This Month On The Homestead: Bonfires In The Snow and Leisure Cilantro
We are in the season of snow every day. Maybe a lot, maybe a trace. There’s no forecast to tell us what’ll happen: we look outside, we bring in more fire wood. It dips into single digits every night and still, we go outside every day. We hike, we sled, we cry (mostly the kids; sometimes me), and we love the cascade of monochrome. There is no beauty more distilled than fresh glitter snow, ready to be devoured.
Despite the frigid air, the niblets and I go up and down, up and down the hills of our yard. On sleds, on bellies, like puppies they roll and crash and giggle. I do my ab exercises (necessary on account of these children), a few rounds of sledding, then flop down in the snow, soaking up icy sunshine.
Until someone belly flops on top of me with a burst of laughter. Nothing, apparently, is funnier than jumping onto a mama while she’s trying to rest in the snow in the sun. Hey, I aim to please.
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.
Contemplating going rural? Here ya go: Want To Move To The Country? 15 Things To Consider.
An Ode To Mr. Frugalwoods
Since I write Frugalwoods, most of it is a self-centered monologue focused on my favorite topic: ME.
So today, I’ll devote some time to telling you about the person I’m married to, the person who makes our breakfast every morning, cooks our dinners, stacks our wood (not to mention fells our trees), clears our snow, removes all splinters from all children, our cozy snuggler and book reader, the man who dances to the Nutcracker Ballet (badly, but with joy), wields a chainsaw, sews hems, knows how to prepare dried beans, fixes the tractor and deep cleans our dishwasher.
This is my husband, an incredible Renaissance person I’m lucky to have. After 13 years of marriage, it actually does keep getting better.
Of course, the craft beer he pours me each evening may assist in this assessment.
I hope that you too find this kind of egalitarian, shared, equitable division of labor in your relationship. I know I’d be lost without it.
And, yes, that was him knocking down an icicle for Kidwoods with a pink umbrella because that’s just the Dada he is.
The Unexpected Pain of Intergenerational Friendships
Life is short. Intergenerational friendships teach me this. Here in Vermont, in a town of 700 people, my friends range in age from 13 to 101. The wisdom, the depth, the humor I gain from this range is unprecedented. But so is the pain of loss. What I’ve learned this year is that, when you have friends of all ages, you will experience the range.
So here I am, making pizza with my girls because life is too short to not make pizza with your kids. Life is too short to not have friends of all ages.
I miss the friends who’ve passed away this year, even more so because I couldn’t give them a hug or visit them in the hospital. I hate knowing they won’t be there at that first post-pandemic potluck. I hate that they won’t swoop my kids up and say, “you’re getting so big! I remember when you were born!” But I love that they were in my life, that I was in a small part of theirs.
It’s always about this time–this mid-winter moment when snow is no longer novel–that my kids are over the classics. We’ve been sledding, snowshoeing, snowman-building, snow angel-ing, and snowballing for months. And so last month I said, “why don’t you jump off the top of the play house?”
Only other TRULY GREAT parents will understand this desire for our children to experience nature, to become one with each season, to challenge themselves, to become caked in snow. I also suggested snow shoveling the back porch and they were ON IT. The promise of a revival of summer bikes and scooters goaded them into scraping snow and letting it go.
Life is about balance, but Vermont winters are not. Plus, you can’t enjoy the woodstove if you haven’t felt the cold. Or so we tell ourselves.
The Seed Order Is IN!!!
We ordered our vegetable seeds in January! Hard to FATHOM planting anything in snow so thick you could ladle it. But there sit my raised beds and my no-till giant garden, sleeping beneath icy layers.
Soon, so soon, I will have trays of soil in my kitchen with baby seeds tended and watered. And then I’ll be coaxing them to germinate and grow. They’ll be transplanted outside and will look weak and tiny until they roar into power and overtake my garden. Until then, we’ll ladle snow.
You will not be surprised by what I say next: we use a spreadsheet to track our seed orders, deliveries, and planting game plan. You will be further unsurprised that I’m sharing this spreadsheet with you because I am so proud of my husband for putting this together and maintaining it every single year.
If you too are growing more than just a few veggies and herbs, I highly recommend the Mr. Frugalwoods Obsessive Seed Tracking and Ordering System™, demonstrated below:
|Type||Variety||Purchased?||Received||Date to Start||Started||Starter Size||# To Plant||Seed Company||Planting Location||Notes|
|Arugula||Sylvetta Wild||Saved from last year||Yes||Direct||High Mowing||Kitchen – Herb|
|Basil||Lettuce Leaf||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Small||30||Sample Seeds||Kitchen – Herb|
|Beans, Bush||Mardi Gras Blend||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Small||25||High Mowing||Lower garden||Varieties: Royal Burgundy, Gold Rush Yellow, ?|
|Butternut squash||Nutterbutter||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||TBD: next to Cherries?|
|Carrot||Napoli F1||Ordered||NO||Direct||High Mowing||Lower garden||Seed asap, cover with board?|
|Cilantro||Leisure||Saved from last year||Yes||Direct||High Mowing||Kitchen – Herb|
|Cucumber||Bush Pickle||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Small||5||Sample Seeds||Lower garden||Cattle Panel Trellis?|
|Dill||Greensleeves||Saved from last year||Yes||Direct||High Mowing||Kitchen – Herb|
|Ground Cherry||Smaller||Saved from last year||Yes||8 weeks||Small||20||Sample Seeds||Lower garden|
|Kale||Westlander||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||TBD: Lower or Kitchen?|
|Lettuce||Hampton||Ordered||Yes||4 weeks||Small||20||High Mowing||Kitchen – Lettuce||Oak Leaf, individual leaf harvest or cut above growing tip for cut and grow again|
|Onion, Red||Southport Red Globe||Ordered||Yes||Solstice Seeds||TBD: Lower or Kitchen?|
|Peas, Snap||Sugar Ann||Saved from last year||Yes||8 weeks||Small||50||High Mowing||Lower garden||Plant in 2 rows, 8 ” apart, with trellis in the middle|
|Pepper, Sweet Red Bell||Peace||Ordered||Yes||Galusha Hill||Lower garden|
|Peppers, Sweet||Picnic Trio||Ordered||Yes||8 weeks||Big||10||High Mowing||Lower garden|
|Peppers, Sweet||Bangles Blend||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||Lower garden|
|Pumpkin||Jack Be Little||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Big||4||Sample Seeds||Next to Cherries|
|Pumpkins||Cider Jack||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Big||4||High Mowing||Next to Cherries|
|Sage||Fanni Common||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Small||5||High Mowing||Kitchen – Herb|
|Salad Mix||Gemstone Greens Blend||Ordered||NO||Direct||High Mowing||Kitchen – Lettuce||Succession seed every 3 weeks, row cover preferred|
|Salad Mix||Hotshot||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||Kitchen|
|Salad Mix||Sorrel||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||Kitchen|
|Spinach||Butterflay||Ordered||Yes||Direct||High Mowing||Kitchen – Lettuce|
|Sunflower||Mix||Saved from last year||Yes||4 weeks||Big||?||Sample Seeds||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Cherry Orange||Sungold Select||Ordered||Yes||Wild Boar Farms||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Cherry Red||Fence Row||Ordered||Yes||Galusha Hill||Lower garden||Bushy plant, make sure to train several stems|
|Tomato, Cherry Yellow||Napa Chardonnay||Ordered||Yes||Wild Boar Farms||Lower garden||Super Sweet|
|Tomato, Paste||Amish Paste||Ordered||Yes||Solstice Seeds||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Paste||Kron-Prince||Ordered||Yes||Solstice Seeds||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Paste / Slicer, Red||Wisconsin 55||Ordered||Yes||Galusha Hill||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Saladette Pink / Brown||Pink Boar||Ordered||Yes||8 weeks||Big||18||High Mowing||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Saladette Red||Mountain Magic F1||Ordered||Yes||High Mowing||Lower garden|
|Tomato, Slicer Orange||Lillians Heirloom Yellow||Ordered||Yes||Galusha Hill||Lower garden||Mid-sized orange|
We haven’t started any seeds yet, but you better believe next month’s installment will (or at least, should) include some updates to that slick little “Started” column.
Also, I feel the need to point out my all-time favorite seed name: “Leisure Cilantro.”
As opposed to all those hardworking Cilantros who grind themselves into the dirt with futile effort, Leisure Cilantro prides herself on her morning yoga practice, nightly piña colada, and deep relationships with the neighboring carrot crop.
Leisure Cilantro doesn’t work, she manifests growth.
Snow Bonfires: Turns Out, They Work!
We’ve discovered that the best thing about socially distanced, outdoor socializing is setting bonfires in the snow. Not bonfires OF snow, but in the firepit Mr. FW built for us this summer. Add that to his above list of accolades: the man dragged giant stones out of our woods to create a firepit for our family. And we are getting our stones worth!
While huddling around a not-very-warm fire in single digit temps may not be your idea of a good time, it’s ours. And our friends agree (or at least, they keep showing up).
Also, we have no other option since we’re being COVID cautious, careful, and considerate. Plus, we found another use for our flame weeder and excess sugar wood (affiliate link).
I’m pretty sure we’ve landed on the perfect hosting situation since it involves no work on my part:
- We invite people over
- We provide hot dogs and buns
- They bring marshmallows, beer, possibly other things, possibly not
- We all grab tree branches and roast our food
- We hang out until: a) someone suspects frostbite; b) the tantrums of one of our many children becomes unbearable
What could be better?
The Presidential Inauguration: As Narrated by a Member of the Toddler Ennui
Lady Gaga begins to sing the national anthem and Kidwoods asks, “Is she a better singer than you, Mama?”
Me, “Yes, she’s a professional singer.”
—then halfway through the song—
Kidwoods, “Oh yeah, she’s a MUCH better singer than you, Mama!”
If you ever need some humility in your life, dial a toddler.
In all seriousness, what a gracious, polite, formal, uniting, and appropriate ceremony. I was proud to have my girls watching and proud to point out Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, who, according to Kidwoods, “teaches college.” Heck yes she does.
After moving here, we had 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 95 kWh, which is typical for this time of year. For context, in January 2020 our panels generated 120 kWh and in July 2020 we raked in 816 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.
How was the first month of 2021 for you?
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