Kidwoods, and she ran them over to Mr. FW, who stacked and stacked.
The family that logs together, hogs together? The family that stacks together, hacks together? Let’s go with: the family that works together stays warm together all winter. And has enough wood to make ample maple syrup.
It’s not all wood stacking and food preserving over here. We have our bits of leisure! Such as hiking with our kids–what could be more leisurely? Uh, pretty much anything else on this list…
I now term it “hot mess hiking” because it looks idyllic, but is actually something else entirely. Sticking with how it looks, our fall leaves are a cliche of autumnal perfection. Back to how it feels, it’s a parenting trope of trying to instill stuff in your kids–like a love of nature and an appreciation of exercise–and realizing it’s a long haul.
One hike, one afternoon won’t do it. It’s a relentless repetition of values and practices. It’s me prompting “thank you” for two years and then, finally, overhearing it uttered to a stranger, unbidden. It’s hike after hike of whining and foot dragging, followed by Kidwoods barreling up the trail in front of us. It feels futile until it bears fruit. It still feels futile, but I hang onto these glimmers of emergent people.
We’ve also learned that having a hiking goal helps. A lot. When we hike in the woods? Complaining and whining prevail. When we hike up the driveway to check our mailbox? An enthused toddler leads the way.
I couldn’t figure out this difference until Mr. FW identified that it’s the goal that matters for her. Hiking up the driveway, she knows where we’re going, she knows how long it’ll take, and she knows the result: getting to check the mailbox with daddy. Hiking in the woods, on the other hand? She has no idea where we are (admittedly, the trees do all look the same) and she’s not sure how long it’ll take. This despite the fact that the hike to the mailbox is more difficult and longer. Perhaps we all need a defined goal. A set point to reach and know we’re done. When are we done? When have we reached enough? Kidwoods is content with getting to the mailbox. Why can’t I find a (measurable, achievable) goal and be done?
Jumping In The Leaves: A Great Way to Aggravate Sciatica
The girls and I raked a giant pile of leaves and then ran up and down the hill to leap in them. Kidwoods decided we needed a running start, which involved us running approximately 5 miles up the yard in order to then gently plop ourselves into the middle of the pile, as all that running meant there wasn’t enough energy left for a true jump.
Littlewoods, being so new to bipedal life, would start down the hill towards us just in time to turn around and try–in vain–to scrabble back to join us in the leaf pile, where she’d started. Leaf pile jumping is vexing when you can barely walk.
Our mini-rake got a workout alongside the mama-rake and we heaped leaf after leaf (and quite a few pinecones and twigs) into this mountain (affiliate link). Mr. FW paused his work to join us and he too was coaxed into running up the hill and into the pile.
I am so thankful for these leaves, these kids, this season, and the time to be outside with them. Every now and then, there’s perfection in our lives. This was just such a moment. Also, I was reminded of why I no longer run: rhinoceros with sciatica anyone?
From Seed to Jack O’Lantern
This is the first pumpkin we’ve successfully taken from seed to jack o’lantern. Of all the pumpkins we planted, this one somehow thrived.
A rotund, orange, brilliant fellow that did not succumb to pest (toddler or otherwise) or negligence of gardeners. Perhaps more miraculous, it survived several weeks inside the house with eager ministrations by Kidwoods and Littlewoods, both intent on carrying it around and dressing it up–neither of which a pumpkin is wont to do.
Then, for the final indignity, it suffered through a stroller ride to a pumpkin competition to receive a second place pity ribbon.
Finally, right before Halloween, we carved it up and roasted the seeds. This pumpkin–sitting on my table between two ghost candles handed down by my parents–is the epitome of what I want in my life. I want to grow stuff. I want to light candles. I want to do simple, happy traditions with our kids. I want orange things in my house.
October 24th marks the anniversary of seeing our homestead for the first time. Not a date I’d remember without an annually recurring google calendar reminder, but a pivotal date for our family. Four years ago, I was 8 months pregnant with Kidwoods and we were touring this house on a whim after years of homestead house-hunting.
We were overwhelmed with how called we were to this home, to this place. We sat on the back porch and ate apples from the orchard. Two bites in and I was all tears–partially thanks to hormones, partially thanks to the realization that this was it.
We came back the next day without our real estate agent and hiked up the trail leading into the woods. Armed with a paper map and no compass, we inaccurately deduced that this stump was the property boundary. I climbed up on it, hefting my pregnant belly, and said, “yep, this is it.” I jumped down, we hiked down the hill, and we put in an offer. This stump remains on our property, near the top of our hill, but not quite the boundary.
Hiking the other day with Littlewoods on my back, I was struck by the beauty and significance of this stump, in a forest of trees and stumps and stump-like objects. This stump will always mean home to me. Four years and two kids later, I’m still in awe of our woods. I’m still close to tears when I eat apples from our trees (probably partially due to exhaustion… ).
Our dreams for this place are still unfolding and I’m still grateful for my husband of eleven years and the blueberry bushes he planted, the plum trees we rehabilitated, the vegetables we grow and preserve, the kids we’re raising and, most of all, the quality of life we’ve created. Laid-back, slower, with a lot of laughter and dirt. You guys, I’m really thankful to be here. I’m really thankful for this stump. Thank you for going on this journey with me.
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.
In October, we generated 432 kWh, which is decent. For reference, last January our panels generated a paltry 70.4 kWh.
Since our electric company offers net metering, we’re able to bank our summer and fall sunshine for use in the winter, 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?!
While I only document homestead life once a month 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 with many other things in my life–I actually have a pretty good track record.
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Have you thought about expanding to animals in the future, maybe chickens for the fresh eggs? Thanks for all the insights into rural life.
What a fun update – I really enjoy these because it gives me so many ideas of what we can do. 🙂
We recently discovered that it’s super easy to make applesauce in an instant pot. The yield is on the lower side (you can only realistically fit 8 cut up apples) than a massive pot but you only need to pressure cook for 8 minutes. We keep the skins on and then push it through a food mill afterward to get rid of the skin.
What! I never thought of this… off to try it in our instapot.
I loved this post. I really felt your love and your happiness, not to mention your gratitude for your family and for he life you have created. It made me happy! Like a ripple effect! I am a mother to two little ones- 22 months and a 4 year old. I have those moments where it just all comes together. It’s like realising that your dreams have come true- stepping out of groundhog to see the gifts of the present. I was at the beach today with my 22 month old and our new puppy and just watching him throw him a stick and pick him up and sit with him whilst staring at the ocean, I was humbled…in awe of the beauty of that moment. I love how honest you are and I really admire how you live your lives.
Could you add little stops on your hike in the woods? Maybe a ear of corn on a nail for squirrels, or a bird feeder, or bird house, or even a sign pointing to something interesting. I know with my own daughters enjoy hikes like this but they do like something to look forward to. Just a thought!
I loved everything about this! Any chance you’ll share your applesauce recipe?! Pretty please?! Thank you!!
It’s not much of a recipe, but here goes:
1) Peel and core apples
2) Chop apples into cubes
3) Toss into a crock pot
4) Add 1/2 cup water
5) Tun crock pot on!
Then, depending on how smooth you want it to be, you can hit it with a stick blender at the end.
Now that you have your Victorio, you can just rough cut whole apples, cook them down, and put them through the food mill. The peels give the sauce more color and taste. It does make for a smooth sauce though.
You know, I tried a batch of applesauce with the peels on and we didn’t like the flavor–it was way too tart. Maybe it’s just our peels?
We are making applesauce too, but it is not necessary to peel and core the apples. Just wash them , gut them and cook them for a few minutes, then use a food mill (one of these: https://www.amazon.com/Weston-Stainless-61-0101-W-Capacity-Dishwasher/dp/B000T3HWR2/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?keywords=food+mill&qid=1572640447&sr=8-3).
If you do not want to buy a food mill, another possibility is using a metall fine mesh strainer and either a metall ladle to press tue fruit through the strainer. My mother preferred something called “rührkeule”, like a large mortar (
Rührkeule L 320 mm https://www.amazon.de/dp/B002I98FDA/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_yXjVDb558NVEF). We made hundreds mason jars applesauce every year, when I was a Kid.
If you use a stick blender or immersion blender, you don’t have to peel your apples. Just core them and they mix up fine when blended. I also gave up canning years ago and started coring apples and throwing them into freezer bags in the freezer. Then, we make fresh applesauce in the crockpot all the time! We just love hot, fresh applesauce even more than we love old applesauce (and we eat that daily).
Yeah, I do use an immersion blender on the sauce after it has cooked down. I did indeed make a batch of applesauce with the peels on and we just didn’t like the flavor. But, glad I tried it since it was a lot less work!
Liz, you are so darned funny! Note to self: buy a food dehydrator for next year’s harvest of cherry tomatoes! I had a shedload of them this year and sadly, some went to waste. Split, uneaten, rotten. Unloved.
I think it’s possible to dehydrate them in a very low oven, isn’t it? My cherry tomatoes are eaten by hand like candy. So I rarely have enough to bother!
I loved all the glorious homemade food in this post! I’m getting more into making sauces and preserves myself (though in my urban DC apartment) and I hope to someday have a garden. I’d be interested to someday see a post on some items that didn’t grow as well, I’d love to know what wasn’t great in that climate and perhaps the plants that weren’t worth the effort .
Ahhh, you are in luck! Last month I did a rundown on exactly that in this post: This Month On The Homestead: A Full Woodshed, Evolving as Gardeners, Plus a Pumpkin
Perfect post. Sitting in the Gallery where I work on a Friday, pouring rain outside, this has made me feel warm! 😊
Random but are you still renting your first house? Would love an update on how that’s going.
What a lovely post! What tomatoes did you use for the sauce, and would you mind sharing the recipe? We make and can our own sauce with vegetables from our garden and CSA, but it’s no where near as vibrant of a red. (More of an orange-y color.)
I love my Victorio. The first time I used it to make blackberry jam (no seeds!) it looked like I had killed someone. Juice and pulp everywhere! But it was because I didn’t know what I was doing. The Victorio is so helpful!
Aw, this is definitely my favorite of your recent posts! I loved reading about your homesteading adventures this month. Pretty much anything about food captures my imagination and attention, but the idea of canning and dehydrating is even more interesting, especially when we get to see the final result. Then there’s hiking. And beautiful pictures. Does it get any better? Possibly not. Great post! Thank you. 🙂
Thank you for the fall-time word journey. The reminder for why we teach to say thank you encourages me to teach my grandchildren everything good.
Ok, so canning jars. Where do you buy them since clearly you must have 285,893.
That is a treasure trove of tomatoes! I didn’t know you had sciatica. I started having the symptoms November 2018 and it was awful for 7 1/2 months. Pretty much just a twinge now and then the past couple of months I am so thankful! So anyway, considering you could be in a pain a lot you sure do a lot of work around the place!!! Thanks for all the pictures of people and food and wood – it is a full time job keeping things going for your family.
Love this celebratory post! And all the jealousy-inducing, idyllic Vermont fall pics—seriously so beautiful.
Also, some of those tomatoes look freakishly large—I actually thought they were pears! What variety are they?
Thank you , your posts are much appreciated
Loved post, and congratulations on all the preserves! I hope you have watched that 80s film with Diane Keaton, “Baby Boom.” She moves from city to Vermont with a baby cousin she’s suddenly become guardian to and makes applesauce. Then sells to yuppies. And falls in love.
Cute movie as I remember (of course it was the ’80s so may not have aged well). Anyway, anytime I hear about a bumper crop of applesauce I think of that movie.
So do I. Vermont looks beautiful and the film is a real ‘chick flick.’
Oh, my gosh, YES! One of my all time-faves! Love “the Tiger Lady!”
I have actually used the “tomato sauce maker” as my apple sauce maker as well but it certainly can be a messy process, although the outcome is always great. Thank you for sharing your harvest stories!
As I look out my CO window at 8″ of snow (that’s starting to melt from yesterday’s sun & 50-degree high) I wonder how you’re in VT and still enjoying beautiful fall trees! 😀 Thanks for the nice post – I’m now wanting something cinnamony and appley.
Have you ever done a post about woodstoves? I have one in my basement and I had it and chimney cleaned when I moved in but every time I try to use it, seems like my whole house smells like smoke or smoke comes out of the woodstove
If you don’t want to process all your tomatoes now, you can pop them whole into the freezer as they start ripening (my mom always just stored them in the large ziplock freezer bags). Then, when you’re ready to make more tomato sauce, pull out a bag or two and let them thaw. They’ll be mushy, but that’s just fine for sauce making!
FIY – this only really works if you have a food mill to remove the skins after cooking the tomatoes down. 🙂
I walked for hours and hours as a small child because my parents encouraged me to pretend I was riding a pony… I had a whole stable of them with names, colours, personalities… If either of your girls are into ponies, you could try it out!
What a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your beautifully crafted writing. thank you for sharing your love of autumn, your love of your home and family and your appreciation for the beauty around you. What a fine tribute to fall! You’ve made my day – and made me overuse exclamation points. 😁
I’m curious what the tomato sauce maker does–like, why is it better than just simmering on the stove or in a crockpot? I’ve honestly never heard of one before, so I’m curious (though I can’t grow enough tomatoes for it to matter at this point!).
Maybe build a fairy house “deep” in the forest? And each time you walk there you could add to the house, talk to the fairies, leave snacks, etc. ect. Just pick a tree carve and paint a door, and add a little ladder for the fairies to climb.
Always fun to write. I am just reading this and noticed that there is a problem in your parenthesis of this portion. Ah, rewriting and auto correct.
All the best, I will read on. Possibly, ” presently becoming”?/
Sometimes, I don’t know why we do all this work. Sometimes, I want to chuck the vegetables into the compost pile and run back inside. But other times, I see our kids devouring dried tomatoes and picking their own ground cherries and harvesting currants (presenting becoming cordial in our pantry) and I know why we do it.
Thank you so much for spotting that! I always appreciate your edits.
Elizabeth, Thank you.
This post was such a luxurious treat. Especially after my wife and I spent all morning cooped up away from our work dealing with two very well meaning technicians trying to cure our furnace from Hell.
This post was a delight. I, too along with Mr. Frugalwoods, think a destination is the answer for your hikes. Maybe a small structure or as some other enthusiastic reader suggested some sort of posted or spread out wildlife or bird feeding station. Or perhaps the spot where you guys “always” stop for snacks and a story. I don’t know, just thoughts.
But thank you so much, this was a delight.
Love your a fall report! Your Jack-o – lantern story reminded me of a fave memory. Farm life can be tough on littles. Things die on a regular basis…calves, baby pigs, barn cats…it’s a sad truth. I worried a bit when my three year old showed no sorrow at all at these losses….not even when our dog died. He took it all so philosophically. Till we carved a Halloween pumpkin. At the end of the season I tossed him over the fence for the cows to eat. I thought the crying would never end. Forget the dog, pet cats etc….the pumpkin touched a chord.
I have been following your blog since you started and have truly loved your outlook on so many things. My husband and I started hiking with our kids when each was an infant. There were nice hikes and there were terrible hikes with tantrums and tears: I remember my daughter once just planting herself on the trail saying “I’m not moving anymore!” But then, magically they grew to enjoy it. My oldest son, 23, just completed all the 4000 footers in New Hampshire. My middle son has turned his college friends on to hiking. My daughter…still working on her but she does it! So hang in there! At the very least your girls will have wonderful memories of family time in the outdoors. You are an amazing, inspiring family!
Oh goodness the “I’m not moving anymore”… I had one hike like that where my oldest was barely 4 and youngest was still young enough to be in a front carrier. I was alone with them and we were halfway around a lake when the oldest sat down and quit. It was winter and getting dark, and I ended up doing the rest of the hike with one on my front and one on my back!
Thank you for taking the time to write and to pull us into your life… It matters. And thank you for the stump story, in which tears can be more than exhaustion – or so I learned after many years….
Next year you might try growing Red Warty Thing for some of your pumpkin. Disgusting to look at so perfect at Halloween, and I do use them to make pulp for pies and such. Also, with smooth skinned pumpkins I have etched the name of a child in it and they were thrilled as the pumpkin grew and so did the size of their names…small pleasures.
Just a thought…I only make pickles every other year. It’s good to have a deep larder. Think of it like putting up wood ahead.
To help add a goal to a hike, look up geocaching…kids love it because it’s a treasure hunt combined with a hike.
YES! Mr. FW and I used to go geocaching in college–we should totally do that with our kids :). Thank you!
I love this-your kids are truly growing up loving nature and the simple things in life! But also, see how hard you both work to make things for the family to eat, heat the home, etc. it’s really good for them to learn where things come from and how it’s grown/harvested. It’s a huge education you’ve given yourselves and them in just 4 years. You nailed it when you said, “somehow I landed right where I’m supposed to be”. That sums up happiness for me! Thank you for the insightful October post. Our October was busy too, our jobs have been busy, weekends flown by, we got costumes in time for Halloween and then it snowed and snowed the last two days! So now I’m really gearing up for the holidays!
Just wanted to say congrats on all your hard work to make a life you love. Not that every moment is prefect, but it’s lovely to hear that you all are enjoying yourselves.
This brought pure fall joy to me in South Texas! I dream about harvesting apples off trees, making applesauce, and homemade maple syrup. You should be very proud of your families’ hard work. You and your family are an inspiration to others. Please keep up the wonderfully written posts.
I loved reading this, thank you!
This is such a great post. I love your writing style and your honesty; if you didn’t tell us things like the worms picked off the tomatoes, I’d feel awful if I tried growing tomatoes and then had worms because I’d think it was only me. But I have to say, LOL, that if the zombie apocalypse happens I’m heading to your place as my best chance of survival. 😀 Wishing you and your family a happy harvesttime.
Loved your book. Requested it at our library and now we have multiple copies for our 3 site library locations.
Just wanted to comment on your applesauce baking, you are probably aware but you can substitute the oil in sweet breads and muffins like banana bread, etc. I have been most successful with 1/2 and 1/2. No one ever knows, bread stays moist and flavor is not changed. Good use for all those apples.
Yes! That’s one of the main reasons why I made so much applesauce–I use it as a sub for oil in just about everything I bake. It’s one of the best hacks! And thank you so much for requesting my book at your library–I really appreciate it 🙂
Would you ever consider posting pictures of rotten tomatoes on the countertop, tomato residue on the floor, diseased or rotten plants, etc? Would be nice to see that side of rural living.
I loved reading about October in Vermont. Love it!!
Love living vicariously through these posts. We are currently living on the road and not much room for preserving (although I have done the odd ferment). A couple of potential time saving thoughts to take on board or not – I don’t peel my apples for drying and I think they are definitely fine as is (and consumed by discerning under 5 palates). Another way to preserve tomatoes is simply wash, cut, pack in jars and water bath (here’s a how to if it’s helpful https://growgatherenjoy.blogspot.com/2018/03/preserving-tomatoes.html?m=1). It’s a different product than passata but helpful when the tomatoes are coming thick and fast. This is a couple of other quick tomato fermentation ideas too in case you are interested for next season (and they work just as well with green tomatoes) https://growgatherenjoy.blogspot.com/2018/03/fermented-tomatoes-and-tomato-salsa.html?m=1
I hear you on the hikes too. we have been dragging our 5 & 3 year old on hikes all around Australia this year – hot mess hiking is pretty spot on!!
Would love to know the tomato sauce making process/steps? Did u look it up online? Any hints? I recently received a used Italian sauce making machine- but hv no idea what to do!
WRT sciatica, trigger points can give the same symptoms. Get a copy of the trigger point therapy workbook and a lacrosse ball.
Just an idea to motivate the kiddo’s for hiking. Our local botanical garden has a small fairy glade (tiny wooden doors and windows stuck on a little group of trees) both my kids are always highly keen to run there to spot a fairy. It’s conveniently located halfway around the garden circuit ;-).
In autumn in the woods we show them mushrooms and say they are fairy houses (at the same time as they are also mushrooms and we teach them about fungi biology). My kids seem to be able to hold the true and their fantastical pretend world in their heads simultaneously. Sometimes we use their imagination world to help motivate them to be interested in the natural world.
May have already been posted but why peel the apples? They dehydrate fine with if you don’t peel them. You can do a try run and if no objections, time saver for next year.
My kids don’t like them with the peels on, and, my peeler/corer does it all in one step for me anyway 🙂
Fruit shark Electric Apple masher ftw!
We started our own cider this weekend, and I am so glad we didnt have to mash by hand.
Longtime reader, first time commenter here–as a California hiker, I gotta admit your mix of frugality and East coast hiking photos are what caught my attention a few years ago. Anyway, I love the topic of kids and hiking, because my wife and I raised our daughter with many hikes, car-camping, even some backpacking. The observation about having a goal is spot on: kids don’t just walk for the tranquility (ha) and views as adults might, they want to understand where they are going and why it will be fun.
For day-hikes, we almost always had a goal such as a waterfall or beach where it was safe to play, or if not, we made sure to stop along the way for play-time, like at a stream or cool climbing tree–as long as they were safe/appropriate. Maybe you could add destinations at various places on your property: a climbable log, a bird feeder, a deer feeder, a mushroom log, a low tree platform lookout (that can grow into a tree house later), etc. Then it becomes normal to say, go to the bird feeder at the top of the hill to refill it with suet during the winter. My daughter also had a vivid imagination and played with leaves, moss, twigs, etc. to build or arrange “fairy houses” in logs, stumps, or rocks that seemed inviting to them. You can also build lean-tos with branches that are fun for adults to build and kids to play in. I quickly learned that hikes with kids are no longer about the miles or the views, but about stopping and playing in nature.
One thing that worked for us when we did need to keep walking was playing spot-the-flower or -animal. Just count one point for every flower/plant/mushroom/tree/bird/insect/whatever species not yet spotted on this outing–kids are good at this because they are closer to the ground (and their eyesight isn’t failing yet) and my daughter would almost always win against the parents. It works because they need to keep moving along to spot new things. Then start naming things when they spot it and give them a bonus point when they can name it too (I learned a lot of plants from my wife this way). If nobody knows what they are, bring a field guide and everyone learns. I thought at first that it might not work if you do the same trails over and over on your property, but I bet they learn to spot the changes from week to week. Another thing I liked was just having time while walking to explain nature: plant and animal life-cycles, erosion, weather, eco-systems, etc.
Finally, there always comes a time when they want to be carried. We always set an age appropriate distance for her to do on her own, and let her know the expectations. Aslo, the hikes were tailored to how much she could do and how much we were willing to carry her (up to 2-3 miles). So maybe at 3, she could walk for 30 minutes (and was in her backpack carrier the rest of the hike), but then it went up to 1-2 miles in an hour. By 5 or 6, we planned hikes of 2-3 miles each way where she was expected to hike one way (still with stops to play), and then I would carry her back. On shorter hikes where she could hike most of it by herself, she still wanted to be carried when we turned around. So I started telling her stories as long as she kept walking (of course keeping an eye out for fatigue, because you don’t want them to start stumbling). We parents took turns just telling fairy tales (nothing like hearing Hansel & Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood in the forest), books we’ve just read (they love repetition anyway, right), or even movies–I got good at doing the shark voices in Finding Nemo. Pick length to match the child’s expected hiking abilities, then carry them the rest of the way. Sometimes I stopped the story to carry her over steep or rough terrain, then she wanted down so I would keep telling the story. The story-telling took a lot of my own attention away from the hike, so it was only on the return. By the way, I found carrying her on my shoulders much easier than on my back or in a pack–just watch out for low branches.
I’m not sure all of this applies to short hikes on your own property, but I’m sure you’re looking forward to showing your kids how to climb the nearby mountains one day. Do condider easy backpacking when the youngest is around 4 or 5. Playing in a lake, making a campfire, and sleeping in a tent are all great motivators and lots of fun. Some kids are afraid in a tent, so practice at home in the yard to get used to it. Keep the hike short and easy at first, but we could do 4 miles out when she was 6, and 8-10 miles in the mountains at 10. Happy trails.
Just playing the Devil’s Advocate as it relates to frugality – a jar of tomato sauce is about $1.39 at Market Basket. Is it really worth all the cost and effort?
It feels like you didn’t read the post. Or any of the homestead posts.
The life, the growth, the love, the hard work, the achievement, the pride, the delight.
These are not things you can buy at Market Basket for $1.39.
Looking for Elizabeth to respond. Yes, I read the post. Frugal is in the title of the blog. This is a realistic question.
I started reading your blog just a couple years ago, when I was 18 years old, and it has remained my favorite blog ever. I read it all the time and feel so, so, so excited when new posts are up. Your posts are entertaining and thoughtful and I have so much love for you and your family. I’ll bet you didn’t think someone so young read your blog regularly 😉 And I want you to know I do. I’ve read posts from yeeeeeears back. I’ve cooked both of your frugal lunch recipes (just finished making quinoa before writing this, actually). I find your blog so valuable and feel such a thrill as I look forward to living a similar lifestyle – one of frugality and simplicity and nonconformity. As a practicing Muslim, by default my life happily follows many nonconformist paths, and there is no better way to live life than through unconventional means – ie, ditching what media and the world around us stresses as important simply to turn profits off us (this applies to pretty much everything). You have inspired me in countless ways and equipped me with knowledge, resources, advice, and laughs that I will carry for years and years into my future, into purchasing and running my own home, into my eventual marriage, into my eventual career, into my eventual motherhood journey. I love to gain knowledge and to feel prepared for my future with said knowledge – to have concrete strategies and plans and systems I can incorporate, using what I like and feel is most applicable to me. I LOVE that you aren’t one of the thousands of female bloggers who are constantly so dolled up in makeup in perfectly staged (and expensive) photoshoots and that live lives that appear overly perfect and make you feel inadequate and sad that you will never be like them (because even they are not like them – it’s just a mirage). And I also like that your posts have a meaning and purpose behind them beyond lists of products to buy or simply fashion posts. There’s nothing wrong with fashion posts (I am crazy for fashion) but there are waaaay too many blogs or bloggers or even youtubers with huge followings who don’t use their platforms to do good that they have so much influence to do, just shallow content, which is fun occasionally but exhausting when it’s the majority of what you get. But you do use your platform for good. I like that you love fashion and looking nice and understand that makeup and looking nice do not have to exist together – just another thing media has convinced women to feel. I feel nothing from your blog but positivity and a good, warm feeling in my entire body. I used to read many other blogs – mommyshorts, etc – but never connected or truly felt I found “my blog”… until I found your blog 🙂 I hope you never, ever stop blogging. I don’t have social media (except facebook), but I did stalk your instagram and JEEZ did you do a glow up or what. Before, there were hardly any posts. Now there are beautiful images and amazing captions and it’s so great. Your life makes me happy and you are a bright light in an otherwise mostly dark world (thanks to mental illnesses that will hopefully also get better as time goes on – btw, loved you opening up about postpartum depression). I love when you acknowledge your privilege. I love the length of your posts and hate when they end, I could read forever. Speaking of, I am going to get on reading your book ASAP. Hope you have a lovely week and thanksgiving. You make a difference in this world. I know, because you have made such a big one in mine. <3
Oh my goodness, thank you so much!! I am so deeply touched and honored. Than you!!!
RE: goals for hiking – I recommend getting into the habit of giving certain points in your woods names. Or even putting up a few hardy objects to mark places. We have been doing this when riding our horses ever since we moved to our homestead. So our daughter grew up hearing about those places and later seeing them (on foot or when lead on her pony). When we talk about our rides it goes like this “He got spooked at the blue bench,….. I came down the serpentine,… We went trough Maria’s wood… you get the picture. My daughter is almost twelve now and rides out with her pony on her own, and it is really reassuring for safety reasons that we can easily agree on a route beforehand mentioning those landmarks. Should her pony ever return home without her, I know at once where to go with the ATV to look for her, or she can easily call me and tell me where she is. Your woods are huge, so when your daughters are older and go out to play with their friends it helps to agree on some places – if only to know where to look for them when their friends parents come to pick them up (even if the kids promised on everything that’s holy to be back on time 🙂
You ran five miles up a hill?!
Don’t let those tomatoes rot on your counter. You can just chuck them in freezer bags whole, and throw them in the freezer when you have no time. Then when you have more time, pull them out and use them for cooking or can them.