We used to live in a small valley or hollow (or perhaps I should say "holler") in the central Ozark hills. It's easy to scoff at our 1500 foot hills, sneering at them as just bumps in the ground. But I garuntee you that on foot, these little hills are still a hefty climb. In any case, it's also rather nice to have a mid February day in the mid 60's.
So we struggled along, enjoying the fresh air and the clean water -- but we were undercapitalized and there wasn't enough off-homestead work to bring in the cash we needed for horses or tractors.
Homesteading and capitalization? Homesteaders don't believe in capitalism, I hear someone saying. But we have no choice in the matter. Unless you inherited a substantial chunk of land with some decent agricultural parts to it, you will be paying a significant chunk of change to a bank somewhere in order to live on your homestead.
A few years ago, almost 20 of them, my wife and I went to a seminar by Bill Mollison of permaculture fame. Although most of what he has to say makes very good sense, even the political stuff, the one thing that really discouraged us was when he stated that permaculture could only succeed if you had at least 100 acres that you had inherited from your grandparents. Several of us at the seminar wanted to know what we could do with our small places, ranging from a half acre up to about 20. His response was "forget it!"
We didn't forget it, but I'm afraid I have to admit now that he was essentially correct. Although I had military retirement pay coming in that in fact covered the mortgage, food and gas, it did not allow going into debt for capital items such as a real tractor or a pair of decent plow horses. We didn't go bankrupt, but it was a close thing.
The only real money I was able to earn was through the internet, but at that time, my access was only through long distance. I probably changed phone plans every three months, able to keep the rate down to around seven cents a minute. But when your client needs you to work on a 20mb database, even seven cents a minute at 28,000 baud sure added up. By the time we had local access, things were beginning to pick up. Then one day I got an email (hardly any junk in those days) wanting to know if I was willing to take on a year's contract in Jefferson City, about 150 miles away.
Four years later, here we are on 10 acres a few hundred yards off a major 4 lane highway. We still have a homestead mentality, but it has been tempered a lot. Now there is in fact a tractor, and we have in fact put in some crops. But, now, working full time again, time just isn't there like it was. And, of course, being near big cities, I find that I have other things to do also, such as Tai Chi Chuan and fencing.
It was a great time down there in Prairie Hollow, and the kids didn't want to leave. And, as of October, 2002, we still own it and the bank owns a monthly chunk of us. But I have an insulated workshop, we have good enclosures for the animals, and we have some nice growing areas as well as some nice woods. We also have neighbours right next door, but we lost the sense of community we had when our neighbours were a lot farther away. As of 2008 the place has been out of our hands for several years, and we split up, kids off to college...
At this point, I'll simply say that things are trundling along.
When we were "really" homesteading, we had a dog who loved the creek. We have another dog now, the last one was probably shot by hunters, something we really don't miss at all. I'm still building things from pallets. And we still have the dehydrator that I built from a washing machine.
Our driveway crossed a usually placid little creek, which our dog is here relaxing in.
Last update: October 2008.
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