Gardening

The last year and a half has seen a movement of people away from the city. Every time a home on some acreage in my humble rural community goes up for sale, it is scooped up by a suburbanite, someone escaping the concerns of metropolitan areas and HOA neighborhoods to live the “Green Acres” dream.

I know of a couple who bought a large portion of land with outbuildings and a farmhouse. They are now selling portions of their land to folks they know and trust, forming a close-knit community of people coming straight from their suburban homes to “homestead” in rural Indiana. One family is about to begin work on their new, off-grid yurt, an interesting, tiny house design that blends minimalistic living with amazing, close-to-nature, sturdy, ancestral construction.

I’m not kidding. I think this is incredibly cool.

In the last couple of years, I have been approached by many who have a desire to leave the city and begin a new life on a homestead. The problem is, what they are looking for is a bit unrealistic. I think people have a romanticized idea of homesteading, imagining a nice, suburban-like home, with multiple bedrooms, a nice kitchen with state-of-the art appliances, multiple luxurious bathrooms, all plopped in the middle of a rolling 30-acre landscape of lush grass and beautifully landscaped gardens. They can almost hear the crackling of wood burning in the fireplace and smell the pungent scent of hickory smoke and pumpkin spice wafting throughout the home.

Sounds great. Good luck with that.

This morning the outside temperature is 33 degrees. My hand that was not under the blanket is icy cold. My first two tasks of the morning: start coffee and build a fire. I have a backup propane furnace, but we won’t use that until the brutal cold sets in.

I look at the landscape outside and see tall, uncut grass. Overgrown garden areas are awaiting me to move critters into that area to eat the growth and fertilize the ground, after I do the hard work of building new fences. Everywhere on the homestead there are stacks of material, projects awaiting my attention. Next to my rutted gravel driveway is a pile of cut logs, needing to be split and stacked.

Chores and projects are the constant on the homestead. The nearly empty freezer in my basement is needing attention. The coming fall harvest is about to fill it up with pork and chicken. And with great pomp and circumstance, I have announced to the children which turkey in the pen has been awarded “prize turkey,” now in the final preparations to be the guest of honor at our Thanksgiving gathering.

I must say, I love every bit of this. But I know, many would not.

I learned that the Homesteaders of America Conference (yes, there is such a thing) this year was packed. So many people are making the move to a rugged, simpler way of living. You might be considering the same. The question many ask is: How much land do I need to sustain my family? My response: Less than you think.

We live in a small cabin on less than 15 acres. The area we use to raise meat and vegetables is probably around 1 acre. Granted, the other acreage keeps us hidden and is really pretty this time of year, but one does not need much to be self-sustained. When we lived in a suburban home on .17 of an acre, we raised more than 500 pounds of food in one summer, with minimal efficiencies and a ton of mistakes. With better, more efficient and organized systems, I am convinced we could have raised 1,000 pounds of food.

There is an apartment complex in Portland, Oregon, that converted the landscaping and parking lots around the buildings into a gardening homestead oasis. There the residents share in the work, chipping in time, resources and table scraps, producing beautiful, healthy, organic food that feeds all of the residents. They harvest 300,000 gallons of rainwater from the roof of the buildings onto the gardens and into the aquifer system below. They also put solar panels on the rooftop, providing 75% of the electricity needed for the apartment complex.

How much land does one need? 30 acres? 50 acres? 100 acres?

Not really. If you feel called back to an ancestral way of living, with a smattering of modern conveniences, go find your 10 acres in rural America. Don’t go bankrupt buying tractors and four-wheelers. Keep it simple. Plan on good, healthy, hard work. If not, grow where you are.

Find like-minded neighbors. Love them, share with them, break bread with them, and share the Good News of our loving and merciful God. May your heart and your pantry be filled!

To God be the glory.