This Month On The Homestead: Local Food and Wood Transport Systems
If you’re just tuning in, this is a recurring series in which I document each month of our lives out here on our 66-acre Vermont homestead. After leaving urban Cambridge, MA in May 2016 to chart this wholly different life, we’re experiencing a constant learning curve of exploration (and plenty of stupid novice moments). Check out last month’s installment here.
November scuttled in with brisk wind, lost leaves, and a semi-frozen pond. We said goodbye to fall and cozied in for the cold. However, as we’re learning, weather is not linear and we had a number of sunny, warm days pop up throughout the month. And we now find ourselves in the depths of…
So named because the trees all look like… sticks! Except for the softwoods of course, who shimmer with pride this time of year, their effervescent needles poking through the otherwise dreary palette of browns and grays.
November also brought more regular snowfall and a gorgeously white Thanksgiving. Interestingly, as I write this, I’m staring out at a yard almost entirely devoid of snow. I assumed we wouldn’t see the grass again until spring, but how wrong I was to presume to know what nature intends.
On a hike the other day through our snow-covered land, Mr. Tikhvinskoe and I remarked to each other that surely this must be the most beautiful season. It’s a gift to live somewhere that has a knack for year-round picturesque-ness. The riot of fall colors was stunning, but the simplicity of these stark wintertime trees is an equally divine balm for my frenetic mind.
City Meets Country (and looks ridiculous)
In what can only be described as a ridiculous example of city-meets-country, I started taking our hand-me-down Bugaboo stroller on our daily walks through the woods. I fully realize how ludicrous it seems to wheel a supremely expensive stroller–designed for posh sidewalks–through wooded trails, but it actually works pretty well.
It can’t traverse our largest/rockiest hill, but for our flatter trails, it’s decent! I previously babywore (fancy way of saying ‘carried in a carrier’) Babywoods, but at one year old, she’s getting heaving on my back. I gotta tell you, I’ve carried this kid for a year and I’m ready to push a wheeled contraption.
Plus, she loves looking out at the landscape from her stroller perch. The challenge now is finding something that’ll skim through the snow with ease. Try as it might, this stroller does not do snow. I have my frugal eye on the used market for this amazing stroller that converts from wheels to–wait for it–SKIS! Genius.
I’m hoping one will show up on Craigslist for a reasonable price. Enjoying our property is a chief goal of ours and I don’t want baby conveyance issues to stand in our way of snowshoeing and winter hiking.
Local Food at Thanksgiving and Beyond
Each month of this first year on our homestead, Mr. FW and I think of new things to turn our attention towards. We have a masterful grand plan in our minds of what our homestead might be in 5 years or 10 years’ time, but we’ve realized that these projects and these changes will come about slowly. As I discussed in depth last month, we find ourselves with more things undone than done and we’re learning the grace of accepting the limitations on our time.
In November, I began the process of sourcing more of our food locally. And by locally, I mean hyper-locally. In Mr. FW’s terms, “it’s food that could’ve walked over to our house.” This quest, however, is not as straightforward as it seems. In the city, all I had to do was pop over to a farmer’s market, or sign up for a CSA, or hop on the ol’ internet.
Out here, however? Affordable local food comes via word of mouth. There are several farm stands, which we’ve frequented, as well as a summertime local farmer’s market. But for everything else, we’re learning from the best source of all: our neighbors.
This month, I managed to purchase ground beef from neighbors 3 miles away, hard cider from our neighbors who live 4 miles over, and a Thanksgiving turkey raised a mere 2 miles away. I’m pleased to report that the turkey made a simply divine Thanksgiving feast and that we ate every last bit. Mr. FW then made stock from the carcass and we fed the leftover tidbits to Frugal Hound. The cider also made an appearance on Thanksgiving and was met with universal approval. Truly delicious, and made by local people from local apples with local ingredients! Yay. I’m continuing my quest and hope to find local eggs, milk, and chicken next.
We also learned this month that our very own land proffers quite a few edibles, thanks to a guided hike by one of our new friends who is an expert naturalist/wild forager. Who know you could eat so much stuff from the woods?!
No Animals in Year One (except Frugal Hound)
I’m well aware that approximately 45,097 of you will comment that “chickens are so easy to raise!!!!” and that we should raise them ourselves. I’ve heard this refrain 408,973 times and I imagine chickens will indeed come to roost with us someday.
However. Mr. FW and I made an agreement (more like a marriage pact) before buying our homestead that–no matter how tempting–we wouldn’t take on any animals (farm or house) in our first year. We feel it would be unfair to us and the animals to subject them to our novice ministrations. Although I’m all for going at life full throttle–we did, after all, buy our homestead the week our first child was born–I’m also one for knowing my limitations. Therefore, I’m content to support my neighbors’ farm labors this year.
This Month’s Wood Lesson: How To Store Wood
Are you ready for this month’s wood lesson? I know I am! I’ve been so excited to tell you about this all month long. Could hardly contain myself. Because this month, we’re discussing where my strengths and wood overlap: organization!!!
In previous months, I discussed the cycle of obtaining firewood from the trees on our land. You can read all about how Mr. FW fells, bucks, skids, and splits wood. Now that we’re burning wood daily as our only heat source (read about our super efficient woodstove here), the organization and transportation of said wood is our chief wood-related concern.
After splitting the wood into sections that fit in our stove (woe betides the wood splitter who does not first measure the stove and hence has wood that’s too long), Mr. FW stacked it into two long rows atop pallets (scavenged for free), covered by galvanized steel roofing (some scavenged, some purchased). The rationale for this method is that wood needs to dry or “season” before it is burned, and in order to dry, it needs sunshine and airflow. Hence, an enclosed space (such as a barn) is not conducive to seasoning wood.
While these two long stacks–located between our house and barn–were ideal for the seasoning process, they’re not ideal for procuring daily wood… especially with several feet of snow on the ground.
And so, Mr. FW built a wood rack for our back porch. We’re blessed with a wide, covered porch all along the back and side of our house, which is a premiere spot for wood to hang out prior to burning. On the porch, the wood is protected from snow and rain, gets good airflow, benefits from morning sunshine, and crucially, is adjacent to the house.
Using leftover wood scavenged from around our property, he fashioned a rudimentary–but totally effective–wood rack that holds 1.5 cords of wood. The rest of our split wood remains out on the pallets in the yard and will be cycled in as needed. Being a planner, Mr. FW wisely stacked the wood from oldest to youngest since you want to burn your oldest–or most seasoned–wood first.
Conveniently, we have French doors leading from our living room (where the woodstove is located) onto the porch (where the wood rack is located), which makes the wood path quite brief indeed. We originally considered storing dry wood in the basement, where there’s plenty of room, but were cautioned by neighbors that bugs living in the wood can reanimate when brought indoors and hence could populate our basement in droves. Eek.
Since we don’t want to bring in just one or two logs at a time, the wood moves from the outside wood rack into our indoor wood box. Conveniently, this is an old box that we found in our barn–hey hey hey–and it looks like something Restoration Hardware would happily charge you $300 for. In addition to its rustic hipster look, our wood box has the benefit of holding 3-4 days’ worth of wood. Heck yes.
For a few weeks, Mr. FW toted wood using this handy wood tote (which looks like it would double as a greyhound tote, just saying). Then, a wise neighbor commented that one could simply affix wheels to one’s wood box and–presto–wheel a full wood box into the house in one fell swoop. Genius.
Mr. FW ordered these casters, screwed them onto our free box, and is now rolling wood with ease. The wood box dwells in the corner next to the wood stove and from there, the wood makes its final progression into the stove (aided by Mr. FW’s hands, of course).
Huge thanks to our neighbors for all of their advice on how to store, stack, and transport our wood!
Want More Fotos?!
While I only document homestead life once a month here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity–sometimes daily! Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods.
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Onward to December frugal comrades!
How was November on your own personal homestead?
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