January 2020

January: kinda bleak

January delivers a stark reminder that the holiday festivities are finished and that snow is in residence until May. January meets us with a grim reminder that we ought gird ourselves for consistency of weather and of activity. It’s a month of monochromatic sameness.

But January is also the time for decluttering and new recipes and woodstove worship. It’s an exercise in locating beauty in the mundane. In finding stillness among the snow-soaked trees and contentment in early nights and still earlier sunsets.

I come to you this month with a disjointed, realistic picture of how our month unspooled. Of what we did and didn’t do, of what our life was like.

Welcome to my series documenting 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 as well as my monthly expense reports.

Expect Nothing Time

I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t taken the kids outside enough this winter. So I made a sort of New Year’s resolution-type-thing to take them out every day. In the snow and sleet. In the ice. We suit up and trek out. I also made a resolution to not drink alcohol on Mondays through Thursdays, which in retrospect, might’ve been ill-timed with the whole going-outside-with-two-toddlers-thing every day.

It’s so much easier to stay inside by the wood stove, to draw and paint and read books. But we need the fresh air and we need the challenge. I miss our languid summer days spent mostly outside, but I need to embrace the 95 months of winter here in Vermont and I need to press forth into the tundra with two toddlers. And you know what? They do pretty well out there. Sometimes. Other times, I have to tandem-carry them back to the house, weighted down as they are by boots, coats, and hats. I can’t leave them out there for fear of frostbite and wild animals. Otherwise, they’d be on their own. This is Cross-Fit for parents.

Whatever your plan for the day is? I hate it

I’ve come to realize that time outside with my girls should be “expect nothing” (or “want nothing”) time, a concept I learned from the RIE parenting philosophy. I used to try and accomplish something while outside with the kids: hiking (exercise), gardening (productivity), teaching about nature (educational). But that approach always ended in frustration. If there’s one thing toddlers hate, it’s your plan for the day.

So I’m trying to embrace “expect nothing” time. We go outside and I let them lead. I let the baby toddle ahead in the snow and lead us up the driveway. I am witness to their discoveries. Previously, I tried to create “idyllic childhood memories” via snowman-making and sledding. But my kids don’t want to do that stuff yet–they’re too young. What they want to do is tromp through snow, throw snow in the air, lick snow, and stomp patterns with their boots. So, I follow their lead and don’t try to explain or intervene or educate or (God forbid) get any exercise. We move at the pace of a tiny 23-month-old in snow boots (that’s sloth-esque, in case you’re wondering) and we absorb it all. As a type A, anxiety-prone, OCD-ridden, over-achiever, this is not my MO. But it’s a new year and I’m a new me and I will do this for my children. At least, I will try.

January is good for expect nothing time because really, nothing specific or of import happens in January. It’s cold, there is snow, and we pass a head cold between family members on loop. There is no point at which all four of us are healthy at the same time. Hasn’t happened yet. Am not holding breath. In fact, I’m…

Breathing Deeply

I stood on our back porch in my bathrobe one January morning, looking at the sunrise pictured below, and I took four deep breaths. We have a thing in our family about four deep breaths. We are forever kneeling down with one child or the other and breathing with them through moments of strife. Since toddlers are comprised of 87% strife, that’s a lot of deep breathing.

The sunrise in question

Awhile ago I realized that I, too, should take the deep breaths. Instead of instructing my children to breathe, I now breathe with them. Then I realized I should take the four deep breaths on my own too. Not just when I’m averting a tantrum, but when I’m calming the tantrums inside myself.

So I stood out there on the porch, while my husband doled out the bananas and oatmeal and spoons on the other side of the picture window with the same view. I stood there in the ice cold morning and breathed.

Now let’s be clear about where this ‘four deep breaths’ idea came from. Let’s pay homage to the guru, the guide, the wise one who delivered this message of repeated inhalation. Oh yes, it was Daniel Tiger.

What’s It Like?

Kidwoods helping to stack wood on the porch wood rack

What’s it like to raise kids on a 66-acre rural homestead? I think it’s probably a lot like raising kids anywhere else. Except that we have to specify that the friendly bears and coyotes populating children’s literature are not like real coyotes and bears. That real coyotes and bears (who live in our woods) do not want to hold your hand and paint rainbow-colored ice cream cones. That actually, they want to eat you. So, those are sort of awkward conversations.

Also, there’s the fact that our kids are able to play outside by themselves because there’s no traffic–no road, actually–and no thieves of children (other than the aforementioned wildlife, which we’ve amply addressed). Our kids know how to harvest tomatoes from our garden, how to pick apples from our orchard, how to climb trees and run through creeks and roll in mud. They know how to destroy a plum crop and pick blackberries without getting too many prickles embedded in their hands. They know how to stack wood. They know not to eat poisonous berries and only once did one of them do so, but they were fine, and so only one decade was shaved off my lifespan.

Then there’s the things they don’t know. Things I grew up doing every day. They don’t know how to cross a street. They don’t know what stoplights are. They aren’t familiar with the concept of strangers because they know everyone in town. They’re not well-versed in crowds. They’ve never been on public transportation and they don’t know that most people can see their neighbor’s house from their own. We will educate them on these urban ways as they grow up.

We will go to New York City as a family and have the girls navigate the subway system and order lunch at a cafe and give money to sidewalk musicians and walk down 5th Avenue like locals. We will do our best to round out their worldly knowledge. But for now, I’m content that they have time and space to roam, create, and explore. And that one of Kidwoods’ first complete sentences was “wild animals; don’t touch them,” which sounded like, “woll ammos; no touch dem.” And that, thanks be to God, I captured that on video.

One Week Into 2020: A Reflection on my New Year’s Resolutions

Pictured below: my home, through the snow-drenched trees, lit up in rebuttal of a 4:39pm January sunset.

Not pictured: one recalcitrant toddler whining of cold hands. And she’s not wrong, having discarded her mittens and coat long about when we passed the barn. Also not pictured: a second toddler, smaller, but more convinced of her invincibility, intentionally slipping on ice/dirt, followed by guffaws that can only come from someone who does not do her own laundry and has never broken a bone.

Further not pictured: me, the mama, proud that we’ve made it outside every single day this month. Yep. All seven days. I’m now realizing that will sound more impressive later in the month.

To me, the new year feels like raw kale. Inevitable, cleansing, unwanted. What I want is to continue languishing in holiday decadence. What I need is to face that I turn 36 this year and (still) need to work on my posture. What I need is to accept that the shiny strands of hair near my part are not blond. They are grey. As I did 5 minutes of yoga the other night , I realized I’m very happy with my body, with my life. I am not in the best shape ever. I do not have the best hair/clothes ever. But I do have the best perspective ever (at least thus far in life. I can only hope it will get better). I am coming around to acceptance and contentedness. I am coming around to me. Or maybe I’m just coming around to laziness. I’m fine with that too.

Woodshed Update

Pictured below: mid-winter woodshed with smallest family member for scale. These nine cords will sustain us for this winter, next winter, and the winter after that. This is the culmination of so many of my dreams. Two babies, nine cords, a woodshed built by my husband, some snow. I am a happy person, a grateful person, a warm person.

Littlewoods and the not-so-little woodshed

Mr. FW restocked our porch wood rack in January. However, he didn’t fill it entirely because in past years, we’ve had a bunch of wood leftover on the porch that had to be re-stacked in the shed come summer. This year, he’s working on a Just In Time inventory management system for porch wood and the goal is to not have a bunch of wood in need of being carted back to the woodshed in June. The porch rack was down to under half a cord when he restocked it, and thus far, we’ve removed 2.5 cords from the woodshed, leaving 7.5 cords remaining.

We’ve burned a cord and a third so far this winter, which is less than we’d burned at this point in previous years. This is due to the fact that it hasn’t been as cold this year and also to the fact that our wood is drier. As we improve the drying regimen for our wood (i.e. having it in a proper woodshed and drying it for several years), we seem to increase efficiency. This is because more of the wood BTUs are converted into usable heat, as opposed to producing steam to dry out the moisture in the wood (this lack of efficiency is why you don’t want to burn fresh, green wood if you can help it). Based on our limited data set, it seems we’re getting more efficient per cubic foot we put into the stove. In past winters, we’ve burned a total of three cords; we’ll see how it pans out this year.

More Carrots

More carrots

May we all be as happy as a kid eating an icicle in a woodshed. Kidwoods was determined to create the perfect snowman the other afternoon and popped up to the kitchen door to request accoutrements.

I supplied her with a scarf I’d knitted years ago (if you knew my knitting capabilities, you’d understand why I sacrificed this scarf). A few minutes later she was back, requesting sunglasses and a carrot as further adornment.

Five minutes after that, another carrot was requested in light of the fact that the first carrot had been eaten. The pure joy, sheer bliss, and easy happiness of such a life: of wrapping scarves around lumps of snow, of eating whole carrots in the freezing cold, of pretending to be an alligator down the hallway to bed.

May we all find such simple, exhausting and thorough contentment. Maybe the secret is more carrots?

This Month’s Life Lesson From Glamour Shed

Glamour Shed rocking her bad self

Pictured at right: Glamour Shed in unadulterated form. No editing. No filters. No retouching. Glamour Shed is a boss and not concerned about her lack of paint, missing windows, and roof situation (which is poor to quite poor).

Glamour Shed is living her best life every day. She doesn’t do diets or exercise (being a shed limits this capability). She doesn’t buy new clothes or get manicures. She doesn’t even shower. She just does her bad self. Day in, day out.

Her beauty is her function, not her fashion. Her beauty is her utility and strength, not her exterior. Her beauty is her resilience and reliability, not her hair. Glamour Shed, you rock it sister.

Being Outdoors Without Kids: A Vignette

I need to be alone and outside at least once a day. Ideally, that is accomplished through solo hiking. Less ideally, that is accomplished through taking out the compost bucket unaccompanied.

A large number of illnesses struck in January, which meant that people were home from school, most people could not handle themselves, and other people could not go to daycare. Also, there were fevers. And our internet went out. It was a confluence of stuff I don’t like. And one mid-January Saturday morning? I felt rage.

Deep inside me, visceral rage bubbled against the number of times I’d antibacterial-wiped the doorknobs. Rage against the painful fissures in my hands from repeated washing–a vain attempt to avoid illness. Rage at the constant laundering of sheets and towels and blankets and sheets and towels. Rage at the watercolor paint sprayed up the dining room wall, north of the highchair where a sick Littlewoods painted happily, until she didn’t and flung her paint up, watching it drip down.

How can I expect my tiny children to use their words and be kind if I myself, a very grown-up woman, can get so angry? I can’t. And so, I went hiking. I didn’t feel great and Mr. Frugalwoods felt worse, but we agreed I needed fresh air. So I spent an hour trekking through our woods, past deer, coyote, and snowshoe hare tracks. I communed with them in silence. I sweated and paused and inhaled and reflected. As I crested the final hill, my house came into view and I sped up. My lungs pushed out icy air too cold to keep and I could not slow down. I needed to be back inside, back with my loves. As badly as I needed to leave them, I needed to return. That is the way of it these days.

It’s All In The Cropping

Pictured at right: a mid-hike pause, to relish the crisp winter air, the idyllic snowfall, and the contemplative quiet. Just kidding.

One kid was screaming at the top of the hill because she didn’t want to sled with us and the other kid was screaming at the bottom of the hill because she did sled down and didn’t want to walk back up.

So there I was, betwixt two tantrums–both echoing off the hills–with this glorious view. It’s really all in the cropping, no?

Being Indoors With Kids: Also A Vignette

Hello, hi, here we are, with too much going on in the kitchen, my hair in a weird part, our hideous green plastic countertops on display, and all of Kidwoods’ school lunches for the week lined up behind us. Also the dishwasher is open, plus you know Littlewoods ate some of that raw egg while I wasn’t looking. It’s an imperfect thing–parenting, homesteading, cooking from scratch–and I have to say, I’m not a fan of pastel-washing it. Nope. Kids are not always clean and smiling and matching. Nope. Kids are not always posed in front of coordinating backdrops and those weird letter board things that look like they’d take a really long time to write anything on. Nope.

here we are!

Kids do not frolic through fields of sunflowers while holding hands and smiling. At best, they do this: the older one whisks eggs while the younger one whisks water and they only jab one another with their respective whisks twice. We concocted this ill-conceived egg/veggie bake together, but it wasn’t done in time for dinner, which led to a dual meltdown and me realizing I should’ve started this project at least two hours–if not two years–earlier.

But this is real life. This is how it goes down. So no, my kitchen is not pristine or painted white or cloaked in granite. And no, my kids don’t match, nor are they particularly clean here. And I obviously did not wash my hair that day or in the recent past. But I’m ok with it. I’m ok with all of it. Because this is where I am and I am stifling shared laughter with my husband (who is behind the camera) and I am thankful I’m alive and in the company of these two whisk-wielding loves. Additional material: see earlier note about “coming around to laziness.”

End Of Month Check-In

We did not make it outside every day, but we made it outside quite a bit; much more than we did the month before. Mr. FW and I stuck to our goal of not drinking Mondays through Thursdays, with allowances for a few social occasion slip-ups. I realized that both of these “goals” or “resolutions” are nothing more than new habits. We’ll continue on with them into February, we’ll keep honing these goals until they become automatic.

Littlewoods on a mission

How do we accomplish the stuff we want to? How do we stick to resolutions and goals? We change our habits. I am trying to enshrine the stuff I want to do as habit. Whatever you want to be? Do it every day. Put yourself on autopilot and run along those repeated grooves. I’m trying to create new tracks this year. To find new and better systems. If you want to save more money? Make it harder to spend money. If you want to go outside everyday? Make it routine. Make it unavoidable.

Make it hilarious to watch this tiny person (pictured at right) ascend this hill day after day. She is undaunted. She does not realize how small she is and how big this hill is. This is her reality and she sees no irony and no impossibility. She does it every single day. And only sometimes does she lie down in the snow and cry for me to pick her up.

Towards the end of January, a friend made the observation that we–as humans–try to portray perfection when in reality, what other humans need is our humanity. I’ve been chewing this over for days and I find myself wanting to be more real. More vulnerable. So, I ask you: how can we help each other? How can we communicate the fraught challenges of parenting without patronizing or placating? How can we talk about our financial concerns without fear of judgement? How can we create an environment of support without judgment? Probably through honesty and a realization that “expect nothing” time is good for adults too.

It’s equal parts, this whole homesteading/mothering/writing thing: perfection, frustration, anger, fulfillment. There is no success without disappointment. There is no achievement without loss. There is no ideal without disillusionment. What I’ve realized is that there is beauty and love and actual, tangible happiness in getting this close. We will never be at utopia in this life, but we can come close–if we lower our expectations, and broaden our acceptance, and admit our our faults, and love beyond measure. And lower our expectations.

Solar Check

A very awesome sky. See? We do get sun in January.

After moving here, we decided to have 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 January, we generated 120 kWh, which is on the low end, but not the lowest. For reference, in January 2019 our panels generated a paltry 70.4 kWh and in July 2019 we raked in 907 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.

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…

How was your January?

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  1. Just wow! I am in the same season of motherhood as you and I can’t tell you how much I laughed and identified with you! Although I have two boys, live in Indiana, and have chickens instead of orchards, I loved the truth(s) in this post. I’m even right around the same age as you.

    It ain’t easy living in the country with littles, and you seem to truly enjoy the time with you kids even through the splattered paint and raw eggs consumed. We definitely need to commit to getting outside every day! We’ve been alternating sicknesses since Christmas and let me tell you, I’m running out of my stash of seventh generation cleansing wipes faster than ever.

    I’m really happy to see you living in the moment and want to thank you for being so transparent – it’s good for other moms to know that we’re all going through the same stuff! The concept of “expect nothing” time sounds great since I too tend to have things to accomplish when we usually go outside.

    If you want another idea for enjoying the slow times of winter, look up Hygge, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture),” according to the dictionary. I embraced it this year because to me it means it’s ok to be warm, comfortable, and even a little bit lazy during these slow months.


  2. Your level of self-discipline is amazing! I realize most people live frequently in the extremes, and that can be helpful in breaking bad habits, etc. But for me I prefer to achieve the middle through deep knowledge and contemplation. For example, instead of putting myself in circumstances where I can’t shop (such as doing extreme budgets, freezing the credit card, moving away from stores, etc.), I read interesting books and articles about what is the true cost of these goods I am interested in – for other humans slaving to produce them, for the environment, etc. This has helped me to achieve true contentment, and even though I live in a suburb right outside of Boston, I can say that all temptation to buy stuff has evaporated. Freecycle is my best friend for anything we might need for the household (people even give away food!), farmers’ market is great, and we hardly ever go into supermarkets, Targets and such. Spending $80 a month on healthy food for 2, and $400 a month for everything else feels great. My husband sometimes jokingly asks, “aren’t you jealous of their (someone passing in the street) new car?”, and I say, “no, because I’m not jealous of their monthly payments and other expenses such as higher insurance”. For 13 years we‘ve been driving a 2000 Nissan Altima and I love that car so much as it’s served us well, never mind that the AC no longer works and the trunk doesn’t open since last year. Life in the contented lane is good! May all Mrs.Frugalwoods’ readers be blessed with contentment such as hers (so beautifully described in her latest post). Thank you!

    1. Would you mind sharing your tips (or even your actual spending) to achieve that impressive budget of 80/mo for food? Thanks!

      1. Our diet is mostly around the basics: grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits and that costs us around $15 per week for 2 adults (how much food can a person really eat after all …example of our weekly shopping/eating: 1/2 lb of beans/lentils, 1/2 lb of grains such as rice and buckwheat, 1/3 lb of oats ((we are not big breakfast eaters)), several veggies ((example: 1 cabbage, 3 peppers, 1 eggplant, and 1 cauliflower)), 1 lettuce, several heads of onions and 1 head of garlic, and 5 to 7 apples). We try to eat a local diet and buy mostly from farmers’ markets and Whole Foods (on sale). With the remaining $5 we’ll buy the occasional meat for my husband or some cheese and yogurt. We don’t buy juices, lemonades, frozen veggies, pre-cut veggies, pre-cooked food, food that we can make at home such as sauces, hummus, etc. We have bunch of spices that we bought at the local Penzey’s (whenever they had crazy promotions) and so we make Indian, Thai, South American, European and local cuisine. It’s never boring around here. The key is to stick to the basics and not really shop at places like Trader Joe’s that sell you overpriced packaged food. We try to buy directly from local farmers (oats, beans and grains for example), and even then it doesn’t cost much for the quantity we eat. From our experience 90% of of the money spent on food at the grocery store is not for basics in a raw form. If we bought the supermarket rice, beans and vegetables (and exactly the quantity we will consume fresh within 1 week), we’ll probably spend less than $10 a week. Forgot to mention that we do not drink milk, but we buy organic cream for coffee every 2 weeks for $2. We buy eggs for $5 at the farmer’s market, but that lasts us for 3 weeks as we rely on and enjoy more protein from legumes. We don’t eat bread on a regular basis, but we make it once a month at home. If we include the tea, coffee, and spices that we buy occasionally, we’d still spend less than $100 a month. Our fridge looks empty most of the time, but we have delicious food on the table every day (twice a day!) and we never throw away food. We also do not can or preserve food otherwise because plenty is available close to us year-round. We limit sugar for health reasons, so very rarely we’ll make sorbet (just water and fruit in the blender, and then freeze) or oat cookies and crackers. For us simple and nutritious is the best. Hope that helps.

        1. Anna, your comments are two of my favorite blog comments ever. I wish you’d write about your experiences, particularly with your simple meal plan, because I’m sure you have so much to share about the beauty of your simplicity. I love your mindset and would love to know all the nuances of how it developed – what you’ve read or seen that’s shaped it. Your frugality does not reek of deprivation, but abundance and joy. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

          1. Dear Katie, thank you for your kind words. I have been thinking about sharing our journey towards abundant simple life, but not sure how to do it yet!

  3. I am gleaning a lot from you I did the fun challenge I am attempting my own sub par writing but I love your blog. I wonder if I could homestead idk gonna try to make a compost bucket for starters . I am trying to reclaim a life that is getting away from me heeding your advice that it’s never to late to start and trying deep breathing

  4. Personally, I love the way you are “keeping it real “. Life is messy and with little kids it’s really messy! We don’t need magazine perfection. And it’s not nearly as much fun. Keep on keeping on.

      1. Stepping in wet things is possibly my least favorite part of motherhood. Especially when I have socks on.

  5. I really like CGP Grey’s concept of yearly themes rather than resolutions (or seasonal themes or monthly themes if you prefer a shorter timeframe). Something like “the year of outdoors” has a lot more room for occasional failure or reinterpretation than “going outside every day”.


  6. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now as I threw myself into PF and your monthly updates have been one of my favourite emails to check in the morning.

    This beautiful piece of writing blew me away with the laying down of truths in almost every sentence. So I was motivated to comment for the first time and let you know how much I appreciated this post on this sunny morning, in the middle of a snowy Canadian February. I am a big advocate of deep breathing in the anxious moments as well as the quiet times.

    Thank you for everything you write, I love your writing and appreciate the way you communicate your thoughts with such humour and flair while keeping it real.

    1. I feel the same as Andrea commented. Liz, your writings and perspectives have helped me attain a much deeper connection to my family, my community and the fledgling homestead we are creating. I found your blog when you were still in Cambridge and I have appreciated and looked forward to your updates. Thank you for your honesty, transparency and encouragement. I wish we were neighbors, (mostly so I could gaze upon the glamour shed irl) 🤣, but also because you seem like a genuinely amazing person! Thank you!

  7. I also stopped drinking Mon-Thurs and have pretty much maintained that stance. I did it from a weight management / general health PoV. I never drank a huge amount each night, a glass or two of wine maximum, but it does zero for the waistline, isn’t cheap and isn’t wonderful for one’s health. Now that I reserve it for weekends, my tolerance has dropped a bit, which means I reach ”enough” on a smaller quantity, so that’s win-win.

    Saying all that, so smugly, it took about a year to really catch on as an ingrained habit. It hurts! So bad!

    1. I actually got the idea from you in the first place!! You commented about not drinking Mondays through Thursdays (on a December post, I think) and I was like, huh, that is a really good idea! I’m doing it for the same reasons you listed: weight management, general health, and also the cost. As a bonus, we’re finding that it makes the weekends all the more fun! Thank you for this great idea :). I think it works so well for us because it’s a very clear rule (no drinking on these four days) and then a treat at the end of the week.

      1. I am so flattered!! The worst is when there’s been a longer time, like Christmas or a period where that rule gets dropped somewhat for a week or so. IT HURTS A LOT to pick it back up, but within a week, I’m back on track.

        On the subject of wine, I got the idea of drinking boxed wine as a far more frugal (and equally nice!) way of partaking. In these parts, ”box wine” has historically tended to be, shall we say, reserved for grottier, drink-to-get-sloshed-on-dregs types of wine, but in recent years, the decent-quality, name brands are catching on and it’s GREAT. Much less expensive, you never really run out, winning idea all round.

    2. I too dropped drinking Monday-Thursday this year and I think I got the idea from your comment as well. Same reasons for doing it: weight management/general health. I will admit that I took this week off because it is my birthday week and we always cook a Cornish Game Hen in a Cherry Port glaze for my birthday dinner. And I’m enjoying a small glass of port each evening from the rest of the bottle. But because it is a specific exception I don’t think it will be too hard to go back to my weekends only drink (or two) starting next Monday. =)
      Anyway, thanks for that comment you made and the trigger you sparked in more than one of us!

      1. I warn you, the reboot will hurt a bit. I cannot lie. Maybe I’m actually an alkie and that’s why it hurts, but it does… only for a few days though, then it’s fine!

        I love port. I loooovveee port, which is weird, because I’m generally a very dry wine person. I make an exception for port though.

  8. I just so appreciate the honesty about parenting small children. I think it would be so easy to just post beautiful photos and talk about an idyllic life on the homestead and make the rest of us jealous……but that fact that you share ALL of it, the ups and downs, tantrums and messes, just makes your life so relatable (even though I live in the city!). From one parent of a toddler to another: THANK YOU!

  9. My kids stopped watching Daniel Tiger a couple years ago, but I still like to sing his wise and catchy advice to them. They think I’m insane, don’t really remember the songs, but I will probably never forget such classic tunes as “when you’re sick rest is best” and “when a friend doesn’t want to play with you, you can find something else to do”. Good advice.

  10. It is interesting seeing this from your perspective. I grew up in the country on a large ranch and even towns were foreign until I started school. And this is the time for changing weather for us in central Texas. It’s 25 degrees one day and 78 the next. Summer is the only time with consistent temperatures which are usually 90 +. But dispute differences in location and age we think a lot alike.

  11. You probably did not mean to be hurtful, but if you don’t actually suffer from OCD, then writing “As a type A, anxiety-prone, OCD-ridden, over-achiever” is very painful to those actually affected by it and their loved ones.. OCD is not a joke. It is not a minor personality quirk. It is not something to mention in order to elicit a smile and an eye roll. OCD is a serious mood disorder that can bring lifelong suffering to those unlucky enough to be afflicted by it. If you actually suffer from OCD, then you have my sincere sympathy. Otherwise, please think about not using the term casually for the purpose of self-deprecating humor.

  12. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Last night my attempt to serve quinoa was met with a full-blown wailing, crocodile tears, rolling on the floor meltdown. It’s nice to know that other families also deal with tantrums of epic proportions and that there’s real life out there beyond the picture perfect posts all over the internet. I think when you said “what other humans need is our humanity” it is the most honest and encouraging statement I’ve heard in a long time. We also do deep breathing when the kids get upset. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes I should take some deep breaths for myself.

  13. Hygge is the best part of life! Time to simply be instead of always do.

    Coupled it with another of our words “pyt” and you will be set for most challenges life throw at you.

  14. I have to admit I’m a little jealous of all your gorgeous snow. We’ve hardly had any this winter in NE Ohio and I miss it. Oh well, 3 months of snow possibility remain so I’m holding out hope (the latest I’ve seen flakes fly here was Mother’s Day a few years ago).

    As always, I love your honesty. Thank you for sharing life with all of its ups and downs.

  15. I moved to rural Vermont with my extended family about a year after you did. Although there are no small children, there is a woodshed, snow shoveling and plowing, power outages, solar production to keep track of, slow internet, spotty cell coverage, a recalcitrant old wood furnace, which the previous owner bought used, and on and on. I admire the change in attitude I have seen in you since you moved, which you are allowing the rest of us to share. The first year we moved here, I was 76 years old, overweight, and not as physically active as I had been when I was young. Now, I am 57 pounds lighter, with zero dieting, I can shovel snow with the 50 year olds in my house, and better than the 20 year olds. I get outside every day, walking dogs instead of toddlers, also frustrating and requiring more patience than sidewalk walks.

    Although you and your family are at a different stage than mine, frustrations are frustrations, and living with my 50 plus year old son and his family has its own flavor of adjustments to be made, now you’re getting real about it, as I have had to do. Keep it coming.

    1. Diana, that is a serious set of life improvements – weightloss, strength gain, fortitude – congratulations! My hat is off to you.

  16. I’ve been a reader a long time and have never commented but something rang true in this posting – like you I am type A and have learned a great deal about raising children and expectations. My children are older than yours, but I wanted to let you know that what you are doing is absolutely correct. I used to plan everything with a purpose (learning, activities, memories, etc.) and each time it would end in complete failure. I learned quickly that the best things we ever did as a family were spontaneous and unplanned. Now, whenever we go on vacation or trips or even weekends (and it absolutely kills me) I don’t plan a thing…EVER. I see what moods the kids are in (they are now 8 and 11), what each is feeling like doing, are they hungry?, and then we go from there. In general, we have the most amazing time together when we let all the expectations go. You are doing an amazing job!

  17. The visceral rage is so real. We had a rough 2019 with a brain tumor ( thankfully benign) and a new septic system that we (my husband really) put in ourselves, that took most of our year. We have decided not to do any farming, maple syrup making or any HUGE projects this year. We are giving in to the lazy and planning on doing more movies, reading, paddling, camping and hiking with our boys this year instead of gardening, animal raising and tree tapping. It has been a huge shift for us and I have Been enjoying the time for ice skating and cross country skiing we have had time for so far in 2020. Here is to enjoying the lazy days! I’m in!

  18. Beautiful post which led to a beautiful moment of deep breathing and reflection. Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability, and sharing your life with us!

  19. I don’t have children. I don’t live on a farm. I don’t have snow, or ice, or anything remotely like cold weather where I live. I don’t grow my own food or make maple syrup. I am decades older than you are. But your articles are the second best thing I read every month (the Bible has you edged out). I howl with laughter at your descriptions of Littles and Farm Life. And January’s report has much advice that is food for thought.

    Keep up the good work. Your adoring public loves each and every article.

  20. Beautiful words. I know January has been getting a lot of bad PR lately, but I find it to be one of my favorite months of the year. The cold weather does make it hard to go outside, but I welcome this as an opportunity to slow down and take time to reflect and set intentions for the year ahead. I love your four breath approach. One of our household/family resolutions was to meditate and practice gratitude more often this year. For the kids, it’s helpful to have concrete strategies to help with meditation, including breathing techniques. Even just 2-3 minutes per day as a family can make all the difference for us. Wishing you the best with your 2020 intentions.

  21. Love the “if there’s one thing riddlers hate, it’s your plan for the day”. Lol. I am now Grandparenting toddlers, so I can say it has been true of at least two generations of my family.

    Love that you can, and are learning to “ go with the flow”. Our kids teach us a lot. True for two generations in my family.

  22. WOW! This blog post made me pause and reflect, a lot, and even shed a tear or two. My kids are grown and gone but I look back and wish I could have been a more relaxed parent. I’m trying to do better now both with my kids and grandkids. Thank you for sharing the REAL part of life.

  23. “earlier sunsets.” Hmm. In the northern hemisphere, January sunsets are later than December’s and some of November’s sunsets.

  24. Loved this! Thank you! Yes, the world needs humanity, not perfection. And we need more simplicity as opposed to the idealistic perfection we see too much of – and your life in the woods speaks to that simplicity as you show its beauty through its lack of perfection. So, yeah, the secret is carrots. More of them. Simple, plain, sometimes deformed carrots, that are perfect as they are in every bite.

    P.S. GORGEOUS shot of your home at night. 🙂

  25. I was actually thinking about it the other day and now you have mentioned wild bears living in your woods again. How do you about hiking on your own? How safe is it for you from that perspective?

  26. I admire your ability to deal with tantrums. When our child had tantrums I would find myself getting murderously angry; the first time it happened I scared myself. From then on I left the room when our child would start screaming. If my husband was there, he would stay in the room. If he was gone, I would stand in a nearby room and listen for trouble, like choking (which never happened), but I stayed away until everything got quiet. We have never used any sort of physical punishment, never even been tempted to hit or slap our son, and his teenaged outbursts didn’t impact me the same way. But toddler tantrums were somehow different. I am in awe of mothers and fathers that can respond better than I could. I always felt like a freak.

  27. I’m ashamed to say that I would lose my temper so often when my kids were growing up. I seem less angry now — is it because they are grown or because I’ve gone through menopause?
    Love your blog. I’ve found lately that I really am less acquisitive. And now when I read blogs in which the main point is for the blogger to sell something, I’m turned off.
    I have one tiny nit: Your eldest is no longer a toddler. She’s a “preschooler” or just “big kid” I guess, even though 4 is still very young.
    Keep up all the great work!

  28. Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods for your honesty about parenting and how it’s not all smiles and laughter. Practically every night when we all are home together it’s a madhouse. Either me or my wife is cooking dinner while our toddler is doing something that he might break and either of us is caring for our 8 month old boy who is crying for some reason. Then our toddler starts crying because he’s running in the house and accidentally falls. That is an example of what our evening is like during the week. But that’s all a part of parenting and raising kids( in our case two boys), it’s not all glamorous it’s reality. Thanks for providing a glimpse of what you go through with your girls.

  29. I love this. Yanno I was feeling kinda depressed when I started reading this but you made me laugh and smile several times. You have such a way with words. That is so true about perfection versus humanity. Your kids are gorgeous. Your place is so beautiful. You do extraordinary work! Thank you and best wishes, Wendy (NZ)

  30. 1) You are my spirit animal. I felt like you were reading my innermost thoughts through most of this post.

    2) Your writing keeps getting better.

    Cheers to all the introspective, outwardly-peppy-but-inwardly-cynical-but-in-a-good-way, over-achiever-lashed-to-young-children-still-honing-that-skillset, new-ish moms out there. 🙂

    Keep it up!

  31. Oh, Laura, snow cream! I haven’t had that since I was a kid. Such a cold thing to eat on a cold day, but we loved it.

    I enjoyed this post, too, so much. My kids are in their thirties themselves, and chasing their own kids around, but I remember those days of toddlers and tantrums and adventures and stories. One of my kids insisted on drinking milk at every meal, and she knocked at least one glass of it off the table nearly every day. She was far too old for sippy cups, although I used to wonder if she would have to go back to them. I was told it might be because of her mixed hand dominance, but whatever the reason, we spent as much on milk for the floor as we did on milk to drink, for literally years. I remember the frustrations of parenting and the need to just be alone for a bit.

    Thanks for opening up with honesty, so that the rest of us can say, “Well, good, it wasn’t just me.” Thanks for the lovely descriptions and photos. Thanks for the pictures of open dishwashers and green countertops. This is real life, the way we live, and I am happy to share in it.

  32. What a beautifully written and touching overview of your current life Mrs Frugalwoods. We don’t live in a perfect world and I love the way you document that with such raw honesty and humour. It made me giggle and also put a lump in my throat. I am becoming more inspired to live my life in a simpler and less expensive way. It’s two steps forward and one back at the moment. I live in Northumberland in the UK. Our house is a beautiful old farm house with a heather thatched barn built in 1750. The area is
    peaceful and beautiful. I am learning to embrace the mud, rain and strong winds ,and not let that prevent me getting out each day. I am trying to not get stressed when I see a rat in the barn , or when my dogs hurtle into the house with muddy paws before they have been cleaned, or the fact despite conditioning and washing my hair each day it always is wind blown, tangled and messy. I am going to be a better tomato mummy this year, and not forget to water them every day, and leave them to shrivel up on their neglected vines. I am going to also only drink Fri through Sunday. I really feel lucky to have found this website. I love your sentiment about humanity and being more understanding of one another. That compassion and understanding also needs to be given to ourselves.Thank you and warm wishes, Jude

  33. It is great to get outside with children in the winter. We used to pack ours up on the toboggan complete with tent and camping supplies and go snow camping over the week ends. We started when they were toddlers and they continued winter camping it on their own in their adult life. It gave them an appreciation for winter and they learned camping can be fun year round.

    It’s also good to get out daily just to get some fresh air. I think it was Igmar Bergman who loved to get out and start his day with a walk because as he said “Demons hate fresh air.”

  34. Do your hands a big favor and invest in a tub of Aquaphilic with Carbamide cream. Best thing there is for healing cracked skin, especially those cuts you get from washing your hands all the time when the weather is cold.

    Available without Rx at most pharmacy counters. Walmart probably has it. I got my local independent pharmacy to carry it and it’s a year-round best seller. Make sure you get the jar with the blue letters. Without carbamide (urea), it’s just a regular hand cream.

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